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Archives for : October2017

Risking Health Of Its Women, India Uses Controversial Contraceptive In Family Planning Programme

Shaifali Agrawal,



In July this year, the Indian government introduced an injectable contraceptive, depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), best known as depo provera, into the public health system. The contraceptive would be made available for free through Mission Parivar Vikas, which seeks to improve family planning services in 145 high-focus districts.


This was an important development for India, which is set to surpass China as the world’s most populous nation by 2024 and where millions of women (12.9%) who need contraceptives do not have access to them.


However, DMPA has long been controversial, being linked to a range of health issues including osteoporosis, breast cancer, and delayed return of fertility. Those who support its use, including government agencies, say its benefits outweigh its risks, that it will be administered with informed consent, and that use in the private sector has already settled suspicions about its side-effects.


Women’s rights groups and health activists point out, on the other hand, that widespread illiteracy makes informed consent a farce in Indian settings, where the healthcare system displays a Malthusian aversion to population growth, especially among the poor. They warn that the Rs 100 incentive for the user may unfairly induce women to choose DMPA over more appropriate alternatives, and health workers may push it without properly informing women of its potential risks as required under the rules.




DMPA is a progestogen-only drug injected intra-muscularly. It acts by inhibiting ovulation, thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the endometrial lining to make it difficult for the fertilised ovum to implant itself.


It does not need to be taken daily but once in three months, and women with unsupportive husbands can use it without letting them know.


However, it is suspected to contribute to, as we said, osteoporosis and breast cancer, and to make it difficult to conceive for upto a year after discontinuation. It does not help prevent the spread of HIV, and possibly increases the chances of contracting it. Also, there are practical problems in administering it in India’s public healthcare system.


The contraceptive has been introduced under Mission Parivar Vikas across 145 districts in seven states that have Total Fertility Rates (TFR) of more than or equal to 3, with the aim of reducing this to the replacement-level fertility rate of 2.1 by 2025.


Across India, as per the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), 12.9% women do not have access to contraceptives that they need, and 5.7% to spacing methods. India’s maternal mortality rate is among the highest in Southeast Asia–174 per 100,000 live births. Adequate contraception could reduce maternal deaths by 29% a year around the world, according to a 2012 study published in the Lancet.


Source: World Health Statistics 2017, World Health Organization


Different contraceptive options serve varied purposes depending on a woman’s age and stage in life, Abhijit Das from the Delhi-based NGO Centre for Health and Social Justice told IndiaSpend. One type of contraceptive might be useful for someone whose primary concern is to prevent infection, another might suit couples who want to avoid conception, and yet another may work best for those who have intercourse occasionally.


Health concerns and studies in India


So a new contraceptive should be good news for adding to the bouquet of choices available. In the case of DMPA, however, the situation is complicated.


There has been no definitive research in India on Indian subjects to put the question of its suspected health risks such as osteoporosis and breast cancer at rest. A 2006 study showed longer duration of use (2-5 years) was associated with more loss and less complete recovery of bone mass density, which can increase one’s chances of acquiring osteoporosis. A 2012 studyshowed that recent DMPA use for 12 months or longer was associated with a 2.2-fold increased risk of invasive breast cancer, although the elevated risk of breast cancer associated with DMPA appears to dissipate after use is stopped. Both studies were conducted abroad.


“We have always asked for…independent data before you put it out there,” Vani Subramaniam from Saheli said, data that would be generated “in India, and within the populations you are going to reach with the family planning programme. And not by studies that are funded by companies that are making profit from it”.


“Research is not race-, caste- and gender-neutral,” Mohan Rao, professor of Social Medicine and Community Health at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, said. “Most scientists in the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) would be trained in the neo-Malthusian way of thinking. They believe that population is the biggest problem, and so we should do something about controlling population.”


This March, the World Health Organization (WHO) reclassified DMPA from “safe for everyone” to “benefits outweigh the risk” for women at high risk of contracting HIV, after reviewing 35 years of research. Some public health groups insist that women and couples at high risk of HIV acquisition must be provided with male and female condoms, regardless of which family planning method they choose.


Among the dozen public health experts IndiaSpend spoke to, the majority said DMPA must be used cautiously, or not at all. C Sathyamala, author of an epidemiological review (health or disease surveillance to identify risk factors) based on five years of research, said even one injection can be harmful. The Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) and the NGO FHI360 said, respectively, that after two years it should be reviewed “on a case-to-case basis” and used “with caution”.


“There is no perfect method. All methods have some or the other side-effects,” Das said, adding that most neighbouring countries use it, “but we have not seen the kind of complications we expected from there”. He termed it “reasonably safe” for short-term use, but emphasised its use should be limited to short durations.


Source: Trends In Contraceptive Use Worldwide (2015), United Nations


However, the government’s reference manual on DMPA says “there is no limit to the number of years DMPA can be continuously used.” “There are no long-term impacts, even if one uses it for 10 years,” said Suneeta Mittal, a gynaecologist at FORTIS who was engaged with the government on depo provera.


