GUEST POST by Satya Sagar
For over a millennium one of the recurring debates among Indian philosophers was whether this world was real or a mere dream. Paradoxically, those who preached most passionately that our senses mislead us and everything around was Maya or an illusion, went on to corner the largest chunk of material reality.
Behind the smokescreen of clever mythology, it was they, who grabbed the lion’s share of everything tangible over the centuries – from land, water, natural resources to hard political and social power. Worse still, using a mix of brute force and religious mumbo-jumbo, they consolidated the exploitation of those who work by those who merely cook up tall stories, through the nightmare of the caste system.
Today the politics of Maya is well and truly back in play with Narendra Modi’s ‘Mahayagna’ a.k.a. demonetisation promising a digital Moksha through the tapasya of a ‘war on black money’. Once again, as in India’s sordid past, the biggest losers of this devious push for a cashless economy are going to be those right at the bottom of the Indian caste hierarchy. Read more…
STATEMENT BY WOMEN AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND STATE REPRESSION
WSS welcomes the decisive intervention of the National Human Rights Commission in cases of sexual violence against Adivasi women by police and security forces engaged in anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh. Validating our assertion that sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war in Bastar, the Commission has held the State government “vicariously liable” for gross violations of human rights.
We are publishing below a statement issued by Anand Singh on behalf of Janchetna, Ludhiana
A group of Hindutva goons ransacked Janchetna — an institution dedicated to promote and propagate progressive literature — in Ludhiana on 2 January 2017. They also abused and misbehaved with the book shop manager Binny and manhandled other activists who came to her rescue. They even threatened to put the books on fire. More disturbing, however, was the fact that all this happened in the presence of police which remained a mute spectator to this fascist attack which lasted for two hours. Later, instead of arresting the goons, the police took the activists present there — Binny, Janchetna book shop manager, Lakhwinder , President of Textiles Hosiery Kamgar Union, Gurjeet (Samar), an activist of karkhana Mazdoor Union and Satbir Naujawan Bharat Sabha activists — into custody and sealed the shop. However, due to people’s pressure the activists were soon released and a demonstration of various mass organisations and trade unions compelled the police to let the book shop reopen.
Maternity Entitlements were Legal Rights 3 years ago, not a New Year Gift: Statement of the Right to Food Campaign
On New Year’s Eve, the Prime Minister in his much-anticipated speech amongst other commitments made a vague announcement of a “nation-wide” scheme for maternity entitlements for pregnant women.
But the PM has not spelled out any specifics – neither the timeframe;budget nor its universal coverage as obligated in the National Food Security Act (NFSA) since2013. Clause 4B of the law already promises all pregnant and lactating women maternity entitlements of atleastRs 6000 for each child. But for three years, the central government didn’t honour this legal obligation. Though better late than never, re-packaging this legal right as the PM’s New Year gift is disingenuous.
Further media reports, from December indicate that the Finance Ministry may hike the budget by a mere 20 percent (instead of the sevenfold increase necessary for universalisation) and that too restrict the benefit to only women Below the Poverty Line (BPL). This would be in complete violation of the NFSA.
But there seems to bearecurring trend to subvert the law. For the last three years, this government continued with the pilot Indira Gandhi MatritvaSahyogYojana (IGMSY) in just 53 districts of the country despite repeated demands by civil society activists and women from across the country. This year, Right to Food Campaign activists from across India even sent postcards to the PM to remind him of the state’s obligation.
In September 2015, even the Supreme Court issued notices to the Centre on the non-implementation of maternity entitlements under the NFSA.
While the government did initially enhance the IGMSY allocations from Rs 4000 to Rs. 6000 to be in tune with the NFSA, neither the coverage nor the budget was enhanced which languishes at Rs. 400 crores. Instead to ensure that all eligible women are covered as per the NFSA, Rs 16,000 crores is necessary. A real test of the Prime Minister’s announcement will be in the fine print of the allocations in next month’s budget.
This October, a colleague and I tracked a group of young Dalits fighting caste atrocities in Uttar Pradesh. The documentary posted above is one part of an extended multimedia project. See the entire project here: https://www.thequint.com/quintlab/ambedkar-dalit-army-fights-caste-atrocities-in-uttar-pradesh/
Guest post by SAMHITA BAROOAH
During a visit to the Kishori Mandal at Apne Aap Women Worldwide’s Uttari Rampur Centre in Forbesganj I met some lovely girls. They stayed in the community near the red light area. They were eager to learn new things. They asked me my story of life, “Didi aapki kahani sunao? Aapne kaise yaha tak sangharsh kiya?” I was again very surprised to encounter the subversion of queries. I should have been the one to ask those questions to the girls, but they wanted to know more about me. Perceptual understanding is a perspective rooted in feminist standpoint theory which could apply to any context from the onlooker’s context. For the young girls from the Red Light Area in Forbesganj, I was trapped in some realities which connected me to them. That was why she asked me to share my story of struggle. When I said education enabled me to survive the world around me, they laughed and said that was not their story. They said, “For us we have to get married as soon as we are 18 years old but sometimes even earlier. We just want to enjoy our freedom now in this centre till we get married. After that we do not know what holds true for us.” As women whether we are in the Nat community of Bihar or we are in the liberated spaces of North East India, our identities get defined by our marriage, cultural practices and socialisation. Unbound freedom for women seems to be a misnomer which should be forbidden for women as the evolved souls say.
Demonetization not a “war on black money” unless finances of political parties made accountable: Nishank Varshney
Guest Post by NISHANK VARSHNEY
While the common man is being subjected to infinite scrutiny and daily changing rules, the political parties enjoy to have a free-run at not disclosing a large part of their income, running into thousands of Crores. As long as the political parties continue to enjoy this exemption, the menace of black money cannot be said to have been tackled.
In one of the most unprecedented decisions in the Indian history that was taken on 8th November, 2016, the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, suddenly announced the cancellation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes with a view of “eliminating black money”. Over the last seven weeks, the PM has regularly reiterated this stand, and called Demonetization a “war on black money” through his speeches at various election rallies, the survey on his mobile app, and most recently in his “Mann ki Baat” program on Sunday. However, Mr. Nasim Zaidi, the Chief Election Commissioner of India, recently expressed that “many political parties are being used as conduits for siphoning off black money”.
As per the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RP Act), political parties are not required to report the names of the individuals or organizations from whom they have received donations of amounts less than Rs. 20,000. A study by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has shown that these ‘unaccounted donations’ form a large part of political parties’ income. In the year 2014-15 alone, BJP declared an income of 505.26 Crore from unknown sources, while Congress received a sum of 445.22 Crore from unknown sources during the same time-period. At present, there are over 1700 registered political parties in India, and many political parties may have been misusing this exemption to convert their black money, as voiced by the Chief Election Commissioner. Read more…