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Archives for : December2018

‘Criminal Justice- in the Shadow of Caste’ on  Discrimination against Dalit and Adivasis Prisoners and Victims of Police excesses

The data under SC/ST (PoA) 1989 (conviction percentage under the SCs and ST s (PoA) Act in conjunction with IPC remained at 25.7% for SCs and 20.8% for STs and the acquittal percentage 74.2% for SCs and 79.2% for STs, NCRB 2017
) in
 cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis is clear evidence poor implementation of the Atrocity Act and the presence of caste hierarchies in the mechanisms of justice delivery to the affected Dalits and Adivasis communities.

In this context National Dalit Movement for Justice-NCDHR in collaboration with American Bar Association (ABA) organised a three days training programme from 14th -16th December 2018 in Viswa Yuva Kendra for the Dalits and Adivasis Special Public Prosecutors  to provide an opportunity to the Special Public Prosecutors appointed/ to be appointed, as per Rule 4(5) of PoA Act, to enhance prosecution knowledge and skill to render Justice to the Dalit and Adivasi communities affected by atrocities.

Keeping in mind the poor statistics ,National Dalit Movement for Justice has taken the initiative to engage with committed lawyers in order to capacitate and encourage them to be  appointed as Special Public Prosecutors (SPPs) for prosecuting cases of atrocity against Dalit and Adivasi communities under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocity) Act, 1989.NDMJ-NCDHR is engaging with committed lawyers to  develop their perspectives and capacities  to pursue the cases of atrocities  by intervening in the special court with utmost legal efficiency. The communities can access justice only when there are committed and efficient lawyers who understand the challenges present in the judicial system.

Section 15 of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989 and Rule 4(5) of Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995 empowers Dalits and Adivasis victims to file petitions for appointment of Special Public Prosecutors of own choice. NDMJ – NCDHR has given considerable importance to   the above mentioned section. This provision becomes very crucial to enter courts that have been the domain of politically appointed lawyers with biased mind-sets, it can be extremely helpful as a tool for Special court intervention for the victims for accessing justice

On the occasion, A study report on  Discrimination Against Dalit And Adivasis Prisoners and Victims of Police Excesses was also released. The study exclusively focuses on the Dalits and Adivasis accussed of crimes as , till date no in-depth study has been made on the prejudices against Dalit and Adivasi prisoners in Indian Prison System. This study is an astounding one of its kind, which aims to explore the pains and agony of victims of police excesses and those incarcerated. The study interestingly brings out the instances of discrimination based on caste at every layer of the criminal justice administration system

Main Findings:     

The findings detailed in this report show the gravity of caste discrimination against Dalits and Adivasis by police institutions. Deeply entrenched prejudices against Dalit’sand Adivasis play an important role in their harassment and incarceration. There are allegations that police officers have their own caste and gender biases and often behave towards Dalit’s and adivasis in a discriminatory way. Usually the victims of police torture are mainly Dalit’s and adivasis. They are often picked up and jailed onconcocted charges. The case studies and findings revels the treatment of people belonging to Dalits and Adivasi by the police and their discriminatory behaviors. They are subjected to illegal arrests and detention and physical torture, by the police in the name of nabbing the “habitual offenders”. The members of the community, including men, women and children, are subjected to systematic, continuing, ruthless treatment in the hands of the police. It reveals that it is handy for the police to catch hold of the Dalits and Adivasi communities and foist false cases on them for crimes, which they had not committed. Dalits and other indigent people too poor to seek legal counsel obviously spend too long a time behind bars, unable to seek justice even when they might be innocent.

The findings detailed in this report also show prison systems do not function at the level of the United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment ofPrisoners. The relevant international obligations and standards are deliberately disregarded. The deliberate physical, psychological, mistreatment of inmates by prison officials is a persistent and pervasive issue of concern.Dalits and Adivasis are particularly vulnerable to deliberate mistreatment.

The research shows how caste based prejudice lead to high number of vulnerable communities inside the prisons and how often the prisoners are denied the minimum legal protections and legal process guarantees during their arrest , detention or imprisonment. Findings reveals how barriers are imposed on incarcerated Dalit’s inside the jails, the infringements of their legitimate rights being Dalits in terms

of their right to food, wage, employment, accommodation, medical, bail, parole and similar other important right to trial and appeals. All these together impede the future success of both families and of communities at large.

