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Archives for : June2018

A long march of the dispossessed to Delhi

Imagine a democratic protest where a million farmers, labourers and others march to the capital and compel discussion of the exploding crisis of the countryside in a special three-week session of Parliament


India’s agrarian crisis has gone beyond the agrarian.

It’s a crisis of society. Maybe even a civilizational crisis, with perhaps the largest body of small farmers and labourers on earth fighting to save their livelihoods. The agrarian crisis is no longer just a measure of loss of land. Nor only a measure of loss of human life, jobs or productivity. It is a measure of our own loss of humanity. Of the shrinking boundaries of our humaneness. That we have sat by and watched the deepening misery of the dispossessed, including the death by suicide of well over 300,000 farmers these past 20 years. While some – ‘leading economists’ – have mocked the enormous suffering around us, even denying the existence of a crisis.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has not published data on farmers’ suicides for two years now. For some years before that, fraudulent data logged in by major states severely distorted the agency’s estimates. For instance, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal and many others claimed ‘zero suicides’ by farmers in their states. In 2014, 12 states and 6 Union Territories claimed ‘zero suicides’ among their farmers. The 2014  and 2015 NCRB reports saw huge, shameless fiddles in the methodology – aimed at bringing down the numbers.

And yet they keep rising.

Meanwhile, protests by farmers and labourers are on the rise. Farmers have been shot dead – as in Madhya Pradesh. Derided or cheated in agreements, as in Maharashtra. And devastated by demonetisation, as in just about everywhere. Anger and pain are mounting in the countryside. And not just among farmers but amongst labourers who find the MNREGA being dismantled by design. Amongst fisherfolk, forest communities,  artisans, exploited anganwadi workers. Amongst those who send their children to government schools, only to find the state itself killing its own schools. Also, small government employees and transport and public sector workers whose jobs are on the anvil.

Vishwanath Khule, a marginal farmer, lost his entire crop during the drought year. His son, Vishla Khule, consumed a bottle of weedicide that Vishwanath had bought


Vishwanath Khule of Vidarbha’s Akola district, whose son Vishal consumed weedicide. Farmer suicides are mounting, but governments are falsifying numbers

And the crisis of the rural is no longer confined to the rural. Studies suggest an absolute decline in employment in the country between 2013-14 and 2015-16.

The 2011 Census signalled perhaps the greatest distress-driven migrations we’ve seen in independent India. And millions of poor fleeing the collapse of their livelihoods have moved out to other villages, rural towns, urban agglomerations, big cities – in search of jobs that are not there. Census 2011 logs nearly 15 million fewer farmers (‘main cultivators’) than there were in 1991. And you now find many once-proud food-producers working as domestic servants. The poor are now up for exploitation by both urban and rural elites.

The government tries its best not to listen. It’s the same with the news media.

When the media do skim over the issues, they mostly reduce them to demands for a ‘loan waiver.’ In recent days, they’ve recognised the minimum support price (MSP) demand of farmers – the Cost of Production (CoP2) + 50 per cent. But the media don’t challenge the government’s claims of already having implemented this demand. Nor do they mention that the National Commission on Farmers (NCF; popularly known as the Swaminathan Commission) flagged a bunch of other, equally serious issues. Some of the NCF’s reports have remained in Parliament 12 years without discussion. Also the media, while denouncing loan waiver appeals, won’t mention that corporates and businessmen account for the bulk of the non-performing assets drowning the banks.

Perhaps the time has come for a very large, democratic protest, alongside a demand for Parliament to hold a three-week or 21-day special session dedicated entirely to the crisis and related issues. A joint session of both houses.


Two women sitting at Azad maidanIn Mumbai, covering their heads with cardboard boxes in the blistering heat.

We can’t resolve the agrarian crisis if we do not engage with the rights and problems of women farmers

On what principles would that session be based? The Indian Constitution. Specifically, the most important of its Directive Principles of State Policy. That chapter speaks of a need to “minimise the inequalities in income” and “endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities, opportunities….”   The principles call for “a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life.”

The right to work, to education, to social security. The raising of the level of nutrition and of public health. The right to a better standard of living. Equal pay for equal work for men and women. Just and humane conditions of work. These are amongst the main principles. The Supreme Court has more than once said the Directive Principles are as important as our Fundamental Rights.

An agenda for the special session? Some suggestions that others concerned by the situation can amend or add to:

3 days: Discussion of the Swaminathan Commission report – 12 years overdue. It submitted five reports between December 2004 and October 2006 that cover a multitude of vital issues and not just MSP. Those include, to name a few: productivity, profitability, sustainability; technology and technology fatigue; dryland farming, price shocks and stabilisation – and much more. We also need to halt the privatisation of agricultural research and technology. And deal with impending ecological disaster.

3 days:  People’s testimonies. Let victims of the crisis speak from the floor of Parliament’s central hall and tell the nation what the crisis is about, what it has done to them and countless millions of others. And it’s not just about farming. But how surging privatisation of health and education has devastated the rural poor, indeed all the poor. Health expenditure is either the fastest or second fastest growing component of rural family debt.

3 days:  Credit crisis. The unrelenting rise of indebtedness. This has been a huge driving factor in the suicide deaths of countless thousands of farmers, apart from devastating millions of others. Often it has meant loss of much or all of their land. Policies on institutional credit paved the way for the return of the moneylender.

