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Archives for : September2018

Swati Maliwal Shames Rape Survivor – But Did She Read SC Ruling? #Vaw

Image used for representational purposes.

Image used for representational purposes.(Photo: Shruti Mathur / The Quint)

The Supreme Court wrongly disbelieves a rape victim, and based on a journalist’s disinformation, a women’s commission chief joins the bandwagon. This points to a crisis.

In an incident which has the potential to send ripples across the judicial, media and political spectrums, a very problematic acquittal on appeal, of two men convicted of rape, has been turned into an opportunity to cast aspersions on rape survivors whose complaints are not believed by courts. The aspersion was not cast by nondescript users on social media, but by a senior journalist; and most troubling of all, by the head of a state women’s commission.

All court rulings, even those of the apex court, do not garner the attention of the media or the public, and the present one would also have gone unnoticed, but for a report in The Times of India (Girl Fakes Rape, Men Jailed for Years ; 22 August) and a tweet by Swati Maliwal, who heads the Delhi Commission for Women.

Reacting to the sensationally headlined report, Maliwal tweeted:

If one goes beyond the TOI report and refuses to take his words at face value, and instead reads the full text of the apex court judgment delivered by a bench of Justices Mohan Shantanagoudar and N V Ramana in the case of Sham Singh, and then scrutinises the Punjab and Haryana High Court judgment which the apex court set aside, one cannot escape the feeling of grave consternation.

A Problematic Acquittal

Two men – Jai Singh and Sham Singh – who had been sentenced to ten years in jail each, after being convicted of raping a 15-year-old-girl, had appealed to the Supreme Court. While Jai Singh had already served his sentence, Sham Singh had three more years to go.

The apex court, while setting aside Sham Singh’s conviction and setting him free, expressed its concern at innocents having to spend so many years in jail on the basis of a complaint which it found had not an iota of truth.

The apex court bench placed substantive reliance on the defence’s argument that neither were any injury found on the prosecutrix, nor were any semen stains and other forensic evidence found on her clothes and undergarments. Besides these two crucial aspects, the bench also found that the testimonies of other prosecution witnesses were not convincing enough (it is to be noted that the prosecutrix had maintained the same stance in both the courts below as well as the apex court) and also that the prosecution had weakened its own case by not examining a key witness.

However, after going through the high court judgment, which had appreciated the evidence in far more detail, a glaring lacunae in the Supreme Court’s reasoning was exposed.

One, the prosecutrix had deposed that the medico-legal examination had been conducted four days after the incident, during which she had taken showers and also washed the clothes and undergarments she was wearing when the alleged crime was committed. So obviously, there would be no semen stains, and the vaginal swabs would draw a blank.

Also Read: Haryana Assembly Passes Bill to Hang Rapists of Girls Below 12

Two, regarding the absence of injuries, the prosecutrix had clearly deposed that her hands were tied to a cot and she had mildly resisted that. She had clearly stated that she was too intimidated to resist when the two men – her uncles – took turns to rape her. If she had suffered minor scratches, they would have healed by the time the medical examination was conducted.

More crucially, it has been well-established by now that the mere absence of injuries, or the fact that the victim did not resist, does not mean she agreed to forcible sexual intercourse or that rape wasn’t committed.

This writer has written about this in detail, and the government’s guidelines for medical examination of rape victims , especially the ones regarding instructions for medical officers prohibit against drawing any conclusion about the veracity of the complainant on the basis of absence of injuries.

Three, the prosecutrix had deposed that when she was being raped, the accused persons’ wives, mother and children were present in the same house. This, the apex court takes it to hold that it was implausible that the men would commit acts of rape when their family members were present in the same house. In doing so, the court completely ignores the fact that the prosecutrix was in their custody, and as it happens in so many cases of sexual abuse and incest which is endemic in India and the world over, rarely are the perpetrators dissuaded by the presence of their family members. And in countless cases, the family members are either complicit, or too scared to complain or offer resistance.

Swati Maliwal’s Regressive Statement

Delhi has one of the highest position in cities ranked on the basis of crimes against women, as per latest reports, and reportedly witnesses the maximum number of rapes in India. Therefore, the Chairperson of the Delhi Commission of women plays a pivotal role in ensuring women’s safety, and enjoys a lot of clout, and also bears an equivalent, if not more, degree of responsibility.

One doesn’t know whether Maliwal had clinically analysed the judgment before commenting, or whether she was going only by the sensational and misleading news report, aforementioned.

However, given the kind of power she wields as Delhi Commission for Women chairperson, and given the kind of widespread support her comment gathered (and is still gathering), it is incumbent upon her to think before making a statement.

But if her statement stems from her personal beliefs, it is very worrisome. Because there has been no scientific study of female mendacity in rape and sexual assault cases. In fact, it is now regarded as a trope created and perpetuated by (mostly) men, who are determined to evade accountability.

The latest NCRB statistics, however, show that out of a total of 55,071 rapes investigated and prosecuted in India, only 2,839 were classified as false – 5.15 percent – and this doesn’t even account for investigative and judicial biases. Studies done by noted criminologists and psychiatrists – for instance, Phillip RumneyDavid Lisak et alto name only a few, have shown how pernicious this widely prevalent trope is, and how it dissuades many genuine victims from coming forward with their claims. And how can one assert that merely because a case could not be proved that it is false? And to make matters worse, Maliwal was demanding the same punishment for making a false claim as it is for proven cases of rape.

Why We Need Feminism

Feminist activist Kavita Krishnan, who had strongly objected to Maliwal’s statement on Twitter, pointed out that there is a more serious angle to Maliwal’s statement. Krishnan told The Quint:

“It is when appointments are made to women commissions from among political persons, and not from among those who have spent years in the feminist movement where even though people have differences in opinion, they arrive at differences and agreements through intense and informed debates- that one comes across people in positions of power making such reactionary and regressive statements which are severely counterproductive to women’s interests.”

“Maliwal has been coming to the aid of women in the role of a do-gooder and has done some commendable work, but then the lack of experience in the feminist movement and strong refusal to engage with members of the movement will frequently give rise to such regrettable occasions and damaging viewpoints,” Krishnan went on to tell The Quint.

At the time of the publication of this report, Maliwal has not deleted her tweet or issued a clarification in spite of many pointing out the flaws in her comments.

Her office has said they will provide an answer after some time. Thereafter, this piece will be updated with her response. The TOI journalist has not bothered to go back and check if he has slipped on some point(s), and of course, the apex court is yet to take note of an evidently flawed ruling which came from its own stable.

All the more reason to keep analysing, critiquing and protesting.

https://www.thequint.com/voices/fighting-rape/dcw-chief-swati-maliwal-victim-shaming-haryana-minor-rape-case

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Anand Teltumbde- “I Am At My Wits End Wiith These Lies”

Distressing


 A friend whatsapped me a clip of a news item published in The Hindu of today instant under the heading “Activist held meets abroad: police” in which in reference to me the following lines are written:

“The arrested accused claimed they needed to stoke violence and tension and maximize the death of a Dalit youth during the Bhima Koregaon riots, Mr Singh claimed, while reading out from a purported letter written by Mr. Anand Teltumbde to Mr Wilson in January this year. According to Mr. Singh the letter said, “It is time we carried out a big strike as is being suggested by VV (Varavara Rao) and Surendra,” referring to 80 vehicles burnt on the instruction of Mr Rao.

I am stunned to see such white lies being spread by the police to malign me. I state that while I know Rona since his JNU days and thereafter off and on as an activist, but never had I written to him even an email, leave apart letter.

It is distressing that the state stoops to such lows to malign a defenceless citizen like me, who even in the face of it could not be connected with such bizarre activities. I have been an alumnus of IIM Ahmadabad, and had my entire career in corporate world ending with Managing Director and CEO of a holding company.

Even, thereafter, when IIT Kharagpur invited me to join its faculty, I taught Business management for over five years. This year I launched India’s first Big Data Analytics programme in management. Can any sane person link up this background of mine with the bizarre stories police is churning out through so called letters.

Already, in having a raid on my house in the campus they have ruined my image before my students and jeopardized their careers as they in some way are linked with my own reputation. My family, my vast friend circle, my corporate contacts, everything is devastated with this false campaign the police launched for whatever intention.

I heard from some journalists that the police spokesman in his press conference yesterday referred to my foreign visits that I collected money. I am a reputed scholar and go on invitations of universities abroad, and all these tours are well documented. Such kind of deliberate falsehood and fabrication by the state agent is dangerous for this country’s future to say the least.

May I request you not to give space to such unsubstantiated and bizarre police stories in the media, particularly those that still carry some level of credibility with the people.

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भारत-खतरे में लोकतंत्र !

