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Archives for : July2017

Gujarat HC treats plea against social boycott of dalits as PIL

Gujarat HC treats plea against social boycott of dalits as PIL
AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat high court has decided to treat the petition about ‘boycott of dalit families’ in a north Gujarat village as a public interest litigation (PIL).

The case pertains to complaint of excommunication of the dalits by the higher castes in Nandali village of Mehsana district. The villagers have stopped giving fodder for cows belonging to dalit families and providing commutation facilities to their children for school. This has triggered migration by three dalit families from the village. The high court first posed a question whether social boycott of dalits would amount to untouchability.

On Thursday, Justice RH Shukla opined about the petition, “It is a petition in the nature of public interest litigation. Therefore, it is desirable that it may be placed before the bench taking up PIL matters.” With this, the judge directed the court registry to place the matter before the Chief Justice for appropriate orders.

In this case, Babubhai Senma, a member of dalit community, became a sarpanch of Nandoli village of Kheralu block between 2006 and 2011. His becoming a sarpanch did not go down well with members of the upper castes and friction began. In one of such flare-ups, Senma was beaten and he even filed an FIR.

The situation worsened last year when Senma was slapped by a government official, who happened to be from Nandoli village, when he went to a government office to obtain caste certificate. Senma approached police and filed a complaint. This enraged the upper caste communities, who decided to boycott the five dalit families living in the village.

As the issue of social boycott was raised before the authorities, Mehsana’s additional collector visited the village and instructed police to register an FIR for in this regard. The government intervention infuriated villagers and they intensified the boycott further.

Unable to find any solution in near future, Senma moved the HC for government’s interference in the issue, because this is nothing but the mode of prohibited practice of untouchability. He requested for HC intervention to redress the problem of migration by dalit families.

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#UnaOneYear: What Makes the New Leaders So Different From the Old Organised Opposition


NEW DELHI: While the old and now increasingly outdated leaders heading the organised political Opposition are wallowing in acrimony and hostility, the new young leaders are creating and taking over the protest space in India steadily for the past two years. That it is not noticed by the media, except on occasion, does not make it less significant—in fact even more so—as every struggle is throwing up new leaders who are forging new unity, even as they keep the quarrelsome and indecisive leadership at bay.

The protests—farmers, Dalits, activists, civil society, students—are growing but very significantly the political Opposition parties are nowhere in sight. No one seems to want them, and while as in the almost countrywide protests by the farmers the kisan sabhas played a major role in organising the stir, there is little to no visibility of specific political leaders who find themselves increasingly on the margins of a peoples stir.

So it is in Gujarat where hundreds are collecting from all over the country in response to Jignesh Mevani, the young leader who emerged in the wake of the flogging of Dalit youth by so called gau rakshaks in Una, for a Conference and a Freedom March. “No no politicians” Mevani said categorically when asked by this reporter about the participation of political parties, “They can help us if they want to, but no we are not inviting any political leader.”

Why? And while he did not say in so many words Mevani did not want to dilute the impact of his efforts by bringing in Opposition leaders, most of them discredited in the eyes of the people who were ready to march with him and the younger leaders, but would be hesitant about joining forces with the organised political parties.

The new generation leaders have come together in Gujarat to observe the first anniversary of the Una flogging. And they have travelled across the country to form a collective that in an inclusive, direct approach will hold a convention in Ahmedabad with erstwhile Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar amongst those who will be speaking. As will many others on the lynchings by cow mobs, agrarian distress with Dalits, students, farmers, Muslims and others milling together in a show of unity.

The Gujarat government that had earlier given permission for ‘Azadi Kooch’ (Freedom March) on July 12 from Mehsana town to Dhanera in Banaskanth district has today revoked the permission citing law and order. Mevani and others have taken a decision to go ahead with the march with a statement ,“The permission was revoked at the last moment as the BJP government realised that the march would create an anti-BJP atmosphere in the state and would dent their prospects in the upcoming Assembly polls. We will not bow down to such tactics and will take out our march.”

A senior Congress leader, often at odds with his own party, said the other day that the traditional parties were all being kept out by the younger leaders who had emerged from Una, Saharanpur, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Hyderabad Central University etc. “They just do not want us, and so we are also very wary and while we have told them we are willing to come if you call us, we will keep our distance,” he said. Why? “Because clearly our language is not the same, and now it seems nor is our politics.”

While the Congress waffles, and the regional parties quarrel, and all plunge into a Presidential election as if this is the all important issue—young Chandrashekhar from Saharanpur leads a Bhim Army from house to house preventing the trouble from turning communal. The Dalits were told not to war with the Muslims as this “row is artificial, it is being created, we are all the victims” by the young men who then came to Jantar Mantar in Delhi to address a huge rally, and now are all in jail with no news at all of release. There is no word of support from Mayawati or the Congress or the Samajwadi party in Uttar Pradesh, all silent and withdrawn.

JNU students probably set this particular ball rolling, and after the dramatic swoop and the arreasts, came out of days of severe and traumatic trial, to go straight back into the university campus and launch a struggle against those spreading communalism, and dividing society. Kanhaiya Kumar, in an interview with this writer later, spoke of the need for a new language for the Left to communicate with the masses even as he advocated unity. But since he was with the CPI, the other Left parties had little use for him, and his parent party too was unable to lift the young man as a leader the communists so desperately lack.

