Archive | June, 2009

Maid to order in India

21 Jun

21 Jun 2009, 0101 hrs IST, Neelam Raaj, TNN

Every day more than 90m domestic workers oil the wheels of contemporary India. They clean, fetch, tend, serve and make it possible for many upwardly mobile women to pursue their careers without worrying about domestic chores. Yet this work is referred to as the ‘informal sector’ as if it were scarcely work at all.

Maids are excluded from labour laws. The exclusion is just a short distance to abuse: long hours, bad pay, inhuman treatment, physical and sexual harassment. The case of actor Shiney Ahuja, who was arrested for allegedly raping his domestic help, made headlines because of his celebrity status. But in most cases, what happens in the neighbour’s house often stays there.

“From not getting paid to being kept hungry for two days for breaking a cup, the abuse of maids can take many forms,” says Jeanne Devos, the Belgian nun who formed the National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM) 25 years ago. It gets three to four such cases a week from across India. But apart from organizing demonstrations outside employers’ homes or on the streets, there is little the NDWM can do. “They are not even recognized as workers, so there is no legal protection for them under labour laws. They can only go to a criminal court,” says Devos.

The NDWM has been battling to change that status for years and has managed a few significant victories. Seven states – the four southern ones and Rajasthan, Bihar and Maharashtra – have passed legislation to protect domestic workers. But “it hasn’t been implemented as yet. That’ll take time,” says Devos.

She can take comfort from news that the National Commission for Women (NCW) is working on a draft law to provide social security to domestic workers with the employer making a monetary contribution over and above the salary. “The draft is in the final stages and will be sent to the labour ministry in two months,” says an NCW official.

But will legislation help Indians see their maids as deserving of respect and basic rights? For that, attitudes must change, says filmmaker Nishtha Jain, whose documentary Lakshmi and Me examines the problems faced by domestic workers. “They are workingclass women, but their work gets no respect,” says Jain. The terminology used to describe them – naukrani, servant, maid – is telling. But the low wages shock Jain the most. “In most posh colonies of Mumbai, the rate is Rs 300 per chore. Is that fair for a mountain of clothes or dishes?” she asks.

Of course, there is the minority who treat their domestics well, but that’s mostly because they don’t want to be left to clean up after themselves. Activists say the priority must be to crack down on employment agencies

that are trafficking minor girls into metros for domestic work. “The child labour law provides for punishment but enforcement is lax,” says Rishikant, who works with anti-trafficking NGO Shaktivahini. Last year, it rescued three girls who were confined to a Faridabad house for two years and beaten.

They say a society is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable. If so, there are plenty of domestic workers to confirm that India’s record is shameful. They won’t, though: they are too scared of losing their jobs.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Maid-to-order-in-India/articleshow/4681898.cms

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INDIA REPORT FROM THE US TIP REPORT 2009

18 Jun

INDIA (Tier 2 Watch List)

India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Internal forced labor may constitute India’s largest trafficking problem; men, women, and children in debt bondage are forced to work in industries such as brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, and embroidery factories. Although no comprehensive study of forced and bonded labor has been carried out, some NGOs estimate this problem affects tens of millions of Indians. Those from India’s most disadvantaged social economic strata are particularly vulnerable to forced or bonded labor and sex trafficking.

Women and girls are trafficked within the country for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced marriage. Children are also subjected to forced labor as factory workers, domestic servants, beggars, and agricultural workers. In recent years, there has been an increase of sex trafficking to medium-sized cities and satellite towns of large cities.India is also a destination for women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. There are also victims of labor trafficking among the thousands of Indians who migrate willingly every year to the Middle East, Europe, and the United States for work as domestic servants and low-skilled laborers. In some cases, such workers are the victims of fraudulent recruitment practices committed in India that lead them directly into situations of forced labor, including debt bondage; in other cases, high debts incurred to pay recruitment fees leave them

vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers in the destination countries, where some are subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude, including nonpayment of wages, restrictions on movement, unlawful withholding of passports, and physical or sexual abuse.

Men and women from Bangladesh and Nepal are trafficked through India for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation in the Middle East. Over 500 Nepalese girls were jailed in the state of Bihar on charges of using false documents to transit India in the pursuit of employment in Gulf countries. Indian nationals travel to Nepal and within the country for child sex tourism.

The Government of India does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these significant efforts, India has not demonstrated sufficient progress in its law enforcement efforts to address human trafficking, particularly bonded labor; therefore India is placed on Tier 2 Watch List.

