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Risking Health Of Its Women, India Uses Controversial Contraceptive In Family Planning Programme

Shaifali Agrawal,

parivarvikas_620

 

In July this year, the Indian government introduced an injectable contraceptive, depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), best known as depo provera, into the public health system. The contraceptive would be made available for free through Mission Parivar Vikas, which seeks to improve family planning services in 145 high-focus districts.

 

This was an important development for India, which is set to surpass China as the world’s most populous nation by 2024 and where millions of women (12.9%) who need contraceptives do not have access to them.

 

However, DMPA has long been controversial, being linked to a range of health issues including osteoporosis, breast cancer, and delayed return of fertility. Those who support its use, including government agencies, say its benefits outweigh its risks, that it will be administered with informed consent, and that use in the private sector has already settled suspicions about its side-effects.

 

Women’s rights groups and health activists point out, on the other hand, that widespread illiteracy makes informed consent a farce in Indian settings, where the healthcare system displays a Malthusian aversion to population growth, especially among the poor. They warn that the Rs 100 incentive for the user may unfairly induce women to choose DMPA over more appropriate alternatives, and health workers may push it without properly informing women of its potential risks as required under the rules.

 

Why DMPA

 

DMPA is a progestogen-only drug injected intra-muscularly. It acts by inhibiting ovulation, thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the endometrial lining to make it difficult for the fertilised ovum to implant itself.

 

It does not need to be taken daily but once in three months, and women with unsupportive husbands can use it without letting them know.

 

However, it is suspected to contribute to, as we said, osteoporosis and breast cancer, and to make it difficult to conceive for upto a year after discontinuation. It does not help prevent the spread of HIV, and possibly increases the chances of contracting it. Also, there are practical problems in administering it in India’s public healthcare system.

 

The contraceptive has been introduced under Mission Parivar Vikas across 145 districts in seven states that have Total Fertility Rates (TFR) of more than or equal to 3, with the aim of reducing this to the replacement-level fertility rate of 2.1 by 2025.

 

Across India, as per the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), 12.9% women do not have access to contraceptives that they need, and 5.7% to spacing methods. India’s maternal mortality rate is among the highest in Southeast Asia–174 per 100,000 live births. Adequate contraception could reduce maternal deaths by 29% a year around the world, according to a 2012 study published in the Lancet.

 

Source: World Health Statistics 2017, World Health Organization

 

Different contraceptive options serve varied purposes depending on a woman’s age and stage in life, Abhijit Das from the Delhi-based NGO Centre for Health and Social Justice told IndiaSpend. One type of contraceptive might be useful for someone whose primary concern is to prevent infection, another might suit couples who want to avoid conception, and yet another may work best for those who have intercourse occasionally.

 

Health concerns and studies in India

 

So a new contraceptive should be good news for adding to the bouquet of choices available. In the case of DMPA, however, the situation is complicated.

 

There has been no definitive research in India on Indian subjects to put the question of its suspected health risks such as osteoporosis and breast cancer at rest. A 2006 study showed longer duration of use (2-5 years) was associated with more loss and less complete recovery of bone mass density, which can increase one’s chances of acquiring osteoporosis. A 2012 studyshowed that recent DMPA use for 12 months or longer was associated with a 2.2-fold increased risk of invasive breast cancer, although the elevated risk of breast cancer associated with DMPA appears to dissipate after use is stopped. Both studies were conducted abroad.

 

“We have always asked for…independent data before you put it out there,” Vani Subramaniam from Saheli said, data that would be generated “in India, and within the populations you are going to reach with the family planning programme. And not by studies that are funded by companies that are making profit from it”.

 

“Research is not race-, caste- and gender-neutral,” Mohan Rao, professor of Social Medicine and Community Health at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, said. “Most scientists in the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) would be trained in the neo-Malthusian way of thinking. They believe that population is the biggest problem, and so we should do something about controlling population.”

 

This March, the World Health Organization (WHO) reclassified DMPA from “safe for everyone” to “benefits outweigh the risk” for women at high risk of contracting HIV, after reviewing 35 years of research. Some public health groups insist that women and couples at high risk of HIV acquisition must be provided with male and female condoms, regardless of which family planning method they choose.

 

Among the dozen public health experts IndiaSpend spoke to, the majority said DMPA must be used cautiously, or not at all. C Sathyamala, author of an epidemiological review (health or disease surveillance to identify risk factors) based on five years of research, said even one injection can be harmful. The Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) and the NGO FHI360 said, respectively, that after two years it should be reviewed “on a case-to-case basis” and used “with caution”.

 

“There is no perfect method. All methods have some or the other side-effects,” Das said, adding that most neighbouring countries use it, “but we have not seen the kind of complications we expected from there”. He termed it “reasonably safe” for short-term use, but emphasised its use should be limited to short durations.

 

Source: Trends In Contraceptive Use Worldwide (2015), United Nations

 

However, the government’s reference manual on DMPA says “there is no limit to the number of years DMPA can be continuously used.” “There are no long-term impacts, even if one uses it for 10 years,” said Suneeta Mittal, a gynaecologist at FORTIS who was engaged with the government on depo provera.

 

Provider-controlled method in unaccountable system

 

Like most hormonal contraceptives, DMPA has several temporary side-effects: Menstrual changes, weight gain, headache, changes in mood, and decrease in sex drive.

 

“Counselling and education of clients are most effective in management of side-effects and certainly influence continuation rates,” Manisha Bhise, Director Clinical Services and Quality Assurance at FPAI, said. Counselling means giving information on all the contraceptive options available, and the side-effects of each.

 

However, less than half (46.5%) the current users had ever been told about the side-effects of a method of contraception in NFHS-4.

