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Archives for : March2018

Rights groups: ‘Supreme Court order on SC/ST Act will reverse gains

Latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data shows reported crimes against SCs increased by 5.5 per cent in 2016 while crimes against STs has increased by 4.7 per cent.

Delhi: At a time when cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis have increased despite low conviction rates, rights groups said Tuesday’s Supreme Court order would reverse many gains made after amen-ding the Atrocities Act in 2015.

The Supreme Court order, many fear, will not only delay justice but make victims more vulnerable to threats, which goes against the stated object of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015, which seeks to protect the life and property of vulnerable groups.

Latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data shows reported crimes against SCs increased by 5.5 per cent in 2016 while crimes against STs has increased by 4.7 per cent. The highest number of cases recorded were against women, including cases of sexual assault and rape.

Merely 25 per cent of the total cases of atrocities against SCs and 20 per cent in case of STs ended in convictions in 2016 — a drop from the already low conviction rate of 27 per cent for both categories in 2015.

“A majority of these crimes are serious and not something that can be misused. The high acquittal rate already points to the shoddy investigations in cases of atrocities,” said VA Ramesh Nathan of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights.

He said that despite the Atrocities Act, those accused in mass killings of Dalits — from the 1997 Laxmanpur Bathe massacre to the Khairlanji massacre — have all been convicted by the Sessions court only to be acquitted by the High Court due to the failure of investigations.

On Tuesday, the two-judge bench of Justices U U Lalit and A K Goel have, in their order, aimed at preventing the “misuse of the law”, allowed for anticipatory bail for the accused in certain situations. It also mandated prior sanction to prosecute anyone under the Atrocities Act, and in case of public servants, with the approval of the appointing officer and for others, prior sanction from the Senior Superintendent of Police.

Nitish Nawsagaray, Professor at ILS Law College in Pune who is also part of Dalit Adivasi Adhikar Andolan, said that prior sanctions would further derail a system where arrests are not made even for heinous crimes. “This is disturbing for the Dalit movement. Denial of anticipatory bail in atrocities cases was upheld by Supreme Court in the State Of M.P. vs Ram Krishna Balothia order of 1995. It was meant to ensure that the perpetrators do not use their political clout to get away.”

Source:-http://indianexpress.com/article/india/rights-groups-supreme-court-order-on-sc-st-act-will-reverse-gains-5105126/

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India – Govt Curtailing Special Category Status to NE States, a Ploy to Open it For Open Corporate Loot and Plunder

 

Bhumi Adhikar Andolan publicly condemns the rise of saffron terror in North East and the denial of special category to NE states. We condemn the state sponsored atrocities in Tripura after the BJP government came into power and in order to saffronize the politics and society has been actively eliminating any opposition and dissenting voices from the State. The on ground situation has been worsening with vigilantes backed by the ruling BJP government broke into CPI(M) offices and vandalizing property along with preplanned attacks on the CPI(M) cadres and supporters.

Akhil Gogoi of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Assam shared that North Eastern States are in the throes of deep economic crisis because the status of north eastern states as ‘special category states’ since 1969 has been removed by the central government, stopping the flow of central fund, centre sponsored schemes and also limiting the state’s taxation powers by further imposing GST. In light of these changes the picture that emerges is that the government has deliberately halted the infrastructural and developmental activities along with the funds for government schemes to cripple the economy of the region and create a state of emergency. Special industrial policy for the north eastern states called the ‘North East Industrial Investment Promotion Policy’ (NEIIPP) which had accelerated the industrial growth in the region with subsidies and incentives for small scale as well as big enterprises was suspended and has been replaced by ‘North East Industrial Development Scheme’ (NEIDS) announced recently by central cabinet curbs the budget to 3000 crore rupees for the interim period till 2020 for all the eight states of the north east, this has further escalated the crisis. There are 32 per cent marginal farmers and 28 per cent landless people yet there is no intention to implement land reform in the region, or a policy framework to address the flood and erosion problem of the state and instead the government introduced the Citizenship amendment bill 2016 which tries to disrupt the social and cultural fabric of Assam, we pledge to fight against this. This policy framework along with violating the promise of No big dams in the region points towards the anti people stance of the BJP government.

Jitendra Chaudhary joint secretary of AIKS and member of Parliament from Tripura, shared that NE states like Assam were once one of the most economically prosperous region of the Indian subcontinent but after the partition it has been reduced to being the chicken corridor and has been reduced to neglected and underdeveloped condition. North Eastern region could have been a buffer for the country, we could have contributed more for the development of the country but the government is dividing the people against caste lines and has no intention to address the issue of livelihood that they face.

Dr. Sunilam shared that ‘we support diversity of the nation, it is intrinsic to the fabric of this nation which is under attack after the BJP government came into power that has been trying to create a Hindu Rashtra; we respect the secular spirit of this nation enshrined in its constitution and will not stand by as fascist forces divide and rule this country. We are going to launch a ‘save diversity, save India, save constitution’ campaign which will celebrate the spirit of diversity and dissent. We demand that the government should withdraw all the cases of sedition filed against social activists and opposition leaders in order to eliminate political opposition.

Hannan Mollah from AIKS stated that we are intensifying our struggle, BAA has formed state chapters in 14 states and have initited the process of state committee formation. Our focus is on the need to have extended reach and bring together the issues of farmers from across the country and form a collective strength.

Bhumi Adhikar Andolan

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Rainwater harvesting is the best way forward for irrigation

As intensive agriculture spreads across India, there is an urgent need to encourage rainwater harvesting to irrigate multiple crops instead of the current unsustainable practice of groundwater extraction

A water harvesting structure in Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh helps farmers to increase the local farm moisture regime for both the summer and winter crops.

A water harvesting structure in Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh helps farmers to increase the local farm moisture regime for both the summer and winter crops.

There’s increasing concern about the growing demand for irrigation and emerging unsustainable practices of groundwater exploitation. This has been my major preoccupation for the past three decades. It was in 1990, when I started exploring problems of farming in Purulia and Bankura districts of West Bengal and adjoining areas of Jharkhand, that I realized unless farmers are encouraged to conserve rainwater in their own field, it would be difficult to meet the demand of irrigation to save their crops from dry spells.

My engagement with farmers on irrigation infrastructure development was guided by the understanding that, so long we are not taking best possible care of rainwater that we receive on our land, we should not think of exploiting other water resources. At that time I proposed that at least 5% of each piece of land or each farmer’s holding should be converted in to small water harvesting structures.

That was in context when farmers were primarily worried about saving their Kharif (summer) paddy from dry spells during flowering. The idea emerged through interaction with several village communities in Purulia. If a patch of land, say of 100 hectares, is treated for rainwater harvesting, this area would have 5 hectare of water bodies and each farmer would have free access and full control over water they require.