Provider-controlled method in unaccountable system


Like most hormonal contraceptives, DMPA has several temporary side-effects: Menstrual changes, weight gain, headache, changes in mood, and decrease in sex drive.


“Counselling and education of clients are most effective in management of side-effects and certainly influence continuation rates,” Manisha Bhise, Director Clinical Services and Quality Assurance at FPAI, said. Counselling means giving information on all the contraceptive options available, and the side-effects of each.


However, less than half (46.5%) the current users had ever been told about the side-effects of a method of contraception in NFHS-4.


According to the WHO’s Medical Eligibility Criteria 2015, DMPA should not be used by women with multiple risk factors for arterial cardiovascular disease, such as advanced age, smoking, diabetes and hypertension; unexplained vaginal bleeding before evaluation; a history of current or past breast cancer; and other medical conditions.


“Do the doctors have time in primary health system to do the hormonal assessment–and look at contraindications?” N Sarojini, director of SAMA Women’s Resource Centre, asked.


Das argues that all methods of contraception require screening, and that should not deter their use. “Can the system do screening for sterilisation, which has chances for infections, failures, and death if not done correctly? Today even IUDs are pushed in a coercive manner,” he said.


Even in the US, the majority of the 12 million women using depo provera belong to the marginalised or less-empowered communities. A “myth of informed consent is promoted as a safeguard and to protect the manufacturers from liability clause”, Sathyamala said.


Those opposed to DMPA say it is hazardous even if used in the “best” way. “If I were a woman, I wouldn’t use it even if I had the money [to go to private practitioner offering better quality of service],” Yogesh Jain, founder of Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS), a people’s health support group in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, said.


How it came to be introduced


During 1993-94, when DMPA was introduced in the private sector, women’s rights groups had approached the Supreme Court seeking a ban on it, in addition to other drugs.


In 1995, the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) of the drugs regulator, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, which decides technical matters pertaining to drugs, issued an order that DMPA should not be allowed for mass use in the National Family Planning Programme and that its use should be restricted to women who are aware of the implications of its use.


The litigation concluded in February 2001. A number of drugs were banned, but DMPA was allowed in the private sector, where, it was hoped, it would be administered after counselling and with informed consent.


More recently, the interest in injectables has grown after the global movement FP2020 was launched by the UK government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2012, aiming to reach 120 million women in poor and developing nations by 2020, 40% of whom live in India.


On February 16, 2015, the DTAB held a meeting to discuss the Department of Family Welfare’s  proposal to introduce DMPA into the public health facilities under the Family Planning Programme. “It has recently been discovered that the osteoporotic effects of the injection grow worse, the longer Depo-Provera is administered and may remain long after the injections are stopped, and may be irreversible,” DTAB noted.


It also noted that the US Food and Drug Administration had kept DMPA under its strictest ‘black box’ warning since 2004 on similar concerns. It said DMPA should be used as a long-term birth control method only when there is no alternative available.


The DTAB recommended that the Department of Family Welfare “examine the matter in consultation with the leading gynaecologists of the country”.


On July 24, 2015, the head of the family planning division of the department held a national consultation with representatives of government medical colleges and leading civil society organisations including the ICMR, Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India, FPAI, PFI and FHI360 India.


Those opposed to DMPA, such as SAMA, Saheli, Jan Swasthiya Abhiyan (a coalition of more than 1,000 organisations) and respected professionals, were absent from the list of invitees.


It was agreed that since DMPA had been used in the private sector for 20 years with no adverse events reported, no pilot study was required. Working on this recommendation, the DTAB agreed to introduce DMPA in the public health system on August 18, 2015.


Essentially, the DTAB changed its stance without any discussion with the opposing groups and without any scientific evidence, a memorandum signed by more than 70 health groups pointed out. “Given that the safety and other concerns regarding Depo Provera remain and have not been resolved, we wish to know the basis and the rationale for this sudden granting of approval by the DTAB,” the memorandum said.


DTAB did not respond to questions for this story.


Concerns remain


By introducing DMPA without a pilot and in the absence of any long-term studies, the government has acted on a crucial matter of public health without adequate scientific evidence, Sathyamala said, adding that “anecdotes cannot replace well-designed study”.


Yet, there were few protests against the DTAB’s decision, which Rao blames on “a certain kind of NGO-isation of the women’s movement” that shows a weakened health movement and women’s movement. “When there were early efforts to introduce injectables, there were massive demonstrations at Ministry of Health & Family Welfare,” Rao said. “Today we could only do a signature campaign.”


The campaign against DMPA and the questions around it remain relevant, Smitha Nair, who teaches at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, wrote in the February 2017 issue of the Economic and Political Weekly. Reproductive rights, when reduced to “choice of contraceptives” without considering the overall health and wellbeing of women, result only in the control and “unfreedom” of women, she wrote.