अपने पैरों से तेजी से फिसलती जमीन को देखते हुए दमनात्मक कदमों पर आमादा भाजपा
मानवाधिकार कार्यकर्ताओं और जानेमाने बुद्धिजीवियों की गिरफतारी पर ‘न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनिशिएटिव’  का वक्तव्य
1.
न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनिशिएटिव, पुणे पुलिस द्वारा अपने केसरिया आंकाओं के निर्देशों पर मनमाने तरीके से और दुर्भावना के साथ मानवाधिकार कार्यकर्ताओं, वकीलों, प्रोफेसरों और कवियों के घरों पर एक साथ डाले गए छापे और उनमें से पांच को – सुधा भारद्वाज, गौतम नवलखा, अरूण परेरा, वेरनॉन गोन्साल्वेस और वरवरा राव – मनगढंत आरोपों के तहत गिरफतार किए जाने की कड़े शब्दों में भर्त्सना करता है।
इन सभी व्यक्तियों की बिना शर्त तत्काल रिहाई तथा उनके खिलाफ बेहद दमनकारी गैरकानूनी गतिविधियां निवारण अधिनियम/Unlawful Activities Prevention Act/ के तहत लगाए गए फर्जी आरोपो ंको वापस लेने की मांग करते हुए, उसकी तरफ से यह भी कहा गया है कि उन दोषी पुलिसकर्मियों के खिलाफ भी कार्रवाई की जाए जिन्होंने इस कार्रवाई को अंजाम दिया है।
2.
इन छापों को लेकर प्रकाशित रिपोर्टें बताती हैं कि इन सभी व्यक्तियों के साथ – जो काफी पढ़े लिखे हैं और जिन्होंने अपने जीवन का बड़ा हिस्सा संविधान के दायरे में रहते हुए हाशिये पर पड़े हुए लोगों और शोषितों-वंचितों के लिए लिए लड़ने में बीताया है – खतरनाक आतंकवादी की तरह व्यवहार करने में तथा इनके आत्मीय जनों को अपमानित करने में पुलिस को कोई गुरेज नहीं था।
इस सम्बन्ध में प्रोफेसर सत्यनारायण, जो इंग्लिश एण्ड फॉरेन लैंग्वेजेस युनिवर्सिटी /EFLU/ में डिपार्टमेण्ट आफ कल्चरल स्टडीज के प्रमुख हैं और इंटर-डिसिप्लिनरी स्टडीज के डीन हैं तथा बहुत सम्मानित अकादमिक, अपने क्षेत्रा के विद्वान तथा कई किताबों के लेखक हैं, की आपबीती उजागर करती है कि किस तरह उनके घर पर महज इसलिए छापा मारा गया क्योंकि वह चर्चित तेलुगु कवि एवं एक्टिविस्ट वरवरा राव के दामाद हैं। पुलिस को उनकी पत्नी में यह पूछने में भी संकोच नहीं हुआ कि /ब्राहमण होने के बावजूद/ उन्होंने अंतरजातीय विवाह / एक दलित के साथ / क्यों किया और वह अपने माथे पर सिन्दूर क्यों नहीं लगाती हैं।
3.
तेजी से बदलता घटनाक्रम बताता है कि पुणे पुलिस के इस अविचारी कदम की उलट प्रतिक्रिया हुई है और इसने समूचे मुल्क में जबरदस्त आक्रोश और गुस्से को जन्म दिया है, देश के तमाम शहरों एवं नगरों में इसके खिलाफ जुलूस निकले हैं और रैलियों का आयोजन हुआ है, जिसमें सैंकड़ों की तादाद में लोग शामिल हुए हैं। यह ऐलान करते हुए कि देश का यह ताज़ा घटनाक्रम आपातकाल से भी खराब है, जहां ‘उम्मीदों का गणतंत्र’ ‘डर के गणतंत्र’ में तब्दील होता दिख रहा है, लोगों ने इस बात को रेखांकित किया है कि मौजूदा हुकूमत ने इस कदम को इसलिए उठाया है क्योंकि वह बुनियादी तौर पर अर्थव्यवस्था के प्रबंधन में उसे मिली प्रचंड नाकामी या सामाजिक तानेबाने की बढ़ती दरारों को सम्बोधित करने में उसकी भारी असफलता तथा कानून के राज को ठेंगा दिखाते भीडतंत्रा पर नकेल डालने में उसकी लाचारी को लेकर उठते जनता के व्यापक गुस्से से ध्यान हटाना चाहती है।
इस बात को भी नोट किया जाना चाहिए कि मुख्यधारा के प्रिन्ट मीडिया ने भी इस अविचारी कदम पर प्रश्न उठाया है और कहा है कि यह भाजपा का मैकार्थी मुक़ाम है, वही दौर जब चालीस के दशक के उत्तरार्द्ध और पचास के दशक की शुरूआत में अमेरिकी सरकार ने वामपंथी रूझानों का आरोप लगाते हुए तमाम लेखकों, विद्वानों और कार्यकर्ताओं को प्रताडित किया था।
4.
देश के सर्वोच्च न्यायालय द्वारा इस मामले में किए गए अभूतपूर्व हस्तक्षेप ने सरकार को ही बचावात्मक पैंतरा अपनाने के लिए मजबूर किया है। सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने एक तरह से इस मामले में इतिहास रचा जब उसने इस मामले में तीसरे पक्ष के हस्तक्षेप को मंजूरी दी जब उसने  इस सन्दर्भ में अग्रणी बुद्धिजीवियों द्वारा पेश याचिका को स्वीकारते हुए तीन सदस्यीय पीठ का गठन किया तथा महाराष्ट सरकार को नोटिस जारी किया। ‘असहमति को जनतंत्र का सेफटी वॉल्व’ घोषित करते हुए उसने सरकार को याद दिलाया कि अगर सरकार असहमति का दमन करती है तो जनतंत्रा सुरक्षित नहीं रहेगा। फिलवक्त़ यह केस अब सुप्रीम कोर्ट में विचाराधीन है, जिस पर वह अगले सप्ताह सुनवाई करेगी।
5.
यह बिल्कुल स्पष्ट है कि पुणे पुलिस द्वारा की गयी इस कार्रवाई का फौरी कारण खुद महाराष्ट्र  एटीएस द्वारा कथित तौर पर सनातन संस्था और आनुषंगिक हिन्दुत्ववादी संगठनों से जुुड़े कार्यकर्ताओं के घरों से बरामद हथियारों का जखीरा, विस्फोटक और डिटोनेटर्स और उनमें से पांच कार्यकर्ताओं की गिरफतारी और एक ऐसी साजिश का खुलासा था जिसके तहत भीड़ भरे स्थानों और उत्सवों की जगहों पर बम रख कर साम्प्रदायिक तनाव बढ़ाने की योजना थी।
दरअसल, इन खुलासों ने राज्य स्तर पर तथा केन्द्र स्तर पर भी अत्यधिक दबाव बनाया था कि वह सनातन संस्था और उसके आनुषंगिक संगठनों हिन्दु जन जागृति समिति पर पाबन्दी लगा दे, जो खुल्लमखुल्ला ‘शैतानी ताकतों के विध्वंस को आध्यात्मिक कार्य’ घोषित करते आए हैं। यह बात भी नहीं भूलनी चाहिए कि यह संगठन विगत एक दशक से अधिक समय से, हिंसक गतिविधियों को बढ़ावा देने और यहां तक कि आतंकी गतिविधियों में अपने कार्यकर्ताओं की संलिप्तता के चलते – जांच एजेंसियों के निशाने पर हैं और राज्य में सत्तासीन पूर्ववर्ती सरकारों ने भी इन संगठनों पर पाबन्दी के लिए केन्द्र सरकार के पास अपनी सिफारिशें भेजी थीं।
यहां इस बात पर जोर देना महत्वपूर्ण है कि यह खुलासा कर्नाटक पुलिस द्वारा गौरी लंकेश के हत्या की गयी जांच से ही संभव हो सका जिसने इस बात को उजागर किया कि किस तरह कथित तौर पर इन संगठनों से जुड़े लोग न केवल इस विशिष्ट हत्या के लिए जिम्मेदार थे बल्कि इसके पहले हुई तर्कशीलों, विद्वानों और वाम कार्यकर्ताओं की – डा नरेन्द्र दाभोलकर, कामरेड गोविन्द पानसरे और प्रोफेसर कलबुर्गी – हत्या के लिए भी जिम्मेदार थे, जिसे लेकर समूचे मुल्क में हंगामा मचा था। सूचनाओं के मुताबिक महाराष्ट एटीएस के पास इन आतंकवादियों द्वारा तैयार वह हिट लिस्ट भी है जिसमें तमाम विद्वानों, सामाजिक कार्यकर्ताओं के नाम है जो हमेशा ही हिन्दुत्व के विचारों के आलोचक रहे हैं और उन्होंने उसके हिमायतियों का लगातार विरोध किया है।
6.
हुक्मरानों का अनुमान था कि देश के पैमाने पर की गयी इन गिरफतारियों को अंजाम देने के बाद – निष्ठावान मीडिया के सहयोग से – उन्हें आर्थिक मोर्चे पर अपनी प्रचंड नाकामियों पर परदा डालने का अवसर मिलेगा। दरअसल यह सबके सामने है कि किस तरह मोदी की अगुआईवाली भाजपा सरकार ने अर्थव्यवस्था को चौपट किया है।
राफेल डील को लेकर उठे विवाद के तत्काल बाद – जिसे ‘‘अब तक के सबसे बड़े रक्षा घोटाले के तौर पर’’ सम्बोधित किया जा रहा है, जहां ‘‘ अपने पद का घोर दुरूपयोग और आपराधिक दुराचरण’’ (https://www.newsclick.in/rafale-defence-scandal-larger-any-thus-far ) दिखता है – रिजर्व बैंक आफ इंडिया द्वारा प्रकाशित रिपोर्ट सामने आयी है जो उजागर करती है कि नोटबन्दी से बाहर की गयी 99.3 फीसदी मुद्रा बैंकों में लौट आयी है जो एक तरह से पूर्वप्रधानमंत्राी मनमोहन सिंह द्वारा सदन के पटल पर नोटबन्दी को लेकर किए विश्लेषण को – कि वह ‘‘संगठित लूट और वैध डाका’’ थी – सही साबित करती है।
मौजूदा हुकूमत के चन्द चीयरलीडर्स को छोड़ दे तो इस बात पर आम सहमति है कि एक साल के अन्दर मोदी सरकार ने अर्थव्यवस्था को ‘‘दोहरे झटके’’ दिए, पहले नोटबन्दी के जरिए और दूसरे आपाधापी में शुरू किए गए जीएसटी /गुडस एण्ड सर्विसेस टैक्स/ के जरिए, जो हमारी अर्थव्यवस्था के लिए पूरी तबाही साबित हुए हैं और जिन्होंने छोटे उद्योगों की कमर तोड़ दी है।
सत्ता में आने के पहले मौजूदा हुक्मरानों के जो भी दावे रहे हों, वह रोजगार के मोर्चे पर भी बुरी तरह असफल दिखे हैं। कहां युवकों के लिए 2 करोड़ रोजगार निर्माण की बात की गयी थी, वहीं यह देखने में आ रहा है कि दो लाख नए रोजगार तक नहीं निर्मित हुए हैं।
7.
जैसे कि घटनाक्रम बताता है कि इस मामले में सरकार के सभी आकलन बिल्कुल गड़बड़ा गए हैं। उसका अनुमान था कि इन अग्रणी मानवाधिकार कार्यकर्ताओं और प्रख्यात बुद्धिजीवियों की गिरफतारियों के बाद उसके लिए यह सम्भव होगा कि हिन्दुत्व आतंकवादियों और उनके खतरनाक मंसूबों को लेकर उसके ढीले ढाले रवैये को लेकर परदा डालना उसके लिए संभव होगा। और जैसे कि चर्चा की जा रही है, सरकार अपने कदम पीछे खींचने पड़ रहे हैं।
सरकार के लिए उतनी ही परेशानी पैदा करनेवाली बात है कि हथियारों की बरामदगी के मामले में शिव प्रतिष्ठान, जिसका गठन संभाजी भिडे नामक कटटर हिन्दुत्ववादी नेता ने किया है, उससे जुड़ा एक कार्यकर्ता भी गिरफतार हुआ है। यह वही संगठन है जिस पर यह आरोप है कि वह भीमा कोरेगांव में हुई हिंसा के मामले में शामिल रहा है, जब दो सौ साल पहले पेशवाओं की हुई हार और ‘‘दलितों की जीत’’ को मनाने के लिए लाखों दलितों ने पुणे के पास स्थित कोरेगांव में बने विजय स्तंभ की ओर जुलूस निकाला था।
इस घटना के तत्काल बाद दायर प्रथम सूचना रिपोर्ट में संभाजी भिडे और दूसरे हिन्दुत्ववादी नेता मिलिन्द एकबोटे को सीधे जिम्मेदार ठहराया गया था। प्रकाश अम्बेडकर जो डा अम्बेडकर के पोते हैं, तथा जो ‘‘एल्गार परिषद’’ वक्ताओं में से एक थे, जिसका आयोजन ‘‘दलित जीत के स्मरणोत्सव’’ के पहले दिन हुआ था, उन्होंने भी इन कटटरपंथियों के खिलाफ इसी किस्म की शिकायत दर्ज की थी और पुलिस को कहा था कि वह इस मामले को अनुसूचित जाति और जनजाति अत्याचार निवारण अधिनियम /1989/ के तहत दर्ज कर दे। जबकि महाराष्ट पुलिस ने संभाजी भिडे से पूछताछ करना भी मुनासिब नहीं समझा है – तथा महाराष्ट के मुख्यमंत्राी देवेन्द्र फडणवीस सदन के पटल पर भिडे को क्लीन चिट दे चुके हैं – इसके बरअक्स वह किसी हिन्दुत्ववादी कार्यकर्ता द्वारा इन वामपंथी रूझानों वाले विद्वानों, कार्यकर्ताओं के खिलाफ दायर मनगढंत केस को लेकर अत्यधिक सक्रिय दिखती है।
8.
हमें नहीं भूलना चाहिए कि यह छापे और गिरफतारियां दरअसल जून माह में ‘भीमा कोरेगांव हिंसा को भड़काने का आरोप लगाते हुए की गयी सुधीर ढवले, शोमा सेन, एडवोकेट सुरेन्द्र गडलिंग, महेश राउत और रोना विल्सन की गिरफतारियों की निरन्तरता में देखी जानी चाहिए, जिन पर यह भी आरोप लगा था कि वह प्रधानमंत्राी मोदी को निशाने पर रखते हुए उनकी ‘राजीव गांधी की हत्या नुमा’’ किसी साजिश का हिस्सा थे। सुप्रीम कोर्ट के दो रिटायर्ड न्यायाधीशों, न्यायमूर्ति पी बी सावंत और न्यायमूर्ति कोलसे पाटील द्वारा बार बार इस बात को रेखांकित किया गया है कि वही एल्गार परिषद के आयोजक थे और जिन व्यक्तियों को पहले गिरफतार किया गया था और जिन्हें अब गिरफतार किया गया है, उनकी इसमें कोई भूमिका नहीं थी, जबकि सरकार यह ‘‘प्रमाणित’’ करने पर आमादा है कि वही लोग उसमें शामिल थे।
9.
जिस ढीले ढाले तरीके से सरकार इस कथित हत्या की साजिश की जांच कर रही है वह न केवल इस बात में उजागर हुआ है जब गौतम नवलखा के सन्दर्भ में चीफ जुडिशियल मैजिस्टेट साकेत कोर्ट द्वारा दी गयी ट्रांजिट रिमांड के खिलाफ दायर हेबियस कार्पस याचिका को लेकर दिल्ली की उच्च अदालत ने महाराष्ट पुलिस द्वारा बरती गयी अनियमितताओं और भूलों को लेकर सवाल उठाए थे तथा जिस तरह गिरफतारियों के दो दौर में तीन माह का अन्तर दिखता है।
इस साजिश की कहानी – जिसमें कथित तौर पर प्रधानमंत्राी मोदी को निशाने पर रखा गया है – हमें 21 वीं सदी के पहली दहाई के गुजरात की याद दिलाती है, जब ऐसी ही साजिशों के खुलासे हो रहे थे, जब जनाब मोदी राज्य के मुख्यमं़त्राी थे। इस दौरान राज्य में कई फर्जी मुठभेड़ो में कई निरपराध मारे गए थे, इस दिखावटी दावे के साथ वह विशिष्ट ‘‘जिहादी’’ जनाब मोदी की हत्या के लिए आया था। यह बात भी इतिहास हो चुकी है कि किस तरह कई पुलिस अधिकारियों ने इन फर्जी मुठभेड़ों में संलिप्तता के नाम पर कई साल जेल में बीताए थे। आज ‘‘जिहादी’’ शब्द को ‘‘अर्बन नक्सल’’ नाम से प्रतिस्थापित किया गया है – यह एक नया आख्यान है जो मौजूदा सरकार अपने आलोचकांे और असहमति रखनेवालों के खिलाफ खड़ा करना चाहती है।
10
न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनिशिएटिव का मानना है कि गैरकानूनी गतिविधयां निवारण अधिनियम /Unlawful Activities Prevention Act /  जैसे खतरनाक कानून – जिनका इस्तेमाल इन कार्यकर्ताओं की गिरफतारी के लिए किया गया है और जिन्हें इसके पहले हजारों कार्यकर्ताओं और निरपराध लोगो ंके खिलाफ इस्तेमाल किया गया है – उसके लिए जनतंत्र में कोई जगह नहीं होनी चाहिए।
11.
न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनिशिएटिव ने आम लोगों से – नागरिकों, इस देश के निवासियों – अपील की है, जो अभी भी जनतंत्र, धर्मनिरपेक्षता, समानता और बहुलतावाद में यकीन रखते हैं कि वह हुक्मरानों की चालों के प्रति सावधान रहें, क्योंकि एक के बाद एक आ रहे सर्वेक्षण बताते मोदी की अगुआई में संचालित भाजपा तेजी से अपना जनाधार खो रही है। और यह मुमकिन है कि अगले साल के चुनावों में वापसी के लिए वह लोगों का ध्रुवीकरण करने के लिए विभाजक एजेण्डे को आगे बढ़ा सकती है।