Although they all come from different backgrounds, and have come together because of circumstances the new generation leaders have a strong thread in common. They are courageous, bold, shoot straight from the hip, do not mince words, or for that matter action. They are powerful orators, excellent on the field organisers, and speak a language that is emotional and yet political, and that binds them to the constituency of the marginalised. This is as true of the young boys who led the stir against a RSS/BJP appointee at the Film Institute in Pune, as it is of Mevani.

Theirs is a language that communicates. And speaks of justice loud and clear. Unlike the obfuscation of the organised Opposition that sees indirect speech as political cleverness, the younger leaders have recognised that the people at the receiving end see this as chicanery. And have no use for it, hence they themselves stand to lose ground if they bring in the current political leadership into their movements. As many of them have told this reporter, “we have nothing in common with the organised political leadership. We respect them, but they are completely out of touch with what is happening on the ground. This is not the time for delegations and press conferences and good words, this is the time for action.”

And interestingly none of them are holding press conferences having “blacklisted” sections of the media, just as the media has done to them. The activists—many whose names are not heard out of the areas in which they operate—are all in the field, speaking directly to the people. And those better known are now in touch with each other, forming new alliances, working together on different issues with the meetings in Gujarat expected to forge similar unity amongst the young farmers and the sections most directly affected by the cow mob violence over the last three years.

They all speak of the Constitution and the law; they speak of pluralism and justice; in all their speeches they stress on rights of the marginalised; and what perhaps is most interesting is their ability to communicate their concerns in a context that is historical, political and yet passionate.

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Final Victory for Bilkis as SC Dismisses Appeal of Guilty Cops, Doctors in Gang Rape Case

Upholding their conviction by the high court, the bench said the six had been acquitted by the trial court despite “clear-cut evidence” against them.

Bilkis Bano with her husband Yakoob and their daughter. Credit: Shome Basu/The Wire

Bilkis Bano with her husband Yakoob and their daughter. Credit: Shome Basu/The Wire

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday (July 10) dismissed the appeals of two doctors and four policemen including an IPS officer challenging their conviction by the Bombay high court in the sensational 2002 Bilkis Bano case, saying there was “clear-cut evidence” against them.

A bench comprising Justices S. A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao, while rejecting their appeals, said the trial court had unreasonably acquitted them.

“You all have been unreasonably acquitted by the trial court in the case despite there being clear-cut evidence against you,” the bench said while dismissing three appeals.

IPS officer R. S. Bhagora, currently serving in Gujarat, was recently convicted along with four other policemen by the high court, overturning the trial court order acquitting them.

The Bombay high court had on May 4 reversed the trial court verdict acquitting Bhagora and others and upheld the conviction of 11 people (one convict is dead) in the Bano gang rape and murder case.

One policeman Idris Abdul Sayed has not appealed against his conviction.

Counsel for Bhagora said he was unnecessarily caught in the web of circumstances and had no direct role in the incident.

The bench, however, refused to go into the matter saying Bhagora was the supervising officer in the case and everything happened under his nose.

Advocate Shobha, appearing for Bano, opposed the appeals of the convicts.

The high court bench had convicted seven – five policemen and two doctors – under sections 218 (not performing their duties) and section 201 (tampering of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code. The apex court had on May 30 refused to stay the conviction of Bhagora.

A vacation bench of Justices A. K. Sikri and Deepak Gupta said there was no urgency for hearing the matter as the convicted officer had already undergone the sentence.

A special court had on January 21, 2008 convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment 11 men for raping Bano and murdering seven of her family members in the aftermath of the Godhra riots, while acquitting seven persons including the policemen and doctors.


The convicts later approached the Bombay high court challenging their conviction and sought quashing and setting aside of the trial court.

The CBI had also filed an appeal in the high court seeking harsher punishment of death for three of the convicted persons on the ground that they were the main perpetrators of the crime.

According to the prosecution, on March 3, 2002, Bano’s family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad during the post-Godhra riots and seven members of her family were killed.

Bano, who was five months pregnant at the time, was gang raped while six other members of her family managed to escape from the mob. The trial in the case began in Ahmedabad.

However, after Bano expressed apprehensions that the witnesses could be harmed and the CBI evidence tampered with, the Supreme Court transferred the case to Mumbai in August 2004.

The convicts had challenged the order on three main grounds – that all evidence in the case was fabricated by CBI, that Bano gave birth to a child after the incident, proving that she could not have been gangraped and the failure to find the bodies of some of her family members which proved that they were not killed.

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India – Why Tax Disability? Roll back GST for PwDs

The international meaning of zero-rated goods and supplies has been wantonly throttled. Products meant for disabled citizens need to be part of zero-rated supplies – where GST rate is zero AND input tax credit can be claimed.


What the Ministry of Finance, Government of India is proposing for people living with Disability in India is a rigmarole. Anita Rastogi, Partner, Indirect TaxPwC India explains how and proposes a solution. In less than 4 minutes.

Less than 4 minutes is also the sum total of time Team Arun Jaitley has spent on thinking about tax burden on already overtaxed disabled citizens.

Why Tax Disability? Roll back GST for PwDs!

There are 2 issues here. One is of status and the other of process.

Firstly, the disability sector had exemption in both excise and VAT earlier. This all changed post GST and was taxed up to 18 percent. It was only after 2 state finance ministers wrote to the GST Council that they brought most products down to 5.

Check for the dismaying before and after. We need the exemption status back without any complicated manoeuvres. Given the way politicians keep withdrawing support systems arbitrarily, it makes no sense to change the status just because the law has not been designed with full application of mind.

Secondly, input tax credit is tax paid at every stage from start to end. At the final stage, this accumulated, rightfully paid tax can be deducted from the total tax liability as IT IS ALREADY PAID.