IndiaSpend Solutions
Attribution Solution Explanation
Abhijit Das, Centre for Health and Social Justice Promote the use of condoms. “Korea and Japan which have a high rate1 of condom use (23.9% and 46.1%, respectively) have low total fertility rates of 1.1 and 1.2 (per 1,000 women). Condoms are a cheap, least invasive, safe, user-controlled and effective option not just for contraception, but for prevention of infection (HIV, STDs, STIs). Men need to be responsible and involved in the decision-making process regarding family-planning.”
Any spacing methods which are safe and reliable, such as diaphragms, should be introduced in the public health system. “Women have to have access to methods. Contraceptive needs of unmarried women also need to be acknowledged… More methods will allow women to chose the one that suits their needs best.”
N Sarojini,
SAMA Women’s Resource Centre
Put DMPA off until 2019 when the result of the ‘Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes’ (ECHO) trial provides clarity on its potential link with HIV acquisition. ECHO is an ongoing randomized trial that seeks to provide definitive information on the risk of HIV acquisition associated with different contraceptive methods. Study results will not be available before 2019.
Jashodhara Dasgupta, Sahyog From a civil society point of view, meet the need for information on contraceptive options; and empower users to monitor these services themselves. “Experience with NRHM had shown that when we are looking at poor people accessing family planning services, they do not work until the poor people are informed and are themselves empowered to actively monitor whether these services are working or not.”
Remove incentives. Under the MPV, the health worker who administers the injection and the woman who receives it both get an incentive of Rs 100 each. “Incentives are considered a form of disguised coercion.”
Mohan Rao, Jawaharlal Nehru University India needs an institution like theNational Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE2) in the UK to routinely scrutinise all technologies. “We can’t blindly accept technologies for what they promise,” he said, citing the example of the ultrasound technology that has been used to determine the sex of the unborn child in order to selectively abort female foetuses, skewing India’s sex ratio.

1. Trends In Contraceptive Use Worldwide (2015), United Nations; 2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

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After starvation death case: Jharkhand minister scraps top state official’s order on Aadhaar-PDS link


The order also pointed out that on April 6, the minister had written to his secretary asking for a self-contained report on how the chief secretary could issue such a direction. However, the report was never filed.

Written by Prashant Pandey | Ranchi |

Koyli Devi, whose family had been removed from the state PDS list. Her daughter Santoshi died last month. (File)

Four days after questioning the directions given by the Jharkhand chief secretary on mandatorily linking Aadhaar to ration cards by April 5, state PDS Minister Saryu Roy Saturday passed an order cancelling the instructions issued by the government’s top official. Citing a Government of India circular of February 8, Roy said beneficiaries could produce any approved identity document to avail of ration under the PDS. The order, which has been accessed by The Sunday Express, said: “It is clear that the direction issued by the Chief Secretary on March 27 through video-conferencing and given in writing to the department Secretary on March 29 is in contravention of the directions already issued by the Government of India and, therefore, it is liable to be annulled.”

Efforts to reach Chief Secretary Rajbala Verma by phone for a comment did not succeed. Text messages were not replied to. The order said that in a circular issued on February 8, the Union Ministry of Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution had said that the drive to get ration cards linked with Aadhaar would be intensified. However, nobody would be denied rations for want of the same, and they could avail of their quota by producing any of the approved identity documents, such as Aadhaar enrolment number, Aadhaar application slip, voter ID, driving licence, authenticated letter by tehsildar or a gazetted officer, passport, PAN, Kisan Photo Passbook or any other document approved by the state or central government.

The order said: “The direction of the Government of India is absolutely clear… It shows the sensitivity of the Government to ensure that the beneficiaries keep getting rations under any circumstance. However, at the state level, it reflects an acute of lack of sensitivity among the responsible officers, which is sad.”

The order also pointed out that on April 6, the minister had written to his secretary asking for a self-contained report on how the chief secretary could issue such a direction. However, the report was never filed.

Roy told The Sunday Express over the phone: “I had raised the issue and waited for some kind of clarification for four days. Nothing has been put up before me. Therefore, I have passed the written order. The directive of the Government of India and several other rulings of the Supreme Court make it amply clear that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for lifting of rations.”

He also said that he has asked officials to review all 11.5 lakh ration cards that were cancelled after the exercise of linking them with Aadhaar was launched in October last year. “The figure has been mentioned in the 1,000-day booklet of the government. But I was waiting for a break-up of this number before approving the file. This has not been done yet. Now, I have asked officials to review the whole thing and find out how many cards have got cancelled due to non-availability of Aadhaar,” Roy said.

The state government claims that they had deleted 11.5 lakh “fake” or “ineligible” ration cards, while adding more than nine lakh new ones under the new system.