 

According to the WHO’s Medical Eligibility Criteria 2015, DMPA should not be used by women with multiple risk factors for arterial cardiovascular disease, such as advanced age, smoking, diabetes and hypertension; unexplained vaginal bleeding before evaluation; a history of current or past breast cancer; and other medical conditions.

 

“Do the doctors have time in primary health system to do the hormonal assessment–and look at contraindications?” N Sarojini, director of SAMA Women’s Resource Centre, asked.

 

Das argues that all methods of contraception require screening, and that should not deter their use. “Can the system do screening for sterilisation, which has chances for infections, failures, and death if not done correctly? Today even IUDs are pushed in a coercive manner,” he said.

 

Even in the US, the majority of the 12 million women using depo provera belong to the marginalised or less-empowered communities. A “myth of informed consent is promoted as a safeguard and to protect the manufacturers from liability clause”, Sathyamala said.

 

Those opposed to DMPA say it is hazardous even if used in the “best” way. “If I were a woman, I wouldn’t use it even if I had the money [to go to private practitioner offering better quality of service],” Yogesh Jain, founder of Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS), a people’s health support group in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, said.

 

How it came to be introduced

 

During 1993-94, when DMPA was introduced in the private sector, women’s rights groups had approached the Supreme Court seeking a ban on it, in addition to other drugs.

 

In 1995, the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) of the drugs regulator, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, which decides technical matters pertaining to drugs, issued an order that DMPA should not be allowed for mass use in the National Family Planning Programme and that its use should be restricted to women who are aware of the implications of its use.

 

The litigation concluded in February 2001. A number of drugs were banned, but DMPA was allowed in the private sector, where, it was hoped, it would be administered after counselling and with informed consent.

 

More recently, the interest in injectables has grown after the global movement FP2020 was launched by the UK government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2012, aiming to reach 120 million women in poor and developing nations by 2020, 40% of whom live in India.

 

On February 16, 2015, the DTAB held a meeting to discuss the Department of Family Welfare’s  proposal to introduce DMPA into the public health facilities under the Family Planning Programme. “It has recently been discovered that the osteoporotic effects of the injection grow worse, the longer Depo-Provera is administered and may remain long after the injections are stopped, and may be irreversible,” DTAB noted.

 

It also noted that the US Food and Drug Administration had kept DMPA under its strictest ‘black box’ warning since 2004 on similar concerns. It said DMPA should be used as a long-term birth control method only when there is no alternative available.

 

The DTAB recommended that the Department of Family Welfare “examine the matter in consultation with the leading gynaecologists of the country”.

 

On July 24, 2015, the head of the family planning division of the department held a national consultation with representatives of government medical colleges and leading civil society organisations including the ICMR, Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India, FPAI, PFI and FHI360 India.

 

Those opposed to DMPA, such as SAMA, Saheli, Jan Swasthiya Abhiyan (a coalition of more than 1,000 organisations) and respected professionals, were absent from the list of invitees.

 

It was agreed that since DMPA had been used in the private sector for 20 years with no adverse events reported, no pilot study was required. Working on this recommendation, the DTAB agreed to introduce DMPA in the public health system on August 18, 2015.

 

Essentially, the DTAB changed its stance without any discussion with the opposing groups and without any scientific evidence, a memorandum signed by more than 70 health groups pointed out. “Given that the safety and other concerns regarding Depo Provera remain and have not been resolved, we wish to know the basis and the rationale for this sudden granting of approval by the DTAB,” the memorandum said.

 

DTAB did not respond to questions for this story.

 

Concerns remain

 

By introducing DMPA without a pilot and in the absence of any long-term studies, the government has acted on a crucial matter of public health without adequate scientific evidence, Sathyamala said, adding that “anecdotes cannot replace well-designed study”.

 

Yet, there were few protests against the DTAB’s decision, which Rao blames on “a certain kind of NGO-isation of the women’s movement” that shows a weakened health movement and women’s movement. “When there were early efforts to introduce injectables, there were massive demonstrations at Ministry of Health & Family Welfare,” Rao said. “Today we could only do a signature campaign.”

 

The campaign against DMPA and the questions around it remain relevant, Smitha Nair, who teaches at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, wrote in the February 2017 issue of the Economic and Political Weekly. Reproductive rights, when reduced to “choice of contraceptives” without considering the overall health and wellbeing of women, result only in the control and “unfreedom” of women, she wrote.

 

IndiaSpend Solutions
Attribution Solution Explanation
Abhijit Das, Centre for Health and Social Justice Promote the use of condoms. “Korea and Japan which have a high rate1 of condom use (23.9% and 46.1%, respectively) have low total fertility rates of 1.1 and 1.2 (per 1,000 women). Condoms are a cheap, least invasive, safe, user-controlled and effective option not just for contraception, but for prevention of infection (HIV, STDs, STIs). Men need to be responsible and involved in the decision-making process regarding family-planning.”
Any spacing methods which are safe and reliable, such as diaphragms, should be introduced in the public health system. “Women have to have access to methods. Contraceptive needs of unmarried women also need to be acknowledged… More methods will allow women to chose the one that suits their needs best.”
N Sarojini,
SAMA Women’s Resource Centre
Put DMPA off until 2019 when the result of the ‘Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes’ (ECHO) trial provides clarity on its potential link with HIV acquisition. ECHO is an ongoing randomized trial that seeks to provide definitive information on the risk of HIV acquisition associated with different contraceptive methods. Study results will not be available before 2019.
Jashodhara Dasgupta, Sahyog From a civil society point of view, meet the need for information on contraceptive options; and empower users to monitor these services themselves. “Experience with NRHM had shown that when we are looking at poor people accessing family planning services, they do not work until the poor people are informed and are themselves empowered to actively monitor whether these services are working or not.”
Remove incentives. Under the MPV, the health worker who administers the injection and the woman who receives it both get an incentive of Rs 100 each. “Incentives are considered a form of disguised coercion.”
Mohan Rao, Jawaharlal Nehru University India needs an institution like theNational Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE2) in the UK to routinely scrutinise all technologies. “We can’t blindly accept technologies for what they promise,” he said, citing the example of the ultrasound technology that has been used to determine the sex of the unborn child in order to selectively abort female foetuses, skewing India’s sex ratio.