In the earlier system there was a cascading tax effect with tax charged multiple times due to the many chaotic channels. GST’s unified channel does away with this redundancy with a clear chain of what has been paid and by whom. That enables the last link on the chain to deduct previously paid tax before paying final tax due.

This is the case across all products and is a benefit brought about by the system’s efficiency. What sense does it make to force the final tax payer to pay full cost without availing that rightfully prepaid benefit?

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Why Marathwada’s Farmers Dread The New Cattle Law


By- Poorvi Kulkarni

Aurangabad and Latur (Maharashtra): “Pashu an shetkari ekaach vargaatle na?…He samplyaashivaay yaanchee smart city chee yojana kashi yashasvi honaar?” (For the government) aren’t animals and farmers in the same category? How will their Smart City project be realised if both are not destroyed?


This was a Facebook post last month by Maharudra Mangnale, farmer, author and journalist from Shirur-Tajband village in Latur district in south-central Maharashtra. The irony was directed at the tightening of restrictions on cattle markets and what this would do to the farmer.


There is a ban on the sale of cattle for slaughter in Maharashtra, extended on March 4, 2015, to bulls, bullocks and calves. On May 23, 2017, the Centre notified new rules banning the sale and purchase of cattle from animal markets for slaughter under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.


Why is this increasing squeeze on the cattle market for slaughter making Marathwada’s farmers anxious? In this two-part series, IndiaSpend travels through the rural hinterland looking for answers. It looks at  why small landholders and landless farmers who own a major share of the state’s livestock need the freedom to sell unproductive animals to make cattle-rearing viable.


The next part will take a close look at the work cycle of two farmers in Marathwada to understand the place cattle occupy in it.


Marathwada is a marker of India’s current agricultural distress: 77% of farmers have no more than five acres of land, the region has experienced three years of drought over the last decade, its rural per capita income is Rs 90,460, or Rs 12,547 less than the national average.


Cattle rearing and trade form an integral source of farm livelihood in this region. Cattle are essential for agricultural work but there are also 1,614 village-level dairy cooperatives in Marathwada, third highest among the state’s six divisions. Annual milk procurement from these societies was around 20 million litres in 2016.


However, there is one important fact about the economic life cycle of cattle whether they are used for milk or agricultural work: It only lasts for about 15 years of their 25 to 30-year life span.

Source: Food and Agriculture Organisation; Sheep and goat breeds of India & Guidelines for slaughtering, meat cutting and further processing, United Nations, India Council of Agricultural Research & Tamil Nadu Agricultural University Agritech Portal


Farmers, thus, need to be able to sell unproductive cattle. This is especially the case with poor farmers who need to raise money to buy productive cattle and sustain milk procurement or farming. In times of distress, droughts for example, cattle sale helps small farmers raise money for sustenance.


To tend to old and unproductive bovines and arrange fodder and water for them is impractical for small and marginal farmers of dry Marathwada. Small landholders and landless farmers account for major share in ownership of livestock, according to the 2015-16 report of the union department of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries.


So the new restrictions are making cattle rearing increasingly unviable. Slaughter traders are having to shut down businesses and farmers are giving up on dairy farming in Marathwada, IndiaSpend investigations found.


The new rules mandate a tangle of official procedures that threaten to cripple the thriving livestock markets which are intrinsic to rural Maharashtra’s agrarian culture.


New rules complicate cattle sale process


Maharashtra government’s Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs) run 196 livestock sub-yards within the 300-odd markets that operate in the state. While some animal markets function within the premises on designated days where other agricultural produce is traded, others are located in more interior areas regulated by gram panchayat (village council) bodies.


The APMC grants licences to animal traders to purchase and transport animals–cow, buffalo, bull, bullock, calf, goat, sheep etc–that are brought to the market. At present, any person can bring an animal to the market for display and sale. A minimal market licence fee of Rs 10 is charged from the purchaser only if a transaction is made.


The only documentation required in a sale is an entry by an APMC or gram panchayatofficial in a register after the sale. A basic receipt stating the names and addresses of the buyer and seller, the sale price and the animal’s details is issued.


Under the latest rules, cattle sale will become a far more complicated process. It will involve the formation of two committees–one at the district level and another at the local body-level–to carry out a more stringent regulation of market activities.


Members of these committees, unlike the elected members of APMCs, will be appointed by the state government. They will hold discretionary powers to inspect every animal entering the market. They can stop the entry and sale of “unfit” animals as well as seize animals from their owners in cases of “cruel treatment”, according to sections 11, 12 and 13 of the recentPrevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017.


“We oppose every law that destroys this current free access to market, limited regulation and freedom of trade,” said Seema Narode, western Maharashtra president of the women’s front of the Shetkari Sanghatana, a farmers’ organisation.


The rules are not only arbitrary and detrimental to farmers, but are also removed from ground realities of current trade practices, Narode said.


“In western Maharashtra where milk production is a flourishing occupation for farmers, many own jersey (cross-bred) cows which produce greater quantities of milk. But, male calves of these cows cannot be used for agricultural purposes,” she added. “There is no option for us but to sell them.”


Leather industry and butchers comprise a huge number of buyers of male calves of cross-bred dairy cows.


The story of a cattle market that had to shut shop


APMC’s weekly animal market in Udgir town of Latur district recorded a slight sag in sales in the year 2016-17 and first quarter of 2017-18. Sales had steadily soared in the period between 2010-11 and 2015-16 owing to the successive droughts. Farmers in distress often sell cattle to tide over a crunch.