The minister also expressed his reservations over top officials giving directions to lower-level officials, leading to confusion. “I have been visiting one village every week to review the working of the ration shops. I have realised that junior officials spend a lot of time listening to instructions from the top, and don’t get ample time to execute the task at hand,” he said.

Now, the Jharkhand government has launched a toll-free number — 1800 212 55 12 — where people can leave complaints about problems in the food distribution system, apart from clarifying that the unique identity number is not needed to receive food from the government.

“Aadhaar card is not mandatory. Any card, including a driver’s licence and voter ID card or any specified card, is permissible for procuring food grains,” Jharkhand Food Minister Saryu Roy said. “Grain banks” will be set up in every block, the minister said.

Secretary, PDS Vinay Chaubey could not be reached for a comment. According to a state government press release issued on March 27, the chief secretary’s directive followed a review meeting with PDS officials. “In the course of review, the CS has said that by April 5 all such ration cards, which don’t have Aadhaar, will become ineligible and only Aadhaar-based system would be used for lifting ration,” the release said.

The family of 11-year-old Santoshi, who died in Simdega district last month, allegedly due to non-availability of ration, had been removed from the state’s PDS because their Aadhaar cards were not linked to the new list issued by the government.

After starvation death case: Jharkhand minister scraps top state official’s order on Aadhaar-PDS link

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Rejected Afzal Guru’s mercy plea on government’s advice: Pranab Mukherjee

Former president Pranab Mukherjee, who is against the continuation of the death sentence, also insisted that it was for lawmakers to amend the law and abolish capital punishment, which is in the Indian Penal Code.

Speaking about Kashmir, former President Pranab Mukherjee said the situation “definitely requires undivided attention” of all those concerned.
Speaking about Kashmir, former President Pranab Mukherjee said the situation “definitely requires undivided attention” of all those concerned.(PTI File Photo)

Former president Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday he rejected Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s mercy petition on advice from the government as he could not have assumed the role of the court which had already considered the death sentence at various stages.

Mukherjee, who is against the continuation of the death sentence, also insisted that it was for lawmakers to amend the law and abolish capital punishment, which is in the Indian Penal Code. During his tenure from 2012 to 2017, Mukherjee rejected 30 mercy pleas.

“Before a mercy petition comes to the President, it passes through various stages and different actions had already been taken. The President goes by the advice of the government,” he told HT in an interview.

“If the government advises rejection of the mercy petition, the President naturally will go by that. The President cannot assume the role of the court which had already considered the death sentence at various stages.”

A trial court sentenced Afzal, then studying medicine, to death on December 18, 2002, for his role in the terror attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001.

The Delhi high court later confirmed the sentence, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2004. The sentence was to be carried out on October 20, 2006 in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, but a mercy petition by the family to the President stayed it. Guru was finally hanged in Tihar Jail on February 9, 2013 after Mukherjee rejected his mercy petition on February 3 that year.

“I did not believe in keeping the files without taking any action. I disposed them off and accepted the government’s recommendations to reject mercy petitions except in 1 or 2 cases where I discussed with the then home minister and both of us agreed on commuting the death sentence. Rest all, I confirmed,” he said.

Speaking about Kashmir, he said the situation “definitely requires undivided attention” of all those concerned. “We were able to manage the situation during UPA-I and UPA-II. Similarly, this government is also making efforts. Let us see how the situation develops and how problems are resolved.”

“More than often the secessionist elements take advantage by constantly launching agitations but we shall have to resolve the issue with the cooperation of the people and the government in Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.

Asked about the revival of Congress, he said the party has the “capacity to face the situation, tackle adversities and come out with ideas and principles”.

“…whenever there is crisis the party had the capacity to overcome that. I have no doubt that Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders and workers will be able to overcome the crisis and Congress will play its own role.”

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New petition in SC challenges linking #Aadhaar with bank account and phones

Laxmi Prasanna| TNN | 

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A new writ petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the linking of Aadhaar with one’s bank account to mobile phones. The writ filed on behalf of noted gender activist and writer Dr. Kalyani Menon Sen is expected to be heard after Diwali holidays. This is the recent writ after a spate of petitions led by retired Justice K. S. Puttaswamy.

“The current writ petition numbered as WP [C] No. 1002/2017 is filed in public interest under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution to raise issues which endanger Fundamental Rights of Indian citizens, protected under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. It is filed on behalf of Dr Kalyani Menon Sen and is likely to be heard by the Supreme Court after Diwali holidays,” Senior counsel Vipin Nair told TOI . This petition challenges Rule 2(b) of the Prevention of Money-laundering (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment Rules, 2017 (Impugned provision), which seeks to amend Rule 9 of the Prevention of Money-laundering (Maintenance of Records) Rules, 2005, issued under the Prevention of Money-laundering (PMLA) Act 2005, he said.