3 days:  The country’s mega water crisis. It’s much greater than a drought. This government seems determined to push through privatisation of water in the name of ‘rational pricing’. We need the right to drinking water established as a fundamental human right – and the banning of privatisation of this life-giving resource in any sector. Ensuring social control and equal access, particularly to the landless.

3 days: The rights of women farmers. The agrarian crisis cannot be resolved without engaging with the rights – including those of ownership – and problems of those who do the most work in the fields and farms. While in the Rajya Sabha,  Prof. Swaminathan introduced the Women Farmers’ Entitlements Bill, 2011 (lapsed in 2013) that could still provide a starting point for this debate.

3 days: The rights of landless labourers, both women and men. With mounting distress migrations in many directions, this crisis is no longer just rural. Where it is, any public investment made in agriculture has to factor in their needs, their rights, their perspective.

3 days: Debate on agriculture. What kind of farming do we want 20 years from now? One driven by corporate profit? Or by communities and families for whom it is the basis of their existence?  There are also other forms of ownership and control in agriculture we need to press for – like the vigorous sangha krishi (group farming) efforts of Kerala’s Kudumbashree movement.  And we have to revive the unfinished agenda of land reform. For all of the above debates to be truly meaningful – and this is very important – every one of them must focus, too, on the rights of Adivasi and Dalit farmers and labourers.

While no political party would openly oppose such a session, who will ensure it actually happens? The dispossessed themselves.


Midnight walk to Azad Maidan

The morcha of farmers from Nashik to Mumbai in March has to go national –  not just of farmers and labourers, but also others devastated by the crisis

In March this year, 40,000 peasants and labourers marched for a week from Nashik to Mumbai making some of these very demands.  An arrogant government in Mumbai dismissed the marchers as ‘urban Maoists’ with whom it would not talk. But caved in within hours of the multitude reaching Mumbai to encircle the state legislative assembly. That was the rural poor sorting out their government.

The highly disciplined marchers struck a rare chord in Mumbai. Not just the urban working class, but also the middle classes, even some from the upper middle classes, stepped out in sympathy.

We need to do this at the national level – scaled up 25 times over. A Long March of the Dispossessed – not just of farmers and labourers, but also others devastated by the crisis. And importantly, those not affected by it – but moved by the misery of fellow human beings. Those standing for justice and democracy. A march starting from everywhere in the country, converging on the capital. No Red Fort rallies, nor skulls at Jantar Mantar. That march should encircle Parliament – compel it to hear, listen and act. Yes, they would Occupy Delhi.

It might take many months to get off the ground, a gargantuan logistical challenge. One that has to be met by the largest and widest coalition possible of farm, labour and other organisations. It will face great hostility from the rulers – and their media – who would seek to undermine it at every stage.

It can be done. Do not underestimate the poor –  it is they, not the chattering classes, who keep democracy alive.

It would be one of the highest forms of democratic protest – a million human beings or more showing up to ensure their representatives perform. As a Bhagat Singh, if alive, might have said of them: they could make the deaf hear, the blind see and the dumb speak.

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Dalit women’s collective presents report on caste-based violence against women at UNHRC

The report also mentioned that the SC/ST commissions and the National Commission for Women (NCW) may not be able to fully grasp and address gendered caste issues.

The All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM), a collective of Dalit women and girls, which works as an advocacy forum, released a report —Voices Against Caste Impunity: Narratives of Dalit Women — and showed a short documentary, #DalitWomenFight.

Dhamini Ratnam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch general secretary Asha Kotwal (right) at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting.
All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch general secretary Asha Kotwal (right) at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting.(HT Photo)

In a first, a Dalit women’s collective organised a side event and offered testimonies of caste-based gender violence, at the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, currently under way in Geneva.

The All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM), a collective of Dalit women and girls, which works as an advocacy forum, released a report —Voices Against Caste Impunity: Narratives of Dalit Women — and showed a short documentary, #DalitWomenFight.

The film tells the story of a 17-year-old girl from a Scheduled Caste who was sexually assaulted and killed in Haryana in 2017. Her family is still awaiting compensation while one accused named in the FIR is yet to be jailed. This was one of the three testimonies presented by Asha Kotwal, AIDMAM general secretary, at the event.

The report quotes official data on caste-based gender violence and discrimination and puts it in context through several narratives of Dalit women and girls. The National Family Health Survey (4th round) shows that 33.2% women from the Scheduled Castes experience physical violence since the age of 15 compared to 19.7% in the ‘Other’ category. In the past decade (2007-2017), there has been a 66% growth in crimes against Dalits, as per the National Crime Records Bureau.

The report states, “It is important to remember that these figures should not be taken at face value. The number of cases registered is a fraction of the actual number of crimes that take place. In many instances, these crimes do not get reported due to non-cooperative police and judicial machinery, shame and social stigma, and the fear of retaliation by the dominant caste groups.”

“Will the United Nations consider caste-based crimes as one of the most serious human rights crisis?” Kotwal asked. “Caste-based discrimination is a global issue, but India should take stronger initiatives as it has the largest population of Dalit people,” she said.

A panel of experts, including Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, former special rapporteur of the United Human Rights Council for minority issues; Dubravka Simonovic, the UN special rapporteur on violence against women; John Fisher, Geneva director of Human Rights Watch; and Vrinda Grover, advocate with the Supreme Court of India, spoke of the ways in which Dalits are denied justice in India.

“Crimes are committed against Dalit women and girls in India with impunity because there have been no consequences for perpetrators,” said Grover, who joined the discussion over Skype.