The question of equity was addressed within the design of land treatment, unlike big dam and canal based irrigation. Demonstrations were made with varied degree of success. In some villages, where soil was not so sandy or clay loam, there was no need for irrigation even during a dry spell of 24 days (in September 1992) as local moisture of treated area with the 5% model got enhanced.

More systematic approach required

However, during the past three decades, demand for irrigation has gone up. Farmers are producing two to three crops. Therefore, a more systematic and scientific approach to rainwater harvesting is required to work out an appropriate design.

Recently, on a visit to rural West Bengal and Chhattisgarh, I found farmers have been encouraged to exploit groundwater to meet increased irrigation demand. The practice of using submersible pumps to draw water from 100 ft to 300 ft is now common. In some places (for example, Kulik river basin in North Dinajpur of West Bengal), farmers said that the shallow water table (up to 50 ft) that was supplying water for the Rabi (winter) crop now gets so depleted in winter that it affects dry season flow in the local river. Similar experiences must be common in other river basin as well.

Farmers are now installing deep tube wells and selling water, earning Rs 2000 to Rs 3000 per bigha (about 0.3 to 0.5 acre, depending upon the local unit of bigha) per season. Thus, one tube well owner supplying water to 25 bighas is earning Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000 in a cropping season, against her investment of Rs 100,000 to Rs 150,000. Thus, a common property is being exploited for individual profit without any accountability for the depletion of an aquifer.

The 5% model of farm irrigation helps save the summer rice crop from dry spells.

The 5% model of farm irrigation helps save the summer rice crop from dry spells.

A rough calculation shows that a winter crop of 1 acre would require about 0.3 acre meter to 0.5 acre meter (or 3,000 to 5,000 cubic meter) of water, depending upon type of crop. If the depth of each irrigation were 2 inches or 5 cm, a crop that needs six irrigations would require 30 cm, and if a crop demands 10 irrigations, it would require 50 cm. By multiplying this depth with area of land, one can get a volume of water in cubic meters. It could be possible that a tube well owner is drawing 100,000 cubic meter of water per season to earn Rs 50,000. These are rough calculations.

We may thus assume that to get 1 cubic meter of water, one needs to deplete about 4 to 5 cubic meter of aquifer volume. Thus, for 100,000 cubic meter of water, one needs to deplete 400,000 to 500,000 cubic meter of an aquifer. Deeper the aquifer, lower is the possibility of natural annual replenishment through monsoon rain. This would badly affect the future water availability in an area.

Regulate groundwater exploitation

Thus, there is a need to come up with policies to regulate groundwater exploitation. At the same time, we cannot stop growth of intensive farming. Where would the additional water come from? To my understanding, rainwater harvesting is only sustainable solution. Keeping the future scenario in mind, all state governments should come up with policies to encourage rainwater harvesting based on a scientific assessment of irrigation demand.

At least 70% of demand should be met from rainwater harvesting. The fear of declining land availability from agriculture could be addressed through intensification and diversification in farming. Again, there are deeper technical matters involved in this and this paper in not the appropriate place to get in to that. There have been many such initiatives made by different state governments under the rural jobs guarantee scheme but they need to be strengthened with right policies to stop free riding.

Some development experts say why should the onus of rainwater harvesting be only on farmers when groundwater depletion is a national problem? We must realize that out of the total national water use across sectors, about 80% or more water is used for farming. More that 70% or more rainwater is also received in rural areas since farmland is 60% of India’s geographical area and forest is 23%. I would also assume that about 60% of the water must be received directly on farmlands.

It could be assumed that the volume of runoff water is proportionate to sector-wise distribution of area of lands. So, the potential for rainwater harvesting is proportionate to the volume of runoff available from respective areas. That tells us that farmlands are significant in terms of its potential of rainwater harvesting.

Why should farmers be made responsible for this important task? As a nation, all of us responsible, but as we accept private ownership over land, how can we start any movement if the farmers are not ready? If rainwater is available on my piece of land, who can or should harvest it other than me? There are enough examples that farmers can increase on farm water availability by converting cultivable land into water harvesting structures. And that has immediate positive economic impact on a farmer family.

Farmers’ job

Under the present context, it is the farmers who should be made responsible to harvest their water that they use to earn their livelihoods. If one is using 2,000 cubic meter of water (pumping it out either from a local river, or groundwater or a tank) to grow 1 acre of wheat or vegetables, who should be responsible to add same volume of water back in to her ecosystem so that she has access to same volume of water next year?

We also have to keep in mind that there are politics of water division. And there is going to be more aggressive political tension at the local to International levels. But let us also understand that the problem of water scarcity cannot be addressed through politics and power games. First, there has to be technological breakthrough in water resource management. Secondly, there is need for more effective extension of technologies. Thirdly, this requires policy support to make every water user responsible and accountable for the volume of water one uses.

All stakeholders, particularly farmers and institutions closer to the government, particularly Panchayati Raj Institutions, should be helped and made responsible and accountable with required policies to create their own water resources. Those who are not contributing to replenishing water resource in their ecosystem should not be allowed to draw water from other sources for farming. Only then we can ensure that rainwater harvesting and not unsustainable groundwater exploitation powers India’s agriculture.

Dinabandhu Karmakar is a rural development professional. He has worked for more than 25 years at the grassroots level for Professional Assistance for Development Action (Pradan). Views are personal.

https://www.villagesquare.in/2018/03/09/rainwater-harvesting-best-way-forward-irrigation/

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India – Pad women of Assam start menstrual hygiene movement

Young women have brought about a change in the mindset of rural men and women in Assam about menstrual hygiene and steered the women towards better hygiene with reusable cloth pads

A young girl in Pamohi village stitches reusable sanitary pads for distribution among rural women. (Photo by Abdul Gani)

A young girl in Pamohi village stitches reusable sanitary pads for distribution among rural women. (Photo by Abdul Gani)

Jonali Fangsho in her late 20s is a resident of Pamohi village in the outskirts of Guwahati, the capital city of the northeastern state of Assam. Pamohi village, inhabited mostly by the Karbi tribe, is like any other underdeveloped village in Assam, where people do not speak openly about issues like menstruation and related issues.

However, things have changed over the past several months, even before the Akshay Kumar starrer PadMan, based on the real life story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, was released in India. Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, is the inventor of a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine and is credited for innovating grassroots mechanisms for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation.

In Pamohi, women and girls not only speak about their menstrual periods but have also switched to using reusable sanitary pads. They have understood the health implications of menstrual hygiene, and are taking steps to make everyone aware of it.

This change came about after Uttam Teron and Aimoni Tumung of Parijat Academy conducted public gatherings to discuss the issues of health and hygiene and distributed free samples of reusable sanitary pads to women in their neighborhood.