By virtue of this Impugned Provision, submission of Aadhaar Number has been made mandatory for individual clients, companies, partnership firms and trusts for opening bank accounts, maintaining existing bank accounts, making any financial transactions of and above Rs. 50,000; and crediting foreign remittance into ‘small accounts’. Existing bank account holders have been directed to furnish Aadhaar numbers before Dec 31 this year. Non-compliance with this provision will render the concerned bank accounts in-operational indefinitely, subject to submission of the Aadhaar Number and Permanent Account Number (PAN), he said.

The petition further seeks to challenge the Circular issued on March 23 this year by the Telecommunication department wherein it has been made mandatory for all mobile phone holders to link their mobile phone numbers with Aadhaar.

This petition appeals to the court to issue an appropriate order to declare that the impugned circular issued on March 23 this year is null and void and totally unconstitutional as it violates the fundamental rights of the Indian constitution. It also seeks the court to issue an order declaring that based on such a provision, the mobile phones of subscribers will not be made in-operational and future applicants will not be forced to submit their Aadhar numbers. It also pleads before the court to seek clarification from such companies or respondents who enforce such rules even when the program under Aadhaar Act is entirely voluntary. It also seek to issue an order to ensure that biometric, fingerprints and iris scans are the personal property of the citizens and not that of the state or some company infringing the privacy of the individual.

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India – Is there Untouchability even in Death? #Hallofshame

Much as we would like to pretend that we live in a progressive country on the fast track to being a superpower, the bitter truth is that caste and untouchability stubbornly refuse to go away.

Ashwin Tombat

Dalits in Rampura village of Detroj taluka hailed the decision.

On Monday 16 October 2017, The Times of India reported that last Saturday,  a “dream came true” for the dalit community at Rampura village in Detroj taluka of Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, when they got a cremation ground of their own, called Dalit Muktidham‘. This village of 2,500 has 500 dalits, who are not allowed to use the common village cremation ground.

Is it a cause for celebration that one of India’s untouchable communities gets the ‘right’ to perform the last rites of their kin separately?

A 2016 RTI query by the Navsarjan Trust revealed that the Gujarat government is funding separate cremation grounds for the scheduled castes; 10 villages in Kheda district had separate crematoriums for dalits, and the state government had allocated funds for 40 more. Construction of these dalit crematoriums is being done as per a state government circular of 1981.

This is not restricted to Gujarat. In 2013, the Urban Improvement Trust (UIT) of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, floated a tender to construct separate cremation grounds for 47 castes and sub-castes. After the tender was published, they realised that three to four sub-castes had been left out. It was subsequently decided to build separate cremation grounds for them too…

Rajasthan’s state capital Jaipur is no exception. The pink city’s biggest cremation ground, Chandpole, has separate areas earmarked for different castes. Why? It’s a practice since princely rule, say embarrassed officials.

Since 2016, the BJP’s former Union Minister of State of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Sanjeev Balyan (he resigned just before PM Modi’s last reshuffle), an accused in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, has spent a major chunk of his MP Local Area Development fund to build separate crematoriums for Dalits, Gurjars, Jats and Brahmins in Muzaffarnagar.

Punjab Scheduled Castes Commission Chairman Rajesh Bagha says that in most villages of Punjab, there are separate cremation grounds for each caste, all funded by the government. His commission has advocated common cremation grounds for members of all castes to eradicate caste-based discrimination.

Retired Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal, who committed suicide on the One-Rank-One-Pension (OROP) issue, was cremated at a separate cremation ground meant for dalits at his native village Bamla in Haryana’s Bhiwani district. He belonged to a scheduled caste, and in his village, Pandits, Dalits and Jats have different cremation grounds. It made no difference that Grewal had been Sarpanch of his village from 2005 to 2010.

Goa is no exception. In 2002, Upper and intermediate caste Hindus from a village in Bardez objected to scheduled castes being cremated in the village crematorium. To ‘solve’ the problem, local authorities offered to build ‘another crematorium’ for dalits, before activists intervened and the row settled down.

And though no new incident has made the news, very recently, former Union Law Minister Ramakant Khalap demanded that a public crematorium that was accessible to all castes and communities be set up in each village in Goa, so that people of lower castes do not have to face indignity in death.

Can there be equality in separation? The United States struggled with this question for nearly 100 years. ‘Separate but Equal‘ was a legal doctrine which the US Supreme Court enshrined in the case Plessy vs Ferguson in 1896. It said that as long as the facilities provided to blacks and whites were equal, they could be separate. This legalised racial discrimination in the US. The doctrine was finally overturned by a series of US Supreme Court decisions in the 1950s and 60s, starting with the case Brown vs Board of Education in 1954, which held that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.

This is not a question of BJP or Congress. It has little to do with North or South. It is the stark reality of India’s caste system. Much as we would like to pretend it is in the past — that we live in a progressive country on the fast track to being a superpower — the bitter truth is that caste and untouchability stubbornly refuse to go away. If it’s there even in death, then how much more will it be in life…?

