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Archives for : Disability

Karnataka – Is Kaiga atomic station going the Koodankulam way ?

Karnataka: Is Kaiga going the Koodankulam way?
Actvists & residents, backed by an influential seer, plan a massive rally against the expansion of atomic station

Is the state bracing itself for a Koodankulam-like protest in Kaiga? A controversy has been brewing ever since authorities decided to expand two more units at the Kaiga Generating Station (KGS), triggering fear and panic among residents. Anti-nuclear activists have been protesting against the addition of units 5 and 6, but the authorities have decided to go ahead with the construction. The latest is that it has been decided to hold a protest march in Yellapur on June 25.

Leading anti-nuclear activist Ananth Hegde Ashisar, also the chairman of Uttar Kannada district environment committee, said a meeting was held in the presence of Sonda Swarnavalli Samsthan’s seer Shri Gangadharendra Saraswathi Swamji. As a first step, a massive rally will be organised in Yellapur on June 25. A public meeting will be held where activists and experts from across the country are expected to talk about the dangers involved. Experts from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru too are slated to attend the event.

“Kaiga authorities have failed to publish the health survey report undertaken by Tata Research Institute, Mumbai. They have also decided to construct a third high-power line which will result in chopping around 1 lakh trees. In the 90s, they hacked around 2 lakh trees to set up two lines. We have also observed that the cancer rate is high in the 15-20-km radius of the plant. We have been fighting against this for the last 6-7 years and they are not willing to accept that they are responsible for this. Even the MoEF clearance is pending,” he said.

The construction of Units 5 and 6 at atomic power Station in Kaiga is expected to commence this year. The Centre recently gave nod to set up 10 units of the new indigenous 700 MWe pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs). Currently, there are 22 reactors under operation.

The new reactors are of significantly higher capacities compared to the PHWRs currently under operation — the standard PHWR being used in India is of 220 MWe though two 540 MWe reactors were installed in Tarapur in 2005 and 2006. The 10 reactors will be installed in Kaiga in Karnataka (Unit 5 and 6), Chutka in Madhya Pradesh (Unit 1 and 2), Gorakhpur in Haryana (Unit 3 and 4) and Mahi Banswara in Rajasthan (Unit 1, 2, 3 and 4).

* When Koodankulam gained national attention

Koodankulam is the single-largest nuclear power station in the country, situated in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. Construction on the plant began on 31 March 2002, but faced several delays due to opposition from local fishermen. In 2011, thousands from the vicinity of the plant protested against it, fearing a nuclear disaster

* Storm brewing

KGS is a nuclear power plant located in the Karwar district. Already operating three units, KGS turned the fourth unit critical in November 2010 and synchronised it to the grid in January 2011. KGS is operated by Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL).

* Why is the plant key for the state?

According to a source, KGS has already acquired land for the construction of two units, but will require land to erect transmission lines. Currently, Karnataka gets only 28 per cent of the entire power generated by these units and the rest is supplied to Goa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Karnataka is likely to get 50 per cent of the power generated once 5 and 6 Units are commissioned.

http://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/news/state/karnataka-is-kaiga-going-the-koodankulam-way/articleshow/59075366.cms

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Woman Para -Athlete humiliated by Railways #WTFnews

Top berth or floor: Cruel deal for para-athlete

 International para-athlete turned social worker Suvarna Raj on Sunday alleged that she was allotted an upper berth on a Nagpur-Delhi train even though she is physically handicapped.
Suvarna Raj shows her berth.Suvarna Raj shows her berth.
NEW DELHI: An international para-athlete-turned-social worker alleged on Saturday that she was allotted an upper berth on a Nagpur-Delhi train.

Suvarna Raj sought help from railway authorities, seeking allotment of a lower berth in the compartment reserved for disabled. However, railway officials allegedly turned down her request citing non-availability of berths. Finally, Raj chose to lie down on the floor of the compartment.

Raj claimed she had indicated that she was disabled while booking the ticket. She was allotted a berth in the coach number GD-2, reserved for disabled passengers. However, when she boarded the coach, she realised that it was an upper berth.

“I tried contacting the coach attendant and the TTE, asking for an alternative seat, but I was told that I had to manage with whatever I had since the coach was full,” Raj told TOI. “I asked for a blanket, but I was denied that too. The attendant told me that the compartment has a fixed number of blankets, which had been allotted to passengers. I had paid the full fare. Still, I did not have a seat and had to lie down on the floor near the toilet.”
Raj suffers from 90% of disability as a result of polio infection at a younger age. In 2014, she participated in the Asian Para Games in South Korea and won two medals at the Thailand Para Table Tennis Open 2013.

She runs an organisation for disabled people and is currently working on ‘Accessible India Campaign‘, a flagship campaign by the ministry of social justice and empowerment for achieving universal accessibility for people with disabilities.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/top-berth-or-floor-cruel-deal-for-para-athlete/articleshow/59090713.cms

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India – Separate Department of Disability Affairs recommended for setting up by states

Speaking at opening session of the two-day “National Review Meeting of State Commissioners for Persons with Disabilities on Implementation of Act-1995” that started on May 17, Thaawar Chand Gehlot, Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment stated that there is great need for empowering and strengthening the Divyangjan in the country by safeguarding their rights and privileges entrusted by the Act, stated an official press release.
According to Gehlot, the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has become an important and prominent among all Ministries of the Central government for making all round efforts for better education, vocational training and rehabilitation of the Divyangjan in society so that they could lead a respectable life.

