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The news in proportion

03-06-2013

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 erala loses its K precious Kenis

Fortnightly

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Pages 56

A village with 60

millionaires! Once impoverished and drought-prone, Hiware Bazar in Maharashtra is a shining example of how a visionary leader can use good governance to make degraded areas resource-rich and transform the future of its people through empowerment and inspiration.

Niyamgiri gets some time to breathe P2 Crying for care P12 “I am neither an atheist nor a theist” says Siddaramaiah Karnataka’s new CM P17

 allia: Chasing elusive B dreams P22 Justice eludes Mumbai’s homeless P27 Whose news are you watching today? P30

Old trick, new attack P38 Life in no man’s land P44 Discarding veils embracing change P48 The weapons of destruction we ignore P52


BAUXITE MINING IN ODISHA The Niyamgiri Hills in Odisha; File pic

Niyamgiri gets some time to breathe The battle between Sterlite Industries and tribal communities over mining in the Niyamgiri hills may not be just over yet, but the most recent Supreme Court judgment empowering the gram sabha has come as a temporary reprieve for the people. Kanchi Kohli reports. 2 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013


T

he morning of 18 April was both high pitched and definitively calm. The fate of the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha was once again being decided upon by the Supreme Court of India. Till 10.30 am that morning, while most people whizzing past the apex court in New Delhi remained unaware of the significance of the proceedings inside, there were many others strewn all across the globe who had been waiting for the court's verdict since much before the D-day. The Niyamgiri juggernaut could have gone any which way. Either the apex court would have paid heed to the legal argument presented by Sterlite Industries and the government of Odisha challenging the Ministry of Environment and Forest's (MoEF) decision of 2010 to disallow mining in Niyamgiri, or the hills could continue to breathe. The actual verdict turned out to be somewhere in between these differently envisaged futures.

Niyamgiri's politico-legal journey Till 2004, the Niyamgiri Hills spreading across Rayagada and Kalahandi districts of Odisha were barely on the global map. But once Sterlite Industries (part of M/s Vedanta plc, registered in the London Stock Exchange) and the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) disclosed their plans to mine bauxite at the hills and transport it to Sterlite's alumina refinery at Lanjigarh, there was no looking back. Three sets of cases were filed before the Supreme Court's Central Empowered Committee set up as part of the ongoing Godavarman case and the case went on for the next four years, with the court agreeing to a “way

out” that could let mining take place through a special purpose vehicle (SPV) and other related mechanisms. (See:Niyamgiri again) One of the key legal issues from the very beginning of the legal battle has been that Sterlite had initiated the construction of the refinery without approvals for the mining component, integral to the project's viability. Launched after much ado in court and several options, OMC's Lanjigarh project in Niyamgiri Reserve Forest in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts claims a potential annual production capacity of three million tonnes of bauxite by open-cast mechanised method, involving a total mining lease area of 721 hectares. But of this, 660.749 hectares is forest land, and the diversion of the same for such purpose requires separate permission - which was still pending at the time the project began. Sterlite and OMC linked and delinked the mining component several times over to ensure that the construction of the refinery does not get impacted (See previous articles at India Together at linksone, two and three). Over the last nine years, primarily three things have been core to the advocacy of several national and international environmental, cultural, human rights and livelihood protection discourses: the socio-cultural and ecological importance of Niyamgiri Hills, the impact of mining on the Dongria Kondh tribal community, and their invocation of their sacred Niyamraja. Niyamgiri is now no longer a remote and lesser known destination in eastern India. In early 2008, both the area and the issue also received strong political 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 3

BAUXITE MINING IN ODISHA

attention when the Indian National Congress, and in particular party general secretary Rahul Gandhi, promised to back the Niyamgiri issue and the Dongria Kondhs. While the Supreme Court through its August 2008 judgment recommended forest diversion, it directed the MoEF to do so in “accordance with law”. What this meant was that the road for mining was gradually being cleared up with the diversion of forest land under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 seemingly “sorted out.” But this left the room open for the MoEF to take a decision on the matter in accordance with law. While the in-principle or Stage 1 forest clearance followed on 11 December 2008, the statement of the August judgement, in which the MoEF was asked to take approval in accordance with law, came up substantively over the last two years when Niyamgiri's future was being debated in the apex court. In the course of Niyamgiri's legal escapades, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) and its corresponding rules of 2008 came into effect, even though its core principles had been articulated by community based organisations even earlier. Following the FRA, several government-appointed committees (all of whom are referred to in the 18 April SC judgment) had opined that granting forest clearance without following the process of the recognition of rights under the FRA would not just be illegal, but also unconstitutional. The forest land therefore could not be diverted for mining purposes till the rights of the people in the area were duly recognised and, as per the August 2009 circular of the


BAUXITE MINING IN ODISHA

MoEF, consent of the Gram Sabha sought. With all of the above factors and perhaps more influencing the decision, Jairam Ramesh, the then Minister, Environment and Forests, rejected the proposal for final forest clearance for mining in Niyamgiri on 24 August 2010 with the support and recommendation of the statutory Forest Advisory Committee (FAC). He cited various reasons, including the ecological and human costs of mining but core to the rejection was the issue of recognition of rights under the FRA Act, 2006. MoEF's order had stated, “Their (Dongria Kondhs’) dependence on the forest being almost complete, the violation of the specific protections extended to their “habitat and habitations” by the Forest Rights Act, 2006 is simply unacceptable. This ground by itself has to be foremost in terms of consideration when it comes to the grant of forest or environmental clearance.”

(November 2007) and given a go-ahead for the forest clearance after a clear set of steps had been followed (August 2008). MoEF's decision was also argued to be untenable and unsustainable under law.

giving alternative lands. The counter to all of this was the fact that all committees and processes followed by the MoEF - such as seeking more information, setting up of additional committees - had been done in compliance with legal mandates to be followed before a clearance is granted or rejected under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. The MoEF argued that this was something even the SC had allowed for in its 2008 judgment when it said that the next steps need to be in accordance with law. All this needed to ensure that the conditions laid out during the Stage I approval, which included that the FRA related issues be addressed, are complied with. Only then can Stage II approval be granted. It is a different matter, of course, that the MoEF itself chooses to violate this principle in many other cases - both on the forest clearance procedures as well as those which need to be in compliance with the FRA.

The Court has regarded the FRA as a law having a “social welfare or remedial statute,” and one which seeks to protect a range of rights of tribal and other forest dwelling communities. This includes customary rights to use forest land as a community forest resource and is not restricted merely to property rights or to areas of habitation.

Arguments behind the April 2013 judgment For Sterlite and its parent company Vedanta, however, this was not to be the end of the road, and which is what makes the April 18 judgment of the SC significant. Counsels arguing for Vedanta/ Sterlite and the government of Odisha, described the MoEF's 2010 order as going against the earlier judgments of the SC that had allowed the formation of SPV

The considerations of the FAC and the various committee recommendations which pointed to the importance of the FRA process as well as other legal violations in the clearanceseeking process by Sterlite were also questioned as part of the arguments in Court. In fact, the counsel for the government of Odisha, reiterated the earlier stance of the state in the FRA matter saying that several of the individual and community claims from Rayagada and Kalahandi Districts have been settled by 4 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

The judgment As part of the judicial review, the SC judgment deliberates upon a whole range of issues. Two critical ones - other than that of religious rights of the tribals which is not being discussed here - relate to the interpretation of the scope of the FRA and second, the principle of “eminent domain,” both of which today have a very critical bearing on industrial, mining and infrastructure projects in the country. [“Eminent domain” refers


to the power a government or the state has to obtain the property of an individual even without the person's full consent. In stricter legalese, it is defined as “the power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.”] The SC has regarded the FRA as a law having a “social welfare or remedial statute,” and one which seeks to protect a range of rights of tribal and other forest dwelling communities. This includes customary rights to use forest land as a community forest resource and is not restricted merely to property rights or to areas of habitation. The judgment, however, is silent on the larger question surrounding the point at which any “right” starts to shift from custodian or stewardship to that of ownership and hence can be bought, sold or acquired even after being recognised. The other significant point in the SC judgment is related to the powers of the government or more broadly, the state. The April judgment clearly states that the FRA “neither expressly nor impliedly, has taken away or interfered with the right of the State over mines or minerals lying underneath the forest land, which stand vested in the State. State holds the natural resources as a trustee for the people.” However, it remains open-ended on how the resource below and resource above (forests) would relate to each other when communities want to exercise their rights over forests and the state would want to stake its ownership on the mineral below. Would the eminent domain powers of the

state/government reign stronger than anything that a gram sabha would have to state? Niyamgiri could sure be a test case for this if indeed the gram sabha, in whose hands the decision on the projects rests now, decides against mining. And then, who would take on the role of the “State”, the government of Odisha or government of India? The SC's decision therefore vests the future of bauxite mining in the hands of the gram sabha or the village assembly in Niyamgiri. It is this assembly which will decide upon the older and newer claims under the FRA and the right of the Dongaria Kondh, Kutia Kandha and other communities to worship the Niyamgiri hills. Since the Niyamgiri hills region would have more than one gram sabha, the contours of how this process is carried out remain to be seen over the next two months, during the course of which the complex process of rights determination and rights recognition needs to take place. Any decision on the final forest clearance will follow that. According to newspaper reports, in the light of the above order, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs has issued detailed instructions to the Government of Odisha to take forward the SC directions by issuing advertisements to inform villagers, making arrangements to record their meetings, sending observers and ensuring that company representatives or anyone who might have a fearful influence are kept out of village assembly meetings. The state of Odisha has also been asked to prepare a list of villages and hamlets which are likely to be affected in the area where OMC and Sterlite propose to mine bauxite. The reports indicate that the Tribal Affairs Ministry wants to 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 5

BAUXITE MINING IN ODISHA

be apprised of the progress in a consistent manner. This does not seem to be the end of the road either for mining in the Niyamgiri hills or for re-engaging in further legal battles, but even as the gram sabha and subsequently the MoEF deliberates on the decision they would eventually take in the matter, the hill and its people get some more time to breathe. Kanchi Kohli is based in New Delhi and a member of the Kalpavriksh Environmental Action Group.


MIRACLE BY GOVERNANCE

A village with 60 m

Once impoverished and drought-prone, Hiware Bazar in Mah visionary leader can use good governance to make degraded future of its people through empowerment and inspiration. R

R

aosaheb Pawar, 85, a former wrestler, cycles to the village square at Hiware Bazar in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra to sit under shady trees and chat with others, most of them as old as him. Life is good for all of them as they have become prosperous, and often

the conversation is about their village that was such an unlivable place 25 years ago. Raosaheb thought that most of the villagers would die of poverty and hunger. Today, a deep sense of joy and gratitude swells within him as he talks about how just one young sarpanch came into their lives

6 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

and transformed their future. He proudly says he owns 45 acres of lush fertile land, one tractor, one harvesting machine and three motorcycles. His annual turnover: Over Rs. 15 lakh. He is not the only one. There are 60 millionaires in the village today who are all farmers!


millionaires!

MIRACLE BY GOVERNANCE Hiware Bazar village. Pic: Ramesh Menon.

harashtra is a shining example of how a areas resource-rich and transform the Ramesh Menon reports.

Just a little over two decades ago, Hiware Bazar was a village without hope. It was racked with droughts, year after year. There was no water in the wells. The land was seriously degraded as the trees had been cut and used as firewood or sold. There were no job opportunities. There were

numerous illicit liquor dens and alcoholism was tearing into the social fabric. Domestic violence was naturally rampant. Remembers Raosaheb: “We lived in a very ordinary poor village, but were happy with our simple lives. But after 1972, when a severe drought struck,

03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 7

the peace was shattered. People became irritable and restless as the struggle to stay alive became severe. Petty reasons were enough to trigger off bitter quarrels as there was so much despair and frustration. Villagers started consuming liquor and it added to our ruin. Many of us left


MIRACLE BY GOVERNANCE

our empty fields and migrated to nearby cities to work as daily wage labourers.”

Poor Governance There was no governance worth the name. The village was sliding towards disaster. As India started to ramp up economic growth, new opportunities began to sprout and young Indians started dreaming of a resurgent India. The youth in Hiware Bazar wondered why they too could not be a part of that dream. What the village needed was a visionary leader. Thus, they got together in 1989 and persuaded Popatrao Pawar, the only post-graduate in the village, to contest for sarpanch. Popatrao was just in his midtwenties and his family wanted him to take up a white-collar job as they saw no hope of him doing well if he stayed on in the village. As it was, 90 per cent of villagers had already migrated. Hiware Bazar was no place to live in. Despondency, hopelessness and unaddressed anger punctuated their lives. Popatrao also had other dreams. He wanted to excel in cricket and make it to the Maharashtra Ranji team. But the youngsters of the village just would not let him think of anything else - they insisted that he take over as sarpanch and lead them to see a new dawn. Ultimately, when he announced that he would contest, the elder contestants withdrew and he was elected unopposed. As soon as he took over, he got the liquor dens closed down and banned the consumption of liquor, tobacco, paan and gutka. There was scarcely any opposition as the whole village knew what addiction had done to them and their dear ones. Says Laxman

Right: Clean drinking water

Pawar, a farmer: “When the liquor dens were closed, we saw hope for the first time.”