The panellists also pitched for strong support by a global solidarity movement and seek stronger actions from within the UN and campaigns from international human rights organisations.

“Many Dalit victims and their families in India are not informed of their rights and atrocities committed against them are crimes. Institutionalised impunity for crimes committed against Dalit women in India must be addressed. The police’s reluctance and deliberate omissions to register complaints and arrest perpetrators must be questioned,” Grover said.

In 2016, Izsák wrote a report on caste-based violence faced by an estimated 250 million people worldwide, concentrated in South Asia. The report defined caste-based discrimination as that based on descent, labour stratification, forced endogamy, and the practice of untouchability. However, India refused to accept the report, stating that caste groups cannot be termed as minority.

The UNHRC session, which began on June 18, will end on July 6.

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Kerala HC on Obscenity and the veil of outrage

Obscenity and the veil of outrage

The court said one must not be chained to the past while deciding what is obscene
Let us admit it: many in society are not scandalised by women’s bodies but by their mere existence

Aman was so perturbed by a magazine cover showing a woman breastfeeding a child that he filed a petition in the Kerala High Court. He termed the image obscene, claiming it was a sign of the society’s moral decadence and that by publishing it, the magazine had committed a penal offence under the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986. The court tossed out the petition.

The judgment talks about how the sensuous and the sacred are interlinked. It mentions the Ajanta and Ellora caves and how “gods were always depicted as super-humanly beautiful, for if the image was not beautiful then the deities could not be persuaded to inhabit the statue”.

That the gods had to be invoked to protect the rights granted by the Constitution of India discomforts me, but if one is happy with the outcome, this bit can be ignored. The main question here is who decides what is obscene and what isn’t? “What may be obscene to some may be artistic to other; one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric,” the court observed.

In this discussion about obscenity, the court covers two important aspects, which are particularly relevant in the current social and political environment in the country. The court mentioned lawyer and writer Gautam Bhatia’s extraordinary book ‘Offend, Shock, Or Disturb: Free Speech Under the Indian Constitution’, which, among other things, says that one of the purposes behind an entrenched bill of rights is to protect minorities against the legislative power of an extant majority. The court agreed with Bhatia’s assessment that there would be little meaning in having a fundamental right if majority sentiment was all that was required to override it. The fundamental right in this case is the freedom of expression. The court here makes a point which is being rapidly forgotten today: India’s ‘culture’ is not just the culture of its majority.

The Constitution protects minority groups as well as individuals from things which agree with the majority sentiment but not with individual dignity and choice, which are again protected by our laws.

The high court quotes Justice Jackson’s observations in the West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette case. “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”

Another key observation the court made was that it’s critical to not be chained to the past, in the context of looking at what is obscene and what is not. Many political leaders speak of a glorious past that they want to take us back to. The court ominously reminds us: “That glory, in fact, was a change and almost an abomination for those living then. Only from the prism of the present, that past appears to be glorious. Who knows what we detest now, as our ancestors did then, as decadence may be its very glory, viewed from a distant tomorrow.”

Italian writer Elena Ferrante’s debut Novel ‘Troubling Love’ won a prize named after fellow author Elsa Morante. According to an article in The New Inquiry, Ferrante penned an acceptance speech where she shared an excerpt from one of Morante’s books that talks about the ‘invisibility of maternal bodies’. The mother’s dressmaker, Ferrante wrote, “cuts out clothes for the mother that eliminate the woman”. Someone sent me a larger excerpt from Morante’s book and a pertinent bit is as follows: “…‘mother’ means two things: Old and Holy. The proper colour for a mother’s clothes is black or at most, gray or brown. The clothes are shapeless, since no one, starting with the mother’s dressmaker, must think that a mother has a woman’s body. Her age is a mystery with no importance, because her only age is old age.”

Women being ‘erased’ and women resisting deletion are recurring themes in Ferrante’s work. In the Neapolitan series, one of the protagonists, Lila Cerullo, wants to ‘erase herself’. She repeatedly speaks of a terror of dissolving boundaries when objects pour into one another. In the series, protagonists Elena and Lila resist deletion their entire lives and simultaneously, Lila is obsessed with not leaving behind a trace- erasing herself to protect herself from disintegration.

Ferrante’s books are set in Italy, but a large part of the world, including India, appears to be intent on ‘deleting women’. Kill them before birth, kill them at birth, kill them after marriage… If women are so intent on living, the least society wants them to do is stay invisible. Don’t work, don’t come out on the streets, don’t breastfeed in public, clothe yourself, hide yourself, use the burka, the ghoonghat, do something.

The court asked what is obscene. I have a fair idea about what a large section of society thinks. It’s not women’s breasts, body or form. Let us admit it, it’s their very existence.

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Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank collected highest amount of banned notes among DCCBs: RTI reply


BJP converted their black money into white during demonetisation: Congress

BJP converted their black money into white during demonetisation: Congress
A district cooperative bank, Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank (ADCB), netted the highest deposits among such banks of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that were abruptly demonetised on November 8, 2016, according to RTI replies received by a Mumbai activist.

ADCB secured deposits of Rs 745.59 crore of the spiked notes — in just five days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the demonetisation announcement. All the district cooperative banks were banned from accepting deposits of the banned currency notes from the public after November 14, 2016, — five days after demonetisation — on fears that black money would be laundered through this route.

ADCB’s total deposits on March 31, 2017, were Rs 5,050 crore and its net profit for 2016-17 was Rs 14.31 crore. This is collection is from a total 122 branches and around 22 lakh account holders. All deposits though are within their legally allowed limits.

