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Rape cases Haryana government accused of patronising offenders #Vaw

rapepublic1

CHANDIGARH: A network working for the rehabilitation of rape survivor dalit girls and women has accused Haryana government of patronizing the accused from upper castes and using sexual assault of women as tool to prevent socially backward people from educational, social and economical growth.The outfit – Women Against Sexual Violence and Repression (WSS) – has sought practical implementation of counselling and educational rehabilitation of rape survivors and strict enforcement of laws related to protection of dalits. Kalyani Menon Sen, an activist attached with WSS, justified her allegation saying, “Dalit children going to government schools in villages are the first layer of victims. They stop going to school after any girl falls victim to such a crime. They are not rich enough to go to any other school. Hence, they will remain educationally backward. Once they are educationally backward, they will not be able to compete with upper caste or those socially superior to them. Hence, sexual offences against dalits are being used as tool now,” she said.

Accompanied by team members, Mary John and Rajat Kalsan, a Hisar-based advocated who pleaded the cases of Mirchpur victims and rape survivors in Haryana, Kalyani elaborated on the incidents while alleging shoddy investigation of rape cases by police.

Kalsan spoke about the probe into the gang rape of a girl from Dabra village of Hisar. “It was only after the victim’s family approached the Haryana DGP and the home secretary, the state government filed an appeal against four out of eight accused challenging their acquittal by the trial court in Hisar. Even during preliminary investigation, police were about to close the case due to biased probe to favour the accused,” he alleged.

Rape survivors find humane touch missing

Two years after the incident, the survivor of Dabra gang rape case is fighting to come out of the trauma. She alleges non-cooperation from the college principal and local administration pertaining to counselling and humane touch to help her come to terms with the gruesome incident. “My classmates and villagers still have a different attitude towards me. The college principal too tried to ignore when I reported the discrimination to her. Similarly, the local administration was unmoved until I approached National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and other offices. As of now, not even a single counsellor has approached me. Though I am trying to come cope with the incident, what about other victims,” she said.

 

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Congress – Stirring the volatile Sikh religious pot

CHANDER SUTA DOGRA

 
Picture shows the president of the Haryana Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee being greeted by elated members after the announcement of a separate Gurudwara body formation for the State. Photo: Akhilesh Kumar
The HinduPicture shows the president of the Haryana Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee being greeted by elated members after the announcement of a separate Gurudwara body formation for the State. Photo: Akhilesh Kumar

The move to create a separate management committee for Sikh shrines in Haryana has raised serious concerns about the politicisation of the Sikh clergy

The Congress government’s move in Haryana to have a Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) of its own in order to manage Sikh shrines in the State, has stirred the volatile Sikh religious pot. The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab is crying foul at the move, even as the Congress is determined to break the hegemony of the SAD-controlled SGPC of Punjab on Sikh institutions. After weeks of acrimonious statements from both sides, the Haryana Assembly passed the Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Bill, 2014, setting the stage for a confrontation between the two parties.

In 1996, SAD shed its Sikh religious moorings to become a secular democratic party with the aim of working for all communities. In practice, the party continues with its ‘gurudwara politics’ through the elected house of the SGPC, which is dominated by SAD members.

The devaluation of Sikhdom’s apex institutions like the Akal Takht and the Amritsar-based SGPC due to their politicisation has irked Sikhs so much in recent years that few tears are now being shed for the attack that the SGPC is facing from the Congress-backed Sikhs of Haryana. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal tried to dramatically describe it as, “the third assault on Sikhs by the Congress after Operation Bluestar and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots”, but save the Om Prakash Chautala-led Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and a half-hearted Bharatiya Janata Party, no one across the socio-political spectrum is supporting him. As Dr. Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, a noted Sikh scholar and author of the SGPC’s white paper on Operation Bluestar, told The Hindu, “The Sikh religion today has become subordinate to politics.”

Obvious motives

The motives of the Haryana government are all too obvious. With the Assembly elections looming in October, Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, whose stock among non-Jats is at an all-time low thanks to his pro Jat policies, is on a mission to woo all communities. He promised a Haryana SGPC in his first tenure in the 2005 election manifesto, and in 2007 he constituted a panel under Finance minister H.S. Chattha to explore its feasibility. The Chattha panel claims to have received more than two lakh affidavits from Sikhs in Haryana in support of a separate Haryana SGPC, and last week Mr. Hooda announced its formation. This was followed by the passing of the Bill that seeks to constitute a separate SGPC for Haryana.

Haryana claims that a separate statutory body to manage its own gurudwaras flows from Section 72 of the Punjab State Reorganisation Act 1966 that provides for separate statutory bodies in successor States of erstwhile joint Punjab. Legal opinion is currently divided on this and a final interpretation of the Act could well reach the courts. Mr. Badal has described Haryana’s move as “illegal and unconstitutional” because the SGPC is constituted under the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, a Central law. Many in SAD were hoping that with the pro-Badal National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre, Haryana’s legislation will be blocked when it is sent to the President for assent. But Haryana has taken the stand that it is competent to enact the law on its own and the Bill requires only the approval of the State Governor.

But why do Haryanvi Sikhs want a separate body to manage their shrines, almost five decades after Punjab was split into three States? The main grouse is that SGPC takes collections (estimated to be about Rs. 170 crore) from Haryana gurudwaras but does not spend it in the State. Further, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Congress spokesperson and Haryana minister, says, “Haryana’s Sikhs are not given employment or representation in SGPC-run religious and educational institutions in the State.” Giving an example of the hegemony of the Badal family over SGPC, he points out, “The SGPC-owned Miri Piri Institute of Medical Sciences and Research in Shahabad was taken over by a Trust, which has Mr. Badal as its head.”

SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar denies most of the charges and counters them by accusing the Haryana government of creating hurdles for SGPC projects in the State.

But the Congress is more irked by the manner in which the SAD leadership uses Haryana’s gurudwaras as platforms to help the INLD to win Sikh votes. Last year, the Congress lost control of the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC) when SAD ousted a Congress-supported group in the elections. The new body of the DSGMC campaigned aggressively for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. Mr. Hooda is clearly determined to prevent the SGPC from doing the same in favour of the INLD in Haryana, and backed the demand of Haryana’s Sikhs to break away from the SGPC’s hold. He has the support of Punjab Congress leaders who would also like to see diluted the control of SAD on Sikh religious institutions.

The SAD is virtually isolated in its stand as the Aam Aadmi Party, some radical organisations like the Dal Khalsa in Punjab, and some overseas Sikh organisations are also in favour of a separate Haryana SGPC. The SAD’s requests to Home Minister Rajnath Singh to prevent Haryana from enacting its law have not yielded anything substantial, which is why hours before the Bill was passed Mr. Makkar formed a sub-committee to manage Haryana’s gurdwaras.

Some serious concerns

But beyond the politics of wooing the Sikh vote bank, the controversy has raised more serious concerns about the politicisation of the Sikh clergy and its “misuse” by SAD for political ends. The Akal Takht has already taken a beating for intervening in a political fight. When Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh from the Akal Takht invited Sikh leaders of Haryana to discuss the issue some days ago, they did not go. Many saw this as a disrespect of the Akal Takht. But worse was to come. A committee appointed by him that went to reason with Sikh leaders of Haryana at Kurukshetra was given a mouthful. Dr. Dhillon says, “Mr. Badal controls all the important appointments in the SGPC and the Akal Takht. When vested political interests come into play, then such things are bound to happen.”