1. Trends In Contraceptive Use Worldwide (2015), United Nations; 2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

http://www.indiaspend.com/cover-story/risking-health-of-its-women-india-uses-controversial-contraceptive-in-family-planning-programme-36857

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After starvation death case: Jharkhand minister scraps top state official’s order on Aadhaar-PDS link

 

The order also pointed out that on April 6, the minister had written to his secretary asking for a self-contained report on how the chief secretary could issue such a direction. However, the report was never filed.

Written by Prashant Pandey | Ranchi |

Koyli Devi, whose family had been removed from the state PDS list. Her daughter Santoshi died last month. (File)

Four days after questioning the directions given by the Jharkhand chief secretary on mandatorily linking Aadhaar to ration cards by April 5, state PDS Minister Saryu Roy Saturday passed an order cancelling the instructions issued by the government’s top official. Citing a Government of India circular of February 8, Roy said beneficiaries could produce any approved identity document to avail of ration under the PDS. The order, which has been accessed by The Sunday Express, said: “It is clear that the direction issued by the Chief Secretary on March 27 through video-conferencing and given in writing to the department Secretary on March 29 is in contravention of the directions already issued by the Government of India and, therefore, it is liable to be annulled.”

Efforts to reach Chief Secretary Rajbala Verma by phone for a comment did not succeed. Text messages were not replied to. The order said that in a circular issued on February 8, the Union Ministry of Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution had said that the drive to get ration cards linked with Aadhaar would be intensified. However, nobody would be denied rations for want of the same, and they could avail of their quota by producing any of the approved identity documents, such as Aadhaar enrolment number, Aadhaar application slip, voter ID, driving licence, authenticated letter by tehsildar or a gazetted officer, passport, PAN, Kisan Photo Passbook or any other document approved by the state or central government.

The order said: “The direction of the Government of India is absolutely clear… It shows the sensitivity of the Government to ensure that the beneficiaries keep getting rations under any circumstance. However, at the state level, it reflects an acute of lack of sensitivity among the responsible officers, which is sad.”

The order also pointed out that on April 6, the minister had written to his secretary asking for a self-contained report on how the chief secretary could issue such a direction. However, the report was never filed.

Roy told The Sunday Express over the phone: “I had raised the issue and waited for some kind of clarification for four days. Nothing has been put up before me. Therefore, I have passed the written order. The directive of the Government of India and several other rulings of the Supreme Court make it amply clear that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for lifting of rations.”

He also said that he has asked officials to review all 11.5 lakh ration cards that were cancelled after the exercise of linking them with Aadhaar was launched in October last year. “The figure has been mentioned in the 1,000-day booklet of the government. But I was waiting for a break-up of this number before approving the file. This has not been done yet. Now, I have asked officials to review the whole thing and find out how many cards have got cancelled due to non-availability of Aadhaar,” Roy said.

The state government claims that they had deleted 11.5 lakh “fake” or “ineligible” ration cards, while adding more than nine lakh new ones under the new system.

The minister also expressed his reservations over top officials giving directions to lower-level officials, leading to confusion. “I have been visiting one village every week to review the working of the ration shops. I have realised that junior officials spend a lot of time listening to instructions from the top, and don’t get ample time to execute the task at hand,” he said.

Now, the Jharkhand government has launched a toll-free number — 1800 212 55 12 — where people can leave complaints about problems in the food distribution system, apart from clarifying that the unique identity number is not needed to receive food from the government.

“Aadhaar card is not mandatory. Any card, including a driver’s licence and voter ID card or any specified card, is permissible for procuring food grains,” Jharkhand Food Minister Saryu Roy said. “Grain banks” will be set up in every block, the minister said.

Secretary, PDS Vinay Chaubey could not be reached for a comment. According to a state government press release issued on March 27, the chief secretary’s directive followed a review meeting with PDS officials. “In the course of review, the CS has said that by April 5 all such ration cards, which don’t have Aadhaar, will become ineligible and only Aadhaar-based system would be used for lifting ration,” the release said.

The family of 11-year-old Santoshi, who died in Simdega district last month, allegedly due to non-availability of ration, had been removed from the state’s PDS because their Aadhaar cards were not linked to the new list issued by the government.

After starvation death case: Jharkhand minister scraps top state official’s order on Aadhaar-PDS link

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Bihar – Minor kidnapped , married and sterilised without Screening #WTFnews

16 year old school girl was kidnapped by a distant relative at Gun Point, taken to a temple to get married forcibly and made to undergo sterilisation operation without her consent at a Private Hospital in Banka District of Bihar. Close Family members of the girl and the relative were also involved.

