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Archives for : Health Care

Punjab- Not all farmers burn stubble #mustshare

Some use it to improve harvest

Several Cultivators In Punjab Are Employing Paddy Residue To Create Fertilisers That Are Ploughed Back Into Their Fields

Come autumn and the vexatious issue of stubble burning in northern India sets off alarm bells and leads to much hand-wringing in policy circles and civil society with little, however, to show by way of a solution. But some farmers in Punjab have applied innovative strategies to dispose of their paddy stubble that doesn’t involve the setting of their fields on fire.

Farmers in Punjab have started sowing wheat as paddy harvesting enters the last stage with just one-fifth of the crop left to be cut in fields. But it is the lack of a gap between harvesting paddy and sowing wheat and the increased time and high cost of operating subsidised straw management machines that leaves farmers who are keen to stop burning stubble with no choice.

However, amid all the hue and cry over crop burning, there are instances of farmers in Punjab who have employed novel methods to manage paddy stubble at low or negligible costs.

Take for example Mukesh Chander of Rani Bhatti village near Bhogpur in Jalandhar district. He revealed that he had collected stubble on a small portion of his field and sprayed urea on it. “This helps to convert stubble into fertiliser in around two months, which we plough back into the field at an appropriate time between the harvesting and sowing of a crop,” he said.

The use of this innovative method is a win-win scenario for farmers. “It saves a lot of expenditure on diesel, which is consumed for managing the stubble with machines, and has also reduced my consumption of fertilisers. I have calculated that although a small portion of the field is used to pile up the crop stubble, the final compensation in terms of savings is more,” said Mukesh, who cultivates over 100 acres of land that he takes on contract.

Gurdev Singh of Navan Qila village, near Shahkot, also in Jalandhar district, said he had experimented by throwing cattle dung over stubble piled up at a side of his field with a view to converting it into fertiliser. “If one can mix cattle dung and stubble after a few weeks using an earth-moving machine, then it can be ploughed back as fertiliser in the fields in six months. I have been using this method for most of the last decade and this has been much cheaper,” he said.

Shaminder Singh Sandhu of Aahli Kalan village in Kapurthala district, whose family cultivates over 300 acres, said they did not burn stubble and had ploughed it back into the fields. “This has reduced our consumption of fertilisers. Most people in our village did not burn stubble,” he said.

Lakhwinder Singh, from the same village, whose family has been cultivating 100 acres, said he only used mulcher to break down stubble into fine parts and did not spend on ploughing it back. “We have already sown wheat and it has started growing well,” he said. “The shredded stubble would ultimately get mixed in the soil during irrigation and would decompose further on its own. I have been using this method for the last three years and this has reduced my consumption of fertilisers as well as the spending on stubble management,” he added.

Although media reports suggest that there is a visible reduction in the volume of post-harvest stubble-burning in Punjab and Haryana this year, a good chunk of farmers is still reluctant to use the ‘Happy Seeder’ — a machine which allows sowing without removing the stubble, thus obviating the need for stubble burning — fearing lower yields.

Seasonal burning of crop stubble and smoke from fireworks lit to celebrate Diwali on November 7 have aggravated already high smog levels in the past few days in national capital Delhi from vehicle emissions, industrial gases and construction work.

But turning stubble into fertiliser, as some farmers have done, should serve to address the issues of both crop burning and farm yields for farmers in northern India.

CUTTING EDGE: (Top) Wheat has already started growing at a farm in Kapurthala district where paddy stubble was left in the fields after shredding. (Right) Paddy stubble piled by the sides of a field in Jalandhar district. The stubble, left under the shade of trees, is sprayed with urea as part of a process to convert it into fertiliser

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The argument from cyberspace for eliminating nuclear weapons

At the height of the Cold War in 1982, American psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton argued that the “central existential fact of the nuclear age is vulnerability.” That warning predated the proliferation of computers into almost every aspect of modern life, including nuclear weapons.

Today, the destructiveness of nuclear weapons has been coupled with the vulnerability of computers to create new pathways to disaster.

Specifically, there is now the possibility that hackers could compromise the computers that control nuclear weapons or provide information to officials about impending nuclear attacks.

Weapons security critically flawed

An October 2018 report reinforced this sense of vulnerability. In it, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) described a number of problems commonly found in the modern weapons systems developed by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Although the report itself doesn’t say so, officials confirmed that nuclear weapons programs were included in the study.

 A graphic from the GAO report illustrating many of the potential computer systems built into modern weapons systems that could be vulnerable to hackers. U.S. Government Accountability OfficeThe findings of the GAO report echoed earlier warnings of the cyberthreat to nuclear weapons. These included a 2013 DOD report and one by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a non-governmental nuclear weapon threat reduction organization based in Washington, D.C.

Our research examines the risks associated with nuclear weapons systems, including those of accidental or inadvertent nuclear war. The most pressing concern from the GAO report is the possibility that some of these vulnerabilities might affect “nuclear command and control,” the term used to describe the computer networks that continuously monitor and direct the vast U.S. nuclear arsenal (or Russia).

The recent GAO report broadly criticized all DOD weapons systems. Over the past five years (2012 to 2017), the GAO reported, “DOD testers routinely found mission-critical cyber-vulnerabilities in nearly all weapon systems that were under development. Using relatively simple tools and techniques, testers were able to take control of these systems and largely operate undetected.”

In other words, just about every weapon system being developed by the U.S. military is vulnerable to cyberattack. What stands out are both the scale of the problem and that these problems exist in systems that should be highly protected.

The computerized military

Computers play an outsized role in the U.S. military — from providing information through various sensors to forming the backbone of communications networks. Faster communications and increased access to information are both valuable assets and these goals can be achieved with computers. Computers have become ubiquitous in the military environment as countries demand quick access to information and communications.

But computers also introduce vulnerabilities. As their role grows to include connecting the weapons systems of most advanced countries, so does our vulnerability. The vulnerability of these weapons systems should be seen as an anticipated and, arguably unavoidable, consequence of the computer-filled world we live in.

The GAO report went farther than just identifying vulnerabilities — it identified a culture within the DOD that fails to recognize and adequately address cybersecurity problems. Officials routinely assumed their systems were safe and ignored warnings until very recently.

We have observed a similar overconfidence in the military officials responsible for nuclear command and control.

This is a problem because the command-and-control system relies on complex networks of interconnected computers. These computers connect early warning satellites and radars to the president and will be used to pass on presidential orders to launch nuclear weapons should that fateful decision ever be made.

Computers must also constantly monitor and coordinate the daily operation of U.S. nuclear arsenal. Timelines for decisions in this system are extremely compressed, allowing less than 10 minutes for critical launch decisions to be made. The combination of interactive complexity and the tight timeline is typical of many other technological systems that are susceptible to unpredictable, large-scale accidents.

Computer errors that almost started nuclear wars

Unclassified reports reveal that problems within the computers of nuclear command and control date back to at least the 1970s, when a deficient computer chip signalled that 200 Soviet missiles were headed towards the U.S. Computer problems have persisted: In 2010, a loose circuit card caused a U.S. launch control centre to lose contact with 50 nuclear missiles. In both cases, the accident might have been mistaken for a deliberate attack. Failing to recognize the mistake could have resulted in the U.S. launching nuclear weapons.