Gurpreet Singh of United Sikhs, a Sikh socio-cultural organisation, says: “The image of the religion is certainly dented by all this and the SGPC needs to introspect on why Haryana’s Sikhs want to control their gurdwaras. Vast numbers of Sikhs are said to be deserting the faith, because the guardians of the faith are busy doing politics instead of protecting its basic tenets. Interestingly, Mr Hooda did not go ahead with the HSGPC during the ten-year UPA rule because its Sikh Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, did not approve of it. With Mr. Singh out of power and a high stakes election on the horizon, Mr. Hooda has the Sikh vote on his radar.

Mr. Badal has warned that Haryana’s move could disrupt peace and harmony, but this is not the last word on this contentious issue.

Read more here –  http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/stirring-the-volatile-sikh-religious-pot/article6210222.ece?homepage=true

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How Dalits are victims of caste discrimination in Haryana

In Samalkha town

Monday, 14 July 2014 – 1:12pm IST | Agency: DNA
  • child-rights-and-you-cryImage for representational purposes only.RNA Research & Archives

As you leave Delhi’s borders via the NH-1 and head towards Chandigarh, about 70 km away from Connaught Place is the small, bustling town of Samalkha. Located in Haryana’s Panipat district, it is famous for grain, jaggery and wood markets.

However, as you head deeper inside this industrial town, haunting stories of child rights violations begin to emerge.

It is the duty of our organisation Child Rights and You (CRY) to restore children’s rights in an area. CRY’s intervention area in Samalkha covers 19 Dalit-dominated hamlets under five villages. The Dalit communities here are almost absolutely marginalised and excluded. Child rights violations are rampant in all Dalit hamlets, and Dalits are being denied most democratic rights due to the strong socio-economic-political status of the Gujjars in the area.

The children in the families living there are vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and violence simply because of the caste into which they were born. The caste system relegates Dalits, formerly known as ‘untouchables’, to a lifetime of segregation and abuse. Caste-based divisions dominate in housing and education, in and general social interaction. There is discrimination at every level; the socio-economic condition of the Dalit community is deplorable.

The problem of land is central to the impoverished Dalit community. Dalits are prevented from possessing land – even that which has been set aside for them by the government. It is important to realise that land is not just a primary means of production, but also gives the holder economic security, social status and identity.

Illiteracy and school drop-out rates among Dalits are very high due to a number of social and physical factors. The illiteracy rate for Samalkha’s Dalit children is also generally higher compared to other children. Discriminatory practices exercised by teachers against these Dalit children include corporal punishment, denial of access to school water and indirect discrimination, such as neglect, repeated blaming, and labelling of Dalit students as weak performers, exclusion from the Mid-Day Meal Scheme etc., lead to social exclusion of Dalit students in school in the area.

The health and nutritional status of Dalit children in an intervention area is one of CRY’s major concerns; their effect is directly visible when it comes to early pregnancy, infant deaths, child deaths, maternal deaths and still births.

Data from our baseline survey shows an increasing number of infant and child deaths in our intervention area. The disparity in access to resources leads to disparity in exposure to the risk of disease, leading to disparity in disease burdens. There is a very clear indication from our experience in the area that the health status of children and women is very closely related to their social and economic status. More attention needs to be focused on the health of women, which would also help improve not only the health of the child but the whole population.

Ghar se bahar nikalte hi Jat ladke mujhe chedte hai, main school se waapis aati hun toh mera raasta rokte hain. (As soon as I leave my house, Jat boys eve-tease and verbally harass me. On my way back from school, they touch me and block my way.)”

This is the voice of a young Dalit girl currently living in Manana village in Samalkha.

Being discriminated against is a more serious problem for a Dalit girl child. Caste-based discrimination makes the Dalit girl more visible to the eyes of the perpetrators and, simultaneously, more invisible to the eyes of the protectors.

In Manana village, the liquor shop is located immediately outside the Dalit basti and is unavoidable on the route to and from the fields. Dalit girls going to or returning from the fields have no other option but to walk by the shop, where men leer at them and make suggestive remarks. Young non-Dalit men and boys who enter the basti to drink also bother the girls.

There should be a comprehensive approach to counter these problems, it is essential to recognise that the Dalit identity heightens the vulnerability to harassment, abuse and neglect. Constant efforts through awareness generation and capacity building about their rights to bring equal opportunity and social justice to the Dalit children in Samalkha will help them in overcoming the vicious cycle of caste and cultural barrier.

Read mor ehere- http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/standpoint-how-dalits-are-victims-of-caste-discrimination-in-haryana-s-samalkha-town-2001998

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MDG Report 2014: India among worst performers in poverty reduction, maternal death and sanitation

Author(s): Moushumi Sharma 
Date:Jul 9, 2014

Report shows good progress in areas like poverty alleviation and access to clean water and controlling diseases like TB, Malaria

imageSome MDG targets, such as increasing access to sanitation and reducing child and maternal mortality are unlikely to be met before the deadline

The United Nations (UN) released this week the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Report, 2014. The report, launched by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, says that many of the development goals have been met or are within reach by 2015.

The report is the latest finding to assess the regional progress towards the eight developmental goals that the UN targets to achieve by 2015, including eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and women empowerment, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.

Progress slow but target possible
Ban Ki-moon has lauded the progress so far, saying that many global MDG targets have already been met. The report states that extreme poverty in the world has reduced by half; over 2.3 million people gained access to clean drinking water between 1990 and 2012; gender disparities in school enrollment in developing nations have been eliminated to a large extent; and political participation of women has increased. The report maintains that if the current trend of progress continues, the world might surpass MDG targets on malaria, tuberculosis and access to HIV treatment. An estimated 3.3 million deaths from malaria could be averted between 2000 and 2012 due to substantial expansion of malaria intervention programmes, while intensive efforts to fight tuberculosis have saved an estimated 22 million lives worldwide since 1995.

But it is too soon to celebrate. According to the report, some MDG targets, such as reducing child and maternal mortality and increasing access to sanitation, are unlikely to be met before the deadline.

India’s dismal performance
India’s progress has been below the mark on the parameters of poverty, child and maternal mortality and access to improved sanitation. In 2010, one-third of the world’s 1.2 billion extremely poor (32.9 per cent) lived in India alone. The poverty figures for the same year for Nigeria and Bangladesh, two countries less developed than India, were 8.9 per cent and 5.3 per cent respectively.

A recent study by an international non-profit ranked India 137th among 178 countries when it comes to maternal and child health, categorising the country among the worst performers (Read: India among worst performers in maternal and child health). The UN report states that India had the highest number of under-five deaths in the world in 2012, with 1.4 million children in the country dying before age five. This is shameful when one takes into account notable reductions in the under-five mortality rate since 1990 and particularly since 2000 in low-income countries such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

While the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) dropped by 45 per cent between 1990 and 2013, India still accounts for 17 per cent of maternal deaths. India’s MMR target for 2015 is to bring down maternal mortality to less than 109 deaths per 100,000 live births. But only three states—Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra—have so far been successful in reaching this target (Read: India nowhere near millennium goal for maternal mortality.

The UN report further states that MMR in developing regions—230 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013—was 14 times higher than that of developed regions, which recorded only 16 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the same year. It maintains that the best possible way of reducing neonatal mortality is through greater investment in maternal care during the first 24 hours after birth.