Key Recommendations       

  1. States must ensure that torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishments are not employed before, during or after any interrogation inside or outside the Police Custody by police officials
  2.  Ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,  Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
  3.  Ensure that government take measures to protect certain section of the SC, ST and DNT from being targeted on the pretext of habitual offenders and caste bias by the police
  4. The State Police Departments in conjunction with the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA ),should conduct training and sensitization programmeson discrimination free atmosphere in Jails and police stations, rights of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, and their duties and responsibilities
  5. Providing medical assistance, accommodation and beddings, adequate wages and employment, to inmates in prisons needs no reaffirmation and discrimination to basic minimum facilities based on caste is a violation of human rights. All State Governments should concentrate on making dis crimination free atmosphere a reality, including prisoners.
  6. Legal Aid System needs an urgent overhaul. Such useful state instrument which can prove vital for thousands of illiterate and poor undertrials needs the strong endorsement of the Union Government and states. In this regard, the Law Commission’s proposal for new lawyers to do a two-year compulsory stint with the legal aid system is still hanging in fire and needs to be enforced immediately.

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India – Someone still asking for Aadhaar? Let us know!

Aadhaar

Contrary to the Supreme Court’s judgment, some entities are still asking for Aadhaar

A nine judge bench of the Supreme Court delivered its verdict on Aadhaar on September 26, 2018 wherein the majority view, comprised of – Dipak Misra CJI., AK Sikri J., AM Khanwilkar, J. and Ashok Bhushan J. (though Bhushan J. dissented with the majority on certain points) upheld the constitutionality of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 barring a few provisions on disclosure of personal information, cognizance of offences and use of the Aadhaar ecosystem by private corporations. DY Chandrachud J. delivered a dissenting opinion declaring the entire Aadhaar scheme along with the Act to be unconstitutional.

“Benefits” and “services” as mentioned in Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, the expenditure for which is derived from the Consolidated fund of India will require mandatory furnishing of Aadhaar, the judgment noted.

The Supreme Court also upheld Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act, under which every citizen who is eligible to obtain Aadhaar must quote either their Aadhaar Number or the Enrolment ID while filing Income Tax Returns or applying for PAN. However, we have come across instances wherein Aadhaar is being asked for, for the purpose of availing banking services and for recording attendance in colleges.

Apart from the above mentioned, Aadhaar is NOT mandatory for availing any other services like banking and telecom. Please refer to our FAQs for further information on this.

We have curated a list that contains instances of violations of the Supreme Court’s judgment, the data for which has been gathered from secondary sources mainly.

A lot of times, violations of the judgment are not reported by the media, and therefore we are creating a citizen reporting mechanism. Write to us at mail@sflc.in or send us a DM on our twitter handle (@SFLCin) if you come across any violation of the Supreme Court judgment and we shall help you by drafting contempt letters that can be sent to the violating entity.

Date

Violating entity

Kind of violation

1. 16/11/18  

Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad and all affiliate colleges

Aadhaar based Biometric attendance made mandatory for B.Tech students
2. As of Nov.27, 2018  

Canara Bank

Aadhaar based e-KYC
3. As of Nov.27, 2018  

Syndicate Bank

Aadhaar based e-KYC
4. As of Nov. 29, 2018  

LazyPay (Android app)

 

Aadhaar based KYC
5. As of Dec. 2, 2018  

EPFO

The website requires Aadhaar for withdrawal of PF;

Process life certificate for EPFO

6. As of Dec 3, 2018

 

Darpan ID  

Aadhaar of board members necessary for getting the Darpan ID for NGOs.

7. As of Dec 3, 2018 HDFC Payzapp wallet  

Aadhaar based KYC

 

8. Not known

Air Force Common Admission Test  

Online Registration

     

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India Elections – Not BJP, not Congress: Women voters are real winners today

The results to the elections to the five state legislative assemblies underscore how women play an increasingly important role in India’s parliamentary democracy

 

Cedit: Ajit Bajaj Cedit: Ajit Bajaj

Women are the new-found constituency of politicians for sure-shot victory. In a country where woman representatives are only a few, who too are accepted with contempt, they have become a force that is going to redefine electoral politics of the world’s largest democracy. And not without reasons.