Source: Data collected from APMC, Udgir

NOTE: *Figures available up to December 2013; **Up to June 15, 2017


Cattle rearing in the region has declined because of two reasons, according to officials: An increase in the use of machines for farming and a fall in the number of traders who purchase animals after the 2015 ban.


“Around 10-12 cattle traders who operated out of the market here don’t work here any longer because of the growing hassles they face in transporting cattle,” said BM Patil, APMC secretary, Udgir market.


The situation appears to be equally worrying for farmers in Vidarbha.


An animal market that gathered at Sawal Mendha village in Bhainsdehi taluka of Baitul district in Madhya Pradesh stopped operating nine months ago. Sawal Mendha borders Amravati district in Maharashtra and served as a market for cattle-rearers within a 30-km radius in Akola, Amravati and Buldhana districts of the state.


Those who went to the Sawal Mendha market to trade their animals are now forced to travel 50-90 km to a livestock market in Paratwada village in Amravati district, said Satish Deshmukh, a farmer from Panaj village in Akot taluka of Akola district.


“Around four months ago, a few Muslim traders were also threatened and beaten up when they were transporting cattle. No FIR (first information report) was lodged,” said Deshmukh, who is also a member of Shetkari Sanghatana. “The situation is becoming increasingly tense and difficult.”


On May 26, 2017, two men were thrashed for possessing beef by seven gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes) in Malegaon taluka of Washim district.


The country witnessed 63 crimes of attacks by cow vigilantes, including 28 deaths, across the country in the past seven years, as IndiaSpend reported on June 28, 2017. And 97% of these attacks occurred after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government came to power in May 2014.


“People fear that they will be booked under false cases. I have decided to not nurture cattle until this law is in place,” said Mangnale.


In times of distress, as we said, small farmers usually sell their cattle to deal with the crunch. “When farmers are themselves in debt and committing suicides, they don’t have the financial capacity to tend to old cattle and bury them after they die. It is expensive to hire a JCB and dig a pit,” said Mangnale.


Govt assistance doesn’t reach enough farmers


In 2016-17, Aurangabad district–one of the three districts in Marathwada with the highest bovine population–insured 15,891 cattle. The cattle population of the district stands at 676,180, according to the 2012 livestock census.


“Demand for insurance policy is huge. The target given to us was 5,000 cattle. We exceeded it,” said BD Chaudhari, assistant commissioner, animal husbandry department, Aurangabad division.


Insurance is given to the cattle owner if the cow, buffalo or bull dies within one to three years of registration for the policy. The amount is estimated by the veterinary doctor depending on the animal’s prevailing market rate and health at the time of registration.


Chaudhari admitted that availability of fodder remained a bigger challenge in the region. A state policy that allows distribution of fodder seeds to farmers had up to 2,000 beneficiaries in the year 2015-16 in Aurangabad district. But, this is clearly inadequate–of the 529,861 landholding farmers in the district, 83% have less than 2.5 acres of land and it is not enough to raise fodder.


“Because the seeds are provided on 100% subsidy , a limited number of beneficiaries are selected every year based on budget availability,” said a livestock development official from the Aurangabad zilla parishad (district council).


‘Cattle markets are a tradition that need to continue’


Livestock exhibitions and markets are a part of Maharashtra’s agrarian tradition. Hundreds of cattle of indigenous varieties are displayed and traded every month at these events.


A case in point is the 50-year-old bull market, one of the largest in Marathwada, in Hali-Handarguli village, 22 km from Udgir town in Latur district. It functions for eight months between the Dussehra festival (October) and the kharif sowing season (June) every year. The market is known for its Deoni and Lal Kandhari breeds of bulls which are known and prized for their strength and capacity to work in peak summer temperatures.


“Are these exhibits and markets also not a part of our tradition?” asked Shankar Anna Dhondge, former Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator from Nanded, countering the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh’s (RSS) narrative of protecting “gauvansh” (cow dynasty) for its “sacredness”.


But, cattle commerce in the Hali-Handarguli market, which operates Saturday to Monday, has now fallen considerably. On May 29, 2017, just before the market closed for the sowing season, only three buffaloes were available for sale against at least 100 earlier, according to locals.


“The legal perspective (on cattle slaughter) itself is flawed. Farmers do not anyway trade productive cattle for slaughter,” said Mangnale.


Traders say that animal markets in Nalegaon, Deoni and Udgir in Latur district’s Udgir taluka bordering Karnataka might have to shut down completely if the Centre’s new notification is implemented.


Section 8 of the proposed law states that no animal market can be organised within 25 km of a state border.


“The law is made by those in cities, who know nothing about raising cattle,” added Dhondge. “What will those who cannot take care of their own elderly parents and leave them in old age homes tell us about taking care of our old cattle?”


Moreover, Section 14 of the new rules also prohibits traditional practices such as painting of horns and decking animals with ornaments for being “cruel and harmful”.


“The law is made with a sense of how animals are kept in a factory. What does the government know how much we care for our animals?” Mangnale added.


(Kulkarni is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist, who has worked with Haqdarshak–a social enterprise, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan–a non-party people’s political organisation and Hindustan Times–a newspaper.)

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Delhi- A Slum, Baljeet Nagar Forcibly Demolished!

Monday, July 10,2017

NEW DELHI: On July5, 2017 DDA officials along with a police force went to the slum at Baljeet Nagar and told the dwellers to leave their homes immediately. They were given just sufficient time to move their important belongings out, and according to locals, the bulldozers started tearing down the settlement within 20 minutes of the notice. As a result many of them lost their household belongings including stoves, utensils and gas cylinders.