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India – ‘Dissent is Not Welcome,’ Newspaper Editorials Slam Targeting of Activists

Leading newspapers across India have derided the government’s actions and urged the Supreme Court to safeguard and uphold the constitution.

New Delhi: On August 28, the houses of several rights activists were simultaneously raided by the Pune police and five among them – Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao and Arun Ferreira – were arrested on a host of charges, including terrorism-related ones.

Three of the arrested activists – Ferreira, Rao and Gonsalves – were produced at a district court in Pune the next day and accused by the prosecution of being involved in a range of crimes from the planned assassination of top government functionaries to ties with Kashmiri separatists and riots in Pune.

Giving some reprieve to the five by ordering them to stay under house arrest till September 6, the Supreme Court in response to a plea against the arrests on Wednesday noted that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If not allowed, the safety valve will burst.”

While groups of retired civil servants, activists, lawyers and students have all condemned the actions of the Maharashtra police and called the arrests a clear attempt at stifling dissent, leading newspapers have used the power of the pen to editorially deride the government’s actions.

Times of India

In its editorial titled ‘McCarthy moment? Pune police’s countrywide swoop on left wing activists rightly elicits outrage and legal challenge,’ the Times of India stated that ideas must be fought with better ideas and not through coercion or repression – which is what distinguishes a democracy from an authoritarian state.

“India won half the battle against Maoism when it adopted a liberal democracy in 1950 and took another giant leap through liberal economic reforms since 1991. Now the Naxal ideology is losing traction even in remote tribal areas. This is hardly the moment to resurrect the figure of the “urban naxal” to target, say, Dalit or tribal or trade union activists.

Yet the fear mongering cannot be ignored because it recalls the McCarthy era in 1950s America, when left wing activists were persecuted.”

Indian Express

Questioning why “respected activists, a priest, a lawyer and a poet” had all been treated by the state “in the manner of dreaded terrorists and criminals,” the Indian Express editorial titled ‘The safety valve’ – in line with what Justice D.Y. Chandrachud has said – put the onus on the apex court to hold the government to account.

“And the Supreme Court must hold the government to account for any and every perversion of due process, any and every sabotage of justice, that is bared in the process. When the law is draconian and the politics intolerant, it falls on the Supreme Court to safeguard and uphold the Constitution.”

Also read: The Wire’s Editorial – Midnight Knock on Democracy’s Door

The Hindu

The burden on the Maharashtra police is extremely high, The Hindu noted in its editorial, ‘Shock arrests: On activists’ arrest.’ The daily stated that unless the police is able to prove the “sweeping allegations of unlawful activity” and those of “unverified assassination plots” against the human rights activists, “suspicions that the law has been bent with the sole purpose of targeting dissent,” will be confirmed.

“It is nobody’s case that activists or intellectuals are above the law, but the Maharashtra police carry the enormous burden of proof, having accused the activists of doing much more than inciting the violence that broke out in Bhima-Koregaon, near Pune, this year. What began as a controversy over allegedly provocative speeches made at a Dalit conference relating to the 200th anniversary of an iconic battle site has inexplicably morphed into a larger conspiracy involving the CPI (Maoist).”

