There was clear discrimination against religious communities: Tribunal

Two days ago, the Gujarat chief minister publicised dizzying statistics about the superhuman effort put in by the government in their post-earthquake rehabilitation and reconstruction programme; the Indian People's Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights, however, has made public a report that trashes government claims, reports Shamya Dasgupta

New Delhi, January 25

Contrary to the tall claims of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, it appears that most people rendered disabled following the killer quake that hit the Kutchh region a year ago have not been given the necessary help required to get back to normalcy. This was disclosed by Justice K Sukumaran, head of the Indian People's Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights (IPTEHR), who gave damning figures trashing the government's claims.

While the people of Gujarat are still trying to come to terms with the massive losses suffered by the state - 7,633 villages destroyed, 13,000 people dead, over Rs 15,000 crores of property lost - the government, though doing a commendable job, seems more intent on setting "records" and patting itself on the back.

Not only that, Sukumaran actually says that he, along with other members of the IPTEHR, were witness to quite a bit of discrimination all around on the basis of religion. Says Sukumaran, "There was clear discrimination against particular religious communities; something you wouldn't expect, at least under the circumstances. The conditions there are very difficult even for the majority community, so you can imagine what it is like for people who are not accorded basic help."

On January 23, in a much-publicised press conference in the capital, Modi waxed ecstatic about the progress made by his state in reconstruction and rehabilitation work in the past one year. His entire speech and presentation was a monologue full of "facts" and figures, which served to convince the gathering that the state of Gujarat is, today, close to becoming a state like no other, with practically no worries, and if there are some worries, they will be taken care of soon.

But a report furnished by the IPTEHR, which is based on testimonies of survivors and a large number of disabled persons and paraplegics, proves that the handicapped have been ignored completely by the authorities in charge of the rehabilitation process. Speaking to, Sukumaran himself confirmed all the facts, and gave the gory details of the Gujarat government's callousness and deceit.

Says Sukumaran, "According to our survey, there are over 10,000 disabled people in the disaster-affected area. Of them, though the government has been claiming otherwise, more than 50 per cent have been denied the basic requirements and rights, as laid down under the Disability Act of 1995. The biggest problem is that the authorities are asking for a disability certificate, something most people don't have, because the disabilities were caused during the earthquake, and the authorities have not issued the required certificates since. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution lays down that disabled persons should not be denied their basic civil rights, but a look at the rehabilitation programmes is proof enough of the discrimination."

Compensation for the dead is another area where the government has failed to deliver as per promise, and have provided figures that go against the findings of the IPTEHR committee. Sukumaran goes on to give the example of an old woman, whose grandchild had died along with the rest of the family in the killer quake. He says, "This woman has not been able to claim any of the money, because the authorities have been asking for a post mortem certificate of her infant grandson. They fail to see why or how the grandmother can't have the post mortem report."

Sukumaran also cites the example of a plight common to a large number of the affected. "When poor villagers go to claim their compensation, they are asked for ration cards. To start with, Gujarat is one of the more backward states when it comes to things like ration cards. Add to that the fact that all the belongings of these people were destroyed in the quake, and you wonder why the authorities can't see why they can't provide ration cards," he says.

The government has done its bit in taking care of the reconstruction and rehabilitation programme. But, unlike their claims, it doesn't seem like they have done as much as they were expected to. While most of the disabled received treatment and aids, like wheelchairs and wooden crutches, their long-term rehabilitation is still pending.

Modi, in his conference, had also proudly announced that his government had made tremendous progress in the field of allocation of houses and land to people. While discussing the problems faced in the endeavour, Modi had also joked, "The problem is that some people are not happy with what they are getting. You give people land and houses somewhere, and they will say that they would rather live elsewhere. It is normal human nature, and can't be helped."

But behind the "normal human nature" is a slightly more serious problem, according to Sukumaran. The IPTEHR spoke to a number of disgruntled villagers, and found out, "some of the fisherfolk were being given land in the middle of the state of Gujarat. Similarly, farmers of one type of crop were being given land in areas where they would have to cultivate something else. Obviously that led to a bit of discontentment."

The report has been published, and has since been submitted to Modi and other senior government officials in Gujarat. Expectedly, there has been no formal response to it from the government yet, though Sukumaran says that he expects the government to react sooner rather than later. A year after one of the worst natural disasters to hit the world, the people of Gujarat are only fractionally better than they were on January 26, 2001. The government has done its bit, but the IPTEHR says that they would do better to provide true statistics instead of delivering propaganda.