 Programming codes. (Markus Spiske/Unsplash)FALThese cases were presumably the result of unintentional errors, not deliberate actions. But hacking and other forms of targeted cyberattacks greatly increase the risk of accidental nuclear launch or other devastating actions. Overconfidence on the part of the officials overseeing the nuclear arsenal is therefore negligent and dangerous.

A more recent compounding factor is the ongoing, roughly trillion-dollar upgrade of the U.S. nuclear arsenal started by the Obama administration. This so-called modernization effort included upgrades to the nuclear command and control system. The Trump administration continues to make this a priority.

Modernization increases the possibility that changes to the nuclear command and control system will introduce new or reveal hitherto unknown vulnerabilities into the system. The evidence from the GAO report and other publicly available documents indicates that the officials in charge will be emphasizing speed, convenience, or cost over cybersecurity.

In its conclusion, the GAO report explained that the DOD “has taken several major steps to improve weapon systems cybersecurity.” But the DOD “faces barriers that may limit its ability to achieve desired improvements,” such as constraints on information sharing and workforce shortages. That is not reassuring.

There is a more basic problem that we have emphasized above: the risks associated with cyberattacks can be ameliorated but not fully eliminated. When this intrinsic risk is integrated with the sheer destructiveness of nuclear weapons, the only way to avoid a catastrophic accident at some point in time is to embrace efforts to abolish the weapons themselves.

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Mahul- #MumbaisToxicHell #StopGenocidesinMahul

Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan
●Maharashtra Govt to Consider temporary rehabilitation at Kurla HDIL
●Struggle by Mahul Residents Continues Unabated until assurance gets materialised
Mumbai | 12th November 2018: After 16 days of continuous protest by the determined residents of Tansa pipeline who were rehabilitated in Mumbai’s Toxic Hell, Mahul, forced the government to have a meeting with residents at Mantralaya today. In a two hour long meeting held today,  the Housing Minister, Prakash Mehta has agreed to shift the Mahul residents temporarily to Kurla HDIL, a site that was proposed by the members of Mahul Prakalpgrast Sangharsh Samiti and Ghar bachao Ghar Banao Andolan. The Housing Minister has also assured the people that the proposal to shift people to Kurla HDIL will be discussed with the Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis in the coming days and the Ministry will be giving a final decision within next four days. However, the Minister has only given an oral agreement and nothing in written has been provided. The meeting was attended by Prakash Mehta (Minister of Housing Department, Maharashtra), Bhushan Gagrani (Principal Secretary, Urban Development Department), Sanjay Kumar (additional Chief secretary, Dept of Housing) and officials from Slum rehabilitation Authority (SRA), Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA).
In 2017 residents from Tansa pipeline area were shifted to Mahul, Which is one of most ‘Critically’ polluted region of Mumbai. The citizens started their protest under the banner of ‘Jeevan Bachao Andolan’ on 28th October 2018 under the auspices of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, after the govt failed to act on the directions of Bombay High Court, given out in August 2018, asking the Govt to provide alternative rehabilitation to the people living in Mahul. All families staying in Mahul have reported deaths and continued illnesses like TB, Cancer, tumors etc  among their family members since they started living there.  Over 100 people have already lost their life while living in Mahul. The people have termed this as a mass genocide by the govt.
Seeing this as a positive development after a rigorous resistance put up for 16 days, the Mahul residents have decided to keep up the struggle till the govt provides concrete decision, on paper, in coming days. To bring the govt’s attention to their plight the people from Mahul had yesterday formed a 3 km long human chain in the Ghatkopar region yesterday which culminated at the Housing Ministers residence. The Minister was forced to communicate with the Mahul residents and gave an assurance to hold the meeting today. It must be noted that the Minister had evaded any dialogue with the people since past one year. However, the fight is far from over for the Mahul residents as the Kurla HDIL will only be a temporary relief, if agreed to by the govt. The future of Mahul residents and their upcoming generations continue to remain insecure and uncertain until they get permanent accommodation. The Minister has hinted to rehabilitate people in-situ I.e. at the site where they had previously resided.

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Mahul Residents form 3km long Human Chain #MumbaisToxicHell

After the massive gherao, Housing Minister fixed meeting with Mahul residents
      Mumbai:  Hundreds of residents of Mahul gathered today, on the 15th day of their protest to form a human chain and capture the attention of Maharashtra Govt towards the plight of over 30,000 citizens who had been rehabilitated in mahul last year. The human chain which spread over 3 Km had participation from over thousands of citizens. Many people from other slums in Mumbai also joined in solidarity. Many students from colleges like Mumbai University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, IIT Bombay, Nirmala Niketan, Democratic and progressive Organizations, NGOs and individuals also joined to extend their support.
The Human Chain was followed by a massive rally which culminated at the resident of state housing Minister, Shri. Prakash Mehta. After much of negotiation, the Minister called Ms. Medha Patkar who was present in the rally and promised to meet a delegation of Mahul residents in Mantralaya tomorrow afternoon.
       It has been 15 days since the Mahul residents started the protest but have not received anything other than irresponsible comments and false promises from the govt officials and ministers. The Minister for Housing Department, Prakash Mehta has refused to intervene in the matter or take responsibility. The Chief Minister of Maharashtra has refused to acknowledge the issue or pleas of Mahul residents. For Mahul residents, today’s human chain signified to show their unity and resolve to fight till all the demands are met.
      The citizens started their protest under the banner of ‘Jeevan Bachao Andolan’ on 28th October 2018, after the govt failed to act on the directions of Bombay High Court, given out in August 2018, asking the Govt to provide alternative rehabilitation to the people living in Mahul. Mahul, which is one of the most polluted region in Mumbai and rightly called ‘Mumbai’s Toxic Hell’ has been made into a rehabilitation space for thousands of citizens by the Slum rehabilitation Authority (SRA), even after the National green Tribunal (NGT) declaring it as ‘inhabitable’.  All families staying in Mahul have reported deaths and continued illnesses like TB, Cancer, tumors etc  among their family members since they started living there.  Over 100 people have already lost their life while living in Mahul. The people have termed this as a mass genocide by the govt.
       On 8th of August, 2018, the Bombay High Court has directed the Govt. of Maharashtra to either relocate the Mahul resident by giving them alternate accommodation or given them enough rent so that the people can go to a safer place of their choice. The Court had set a deadline of 1st October, 2018 for the Government to take a decision between the two opt.
      The Govt of Maharashtra submitted in the Court that it is not possible for the Govt. to provide any alternative accommodation nor it can give rent to the people. In other words Govt. shrug off its responsibility to save 30,000 lives. On the issue of providing alternative tenements, the Govt. said that they don’t have tenements to be given to Mahul residents. As far as giving rent is concerned the Govt simply said that it is impossible to give rent without giving any reason.
        GBGBA has a list of more 80,000 tenements which are meant for Project Affected Person and are located at different location within Mumbai. This is something which they are suggesting as a solution for relocation of Mahul residents on an urgent basis.
       The residents of Mahul left with no option but to literally come on street to save their lives when they found that the Govt. has taken off its hand from the matter. They got terrified with the increasing rate of deaths and people suffering from serious diseases. Hence, the Jeevan Bachao Andolan under the auspices of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan was launched on 28th October, 2018
       On the third day of the JBA, GBGBA’s proposal to provide alternative accommodation got partial approval when Shiv Sena, the coalition partner in the Maharashtra govt. decided to come in support of the movement. On insistence of party’s youth wing president, Mr. Aditya Thackrey, the MLA and newly appointed Chairman of MHADA offered all the 300 empty lying tenements available with MHADA.
     While the BJP having all the portfolios in the government to take final decision on the issues is being completely mum, the Shiv Sena is going out of the way to resolve the issue by coordinating with other housing agencies to find out more PAP tenements on the lines suggested by GBGBA.
      The Mahul residents have decided to not take back their movement which they have started to save their lives, until they get confirmation of safe housing to each family living in Mahul. 300 houses is like a cumin seed in camel’s mouth against the demand of around 5,500 houses