He added that the categories of disability were increased to 21 from 7 and now the privileges and rights of Divyangjan had been brought at par with the developed countries.The meeting suggested that states should consider setting up separate Department of Disability Affairs in their respective states and the State Commissioner should act as watchdog for effective implementation of the Act, Programmes and Policies for Welfare of Divyangjan in State.

 

Furthermore, the State Commissioners should review the implementation of the Act at State and District level vigoursly. They should organise Mobile Courts and conduct reviews at Districts.

The meeting resulted in a list of recommendations for effective implementation of the Act & Programmes for welfare of Divyangjan and Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, in the States.

http://www.merinews.com/article/separate-department-of-disability-affairs-recommended-for-setting-up-by-states/15925080.shtml

 

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Mumbai- For people with disabilities, a social life

A life more ordinary

For people with disabilities, a social life — or just a simple evening of fun disabilities — is difficult to get, because of the logistics involved. A Mumbai trust is changing that.

Jasmina Khanna, 46, is a senior software testing engineer with a multinational company called Syntel. She lives with cerebral palsy and is wheelchair-bound, which often means that her opportunities to go out and enjoy herself are severely limited. “There are not many places that are accessible by wheelchair and so going out anywhere requires a lot of planning,” she says. “When there are meetups organised with other differently-abled people they are usually seminars or conferences.”

Ashok Gupta, 33, a call centre employee who is also wheelchair bound, reflects her views: “For differently-abled people, the chance to go out and just have some fun is virtually non-existent. Mostly, we have stay at home, confined within four walls, with just a TV remote in our hand for entertainment. Even if we have to go out anywhere it involves having to ask family members to come and help out and that can be difficult to coordinate.”

Last Sunday, though, Ms. Khanna and Mr. Gupta took part in a unique meet-up for people with and without disabilities at the St Paul’s Media Complex in Bandra, hosted by an organisation called Trinayani. The event was about dissolving barriers, having conversation and simply celebrating with food and music.

An evening of fun

For participants like Mr. Gupta, the event was the first time that he had been invited a to a meetup that just focused on entertainment and having fun. “I think that these kind of events should happen more often,” he says. “It was the first time that I had been to an event where there as so much care taken to ensure that people could come and go comfortably, and everybody, no matter whether they had disabilities or not, was interacting with me.”

That event was a three-hour concert and meet-up at the St. Paul’s auditorium in Bandra which featured performances by an inclusive band called Pehli Baarish — which has musicians with and without disabilities — and Mumbai Drum Circle. It was supported by a mobility partner to help attendees get there, EzyMov, a company that fits cabs with equipment like hydraulic lifts and wheelchair restraints in order to make them accessible.

Ritika Sahni founded Trinayani in June 2006, as an advocacy group working towards creating awareness and sensitisation around people with disabilities. It undertakes projects for companies and other organisations. For instance they have worked with the Bengaluru airport’s management on issues of access, and are collaborating with the Election Commission for the Panvel civic body polls to evolve a system that will help disabled people cast their votes. Four years ago, though, Ms Sahni shifted the focus to include self-empowerment and advocacy from people with disabilities, encouraging them to speak with her at events she was conducting.

For the weekend meet-up, Ms. Sahni confesses that when she put the word out she expected maybe 20 people to turn up, 50 if they got lucky. “But as the registrations started rolling in and various organisations got in touch, we realised that there were going to be well over a hundred people — the eventual turnout was 134 — and we had to shift the venue form a small classroom next to the auditorium to the auditorium itself.”

The meet-up wasn’t their first event. Earlier this year, it organised an inclusive treasure hunt, which saw transgender participants, visually and physically impaired people and the able-bodied come together, and a Valentine’s Day event.

Into the light

The idea is to just be seen. Ms. Sahni explains: “Despite the crores of persons with disability in India, many remain invisible to many of us for various reasons. Our initiative wants them to come forth, mingle together and return more aware.” She hopes to get people with disabilities out of their homes, breaking boundaries in terms of what they can do. “We want it to be possible for instance, for differently-abled people to go for a movie, or just go for a walk or a picnic.”

Although the approaching monsoons might dictate that the next few events will have to be indoors, she does hope to organise a day out in Sanjay Gandhi National Park soon. At any rate there will be many more such events from now on, every month.http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/a-life-more-ordinary/article18558185.ece

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Sitaram Yechury’s letter to Minister of Social Justice on Disability Law

Following is the text of the letter dated May 16 addressed by CPI(M) General Secretary and Member of Parliament, Shri to the Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment Shri Thawar Chand Gehlot expressing concern over the manner in which rules are being framed for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act.

Dear Shri Gehlot ji,

You will recall that in the 2016 winter session of parliament whereas no other legislative business could be considered, it was only the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill that was taken up and passed in both houses after a debate. Members cutting across party lines were unanimous in wanting to ensure that the Bill for which persons with disabilities were waiting for nearly a decade since the country signed the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, was passed without any further delay.

You will also recall that participating in the debate in the Rajya Sabha I had sought to press for certain specific amendments that I had moved.

One of these pertained to Section 3, sub-section 3 of the Bill which says “No person with disability shall be discriminated on the ground of disability, unless it is shown that the impunged act or omission is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. I had contended that a legislation that is supposed to be anti-discriminatory cannot contain a provision that legitimizes discrimination and had hence sought it to replace it with: “No person with disability shall be discriminated on the grounds of disability”.

In response you had given an assurance on the floor of the house that these will be taken care of while the rules are being framed. Given this solemn assurance and the mood of the house I did not press for a division.