बिना जांच के किया गया नाबालिग का ऑपरेशन

प्रेमी के परिजन व चिकित्सक की मिलीभगत
बांका : सदर थाना क्षेत्र के मतडीहा गांव के 9वीं कक्षा की 16 वर्षीय नाबालिग छात्रा का अपहरण कर शादी के बाद बंध्याकरण का मामला गरमाता जा रहा है. उक्त घटना की जानकारी अखबार की माध्यम से जिनको भी हुई वो आवाक रह गये और लोगों ने कहा कि जो भी लोग घटना को अंजाम देने में शामिल है उन्हें कड़ी से कड़ी सजा मिलनी चाहिए.
 वहीं पीड़िता ने कहा कि शनिवार को बांका न्यायालय में हुए 164 के ब्यान में उन्होंने कहा है कि बिना उसके अनुमति के जबर्दस्ती बौंसी अस्पताल के रेफरल प्रभारी डॉ आरके सिंह के नीजी क्लिनिक में उसका बंध्याकरण कराया गया.
बंध्याकरण कराने में प्रेमी सह पति बबलू यादव के अलावे प्रेमी की पहली पत्नी के मामा कुंदन यादव, ससुर श्याम सुंदर यादव व पीड़िता के सगे मामा अनिल यादव व अशोक यादव व मामी मीणा देवी व रूपा देवी शामिल है.
साथ ही पीड़िता ने यह भी बताया कि वो बांका के एक उच्च विद्यालय की छात्रा है. रिश्ते में ममेरा जीजा लगने के कारण वो बराबर मेरे घर आते जाते रहते थे. इसी दौरान नवरात्र के पहले दिन वो हमारे घर शाम में पहुंचे और रात में घर पर रुक गये.
रात में परिवार के सभी सदस्यों के सोने के बाद वो मुझे पिस्तौल के नोक पर घर से जबर्दस्ती उठाकर देवघर मंदिर में जाकर मांग में सिंदूर डाल दिया. शादी के करीब 18वें दिन उसने अपने परिवार वालों के सहयोग से बंध्याकरण करावा दिया और जीवन भर के लिए मुझे मातृत्व लाभ से वंचित कर दिया.
रुपये के लालच में जीवन कर िदया बरबाद
 धरती के दूसरे भगवान कहे जाने वाले डॉक्टर पर से अब लोगों का भरोसा उठने लगा है. भगवान ही पैसे के लालच में लोगों के जिंदगी से खेलने लगे है.
उन्हें यह तक एहसास नहीं कि उनकी एक लालच जीवन भर के लिए किसी की जिंदगी को बरबाद कर सकता है. मात्र 25 हजार रूपये की लालच में बौंसी रेफरल अस्पताल के प्रभारी चिकित्सक डॉ आरके सिंह ने एक 9 वीं कक्षा की 16 वर्षीय छात्रा का बंध्याकरण बिना किसी जांच पड़ताल के कर दिया और एक जिंदगी को जीवन भर के लिए मां बनने के सुख से वंचित कर दिया. हालांकि डॉक्टर के द्वारा किये गये इस कुकृत्य घटना को लेकर पुलिस प्रशासन  के द्वारा जांच की जायेगी.
कहते हैं पदाधिकारी
अपहरण के बाद शादी व 18 वें दिन पीड़िता के बंध्याकरण की घटना में शामिल जो भी लोग होंगे उनके ऊपर कार्रवाई तय है. चाहे घटना को अंजाम देने में  अपहरणकर्ता के परिजन हो या बंध्याकरण करने वाले चिकित्सक सभी के ऊपर अनुसंधान के बाद कानूनी कार्रवाई की जायेगी.
एसके दास, एसडीपीओ, बांका

http://www.prabhatkhabar.com/news/banka/story/1069875.html

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Linking Of Aadhaar To Heartbeat: A Positive Step

 

aadhaar-image

I linked my Aadhaar to my PAN card.
Then I linked my PAN card to my bank account.
Then I linked my Aadhaar to my bank account.
Then I linked my Aadhaar to my tax return.
Then I linked my Aadhaar to my LPG gas connection.
Then I linked my Aadhaar to my mobile phone.
Then the Government issued a decree ordering
that all persons must link their Aadhaar to their heartbeat
within three months or face discontinuation of the heartbeat.
Unfortunately, I was not able to link my Aadhaar to my heartbeat
on the Central Cardio-Monitoring System
due to technical glitches and the monumental pile-up
so my heartbeat was discontinued and I died
on DD/MM/YYYY termination time: 06:04:32.

Now, looking back from heaven or hell or wherever,
I contemplate the 23,482,154 persons who died like me
for failure to comply with the edict
and I scan the voices of well-paid apologists—
TV pundits, newspaper columnists, sociologists—
who claim the Aadhaar-Cardio linkage
was a bold, courageous, totally justified experiment
that will yield many long-term benefits, just like demonetisation,
even though the Aadhaar-Cardio Program did cause some
“inconvenience to the common man”
just like demonetisation which also killed countless people
through job loss, wrecked businesses, shattered lives, cash-starved farms,
lack of food and medicine.
Up here or down here
in heaven or hell or wherever,
there is no Aadhaar
there is no PAN
there is no heartbeat
there is no inconvenience to the common man (or woman)
except the dread of having to go back to join the sheeple.

NOTE: Neither the Indian Government nor UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) has issued a directive requiring each person to link his or her Aadhaar card number with specific bodily functions (circulatory, excretory, pulmonary, reproductive, etc.), to the best of my knowledge. This piece is purely a work of fiction. There is no undue cause for alarm as yet.

