Wednesday, December 20, 2006

hand in glove

A couple of very interesting articles appeared in Loksatta over the past few days, one of which is on today's (20/12/06) main page. The articles are regarding the Reliance SEZ in Raigad district.

On 14th December, the day of the nationwide strike, the Zilla Parishad offices were closed. A Loksatta reporter saw some activity and went in the ZP office to report on the open govt. offices on the bandh day. To his amazement he found Reliance officers sitting and working in the government office, when the government officials themselves were not present. The officials were sitting on desks with access to government records. One of the persons was Mr. Jagtap a retired government officer (now possibly working for Reliance).

If that was not enough, when asked for an explanation the ZP office in-charge initially replied that this was improper and the matter will be looked into. Today's Loksatta has an article with the very same ZP officials statement that the services of the Reliance employees is being used on State government directives. Further, Reliance has also provided the ZP with computers, staff for the same, furniture, vehicles and its own employees to work in ZP offices to speed up the land grab for its proposed SEZ.

In such a scenario, where the hand cannot be distinguished from the glove, where do the disgruntled farmers, whose land is being grabbed in the name of development, go for justice? Further, it is setting a dangerous precedent for corporates to get their projects through, with no worry about conflict of interests in the whole process!

Monday, December 11, 2006

YASHADA report ...

... on the Khairlanji killings is here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Kherlanji Massacre

A dalit woman stands up for her land, which is grabbed by upper-caste landlords.
In return, she and her daughter are gang-raped, paraded naked and hacked to death.
Her two sons are also hacked to death, while her husband watches! ... the Kherlanji Massacre.

State compensates kin of slain Dalits and assures the victim Bhaiyyalal and the other dalit family of the village, that they would be relocated to a safer place and that Bhaiyyalal will be given a job!

Searched news.google.com with keyword "Kherlanji",
found 3 links!

asbestosized!

Give me more asbestos, says India!
Inspite of 95 per cent of the countries demanding that chrysotile asbestos be included in the Prior Informed Consent list, after a due scientific review process, the COP-3 failed to do this and deferred the decision to the next COP-4 in 2008. A proposal for a majority vote for decision making was sternly opposed by India and a few other countries, thereby forcing consensus to be the only way to decide on the listing issue.
...
chrysotile asbestos is a known human carcinogen which represents 94 per cent of world asbestos consumption. Once used widely as an insulating and fireproofing agent in buildings, ships and consumer products, asbestos has been shown to cause cancers of the lung and other organs as well as breathing disorders. The World Health Organization estimates at least 90,000 people die every year from asbestos-related diseases.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

on SEZs

Special Exploitation Zones appeared on CounterCurrents.

comments welcome.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

om shanti

What do you do when,
Close to three-and-a-half lakh farm families are in "acute distress" in six crisis-ridden districts of Vidarbha, about 12 lakh farmers are staring at crop loss this year, and nearly a lakh families are suffering from serious health problems but are unable to see a doctor and they are only a step away from suicide.

Some amongst the farmers might say,
"Give us good remunerative prices, a level-playing field to face imports and timely credit."

... the government gives them sermons, sermons for the distressed souls!

Friday, October 13, 2006

I'm Dalit, how are you?

I'm Dalit, how are you?

160 million people in India are born outside the four castes of the Varna system - the oldest surviving social hierarchy of the world. They are called the "untouchables". They themselves have chosen the name DALITS (broken people).

A short-film by the International Dalit Solidarity Network.

... saw it on National Highway.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

`A trigger for social unrest'

Former Prime Minister, V.P. Singh's interview in Frontline.
Even accepting that for the sake of argument, why is it that this subsidising is confined only to land? Building infrastructure requires cement too, but why is the government not acquiring cement from the Birlas at subsidised rates and handing it over to the SEZ developers? And why not impose similar subsidy parameters on developers of hi-tech cities? But all that we are seeing is the systematic and merciless grabbing of farmers' land rights in the name of development.

Development is, of course, required. But if you say that to promote development the basic rights of lakhs and lakhs of people have to be denied, if you say that the interests of corporates have to be advanced at the cost of farmers, that is not acceptable. And all this is being done in the name of market economy. The essence of market economy is freedom of choice for the buyer and the seller; to sell or not to sell or to buy or not to buy, everything depends on individual choice. That choice is being denied to one party in the way the SEZs are currently being pushed.

Monday, October 09, 2006

P. Sainath's talks

Sainath's talk 'Globalizing InEquality', at Washington State University, Vancouver, WA.

* * * * *

P.Sainath and Alex Cockburn talk: "Neoliberal Destructions" at UC Berkeley.
Links to video of speeches---
Clip 1
Clip 2
Clip 3

Friday, September 29, 2006

NO MORE BHOPALS


The story of Sunil, a victim of the Union Carbide gas tragedy in Bhopal.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

SEZ: farmers plan satyagraha

Farmers in the Raigad district of Maharashtra are planning a satyagraha to oppose the Reliance SEZ. The SEZ is planned for 10,000 hectares and will affect 45 villages in Pen, Uran and Panvel talukas.
Savita Subhash Thakur, a gram panchayat member from Chirner, said: "If we give up our land, what will we eat? They will not give us any jobs, and finally we will have to give up our homes. People are willing to sacrifice their lives to oppose this SEZ. Our land is productive and fertile, why should we give it up for a private company?"

The people first came to know about the project through a notice in a local paper on June 19. It said land was being acquired under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, for a public project, namely the SEZ.

The company or the Government did not inform them or take them into confidence, said Santaji Gondhali. "What's wrong with our area. We have two crops, education, plenty of water. Since the city is close, we do get jobs too. Why does the Government want to take away all this?"

Ironically, the government has declared SEZ's to be public utility projects, without making the public part of the decision making process.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

India's Shame

The September issue of Frontline has series of articles on the issue of manual scavenging, a pathetic practice still prevalant in India.
- India's Shame
- Caste strangehold
- Out in the open
- Part of the system
- Bengal's record
- Interview with Martin Macwan, founder of Navsarjan.
- In denial mode
- Captured live

Saturday, September 23, 2006

shitty business

How the Other Half Lives has a couple of posts on the pathetic practice of manual scavenging still prevalent in India.
related links:
Sulabh International is a social service organization which works to promote human rights, environmental sanitation, health and hygiene, non-conventional sources of energy, waste management and social reforms through education, training and awareness campaigns. The organization has developed the Sulabh Shauchalaya-technology, which is technologically appropriate, socio-culturally acceptable and economically affordable.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

SEZ memorandum to the President

Ashwin helped draft the following memorandum, which was handed to the President by a delegation led by former Pime Minister V.P Singh.


To,

Shri Abdul Kalam,
President of India
Rashtrapati Bhavan
New Delhi

Subject: The large scale grab of agricultural land going on under the guise of the Land Acqusition Act.

Dear Rashtrapatiji,

We wish to draw your attention to a most deplorable instance of the worst tyranny of the policies followed by the successive governments in the last fifteen years in the name of economic reforms and development.

The Government of Uttar Pradesh had acquired 2500 acres of highly productive agricultural land for the ostensibly “public purpose” of infrastructure development, namely, to set up a gas based thermal power plant near Dadri in Ghaziabad district. Nobody would question the need to augment the generation of power supply in the power- starved state. But what is most questionable is the way in which the government of U.P. has been acting at the behest of and for the benefit of one corporate house, flouting all norms of propriety and prudence.

It is not at all clear why such vast tracts of good agricultural land were acquired for the power project. No where in the world is 2500 acres of land required for a power plant. There is no evidence to show that the government considered alternative possibilities that would have meant little or no displacement of peasants from productive land. Moreover, no competitive offers were called for before deciding in favour of one particular corporate house. What is worse, the state government has virtually subsidized the corporate house to the extent of sixty percent of the cost of land acquisition. The compensation, such as it is, has not yet fully reached the oustees. We also understand that Reliance has shown the value of the land (for the purpose of seeking a loan for this project) to be several times the cost at which it is being given this land by the U.P. Government. The land has been transferred to the company even before they have tied up the fuel linkage for the project.

The power project was supposed to be operational in two years time. But there is no sign of the work having begun on the project. The price at which the energy so produced will be available is not known to the public; there is no clause binding the corporate house to either the time schedule of the project going on stream or the price at which power would be supplied.

Even applying the norms of neo-liberal market economics, which have become almost a matter of faith with our policy makers, the decisions of the U.P.Government in regard to this project are indefensible. We suspect a thorough going public enquiry would unravel a scandal of magnitude bigger than the notorious Enron project.