Taboo topic

“It was very difficult to discuss about menstruation at home and neighborhood as women do not speak in front of male members even at home,” Fangsho told VillageSquare.in. Fangsho said that in their village and neighboring areas, where most of the families are poor and uneducated, women used old clothes during menstruation.

Discussing the topic in public gatherings was relatively easier, since the villagers know Teron and his wife Aimoni. The duo has been running Parijat Academy, a school for underprivileged children in Pamohi for more than a decade. Besides providing a residential facility for underprivileged boys and girls, they run a training center in their school premises, where they teach women tailoring and making of handicraft items.

Given their work, they are in regular touch with the villagers. Initially, Aimoni started talking about menstrual issues with the local women. Gradually they started discussing about it in public. Bringing about an awareness and change in the mindset was not easy. “It didn’t happen in a single day,” Teron told VillageSquare.in. “After seeing our involvement, men also came forward to talk about it.”

Kudu Bongjang, a local farmer, attended the public gatherings held in Garbhanga village set amidst hills in the outskirts of Guwahati. He admitted to being ignorant about the gravity of the situation. “This issue needs to be discussed openly like any other health issue,” he told VillageSquare.in.

Menstrual hygiene status

According to the latest National Health Survey Report (Table 4.10), of the women in the age of 15 to 24 years in India, 42% use sanitary napkins, 62% use cloth and 16% use locally prepared napkins. Overall, 58% of women in this age group use a hygienic method of menstrual protection.

In Assam, about 41% of rural women in the same age group use hygienic methods of protection during their menstrual period. Rehna Sultana, an activist and a research scholar at Gauhati University said that more than 70% rural women still do not use sanitary pads, resulting in various diseases.

Young girls stitch reusable cotton pads, earning a livelihood. (Photo by Abdul Gani)

Young girls stitch reusable cotton pads, earning a livelihood. (Photo by Abdul Gani)

Though the government of India had started Menstrual Hygiene Scheme (MHS) in 2011 to provide sanitary pads at subsidized prices, it failed to reach the target. Health experts said that several critical complications such as vaginal or urinary tract infections would manifest if a woman did not take proper care during her menstrual period.

“It can also lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and hence overall it’s a serious issue,” Anudhriti Dutta, a consultant gynecologist at Pratiksha Hospital in Guwahati told VillageSquare.in. She said, though most of the rural women used cloth during the menstrual periods, the scenario is changing gradually.

Slow transformation

Sultana found lack of awareness and poverty the prime reasons for women not using hygienic pads. “When I travel to rural places, I find that most of the girls skip their classes during menstruation,” she said.

She emphasized the need to overcome the problem, since health and hygiene of a woman are crucial. She said she had posted pictures of herself posing with sanitary pads in social media, for awareness.

Fangsho said several women fell ill since they did not use hygienic menstrual protection. “They didn’t know the proper way of hygiene, but now I’m happy to see the change,” she said.

Switch to reusable pads

The seeds of change were sown in the month of July in 2017, when a few volunteers from Florida working on the Days for Girls campaign visited Parijat Academy. Aimoni recalled how Dollean Perkins and her fellow volunteers helped them make reusable sanitary pads with cotton cloths.

“They were rather shocked seeing the poor health and hygiene of the girls and women in our neighborhood,” Aimoni told VillageSquare.in.At the school’s training center, 15 girls learned to make the reusable pads.

Aimoni Tumung of Parijat Academy played a key role in initiating better menstrual hygiene practices with reusable pads. (Photo by Abdul Gani)

Aimoni Tumung of Parijat Academy played a key role in initiating better menstrual hygiene practices with reusable pads. (Photo by Abdul Gani)

The pads have two parts — a shield and a liner. The girls stitch three pieces of cotton and flannel cloth into shape and add two plastic buttons to clip it to the undergarment, besides the leak-proof polyurethane laminate (PUL) fabric that is tucked inside.

Tulsi Ingti, whose daughter studies in Parijat Academy, said that she started using single-use sanitary pads after her daughter discussed the issue with her. Now she uses the reusable pads. Aimoni has also been using the pads that they make and finds them user-friendly. She emphasizes the need to wash them properly and dry them.

Cost factor

“To manage the expenses we have fixed a price for the pads,” Aimoni told VillageSquare.in. The team has priced the large and small ones at Rs 110 and Rs 80 per pad respectively. Aimoni said that the pads could be used for three years.

Though they used to distribute single-use sanitary pads earlier for free, their new initiative helps them supply free samples of the reusable pads to the neighboring areas such as Garbhanga village and also to the mothers of their students, most of whom are below poverty line. “Besides, several organizations that wanted to distribute them have ordered and bought in bulk from us,” said Aimoni.

Ingti, who has switched to reusable pads, finds them economical. Aimoni concurs. Bongjang said he will not mind spending money on sanitary pads, but wished that the prices were lower. He earns less than Rs 5,000 a month and has four female members in the family.

So far, the team has been distributing the reusable pads for free and hence the question of cost did not arise. With most men being farmers, some women working in the agricultural fields and some men in low-paying jobs in cities, the price may be a concern.

Way ahead

Teron said that it’s the responsibility of every individual to create awareness about the health and hygiene of women. “We are planning to distribute free reusable sanitary pads to around one lakh girls and women who cannot afford to buy them,” he said. It would mean making more reusable pads.

Girls who studied in Parijat Academy and other young girls from the village stitch the reusable pads. “We can stitch up to 30 pads every day,” Jamuna Boro told VillageSquare.in. Stitching pads has become a source of livelihood for these girls. They can earn up to Rs 3,000 a month.

“I’m happy about the warm response we have been getting from everybody since we started distributing reusable pads,” Teron told VillageSquare.in. “But we need some financial assistance to reach the maximum number of girls and women in the backward areas.”

Abdul Gani is a journalist based in Guwahati

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How buying bots threatens the freedom to inform

More than 30 countries in the world would have put in place troll armies, according to the report of Freedom the Net from 2017.

More and more is being revealed about firms that sell fake followers and fake accounts on social networks that can be used, inter alia, to harass journalists or discredit their reporting by disseminating fake content. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warns these companies that they are liable to become the new enemies of the Internet and the freedom to inform.

Predators of information benefit greatly from fake followers. A growing number of companies sell both human accounts as well as automated ones to those seeking to spread their message widely. Human accounts can be bought and paid to post opinions on social networks; when these comments are negative the users are called trolls. Automated accounts, also known as bots, specialize for example in automatically retweeting hashtags.

These armies of fake accounts are used by press freedom predators to spread their propaganda widely and inexpensively on social networks, to launch cyber-attacks against media outlets, and to intimidate and harass journalists. Their methods include doxxing, in which personal information about journalists is obtained and used to discredit them, and double switch, in which their accounts are hacked, taken over, and used to spread fake information. Journalists are threatened and insulted, and their inboxes are bombarded with so many emails that they can no longer access them (this is known as email bombing).