FACT: Mobile phone companies in India in recent weeks have been sending menacing, illegitimate text messages to their customers warning them to register their Aadhaar number with the mobile phone company or face deactivation of service. (“As per Government directive, it is mandatory to link Aadhaar with your mobile number. Visit your nearest mobile retail outlet/retailer now.”) A high court or the Supreme Court has yet to decide whether the mobile phone companies can force you to provide them with your fingerprints (“Your mobile service provider insisting on linking Aadhar? It’s illegitimate if not illegal”. India Today, October 5, 2017 (http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/aadhaar-mobile-service-provider/1/1061878.html) If the Supreme Court approves the telecom companies’ demand, expect long lines outside the mobile phone companies’ retail outlets—lines that may dwarf the lethal crowds gathered outside banks due to Modi’s immoral demonetisation disaster which killed 150 people and probably thousands more.

Walt Gelles, an American writer currently living in India, is the author of Options: The Alternative Cancer Therapy Book (Penguin Random House/Avery) and has published articles at GlobalResearch.ca, OpEdNews, and other websites.

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Farmer Organizations oppose Central government’s attempt to replace PDS with Cash Transfers

 Demand protection of Right to Food and Procurement of Crops

On the occasion of World Food Day, a Roundtable meeting titled “Protect Right to Food – Strengthen PDS and MSP” was organized at Sundarayya Kendram by All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) and the farmer organizations who are part of it. This was organized in the light of the Central government notification to all states that they should begin replacing the Public Distribution System with DBT scheme to give cash instead of rations. All the participants strongly opposed the concerted actions by the Central government to dismantle PDS and phase away the Minimum Support System and procurement of crops.

 

The farmer organizations demanded that the government should immediately stop the moves to replace PDS with Cash Transfers. Instead they should give enhanced Minimum Support Price to farmers and expand the procurement to include millets, pulses and oilseeds. AIKSCC stated that the Govt. of India buys more than 65 million tonnes of food grain from peasants at a Minimum Support Price and distributes the same in rations. With DBT govt. will stop procuring, it will end MSP pricing, it will wind up FCI godowns as per Shanta Kumar Committee recommendations.

 

The farmer organizations demanded the protection of Right to Food for the poor and underprivileged, with continuation of PDS system with good quality rice as well as pulses, sugar, cooking oil and salt to each family every month to secure food and well-being. In the name of circumventing corruption, the govt proposes NO FOOD, ONLY CASH, i.e. DBT or Direct Benefit Transfer. All cash schemes too are riddled with corruption which has continued to rise with the NDA regime since 2014. Food is a basic and universal right. More than 19 crore people of India sleep hungry every day. More than 48% children below 5 years of age in India are malnourished and stunted. Among the 79 countries listed to have severe malnutrition, India ranks 65thbelow Nepal and Bangladesh.

 

Leaders of 11 organizations participated in the roundtable including Telangana Rythu Sangham, All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha, Telangana Rythu JAC, Rythu Swarajya Vedika, Telangana Rythanga Samiti, Telangana Vyavasaya Karmika Sangham, A.P. Vyavasaya Vruttidarula Union, Human Rights Forum, National Alliance of People’s Movements, Telangana Raitanga Samakhya, and Telangana Rythu Sankshema Samiti. The main speakers included included Ravi Kanneganti, Justice Chandrakumar, Vemulapalli Venkatramayya, Dr.A.Prasad Rao, T.Sagar, Kirankumar Vissa, Bonthala Chandra Reddy, Sambayya and Dharmapal.

 

In light of the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in December 2017, the farmer organizations also alleged that the WTO is pressurizing the government to wind up food subsidy. It is already stopping cooking gas subsidy and kerosene oil subsidy. It has already reduced fertilizer subsidy. AIKSCC demands that Indian Government should take a strong stand and not sacrifice food security, sovereignty and farmers’ interests to protect corporate trade interests with developed countries.

 

All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) consists of about 200 farmers’ organizations from across the country including all the major national level organizations. AIKSCC is organizing nation-wide Kisan Mukti Yatra which has already completed 14 states in the first 3 phases (Western India, South India and North India). Three more phases of the Yatra are planned, and the culmination will be in a historic national farmers’ rally and Kisan Sansad at Delhi from November 20th.

 

Contact: Kirankumar Vissa  (Rythu Swarajya Vedika): 9701705743; T.Sagar (Telangana Rythu Sangham): 9490098055; V.Venkatramayya (All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha): 8639873720; Ravi Kanneganti (Telangana Rythu JAC):9912928422;

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Jharkhand girl starving to death shows ‘ #Aadhaar savings’ built on gross exclusions

The poor and vulnerable are dismissed as ‘ghosts’ and ‘frauds’ while authentication errors lead to many going hungry.

India has not only slipped three points on the global hunger index, falling behind North Korea and Iraq, it has also started witnessing children being starved to death because their ration cards were not “linked to Aadhaar”. A report by the portal Scroll.in claims that an 11-year-old girl in Jharkhand went without food and died eventually because her family didn’t have Aadhaar-linked ration cards and they were denied food items by the Aadhaar-driven PDS.

This, despite PM Modi and his retinue of ministers and supporters going on and on about “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao”.

That this denying of food and ration because the cards weren’t connected to Aadhaar is a gross violation of the Right to Life, Food Security Act and Aadhaar’s own “voluntary” nature by law, and the Supreme Court guidelines on the PDS-UID link, goes without saying. However, what’s even more tragic is that this could be foreseen by civil rights activists and commentators, reporting on the “Aadhaar exclusions” months in advance.

Santoshi Kumari, the 11-year-old girl who died of starvation, had gone without food for nearly eight days when she succumbed to it. Her family’s ration card was cancelled because it wasn’t linked to their Aadhaar number, while mid-day meals at her school weren’t available because of Durga Puja holidays, says the report. As a result, Santoshi Kumari hadn’t had a morsel of food for over a week, even though her family was eligible to avail food rations as per the Food Security Act, but was denied rations for six months because their card wasn’t Aadhaar-linked.