Right behind ADCB, is the Rajkot District Cooperative Bank, whose chairman Jayeshbhai Vitthalbhai Radadiya is a Cabinet Minister in Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s government. It got deposits of old currencies worth Rs 693.19 crore.

Interestingly, Rajkot is the hub of Gujarat BJP politics — Prime Minister Modi was first elected from there as a legislator in 2001.

Incidentally, the figures of Ahmedabad-Rajkot DCCBs are much higher than the apex Gujarat State Cooperative Bank Ltd, which got deposits of a mere Rs 1.11 crore.

“The amount of deposits made in the State Cooperative Banks (SCBs) and District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCBs) — revealed under RTI for first time since demonetisation — are astounding,” said Manoranjan S. Roy, the RTI activist who made the effort to get the information.

The RTI information was given by the Chief General Manager and Appellate Authority, S. Saravanavel, of the National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD). NABARD had given this matter a clean chit earlier.

It has also come to light, through the RTI queries, that only seven public sector banks (PSBs), 32 SCBs, 370 DCCBs, and a little over three-dozen post offices across India collected Rs 7.91 lakh crore — more than half (52 per cent) of the total amount of old currencies of Rs 15.28 lakh crore deposited with the RBI.

The break-up of Rs 7.91 lakh crore mentioned in the RTI reply shows that the value of spiked notes deposited with the RBI by the seven PSBs was Rs 7.57 lakh crore, the 32 SCBs gave in Rs 6,407 crore and the 370 DCCBs brought in Rs 22,271 crore. Old notes deposited by 39 post offices were worth Rs 4,408 crore.

Information from all the SCBs and DCCBs across India were received through the replies. The seven PSBs account for around 29,000 branches — out of the over 92,500 branches of the 21 PSBs in India — according to data published by the RBI. The 14 other PSBs declined to gave information on one ground or the other. There are around 155,000 post offices in the country.

Fifteen months after demonetisation, the government had announced that Rs 15.28 Lakh crore — or 99 per cent of the cancelled notes worth Rs 15.44 lakh crore — were returned to the RBI treasury.

Roy said it was a serious matter if only a few banks and their branches and a handful post offices, apart from SCBs and DCCBs, accounted for over half the old currency notes.

“At this rate, serious questions arise about the actual collection of spiked notes through the remaining 14 mega-PSBs, besides rural-urban banks, private banks (like ICICI, HDFC and others), local cooperatives, Jankalyan Banks and credit cooperatives and other entities with banking licenses, the figures of which are not made available under RTI,” he said.

The SCBs were allowed to exchange or take deposits of banned notes till December 30, 2016 — for a little over seven weeks, in contrast to district cooperative banks which were allowed only five days of transactions.

The Prime Minister during his demonetisation speech had said that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes could be deposited in bank or post office accounts from November 10 till close of banking hours on December 30, 2016, without any limit. “Thus you will have 50 days to deposit your notes and there is no need for panic,” he had said.

After an uproar, mostly from BJP allies, the government also opened a small window in mid-2017, during the presidential elections, allowing the 32 SCBs and 370 DCCBs — largely owned, managed or controlled by politicians of various parties — to deposit their stocks of the spiked notes with the RBI. The move was strongly criticised by the Congress and other major Opposition parties.

Among the SCBs, the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank topped the list of depositors with Rs 1,128 crore from 55 branches and the smallest share of Rs 5.94 crore came from just five branches of Jharkhand State Cooperative Bank, according to the replies.

Surprisingly, the Andaman & Nicobar State Cooperative Bank’s share (from 29 branches) was Rs 85.76 crore.

While Maharashtra has a population of 12 crore, Jharkhand’s population is 3.6 crore. Andaman & Nicobar Islands have less than four lakh residents.

The poorest of all the cooperative banks in the country is Banki Central Cooperative Bank Ltd in Odisha, which admitted to receiving zero deposits of the spiked currency.

Of the total 21 PSBs, State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Bank of Maharashtra, Central Bank of India, Dena Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Punjab & Sindh Bank, Vijaya Bank, Andhra Bank, Syndicate Bank, UCO Bank, United Bank of India, Oriental Bank of Commerce, and IDBI Bank (14 banks) — with over 63,500 branches amongst them — did not give any information on deposits.

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Hapur lynching shows govt indifference has ‘normalised’ hate crimes among Indians

If the yardstick to measure the value of a life is based on administrative action and media coverage, clearly some lives don’t matter at all in ‘new India’.


They say the eyes say it all. Sometimes cold and brutal, sometimes mocking and fearsome. Yet, the same eyes glisten with tears of love and compassion.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the two pictures below perfectly capture the emotions that characterise the new “normal” in India — the ancient struggle between the prey and the predator in a “new India”.

tiger_062218070445.jpgA tiger, MB2, being shifted from Kanha to Satkosia as part of a project involving relocation of six tigers from MP to Odisha. [Image source: The Indian Express/MP Forest Department]

hapur_062218070502.jpgForty-five-year-old Qasim being dragged in the presence of policemen after a violent mob attacked him. The man later succumbed to his injuries. [Credit: Twitter]

While the first picture is that of a tiger from Kanha in Madhya Pradesh being relocated to Odisha with much “care”, behind the blurred patch of the second image is a man being dragged in the presence of policemen in Hapur, Uttar Pradesh.