The next time that someone sends you one of those social media messages condemning caste-based reservations, spare a thought for the cruel reality of the caste system in India, and the systematic discrimination it engenders not only in life but even in death. Think seriously about it before you decide whether to forward it to your contacts.

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Chandigarh – Abortion services denied if you do not have Aadhaar #Vaw

The woman could not undergo an ultra sonography (USG) as she could not furnish her Aadhaar card.

The linking of Aadhaar to seek abortion services poses risk of life to the life of a woman, doctors at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) at Chandigarh have stated. According to the latest paper published in British Medical Journal (BMJ), a 28-year-old housemaid was forced to seek services from an unqualified quack after being turned away by the government hospital at Chandigarh, because she did not have an Aadhaar card.

After having not menstruated for two-and-a-half months, she realised she was pregnant and visited a government dispensary. Weighing 45 kilos, the woman already had three children.

The woman could not undergo an ultra sonography (USG) as she could not furnish her Aadhaar card. She asked the government doctor to provide her with an oral abortion drug, but she was refused that without a USG. She was then directed to a private diagnostic centre for a USG but it was too expensive. One can get an abortion in a private centre without furnishing Aadhaar card. But, she needed the consent of her husband who would not approve. “A week later, she came back to the clinic where I was posted, profusely bleeding. Her heart rate and blood pressure had gone awry,” said Dr Sudip Bhattacharya, author of the BMJ paper.

She had visited an unqualified local physician after being refused abortion services at the government hospital. The quack had conducted the abortion very poorly, and she had to undergo hospitalisation and had to be transfused blood to recover.

The housemaid had earlier also had two induced abortions, without the knowledge of the husband, a daily wager who was against abortion and also against using any form of contraception to prevent pregnancy.

The present case, however, represents only the tip of the iceberg, as many such incidents occurring in daily practice remain unnoticed and undocumented.

India’s maternal mortality is 239 deaths of pregnant women per 1,00,000 live births, as compared to those of developed countries that have 12 per 1,00,000 live births. Linking of Aadhaar for seeking abortion services is just adding more woes to a poor woman’s plight, the BMJ paper argues.

Bureaucratic procedures like this act as impediments for a woman to access safe abortion services, it says.

“Our patient also initially sought safe abortion services from a government hospital, but was denied because of bureaucratic restrictions, including the requirement for proof of identity and her husband’s signature. on certain proforma before she could even be registered as a patient. This case demonstrates how as far as poor people are concerned, the approach to safe abortion services in India can be described as ‘one step forward and two steps backward’,” Dr Bhattacharya said.

“Paradoxically, the access of underprivileged women to safe abortion services has been reduced in India, despite societal modernisation and technological advances.

There is an urgent need to remove the bureaucratic bottlenecks (procedural barriers) hindering the access of unfortunate women to safe abortion services.”

  • Linking of AADHAR for seeking abortion services is just adding more woes to a poor woman’s plight, the BMJ paper argues.
  • 4.2 crore women with unintended pregnancies undergo induced abortions worldwide
  • 50% procedures are unsafe and 68,000 women are dying of unsafe abortion
  • India’s maternal mortality is 239 deaths of pregnant women per 1,00,000 live births, as compared to those of developed countries that have 12 per 1,00,000 live births.

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India – Modi loses his luster as economy stutters

India desperately needs new economic thinking after currency and GST upheavals

HENNY SENDER, Nikkei Asian Review columnist

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi © Reuters

The garment makers of New Delhi, the carpet weavers of Varanasi, the village barbers in Haryana and other enterprises at the bottom of India’s business food chain are in trouble. Providers of space and power are demanding that their bills be paid. Yet these vulnerable enterprises have little cash coming in. Customer orders have dried up; there is virtually no demand. Every month more of them go under.

It has been nearly a year since India launched a bold experiment with de-monetization, voiding 86% of all bank notes. What was initially hailed as a bold effort to wring black money out of the economy has come to be widely considered a disaster, both in conception and execution. As if that failed experiment was not enough to deal a near-fatal blow to the weakest businesses and households, the introduction of a new goods and services tax (GST) has added to their difficulties.

Such ostensible reform measures are among the primary reasons why India’s growth in gross domestic product for the April to June period was a mere 5.7%. Under an earlier methodology, replaced by the government soon after Narendra Modi became prime minister in May 2014, the number would have been closer to 3.5%. The second quarter was the sixth consecutive quarter in which growth has decelerated.

India’s economic woes are symptoms of long festering problems and the policy failures of successive governments. But they come at a time when the rest of the world seems set on a healthier trajectory. India is falling behind when it can ill afford to do so, given that it needs to create a million jobs a month because of its youthful population but has created fewer than 1 million every year. China, by contrast, created 8.55 million jobs in the first half of this year alone.

Suddenly Mr Modi’s government – which came to power with a strong mandate – no longer appears omnipotent. This is a sharp reversal from just a few months ago, when the voters of Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest state, gave Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party an overwhelming victory over the opposition. Now it is as if the emperor has no clothes. Criticism of the administration is widespread among the opposition, and even among BJP supporters. Economic uncertainty is now being aggravated by political uncertainty.