Trolling artificially amplifies the views of authoritarian regimes and their supporters, manipulating opinion in order to create the illusion of massive online grass-roots support (astroturfing) and thereby helping to legitimize whatever oppressive or authoritarian practices are afoot.

Hounding a journalist costs next to nothing

Fake followers are quickly becoming a weapon of mass censorship. In January, the New York Times ran a long investigative report about Devumi, one of the largest companies that sells fake accounts to public figures, including politicians, to enhance their visibility. Devumi’s clients have in the past included an editor at China’s state news agency Xinhua, who bought hundreds of thousands of followers and retweets on Twitter with the apparent aim of spreading Chinese propaganda, and an adviser to Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno, who bought tens of thousands of followers and retweets during last year’s elections in Ecuador.

Last November, journalists with the US non-profit media outlet ProPublica created two fake Twitter accounts and then tried to buy retweets from companies that sell fake followers. Some declined but others agreed. They included Devumi and a company called Followers and Likes. A fake pro-Russian account created by the journalists was able to buy 10,000 retweets for just 45 dollars and a fake English-language account was able to get 5,000 retweets for 28 dollars.

Devumi and Followers and Likes are far from being the only companies to make money from organizations and personalities who want to inflate their follower count. A Google search for “buy followers” currently gets more than 61,100,000 hits.

RSF is very concerned about this growth in organized and automated methods for silencing journalists all over the world, although it is not always easy to establish a direct link between these click subcontractors and the troll armies supported by the predators of online information.

The predators of press freedom artificially inflate the numbers of their supporters on social networks by means of trolls and use them to discredit what journalists say by drowning it in false content or comments,” said Elodie Vialle, the head of RSF’s Journalism and Technology Desk. “The companies that offer fake followers for sale must not become the accomplices of large-scale worldwide censorship. They must take care not to be added to the list of enemies of the Internet.”

An army for each predator of information

RSF has already voiced alarm about the proliferation of government-controlled troll armies that are used to silence online dissent, particularly independent journalists. These Internet content mercenaries include Russia’s “troll factories”China’s “Little Pink”Erdogan’s “AK trolls” in Turkey and Iran’s revolutionary cyber-guardsfor a Halal Internet.

Abetted by those he calls his “yoddhas,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi undoubtedly takes advantage of the use social networks to intimidate journalists with the aim of imposing authoritarian policies. Modi also seems to use bots. By examining the list of his online followers, one can see that many of them are factitious, dormant profiles.

Tools that detect fake Twitter accounts confirm this observation. According to the Twitter Audit website, more than 60% of Modi’s 40,000,000 Twitter followers are fake.

These shocking figures are not just found within the Indian prime minister’s accounts. It is estimated that Facebook has more than 200 million fake accounts – a remarkable potential for predators of press freedom. Platforms have announced that they are going to combat fake accounts, but many trolls slip through the net.

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संकीर्ण राष्ट्रवाद को आगे बढ़ाने के लिए की जा रही है इतिहास के पुनर्लेखन की कोशिश 

केन्द्रीय संस्कृति मंत्री महेश शर्मा

इतिहास में से चुनिंदा चीजों को लेकर उन्हें संकीर्ण राष्ट्रवाद को बढ़ावा देने के लिए इस्तेमाल किया जा रहा है। संकीर्ण राष्ट्रवाद से केवल देश विघटित होगा।

हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी बीजेपी के सत्ता में आने के बाद से, पाकिस्तान की तरह, भारत में भी इतिहास का पुनर्लेखन किया जा रहा है। अब तक हम मध्यकालीन इतिहास के साम्प्रदायिक संस्करण के बारे में सुनते रहे हैं। हमें यह बताया जाता है कि दुष्ट मुस्लिम विदेशी आक्रमणकारियों ने भारत पर हमले किए, तलवार की नोंक पर इस्लाम फैलाया और हिन्दू मंदिरों को तोड़ा। इस तरह के इतिहास का एक नमूना है राणा प्रताप का स्वतंत्रता संग्राम सेनानी और हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी के रूप में महिमामंडन। यहां तक कि अब हमें यह भी बताया जा रहा है कि राणा प्रताप ने अकबर की सेना को हल्दी घाटी के युद्ध में पराजित किया था! यह भी कहा जा रहा है कि आर्य, जो वर्तमान हिंदुओं के पूर्वज बताए जाते हैं, भारत के मूल निवासी थे और हड़प्पा व मोहनजोदाड़ो, आर्य संस्कृति का हिस्सा थे।

इतिहास के हिन्दुत्ववादी संस्करण को बढ़ावा देने के लिए, मोदी सरकार ने एक समिति की नियुक्ति की है जिसकी रपट के आधार पर स्कूली पाठ्यक्रम बदला जाएगा। सरकार के शब्दों में इस समिति का उदेश्य है ‘आज से 12,000 वर्ष पूर्व, भारतीय संस्कृति के उदय और उसके उद्भव और दुनिया की अन्य संस्कृतियों के साथ उसकी अंतःक्रिया का समग्र अध्ययन‘। केन्द्रीय संस्कृति मंत्री महेश शर्मा ने समिति के गठन की घोषणा करते हुए कहा कि अब तक यह पढ़ाया जाता रहा है कि भारत में कुछ तीन से चार हजार वर्ष पूर्व, मध्य एशिया से प्रवासी आए और यहां की आबादी के चरित्र को परिवर्तित कर दिया। इस धारणा को चुनौती दिए जाने की जरूरत है।

इस समिति का मुख्य फोकस प्राचीन भारतीय इतिहास, और विशेषकर आर्यों के उदय पर होगा। अब तक इस संबंध में अलग-अलग सिद्धांत प्रचलित हैं। जोतिराव फुले, आर्यों के भारत में आगमन को एक आक्रमण बताते हैं, जिसके कारण नीची जातियों का दमन शुरू हुआ। लोकमान्य तिलक ने यह सिद्धांत प्रतिपादित किया कि आर्य, आर्कटिक क्षेत्र से भारत आए थे। आरएसएस के द्वितीय सरसंघचालक को यह अच्छी तरह से पता था कि अगर हिन्दुओं की श्रेष्ठता, और भारत की धरती पर उनके स्वामित्व को सिद्ध किया जाना है, तो यह साबित किया जाना होगा कि आर्य इस देश के मूल निवासी थे। परंतु वे लोकमान्य तिलक के सिद्धांत का खुलकर विरोध भी नहीं करना चाहते थे। मरता क्या न करता। उन्होंने यह सिद्धांत प्रतिपादित किया कि आर्य निःसंदेह आर्कटिक से आए थे परंतु आर्कटिक पहले हमारे बिहार और उड़ीसा में था और बाद में भूगर्भीय परिवर्तनों के चलते वहां पहुंच गया जहां वह अब है, अर्थात उत्तरी ध्रुव पर।