Young men running behind to catch up with the crowd, little children standing and watching — and someone (not seen in the picture) recording a video. These horrifying scenes played out reportedly on June 20. Two men — 45-year-old Qasim and 65-year-old Samayuddin — were reportedly assaulted by a mob over rumours of cow slaughter. While Qasim, the man (in the picture) dragged by locals, died later in hospital, Samayuddin has been seriously injured and is still in hospital.

A strange bias

There is a strange bias about one hugely powerful aspect of Indian democracy — media. While just yesterday, we had wall-to-wall coverage of Yoga Day — a healing tool signifying the unity of body, mind, soul and action — incidents of brutal killings, communal violence, crimes against women with hidden political motives fail to receive similar attention.

In the past four years, the common Indian has almost stopped questioning why some incidents deserve more attention and sympathy than others from the government, politicians as well as the media.

Allies matter 

There is no denying that some lives have always mattered more than others.

If you’re in public life, wealthy and a celebrity, the loss of your life is bound to affect more people. But why are we not moved at all by your death when you are just one among us? While a certain section of the media still makes a faint mention of your brutal death, the government and politicians are either silent or non-committal. With time, the public too has stopped paying much attention and as a result, “lynching stories” are fading fast from our memory.

Public memory

Memory is a strange country, especially when that country’s name is India.

While Indians remember and celebrate ancient rituals and customs without fail every year, we are at peace forgetting about violence and injustice. Interestingly, there is very little accurate government data on lynchings to help jog our memory. This is also alarming, considering that data is the cornerstone of policy formulation.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) last year announced its plan to collect data specific to incidents of lynching across the nation. According to this report, the NCRB will publish the data in its Crime in India 2017, an annual publication since 1953, which encapsulates comprehensive statistics on crimes including crime trends across all states and UTs. Also, in the absence of centralised data on lynchings reported for various reasons — cow protection, witchcraft, child theft — it becomes easier for both opposition Congress and the BJP government to keep themselves busy trading charges over whose regime — UPA or NDA — saw more lynchings.

It has been reported that after photographs of the Hapur lynching incident went viral on social media, the Uttar Pradesh police have apologised and said that the three policemen present at the spot have been taken off duty. A short video clip that surfaced on social media shows the victim lying in a field, his clothes almost torn off. Those who have the heart to watch the video will see the man writhing in pain. According to this report, “A voice off camera warns the attackers, also off camera, to back off and give some water to him. ‘You have hit him, assaulted him, enough is enough. Please understand. There are consequences’, says the voice.”

But who cares about consequences.

No anti-lynching law

There is a reason why the lynch mob is getting emboldened by the day – because it knows it will never get punished. India still doesn’t have any specific anti-lynching law. When the issue was raised in Parliament last year, MoS for home affairs, Hansraj Ahir, reportedly said: “I don’t think there is any need to bring changes (in the law).”

It’s hardly anybody’s guess why the minister feels so when time and again social scientists have been crying out for the need for a strong anti-lynching law to put an end to such mindless violence. There is no denying that a major reason for the recent rise in lynchings is nothing but impunity. When the mob knows it can get away with killing in the name of a cow or a similar false rumour, why would it stop from quenching the blood thirst? And sadly, the BJP government has neither done, nor shows the will to break the confidence of such lynch mobs.

On the contrary, such lynch mobs have reason to believe that the current political dispensation seemingly mandates an atmosphere of hate and fear.

Common courtesy

If the media’s coverage of terror attacks committed in the name of “gau raksha” in the past four years have established the fact that in India, not every life matters equally, this indifference has slowly normalised lynchings among ordinary citizens as well. If the yardstick to measure the value of a life is based on government action, media coverage and public reaction, it clearly shows that some lives matter the most, some a little — and some don’t matter at all.

This is not to suggest that the armyman laying down his life for the country is not a supreme sacrifice and not worthy of glorification, sympathy, empathy and support, or the fast-depleting tiger population doesn’t need our help — they do — but how do we justify the different degrees of importance assigned to different people’s lives?

While a birthday wish for someone’s happy and long life, even when he is your arch political rival, is considered common courtesy and part of civilised political protocol, why is there absolute silence over the lynching of human beings from a particular community?

The biggest cliche about an equal and just world is living in a democracy, living peacefully. We wish we could say all that is true about India, because wishes don’t change reality —  nor do they hide our hypocrisy.

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India – SCs/STs (PoA) Act: Implementation in Tamil Nadu 2016

A status report on the implementation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in Tamil Nadu was released by the Tamil Nadu Right to Information Campaign.


The Strategic Multi -Actor Round Table (SMART) was attended by over 50 participants. They included government representatives, retired civil servants, academics, human rights defenders, civil society organisations (CSO), and social movements. Five Deputy Superintendents of Police from the Human Rights and Social Justice Wing of the Police Department, Government of Tamil Nadu, were among the participants. P. S. Krishnan IAS (Former Secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Welfare) delivered the presidential address and received the first copy of the report from M.S Porkodi. R. Karupusamy, Director READ, presided. Edwin, HRF presented the findings.

Shri Karupusamy presented a toolkit developed to monitor the act using RTI and the rules. The participants resolved to continuously monitor implementation of the Act in Tamil Nadu, and formed the state level implementation monitoring group for the purpose.

Image result for SCs/STs (PoA) Act: Implementation in Tamil Nadu 2016

Some highlights of the report

·         Recorded cases under the Act were 1,476 for the year 2016 down 19% from 1,822 in 2015 (Annual Report 2016 and 2015) with an average crime rate of 14.1.