Scourge of open defecation
Between 1990 and 2012, two billion people worldwide gained access to improved sanitation, but a billion people still defecate in the open. A vast majority of the world’s population—82 per cent—resorting to open defecation live in middle-income, populous countries like India and Nigeria.

Official data on open defecation in India will put any country to shame. The country has the world’s largest population that defecates in the open. (Read: Mission possible. According to data released by the National Sample Survey Office in December 2013, 59.4 per cent of the rural population resorted to open defecation. 2011 Census figures put the number of rural houses without toilets at 113 million.

To make matters worse for the country’s reputation, a recent study conducted by the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics, Uttar Pradesh, claims that in 40 per cent of rural households in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, which have a functional toilet, at least one member chose to defecate in the open. At least 30 per cent of the world’s population, which defecates in the open, live in these five states alone (Read: Despite having toilets at home, many in rural India choose to defecate in open.

Hope for the future
Presenting the report, Ban Ki-moon said that the world is “at a historic juncture, with several milestones before us”. He underscored that the report makes clear “the MDGs have helped unite, inspire and transform…and the combined action of governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector can make a difference”. “Our efforts to achieve the MDGs are critical to building a solid foundation for development beyond 2015. At the same time, we must aim for a strong successor framework to attend to unfinished business and address areas not covered by the eight MDGs,” the UN chief said.

Read mor where- http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/mdg-report-2014-india-among-worst-performers-poverty-reduction-maternal-death-and-sanitation

 

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Bhagana Rape Survivors warn Hudda against inaction

Camp Office : Jantar Mantar , New Delhi

Rape Victims warn Hudda against inaction

Victims and activists unite in demanding One Crore compensation and rehabilitation  for Bhagana’s Dalit minor rape victim girls and forcing the Haryana CM to act against the upper caste perpetrators who have brazenly been grabbing the Dalit villagers’ land

PRESS RELEASE

 

New Delhi, 11 May 2014:  Hundreds of women, children and men from Bhagana village of Hisar, Haryana were joined by as many activists, students, writers, artists and others from Delhi in leading a warning protest under the banner of BHAGANA KAAND SANGHARSH SAMITI against Bhupinder Singh Hudda, the Haryana Chief Minister, seeking justice for the four school-going Dalit girls who were kidnapped and raped on 23rd March by upper caste goons. All the girls are under the age of 18. The protest also sought proper rehabilitation for the 400 displaced Dalit families who are living on the streets of Delhi and Hisar.

 

The demonstrators gheraoed CM Hudda’s residence at 9, Pant Marg in New Delhi where the heavy police arrangements at the threat of arrest and beating did not deter them. They demanded immediate action against the village head and his son who were directly involved in the rape and eviction. Jagdish Kajla, protest leader, said, “90 dalit families are living at Jantar Mantar since 16th April 2014 amid so many difficulties. The government has not provided us anything to survive, forget justice for the 4 girls. We will not take our protest back till our demands are met.”

 

So, what are their demands? They have submitted a memorandum to Mr. Hudda asking for the arrest of the village head and his son along with Gajraj and others whose names have not been included in the FIR. They are also demanding the safe rehabilitation of the victims’ families and a compensation of RS 10 million (one crore) to each girl victimised.

 

Another leader Virendra Singh Wabhoria ,  who is leading the evicted group’s struggle at Hisar, warned Haryana  government that if their demands are not met within a fortnight, their protest will expand to other places of the country. Virendra is sitting on Dharna with 120 Dalit families at the Hisar Collectarate for last two years when these families were displaced  from the village Bhagana by the upper caste people.

 

The girls are furious and so are their mothers. They say, ‘ Why every time, they make our bodies their battlefields?’ One girl studying in class 10th just wishes to someday be able to complete her studies. She says, ‘They have made us refugees. Bhagana is our own village but we can’t go there. What can be more fateful than this?’, she asks in desperation. One mother, with veil on her face, screams, ‘Aren’t we human? Why every time they do this to us?’ Huda has an answer, only in the form of huge barricades of police outside his house.

 

At the heart of the conflict in Haryana is the struggle over land – it’s use and ownership by the poor Dalits which has been grabbed by the dominant castes. No land reforms, or access to use and ownership of the common land schemes, have been implemented till date.  Bhagana’s Dalits have been vocal about their land rights, having faced the atrocities and land grab since 2003. Rape is one of the major tools to silence the Dalit community and displace them in the name of honor. The Huda government never took action against the upper caste as Rajani Tilak of National Dalit Mahila Aandolan cites, “Huda says openly that first I am a jat and then a CM”. This factor contributed to Dalit atrocities in a much more organized way because the state machinery does not act in accordance with the law.  After 67 years of the independence and on the threshold of 16th Parliament, Dalits in Haryana are landless, without exception. 

 

 

 

Jats dominate both the Gram Panchayats (Village councils) and the traditional Khaps. Their authority is backed by the significant presence of Jats in institutions and administrative positions. The state machinery thus is becoming part of propagating the entrenched caste ideology and hierarchies. The levying of sedition charges exposed a face of the state where it was no longer just exhibiting apathy towards tackling caste oppression, but actively using its authority and draconian laws to suppress any assertion challenging caste and class hierarchies. Protests against caste exploitation have become an expression of “disaffection” against the nation!

 

Despite all the above, the Bhagana protests showed that the Dalits are  continuously pressurizing state institutions, and winning victories like withdrawal of sedition charges, and making the political class sit-up and take notice both within the state and the center. Alternative employment, education, intervention of political parties, government schemes and laws, and a greater awareness of rights has meant that Dalits too are now resorting to institutional spaces and methods.

 

There is a section of the Dalit population that did not leave the village and join the protest. Dhanak community is the most vulnerable section amongst Dalits. They were among those who stayed back.  Theirs are the poorest households. The silence that surrounds them is that of a complete economic dependence on the Jats, and signifies those who are still trapped in the hierarchical caste ideology.

 

The four victims of rape come from Dhanak community.  They were kidnapped and gang raped for two days by Jat boys. This was the result of not leaving the village. Families of these girls were getting threats not to file the report with the police but eventually they managed to raise their voices against this oppression. This was one of the few cases of dalit atrocities that came into light, many such cases remain buried and unheard of.

 

The protesters want the government to heed their following demands:

 

1.      Arrest all the offenders in Bhagana case including Village head and his sonand bring them to justice;

2.      High level inquiry of the rape, displacement and land related cases;

3.      Fast Track Court in Delhi for hearing of the case. Settle the case within 6 months;

4.      Compensation of Rs 1 crore to each Bhagana gang rape victim;

5.      Compensation of Rs 1 crore to each boycotted family in Bhagana;

6.      A case should be filed against the KHAP and Gram Panchayat under the SC/ST Act;

7.      Allot 400 yards plots in Gurgaon or Fridabad to each displaced family from Bhagana till they are suitably resettled in Bhagana;

8.      Arrangement of proper education to all Bhagana gang rape victims and provision of government employment after completion of their education;

9.      Ban on Khaap Panchayats;

10. 290 acre common land  should be vacated from the clutch of the Dabangs and be distributed among the landless Dalits and other marginalised sections of the village .