आर्यों के भारत में आगमन के संबंध में जो भी सिद्धांत प्रतिपादित किए गए हैं, वे हिन्द-आर्य भाषाओं के अध्ययन पर आधारित हैं। इस समय जो सिद्धांत सब से अधिक प्रचलित है वह यह है कि आर्य कई किश्तों भारत आए। हड़प्पा व मोहनजोदाड़ो सभ्यताओं के अवशेष बताते हैं कि वह मूलतः एक शहरी संस्कृति थी। वेद, जो निःसंदेह आर्यों द्वारा लिखे गए हैं, के अध्ययन से यह लगता है कि आर्य घुमंतु और ग्रामीण थे।

कई अनुवांशिक अध्ययनों से यह पता चला है कि प्रवासी भारत के पश्चिम से यहां आए। समिति को यह जिम्मेदारी दी गई है कि वह यह साबित करे कि हिन्दू यहां सबसे पहले आए थे। जब हमारे देश के समक्ष इतनी समस्याएं हैं तब इस तरह के अध्ययन पर धन और ऊर्जा खर्च करने का क्या औचित्य है? एरिक हॉब्सबाम न ने कहा था, ‘‘इतिहास, राष्ट्रवाद के लिए वही है, जो अफीम, अफीमची के लिए‘‘। संकीर्ण राष्ट्रवाद अपने इतिहास को पीछे, और पीछे, ले जाना चाहता है, ताकि देश की धरती पर उसके एकाधिकार का दावा मजबूत हो सके। पाकिस्तान में हिन्दू अल्पसंख्यकों को किनारे करने के लिए यह सिद्धांत प्रतिपादित किया जा रहा है कि पाकिस्तान का निर्माण मोहम्मद बिन कासिन की सिन्ध पर विजय के साथ हुआ था। पाकिस्तान की इतिहास की पाठ्यपुस्तकों में से हिन्दू राजा गायब हैं और भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस और गांधी व नेहरू के भारत की स्वाधीनता में योगदान को कोई स्थान नहीं दिया गया है। हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी, सावरकर के इस सिद्धांत में विश्वास रखते हैं कि केवल वे ही हिन्दू हैं जो भारत को अपनी पितृभूमि और पुण्यभूमि दोनों मानते हैं। इसलिए, भारतीय इतिहास की शुरूआत, हिन्दुओं से होनी चाहिए। यह इस तथ्य के बावजूद कि हिंदू शब्द आठवीं सदी में अस्तित्व में आया।

यह महत्वपूर्ण है कि भारतीय राष्ट्रवाद के पैरोकार गांधी (अपनी पुस्तक ‘हिन्द स्वराज‘) और नेहरू (अपनी उत्कृष्ट कृति ‘भारत एक खोज‘) अपनी किताबों में भारत को सभी धर्मों के मानने वालों का देश बताते हैं और कहते हैं कि विभिन्न धर्मों की अंतःक्रिया से सांझी बहुवादी संस्कृति का जन्म हुआ और अनेकता में एकता स्थापित हुई। संस्कृतियां एक दूसरे के साथ अंतःक्रिया करती हैं, एक दूसरे को प्रभावित करती हैं और समय के साथ बदलती हैं। यही बात संयुक्त राष्ट्र संघ के एक महत्वपूर्ण दस्तावेज ‘एलायंस ऑफ़ सिविलाईजेशन्स‘ (सभ्यताओं का गठबंधन) में कही गई है। अनुवांशिक अध्ययनों से साबित हो चुका है कि मानव का जन्म दक्षिण अफ्रीका में हुआ, जहां से वह दुनिया के सभी हिस्सों में फैला। इससे यह सिद्धांत गलत सिद्ध हो गया है कि मानव का जन्म यूरोप अथवा एशिया में हुआ था। संस्कृतियों के बीच अंतःक्रिया एकतरफा नहीं होती। यह धीरे-धीरे होती है और इससे सभी संस्कृतियां प्रभावित होती हैं। संयुक्त राष्ट्रसंघ का दस्तावेज इस निष्कर्ष पर पहुंचता है कि सामाजिक प्रगति, संस्कृतियों की अंतःक्रिया का परिणाम होती है। यही समावेशी भारतीय राष्ट्रवाद का सिद्धांत भी है।

हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी, जिनमें मोदी और उनके साथी शामिल हैं, हमेशा से यह मानते रहे हैं कि हिन्दू इस देश के मूल निवासी हैं। यह समिति किस निष्कर्ष पर पहुंचेगी, यह पहले से ही स्पष्ट है। अपने राजनैतिक लक्ष्यों को हासिल करने के लिए देश का नेतृत्व अतीत को तोड़-मरोड़ रहा है। वह चाहता है कि जो लोग हिन्दू की उसकी परिभाषा में नहीं आते, उन्हें या तो हाशिये पर धकेल दिया जाए या उन्हें इस बात के लिए मजबूर कर दिया जाए कि वे उन रीति-नीतियों को अपनाएं, जिन्हें वह हिन्दू मानती है भारतीय संविधान इन शब्दों से शुरू होता है, ‘‘हम भारत के लोग‘‘। इसे ‘‘हम हिन्दू‘‘ से प्रतिस्थापित करने की तैयारी हो रही है। यह हिन्दू राष्ट्रवाद को देश पर लादने का प्रयास है। यह ठीक वही है जो मुस्लिम साम्प्रदायिकतावादियों ने पाकिस्तान में किया। इतिहास में से चुनिंदा चीजों को लेकर उन्हें संकीर्ण राष्ट्रवाद को बढ़ावा देने के लिए प्रयुक्त किया जा रहा है। इस देश का कौन सा निवासी कहां से आया था यह हमारे लिए क्यों महत्वपूर्ण होना चाहिए? महत्व इस बात का होना चाहिए कि आज हमारे देश में कौन-कौन रह रहा है। संकीर्ण राष्ट्रवाद से केवल देश विघटित होगा।

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Why simultaneous elections are bad for India’s democracy

Simultaneous elections runs the risk of undermining the representative gains that political decentralisation of the last two decades have made

Polling officers check electronic voting machines (EVMs) at an EVM distribution centre, Phase 2, Noida, NCR (File Photo)
Polling officers check electronic voting machines (EVMs) at an EVM distribution centre, Phase 2, Noida, NCR (File Photo)(Burhaan Kinu/HT)

In recent months, the BJP government has missed no opportunity to seek public support for the “one nation, one election” project. The goal of simultaneous elections lays bare this government’s deep centrist bias. This is a marked shift from its early days when it sought to position itself as a champion of State autonomy and “co-operative federalism”. Understanding the full import of the centralising nature of this proposal requires engaging with the vulnerabilities inherent in Centre-state relations today and the effects that varying degrees of political, administrative and fiscal decentralisation have had in shaping this relationship.