Students demonstrate against sexual harassment

HT Correspondent

(New Delhi, September 24)

The combined students’ representatives of the All India Students Association (AISA), United Dalit Students Forum (UDSF) and National Students' Union of India (NSUI) held a demonstration against the recent sexual harassment case of Leela Kumari, a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) today. The demands entailed in the memorandum given to the JNU authorities included the handing over of the case to the Gender Sensitisation Committee for Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) and the completion of the inquiry within 72 hours. They also demanded that all those who are found guilty be punished by expulsion, said sources. In another development, an M.Phil student Abdullah Imtiaz was rusticated and declared out of bounds by the university authorities in an earlier case of sexual harassment. Anisha, a non-teaching staff who worked in the Computer Science department, levelled charges against him. The complaint was filed almost two months ago and on recommendations of the GSCASH, the vice-chancellor has used powers which enable him to withdraw any kind of welfare facilities as a disciplinary action against any student.

Couple hounded by cops for inter-caste marriage

HT Correspondent

(New Delhi, September 24)

A COUPLE from Narela village in north Delhi is on the run. They are at the top of "wanted list" of the Delhi Police for having dared to marry disregarding caste considerations. This, despite, being majors. Santosh Kumar, 28-year-old-Dalit, married his sweetheart Babita, a Jat, on May 15 this year. The marriage was solemnised in an Arya Samaj Mandir and also before a court but kept a secret till September 15. The couple bolted when the going got tough. It was at this juncture, that Babita's, relatives decided to pull clout. That two of her relatives were in the Delhi Police and one with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) ensured that the Police extended all co-operations. Even before a complaint was registered, the police picked up Santosh's elder brother for questioning. "On September 17, they picked me up from my house in Narela and detained me at the Police station," said Ashok, elder brother of Santosh. He was allegedly detained in Police station from 7 pm to 1 am that day. During this time he was beaten up with belts and subjected to other kinds of torture. Subsequently, all of Santosh's relatives in Delhi were raided. "They threatened that if I tried to protect them I would suffer" Ashok said. He alleged that he was asked to appear before the police the next morning again." I decided not to go back because anything could have happened," he said. The Station House Officer, (SHO) of Narela, however, denies this. He said only after a formal complaint of kidnapping was registered by Babita's relatives did they start investigations and carry out search operations. "We have received a complaint and we had to investigate the case because the complainants claimed that the girl was minor and had been kidnapped," he said. He denied that Satonsh was detained before a formal complaint was registered. While a formal complaint was allegedly registered on September 20, the police raided Santosh's brother-in-laws house in Rani Bagh on September 19. Babita's relatives accompanied them during the raids. "They came to my house and forcibly picked up mother and my sister and detained them at the police station," said Jai Prakesh, a relative of Santosh who works in the Ministry of Commerce. The police, however, said that they were only trying to do their duty.

‘A big business and tamasha’



JALANDHAR: Litterateurs, poets, short story writers, elderly political leaders are all of the view that elections are no longer a serious affair.

Nor does any serious issue get a place for discussion. There is no agenda for serious debate in the election process any more. It has been reduced to a tamasha. Some even feel elections are now a business to be invested into to make profits during the five year term.

LR Balley, Ambedkarite ideologue who once was general secretary of the Republican Party of India, is disillusioned with the election process. He quotes BR Ambedkar, father of the Indian Constitution when he delivered a speech at DAV college in Jalandhar in 1951, just one year before the first general elections.

“Big business has entered politics and Gandhi had taught them that this is the best business. “He saw the corrupting influence of business creeping into the election process then. Now it is too late. Elections since long have a become lucrative business and businessmen alone are investing in it. Look at the increase in the number of businessmen purchasing tickets and contesting,’’ said Balley, who sat on a humble cot in his simple Abadpura residence.

‘‘A person like me cannot dream of contesting the elections. Only the moneyed can afford to enter this game now. No wonder the long motorcades all over Punjab. Are these going to be free and fair. No not at all. Almost all parties have flouted the basic model code of conduct of sticking to just three vehicles while filing nominations. It was a virtual battle-like scene, with candidates marching to the DC office with a train of up to 500 cars behind them,’’ said Balley.