·         Each week there is a murder and a rape of a Dalit, and two riots against the community.

·         Only one rape of an Adivasi (ST) is recorded.

·         Madurai is the only district to register a case under The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (PEMSRA).

·         The state level acquittal rate is 92.21%.

·         100% acquittal in 12 of 32 districts: Ramanathapuram (102 cases), Tiruppur, Thiruvarur, Pudukkottai, Thiruvallur, Thanjavur, Theni, Chennai, Tiruvannamalai, Coimbatore, Dindigul and Cuddalore. The numbers acquitted are particularly high in Cuddalore (0, 203), Pudukkottai (0, 165), Ramanathapuram (0,133), Theni (0, 108). Others with acute lopsidedness are Thoothukkudi (1, 133), Dharmapuri (1, 99), Villupuram (47, 594) and Tirunelveli (5, 188).

·         The government has not gone on appeal against acquittal even in a single case.

·         66% of investigations have not been completed on time (within 60 days) as stipulated by the law.

·         The average number of investigations completed per month is just 3.3 per DSP.

·         Only DSPs of seven districts (Thoothukkudi, Coimbatore, Theni, Dindigul, Virudhunagar, Tirunelveli and Madurai) have completed more than one investigation a week.

·         There is 81% pendency rate of cases in court.

·         Pendency in 16 districts is increasing: Thanjavur, Perambalur, Vellore, Theni, Ariyalur, Chennai, Tiruvannamalai, Virudhunagar, Salem, Coimbatore, Namakkal, Nilgiris, Dindigul, Cuddalore, Madurai and Trichy.

·         Only six (25%) of the mandatory 32 exclusive special courts have been formed.

·         29 districts have no record of Travel and Maintenance Expenses (TAME).

·         59% survivors did not get any relief amount during the year 2016.

·         Only 8%  got the compensation/relief within the stipulated time of 7 days.

·         Zero court cases were completed the whole year in the Nilgiris, Perambalur and Kanyakumari.

·         Zero State Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (SVMC) Meetings were conducted from 2013. Only three of 42 mandatory meetings have been held since inception in 1995.

·         Despite ‘strict instructions’ no DVMC meetings were held in 2016 in four districts (Trichy, Sivagangai, Chennai and Madurai). Nine conducted only one (Kanchipuram, Kanyakumari, Karur, Pudukkottai, Thiruvallur, Thiruvannamalai, Thanjavur, Villupuram, and Cuddalore) though the law mandates quarterly meetings.

·         Zero quarterly reviews of the cases (Rule (7(3)) were conducted.

·         Zero performance reviews of the special public prosecutors (Rule 14 (2)) were conducted.

·         No action was taken against any official for dereliction of duty (rule 4(4)) nor were they changed for incompetence.

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Uttar Pradesh -Minor girl raped by 10 people in Bulandshahr #WTFnews

Two men, known to the victim, took her on their motorcycle on the pretext of visiting a nearby shrine nad later eight other people joined them and all of them raped the minor.

BULANDSHAHR: A minor girl was allegedly raped by 10 people in Chacheri village which comes under the jurisdiction of Jahangirabad police station here, police said today.

The incident took place on Monday when the 15-year-old girl had gone with her family members to attend an engagement ceremony, Circle Officer Jitendra Singh said.

Two men, known to the victim, took her on their motorcycle on the pretext of visiting a nearby shrine, he said, adding that later eight other people joined them and all of them raped the minor.

The victim was found lying unconscious by her parents in an agricultural field, Singh said.

Acting on a complaint lodged by the minor’s father, the police registered an FIR under various sections of the IPC and POCSO Act, he said.

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TN court grants Enviornmental activist Piyush Manush bail

But Mansoor Ali Khan remains behind bars

The two had spoken against the 8-lane Salem Expressway saying that it would lead to loss of agricultural lands.

Five days after his arrest, environmental activist Piyush Manush has been granted bail by the Joint Magistrate of the Omalur sub court in Salem district on Friday. The court, however, dismissed the bail petition of actor Mansoor Ali Khan, who was a co-accused in the case of alleged incitement against the government’s proposed development work in the district.

The FIR filed against them revealed that both Piyush and Mansoor Ali Khan were jailed based on a complaint that statements made by them would incite violence in the local community. As per the complaint filed by the Village Administrative Officer Maari Veerasami of Thumbipadi village, Mansoor and Piyush spoke to people in his village on May 3. They were talking against the expansion of the Salem airport and the 8-lane Salem Expressway because it would lead to loss of agricultural lands.

Mansoor allegedly said, “We should not let the officers take our lands and should be united to oppose them, and if the highway is laid, I will hack 8 people.” The complaint was filed on June 16, more than a month after this speech.

As per reports, Mansoor Ali Khan made provocative speeches in Thumbipadi, Pottiyapuram and Sikkanampatti villages on May 3. Since it was Piyush who had taken the actor to these villages, the Theevattipatti police registered a case against him as well as against the actor. They were arrested under Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot); 183 (resistance to taking property by the lawful authority), 189 (threat of injury to public servant); 506 (ii) (criminal intimidation) IPC and 7 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act.

The ‘Chennai-Salem Greenfield Corridor’ under the Bharatmala Pariyojana, a centrally-sponsored and funded road and highways project, is a 277.30 km highway that involves the development of the Tambaram to Harur Section of NH-179B, Harur to Salem Section of NH-179A, Chengalpattu to Kancheepuram Section of NH-132B, Semmampadi to Chetpet Section of NH-179D and Polur to Tiruvannamalai Section of NH-38.