What causes us deep anguish is not only the impropriety and venality that are palpable, but the way in which the state government has reduced itself to being a willing handmaiden of a corporate house. Never before have we seen such takeover of the government by the corporate sector. The atrocities and violence let loose at Bajhera near Dadri by the state police in collaboration with the private security agents of the corporate house on the night of 7th-8th of July on the eve of the Satyagraha planned by the peasants will put to shame even a lawless dictatorial regime: houses were searched at night; women were manhandled and injured; children were grievously hurt; property was looted: all in the name of maintaining “law and order”.

We find that government machinery is being more and more insensitive to not only the interests of the poor and the powerless but also the basic humanitarian values. The pretext of development is being used to push through the corporate agenda at the cost of the kisans and the marginalized sections of our people.

Land Grab and Displacement : A National Crisis:
The liberal grant of mining leases to private parties; the spree of MOUs entered into by governments of MP, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Orissa with the big industry, both indigenous and foreign; the above mentioned most deplorable instance of the U.P.Government’s policies and action; similar trends witnessed recently in Haryana and Punjab; misinterpretation of the “public purpose” provision in the Land Acquisition Act and violation/evasion/erosion of the fundamental legal obligations of the State regarding non-transferability of adivasi lands, facilitating large scale dispossession of adivasis and other poorer sections of their land for the benefit of big business; the pursuit of construction of big dams without regard to prior and proper rehabilitation of the oustees; the demolition of the jhuggi-jhopris in the name of creating “world- class” urban centers; the allotment of major share of the lands of the closed textile mills in Mumbai in favour of the real estate sharks at the cost of the claims of housing for the laid-off workers and also the environmental needs of the burgeoning metropolis-all these moves and measures expose the anti-poor and pro-big business and pro-rich bias of the policies being followed. The recent instances of brutal use of force by the State against the adivasis, dalits, kisans and other poor sections resisting this State- supported aggrandizement of the big business only confirms the barbaric resolve of the system to crush all opposition to the designs of the big capital, forgetting the promises made in the election manifestoes, and with little regard to the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. The already marginalised Adivasi India, the vast hinterland of hardworking peasantry and the soft underbelly of the urban centers where the poor reside in makeshift habitats are seething with unprecedented fury.

Special Economic Zones: Genearised Legal Framework
The Act on Special Economic Zones passed by the Parliament in June 2006 and the Rules framed there-under and promulgated in February 2006 seem to provide a legal cover for continued pursuit of such reckless, pro-rich and anti-kisan and anti-poor policies.

In a nutshell, the Act encourages setting up of tax- exempt enclaves all over the country with the ostensible objective of stimulating production of goods( including agricultural and horticultural products and contract farming) and services( incuding banking and financial services) for export. But the guidelines for approval as set out in the Act include such omnibus purposes as “generation of additional economic activity” and “ promotion of investment”.

The size of the zones contemplated varies from as large an area as 1000ha for multi product zones to as small an area 10 ha in case of the zones converted from the already existing EPZs . The promoters could be private entrepreneurs, resident Indians and non- residents and foreigners, companies incorporated in India or abroad , state governments, joint enterprises. FDI is permissible upto 100 percent.

It is visualized that around one fourth of the land will be earmarked for the production and processing, the rest being available for development of infrastructure and amenities which include residential housing complexes, hotels, recreational and leisure spots.

Some 267 such zones are reported to have been approved so far. According to press reports, some 1,34,000 ha of land has already been acquired for 67 multi product SEZs.

The imports into the SEZ will be exempt from customs duties and import regulations and procurement of raw materials and other goods from the rest of the country will be exempt from excise tax. Income from the exports will be totally exempt from income tax for a period of five years, exemption for half such income continuing for another five years. Thee will be exemption from trasaction tax on securities and service tax, electricity duty, central sales tax.. The cesses and other regulatory provisions currently applicable under various specific acts such as agriculture Produce Cess Act, , Mica Labour Welfare Fund Act, Sugar ( Regulation of Production) Act, Tea Act , Coffee Act, Salt Cess Act etc. will be inapplicable. The state governments will be encouraged to provide exemptions under the Stamp Duty Act and other such state taxes, octroies and cesses.

Normal government machinery, including the organs of the state government under different departments and the Municipal/ Panchayat Raj administration will be short-circuited by concentration of various powers under Development Commissioner, including those under Industrial Disputes Act. State Governments are required to notify the SEZs as public utilities for the purpose of application of Industrial Disputes Act, implying severe restriction on the workers’ right to strike.

Entry into SEZ will be regulated by identity cards to be issued by the SEZ Authority. No representation of local people or the workforce is provided in the structure of the SEZ Authority. There is no transparent procedure for selection of promoters for allotment of land so acquired, except perhaps, first –come- first- served . In Noida, U.P., for example 2,500 acres of land has already been allotted to the Reliance Group, for an SEZ within a month of the U.P. government adopting a policy for SEZs.

Large scale acquisition of agricultural land is taking place in the name of “public interest”. There is no transparent procedure for selection of promoters for allotment of land so acquired, nor for payment of adequate compensation. . This has generated large scale protests and militant agitations, witness Dadri in UP and Pen, Uran, Karla, Rajgurunagar in Maharahstra. Interestingly large tracts of land are being acquired in the vicinity of metro cities, eg. Delhi and Mumbai, incuding Navi Mumbai and handed over to big business. This has ominous potentialities considering that residential complexes, recreational and leisure spots for the rich are visualized as legitimate objectives of SEZs. The boom in the real estate market also explains why big houses are interested in grabbing such large tracts of land.

The obvious implication of colossal loss of revenue to central and state governments does not seem to have been considered seriously. IMF chief economist has recently drawn attention to these tax giveaways that government can not afford. The loss of revenue estimate is of the order of Rs. 1,75,000 crores over the next five years. Ultimately, the fiscal strain so caused will only lead to inevitable cuts in budgetary provisions meant to provide some minimum economic and social security for the poor.

The mushrooming of SEZs also implies out-migration of economic activity from the rest of the regions, including the backward regions. This would only exacerbate uneven regional development. The adverse employment and income effect of the possible leakages of tax exempt production from SEZs into the domestic tariff areas, which will be very difficult to eradicate, can be easily imagined.

We are witnessing in this process a more general phenomenon: the destruction of small producers, in agriculture as well as manufacture and induction of big capital into this last bastion of petty production. The small producers are being pushed into being contract labour for the big business houses , indigenous as well as foreign. Eventually, their dependence on the big houses will be total and they will be pauperised, as the government has already virtually withdrawn or is fast doing so, from its erstwhile role of protecting the small producers’ and peasants’ rights and providing credit, marketing and price support to them. What is more, the total employment that the SEZs will provide will fall far short of the displacement that they will cause in the rural hinterland. In the absence of a sound, people- centric strategy for the absorption of the vast labour force so displaced, the ongoing process will only lead to social turbulence of an unprecedented scale. The unrest being witnessed now in Dadri or Pen-Uran is only a beginning.

SEZs recall to mind the establishment of “factories” and acquisition of rights to customs-free trade in India by the English East India Company in the 17th century or the race amongst the European Powers for the establishment of extra-territorial enclaves in China in the last decade of the 18th century . The “factories” and the “enclaves” were the ancient ancestors of the SEZs, although the phenomenon now is largely self-inflicted and has “indigenous” as well as trans-national elements participating in the process.

We, therefore, demand a national moratorium for six months, an immediate halt to the process of any further land acquisition, dispossession, demolition and displacement pending the constitution of a high level commission of eminent persons which should lay down a new comprehensive policy and set up an effective mechanism to ensure the protection of the rights and interests of the affected people not as a post-facto formality but as a necessary precondition to the initiation / resumption of work on projects including those related to urban renewal and development. The proposed commission should also be asked to look into and recommend amendments to the Land Acquisition Act/s and review the whole concept behind the SEZ Act .

Thanking you,

With warm regards.

Yours Sincerely,

Monday, September 18, 2006

engineers on the ground!

And somewhere there are engineers
Helping others fly faster than sound.
But, where are the engineers
Helping those who must live on the ground?

--- Young Oxfam Poster

[read it at ArvindGupta Books and Toys and was reminded of it reading Ashwin's email signature.]

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Working

One of the books I am currently reading is Working, by Studs Terkel. A must-read book which was published in 1974 and is still relevant today. A program on NPR talking about "Working" is here.

Recordings from The Studs Terkel Radio Program are here.