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Extending the Boundaries of #MeToo: Sexual Harassment in the Lives of Marginalised Women

by – Akshaya Vijayalakshmi

Unmitigated and pervasive sexual harassment at the workplace is pushing women out of the workforce and increasing socio-economic inequalities. 

On the first anniversary of the #MeToo movement, India is witnessing a revolution of sorts. As several sexual harassment allegations surface, there is a need to move beyond the digital boundaries of Twitter and share the platform with women who have been historically silenced: the less-educated, poor, rural, lower-caste women who work long hours, under difficult conditions for survival.

A Culture of Normalised Harassment

Few reports capture sexual harassment incidents in the workplace for low-wage workers. For instance, the women who keep our streets clean had to take to the streets for their voices to be finally heard. Their complaint was against contractors, health inspectors and mestris who they alleged were repeatedly abusing them (Suresh 2018). Several news reports highlight the severe abuse these women faced from supervisors at various levels. The matter had to be escalated to involve the Karnataka Social Welfare Department. When the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike finally set up a committee to hear the complaints of both permanent and contract employees, it got five complaints in six months, of which three were considered serious. One of the complaints (filed by 35 women) was against a contractor who “chased, abused and assaulted women,” reported several news outlets (Alva 2017; Balakrishnan 2017). The situation is equally horrific in the garment industry which employs women in large numbers. A study by the non-governmental organisation (NGO), Sisters for Change, documented that 60% of the women faced physical, verbal and sexual abuse in the factories. These industries employ tens of lakhs of women, with factories in Bengaluru alone employing about five lakh workers (Mohan 2017). If we assume that the study was representative of the population, then a quick calculation will show that about three lakh women working in Bengaluru factories have faced abuse of some kind. In addition, tens of thousands might have had to endure severe sexual harassment.

Even within the organised sector, significant portions of working women are contract workers (Kaur and Kaur 2013). We have no reports on the harassment faced by these women who are employed in housekeeping and maintenance, security and secretarial positions in organisations that are not necessarily dominated by female employees. Also, little is known about the harassment faced by women in the unorganised sector (for example, maids). Most of India is employed by the unorganised sector (Express News Service 2015). Essentially, what we are witnessing on Twitter and other online media outlets is just the tip of the iceberg. There are probably tens of thousands of incidents of harassment at the workplace which get no attention.
The normalisation of sexual harassment in the workplace could be one of the reasons why Indian women are leaving the workforce. According to the International Labour Organization, Indian women’s participation in the labour force has decreased from 34% in 1999–00 to 27% in 2011–12 (Verick 2014). Furthermore, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, in the first quarter of 2017, jobs for men increased by 0.9 million, while 2.4 million women left the labour force (Bhandare 2018). Most of the women who are employed belong to two demographics—the less-educated (primary education or less) and college graduates (Kapurthala 2018). Many of these less-educated women tend to be employed in difficult working conditions which also foster sexual abuse. These women work because they are financially compelled. They are working because they have no choice but to earn their daily living. It is, therefore, not surprising that these women begin to leave the workforce when the family incomes start increasing, even by a little. Sexual harassment is thus, increasing inequality between classes, castes, and genders.

Why Do Women Not Complain?

In most cases, women’s complaints have immediate consequences that affect their roti, kapdamakaan and children’s education. In fact, most of the protesting sanitation workers in Bengaluru were mainly demanding that their unpaid salaries be released. Their salaries were put on hold because they had complained against the contractors. Similarly, many of the allegations of sexual harassment have been made against men who are economically better-off, compared to the complainant (Manickam 2018). The threat of termination or denied salaries prevents women from seeking redressal.

Consider the case of 42-year-old Sakina (Mohan 2017), who worked in a garment factory in Bengaluru and had been a tailor for more than half her life. In 2016, she found that the production manager had retained part of her salary. When she protested, Sakina was repeatedly harassed over the phone by the same supervisor who stole her money. When she complained to the owners, it was considered a false complaint. Suddenly, Sakina’s tailored pieces were rejected. She felt isolated in the factory where she had worked for three years. She was eventually fired from her job. When Sakina went to the government authorities to register this unjust treatment, her complaint was dismissed as trivial. She was told, “What ma, all this for some dirty phone calls. It is not like it is rape, no?” Finally, the Karnataka Garment Workers’ Union had to come to intervene. Given the enormous effort that Sakina had to make for her voice to be heard, is it really surprising if women do not come forward to complain about harassment?

Overall, economic vulnerability, lack of job security, stigma, isolation, family pressures are significant reasons why women do not complain about sexual harassment. Despite these pressures, women who do want to come forward and complain, are failed by the ineffective redressal mechanisms. In some instances, women are not even aware of the existence of a legal redressal mechanism (Aravind 2017).

Current Status of the Internal Complaints Committee

If one considers the testimonies on Twitter, it is clear that such safe spaces do not exist in our workplaces. From the case of the sanitation workers taking to the streets in Bengaluru, it is also clear that the authorities have muted women’s voices.
The law requires every organisation with more than 10 employees to have an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). The ICC deals with complaints of harassment at the workplace. The ICC must be led by a woman employee who will be assisted by (a) other employees in the workplace working on gender-related issues, and (b) members of NGOs working on similar matters. Before the implementation of the ICC, women had to go to the police or their supervisor. Naturally, many women chose to remain silent. The gap ICC is filling is evident by the complaint numbers. Five hundred and twenty-five and 601 complaints were registered in the financial years 2016 and 2018 respectively, with Nifty50 companies’ ICC (Somvanshi 2016; Vyas and Sultana 2018). These growing numbers also suggest that ICCs are beginning to have an effect.

The sanitation women workers in Bengaluru had to take to the streets for an all-women ICC to be setup (Alva 2017). In contrast, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has worked to create a safe space for its 40,000 women employees. All the 106 departments at MCGM reportedly have their committees to deal with sexual harassment cases. Further, they draw help from NGOs such as Savitribai Phule Gender Resource Centre to strengthen their redressal mechanisms (Vyas and Sultana 2018).

MCGM might be an exception, as news reports suggest that many public sector undertakings and private firms still do not comply with the act (LiveMint 2018). In addition, civil liberties lawyer Vrinda Grover argues that it is important to get into the details of the numbers on the complaints (for example, complaints by whom and against whom) to build effective structures in the organisation. In particular, Grover wonders whether the women working on the shop floor of garment factories have also been able to assert their voices.