The ‘One Nation, One Election’ project is being sold to the public as a far-reaching reform that will reduce costs and improve governance by freeing politicians and administrators from the constant demands of electioneering. The questionable validity of this claim aside, it is hard to ignore the centralising nature of this proposal. The practicalities of ensuring synchronous elections, especially in the event that elected governments lose their majority mid-term, requires crucial amendments to the Constitution that will modify terms of the legislature and extend the powers of the President. This as critics such as C Rammanohar Reddy and K Ananth have argued in a recent essay, can serve to alter the basic structure of our federal architecture and, in so doing, undermine the political autonomy of states.

Moreover, the ‘One Nation, One election’ proposal holds the potential of significantly altering the dynamics of political decentralisation in India and in this process shift the trajectory of Centre-state relations. As this column has argued, when viewed through the lens of administrative and fiscal decentralisation, India is an extremely centralised country. But this centralisation co-exists with increased decentralisation in the political arena. Since the 1990s, states have emerged as the primary sites for political contestation. Consequently, regional parties and state political dynamics matter significantly to national electoral outcomes today.

Somewhat paradoxically, this increased political decentralisation created the opportunity for chief ministers to aggregate power within their offices and run states in a centralised, personality-driven manner. These chief ministers, as political scientist Louise Tillin argues, have been deft at leveraging India’s centralised fiscal architecture, claiming credit for central schemes when implemented well and, I would add, blaming the Centre when implementation is uneven. The Centre, too, has taken advantage of this decentralised political environment to blame states for policy failures, paying scant attention to its own role in promoting centralised schemes and failing to build consensus on crucial issues.

This ability to apportion blame and credit as convenient has influenced voting behaviour. Drawing on CSDS data which shows that in both the 2009 and 2014 national elections, over half of all voters gave more or equal importance to the state government as compared with the central government in making voting choices, Tillin argues that voters in national elections are likely impacted by state government performance. In other words, state politics can influence the fate of the party in power at the Centre, even in the case of a single-party majority government. This reality has framed the often conflictual dynamic of Centre-state relations in recent years.

Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s early slogans of “co-operative federalism” and “Team India” held some promise for building a new consensus-driven approach to Centre-state relations, one that would complement political decentralisation with greater administrative and fiscal decentralisation, thereby deepening federalism. But in promoting the ‘One Nation, One Election’ project, Modi is clearly signalling that the pendulum has swung the other way.

Evidence from India and across the globe shows that simultaneous elections have the potential of aligning outcomes of state and national elections, creating the possibility for national parties to make greater gains in the long term. In other words, simultaneous elections can serve the objective of centralising politics. This is the anti-thesis of “co-operative federalism” and runs the risk of undermining the representative gains that political decentralisation of the last two decades have made.

The increased importance of state politics and enhanced multiparty political competition in India over the last two decades is a direct consequence of the deepening of our democracy and the concomitant demand for greater inclusion and more effective representation. It has also fuelled much-needed innovation in states, especially in social policy. This ought to be celebrated, preserved and improved through more effective decentralisation. The ‘One Nation, One Election’ agenda threatens the one thing that is right about our democracy.

Yamini Aiyar is president and chief executive, Centre for Policy Research

https://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/why-simultaneous-elections-are-bad-for-india-s-democracy/

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How Govts Across India Are Violating Forest Rights

Bipasha Majumder,

Farmers protest

 

Mumbai: As many as 26 cases across 11 states show that forest land is being acquired by the government for development projects like mining and dams by forging consent of tribespeople or by ignoring it, according to a new analysis.

 

Public hearings were either not held or were conducted at far-off locations where affected tribespeople could not participate, according to Land Conflict Watch, an independent data-journalism initiative that maps and analyses on-going land conflicts, which has documented 118 cases of violation and non-implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA).

 

There were delays in approving the claims filed by the communities on the land where projects are proposed, the analysis shows.

 

In at least one case, the government authorities took away the land titles they had given to the communities.

 

Several independent studies and government’s own data reveal that the implementation of FRA has been poor even after a decade of its enactment.

 

About 1.8 million land titles have been given over 5.7 million hectares of forest land till October 2017, according to ministry of tribal affairs data. This is just about 14% of the forest land on which forest dwellers could potentially claim rights.

 

A 2016 study by Community Forest Rights-Learning and Advocacy group (CFR-LA), a national network of organisations and individuals working on forest rights, estimated that forest dwellers should have rights over at least 40 million hectares forestland across the country.

 

Maharashtra govt’s promise to tribals: Land rights in 6 months

 

It took a 160-kilometre march from Nashik to Mumbai by over 40,000 farmers and forest dwellers to get Maharashtra government commit to recognise their rights over forest land that many of them have been tilling for generations.

 

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced on March 12, 2018, that all the pending applications to claim land rights under the FRA in the state will be settled within the next six months.

 

FRA, which was passed in 2006, recognises the rights of tribespeople and other traditional forest dwellers to access, manage, protect and govern the forestland and natural resources that they have been using for generations. According to the FRA, forest dwellers can file claims to get legal titles over such lands.

 

While the Maharashtra government seems to have heard the demands of forest dwellers, millions in other states are still fighting to get their forest land rights, causing conflicts because state governments are either violating or not implementing the FRA provisions.

 

The 118 such conflicts recorded by Land Conflict Watch span over 480,000 hectares of land and affect over 1.3 million people.

 

In most of these cases, the forest dwellers complain that the government is delaying the recognition of their land rights, rejecting their legitimate claims, forcing plantations on their land, evicting them from protected areas, and forging or ignoring the consent of gram sabha (village council) to carry out industrial activities in their region.

 

Forest rights set aside

 

Of the total forest rights land titles issued so far, only 3.5% are community rights. The rest are individual forest rights. While individual rights legally enable landholders to own, cultivate and invest resources on their land, community forest titles enable all the villagers, including landless people, to access, use and sell minor forest produce and use other forest resources within their traditional boundary.

 

The tribal ministry data show something even worse.

 

The government authorities have rejected more than 43% claims filed by the forest dwellers across India. As many as 79% claims were rejected in Uttar Pradesh–highest among all states–followed by 67% claims in West Bengal, 63% in Maharashtra and 59% in Madhya Pradesh.

 

Most states do not explain why claims are rejected. Those that do, often cite as the most common reason the lack of documents to prove the claimant has been cultivating the land in question, IndiaSpend reported on March 16, 2018.

 

The central government and some states have been systematically trying to dilute the provisions of FRA. In the past two years, the environment ministry has issued guidelines that take away the rights of forest dwellers to access their traditional forest land and to decide its use.

 

“The implementation of FRA has been quite abysmal,” said Shankar Gopalakrishnan of Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a forum of organisations working on tribal rights, “This is not due to negligence of the government but due to deliberate sabotage by the forest bureaucracy, both at the Centre and the states, and to some extent by big corporates.”