 

 

 

Bhagana Kaand Sangharsh Samiti:

Sarv Samaj Sangharsh Samiti-Haryana, Hans do India, Republic Thought and Action Group, PUDR, Women against Sexual Violence & State Repression, National Dalit Women Movement, Dalit Dehat Bahujan Mahapanchayat, Youth for Social Justice-DU, All India Backward Students’ Forum-JNU, Democratic Students Union-JNU, Women for Water Democracy, NCDHR, Bigul Mazdoor Dasta, Ambedkar Seva Dal, National Confederation of Delit Organizations. All India Federation of Trade Unions, Nojaat Bharat Sabha, HRLN, Dhanak Sabha-Delhi, Delhi Students’ Union, Ambedkar Mahasabha, Sahitya Samvaad, United Dalit Students Forum, Avaam, Bharat Ka Manaviyekaran Abhiyaan, Dalit Utthan Samaj, Kabeer Jan Kalyaan Sangh, Haryana Kumhaar Mahasabha, National Movement for Land, Labour & Justice, Bhoomiheen Kisan Sangharsh Samiti.

 

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Press Release – Sexual Assault of 4 Dalit girls from Bhagana Village , Haryana #Vaw

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression Condemns the Sexual Assault of four Dalit girls from Bhagana village in Hisar district of Haryana

rapepublic1

New Delhi, APRIL 24, 2014

In the continuing backlash against Dalit assertion, four young girls of Dalit families (two of whom are minor) from Bhagana village (Hisar district, Haryana) were abducted on 23rd March 2014 and gang raped by 5 Jat boys (3 from Bhagana and 2 from outside of whom one was from Bhiwani). All four girls were then abandoned in the Bhatinda railway  station  on 23rd March itself. The sarpanch along with the girls’ fathers and brothers reached Bhatinda to bring them back. They were threatened by the head of the village sarpanch who is also the cousin of one of the accused to remain quiet, otherwise they along with their families would suffer dire consequences, even murder.

 

The context is as follows: In May 2012, 70 Dalit families from Bhagana Village moved with their families, belongings and cattle to the Secretariat, District Magistrate’s office in Hisar to protest against the forceful and unfair land appropriation of their common lands(Shamilat land) by the Jats of the village.

 

In response to their protests, these Dalits suffered widespread socialostracism and boycotts, including denial of access to water sources by destroying public taps, denial of entry to common land whether for the burial of dead animals, or for children to play games like football etc. Dalits were unable to move around freely or even go out for urination or defecation. Even access to doctors was denied as doctors were from the Jat community, who either refused to treat Dalits or charged higher fees. The sale of products has been refused and they have also been prevented from using public transport.

 

Despite several complaints to the village panchayat, police officials, the administration paid no heed and allowed such incidents and treatment to escalate. Instead of filing FIRs, the police arrested 45 dalit protestors and charged 6 with sedition charges though these were later dropped. While some families continued their protests at the secretariat, a few families decided to stay back whether out of fear or due to economic necessity. It is girls from these families who were then abducted and sexually assaulted on 23rd March 2014.

In spite of threats from the Jat community not to take up this case, FIRs were filed on March 25 and the girls underwent medical examination.  Cases have been booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO), Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 and Sections 363/366/366A/376/120B/328 of the IPC. Copies of these are with the families who have come to Delhi to demand justice and are now at Jantar Mantar. While five of the accused have been arrested, the demand to arrest another seven people remains.  In conversation with members of WSS who visited the families at Jantar Mantar, these details were courageously and openly shared.  The girls are sitting in protest too, the youngest being 13 and the eldest 18 years.  They were going to school (classes 7 to 10) but have dropped out now.  Their fathers work as agricultural labourers or engaged in other daily wage work.  Other women present said that such sexual violence perpetrated on Dalits by Jats is by no means new but what is new is the reasons why they attacked them in this way.  ‘We have no wealth’, one of the women said, ‘so they plunder the little that we have, namely our izzat.’ ‘But we are here in this city to get justice.’

 

WSS stands in solidarity with their struggle and their courageous battle for justice and dignity.

WSS demands that:

1. All land be restored to dalits that is due to them. This includes allotments under the Mahatma Gandhi Vikas Yojana and also the shamilat land rights.

2. Safe passage and return to the village for dalits must be provided to ensure that they can live in security and dignity.


3. Survivors of sexual assault must be given the full compensation according to Government of Haryana provisions. Their education which has had to be discontinued must be provided. All threats to them and their families must cease.

4. All  false cases lodged in 2012 against dalit men and women be withdrawn immediately.

5. All the accused Jats including the sarpanch, who have been intimidating and threatening them, be arrested and cases taken forwarded. 

 

Ajitha Rao, Anuradha Banerjee, Mary John, Rajni Tilak, Ranjana Padhi

From New Delhi-WSS

 

 

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Haryana : MSWU statement on victory in Maruti Suzuki Union elections

April 13, 2014

zindabadIMG_2073

MARUTI SUZUKI WORKERS UNION
(Registration No. 1923)
IMT Manesar, Gurgaon

Press Release :: 11/04/2014

With the gate meeting in front of the Maruti Suzuki main gate in Manesar in the afternoon at 3pm today, we the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) have reclaimed after two years, what has been rightfully ours. Over 3000 workers attended the gate meeting which was addressed by the new MSWU Union body, including President Pawan Kumar and General Secretary Sanjay Kumar, along with the workers and Union body members from Suzuki Powertrain India Employees Union (SPIEU) and Suzuki Motorcycles India Employees Union (SMIEU). A wave of energy declared that we have ended the regime of fear that was thrust upon us workers by the owners and managers and administrators. With the election and re-formation of our Union on April 4th, today’s meeting is an open declaration of our untiring will to fight against exploitation-repression for all workers.

We have won 11 of 12 seats against the management installed puppet panel in the Union elections on April 4th, with a margin of 80% for most members. Comrade Ramniwas of the Provisional Working Committee of MSWU said that “this victory validates our long continuous untiring struggle of more than two years, against the exploitation-repression by the combined might of the company management-state administration-police and all its tentacles.” This win comes in the wake of not only our long struggle since 4th June 2011 to establish our Union rights and collective power, but also after the unfazed struggle of terminated and jailed workers since 18th July 2012. Since that date, it has been more than 20months, that 147 workers including our entire Union body continue to be in jail, without any bail, in the most severest travesty of justice in the criminal justice system in India. 546 permanent and over 1800 contract workers continue to be terminated from our services even while the legal cases goes on endlessly. The company maliks and managers and the sarkari babus and netas and the entire ruling elite have nakedly united to ‘teach workers a lesson’ for demanding our just rights and for asserting our collective will. Even the courts have punished us for supposedly ‘adversely affecting foreign direct investment’. We only demanded and continue to demand our dignity as workers, our right to form a Union, and the right of contract workers who are worst faced in the situation. In the last two years, we have continued to demand justice and immediate release of all arrested workers and reinstatement of all terminated workers, and a tripartite negotiation to resolve the issue. We only dared to be united to demand this.