Working, is an oral history of working men and woman. As the title says, "People talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do". Studs Terkel documents a wide spectrum of working people, people whom we see daily, but do not stop to think that they might be working really hard to make ends meet---work that is essential for some purpose. He documents peoples experiences about why they are doing what they are doing, what they like-dislike about it, how the feel about the job, how they are searching for meaning and shelter in their job, why they started the job, how long have they been working, the nature of work itself and many such experiences. A few professions he documents are, farmer, miner, receptionist, professor, actor, model, hooker, telephone solicitor, garbage man, domestic, janitor, policeman, cab-driver, plant manager, dentist, hair-stylist, factory owner, tennis player, gravedigger, librarian and many more. A great account of working peoples lives, their struggles at work and makes one realize how important and non-trivial work is, irrespective of any profession.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

quote of the day

the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

SEZ = Special inEquality Zone?

Ashwin sent a few links regarding the Bharat Forge SEZ that is planned about 50 km from Pune in Rajgurunagar. There are plenty or reports about how SEZ's are uprooting and displacing villages, farms, villagers, farmers, tribals and affecting the environment in several ways. The same arguments comes into play again "economimc development", national infrastructure, for the greater common good and many such. There are also several reports about the people living in the proposed SEZs having no say in the whole process---they are the primary affected but not the primary criteria! Looks like this state-private sector combined initiative is going to lead to yet another long and hard battle for the ones at the lower end of pyramid.

Attached below is a report from Rajgurunagar about the Bharat Forge SEZ.


Farmers Struggle against SEZ land Acquisition in Pune district

Date: 12 July 2006



We have cultivated enough to nourish entire country that needs to be continued for future generations too. “Land is our Mother, Self-Reliance, Self-Esteem, our Livelihood, our Identity and Way of life so don’t snatch it,” said by farmers of village Gulani where Struggle against Bharat Forge Special Economic Zone is happening. They have taken firm stand that ‘we will die, but will not give a single biga (local term for half acre land) land to the MIDC SEZ’.

Land is the vital source of livelihood of our country, more than 65 per cent peoples’ livelihood directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture sector. Technological development is dominant on agriculture sector, has been reflected into agricultural land acquisition for the private sectors development. It has proved that in the name of development more marginalisation is the Mantra of present development era. Farmers of the sixteen villages form the Khed taluka of Pune district are opposing forced land acquisition by MIDC for the Bharat Forge- SEZ project. There has been a lot of unrest and struggle against the land acquisition since last three months. This is happening just 60 kilometers away from the Pune city.

The village came to know about the land acquisitions during the month of April and May 2006 when MIDC started conducting its survey. Then villagers from Gulani asked about the details, which the MIDC officials refused to give them. This was followed by the villagers getting united and successfully bringing a halt to the survey work. By that time they had asked information under the ‘Right to Information’ but the response they got was that the information was “confidential”. Eventually they got some information from the Member of Parliament Mr. Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil and ‘Save the land Samiti’.

The Maharashtra government have received 53 applications for setting up of SEZ projects all over the state, of which 27 have received formal approval. In Pune district alone more than seven SEZs have been approved. These are mainly private sectors zones and the developers include Syntel International, Serum Institute, Mahindra Realty, Bharat Forge, City Parks, Raheja Coroporation, Hiranandani and Xansa India, etc.

Private Sector’s Special Economic Zone has been approved by the government in the Pune district for the Bharat Forge limited. Land will be acquired from various villages like Gulani, Wafgaon, Wakalwadi, Warude, Gadakwadi, Chaudharwadi, Chinchbaigaon, Jaulake Budruk, Jarewadi, Kanesar, Pur, Gosasi, Nimgaon, Retwadi, Jaulake Khurd, Dhore Bhamburwadi and Pabal. 7,500 hectares agricultural and non-agricultural land has been identified from these above-mentioned villages.

Majority of the people, in these villages, belong to the Maratha community, other backward and Adivasi (Thakar) community. The most important occupation is farming and allied activities. Their major crops are potato, onion, sorghum, jowar, rice, flowers and pulses. Many youths have initiated their own businesses like poultry, milk collection, pig raring, animal husbandry, floriculture and emu farm. Nevertheless, people’s livelihood is dependent on farming activities, mostly rainfed and irrigated through private wells. They have been demanding water for drinking and irrigation water under the Chaskaman Scheme for a decade now but the government did not stand up to its word. The area has no electricity and falls under under the “dark zone” of the state.

There has been a drinking water scheme which is about 35 crore’s investment but due to the lack of maintenance it is not in use. Infrastructure is available but there is no water in water tank. Come summer and people have to walk several kilometers to fetch the the drinking water. They have to be dependent on tanker water supply, which is always inadequate and irregular. This area is comes under the Bhima River basin and surrounded by small watershed, Dhimbhe Dam, Kukadi and Chaskaman Irrigation scheme. Farmers have raised question that dams have been built up in the name of irrigation but they couldn’t provided water for agriculture. Now the water will go to these coming companies and this obviously seems to them a larger conspiracy against all farmers.

It is in this context that the opposition to the SEZ project has build up and farmers and local people’s representatives have constituted a Khed Taluka Purva Vibhag MIDC Virodhi Kruti Samiti (Anti Land Acquisition Committee from East Khed-Wafgaon and Gulani Village) under the chairmanship of Mr. Rajusheth Jawalekar, Wafgaon. Many people have been involved in this committee like Kisanrao Garde, Sudamrao Karale, Dadasaheb Rode, Sitabai Ranpise, Bhalchandra Rode, Kaluram Pingale, Balasaheb Sutar, Ashok Jare, Santosh Karale etc. All these people are Sarpanch and member of Grampanchayat and Taluka Panchayat. Their larger aim is to stop the land acquisition and cancel the SEZ resolution, which is disturbing their socio-economic and cultural life. Some of the local leaders know that rehabilitation is out of question because there is provision of cash compensation only.

There was not a single consultation with farmers about the land acquisition in these sixteen villagers. Today the farmers simply don’t want to give away their ancestral land for a ‘development’ that has brought them no benefits and will not in the future either. They have ample experience from earlier projects where people have been thrown in different places. If they would get assured irrigation water they will turn this area into an Israeli type of model farm, said farmers. Fellow villagers are now being made consciuos about the land grabbing and implications of these development projects through Gramsabha meetings on a regular basis. The Gramsabha resolutions about their unwillingness to sell their land for SEZ have already been passed. Many youth claimed that this is probably the first time that the village has come together so strongly on an issue.

More than four thousand people participated in a protest (Morcha) against SEZ in a one day mass protest at Rajgurunagar-Khed tahsil office on 11th July, 2006. A memorandum was submitted to tehsildar Vijaya Pangarkar demanding cancellation of the MIDC-SEZ project. They also put forth other demands like water for drinking and irrigation, support to the agriculture-allied activities and support to small business, Completion of the work of drinking water scheme and Gulani percolation tank at the earliest.

The farmers have warned the government officers that they will fight against SEZ unless and until it gets stopped the survey and entire project. “Earlier, we have faced displacement in the name of national interests like Chakan International Airport but henceforth we will not tolerate any displacement”.


Prepared by Sampat Kale, NCAS, Pune


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Women and Salwa Judum

Got the following via email, a report form Chattisgarh.
* * * * * *


THE ATROCITIES ON WOMEN BY THE SALVA JUDUM, THE S.P.Os, CRPF,
NAGA POLICE AND OTHER PARA MILITARY FORCES

The ruling classes of the country have initiated Salva Judum (SJ) to
completely destroy the Maoist movement in Danda Karnya (DK). They started
the campaign from the village Karkali in Kotru area of from June 4, 2005. On
the 4 th of June of 2006 the state organized a so-called martyrdom day and
the foundation day of the SJ. Prior to this meeting they had propagated that
if people do not come there they would be beaten up and punished. So threat
was the main thing to get people to the meeting place. They also organized a
Motorcycle Rally in the last week of May and created an environment of fear
in the Maddher area, from Bijapur to Bhopalpatnam. The state and the
mainstream media say that SJ is a peace campaign. But, in reality, it is a
campaign to suppress the revolutionary masses and the Maoist movement and
had been started by the pro-imperialist, big bourgeoisie and feudal classes.