Locals estimate that over 2000 persons lived in the slum, and 500 households were directly impacted by the demolition. The houses were semi-pucca. The locals said that most of them had documents and could validate their stay in this slum for over ten years. And produced ration cards to prove the same.

Baljeet Nagar is part of Anand Parvat, a settlement created almost 2 decades ago when immigrants from nearby states, primarily Rajasthan and Bihar, moved to Delhi in search of better employment and education opportunities. When these writers as part of a larger fact finding team visited the slum, they found that the residents were collecting and digging their belongings which had gone under the debris.

Most of the residents reported that they have no place to go and will again live in the same houses that they had built for themselves. Hence the immediate needs of the affected families is for water, food, temporary shelter till they recover their belongings from under the debris, after which they will need proper sustainable rehabilitation.


Children and women all were working under the scorching heat to take out their belongings out of the debris. These children and women need the utmost support as they have been evicted without any security whatsoever. They are not successful yet from getting any support from local government authorities. In this forceful eviction, two residents from the slum were injured as they tried to protest and were forcefully removed by the police.

(Photographs Harsh Gupta)

(The writer Harsh Gupta and Ankit Jha are from IGSSS and YUVA respectively)

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‘Human Shield’: Rs. 10 Lakh Compensation For Farooq Dar, Directs Rights Body

The Jammu and Kashmir human rights commission today directed the state government to pay a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh to Farooq Ahmad Dar, who was used as a “human shield” by the Army during the Srinagar Lok Sabha bypoll.

‘Human Shield’: Rs 10 Lakh Compensation For Farooq Dar, Directs Rights Body

'Human Shield': Rs 10 Lakh Compensation For Farooq Dar, Directs Rights Body
Major Leetul Gogoi said his team tied a protester to their jeep to stop attack from a mob in Kashmir.
SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir human rights commission today directed the state government to pay a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh to Farooq Ahmad Dar, who was used as a “human shield” by the Army during the Srinagar Lok Sabha bypoll.

The compensation awarded to Mr Dar was for the “humiliation, physical and psychiatric torture, stress, wrongful restraint and confinement” that he underwent when he was tied to the bonnet of an Army vehicle to ward off stone pelters, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) observed in its judgement.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Farooq Ahmad was subjected to torture and humiliation, besides (being) wrongly confined,” the judgement issued by SHRC chairperson Justice (retired) Bilal Nazki said.

He observed that the action led to trauma, resulting in psychiatric stress “which may remain with him for the rest of his life”.

“For the humiliation, physical and psychiatric torture, stress, wrongful restraint and confinement, the commission thinks it appropriate to direct the state government to pay a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh to the victim,” the SHRC said.

The commission directed the Jammu and Kashmir government to comply with the direction within six weeks.

The judgement is recommendatory in nature and would need the approval of the state government for implementation.

“The chief secretary of the state shall file a compliance report before the commission within the same period,” the ruling read.

The judgement came on an application moved by Ahsan Antoo, chairman, International Forum for Justice and Protection of Human Rights.
Justice (retd) Nazki said the police in its report had said Mr Dar was tied to the Army vehicle bonnet and used as a human shield, but observed that the commission was “handicapped” by the fact that it could not refer to the conduct of the Army because of the limited applicability of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.

“There cannot be any debate as to whether the treatment given to Dar was a violation of human rights or not. There are laws in this country, and international laws, which prohibit such a treatment even to a convict. Such treatment to a human being cannot be accepted by a civilised society,” he said.

The commission, however, was “handicapped” by the fact that it could not go into the conduct of the Army who are allegedly responsible for the incident according to Mr Dar as well as the state police, he said.

The SHRC chairperson said that in view of the police report, Mr Dar has been subjected to human rights violations and, therefore, the state government could not escape from the responsibility.

“This commission chose not to issue any notice to the central government or the armed forces, but the fact remains that the protection of life and liberty of the people is basic responsibility of the state government,” the judgement said.

Even if the state government sought the assistance of central forces to deal with the law and order situation, the responsibility of the state government to protect its citizens and their rights “cannot be diluted or abdicated”, Justice (retd) Nazki observed.

He, however, said that since the SHRC was not able to go into question of the Army’s responsibility, “the commission clarifies that any observation made in this order should not be taken as an expression of any opinion regarding the alleged involvement of officers of the Indian Army,” he said.

Mr Dar, an embroidery artisan, was tied to a jeep by Major Leetul Gogoi, as a shield against the stone pelters who had allegedly surrounded a group of armed personnel.

Shortly after the incident, Major Gogoi was honoured with a commendation card by the Army chief for “his sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations”.

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MGNREGA wages less than minimum farm wages in 15 states

As per data being examined by the committee, the minimum wages paid to agricultural workers are significantly higher than MGNREGA wages in Karnataka, Punjab, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Mizoram, and Andaman and the Nicobar Islands.

MGNREGA, MGNREGA wages, working wages, farmer wages, farm wages, minimum wages, minimum agricultural wages, indian express news, india news

Based on these findings, the panel, under Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Rural Development Nagesh Singh, is expected to make its recommendations in another month. (Representational image)

THE COMMITTEE for revision of wages paid under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarentee Act (MGNREGA) has found that minimum agricultural wages are higher than MGNREGA wages in 15 states. An upward revision in MGNREGA wages is estimated to require a Rs 4,500 crore increase in its budget.

Based on these findings, the panel, under Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Rural Development Nagesh Singh, is expected to make its recommendations in another month.