Water management The next step was to ensure that every rain drop that fell in the village stayed within and did not flow away. Numerous check dams were built by the villagers as Popatrao told them that they should be pro-active, not wait for the government to do everything. Trees were planted before the rains every year. Ponds were dug up to store rain water that gradually enriched the water table. Soon, they had created 52 earthen bunds, two percolation tanks, 32 stone bunds, and nine check dams. 8 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

“We used just allocated state government funds. The shramdan cut costs and also ensured quality work. It was as if we were building it for ourselves and for our children. Participatory governance goes a long way,” says Popatrao. Being in the rain shadow region, Hiware Bazar got just about 15 inches of annual rain. Soon ponds and trenches stopped rainwater from flowing out of the village. After the very first monsoon, the irrigation area increased from 20 hectares to 70. “ In 2010, the village got 190 mm of rain, but we managed well because of water management,” says Habib Sayyed, who works closely with Popatrao on monitoring the water situation. Watershed management has


MIRACLE BY GOVERNANCE

Above: Popatrao talking to villagers. from a tubewell at Hiware Bazar Pic: Ramesh Menon.

also helped them harvest multiple crops. Before 1995, there were 90 open wells with water at 80-125 feet. Today, there are 294 open wells with water at 15-40 feet. Villages in Ahmednagar district drill nearly 200 feet to hit water. In the course of a few years, with the water level in the wells rising, farming became a full time activity. It immediately created conditions for prosperity to bloom. In 1995, 168 of its 182 families were below the poverty line. Today, government estimates put it at only three. But Popatrao says that by Hiware Bazar’s definition, there are 12 BPL families. The village considers a family under BPL if it cannot have two full meals a day, cannot pay for children’s

education and cannot afford health-care services. “Give us another one year to make Hiware Bazar a BPL-free village. No one here will be poor,” says Popatrao, as the village administration is already working on a strategy to draw them out of poverty. In 1995, only one-tenth of land in Hiware Bazar was arable. Out of a total of 976 hectares, 150 hectares was rocky. Nature was against them as there were recurrent droughts. Now, even that stubborn land is being tamed with the rocks being removed and the land ploughed so that sowing can start when the rains come. Anshabapu Thange had two acres lying fallow 15 years ago. But once water was available, he went 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 9

back to farming. Today, he has 25 acres growing maize, flowers and fodder. He also has 30 buffaloes yielding 250 litres of milk a day. “Earlier, we did not have grain to eat. It is water that helped us become rich,” he says. Such success stories abound in this village that has 235 families and a population of about 1,250. In 1995, the monthly per capita income was around Rs. 830. Now, it has crossed Rs. 30,000.

Healthy Practices Hiware Bazar looks different. What really stands out is that it is squeaky clean. There is not a single piece of garbage on the roads. How many sweepers has the village panchayat employed?


MIRACLE BY GOVERNANCE

None. Popatrao told the villagers that each of them has to keep the village clean as they owned it and it was not for sweepers to do the job. The cement houses along wellplanned clean roads are pinkish brown. There is a sense of discipline and order. And that strict order applies to open defecation and urination. Every house has a toilet, a fact that few Indian villages can boast of. Many houses use biogas, doing away with polluting fuel. The fields are lush with maize, jowar, bajra, onions and potatoes. Sugarcane and banana cultivation are not encouraged as these crops demand lot of water. Hiware Bazar is an oasis in a drought-racked area. No wonder, the village sees reverse migration today. Villagers who had left to become daily wage labourers are now returning to life in this village that has its rewards. Once it became sustainable, there was prosperity. Farming was no more a bad word. 93 families have returned since 1997. More importantly, aspirations have increased with a better and

Popatrao was just in his midtwenties and his family wanted him to take up a white-collar job as they saw no hope if he stayed on in the village. But the youngsters of the village just would not let him think of anything else - they insisted that he take over as sarpanch and lead them to a new dawn.

peaceful lifestyle back home. School students from the primary level go through a compulsory course on water literacy. To ensure that water is not over-used, water budgets are designed; cropping patterns are prescribed only upon estimation of water use and measurement of water levels. Monthly readings are taken to calculate the amount of water available. In 2007, the village won the National Water Award for community-led water conservation. The water audits determine which crops can be grown in a season, says Shivaji Thange who works closely with the watershed committee. In the mid-nineties, a five-year plan was drawn up for ecological regeneration, integrating available government schemes. Around 10 lakh trees were planted increasing the forest cover and raising the water table. The temperature also fell by two per cent with the greenery. Babool trees used to be cut for fuel, but now, they are being protected as villagers harvest gum from it that is priced at Rs. 2,000 a kilo. The forest department is assisting villagers, making it a new commercial proposition.

Participatory Governance As villagers were pulled in to make decisions and then implement them, there was no opposition as they got the feeling of ownership. The village was not divided by narrow politics. “We monitored everything we did so that funds were utilised properly. We had audits of all the work we did,� says Popatrao. There is a different gender sensitivity, too, that one sees here. The gram panchayat has now decided that the second daughter’s education and marriage expenses will be taken

10 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013


care of by the village. In the sevenmember panchayat, three are women. Sunita Shankar Pawar, is the sarpanch this year but Popatrao as deputy sarpanch is the cynosure of all eyes. To improve farming and livestock production, the villagers took bank loans. Last year, the disbursement touched Rs.38 lakh. Late P.C. Alexander who was Maharashtra’s governor, found it remarkable that Hiware Bazar villagers repaid 100 percent of their loans, while the rich in India had defaulted with over Rs. 65,000 crore in unpaid loans!

Introducing Simple Ideas As farming increased, so did work. Getting labour was expensive, so Popatrao introduced the idea of collective farming. When a farmer is sowing, others join in to help so that he saves on labour. This practice has caught on and has created a new sense of belonging among all of them. Popatrao says that it is not money that can bring about rural change, but people working together to reach common goals without caste, creed and politics playing spoilsport. Popatrao turned to concentrate on another activity that had the potential of bringing villagers additional revenue. He got them to stop cattle from grazing in the forest as it had ecological implications. Instead, he persuaded them to grow more fodder as there was water. The focus on livestock resulted in the gradual increase in milk production bringing in steady revenue. In the mid-1990’s, milk production was just about 150 litres a day. It has touched over 4,000 litres a day today. The sarpanch did not rest on his initial laurels. He got

the school working which was almost non-functional. Once again, children started going to school. He started a children’s parliament which monitored if teachers were regularly attending the school and if the students had any complaints. As students completed school, the desire to study further now takes them to a nearby college. In fact, thirty-two students from the village are now studying medicine. There is no doctor in the village. “There is no need of a doctor here as everyone is healthy. No one can fall sick when the streets and houses are clean. We do not have open sewage systems, garbage lying around or open defecation which spreads disease,” says Popatrao proudly. He motivated villagers to adopt family planning, take care of their health and hygiene, and even advocated that couples take a HIV test before marriage. Popatrao had a different outlook and villagers did not object as he always explained his ideas at meetings before taking any decision. Collective decisions have helped keep rancour away. The village has just one Muslim family and as there was no mosque for them to offer prayers, one was built for them. Banabhai Sayed and his family take part in all Hindu festivals and effortlessly sing Hindu bhajans.

Thinking Ahead The village has always thought ahead. In 2008, the gram sabha passed a resolution requesting the avoidance of using cars within the village to save fuel; cycles could be used instead. If villagers want to go to Ahmednagar about 17 km away, they resort to a car pool. Most farmers opt for motorcycles. Popatrao has now been made 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 11

MIRACLE BY GOVERNANCE

chairman of Maharashtra’s Model Village Programme that aims to create 100 villages like Hiware Bazar. He says he succeeded because of the participatory approach adopted and embraced by people who decided what they wanted and brought in needbased feasible plans. “I took 21 years to transform my village. Now, I have zipped the strategy to take just two years. With community participatory approach, we can create a new era of rural change.” While tangible changes are visible, it is intangible lessons like change of consciousness, redefining political goals, willingness to sacrifice personal interests for the common good and cohesiveness in decision making that make Hiware Bazar a lesson for rural India. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, a UN report, points out how looking after nature makes both economic and ecological sense. In India, Hiware Bazar has shown how it actually works. Ramesh Menon is a Delhi-based author, journalist and film maker. He got the Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism for a piece that he wrote for India Together on pesticide poisoning in the fields of Punjab.


CHILD ABANDONMENT

Crying for care Drawing upon the growing incidence of child abandonment in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, Tejaswini Pagadala looks at the phenomenon through a broader lens and explores possible ways, including adoption, to mitigate the evil. 12 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013


H

Pics: SOS Children's Village, Hyderabad

omeless and destitute, they walked the streets of Hyderabad in search of a home. Their muddy faces, unkempt clothes indicate that they have wept copiously over their mother's death. Brothers, Rohit and Rishi* (names changed), aged below 7 years, looked famished when they were discovered by an NGO which put them in Shishu Ghar, a government-run home for abandoned children. Ten months earlier, going to school was what Rohit and Rishi described as the best part of their day. Like any other kids of their age, they liked playing and troubling their parents. Their father, Krishna*, worked as a construction worker while mother Rekha* was a housewife in Ongole town of Andhra Pradesh. Rekha had borrowed Rs 60,000 from a microfinance institution without the knowledge of her husband. Unable to repay the loan and in fear of her husband scorning her, Rekha along with the kids fled Ongole to land in Hyderabad. During her search to make a living in the city, Rekha was befriended by Raju* who offered her his place to stay and had a live-in relationship with her. Raju, an alcoholic, used to beat Rekha every night in front of her kids. Nine months into their relationship, Rekha suffered from illness and died. During the time, Raju had cremated her body without informing anyone and deserted the children. What followed post abandonment of kids by Raju was a detailed inquiry by the Rangareddy district Child Welfare 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 13

CHILD ABANDONMENT

Committee (CWC) which found that the birth certificates of the kids and the death certificate of their mother were issued by a Church priest. "Since the copies of the certificates did not seem genuine, we inquired into the issue. They were fake and weren't issued by the government," said Vijaya Devi Mamidi, a member of Rangareddy CWC. The CWC also gave a newspaper advertisement, following which the biological father of the kids came to Shishu Ghar to claim resposibility for the kids. Post abandonment, kids' guardians or parents are given 60 days to claim their children from Shishu Ghars. "After another enquiry and confirmation from Ongole CWC about Krishna's details, the boys were finally reunited with him (their biological father)," explained Vijaya. Rishi and Rohit were fortunate to have found their father. But it isn't always a fairy tale but a tale of horror for many abandoned children. In the last two years alone, Rangareddy district had about 600 abandoned children. In January 2011, 30 girls (aged between 0 and 6) were abandoned by their parents in the backward Tandur mandal of Rangareddy district. Child abandonment cases are rampant in Rangareddy, Warangal, Adilabad, Mahboobnagar, Guntur, Visakhapatnam and Prakasam districts among others in the state.

The big picture Surprisingly, the National Crime Records Bureau stated that even with such rampant incidence


CHILD ABANDONMENT

of abandonment, Andhra Pradesh is ranked fifth in the country. According to their data, the state saw only 265 child abandonment cases in 2012. Topping the list of child abandonment cases is the state of Maharashtra with 1,232 cases followed by Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. India is in no better position globally. The recent Justice Verma Committee report reveals that 60,000 children are abandoned every year in India. UNICEF, on the other side, pegs the number at a whopping 12 million that includes both abandoned and orphaned children. To top it off, Asia has the highest number of orphans due to all causes, with 87.6 million children. Explaining why child abandonment is rampant, Achyuta Rao, activist said reasons can vary from poverty, couples not wanting a girl child, separated parents to an unwed mother fearing social stigma. This also points to how the child-parent relationship is viewed in India. "It is more often seen as a question of obedience to a social order rather than the right of the child," Rao adds.

Impact on kids Interestingly, even our epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana have indicative examples of child abandonment. In Mahabharat, Kunti abandons her son Karna in a river. In Ramayana, Luv and Kush develop hatred towards their father Lord Ram after learning of their mother's abandonment by Lord Ram even as she was with child. Abandoned children lead mentally disturbed lives. "When they are deprived of parental care, love and time, they indulge in a lot of undesirable activities. Some acts might teach them a

lesson, while some might drive them further down the wrong way," explained Archana Rao, a development communication specialist. Archana added that the consequences of abandonment/ neglect or desertion could be lack of clarity on life’s goals or hatred towards other members in the society, that eventually drives the child into a nutshell. Meanwhile, many NGOs and social activists rue that abandoned children fall prey to human trafficking and 14 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

sexual violence.

Vuyyala scheme To bring down the number of child abandonment cases in the absence of specific law, Vijaya said, the Andhra Pradesh government has introduced the Vuyyala scheme. "Vuyyala," meaning cradle in Telugu, is the name of a government programme especially conceived for Nalgonda where infanticide and selling of baby girls has been rampant. Taking a cue from Tamil Nadu,


CHILD ABANDONMENT

Andhra Pradesh placed the cradle in Devarkonda hospital to encourage parents to leave their unwanted girl babies in the cradle for the government to take care of them, rather than kill or sell them. Started in 2007 and run in cooperation with the Integrated Child Development Scheme, Vuyyala saw at least 70 babies 'dropped off,' of whom 90 per cent were girls. All of them are Lambadas, according to official records. Another step that the AP

government took in 2004 was barring voluntary agencies from placing children in adoption. Only 232 Shishu Ghars in the state, via the women and child welfare department, have the right to give abandoned children for adoption. The ban on agencies was a consequence of a 2001-scandal that unravelled an unholy cycle of procurement and lucrative sale of babies from the impoverished Lambada community to foreign parents. AP is also the only state to have prohibited the relinquishing 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 15

The National Crime Records Bureau stated that even with such rampant incidence of abandonment, Andhra Pradesh is ranked fifth in the country. According to their data, the state saw only 265 child abandonment cases in 2012. Topping the list of child abandonment cases is the state of Maharashtra with 1,232 cases followed by Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.


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of a child by his or her biological parents for adoption. The adoption process is carried out by the governmentrun Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) through The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956, The Guardian and Wards Act 1890 and the Juvenile Justice Act 2000. According to the Central Adoption Resource Agency, about 2,518 children were given for adoption (both inter and intra-country) in 2010, while the number stood at 6,553 between January 2011 and March 2012. However, activists state "illegal adoptions” are one of the many reasons for lack of reliable, accurate data on adoption cases. "Many adoptions are not done through licensed adoption agencies. Adoptions done through hospitals and private adoptions do not figure in the statistics. There are also instances of adoptions, which are done within the family and don’t figure in statistics," says a CWC member who did not wish to be named.