Browsing through EPW, one finds several studies by academics discussing the absence of ICCs or the dismal state of ICCs at various workplaces. For example, Anagha Sarpotdar (2016) in her study found that many firms in Mumbai did not form an ICC or when they did, the organisations did not take women’s complaints seriously. In another study, Bhavila and Beegom (2017) interviewed employers, chairpersons, and members from 15 ICCs in government offices in Kerala. The researchers found that the ICCs were constituted as mandated by the law with both external and internal members. However, women, including the chairperson at times, were afraid of asserting themselves against senior male members. The ICCs did not have much legitimacy in a male-dominated environment. Further, Bhavila and Beegom (2017) found that many complaints were anonymous since the complainant did not trust the ICC members to keep the case confidential. The law requires the case details to be confidential in order to protect the complainant, accused and even the witnesses.

An ICC that is powerless and lacks autonomy is almost as good as non-existent. In Sakina’s case, the factory claims that there was an ICC, but clearly, it was dysfunctional. In fact, 75% of garment factory workers who were surveyed said that the ICC in their factories was not useful (Aravind 2017). In many firms, ICCs are created since the law mandates it. However, employees are not made aware of it. “Why to put ideas in women’s minds?” is the attitude in such cases. Factory owners, academic institutions and businesses are concerned about their reputation if women start making formal complaints. Finding no respite, women under-report abuse or find new jobs to escape abuse. It is not surprising, therefore, to see women taking to Twitter by the numbers because it is unclear to them who at their workplace will hear and investigate their case.

While ICC is for organisations with more than 10 employees, a Local Complaints Committee (LCC) is for organisations with less than 10 employees, unorganised sector workers and complaints against the employer. The LCC is headed by the district officer who then appoints five members to be part of the committee. To locate an LCC, a complainant has to go to the district officer’s or the state women commissioner’s office or call the 181 helpline. These steps reduce the ease of accessibility, and it is highly likely that a woman will not register a complaint until the sexual harassment is severe or repeated. Based on a Right To Information request, Mumbai’s LCCs received just six cases (all resolved) in three years of its existence. For a city with working population in the millions, such a low number raises doubts of the LCCs’ efficacy. The LCCs have the potential to become sources of power for contract and unorganised workers, who are otherwise unrepresented. It is essential that they reach the women workers rather than the other way around.

A Renewed Role for the ICC

The current dysfunctional state of ICCs and LCCs needs to change immediately. We need to provide a platform for every person to be able to share their harassment experience, and for the episode to be investigated in a fair and judicious manner. Importantly, both the complainant and the accused should have a chance to explain their case. Such due process can set a precedent and influence work culture. It can initiate conversations and engage people in a difficult, but constructive discussion. The process is time-consuming but more effective in the long run.

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), has put out a note requiring that the ICCs at media houses carefully investigate claims of sexual harassment that have cropped up in recent times. This is a desirable first move. The presence of an autonomous ICC and awareness amongst all employees about its existence is one sign that an organisation takes the safety of its women employees seriously. The need of the hour is to make sure that the private and public organisations follow the law and institute these committees. But, it is more important that the unorganised and contract workers who are part of these big organisations are also knowledgeable about the existence of such a committee.

As the number of contract workers in an organisation grows, it is important that the ICCs do not render them invisible. The ICCs may be burdened at this time, but this moment also presents an opportunity for them to hear the voices of all the workers in their organisations. It is commendable that the NWMI is suggesting that equal rights be extended to freelance and full-time journalists. Similarly, ICCs should take cognisance of contract and unorganised workers’ work conditions and extend similar protections to all. The non-unionised, low-wage worker requires special protections as she is more vulnerable to being fired by the contractor if she raises her voice. The contractor would rather replace a complaining worker than lose his/her contract with the organisation.

Finally, the law may have mandated the composition of ICC to ensure a fair trial, but unless the attitudes of the members of the ICC change, the formal mechanisms will continue to fail the abused. Bhavila and Beegom (2017) found that the ICC members whom they interviewed in Kerala had little idea about the investigation procedures and had patriarchal attitudes. In order to build a safe workplace, there is a need to train the ICC and LCC members to be sensitive to people’s voices and investigate in as fair a manner as possible.

It was Bhanwari Devi’s battle for justice against the people who gang-raped her that got us the legal guidelines to protect women against and prevent sexual harassment at the workplace. There is no time like the present to take those guidelines seriously and implement them in order to build a safe workplace. A supportive and sensitive workplace with robust redressal mechanisms for sexual harassment can help complainants, and prevent cases of abuse in future.

 

Akshaya Vijayalakshmi ([email protected]) is an assistant professor of Marketing at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad.
Acknowledgements: This write-up is part of a larger collaborative effort with Pritha Dev, Aruna Divya, and Vaibhavi Kulkarni to understand sexual harassment faced by low-wage workers. Salonie Hiriyur and Ramya Palavajjhala are helping us immensely on taking the project forward.
https://www.epw.in/engage/article/extending-boundaries-metoo-sexual-harassment-marginalised-women

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India – Working Class Women Share Their #MeToo Stories

A report on the public talk organised by GATWU, Stree Jagruti Samiti, BBMP Guttige Pourakarmikara Sangha and KBNN Workers Federation

#MeToo: Working Class Women Share Their Stories
Image Courtesy: Debanjan Chowdhury

The #MeToo movement may have started recently, but it is not new to India. The fight against sexual harassment began when Bhanwari Devi, a saathin in a village in Rajasthan, was raped for doing her job — stopping child marriage. Every working-class woman, like Bhanwari Devi, has a #MeToo story to share. Job insecurity, low wages — upon which her entire family is dependent, no social security benefits, and added to which are caste and class oppression. This silences women workers from speaking about their experiences of sexual harassment.

The #MeToo movement is not lead by any particular woman. The women participating in it to call out their perpetrators are owning the movement as theirs. This has displayed the exemplary solidarity of women fighting sexual harassment and exposing it for what it is. The movement has also demolished the lies around women when it comes to sexual harassment — that it happened because she was wearing a revealing dress, that she might have seduced him, that her character is questionable, that she asked for it, etc. It has showed us that sexual harassment is shockingly common and universal. It has also broken the myth that a woman loses her and her family’s honour if she is sexually harassed. Women are standing up against their perpetrators against great odds and risks to their personal safety, job security, and mental peace.

Despite the Vishakha Guidelines and the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Redressal Act of 2013, working class women have been fighting for redressal and justice when it comes to sexual harassment at the workplace. There are areas of workplaces which are diverse, invisible and taut with class, caste and gender prejudices which do not allow the law to penetrate. This is the case with domestic workers, street vendors, pourakarmikas (waste workers), construction workers, and others, where local complaint committees have been formed, but are constituted merely on paper. In such cases, the working-class women have been fighting against sexual harassment through their trade unions.