The women have been made a special target in this suppression campaign using
sexual harassment as a weapon to intimidate them into submission. During the
past one year, 12 women have been killed in the West Bastar region, hundreds
have been beaten up and terrorized, many have been put into prisons, and a
great number has been forced to live in the concentration camps. After the
commencement of SJ, Madhukar and Hanif have been spearheading it in Kutru,
Vikram Madavi and Ajay Thakur in Bairamgarh, Budhram Rana in Bijapur, and
Sikka Manjhi in Gangalur areas. They have all acted in a planned way. They
collected some youths and made them slaves of bad habits like drunkardness,
visiting prostitutes and indulging in goondaism; making ordinary adivasi
youths as bad characters and used them to inflict atrocities on women in the
so-called relief camps which are set up by the police and state
administration as a war tactics. These elements targeted womenfolk,
especially those who were active in the adivasi women organisations. Every
evening, after taking liquor these guys would enter the camps and drag out
young girls and young mothers to harass and molest them all through the
night. The paramilitary forces are using the people living in the camps as
human shields to protect themselves from the attacks of the Maoist forces.
The people are forced to perform sentry duty around the camps, clear the
area of trees and jungles, and forcing them to scavenge and sweep clean the
surroundings as forced labour. The women have been especially used to
perform these tasks and they are routinely sexually harassed during this
time by the security forces. They are forced to collect fuel wood, and
fencing material from the jungle. In addition, their labour is being used to
build houses and for the SJ 'campaigners' and their families.

Bairamgarh is the hub of atrocities on women. In the Bairamgarh 'relief
camp' more than a hundred women have been kept under the shadow of the lash.
Dens have been set up by the police in front of the camps to indulge in
gambling, drinking, and molesting of women. The police and paramilitary
forces regularly visit these places. Mahendra Karma, alias Sodi Deva,
sometimes also visits these dirty dens to get pleasure. When the night falls
the SJ goondas come to the camps and ask womenfolk to come for some earnest
piece of work or just for giving them something, or would forcibly drag them
to their place and strip them, abuse them physically. After they are dead
drunk they would ask the girls to sing and dance before them. Due to all
this, ten women became pregnant in these camps in Bairamgarh area alone.
Kunjam Lakke, a woman activist of Potenar, near Kotrapal, became pregnant
due the heinous crimes of the police and SJ goondas. A leader of the SJ
campaign, Vikram Madavi, is keeping her in his house as a house servant. She
is seven months pregnant. These kinds of incidents have happened in Bijapur,
Gangalur, Kutru, Jangla, Matwada, Farsagarh and other areas too.

LEGITIMISING SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN THE NAME OF
SOLEMNISING MASS MARRIAGES

The government says that it is giving utensils, money and other things as
gifts to the poor adivasi "couples" who marry in the mass marriage campaign.
The Governors, Chief Ministers and ministers get themselves photographed
while distributing gifts to new couples masquerading as generous people. But
in Dantewada and Bijapur police districts they are using mass marriages as a
smokescreen to hide sexual violence on women.

The repressive military campaign in the name of SJ is forcing young girls in
the camps to marry SJ goondas and Special Police Officers (SPOs). Every
young girl in the camps is not only threatened and harassed to give herself
into marriage but also allurement in the form of incentives is being
practiced to force them into marrying their gen brothers. They are even
threatened with murder if they do not yield to the wishes of the police and
SJ. They are told, "if you do not marry here you would join the guerrillas
and fight against us." Forced marriage is another form of sexual abuse,
which is being used to douse the ire of the women against the state and SJ.
It is coercing them into submission and not what the leaders and ministers
say. It is sheer intimidation and not a gesture of help towards these women.
It is a marriage against the wishes of a person and not a generous act. In
this way many SJ goondas and SPOs are keeping young girls as wives. Many
cases are there where they have married with a second wife or have abandoned
the old to marry the young. In this practice the age difference is also
ignored. This is sexual abuse and nothing else. The Red Cross is also
providing help in such an abuse. Governor KM Seth has presided over many
such ceremonies. His wife Veena Seth, as president of the State Red Cross,
is unable to see the sexual and immoral aspect of such marriages. She says
when she gives a sari to a woman to cover her head she feels a rush of
humanist feelings and moral values. But the reality is quite the opposite.
In fact, her acts are providing a smokescreen to the sexual crimes of SJ
criminals. The president of State Women Commission, Smt. Shardha Verma also
did not see the reality of crimes against women when she visited the camps
for inspection. On the other hand, the media which is full with the
propaganda against Naxalites, is in deliberate silence over the crimes of SJ
and police against the tribal women of Bastar.

US and Japanese imperialists' crimes against Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese
women, including the use of women as comfort girls, is a story which the
whole world knows. Now the Indian ruling classes are using their police and
other security forces against the adivasi women of this region treating them
as a piece of flesh.

The women who go to the haat bazaars for purchasing essential commodities
like salt, pepper, rice etc. in exchange for Mahua seeds and flowers and
other kinds of jungle produce are routinely beaten up and harassed. They are
told that they are taking home these things for the guerrilla forces
justifying the cruel behaviour they are getting at the hands of Indian
security forces. Haat bazaars are part of tribal people's life without which
it would be very difficult to continue life there. But the government has
closed down many haat bazaars in the Bastar region to make things more
difficult for the people in the name of fighting communist guerrillas. Now
the people have to travel 50 to 60 kms. to get the things of daily use.

The SJ and police forces have destroyed 2500 houses in 650 villages and in
this way the people have suffered an enormous loss of 10,000 crores of
rupees. Everything that was there in the houses of the adivasis like paddy,
flowers, noonk etc. has been burned and goats, pigs, cows and poultry looted
in the count of tens of thousands of heads destroying the economic fabric of
adivasi life. They have killed 250 adivasis and their mass organisations'
activists in a bid to control their resistance. Tens of thousands of tribal
have been forced to flee and live in the jungles, some thousands have been
forced to live in the so-called relief camps destroying the social fabric
and culture of the adivasi life. Closing down of haat bazaars is a form of
economic blockade of adivasi areas which is being resorted to by the
anti-adivasi and anti-people Indian state. The SJ used this weapon of
economic blockade from the very beginning. The haat bazaars that remain open
are in tight control of the state and SJ criminals. These bazaars only work
in a limited sense in Bairamgarh, Nimmed, Farasgarh and Kutru. All the paths
leading to these haat bazaars are patrolled by the SJ and security forces
with check posts on all the entry points. In Matwada haat bazaar the SJ men
snatched everything from Kovasi Sumli of Keshamundi village, Ursa Sanaki of
Kesur village, Madavi Budhri of Kotenar village, Kohadam Idme, Kowasi Idme
and Mangli of Kunjam village and beat them mercilessly in April 2006.
Similarly, Poniam Budhri, Midiam Mangli, Podiam Sukki of Kotrapal were
taking rice home when they were detained and beaten up till they bled
profusely. The police said to them, "you are not living in the relief camps
and are carrying rice and goods for the guerrillas."

Ursa Mangli, Emla Budhri, Podiam Sanaki of Kesur village in Bairamgarh were
beaten up by SPOs, and their belongings were looted. Madavi Somme, Vanjam
Vidme of village Kudmer of Mirtul area of Bairamgarh were picked up by SJ
criminals when the women were going to haat bazaar and beaten to death in
May 2006.

Vangapad Camp in Bairamgarh block is a pleasure-hunting den for the police.
Fifteen adivasi peasants have been killed in the camp in various ways. Some
peasants were packed up in the bags and left in the sun. When the peasants
in the bags cried for water and help the SJ men danced around and laughed.
Emla Kallu, aged 28, of Munder village was killed in this way and then
thrown into the Indravati River in Nov. last or December 2005. Kadti Kamlu
and Kadti Lachhu of Munder village were also killed in this way and thrown
into the river. Their dead bodies have not been found till now. The two were
killed in November 2005 and February 2006 respectively. Madavi Munna was
killed in his village and buried carelessly by the SJ criminals. His body
was dug out by dogs and eaten up.

Similarly, Sukki and Ungi of Pralnar village in Gangalur area were stripped
naked in the bazaar in Gangalur and severely beaten. Also, women going to
Sherpal were beaten up accusing them of cooperating with the guerrillas. If
a woman purchases two pieces of soap, or a kilo of onions, or two kilograms
of common salt, or 5 Kg. of rice they are beaten up for helping the
guerrillas. When people leave for haat bazaar they are gripped with the fear
of being hounded, beaten and killed.

When Naga Police, CRPF, and police forces routinely come to the villages on
patrolling they beat up women and men they find there. For example, in
village Bhandarpeli on May 25, 2006 the police beaqt up three women. On June
11, Naga Police beat up two women in village Orepal in Mirtul area.

