Anti-Beggary Laws – Conference Proceedings

January 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Human Rights, Meetings and Events 

Proceedings of the National Consultation on Anti-Beggary Laws: Legal and Policy Perspectives.
Consultation organized by Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion & Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) & Gandhian Studies Centre, NLSIU, Bangalore.

Proceedings of the Consultation here

|Press Note| Protest Meeting in Bangalore – Binayak Sen Conviction

[Press Note in Kannada]

Bangalore, December 29th

At a protest organised at the Town Hall in Bangalore, Human Rights organisations, NGOs and the civil society came out in strong opposition to a verdict by a Raipur court that convicted Dr Binayak Sen on charges of sedition and pronounced a life sentence. The protest, held under the banner of “Free Binayak Sen”, demanded his immediate release and that charges against him should be dropped.
The event was attended by over 600 people.

Apart from being a strong show of dissent against the judgement, the meeting was raising awareness on a host of issues related to human rights.

The targeting of Human Rights activists came in for special attention. Participants said that the Binayak Sen case was one more example of how the state had started going after defenders of human rights, particularly those that are working closely on issues related marginalised communities, tribals and land rights.

The activists were concerned about the application of sedition laws to people who publicly express dissent. They felt that this was dangerous and was not only un-democratic but was against the principles enshrined in the constitution. They said that it was not just activists who are bearing the brunt of sedition laws. They pointed to the example of Orissa, where four cases of sedition have been filed against journalists in recent years .

On the specifics of the Binayak Sen case, the gathering was of the opinion that the conviction was made without adequate evidence and was a vindictive response to the work that Dr Binayak Sen had done as a Civil Liberties campaigner in exposing the nexus between the Salwa Judum militia and the government machinery. The gathering held that Dr Sen was a Humanitarian who had received global recognition for his work as a Doctor amongst the tribal communities of Chhattisgarh and that the case against him was politically motivated. .

  • Justice Saldanha says, “ It is not a judgment but an atrocity of the worst order.”
  • Veerabhadra Chennamalla Swamiji, from Nedumamudi Mutt,  says, “Its an undemocratic judgment, and it is an assault on justice”.
  • From Popular Front of India, Usman Baig says, “Judiciary is also becoming fascist like the executive and legislature.”
  • Advocate Balan, from AITUC, says, “This is judicial terrorism”
  • U.R Ananthmurthy says, “Dr. Binayak Sen represents me too”
  • Agni Sridhar, and other speakers condemned the turn of events and called it an assault on democracy, pressing for the release of Dr. Binayak Sen.

The protest was jointly organised by Alternative Law Forum, Amnesty International, Bangalore Janara Vedike, Jana Arogya Andolana Karantaka, Jana Sahayoga, Janasthra, National Alliance for People’s Movements, People’s Democratic Forum, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Sangama, SICHREM, Vimochana and many others.

Human Rights, Democracy and Media : Challenges in Contemporary Times

December 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Human Rights, Meetings and Events, Report 

Human Rights’ Day 2010 was observed by the PUCL, Bangalore chapter with a discussion meeting on “Human Rights, Democracy and Media : Challenges in Contemporary Times”. We had three principal speakers to present the primary topic followed by a discussion session.

Isaac Arul Selva, Editor, Slum Jagatthu, spoke of the great caste bias in the media that excluded lower castes both in journalists
employed and also the issues related; news items rarely carried news of the country’s lower castes populations. He spoke of the strong caste/class association that marginalised visibility for the most needy sections of society – unless these issues were ‘sensationalist’ in nature.

Siddharth Narain is a legal researcher at the Alternative Law Forum. He began with the recent police charges against KK Shahina,  and went on to cover the history and context of ‘sedition’ as defined legally. A very readable version of his series covering the ‘Sedition’ can be found at
http://kafila.org/2010/12/06/we-are-all-seditious-now-but-when-did-this-start/

Last speaker of the evening was B Parvateesha, a senior correspondent with Lankesh Patrike who spoke on ‘Contemporary Media and Human Rights’. He gave a strong inward looking position on journalism, especially on marginalised issues. He stressed that a pre-requisite to enlightened journalism was enlightened readership; however most middle class readership’s interest lay with media reports that are both superficial and sensational in nature.