On the evening of November 03, 2018, the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), along with the BBMP Guttige Pourakarmikara Sangha, Garment and Textile Workers Union, Domestic Workers Rights Union and the KSRTC/BMTC/ NEKRTC/NWKRTC Workers Federation hosted a public programme called “#MeToo: Working Class Women Share” in Bangalore. Several women workers participated in the event and shared how the nature of their work and the work environments make it vulnerable to sexual harassment. The natural outcome of calling out their perpetrators is to lose their jobs instantly, and in most cases without any pay. Rathna, a pourakarmika, while sharing her experience said, “The supervisor in my ward stripped off his pants in public when we asked him for our wages which we weren’t paid for five months”. Tahira, a domestic worker, said that when her employer’s son molested her and she complained, she was instantly removed from her job. Rajeshwari, who works in a garment factory in Hosur stated how the managers in garment factories abuse them. “I was told that I wasn’t fit to work in the factory and that I should stand on the road to earn money. We are also exposed to physical assault due to the structure of garment factories and the way they are built,” she said. Parveen, a mechanic with the BMTC, said that sexual harassment is not just rampant amongst bus commuters, but it is even more so for women bus conductors. “We have to deal with drunk men sometimes. We have thousands of rupees in our bags from ticket collection. If we create a ruckus about the harassment we face and lose the money in the scuffle, then we will have to pay BMTC from our pockets. This is why most women conductors do not talk about sexual harassment,” she said and added that lack of toilets for women bus conductors at bus depots and bus stands also enable sexual harassment.

In the programme, members from the transgender community, sex workers and students also spoke of their experiences of sexual harassment. Sana, a transsexual woman, said, “I was sexually violated when I worked for a media company. I was removed from my job as they feared I would create noise about it. Members of our community cannot complain to the police because they also sexually abuse us. They say that we are meant to be harassed and violated. The #MeToo movement has not addressed concerns of sexual minorities or oppressed caste women.” Madhu Bhushan, an activist, stated that one does not think of sexual harassment for sex workers. Parijatha of the Sthree Jagruti Samiti said that when they complained of several sexual abuse cases related to domestic workers, the officials of the Department of Women and Child Development reacted in an extremely insensitive manner. “They too are a prejudiced lot,” she said.

The All India Progressive Women’s Association plans to prepare a report from the experiences shared at the public programme on November 03, which will be submitted to the Kerala government’s Department of Women and Child Development, Karnataka State Commission for Women, the Internal Complaints Committees of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation.

(Lekha graduated from Azim Premji University, Bangalore with a Masters in Development, before which, she worked as a sub-editor with The New Indian Express. She is interested in understanding issues related to informal labour and urban commons.)

Related posts

Amravati, A grave in making for farmers, dalits, adivasis

Multiple Power Project along the coastline, rapid urbanization, industrial pollution driving away fish population from the coasts in Andhra Pradesh; Sagarmala and Industrial Corridor responsible for the devastation

Amravati, Andhra Pradesh: On 25th day of Samvidhan Samman Yatra, activists reached Amravati, the capital city of Andhra Pradesh. On the way to first village, Kiran Kumar Vissa from Rythu Swaraj Vedika briefed the team about the issues.

The whole vision of making a Capital City by the CM Chandrababu Naidu has devastated the agriculture in more than 29 villages in the name of development. The Shivram Committee recommended to set up Capital either in decentralized manner or in Rayalseema. However, Chandrababu Naidu, rejected the report and decided to go ahead with Amaravati Plan with a promise to make the city like Singapore. This obsession with western model of development have threatened the indigeneity of the area.

Acquisition of more than 50 thousand acres of land for the Capital City through coercive “Voluntary Land Pooling” left little option with the cultivators of the region. The benefits of Consent and SIA provisions of central land acquisition act, 2013 remained distant for the people. From transparency to public hearing, everything was just bypassed to silence any voice raised against the acquisition. After Land pooling, no farmers are allowed to cultivate the land even when no work started on the land.

Not learning from the devastation of Chennai flood, Amravati also seems to be following the foot steps of Chennai and encroaching on water bodies. It is the irony in the country that Real Estate sector and businesses are being given priority on top of environment and people of the largest democracy.

Yatra reached Undavalli, the first village in the Yatra route. Activists taken out rally starting from the fields of Undavalli, where a large number of farmers joined them. This shows the discontent which is suppressed since long by the state government. According to representatives of Rythu Swaraj Vedika, there are 120 documented different crops being cultivated in the region. The area is famous for its rich fertile soil which supports 4 or more crops at the same time.

Nidamarru was the second village visited by the Yatra. “On one acre of land, fifty people are dependent on an average ranging from the families of cultivators to small scale traders. An agricultural worker can earn Rs 200 – 400 on a daily basis in the region. What will we do when dispossessed our land and livelihood. The Govt. gave us false promises like providing free education and health services in the name of development but we cannot see anything till now”, said Naji Reddy, a farmer from the village.

“We are farmers and we only know how to cultivate our land. No amount can compensate loss of our life long livelihood and basis of Right to Life. Money will be finished and we all will be left with no choice but to work as a worker in the factories where industries will rule our lives. If government and chief minister of Andhra Pradesh wants us to give up our land and livelihood, they should also be ready to give up their seats. They don’t deserve to represent us anymore.”, said Jayamma, a woman farmer from the village. Activists expressed strong solidarity to their struggles and moved towards third village, Lingyapalem.

Public meeting was organised in Lingyapalem village by local community leaders and villagers. They shared that the state government is hell bent on acquiring land and driving out everyone including original inhabitants of the land. It is nothing but an injustice with adivasi, dalits, and landless workers.

Bhupendra Rawat from Jan Sangharsh Vahini said that the NAPM rejects the Land Pooling Scheme which encourages land mafia to grab more and more land and transfer all to industries and rich. Government is aware about it and they are equally hand in gloves with them.

“Women need to be at the fore front of the struggle to push back the government and continue their struggles for protecting their land and livelihood”, said Kamla Yadav from Narmada Bachao Andolan.

“Monetizing such fertile land is a blunder by the government which is being done through Voluntary Land Pooling Scheme. It is an inter-generational resource and cannot be compensated by any means”, said Sudha from Sangatin Mazdoor Kisan Sangathan, Uttar Pradesh

Representatives from Dalit Community said that they have been living here for more than centuries. But the government have not been able to extend any benefits as they are providing to other farmers. The police continue to harass them and use coercion to part away from the land. Chandrababu Naidu pretend to stand against the Central Government on Dalits issues but fails people from the same community in his own state.

The rehabilitation policy framed cannot be more castiest and unconstitutional. People from dominant castes are receiving higher compensation while dalits are getting lower. Even among dalits, there is hierarchy. It stems more from the discrimation at policy level between the Assigned Land and Patta Land which is prohibited in the central land acquisition act of 2013.

After Amravati, Yatra reached to the public meeting in Ongole which was organized by Democratic Traditional Fishworkers Forum, APVVU, and State Yanadi Union.

Bhupendra Singh Rawat introduced the activists travelling with yatra to the people of the public meeting and said that now the ministers in the Government have come openly in public against the Constitution and we cannot let them destroy it. We resolved to fight against this and are travelling across the country making people aware about the intentions of BJP Government.

“The foremost problem of Andhra Pradesh is the proposed construction of 18 new ports and large number of power plants being commissioned around ports on the 760 kms long coastline of the state. All this is being done under Sagarmala and Industrial Corridor projects.”, said Pal from DTFF. The access to the coast is being systemically restricted for the fisherpeople. They are being forced to abandon their fishing practices and become migrant workers in their own state.