In the National Park area there is a 'relief camp' in Karkeli village. Some
of the women, who had fled from the camp due to continuous sexual harassment
and unbearable living conditions, were again arrested and tortured and put
into the camp again. Today, many women are kept in jails with false charges
slapped over them. Many among them were shifted from the relief camps where
they were brought with the said purpose of protecting them from the "Maoist
menace."

But the struggling women of Bastar, like that in Kotrapal and Tadmendi, are
coming forward in Kunjaram, Basaguda, Durgaguda resistance actions and
instilling fear in the minds of the enemy. Similarly, they have participated
in Bailadilla, Murkinar, Kotacharu actions wherein they have attacked Naga
Police and paramilitary forces and in this way have sharpened the guerrilla
resistance against the enemy and are developing the struggle forward. The
adivasi women are in the forefront at many places and are sacrificing
themselves making the road to liberation red like red jasmines. Villag Peda
Korma's Sukki and Lakke, Pulghatta's Santo, Rangegudem's Munni have set
examples for their young women comrades by giving their blood for the cause
of liberation. In Gangalur attack, comrade Inki, a guerrilla fighter
sacrificed her life. These martyred women's footsteps are being followed by
hundreds of women, especially the young ones are participating in the
revolutionary movement by registering themselves in People's Liberation
Guerrilla Army (PLGA), militias and women organisations. The deceived women
of Bailadilla are now rising up in the form of guerrillas and taking up the
gun to fight against repression.

Every right thinking person in the society should come forward and raise
voice against atrocities on women in Bastar and step-in to support their
struggle for regaining self-esteem and liberation from the oppressive social
and political system.


Monday, September 11, 2006

100 years of Satyagraha


Hundred years ago on this day Gandhiji launched the non-voilent movement against British policies towards Asians in South Africa. Gandhiji called the movement Satyagraha, the pursuit of truth, which he went on to practice and preach in India's freedom struggle and also inspired many to use it in their struggles.

An important question for us today would be, what is the status of Satyagraha today?---its relevance and its effectiveness---are we anywhere close to the truth?

Trailer of the documentary "Satyagraha: 100 Years of Nonviolence" is here.

Links to sites on Gandhiji: here and here.

Today is also the day of the 9/11 attacks.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

1 every 5 hours


The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti is reporting the suicide rate in Vidarbha now is one every five hours (72 deaths in last 15 days).

828 farmers committed suicide between June 1, 2005 and September 5, 2006.

110 since the PM's relief packahe announced on July 1st.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Electronics and Environment


A Greenpeace study "Guide to Greener Electronics", ranks leading mobile and PC manufacturers on their global policies and practice on eliminating harmful chemicals and on taking responsibility for their products once they are discarded by consumers.

According to the report, Nokia and Dell are the closest to green (but still quite a distance away) and Motorola, Lenova, Acer and Apple the farthest.

A related article is here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

You can recover our bodies, not the money!

P. Sainath writes on the continued agrarian crisis in Vidarbha.
The contrast would have been amusing but for its being rooted in so great a tragedy. On August 15, the Prime Minister signals a crisis in farming from the ramparts of the Red Fort. He singles out the Vidarbha region in Maharashtra - quite unusual for an Independence Day speech. Manmohan Singh says that during his visit there "the plight of the farmers made a deep impact on me". And, he says, "I am aware of the acute distress of our farmers who bear the burden of heavy debt." This is the nation's Prime Minister, worrying about agriculture. Around the same time, the nation's Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar - Maharashtra's foremost political figure - appears on television to reassure the Indian public. Not about the state of farming in Vidarbha or elsewhere. But about the safety of the Indian cricket team in Sri Lanka.

Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti's blog is here.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

links

Union Carbide and Bhopal mess.

War is not a solution for Terrorism, Howard Zinn.

"The day they show me and say to me 'this is your house, your tree, your land, your forest', I will go. Only if they show me all these. Not until then. Ask them to also show me the road to my forest, the hills, and ask them to give me my livelihood. I will go ..." says Suramma. The Polavaram dam project in Andhra Pradesh's West Godavari district---over 230,000 people in hundreds of villages to be displaced, tens of thousands of acres submerged, wildlife and forest lands inundated.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Decline and Fall


The Decline and Fall of Public Broadcasting a must-read book by David Barsamian.

In this concise book Barsamian gives an account of the current state of public radio/TV broadcasting in the USA, what it was intended for, how it has been corporatized, the uni-dimensional programming and the resulting lack of political debate and discussion of "controverial" topics. He also gives a historical perspective of broadcasting, the role of the FCC and the media alternatives.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, in his Afterword, quotes Eldridge Cleaver (Minister of Information of the Black Panther Party) ...
Information is the raw material for new ideas; if you give misinformation, you get some pretty fucked-up ideas.


Related books:
The New Media Monopoly, Ben Bagdikan
Tube of Plenty---The Evolution of American Television, Erik Barnouw

from Bagdikan's book ...
These five huge corporations — Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) — own most of the newspapers, magazines, books, radio and TV stations, and movie studios of the United States.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

books and toys

Books and Toys, a great site (link via Ashwin) for free books and toys. A huge collection of downloadable English, Hindi and Marathi books and ideas for toys from day-today objects. An awesome initiative by Arvind Gupta and his colleagues.

* * * * *


TAKEOVER!, Students U.S.A mobilize for the 90's, documents from the the movement. The e-book (courtesy Mike) is about the student movement at University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1989-90, against defense funded research and to defend abortion rights. In my opinion, should be required reading for all new students!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Chomsky interview

Noam Chomsy and Thomas Ricks talk about the war in Iraq and the Middle East situation on Open Source Radio.

MP3 link of the show is here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

patriotism

An essay on patriotism, Patriotism: A menace to liberty, by Emma Goldman.
Conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. [...] Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.

links

A must-watch video of a short interview of British MP George Galloway on SkyNews. He is commmenting on the situation in the Middle East. (link sent by Swati)


Robert Fisk on the Middle East ceasefire---


Jaideep Hardikar reports on the continued crisis in Vidarbha---

Friday, August 11, 2006

links

Arrogance and Impunity - Coca-Cola in India, by Amit Srivastava.

"Give us a price, not a package" and A 'final' note on credit, P. Sainath reports farmers reactions to the "relief packages" and its effects (the latest package was announced about a month back).

Ye Dil Maange No More!, Tejal's post on the pesticide and the large issues with Coke and Pepsi in India.

Destruction, Death, And Drastic Measures, Dahr Jamail reports from Damascus, Syria.

Monday, August 07, 2006

on the UN resolution on Lebanon

UN Resolution On Lebanon: Blueprint For Intensified War And Colonial Occupation.
It is deliberately written in such a provocative manner as to ensure its rejection not only by Hezbollah, but by the Lebanese government itself. Not a single Lebanese grievance is addressed. What it demands, essentially, is that Hezbollah enter a suicide pact with its enemies and that Lebanon accepts its transformation into a semi-colony.
The aim is to provide prior justification for the continued massacre of the Lebanese people. The inevitable mantra that will be played out by government officials and in the mass media in the days and weeks ahead will be that bleeding Lebanon has only itself to blame for its suffering, because it would not accept “peace.”
...
The criminality and cynicism of Washington’s diplomacy found clearest expression in Secretary of State Rice’s explanation of why the war against Lebanon can be expected to go on for weeks more, with Washington’s approval. “We’re trying to deal with a problem that has been festering and brewing in Lebanon now for years and years and years, and so it’s not going to be solved by one resolution in the Security Council,” she declared.
This “festering” problem is not, in the eyes of Washington, the continuous Israeli seizure of land and use of military force against neighboring Arab countries, the plight of the Palestinians expelled from their homeland and subjected to decades of occupation or Israel’s constant flouting of international law and United Nations resolution. On the contrary, the problem is the failure of Israel’s 18-year occupation to defeat the Lebanese masses and the emergence of a powerful resistance movement. This is what Washington now proposes to crush by military force as part of its drive to assert US hegemony over the entire Middle East.

Arvind Kejriwal

Arvind Kejriwal, winner of the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, talks about the RTI movement, it's formidable power and the proposed ammendments.
Firstly, I would like to clarify that the award does not belong to me – it belongs to the entire RTI movement and every RTI activist in the country. I am happy that the world has responded so positively to the RTI movement in India. Though sadly, the Indian government is all set to kill it through amendments, which it proposes to pass shortly in the Parliament, with disastrous effects on transparency, which had just made its presence felt in the country. I have procured the copy of these amendments and if it is passed by the Parliament, then it will practically kill the RTI movement in our country.