However, having read the Gazette Notification of April 21, 2016 of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities publishing the draft rules being framed under the Act, I was surprised that these do not effectively ensure compliance of the assurance that had been given by you. While the provision in the rules that sub-section (3) of Section 3 of the Act will not be “misused” is welcome, this by itself does not provide adequate protection. While what would constitute “legitimate aim” has nowhere been defined in the Act, even the onus of proving that the act was not “legitimate” rests solely on the aggrieved person. The remedy of approaching the Chief Commissioner or State Commissioner of persons with disabilities, you will appreciate will put unnecessary burden on the aggrieved person. It goes without saying that it should be the responsibility of the concerned establishment to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the said act or omission is indeed for achieving a “legitimate aim” and not the duty of the aggrieved person to prove otherwise.

May I prevail upon you to ensure that the assurance given by you on the floor of the house is abided in letter and spirit.

Besides, I am informed that the representation from the disability sector in the committee constituted to frame the rules was inadequate. Given the fact that now several new disabilities have been accorded recognition, it would have been in the fitness of things if more representation had been there. There have also been complaints that the suggestions made by various people from the sector have not been seriously considered.

Since this pertains to framing of rules under a law assuring certain rights to one of the most marginalized sections of our society, I would urge upon you to hold consultations involving all stakeholders at both the state and national level before the rules are finalized. This would be in the true spirit of the assurances you had given in the House.

Yours sincerely

Sd/-

(Sitaram Yechury)

Shri Thawar Chand Gehlot
Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment
Government of India

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India to Be Grilled on Its Human Rights Record by 112 Countries at U.N. Review #UPR3India

he world’s largest democracy faces questions about discrimination and violence against religious minorities.

India under the Narendra Modi regime faces a review of its human rights record by the U.N. Human Rights Council. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group of the UN will examine India’s human rights record for the third time on Thursday, May 4. As of now, India is the second most popular country for this UPR session—South Africa just barely beat it out with 113 countries listed to speak for that UPR. Brazil, Indonesia, Morocco and the Philippines are all tied for third at 109.

The first batch of questions that will be put forth by the 112 countries has officially been released and covers the overall situation of human rights in the country. India will have to respond to queries on its human rights record on religion-based discrimination, lawlessness when it comes to attacks on religious minorities, and stigmatization of Dalits (a burning issue since the first review) and violence against them. The crushing of dissent and attacks on human rights defenders will be also a matter of concern.

India will also be questioned on limits on free speech, limits on work of human rights defenders, attacks on religious minorities, reports of excessive use of force, including in Jammu and Kashmir, and use of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts, or AFSPA. Other issues on which it faces questions are combating violence against women, human trafficking, tackling harmful practices such as “honor killings,” early and forced marriages, violence against children and child labor.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), created under the Paris Principles of the United Nations, is also supposed to submit an independent assessment and report. This body is not known for functioning with independence and autonomy except in three or four instances in its history since it was established in 1993. The Working Group on Human Rights (WGHR), Advocates for Human Rights, Citizens for Justice and Peace and Indian American Muslim Council, among many organizations, have submitted extensive reports and fact sheets on different aspects of the human rights situation. There is a live web cast of the session on May 4.

India and Previous UPRs

India’s second report had come in for heavy criticism by Human Rights Council troika comprising Latvia, the Philippines and South Africa in 2008. These countries had served as rapporteurs for India’s review and stakeholders in the second review in 2012. At this week’s session, India will spell out steps to implement the council’s recommendations after the previous reviews that it committed to follow up on, as well as highlight the many recent human rights developments in the country. While the 112 countries will be given 1.5 minutes each, in an intense three-and-a-half hour session, the Indian delegation led by attorney general Mukul Rohatgi will introduce the report prepared by the country and will have to answer questions from the member nations, civil society and the troika. (Here is India’s official report.)

India has been in the spotlight, given the fact that a supremacist government under Narendra Modi has ruled since 2014. Eleven states are controlled by the same party as the center, and in another four Modi’s party is an alliance partner with another regional party. Violence in the name of cow protection, invoking sedition and anti-terror laws to suppress freedom of speech in university campuses and in public, and issues relating to the cultural and religious rights of minorities all figure among the concerns raised by various countries.

An extensive report compiled by the UN’s own agencies has also recommended policy changes and reported on the several incidents of human rights violations including communal violence and cow slaughter. There are also notes on hate speech and sedition laws referencing the February 2017 disturbance in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and prior to it in the University of Hyderabad.

Several countries have asked serious questions about the status of these issues, especially where India has signed and ratified treaties and conventions dealing with these issues. There are also several international conventions, such as the one on torture, which India has yet to ratify.

Kashmir Situation

Making a special mention of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the Human Rights Council’s own report by its Special Rapporteur has also asked for India to repeal or at least radically amend the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act while “removing all legal barriers for the criminal prosecution of members of the armed forces.” The Special Rapporteur’s report has also focused on incidence of caste- and gender-based violence, including a special mention of criticism of the National Commission of Women over what it called the “2002 Gujarat massacre.”

According to the Human Rights Council submissions so far, countries including the UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Norway have registered questions on the treatment of religious minorities in India, asking specifically about recent incidents of communal violence, while Sweden and Spain have questioned India’s failure to ratify the Convention on Torture yet, despite agreeing to it in 1997. Sweden and Spain have asked for the government to explain its stand on homosexuality rights and the repeal of Article 377, which criminalizes same-sex relationships.