“We are unable to go for fishing as the rising urban population due to rapid urbanization around coasts and urban pollution are killing the fish population”, said A. Subharav, a fisherman.

Kati Padma and Vijayamma from Yana Community reflected on issues faced by their community due to social boycott and lack of basic housing facilities. They demanded one acre of land for each family under the land reform initiatives.

“The CRZ norms are being violated. The police officials brutally treat protesting fisher people. People are being killed and their bodies were taken away by the police forces.”, said K. Subharao, a teacher from the community.

Madhuresh Kumar from National Alliance of People’s Movements expressed solidarity with the protest against shipping corridor organised by National Fishworkers Forum along the coastline.

Parth from Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujarat described Sagaramala as an attack on fisher community across India and said that we need to stand together and fight against their attempt of selling off land, forests, rivers and coasts to industries and corporates.

Renowned social activists Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Odisha; Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party (India); Gabriele Dietrich, NAPM, Tamilnadu; Arundhati Dhuru, NAPM, Uttar Pradesh; Ashish Ranjan – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan (Bihar); Meera Sanghamitra – NAPM (Andhra Pradesh – Telangana); Bhupendra Singh Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini; Kiran Vissa, Rythu Swaraj Vedika, Telangana; Krishnakant – Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (Gujarat); Madhuresh Kumar – NAPM, Delhi; Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagve – NAPM Maharashtra; Sanjay Nazre – Vidrohi Sanskritik Andolan; Kamla Yadav and Rohit – Narmada Bachao Andolan; Yogiraj, Mahendra Rathore, Jayesh Lal – MNREGA Mazdoor Union, Purvanchal Kisan Union, Uttar Pradesh; Subhadra tai, Parvati tai, Ghanekar kaka, Sonu, Jameela – Ghar Bachao Ghar banao Andolan, Mumbai; Tilola Haldar, Mrityunjay Haldar – Sundaravan Shramjivi Sangathan; Ramashish Yadav, Premshila Yadav, Manisha Patil; Kalai, Vishnu, Vinod – Organic farmers, Tamilnadu; Fauziya – Jammu & Kashmir Soochna Adhikar Abhiyan; Madhusudan – Odisha; Akshit – Guhaar; Aryaman Jain, Aryan – Delhi; Rimpy – Student, Dibrugarh University; Himshi, Uma – NAPM Delhi, are traveling in the second phase as a part of Samvidhan Samman Yatra.

For further details, contact 9971058735 / 9867348307 / [email protected]

Discussion on Samvidhan Samman Yatra

  1. On VNM News – https://www.facebook.com/VNMNEWS/videos/851565491900666/
  2. महाराष्ट्रात होणाऱ्या संविधान यात्रेत सामील होण्याचे आवाहन… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfOlQqNTgCw&feature=youtu.be
  3. संविधान सन्मान यात्रा, Satara 24 taas – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aLMITeoKCI&feature=youtu.be

For details about Samvidhan Samman Yatra, check our website www.samvidhanyatra.wordpress.com

Call for Solidarity – https://samvidhanyatra.wordpress.com/call-for-solidarity/

Samvidhan Samman Yatra

We are standing at crossroads and passing through a critical juncture in India’s history and have a historical responsibility to save and salvage the ethos of this country, to fulfill the dreams of social, economic and political justice that Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar envisioned. There is an overwhelming urgency to come together, beyond diversity of perspectives, to safeguard the constitutional values and principles of humanity, based on social justice, liberty, equality, fraternity, scientific and rational thinking in the social psyche to deal with all these political, economic, social, cultural challenges. The need of the hour is to create understanding and tolerance in society, by peaceful, democratic and constitutional means. It is equally vital to aim for economic equity, social parity, environmental protection, sustainable development, establishment of people’s rights over access of resources and annihilation of caste and patriarchy.

It is with this urgency and spirit that National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has, after numerous discussions, planned to embark on a Samvidhan Samman Yatra – a nationwide tour to restore and protect the core values of our Constitution and democracy, at a time when there is an all-out attack on the Constitution, people’s rights, livelihoods, environment and the spirit of diversity in the country, even as massive scams, resource loot and dilution of laws are taking place and farmers, workers, students, employees, women, dalits, adivasis, muslims all are on the streets asserting their rights, spaces and freedoms.

Yatra shall travel more than 25000 Kms through 26 states in 65 days holding meetings, discussions, public events, supporting struggles, sharing grief of victims of the violence and hate and spreading message of plurality, love, peace and social justice. The Yatra shall culminate in a Manvadhikar Rally and Jan Sansad in Delhi on 10th December, 2018, the International Human Rights Day.

Related posts

Tamil Nadu- Excessive Land Grab in the name of industrial development

 

Industrial Pollution in Cuddalore district on rise, Underground water gets severely polluted as well

 

Youth of Shanmoga Nagar Basti showed the way to peace, equality, and way towards development.

 

Govt. trying to amend and destroy the welfare boards of Construction and Unorganized workers, Samvidhan Samman Yatra stands with the people fighting against the amendments.

 

Cuddalore, Tamilnadu: Today, Samvidhan Samman Yatra reached Shanmoga Nagar Basti in the morning and joined the struggle of People’s Rights Protection Forum. A large number of Youth participants welcomed the Yatra despite heavy rains.

 

Inamul Hassan from Khudai Khidmatgar talked in brief about the colony and said that Around five thousand families live in the colony. This is a resettlement colony, where people were rehabilitated after evictions from slums in the city. Since last 10 years, the colony is still facing lack of basic facilities. Youth and women are getting targeted when any crime happens in the city. Police suspect the residents of the colony as criminals and arrest them often. Since last two years, the residents have joined hands and worked hard to change the face of this area. Today, the area is equipped of all the basic facilities like well-built roads, proper drainage system, etc. A small community library has also been set up.

 

Sandeep Pandey from Socialist Party (India) and NAPM expressed his pleasure in joining the people of the colony and said that as the yatra is going on to bring awareness about how to protect constitutional rights. We have visited many places where social movements are happening for social change and we feel the same here in this colony. The efforts of youth and women are remarkable here. This is an achievement. It will be an example for many others. We urge the youth population to take active part in local-self Governance like Gram Sabha and Wards.

 

“There is need of youngsters walk with workers engaged in unorganized sector and stand united in their struggle”, said Geetha Ramakrishnan from NAPM.

 

Priya, a young girl from the community shared her story and said that “There are five girls in our group and everyone works collectively for the betterment of the community. During 2015 cyclone, we were involved in flood relief work. All our colleagues treat women with great respect. This needs to be replicated and understood as well by everyone in the society. We are all equal and can do wonders if not stopped.”

 

Prafulla Samantara echoed the views expressed by young girl and went down to the earlier time. “In 1972, when I came here for university tour and saw the respect for women here. We were proud and still proud to be associated with groups here. The commune living is an example for peace, equality, and harmony”, he said.

 

Vishnu, a young activist with Yatra added and said that such experiences brings changes in our lives as well. We rarely witness such collective work with so much of respect for each other. We need to learn from them and tell the people out there, who are on spree to mob lynching and spreading hatred on the basis of caste, class, religion, gender and race.

 

From here, the Yatra joined the demonstration on Central Codes and negative effects on Welfare Boards of Construction on Unorganized workers organised by Niramaan Mazdoor Panchayat Sangh and others.