Investment malaise

“The transition to GST, which came into effect July 1, weighed on industrial production,” JP Morgan‘s India economist Sajjid Chinoy noted in an August research report. “The shock came at an inopportune time as industrial production has not yet fully recovered after demonetization.” In June, capital goods output fell almost 7%, “reflecting the malaise characterizing the investment cycle,” Chinoy added. “We will keep a close eye on whether all the losses are made up in the future months — something that has not held true for demonetization.”

Part of the problem is related to expectations. GST was meant to be a simplified, unified tax regime replacing a patchwork of central, state and local sales taxes. It promised to make India a single economic entity rather than an agglomeration of states, each with its own tax policies. But it has not worked out that way. There are five different rates, with tortuous distinctions involving vastly different tax consequences for similar items.


Toll stations still exist at state borders, manned by collectors who sometimes lack official status and decline to give out official receipts. Even the largest companies have no clarity about the details of the new taxes, but they at least have the personnel to grapple with the complexities. Smaller businesses have had to hire staff, adding to their cost burdens.

GST was not expected to add to inflationary pressures in the economy, but it appears that in practice it is doing so. That, in turn, makes it harder for the Reserve Bank of India, the central bank, to cut interest rates, even though the cost of capital is too high.

Modi was elected on a promise to get India moving again, both figuratively and literally (the average speed of freight trains is about 25kph, and has barely changed in decades). To be sure, he has inherited a lot of problems, including a banking sector in which bad loans are equal to 6% of GDP. Private sector investment has virtually dried up, and is not likely to increase given that capacity utilization is running at about 71%.

There are a number of things that the Prime Minister can do. He has already started tinkering with the GST to make it simpler and more generous to those at the bottom of the pyramid. There are other measures that make both economic and political sense; notably further incentives for developers to build affordable housing. Such schemes would provide jobs for migrants in the big cities as well as meeting a desperate need for those who currently live in hovels.

State elections are soon coming up, with the mountain state of Himachal Pradesh going to the polls in November, while Gujarat is expected to follow in December. Gujarat is Modi’s home state, and gave him a large majority when he was re-elected chief minister there in 2012, before becoming prime minister. It is almost inconceivable that the BJP will lose control of the state, though most pundits believe its victory margin will shrink.

It would be good for India, if any future reforms were more productive than the recent ones.

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What is the Vasundhara Raje Government trying to hide?

Image result for vasundhara raje

PUCL condemns ordinance preventing investigation against public servants

Activists associated with People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), in a press conference addressed by Prem Krishan Sharma, Radha Kant Saxena and Kavita Shrivastava, condemned Rajasthan govt for bringing in the ordinance (number 3 of 2017) which Amends the CrPC and IPC and introduces sections and provisos to gag the media and lipping the powers of the magistrate to order investigation, investigate or take cognisance of complaints against public servants (including judges and magistrates).

The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 promulgated on 6th September, 2017, published on the 7th of September, 2017 in the Gazette is a sinister attempt of the Government of Rajasthan to abridge the fundamental right of speech and expression guaranteed under the Indian Constitution and to thwart the citizens right to access criminal justice system in cases of complaints against abuse of law by public servants by introducing 2 provisos to Sec. 156 (3) and Sec. 190 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and by inserting a new offence in the Indian Penal Code by way of introducing a new clause, Sec. 228-B, which makes an offence termed “disclosure of identity of certain public servants”.

The true intention of the Amendments introduced is to place an complete embargo or ban on a Judicial Magistrate before whom a complaint of having committed offences is made against any public servant, (including a Judge or Magistrate), from either ordering the police to investigate the complaint or worse, from any investigation being conducted against the said public servant (sec. 156(3) Criminal Procedure Code, new provison introduced) for acts done by them while acting or purporting to act during discharge of the official duties except without the previous sanction of the government under sec. 197 CrPC.

Very funnily, and perhaps exposing the motivated nature of the Government to somehow protect corrupt public servants and to win over them in support of the ruling party, is the amendment brought about to sec. 190 (1) of the CrPC directing that “no Magistrate shall order investigation nor will any investigation be conducted” which is a meaningless amendment as sec. 190(1) CrPC only provides for the Magistrate to take on file a private complaint filed alleging commission of an offence; this provision does not give power to the Magistrate to order investigation. This where is the need for this amendment?

We should point out that the amendments are superfluous and unnecessary as the existing provision in sec. 197 already provides protection to public servants by making it mandatory for a court to take cognisance of an offence against public servant only after getting “prior sanction” of the government. The ominous intent in the amendment becomes clear when we notice that while sec. 197 uses the term “cognisance” the new amendment refers to the word “investigate”.