We had a fairly strong participation from Samvada’s student community, who posed a lot of questions, doubts; the audience discussion lasted for another hour. Prof. H. Mansur, Founder, PUCL-Karnataka concluded the meeting with final comments.

|Sep 9| Release of the Preliminary Report on Savanur Protests

People’s Union For Civil Liberties – Bangalore
~~~~

INVITATION

~~~~~

Release of the Preliminary Report on the

Savanur Protests

by

Justice Rajinder Sachar

On the 20th of July 2010 Bhangi families engaged in manual scavenging poured human excrement on themselves as a mark of protest. They were protesting against the disconnection of their water supply and their impending eviction from their homes in Savanur town. The incident was a reminder of the ugly reality of manual scavenging in Karnataka and the persistent discrimination they face under the caste system.

The report deals with the circumstances that led to the protests and clearly points to the violation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) act of 1989 by government officials.

The report gives specific recommendations to the State Government, Agencies of the State Government, the SC/ST commission and the civil society.

When: 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM on Thursday 9th September 2010

Where:
Xavier Hall, St Joseph’s College,
36 Lalbagh Road, Shantinagar, Bangalore 27

~~~~~~

Manjunath Babu Bhangi and Lakshamamma Bhangi
leaders of the Bhangi community will share their experiences

Justice Rajinder Sachar will release the Preliminary Report
This will be followed by an audio-visual presentation

Justice Sachar is a former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court. He was also a member of United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. He headed the Sachar Committee which reported on the social, economic and educational Status of Muslims in India. He is an active member of PUCL.

INVITE

Consultation meeting – Urban Poor v/s Karnataka Manuvadi Govt

Consultation meeting
Urban Poor v/s Karnataka Manuvadi Govt

10:30 AM on 3rd July 2010
Senate Hall
Central College
Dr.Ambedkar Veedhi
Bangalore 560068

Reason for and background to the seminar

The Emergency Then and Now

June 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Meetings and Events 

The Emergency Then and Now

A Public Lecture and Discussion

Speakers
Shri Kuldip Nayar
&

Shri Shiv Sundar

Saturday, June 26th, 2010 6:30 PM

Venue
Multi Purpose Hall,
St. Joseph’s College,
Lalbagh Road,
(Near the Double road circle)
Bangalore

Background
On June 25th 1975, the President of India Shri Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declared a state of Emergency on the directions of the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi. The Emergency was a dark period in Indian democracy. Civil Liberties and all the 6 freedoms under article 19 of the constitution were suspended. This Public Lecture is being organized to mark the 35th anniversary of the day the Emergency was declared.

About Shri Kuldip Nayar
Shri Kuldip Nayar is one of India’s most respected and senior-most journalists. He was one of the leading voices of protest during the Emergency.

Citizens against UID

PUCL has endorsed the Citizen’s Statement on UID

We, representatives of people’ movements, mass organizations, institutions and concerned individuals including all the undersigned strongly oppose the potential tracking and profiling based techno-governance tools such as the Unique Identification number (UID) by the Government of India and the manner in which legitimate democratic processes have been undermined through this.

The proposed UID project seems to be perched on an anti-people perspective and violates a number of basic rights guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution of India including Articles 14, 15, 17, 19 and 21 viz., the Rights to equality, dignity, privacy, expression and the right not to be discriminated against, The project seems to be aimed at profiling people by pooling in biometric and retinal data pertaining to an individual and could be potentially discriminatory in a country where caste identity is the most predominant socio-political marker. Further, it is a travesty on the dignity and privacy of individuals. At another level, given the fact that more than one third of our population live below the substantial level called “poverty line” and without literacy & numeracy, a large section of our population would find itself unable to handle this number in a meaningful way and thus face the danger of virtually stripped of their citizenship and thereby the very legitimacy of their existence on the land of this country.

This project which has been launched at a budgeted cost of INR 1900 Crores for the year 2010-2011 in a country where the Government has officially declared that 400 million of its citizens are living below poverty line is , thus an insult to the dignity of the Peoples of India. The project headed by a person of the rank of the Union Cabinet Minister, whose appointment was not transparent and a staff overhead of more than 100 is also working under the most non-transparent processes and we fear that the decisions are made and influenced by vested private and corporate interests who have had a record of anti-people and anti-democratic activities. There is no wide public discussion on the feasibility or desirability of the project.

