Recalling ‘Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talaab’: Raj Kaithwar

Guest post by RAJ KAITHWAR

As I began to type this review, I struggled to begin with the beginning: how do I present this lively work on ‘talaab’ which does justice to its contents. It was not an easy task. Finally, I decided to begin with the end: the thoughts which clouded over me as I ended reading the book ‘Aaj Bhi Khare Hai Talaab’. How do we see a ‘talaab’ or do we even see it? Why are the modern ways of water conservation failing or are the modern ways even inclined at conserving? Who will protect the societies and ecologies from the rising dangers or is protection even a concern? As I describe some of the accounts from ‘Aaj Bhi Khaare Hai Talaab’ I hope it arouses a curiosity strong enough in the reader to pick up the book and scan through its pages. Continue reading “Recalling ‘Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talaab’: Raj Kaithwar”

India’s Health Policy: A long tale of underachievement – Prakash Gupta

This is a guest post by PRAKASH GUPTA

 

Health has been the most neglected policy domain in India.The fact that India made it first National policy on Health in 1983, 36 years after independence itself reflects the level of priority for the state. India’s health policy, health financing in particular, suffers from ‘shifting goal posts’ phenomenon. Continue reading “India’s Health Policy: A long tale of underachievement – Prakash Gupta”

Remembering Chandu, Friend and Comrade: Kavita Krishnan

Chandrashekhar (Comrade Chandu)

Guest Post by Kavita Krishnan

It’s been twenty years since the assassin’s bullets took Chandu away from us, at 4 pm on 31 March 1997.

I still recall my sheer disbelief when a phone call from my party office at my hostel that evening informed me ‘Chandu has been killed.’ Chandrashekhar as well as youth leader Shyam Narayan Yadav had been shot dead while addressing a street corner meeting in Siwan – ironically at a Chowk named after JP – Jaiprakash Narayan, icon of the movement for democracy against the Emergency. A rickshaw puller Bhuteli Mian also fell to a stray bullet fired by the assassins – all known to be henchmen of the RJD MP and mafia don Mohd. Shahabuddin.

In the spring of 1997, as JNU began to burst into the riotous colours of amaltas and bougainvillea, Chandu bid us goodbye. He had served two terms as JNUSU President (I was Joint Secretary during his second stint) and had decided to return to his hometown Siwan, as a whole-time activist of the CPI(ML) Liberation. He had made the decision to be a whole-time activist a long time ago. Chandu’s friends know that for him, the decision to be an activist rather than pursue a salaried career was no ‘sacrifice.’ It was a decision to do what he loved doing and felt he owed to society.

Continue reading “Remembering Chandu, Friend and Comrade: Kavita Krishnan”

Sterilization Death Camps in Bilaspur: An Open Letter to the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister by Concerned Citizens

[ This is a letter addressed to Raman Singh, the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh by several concerned individuals and organizations regarding the impunity with which medical guidelines are put aside by professionals who enjoy the patronage and protection of the state government.]

We, the 138 undersigned individuals and organizations working across the country on health and women’s rights are shocked and dismayed that the case against surgeon Dr. R. K. Gupta has been dismissed by the Hon’ble High Court on grounds that “the alleged act committed by the petitioner was while acting in discharge of his official duty and admittedly no previous sanction was obtained before initiating prosecution case against him”.

The Anita Jha Judicial Enquiry Commission report has clearly pointed out that “It is evident from the facts that in the camps organized on 8.11.2014 and 10.11.2014 there was a breach in the important necessities hence the standard operating procedure were not followed. As a result of which the symptoms of infections were found in post operative female beneficiaries“. It further states that “On the background of deliberation of investigation point number 1 to 3, investigation committee has found following persons Guilty/responsible, functionary, during 08 and 10 November, 2014:- 4.1 For not following standard procedures and for medical negligence by immediate functionary Block Medical Officer, Takhatpur…………….and surgeon who conducted surgery in tubectomy camp at Sakri and Gaurella ( Surgeries were completed by the same surgeon in the both camps)”.

Continue reading “Sterilization Death Camps in Bilaspur: An Open Letter to the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister by Concerned Citizens”

In Solidarity with Adivasis in Bastar, Human Rights Defenders and Bela Bhatia in Bastar: Concerned Students in TISS, Mumbai

Guest Post by CONCERNED STUDENTS OF TATA INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, MUMBAI

We, the concerned students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai condemn the continuing state repression of adivasis and recent attack on human rights activist Bela Bhatia in Bastar, Chhattisgarh.

On the 23rd of January, 2017, a group of 30-odd men attacked Bela where they barged into her house in Parpa, near Jagdalpur violently and threatened to burn the building down if she did not leave immediately. The mob also attacked her landlords and their children, threatening them with dire consequences if Bela was not evicted immediately. Despite Bela’s assurances that she would leave, the mob continued to be belligerent, in the presence of the police, and the Sarpanch. The mob has been identified with the right-wing vigilante group Action Group for National Integrity (AGNI).