The UPR Cycle

In a cycle of four years, the human rights records of the member states of the United Nations are reviewed by peers under the United Nations Human Rights Council. After two previous turns in 2008 and 2012 respectively, India’s turn has once again come up for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This is a complex process that includes reports submitted by the country, by the autonomous National Human Rights Commission, by various UN agencies, by rapporteurs and by civil society. Following this, the other UN members send their recommendations for India to set its performance straight. Similar recommendations were made following the 2008 and 2012 reviews. Many of these are still pending action.

What the UN Has to Say

As per the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, India has yet to implement a bulk of the recommendations to ratify international conventions. This report was submitted to the UN General Assembly in February 2017. According to the report, in 2016, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had been denied entry into Jammu and Kashmir despite the large number of human rights allegations reported in the region, including use of excessive force by the state.

The report highlights the use of excessive force under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) and the J&K AFSPA. Relying on recommendations made by a Supreme Court-appointed commission, a UN Special Rapporteur recommends that the laws should be repealed or partially amended to prevent their misuse by security forces. This included a recommendation to “remove all legal barriers for the criminal prosecution of members of the armed forces.”

There is a recommendation for swift enactment of the long-pending law against torture, which is an obligation under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It was signed by India in 1997 but is yet to be ratified.

Regarding the autonomous human rights institutions in the states, the UN Special Rapporteur has reported that these bodies did not function independently of the state nor did they have the resources to investigate violations and complaints. The Special Rapporteur has also pointed out planned incidents of communal violence, especially prior to elections, mentioning the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots as an example.

Indian Human Rights Organizations and Their Interventions

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has submitted to the UN General Assembly several recommendations from over four-dozen organizations from all over India.

Torture

Switzerland has asked if India has already initiated a process to introduce legislation against torture. As yet, India has not ratified the convention against torture, claiming that the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has specific provisions dealing with it. There is also a landmark Supreme Court decision in the D.K. Basu case, which lays down guidelines for arrest and detention of suspects and accused persons. However, this judgment goes back decades.

There have been continued frequent complaints of custodial sexual and other assault, such as in the cases of Soni Sori in Chhattisgarh as well as other cases, particularly cases under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). On April 24, the Supreme Court of India directed the central government to file a response to a public interest litigation filed by former member of Parliament Ashwani Kumar on enacting legislation against torture. The Chief Justice of India pointed out that India had also faced faculties during extradition processes because it was one of the nine countries (as opposed to 161 others) that had failed to ratify the treaty.

While the Solicitor General said it was pending before the Law Commission, the Supreme Court said this should be treated with some urgency.

Belgium asks: “The Government of India signed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1997 and committed to ratify this Convention at its previous UPR. What is the state of play of the ratification process of these international legal instruments?”

The Indian government report says that it is committed to ratifying the convention. It says that the Law Commission of India has been assigned the task to review, which Indian laws would have to be amended to introduce the legislation, but does not mention any timelines. The Law Commission of India is in the process of recommending reforms in criminal law related to bail and arrest. While these are expected to change the process, the report is not yet out.

Protection of Minority Rights

“What steps are being taken by the Government of India to hold accountable public and police officials found complicit in shielding criminals involved in intimidating and unleashing violence against minorities and those who advocate religious hatred?” asks Switzerland.

The United Kingdom asks: “What other steps could the government of India take to promote and protect the rights of persons belonging to minority groups, as enshrined in India’s constitution?”

“What steps is the government of India taking to ensure swift adoption of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill?” Raging debates within the country have deafened the discussion on minority rights in India globally. These have to do with a growing majoritarian sentiment that has spawned vigilantes against “love jihad” and for “cow protection.”

With regard to those opposing “love jihad,” there have been objections to intercommunity love relationships, specifically between India’s majority Hindus and minority Muslims.

The cow is worshipped by a section of Hindus and the majoritarian regime has allowed mob violence in the name of cow protection to go unabated. There has been a spate of violent incidents where armed vigilante groups have assaulted (in some cases, killed) minorities over slaughter of cows for beef. The zeal has stretched to the assault of a Dalit in Gujarat and a Muslim dairy farmer in Rajasthan. In another case, a Muslim man, Md Akhlaque, was killed on the mere suspicion of storing beef in his refrigerator.

The Czech Republic has asked about steps taken to fight caste-based violence and discrimination; the safety and protection of human rights defenders; if the government is considering lifting restrictions on foreign aid and funding; and details of internet shutdowns.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court had struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexual relationships, classifying them as “unnatural” sex. That decision was overturned by the Supreme Court of India in 2013. It has since been referred to a five-judge constitution bench of the apex court, where it is pending.

In 2014, another bench of the Supreme Court has held that discrimination and violence based on sexual preference and gender are unconstitutional. Sweden has questioned the lack of a right to same-sex relationships in India.

Human Rights Defenders

Several countries have sent questions regarding the protection and freedom to work of human rights defenders. UN agencies have pointed out India’s obligation to allow such organizations to carry on their legitimate work. For that, the UN’s Special Rapporteur and other UN agencies had also lobbied with India to repeal the foreign contributions law, which they said was used to restrict human rights work.

According to the Special Rapporteur’s report, “The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women urged India to remove restrictions on the work of human rights defenders, not to place them under surveillance and to ensure that women in the north-eastern states participated in peace negotiations and in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.” The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association expressed concern at the restrictions imposed on human rights organizations.