India’s central government faces several challenges in demonstrating a more robust anti-trafficking effort: states under the Indian Constitution have the primary responsibility for law enforcement, and state-level authorities are limited in their abilities to effectively confront interstate and transnational trafficking crimes; complicity in trafficking by many Indian law enforcement officials and overburdened courts impede effective prosecutions; widespread poverty continues to provide a huge source of vulnerable people; and the Indian government faces other equally pressing priorities such as basic healthcare, education, and counterterrorism. During the reporting period, the central government continued to improve coordination among a multitude of bureaucratic

agencies that play a role in anti-trafficking and labor issues. Government authorities continued to rescue victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and forced child labor. Several state governments (Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Goa, and West Bengal) demonstrated significant efforts in prosecution, protection, and prevention, although largely in the area of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.

Recommendations for India: Continue to expand central and state government law enforcement capacity to conduct intrastate and interstate law enforcement activities against trafficking and bonded labor; consider expanding the Central Ministry of Home Affairs “nodal cell” on trafficking to coordinate law enforcement efforts to investigate and arrest traffickers who cross state and national lines; significantly increase law enforcement efforts to decrease official complicity in trafficking, including prosecuting, convicting, and punishing complicit officials with imprisonment; continue to increase law enforcement efforts against sex traffickers, including prosecuting, convicting, and punishing traffickers with imprisonment; improve central and state government implementation of protection programs and compensation schemes to ensure that certified trafficking victims actually receive benefits, including compensation for victims of forced child labor and bonded labor, to which they are entitled under national and state law; and increase the quantity and breadth of public awareness and related programs to prevent both trafficking for labor and commercial sex.

Prosecution

Indian government authorities made significant progress in law enforcement efforts against sex trafficking and forced child labor during the year, but made little progress in addressing bonded labor. The government prohibits some forms of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation through the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA). Prescribed penalties under the ITPA, ranging from seven years’ to life imprisonment, are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. India also prohibits bonded and forced labor through the Bonded Labor (Abolition) Act of 1976, the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986, and the Juvenile Justice Act of 1986. These laws were ineffectively enforced, and their prescribed penalties—a maximum of three years in

prison—are not sufficiently stringent. Indian authorities also use Sections 366(A) and 372 of the Indian Penal Code, prohibiting kidnapping and selling minors into prostitution, respectively, to arrest traffickers. Penalties prescribed under these provisions are a maximum of ten years’ imprisonment and a fine. Although Section 8 of the ITPA allows the arrest of trafficked women for soliciting, the Indian cabinet debated for another year proposed amendments that would give trafficking victims greater protections.

State governments continued to demonstrate efforts to address forced child labor, but failed to punish most traffickers. During the year, the New Delhi government rescued more than 100 children from forced labor situations, such as the February 2009 rescue of 35 children found enslaved in four small factories making leather products under hazardous and forced conditions without pay. In Jharkhand (with a population of 29 million people), the state labor ministry and police, in collaboration with an NGO, conducted raids on 120 establishments during a planned operation and rescued 208 children from forced or bonded labor situations.The central government and state governments continued to demonstrate efforts to combat sex trafficking of women and children, though convictions and punishments of sex traffickers were infrequent. The central government’s National Crime Records Bureau provided limited comprehensive data, compiled from state and union territory governments, on actions taken against sex trafficking offenses in 2007. The 2007 data indicated that 4,087 cases were registered (investigations started), which likely includes sex trafficking cases referred to courts for prosecution as well as cases investigated and closed

without such referrals. This data did not include reported prosecutions and convictions. Data for 2008 will not be available until 2010.

In Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Goa, and West Bengal (with a combined population of 360 million people), government officials registered 964 sex trafficking cases, conducted 379 rescue operations, helped rescue 1,653 victims, arrested 1,970 traffickers (including 856 customers), convicted 30 sex traffickers, helped rehabilitate 876 sex trafficking victims, and trained 13,490 police officers and prosecutors. In Mumbai, authorities prosecuted 10 sex trafficking cases but obtained no convictions in 2008. In Andhra Pradesh, courts convicted and sentenced eleven traffickers to imprisonment for 10 to 14 years. Tamil Nadu’s state government reported arrests of 1,097 sex trafficking offenders in 2008, though the number of trafficking prosecutions and convictions during the reporting period was not reported. The city of Pune attained its first sex trafficking conviction in 2008. During the reporting period, the central government made little progress to investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish labor trafficking offenders. However, it allocated $18 million to the Ministry of Home Affairs to create 297 anti-human trafficking units across the nation to train and sensitize law enforcement officials. According to NGOs, state-level officials who received such training in the past are increasingly recognizing women in prostitution as potential victims of trafficking and therefore not arresting them for solicitation. In Tamil Nadu (with a population of 65 million people), an NGO reported a significant improvement in how police file charges in bonded labor cases. The police now also

employ the Indian Penal Code’s tougher provisions, which allow bonded labor cases to be processed more quickly through the judicial system.