Laws on abandonment Though section 317 of the India Penal Code (IPC) considers "Exposure and abandonment of a child under twelve years, by parent or person having care of it," there is no specific law that addresses abandonment, says C.V.L. Narasimha Rao, founder of Raksha, an NGO and an advocate. The law stipulates that "Whosoever being the father or mother of a child under the age of twelve years, having the care of such child, shall expose or leave such child in any

place with the intention of wholly abandoning such child, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years; or with fine, or with both." On one side, the IPC puts the age limit at 12, while other laws define that a parent is responsible for the child until he or she turns a major (18 for girls and 21 for boys). "Parents have to look after the welfare of the child until he or she is a major. There is no other option. Even a case of neglect amounts to abandonment," Narasimha Rao described.

So what can be done? The Raksha founder also reveals that this organization had approached the High Court stressing the need of family counsellors who can monitor a child's safety even after being given up for adoption. "The plea has been pending in the High Court for over 10 years now," he added. Poor maintenance of database is another huge deterrent to proper recording and subsequent recourse in such cases, says Vijaya, who stresses the need to record cases of missing, destitute kids, orphaned, abandoned kids. In adoption cases, the Supreme Court took note of the statistics in a PIL seeking overhaul of the state-backed adoption 16 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

mechanism and sought responses of CARA and ministry of women and child development. The PIL said of the 11 million abandoned children in 2010, only 2,518 were adopted. W h i l e government and policy failure constitute one side of the problem, understanding and knowing child rights should be every parent's priority, says Achyuta Rao. Reflecting a similar opinion, Archana adds that recognising and realising that parental care and time is the right of every child is important. "Why are we bringing them into this world, if we cannot take care of them?" she asks. Stories of child abandonment and neglect often raise questions over parenting in our country. As Jodi Picoult writes in the book Handle With Care: “Was it the act of giving birth that made you a mother? Did you lose that label when you relinquished your child? If people were measured by their deeds, on the one hand, I had a woman who had chosen to give me up; on the other, I had a woman who'd sat up with me at night when I was sick as a child, who'd cried with me over boyfriends, who'd clapped fiercely at my law school graduation. Which acts made you more of a mother? Both, I realized. Being a parent wasn't just about bearing a child. It was about bearing witness to its life.” * Names changed Tejaswini Pagadala is a Hyderabadbased journalist.


KARNATAKA’S NEW HEAD

“I am neither an atheist nor a theist” Karnataka’s new chief minister Siddaramaiah is certainly more left-leaning than some of his counterparts in the Congress party at the Centre. Fielding questions on Kannada TV’s Suvarna News, he displays a calm demeanour to round off the tough-man image he has cultivated over the years. India Together brings you translated excerpts from the interview.

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wo weeks ago, when there were clear indications of a Congress victory in Karnataka, senior party leaders were not sure about how the state’s chief minister was going to be chosen. Many told the media that the ‘High Command’ in New Delhi would decide. Siddaramaiah Siddarame Gowda, 65, better known only by his first name, must have been considering his chances against veteran Mallikarjun Kharge, currently a minister in the UPA government, and a few others. The ‘High Command’ then sprang a surprise. Instead of ‘selection,’ which everyone with an opinion was conjecturing wildly about, New Delhi surprisingly chose election. A secret ballot was held. Siddaramaiah, a veteran of the Janata parties and only seven years in the Congress, emerged triumphant, indicating he had broad support across the state

party fold for his leadership. He was sworn in as chief minister on Monday, 13 May, and straightaway went on to pronounce into policy some of the subsidies that the Congress had promised. How well do Bangaloreans know the new head of our state? What kind of person is the chief minister? Survarna News 24x7 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 17

interviewed him on Monday night, the day he took oath of office. “I am neither an atheist nor a theist,” he said in the interview, as if to indicate that he cannot be characterised in wordy boxes, and that he should be judged by his actions. Siddaramaiah is certainly more left-leaning than some of


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his counterparts in the Congress party at the Centre. He has a long history, particularly one of being finance minister several times around, and indicates his comfort with the topic by readily reeling out numbers on everything from milk production to electricity shortage to the number of pump-sets in Karnataka. He also missed becoming chief minister twice in the past. Despite winning the secret ballot, he still says that he was also the High Command’s choice. India Together has translated the conversation for its readers with permission. The interviewers were Vishweshwar Bhat of Suvarna News & Kannada Prabha, programme host Ranganath Bharadwaj, and columnist-editor Thyagaraj. The programme also received several questions from callers, some of which have been transcribed here. Some excerpts. Host Ranganath Bharadwaj: How are you feeling on realising your long cherished dream? Siddaramaiah: Sonia Gandhi & Rahul Gandhi have given me a huge responsibility - to lead this state forward. It is my onus to provide a stable, corruption free, pro-citizen government and I would like to do the job with all honesty and responsibility. Vishweshwar Bhat: You come from Janata Party. After joining Congress, you have become CM within a short span of time while others who have put in 40-45 years of work in the party are still dreaming of the post. Surpassing all those aspirations, you have become CM today. How

do you analyse yourself as the person from Janata Party and as the person from Congress who became CM? Siddaramiah: I have got the post because of the blessings of

twice and provided the budget seven times. Now that you are the CM, there are a lot of expectations from you. How have you thought CM Siddaramaiah should be? Siddaramaiah: I will continue to be the same way I am, even as CM. Power and position are not permanent. Every politician in a democracy should understand this. When we get power, we should use it for the welfare of the people. Then people will also appreciate it and we also will get a good name. Hence all our programs and agendas should be for the benefit of the society, especially the deprived section. Vishweshwar Bhat: Siddaramiah appears to be very tough externally – in thought and action. Now in a new role as CM, shall we see a different Siddaramaiah in the upcoming days? Siddaramiah: There will be no change in my nature. It is the village rustic nature built up over 65 years. And it will not go away so easily. The real change that has to happen is in the State and not in me. And to bring about that change I will put an honest effort. Vishweshar Bhat: You have been CM only for a few hours now and a lot of challenges lie ahead. How have you thought of facing them? Siddaramiah: Firstly, the Cabinet has to be formed. It will be done after consultation with all Seniors, PCC President Parameshwar and finally the High Command. Once the Cabinet is formed, we will try to bring about the changes as fast as we can with

There should be transparency in acquisition proceedings. The government should be discreet while buying land. Sonia Gandhi and the unanimous choice of all the legislators. Hence, this is a decision by the High Command and all the legislators. I had expected this outcome because Kharge has been in the Congress party from a long time, has been elected to Vidhana Sabha nine times and is already a minister at the Centre. Our PCC President, Parmeshwar unfortunately lost in the elections. So naturally I was the High Command’s choice. Vishweswar Bhat: Your political life has been very long. People of Karnataka had believed that you had almost become the CM. Later you become Deputy CM 18 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013


an honest effort. Host: There are a lot of ministerial aspirants in Congress. Would framing the Cabinet be a big challenge? Siddaramiah: There are a lot of people who are eligible to become Ministers and have leadership qualities. Yes, it will be a difficult task to please all of those people. There are only 33 positions, 34 including mine. There are about 50-60 people wanting to be ministers. Hence I will make a balanced decision in consultation with the High Command and also taking into account region, caste, and other aspects. Host: A particular section in the party seems to harbour a misunderstanding that few people have been denied opportunities. How will you rectify those misunderstandings? Siddaramiah: I have been given an opportunity. Others also have their own. We should also bear in mind that Kharge is already a minister at the Centre. The High Command, in all its wisdom, wanted someone newly elected locally to head the State. So I don’t see that as a problem. All those misunderstandings will vanish soon in time. Thyagraj: Lok Sabha elections are very close. Will this dissatisfaction within the party have any impact? What will you do about it? Siddaramiah: Such feelings don’t exist, not in Kharge or Parameshwar. They are happy with me and all of them have made the decision together. Some people may have got a wrong

impression about this prevailing dissatisfaction. Soon it will go away. Host: Soon after becoming CM you called a press conference and announced your plans and a six-

Farmers are not getting a price commensurate with the cost they incur in getting their produce. point program. You became “Sixer Siddhu” in cricket style! Siddaramiah: These programs have to be implemented immediately. In our election manifesto we had said that we will provide rice at the rate of Re 1 per kg, 30 kgs for the poor. Milk producers will get a subsidy of Rs 2-4. We don’t have to wait till the budget to implement it. Hence, it will come into effect from today. We have waived off loans given by SC/ST and minority corporations. For house construction we have increased the subsidy from 75,000 to 1,20,000, in view of the increased costs of construction. Poor people will at least have quality houses. 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 19

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This year we are planning to build three lakh houses and this subsidy will apply to those. In all, there will be a burden of Rs 1960 crore on the State government. Visweshwar Bhat: People have seen the BJP government over the last five years and have given you a popular mandate – a total of 121 seats. What magical powers do you have that can create a new administrative environment in the state? Siddaramiah: This doesn’t require any magical power. First, we need to be honest in our actions and thoughts. Then change happens automatically. If I am honest, then my subordinates will also have to be honest. Visweshwar Bhat: Your thoughts on honesty of thought and action are very good. Many BJP leaders were involved in scams involving mining etc. But your party leaders and legislators were also involved in the Mining Scam. Some of them have been re-elected. What action will you take against them? Siddaramiah: We will examine whether they have a direct involvement in the scams and then take necessary action. We will take a decision only after seeing the Lokayukta report and Supreme court verdicts. Thyagaraj: Land ownership and de-notification led to the fall of the BJP. Will you bring any new rules and regulations for Land ownership and de-notification? Siddaramiah: There should be transparency in acquisition proceedings. The government should be discreet while buying land. Using agricultural land for


KARNATAKA’S NEW HEAD

other purposes causes more harm than good. Land will become scarce, food production will become less and bribery will increase. We will make an honest effort to increase transparency in land allotments and denotification. Host: What are the financial needs to implement your popular programs? How will they happen? Siddaramiah: Financial discipline is very necessary. The programs that I have announced today are those that will reach the poor directly. Host: How will you handle the electricity crisis? Siddaramiah: We cannot suddenly rectify the electricity deficit unless we generate power or purchase power. We have a shortage of 30 per cent. We can improve electricity production in the State. There is a problem of ‘electricity corridor’ that makes it difficult to purchase power from other states. Hence this problem cannot be solved immediately. We have to work within the existing framework to provide quality power for farmers and irrigation. Right now, farmers are getting power for only 3-4 hours for their pumpsets. It has to be raised to 5-6 hrs during the day. There are about 20 lakh pumpsets in Karnataka. A minimum of three acres of land is dependent on one pumpset, so approximately 60 lakh acres will get water if we can provide electricity. Lift irrigation doesn’t work without electricity. Most importantly, there will be no drinking water without electricity. We will try our best in this direction to provide electricity to the farmers.

Veerendra Hegde: We have a Grameena Abhivruddhi program in villages that covers 25 lakh people. I request you to relate that specifically to problems of

Siddaramiah: All of them supply milk to KMF. About 50 lakh litres of milk is produced per day. For each litre, we give a subsidy of Rs. 4 from tomorrow. Also we plan to develop the market system for milk byproducts. Vishveshwar Bhat: Bangalore, which once was Silicon City, has now become Garbage city. What are your plans to change the image of Bangalore? Siddaramiah: I had a talk with the BBMP Commissioner today to take steps in this direction immediately. I am ready to give all support and assistance to BBMP. But the actions have to be time-bound to erase the Garbage City tag. Lot of corporates set up shop in Bangalore because of its Silicon Valley image. However, because of the instability and constant infighting in the BJP government, investors lost confidence in the City. No infrastructure development happened in Bangalore. We will work to reverse this image. Thyagraj: The past three CMs gave a lot of aid and grants to ‘mutts’ or religious institutions to please different communities. What are your thoughts on this? Siddaramiah: No Swamiji or mutt asked for aid. The past government started this trend. In my opinion, it is not a good practice in financial terms. We should be accountable for every paisa paid by tax-payers. Thyagraj: Are you an atheist or theist? Earlier CMs used to visit temples before taking oath, but you have visited literatteurs and writers... Siddaramiah: I am not against

No, there is no need for two budgets with separate names to mislead farmers. farmers, especially vegetable growers. They need a lot of help through the National Horticultural Mission, such as cold storage, produce markets, etc. If you bring improvements in APMC, it will help the farmers. You have always been a supporter of farmers and may you continue to do so in a corruption free government... Siddaramiah: Farmers are not getting a price commensurate with the cost they incur in getting their produce. No efforts have been made in this direction. We plan to have an Agricultural Produce Price Commission in Karnataka along the lines of the Centre. This is not there in any other state. Farmers, their representatives and experts will set the price. They should recover more than what they have invested in producing the crop. We do not have many cold storages. We plan to have more of those in places where they grow vegetables - like Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Bijapur, Bagalkot - since these are perishable items. Host: You had earlier mentioned about a subsidy of Rs 2-4 for milk producers. Does it apply only to producers who supply milk to Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) or everybody? 20 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013