Friday, August 04, 2006

middle east

  • U.S. to supply food with one hand, arms with other.
  • Fuel running out at Beirut Medical Center, Israel continues fuel blockade and rest of world watches! Did you hear this on TV?
  • Hundreds of thousands rally in Iraq against the war in Lebanon.
  • 300,000 Lebanese children displaced.
  • In fresh strikes, Israel kills 28, Hezbollah 4.

today on Democracy Now!

Three stories from today's Democracy Now! ---
  • Human Rights Watch accuses Israel of War Crimes for indiscriminately targeting Lebanese civilians.
  • Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land: Documentary examines US media coverage of the Israeli Palestinian Conflict.
  • Is America Watching a Different War? American, Lebanese and Israeli panel on how the US media is covering the invasion of Lebanon.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

links

The arguing India, Amartya Sen on why democracy doesn't belong to the West, the fallacy of the "moderate" Muslim, India's atheist tradition, and other contentions, in the California Magazine.

Perils of Israel model, Praful Bidwai on why following the Israel model is a recipe for disaster and for courting more insecurity and making citizens more vulnerable to terrorist violence.

Kaala Colas

CSEIndia releases results of its second study in three years on the high pesticide levels in soft drinks.
More articles on the same here and here.
The latest CSE study is based on tests conducted on 57 samples of 11 soft drink brands from 25 different manufacturing plants of Coca-Cola and Pepsico, spread over 12 States.
The report indicated the presence of an average of three to five different pesticides in all the samples, 24 times higher than the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) norms, which have been finalised but not yet notified.
The levels in some samples — for instance, Coca-Cola bought in Kolkata — exceeded the BIS standards by 140 times for the deadly pesticide Lindane, a confirmed carcinogen.

Previous posts on Kaala Colas: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5

Monday, July 31, 2006

Robert Fisk

A link to articles by Robert Fisk.
He is the Middle East correspondent of The Independent and is currently reporting form Lebanon.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Amherst Peace Vigil

Met a few folks at the Amherst Peace Vigil in the afternoon and the topic of discussion was the various conflicts raging across the world. Today's handout had this article on the Israeli aggression in Lebanon.

The Amherst Vigil for Peace and Social Justice in a Nuclear Free World is in its 28th year. The vigil conitnues to advocate for an end to the arms trade, for an end to nuclear wepaons at home (USA) and abroad, and for social justice around the world.

The Amherst Peace Vigil is every Sunday from noon to 1p.m. at the Amherst Town Common.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Right or privilege?

Is primary education a right or a privilege?
The Central government has decided to dump the Right to Education Bill and it will not be tabled in the Parliament. The Bill aimed to make education compulsary for children aged 6-14.

On one hand the government is going ahead with the proposed 27% reservations and is committed to investment in higher education to increase seats, faculty, infrastructure etc. and on the other hand citing lack of funds is washing it's hands off primary education! Furhter, with the booming business of education, private institutes have no incentive to accomodate the poor, making it a privilege for the ones who have/can obtain the required money.

A related post on How the Other Half Lives.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

CEASEFIRE!

Got above picture from Steph's blog.


US blocks call for ceasfire.
UN Ambassador Bolton blocks measure condemning lethal Israeli attack on a UN post.

Free Speech: Use It or Lose It!

A new breed of bloggers: Freeway Bloggers, reaching thousands of people for under a buck!

A basic HOWTO is here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

File Notings

The Union Cabinet has approved amendments to the RTI Act which will keep out file notings from disclosures.

Anna Hazare is planning a fast unto death and on returning the Padma Bhusan to protest against the amendment.

CIC (Central Information Commissioner) head says amendment will take "life out of RTI Act"!

The National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) press release is here.

What are file notings and why are they important?
Here is an answer from an email by Arvind Kejriwal of Parivartan on the AID listserve ...

Every file has two portions. The right portion contains correspondence, minutes of meetings and orders. The left part is green pages. This is called file noting portion. When a file is put up to an officer, he writes his comments or decision on the green pages and forwards it to the next officer. The next officer similarly writes his/her comments on the green pages. Therefore, green pages are a record of the entire decision making process -which officer said what. File notings would expose if any officer wrote anything illegitimate or if he sat on the file for long. The Government would be protecting corrupt and dishonest officials, if file notings were taken out of RTI Act.

Let me give some examples.

1) Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) got a consultancy contract from Delhi Government. File notings obtained under Delhi Right to Information Act revealed that PWC was at 10th position. In fact, it did not even qualify in the preliminary round. File notings revealed how World Bank pressurized Delhi Government to bring up PWC, cancel bids, do rebidding, change selection criteria etc till such time as PWC got the contract. File notings also revealed how some honest officers protested but their protests were not accepted.

2) 150 jhuggis were razed in Mayur Vihar. DDA said no land was available to resettle them. File notings revealed that 700 plots of land had actually been developed by DDA in Kondli for resettling them. Perhaps, DDA officials wanted to sell these plots clandestinely in association with land sharks.

File notings are important even in very routine matters. Suppose you applied for a ration card or a passport and the babu expects a bribe. Under RTI, as soon as you ask for the action taken in your case and names of officials responsible for delay, they immediately do your job. You won’t be able to ask for this information any longer as it is contained in file notings. 20,000 applications filed by people across the country in the recently concluded “Drive Against Bribes” campaign will become void with this amendment.

Government says that it is important to exempt file notings from disclosure because this is preventing officers from giving honest opinions. This is an absurd defense. Many honest bureaucrats have admitted in private that RTI has made it much easier for them to say no to illegitimate pressures. Besides, nine state governments already had RTI Acts for more than seven years before the Central Act was passed. File notings were being disclosed under all these laws. No bureaucrat in any of these states felt threatened the way bureaucrats in Central Government seem to be feeling.

Monday, July 24, 2006

links

Answer or die! Tragic.

Maharashtra unable to help Vidarbha farmers, even after PM's relief package.

A Class Profile of India, conversations with Pankaj Mishra, Suketu Mehta and Atanu Dey---a radio show on Open Source.
MP3 link.

Curtailing RTI

Government of the people, by the people and for the people!
Then why add obstacles for accountancy to the people?

* * * * *

NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR PEOPLE'S RIGHT TO INFORMATION
NCPRI
PRESS NOTE

There is news that the Cabinet has decided to amend the Right To Information Act to exclude file notings from the Act. NCPRI categorically states that this is a completely retrograde step which seeks to curtail the Citizen’s fundamental right in an unacceptable manner. If file notings are exempted, it is a sure method of obfuscating the existence of arbitrariness in the decision making process, which enables fixing accountability on specific officers. It will encourage corrupt and arbitrary practices and be a sure way to kill the spirit of the Act. The Ministers have been ill-advised in going back on the promise to Indian Citizens of transparency and accountability.

NCPRI and al other Civil Society organizations will strongly oppose this move which encourages opacity in the decision-making process, since this would encourage corrupt practices. We recommend that the Government should stop this move to dilute the Act. Citizens from all strata of the Nation are using to it with great hope and faith to monitor and curb arbitrary and corrupt practices in the Governance.

The preamble to the Act had recognised:

"AND WHEREAS democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Goverments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed;

AND WHEREAS revelation of information in actual practice is likely to conflict with other public interests including efficient operations of the Governments, optimum use of limited fiscal resources and the preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information;

AND WHEREAS it is necessary to harmonise these conflicting interests while preserving the paramountcy of the democratic ideal; ..."

Thus it accepts that after careful thought by the Parliament and Citizens, a careful harmonizing has been done of the conflicting interests. It was after a lot of deliberations that this Act was framed, which codifies the Citizen’s fundamental right under Article 19 (1). An elaborate process was undertaken from August 2004 to December 2004, when the bill was first tabled. Since various stakeholders felt that there were some important deficiencies, a Parliamentary Committee was set up in January 2005, which went into an elaborate consultative process with the Government functionaries and Citizens groups. After a meticulous and detailed exercise, the final draft was prepared by the Government and tabled before the Parliament. After due debate, this bill was passed by both houses of Parliament and assent given to it by the President. Making changes in this law, eems to make a mockery of the entire democratic law-making process, the Government’s promise and actions, and the Parliamentary Committee and Citizens who contributed to this law.

NCPRI suggests that the Government desist from attacking this fundamental right of Citizens. Citizens believe this Act will take the Nation towards a true participative Swaraj, and the Government should focus on how to strengthen the implementation of the Act. This move coming in the wake of an all-India, Antibribery Citizen’s Campaign using Right To Information, would send a signal to them, that this is a move to curb their rights, since it threatens certain undesirable practices.