The corridor essentially involves an eight-lane highway connecting the two cities via Krishnagiri, Tiruvannamalai and Kancheepuram.

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Jhrakhand – Uranium Mining and Radioactive Poisoning Ravaging Lives in Villages

Tribals lost their lands first, then got employment as contractual labourers, risking their health and lives.
Uranium Mining in Jharkhand

Sanjay Gope, a 13-year-old boy from Bango village near Jadugora town in East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand, can not move or speak because he has been suffering from muscular dystrophy – a group of disorders that involves a progressive loss of muscle mass and consequent loss of strength – for the past nine years.

At least one person of his family has to be with him all the time to look after him. He cannot be left unattended.

Eighteen-year-old Parvati Gope from the same village is suffering from lumbar scoliosis – a C-shpaed curve formation of her vertebral column.

Rakesh Gope, a 13-year-old school-going boy, is also suffering from muscular dystrophy. Although he is active and walks with arched feet and soles, he is unable to speak normally.

A three-year-old child Kartik Gope has been having seizures since birth and is developing muscular dystrophy too.

These examples are not enough; there are hundreds of such cases of congenital illness and other birth defects in addition to high incidence of infertility, miscarriages and pre-mature deliveries.

Uranium Radiation

Now, a pertinent question arises here: why are such large number of health hazards being reported from this remote and overlooked corner of the country?

While India is dreaming to become energy efficient by 2032 by generating 63 Gigawatts of nuclear power, it is taking a major toll on human lives in a small township of Jharkhand.

Jadugora has the deposits of world’s best quality uranium ore, magnesium diuranate. It is because of the rich deposits of the region, India is capitalising its nuclear dreams. The whole belt of the reactors is affecting the Adivasis (indigenous people) disproportionately in and around the uranium mining operational area.

“The tribals of Jadugora are being exposed to radioactivity directly and indirectly. Miners working in the mine areas inhale the dust and radon gas. Besides, the uranium ore are transported in uncovered trucks through roads that are full of bumps. This cause the debris to fall off on the sides of the road. Radiation are also caused by dumping of mine’s tailings in uncovered ponds,” said Ankush Vengurlekar, a photojournalist who has documented people’s suffering because of the “unsafe” mining.

Locals say villages lying close to the tailing ponds are the worst affected. During the dry season, dust from the tailings blows through these villages. During the monsoon rains, radioactive waste spills into the surrounding creeks and rivers, causing further internal radiation as villagers use the contaminated water for washing and drinking and also use the nearby ponds for fishing.


“Children living near the mines are born with swollen heads, blood disorders and skeletal distortions. Cancer as a cause of death is more common in villages surrounding uranium operations,” said a local from Jadugora.

According to a study by Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD), 68.33 per cent people are dying before the age of 62. The local river Subarnarekha that is flowing across the place is highly contaminated with uranium. The people living here are suffering from tortuous health problems.

Nuclear waste that is found in tons in the ponds of Jadugora is reportedly contaminating the entire place and is now creeping through soil into vegetation.

Professor Dipak Ghosh, a physicist and dean of the Faculty of Science at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, had collected samples from the river and also from adjacent wells a few years ago for research, and the result was alarming.

The water was contaminated with radioactive alpha particles that cannot be absorbed through the skin or clothes, but if ingested, cause 1,000 times more damage than other types of radiation. In some places, the levels were 160 percent higher than the safe limits set by the World Health Organisation.

Another study conducted by Dr. Hiroaki Koide of the Research Reactor Institute, Kyoto University, Japan, uncovered hard evidence of the toxic footprint cast by the country’s nuclear mining and fuel fabrication program.

He said the contamination from a uranium mine has spread in Jadugora.

“The gamma dose in the air exceeds 1 mSv/y in the villages and reaches 10mSv/y around the tailing ponds. The circumference of tailing ponds is polluted with uranium. The strength of the pollution is of 10 to 100 times is high in comparison with the place without contamination. Tailing pond has contamination of Cesium. This fact shows that radioactivity was brought from another polluted source which was not uranium mine. Especially Dungridih that is in contact with the tailing pond has high contamination. There is a shade of uranium contamination also in a same village, as high contamination has been measured at Tilaitand or other village. This cause is because tailings were used for the building materials. There are places where uranium concentration is high in the road or the riverside, and it is thought that tailings are used for construction material. At the Rakha Mine station, the soil is polluted by only uranium. Its concentration is remarkably high. This shows that the uranium obtained by smelting fell and extended contamination. Not only K-40 or thorium but uranium concentration is high in Ranchi,” suggest his findings.

The government’s and the company’s denial

A comprehensive new energy plan approved by the government in October 2015 declared that nuclear power is “safe, environmentally benign and economically viable source to meet the increasing electricity needs of the country”.

Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), the state-owned miner, too has denied all claims that the mining is affecting the small town and the communities living around it the uranium mines. Founded in 1967, the UCIL is a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Department of Atomic Energy for uranium mining and processing. The centrally owned miner is responsible for the mining and milling of uranium ore in India.

Standing beside the then United States President Barack Obama at a Paris conference on global warming on November 30, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, “…India is a very nature-loving country and we are setting out, as always, to protect nature in the world while producing energy.” There is hardly any safety standard the company is abiding by to handle radioactive materials.