Mutts. But I felt like taking advice from eminent writers, hence I visited them. Will also visit Mutts. I am neither an atheist nor a theist. I believe in thinking and doing good to others. My family and relatives will not interfere in my administration. Meera (Housewife): What facilities will your govt provide for women? Siddaramiah: We would like to revive the Self Help Groups for women. They will be provided equal opportunities in all areas, reservation in politics at Assembly and Parliament level. Sadananda Maiyya (Hotelier): While starting a new industry, we file an application with “Udyoga Mitra” and take sanction. Though Udyoga Mitra is meant to be a single window agency, we need to go separately to various departments such as Water etc. to take sanction and this causes lot of delay. My request is that all orders be sanctioned once and for all, as it is a single window agency. Siddaramiah: It is a good suggestion to have everything sanctioned through a single window. We will look into the matter and take necessary action. Host: Last year we faced drought. Hopefully, this year it will not be so. But even if it rains, farmers do not have the strength to plough seeds and are in a bad condition. If you do not help them their situation will become worse. Siddaramiah: We have said in our manifesto, that we will give interest free loans upto Rs 2 lakh to the farmers. It applies without any criteria to all farmers. Thereafter, they can avail loans upto Rs 5 lakh at 3 per cent interest. We plan to implement this soon after Cabinet formation so that financial assistance should not become a

burden on the farmers. Jayaprakash Shetty : Will your Budget have a separate agriculture budget? Siddaramiah: No, there is no need for two budgets with separate names to mislead farmers. Vishweshwar Bhat: How is the financial condition of Karnataka? Siddaramiah: It is not very good. There is no fiscal discipline and debt burden has been increasing. It needs to be improved. Host: Irrigation plans and programmes in the State are not good. How will you improve these? Siddaramiah: We would like to revive the lakes and form a Lake Development Authority. Lakes are full of silt. Catchment areas and canals have closed. There are about 3500 lakes in Karnataka. We would like to fill up them with water which will automatically bring up groundwater to the upper level, which can be used for various purposes, especially drinking. This programme will be executed in a massive scale. Host: What are the immediate problems that you would like to address? Siddaramiah: Drinking water and power/electricity need immediate attention. Administration also needs to be toned up. Vishweshwar Bhat: What kind of status will the Kannada language issue command in your administration? What will be the future of Kannada? What will be your policy? Siddaramiah: I was the first President of Kannada Kaavalu Samithi (Kannada Watchdog Committee). Our government will continue with the pro-Kannada policy. We will make an effort to 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 21

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make Kannada the administrative language at all levels. We will provide financial assistance to Kannada academies and universities. Kannada software will be improved. Host: The Panchayat system brought in by Abdul Nazeer has become very weak and corrupt. Is it possible to go back to the old system? Siddaramiah: After the 73rd and 74th Amendment, there is a three-tier system: Gram Panchayat, Taluk Panchayat and Zilla Parishad. Earlier it was only the Mandal Panchayat and Zilla Panchayat. Now there are three elected parties at three levels and none of the three is getting enough grants and aid. Keeping in mind the 73rd and 74th Amendment, we will try to implement whatever changes are possible to strengthen the existing system. Thyagaraj: The Cauvery issue has historically been a controversial matter. How will you handle this issue as you hail from the same area (Mysore)? Siddaramiah: The issue lies before the Supreme Court and Tribunal Court and is not yet concluded. The Tribunal has given the final award. We have questioned the final award and gone to the Supreme Court. We have come a long way from where we can sit across the table and discuss. It should have happened before. Tamil Nadu is in an advantageous position. Karnataka has been wronged. So, we do not know whether they will come for talks at this stage. I will consult legal and technical experts and chart the action. This interview was conducted in Kannada on Suvarna News 24x7 on May 13th. It was translated from Kannada by India Together, with permission.


THE OTHER INDIA

Ballia: Chasing elusive dreams Lack of development and unmet aspirations in India’s villages and small towns not only raise the pressures arising from rural-urban migration, but also trigger an overall sociological malaise that is so difficult to dispel. Puja Awasthi reports from Ballia in eastern Uttar Pradesh, a stark example.

“M

yself, Shilpi Pandey. I am prepare for BHU Mass Communication and Journalism admission (sic),” bubbles the 21-year-old who lives in Sri Ram Vihar Colony in the city of Ballia. Like Pandey, there is at least one member from every family in that mid-sized colony studying English at the branch of what is locally advertised as ‘India’s largest institute of spoken English’. Pandey spent three months -- two hours for five days every week at the institute to fix a lack of confidence and came out convinced that she had finally set out on the path to a bright future, her ‘bright’ being a career in the television industry. “I will do whatever it takes and go wherever I have to,” she says with admirable determination once the conversation has settled into Hindi - a language she is more comfortable with. Some 40 kilometres from Pandey’s home, in the village of Medourah Kalan, that dream to make it big has propelled a few members from almost every one of its 500 families to seek a life outside the district which offers few employment opportunities, despite being dotted by some 80 degree colleges. The victim of the Delhi gang rape that happened on December 16, 2012 in Delhi, belonged to one such family. “When the incident happened, girls were scared to go to college which is 10 kilometres from here. But staying back is not an option. Development has not come to us. There is no future here,” says Paras Nath Yadav, the 40-year-old former pradhan of the village. Yadav’s two 22 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

Top: Youngsters at the Institute. Pic: Roshan Jaiswal Below: Stalls selling job forms are a huge draw for the young. Pic: Roshan Jaiswal


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brothers live and work elsewhere and he admits that had it not been for an early political initiation, he too would have abandoned the village. Back in Ballia city, Rajeev Kumar, the head of the Political Science department at the Shri Murli Manohar Town PG College sits in his airy, first floor office where a gleaming slim screen computer rests atop a dusty table, and explains that an acute feeling of insecurity is driving migration among the district’s 90 per cent plus rural population. “Half of those who work as farmers do not own any land. They suffer forced labour and sexual exploitation,” points out Kumar, adding that despite the river (Ganga) changing course, land surveys have not been re-done. Local elites have been permitted a free run in establishing unlawful control over land. Trapped in such dismal circumstances, the low castes migrate with the hope that hard work elsewhere will allow them a chance at a decent life. “In the case of the middle class, it is the spirit to exert which is at work,” he says. An example of that spirit having outpaced what the district has to offer is served by Kumar’s own work place where the library is in the process of being digitised and the campus is being turned into a Wi-Fi zone despite 10-hour electricity cuts being the norm. Below his office, girls make a beeline to fill in the forms that will make them eligible for the state government’s free laptop scheme (aimed at those who cleared their class 12 examinations last year), but none of those questioned have an answer as to how the machines will work in the absence of power. “That is why I want to get out,” says a science undergraduate who rushes off without giving her 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 23


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name. The push factors for migration (for example, lack of employment opportunities) that work so forcefully in Ballia are not unique to it. They spread across Uttar Pradesh, which makes up the largest slice of rural and urban interstate migrations that have contributed to adding approximately 22 million new people to the population of destination cities, of which Delhi remains the most popular. In 1983, it was to Delhi that Badri Singh, the father of the gang rape victim migrated in search of a better life. Working double shifts as a loader with a private airline and getting less than five hours of sleep every night, he had made peace with the realisation that while the better life would skip him, it would definitely come to his three children. It is the tantalising possibility of this promise that feeds the migratory stream despite lowly skilled migrants mostly ending up in ghettos and drawing the ire of the original inhabitants of the destination city. The perpetuators of the December 16 crime, also migrants from small towns and villages, were the ugly consequence of a fading of that promise and the resulting economic, social and psychological deprivation. Yet, with each generation, the illusion of the promise grows more fantastic. “In big cities, it is easier to get returns on your hard work. You are not known for your caste. Your qualification and your job speak for you,� offers 17-year-old Vivek Singh who is a first year student of commerce at a local college. He is

Much of the blame for the lack of opportunities lies with the government. In the cause and effect logic of economic activity, the absence of basic infrastructure has turned industry off the region. Thus, while the per capita income of western Uttar Pradesh stands at Rs 15,869, the 21 districts of the state’s eastern region have an income of only Rs 9,288 per person.

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Left: The American Institute of English Language. Pic: Roshan Jaiswal Right: The memorial at Basantpur. Pic: Roshan Jaiswal

aiming for an “MBA with good marks” after which he hopes to find a “manager’s job in a financial company.” His reference point is an uncle who is in the army, not his father who is a teacher. To underscore his point on caste, Singh says that while the whole world was raising its voice in support of the 23-year-old Delhi gang rape victim, in Ballia, she was still defined by her standing in the caste hierarchy. “We took out a candle march and burned some effigies, but there was constant talk about her caste, and about her parent’s failure to control her. Imagine that happening in a big city where factories are well developed,” he asks, connecting economic prosperity with a more inclusive social milieu. In the course of a day spent in Ballia, this is not the sole disturbing observation on the Delhi gang rape victim. Ramendra Dwivedi, a local journalist says, “There was a muted but palpable sense of resentment that a family of lowly standing had garnered undue attention. The question kya mila (what did the family get?) was of greatest interest. The conflict between big city values and small city aspirations was marked.” Dwivedi’s observation points to the complicated relationship between migration and acculturation, a relationship burdened by loss, alienation, dislocation and isolation. It hinges on a complicated equation -clinging to the security of a native identity hawked through culture and caste-based associations while reworking old ties through an economic lens. Much of the blame for the lack of opportunities lies

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with the government. In the cause and effect logic of economic activity, the absence of basic infrastructure has turned industry off the region. Thus, while the per capita income of western Uttar Pradesh stands at Rs 15,869, the 21 districts of the state’s eastern region have an income of only Rs 9,288 per person. Industry experts believe that focussed hard sell can improve the districts’ economy, as the western region is saturated with industries. In the absence of that focus, eastern UP’s income has remained worse than even that of Bundelkhand which, with a per capita income of Rs 12,878, attracts special packages from the centre and the state - a regional anomaly that is explained in part by the more acute nature of distress in Bundelkhand where debt and drought have fuelled rampant farmer suicides and captured political imagination. The state’s freshly announced ‘New Infrastructure and Industrial Investment Policy, 2012’ which offers 100 per cent exemption in stamp duty and a capital interest subsidy scheme for industries set up in the eastern districts of the state, is yet to yield results. Only the proposed airport at Kushinagar has drawn investor interest for its tourism affecting potential. More specifically, of the 104 Industrial Entrepreneurs Memoranda, or IEM (initial application for approval to start an industry) filed between April 1, 2012 and January 31, 2013, not a single one proposes an industry for Ballia or for any of the other eastern districts except Varanasi and Sonebhadra. This is in telling contrast to Noida, which has attracted 35 new proposals. Even the 1,047 km Ganga Expressway -- an access controlled eight lane project that was announced in 2007 - to connect Ballia to Noida and thus fuel a more even growth, has been stalled in court. Ballia’s most recent cause for dissent came from this year’s Railway budget which announced a bi-weekly train to Delhi, but selected its point of origin in Mau (71 kilometres from Ballia), despite representations to the ministry that a train be introduced from Ballia in memory of the bahadur beti (brave daughter), as she is locally referred to. Krishna Kumar Upadhyay, better known by his moniker ‘Kaptan’ is the convenor of the Purvanchal Vikas Manch, a body which has been demanding statehood for the state’s eastern region. He connects the example of the train to the other slights that are regularly handed to Ballia. “From the inability to procure land to the disinterest of entrepreneurs, from the non feasibility of having a medical university to the administrative logic of not setting up a university

03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 25


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—there is always a ready answer for why things cannot happen in Ballia,” he says as he prepares to leave for Delhi to press for a route change for the train and demand a 50 per cent reservation quota for Ballia on it. Just 10 kilometres from Ballia, connected by a narrow road that bears a gleaming sign board announcing, ‘Casterbridge School-- Study medium in our school is English’, and sited in the village of Basantpur is a martyrs’ memorial. It was conceived as a showcase tourism project that was to include, among other notables, a Bhojpuri cultural centre and a museum of history spread over 85 acres. Half a kilometre away is the Surha Taal - a pond of mythological medicinal properties that was to be part of the memorial’s charms. Today the memorial is run over by wild grass, the pond choked by mossy overgrowth. Stray paper cups and plastic wrappers that once held namkeens and biscuits are the only reminders of human visitors. Two care takers-- Kunj Bihari and Surendra Nath Barma roam the grounds listlessly. A little prodding makes them throw open a neverused auditorium with a seating capacity of 213. The red velvet of the seats has started to fade under the plastic covers and the electricity fixtures are falling off. The next stop is a room which houses many of the foundation stones that were laid for the memorial. The earliest, dated 1997, bears former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda’s name, the last bears the year 2003 and credits Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav (then the state’s chief minister) with inaugurating an agricultural information technology centre. A third, some distance from the room, is stuck

in a red brick wall and announces the inauguration of a wasteland development programme by Ravi Shankar Prasad (then minister for information and broadcasting) in 2003. Since none of those grand announcements came to fruition, the memorial has been reduced to receiving visitors on Independence and Republic Days—two dates which hold special significance for the district which by claiming freedom from the British on August 20, 1942 earned the sobriquet Baghi (rebel). Possibly the only time the memorial made news was in 2009, when a private, institute was found to be illegally operating on its premises. “Things are not pleasant”, despairs Alok Tripathi the founder of the fancifully named ‘Academia para la Educacion Profesional’- a career counselling centre that targets students from Ballia. The inspirational advice on the centre’s web page reads-- ‘If you are not doing for what you are meant, you might not get the amount of success you deserve’ (sic). Tripathi, who lays claim to a deep desire to change the fate of the district’s youth, is a native of Ballia, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in science from a British university. His original business idea was to prompt students to undertake professional studies alongside regular degree courses, but when he placed the first newspaper advertisement for the scheme, only two phone calls of inquiry resulted. “There is no orientation for private jobs. Parents are unable to guide their children. A government teaching job and the army are the most sought after options. The status of education is such that students do not even know what subjects they 26 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

are studying,” he says. Shafique Ahmed, an Assistant Professor in the Gorakhpur University is a specialist in the sociology of development. He links this penchant for government service to an embedded fondness for displays of power and prestige. “An agrarian patriarchy does not demand to know the source of one’s wealth. To be wealthy is the only aspiration. Even a lowly government job ensures that the means to earn that wealth will be found. Social tensions appear because not everyone can have access to those jobs. Livelihoods, culture, political power and a lack of opportunities then begin to clash”, he says. Lasting resolutions to that clash can perhaps only be found by first altering personal ambitions and then channelling them into the social structure. As did Saurabh Singh, who at the age of 28, found his way back to Ballia, two generations after his grandfather had set out in the 1940s. Singh came on a project to study arsenic contamination in the district’s villages but decided to stay on as he realised that big city living had exhausted his desires. “Life is too fragmented in large cities. Here I can look beyond myself,” he says and describes migration as “a boon in the later stages” when the benefits of education and economics can be poured back into the region of one’s origin. For Ballia, that later stage is too distant. The dreams of its young are too big. The burden of its past glories is too heavy. And the light of its present too faint, too devoid of hope. Puja Awasthi is a development journalist based in Lucknow.