For this elections that was due this year, after we formed Maruti Suzuki Workers Union in March 2012 (registration no.1923), the management tried all means to coerce us and install its own puppet Union. It engaged in all manners of conspiracy to divide the workers along lines of permanent and contract, along regions, along various plants, and so on. After it terminated the services if over 2300 workers in July 2012, it hired new workers who were made to toe its line and work in an atmosphere of fear and punishment. They were not allowed to even talk to the terminated workers who were leading the struggle, or even to independent and other trade unions in the area. Recently the management hired 250 new recruits from the Gurgaon plant who they thought would act in their favour, in order to pitch them against the Manesar workers. It tried to disenfranchise the jailed and terminated workers against what is laid down in our Union Constitution, and the pliant labour department had followed suit. It put the police to its use to pick up any worker who would dare to even distribute a parcha. And it propped up candidates for elections who were close to them in one panel and coerced workers to vote for them.

Even against these policies of divide and rule, of repression and threats, we have emerged victorious. With the active support and solidarity of jailed and terminated workers, the struggling workers who stood against the management panel won 11 out of 12 seats. The evening of 4th April was a spirit of recapturing of the factory for workers, as the street in front erupted with celebrations after two years. Workers from inside the plant came with food of the factory canteen for the terminated workers saying that it won’t be long before their struggle also is a win and all arrested workers are also released.

An unprecedented solidarity of workers to the cause of struggle of the last 3 years has made this possible. Solidarity of the workers and Union body of Suzuki Powertrain India Employees Union and Suzuki Motorcycles India Employees Union must especially be mentioned and welcomed, which opens up yet again the possibility of united action by workers in the belt. Union members from nearby Suzuki Powertrain had sent a clear warning to its management against any use of unfair practices in the elections in Maruti Suzuki, on the event of which they would even go for strike. In today’s gate meeting Comrade Anil, President of SPIEU reiterated this unity. Comrade Anil Kumar, president of SMIEU also stressed on strengthening this unity, and making it the unity of workers in the entire industrial belt of Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Bawal.

We would like to welcome the new MSWU (figures out of around 1000 votes polled):

President: Pawan Kumar (796 votes); General Secretary: Sanjay Kumar (789 votes); Chief Patron: Manoj Kumar (728 votes); Vice President: Dharmender Kumar; Secretary: Naveen Kumar; Treasurer: Jitender Kumar; Organising Secretary: Amit Chaudhri; Legal Advisor: Saurabh Jain; Executive Committee: Rajendra, Sandip, Sanjeev, Rajkumar

Our struggle has entered a new phase with this victory. It’s a validation of our continuing struggle not only for workers at Maruti Suzuki but for all workers here and everywhere who struggle everyday against exploitation-repression for their Union rights and collective power and dignity.

Inquilab Zindabad ! Working Class Unity Long Live!

(Ramniwas, Mahabir, Rajpal, Yogesh, Katar)
Provisional Working Committee
Maruti Suzuki Workers Union

 

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#India – Silence of Government on ‘Honour’ Killing Law is Killing #Vaw

Kamayani Bali Mahabal aka Kractivist honor   Pic courtesy — http://50watts.com/I-Am-a-Bird-of-the-Heavenly-Garden

The naked brutality of honour crimes against women is in contravention of the spirit of the ’United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)’ which has been duly signed and ratified by India. The prevalence and entrenchment of the caste system and rabid patriarchal ethos in the society at large are the root cause of this social evil. The Supreme Court of India, in its observation in the case of Lata Singh versus State of Uttar Pradesh and others in 2006, termed the caste system as a curse on the nation and acknowledged that inter-caste marriages are in the national interest as they will result in destroying the caste system. Referring to ’honour’ killings the Apex Court stated: “There is nothing honourable in such killings, and in fact they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal minded persons who deserve harsh punishment.”

In June 2010 Supreme Court issued a notice to the Central Government and nine State governments to know about the steps taken to curb such violence. The Union Government constituted a group of nine Ministers to look into the possibility of framing a separate law to deal with the menace of ’honour’ killings under former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in 2010. But it eluded consensus till it was disbanded quietly with the exit of Mukherjee from the cabinet to become president.After criticism from women groups, the Prime Minister revived the group in 2012, But it is being suggested that ’honour’ killing is not the outcome of the gender bias attitude of the Khap Panchayats because in most cases the family members of the girl, including women, are the perpetrators of the crime. But the fact of the matter is that the ideology of the so-called family or clan honour is derived from the gender role assigned by patriarchy. The women who do not follow the socially acceptable behaviour or preserve their chastity have to bear the brunt in the form of violence, coercion and killings to restore the family ’honour’.

And it is an open secret that Khap Panchayats are the functional forums of patriarchy in the State and surrounding areas. There are numerous examples in Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh where these medieval institutions have directly or indirectly precipitated situations leading to cold-blooded murders of young women and men defying the age-old established value system.

The debate on enactment of the law is also being trivialised on the ground that ’honour’ killing is, after all, a murder and the perpetrators of this crime can be tried under the existing provisions of the IPC. But it is not a case of simple murder.The resistance was more because of doubts that the objective could be best served by amending Section 300 of IPC to include participation in khap’s calls for “honour killings” as an additional criterion of what constitutes murder.

It is a social evil no less in enormity than sati, dowry deaths and atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It is difficult to quantify, but India is counted among the countries (Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran being others) having very high per capita incidents of ’honour’ killings in the world. We have the Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987; Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (amended in 1983 and 1986); and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 to deal with the social evils listed earlier. Then why not a stand-alone law to deal with ’honour’ killing which shames the civil society and silences forever the women and youth who dare to dream differently?

The Khap Panchayats and their supporters have raised dissenting voices against the enactment of a comprehensive law on ’honour’ killings. This is understandable as these extra-constitutional and mob-gathering forums have always considered themselves above the law of the land. The proposed Act for the abatement of ’honour killings’ has to be quite stringent whereby the perpetrators of the crime shall get life imprisonment  and the institutions and individuals aiding and abetting such killings shall also get deterrent punishment.

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#India – Is having toilets a Mission Impossible ?

Mission possible

Jan 31, 2014 | 

The Centre gives India just about eight years to free its villages of open defecation. This seems unlikely. But the states of Sikkim, Haryana and Jharkhand in India, and Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have shown the way. Their models stress on behavioural change and disapprove of government subsidy to install toilets.

Jitendra reports from Delhi and Haryana, Alok Gupta from Jharkhand and Sayantan Bera from Sikkim

CHALLENGE: 105-year-old Bishnu Tana Bhagat finally built a toilet in his house in Jharkhand. The state coverage figures at the bottom of the country’s sanitation list (Photo: Alok Gupta)CHALLENGE: 105-year-old Bishnu Tana Bhagat finally built a toilet in his house in Jharkhand. The state coverage figures at the bottom of the country’s sanitation list (Photo: Alok Gupta)Candid talk is what 100-odd residents of Motuka-nangala panchayat in Faridabad district on the outskirts of Delhi understand best. Engaging these former saperas (snake charmers) in an informal chat, Upendra Singh, a Haryana government sanitation consultant, is blunt: “Do you realise you are eating each other’s excreta?” It is not a charming question. Sensing their discomfort, Upendra rolls out a chart paper and scribbles an equation. It has a telling impact. “A person defecates 500 gm daily. Your village of 3,000 people piles up 1.5 tonne of excreta every day. It is a big health problem,” he explains.

Clearly edgy, the gathering next hears out Vimal Kumar, a village elderly who recently built a toilet in his house. “Our village is facing serious health problems because of this pile of excreta,” he says, explaining why each house must have a toilet. “It is convenient, dignified and saves money because you avoid diseases.” Upendra intervenes, “Tell me now, in how many days will you build toilets?”