The Asian Age

The failure of the Maharashtra police was in focus in the Asian Age editorial, ‘Arrests of activists totally unjustified’ as well. Emphasising that a plot against the prime minister is a “very serious matter”, the newspaper said charges like these should be “painstakingly investigated.” It shouldn’t, as has been done, “bandied about on television in order to score political points”.

The editorial said that while “friendly” TV channels have been suggesting that a plot to assassinate Modi is being unravelled, the idea that the arrested “dissenters” – each with a long record of working with the poor – had anything to do with such a plot is preposterous. “…though not to the Pune police, which picked up the five individuals.”

“Since none has been linked with violence and public disorder in their work going back decades, it’s plausibly being suggested their arrests are an example of the work of the “thought police”. It’s expected such actions will help keep government critics at bay.”

DNA

Labelling the actions of the Pune police a ‘major faux pas‘ given the gravity of the charges levelled, DNA drew focus on the growing threat of Naxalism in its August 30 editorial.

“.. the Pune police should have done a thorough spade work and furnished incontrovertible evidence,” the editorial stated, adding, “Instead, in their hurry to carry out arrests, they jumped the gun to disastrous effect.”

Citing 2014 home ministry data, DNA stated that over 12,000, including security forces, have been killed by Naxals in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Adding that while there wasn’t concrete proof of ‘urban naxalism,’ “reports of sleeper cells and Maoist ideologues inciting the youth to take up arms and resort to violence crop up every once in a while.”

“The police and the government must be mindful of the fact that those arrested are prominent rights activists, professors and lawyers and not petty criminals. If the police are not careful, this issue may snowball into a national political challenge.”

The Telegraph

“Where exactly is the law?” asked the Telegraph in its editorial titled ‘Action at dawn.’ The simultaneous early morning raids, the arrests and manner in which they were conducted, is a sign that the proactiveness of the police was rather one-sided.

“… absent in the case of the upper-caste leaders who allegedly led the violence on January 1, or of gau rakshaks on their lynching sprees, slack when rationalists and journalists are killed, although the recent revelations about the murderous activities of outfits like the Sanatan Sanstha seem to have made the arrest of activists even more urgent.”

The label of ‘urban Naxals’, adds the piece, is like an “echo of the Brazilian Carlos Marighella’s 1969 definition of the ‘urban guerrilla’”.

The Tribune

Grave charges have been levied against the five activists, but without tangible proof, notes The Tribune‘s editorial‘Clampdown on Left activists,’ the timing of Maharashtra police’s action “is bound to raise suspicion about the motive of law-enforcing agencies, as also State control, and give credence to the Opposition’s claim of a ‘virtual declaration of Emergency’.”

“There is need for circumspection. Democracy will self-destruct in the face of systematic annihilation of dissent. No matter how inconvenient, how uncomfortable the truth, the Kalburgis, Dabholkars, Gauri Lankeshs must be allowed to speak out, and live. Unless the last man has said what he must — without fear — and has been heard, we will remain a democracy in the making.”

Amar Ujala

Citing the Supreme Court’s observation that dissent is the safety valve of any democracy, Amar Ujala‘s editorial ‘Conspiracy and arrests’ said that while what the top court had noted was serious, if ideological differences reach a point of violence and unlawfulness, as claimed by the Pune police, then that threat is equally serious.

Stating that while the police claimed to have enough evidence and to having kept a close watch on the five, it failed in its purpose because the activists have been ordered by the apex court to be kept under house arrest.

The challenge before the Maharashtra police now, the Hindi daily stated, was to put forth documents and evidence before the court supporting its claims so that the matter can be brought to its just end.

Dainik Bhaskar

In the Dainik Bhaskar editorial titled ‘There is no space for violence in the fight of ideas’, the newspaper said that while the activists should be punished if indeed it can be proved that they had planned to assassinate leaders in the government, in turn, the government needs to be held accountable if the allegations turn out to be false.

“If this hearing before the upcoming elections so that the government can spread some sort of political sensationalism and benefit from it, opposition parties and civil rights groups must come forward and join hands in the struggle to save our human rights.”

Nav Bharat Times

The daily Nav Bharat Times, recapping the events of the past two days, stated that it’s the government’s duty to tackle Naxal-related violence, but the Centre should ensure that any police action shouldn’t create an environment of fear. During Emergency, this country fought a long battle to guarantee its citizens rights. “Protecting these rights should be as important as increasing the country’s GDP”.

Danik Jagran

The Dainik Jagran took a position quite different from other media groups, arguing in its editorial ‘The supporters of Naxals’ that even if the people arrested were not supporting the Naxal movement, there are others “very much like them” in Indian cities who are.

“No matter what conclusion the Supreme Court comes to at the next hearing, there is no doubt that Naxals in India’s rural areas are receiving support from people in cities very much like the people the Pune police has arrested. …While after the five were arrested people have been saying that this is a crackdown on dissent and an Emergency-like situation, it is a fact that in the urban areas, a group of literate people is sympathising with the Naxals and supporting them.”

The newspaper also slammed the Congress for speaking out against the arrests, saying the party was well aware of these city-based Naxal supporters, but is now using any excuse to get after the BJP government.

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India’s Public-Health Failures- The Story Of Arti And Kailash #SundayReading

Public Health Failures that PM’s Insurance Scheme Won’t Plug: The Story Of Arti And Kailash

Disha Shetty,

Palghar_Health_620

Kailash Burange holds daughter Sanskruti, as wife Arti and his mother stand next to him. The Buranges live in a remote Maharashtra mountain village with little access to public healthcare. After losing two babies to India’s tottering public-health system, Arti and Kailash gained new knowledge from workshops carried out in the region and finally got a healthy baby.

 

Palghar, Maharashtra: In March 2015, Kailash Burange, a painter of traditional art, and his wife Arti walked into the Nashik Civil Hospital in Western Maharashtra with their newborn baby girl. It had taken them over two hours in a bare ambulance, down the winding roads of the Western Ghats, to arrive from their home in a remote village called Poshera in Palghar that is just over 150 km to the north of India’s financial capital Mumbai.

 

The next day, they walked out of the hospital with a dead baby in a plastic bag.

 

Born a day earlier, the baby had developed breathing complications. The couple spent the next 24 hours going up the hierarchy of India’s public health system–from the clinic near their village called a primary health centre, which caters to a population of 30,000, to a larger secondary health centre and, finally, to a rural hospital. At every level, the couple found out that the system was not equipped with the basics needed to save their baby who was gasping for air–neither a ventilator nor a qualified doctor.

 

India spends 1.4% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare, less than South Asian neighbours Nepal and Sri Lanka, as well as several sub-Saharan countries in Africa, according to World Bank data.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to launch the Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Scheme (AB-NHPS), dubbed as the world’s largest health insurance programme, shortly. But, for people like Kailash and Arti, living in remote corners of the country, an insurance scheme means little when the hospital where they live lacks a doctor. The nearest private hospital is over 100 km in an area without any public transport. In 2016, health sub-centres–each of which caters to 5,000 people–were 20% short of human resources, while primary and community centres were 22% and 30% short, respectively, according to the 2016 Rural Health Statistics (RHS).

 

Maharashtra is one of the few states that runs an insurance scheme for those with an annual income of less than Rs 1 lakh. Kailash and Arti were eligible for the scheme, which can get them health services worth Rs 1.5 lakh in empanelled private hospitals. In reality, the couple knew that they would have to pay for medicines and the ambulance service to the hospital because while the insurance covers major procedures, hospitals ask patients to bear additional expenses. Studies looking at the impact of government-sponsored insurance for the poor found that 95% of patients who used the insurance to access healthcare in private hospitals ended up paying additional amounts out of their own pockets. Despite insurance, household medical expenses went up.

 

Every year, close to 55 million Indians may slip below the poverty line due to out-of-pocket medical expenses. If spending money was a choice, Kailash and Arti would have gladly done so to get their baby a ventilator. The couple hold a yellow ration card given to families below the poverty line. They were vaguely aware of the insurance scheme but no one from their village had ever used one. To start with, the couple had no money to pay for ambulance service to take their baby to another hospital.

 

With less than Rs 100 between them, they knew the insurance scheme would be of no use.

 

A resource-starved system

 

dearth of government spending on India’s public health system has left it resource-starved. The low pay to staffer plus infrastructure in dire need of repair has driven many talented healthcare providers to either join the private sector or work in other countries where they feel their skills are better utilised.

 

Rich patients no longer trust the almost free government health services, so they have migrated to the expensive private sector. The middle-class has followed, even though the cost puts a strain on their limited resources. For around 56% of the urban population and 49% of the rural population, the private sector is now the primary source of healthcare. Households that don’t generally use the government health facilities are highest in Uttar Pradesh (80%), followed by Bihar (78%).

 

Left behind in the public healthcare system are the country’s poorest, those like the Buranges.

 

Poshera, home to the Buranges, is over 100 km and about a five-hour drive to the north of Mumbai. To get to Poshera–which has a population of just over 400–you have to catch a bus that heads upwards along treacherous dirt roads. The last stop is 3.2 km from the village. There are no sign boards indicating which way to go, and no street lights. You have to rely on locals pointing in the general direction.

 

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A view from Poshera village. To get to Poshera, you have to catch a bus that heads upwards along treacherous dirt roads. The last stop is 3.2 km from the village. There are no sign boards, and no street lights.

 

Poshera is just one of more than 1,000 villages in Palghar, a district carved out of Thane in 2014 so that its tribal areas–with malnutrition rates 50% higher the state average–get the attention they need from the administration. Four years on, Palghar still does not have a district hospital, only a rural hospital without specialised healthcare. With 3 million people, the new district has been in the news for a spate of malnutrition-related infant deaths.

 

Short-lived happiness

 

Three years ago, Arti was hovering over the firewood-fuelled stove in her two-room home, not much more than a shed with a dirt floor, lit by a single bulb, when she felt spasms in her belly. She was 22, married earlier that year, and six months pregnant. Arti ignored the pain and continued cooking.