We call on all Indians to join with us to oppose any move to curtail our fundamental right to know and to work together to insist this retrograde step is not take. Citizens and organizations are requested to write to the Prime Minister and all Political parties and register their opposition. Citizens across the Nation should also organize themselves in meetings to explain to others and register their protest against this assault on an important right, which is important for their Swaraj.

Shailesh Gandhi (Satyameva Jayate)
Convenor

Ajit Bhattacharjea; Anjali Bhardwaj; Angela Rangad; Aruna Roy; Arvind Kejriwal; Balraj Puri; Bharat Dogra; Debu Bandhopadhya; Harivansh; Harsh Mander; Jagdeep Chhokar; Jagmohan Singh; Jean Dreze; Maja Daruwala; Nikhil Dey; P Wangchuk; Prabhash Joshi ;Prakash Kardaley; Prashant Bhushan; Prabhash Joshi; V.Suresh; Venkatesh Nayak; Vinay Mahajan; S R Sankaran; Samir Acharya; Sandeep Pande; Trilochan Sastry; Shekhar Singh; Suman Sahai; Vishaish Uppal
Working Committee of NCPRI

NCPRI
C 17A Munirka, New Delhi 110 067, India
Telefax: +91 (0)11 26178048; Phone: 26168759,
email: ncpri.india@gmail.com

Thursday, July 20, 2006

pariksha


P.S: Don't know author of the poem. If you do, let me know.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Politics of packages, packaging of politics

The politics of relief packages in Vidarbha: P.Sainath reports on the relief package that was announced by the PM to address the agrarian crisis in Vidarbha.
The 'package' declared at the end of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's trip to Vidarbha will have little or no impact on the crisis there. Neither in the short run nor in the long term.
...
Yet the suicides are the effect, not the cause, of a much wider agrarian distress. The death count is not the story but a window to it. There are millions of farm households across the country that have not seen suicides but whose conditions are similar to those that have. They too are in deep trouble.
...
It was no one's case that farm suicides would end with the visit. But people wanted steps that would slow the bleeding and restore hope. That did not happen.
...
The first thing the Prime Minister could have done or made the State Government do, was to restore the 'advance bonus' of Rs.500 a quintal for cotton. The State withdrew this in May 2005. Appeals by growers - and even by the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) - were ignored. We knew all hell would break loose. It did. If suicide numbers were high when the price of cotton was Rs.2,250, how could things get better when it fell to Rs.1,700 a quintal? That too due to state policy? (There is also no mention in the new deal of a 'price stabilisation fund' called for by the NCF to protect farmers against the shock of plummeting prices.)
...
Had there been a waiver of debt of up to just Rs.25,000, more than 80 per cent of Vidarbha's farmers would no longer have owed the banks money. People thought that waiver would come. It didn't and the sense of being let down is great. This matters across the country, too. Indebtedness amongst farm households has almost doubled in the past decade.
...
The good aspect of the 'package' was, of course, the promise of crop loans to all farmers across the board. This could help many tide over the current season. But the interest waiver of Rs.712 crore mainly helps banks that have been hostile to farm lending.
...
The package gives Rs.2177 crore to 82 major and medium and 442 minor irrigation projects in the six districts it covers. Much of this simply revises book entries. That is, it draws money from existing programmes. If all these schemes were completed tomorrow, they would not add three per cent of acreage to irrigated area. That, in a region where irrigated land adds up to just 11 per cent of the total.
...
The move does not put a new rupee in the farmer's pocket. Since the principal amount has not been waived, the debt crisis will renew itself rapidly. Besides, there is no help with seed or other inputs. Not even a promise of it.
...
There was and is total silence on the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act, 2005. This regressive law puts irrigation beyond the reach of all except corporate farmers. It could raise irrigation costs by thousands of rupees per acre. It also allows an unelected authority to compel farmers to use drip or sprinkler irrigation. Those unable to pay the huge rate hikes in the offing could face fines of up to ten times the new charges. They could also face six months imprisonment. And yes, farmers with more than two children pay one and a half times those rates anyway.

The new package is silent on this. It has nothing for the 85 per cent non-irrigated farmers now shut out from even the chance of having that facility.
...
Not a single top leader of Maharashtra had entered a grieving household prior to the Prime Minister's visit.

Larry Siegel


Larry Siegel, is a farmer who sells his produce at the farmers' market in Amherst every Saturday. The attached picture is of a board which display's his farming philosopgy. It states,
'Organic' has evolved into a loosely applied term these days; rather than add to the cofusion, I prefer to share with you my growing practices, permitting you to apply any term you wish to these practices.
One of our underylying philospohies is to use on-farm materials whenever possible. Our plantings are enriched with composted vegetable matter and manure(from our cows, pigs and poultry), supplemented by whatever aged manure is available for the hauling. Our wood ashes sweeten the soil and enrich it with potassium.
My preference is non-mechanical work. About half our 2/3rd acre under cultivation is in semi-permament beds, maintained by hand. The other half is turned annually by a tiller (when it is working). Weed control is accomplished with a sturdy hoe (and a sturdy back) occasionaly assisted by mulch.
No sprays are applied, organic or otherwise. My insect control program relies on timing of plantings, hand picking or physical barriers of one sort or another. If these do not succeed, I do not grow the crop.
By remaning small we can engage in these practices with a moderate degree of success. Our produce may lack some of the uniformity or 'perfection' of others, but we are offering the same food we ourselves eat. (I grow our family's full-year supply of vegetables and small fruit).
This is labor of love. It provides me subsistence level income and whole bunch of non-material rewards. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to engage in small-scale agriculture and fortunate to have the patrons of the farmers' market supporting us.

--- Larry Siegel

In the age of insecticide/pesticide-based farming and genetically modified (GM) crops and corporate farming, folks like Larry are a diminishing community! The most important thing that stands out in his statement is that his farm is about 2/3rd acre and is enough for his subsistence! Further, he can make do without all the chemicals, and control and efficiently tend to the small-sized farm.

Imagine if we all worked towards non-material rewards---that would be something.

Someday I hope to do what Larry is doing!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Grab-n-Go

An article by Sanjay Sangvai (sent via email by Swati) on land grabs by the government for Reliance to setup SEZs (Special Economic Zones) in Raigad district, Maharashtra.
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*This Time, Land-Grab by Rich: The Politics of SEZs in India *
-- Sanjay Sangvai

The farmers in the obscure Pen tehsil in Raigad district Maharashtra are preparing for the long battle against the gigantic and powerful company – the Reliance. On June 22, a few Mumbai-based Marathi newspapers carried the news of the demonstrations of hundreds of farmers against the land acquisition by the state government for the Reliance company for a 10,120 hectare Special Economic Zone (SEZ). There was police firing on the rally as some miscreants indulged in stone throwing and damaging the property, which it was later found that, was not done by the protesting farmers.

"The Reliance company managed to create disturbance in the peaceful meeting of hundereds of farmers and our process of presenting objections to the Land Acquisition notices to the officials. The company is nervous about the growing resistance by the farmers for usurping their productive land and therefore trying to use the police to crush the movement" told Arun Shivkar, of Pen Panchkroshi Sheti Bachao Samiti (Pen area Committee for Save the farmland).

"And as we know the reality of this company and the SEZ, the farmers will drive the company out and take on the state government also for siding with the capitalists instead of caring for the farmers" fumed Ganesh Thakur from the Samiti. Out of 10,120 hectares land is earmarked for acquisition, 5720 ha. Is irrigated from Hetavane dam, and large tracts belong to the salt pans or wetlands, mangrove very essentials for carrying capacity and sustainability of this area.
The villagers now know fully well they are pitted against the formidable adversary – the giant Reliance, which has just obtained 25,000 hectares land for its own SEZ in Haryana, already took the governments in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra and even the so called the Left wing government of W. Bengal. It is spreading its wings in textiles, power, contract farming, medicinal herbs, sugar industries and retail stores. They realize that the Company has enormous sway over the political, bureaucratic establishment and the media. This company has been given the largest SEZ in the 42 villages in Pen-Panvel-Uran area, in the name of the activities like manufacturing, trading, services, processing, logistics, repackaging, warehousing etc.