MOTIVATION: In Haryana, which has shown success in total sanitation campaign, daily wage labourer Vimal Kumar explains why toilets in homes are essential (Photo: Jitendra)MOTIVATION: In Haryana, which has shown success in total sanitation campaign, daily wage labourer Vimal Kumar explains why toilets in homes are essential (Photo: Jitendra)Everyone mumbles a timeframe. Some raise the issue of money. “Change the way you think and build toilets. Within a week, government will reward you with Rs 4,600,” says Upendra. This apart, there will be help from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), up to Rs 4,500 more, which will cover the initial costs.

The Haryana model, expounded by thousands of consultants like Upendra, moves beyond India’s rulebook sanitation programme which overwhelmingly relies on the carrot of subsidy. It focuses on persuasion and reward.

Haryana’s turnaround

Motuka-nangala has 262 households without toilets. Motivators like Upendra have been pursuing its residents for almost a year now. Their hard work is showing. Some 50 families have started building toilets. The panchayat has set an ambitious target for itself. By 2014 end, it must achieve the open defecation-free (ODF) status, a rarity for thousands of villages in the country.

SUCCESS: Lilabati Gautam, 70, of Sikkim does not remember when she last had to go out for defecation. The state is the first to become free from the scourge of open defecationSUCCESS: Lilabati Gautam, 70, of Sikkim does not remember when she last had to go out for defecation. The state is the first to become free from the scourge of open defecation (Photo: Sayantan Bera)Sanitation cover in Faridabad has increased from 23 per cent in 2006 to 84 per cent in 2013. Now, only 11,000 of the district’s 67,000 rural households remain to be covered with sanitation facilities. In 2008, as many as 10 villages in the district won the Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP), national award for an ODF village which also meets other specified norms of safe and sustainable sanitation. In 2013, the local administration nominated 39 panchayats for the award.

Faridabad’s rise coincides with Haryana’s fame for being the front-runner in fighting open defecation. The state reported a sanitation cover of only 29 per cent in the 2001 Census. It went up to an impressive 66 per cent in the 2011 Census. A baseline survey by the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) shows that Haryana has achieved 75 per cent sanitation cover till December 2013. The state has not set a universal sanitation deadline for itself but the speed at which it is going Haryana could be ODF by 2015. What did it do to achieve this?

imageIn 2006, the state adopted the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) model with Panipat as the frontrunner district. The model, which is being implemented in 52 countries, shifts focus of sanitation from subsidy-driven toilet construction to bringing about behavioural change in people so that they do not defecate in the open. In Faridabad, Amit Agrawal, the district’s additional deputy commissioner who is a trained doctor, launched the campaign. “He convinced us that open defecation affects our health,” recalls Dalbir Singh, head of Bilaspur village panchayat who was a panchayat member.

The next step was to create village-level water sanitation committees, with volunteers who generate awareness about the health hazards of open defecation. This group comprised accredited social health activists, anganwadi workers, school students and village leaders. The volunteers kept an eye on people going out for defecation. Constant vigil triggered demand for toilets under Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), Centre’s flagship programme for sanitation.

CLTS was perfected in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. In 2005, Himachal Pradesh stopped all subsidies linked to toilet construction. Deepak Sanan, then secretary for rural development and panchayati raj department of Himachal Pradesh, was the man behind the strategy. According to him, the state saw an unusual surge in toilet construction after the subsidy regime was done away with. In a few years, most village panchayats attained universal coverage without any subsidy. Rural households with toilets in Himachal Pradesh increased from 31 per cent to 68 per cent between Census 2001 and Census 2011. This is the highest increase in any state.

Source: Economic Impact of Inadequate Sanitation in India published by Water and Sanitation Programme, 2011Source: Economic Impact of Inadequate Sanitation in India published by Water and Sanitation Programme, 2011

When Haryana adopted the model, it started rewarding ODF villages. When residents are convinced of the need for toilets, they request the panchayat head for the construction. To begin work, MGNREGA is used for both labour and material cost up to Rs 4,500. This takes away a major financial burden of the poor resident. Once the toilet is ready, the local sanitation motivator checks and sends a photograph of the toilet to the district administration. Within a week, the government deposits Rs 4,600 in his/her account as reward under the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA).

Assurance of reward money helps the poor. Economically disadvantaged residents of Mirzapur panchayat in Hisar district, for instance, were the first to build toilets. Sixty-year-old Rukmini Devi recently built a toilet with loan. “Government incentive money worked as an assurance for people to lend me money,” she says. Her son, a daily wage labourer, fell sick for a month, impacting her financial condition. It was difficult to take her son to field for defecation and this motivated Rukmini.

The motivators are clearly happy with the success. Pinky Yadav is popularly called latrinewali in the villages of Hisar. “But I don’t care what they call me as long as they get motivated to build toilets in their homes,” she says.

Some 50 families in Motuka-nangala panchayat in Haryana are building toiletsSome 50 families in Motuka-nangala panchayat in Haryana are building toilets (Photo: Jitendra)

Haryana is among India’s wealthiest states. It is the second largest contributor to the country’s foodgrain stock. It is also the biggest manufacturer of cars, two-wheelers and tractors. In the mid-1990s, it was also among the states with the lowest sanitation cover and rampant open defecation. By 2008, however, it had erased that inglorious past. During the third South Asian Conference on Sanitation held in Delhi the same year, delegates made a beeline to Haryana to see the turnaround.

India’s trauma

India today is in the same pathetic condition as Haryana of 1990s. It has the world’s largest population that defecates in the open. According to data released by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in December 2013, 59.4 per cent of rural India defecates in the open. Jharkhand and Odisha are the worst performers with 90.5 per cent and 81.3 per cent of their population without toilets respectively.

The rude shock came in 2012 when the 2011 Census put the national toilet coverage at only 31 per cent. MDWS had all along put the figure at 68 per cent (see ‘Do rural Indian homes have enough toilets?’). From 1990 to 2010, the number of people with access to some kind of toilet rose from 26 per cent to 50 per cent, states the ministry data. But during this period, there was a similar increase in the population as well, neutralising the gains.

imageGitu Bala, 27, is among the first in Basara panchayat in Panipat, Haryana, to have constructed a toilet in her home (Photos: Chinky Shukla)

This triggered a political debate. BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Union Rural Development minister Jairam Ramesh fought to agree that India needs toilets before temples. The difference between the ministry and Census data translates into 37.5 million “missing toilets”. A desperate Ramesh came up with a face-saver. In June 2012, he added toilet construction to the list of work permitted under MGNREGS with support of Rs 4,500. During the winter session of Parliament, this amount was increased to Rs 10,000. In effect, with the NBA contribution added, the total subsidy for toilet construction has increased to Rs 14,600.

But implementation of the rural employment scheme has been faulty since the start. Clearly, its convergence with NBA has not shown results. Before convergence, 10 million toilets were built every year. On December 23, 2013, the total number of toilets constructed under MGNREGS convergence has dropped to around 2 million.

India has been struggling to achieve universal sanitation coverage since 1986 when it launched the Central Rural Sanitation Programme, a supply-driven scheme with subsidy. But handing out subsidies has never really worked. In 1999, the programme was recast as demand-driven Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), but again with subsidy. In 2012, it was rechristened NBA with focus on community-led, demand-driven approach, but with even more subsidies.

