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 When Thousands Marched In The Heart Of Delhi To Warn Modi Govt. Of Its Anti-Poor Moves!

By Akhil Kumar:

The Modi government came into power riding on the popular slogan of ‘Ab Ki Baar, Modi Sarkar’, and promised to lead us all to ‘Acche Din’ with a flick of our PM’s magic wand of ‘development’. What followed has left a bitter taste in the mouths of some of even those who were cogwheels in Mr. Modi’s chariot to electoral glory. What went wrong, you ask? Well, the government seems to have taken the people for a ride only to cozy up to those who oiled the machines of the said chariot and led it to victory (the people present in the march believe those were the corporations and big businesses who have made their lives miserable – Ambani, Adani et al, I am of-course just being the messenger here!). Little surprise then that the people took the slogan and cleverly turned it on its head – ‘Ab Ki Baar Hamara Adhikar’ they roared in unison marching in the heart of the capital.

Picture Credits: Piyusha Gupta

NDTV reports that ‘hundreds of people converged’, if only they had a closer look at their own footage of the event, they would know better. Was this just an oversight, or is it yet another proof of how the mainstream media is complicit in the criminal subjugation of peoples’ rights and silencing of their voices of resistance and assertion? I accompanied thousands of people (more than 30000 according to most people) from across the country who came together under the banner of ‘National Alliance of People’s Movements‘ for the ‘adhikar rally’ that marched from Ambedkar Stadium and culminated into a massive public meeting at Jantar Mantar. In my 5 years of active participation in various movements in the city, and hence being a regular at Jantar Mantar, I can tell you that never had I seen the place bursting at the seams like it was yesterday. There was no place to sit, and the ground wasn’t visible as thousands of people were trying to squeeze in and make room for more to fit in. Thousands of people poured in from across the country, by various means (trains, buses etc.) even when most could hardly afford the trip. Many of them even camped on the streets and spent their night sleeping in the cold Delhi night with nothing but plastic sheets as cover. The fact that the mainstream media chose to ignore or misreport this extraordinary solidarity movement is testimony to the fact that the voices of the oppressed are often deliberately silenced or manipulated by big media as per their vested interests.

Picture Credits: Abki Baar Humara Adhikar

Coming back to the Adhikar rally, the near 4KM distance that we marched was an inspiring experience. Narmada Bachao Andolan, Pension Parishad, Anganwadi, Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity and a total of around 170 rights based organisations joined in to assert their rights and demand accountability and justice from the government. They sang songs of resistance, shouted slogans, raised their fists in anger, and swept the roads like an angry tidal wave. Many walked barefoot, some brought their little children along, some others carried bags of grain and other symbolic objects to make the message clear.

Picture Credits: Piyusha Gupta

The placards and banners that they carried had very specific demands and questions for the government, protesting against the dilution of pro-poor policies to make way for big money. The slogans questioned the policies that the present government is hurriedly pushing through, and the others which it is trying to dilute and maim. The government has taken a U-turn and is going back on the very policies that the BJP supported when it was in the opposition.

Picture Credits: Piyusha Gupta

The meeting at Jantar Mantar saw popular mass leaders like Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Kavita Krishnan, D Raja and many others addressing a huge audience on many issues that concern them. The meeting began with the host listing various issues that they had gathered to discuss. Here’s a brief look at the points raised, along with some pictures:

1) Land Rights: Many of those present have been displaced, their lands taken away from them, and others who weren’t paid proper compensation. The speaker explained how the Land Acquisition Act was being weakened to favour big business at the cost of the land and livelihood of the working class and the poor.

Picture Credits: Chandan Gomes

2) Workers Rights: The proposed changes to the Contract Labour Act and its repercussions were discussed. A majority of the workers are now being employed as contract workers in the unorganised workforce and every effort is being made to stop them from organising and forming unions to safeguard their interests and assert their rights. 8 hour working day and a day off in a week should be ensured for all workers, including domestic workers. We need to have a scientifically calculated minimum wage in the country, which should be inflation indexed. The calculation for minimum wages should be on the basis of 240 work days in a 365 day year. There is need for an Urban Right To Work, along with unemployment allowance.