This is one of the 24 approved SEZs in the state, both by the private parties (13) and the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC, 11). There are other 17 SEZs that are to be given approval (11 private and 7 MIDC). These SEZs are part of the more than 140 SEZs that are earmarked in almost all the parts of the country. According to the Union government's handout, the SEZ is a specifically delineated duty free enclave and shall be deemed to be foreign territory for the purpose of trade operations, duties and tariffs. In 2000 the Government of India formulated the SEZ policy and in 2005 the SEZ Act was made. It came into force from February 10, 2006.

With this one stroke, the corporate powers have cornered exemptions from almost every tax, while getting the services of water supply, electricity, usurping the natural resources, distorting the constitutional sovereignty of the people.

*Waiving Taxes*

The Maharashtra government formulated the SEZ policy in October 2001, to "promote the establishment of large, self contained areas supported by the world class infrastructure oriented towards export promotion". Any private, public or joint company and even the foreign company can set up the SEZ, which would consist of the industrial operations, service and trade. Both the policies emphatically declare to create the 'hassle-free environment' for such operations, that is, exemption from all sorts of taxes viz: stamp duty and registration fees, cess or levies including import-export duties, customs duties, sales tax, excise, octroi, service tax, mandi and turnover taxes. They can import of procure from domestic sources duty free all their requirements from capital good to raw materials, spares, packing materials, office equipments, without any license or specific approval. They can procure/ import goods duty free to set up the units.

Most important concession is the income tax benefit under 80 1A to developers for any block of 10 years in 15 years, exemption for income on investment in infrastructure capital fund and the from electricity duty for 15 years in C, D, D+ areas and no-industry districts in Maharashtra and for 10 years in other areas. They are allowed re-investment of ploughed back profits and carry forward of losses. The units are allowed establish Independent Power Plants (IPPs), to produce, transfer and distribute the power, fix tariffs in their own zones without any license. The SEZ
authority, the state government appointee is to 'ensure continuous and good quality' power supply and 'adequate water supply' to the SEZs.

These units can have 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in the manufacturing. Off shore banking units are allowed in these areas and they are allowed 100% Income Tax exemption on profit for 3 years and 50% for next two years. Individual investment in SEZ too is exempt from the Income tax. External commercial borrowing up to $ 500 m. per year is allowed without any maturity restrictions. The SEZ units enjoy freedom to bring in export proceeds without any time limit and have freedom to keep 100% of export proceeds in the EEFC account and to make overseas investment from it.

According to an internal assessment of the Union Finance Ministry in 2005, the government had to forgo about Rs. 90,000 crores in direct and indirect taxes over the next four years on account of the SEZs.

Autonomy for Whom?

The units in SEZ can sub-contract part of their production process abroad or even to the domestic tariff area. The developed is permitted to transfer infrastructure facilities for operation and maintenance.

The SEZs, except those product specific and port/airport based units, must have at least 1000 hectares of area to set up SEZ. They have to set up their processing units in the 35 % of the earmarked area and they have full freedom in allocation of space and built up area to approved SEZs on commercial basis. They are authorized to provide and maintain services like water, electricity, security, restaurants and recreation centers on commercial lines.

The SEZs are made free from the environmental and labour laws and they are exempted from public hearing under Environment Impact Assessment notification. On the contrary, SEZs are permitted to have "non-polluting industries like golf courses, desalinization plants, hotels and non-polluting services in the coastal regulation zone (CRZ). All the environmental clearance powers, particularly the clearances required by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, are vested in the hands of the
Development Commissioner, appointed for the administrative supervision and solve the problem for the SEZs.

The SEZs have no responsibility to provide employment to the people in and around the area. The reliance had clarified that there would be no scope for the employment for the local people, as most of the jobs will be skilled ones. However, any of the labour laws and regulations will not be applicable to SEZs. All the powers of the Labour Commissioner shall be delegated to the Development Commissioner of the particular SEZ and a single point mechanism in SEZs will be provided to give all clearances and permissions pertaining to industrial safety and other regulations. The practice of 'hire and fire' will be made easier and nobody will be allowed to conduct inspections without the prior permission of the Development Commissioner of that SEZ.
The Maharashtra policy aims to further exclude many services from the ambit of the Contract Labour (regulation and Abolition) Act. And " All industrial units and other establishments will be declared as 'Public Utility Services' under the provisions of Industrial Disputes Act!!

The Maharashtra policy declares the SEZs as Industrial Townships to enable the SEZs to function as self-governing, autonomous municipal bodies. Union government policy bluntly tells that," Government controls the operation and maintenance function of the Government controlled SEZs. In the rest, operation and maintenance is privatized".

Serious Issues

Even in the neo-liberal and government corridors, the setting up of SEZs make no sense, as there are already many schemes for promotion of exports like the Export Processing Zones, Export Oriented Units Scheme, Export Area Intensive Area Sub-Plan, Infrastructure Development Scheme for 93 no-industry districts. They will loose their attraction altogether once new SEZs come into being. The 47 Software Technology Parks would suffer a setback; they would become unviable as many companies would like to shift to the new SEZs.

More important is the issue of the large tracts of land – at least 1000 hectares or even 80 hectares to be given to the companies. According to senior trade unionist Gajanan Khatu, "These SEZs would be privatized and autonomous townships. Instead of mere SEZs, they are Special Real Estate Zones. These SEZs can be used for anything from trading, entertainment, hotels, and housing projects." All the large builders like City Parks, K. Rahejas, Hiranandani Builders, DLF, Marathon realty, Pan-India Paryatan, Dewan Investments are given hundreds of hectares.

The SEZs will have their own security, operation and maintenance rules and all environmental and labour clearances vested with the Development Commissioner of that SEZ. "It is nothing but creating autonomous private regions; the local self governments will have no authority over them", pointed Rifat Khan of National Center of Advocacy Studies (NCAS).

According to Dr. Mukund Ghare, Director of AFARM, Pune, an organization for sustainable land and water management, "when there is a crying need to distribute the scarce water equitably between urban and rural sectors and between the rich and poor, there is an apprehension as to how much water the SEZs will use? Who will own the water? How it will be used, when there is no environmental law applicable to the SEZ? This is nothing but an attempt to privatize water".

"It is appalling and illegal to permit the tourism, beautification, hotel, ports up to 12 nautical miles (22 kms) in the sea. There is a conspiracy to dilute the CRZ, regularize the past violations and invite the large megatrawlers of the transnational companies. " explained N.D. Koli, the Maharashtra leader of the National Fisherpeople Federation (NFF).

"It is a government sponsored land grab by the rich and powerful. Already serious land related issues of Land Reforms or restoring the land rights of dali,or eksali lands in Konkan or on Adivasi lands in other forest-land area. And here the government has been allotting large tracts of lands, mostly by acquiring through Land Acquisition Act and passing it on to the private parties", charged Surekha Dalvi, a senior lawyer and land-rights activist.

"When the government has been cutting the subsidies for the farmers, workers and middle classes, when it cannot assign a fraction of funds for rural employment guarantee scheme, the public distribution system and government procurement of food grains are being dismantled, it is becoming clear the 'beloved' class of the power holders" denounced Ulka Mahajan, the national convener of the National Alliance People's Movements (NAPM). " The people will not take it lying low. They would unite wage a relentless struggle to defeat the forces that are out to snatch their livelihood and resources," she warned.

Building Resistance

"There is no question of increased compensation for the land – we just do not want to give our land to the Reliance," that was the spirit of the meeting held on June 24-25, hosted by the Samiti and the NCAS, at Bardawadi near Pen. The meeting, attended by various organizations in Konkan region along with the representatives of NAPM, People's Political Front (PPF), and Shoshit Jan Andolan resolved to intensify and widen the struggle against the SEZ, by involving the affected people in other parts of Maharashtra and India. A detailed campaign against the Reliance's money power and the SEZs as a whole was planned.

The people's movements from various parts of the country under the aegis of the NAPM, in the recently held Bangalore convention, have decided to take up the issue of the SEZ and mobilize the nationwide resistance to the creation of the SEZ. The organizations made it clear that the issue at the stake was not only the lands and rights of the affected farmers and other villagers, but the larger canvas of the way the political economy of the nation is being usurped by the corporate interests with the connivance of the political and bureaucratic elite. They resolved to protect the natural resources of the communities – land, water, forest, sea-coast; oppose the
violation of the laws and regulations and the sovereignty of the people.

If the struggle in Raigad gains momentum, it would be a next sign-post, like Plachimada, of the fierce resistance by the people to any encroachment on their rights, resources and sovereignty and any threat to the Constitutional democracy in the country. The struggle in Raigad will decide to a large extent the future trajectory of the larger struggle.