As per data being examined by the committee, the minimum wages paid to agricultural workers are significantly higher than MGNREGA wages in Karnataka, Punjab, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Mizoram, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The other states where MGNREGA wages fail to match up are Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. In Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, the minimum wages are marginally higher than MGNREGA wages.

“In the 15 states where MGNREGA wages are lower, we tried revising it to bring it on par with the minimum agricultural wages paid by the respective states. Where MGNREGA wages are on par or higher, we decided to protect it as it is. If a revision is done as per this formula, it is estimated that a Rs 4,500 crore addition to the existing MGNREGA budget would be needed,” said an official from the Ministry of Rural Development.

The Indian Express had earlier reported that despite official claims of this year’s MGNREGA budget of Rs 48,000 crore being the highest ever, the wage revision, at 2.7 per cent, was the lowest ever. It meant a per day, per person wage hike of merely Re 1 in some states like Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and Rs 2-Rs 3 in several others.

This was because the finance ministry, on account of financial implications, rejected the recommendations of the S Mahendra Dev committee, which had proposed to bring MGNREGA wages on par with minimum wages paid to unskilled agricultural workers in the states. The expert panel had said that the Consumer Price Index for Rural (CPI-R), which reflects the current consumption pattern of rural households, should be the basis for revising MGNREGA wage rates, and not CPI for Agricultural Labourers (CPI-AL), which is based on the consumption pattern of 1983.

“The basket of goods for calculating CPI-AL comprises mainly food items. With the implementation of the National Food Security Act, rice and wheat is available for as cheap as Rs 2-3 per kg. CPI(Rural) gives lower weightage to food items, and hence, is found to be a better indicator of wage increase,” said a ministry official.

The Nagesh Singh panel has found that based on the second recommendation of the Mahendra Dev committee, if the existing MGNREGA wages are revised as per CPI(Rural), it would mean another Rs 600 crore increase in the budget.

“CPI(R) should be used to revise the wages every year instead of CPI(AL), as the former is more representative of the current rural consumption basket. Also, wage revision should take place every six months, in keeping with the practice for other trades and occupation,” said Ankita Aggarwal from the people’s organisation, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha. Aggarwal said that with such low wages and delays in payments, MGNREGA fails to provide the livelihood security for which it was enacted.

Jharkhand Chief Secretary Rajbala Verma had recently written a strongly-worded letter to the Ministry of Rural Development protesting against the growing divergence between the state’s minimum wage, which is currently Rs 224 per day, and MGNREGA wages of just Rs 168 per day after the wage hike.

MGNREGA wages less than minimum farm wages in 15 states: Panel

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Honour people who murdered cow killer, says Chhattisgarh Sanskrit Board chairman #WTFnews

Swami Parmatamanand is also heard questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that killing people in the name of “gau bhakti (cow worship)” is unacceptable

Swami Parmatamanand
Swami Parmatamanand reportedly made the statement at an event titled Virat Hindu Sammelan.(Video screengrab)

People who killed the gau hathyara (cow killer) in Rajasthan should be honoured, Chhattisgarh’s Sanskrit Board chairman — a post deemed as equivalent to cabinet minister rank — has been heard saying in a video that has gone viral.

Swami Parmatamanand reportedly made the statement at an event titled Virat Hindu Sammelan in Ambikapur district on Sunday, but he did not name Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer who was assaulted in Alwar on April 1 and died two days later.

Parmatamanand could not be immediately reached for comment on his speech during which he is heard saying, “Mere Ved mein likha hai ki gau hatyare ko sheeshe ki goli se maaro… kshama na karo. Aur Rajasthan mein jisne uss gau hatyare ko mara, uska swagat karo Chhattisgarh mein bula ke (It is written in Vedas that those who kill cows should be killed. Those who killed the cow killer in Rajasthan should be invited to Chhattisgarh and honoured).”

He is also heard questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that killing people in the name of “gau bhakti (cow worship)” is unacceptable.

The video of Swami Parmatamanand on social media

Parmatamanand is heard saying, “How can the prime minister say that gau rakhshaks are criminals? Kuch gau rakshak gunde ho sakte hain… par humare Bajrang Dal aur sabhi gau sewak gunde nahin hain (How can the prime minister say that cow protectors are criminals? It is possible that a few are goons… but our Bajrang Dal and all those who serve cows are not).”

He is also heard saying that English schools should be banned in the country. “Mein ek din ka pradhan mantri banta toh saare English schools band kara deta (I would close all English schools if made prime minister for a day).”

Incidentally, the state government is yet to notify cabinet minister rank for Parmatamanand. “He took charge as the Sanskrit Board chairman in May and the notification hasn’t come so far,” said a government official who did not want to be named.

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Once Upon A Scream In Muzaffarnagar

Dalit, Jat, Muslim…. Western UP’s social fabric is coming apart. Politics leaves things at a loose end.
Once Upon A Scream In Muzaffarnagar
For all the tension, inter-faith amity exists on ground

On a sultry June afternoon, Tara Singh crossed the Ganga-Yam­una doab, from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh down to New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. He was joining thousands of other protesters, demanding justice for the Dalits of Shabbirpur in Saharanpur, whose homes were burned after clashes with local Rajputs in May. “The Yogi government has emboldened UP’s Thakurs,” says Tara. “They want to suppress us Dalits but we are unafraid.”