Picture Credits: Piyusha Gupta

3) Rights over the forest: Forests are home to many adivasis who are now being driven out of their homes to accommodate profit making corporations. Their lands forcibly taken, their mountains mined, and their rivers poisoned. Efforts are on to dilute the powers of the Gram Sabha that gives power to the locals to have a say on their habitat and natural resources. We have all seen the power of the Gram Sabha in Niyamgiri, where the Dongria Kondh drove out Vedanta. Also, care needs to be taken to ensure that the Gram Sabhas are not manipulated by the powerful and local elites repressing voices of the dalits and adivasis.

Picture Credits: Chandan Gomes

4) Right To Information: The RTI Act is a very useful weapon in the hands of the people to know what the Govt. is up to. Communication from the govt. is very crucial for awareness and development, and for the people to rightfully demand answers. Reportedly, efforts are on to dilute this act as well.

#WTFnews" data-image-description="<div class="topNewsBox bdrBNone mB0" style="color: #000000;"> <div></div> <div> <p class="fs14 lineHit24 mB0"><b>List of disappearing entities could see additions, for first time in 20 years</b></p> </div> <div class="clrBoth"></div> <div class="byline mT5 mB5" style="color: #666666;"> <p><strong>Sachin P Mampatta  |  &lt;news:geo_locations&gt;Mumbai </strong></p> <div><strong>August 5, 2014</strong> Last Updated at 00:58 IST</div> </div> <div class="fLt mT10"></div> </div> <div class="section m0p0 bdrBNone" style="color: #000000;"> <div class="colL_MktColumn2"> <div> <div> <div></div> <p>A few skeletons are likely to tumble out of the cupboard with the end of the country’s regional stock exchanges — among other things, in the form of what could be the largest-ever case of corporate disappearances in India.</p> <p>A <em>Business Standard</em> analysis of <a class="storyTags" style="color: #0000ff !important;" href=";q=Corporate+Affairs+Ministry" target="_blank">corporate affairs ministry</a>records and data from eleven regional exchanges reveals around 700 listed companies have likely vanished, without a trace of these entities at their registered addresses — many times more than the 87 currently identified as ‘vanishing companies’ in official records. The exchanges, too, have received no correspondence from these companies for a long time. According to investor association estimates, the total value of the ‘vanishing companies’ could be in excess of Rs 29,000 crore.</p> <p>‘Vanishing companies’ are those listed entities that have raised money from investors through initial public offerings and then disappeared. The corporate affairs ministry’s coordination and monitoring committee (CMC), which has representatives from the government, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and the Reserve Bank of India, has been monitoring the situation. In the past two decades, there were no new instances of <a class="storyTags" style="color: #0000ff !important;" href=";q=Vanishing+Companies" target="_blank">vanishing companies </a>in the country. But according to the minutes of the previous CMC meeting, the chairman of the committee noted the number of such companies was likely going up significantly, with a majority of new instances from regional stock exchanges.</p> <p>The minutes said there were 2,397 companies that defaulted in filing their balance sheets appropriately. Of these, 1,012 were listed on <a class="storyTags" style="color: #0000ff !important;" href=";q=Bse" target="_blank">BSE </a>or the National Stock Exchange (NSE), while the rest (1,385) were from regional bourses.</p> <p>More than half the companies listed on either BSE or <a class="storyTags" style="color: #0000ff !important;" href=";q=Nse" target="_blank">NSE </a>could be ‘vanishing’. “The chairman observed the 508 listed entities that had been delisted appeared to be dubious and most (if not all) of these would turn out to be ‘vanishing companies’,” said the minutes of the meeting, held in July last year.</p> <p>Even if one assumes the proportion of similarly-affected companies among regional exchange-listed ones would not be higher than the proportion for firms listed on the two national bourses, the number of ‘vanishing companies’ on regional stock exchanges would come to around 700.</p> <p>But the number could, in fact, be higher than that. Most regional exchanges have moved to shut shop since last year’s CMC meeting and were asked to provide information on companies listed on them before exiting. An analysis of data from 11 regional bourses shows 3,669 listed companies are not compliant with the listing agreement. The sample excludes eight existing regional exchanges for which data on non-compliant companies were not available.</p> <p>Non-compliance indicates the firms did not adhere to requirements like filing financial statements with the exchanges concerned. How many of these would be classified as ‘vanishing’ would depend on whether or not these companies are traceable at their registered offices.</p> <p>Virendra Jain, founder of Sebi-registered investor association <a class="storyTags" style="color: #0000ff !important;" href=";q=Midas+Touch" target="_blank">Midas Touch </a>believes a significant number of these non-compliant companies are likely to fall in the ‘vanishing’ category. “Around 50 per cent of the companies are likely to be vanishing,” he says, suggesting the number of vanishing companies could be more than 1,800.</p> <p>Midas Touch had earlier written to <a class="storyTags" style="color: #0000ff !important;" href=";q=Sebi" target="_blank">Sebi </a>on the issue of companies exclusively listed on regional exchanges and how their closure, effective from May this year, would affect investors in these companies. “By a conservative estimate, the market capitalisation of the 4,644 companies exclusively listed at regional stock exchanges would be above Rs 2,00,000 crore,” the association had said in its letter to Sebi.</p> <p>Going by this figure, the combined value of ‘vanishing companies’ could be around Rs 30,000 crore, if these are 700-odd; and close to Rs 80,000 crore, if around 1,800 companies are ‘vanishing’.</p> <p>In 2012, the regulator had asked all exchanges that did not meet the criteria of Rs 100 crore minimum net worth and Rs 1,000 crore volumes to close down by May 2014.</p> <p>The move led to closure of many regional stock exchanges — 21 of those existed then. Four regional exchanges have already exited business since, while 10 others are in the process of winding down. Sebi has said it will ask the others to also exit compulsorily.</p> <p>As for the 4,000-odd companies listed only on regional exchanges, Sebi had said these could migrate to the national exchanges; none has done that so far, according to spokespersons for exchanges. The regulator had asked companies to classify errant companies as ‘vanishing’, but, apart from the estimates mentioned, there is no official word on how many firms actually fall in this category. A spokesperson for the <a class="storyTags" style="color: #0000ff !important;" href=";q=Madras+Stock+Exchange" target="_blank">Madras Stock Exchange </a>said a list of ‘vanishing companies’ had been sent to the registrar of companies for action. Emails on the issue sent to the other regional exchanges and the regulator did not elicit any response.</p> <div><img class="imgCont" title="" src="" alt="" width="620" height="358" align="left" /></div> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div id="adshowbtm"></div> </div> <div class="gryBdrBtm" style="color: #000000;"></div> <div class="article bdrBNone mT15" style="color: #000000;"></div> <p>Read mor where –</p> " data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class="size-full wp-image-41848" src="" alt="Picture Credits: Piyusha Gupta" width="850" height="566" />