 

Happy about the baby, she never missed her monthly examination. That’s when she’d get weighed by a nurse who also touched her belly to check the growth of the foetus. Arti got iron tablets to prevent anaemia and folic acid to prevent spina bifida, a spinal-cord defect. The nurses didn’t talk about eating healthy nor was there an ultrasound machine to monitor the baby’s growth.

 

Known as “tribal areas”, mountainous villages like Poshera are among India’s most remote, underdeveloped settlements, where people still struggle for basics like water, sanitation, electricity and food. Health facilities here count as a luxury. The nearest government clinic is 10 km away. For Arti, walking was the only way to reach the clinic, and it often left her tired and drained.

 

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Poshera, a village in rural Palghar, is over 100 km north of Mumbai, nestled amidst mountain ranges. Villages like Poshera are among India’s most remote, underdeveloped settlements, where people struggle for water, sanitation, electricity and food. Health facilities here count as a luxury.

 

In a medical emergency, villagers in Poshera dial 108 for a free government-run ambulance service. But the wait is long, while the driver navigates poorly marked village roads. Sometimes the ambulance takes an hour; sometimes an entire night. When a woman goes into labour, families here hope for a normal delivery because any complication could mean the death of the baby, the mother, or both.

 

As it was for Arti, most women in tribal areas never receive basic information about nutrition. They never learn that healthy eating alone cuts their chances of premature delivery and having sickly babies. Their diet lacks fresh fruits, vegetables and meat–often too expensive to afford. A typical meal is rice or chapatis with watery dal–an inadequate diet for a pregnant or nursing woman.

 

By late afternoon in March 2015, Arti’s pain had intensified. It was then that she finally decided to tell her husband Kailash. Medium build and with a mop of thick black curly hair, Kailash, three years older to Arti, smiles easily.

 

He is a man of measured words. Despite the patriarchal society the couple lives in, Kailash shares most of Arti’s household chores. After graduating with MA in History from a local college affiliated to the Mumbai University, he struggled for years to find a job. In a dim corner of their living room are rolled white sheets that serve as his canvas. He is a warliartist, creating fine white drawings, depicting nature, on a colourful background of blood red and the kind of green that reminds one of lush trees coming to life after a heavy shower. Business is not good. He has no access to a market where he can display his wares but receives a few orders on his cellphone, relying heavily on word of mouth. One painting, which takes him about half a day to make, sells for Rs 500. A quick search on Amazon shows that this kind of art sells for a minimum of Rs 2,000 a piece and can go up to Rs 10,000 or more.

 

Kailash wouldn’t know that. For most of the day, his cell phone has no network let alone access to Internet data. He was vaguely aware that some who buy his paintings are merely sourcing it to sell it to international clients for a much higher price. He is the weakest link in the chain that refuses to pay the producer a fair price.

 

Hearing Arti call out to him, he left his paintbrush on their dirt floor covered with dried cow dung, a feature in most households in the area. Worried about her pain, he borrowed a motorcycle from his friend and with Arti sitting behind him headed to the nearest clinic in Mokhada. The road was narrow and bumpy with a sharp descent. The half-an-hour ride was hard on Arti’s body. Her contractions grew stronger.

 

In 2017, the Nashik Civil Hospital caught media attention when it was reported that 241 infants died in just six months. The ventilators were not enough. That same year, 60 newborns died within a week at the BRD Medical College Hospital in India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh. This time, the hospital had the equipment but they ran out of oxygen in the cylinders. Nurses handed out small plastic hand-operated resuscitators to the panic-stricken parents, demonstrating how to use them. Many pumped for hours. No outside help arrived. Their babies died. For Kailash and so many others, these incidents reinforce their fear of the public hospitals, their only shot at getting any lifesaving treatments.

 

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Nashik Civil Hospital receives patients from Nashik, Palghar and rural Thane. Every day, nearly 5,000 new patients use the hospital and at least 10-15 babies born to mothers who weigh as low as 35 kg require a ventilator.

 

Outrage often follows a spate of infant deaths in public hospitals but perhaps the media missed the real story. Perhaps they weren’t asking the right questions: Why were so many babies so sick in the first place? Why were the babies underweight? Why were they reaching the hospital so late?

 

Answering these questions and fixing the problem would require a deeper understanding of India’s flailing health system, one that begins by taking a closer look at villages like Poshera.

 

Abandoned by the government

 

Arti is barely 45 kg. She is no different from half of all pregnant women in India who are anaemic. Their blood cells lack iron, reducing the ability to carry oxygen and nutrients to the foetus.

 

Meanwhile, the demands from a growing foetus constantly sucking nourishment from the mother’s body leaves them exhausted. It also increases their chances of premature deliveryand birth complications. Two in three women refuse to consume the combined iron tablets freely distributed by the government. They loathe its acrid smell and the side effects. The pills can trigger cramps and diarrhoea, a nasty problem for these women because, as of 2015-16, only one in three rural homes had toilets. It is a subject the women won’t bring up when health officials talk down to them, feeling both a sense of shame and at loss for the right words to express a basic human need. Studies have suggested that improper sanitation can have a detrimental impact on pregnancy outcomes.

 

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Most homes in Poshera village in Mokhada, Palghar, have two rooms, firewood-fuelled stoves, often not much more than a shed with a dirt floor, lit by a single bulb.

 

Compounding these issues, just one in five women receive full prenatal care. Babies born to undernourished mothers are likely to be small, prone to infections and face an increased risk of metabolic complications later in life. The cocktail of socio-economic issues and faulty nutrition has brought India to this: Over a third of India’s children under the age of five are stunted and underweight.

 

Arti and Kailash did not want to go to the clinic closest to them as it had no doctors. They worried that by the time they got there the only nurse would have left for the day. So, they ventured further.

 

The private sector steps in

 

Soon after Independence, India’s public health mission expanded but the initial focus was on infection control. Spending on public health services and infrastructure increased by about 40%–from 0.98% of the GDP in 1975 to 1.36% in 1986, Sujatha Rao, former health secretary for India, documented in her book Do We Care. But in 1991, staring at economic ruin, India was forced to open up its economy. Since then, the private sector has expanded to cater to a majority of Indians.

 

If the private sector and public sector worked together to address different gaps, it would have made sense. But the government continued to cut spending on public-health infrastructure, which dropped to 0.9% of GDP by the year 2000. Public hospitals looked dingy, like a neglected child whose runny nose no one would wipe. Well-meaning doctors advised patients to leave soon after an operation, lest they catch an infection from the unhygienic surroundings. Supplies of medicine to hospitals ran short.

 

The reduction in spending meant that healthcare professionals were overworked, underpaid and burdened with the task of shouldering a collapsing system. The public healthcare system became synonymous with neglect; the private sector with efficiency and profits.

 

“What the government has done is abdicated the responsibility of providing healthcare to the poor,” said Arun Gadre, health activist and author of Dissenting Diagnosis, a book about India’s private healthcare sector. “If as a society you are only catering to the middle and the rich class then you are an unjust one,” he added.

 

In recent years, the young resident doctors slogging in the public health system have becoming targets of mob violence. Most doctors leave the public healthcare system soon after getting trained with a bitter experience to boot. That’s bad news for a country with only five hospital beds and about one allopathic doctor for every 10,000 patients. But even as the system implodes, India’s policy makers are looking to privatise more hospitals.

 

One in every forty Indian babies will die within the first day of life–the largest number of infant deaths in the world. Arti and Kailash were not aware of this statistic but in Poshera, newborn deaths are so common that pregnancy meant joy but also panic.

 

A doubtful quick fix

 

The clinic in Mokhada where the Buranges arrived on a motorcycle caters to nearly 80,000 people. The two-storey structure is on the outskirts of the main town and teeming with patients who have travelled several kilometres on foot or by hitchhiking. All are poor. The maternity ward has no ventilators. The hospital’s lone paediatrician was appointed only in December 2017 and was immediately greeted with serpentine queues of patients. The clinic has few facilities–just two nurses, two wards with beds in them and some cabinets for medicines. Outside, there are benches for patients to sit on. Depending on the time of the day, there might be a doctor.

 

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The Mokhada rural hospital caters to nearly 80,000 people. The clinic has two nurses, two wards with beds and some medicine cabinets. The maternity ward has no ventilators. Depending on the time of the day, there might be a doctor.

 

Kailash and Arti were among the dozens of couples who arrived in distress and confusion. Many parents from the tribal belt come with their puny newborns, several of them barely larger than a bottle of shampoo. They are then referred to the larger hospital in the nearest city, Nashik, 90 km to the north. Few will survive long after the two-hour journey down bumpy roads.

 

On the second level of the clinic is a ward for malnourished children younger than five. Called the nutritional rehabilitation centre, it was launched by the government along with the UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). There are 10 beds meant for severely malnourished children. They are admitted for two weeks and fed one of two kinds of therapeutic milk, called F-75 and F-100, infused with sugar, oil and water plus additional nutrients such as copper, zinc and magnesium. The milk is a firefighting strategy to ensure that the infant’s weight doesn’t slide further.

 

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The nutritional rehabilitation centre at the Mokhada rural hospital in rural Thane teems with mothers and young children. There are 10 beds for severely malnourished children, admitted for two weeks and fed one of two kinds of therapeutic milk–a firefighting strategy to ensure that the infant’s weight doesn’t slide further.

 

Most infants will gain a kilogram or two by the end of the two weeks. Then they are released. There is disagreement on how malnutrition should be handled next. UNICEF recommendsthat infants continue to be given ready-to-use therapeutic food packets, commonly called RUTF. Crediting these packets with revolutionalising the treatment of severe malnutrition, the agency recommends that they be continued for up to 12 weeks or more. It contains, what experts say, is a precise mix of necessary nutrients.

 

However, there is a glitch that the world body has overlooked. The powder is unpalatable. One doctor, on condition of anonymity, expressed her frustration with UNICEF’s method. “The mothers end up feeding this mixture to their hens. The hens too refuse to eat it.”