It is in this context that we have serious objections to the way the decadal census process is being used to pitch the UID process and no discussion on this has happened in any of the democratic forums including the Parliament, which also transgresses n the right to dignity and privacy of individuals and their choice to opt out of the UID process. If the UID continues to be tagged with the Census process – we would also consider boycotting the same. It is a matter of great concern that the powers that be have deliberately kept silent on the inter linkage between the UID and current mode of census

In this situation it is not clear which decisions are being made by the private sector or by the elected representatives. There are proposals within this project that will result in changes to the PDS, food subsidy, MGNREGS etc are being put forward by the Planning commission and UIDAI. They suggest that instead of food grains, cash subsidies must be given to beneficiaries which can be encashed at public or private sector shops.

In the past the changes in policy were achieved through influence and lobbying, but now entrepreneurs have been appointed as non-politicians with cabinet rank. While the project was hailed as a “gamechanger” and a welfare measure, the public at large have expressed growing concerns about the UID and its implications for ordinary citizens. Many questions are being raised about the nature, status and aims of the scheme. Countries such as the UK, Australia and the USA have found similar measures unworkable due to the serious probability of abuse and the strong opposition of the public. There is a huge expenditure proposed for the UID. The UID would affect every citizen. We as groups and individuals feel the need to engage the larger public in an open discussion about the UID and its proposed scope, implementation, benefits and risks. We are also mobilising public opinion on issues and concerns about the UID.
We the undersigned demand that

  • the UID project be scrapped with immediate effect
  • all the transactions undertaken by the UIDAI project be scrutinized by an accountable public body from the democratic governance structure in a transparent manner taking into consideration the concerns of the all the peoples before venturing into the implementation stage
  • the financial and technological implications and the costs incurred so far, including details of contracts entered into with respect to the UID project be made transparent
  • the Census and UID project be forthwith de-linked

Nuclear Energy And Liability: Who Profits, Who Pays?

March 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Meetings and Events 

NUCLEAR ENERGY AND LIABILITY: WHO PROFITS, WHO PAYS?

April 03, 2010, Saturday, from 2 pm to 6 pm

Ashirwad, St Marks Road, Bangalore.

The nuclear liability bill, expected to be tabled in the next parliament session, represents a real danger to democracy in India. Unfortunately, there has been very little public debate on this controversial bill. The voice of the people of India, whose health, well-being and civil rights will be directly compromised should the bill go through, is largely silent. The single voice that dominates is that of the nuclear lobby, impatient to have the bill, the only remaining hurdle in the path of opening up India’s multi-billion nuclear market, passed.
India plans to increase its installed capacity of nuclear power by 60,000 MW by the year 2030. This represents a nuclear market worth $175 billion. The nuclear liability bill is the outcome of active lobbying by private nuclear operators who are eyeing this profitable market but equally interested in an escape route in the event of a nuclear leak or accident. Should such an event occur, the bill seeks to cap the liability amount the operator must pay at a paltry $ 450 million.

To invite private operators in the nuclear arena, in an era of liberalization where environment and industrial safety regulations have been whittled down, under pressure from industry, to the barest minimum, is nothing short of playing with fire. The move to introduce the bill consigns the lessons from tragedies like Bhopal and Chernobylto the trashcan of history. Ironically the cap amount being proposed, $450 million, was the amount awarded in the Bhopal Gas case in 1990, which was a gross under-assessment of liability at that time. Today, twenty years later, and given that a nuclear disaster would potentially dwarf the effects of the Bhopal disaster, the nuclear liability cap is truly a slap on the face of people of this country.

The nuclear liability bill undermines the very basis of Indian democracy. It violates the ‘Polluter Pays’ principle and the ‘Precautionary Principle’, and so, violates the Right to Life as enshrined in Article 21 of the constitution. The bill also goes against significant Supreme Court judgements which have ruled that hazardous and dangerous industries owe an ‘absolute and non-delegable’ duty to the community to ensure safety.

The ‘community’ in the case of the nuclear industry is exceptionally large because of the widespread, long-term, and generational impact of radioactive contamination of air, soil and water. The nuclear liability bill ensures that the clean up costs and the health burden of a nuclear leak or accident, even if we were to simplistically assume that these can ever be properly calculated, would have to be borne by the government. Essentially, therefore, the bill seeks to shift the financial burden to the taxpayer, that is, from the perpetrators of the crime to the victim.