Amnesty International released a report last year about the condition of human rights defenders in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar zone. Vigilante groups harassed and heckled scholars and human rights activists, and questionable cases were also used against certain individuals. Ultimately, the state removed the police official charged with the harassment and the vigilante groups were disbanded. There has not yet been any fresh review of the situation.

Right to Privacy

There is a battle going on in India’s Supreme Court on the safety of Aadhar Unique Identification Data and serious questions raised on privacy. India’s Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who will defend the government against questions by 112 countries, had told the Supreme Court that the Constitution of India did not guarantee privacy as a fundamental right. The Aadhar card data and its potential for misuse have been the subject of a heated debate, since it may make citizens vulnerable to breach of privacy and possible surveillance by the state.

In the report by the government, it states that the Centralized Monitoring System (CMS) will become operational in 2017. There have been reports drawing similarities with it to the U.S.’ prism program, which was exposed by Edward Snowden as a tool of illegal mass surveillance.

While it promises a law on privacy to the UN, there has been no commitment for presenting the law in Parliament. The report mentions that a “review committee” will monitor authorizations to keep surveillance, which does not even provide for any judicial permission to keep such surveillance. India also does not have a mechanism for parliamentary oversight on such surveillance.

Protection of Women and Children From Sexual Abuse

Slovenia is among the countries that have raised questions on protection of women and children from sexual violence in India and mechanisms to monitor implementation of laws. Since the December 2012 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman, the country’s rape law has been amended through a special commission. This includes registering of zero First Information Reports (FIRs, or police reports), allowing women to register FIRs anywhere, as well as changes in the definition of rape. There has been concern over political comments made regarding sexual assault cases.

India has also introduced a stringent legislation called the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act in 2012. Under this law, all minors have protection and all trials are held in-camera with provisions for due care and protection of the minor victims of sexual abuse.

There has also been concern about older children who are accused of violent crimes, such as the December 2012 rape and murder case. One of the convicts was a minor at the time of the crime and has received leniency in sentencing in comparison with the other offenders. This sparked an outrage and led to a heated social debate. Several voices called for amending the law to make the punishment fit the crime, in cases when the offender was above 16.

Despite the amendment to the law, violence against women “has not shown strong trends of abatement as NCRB statistics shows 3,37,922 crimes against women including 36,735 cases of rape in 2014. The POCSO, 2012; and SHWW, 2013 have been enacted. While legal regime stands strengthened, allegations of sexual offences against minors have not shown signs of abatement. The JJA, 2015 has also been amended. However, an allegedly retrograde provision has been added which enables adjudication of cases related to children between 16-18 years to courts,” noted the Indian NHRC in its report to the UN.

How Will Indian Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi Defend India?

Rohatgi will be the man who leads India’s defense. An attorney with an extensive legal practice, he had a reputation for some legal finesse despite his bluster in Court. But that was before Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose him for this post. The attorney general of India is now known for his aggressive, irrational and bullying postures in court.

On May 4, it will be particularly interesting to hear Rohatgi’s statements on LGBT rights, as he had personally supported this movement before he was appointed attorney general. He even helped prepare the petition presented to the Supreme Court in response to the earlier UPA Party government’s stand against the 2009 Delhi High Court judgment. But now he defends a questionable and near-indefensible record, of the world’s largest democracy and its respect and concern for human rights.

Source:http://www.alternet.org/world/india-about-be-grilled-its-human-rights-record-112-countries-un-review

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Harbhajan Singh slams Jet Airways pilot being racist and abusive to disabled passenger

Image result for harbhajan singh jet

Harbhajan Singh said that the incident happened to his friends earlier this month
NEW DELHI: In a series of angry tweets posted today, cricketer Harbhajan Singh brought attention to an alleged incident of racism and assault by an expat pilot from Jet Airways. According to his tweets, the pilot named Bernd Hoesslin racially abused and assaulted two passengers on the flight, one of them being a person with physical disability. The cricketer sought strict action against the pilot as he tweeted PM Modi. “Such things should not be allowed or tolerated in our country,” he said in one of his tweets. The 36-year-old told NDTV that the incident happened to his wife’s friends earlier this month.

Harbhajan Singh also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi through a tweet, to intervene and ensure strict action is taken against the Jet Airways pilot who allegedly made a racist attack against a passenger.

Harbhajan Singh, not a stranger to racial slurs, tweeted out on Wednesday, reacting strongly to an alleged racist attack on a passenger by a Jet Airways pilot. The former Indian off-spinner has even urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene.Harbhajan Singh, who is playing for the Mumbai Indians in the ongoing Indian Premier League and claimed his 200th T20 wicket against Rising Pune Supergiant on Monday, blamed a Jet Airways pilot, Bernd Hoesslin, “of racial and physical attack towards a lady and a physically challenged man”.

Jet Airways have promised to investigate the unsavoury episode.

 

“So called this Bernd Hoesslin a pilot with @jetairways called my fellow indian(u bloody indian get out of my flight)while he is earning here (Sic),” tweeted Harbhajan Singh from his official handle, @harbhajan_singh.

Harbhajan followed it up with tweets demanding action against the pilot, Bernd Hoesslin.

 

“Not only was he racist but physically assaulted a lady and abused a physically challenged man..absolutely disgraceful &shame on @jetairways (Sic),” tweeted Harbhajan, who went on to appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and make sure action is taken against the pilot.

Not only was he racist but physically assaulted a lady and abused a physically challenged man..absolutely disgraceful &shame on @jetairways

Strict action must b taken &such things should not be allowed or tolerated in r country.. let’s get together and sort this

Harbhajan Singh was reacting to the incident involving Punjabi and Bollywood music director Jatinder Shah and Bollywood marketing professional Pooja Singh Gujral during the flight from Chandigarh to Mumbai on April 3.