 

UNICEF refused any direct interview on the RUTF issue but sent us this statement from their nutrition specialist Robert Johnston:

 

“UNICEF is concerned about the levels of malnutrition in India, including acute malnutrition,” the statement said. “Addressing malnutrition including acute malnutrition is part of POSHAN Abhiyan (a government programme launched in March this year that will use technology to address malnutrition). UNICEF supports the Government’s effort to address acute malnutrition, in line with Government’s Guideline.”

 

PMO overrides health-ministry opposition

 

In India, the talk of introduction of these food packets has met with staunch opposition. Activists and doctors point out that once the babies are back on track (post the F-75 and F-100), most of them will just need the basics: Real food. Mothers need to be taught what they can do using the available resources to ensure that the children don’t slide back into the cycle of malnutrition. Aim for a long-term strategy and not a myopic solution to the problem, they insist.

 

On its website, UNICEF notes that the bulk of these food packets are sold in sub-Saharan Africa. A third of these packets are produced in the same countries, the rest by American companies and later shipped. Research on the use of these food packets has come to a unanimous conclusion: The long-term consequences on babies is unknown. And, yet, demand increased, almost as much as six times, in West Africa and Asia between 2009 and 2015; mainly because the packets were promoted as the most efficient treatment available.

 

The drawbacks, however, are more than one. Giving children RUTF is also more expensive when compared to fresh food. UNICEF lists the average cost of a carton of their product as$50 (Rs 3,400). A single carton has 150 packets of 92-gm sachets each, which have to be fed to children as many as five times a day.

 

Health activists argued there was no reason why multinational companies and a transportation chain that spans continents should be summoned for help. No large-scale study has been done in India to assess whether this powder helps pull children out of the malnutrition cycle. A single 2017 study involving 250 children in one of the tribal areas concluded that RUTF (the UN Food packets) was more effective. A close look at the results showed that the group fed RUTF was never compared to children fed nutritious home-cooked food; it was compared to those on different variations of RUTF. It was also a single-blind study and not double-blind, meaning the researchers already knew which group of children were getting what kind of products.

 

Despite opposition from the health ministry to packaged foods in 2017, the Prime Minister’s office said individual states could decide whether to use the ready to eat packets. The decision was hailed as a relief to packaged food industry by major business dailies. Of the 20 UNICEF-approved manufacturers across the world, four are from India. One of these Indian companies, Nuflower Food and Nutrition, claims to have the capacity to make packets for 250,000 children annually.

 

“The UNICEF’s methods don’t work,” said a doctor working in both government and private set up in tribal areas, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, worried about a blowback. Often, officials of the state government get kickbacks, and contracts are given to certain companies to produce these RUTF. “The entire set-up is meant to keep children malnourished as everyone in the chain makes money so they push for policies that keep the chain in place,” the doctor added.

 

The most important question: Can’t the government figure out a way to ensure that children never reach the stage where they have to rely on packaged goo rather than real food?

 

The long road home

 

There was no doctor at the clinic when Arti, who was already close to delivery, arrived with Kailash in March 2015. A nurse told them to leave for the larger clinic over 20 km away in Jawhar. Barely able to walk in pain, Arti once again sat behind her husband and the two took off.

 

Soon after she arrived, Arti gave birth to a baby girl. The baby was barely breathing. Kailash has no documents of the birth but said the baby was underweight.

 

“The doctor told me that there was a problem with the baby’s heart and that she would need a ventilator,” Kailash said describing the events that occurred three years back. He was once again asked to move his exhausted wife and light-as-a-feather baby, who was now given an oxygen mask, to the hospital in Nashik. This time, they went by an ambulance. Two hours later, they arrived at the Nashik Civil Hospital. There were no ventilators available for their flailing baby at the 750-bedded government-run hospital.

 

“The doctor told me that one option was to shift the baby to a private clinic but I had no money,” the desperate father recalls with tears in his eyes.

 

In the wee hours the next day, Kailash and Arti’s daughter died.

 

Their trauma did not end there. Although the hospital is supposed to provide an ambulance to take the mother back home, Kailash said he did not get one. The journey home for his wife, himself and his widowed mother, who joined them in the hospital, cost nearly Rs 100, a sum he did not have. He called a relative who came to the hospital with the money. Burial was a luxury the family could not afford.

 

“I told my wife that she will have to be strong,” said Kailash. “We put our baby in a plastic bag and took the bus home.”

 

Kailash made the journey home, traversing the same sharp turns he had brought his pregnant wife a day ago. His grief-stricken wife was on one side, his wailing mother on the other, and his dead baby on his lap.

 

The burden of pregnancy

 

Focusing on children, and not the mothers who give birth to them, is the system’s first and basic failure. In Poshera and other tribal areas, the burden of pregnancy weakens the already malnourished and exhausted bodies of women, such as Arti. They have no time to rest, working the fields and tending to their household. Multiple pregnancies just make it worse.

 

A lack of calcium in a pregnant woman can increase her chances of pre-eclampsia–a condition that occurs during pregnancy and leads to dangerous high blood pressure. In low-income countries, it is one of the major causes of preterm births and maternal deaths. Pregnant women also need higher doses of micronutrients, such as zinc, copper, magnesium, and selenium along with vitamins such as B12, D and A. Their deficiency is less likely to cause any serious harm but necessary to maintain a healthy immune system.

 

The nutrition guidelines–even those developed in richer countries, such as the US–omit three key groups: Pregnant and lactating women and infants two years old or younger. Many countries look to US nutrition guidelines, but there isn’t much there when it comes to pregnancy.

 

Even the UNICEF agrees the mother was rarely ever the focus of the policy. “While we need to pay attention to the child we have definitely ignored the nutrition of the mother,” admitted France Bégin, senior advisor on nutrition for UNICEF. Pregnancy and lactation have huge nutritional consequences for the mother. “We do recognise that much more needs to be done,” she said.

 

Another pregnancy, and Kailash leans in

 

Later that year, Arti conceived again. Scarred from their experience with childbirth the first time, Kailash did not want to have another baby but when Arti remained adamant, he agreed. To Arti, the very idea of not having a baby of her own was inconceivable, no matter what the cost. Cautious this time around, Kailash would share household chores with her so that she wasn’t burdened. His mother, who lived with them, urged Arti to rest. Regardless, the same belly spasms came back to haunt the couple towards the end of Arti’s second trimester.

 

Without any guidance about how to eat during pregnancy, Arti continued to shun abundantly available fish, a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that omega fatty acids aid brain development in the growing foetus. In the tribal areas where education levels are low, diseases rampant and no money for medicine, the first response to an illness is to turn to a village elder. Couples are encouraged to perform animal sacrifices and told a failure to do so would lead to deformed babies. Most, fearing the ominous prophecies, would spend on rituals rather than fresh food.

 

Arti also stayed away from eating any home-bred chicken on the recommendation of village elders. Traditionally, chickens were raised for sale in many of India’s tribal areas. Discouraging villagers from eating them made financial sense. As is with most traditions, somewhere myth, convenience and facts became so entangled that no one explained to Arti what about chicken was bad.

 

Arti’s weight remained dangerously low. Her blood was never tested for vitamin deficiency or anaemia. If she was undernourished, she never found out. There are no ultrasound machines in the nearest government clinic. The nurse touching her swollen belly told her the baby was growing fine.

 

‘A foetus is like a parasite’

 

A growing body of research has established strong links between malnourishment amongmothers and premature birth. When a baby is in the mother’s womb, its entire existence depends on what nutrients it can extract from the mother’s placenta. For the baby to be healthy, the mother must be so too. “A foetus is like a parasite,” explained Pradeep Mally, neonatologist at New York University. All the baby’s nutrient needs have to be met by the mother. When a malnourished mother gets pregnant, there is nothing for this growing parasite to suck out. Studies have linked malnourishment in mother to long-term consequences in the baby, including mental-health issues.

 

When mothers from Poshera reach the Nashik hospital with their weak and often dying newborns, one of the most common conditions doctors observe is intrauterine growth retardation–stunted development in the womb. Often, it is a direct result of maternal malnutrition. Babies affected due to growth retardation in the uterus are smaller in size and have a weak immune system. This makes them susceptible to infections soon after. Deaths in Poshera don’t require a particularly aggressive virus. A few days of diarrhoea is enough to send a newborn to its grave.

 

Another journey, another baby

 

The rains came. Poshera’s fields turned lush green and the villagers who were away working in the city returned home. Agriculture began in full swing. Also returning with nature’s bounty was Arti’s pain. This time, Kailash dialed 108. In her seventh month now, Arti was bundled up in the ambulance that had little else apart from a narrow hard seat to lie down on. There was no emergency equipment or paramedical staff to monitor her–just a vehicle going over pothole-ridden dirt road.

 

The driver took off amidst the torrential downpour pounding the window. The occasional streak of lightning lit the landscape, and for a brief second the majestic mountains surrounding the village became visible. All Arti remembers of the ride is the discomfort and the pain. The driver concentrated on keeping the wheels on the dirt road that seemed to be washing away with the rainfall, leaving huge craters that engulfed the wheels. Soon after reaching the clinic in Mokhada, Arti delivered a baby girl. Kailash’s happiness knew no bounds. But when the doctor said the baby was underweight, Kailash’s fear returned. All was well, the doctor insisted. The baby seemed to be healthy. The new father was gleeful.

 

Malnutrition among mothers is a complex issue, one that begins much before pregnancy. There is evidence that girls in India are breastfed for shorter duration when compared to boys. Taboos surrounding menstruation aggravate it. While in some areas girls are encouraged to stay away from fish when they are menstruating, in others they are asked to stay away from curd. The list of taboo items is long and diverse–curd, fish and sometimes even milk–leaving out many foods rich in nutrition. As a result, they rarely get the nutrition they need, once puberty sets in.