As the Centre is hell bent in linking Aadhaar to almost every service, public and private, in India, the gross violations of fundamental rights, and the resultant exclusions have been documented meticulously. In states like Jharkhand and Rajasthan, the poor have been left out of the Aadhaar-driven PDS because of “authentication failures”. Civil rights activists Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey have repeatedly drawn our attention to the hard facts on the ground – how the poor and the vulnerable are denied rations, work, services, skills training, even pregnancy care because they lack Aadhaar.

aadhaar-pds_101617020358.jpgPhoto: Press Trust of India

The policy framers riding Aadhaar mania treat the poor and marginalised as just 12-digit numbers of the UIDAI, and are least concerned when reports of unpardonable exclusions come forward. As the Jharkhand starvation death demonstrates, “deleting” those without Aadhaar from PDS lists is exactly how exclusions are presided over, with no concern towards the elderly, the infirm, those unwilling to get Aadhaar because of its several deficiencies. This, despite the individuals/families having ration cards/other identity proofs.

Welfare economist Jean Dreze has also been quoted in a number of reports on how “Point of sales” (PoS) machines installed at distribution outs are not able to authenticate the fingerprints of many, especially those daily wagers doing hard physical work and have calloused hands as a result. A large number of National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiaries are therefore left out of the welfare network, particularly in Jharkhand’s Ranchi district, because of Aadhaar. Dreze notes that the errors leading to exclusions occur at multiple points – the PoS machine, network connectivity, biometrics, remote servers, or mobile networks.

Not just in states like Jharkhand, even in Delhi Aadhaar-based PDS has seen a rise in exclusions. Though the claims are often of cracking down hard on corruption as well as efficiency, the ground reality is one of huge disruptions in lives of poor and the vulnerable who are cut off mercilessly from availing the benefits they are legally entitled to.

In fact, the government was criticised heavily when it decided to link essential welfare services/PDS/mid-day meals to Aadhaar, and letting children go hungry if they didn’t have UID. A DailyO columnist had written then: “In a country which has the highest number of malnourished children in the world, denying hungry kids the most important (and often the only) meal of the day because they do not have a particular identity card is not only shameful, it’s inhumane, and a recipe for humanitarian disaster.”

“Instead of prioritising children’s health, ensuring that they get nutrition benefits, improving the quality of the meals and implementing safeguards and rules for high quality food, the government is hell bent on taking away the meagre morsel that the children could get under the mid-day meal scheme as part of free schooling under Right to Education,” the article said.

uidai_101617020423.jpgPhoto: Reuters

The lack of empathy pointed out is at the heart of the Jharkhand starvation death of the 11-year-old Santoshi Kumari. However, those at the helm of Aadhaar, particularly Nandan Nilekani, have been boasting about “Aadhaar savings”, claiming about 9 billion US dollars have been “saved” because Aadhaar eliminated “frauds” and “ghosts” in the system.

In fact, a number of think-pieces and analytical reports have dissected the claims made by UIDAI, as well as the World Bank, which has been praising Aadhaar as an “efficient” welfare delivery programme, overlooking the gross negligence, the privacy breaches, the unpardonable exclusions as well as the Aadhaar frauds and commercial exploitation of Aadhaar-related data that have been amply reported by various media outlets.

Despite SC’s orders to the contrary, the Aadhaar juggernaut is on a rampage, trampling India’s poor, marginalised, elderly, the infirm and now the children. How will the UIDAI, which doesn’t even allow individuals and victims of Aadhaar to lodge complaints against it, or the government of Narendra Modi that’s imposing the Aadhaar condition on citizens’ right to life, liberty, food, education, privacy and other fundamental rights, defend itself against this unpardonable crime – starving a girl child to death?

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/aadhaar-jharkhand-welfare-schemes-uidai-pds-girl-child-starvation/story/1/20101.html

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India – At Jaisalmer shelter, no food for Muslims forced out of village

 

Jaisalmer municipal commissioner says they don’t have budget to provide food to displaced families.

The Muslim families cook their own food after district administration failed to supply food.
The Muslim families cook their own food after district administration failed to supply food.(HT Photo)

Forced to leave their village in western Rajasthan following alleged threats from upper caste Hindu villagers, about 20 Muslim families are now staring at another crisis.

The district administration, which arranged a temporary shelter for them in Jaisalmer, has failed to provide them food for last two days. Lack of facilities at the shelter has left them, especially women and children, in the lurch.

Around 150 members of these 20 families do not want to return to their homes in Dantal, around 700 kms from Jaipur. They have urged the district administration to shift them to another safer location.

The families left their village following a string of events that began with the killing of a Muslim folk singer, allegedly by a Hindu priest and his brothers. The priest, Ramesh Suthar, who is a traditional occultist, has been arrested on charges of while his brothers are absconding.

Suthar is accused of killing 45-year-old Aamad Khan for his “poor singing” during a Navratri function at the village temple on September 27. Khan’s body was found outside his house the next day. The Rajputs allegedly threatened Khan’s family against going to police to report the killing. Khan’s family quietly buried the body.

However, after their relatives from nearby village came and assured them of help, Khan’s family lodged a case against Suthar and his two brothers.

Meanwhile, 20 families of Muslim folk singers, including Khan’s, left the village following alleged threat from the Rajputs and took shelter at nearby Balad village.

On Monday, some of them met Jaisalmer district collector (DC) KC Meena, who assured them of help and put them up in a temporary shelter run by the municipal council for the homeless people. The DC asked the civic body to arrange food for them.

