Friday, March 1, 2013

Indian Budget 2013

Indian Budget offers little to Christian community


The government of India’s annual budget for the financial year 2013-2014, a year that may possibly see a general election, has been panned by both the political right and the Left, but it is the religious minority that feels totally disappointed. The Christian community is particularly impacted as even the few government benefits are designed such as to benefit largely the Muslims, a major political segment assiduously wooed by the government.

The Union Budget presented to Parliament by Finance Minister Mr. P Chidambaram on 28th February has fallen far short of expectations of the Christian community. In the preparation of the 12th Five Year Plan, which becomes operational this year, they had forcefully sought specific mechanisms to ensure that funds meant for them actually devolved to the needy persons and areas in a transparent manner.

The Budget also conclusively shows that till religious minorities get a special component plan on the pattern of Scheduled Castes and Tribes, there will be little actual devolution of funds for their development. While presenting the annual general budget, finance minister P Chidambaram allocated welfare sub plans  -- Rs. 41,561 crore to the scheduled castes and Rs. 24,598 crore to the Tribals – which cannot be diverted and must be spent for the designated purpose.

In contrast, Government data shows that a large component of budget allocations for religious minorities in the past have remained unspent. There is little indication in the budget how the government intends to ensure that the moneys are spent on the target communities and specially to the Christian community, which has not got its fair share of these funds.  The community must be assured that it will get its share of funding on a pro rata basis, specially in area development schemes and scholarships.

The finance minister has allocated Rs. 3,511 crore to the Ministry of Minority Affairs, a notional increase of 12% over the budget estimates of last which  merely compensates for the rate of inflation. Year. The government has also allocated Rs 160 crores to the Rs 750 crore corpus of the Maulana Azad Education Foundation, the main vehicle to implement education schemes and channelised funds to non-government organisations for the minorities, but this alone does not increase direct support to disadvantaged children desirous of education.

In actual terms, only the pre-matric scholarship sees a real increase from Rs 540 crores to Rs 810 crores. The post matric scholarship sees only a small increase from Rs 405 to Rs 450 crore. Both schemes need much more resources, apart from funding to make them known to small towns and village populations.

The Christian community is the least benefited by the Multi Sectorial Development Programme in selected minority Districts, a scheme that benefits only one minority group, the Muslims who are euphemistically called a “vote bank”. And even here has been reduced sharply from the Rs 1,077.60 crore in 2012 budget to Rs 887 crore in the 2013-2014 crores. This scheme will benefit the Christian community only when it is sharply focused on the population figure for minorities at the block level. As it stands now, this scheme once again basically benefits Muslims who are concentrated in a 100 of the 600 districts in the country. If the focus shifts to blocks Christians, including fishermen in coastal areas and marginalised farmers, will benefit in states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab, apart from areas in other States.

Possibly the only segment of Mr. Chidambaram’s gender budget that can be welcomed wholeheartedly is the funding of Rs. 97,134 crore for women and a child budget of Rs. 77,236. Women belonging to most vulnerable groups, including single women and widows, will be to some extent helped in living a life of self-esteem and dignity. It is good that the ministry of women and child development had been asked to design schemes to gender discrimination especially at the work place. Our own experience which the situation of women and children in states such as Orissa and Madhya Pradesh show the plight of women and children in all aspects of life.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gender violence survey of Kandhamal


BHUBANESWAR, 26th February 2013




The Government of Orissa needs to take urgent steps to enforce a“Zero Tolerance Regime” against rape cases in the State, specially in vulnerable hinterland districts such as Kandhamal with large populations of marginalized Dalit and Tribal people.

An All India Fact finding team on gender violence which toured Kandhamal and interacted with State and District authorities from 23rd to 26th February 2013 discovered that despite the national focus after the New Delhi rape and murder case, Orissa has not yet assimilated the administrative recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee into the functioning of district police and units of the Women and Child Welfare Department. There is also a feeling that since the anti Christian violence in 2007 and 2008 and the very large number of acquittals in criminal cases, the people seem not to fear the law as much as they should. The fact finding ream consisted of representatives of CBCI Women’s Desk, National council of Churches in India, All India Christian Council, EFI, ADF, and YWCA National Council.