5) Right To Food: The National Food Security Act has not taken off at all, the deadline has been postponed twice. The data from the Socio-Economic Caste Census has not been released. Support to farmers in terms of a guaranteed Minimum Support Price (MSP) and decentralized procurement are issues that need urgent attention. India has the highest malnutrition and maternal mortality rates, the maternity entitlements promised in the NFSA (the scheme hasn’t even been announced yet) should be paid heed to immediately. Children’s right to food, entitlements under the NFSA, have no rules or processes. The quality of food provided in schools and Anganwadi centres should be improved – include eggs, which is nutritive and popular with children.

Picture Credits: Chandan Gomes

6) Right To Education: Almost 1 lakh government schools across the country have been closed down – 22% in Rajasthan – most of the schools that have been closed down are those that were being accessed by Dalits, Adivasis and girls. Changes are being proposed in the RTE Act to make it more friendly to private schools. The govt. should bring under 6 and 14-18 year olds under the purview of RTE as well. Inadequate number of teachers and a dire lack of teacher training has been a huge problem. About 6 lakh seats in private schools need to be filled to meet the requirement of 25% seats reservation for EWS children as per the RTE Act. Shouldn’t the government focus more on taking responsibility and strengthen the educational infrastructure to provide free quality education to all, more investment in the education sector is needed to facilitate this. Also, an important point raised was how we need to be very wary of communal propaganda creeping into school textbooks. We need to resist this attempt at saffronisation of education.