Shah uses a wheelchair that was checked in but the chair never reached him on arrival. The flight was also delayed due to some internal issues of the airlines, wrote Gujral, narrating the incident via a Facebook post.

Extremely shocking n upsetting incident with Jet airways ! Travelled chandigarh-mumbai over the weekend. On arrival a close friend’s customised wheel chair that was checked in as per jet regulations did not reach him. The flight was already delayed because of the airlines internal issues. He was made to wait and i decided to wait along with him! Meanwhile the captain of the aircraft ‘Bernd Hoesslin’ came and started behaving nasty and screaming for checking in his personal wheelchair. I intervened and told him that it is allowed and various times this wheelchair was checked in earlier aswell! Plus #jetairways had checked it in at chandigarh so it was allowed! He got really mad at me and started screaming and pushed my hand saying ‘GET OUT’ ! I moved him aside and warned him not to touch me ! He said ‘u bloody indian’ and thats when i gave him hell. My friend who is specially challenged intervened to help but he was nasty and rude to him too. I told him to call the security but the staff did not ! Although then the crew intervened and apologised and said captain pls stop but this horrible person just did not ! I finally helped my friend and put him on the wheelchair as he was because of this situation very embarrassed and not felling well. I have complained to the guest relations head and awaiting a reply ! I DO DEMAND AN ACTION AGAINST THIS CAPTAIN ! Racism in my own country is bad but discrimination against the physically challenged is so inhumane, barbaric and atrocious. An extremely appalling, sad and grievous experience! Plz share the post

Shah was made to wait in the aeroplane and Pooja decided to remain with him. The pilot of the flight , Bernd Hoesslin , then stormed out of the cockpit and started hurling abuses at Shah and Pooja. Pooja wrote on her FB post that the pilot shouted “You Bloody Indian”, and mocked Shah for his disability while she was trying to “explain the situation”.

 

A complaint was lodged on April 4 at the Sahar International Airport police station. Gujral also mentioned in one of the comments on her FB post that on 5th April she filed a non cognisable complaint because police refused to file an FIR.

Jet Airways statement

Jet Airways said in a statement that corrective action will be taken as per the company policy, and after due investigation.

“Jet Airways has zero tolerance towards any action of its employees that contravenes local or international laws prevalent in the countries of its operations,” read the statement. “Additionally, we have a strict employee code of conduct, which is based on the values and ethos of the airline. This is clearly mentioned in the prescribed service conditions for employees and is adequately emphasized during internal training sessions. All airline employees/staff members are required to comply with company’s rules and regulations and with the customs and security laws of the countries that Jet Airways’ flies to.

“As regards the said incident, Jet Airways has noted guest feedback with concern and regrets the incident. The airline has as per policy initiated a full-fledged investigations, based on specific inputs from guests, concerned departments and agencies.”

http://www.hindustantimes.com/cricket/harbhajan-singh-hits-out-at-jet-airways-pilot-for-calling-passenger-bloody-indian/story-cLERhKzl8vridefxrTsS8L.html

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What govt needs to do to make Rights of Persons with Disability Act work

Image result for What govt needs to do to make Rights of Persons with Disability Act work

It falls short on the vision to acknowledge and empower the disabled so they can sail through the challenges themselves.

KOSHY MATHEW

“A human being is a magnificent creation and the magnificence must reflect in a humane, magnanimous, and all-inclusive manner so that every individual tends to feel that she/he deserves space,” as observed by the Supreme Court in the Pranay Kumar Podder vs State of Tripura and Others case in 2017.

There is potential progress on the horizon as inclusion, integration and phrases that would define their essence are discussed zealously, but what portends horror is that it is still left to choice – that it is not the practice.

Policymakers say let’s change the rules, activists say let’s change the mindset, politicians say let’s treat “them” as “Divine”, courts say let’s be magnanimous and civil society says let’s earn favours from God – all this haggle is for accepting the “other”.

The “other” who is not identified but made conspicuous by identifying oneself as “able”, “complete”, “blessed” et al.

Though the term is not convincingly conceptualised, the disabled have regretfully become the foil that bolsters the design that defines a fully-functional human being. This has made them second-class citizens in public perception whose rights and necessities have to be spelt out by invoking sections of rulebooks that turn futile to execute equity and justice.

How far can a booklet of law make any difference? Will rights mean acceptance? How much can a list of provisions do to redeem the rights and the respect of the 2.68 crore disabled in India?

Will such outcry lead to inclusion and universality?

The Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016 was passed by the lawmakers at the end of a forgettable winter Parliament session, which was inundated by the torrent of acrimony post- demonetisation.

But the Act brought cheer to many as it increased the number of identified disabilities from 7 to 21, and the employment reservation to not less than 4 per cent, as well as included inclusive education, penalties for offences against the persons with disabilities (PWDs), Special Courts, National and State Funds, et al.

The Act has been acknowledged by experts for espousing the progress of the disabled population and for its noteworthy shift from a concessional model to a social one. The inclusion of acid attack victims, learning disability, Parkinson’s, blood disorders, speech and language disability et al are perfect examples of the inclusive undertone sustained throughout the Act.

The emphasis on reasonable accommodation, accessibility, inclusive education, employment security, research and surveys, proactive measures to contain disability, protection against violence, legal guardianship, rights to appeal et al are commendable provisions.