“We are managing food for us through our local resources. The administration has made no arrangement,” said Tareef Khan. “However, we cannot mop up resources for long,” he said.

Jaisalmer municipal council commissioner Jabar Singh said they didn’t have budget for providing food to the displaced families. “We gave them food on Monday but we cannot give them food everyday due to lack of funds,” he added.

Meena wasn’t aware about the condition of the families at the shelter. He said he will need to check if the families have returned to the village or not.

The district collector also sent a sub-divisional officer to Dantal to ease the tension in the village so that the Muslims could return home. “We are talking to both sides and have assured the Muslims of their safety on their return to Dantal,” the DC said.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/jaipur/at-jaisalmer-shelter-no-food-for-muslims-forced-out-of-village-after-threats-from-hindus/story-m0uaywgtOCjj4t4CazUbfL.html

 

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Doctors treating Myanmar’s sick Rohingya children call for international support

Medics treating child refugees with serious illnesses in Bangladesh say they do not have enough beds to treat them.

Yaseem suffers from malnutrition and a scalp infection
Image:Yaseem suffers from malnutrition and a scalp infection

The lines are long but the waiting Rohingya parents are desperate to have their sick children examined by a doctor.

So they stand patiently under a blistering hot sun.

Because this will be the first time in months, if at all, their children have been examined professionally by a trained medic.

There are thousands of sick children inside Kutupulong refugee camp, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Many have arrived in the last few days or weeks after their parents made the difficult and exhausting journey across the border from Myanmar.

:: UN braced for ‘further exodus’ of Rohingya from Myanmar

Dr Dhira Hussein is a volunteer doctor from Dhaka.

He is examining a small boy called Yaseem at a makeshift clinic set cup on the side of a road. It is nothing more than a piece of tarpaulin strung from some bamboo poles.

The child is howling in pain.

Doctors are treating a range of serious illnesses in Rohingya children in Bangladesh's Kutupulong refugee camp
Image:Doctors are treating a range of illnesses in Rohingya children in the Kutupulong refugee camp

“He is malnourished,” Dr Hussein tells me. “He has a heavy worm infestation in his intestines.”

Yaseem has a shaved head that exposes a large, red sore. “It’s an infection inside his scalp,” I am told.

I ask Dr Hussein how long Yaseem has been suffering.

“Probably for six months or so,” he replies.

Yaseem is still crying. I’m told he is two years old. But his body is small and his limbs are thin. His head looks like it belongs to an older boy.

All the young medics at this clinic are barely out of university. They are overwhelmed.

Kutupulong refugee camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, is a mosaic of tarpaulin tents
Image:Kutupulong refugee camp, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, is a mosaic of tarpaulin tents

More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military. They have crossed the border into neighbouring Bangladesh. Kutupulong camp is now home to more than half of these refugees.

It has grown into one of the largest displacement camps in the world. It is a sprawling tarpaulin city of inhumanity that is growing by the day.

There is little fresh water and sanitation is almost non-existent – the perfect breeding ground for potentially deadly outbreaks of infectious diseases.

“On a daily basis we are seeing more than 20 to 30 cases with a single doctor,” Dr Hussain says.

Rohingya child refugees (special title).

Video:Special report: Rohingya’s Exodus

“We have 10 doctors in our clinic so that’s 200 to 300 cases per day, every day. And that’s counting just the children that we see.”

His colleague is examining another boy nearby. He is about eight years old. The doctor tells me the child is very sick.

“He is malnourished, is vomiting and has diarrhoea,” says Dr Faran Tanvi. “His stomach is infected with worms too.”

The boy’s list of ailments is long. Pulling up his shirt sleeve, the doctor exposes a rough, scaly skin.

“He has scabies too. It’s very common,” he adds. “It’s highly infectious and spreads easily because of the cramped and humid conditions inside the camp.”

Dr Tanvi then exams the boy’s eyes.

“They tell me a lot,” he says, talking about the eyes. “He is anaemic and is suffering from dehydration. That’s why he is so lethargic.”

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been fleeing to Bangladesh

Video:Scorched feet and disease as Rohingya flee

I ask if this boy should be in a hospital bed, getting some rest.

“Yes, he needs special care. But there are no beds available. There are so many people, so many children. We just give them emergency treatment. There is no long treatment available.

“We need fast and massive support from the international community. We are getting some help but (it is) not enough. Bangladesh is a very poor country.

“But, with our small resources, we are trying.”
http://news.sky.com/story/doctors-treating-myanmars-sick-rohingya-children-call-for-international-support-11082281

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Australian government embarrassed by ICAN Nobel Peace Prize

 

Australia should be proud of our association with the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize but so far Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have made no comment.

 

The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize has just been awarded to ICAN, the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.

ICAN is now an international organisation but it started with a group of Melbourne peace campaigners in 2005. The Prize was announced on 6 October 2017. The Greens and Labor have offered their congratulations but so far there’s been no comment from the Government.

 

ICAN has worked with the United Nations and other agencies on developing a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Many nations support  this treaty but so far Australia is not among them.

 

“I think that the government must be deeply embarrassed by ‘our’ Nobel Peace Prize” says Professor Stuart Rees, veteran peace activist, founder of the Sydney Peace Prize and member of the Council for Peace with Justice.

 

“The government’s support for nuclear disarmament has been been luke warm to say the least. Julie Bishop did not even attend the signing ceremony of the Prohibition Treaty at the United Nations last month. Australians like to regard themselves as good world citizens, but with our current cruel policy on refugees and the vacuum in our policy on climate change, at present we do not rank highly on the international scale as humanitarians.

 

The fact that there has been no official celebration of the Nobel Peace Prize must only further reduce our status.”