SLUM DEMOLITIONS

Justice eludes Mumbai’s homeless Displaced by the flawed implementation of Slum Rehabilitation Authority’s policy and an unholy nexus of real-estate mafia, thousands of slum-dwellers continue to fight for their basic right to shelter. Swati Priya reports from Mumbai.

Partially demolished houses at Ganesh Krupa Society after an earlier eviction drive. India Together File Pic

O

n a small hill of boulders under the scorching sun lies 6-year-old Sudarshan, fast asleep, oblivious to the happenings around him. One look around and you can spot many such Sudarshans amidst the rising dust in the air. Around 46 houses at the Ganesh Krupa Society in Khar (E), Mumbai were demolished by the builders after a High Court order. As uncertainty prevails over their future, residents seem to be clueless about the reasons behind such an act.

“Several generations have grown up here, it’s strange, how in a matter of few seconds my house, my only shelter, my childhood, my security was brought down under the acclimation of so called development,” says Sudarshan’s father Partab Deshmukh, seated on the debris of his 70-year-old house. On being asked, why he cannot relocate his family to some other place, Deshmukh stares with rage and says, “I had a barber shop here. Do you expect me at

03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 27


SLUM DEMOLITIONS

the age of 45 to go and build a new home for my 8 kids and a source of earning for myself?” Medha Patkar, known for her Narmada Bachao Andolan, had gone on an indefinite hunger strike, seeking justice for those affected due to the demolition drive. “The government and the builders have misused the Slum Rehabilitation Laws and in the garb of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority in Mumbai have led to lakhs of slum dwellers struggling for the basic right to a house. After colonialization, this is the new form of subservience, buildersahi,” said the firebrand social activist. “This is not a recent struggle. Slum dwellers have been fighting for their rights since 2004, when vast slum areas in Mumbai were razed by the Vilasrao Deshmukh government to convert Mumbai to Shanghai. The Adarsh Housing Scam, Hiranandani Developers Land Grab are examples of the extent to which handful of powerful people are robbing the common man of a basic right to shelter,” she added. “Khar Golibar area is another standing example, wherein 350 acres of land, which housed nearly 40,000 families was literally gifted to a single private company Shivalik Ventures, by invoking special clause 3k of the SRA. This clause gives a single builder complete rights to redevelop a large slum without inviting tenders,” said Patkar. Jayanmati Halwani, who too lost a shelter over his head says, “It was totally unfair on the part of the government to raze our houses. And more so the manner in which they have done that, by giving us just a day’s time to evacuate after the notice was handed over to us.” It is learnt that the evacuation

notice was handed over to the families on 1 April 2013 and the slum was bulldozed very next day on 2 April, 2013. “I’m not against development, but while we embark upon such a plan we must also think of those who are going to be displaced because of our action. Around 75 per cent of Mumbai’s population lives in slums comprising 16 per cent of the total land area. If such mass encroachment from builders continue, then where will the displaced go?” asks Patkar, who apparently broke her hunger strike after Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan directed Chief Secretary to probe into the Ganesh Krupa Society matter and submit its report within a week. Weeks have gone by, Medha Patkar still awaits for an assurance from the CM’s office along with those rendered homeless, who are now residing on footpaths in anticipation of a healing touch.

Around 75 per cent of Mumbai’s population lives in slums comprising 16 per cent of the total land area. If such mass encroachment from builders continue, then where will the displaced go? - Medha Patkar

How rules are bent

The Slum Rehabilitation Authority authorizes private builders to redevelop slum lands. The slum dwellers are moved into vertical establishments, and the land is thus freed up and becomes a free sale component in the property market. Privatization also means that the government is not responsible for maintaining transparency and quality of the buildings that the private builders will construct. Since money to be made from new land sales in Mumbai is extremely high, there is a vicious competition amongst builders to woo slum dwellers. There is an important clause and proper process in stages through which any contractor has to proceed. At least they are mandated to first shift the residents into vertical establishments before demolitions.

28 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013


Leave aside allotment of flats, the residents of Ganesh Krupa Society were not even informed about evacuation until just a day earlier. SRA assures a house to only those people who can show that they have been residents of Maharashtra since 1995 and have had a house in the same society since then. Moreover, the Authority can give permission to go ahead to the builder only if they are able to attain approval of 70 per cent of the people in a society. However, extortion, fraud and forgery at the ground level by builders to establish the fulfilment of conditions convenient for them and lure societies into signing a deal with them have become common practice. “Builders are encroaching upon our land through unfair means. I have the paper of Antop Hill case. The builders have made fake documents of 620 residents who are not real just to get the deal passed by the High Court. They illegally produced the names, got ration card and bijli bills in the name of these nonexisting people. The High Court requires approval from 70 per cent of the residents of the area to pass any redevelopment plan. These non existent residents constituted those 70 per cent,� says Sheikh Imtiaz showing the RTI paper. There is also a clause in the SRA according to which a construction company cannot carry out redevelopment ventures unless the slum dwellers have approved them as amenable to their demands and conditions. On 3 October 2004, the SRA had issued a letter of intent SRAIENG/819/HE/PULOI, which approved Madhu Constructions as the sole authority for carrying out the redevelopment plan in Ganesh Krupa Society. The residents of Golibar society had also favoured Madhu Constructions for the plan. However, financial constraints and pressure from big builders, Madhu Constructions entered into a joint venture with Shivalik Builders Pvt. Ltd. on 3 March 2008 without the knowledge of slum dwellers, which is illegal. The crucial resolution of the Society dated 7 February 2009, approving of and giving consent to the company to carry out the development, is also suspect and criminal proceedings initiated by slum dwellers in the matter are pending. It is alleged that on the basis of fraudulent documentation, Shivalik succeeded in attaining favorable orders from court, thus beginning forcible evacuations. Slums constitute an integral part of Mumbai’s cityscape as its potential of employment deploys vast population and therefore attracts many to the city. Due to minimal income, high competition and

SLUM DEMOLITIONS

high cost of living a large amount of people end up finding shelter in slums which have shanty structures and unhygienic conditions. Slum development is indeed an important idea to be achieved. However, the motives and logic of operation in these areas seem completely divorced from the real objective of the SRA.

03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 29

Swati Priya is a Mumbai-based journalist.


OWNERSHIP OF MEDIA

Whose news are you

Television news in the southern part of the country has largely become the preserve of the various political dynasties, with a glut of channels acting as mouthpieces of the owners rather than objective news broadcasters. T S Sudhir brings us the true picture.

A

joke in Tamilnadu one has heard several times is about how Tamilians ensure they get the right news. They first hear the news on Sun TV and then on Jaya TV (or the other way round) and the 180 degree different spin to political news on the two channels ensures viewers know both sides of every story. That was till `Puthiya Thalamurai’ (new generation) burst on the scene in mid-2011. The Tamil news channel promoted by the SRM group, a 1000-crore-rupees group with interest in education, software and realty business, positioned itself bang in the middle, promising neutral news, minus any political slant. That `Puthiya Thalamurai’ rose to become number one in terms of Television Rating Points 30 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

(TRPs) within five months in January 2013, was an indication of the hunger for unbiased news. And the channel ensured it wore its independence on its sleeve. Even though its chairman T R Pachamuthu ran his own political party, Indiya Jananayaka Katchi - a much smaller operation compared to the DMK and the AIADMK - he got no coverage at all on his own channel. The decision to do so was deliberate, to look distinctly different from the other media operations that were nothing more than HMVs. Independent editorial heads ensured Puthiya Thalamurai treated every bit of news on merit and nothing else. For viewers used to sycophantic coverage on the other two channels, the new baby on the airwaves has been Tamilnadu’s passport to watching


OWNERSHIP OF MEDIA

watching today?

a professionally run media enterprise. However, Sun TV and Jaya TV aren’t the only channels who are more loyal to the king or the queen. A politician in Tamilnadu, it would seem, is not good enough unless he has a TV channel in his bouquet. Vasanthkumar, a Congress politician controls Vasanth TV while K V Thangabalu, former Union minister from the Congress, has Mega TV in his pocket. The PMK of the Ramadoss family owns Makkal TV. And then there is Kalaignar TV that owes allegiance to the DMK first family. In fact in 2007, when the Marans, who own the Sun TV group, had a tiff with Karunanidhi, the first thing the then chief minister did was to float Kalaignar TV. Evidence of the importance modern-day

politicians give to a TV channel in politicking. Cross the Tamilnadu-Andhra Pradesh border and tune into Sakshi TV and you would realise there are no borders when it comes to political ownership of television channels. This is Y S Jaganmohan Reddy’s channel, that could almost be mistaken for home video. For the channel devotes significant airtime at the moment to sister Sharmila’s padayatra and who visits Jagan at Chanchalguda central prison on a daily basis (an OB van is parked outside the jail almost 24x7 !). When the late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy was chief minister, he would spare no opportunity to take a dig at `Eenadu’ and `Andhra Jyothi’, two Telugu dailies with a huge circulation that adopted an anti-Congress and anti-YSR line every morning. `Sakshi’ newspaper was born out of the desire to neutralise the criticism in print. The television avatar followed because YSR and Jagan realised the power of pictures and the need to blunt the power of ETV and ABN, channels owned by the same groups and distinctly pro-Chandrababu Naidu in their approach. Things came to a head, for instance, during the byelection in Kadapa in 2010 when the TDP complained to the Election Commission against Sakshi TV, charging it with peddling paid news. And in a case of the pot calling the kettle black, Jagan’s party also complained to the EC about paid news on ETV, ABN, TV9 and Studio N (then owned by 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 31

Chandrababu Naidu’s family). It alleged that these media houses only highlighted the election campaign of the TDP candidates and therefore, the expenditure incurred in broadcasting such news items should be included in the TDP candidates’ account of expenditure. While Sakshi TV’s pro-Jagan line is too apparent, other channels have not quite tried to hide their tilts either. V6 is a channel owned by Congressmen G Vivek and G Vinod and pursues a Telangana line. So does T-TV that is owned by the Telangana Rashtra Samiti. Zee 24 Ghantalu was taken over by PCC chief Botsa Satyanarayana, after he realised the negative press he got following allegations of his involvement in the liquor scam in Andhra Pradesh. The channel pursues an anti-Kiran Kumar Reddy line when the two cross swords and at other times, propagates the virtues of its owner. Chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy’s friends control I-News, another leading news network while 10TV, a newly launched channel is said to be close to the CPM. The CPI plans to launch TV99. Chandrababu Naidu’s son Lokesh no longer owns Studio N but the Telugu Desam has friendly channels ETV and ABN still batting for it in the broadcast space. The grapevine has it that many other channels have allowed politicians to park money in them in “benaami” names. It is an arrangement that suits both >> Continued in page 37>>


DYING WATER BODIES

Kerala loses its

Keni, the miraculous mini well of adivasis of Wayana of history - a victim of rapid environmental decline o

Crystal clear pure water, round the year. Pic: Shree Padre

32 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013


DYING WATER BODIES

precious Kenis

ad in Kerala, is well on its way to becoming a part of this once bountiful state. Shree Padre reports.

03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 33


DYING WATER BODIES

T

he name Wayanad comes from two words, Vayal (paddy field) and Naad (land), meaning ‘The Land of Paddy Fields’. It is set high on the Western Ghats with altitudes ranging from 700 to 2100 metres from sea-level. The district has a considerable population of tribals. Keni, an amazing water body developed using traditional wisdom and which doesn’t seem to have parallels anywhere in the whole country, is found only in this district. Kenis are located on wetlands, on the edge or middle of paddy fields. Cylindrical in shape, they have a diameter and depth of around one metre only. The wall is of a specific type of wood. During construction, these wooden parts are driven into the soil. A Keni is not a property of a single family. It is a community drinking water source. Being a shallow water body, it doesn’t require a rope, pulley or pump to lift the water. The water source is just enough to dip the kodam, the round utensil used to lift water from wells. Soil in Wayanad is clayey. As such, wells in low lying areas have water that is slightly stained. But the Keni water always remains crystal clear and transparent like glass. Not only that, a water body of the size of a hundred-litre drum gives more than thousand litres of water every day, round the year! In some places, a layer of sand is found around the outer wall of a Keni. This might have been put to filter the inflowing water. Kenis retain the same level of water both during monsoon and summer. Generally as many as 15 – 20 families take water from one Keni. Once a kodam full of water is lifted from the well, it gets refilled in just a minute or two. Dr E.J.Joseph, Scientist,

Kenis retain the same level of water both during monsoon and summer. Generally as many as 15 to 20 families take water from one Keni. Once a kodam full of water is lifted from the well, it gets refilled in just a minute or two.