 

The forest bureaucracy fears that it will lose the enormous power over land and people that it currently enjoys, while the corporates fear they may lose the cheap access to valuable natural resources that they currently have, said Gopalakrishnan.

 

The tribal ministry did not respond to queries emailed by IndiaSpend.

 

What’s causing conflicts

 

Forest dwellers have been denied rights to the forestland they use since colonial times. For British rulers, forest was a source of revenue, which drove their timber trade. So, anyone who inhabited or used forest was termed an encroacher.

 

Independent India perpetuated this, but the Forest Rights Act was passed in 2006 to correct this “historical injustice”.

 

Vedanta

Bhubaneswar: Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti activists stage a demonstration against Vedanta group in Bhubaneswar on Aug 5, 2016.

 

The law makes gram sabha a statutory body to protect and decide the use of forestland. This right was upheld by the Supreme Court in its landmark judgement on Vedanta’s mining project in Odisha’s Niyamgiri hills in 2013. The apex court asked the gram sabhas in the region to decide whether or not to allow the mining.The gram sabhas unanimously rejected the mining project.

 

That, however, has not deterred government authorities from repeatedly violating FRA across India.

 

In Alnar village of Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district, 32 hectares of land was acquired for iron ore mining. The government claims that 91 people participated in the public hearing to clear the project. However, local residents say none of those who participated in the public hearing were from Alnar. The residents claim that they were not given any notice about the public hearing.

 

There are at least 33 cases from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Telangana in which forest departments have been forcing plantations on the land claimed by the forest dwellers, IndiaSpend reported on November 24, 2017.

 

The FRA prohibits any activity, even by the government, on the land claimed by the forest dwellers without prior consent from the village council concerned. In most of the cases, no consent was taken before plantation.

 

Field reports suggest that the forest department is using the compensatory afforestation fund of about Rs 50,000 crore to plant single-species, commercial plantations like teak, poplar and eucalyptus on the land of forest dwellers.

 

The central government has recently drafted rules to operationalise this fund. The rules, however, dilute the consent provision of FRA. They replaced it with ‘consultation’, which is a step down because consent gives veto-power to communities. Even the provision of consulting communities is limited to few cases.

 

Similarly, conflicts are happening in tiger reserves because the forest department has been forcibly evicting tribal communities from the forest in the name of relocation to create inviolate spaces for wildlife.

 

As many as 27 such cases have been reported by Land Conflict Watch from 13 states so far.

 

The rights of forest dwelling communities need to be settled before relocating them, according to FRA.

 

In some of the 27 cases, including Achanakmar tiger reserve in Chhattisgarh, communities have been barred from accessing firewood and minor forest produce such as mahua flowers on which they depend for livelihood.

 

In March 2017, the National Tiger Conservation Authority passed an order that effectively stopped the process of settlement of forest rights act in tiger reserves.

 

The authority said forest rights should not be settled in tiger zones unless the government comes up with guidelines for identifying critical wildlife habitats, which are legally defined as areas required to be kept “inviolate for the purposes of wildlife conservation”. The government has failed to draft these guidelines for the past 11 years.

 

“Because of the powerful interests in forests, most political parties, when in power, have preferred to either ignore or limit the implementation of FRA,” said Gopalakrishnan. “But the farmers’ long march in Maharashtra has shown that this is not a viable political option in the long-term. Systematic violations of the rights of millions of people will result in mass anger. Other states should take note of this.”

 

(Majumder is an independent environment researcher who reports for Land Conflict Watch.

http://www.indiaspend.com/cover-story/how-govts-across-india-are-violating-forest-rights

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India – The Two-Child Policy will not lead to development

Multiple petitions in court are seeking a two-child cap on Indian families. This is a misplaced demand.

Kanika Sharma, Mohit Gandhi, Navneet Wadkar and Sayan Das

This month, the Supreme Court rejected a public interest litigation (PIL) which asked the court to make it mandatory for Indian parents to only have two children. The court said this was a policy matter, and not for them to intervene.

The rejected PIL was not alone. At least five other similar PILs had suddenly sprung up in the court this month, asking for a “two-child policy” in India. The PILs stem from the basic idea that overpopulation is responsible for the problems of resource shortage, environmental degradation, unemployment, poverty and disease.

These clichéd claims of the PIL amount to pop-sociology and its core arguments need to be demystified.

Does overpopulation lead to the shortage of resources?

It appears to be simple math that portions of a roti shared by two people will be larger than if the same roti is shared by four people. And so, if the numbers are capped, resources available per head would increase.

But this assumes that the size of the roti is necessarily fixed and that the roti is always shared equally among people, whatever their number.

The first assumption has been disproved by history, as the world has survived the doomsday theory propounded by Thomas Malthus more than 200 years ago. We find ways to expand resources as needs grow, though sometimes at the expense of nature. The population also does not keep on growing endlessly on its own and is largely dependent on social factors.

The hollowness of the second assumption becomes evident just by scratching the social realities of the world we live in. A major share of resources is consumed by a minor share of the population – those residing in developed countries and the elites living in developing countries. The US, with less than 1% of the world’s population, eats up a quarter of the global fossil fuel resources. Closer home, the richest 1% of India enjoy more than half of the country’s total wealth.

Is then the scarcity, which we see all around us and are scared about because there are more mouths to feed? Or is it because some mouths are shamelessly wide?

While the rising numbers are readily used as a threat, we rarely seem to have problems with the blatant over-consumption by a few.

Are urgent and aggressive steps to control population required for India?

It is indeed a fact that population of India is growing and will continue to grow for the next couple of decades. This is because, as compared to the past, there is a higher proportion of people in the marriageable age group who will produce children, and people are now living longer.

However, the fertility rates are also declining. The average number of children that a woman is expected to bear in her lifetime is called the total fertility rate (TFR). A TFR of about 2.1 is considered as replacement-level fertility – if achieved, it will lead the population to stabilise in the long run. As per National Family Health Survey data, the country-level TFR in India is 2.23, which is not hugely above the desired level of 2.1.

Twenty states/UTs have achieved the replacement-level TFR, another five have got it below 2.2, with the remaining 11 states (including Bihar, UP, MP, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh) having a higher rate. Though these 11 states/UTs account for 42% of country’s population, they are already showing a fall in their TFRs.

There is certainly no ‘population bomb’ ticking which will catch us unaware and which needs to be urgently diffused. In fact, the ongoing measures need to be made more comprehensive and of improved quality.

The list of states having a higher TFR mentioned above makes evident the clear divide between the north and south of the country. Not only in terms of fertility, South Indian states have better health indicators in general. Incidentally, these are also the states where other social indicators like the literacy rate, especially among females, are better than rest of the country.