 

A child with normal birth weight could have vitamin- or nutrient-deficiency. An obese child could also be malnourished. Gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy, and often–but not always–goes away after delivery, is frequently ignored. It is a big piece of the malnutrition-among-newborns puzzle. Recent studies have confirmed that 80% of gestational-diabetes cases are in low- and middle-income countries. How is it that in an area where nutritious food is scarce that women are diabetic? The answer: Nutritious food is scarce but carbohydrates like rice and sugary foods such as sweets are not. Vegetables and meats are expensive, so women in Poshera fill up with rice and sweets made of wheat flour and dairy fat.

 

The problem is rarely ever diagnosed because rudimentary prenatal checks only monitor the mother’s weight.

 

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Fresh food may be difficult to find and expensive, but fried and packaged junk food reaches even remote mountain villages in rural Maharashtra.

 

Gestational diabetes is directly linked with a higher chance of preterm birth, miscarriage and growth retardation in the foetus–all conditions seen in mothers from tribal areas like the one Kailash and Arti live in. The consequences do not stop there.

 

For the mother, having gestational diabetes means an increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes later in life. Infants who survive are likely to be larger in size, requiring a cesarean, or C-section, birth and increased complications for the mother. The infants will also have a higher risk of developing diabetes as adults and have metabolic complications–perpetuating a vicious cycle, giving birth to an entire new generation of diabetics. A poor population saddled with a disease the world identifies with the rich.

 

New happiness, but old sorrows return

 

When a relieved Kailash left Arti at the clinic with their newborn, she seemed to be recovering well. He was headed to a relative’s place 5 km away to deliver the happy news of the safe birth. The doctor informed him that Arti would be discharged in a day or two.

 

Delirious with happiness, he kick-started his friend’s borrowed motorcycle and sped off as the downpour continued. He had only covered a mile or so when he spotted the ambulance that had brought his pregnant wife from his village to the clinic going in the direction of the hospital down the hill in Nashik. It was 11 in the night and as the ambulance disappeared in the darkness for a moment, all Kailash could do was stare at the dirt road with no street lights in stunned silence.

 

He had caught a glimpse of Arti inside. It was only later he found out that she had developed complications and was referred to the larger hospital. Kailash raced ahead, blocked the ambulance’s path and forced it to halt. The driver informed him that he was instructed to take Arti to Nashik. Left without time to think or reflect, Kailash left the motorcycle along the road and joined his wife and newborn inside the ambulance.

 

Once again, the ambulance went down the hilly road. It was the same hospital in Nashik. Once again, there was no ventilator. Once again, Kailash was not told what happened to the baby and how he might prevent it in the future.

 

All he knew was the baby was not breathing properly.

 

Desperate measures

 

Every day, close to 5,000 new patients walk into the Nashik Civil Hospital. Most patients prefer the private sector for delivery and will not look at a public hospital as an option till they run out of money. At least 10-15 babies born to mothers weighing as low as 35 kg brought here need a ventilator every day.

 

“The mortality rate in NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] is high because by the time these babies are brought here they are already doing poorly,” explained Nashik civil surgeon Suresh Jagdale. “If we are short on ventilators, we have to transfer the children to Sion hospital or KEM [King Edward Memorial Hospital] in Mumbai but these hospitals too rarely have empty beds,” he added. Asked if there was an ambulance equipped with oxygen cylinders needed to keep the babies breathing during the five-hour journey he said, “No.”

 

And so, with a fatal journey being ruled out for the baby, desperate measures were adopted.

 

Squatting on the floor outside the neonatal intensive care unit of the Nashik Civil Hospital are exhausted family members. Mothers, many of them teenagers, wait in the corridor with a sleeping baby swaddled in layers of old ragged cloth. Some of the babies are no more than the size of an outstretched palm, many weighing just 500 gm–hovering on the borderline of survival. Deaths in this ward are not uncommon. There are two rooms with incubators–one for those born in the hospital and another for those coming from outside. The total number of incubators at the hospital is just over a dozen and only technicians and pediatricians trained in handling the delicate equipment are allowed inside. Even if one wanted to increase the number of incubators, the trained healthcare workers required to keep a watch are missing.

 

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The neonatal intensive care unit at the Nashik Civil Hospital in Maharashtra. As many as three infants use one incubator; many babies weigh as little as 500 gm, instead of the normal 2.5 kg.

 

Their fate, for being poor

 

Inside the room sealed behind glass walls, the only sign of life is the chest of the newborn moving up and down. Despite their small size, some babies have an abundance of jet black hair that stands out as the babies sleep under blue lights. Called the billi lights, they help prevent brain damage caused by an excess of bilirubin, an orange-yellow pigment formed during jaundice. As many as three babies are accommodated in one incubator. With their skin touching each other, the tiny human beings who arrived before they were meant to find that they have no room to stretch inside the incubator. They’ve found early on that a planet with over 7 billion can be a hostile and cruel place for newborns.

 

Even with their best efforts, there are only so many babies the doctors can force into an incubator. Some parents, who travelled over 300 km to get here, will be told that the tiny bundle in their arms cannot be accommodated inside. Most accept it as their fate for being poor.

 

A second child dies: Insurance will not fix basic problems

 

When Nashik Civil Hospital can’t handle the patient load, it does refer patients to the nearby private hospitals empanelled in the government’s health scheme. With this move, the government acknowledges the inadequacy of its own services. So, in a policy that has baffled most health activists, it has decided to fund treatment in the unregulated private hospitals instead of ramping up the public infrastructure. With this, India’s poorest have become the ideal clients for a private healthcare system.

 

“Financing of government-sponsored social sector insurance has strengthened the private hospitals without putting into place regulations to monitor them,” explained Sujatha Rao, former health secretary and author of Do We Care, a book about the country’s health system. With this model, the government has halted the task of bolstering primary infrastructure. This is how it works: A patient gets an insurance cover that can be used in a private healthcare set-up. This money that comes from the government now goes into the private healthcare system.

 

The mechanism for complaint redressal is too complicated for the often unlettered patients. While there are a few regulations in place, they are routinely flouted. In this free-for-all, the patients are like the cows being milked relentlessly. Yes, we will treat you, the hospitals tell patients, but you have to pay for the beds and other services. The patients will be given basic treatment and sent home. The hospitals tell the government: No poor patients showed up so we gave the beds to patients in need–in other words, the ones who could cough up cash.

 

Nashik Civil Hospital too directs patients in need of ventilators to nearby private hospitals that accept the government’s insurance scheme. These hospitals are flourishing with increased referrals. But while the main treatment is covered, patients say they are asked to pay for several medicines amounting to an out-of-pocket expenditure they cannot afford. Most of the time, they do not understand of the necessary paperwork.

 

Yet, Modi’s new health scheme now proposes to take this model, which is widely regarded as a failure in Maharashtra, to all states across the country.

 

So, when the doctor on shift asked Kailash if he will take the baby to a private hospital, he figured that was a death sentence for his baby.

 

“I have no money,” Kailash said.

 

There is nothing we can do here, the doctor informed.

 

“Let the baby stay,” the desolate father pleaded.

 

Without a ventilator, Kailash’s baby girl struggled to take in air. Next morning, her lungs gave way. Kailash’s second child died.

 

“The baby is underweight. That is all we (parents) are told. Nothing more,” Kailash said. Till today, he knows little else as to why he lost the two babies.

 

Long-term solution: A sustainable livelihood

 

In 2016, nearly 900,000 children under five died in India, which is almost the same number as the population of Bhutan. These deaths dropped by 9% when compared to the previous year.

 

To address this, India does have schemes in place, such as the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), which runs the world’s largest programme for early childhood care and development reaching over 100 million. The ICDS runs the anganwadi in villages that provide nutrition to pregnant and lactating mothers and children under the age of six.

 

At Poshera’s aganwadi, the local self-help group women cook meals every day too. The government is responsible for their salaries, but it is often delayed for months. The rations are often delayed too. In recent years, the contract for cooking these meals is being given away to large contractors. In Poshera, the women running these groups have pooled their own money hoping the government will finally pay them what had been promised for their work.

 

For years, Kailash too had been struggling to make ends meet with his meagre income as a Warli artist. By 2017, things began to change after he joined a local NGO that creates awareness about malnutrition, as a community worker.

 

“Providing the sustainable employment opportunities is the only solution to the problem of malnutrition in the district,” said Palghar CEO Milind Borikar. “The sources of income here are very poor. They can’t afford better nutrition if they don’t have money,” he added listing education as another area that can make a difference.

 

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As parents work in the fields of Palghar in rural Maharashtra, young children must stay in the sun during intense summers, which cause dehydration and worsens malnutrition.

 

It was during one of the training workshops that Kailash met Rupal Dalal, a US-trained pediatrician who spends a large chunk of her time in rural and tribal areas training healthcare workers about nutrition and breastfeeding practices. “I would say that 99% of the mothers can afford locally grown food but instead expensive baby foods are making their presence felt even in rural areas,” she said, calling it a worrying trend. Doctors are trained to focus on treatment rather than prevention, exacerbating the problem. “Poor patients cannot afford growth hormones,” Dalal stressed. In the absence of proper guidance, both the mother and child continue in the circle of malnutrition.

 

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Kailash Burange (centre) during a workshop in Palghar, rural Maharashtra, in 2016. To the right is Rupal Dalal, a US-trained pediatrician, who spends a large chunk of her time in rural and tribal areas, training healthcare workers about nutrition and breastfeeding practices.

 

Some myths are busted, knowledge is shared

 

It was during the workshop that Kailash attended that he heard Dalal burst myths about fish and chicken being harmful to a pregnant mother. He also learnt about the importance of the mother’s first milk, a yellow nutrient-rich liquid called colostrum that can act as the baby’s first vaccine. To Kailash, these basics were eye-openers. By this time, Arti was pregnant for the third time. He decided to take matters in his own hand and heed Dalal’s advice.

 

In most countries around the world, giving birth to a child continues to be one of the most dangerous things a woman will do in her life, sometimes deadly. In India, 130 women will die during childbirth for every 100,000 births, down from 167 in 2011-13. The government hopes to reduce this number to 100 by 2020. That would put India near Philippines at 114 but trailing behind Brazil’s maternal mortality which is at 44. Brazil is only two places behind India, which now ranks sixth in the world, in terms of its GDP size.