‘‘The voter has become a commodity in the hands of political parties.There is no political or ideological commitment,’’ says Dr Sarabjit Singh, literary critic. Political thinker and literary critic Dr RB Singh is of the view that ‘‘we are facing a new kind of vulgarity on the political scene. The real issues facing Punjab and missing from the election agenda of various parties.

There is no talk or understanding of the state of agriculture. There is no talk of jobs for the youth.’’ ‘‘The present ‘appodhapi’ indicates that almost all political leaders are lacking in missionary zeal. There is no commitment or ideology left.The way they fought for the party tickets showed that they have no concern for the people,’’ says Waryam Sandhu, short story writer and Sahitya Akademi award winner. Dr Nirmal Singh Lambra, environmentalist, opines that ‘‘not a single candidate has so far raised the issue of deteriorating environment.

A few years ago the kikar trees nearly died and no one has bothered to do research on the phenomenon.The vultures are fast disappearing, which means that their genetic code is getting disturbed due to some environmental imbalance. No one is bothered.’’ ‘‘Election issues like the SYL were coined only to play with the sentiments of the people. Most of these issues are raised when parties are out of power. Once in power, the Akalis forgot all the issues.

For example, they shouted from the rooftops against corruption. But what did they do to root it out,’’ questions Surjit Kaur, renowned painter of Punjab. ‘‘People are being confused when they are given free liquor or cash before the elections. Casteist slogans are raised to give them them the illusion of power,’’ says Prem Parkash. LR Balley who fought the 1962 Lok Sabha elections on a RPI ticket said he had then polled 1.34 lakh votes.

Monday, January 28, 2002,

No justification for quota in Army

Pritam Bhullar

The Welfare Federation of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes Employees of Punjab has demanded that the central government should reserve jobs in the defence forces for these classes. Coming at a time when the country is teed up for a forced war (as was the scenario at the time of writing), this demand gives an aura of patriotism. But, then, this is not the first time that such a demand has come up.

It was at the time of the Chinese aggression in 1962 that the members of one such class from Punjab represented to the Centre that they should be given a chance to serve the nation. The demand travelled down the line from the then Defence Minister to the Chief of Army Staff and then to the Adjutant-General, who asked us to examine the possibility of giving representation to the class concerned after going through their past history of soldiering. (This writer, at that time, was dealing with the class composition of the Army at Army Headquarters).

Accordingly, the war record of the class was checked from the history section of the Ministry of Defence. And it was discovered from the records that a battalion of this particular class was raised during World War 1, which mutinied, when committed to battle, and killed all its officers.

However, one company of this class was included in a battalion under political pressure in 1963. But, unfortunately, the new experiment did not gain credibility.

Another experiment was carried out in the early fifties to try out a new system of reorganising units of an infantry regiment on an all-class basis. This brought all classes together in units even at the lowest level, that is, a section. Even during peace time, this motley assemblage created certain administrative problems because of different food habits of the jawans hailing from all over the country.

In the 1962 war a unit of this set-up bolted in the face of the enemy. It was then that a British Brigadier in the Adjutant-General's Branch remarked to this writer: ?Now you know why we did not go in for such a hotchpotch?. Soon after the 1962 debacle these all-class infantry units were reorganised on a zonal basis. Incidentally, all the battalions of this regiment have given a good account of themselves in the subsequent wars that India has fought.

The Indian Army's combat units, especially the infantry regiments, were formed on a one-class basis by the British and this system, albeit with some minor changes, still continues to be in vogue. However, since Independence a strong lobby, mostly comprising politicians, has been at work to change the class composition of the Army. They have all along been suggesting that we should have mixed-class regiments. But most old soldiers, on the other hand, have been strongly opposing this move. For, they feel that the mixing of one class units will dilute their old traditions and impinge upon their fighting efficiency.

Driven by the in inane political considerations and certain unfortunate incidents in the Army which happened in 1984 due to the inexcusable timidness of commanders and lack of confidence of troops in them, the class composition of infantry units came in for revision. Mercifully, after trying out the mixed-class composition in some infantry battalions, good sense dawned on the decision-makers and we reverted back to one-class composition a few years ago.

In his foreword to the late Maj-Gen Joginder Singh's book, 'Behind the Scene' ' an analysis of the Indian military operations from 1947 to 1971 ' published in 1993, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw says: 'I have heard rumours for the proposed reorganisation of the Indian Army into mixed units on the basis of state population under the garb of recruitment imbalance. Should this happen, God forbid, it will transform battlefield scenes completely: the old battle slogans and the rallying of units during moments of crisis will have no substitute ....'