The true and alarming intention therefore is to prevent at the very threshold, any possibility of “investigation’ being ordered by a Magistrate when clinching evidence is prima facie brought before the court. The amendment in a way exposes the scant respect the government has for the judicial system, for the entire criminal justice system is premised on the fact that judicial officers represent “trained judicial minds” who ensure implementation of criminal laws in an unbiased, independent and fair manner.

The truly diabolic and “chilling” effect or sinister purpose in the new amendment is exposed when we consider the same Amendment Act has introduced a new proviso to the proviso, stating that no one “shall print or publish or publicise in any manner the name, address, photographs, family details or any other particulars which may lead to disclosure of the identity of such public servants” until such time that the State Government has given sanction to prosecute. The Ordinance introduces a new offence, sec. 228-B of the Indian Penal Code, making it a criminal offence on the part of anyone who discloses identity of certain puboic servants and prvides for 2 years imprisonment and fine, if convicted.

The menacing import is very clear: to silence the media and to prevent the judiciary from exercising its judicial function of setting the criminal law in motion. In effect, what the Government cannot do by moving a Constitutional amendment to abridge the fundamental right of speech and expression the Government is doing by the back-door, to make it impossible for people to seek justice against corrupt public servants.

Legally, the amendments to the CrPC and IPC brought through the ordinance, goes against the unanimous ruling of the 5-Judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court in `Lalita Kumari vs State of UP’ (2014) which clearly clarifies, that in case where the complaint against a public servant makes out a `cognisable’ offence, a FIR has to be lodged and investigation begun by the police officer. In cases where the alleged offences are non-cognisable or are about corrupt acts, then the Police officer or Investigation Officer (IO) in empowered to initiate a preliminary enquiry into the complaint, and in the event that a prima facie case is made out the police officer should place the complaint received and the report of the preliminary enquiry making out a prima facie case before the `concerned court’ and seek directions to obtain sanction to prosecute u/s 197 against the accused public servants.

This legal principle has been very succinctly summarised in the Circular of Government of Rajasthan, Home (Group-10) Department No. F.11(35) / Home – 10/2015 dated 24.08.2015. This Circular issued by the Addl. Chief Secretary, Home, Mr. A. Mukhopadhyaya very clearly summarises the legal position that when a non-cognisable offence is made out against a public servant, then the Prosecuting Officer of the concerned court after receiving the report from the Polcie Officer should bring the facts to the knowledge of the court about the public servant and the alleged offences and inform the court that no cognisance should be taken until and unless the requisite sanction under section 197 CrPC or Sectio 19 Prevention of Corruption Act is officially obtained and is on record.

Seen against this background it becomes explicitly clear that the Ordinance introducing amendments to sec. 156(3) Proviso, Sec. 190(1) proviso,of CrPC and introducing a new offence, sec. 228-B, IPC are in reality meant to neutralise the Constitutional bench ruling in Lalita Kumari case (2014), its own Circular of 2015 by removing the power of the police to initiate even a preliminary enquiry where a prima facie case is made out based on the complaint. The effort is to defang the police and investigating authorities by removing powers vested with them by law to initiate even a preliminary enquiry. To make it doubly sure that the government will protect corrupt officials, the Ordinance removes the power of the Magistrate to take cognisance or give directions to the police to investigate offences where the facts in the complaint make out a prima facie case.

Globally it is now well recognised that the `Right to Corruption-free governance is a fundamental right and a basic human right’. The Amendment institutionalises impunity and provides immunity to corrupt officials against even a preliminary enquiry when facts clearly establish an offence.

We would like to ask the Vasundhara Raje Government, as to why the need for an ordinance to keep everything under wraps. IS the intent of this ordinance to prevent the expose’ of the faces of corruption in this Government or prosecute or probe any of the cases of corruption as a part of the run up to the election in 2018.

It is also important to note that the ordinance has not been uploaded as yet on either Home or the Law Department website. The Rajasthan Rajbhawan (Governor’s) website only provides a list of ordinances and Acts promulgated. However although the list has been last updated on the 11th of September, ithas no update of ordinance number 3, which is the one discussed above. Although ordinance number 2 was also on Criminal Law ( Rajasthan Amendment).

Interestingly the Governor’s website has more than 24 pressnotes on its website after the 6th of September, the date when the ordinance was promulgated, including greetings for KarvaChauth to the people of the state.

This press note has also not been put up on any website, neither law and justice, nor Home nor the police. It clearly shows that the intent was to suppress the information form the public, leave alone holding pre legislative consultation, an imperative, issued as a GO by the UPA Government in 2014 January.

The only mention that this important ordinance gets is in a press note of the DIPR on the 8th of September.

The PUCL demands that the Government immediately repeal this ordinance and not place it in the forthcoming State Assembly session for its passage to make an Act.

The PUCL will challenge this ordinance in the Rajasthan High Court at the earliest.

Kavita Srivastava (President)
Anant Bhatnagar ( General Secretary)

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