They look attractive and empowering on paper, but carry ambiguities that can be twisted and distorted to meet selfish interests.

blindsmal_0216171205_042417054942.jpgVision is where the Act leaves a lot to be desired. Photo: Screengrab

For instance, recurring clauses like “within the limits of economic capacity and development”, “without undue and inappropriate burden”, “the extension of time based on the state of preparedness and related parameters”, “cannot be discriminated unless the impugned act or omission is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” et al leave ample room for denial of justice.

This also leads to empowerment remaining elusive and reliant on the interests of the “able-bodied”. Many new appointments and the strengthening of office proposed in the Act are also devoid of providing absolute justice.

The chief commissioner’s position remains limited to recommending, reviewing, monitoring, promoting and learning.

The state commissioner’s powers, on the other hand, are equivalent to those of a civil court. She/he can summon witness, requisition public record, receive evidence, issue commissions for examination et al. There seems to be no authority that can try an accused or pass verdicts.

In case of violence, the Executive Magistrate is the authority to be sought, while employment-related discrimination can be conveyed to a Grievance Redressal Officer and there is a Liaison Officer to check on recruitment – all of it remains within the purview of the Chief Commissioner, whose powers are quasi-judicial.

Another glaring and minimally-covered area is the amount of power exercised in private establishments. The private sector appears under the surveillance of the Act.

Except in contexts of barrier-free access at private hospitals, among service providers, incentives in the case of employing at least not less than five per cent disabled and an equal opportunity policy, the Act seems hardly persuasive.

This is evident in the Draft Rules that came out, first on March 3, 2017, where an exclusive framework for private sector was mentioned and the revised Draft Rules that came out on March 10, 2017, where there is no mention of the private establishment in the chapter on Equal Opportunity Policy.

This keeps the authority that the Act wields on the private sector within shadows. One would agree to disagree on many other provisions – most of these are liable to failures and those which twisted arguments can overthrow.

It is hardly airtight to cross-examination and thus can’t be manoeuvred easily by a disabled person.

While the Act is surely an attempt for progress and inclusion, it falls short on the vision to acknowledge and empower the disabled so they can sail through the challenges themselves.

When the bourgeoisie took control of the society – visibly for the first time in history post revolutions extending the period of 1789 to 1848 – it was believed that they would not only spawn material but also reason, human opportunities, enlightenment, science and arts.

In a nutshell, a world of accelerating material and moral progress was the vision. But what has come of the attempts to fulfil it since then is simply “survival of the fittest” with “fittest” having connotations ranging from ignorance to moral depravity.

In such a world where opportunities are the charity of the fittest, “vision” is a strong word, perhaps even abstract to the status quo.

Even if “vision” is deciphered, it would not disturb their own guaranteed social order or threaten their own existence. All we can hope for is a future that would be “magnanimous” and accept the “magnificence of creation”.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/india-disabled-rights-of-persons-with-disability-act-2016/story/1/16824.html

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Simply Nanju is a poignant book to help children understand #disability

Zainab Suleiman’s writing stems from her work with different NGOs and special schools.

BIJAL VACHHARAJANI

The motley crew of Nanju and his classmates have to be some of the most adorable characters in children’s literature in the recent past. Zainab Sulaiman’s Simply Nanju starts with the ten-year-old boy poking his head out of a bathroom stall, worried that someone will find out that he’s soiled his school shorts once again.

Nanju was born with a spinal defect and as a result, he is relentlessly teased about his crooked walk. Nanju, we discover, has pressing concerns that demand his immediate attention at his school, where other children are also differently abled. His classmates suspect him of stealing the topper’s books, there’s a bully to contend with, and on top of that, his father is constantly threatening to send him off to a hostel far away. What follows is a mystery and a school story rolled into one, with everyday heroes as protagonists.

Sulaiman first wrote a grain of the story at a Duckbill writing workshop. “Zainab was one of the participants in a Duckbill workshop in Chennai, where one of the group exercises she had done was a detective story set in a school for kids with special needs,” said Sayoni Basu, director and primary platypus at Duckbill Books. “Afterwards, discussing what she wanted to write, she said that she worked as a special educator and she wanted to write about some of the kids she worked with. Which we thought was a wonderful idea.”

Sulaiman’s book stems from her work – she has been teaching, fund-raising and volunteering with different NGOs and special schools. “I’d been working as a volunteer teacher at an integrated school and everyday I’d practically float out of there, high on the energy generated by a bunch of kids who lived life to the hilt in spite of many of them being severely disabled,” said Sulaiman.

“I began to scribble down things I’d heard, make notes on the hard life many of these kids lived without any display of complaint or self-pity, and mainly how it all made me feel: angry, sad, amazed, overwhelmed. And that’s when I realised I had to write about this world.”

sn_041816084942.jpgSimply Nanju; Duckbill Books; Rs 199.

Simply Nanju joins an array of books that help children understand disability. Tulika Books has also published a range of picture books – Why are You Afraid to Hold my Hand? by Sheila Dhar is about attitudes and how people react to someone who is differently-abled, Wings to Fly by Sowmya Rajendran and Arun Kumar where little Malathi finds that she can do a “much, much more” even though she’s wheelchair-bound, and in Tharini Viswanath and Nancy Raj’s tale Catch that Cat!, Nancy doesn’t let her being in a wheelchair stop her from helping a cat stranded on a tree.