Picture Credits: Piyusha Gupta

7) Right To Health: There have been reports of proposed cuts in spending on the Health sector where the need is to at least double the spending. The rampant commercialization and privatisation of this sector needs to be checked and the government should work extensively in improving the condition of hospitals, build more of them, and provide free healthcare and medicines. The Clinical Establishments Act is also not being implemented. What’s even more ironic is that the BJP promised free medicines in its manifesto, now they say only 50 medicines will be on the free list and even those will only be available at PHCs, so inpatients will not get any free medicines.

#Vaw #Womenrights" data-image-description="<div style="color: #222222;">Flavia Agnes, Asian Age 6th August 2014</div> <div style="color: #222222;"><img src="" alt="" /></div> <div style="color: #222222;"></div> <div style="color: #222222;">At the centre of the controversy around the recent Supreme Court ruling which is popularly re-ferred to as the “fatwa ruling” is a Muslim woman from a village in Muzaffarnagar, who was raped by her own father-in-law. She was brave enough to file a criminal complaint against him, something most women would hesitate to do.</div> <div style="color: #222222;">She and her poor labourer husband were ostracised by her father-in-law’s neighbours who accused her of filing a false complaint. In spite of all hardships she continued her pursuit for justice. Finally, the father-in-law was convicted. The courage of the then 28-year-old mother of five in lodging the complaint against all odds, and the support she received from her husband needs to be applauded.</div> <div style="color: #222222;">In response to a query by a journalist to the Darul Uloom Deoband, whether the woman could continue with her marriage after she has been raped by her father-in-law, the Darul Uloom issued a fatwa stating that in view of the rape, the woman has become “haram” to her husband and would now have to live with the rapist father-in-law. This decision was endorsed by the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board.</div> <div style="color: #222222;">The fatwa received wide media publicity. Despite this, the woman and her husband continued to live together as husband and wife.</div> <div style="color: #222222;">As a reaction to this fatwa, an advocate, Vishwa Lochan Madan, filed a broad spectrum public interest writ petition in Supreme Court in 2005, requesting that all Dar-ul-Qazas (Sharia courts which mediate over family disputes) and fatwa-issuing Islamic religious institutions should be banned. The Supreme Court, on July 7, 2014, ruled that fatwas are not binding and have no legal validity, and no one is bound to follow them, including the one who seeks such fatwas, but did not ban the Sharia courts and did not invalidate the fatwa issuing religious institutions.<br /> While the ruling has aroused a great deal of interest, contradictory opinions have been expressed by legal scholars and other experts as to whether the ruling is in the right spirit and will empower Muslim women or it will adversely impact their rights.</div> <div style="color: #222222;">Constitutional law expert and senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan has expressed concern that the judgment has not explored the terrain of Article 25 — freedom awarded to minorities to follow their religious practices. Both he and advocate Irfan Engineer have questioned the locus standi of the petitioner. Dhavan contends that delivering a judgment without questioning the locus standi of the petitioner of the absurd writ was faulty. Engineer, who is also the director of Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, says that the petition appears to be biased as the petition is directed only against Muslim religious institutions, leaving our similar institutions of other communities.</div> <div style="color: #222222;">I would like to go one step further and state that instead of calling the fatwa an “eye opener”, the Supreme Court ought to have chastised the journalist who obtained the fatwa as a mere publicity stunt. As a rape survivor, the woman’s privacy was invaded and her confidentiality betrayed not just by the media, but also by the court. There is no accountability for such intrusion into the private lives of women, especially Muslim women. It seems as though they are not entitled to the privacy, dignity and confidentiality awarded to other rape survivors. They can be hounded by journalists and advocates and rendered media spectacle.</div> <div style="color: #222222;">On the other hand, legal scholars such a Prof. Upendra Baxi as well as some Muslim women groups have criticised the ruling for not going far enough and banning all fatwas.</div> <div style="color: #222222;">My own reading of the judgment is that it is balanced and will help bolster Muslim women’s rights without encroaching upon the freedom awarded to minorities under Article 25 of the Constitution. Aggrieved persons have the right to approach a civil court for appropriate remedies. One always knew it, but this ruling has helped bring clarity.</div> <div style="color: #222222;">Even if the Supreme Court had banned fatwas, a woman would still have to go to the police or the court against a fatwa issued on her to enforce her rights. Supreme Court rulings are not magic wands that can overnight change realities. Women’s groups need to work in creating awareness among Muslim women, as well as help women aggrieved by such fatwas to challenge them. Only then will the situation change. The constant refrain that Muslim women have no rights, only serves to reinforce the misconceived notion.</div> <div style="color: #222222;">A common myth that prevails is that Muslim women do not or cannot approach courts. To dispel this myth, I need to state that almost 50 per cent of the cases filed by our team of women lawyers concern Muslim women. For over two decades now, we have been able to effectively use the provisions of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, to secure “fair and reasonable settlement” for Muslim women seeking maintenance or custody.</div> <div style="color: #222222;">In the same vein, we have challenged divorce pronounced in an arbitrary manner or talaqnamas sent through post, fax, email or served on the woman during court proceedings, even when it was validated by a fatwa.</div> <div style="color: #222222;">General, umbrella fatwas barring women from voting, restraining them from seeking employment, forbidding the use of mobile phones or banning women from movie theatres etc. violate fundamental rights of freedom and liberty and are not binding. Criminal action needs to be initiated against anyone forcing women to obey these fatwas. Muslim women need to stand up for their rights just the way the rape survivor withstood all pressures and proceeded with her criminal case and continued to live with her husband despite the fatwa and the countrywide furor created over the fatwa.</div> <div style="color: #222222;">While we were always convinced that fatwas are not binding, this ruling has further strengthened our hands and relieved the trial courts of the burden of examining the validity of a fatwa. The Supreme Court has given a clear direction that fatwas are not binding, even on the person who seeks it and this unequivocal message needs to go down to the community.The writer is a women’s rights lawyer and director of the Legal Centre of Majlis</div> " data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class="size-full wp-image-41844" src="" alt="Picture Credits: Chandan Gomes" width="850" height="566" />