In 1996-97, the Indian Institute of Mass Communication in Delhi conducted a comprehensive survey on knowledge, attitude and practices in rural areas. The survey showed that only two per cent respondents acknowledged subsidy as the major motivating factor, while 54 per cent claimed to have moved to sanitary latrines due to convenience and privacy. In fact, 51 per cent respondents were ready to spend up to Rs 1,000 to acquire sanitary toilets.

The Central government, however, ignored the message. Its sanitation programme was a no-gain toilet construction scheme. India built millions of toilets but people could not use them. Of the total toilets built since 1986, 20 per cent are defunct (see ‘State of affairs’). In 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said 50 per cent of the toilets built under the government’s santitation programme were not in use. In a 2010 study for MDWS, non-profit Centre for Media Studies found that poor construction quality and unfinished toilets were the reasons for the gap between access and use. Low incentive provided under TSC was also responsible for this.

image

According to the 12th Five Year Plan, 50 per cent of the village panchayats must attain ODF status by 2017 and 100 per cent by 2022. But the progress is tardy. A calculation by Down To Earth based on the current rate of progress shows that the country can meet the first deadline by 2028, and attain universal coverage by 2044.

Jharkhand changing

The state that comes at the bottom of the sanitation coverage list is understood to be constructing toilets by the thousands since mid-1980s. Yet, 92.4 per cent of rural households in Jharkhand still do not have access to toilets, states the 2011 Census. Obviously, it has to start afresh with first generation toilet users.

Under TSC, a beneficiary received Rs 625 to build a toilet. The meager amount was sufficient only for digging the pit and installing the toilet pan. So people used polythene sheets strung on four bamboo sticks as cover. The toilets did not even have roofs. Very few used the toilets, but the state government kept patting its back for having constructed several toilets.

However, the state is now witnessing a major change in its sanitation initiative. The government has started giving loan to beneficiaries, instead of giving them subsidy. In some villages, it has adopted the CLTS model the way Haryana has. Each village has a water and sanitation committee, which motivates people to use toilets. The committee, comprising panchayat members, mukhiyas, residents of villages and a water ambassador, has the responsibility to make its village ODF. But the ODF tag comes only when all residents of the village have stopped open defecation. The state government also announced that the sanitation initiative must end with ODF. If that does not happen within a year, the water and sanitation committee must be reconstituted.

Panchayat members and the committee members hold regular meetings to find ways to stop open defecation, which may include monetary fine or holding hearing.

Their hard work is now showing results. Bakshi village in Lohardaga district had reported 100 per cent slipback under TSC. After the state gave people loans to build new toilets, each household has two toilets—one that is covered with polythene sheets and another made of brick mortar. Awareness campaign between 2012 and 2013 led to behavioural change among people. Now, Bakshi village is completely ODF.

For the first time, people are paying EMIs for loans taken to build toilets, says Chari Oraon, water ambassador of the village. “This community mobilisation has happened primarily because now we have a panchayat body. Elected panchayati raj institutions have a close knit association with their community,” says Somnath Basu of Unicef, Ranchi.

The baseline survey of MDWS shows sanitation cover in the state has increased from 8 per cent in 2011 to 26 per cent in December, 2013.

Thumbs up to Sikkim

Seventy-year-old Lilabati Gautam’s modest wooden house in Ranka block of East Sikkim is better than many posh resorts. Perched on a hill slope, it overlooks orange trees dotting a lush green valley. In one corner is a two-set toilet built with concrete and tin. It receives water straight from a mountain stream. The washroom and latrine set was built a decade ago with half the expenses sponsored by TSC. It also holds a beautiful example of how to ensure sanitation in difficult terrain.

More than 50 per cent of the rural households in Sikkim do not have water sources on their premises, says a recent NSSO study. But there is hardly a family that does not understand the importance of toilets. All families in Ranka have sanitary toilets; the traditional open pit ones are rare. Lilabati says stomach illnesses have nearly vanished from her family after the toilets were built. Her granddaughter, a Class V student, goes to a school that has five toilets. She always washes her hands after using the toilet and before meals.

Diki Tamang of Sikkim built a toilet next to her house after her college-going daughter demanded itDiki Tamang of Sikkim built a toilet next to her house after her college-going daughter demanded it (Photo: Sayantan Bera)

“But I don’t wash hands before eating,” says four-year-old Prayas Tamang, who is sitting in a group of kids at the Middle Tingchin Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) centre in North Sikkim. “In my house, the blue soap is for washing clothes and the white one for washing hands. While eating I always use a spoon,” Tamang smiles. Down To Earth visited many ICDS centres, each had a toilet and no child was undernourished. Among all the states, incidence of child malnourishment is lowest in Sikkim. Each of the 1,233 anganwadis operational in the state has a toilet and drinking water facility, a feat in itself compared to the rest of the country.

Kumar Rai, secretary of Rey Mindu gram panchayat in Ranka, remembers the convincing it took to make families believe in sanitary toilets. “We campaigned door-to-door, roped in influential local residents and made families understand why toilets are essential. Today, people will walk half-an-hour to fetch water to the toilet than defecate in the open,” he says with unabashed pride. “When a nearby school faced water scarcity recently, each child carried a litre of water from home every day and filled the tank that feeds the latrine till the problem was resolved.”

In November 2008, Rey Mindu and 163 other gram panchayats in Sikkim won the Nirmal Gram Puraskar. A month later, the hill state was honoured by the President of India for becoming the first Nirmal Rajya—a state free from the scourge of open defecation. Since the launch of TSC in 1999, Sikkim with a population of over 600,000, has built 98,043 individual household toilets. This means in the past 14 years, a new toilet was built for every six persons. According to 2011 Census, 87 per cent of the households have toilets within their homes.

A strong political will to achieve total sanitation is the biggest reason for the state’s success, says Yishey D Yongda, joint secretary at the rural management and development department in Sikkim and in-charge of NBA. “Where else will you find a rural development minister peeping into people’s toilets in remote villages?” Way back in 2007, the government made it mandatory for everyone contesting panchayat elections to have a sanitary toilet in their homes. Today, all panchayat members are sensitised about sanitation and hygiene, she adds.

Reliable water supply is crucial for sustaining toilets. Between 2001 and 2011, when the state went on a toilet-building spree, it also increased tap water access in households from 70 per cent to 85 per cent. “It is not easy to take piped water to houses in Sikkim’s challenging mountain terrain. Since 2008, we have taken elaborate measures to revive dying mountain springs through the Dhara Vikas programme,” says D R Nepal, secretary, rural development department. The spring-shed development programme has improved water discharge by 15 per cent and revived 50 springs and four lakes in drought-prone panchayats, states an independent assessment by the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

image

“In our panchayat, wards competed with each other to meet total sanitation targets,” says Milan Chhetri, member of Chuba Phong gram panchayat in Namthang block of south Sikkim. “Earlier, we used to have severe water crisis in winters. So we built trenches, recharged a lake and constructed over 150 rooftop water harvesting tanks,” he adds. The measures not only ensured water security, but also earned Chuba Phong a national award.

“Open defecation was never a part of Sikkimese culture and now there is considerable stigma attached to it,” says Ganden Lachungpa of Gangtok-based non-profit Sikkim Development Foundation. “The monetary incentive under TSC did not even cover the transportation cost of materials. Sikkim’s success is largely due to the receptive staff of rural development department and the sense of awareness and hygiene that was created. The fact that Sikkim has no landless population also went in its favour,” he adds. The state’s former rural development secretary Anil Ganeriwala, who is now a joint secretary with the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, says, “If India needs to replicate Sikkim’s success, the bureaucracy must first appreciate the need for toilet as a precondition to human existence and dignity.”