A grass roots survey involving interviews with victim-survivors and families of murdered girls shows a shocking state of affairs typified in the rape of a six year old of K Nuagaon Blockin one case, and 13 to 14 years old girls attacked in Darringbadi. The situation demands that senior officials be held accountable for dereliction of duties by the subordinate police.

None of the rape victims have yet received any of the statutory compensation. It is absurd that the victim has to make an application pleading for compensation. The authorities must give such compensation suomotu, as was done in the case of the Delhi victim.

However, in the case of the murder of the 13 year old girl in Doddomah-Simanbadi village, the police have filed a charge-sheet in the court against two men. A third accused is a juvenile.

Police have not been able to explain the high number of acts of sexual violence against young girls. One senior officer dismisses them as “failed love affairs”. The team expresses disappointment at official statements that they register FIRs because of the pressure of parents “even where no actual rape had taken place.” Many parents insist there has been refusal to register complaints, or long delay at the police station. In some cases, police and village committees have sought to force the victims into compromising with the assailants instead of dealing with the crime under law.

According to data given by District Superintendent of Police J.N.Pankaj, the number of rapes has come down in 2012 to 21 cases from a high of 32 cases in 2011 and 25 cases in 2010.

However, NGO groups have saidthey had recorded at least nine cases from 24th October 2012 till 15th February 2013 and there were many other cases they were probing.

The absence of a forensic science laboratory in the Kandhamal district, the absence of women personnel in many police stations, the fact there is no Special Juvenile Police Unit, and skeletal staff with almost no facilities in the women’s welfare units in the district aggravates the situation,making women more vulnerable.

Thefact finding group was also disturbed at the very large number of women in Kandhamal who had been deserted by their husbands. In most cases, the women were from Dalit or Tribal communities, and the men from other castes, specially “outsiders” including many traders doing business in the small towns.

Another area of concern was the situation in the government–run hostels in the district where as many as 10,000 tribal and Dalit girls stay and study inattached schools. The security of these schools and hostels has not got the attention it deserves from the authorities, and there have been cases of girls from hostels being lured and seduced by outsiders.

There is an urgent need for a gender situation survey in Kandhamal district which should cover the girls hostels, the issue of abandoned women and the crisis of human trafficking in Kandhamal girls in particular and Orissa girls in general. Police admit they haveidentified the vulnerable blocks and villages, but there is no system in place to check the crime. Step need be taken to ensure  change in the mindset of all people, specially officials.

In its suggestions, the team has called for urgent steps to sensitise police and officials at all levels on gender violence issues, apart from launching education programmesthrough mass media, TV and extension services. Sex education as a subject in schools, orientation of village committees and gram panchayats need to be taken up immediately. Local hospitals must carry out medical examinations by women doctors whenever a victim comes, instead of making the girl and her parents to go from one place to another.

In prevention of crime, patrolling has to be intensified where large crowds  congregate in the urban areas for fetes and fairs and people have to return home in the dark, making young girls specially vulnerable to sexual predators.

Other measures suggested include steps for counseling and rehabilitation of victims of gender violence, specially very young children  apart from legal services percolating to the grassroots. The Helpline for women must be activated.

The fact finding team consisted of Dr John Dayal, Member National Integration Council and Secretary general, All India Christian Council, Advocate Sr. Helen Saldanah [CBCI office for Women] Advocate Sr. Mary Scaria, AdvocateLoreignOvung [ADF_EFI], Sr. Justine, Ms. Lena Chand [YWCA India], SukantNayak and AshishBhasin [Light Foundation] and MrKasta Dip [India Peace Centre - National Council of Churches in India]

Copies of their suggestions are being forwarded to the State and Central governments and the Commissions for Women and Children.