8) Right To Pension: The pension amount, as of Union Budget 2012-13 is INR 200 per month per person from 60 – 79 years and INR 500 per month per person for those 80 years and above, and the access to even this is not very easy. This needs to be increased as it is not possible to survive on such a meager amount. There is need for universal pension scheme. If Govt. employees get 50% of their last drawn wage as pension, the same should be applied to the poor – 50% of the minimum wages. Pension should be made available to all aged citizens, single women, people living with disabilities, transgenders and sex workers. The procedure to avail this should also be made simpler.

Picture Credits: Piyusha Gupta

9) Right To Protest: The renewed offensive on the right to protest needs to stop immediately. People resisting the destruction of natural resources, and fighting for their rights to livelihood are often punished and silenced for demanding justice or even posing questions.

Picture Credits: Chandan Gomes

10) Women’s rights: Women’s right to freedom without fear and a dignified livelihood should be taken care of. With the increasing instances of violence against women and their systematic subjugation, there is an urgent need to take concrete measure and implement policies that ensure that the discrimination and subjugation is put to an end.

Picture Credits: Piyusha Gupta

11) Dalit, Adivasi, Bahujan and other minority rights: The communal polarisation by the RSS and their ploy to strengthen hierarchies of caste should not be tolerated. We must resolve to reject all such hierarchies, and defeat the RSS ideology. Also, the factors facilitating this structural oppression need to be fought with vigour. Ambedkar’s vision of the annihilation of caste is the way forward.

Viable solutions were also proposed to facilitate this change. India is among the lowest spenders on social services in proportion to the GDP. We also have one of the lowest tax-GDP ratios in the world. Resource mobilization through progressive taxation is the need of the hour. Tax exemption and other concessions to the corporate sector needs to be reduced; a lot of resources, including cheap giveaways, go into this. Budget cuts and low funding can not be justified.

Picture Credits: Piyusha Gupta

The massive intersectional solidarity in the event further strengthens my belief that a mass peoples’ movement to assert rights and demand justice is the only way forward to egalitarianism and social justice. ‘Ladke lenge hamara adhikar, hum cheen ke lenge hamara adhikar’ as they said. For the people present, the state has become the oppressor, and as they say ‘freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor’, hence the need for such assertion and solidarity, for it is in fact about freedom, the freedom to live a dignified life, to exercise their constitutional rights and demand social justice.

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