Success across border

If a handful of states have shown the way to sanitation, efforts of two south Asian neighbours—Bangladesh and Sri Lanka—also stand out.

Ravaged by frequent floods and cyclones, Bangladesh has had to recast its sanitation programme because of high water table and clayey soil. It focuses on “faecal containment” or providing basic pit latrines without water. “This is an interim solution till the country can move up the sanitation ladder,” says Hamidou Maiga, who works for Unicef’s water sanitation and hygiene campaign.

The solution contradicts Unicef’s prescription: pit latrines with slab and water seal or a ventilated pit latrine. But in most of Bangladesh, the top soil is so clayey that pit latrines collapse. Therefore, septic tanks, shared among many houses, have to be installed. Moreover, hygienic latrines get damaged within two years because of corrosion, floods and cyclones. The poor living in coastal areas cannot afford this and the government programme does not extend repeated support.

Despite the problems, Bangladesh has given some sort of sanitation to 96 per cent of its people. Open defecation came down from 33 per cent in 1990 to four per cent in 2010. The country aims to eliminate open defecation by 2015. A massive joint effort of the government, non-profits and donors since 2003 has achieved this.

Sri Lanka, following a well-directed long-term strategy, has almost eradicated open defecation. Concerted efforts to raise sanitation and hygiene standards—a campaign led by the country’s ministry of water supply and drainage, non-profits and donors—have helped achieve this. The government separated sewerage and water supply work in 2009 and increased their respective budgetary allocations. Between 2000 and 2008, sanitation coverage went up from 69 per cent to 84 per cent. It has now reached 90 per cent. The focus is on improving sanitation coverage in plantation areas, resettlement zones of north and east, and among the fishing communities, marginalised groups and extremely poor.

Establishing a single entity to run the sanitation programme across the country was the most important step the government took. Now, strategies developed in Colombo are executed through the national water supply and drainage board (NWSDB) with help from other agencies. NWSDB chief engineer Ruwan Liyanage says the board trains masons in toilet construction.

The ministry of health provides special training to its frontline workers to maintain sanitation records. They are also handed over manuals for technical designs of toilets. Now, for local authorities to get approval of any building plan, it is mandatory to have a toilet in the house plan. The local authorities also undertake monitoring.

Under NWSDB’s sanitation guidelines, each household in a target community has to pay Rs 500 as qualifying fee to avail benefits. This payment creates demand and drives the process of building the toilets while health and hygiene messages ensure their continued usage.

This is where the lesson lies for India. The South Asian countries and some of India’s states show that the subsidy mode must be abandoned. Approaching sanitation as a precondition for human existence is best done by giving rewards. The sporadic examples show that total sanitation coverage definitely is possible.

With inputs from Nitya Jacob

Sikkim’s zero waste venture

It is unusual for a senior bureaucrat to befriend an informal waste dealer. But then Sikkim is known to break new grounds. There is a palpable sense of urgency on the face of Yishey D Yongda, joint secretary with the rural development department when she says, “It is scary to look at the pile of solid waste at the landfill outside Gangtok. The solution is not to depend on a dumpyard and instead recycle waste.”

In 2010, the rural development department introduced the concept of zero waste in Yangang village panchayat of south Sikkim. The panchayat signed an MoU with the block development officer on segregating solid waste at the local resource recovery centre. Households and shopkeepers were given seperate bins for non-biodegradable and biodegradable waste. Camps and door-to-door campaigns spread awareness on waste segregation at source. The department supplied the panchayat with pick-up vehicles to collect waste from households and shops. The vehicle has a partition for separating biodegradable from the non-biodegradable waste. At the resource recovery centre, waste is segregated further. The panchayat has its own utility vehicle which transports and sells recyclable waste to an informal dealer who does further segregation and sells it to recyclers outside the state. This way, solid waste neither piles up nor reaches the landfill. Biodegradable waste is turned into compost and sold locally. The money earned helps maintain and pay for labour at the resource recovery centre and for waste collection.

The idea sounds simple, but it threw up immense challenges for the hill state. To push a pick-up tricycle up the hill is not easy. There is only one large waste dealer in the state, Alam, who is now a friend of Yongda. During monsoon, transporting waste to Alam’s shed, an hour’s ride from Gangtok, the state capital, is difficult. Sikkim being a landlocked state the only channel to send recyclable waste outside the state is through Siliguri in West Bengal.

“After Sikkim earned the Nirmal Rajya status, funding from the Centre dried up. For solid waste management, we were given only Rs 8,000 per panchayat. It was because of our persistence that solid waste management is now a full-fledged component under NBA. With increased allocation of Rs 7 lakh per panchayat we can now buy utility vehicles and build concrete resource recovery centres,” says Yongda.

Lack of funds after 2008 did little to dampen the state’s zero waste initiative. The panchayats pooled in from their own funds and from the Nirmal Gram Award money. Resource recovery centres and approach roads were built from Centrally-funded employment guarantee scheme. In a remarkable gesture of implementing zero-waste, seven gram panchayats in Namthang block of south Sikkim pooled in their Nirmal Gram award money of Rs 85,000 each to build their own resource recovery centre. The zero-waste project has now spread to 14 gram panchayats in Sikkim. A state waste policy which is in the offing envisages zero-waste approach in all rural areas and municipalities. The state is on a mission mode, and a unique one at that.

 

Read more here —  http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/mission-possible

  • #India – 3 yrs after riots, Haryana dalits still suffer #WTFnews (kractivist.org)

 

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#India – Nuclear plant in Haryana will risk lives

Nuclear power plant symbol in blue

Nuclear power plant symbol in blue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Bhaskar Mukherjee, TNN Jan 12, 2014

FATEHABAD: Two anti-nuclear groups with separate list of demands have started protests against the proposed nuclear power plant at Gorakhpur village in Haryana. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will lay the foundation stone of the plant on Monday.

Members of the Parmanu Virodhi Morcha, a coalition of anti-nuclear energy NGOs, held a protest march against land acquisition by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) while members of the Akhil Bharatiya Bishnoi Jeev Raksha Samiti staged protests on environmental issues.

Parmanu Virodhi Morcha president Subhash Punia said, “We are seeking support of former Army chief VK Singh and others. Political leaders from Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) have also assured us of support.”

Akhil Bharatiya Bishnoi Jeev Raksha Samiti members claim the Badopal area, where NPCIL has acquired 125 acres of land, was originally meant for residential purposes. “In a recent reconnaissance conducted on the township site, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun observed that the land acquired by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India is a natural habitat for Blackbucks and Blue Bulls. The WII recommended that the project township be moved elsewhere and the area under preview be set aside as a wildlife reserve,” said Samiti member Vinod Karwasra.

The Parmanu Virodhi Morcha president accused the government of putting people’s lives at risk with their dependence on canal water. “The main problem NPCIL will face is water. They (NPCIL) are totally depending on canal water and a nuclear power plant requires huge amounts of fresh water to keep the power plant cool. Totally depending on canal water is not right. We will protest till the government accepts our demands to close the power plant as soon as possible,” said Punia.

 

 

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