The significant problem of public officials’ complicity in sex trafficking and forced labor remained largely unaddressed by central and state governments during the reporting period. Corrupt law enforcement officers reportedly continued to facilitate the movement of sex trafficking victims, protect brothels that exploit victims, and protect traffickers and brothel keepers from arrest and other threats of enforcement. India reported no prosecutions, convictions, or sentences of government officials for trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period.

Protection

India’s efforts to protect victims of trafficking varied from state to state. Protection efforts often suffered from a lack of sufficient financial and technical support from government sources, and protection for victims of labor trafficking remained very weak. Under its Swadhar program – which covers a broad range of activities of which anti-sex trafficking is one – the government supports over 200 shelters with an annual budget of more than $1 million to provide care for more than13,000 women and girls rescued from a range of difficult circumstances, including sex trafficking. The Ministry of Women and Child Development continued to give grants under its Ujjawala program for the prevention, rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of sex trafficking victims.

The ministry approved funding for at least 53 state projects under this program, benefiting more than 1,700 victims. Since August 2008, the ministry provided the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, and Nagaland almost $243,000 for 18 projects at 12 rehabilitation centers. Andhra Pradesh established a fund specifically for victim rehabilitation, giving victims rescued from sexual exploitation $200 in temporary relief. Tamil Nadu began providing free legal aid and drug and alcohol addiction counseling services in state shelters to trafficking victims.

The Delhi government established a helpline staffed by NGOs in February 2009 to help rescue children found begging. Although victims of bonded labor are entitled to 20,000 rupees ($400) from the government if they are certified as victims of bonded labor and may be housed in government shelters, disbursement of rehabilitation funds is sporadic and the quality of care in many shelters is not high. NGOs reported that some corrupt local officials take unlawful “commissions” from the rehabilitation packages. Overall, government authorities do not proactively identify and rescue bonded laborers, so few victims receive assistance, though Tamil Nadu

showed the greatest effort to identify and assist victims of bonded labor. In other states, NGOs provided the bulk of protection services to bonded labor victims.

The central government’s Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, during the reporting period, showed resolve to address the trafficking of Indian migrant workers. For example, in September 2008, the Government ordered an inquiry after reports surfaced of girls from northeastern India being trafficked to Malaysia for sex work. The Government arrested the travel agent, promptly rescued the girls and paid for their repatriation to India. The Ministry also drafted an amendment to the Emigration Act that would increase administrative penalties for Indian labor recruitment agencies involved in fraudulent recruitment or human trafficking. Some Indian diplomatic missions in destination countries, especially those in the Middle East, provide significant services, including temporary shelters to nationals who have been trafficked. Some foreign victims trafficked to India are not subject to removal. Those who are subject to removal are not offered legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. NGOs reported in the past some Bangladesh victims of sex trafficking were pushed back across the border without protection services. During the reporting period, India worked closely with Bangladesh on resolving crossborder trafficking issues, including formally designating

a government official to handle such issues during Home Secretary-level discussions in August 2008.

Government shelters for sex trafficking victims are found in all major cities, but the quality of care varies widely. In Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh, state authorities operated homes for minor victims of sex trafficking. Although states have made some improvements to their shelter care, victims in these facilities do not receive comprehensive protection services, such as psychological assistance from trained counselors. Many victims decline to testify against their traffickers due to fear of retribution by traffickers and India’s sluggish and overburdened judicial system. The government does not actively encourage victims to

participate in cases against their traffickers.

Prevention

India continued to conduct information and education campaigns against trafficking in persons and child labor. In late 2008 the central government completed its 18- month long consultation process with government and NGO stakeholders on a comprehensive “Integrated Plan of Action to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking with Special Focus on Children and Women.” Overall, the government’s anti-trafficking policies and programs remained framed by the limited perspective of human trafficking defined as the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation, in line with the 2002 South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Convention on Combating Trafficking of Women and Children for Prostitution. Kerala (with a population of 33 million people and India’s largest source of laborers who migrate overseas) regularized recruitment agencies and introduced a toll free number for potential migrants. In January 2009, the central government approved a nationwide model that merges its national educational and poverty alleviation programs together to combat child labor.