The Union government, or rather the states with a higher TFR, should, therefore, focus on overall social development instead of coercive population control measures. They should provide an enabling environment in which couples voluntarily opt for, and feel safe about, limiting their family size.

What if the two-child norm becomes a policy?

Son-preference in rural as well as urban India is well documented. A legal restriction to two children could force couples to go for sex-selective abortions as there are only two ‘attempts’. A significant proportion of such women, especially those from lower socio-economic strata, would be forced to go for unsafe abortions because of issues of access and affordability.

Besides being inhumane, this is bound to create gender imbalances.

study, conducted between 2001 and 2004 to explore the consequences of two-child norms in five states (Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, MP, Odisha and Rajasthan), found an increase in cases of desertion and bigamy, neglect and death of female infants, cases of pre-natal sex determination and induced abortion of female foetus, child given away for adoption etc.

The experience in China, whose one-child policy is often cited as a reference point, shows that this indeed happens. Closer home, these effects are already evident in villages of states like Haryana and Punjab, leading to an unethical but thriving bride business.

And then, it’s not only a son that people want. The son has to be able-bodied, and should not die young from disease or accident. If any of this happens, the couple would want to be given an exemption. We would then need a bureaucracy to verify the claims for exemptions, which opens the door for manipulation or corruption by the powerful, while further working against the marginalised.

What will happen to the third child?

Despite everything, if a couple does go for a third child, one of the petitions has proposed to stop all government aid and subsidies to the family. This may include free and compulsory education to that third child, and maybe also his/her coverage under the public-funded health insurance scheme. It also says that these “errant” parents should be punished by depriving them of the opportunity to contest elections and apply for jobs.

These measures which the petition proposed would be contrary to the constitutional Right to Education (Article 21A, Article 45 and 51A) and Right to Life (Article 21) and also the United Nation’s Convention on Rights of Child. The discriminatory petitions would create two sets of citizens, and thereby violate the constitutional Right to Equality.

A study conducted in five states shows that the two-child norm was responsible for the largest number of disqualified candidates in panchayat elections. Of these, Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs formed an overwhelming 80%. This contravenes the 73rd amendment, which aims to give political representation to people from marginalised communities in democratic processes.

India was a participant in the International Conference on Population and Development (1994) and a signatory to its programme of action. Consequently, India withdrew its target-based family planning approach in 1996, at least on paper. India’s own National Population Policy (2000) reiterates government’s resolve for voluntary and informed choice in matters of family planning.

The declaration of the National Colloquium on Population Policies (2003) organised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) also recapitulates the two-child policy as regressive and violating the principle of voluntary informed choice, human rights and rights of the child. The Economic Survey (2016) boasts of a higher working-age population as an economic advantage over countries like China, where the strict population control measure has led to an ageing population. All these commitments and pronouncements cannot be ignored.

Vikas’ is the best contraception

China may have been successful in slowing down its population growth, but there were social costs incurred which later posed threats to its economy leading to the withdrawal of the one-child policy in 2016. On the other hand, Thailand, and our own states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu have had fertility trajectories similar to China, but without any such restrictive policy.

India’s then health minister, at the World Population Conference 40 years ago, said ‘Development is the best contraceptive’ and called for a more balanced approach to population control. There is a need to implement this wisdom and focus on health, education and livelihood for all. A stabilised population will be an obvious outcome of such comprehensive socio-economic development.

Kanika Sharma, Mohit Gandhi, Navneet Wadkar and Sayan Das are PhD scholars at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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Bhopal student who took on ABVP rusticated over Facebook post #WTFnews

Part of group that won college polls; her post called teachers unpatriotic for not allowing programme.

Written by Milind Ghatwai | Bhopal |

Bhopal, unpatriotic teachers, Facebook, ABVP, student rusticated for facebook post, Bhagat Kranti Dal, Motilal Science College student rusticatedAsma Khan, Motilal Science CollegeAn undergraduate student of a government science college in Bhopal who called teachers unpatriotic in a Facebook post has been rusticated, allegedly under pressure from the ABVP that had been defeated by Bhagat Kranti Dal (BKD), the group she belongs to, in the last student union elections.

The BKD had sought permission from Motilal Science College authorities to hold a function to observe the death anniversary of Bhagat Singh on March 23, an annual event it has organised in the college auditorium for the last few years. The ABVP too had wanted to hold a programme at the same venue but the college did not permit either event on grounds that the venue was not meant for private functions.

Students’ union elections were banned in Madhya Pradesh in 2011 but were held in October 2017 on the insistence of the ABVP. Barring the secretary’s post, all three key positions in the students’ council were won by the BKD, one of the few colleges where the ABVP suffered a setback.

Not given permission for its main annual event, BKD members began an indefinite fast on March 19, the day Asma Khan began a Facebook campaign and asked “alumni and all patriotic students to support BKD in this fight for honour of martyrs”.

“When they should have been studying, the students have been forced to launch an indefinite hunger strike to wipe out seditious (rashtradohi) ideology from college. It’s a strange irony that there is an educational institution in India where students are patriotic and teachers unpatriotic,’’ she wrote.

The post, since deleted, was widely circulated and criticised by many, including the ABVP which wanted action against her. The ABVP even protested on campus demanding that she apologise and had even met the college principal, Neeraj Agnihotri.

On Wednesday, the college staff council met and decided to rusticate Asma for a year and called her comments objectionable and an act of indiscipline. “You have called all teachers traitors (rashtradohi) and also said that the college fosters seditious ideology,’’ read the order served to her on Thursday.

“Is there anything seditious in my post? They did not even ask for my explanation and rusticated me. We had been holding the same programme at the same venue for so many years. What changed this time,’’ she said.

Requesting the principal to reconsider the decision, she said her rustication was prompted by “untruth spread about her by anti-social elements on social media”. She had lost the class representative election. Principal Agnihotri said, “She had painted the entire teaching community with the same brush. How could she level such allegations and not apologise?”

He said a majority of teachers attended the staff council meeting where the decision to rusticate her was taken. Asked about the BKD’s claim that it had been holding the event for several years, the principal said, “If a wrong thing happened in the past, it does not mean it should be allowed to continue.’’

Asma met the principal with her father Mohammed Mahfooz, a plumber, and homemaker mother Shamshad but he refused to reconsider the rustication and asked her to offer a written apology. He said even if she were to apologise in writing, the final decision would be taken by the staff council.

Denying allegations that they pressured college authorities, ABVP organisation secretary Arun Dangi said, “All we wanted was an apology from her. Despite having sufficient time she refused to offer any apology. We have no role in her rustication.’’

Asked if ABVP had any ideological battle with BKD, Dangi said, “They don’t have any particular ideology. We don’t hold cultural events on someone’s death anniversary like they do.’’ He said the defeat in the elections had nothing to do with her rustication.

source- Indian EXPRESS

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