The spectacular electoral victory of the BJP in the northern state may signal a decline in Mayawati’s party, the BSP. It may also suggest a vacuum in Dalit politics—one that a leader such as Chandra­shekhar Azad, Bhim Sena’s founder, might try to fill. Yet, many Dalits of western UP—for the flame from Shabbirpur has now spread across the entire region—want to prove just the converse is true. “We support Chandra­she­khar and his Bhim Sena but only as a social movement. Mayawati remains our unequivocal political choice,” says Lokendra from Muza­ff­arnagar. He’s not alone in saying so. The sentiment is echoed across many parts of this large swathe, including in Muza­ffarnagar and Shamli—two volatile districts that offer a snap­shot of the shifting canvas of community relations that characterises the region.

“Almost all of UP is caught up in communal or caste conflicts. That has awakened the Dalits, though they were initially despondent after the BSP’s defeat in the polls,” says Dr Bale Ram, a professor and Dalit rights activist at Jansath. Accord­ing to him, the BJP consciously avoided wooing Mayaw­ati’s core supporters, the Jatavs. By this, he feels, the BJP managed to drive a schism between the most vocal and politically conscious elements among BSP’s supporters and the more silent among Dalits. “The Ambedkarites were split from the other Dalits, and this was achieved by making claims that Mayawati neglected all but her Jatav voters—this is a strategy the Dalits now see through.”

The Strategists

If a community’s survival depends on sensing who controls the lever of power, such a state of awareness is high among the Jats of Muzaffarnagar. Take, for INS­tance, Madan Pal Singh. “Why would Jats vote only for other Jat leaders or a party of Jats,” asks the prosperous Jat farmer of Bokaredi. “Is that the only way a Jat is supposed to think—along caste lines?” The Jats are 15 to 20 per cent of western UP, but in Muza­ffarnagar they hold power far disproportionate to their ten per cent share in the population. That usually overwhelming Jat iden­tity is, however, temporarily on ice.

Such extraordinary lines, like Madan Pal’s, have bec­o­me commonplace since the assembly elections this summer. The jostle for power left the Rashtriya Lok Dal, a party the Jats once considered their natural political habitat, powerless and dispirited. The Jats had to seek comfort in melding with other Hindu castes under the BJP umbrella—a place where old caste animosities are being re-enacted in new ways. The att­achment restores to the Jats a modicum of their old sense of power, and enables them to articulate their anger against groups that stand for reservation, including the Dalits.

This phenomenon is rooted in a tectonic shift in socio-­economic relations, visible everywh­ere in this region. For, Jats too are under the strain that farming middle castes feel everywhere. Madan Pal is among the last few farmers in the area who is not indebted, the only one whose lands haven’t split as his family grew.

Recently, the farmers of Bokaredi and around collectively sent a dozen young boys to a training academy in Noida where they would be prepped to join the army—but their literacy skills didn’t quite match up. “All the boys were sent back; the institute said they cannot be trained,” says Rampal Singh, a far­mer. “Our children need the sort of training Skill India provides,” he says. In this context, the Jats find their support for the BJP a necessary trade-off: they subsume their hankering for a lead role in a rainbow coalition to try and melt into urban India. To do so they must align with a party poised to win, even if this isolates old allies: the Muslims. But it’s not a happy divorce.

The Muslims, no matter that they are 38 per cent of the district, always needed to align with a powerful Hindu caste for a share in power. This suited both sides. So past coalitions smothered religious differences by fusing Hindu and Muslim castes—such as Hindu Jats with Muslim (Muley) Jats. With the Hindu Jat turn to the BJP, that connection goes cold. As for the latter, from a dominant partner of formations that included Muslims, Gujj­ars, Rajputs and Ahirs—the old MAJGAR— they are now willing also-­rans in a large BJP courtyard. A glimmer of resentment shows up on this count, as Jats freely exp­ress remorse over the 2013 riots, in which they attacked and chased Muslim workers out of home and field.

The word khichav—strain—bubbles up when Jats refer to relations with Muslims. “We feel isolated,” says Nepal Singh, a Jat farmer from Kookda, adjoining Muzaffar­nagar. “All we’ve now is stubborn pride.”

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Muslims have pulled out of farm work, says Ravindra Arya from Jansath. “We pay more today, to hire labour from outside our villages,” he adds. Muslim farm workers tend to be local, skilled and landless. They are perceived to be better workers. “Farmers in villages that rioted have to travel long distances to get their farm implements sharpened ever since the Muslims fled,” says Arya. “Muslims are not returning to riot-affected areas, nor forgiving the Jats for 2013.”

Jats realise the need to align with a winning party to melt into urban India even if it isolates old allies: Muslims.
There is a perceptible disintegration of agrarian movements once led by Jats as well. Since 2014, Muslims, Rajputs and Gujjars have floated their own farmers’ outfits, fleeing the Jat-led Bharatiya Kisan Union, though it’s still the most powerful. A prominent newcomer is Thakur Puran Singh, whose lobby, identified with Rajput farmers, opened six months after the riots. “The Tikaits only represent one community,” he says, referring to Naresh and Rakesh Tikait from Sisoli in Muzaffarnagar. “Now nobody wants to be henpecked by the Jats.” Ghu­lam Mohammad Jola, with his own outfit for Muslim farmers, rules out Jat-Muslim unity. “With daily news of Hindu-Muslim conflict, how can peace prevail? Jats have become Jats and Muslims have been turned Muslim,” he says. What he means is, Muslim castes—Jats, Rajputs, Gujjars—are letting their caste identity sink. That further sequesters other Jats as Hindus.

The Stragglers

The Muslims feel besieged by their political segregation and a series of recent inc­idents in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, which indicate the embers of 2013 are still smouldering. With Muslim MLAs down to 25 from 68 in 2012, the patronage networks that dealt out jobs, contracts and local leaders are drying out too.