1.    Sexual violence against women in Kandhamal is due to the breakdown of the law and order situation in the district that gives a feeling to the culprits that they can get away with the law easily.
2.    Gender violence including child molestation, rape and murder has led to moral breakdown and manifested in incest, adultery and bigamy with desertion coupled with cruelty.
3.      Lack of medical examination facilities for the victims impede and delay the process of justice.
4.    An imposed culture of silence in which victims are not willing to voice the assault on them is due to threats from the accused and their families and friends.
5.      Lack of fast track courts for women, Mahila Thanas (Women Police Station) and women police officers discourage the victims of sexual violence to follow up their cases.
6.      Lack of juvenile homes in the district while the juvenile crimes are on the increase is a violation of the human rights of the juvenile criminals.
7.      Lack of education and awareness about their rights especially among the dalit and tribal communities lead to their sexual exploitation by Upper Caste people.
8.      Absence of payment of compensation, lack of rehabilitation facilities and trauma counselling centres for victims of rape continue to traumatize them   
9.      Prevalent dowry system and patriarchal mind set of people make them utterly vulnerable to sexual violence.
10.  Lack of gender sensitivity among the police officials leads to further humiliation, insults of the victims of rape.
11.  Negligence and passive role on the part of the police to accelerate the process of justice by refusing to register the FIRs destroys the confidence of the victims and their families to speak out against the atrocities being committed against them
12.  After the communal riots of 2008, the minority communities are being threatened especially targeting their women and children for sexual exploitation.
13.  Forcible inter caste marriages happening for acquisition of the tribal property and desertion of the women after acquiring their property seems to be a common phenomenon.

1.    Adopt Zero tolerance policy to curb violence against minor girls and women.
2.    Justice Verma Commission Report to be implemented with immediate effect.
3.      Adequate compensation to be given to the victims.
4.    Set up Fast Track courts to try the rape victims.
5.    Conduct a survey on Gender violence in Kandhamal and bring out statistics in order to take adequate measures to prevent sexual assault and rape against minor girls and women.
6.    Organize awareness programs regarding the rights of the victims and their families.
7.    Make medical examination of rape victims mandatory.
8.    Filing of FIRs to be made compulsory in every police station and officers who fail to perform their duties should be prosecuted.
9.    Establish child care centres/crèche for children of daily labourers and wage earners.
10.  Adequate women police officers to be posted in every police station and establish Mahila Thana (Women’s Police Station) in order to protect the integrity and dignity of the victim.
11.  Sex education should be given to the children from Class I onwards.
12.  Special focus on abandoned and deserted women and set up homes for women in distress.
13.  Establish self defence schools for girls and women.
14.  Establish and maintain help lines for women and children.
15.  Establish trauma counselling centres and rehab centres in every block for the victims
16.  Make provision for rehabilitation and employment opportunities including vocational training and education to victims of rape and other forms of gender violence. 
17.  Juvenile Homes and cells to be set up for rehabilitation and reformation of the juvenile offenders.
18.  Review existing security measures of the girl’s hostels run by the government and ensure security for the girls.  Establish hostels for working women.
19.  Implement and utilise Govt. funds for the benefit of victims of rapes and gender violence.
20.   Deploy adequate police force both male and female during major festivals and ensure frequent patrolling in sensitive areas and hamlets
21.  Provide financial help to run minority women’s and girls’ hostels.
22.   Village Committees to have 50% of women participants and to ensure that the justice process is carried out.
23.  Activate all Government Commissions with adequate representation of women.
24.  Adequate representations of SC, ST, SCBC communities in State Legislature and all women’s commissions.

For further details, please contact Dr John Dayal 09811021072

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The human cost of fake encounters

John Dayal

A bullet kills a man, shatters a family, and adds to the triumphal statistics of a government totaling up the number of “Maoists” it has eliminated in its “Red Corridor” extending from the borers of Nepal to deep into Andhra Pradesh in south India.