While the government made modest efforts to prevent trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, it did not report new or significant efforts to prevent the large problem of bonded labor. The Ministry of Women and Child Development remained the central government’s coordinator of anti-trafficking policies and programs, though its ability to enhance interagency coordination and accelerate anti-trafficking efforts across the bureaucracy remained weak. In August 2008, a UN

report alleged several Indian peacekeepers posted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been involved in paying minor Congolese girls for sex in 2007 and 2008. In March 2009, the Indian military exonerated the soldiers after conducting an investigation. According to a Government of India official, training for Indian soldiers deployed in peacekeeping missions includes awareness about trafficking. In May 2008, the Ministry of Women and Child Development created a think tank to expand public-private partnerships to play a greater role in preventing and combating human trafficking. Following agreements reached prior to this reporting period with Middle Eastern labor destination countries, the Indian prime minister in November 2008 signed

a major agreement with Oman to combat illegal recruitment and human trafficking during his visit there. The agreement stipulates that terms and conditions of employment in Oman shall be defined by an individual employment contract between the employee and the employer and authenticated by Oman’s Ministry of Manpower.

The Ministry of Labor and Employment issued a “Protocol on Prevention, Rescue, Repatriation, and Rehabilitation of Trafficked and Migrant Child Labor” in May 2008 to guide state and district-level authorities and NGOs, and expanded the central government’s list of occupations that are banned from employing children. The government undertook several measures to reduce demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period, such as the arrests of 856 customers of prostitution in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Goa, and West Bengal. India has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2009/index.htm

Media: journalists and the right to silence

16 Jun

Peter Preston

These were journeys down a menacing memory lane. The BBC journalist Alan Johnston talked about life in the dark with his Gaza kidnappers. Giuliana Sgrena from Il Manifesto talked about her month of captivity in Iraq. Hamid Mir from Geo TV Pakistan and Peter Bergen from CNN relived their various interviews with Osama bin Laden. The world’s biggest press freedom congress this year was talking about talking to terrorists. But we didn’t get round to discussing Suzanne Breen. Breen works in Belfast for the Dublin Sunday Tribune. She got the phone call from the Real IRA claiming responsibility for killing two British sappers at Massereene Barracks this March. The police want her to hand over her notebooks and computers. They’ve won one stage of that case already. Breen is hoping to win round two this week. Not watchdogs All journalists will hope she does. It’s a matter of simple principle. Reporters can’t operate as watchdogs and investigators if they and their informants have no protection when detectives knock on the door. Information sources wither along that road.

If you want to understand what’s going on in perilous places, you need contacts and the freedom to cultivate them. Breen has to say no to the cops and the law. It would be utterly wrong to send her to prison for doing a job that Northern Ireland needs doing. Yet principle, however straightforward, is seldom the whole of the story. Every affair has its individual problems. Every dilemma comes with a fresh twist. And that’s why it’s sensible to talk about talking to terrorists, because Breen offers two arguments, not one. She believes that she and her family stand at imminent risk if she complies. Assassination threats have been issued already. She could be the next victim of Massereene. Her own life is on the line, too. Nobody who knows her doubts her sincerity, nor the peril she perceives; but this argument has little to do with defending RIRA identities.