In last one year alone a number of vigilante groups like the now disbanded Samajik Ekta Manch, Naxal Peedith Sangharash Samiti and the newly formed group AGNI have been used by Kalluri and the Bastar police, to harass and intimidate everyone living and working in the area, be it lawyers, journalists, local leaders, researchers who are exposing these cases of atrocities and calling the state to account. Many of these vigilante groups are formed by ex Salwa Judum leaders. An all-out war has been launched against the people of Bastar by the security forces. These state forces are hell bent on ensuring that this becomes ‘A war without any witnesses’.

In the present scenario, the adivasis in Bastar are putting up a tough fight against State’s attempt to dispossess them. It is an attempt to finish off adivasi community, their culture and their existence all together so that the mineral rich land and jungles of central region of the country could be easily handed off to the Corporates.  In this war between the state and people of Bastar, all those who have tried to stand with the adivasis  in their fight, exposing this State-Corporate nexus have been equally targeted and threatened. The background to the recent attack on Bela comes from her involvement in exposing state crimes especially incidents of mass sexual assaults in Bastar. Towards the end of February 2016, Bela along with teams of Women against State Violence and Sexual Assault (WSS), Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JagLAG) and Activist Soni Sori exposed three incidents of mass sexual violence by police and security forces in the villages of Pedagellur, Belam Nendra and Chinnagelur, Bijapur District of Bastar region, Chhattisgarh. Together with the victims, they managed to file FIRs, one on November 1, 2015, and another on January 21, 2016 against Security forces. These were the first instances of the use of Section 376(2)(c) IPC providing for indictment of state and central security forces for sexual violence. Within eight days of the filing of the FIRs, the revengeful action towards Bela and others started, leading to a rally being organised against her in Bijapur district by the vigilante group Naxal Peedit Sangharsh Samiti. Bela, due to the mounting pressure vacated her house in Jagdalpur and moved to Parpa, a village near Jagdalpur. However, the hounding and harassment has continued, and unfortunately intensified enough to make her vacate her Parpa House as well after she accompanied the team of NHRC along with Soni Sori to Pedagellur to record testimonies of women who have been victims of sexual violence.

The attack on Bela is not the first one. In past year, women advocates of JagLAG have been threatened by an alleged criminal complaint, journalist Malini Subramaniam was hounded out of Bastar, Nandini Sundar and Manju Kawasi have been charged in false murder cases, Laxmi Hidme, mother of encountered Madkam Hidme and  Kawasi Hidme, who after years of torture in prison, now fights alongside Soni Sori, a tribal activist who was attacked with chemicals on her face. By calling the lawyers and activists as ‘Safed posh naxalis’ the state has tried its best to criminalize them and made sure that an obstacle is created in them lending any support to the people.

Appeals of accountability from the police have led to a venomous vitriol being unleashed by Inspector General SRP Kalluri where he has responded by saying most objectionable, vulgar and threatening things to these women along with giving a free hand to officials under him to rape and kill the adivasis. Mission 2016 is conveniently being carried out on the principle of clear-hold-build. IG Kalluri’s role in perpetuating violence against the adivasis with complete impunity and lawlessness has been especially notorious. In a recent NDTV interview, he said, “Activists are enemies because they incite people against democracy, and question the sovereignty and universality of India. We oppose their anti-national brigade.” It is important to especially pay attention to the last statement that he makes, that ‘activists are anti-nationals’. That activists are anti-nationals is the propaganda used by the right-wing BJP government, its student wing ABVP and their media stooges like Zee TV & Times Now. IG Kalluri is the iron heel used by the right wing fascist government in Chhattisgarh and Centre. He has scant regard for constitutional principles or Rule of Law and is the perpetrator of fake encounters, torture, mass sexual assault against adivasis. A number of these incidents have been investigated and documented by  human rights & lawyers groups like PUCL, WSS, JagLAG, as well as by  ST Commission and the Editors’ Guild of India. There has been a sudden spurt in crimes against adivasis of Bastar and activists working in that area ever since Mr. SRP Kalluri took charge as Inspector General (Bastar Range) in 2014. As the incidents of mass sexual assaults were filed in February, recently NHRC testified to the truth of these statements saying that security forces have raped 16 women.

People like Bela are a hindrance to such a war. Bela who is a researcher, activist, ex-alumni and ex-faculty member of TISS, has been working in the area since past two years. As students of TISS, we clearly remember the difference that Bela made to the lives of many students on the campus. She was teaching courses in the Dalit and Tribal Studies Department of Social Work at TISS. She was regularly taking courses in Foundation Courses on Social Movements. She was quite vocal about issues on campus and was always a supportive voice when it came to student’s issues. In the light of the organic relationship that Bela shared with her students and her teaching of the principles of justice and equality, we as TISS students demand an immediate stop to the harassment that she has been subjected to.

We stand by the people of Bastar in this war that the state has waged against them and condemn in strongest terms the erosion of democracy and heinous way in which adivasis are being pushed out of Bastar to dispossess and alienate them from their rights over jal, jangal and jameen.

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.