34 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013


DYING WATER BODIES

To protect the Keni covered by inner toddy palm wall, a new concrete wall is built. Pic: Shree Padre

03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 35

Agriculture at CWRDM (Centre for Water Resources Development and Management), Kozhikode has studied Kenis in depth. He says, “In the entire district there might be 200 to 300 Kenis. No one seems to have counted them. According to some elders, there are some which may be 500 to 600 years old. In most cases they have used the bottom portion of the toddy palm (Caryota urens) for this. Though many of them have deteriorated and are de-shaped today, they are not completely destroyed.” Adds Dr Joseph: “A surprising thing that I have noticed is that while the colour of water in the recently constructed concrete ring Kenis is slightly different, in older Kenis you see very clear and pure water. None seems to have studied the reason for this difference.” The toddy palm stem would usually be cut a year before construction of a Keni. It would then be kept immersed in water for a long time. As a result, except the very hard portion, the inner core portion disintegrated and got washed away. Apart from toddy palm, Anjili (Artocarpus hirsuta), Amla (Phyllanthus emblica) and another tree called ‘Kori Maram’ in Malayalam were also used. If it was the Amla tree, the bottom portion would be excavated in square shape before being introduced into the Keni. Nowadays, getting a huge toddy palm stem of the required size is itself very difficult. As such, the development of Kenis using wood from these has ceased over the recent decades. A decade ago, a government scheme called Giridhara was introduced to provide drinking water to adivasis. At that time, team leader George Mathew had located sixteen Kenis in Panamaram panchayat. “None of


DYING WATER BODIES

Kenis were dug in paddy fields. Site selection to catch sub-soil water source was perfect. Pic: Shree Padre

these are new. These must have been dug at least half a century ago,” he pointed out. In some of the areas wherever Kenis were situated earlier, the panchayat had deepened the dilapidated water bodies and inserted concrete rings to renovate the same. Lukose Jacob, Director, Hilda Trust, a Wayanad NGO points out that such interventions, done in the hope of development, have unfortunately led to problems in quite a few cases. Deepening has dried up a few Kenis altogether. While clean water was available from some Kenis earlier, renovation work has resulted in stained water. “Kenis collect water from the shallow soil layer. If you go deeper than five feet in these paddy fields, the water table remains deeper down. The Panchayat, without realizing this grassroot reality has deepened Kenis to 15 – 20 feet. As such, poor adivasis now neither

have the old nor the new water source. These Kenis have dried up,” says Jacob. That was the situation a decade ago. Now, as paddy fields in Wayanad are increasingly being abandoned and large scale deforestation is on, the water table is receding deeper and deeper. This year, unprecedented drought has been reported from many parts. The number of Kenis has now dwindled to only a few. There are two Kenis still remaining about a kilometre away from the Shiva temple of Trikkaipettah. Both have good water. Local resident, 55-year old Krishnan Kutty recalls that about 30 years ago, people from areas within one and half kilometer radius-around fifty families-were drawing water from here. Now, except the adivasis, all others have independent wells. Despite that, they take drinking water from Keni because the well water is not 36 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

that good. Hailing these he says, “These haven’t dried up in any of the past droughts. Even during the unprecedented drought of 1983, this Keni gave water. It is like an ‘akshayapatra’. You go on taking water; it goes on refilling after a while.” What is apparent from all of this is that earlier generation of adivasis had good water divining knowledge. The site selection was perfect. This is evident from the fact that if the location is shifted or the wells are deepened, it doesn’t catch water. It is perhaps a pity that not only have we been unable to acquire such knowledge, but have also failed to hold on to the resources that traditional wisdom yielded. Shrikrishna D is a journalist with many years of experience in agricultural reporting, and is better known as Shree Padre. He is the author of several books, including one on rainwater harvesting, published by Altermedia.


<< Continued from page 37<<

parties. Most channels run a hand-to-mouth existence and the ready cash comes in handy while the politicians know they have a media house they can control, without being publicly associated with it. With as many as 23 news channels slugging it out in an extremely overcrowded Telugu market, the casualty more often than not, is news. Reporters end up disseminating `coloured’ and `filtered’ news to suit the interests of their political masters. But it is not as if the channels make money or matter beyond adding to the numbers. K Nageshwar, Chairman of 10TV says the glut of TV channels means not

The owner is. The situation is no different in neighbouring Karnataka where Janata Dal (Secular) leader and former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy is invested in Kasturi channel, which is run by his wife Anita, who lost in the assembly elections this month. Therefore, it was surprising that this media baron chose to blame the media for projecting his party in a poor light in the run up to the Karnataka assembly elections. Businessman Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who is also an independent Rajya Sabha MP, owns Suvarna TV while also holding controlling stake in Asianet in the Malayalam television space. Kerala’s politicians are no

OWNERSHIP OF MEDIA

suspicion that some political owners use the news business to launder their black money. ``We run our news channel like a professional unit,’’ says the owner of V6, G Vinod, who was Labour minister in Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s cabinet and also wears the hat of the president of the Hyderabad Cricket Association. But many of the owners realise that television can be a profitable venture only if you take care of the ground handling - the cable operators in this case. Sun TV is a success story because through Sumangali Cable Vison, the group controls the distribution throughout Tamilnadu and is able to dictate what channels the viewers get to watch. Tamilnadu has one of the highest cable TV

Apart from the politicisation of news that has happened, other unhealthy practises are also prevalent in many news networks, one example being payment of a part of the salaries in cash. This raises suspicion that some political owners use the news business to launder their black money. all influence public opinion. “The feeling is that political owners derive a lot of power from media outlets. That is not entirely true. Past experience has shown that media coverage does not have a decisive impact on the minds of the voters,’’ he says. But politicians stay invested because every politician finds the idea of owning a TV channel seductive as it helps him broadcast his version of the news and also rubbish his rivals on air. They do realise that in the era of the remote, it is difficult to sway the undecided voter to their side. The flip side, however, has been that the viewer is no longer king.

different when it comes to succumbing to the lure of the seductive TV news world. The two main political parties are in the thick of it with the Congress owning Jaihind TV while CPI(M) runs Kairali TV and People TV. Another news channel, India Vision, also has political DNA. What has helped in the mushrooming of channels is the reduction of costs in launching one. But apart from the politicisation of news that has happened, other unhealthy practises are also prevalent in many news networks, one example being payment of a part of the salaries in cash. This raises 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 37

penetration with 60 per cent of rural areas having access to a connection. Its presence in the DTH market through Sun Direct helps take care of those who want to migrate from cable to DTH. As general elections draw near, the airwaves are only expected to get more shrill. Realising the campaign costs are only mounting, politicians are more and more likely to convert the idiot box to a booth to canvas for themselves. The biggest casualty will be good old-fashioned journalism on what is today derisively being referred to as Tell-Lie-Vision. T S Sudhir is an author and filmmaker. He was earlier Resident Editor (South) at NDTV.


SAVING THE WESTERN GHATs

Old trick, new attack

38 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

The MoEFâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s decis of another with Ghats has resu environmental o


SAVING THE WESTERN GHATs

sion to have one committee examine the recommendations h respect to the protection of the eco-sensitive Western ulted in needless contradiction and defeat of the core objective. Shripad Dharmadhikary analyses the reports.

03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 39


SAVING THE WESTERN GHATs

T

he Western Ghats, stretching over 1500 kms along six states of the country, is one of the magnificent mountain ranges of India. As eminent ecologist Prof Madhav Gadgil says, "Once the lady was adorned by a sari of rich green hues; today her mantle lies in shreds and tatters. This is a great tragedy, for this hill range is the backbone of the ecology and economy of south India". It is in recognition of the great importance as well as the dire state of the Western Ghats that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) constituted, on 4 March 2010, the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) under the chairmanship of Prof Gadgil. The mandate given to the Panel included assessing the current status of ecology of the Western Ghats, demarcating areas within the Western Ghats Region which need to be notified as ecologically sensitive and to make recommendations for the

under the chairmanship of Dr. K Kasturirangan, Member, Planning Commission. This committee, called the High Level Working Group (HLWG), was tasked, among other things, to examine the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel Report in a holistic and multidisciplinary fashion in the light of the comments received from the concerned State Governments/Central Ministries/Stakeholders, to recommend further course of action with respect to the WGEEP, and to submit an action plan to implement WGEEP. The fact that the WGEEP report was kept under wraps for so long and in spite of orders of the CIC, and that another committee was soon constituted to look at the WGEEP report raised strong suspicions that the MoEF and other powers that be had not liked the recommendations made by the WGEEP, and were looking at ways to bypass or dilute them.

the one presented by the WGEEP. In the process, it has significantly narrowed the approach to treating the Western Ghats as an ecologically sensitive area and the scope of protecting it. The WGEEP had underscored the fact that the entire Western Ghats should be considered ecologically sensitive, and for operational purposes had suggested its division into three zones, namely Eco Sensitive Zones (ESZ) - ESZ 1, ESZ 2 and ESZ 3, with decreasing eco-sensitivity. The recommended ESZ1, along with existing protected areas like wildlife sanctuaries etc. totals about 60% of the total area of Western Ghats. On the other hand, the HLWG has recommended that about 37% of the area of the Western Ghats be considered as Eco Sensitive Area (ESA) and the rest as non-ESA. (While Western Ghats area as defined by HLWG at about 160,000 sq km is larger than that defined by WGEEP at 129,000

Whether rigid division between 'cultural' and 'natural' landscape regard to the determination of eco-sensitivity, or whether it is ev objective is to protect the ecology, is a very important question. T itself harbours many an important element of biodiversity.

conservation, protection and rejuvenation of the Western Ghats. The Committee submitted its report to the MoEF on 3 August 2011. However, the MoEF refused to make the report public, and sat on it for almost a year. It was only on 23 May 2012 that MoEF was forced to release the report, following the orders of the Central Information Commission and the Delhi High Court. Soon afterwards, on 17 August 2012 the MoEF constituted another committee,

The High Level Working Group (HLWG)

The HLWGâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s recommendations differ substantially from the WGEEP. First of all, the HLWG has veered a fair bit off its mandate; instead of examining and recommending ways to implement the WGEEP, it has come out with its own critique and has proceeded to provide an entirely different framework from 40 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

sq km, the ESZ1 of WGEEP still comes out as a much larger area than the ESA of HLWG). The restrictions to be put on various activities in the ESA of HLWG and the ESZ1 of the WGEEP also differ significantly. Given all this, and the fact that the HLWG has also critiqued the approach, methods and recommendations of the WGEEP, it is imperative that the WGEEP be allowed to present its own positions on the HLWGâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s reading


of its report. To do this, the MoEF should invite the WGEEP to formally respond to the HLWG. Moreover, given the sharp differences between the two reports, and the importance of the issue, the country has a right to know and understand the arguments of both the groups. Hence, it is important that the MoEF organize a public discussion between the two committees and make available its proceedings widely, so that the reasoning of both the committees can be better understood.

ESA and ESZ The total area to be considered eco-sensitive is not the only difference between the two committees. The very method of determining eco-sensitivity is different. The WGEEP has used the recommendations of the Pranob Sen committee that had been set up by the MoEF in 2000. This committee has recommended

e is appropriate with ven advisable when the The cultural landscape

several primary and secondary criteria to measure eco-sensitivity. The WGEEP used biological criteria that included endemism, biodiversity richness, but also others such as slope of land, origin of rivers etc. On the other hand, the HLWG first distinguished between “natural” landscape and “cultural” landscape. The latter, which includes settlements, agriculture, plantations etc. covers close to 60% of the total Western Ghats as

SAVING THE WESTERN GHATs

per the HLWG, and all of it was kept out of the ESA. The ESA was to be demarcated only from the natural landscape. In this, they used two criteria, namely biological richness and forest fragmentation and arrived at close to 37% of the area of the Western Ghats as ESA. Whether such a rigid division between “cultural” and “natural” landscape is appropriate with regard to the determination of eco-sensitivity, and whether it is advisable when the objective is to protect the ecology, is a very important question. The cultural landscape itself harbours many an important element of biodiversity. For example, Prof Gadgil makes a very important point that in terms of vulnerability and threats, aquatic biodiversity is more sensitive than forest biodiversity. The HLWG’s forest based categorization of the ESA is likely to leave many of the water resources out of its purview. In an open letter to Dr. Kasturirangan, Prof Gadgil substantiates his point, writing: “Moreover, freshwater biodiversity is far more threatened than forest biodiversity and lies largely in what you term cultural landscapes. Freshwater biodiversity is also vital to livelihoods and nutrition of large sections of our people. That is why we had provided a detailed case study of Lote Chemical Industry complex in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, where pollution exceeding all legal limits has devastated fisheries so that 20,000 people have been rendered jobless, while only 11,000 have obtained industrial employment. Yet the Government wants to set up further polluting industries in the same area, and has therefore deliberately suppressed its own Zonal Atlas for Siting of Industries.”