To the contrary, it merely confirms what killers they are. Breen, on this ground, is like any other citizen with testimony the police want to hear. Help them and the men they want to catch may wreak bloody revenge: simple intimidation to set alongside a principle growing more complex by the minute. If you ask Mir why Pakistan’s army is clearing the Taliban out of Swat and pushing deep into Waziristan, he’ll say that the media did it. Perplexed politicians and reluctant generals needed an outraged press and TV to spur them into action at last — and thus, in some small way, to avenge the death of Mosa Khankhel from Geo TV, shot three times in February as he tried to cover the Swat peace negotiations that failed. Khankhel’s murderers tried to hack off his head as well. Now: where’s the duty to defend them? These people kill journalists. One reporter or editor a month died in 2008. Do they, and their sources, deserve due confidentiality and all the ethical courtesies of our trade? Where does reporting turn to campaigning in self-defence? You may look at Mir and Bergen’s interviews with Bin Laden and ask related questions. Did they have a duty to debrief authority on their secret route to Osama’s caves in 1998 or 1999? If that was true in 1998 or 1999, after early al-Qaeda attacks but long before 9/11, was it also true after the World Trade Centre destruction and so many dead? And after the destruction of the World Trade Centre? Does the scale of the tragedy trump acceptability? Wider dilemmas If Sgrena had the right to refuse official reporting authorisation in Baghdad, did she then have a right to appear in a kidnap video pleading that Italy get its troops out of Iraq? Where, as Alan Johnston tells us about his ordeal with the Army of Islam, does Johnston the journalist end and Johnston the victim begin? Here are principles caught in a grey zone of debate, tossed by the winds of public opinion, always beating against precise circumstance. Watch for the Breen decision. There are vital verities attached. But press freedom (in the way that the International Press Institute constantly seeks to define it) is increasingly lumbered with wider dilemmas in the uncharted territory where the law is both enemy and friend — and where terms like “citizen journalist” contain the seeds of visceral ambivalence. It ought to be so simple. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

Media: journalists and the right to silence

16 Jun

Peter Preston

These were journeys down a menacing memory lane. The BBC journalist Alan Johnston talked about life in the dark with his Gaza kidnappers. Giuliana Sgrena from Il Manifesto talked about her month of captivity in Iraq. Hamid Mir from Geo TV Pakistan and Peter Bergen from CNN relived their various interviews with Osama bin Laden. The world’s biggest press freedom congress this year was talking about talking to terrorists. But we didn’t get round to discussing Suzanne Breen.

Breen works in Belfast for the Dublin Sunday Tribune. She got the phone call from the Real IRA claiming responsibility for killing two British sappers at Massereene Barracks this March. The police want her to hand over her notebooks and computers. They’ve won one stage of that case already. Breen is hoping to win round two this week.

Not watchdogs

All journalists will hope she does. It’s a matter of simple principle. Reporters can’t operate as watchdogs and investigators if they and their informants have no protection when detectives knock on the door. Information sources wither along that road. If you want to understand what’s going on in perilous places, you need contacts and the freedom to cultivate them. Breen has to say no to the cops and the law. It would be utterly wrong to send her to prison for doing a job that Northern Ireland needs doing.

Yet principle, however straightforward, is seldom the whole of the story. Every affair has its individual problems. Every dilemma comes with a fresh twist. And that’s why it’s sensible to talk about talking to terrorists, because Breen offers two arguments, not one. She believes that she and her family stand at imminent risk if she complies. Assassination threats have been issued already. She could be the next victim of Massereene. Her own life is on the line, too.

Nobody who knows her doubts her sincerity, nor the peril she perceives; but this argument has little to do with defending RIRA identities. To the contrary, it merely confirms what killers they are. Breen, on this ground, is like any other citizen with testimony the police want to hear. Help them and the men they want to catch may wreak bloody revenge: simple intimidation to set alongside a principle growing more complex by the minute.

If you ask Mir why Pakistan’s army is clearing the Taliban out of Swat and pushing deep into Waziristan, he’ll say that the media did it. Perplexed politicians and reluctant generals needed an outraged press and TV to spur them into action at last — and thus, in some small way, to avenge the death of Mosa Khankhel from Geo TV, shot three times in February as he tried to cover the Swat peace negotiations that failed. Khankhel’s murderers tried to hack off his head as well. Now: where’s the duty to defend them?

These people kill journalists. One reporter or editor a month died in 2008. Do they, and their sources, deserve due confidentiality and all the ethical courtesies of our trade? Where does reporting turn to campaigning in self-defence?

You may look at Mir and Bergen’s interviews with Bin Laden and ask related questions. Did they have a duty to debrief authority on their secret route to Osama’s caves in 1998 or 1999? If that was true in 1998 or 1999, after early al-Qaeda attacks but long before 9/11, was it also true after the World Trade Centre destruction and so many dead? And after the destruction of the World Trade Centre? Does the scale of the tragedy trump acceptability?