Deprived of land first, and now health

The tribals of Jadugora were first deprived of their land, and now their health is being destroyed by making them labourers of a huge government enterprise. Moreover, they are subjected to the exposure to radioactivity in their everyday life.

Anti-radiation movement activist Arjun Samat opened Pandora’s box when asked about the labourers working in the mines and their issues. The UCIL employs contractual labourers to mine the highly sensitive ore of uranium and they are not provided any safety gear reportedly.

Mining is done by the contractual labourers at the remuneration of Rs 300 per day. They are not given any medical or health benefits, no protective suits or safety gear. Many lives have been lost so far in accidents but ironically, the affected were not given any compensation,” he told Newsclick.

“We had several rounds of talks with the company officials to try and pursue them for conducting medical tests for the contractual staff. The UCIL finally agreed to make medical tests compulsory for all daily wage workers. But they want it to be done by the workers themselves and the company will not bear the expenses because it is not mentioned in their work contract. The mandatory test costs around Rs 3,500 per person, which is equal to about 10 days wage for the labourers.”

“Without a medical certificate, the workers are not allowed to work. If the medical certificate mentions some ailment that is most probably caused by exposure to radiation or fine particulate matter, the contractor asks the person to leave,” he added.

Ankush alleges that the residue – once the ores are extracted in Hyderabad – is transported back to Jadugora for dumping into the ponds. The radioactive residue is stored in the open, he claims, posing health and environmental hazards. The tailing pond overflowed in 2008 because of heavy rains and the contaminated water entering the neighbouring farms, not only destroying all the crops that year, but also killing animals.

These ponds have polluted the ground water, says Arjun, because of which people living in the nearby villages have been asked not to use ground water. “They take water from multiple water points installed by the company. During summers, the slurry dries up and gets carried by the wind all around the pond to neighbouring villages polluting air and soil,” he added.

These tribals lose their lands for mining then get employed as contractual labour, and some even lose their life. “Why are they the only ones making all the sacrifices?” asks Ankush.

Photos by Ankush Vengurlekar

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NCRB chief: Give police ‘limited access’ to #Aadhaar data #WTFnews

Aditi Mallick| TNN | U


  • NCRB chief Ish Kumar said nearly 50 lakh cases are registered across the country every year
  • 80-85% of the offenders are first-timers without any police record
  • “Limited access” to Aadhaar data will help police trace first-time offenders and unidentified bodies: NCRB director

HYDERABAD: National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) director Ish Kumar on Thursday proposed that police be given “limited access” to Aadhaar data to help them trace first-time offenders + and unidentified bodies.

Kumar’s suggestion comes at a time when the Supreme Court is hearing a raft of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar on the ground that it violates citizens’ right to privacy.

Speaking at the 19th All India Conference of Directors of Fingerprints Bureau here, the NCRB chief said nearly 50 lakh cases are registered across the country every year, adding that 80-85% of the offenders are first-timers without any police record. “Also, more than 40,000 unidentified bodies are found every year,” Kumar said.

SC concerned about misuse of Aadhaar data by private firms

“With access to Aadhaar data, these (bodies) could be identified and handed over to their relatives,” he added.

Junior minister (home) Hansraj Ahir said Kumar’s proposal would be discussed in the ministry along with amendments to the Identification of Prisoners Act.

The NCRB director also stressed on the need to float a scheme to modernise all state fingerprint bureaus, so that experts could at least visit most crime scenes.

“Though 50 lakh cases are registered across the country every year, fingerprint experts are able to visit only around 55,000 crime scenes. The reason is many states don’t have adequate fingerprint cadre strength nor do they have proper equipment and labs. Hence, there is an urgent need for the home ministry to float a scheme for modernisation of all fingerprint bureau from all states,” he said.


M Mahendar Reddy, DGP of Telangana who attended the event, said automation of the fingerprint Identification process is a tool by which criminals can be identified more quickly and efficiently and AFIS has played a key role in investigation, virtually replacing traditional manual methods of fingerprint matching and classification.

“Telangana is the first state to incorporate a palm print-based live scanner system for enrolment of criminal’s Fingerprints electronically and also deployed an Android-based single finger identification system to verify the criminal antecedents of a suspect in-the-field within seconds by the SHO himself without any manual intervention at Police station level,” he added.

Altogether 868 undetected cases were solved since installation of Papillon AFIS, of which 480 cases were old unsolved scene-of-crime cases that were not identified by the older FACTS system.

Minister of State (Home Affairs) Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, said the fingerprints being the scientific evidence, it decreases crime rate and increases conviction rate and its accepted by the court and society. If the conviction rate increases, the offenders and people who intend to do crime will have fear, he added. Later the chief guest also released a book titled “Compendium of Finger Print equipment 2018”.

Another issue that required an early intervention by the Home Ministry was the amendment to the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, so that other modern biometrics such as iris, veins, signature and voice could also be captured. There was also need to do away with the clause of one-year rigorous imprisonment, as very few sections in the IPC have that provision. The NCRB had sent a proposal to the Centre.

Kumar also stressed the urgent need for modernisation of all State fingerprint bureaus.

“At present, fingerprint experts were able to visit only around 55,000 crime scenes, which was just 1 percent of the 50 lakh cases filed annually, and grossly inadequate. This is because, many States neither have adequate fingerprint cadre strength nor proper equipment and labs,” he said, adding that fingerprint experts should also be sent abroad for advance training with the Interpol or the FBI.


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