 

“Most Australians want to see the end of the nuclear threat. We should not be embarrassed, but rather be proud of the Australians who have achieved so much in working to abolish nuclear weapons” says Professor Rees.

 

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was endorsed by 122 countries at the  United Nations headquarters in New York in July earlier this year  despite strong opposition from nuclear-armed states and their allies (including Australia).

 

Under the treaty, signatory states must agree not to develop, test, manufacture or possess nuclear weapons, or threaten to use them, or allow any nuclear arms to be stationed on their territory.

 

Once the treaty has been ratified by 50 states it passes into international law. The international law banning landmines did not have universal support when first enacted but has since proved highly effective

 

The Council for Peace with Justice and the Sydney Peace Foundation urge the Australian government to immediately reverse its decision to oppose the prohibition treaty. The treaty does not (as argued by the government) undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but reinforces it and makes it meaningful.

 

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Victory for Polluted Zambian Farmers suing Vedanta in UK #Goodnews

Anil Agarwal at Vedanta AGM protest 2017, London

  • Judges today threw out Vedanta’s appeal to the May 2016 High Court judgment allowing Zambian farmers to have their case against the company heard in the UK.

  • The judgment adds further weight to precedents holding UK companies legally responsible for the actions of their subsidiaries.

Judges today released their verdict on Vedanta’s appeal in the case of the Chingola communities suing UK company Vedanta Resources, and their Zambian subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), for pollution causing illness and loss of livelihood.

The three appeal judges Lord Justice Simon, Lord Justice Jackson and Lady Justice Asplin threw out Vedanta’s appeal in the case of Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe vs Vedanta Resources and Konkola Copper Mines, agreeing with the High Court verdict that Vedanta owes a duty of care to the claimants polluted by its Zambian subsidiary, and that the case against it has merit. They also agreed with the high court judge that England is the proper place to try both KCM and Vedanta, especially considering issues with lack of access to justice in Zambia. Vedanta is unlikely to appeal such a strong judgment to the Supreme Court, and the trial can now be heard in the UK.

The ruling helps pave the way for other London-listed multinationals to be held liable in the English courts for the actions of their subsidiaries abroad.

The judgment is being celebrated by the affected communities who have fought an eleven year legal battle against the company for continuous pollution of their water sources since it took over KCM in 2004. Communities first took KCM to court in Zambia in 2006 when the River Kafue which they depend on for drinking, bathing, cooking and irrigation was severely polluted by the company. They were awarded a landmark $2 million fine in 2011 in the Zambian High Court, but KCM appealed, and in 2015 the Supreme Court upheld the guilty verdict but removed all compensation. As a result the victims took their case to UK lawyers. In the 2016 High Court judgment Justice Coulson stated that KCM and parent company Vedanta had attempted to pervert the course of justice in Zambia, and claimed KCM could even declare insolvency in Zambia to avoid paying victims, noting the company’s financial secrecy and historic dishonesty.(1)

Recent news coverage has detailed the ongoing pollution, sickness and poverty suffered by the affected communities.(2) Headmen of the affected communities recently issued these demands which were announced to the Vedanta board at its August AGM by a dissident shareholder:

RCJ demo 5th July 2017

  • Stop polluting the rivers immediately. Close down the plant until pollution control measures are replaced and upgraded.
  • Provide clean water to the villages immediately, by tankers or pipes.
  • De-silt the Mushishima stream and Kafue River and remove contaminated waste.
  • Remediate the entire polluted area to make it safe to live, farm and fish there again.
  • Compensate the affected people for loss of health and livelihood. All medical costs should be paid by KCM/Vedanta in future.


Case studies in Zambia available.

Foil Vedanta is an independent grassroots solidarity organization focused primarily on the British-Indian mining giant Vedanta Resources PLC. Foil Vedanta targets the company in London where it is registered, as well as linking with people’s movements where Vedanta is destroying lives and devastating the land in India, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Liberia and South Africa. www.foilvedanta.org

  1. Justice Coulson’s 2016 judgment exposed the opaque nature of KCM, revealing that the company has not filed any annual accounts in accordance with the Zambian Companies Act. The court had explored the reasons KCM might want to hide its financial position and Justice Coulson refers to the case of Konkola Copper Mines Plc v U&M Mining Zambia Ltd heard in the London Court of Arbitration in 2014 in which Justice Eder found that KCM was close to bankruptcy and ‘may not be good for the money‘ (in that case $55 million owed to their contractor U&M). The case cited reports by Grant Thornton and the Auditor General of Zambia which sought to reconcile Vedanta boss Anil Agarwal’s private claims that KCM made $500 million per year, with KCM’s loss making claims in Zambia. The reports found evidence of multiple tax evasion and capital flight devices used by Vedanta-KCM along with asset stripping and failure to invest any CAPEX as claimed. Alongside other evidence including ‘ministerial statements about the threat of insolvency, bankruptcy or receivership facing KCM and the existence of at least one debt of $30million which went unpaidJustice Coulson concluded that:

I would be wrong to ignore the possibility that, if the litigation was conducted in Zambia, Vedanta/KCM could seek to strike it out, or if they lost at trial, Vedanta might put KCM into liquidation in order to avoid paying out to the claimants. The history of the U&M case demonstrates that these are possibilities which cannot be ignored.’

The judgment is attached to this press release.

  1. Please see interviews with affected people on CCTV Africa in 2016

Our detailed article following visits to the communities in 2015 includes scientific reports and testimonies from the victims: https://web.archive.org/web/20170204213118/http://www.foilvedanta.org/articles/how-kcm-is-killing-the-zambian-copperbelt-part-1-water-pollution/

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