Friday, July 28, 2006

INDIA: Human dignity is the true measure of development

July 27, 2006

A Joint Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission & People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights

INDIA: Human dignity is the true measure of development

India is trying to project itself as a state looking toward a place in the league of developed nations. It has put a claim as a leading Asian and global power with a right to permanent membership in the UN Security Council. To substantiate the claim, its government iterates statistical data showing annual economic growth second only to China in the region.

However, the true measure of development is not economic growth: it is human dignity. By that measure India is among the least developed nations in the world. The quotient of dignity for the ordinary Indian is meagre even in comparison to other developing nations. Just a cursory glance into the lives of millions reveals unparalleled human rights violations: starvation deaths, caste atrocities, overwhelming corruption, police brutality and extraordinary delays in judicial procedures are the daily fare of countless Indians. All these are caused and compounded by the near total failure of rule of law in the country.

What excuses can any government in India, state or central, pose for letting its people starve to death? How can any government justify decades of delay in adjudicating cases in courts of law? Which government can allow its law enforcement agencies, particularly the police, to operate almost exclusively as agents of persecution? What justification can a government give for letting its bureaucracy be corrupt from top to bottom? Which state can justify the practice of extreme forms of discrimination based on birth and gender?

The government of India often absolves itself of responsibility for such problems on the ground that the country's population is too large. However, this is a lame excuse which offers the victims of abuses nothing and belies the image of development that the authorities try to create by conjuring up numbers about this or that. What explanation can these authorities give for the subhuman living conditions of the Mushahar community in Belwa village, Uttar Pradesh or those persons in Jalangi of West Bengal, for instance? What about the weaver community starving in Varanasi while silk cloths are imported from China?

Take the case of Laxmina Mushahar, a resident of Belwa. On 26 July 2006 she had to pawn her clothes for a hundred rupees in order to bring her nine-month-old malnourished baby for treatment at a public health centre located nine kilometres away from her village. To save the child's life this desperate step was necessary as the authorities have not bothered to open a public distribution shop in her village and provide underprivileged and marginalised communities the benefits of various government schemes that are rightfully theirs. The failure to take such steps amounts to criminal neglect that puts people's lives in danger, from which neither the government nor its employees can escape liability.

Meanwhile, custodial torture, deaths in custody and alleged encounter killings are reported from across India. The incidence of such atrocities is growing at an alarming rate--so much so that the image of a criminal is now synonymous with a uniformed police officer--yet the government has no apparent policy or even intention to counteract this damaging trend. If the decline in discipline, lack of accountability and total impunity of Indian law enforcement agents continues, the total collapse of the rule of law is quite likely. The consequences are, and will, be felt most of all by ordinary persons.

Overcrowding and low morale are the stark realities of the justice system in India today. The complete absence of basic functioning infrastructure has exacerbated these problems and contributed to an increasing lack of faith in the courts among ordinary people. Instead, they settle disputes through exchange of money, violence and other means completely outside of the legal and administrative system. This situation renders the constitutional guarantees of rights and domestic laws worthless. That courts which once contributed towards a body of meaningful human rights jurisprudence now remain silent and inert when the values embodied in their judgments are blatantly violated only makes matters worse.

The People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights in Varanasi has together with the Asian Human Rights Commission and others continuously brought these issues before various government agencies in India. Despite this, children suffer from malnutrition and die due to starvation; millions continue to be classed as 'outcastes' and deprived their basic human dignity from birth to death; millions more suffer countless daily indecencies at the hands of the country's so-called law-enforcement officers, and have further indignities heaped upon them by the courts. India as a state has failed to ensure the progressive realisation of economic and social development for millions of Indians. In fact, it does not even have a notion of how to do this. The consequence is the denial of basic human dignity to the majority of the country's people. This reality makes a mockery of claims to progress and prosperity through statistics. If India truly is seeking the path of development, it must start with these problems, and end with human dignity, without which any other concept and measure of development will be a chimera.

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About AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984

An appeal not to weaken Right to Information (RTI)

To: Prime Minister of India July 26th 2006

Dr. Manmohan Singh,
Prime Minister of India,
New Delhi.
Dear Dr. Singh,

An appeal not to weaken Right to Information (RTI) We are disappointed with Congress and allied parties in the rulings government to learn that you have allowed the Cabinet to approve an amendment to exempt file notings and cabinet papers from disclosure under the Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005. We are appalled that a progressive UPA government that promoted the Act has chosen to take this retrograde step and kill the act in its infancy.