 

Talking about the issues of unorganized workers, Inamul Haque said, “The Govt. is reshuffling everything, they did not leave the labour welfare board as well which works for the welfare of workers. The Modi govt. is trying to bring new laws which are completely unjust and exploitative. Our question is why Govt. is grabbing land, when they promised livelihood, people are asking for their rights and the Govt. in turn trying every measure to strangulate them. They are killing small fisherpeople. Now we won’t let them amend labour board. We will fight till we get out rights intact.

 

Narayan Swami, a leader from Nirmaan Mazdoor Panchayat Sangh said, “The Central Govt. is trying to amend all the boards. The Labour board provides security to workers and by amending it will affect the lives of not only workers but their families as well. Which will devastate a large population in the Tamilnadu.”

 

“We fought for Welfare Board and now we should resist any efforts against its original intention. We will not let it get amended.”, said Geetha Ramakrishnan.

 

Meera Sanghamitra shared the objective of Samvidhan Samman Yatra and assured the struggle of required support.

 

In the afternoon, the Yatra reached Cuddalore district, there are chemical industries affecting about 50 villages in the district. The major land acquisition is done by SIPCOT (State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamilnadu Ltd). A major chunk of land that is being acquired in the name of SIMA (South Indian Millers Association). They have acquired about 250 acres of land however their requirement is more than 400 acres of land. The area is already under severe pollution and it is also ranked 3rd in the Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CEPI) which is a study done for understanding the extent of pollution by Central Pollution Control Board. So, in the CEPI index, Cuddalore stands at No. 3 after two industrial estates of Gujarat. The area is also very rich in farming, the soil is very fertile. However, the land acquired by SIMA is still under-utilized. Most of the land is compounded but not used. There are not many industries in the area. It seems more like a land scam than a planned industrial development.

 

The village Periyapattu where a team of activists travelling with the Yatra met People’s Committee for Protection of Livelihood. The activists and leaders of the committee apprised us of the pollution ordeal that they are facing. On field visit we could also see the leakage and seepage of industrial effluents on to the field of farmers. There is a pipeline which goes into the sea to release the effluents. The local committee has been struggling against the pollution and the land grab since last decade.

 

The major issues raised by local committee members were that they have already lost much of their land under the SIPCOT scheme of industrial development. Whatever land is remaining with us is being polluted by release of effluents. Ground water has also got polluted and its colour has changed. Pollution is rampant and the inaction by local pollution control board and other responsible agencies.

 

The land which remains unutilized is being contested by local people that our land for paltry and now it is remaining unutilized since last few years. The local committee was very encouraged by presence of NAPM leaders, Prafulla Samantara from Odisha, Sandeep Pandey from Uttar Pradesh, Suniti SR from Maharashtra, and Krishnakant from Gujarat. NAPM leaders assured the committee leaders of full support in all the required manner and also suggested that the farmers should take possession of land because it is still being unutilized which is a waste of resources even for the country.

 

Renowned social activists Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Odisha; Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party (India); Gabriele Dietrich, NAPM, Tamilnadu; Arundhati Dhuru, NAPM, Uttar Pradesh; Ashish Ranjan – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan (Bihar); Meera Sanghamitra – NAPM (Andhra Pradesh – Telangana); Bhupendra Singh Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini; Suniti S R – NAPM Maharashtra; Krishnakant – Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (Gujarat); Madhuresh Kumar – NAPM, Delhi; Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagve – NAPM  Maharashtra; Sanjay Nazre – Vidrohi Sanskritik Andolan; Kamla Yadav and Rohit – Narmada Bachao Andolan; Yogiraj, Mahendra Rathore, Jayesh Lal – MNREGA Mazdoor Union, Purvanchal Kisan Union, Uttar Pradesh; Subhadra tai, Parvati tai, Ghanekar kaka, Sonu, Jameela – Ghar Bachao Ghar banao Andolan, Mumbai; Tilola Haldar, Mrityunjay Haldar – Sundaravan Shramjivi Sangathan; Ramashish Yadav, Premshila Yadav, Manisha Patil; Kalai, Vishnu, Vinod – Organic farmers, Tamilnadu; Fauziya – Jammu & Kashmir Soochna Adhikar Abhiyan; Madhusudan – Odisha; Akshit – Guhaar; Aryaman Jain, Aryan – Delhi; Rimpy – Student, Dibrugarh University; Himshi, Uma – NAPM Delhi, are traveling in the second phase as a part of Samvidhan Samman Yatra.

 

 

Discussion on Samvidhan Samman Yatra

  1. On VNM News –  https://www.facebook.com/VNMNEWS/videos/851565491900666/

  2. e

 

For details about Samvidhan Samman Yatra, check our website www.samvidhanyatra.wordpress.com

 

Call for Solidarity – https://samvidhanyatra.wordpress.com/call-for-solidarity/

 

Samvidhan Samman Yatra

We are standing at crossroads and passing through a critical juncture in India’s history and have a historical responsibility to save and salvage the ethos of this country, to fulfill the dreams of social, economic and political justice that Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar envisioned. There is an overwhelming urgency to come together, beyond diversity of perspectives, to safeguard the constitutional values and principles of humanity, based on social justice, liberty, equality, fraternity, scientific and rational thinking in the social psyche to deal with all these political, economic, social, cultural challenges. The need of the hour is to create understanding and tolerance in society, by peaceful, democratic and constitutional means. It is equally vital to aim for economic equity, social parity, environmental protection, sustainable development, establishment of people’s rights over access of resources and annihilation of caste and patriarchy.

It is with this urgency and spirit that National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has, after numerous discussions,  planned to embark on a Samvidhan Samman Yatra – a nationwide tour to restore and protect the core values of our Constitution and democracy, at a time when there is an all-out attack on the Constitution, people’s rights, livelihoods, environment and the spirit of diversity in the country, even as massive scams, resource loot and dilution of laws are taking place and farmers, workers, students, employees, women, dalits, adivasis, muslims all are on the streets asserting their rights, spaces and freedoms.

Yatra shall travel more than 25000 Kms through 26 states in 65 days holding meetings, discussions, public events, supporting struggles, sharing grief of victims of the violence and hate and spreading message of plurality, love, peace and social justice. The Yatra shall culminate in a Manvadhikar Rally and Jan Sansad in Delhi on 10th December, 2018, the International Human Rights Day.

Related posts

India – Mothers of 57% newborns not entitled to maternity benefits

Central government’s maternity benefit scheme excludes more women than it covers

maternity

Only 3.2 million of the country's 25 million pregnant women have received cash under the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana since it was implemented in January 2017 (Credit: Vikas Choudhary) Only 3.2 million of the country’s 25 million pregnant women have received cash under the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana since it was implemented in January 2017 (Credit: Vikas Choudhary)

Nazarin has a two-and-a-half-month old daughter. Born this July, two months before the due date, the girl looks extremely frail as the two wait for the doctor at a community health centre in Ghaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh.

In March, Nazarin registered for the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)—the Union government’s maternity benefit scheme that seeks to ensure pregnant women get proper nutrition—and should have received Rs 1,000 in her bank account by May. The rules of the scheme say that the first instalment of Rs 1,000 should be transferred before the completion of the fifth month of pregnancy, the second instalment of Rs 2,000 after the first antenatal checkup and the third instalment of Rs 2,000 when the birth is registered and the first set of vaccination done. But even by the end of September, Nazarin says, she has not received any money.