An outrage is being proposed to be committed in our name; an outrage whose price we, as tax payers and citizens, will be left to pay. There is no doubt that the nuclear liability bill must be vigorously opposed. In order to do so however it is very important to bring the real issues to the public arena. As a first step, we propose to organize a seminar bringing together democratic rights organizations, women’s organisations, students, and many other sections of society to collectively understand and discuss the nuclear liability bill and related issues in the first week of February 2010. The proposed topics and speakers are:

  1. The Context: Introducing the main issues in India’s engagement with nuclear energy/weapons and laying the ground for the subsequent discussions on various aspects of the nuclear question/ Achin Vanaik
  2. Nuclear Liability Bill: Understanding the legal and other Implications/
  3. Kaiga: Then and Now – Lessons from the Kaiga Struggle; Nuclear power and issues of workplace and community safety/ Activist from the anti-Kaiga movement
  4. Looking Ahead – Opposing the nuclear liability bill and other nuclear issues/ SP Udayakumar

Interaction Session with Shri Prabhakar Sinha, President, PUCL – A Summary

November 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Human Rights, Meetings and Events 

On 21st November 2009, Saturday, the PUCL Bangalore chapter invited the public, members of NGOs, people’s organizations and media  for an interactive session with Shri Prabhakar Sinha, the national PUCL president who was visiting Bangalore. Shri Sinha was asked to share his viewpoints and experiences with the group on the current status and challenges of human rights (HR) activism in India.

Shri Sinha felt one of the biggest problems facing HR organizations was their isolation and a lack of social support for their causes, from the class that mattered. He noted that there were two different classes: the privileged one and another consisting of ordinary or common man.  The privileged class was generally educated, resource consuming, and an empowered group that has an important voice in decision making from an individual to the national level. In contrast, the class of ordinary or common man, who by sheer numbers represent a large majority of our citizens, are underprivileged, voiceless and un-empowered in decisions that directly impact their lives, and often faced a trampling of their fundamental rights. He commented that the privileged society was largely indifferent to the issues of the common man.

It was insufficient to have a democratic constitution to guarantee fundamental rights if the functioning of the governance, administration, security and judiciary were incompatible with the spirit of the constitution. Shri Sinha felt that HR work would benefit if we concentrated on issues to ensure compliance within the system.

Addressing the challenges facing HR issues, Sri Sinha felt it was extremely important to cultivate empathy amongst the middle class for problems of HR and inculcate HR values in the wider society. The current situation of large scale HR violations would change only with changing the social mindset and spreading HR values.

Shri Sinha questioned whether confronting HR violations was a matter for the citizenry or the state. When the latter becomes a primary violator of HR, it is up to the citizens to react against the violations and hold the state accountable. To be able to do this one had to mobilize public opinion and put pressure on the government.

It was also important for the general public be educated on normal laws , to be able to insist on their applicability, and draw wider attention against their misuse. But while it was important to take HR issues into classrooms, it could not be taught in an academic fashion since it was more a matter of feelings, inculcations, and changing mindsets. Here a student did not start with a clean slate over which common HR values could be inscribed, but had a value system already in place depending on his/her class, caste, and socio-economic background.

|Book Release| Fear and forgiveness: The Aftermath of massacre

PUCL-K and ALF book release

PUCL-K and ALF organised a book launch of Harsh Mander’s, ‘Fear and forgiveness: The Aftermath of massacre’ at 6pm, on 5th September 2009  at Institute of Agricultural Technologists, 15 Queens Road, Bangalore. To take forward the discussion on what Harsh’s work means for Karnataka the launch was followed by a panel discussion on ‘Fear and forgiveness: What lessons Gujarat has for Karnataka’.

  • It was chaired by Prof Hassan Mansur of PUCL-K.
  • Harsh Mander made some initial comments on ‘Fear and forgiveness’.
  • Clifton Rozario and Arvind Narrain spoke on “Lessons of Gujarat for Karnataka: Reflecting on ‘Fear and Forgiveness’”.
  • Pattabhirama Somayaji: Reflections on the communal situation in  Dakshina Kannada
  • Sanjana: Modes of communal mobilising in Karnataka

A Brief Biography

Harsh Mander joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1980. Initially he was assigned to work in Madhya Pradesh, and later to Chhattisgarh. In 1984,

Harsh was an additional collector of Indore where the collector was Ajit Jogi, later chief minister of Chattisgarh. The same year, Indore witnessed riots against the Sikh community and Harsh Mander took charge of Indore controlling the riot within hours of its outbreak which is why he was outraged when the state government did not respond to the cry of help by the people of Gujarat. It was his grief against the bureaucracy’s need to be partisan that he resigned in 2002. He has published a collection of essays titled Unheard Voices:  Stories of Forgotten Lives published by the Penguin Books (2001) and Fear and Forgiveness: The Aftermath of Massacre (2009)

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