Wider dilemmas

If Sgrena had the right to refuse official reporting authorisation in Baghdad, did she then have a right to appear in a kidnap video pleading that Italy get its troops out of Iraq? Where, as Alan Johnston tells us about his ordeal with the Army of Islam, does Johnston the journalist end and Johnston the victim begin? Here are principles caught in a grey zone of debate, tossed by the winds of public opinion, always beating against precise circumstance. Watch for the Breen decision. There are vital verities attached. But press freedom (in the way that the International Press Institute constantly seeks to define it) is increasingly lumbered with wider dilemmas in the uncharted territory where the law is both enemy and friend — and where terms like “citizen journalist” contain the seeds of visceral ambivalence. It ought to be so simple. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

Drug menace in Punjab

15 Jun

GOVIND THUKRAL , THE TRIBUNE 14 JUNE 2009

Somewhere Punjab is not only losing its body, but its soul too.  Look at the survey which Punjab government has submitted to the Punjab and Haryana High Court. It reveals 66 per cent of the school-going students in the state consume gutkha or tobacco; every third male and every tenth female student has taken drugs on one pretext or the other. And seven out of 10 college-going students abuse one or the other drug.  Is it the land of opium eaters, consumers of poppy husk or synthetic drugs and pills of all sorts?

These disturbing details were submitted by Mr Harjit Singh, Secretary, Department of Social Security and Women and Child Development, in reply to a petition filed by some drug rehabilitation centres.  The Punjab government admitted, “In the recent times, the amount of narcotic substances seized in the state has also been among the highest in the country”. Only last week the agencies seized over 40 kg heroin worth Rs 40 crore near the border in Punjab.

There are more candid admissions by the Punjab government when it says, “the vibrancy of Punjab is virtually a myth….many sell their blood to procure their daily dose of deadly drugs, even beg on the streets for money to continue their addiction…The entire Punjab is in the grip of drug hurricane which weakens the morale, physique and character of the youth.

We are in the danger of losing the young generation. The vibrant Punjab that had ushered in the Green Revolution is today living in a dazed stupor as 67 per cent of its rural household has at least one drug addict.”  Only 33 per cent of the households have escaped this menace of drug addiction. How long can they escape.

The Punjab government use of alcohol and drugs is now a “part of the Punjabi culture”. No celebration is complete until liquor is served in plenty. However, in the last two decades, the pattern of drug use in the state has undergone a change in favour of new narcotic and synthetic drugs. Now the addicts consume multiple as well as single drugs.

A dear friend, well off connected landlord from Mukatsar, rues his fate as he bemoans the fate of his three young sons, all opium addicts. He knows not what to do as admission to de-addiction centres has been of little help. There are many such sad parents all over the state.

Marriages and other happy occasions only mean free flow of liquor, particularly Indian Made Foreign Liquor. No wonder, Punjab has the highest per capita consumption of liquor and Scotch whisky besides opium and smack. It makes the government earn Rs 1,700 crore. It fills the pockets of the excise officials, drug sellers, peddlers and smugglers besides helping politicians to win elections.

It is part of the international drug racket and helps fund terrorism. Through opium produced in the fields of Afghanistan and other areas and intoxicants they purchase arms and ammunition and destroy countries.

The government also admits that the amount of narcotic substances seized in the state is among the highest in the country. Punjab accounts for roughly over one-fifth of the total recoveries of heroin, the costliest drug.

Opiates, their derivatives and synthetic opiate drugs are used by 70 per cent of the addicts, followed by a combination of opiate and other sedatives, including morphine. The extent of drug addiction in Punjab is 70 per cent. Household survey indicates that there is at least one drug addict in the 65 per cent of families in Majha and Doaba and 64 percent families of Malwa.

The government admits that Tarn Taran, bordering Pakistan is the most affected rural district and Amritsar is the most affected urban district in Punjab. Per head consumption of alcohol is maximum in Punjab and again Tarn Taran district tops the list.  In border areas, the extent of substance abuse is 70-75 per cent in the 15-25 years age group and up to 40 per cent in the 35-60 year age group.  Over 16 per cent population is addicted to hard drugs. Smack is mainly coming in from Pakistan and Nepal, but the regular supply for Punjab comes from Delhi, Meerut, Sardulgarh and J & K.

Drug seizure in Punjab has increased in last three years. The amount of narcotic and psychotropic substances recovered has increased substantially over the last three years. While the quantity of heroin seized has gone up by nearly five times, the quantity of charas recovered is up by 10 per cent. For smack, it is double.

The official data highlights the increase in drug recoveries from 2006 to 2008. Compared to the 53-kg heroin recovered in 2006, the amount seized in 2008 rose to 269 kg. For the same period, the quantity of smack seized increased from 32 kg to 55 kg, while that for charas increased from 98 kg to 110 kg. One of the petitioners, Talwinder Pal Singh, who runs a drug rehabilitation centre in Punjab, had moved the High Court challenging the orders of the Punjab to close down such government-run drug rehabilitation centers.