Nazarin’s is not an isolated case. Y K Sandhya from Sahyog, a non-profit working on issues related to reproductive health in Uttar Pradesh, says there are reports from all districts of the state about women not receiving any money. According to Sachin Jain from Vikas Samvad, a non-profit in Madhya Pradesh, a majority of the babies born in the state are not getting the benefit under the scheme. Since the Cabinet approved the scheme in May 2017, with effect from January 2017, over 25 million babies have been born in the country, as per Health Management Information System, an online portal run by the Union government. But only about 3.2 million women have received cash under the benefit scheme till August 26, 2018, according to a query filed under the Right To Information (RTI) Act by Delhi-based journalist Somrita Dude.

PMMVY was announced by the prime minister on December 31, 2016, when he said that all pregnant women across the country will get an incentive of Rs 6,000. The scheme was in accordance with the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, which makes it mandatory for the government to provide Rs 6,000 to every pregnant and lactating mother to ensure nutritional support to women and children.

But when the scheme was cleared by the Cabinet, its form and shape had changed. First, it was only applicable to the first live birth. Second, only women over 19 years were eligible. Third, it was limited to only institutionalised deliveries.

And fourth, instead of Rs 6,000, the cash incentive was reduced to Rs 5,000. The Cabinet announcement said that Rs 1,000 were to be used for the services provided during institutional deliveries under the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY). All these clauses have resulted in exclusion of a large number of pregnant women from the crucial benefit scheme.

Why just firstborns?

Limiting the scheme to only the first live birth excludes a majority of pregnant women in the country. On an average, 43 per cent of children born every year in India are firstborns, says Sample Registration System (SRS) 2014, undertaken by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India. This means that the remaining 57 per cent would be out of the purview of the scheme. “It is strange that the government does not deem it necessary to ensure nutrition of the second or third child,” says Sejal Dand from Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch, a Telangana-based informal forum working on issues related to women farmers. Moreover, limiting the scheme to firstborns is contradictory to NFSA, which guarantees all pregnant and lactating women Rs 6,000. “A government scheme cannot be in contravention of an Act of Parliament. Only Parliament can amend an Act,” says Dand.

The firstborn norm also means that states with high fertility rates would face greater exclusion. For instance, states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which are underdeveloped, malnourished and poor, have fertility rates of 3.4 and 2.7. But these have not benefitted much from PMMVY. In Uttar Pradesh, not a single woman had received money under PMMVY in Uttar Pradesh till August 26, 2018, as per the RTI query filed by Dude. The figures for Uttarakhand and Assam were 7,670 and 1,503. The best performing states were Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Telangana (see ‘Malnourished and sidelined’).

Source: Sample Registration System, Census 2011; National Family Health Survey 2015-16; Right To Information query

Also, the fertility rate in rural India is 2.5, while the figure for urban India is 1.8, according to SRS 2015. There-fore, the scheme will hurt women in rural areas more. Even the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 says that women in the lowest wealth quintile have an average of 1.6 more children than women in the highest quintile. As a result, the poor will face greater exclusion.

Penalising underage mothers

According to Census 2011, about 30 per cent of women in the country are married before they turn 18. They would be excluded from the benefit if they become pregnant before turning 19. “A large number of women in India have no control over when they marry or conceive. They are being punished for no fault of theirs,” says Dand.

As per NFHS 2015-16, about 80 per cent deliveries in the country do not take place in hospitals. Since the scheme is only for institutionalised deliveries, these women will not be covered. “Those who do not come to hospitals are the ones who really need monetary help. Why are they excluded? A majority of states are still struggling to ensure 100 per cent institutional delivery,” argues Jain.

Even the clubbing of PMMVY and JSY to reach the figure of Rs 6,000 is problematic. Dipa Sinha from Right to Food Campaign, a Delhi-based network dealing with a variety of public issues, says it is wrong to club the two schemes because they are for different purposes. While PMMVY is to ensure nutrition, JSY is to encourage institutionalised deliveries. Moreover, there are many states, such as Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra, that offer only Rs 700 under JSY. The sum of cash benefits under the two schemes in such states will not reach Rs 6,000, which is the minimum amount mandated under NFSA. “NFSA is the umbrella law and PMMVY has to be guided by it. It cannot be the other way round,” says Sudeshna Sengupta, a Delhi-based activist working on issues related to food security.

Tamil Nadu, Odisha show way

Only two states in the country—Tamil Nadu and Odisha—have their own maternity benefit schemes and these offer more benefits than PMMVY. In Tamil Nadu, the government runs Dr Muthulakshmi Maternity Assistance Scheme which provides pregnant mothers Rs 14,000 in cash and a nutritional kit worth Rs 4,000 for the first two pregnancies. When the scheme was launched in 1987, the cash incentive was Rs s 300.

Rubina Khatun of Ghaziabad is pregnant with her third child and will not be eligible for the maternity benefit scheme which covers only the first live birth

The Odisha government runs Mamata maternity benefit scheme which provides Rs 5,000 for the first two pregnancies of all women. “For vulnerable groups, like tribals, the money can be given for even the third birth,” says Bidyut Mohanty, secretary of Society for Promoting Rural Education and Development, an Odisha-based non-profit working on issues related to the marginalised communities. The success of Mamata was also corroborated in a study published in PLOS One in December 2017. The study found that over 95 per cent women spent the money provided under the scheme on food and medicine. However, like PMMVY, the maternity benefit schemes of Tamil Nadu and Odisha are only applicable to women above 19 years of age.

Government unperturbed

The ill-conceived scheme has even drawn the attention of the Supreme Court. In July 2018, while hearing a 2015 petition filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties, a Delhi-based human rights organisation, the court asked the government to respond to issues related to the exclusion of a large number of women and the delay in the implementation of the scheme. “The government is yet to file a response,” says Aditya Shrivastava, an advocate fighting the case.

(This story wasa first published in Down To Earth’s print edition of October 1-16)

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WhatsApp from Sardar Patel I am going to boycott the Program of 31 October 2018

By- Rohit Prajapati,

WhatsApp from Sardar Patel

I am upset, depressed

Looking at “Statue of Unity Project”

It is Symbol of ‘River Lynching’, ‘Violence and Violations’

It is De-Facto Statue of…

Miseries and exploitation of Narmada River, Downstream River and her Ecology, Ecological-Flow, Tribals, Downstream Villagers, Livelihood, Social and Environment Justice, Democracy, Ecology, Natural Resources, Valuable  Human Resources, Wildlife, Sanctuary, …

Long List.

I am going to Boycott

The Inaugural Program of “Statute of Unity Project” on 31 October 2018

I will be on hunger strike on 31 October 2018

I will register my protest on 31 October 2018

What about you?

Because It is a Symbol of

Ego,

Arrogance,

Dictatorship,

Anti-River-ism,

River Lynching,

Criminal Action,

Anti-People-ism,

Authoritarianism,

Anti-Ecology-ism,

State Repression,

Violence and Violations,

Wasteful Spending, ……………………….

___________________

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