03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 41

Restrictions

As important as the demarcation of eco-sensitive areas are the restrictions that are proposed to be imposed to protect them. As mentioned earlier, the WGEEP has a graded three-tier classification of eco-sensitivity and this is reflected in a graded set of restrictions with decreasing stringency across the ESZ1, ESZ 2 and ESZ 3. The HLWG on the other hand specifies certain activities that are completely banned in the ESA and others are to be undertaken with due caution. It has also suggested financial and other incentives to promote green growth. Outside the ESA, all activities can be undertaken as per current rules and regulations. While the HLWG claims that “In this way, HLWG has deviated from WGEEP by not recommending a blanket prescriptive on what constitutes good development, which will be implemented through a prohibitory regime,” actually they have done precisely that, the difference being that the set of activities they have prohibited is smaller. Thus, HLWG completely bans mining, thermal power plants, building and construction projects over 20,000 sq metres, township projects and redcategory industries in the ESA. These are important recommendations. The WGEEP shares these recommendations in mining, thermal power plants, red category industries and also goes beyond them in prohibiting orange category industries, genetically modified organisms, large scale wind power etc. in the ESZ1. Apart from this, there are two important differences between the proposed restrictions


SAVING THE WESTERN GHATs

by the two committees. The WGEEP’s set of restrictions come up with much more detailed prescriptions of what should be done along with what should not be done, reflecting a nuanced understanding of development and preservation of the ecology together. The HLWG comes out as narrow and somewhat technocratic in its approach. The section on water will illustrate this further. The HLWG’s entire recommendation in the water sector is centered around hydropower, which it allows in the ESA, albeit, subject to certain important conditions. It describes hydropower as “clean and renewable”, a categorization which has been globally rejected particularly in case of large dam projects. It makes a general recommendation about the “need to redesign and re-evaluate small hydropower projects – below 25 MW - as these often have limited impact on energy generation and can lead to huge impact on ecology.” The WGEEP on the other hand has water related recommendations in sections on land-use, fishery, power, area treatment / landscaping, water and science and technology. Its recommendations include prohibitory ones, starting with a clear distinction between large and smaller hydro projects to say that “no new dams based on large scale storage be permitted in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1.” Others include making water courses and water bodies ‘no-go area’, no forest clearance or stream diversion for new projects, and prohobition of run of the river schemes in first order or second order streams. On the other hand, there are many recommendations such as:

Management of decentralized water resources at Local Self Government level; Catchment area treatment plans of hydroelectric and major irrigation projects that would improve their life span; Scientific riparian management programmes involving community participation that would improve river flows and water quality; Allowing run of the river schemes with a maximum height of 3 metres so as to serve local energy needs of tribal/ local communities/plantation colonies subject to consent of gram sabha; Permitting small hydro-projects of up to 10 MW and the like. In fact, even for ESZ3, the WGEEP has several important recommendations such as those requiring existing dams’ reservoir operations to be rescheduled for allowing more water downstream,

for decision-making, but simultaneously, will strengthen the data monitoring systems and the participation and involvement of local communities in decisionmaking.” Its recommendations for strengthening regulatory institutions are also not new, and include training, sensitization and so on. This is not to deny the importance of these methods or the need to strengthen the institutions but to reiterate that these methods have been recommended and tried several times earlier but have not shown very encouraging results. Strengthening the participation of the local communities is absolutely essential. The HLWG makes a recommendation that “The villages falling under ESA will

Probably the biggest weakness of the HLWG is the faith and trust it has put in the existing regulation and governance mechanisms to help protect the environment.

or large dam projects to be subjected to conditions of cumulative impact assessments. They also make suggestions on the carrying capacity and needs of downstream flows. Probably the biggest weakness of the HLWG is the faith and trust it has put in the existing regulation and governance mechanisms to help protect the environment. For example, the HLWG has taken the view that it will “recommend a framework for governance and regulation of ESA, which draws on current regulatory institutions 42 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

be involved in taking decisions on future projects. All projects will require prior-informed consent and no-objection from the gram sabha of the village. The provision for prior informed consent under the Forest Rights Act will also be strictly enforced.” This recommendation is very important, but it is somewhat strange that it finds mention only in the conclusions of the HLWG report, and there is no discussion related to this critical recommendation in any other part of the report.


Another example is the recommendation to include wind energy projects in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification and subject it to the EIA and environmental clearance regime. While, in itself, this is a very important and necessary recommendation, it is not sufficient. It is an accepted fact that the EIA/EC regime has been an abject failure in controlling environmental degradation due to developmental interventions. Thus, merely accepting the existing regulatory regime and recommending some improvements in it is not going to make a difference.

Alternatives Since we cannot wish away the existing regime, and indeed in the long run there is no other way but to put in place a strong, credible regulatory mechanism, what other option did the HLWG have? Drawing from some recommendations of the WGEEP, one can suggest a way that the HLWG could have taken, and which the MoEF should now take. For all areas in the Western Ghats falling in the ESZ 1 or 2 as designated by the WGEEP, or under the ESA defined by HLWG, there should be a moratorium on all damaging interventions. Such a list can be a combination of the WGEEP and HLWG lists. The MoEF and state governments should first initiate a process of “clean-up” in these areas by addressing the severe environmental and social impacts of the developmental interventions that have already taken place till date. Such a cleanup would include addressing pollution as well as the ecological degradation of forests, rivers and other areas. Simultaneously, a program of strengthening

SAVING THE WESTERN GHATs

regulatory and governance institutions and regimes can be taken up. The moratorium would remain in place till the clean-up is over and the institutions brought up to par. Such an approach would have two important advantages. One, the process of cleaning up would itself generate large employment opportunities and economic activity. Thus, a moratorium would not affect the benefits that are expected from economic activity. Secondly, the process would give enough exposure to institutions to help them devise a stronger regulatory process and opportunities to test how well they are shaping up. It may be pointed out that the WGEEP itself has suggested such an approach in some cases. For example, for mining in Goa, the WGEEP has recommended “an indefinite moratorium on new environmental clearances for mining in ESZ 1 and 2 …. and continuation of existing mining in ESZ 2 under strict regulation with an effective system of social audit. The moratorium on new clearances in ESZ 2 can be revisited as and when the situation improves and when a comprehensive study on the impact of mining has been concluded.” The WGEEP should extend such moratorium to other areas too. The MoEF has also partially used such an approach in dealing with the Critically Polluted Areas, where a moratorium on new clearances is declared. Of course, the MoEF expects only an “action plan” before it lifts the moratorium.

The way forward Given the context, there is a need to have widespread discussion before the MoEF takes further steps. Even as 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 43

the HLWG has come out with a different framework and different recommendations, the WGEEP clearly remains the more comprehensive document, with its vast sweep of ideas, nuanced attention to detail and the insistence on fine-tuning its recommendations through wideranging discussion. Thus, any further process should be carried out with the WGEEP report as its core. Discussions should be organized around it, including the public discussion suggested above between HLWG and WGEEP. WGEEP and other documents should be translated into local languages, and consultations should take place in several locations in the Western Ghats, with local communities as key participants. Decisions about the implementation should be taken only through such a process. The HLWG can be one of the inputs to this discussion, and that will be entirely appropriate to its mandate, which is “to recommend further course of action with respect to WGEEP” and “submit action plan to implement WGEEP.” Shripad Dharmadhikary coordinates the Manthan Adhyanan Kendra, a centre set up to research, analyse and monitor water and energy issues.


FILM REVIEW

Life in no manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s land On a fragile island spread across 150 kms at the border of India and Bangladesh, thousands of people lead precarious lives at the mercy of the River Ganga. Shoma Chatterji reviews Char - The No Manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Island, a film depicting the tragic realities of their existence.

T

he documentary in India still lacks a public platform. Attempts are made from time to time to make them accessible to the mass audience but these come in fits and starts and are rarely sustained. So, one has to wait for a festival to watch these films or, if one is friendly with the filmmaker, ask for a DVD and watch it at home. But documentary filmmakers like Sourav Sarangi are hardly deterred by the lack of an audience. Their films reach out far beyond Indian shores and are praised by the audience and awarded at festivals. Char - The No Manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Island, is a classic example of a film that continues to win accolades at home and abroad though it

remains distanced from the larger Indian audience. Though this is a documentary, it has a real, full-blooded story. It revolves around Rubel, 15, who smuggles rice from India to Bangladesh. He has to cross the river Ganga acting as the international border. The same river eroded his home in mainland India when he was just four. Years later, a fragile island called Char was

44 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013


formed within the large river. Rubel, with his family and many homeless people settled in this barren field controlled by the border police. He dreams of going back to his old school in India but reality forces him to smuggle stuff to Bangladesh. But he fights on while monsoon clouds arrive inviting the flood and the river swells up again. “Char may disappear but we won’t,” smiles the boy. “When I met Rubel I was fascinated. He was a very charming and bright boy who was forced to smuggle rice from India to Bangladesh. His ambition was to come to India and study in a school, which he could not. Here again I saw a conflict. These were the motivating forces. It took time for me to conceive the film in this manner,” says Sourav.The story goes back to 2002-2003 when Sourav witnessed an entire village close to the India-Bangladesh border disappearing into the river Ganga because of erosion. The houses, the trees, the roads, the structures - everything that the villagers had created over the years was going down. That

03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 45

FILM REVIEW

image made a deep impact on him. “I saw how hundreds and thousands of people became homeless overnight. I was making a journalistic film with my friend about river erosion. We made the film but this question haunted me - where do these people go? Where does the huge expanse of land go? The question remained within me and I kept visiting the place, meeting the same people who lost their homes. They accepted me as a friend from a city. And very slowly, Char- The No Man’s Island was born.” Sourav Sarangi’s films focus on the spirit of the poor, the marginalised and the ignorant. He did it brilliantly in Bilal and has done it again in Char. The film points out how even Nature has neither sympathy nor understanding for this vulnerable group who live a precarious existence in a piece of land that has risen up on the Ganges near Farakka Barage in West Bengal in 1975 in the fear of losing everything to the eroding shores of the river and the rising tides which can happen any minute, washing them away. The island is named ‘No Man’s Island’ because it is as fragile as the people who live on it. The camera that is also an invisible ‘character’ in the film and a ‘voice’ speaking silently about Rubel and his fellow beings, follows the lives of these people, sometimes with candid for thrightness and often,


FILM REVIEW

clandestinely in the middle of the night through a monochrome green light that invests the scenario with a strange, mysterious aura, revealing the people in the tragic reality of their lives dictated by the border patrol, who are merciless in their dealings with them. Sarangi has painstakingly followed the cycle of seasons across the panoramic landscape whose picturesque beauty stands in sharp contrast to its real brutality that leaves lives teetering between life and death. No school, no medical facilities, no NGO to take recourse to when a young married girl is not accepted by her husband and inlaws because her parents cannot shell out Rs.50,000 in dowry! The film had its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival, followed by screening at the Indian Panorama section in IFFI, Goa. It bagged the "Golden Kapok Award" at GZ Doc 2012 in China, was screened at the CHOP SHOTS in Indonesia and Dubai International Film Festival 2012. It had a special screening at ISIFF, Dhaka in Bangladesh. It won a Special Mention in the Muhr Asia Africa Documentary-Awards. It has been selected for the Berlin International Film Festival and was screened at the International Forum of New Cinema section in Berlin. It has recently won the National Award for the Best Anthropological/Ethnographic Film at the 60th National Awards. It was the only Indian film selected to be screened at the 12th Tiburon international film festival, where it won the Golden Reel for Best Documentary. “The film was made possible because I got funds from Calcutta and

from Locarno International Film Festival. I also found support in Japan. I collaborated with Italian producer Stefano Tealdi, Danish producer Signe Byrge Sorensen and Norwegian producer Jon Jerstad. Hence the film became an international co-production,” says Sourav. “I got technical, financial and creative support from all over the world. In fact this has become a good module for international co-production. I traveled to Japan for post-production and enjoyed the state-of-the-art technology there.” There is another character called Sofi, a ten-year-old boy whose father was shot dead while caught smuggling on the border making him the sole earning member. “When I first met Rubel, he was around Sofi’s age. When I began to shoot, Rubel had grown up and I included Sofi to reflect t h e

46 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

innocence I had seen in Rubel when I had met him some years ago and Sofi became a supporting character in my film,” says the filmmaker. Char is not a portrait film though to many it


might appear to be one. It tells the story of a community and how the community survived the onslaught of Nature that kept changing the landscape over seasons and through the years. It is thus a story of survival, of the idiosyncratic moods of the river Ganga which, the director insists is the real protagonist of the film. “I saw the conflict between human existence and the harshness of nature, the strength of the nature that can destroy and that can create,” says Sourav. Today, around 10,000 people from India and Bangladesh, Hindu and Muslim inhabit this island spread across 150 kms of land that could increase or decrease depending on the mood of the

weather, the torrential rains and thunder and the course of the river’s flow. The film spans around a year’s time, capturing the seasons of the year beginning with Durga Pooja. The white kash flowers that bloom only during the festive season and are famous for their depiction in memorable poetic aesthetics in Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali are swallowed mercilessly and brutally by the hungry river and the angry weather. The film also weaves in the story of Rubel wanting to leave the

FILM REVIEW

Char to make a life for himself. He goes away to Kerala but fails to get a job and comes back while the film is being shot. In the end, Rubel, now grown, has gone away again and this time, his family has no clue about where he has gone and when he will return or whether he will return at all. Like the river Ganga that has toyed with the lives of his people, he has changed directions too. Dr. Shoma A Chatterji, freelance journalist and author, writes on cinema, media, human rights, cultural issues and gender.

15-year-old Rubel dreams of going back to his old school in India but reality forces him to smuggle stuff to Bangladesh. But he fights on while monsoon clouds arrive inviting the flood and the river swells up again. "Char may disappear but we won't", smiles the boy. 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 47


RAJASTHANâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S WOMEN SARPANCHES

Discarding

veils embracing change

Displaying extraordinary grit, courage and openness to change, women from some of the most feudal communities in Rajasthanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s villages are changing the rules forever and leading development and local governance at the grassroots. Abha Sharma brings us their tales.