The government submitted, “Punjab remains vulnerable because of its proximity to the Golden Crescent (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran). Drug traffickers have changed their overland route and narcotics are being transited through India, of which 40 per cent is transited through Punjab alone.”

According to records furnished by the police, narcotic and psychotropic substances like opium, poppy-husk, smack, ganja and charas are smuggled into the state from Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

And, Punjab is the land of gurus and saints. Travel anywhere, rural or urban areas, gurudwaras, mandirs and other places of worship of the almighty dot each nook and corner. There are hundreds of Deras that dispense readymade solutions for the ills of this world.
We have the all-powerful SGPC, the mini Parliament of the Sikhs with a huge budget.

There is, of course, the all mighty Punjab government. Yet, drug addiction, that is destroying the youth, is so rampant  and no serious effort to check at government, religious or social level is visible. Are we losing our moorings?

NO WOMAN, NO CRY

7 Jun

More and more women are turning to the Domestic Violence Act, even though it continues to be hamstrung by a lack of adequate resources. Hemchhaya De reports ,The Telegraph Kolkatta

Saira, 25, saw her dreams coming true when she moved to Mumbai from Calcutta after her marriage. But after a few months, trouble started brewing in her marital life. When she became pregnant, her husband asked her to abort the foetus. Or else, he said, he would divorce her. Saira obliged.

But this was not the end of her plight. When she became pregnant again, she was made to undergo an abortion one more time. Then, after she became pregnant for the third time, her husband asked her to move to her parents’ home in Calcutta and get an abortion done once again. Her parents’ pleas to their son-in-law to let Saira return to her marital home fell on deaf ears.

Saira has decided to file a case against her husband under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. Despite the trauma she has been subjected to, the 25-year-old doesn’t want her marriage to break up and wants to move back to her Mumbai home.

Rita, 26, doesn’t want a divorce either. She just wants her husband and in-laws to recognise her right to stay in her marital home. Both she and her husband are doctors. She has to live through mental torture from her in-laws who never fail to point out that it’s their home and she has to either abide by their rules or move out. Yet her husband doesn’t want to live away from his parents. Rita has sought legal counselling and filed a case under the Domestic Violence Act.

Seema, who’s in her late 50s, is also planning to file a case under the Act against her husband who has just retired from work. Her husband bought a flat after retirement, but he locked it up and told his wife that they didn’t need such a big flat. He rented a room in a building and asked her to shift there. Seema has been staying there on her own. Her husband never visits her; nor does he allow her access to the new flat, which she co-owns.

Saira, Rita and Seema are potential beneficiaries of a landmark section of the Domestic Violence Act, which came into effect in 2006. Section 17 (1) of the Act says, “Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, every woman in a domestic relationship shall have the right to reside in the shared household, whether or not she has any right, title or beneficial interest in the same.”

Thanks to efforts made by non governmental organisations, women activists and lawyers, awareness of the Act is spreading slowly but steadily across some parts of the country.

“The Domestic Violence Act is a path-breaking law in many respects. It recognises several forms of domestic violence — physical torture, mental torture and, more importantly, economic violence,” says Manabendra Mandal, executive director, Socio-legal Aid Research and Training Centre (SLARTC), Calcutta, one of the 11 ‘service providers’ in the state. Under the law, service providers are tasked with helping victims of domestic violence with legal aid, temporary shelter and medical and financial assistance.

Mandal reveals that over the past few months they have been increasingly receiving cases filed under the Act, either from protection officers or from district magistrates.

The law stipulates that a state government is to appoint a required number of protection officers for each district in the state. They can be either government employees or members of NGOs with a minimum experience of three years in the social sector. For instance, there are two protection officers for Calcutta while there is one officer for each of the other districts. Among other things, protection officers are required to help the magistrate in discharging his duties as specified under the Act, receive complaints of domestic violence, take preventive or emergency action and facilitate the aggrieved person’s access to legal processes and other services. A woman can approach a protection officer in her district directly with her complaint.

Though activists argue that the law is still hamstrung by the lack of an adequate number of protection officers and service providers, others say that even then there has been a marked increase in the number of cases registered under the Act. Says Moushumi Kundu, protection officer, Hooghly district, “There is definitely a lot more awareness now about the law even in the rural pockets of my district, thanks mainly to awareness campaigns carried out by some NGOs.” Kundu reveals that about six months ago, there was only one registered case in the Serampore subdivision of Hooghly. But now the number is 20. “On an average, we have around 250 registered cases under this Act in Hooghly alone. The number can vary from one district to another. But in most places the number is more or less the same.”