In the last few months, RTI has emerged as a very effective instrument in the hands of a common Indian Citizen to check corruption, fight injustice and make governance transparent. It appears from the proposed amendments that people in power (politicians and bureaucrats) do not want anything which curbs there tendencies and acts of corruption and injustice – there are umpteen examples of such cases.

The proposed amendment will prevent people from knowing why a particular decision was taken and who proposed, rejected or introduced changes in that decision making process. It will prevent people from knowing why no action was taken on their applications and who the guilty officials are. In effect, the Government would end up protecting the corrupt and dishonest officials.

We are aware that people like you are aware that the proposed amendments would blunt RTI's effectiveness and still maintained silence on the matter. It is strange that at almost the same time when your cabinet was approving such retrograde amendments, you were making a speech on how RTI could improve governance. In your speech, you stated "This Act, by promoting transparency, can be a vital instrument for cutting down corruption and ensuring that goals set for improved public service delivery can be met."

Dr. Singh we expect more than mere rhetoric from a person like you. Mr O P Kejariwal, Member Central Information Commission, recently said that "Information minus the file notings amount to taking the life out of the RTI Act". You and some other genuine parliamentarians know very well that transparency is not possible by exempting file notings from RTI. We do not expect service delivery to improve if you protect the identity of guilty officials. We expect that UPA government must take a stand in favour of people and implement policies and programmes which enhance democratic and transparent governance

The Act is just 10 months old and why has it frightened the bureaucracy and the government which called for an amendment? The change in regime in 2004 was seen as a fresh air in India’s history and politics but you and your government seem to be keen on going back on your promises and prove that you are no different from the right wing capitalist government.

We therefore expect that the Right to Information Act, 2005 not be tampered with. Let the transparency in governing which is vital for a thriving democracy be not held hostage by its Babus obviously supported by some politicians in power.

Sincerely Yours,

Dr. Lenin,Shruti,Prashant,Anupam,Vijay,Anup

Friday, July 21, 2006

Role of media in fighting against Hunger:Ajay Rai

Role of media in fighting against Hunger

A workshop over the role of media in fighting against hunger has been conducted by RTFC and organised by a very popular journalist Ajay Rai of Amar Ujala for RTFC where a number of media persons belong from print 2 electronic media both were invited to join the discussion in Hotel Kamesh Hut workshop was host by Mr. Prashant and the chief guests invited were Tanveer Ahmed Siddiqui (Adv.) and Smt. Manju a social worker of Guria. Different NGOs partners have presented their views over the subject in workshop.
Mr. Tanveer Ahemed Siddiqui has appreciated media for its work where’s Siddiqui Hasan to that it is media due to which a poor family got 10,000/- at the death of its one of the family member.
Ajay Rai a media person now a day every thing is published and nothing has got being secret. Dr. Lenin told that victim should bring into limelight and not the organizations supporting them.
No. of Participants:35
Dated - 21.6.06
Venue - Hotel Kamesh Hut
Organizer - IRC
Ø Media fellow Mr. Ashwini Singh of Sonbhadra highlighted and investigated the hunger death of a tribal Ram jit of Bhabhani block of Sonbhadra.
Ø Media Fellow Manoj Kumar Singh highlighted the deaths of Musahars caused by TB in Kushinagar. As a result of this District administration of Kushi Nagar accepted the facts and decided to take immediate action. He also highlighted the matter of corruption in food for work scheme in Kushinagar and District Administration took action against the concerning officers.

Petition agianst the illegal detaintion of Musahar of Jaunpur

Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2006 11:28:31 -0700 (PDT)
From: "PVCHR" View Contact Details Add Mobile Alert
Subject: Petition
CC: "Henari" , "Henri" ,, "UA" ,, "Sunila Singh" , "Binay" , "Prabhu"

Greetings from People's Watch and PVCHR.
Mr.Hari Nath and Phul Chand Musahar informed me that
police of Rohania,Jansa and Lohta of Varanasi went
Jaunpur district.Varanasi police forcibly detained the
Virendra,Chhedi and Munna of Village Chaura and
PS.:Kerakat ,District: Jaunpur on 5 PM of 20 July
2006.Varanasi police did not inform to family members
of detainees.
All detainees are from Musahar community of SC.MY fear
is that Varanasi police will kill them in Fake
encounter.Becuase there is a dacoity in Rohania Police
station before one day.
Please ensure the life of marginalised vicitims and
follow the judgment of Hon'ble Supreme Court in Case
of D. K. Basu.
With Warm regards,
State Director
EU-FNST project on torture/People's watch-TN