Thus would it be fair to the country, to the nation and the armed forces to recruit those classes which cannot come to the Army on merit by fulfilling the requisite standards' Would it be fair to drop the standards to accommodate them because our self-centred politicians need their votes to retain or grab 'kursis'? Would we like to jeopardise the integrity of India by presenting a weak front to the enemy' There cannot be more authoritative and stronger views on this sinister move than what the legendary soldier, Field Marshal Manekshaw, has candidly expressed in his foreword.

This is not to say that the weaker sections of our society should not be encouraged to come up in the overall spectrum and given opportunities to improve their lot. This, however, should not be done at the cost of the integrity of the country. There are any number of civil services where they can be given their due share by giving them concessions. But in the armed forces such concessions can spell disaster.

Finally, we should continue to select our combat soldiers on merit. No political consideration should be brought into this selection. Any politician or bureaucrat who toys with the idea of accommodating people by lowering the prescribed standards is clearly betraying the country.


Monday, January 28, 2002

Will our villages ever be free from untouchability ?

DH News Service


Organisers of the one-day workshop for SC/ST women representatives of gram panchayats of Chitradurga were in for a shock recently at the workshop which was organised by the Kuvempu University Abdul Nazeer Sab Chair for Panchayat Raj and Decentralisation under the auspices of the Department of Political Science on 24th January.

During the discussion in which the women participants were sharing their experiences, one woman representative said that as a Dalit woman she was not allowed to use the community borewell in the village. The organisers couldn't believe that such invisible untouchability was being practiced on an elected representative.

Assuming that this was a stray case and an aberration, the other participants were asked if they had similar experiences. To the consternation of everybody, it came to light that this practice of denying the use of public borewells was rampant and many other women participants admitted that they had also received such treatment.

During the workshop, dalit women representatives pointed out that many times the meeting of the gram sabha or the panchayat would be convened in a temple and the dalit women were asked to sit outside the temple. Participants said that it was like being effectively kept out of the meetings. Almost all participants said that the proceedings of the meetings were not recorded and they were kept ignorant of the decisions taken.

Disclosing this to Deccan Herald, convenor of the chair Dr J S Saldananda said that while nobody expects that traditional practices have been abolished by constitutional and legal regulations, it is still a shock that untouchability of this kind continues to exist. More importantly, the objectives of the panchayat raj system of decentralising administration and giving political initiative to the backward classes especially women seems to be stonewalled by the refusal to give up traditional mindsets, he said.

Fight for Phoolan's legacy in Mirzapur

NDTV Correspondent

Monday, January 28, 2002 (Mirzapur):

In Uttar Pradesh's Mirzapur district, the late Phoolan Devi's sister, Munni Devi, who had been denied a ticket by the Samajwadi Party is fighting on a ticket from Kalyan Singh's Rashtriya Kranti Party.

"I was a poor man. I didn't have a house or money. Phoolan gave me Rs 2000," said a supporter while another added, "Phoolan's soul will rest in peace only when we send her sister to Delhi."

In a state where caste lines are stark, Munni Devi has the support of the Mallah community but it's the Binds and the Maurya community that could cast a dent on her votebank. While the Mallahs swear by Munni's name, the Binds are somewhat skeptical of her alliance with Kalyan Singh. "We will think and decide later who to vote for. We will see what happens," said a resident.

Sensing an opportunity, the Samajwadi Party is fielding a member from the Bind community while the BJP is fielding a Maurya. It is this likely split in the votes that may influence who will inherit the Phoolan Devi legacy in Mirzapur.

BSP will form govt in UP: Mayawati

Our Correspondent

Yamunanagar, January 28

Ms Mayawati, a senior Bahujan Samaj Party leader, has claimed that the BSP will form the government in Uttar Pradesh where as in Uttaranchal the government will be formed with its support.

Ms Mayawati, vice-president of the BSP, while addressing a rally of BSP candidate Joginder Singh Chawla, here today said that the Congress would not be able to form the government in Punjab as it had during its rule since Independence and exploited the downtrodden.

She alleged that the government machinery was being misused to ensure the victory of the INLD candidate in Yamunanagar byelection.

Shahpur Police tortured dalit youth: Munavalli

By Our Staff Correspondent

BELGAUM, JAN. 28. Shankar Munvalli, KPCC Member and Chairman, DCC SC/ST Cell, has accused the Shahpur Police of committing attrocities against a dalit youth.