 

Experts said one reason for the high mortality rate is that a fourth of all children in rural areas are born at home. India aims to cut its maternal mortality further by providing cash incentives to mothers who give birth in a hospital.

 

Arti said she never received any money. Just hours after she gave birth, she was shifted to another hospital on both occasions. But the money can be claimed only at the institution of delivery. In the harsh rural terrain, after losing her baby, Arti was expected to do paperwork for the money. Struck by grief, she stayed home. But the lack of money also meant that she could not afford the nutritious food her body needed.

 

“I had relied on what village elders said but none of it worked,” Kailash said. “This time around, I decided to listen to no one.” And so, he fed Arti not just fish and chicken but locally available pulses and seeds. He had learnt simple recipes that use millets and kept processed food at bay.

 

“I fought with my mother and insisted on feeding Arti seed powders like that of pumpkin,” Kailash added. One day, his fear of losing another child got the better of him and he visited a quack. The quack told him to keep chicken and papaya away from Arti. “I didn’t listen to him. I reasoned nothing done in moderation could be bad,” he said.

 

Arti’s pregnancy progressed normally. She went for monthly check-ups. This time around, there was no discomfort or pain. She saw only one doctor throughout her pregnancy. On his recommendation, Arti got a cervical stitch, a procedure done so the cervix that is an opening at the end of the womb does not open too early and cause a premature delivery or miscarriage.

 

Finally, a new baby

 

The ninth month arrived. For the third time in her life, Arti, pining for a healthy baby, went into labour. Kailash took her to the nearest clinic. They said they did not know how to remove her cervical stitch and conduct a delivery. She was referred to another clinic in the area. At the next clinic though, the doctor told the couple that it was not yet the time for delivery. Kailash was advised to admit Arti for the next few days, so they could monitor her health. When the baby did not come even after four days, Kailash brought his wife back home.

 

To Kailash, having Arti rest at home seemed more comforting than have her monitored at the clinic, where she would be just one of many women in distress. Trust in the public-health system runs low, even in instances when the doctors are not at fault. All the while, he was in touch with Dalal, describing Arti’s symptoms to her. Her assurances and constant guidance kept him calm.

 

A few days later, when Arti’s labour pains started again, the couple went to the clinic. Finally, three years of marriage and three pregnancies later, Sanskruti arrived–a healthy 3-kg baby girl who let out a powerful cry after birth, letting her parents know that all was indeed well.

 

In the clinic that Sanskruti was born, no Apgar scores are kept. But if they were, Kailash is sure his baby girl did well. By now, trained by his NGO, he knew what to look out for. The baby’s weight, her cry and the colour of her skin were all indicators that she was in the pink of health. She was immediately breastfed.

 

Evidence suggests that breastfeeding alone can substantially cut malnutrition in infants. Fewer than 50% of babies in India are exclusively breastfed for the first six months according to government data. Research suggests that while undernutrition in mothers affects the quantity of the milk produced, it has no effect on vitamin A, E, iron, magnesium, copper and zinc content of colostrum–meaning most of the nutrients the baby needs are present. Amount of fat and lactose too remains intact.

 

What is affected is the IgA content, which helps baby fight infections. Protein, called the building blocks of life, and lipid another important component of a cell too is found in lower quantities in the milk of undernourished mothers. But, according to research, ensuring that the baby get six months of uninterrupted and exclusive mothers feed mitigates this problem. Simply put, even a malnourished mother produced enough milk to sustain the baby for the first four to six months. Just feeding her iron supplements can make a difference to milk quality.

 

UNICEF too is turning its attention at simple interventions, such as encouraging mothers to breastfeed within the first one hour after birth to help protect newborns against infections and respiratory ailments in its campaign, Every Child Alive, launched in February 2018.

 

When in doubt, Kailash calls Dalal for advice. Sanskruti is now a year old and her growth is above normal for her height and weight. A cherubic baby, she sleeps with her hands and legs close to her body just as she would have in Arti’s womb.

 

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At 9 kg, Sanskruti, now a year old, is above average weight for her age group, according to the World Health Organization growth chart.

 

Kailash now understands all the missed opportunities during Arti’s first two pregnancies. The knowledge gives him a semblance of peace. He has thrown himself in his work on preventing malnutrition in his community and encouraging breastfeeding. At times, he invites the ire of the men of the village as they suspect his intentions when he speaks to their wives about breastfeeding. But it is a work he is committed to doing.

 

As she does her household chores, Arti lightly moves the swing as Sanskruti sleeps. A dim bulb provides light. There is no fan. In summers, the temperatures would go up to 40oC. For most of the day, the couple and Kailash’s mother pass the hours playing with Sanskruti. Preference for a male child continues to be strong in many parts of India, but Kailash and Arti are grateful for a baby of their own.

http://www.indiaspend.com/cover-story/indias-public-health-failures-that-pms-insurance-scheme-wont-plug-the-story-of-arti-and-kailash-18001

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Sudha Bharadwaj’s student pens a heartfelt tribute to her teacher at National Law University, Delhi

 

In the few months that Professor SudhaBharadwaj taught the Law and Poverty course at National Law University, Delhi, she not only imparted knowledge with sch acuity that induced pin-drop silence in room full of 80 restless 20-year-olds, but also left an indelible mark on my heart. She invoked awe and reverence as a woman who toiled amongst the most socially turbulent parts of the country with quiet strength and navigated the corridors of power with the claims of the powerless, all while exuding an air of warmth and dignity.

Because of her vast experience as a renowned trade unionist and lawyer at the Bilaspur High Court, Professor Sudha would often lace the teaching of laws such as the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition Act) or the Land Acquisition Act, with anecdotes of her own experiences working with these laws

Because of her vast experience as a renowned trade unionist and lawyer at the Bilaspur High Court, Professor Sudha would often lace the teaching of laws such as the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition Act) or the Land Acquisition Act, with anecdotes of her own experiences working with these laws. The practical knowledge that law students desire the most, but receive the least, would be doled out in plenty. Her own life and work evoked reverence and inspiration among even the most cynical of us. As young people standing at the crossroads of our lives, the choices Prof SudhaBharadwaj made when she was about our age came across as deeply moving.

Born to parents pursuing their PhDs at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she gave up her American citizenship at age of 18 and after witnessing the abysmal working conditions of labourers around her during her time as a student at IIT Kanpur, she decided to pursue a life dedicated to mobilising and unionising workers to achieve the rights and benefits that only exist on pieces of paper, fighting for tribal rights, and people’s lawyering

Born to parents pursuing their PhDs at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she gave up her American citizenship at age of 18 and after witnessing the abysmal working conditions of labourers around her during her time as a student at IIT Kanpur, she decided to pursue a life dedicated to mobilising and unionising workers to achieve the rights and benefits that only exist on pieces of paper, fighting for tribal rights, and people’s lawyering.

What was most striking about her teaching and her ideologies was the passion with which she would speak out the myriad ways the weakest sections of society are continuously dominated by the powerful, and the same passion and faith with which she would speak about the Constitution and pursuing their rights within the framework and legal procedures provided by it. A deep-seated love for the Indian nation was clear to see as the driving force behind her uphill battles for the rights of its most deprived masses.

Witnessing her arrest under the same Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the draconian provisions of which she fought against, has not only left us worried sick for the teacher we deeply cherish, who is nearly 60 years of age, but also alarmed at the shrinking space of voices of dissent, especially in universities

Witnessing her arrest under the same Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the draconian provisions of which she fought against, has not only left us worried sick for the teacher we deeply cherish, who is nearly 60 years of age, but also alarmed at the shrinking space of voices of dissent, especially in universities. The Pune Police’s statements on the arrest of SudhaBharadwaj and four other activists showing  ‘intolerance towards the political system’ betray the worrying trend of attempting to clamp down on free speech and attempting to muzzle the voices that question those in power.

Even in the midst of this turmoil, the biggest source of my strength is the smile and dignified poise Professor Sudha still exudes. As I hear Justice Chandrachud call dissent the “safety valve of democracy”, I feel reassured that the Constitution she holds sacred and the rights she fought for valiantly will not fail the defender of the defenceless, SudhaBharadwaj.

The post first appeared in the Leaflet

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Jammu- At the Atal event , woman complains about sexual favours in BJP #Vaw

Scandal breaks at Atal event in Jammu

Srinagar: The BJP ran into a scandal at an unlikely event when a woman confronted the Jammu and Kashmir party chief at a function to pay tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and complained that a leader had advised her to grant sexual favours to VIPs if she had to rise up the organisation ladder.

Footage shows the woman, who said she had served as an executive member of the BJP’s Mahila Morcha, approaching Ravinder Raina in Jammu on Thursday.

Other senior leaders are seen pleading with her to keep calm at the event, during which Raina also spoke.

“I am tired of complaining time and again,” she tells the leaders and loudly reminds Raina how he would hail her as a manifestation of ” Matri Shakti” and “Jhansi ki Rani”.

Later, addressing reporters, the woman named a party leader and alleged he had asked her to “do the setting” with any senior leader, including a Union minister, to move up the ladder.

When The Telegraph phoned the Union minister for a response, the line was disconnected.

BJP spokesperson Altaf Thakur said the woman was no longer an executive member and was levelling “baseless charges” after her plea to accommodate her husband in the party went unanswered.

But the woman told reporters: “I was given an offer that If I want to progress (in the party), do (this)…. I told them that I am from a good family, will never do it nor allow others do it and will raise my voice against it,” she said. “I asked them whether they felt any shame asking me to do it.”

She said she had lodged several complaints before the party. “But they told me these are small issues,” she added.

Several BJP women had faced a similar situation and had to quit politics after they refused, she said. “This is what is happening with women (in the party). Those who comply move up the ladder,” she said.

The video clip is circulating at a time the state BJP chief has been caught on another clip telling his colleagues that the new governor, Satya Pal Malik, was their “own man” and that the party leadership had been against the continuation of his predecessor N.N. Vohra as he would not listen to them.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/the-five-renowned-strangers-255678

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