The tragedy is compounded as Central and State governments pretend deafness when civil society challenges the “fake encounter”, a euphemism for cold blooded extra judicial execution by the armed police, and the country’s much wonted judicial system cannot intervene to examine the circumstances in which a bunch of young men me their death in such a brutal manner.

This is one such story, narrated by the brother of one of those killed, and a harried activist who sees his own son abducted by the police soon after he cries for justice for the dead innocents. It is also the frustration of national civil society activists and specially those of Orissa who have failed to rouse the conscience of chief ministers, governors and heads of various commissions dealing with human rights issues.
As news reports curtly detailed one morning, five men, described as Maoists, were shot dead in an encounter with the security forces in Gajapati district of Odisha on November 14, 2012. They were identified as  Aiba Padra, 35 years of age, of Bujuli village in Gadhapur panchayat, Shyamson Majhi, 50, of Bhingiriguda in Saramuli panchayat, Ghasiram Bagsingh, 33, of Mardhipanka village, Saramuli panchayat and Sanathan Mallick, 27, of Gaheju village in Hatimunda panchayat. All four villages are in Daringbadi block of Kandhamal district in the jurisdiction of the Brahmanigaon police station.
Dandapani Mohanty,  one of interlocutors along with Prof. Hargopal and Prof. R.S. Rao during the Government and Maoists’ peace talk process when Vineel Krishna, the then Malkangiri Collector, was abducted by Maoists, said the killings took place even as negotiations with the director general of police over implementation of  the past agreement were still under way.
On 30th November, 2012, various civil rights organizations organized a demonstration and dharna in front of Odisha Assembly with the widows of the dead men, demanding a judiciary enquiry into the incident. The chief minister refused to meet the delegation.
Instead, police abducted Mohanty’s son. in a letter to the chief minister, Mohanty said “in a surprising move, on 5th December, 2012, at the time around 10 am, when my only son Sangram Mohanty, an engineer and government contractor,  was returning from the garage after dealing with repair works of our trucks, the police in civil dress forcefully kidnapped him from Berhampur. In afternoon I knew from various TV channels that my son was arrested by police from Kamalapur of Mohana block area allegedly with arms and ammunitions and later forwarded to R. Udaygiri jail at 2 o’clock night. Though our family members and advocate tried to meet him police did not allow them at both Mohana Police Station and R. Udaygiri jail.”