Karadi Tales, with its audio book format, is often used as an educational tool for children with learning disabilities. Few years ago, Shaili Sathyu directed Barsoraam Dhadaake Se, a play that was an adaptation of Kalpana Swaminathan‘s story, Bangles for Bansode. The cranky old landlord, Bansode, finds that his life changes for the better when a wheelchair-bound girl comes to live in the building.

Stories like these go a long way in creating inclusive spaces, making children comfortable with diversity, and accepting of the fact that everyone is different in their own way.

Sulaiman’s characters come in all shapes, sizes, and shades of blacks, whites, greys, reds, blues and all sorts of happy and gloomy colours. Nanju’s friend, Mahesh, for instance, is really intelligent and uses logic to solve problems. Nanju himself is not all angelic – he’s quick to judge and can be quite sharp at times.

Sulaiman paints a poignant childhood, full of that sense of inadequacy and that particular sinking feeling when you get poor marks. It’s a familiar world of favourite and not-so-favourite teachers, ever-shifting rivalries and fast friendships and shiny compass boxes and new backpacks. All of this in the backdrop of challenges of social inequality and abuse. Not an easy task.

“It was hard,” said Sulaiman. “I was torn between writing a really hard-hitting book which showed how relentless the double whammy of poverty and disability can be, and writing about how inspite of all their hardships, these children really live for the day and are determined to extract every last ounce of joy from it. I choose the latter as I thought it was important for people to realise that it’s us who need to change, and maybe we could change if we realised how much these kids are like us.”

Stories like these are distinctive in the sense of being representative and going beyond the upper middle-class protagonists often seen in children’s books. “Urban kids live largely in middle-class ghettos, where they have little interaction with anyone outside their immediate social group, in a world which regards the ‘other’ with suspicion,” said Basu. “It is, therefore, all the more important that they read about Indian kids who live very different lives, since it is through fiction that we develop empathy and understanding of worlds which are different from our daily experience.”

Duckbill, over the last few years, have definitely hopped (or do platypus’ waddle?) off the beaten path. Rather than the usual lineup of authors and mythological stories, their books have LGBT themes, swashbuckling historical heroines, and differently abled heroes. Their writing workshops have helped them find new and exciting writing as well.

“Our goal has always been to publish books that reflect the contemporary world that Indian children and young adults live in,” said Basu. “And ideally, the books should be funny and wacky.” Simply Nanju checks the boxes.

http://www.dailyo.in/arts/childrens-books-zainab-sulaiman-simply-nanju-differently-abled-duckbill-poverty-disability/story/1/10152.html

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India -UP Minister Could Become First to Be Tried Under New Disability Law

Satyadev Pachauri had insulted a Class IV employee over his disability. If convicted, he faces a six month to five-year prison term.

BY   , thewire.in

UP minister Satyadev Pachauri. Credit: PTI

UP minister Satyadev Pachauri. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: A complaint against a minister in the Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, who had publicly ridiculed a disabled employee during a surprise visit to an office in Lucknow, could become the first to be covered by the new disability law, which came into effect on Thursday (April 20).

In his complaint to the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Lucknow, under Section 92(a) of the Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2016, Delhi-based disability rights activist Satendra Singh has said that Satyadev Pachauri, minister of khadi, village industries and MSMEs, had humiliated and insulted a Class IV employee during a surprise visit on April 19. Section 92 of clearly lays down that “whoever intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a person with disability in any place within public view” shall be “punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine”.

Singh, an associate professor of physiology at the University College of Medical Sciences and Delhi’s GTB Hospital, said the incident reportedly took place at about 9:40 a.m. in the Khadi and Village Industries Board office in Lucknow. The incident, Singh said, was widely reported in the local media and was also shown on private TV news channels.

During his visit to the office, Pachauri found nearly a third of all employees missing despite it being office hours having started. He then ordered that a day’s salary be cut of all those who were missing. Thereafter, he began counting the number of staff present there.

During the count, Singh complained, the minister kept asking the employees about their post and time of arrival. When he reached a Class IV employee, who is also a person with disabilities, Pachauri reportedly asked him: “What are you?,” to which the man replied that he was a sanitation worker. Pachauri then asked him if he was a contractual employee. When the employee answered in the affirmative, the minister looked at him from top to bottom and then turning towards the chief executive officer and said: “Lulay langdon ko samvida par rakh liya hai, yeh kya kaam karega” (You have kept those suffering from disability of the limbs on contract, what work will he do).

After the minister’s comment those present in the room began laughing at the employee, Singh said. The employee was visible disturbed.

Singh said Pachauri’s statement was in violation of the new Act. Incidentally, the Narendra Modi government had coined the term ‘divyang‘ in an apparent attempt to show respect to persons with disabilities, but Pachauri’s tone and tenor shows that more than terminology it is the thinking and approach that needs to change.

“Our prime minister sees divinity in persons with disabilities and therefore he uses the word ‘divyang’. The Adityanath government, which proclaims ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas‘ has this kind of a minister who is a blot on the slogan,” Singh said. He added that since a minister is involved in such an incident he must be punished appropriately so that the right message is sent to the masses.

Singh also pointed out that the incident occurred in Lucknow in the same month when a person with disability was elected president in another country. Lenin Moreno, who is a wheelchair user, was elected president of Ecuador on April 2. “Unity and social justice were the hallmarks of the political journey of Moreno,” Singh said.

Recalling what Moreno words from 2012, Singh said, unity not as a charity but as a symbol of equality was the cornerstone of social inclusion.

https://thewire.in/126598/satyadev-pachauri-persons-with-disabilities-act-uttar-

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