A

s a child she used to keenly observe the government officials and leaders who came to her village Bassi, near Jaipur, Rajasthan, for official functions on occasions like Independence Day or Republic Day. Sitting in the audience, she used to watch

in fascination as they addressed large crowds. She even had the urge to join them at the dais but knew she needed to become "someone important" in order to be able to do that. Born into a family of daily wagers, it never really seemed 48 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

Murli Meena, 37, the Sarpanch of Dehlala Gram Panchayat today, has been elected for three consecutive terms. Pic: Abha Sharma\WFS

likely that Murli Meena would achieve this desire. Although she was a natural leader, there simply were no opportunities for her to distinguish herself. Her fortunes, however, changed when she got married to someone who lived in the neighbouring village of


RAJASTHAN’S WOMEN SARPANCHES

Badam Bairwa, 35, of Luhara Panchayat in Tonk district, has led her community to flourish since she became Sarpanch in 2010. Pic:Abha Sharma\WFS

Dehlala and decided to discard the 'ghunghat' (veil traditionally required for all married women). Looking back, Murli says she wanted to "live as freely as the daughters and daughters-in-law of the Brahmin and Jain communities in my neighbourhood". Says

Sunita Rajawat, ward panch from Vanasthali, is a Rajput woman who has shed her ‘ghunghat’. Pic: Abha Sharma\WFS

she, "During the 'pheras' (Hindu marriage ritual) when my mother pulled my 'pallu' (free end of the sari covering the head up to the waist) down, I pulled it back with equal force - and this happened quite a few times!" While initially no one liked 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 49

her "bold move" - for quite some time she had to bear the criticism and nasty comments of her family and friends - slowly everyone reconciled to the change. What young Murli didn't know at the time was that her "audacity to stand up for what she believed


RAJASTHANâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S WOMEN SARPANCHES

in" would actually become the stepping stone she was looking for to fulfil her dream. In the year 2000, when Dehlala Gram Panchayat in Chaksu tehsil became a reserved seat for women for panchayat elections, the villagers instantly saw in Murli a capable candidate. She was

done some remarkable work in her panchayat. She has managed to get 295 women registered under the government's Indira Aawas Yojna that provides housing for the rural poor; she has pursued various development projects with the help of the Pradhan, the Block Development Officer (BDO),

lack of confidence and fear of annoying family members. For the last few years, agencies such as the Hunger Project and the Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society (CECOEDECON) have been working with women at the grassroots in this desert state to

A proper road, electricity, 25 hand pumps, four tube wells, old age pension for 50 women - Badam Bairwa has made all this happen. How does she get things done when she can't read or write? Pat comes her reply, "Padhe likhe nahin hain, par dimag to hai na?"

elected unopposed to the post of Sarpanch (village panchayat head) and she did so well in her maiden term that she was elected for a second consecutive term - that too from a general seat. Presently, Murli is in her third term, having defeated nine men and two women to emerge victorious. Over the last 12 years, this dynamic woman, who has only studied up to class eight, has gained a sound understanding of village administration. Confident and active, Murli, now 37, is managing her responsibilities effortlessly. In fact, she was invited by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia for a 10-day visit to Australia - her first trip overseas - to share her experiences of grassroots democracy and leadership. Over the years, Murli has truly

Zila Parishad members and, at times, even the local Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). Today, Murli is one of the many women who have become the flag bearers of women's empowerment at the village-level in Rajasthan, a state still deeply rooted in a feudal culture. What has enabled women like her to step out of their homes and make a real difference to their community is the fact that in Rajasthan there has been 50 per cent reservation for women in local government bodies since early 2010. The change such a quota brought about was not instant. Initially, it was hard to find women candidates who expressed willingness to enter village politics. This is not because of their incapability, but their inherent 50 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

train and build their capacities. Observes Virendra Shrimali, Convenor of Hunger Project in Rajasthan, "In the beginning, in order to overcome existing cultural norms, we would request elderly women of the village to step in and fight the elections. Now we no longer need to do this." With greater awareness, the scenario has changed significantly. It is not unusual to find anywhere between five to ten women candidates contesting for one panchayat seat. "In a sense, women have realised that they have an advantage. Where men can contest in only 50 per cent of the seats, women can contest all of them," says Shrimali.


RAJASTHAN’S WOMEN SARPANCHES

That's why many more women representatives are now winning from general seats: like Murli herself or Laxmi Bai from Morthala village in Rajasthan’s Sirohi district, who may have suffered defeat the first time she contested, but has been able to register three consecutive wins thereafter.

ward panch from Vanasthali Gram Panchayat in Tonk, coming to power has given her the sanction to shed her veil. Hailing from a Rajput family, she admits that the 'ghunghat' is often a major roadblock for women in Rajasthan. Women, according to Rajawat, face a strange social paradox. "On

Badam Bairwa, 35, who belongs to the Scheduled Caste community in Luhara Panchayat of Tonk district, is yet another inspiring grassroots leader. She is illiterate but that hasn't deterred her from carrying out extensive development work in her panchayat ever since she was elected Sarpanch in 2010. A proper road, electricity, 25 hand pumps, four tube wells, old age pension for 50 women - she has made all this happen. How does she get things done when she can't read or write? Pat comes her reply, "Padhe likhe nahin hain, par dimag to hai na (I may not be literate but I do have a brain)." For young Sunita Rajawat,

the one hand, they are expected to stay behind the 'ghunghat', on the other hand, men never fail to take a dig at us by saying 'ghughat wali kya kar sakti hain (what can you expect from veiled women)?" she reveals. In the 19-member panchayat that Rajawat represents, there are nine women. In the very first meeting, the male members occupied all the front chairs as if to suggest that the women should continue to play second fiddle to them. Rajawat, however, asked all her female colleagues not to take this lying down. Their persistence paid off - now the seating arrangement has changed forever. "There has been no attempt to 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 51

discriminate against women since then," she laughs. This matriculate ward panch reiterates that while women need lots of guts and courage to make a place for themselves in the male-dominated political arena, if women public representatives have "janhit" (public interest) as their top priority, respect is bound to follow. "First, my identity was of a 'ghunghat'-clad woman confined to the realm of her household. I have now found a platform where I can speak out my mind and do something worthwhile," she says. Rajasthan has historic links with the Panchayati Raj system. It was in Nagaur district that the country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had laid its foundations on October 2, 1959. The recommendations of the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee, set up to examine the community development programme, were accepted by the National Development Council in January 1958. But the concept of “democratic decentralisation” initially failed in other states except Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Since Rajasthan was one of the pioneering states in adopting Panchayati Raj after the recommendations of the Committee, Nagaur was selected for the official inauguration. The state has not looked back since then. This year, it received the Panchayati Raj Award for outstanding performance that carries a cash award of Rs 1.5 crore. As for the women who made this possible, they have been given a historic chance to explore the world beyond their homes - and help make a difference. Abha Sharma is a Jaipur-based freelance journalist.


COAL DEATHS

T

he Supreme Court of India recently dismissed a petition by anti-nuclear activists to stop commissioning of the nuclear power plant at Kudankulam. The petitioners argued that the plant did not meet safety standards recommended by nuclear experts, a viewpoint that the apex judicial body in the country obviously did not concur with. The Government of Tamil Nadu and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (the project developer), on their part, have vociferously refuted all allegations of being lax on safety issues. Thousands of protestors, however, continue to lay siege to the plant in the hope that its commissioning will be cancelled, an outcome that looks increasingly unlikely now. Public activism against the Kudankulam plant and, in general, nuclear power, is hardly new or unique to India. Modern world history is peppered with episodes of civil society activism against deployment of nuclear technology for civilian purposes (or for that matter, even military purposes) and understandably so. Nuclear technologies come with significant â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;fat-tailâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; risk (low probability of disasters, but very high impact if and when they occur) and can wreak havoc on all forms of life for multiple generations should things go wrong. That said, the fear and skepticism over nuclear fuel and associated technology and the resultant amount of attention and discussion on it often divert attention from what is arguably the most dangerous fuel of them all - Coal! That people die of unsafe work conditions while mining coal with crude pickaxes in states like Jharkhand is well documented. What is relatively less publicized,

The wea

destru

we ig

Based on data collected from 92 coal pow largely unreported estimated the mortality 650 deaths per plant per year! Shiva Prasa report and the remediati

52 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013


apons of

uction

gnore

wer plants in India, a 2012 study that went impact of electricity generated from coal at ad Susarla analyses the key findings of the ion measures suggested.

03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 53

COAL DEATHS

however, is the extent of human health damages due to operating coal power plants in the country. Coal power plants are harmful to humans in two ways. They emit copious amounts of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and contribute to global warming. They also have a direct impact on human health by releasing toxic chemicals such as Nitrates (NOx), Sulphates (SOx) and Particulate Matter (both 2.5 and 10 Microns in size) into the atmosphere. Prolonged exposure to these toxins has morbidity and mortality impacts on human health such as reduction in life expectancy, respiratory problems, bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failures, cerebro-vascular issues and various types of cancers. Given that coal is the dominant fuel in the Indian electricity generation mix, it is likely that its impact on human health in the country is significant. However, it is important to measure and quantify these health impacts before any meaningful policy analysis can be made on whether the country should move away from its dependence on the fuel. The ExternE project, a twodecade long research project sponsored by the European Commission to measure the environmental burdens of pollution, proposes a methodology to estimate the extent and cost of the damages to human health (and other components of the environment) from pollutants such as the ones described previously. This methodological framework, called the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Impact Pathway Approach,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; traces the path of a pollutant from when it is released at its emission source into the atmosphere, all the way to how it affects the quality of air that is inhaled by humans


COAL DEATHS

Researchers found the deadliest pollutant of the three to be PM2.5, which was estimated to cause more deaths than SOx or NOx for equal amounts of each pollutant. Having said that however, the researchers also point out that plants typically emit much larger quantities of SOx so that in terms of the number of deaths, they are found to be the cause of the most number of deaths. and the resultant impact on their health. The methodology involves measuring the rate of pollutant emissions from the source (in this case a power plant), modeling the atmospheric dispersion of the pollutant across a given human population density (the receivers of the pollutants), measuring the change in ambient concentrations of the pollutant in air and examining how such changes in the ambient concentrations correspond with increase in incidence of various pollutionrelated deaths and ailments among the receivers. In this context, ambient concentrations refer to the marginal increase in prevailing concentrations of specific toxins in the air due to the operations of the power plant. Optionally, contingent valuation techniques can be used to arrive at monetary estimates of the morbidity and mortality damages to human health through the measured pollution. For example, medical costs associated with ailments (along with the costs of productivity losses) are used for monetary estimates of morbidity. The willingness of people to pay for an

additional year of life is estimated through surveys and is used as the monetary value of mortality. The Impact Pathway Approach framework has been used in Europe, US, China and many other countries to arrive at monetary estimates of health damages through polluting activities such as transportation, electricity generation, industrial activities etc. In June 2012, a team of researchers led by Maureen Cropper of the ‘Resources for the Future,’ a leading policy thinktank based in Washington DC, applied this analytical framework

to the Indian context in a paper titled ‘The Health Effects of Coal Electricity Generation in India.’ For this study, which went largely unreported, the 54 |www.indiatogether.org| 03 Jun 2013

researchers collected operating data for about 92 coal-based power plants located in 17 states for the period 2000-2008. In 2008, these power plants together accounted for about 88% of the total installed thermal capacity in the country. Given that much of the data required to model the health damage from each power plant was unavailable (technical details such as stack heights and diameters of plants, meteorological data, population grid distributions, intake fractions and local dose-response functions), the researchers opted to make inferences from available data based on similar studies in the US and China. After making adjustments to the international models to incorporate local conditions, they concluded that the mortality impact of coal power generation plants in India was approximately 650 deaths per plant per year. They found the deadliest pollutant of the three to be PM2.5, which was estimated to cause more deaths than SOx or NOx for equal amounts of each pollutant. Having said that however, the researchers also point out that plants typically emit much larger quantities of SOxÂ


so that in terms of the number of deaths, they are found to be the cause of the most number of deaths. Of the 650 deaths per year, about 500 were attributed to SOx emissions, 120 to NOx emissions and 30 to PM2.5. The researchers also pointed out that the analysis estimated mortality impact only for people above the age of 30 and did not include the impact of air pollution on infant and child mortality. The study also did not cover the morbidity impacts of the pollutants. In that sense, the estimates in the paper are probably at the lower end of the range of actual health damages. The researchers also discussed two cases where remediation measures (such as coal-washing and desulfurization units requiring additional investments from the plant owners) could be undertaken in plants to cut emissions and found that they resulted in relatively modest to high increases in the effective cost of electricity from the plants. Other remediation measures such as carbon capture and storage, while not covered in the study, are technically feasible but prohibitively expensive at this point in time. One of the case studies involved the retro-fitting of a Flue-Gas Desulfurization Unit to an operating power plant in Maharashtra. The study estimated that such a remediation measure would increase the levelized cost of electricity from the plant by 9-15 per cent and result in about 123 statistical lives on an annual basis, translating into an effective cost of INR 3.55 million per life saved. It has to be noted that different power plants require varying remediation solutions depending upon the generation technology,

utilization rate of the plant, type of fuel used and location. The second case study involved estimating the benefits of using washed coal (which reduces ash and sulfur content in coal) in a power plant located in Uttar Pradesh. The study used a similar methodology as in the previous case study to arrive at a cost of INR 13.5 million per life saved, much higher than in the first case study! O bv i o u s l y, these estimates are based on a whole range of assumptions and cannot be generalized for all the power plants in the country. For example, it may be possible that coal washing is actually cheaper than installing Desulfurization Units in some cases, depending upon various factors that drive the assumptions. So what do such analyses mean for the future growth trajectory of the power generation sector in India and how can they assist in the policymaking process? It is no secret that a rapidly emerging, energy-hungry country such as ours needs increased supply of affordable electricity to grow its economy. It is also clear that much of this increase in electricity supply will have to be fuelled by coal due to energy security and cost considerations. Internalizing the true costs of coal usage (i.e. its contribution to global warming as well as to health damages) will increase the cost of energy and, in turn, slow down economic growth. The policymakerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s challenge in this situation, therefore, is determining the acceptable level of damages to keep the economic 03 Jun 2013 |www.indiatogether.org| 55

COAL DEATHS

growth engine running and also figuring out how to compensate the people affected by this growth. Given the pervasive poverty in the country, the desperate need to create more jobs and the general global economic slowdown, it is difficult to envisage government measures to increase energy costs in the foreseeable future. Energy tariffs are also a politically s e n s i t i ve issue and governments are loath to increase energy prices lest they be punished by the voting public. Recent attempts to hike electricity tariffs in Andhra Pradesh and Haryana have met with stiff resistance. At some point in the near future, though, policymakers not just in India, but around the world, have to bite the bullet and focus on sustainability of economic growth. It will clearly not do to continue doing what Al Gore referred to in a recent interview as â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;using the atmosphere of the planet as an open sewerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;! Shiva Susarla is a researcher in energy economics and policy and focuses on renewable energy, clean technology and natural gas. REFERENCES 1. http://www.rff.org/Pages/default.aspx 2. http://www.hks.harvard.edu/m-rcbg/rpp/ RFF-DP-12-25.pdf


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India Together digital edition 03-June-2013