Sherpur under Purkazi tehsil has roughly 10,000 Ranghars, a poor, barely-­educated community of Muslim Rajputs. This June, on an anonymous tip-off, the police raided this area in search of an all­egedly slaughtered cow. SSP Anant Dev Tiwari says Sherpur was no communal clash. “It was a fight bet­ween locals and the police.” The reason, he says, is the loc­als resisted arrest, hurled brickbats and burned a police vehicle. The villagers admit the police search enr­aged them, what with the cops going from house to house—and not just the one they were tipped off about. Also, their belongings were broken and communal slurs hurled. “The police overturned our pots and pans only to find lentils and potato,” says Akil, a Sherpur resident. “Yet, the same night, they raided us again.”

“The tipoff turned out to be untrue,” says the SSP. “We get scores of such tips daily. For Sherpur we had specific inform­ation. The force may have searched adjoi­ning houses too.” The provocation for the second raid was that the Ranghars snat­ched their pradhan, Talib Hassan, from the clutches of the raiding police, set him free in adjoining fields, from where he went into hiding. “But our pradhan did no wrong—so why does police want him,” asks Shafiq, another resident. The Sherpur Muslims insist they are Rajput Muslims who have deep social ties with Hindu Rajputs. “I don’t know why this cow matter is coming up,” says Salim. Such incidents are a headache for local leaders. “Brickbats, sloganeering…make us want to tear our hair,” says Rao Waris, who was with the BSP until recently.

Another local leader, Sudhir Panwar of the Samajwadi Party, finds local Muslims are either bewildered by or unmindful of the nervousness about terrorism and violence. “Most Muslims are poor and among the poor, life can be cheap,” he says. Besides, aggression is almost part of wes­tern UP’s culture. “The poor Muslims do not realise that things have changed.” Sudhir Balyan, an old-timer with the BJP in UP, says, “I ask my party, will we pay attention only to Hindu-Muslim issues or  any other work in Muzaffarnagar?”

Minor clashes and privately talking down Muslims are a ‘fashion’ among the locality’s smartphone-­savvy youth.
Any incident involving touchy topics, or clashes in which the two sides happen to belong to different religions, get a communal flavour, he says. And priv­a­t­ely talking down Mus­lims is  like “a fashion” among Muzaffarnag­ar’s smartphone-savvy youth. “They draw compa­risons bet­ween ISIS, Taliban and all Muslims,” he says. “Tell me, if a Hindu bumps into a Muslim, is that a communal incident? It doesn’t, but here large crowds gather at the mere hint of a dispute.”


Cops at a Nasirpur pocket after fresh bout of riots


Nasirpur, a kasba, erupted in June after Brijpal and Shahnawaz squabbled over a mere leaking drainpipe. “From an open drain, water splattered on a Muslim passerby and they argued,” says Raju Pal, ex-pradhan, Nasirpur. The current prad­han, Sabbir, settled this argument but soon another duo squabbled, over a severed cable. Soon, brickbats were flying, shots rent the air. In the chaos, Brijpal’s son got a fatal gunshot. The police arres­ted scores of men, inc­luding Sabbir. The narrative in Nasirpur is, had the pradhan called the police to resolve the drainpipe issue, the fight over cable would have been averted. “I support BJP and Modi but that incident had nothing to do with religion,” says Manoj, a local. He attributes the communal tone of the incident to the arrival of a string of BJP leaders, from MP Sanjiv Balyan to MLA Kapil Agarwal, on invitation from a local RSS worker.

This is not how RSS worker Madan, Brijpal’s neighbour, sees it. “It was a riot between Mus­lim Rajputs and Hindu Pals,” he claims. “Over a drainpipe, lots of Muslims collected with sticks and stones, saying they are more in numbers.” Nasir­pur’s Muslims have locked themselves indoors and deny witnessing the events. Komal Devi, Brij­pal’s grieving wife, says Muslims killed her son. “The bullet could have hit my son in the leg, in the chest,” she says. “Why the skull?”

RLD leader Chaudhary Mushtaq, a former Muzaffarnagar MLA, feels Hindu-Muslim amity, electorally at least, now turns on something beyond the Muslims’ control: “It depends now on when Hindus will vote agai­nst the BJP.” Muslims are nervous that educated Hindus seem to be turning against them, a trend they often spot on social media. “Yes, Babri was painful but only poor Hindus seemed to have gotten involved in that,” says Aarif Khan, a zam­indar from Garhi Abdulla­khan, a Pathan village in Shamli. “If today educated Hindus turn against Muslims, all India will become like Kashmir.”

Muzaffarnagar and Sha­mli had, a decade ago, over two dozen big iron and steel units. Today, Shamli has just one steel fact­ory: Ashok Bansal’s. He, and other industrialists, are engaged in hectic talks with the government to get electricity rates cut: it’s the main culprit for the dec­line of industry. To top it, the growing communal schism. “When I was a child, nobody here was Muslim or Hindu,” Bansal says. “They were only chacha or tau (uncle).” Almost all of Bansal’s ski­lled wor­kers—cutters, binders, pressers—are Muslim. They will leave, if tensions persist, he fears. Bansal, raised in a mixed neighbourhood, “now lives where there are only banias”. “Everybody is thinking, ‘we have to save ourselves, stay among our own’,” he says. But he wonders if Hindus will do the skilled work. He hasn’t seen any Hindus learning those trades.

By Pragya Singh in Western UP

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