He submitted a memorandum addressed to the Home Minister, Mallikarjun Kharge, to the Deputy Commissioneron Monday. Mr. Munavalli alleged that Ravi Tippanna Dhotre of Shahpur, a II PUC student, was picked up by the accused in a bogus case on Friday. He was tortured to the extent that he had become immobile.

Drawing attention towards other excesses and unfair practices of the Shahpur Police, he said they had given a burial to a case of suicide by a girl, who refused to be involved in sex trade, on Sunday. He demanded a thorough investigation into the matter since the Superintendent of Police was not responding to the complaint in this regard.

He alleged that the SP, B.Dayanand, the Additional SP, Pandurang Rane, and other senior officials had failed to check the crime rate, which was on the rise. Repeated incidents of dacoities had created a fear psychosis. Failure to stop single digit lottery and "mataka" was one of the main reasons for increase in crime. The Government should replace Mr. Dayanand and Mr. Rane with competent officials



Caste, disenchantment weigh heavy

Varinder Singh

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 29

Delay in fulfilment of the long-standing promise of waiving octroi, infighting in parties, especially in the SAD-BJP combine and its arch rival Congress, and leanings of Dalit and urban voters are the major factors which can affect the poll prospects of parties and their candidates in fray in the Doaba region.

While it is the presence of the Bahujan Samaj Party and rebels which is disturbing the Congress, it is delay in the abolition of the octroi system and disenchantment of urban voters which is worrying the BJP leadership. The BJP has been proud of its vote bank in Doaba and particularly Jalandhar, known as a birthplace of Jan Sangh and the DAV movement in Punjab.

For the Congress, the major headache is created by rebels and heavyweights who are working against the official nominees at some places like Malvinder Singh Chahal, former minister Gulzar Singh ( Kapurthala), Jaikishan Saini (Jalandhar) (Central), Jagdish Kumar Dakoha, Jalandhar (Cantt), and former Punjab minister Jagtar Singh Multani (Bholath) on one hand. The other factor is the strong presence of BSP and Dalit votes in Jalandhar (South), Phillaur, Nakodar, Hoshiarpur, Garhshankar, Mahilpur and Banga.

Similarly, though there is open rebellion in the BJP, fissures are visible in case of some seats. In Jalandhar (North), Mr Naval Kishore Kamboh and his supporters opposed the candidature of Mayor Suresh and in Hoshiarpur a number of senior party leaders like state executive member Capt Vikramjit Singh resigned over the 'inaction' of the party leadership against two senior BJP leaders, including official nominee Tikshan Sood, who is also the State Minister for Excise and Taxation.

Mr Bharat Bhusan Handa, another executive committee member, has announced that he will contest as an Independent candidate against Mr Sood.

Factors like delay in the abolition of octroi and the poor state of industry, particularly in Jalandhar, which is known as an industrial hub after Ludhiana, and the failure of the government to bail out industry, are likely to cause damage to the SAD-BJP combine in general and the BJP in particular. The urbanities, particularly businessmen and industrialists, are of the view that though the BJP had promised in its manifesto before the 1997 poll that octroi would be abolished soon after it came to power, it did nothing in this direction for about four-and-a-half years. They also see no logic in the statement of the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, that the delay in the extension of the facility was caused as the state coffers were empty.

The general sentiment is that the government had done little for urban segment while facilities like free power and water were extended to the farming class.

The swing of Dalit voters, who constitute about 25 per cent of the voters of the Doaba region, holds the key in case of some segments like Kartarpur, Hoshiarpur, Mahilpur, Garhshankar, Jalandhar (South) and Banga. In the midst of caste factor, the Kartarpur (reserve) constituency will witness a keen contest between two stalwarts ' Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, vice-president of the Punjab Congress, and Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, Punjab Assembly Speaker. Chaudhary Jagjit Singh had retained the seat during the 1997 poll.

Banga, which also has a strong presence of Dalits, is to see a direct fight between the SAD-BJP and Bahujan Samaj Morcha candidate Satnam Kainth and Mr Mohan Lal of the BSP.

Caste factor is important in Bholath, too, where the Congress has pitted a Jat Sikh in Sukhpal Singh Khaira against SAD stalwart Bibi Jagir Kaur, who belongs to the Lobana community. There are about 35,000 votes of Lobanas and about 45,000 of Jat Sikhs in the constituency.

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Published on: February 05, 2002
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