Human rights activist VS Krishna and writer and social activist Deba Ranjan Sarangi  who led a fact-finding mission said “On the basis of our enquiries we state emphatically that all five of the deceased are not armed Maoist cadre but civilians. They did not die in an encounter but were murdered by the police. The version of the police that a combing party of the Special Operations Group and District Voluntary Force were fired upon on the forenoon of November 14 by Maoists in the Baliguda forest area of Gobindapur panchayat (on the Gajapati-Ganjam border) in the jurisdiction of the Mohana police station following which they returned the fire in self-defense resulting in the death of 5 Maoists is nothing but a blatant falsehood.”
Their enquiries found all five killed were civilians and unarmed. They were farmers who were leading completely over-ground lives. While three of them, Aiba Padra, Shyamson Majhi and Sanatan Mallick were adivasis of the Kondh tribe, Ghasiram Bagsingh and Laxmi Kanta Nayak were Scheduled Castes belonging to the Pano community. Ghasiram Bagsingh, Shyamson Majhi and Aiba Padra were also social activists.
Aiba Padra of Bujuli had some land on which he raised ginger and turmeric. His wife Ranjita is an anganwadi worker in the village and they have a 6-year-old son who studies at the Good Shepherd School in Brahmanigaon. Aiba was employed with an NGO Orissa Health and Medical Research Institute for which he was filling in details of the government’s socio-economic and caste census. He was, according to residents of the village, quite concerned about the development of the area. According to Ranjita, Aiba was driving her and their son on his motorbike from Brahmanigaon on November 12 when he said that there was some work he had to attend on and would be back the next day. He dropped them off en-route Bujuli and that was the last she saw him alive.
Shyamson Majhi of Bhingiriguda was a much-respected man. He was president, since 2004, of a local committee formed by the people and was quite active in issues like exposing panchayat raj corruption and laying of roads to remote villages. He had unsuccessfully contested for the Saramuli sarpanch’s post in 2006. On November 13, Shyamson asked his brother Judhistir, a government teacher, for his motorcycle saying he had to go to Daringbadi to seek legal help for 11 of their associates who were being implicated in a false case by Karma Patmajhi and their associates. That was the last his wife Sikko Alu Majhi saw him. The couple has two sons, one of who is mentally challenged.
Sanatan Mallick of Gaheju was a farmer who raised ginger and paddy. He was also a pastor his village church. He and his wife Mamita, an anganwadi helper, also ran a small kirana shop in the village. They have two daughters. According to the village residents, he was a good man and of a helpful nature. He would often speak in terms of doing the right thing. The last time Mamita saw him alive was on November 13th when he left home in the morning saying he would return the next day.”
Ghasiram Bagsingh of Mardhipanka was by all accounts an exceptionally dynamic activist. He was elected panchayat samiti member in the 2006 polls and was quite well known in the area. Apart from some farming, he also did small construction contracts. He was the leader of the anti-corruption crusade in the panchayat that resulted in the sarpanch getting arrested. He, along with people like Shyamson Majhi took out an impressive rally at Daringbadi on October 12 seeking action against not just the sarpanch but also all those who were involved in the rice misappropriation and other illegalities. Ghasiram was driving the bike with Shyamson pillion riding on November 13th when they left for Daringbadi. This is the last seen of both of them alive.
How the deaths of these men, caught in the political crossfire between the government and the Maoist, have impacted their families is best told in the words of Ghasiram’s only brother Pramod. Pramod is a Catholic scholar, currently   a member of the community of Silesians of Don Bosco, studying philosophy in Karunapuram Warangal, Andhra Pradesh.
In a letter to some friends, he said “Karma Majhi, the Sarpanch of our panchayat is the dealer who sells ration rice to the locality. He is supposed to give to the people whatever comes from the Government but in reality he is selling away secretly the store and telling the innocent people no stock. It has been taking place number of times. People in their innocence went to my brother Ghasiram Bagsingh, a well-known person in the locality who always fought for justice. He was also a member of Daringbadi Block  council. Together with the people my brother went to police station to fail a case against the Sarpanch for cheating the people. The police responded immediately and arrested him. Later they had a rally in the block in the presence of B.D.O and Tahsildar.
“The sarpanch got bail complained to the Naxalites about my brother and four other innocent men.  The Maoists gave a letter to my brother telling him to come for meeting in the forest near Baliguda. The nature of the Naxalites of this place is that nobody should know what is happening in the place other than the people concerned. If at all the news is leaked they would come and kill the person responsible.
“The sarpanch who informed the Maoists, also informed the police  who went to the place where meeting is conducted and shot all five.  The question is whether they were shot on their way to the meeting spot or on their return journey or just called and shot. These questions remain unanswered. The whole incident was arranged by the sarpanch.
“My brother Ghasiram Bagsingh was married to Laxmi and had four children, two boys and two girls studying in different hostels aging from 9 to 3 years. His wife is housewife. Now I am in a dilemma what to do about them. I am in the seminary. I am only male at home. I have five sisters of whom two are married and three are studying in hostels. My family needs financial support very badly. We have filled case in the high court for the compensation and to get justice done for the family. So far nothing has happened.”
The media has not bothered about this family, or about the other five.
The government remains silent.
Civil society has also quietened down, frustrated as its efforts go unheeded,  and afraid they too may be targeted like Mohanty.
[First published in Indian Currents 10 Feb 2013]