Data collected through various sources show that there are now 15,320 cases registered under the Domestic Violence Act in India. That figure may look encouraging, showing as it does that more and more women are coming forward to avail of this law. But activists feel that this does not really amount to progress. “This is nothing if we consider that women account for as much as 50 per cent of the our billion-strong population,” says Ranjana Kumari, director, Centre for Social Research (CSR), New Delhi. She adds that the funds allocated for implementing the Act are still very meagre in many states. “In states like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, it’s as little as Rs 3-4 lakh per annum. Andhra Pradesh has the highest allocation — Rs 10 crore,” she says.

“In an interesting development, while the number of cases registered under the Domestic Violence Act is on the rise, there may be a decline in the number of cases being registered under Section 498A of the IPC in some states. (Section 498A is a criminal law to punish dowry offenders.) Of course, this can also imply that the police are not discharging their duties properly in 498A cases,” says Soumya Bhaumick, consultant, CSR.

But though the Domestic Violence Act seems to be helping women, some point out that it is early days yet. Flavia Agnes, lawyer and women’s activist associated with a Mumbai-based women’s organisation called Majlis, cautions against media hype over the Act. “It’s true that many NGOs are raising awareness among victims. But this awareness is not really getting translated into more judicial orders,” she says. The appointment of protection officers is also erratic, she says. “In states like Maharashtra, the appointment of protection officers is quite irregular.”

Majlis activists will organise a workshop for women lawyers and service providers in Mumbai this week to do a reality check on the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act. The Centre for Social Research will also take part in a training programme for service providers in Calcutta.

Clearly, this is one law that needs to be constantly monitored at the implementation level to make sure that women can root out violence from their homes.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1090603/jsp/opinion/story_11056045.jsp

A breathtaking waste

1 Jun
Padma Shastri , Hindustan Times
Email Author Indore, June 01, 2009

It’s a tragic irony in Madhya Pradesh: Labourers dying to produce a product very few people use any more.

Thousands of families work all day in Mandsaur, the sole producer in India of white and red slate, to make those rectangular, chalk-like ‘pencils’ used by primary student in rural government schools.What the labourers don’t know — and the government has so far refused to acknowledge — is that a large chunk of these pencils never even reach the rural markets.

Instead, they are used to conceal opium as it is smuggled across the state border illegally; in addition to slate, Mandsaur is also a large producer of opium.There is no other means of employment here. So the illiterate, landless locals — and often their children as well — risk contracting silicosis, an incurable lung disease, as the silica dust drifts into their lungs.Most of the labourers work in dark, dingy homes, putting entire families at risk.Official records say 569 people have died of silicosis in Mandsaur over the last 24 years. Unofficial estimates suggest that the actual number is at least three times that.

The irony of these deaths has not gone unnoticed.The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has been recommendingfor over 18 years that Madhya Pradesh act against the slate pencil manufacturers.In 1991, then NHRC chairperson Justice Rangnath Mishra visited the region and recommended action against these units.As recently as last year, an NHRC report recommended a ban on the production of slate pencils altogether, in the interests of the workers and children employed in the units.

The report also pointed out that slate pencils were no longer in use and their production and distribution was just a cover for the massive illegal trade in opium.Mandsaur, one of the largest producers of legal opium in the world, also has a bustling illicit business. Many of the district’s 109 slate pencil units, the NHRC found, were using crates of their product to smuggle opium.No action has followed this report. Meanwhile, seven more people have died and five others contracted silicosis in Mandsaur.“There are practical problems with banning these units,” says State Labour Commissioner Ashwini Kumar Rai. “Closure will throw large numbers of people out of work. Steps are being taken to prevent child labour.”Government sources, meanwhile, say slate pencils aren’t going away any time soon.

“The nexus between the politician, opium producer, peddler and slate pencil unit owner is too strong,” said a government source, speaking on condition of anonymity.For the impoverished locals, that nexus is a death sentence.“I have trouble breathing and I can’t work any more,” says 40-year-old Manohar Singh Rajput of Ralaita village, a father of five. “I worked at the slate pencil units since I was 15… there is no other work to be had here. A few years ago, doctors said I have silicosis. I get Rs 365 a month as medical assistance, but it’s not enough to feed my five children, so they too work at the quarries. What choice do we have?”

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