More and more women are coming out to vote. Women voters outnumbered men in a significant number of constituencies in the December elections to the state assemblies of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram.

Among Chhattisgarh’s 90 constituencies, in 24, women voted more than men; the same was true in 51 of Madhya Pradesh’s 230 seats. In fact, in 24 seats the rate of women voting crossed 80 per cent. Mizoram, anyway, has 19,399 more woman voters than man.

Madhya Pradesh’s sex ratio has increased to 917 women per 1,000 men in 2018 from 898 in 2013. “While more women mean more voters, our special drive and rising awareness among women for their voting rights also resulted in such a huge turnover,” an elated Sandeep Yadav, additional chief electoral officer MP, says.

As part of the drive to get more women to vote, 3,034 women-managed booths were set up.

Similarly, as the country celebrated a huge turnout in Chhattisgarh elections as a rejection of Maoist threat in the Bastar region and adoption of development agenda, one should thank the state’s woman voters residing in conflict-ravaged districts. Communist Party of India (Maoist) called for a poll boycott.

But In the first phase of the state’s elections, there were more women voters than men. AMog the 18 seats that went to polls that day, 80 per cent were in Bastar. All of them reported more voting by women than men. A little over 51 per cent of the electorate in those seats were women. Like in MP, Chhattisgarh set up five all-women booths, three of them in Bastar.

The country is gearing up for its biggest festival of democracy—the general elections are due in just four months. The last election in 2014 registered a historic turnout of women voters: 66.4 per cent eligible voters cast their votes in the elections that brought in Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party to power. This was a significant jump from the participation levels seen in the 2004 and 2009 polls, when turnouts stagnated at around 58 per cent. Will there be a repeat next year?

It is a clear trend now that women are voting more, and even overtaking men. For example, in the 2013 Chhattisgarh assembly elections, women outnumbered men. According to Election Commission data, 77 per cent women voters voted, compared to 76 per cent men. Similar was the story in Rajasthan where the percentage of women using their voting power were more compared to men in 197 seats out of 199 that went to polls.

Not only in states but also in general elections woman voters are showing their strength. In India’s third general election (1962), women were far less interested in voting than in the 16th general elections (2014). Only 46.6 per cent women came out to vote in 1962 while the male participation was 63.3 per cent.

In the 56 years in between, men have increased their participation by 3.8 percentage point while women increased theirs by 19. The gap between male and female voters turnout reduced from 16.7 percentage point in 1962 to only 1.5 in 2014.

Praveen Rai, a researcher in Delhi who has tracked women’s participation in polls in the country, says the trend got into notice in the late 1990s.

Women in rural areas, in fact, are outrunning those in urban centres. In the 2004 general elections, rural women were ahead of their urban counterparts by five percentage points, according to Rai’s analysis. Also, around the same time overall turnout had come down: from 61.2 per cent in the first general elections in 1952 to 58.2 per cent in 2009.

So what triggered the swing? Experts suggest four reasons: peaceful polls, awareness among women, rise of the self-help groups (SHG) movement and the Panchayati Raj system that stimulated their electoral interests through reservations.

In Bihar and West Bengal, for example, violence-free election is the reason more women are coming out to vote. Deepak Mishra, professor of social sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, says reservation and participation of women in panchayat politics might have contributed to high women voters’ turnout.

The trend does not mean the “arrival of women”, cautions Rajeshwari Deshpande, professor of politics at Pune University. It could be because of factors like emergence of women as a new political constituency, error-free electoral rolls and women leaders, she adds.

Other experts attribute the high turnout to women-centric development programmes too. “Reportedly 10 per cent more women voted for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s party in the 2010 elections because of his programme to give bicycles to school-going girls and other cash incentives,” says Bidyut Mohanty, a social scientist in Delhi. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act that offered more employment to women is also responsible for women voting in gratitude, she adds.

It may be a coincidence, but Tamil Nadu and Kerala have more women working under MGNREGA as well as a high turnout of women voters. “The feminisation of workforce, along with high literacy level, exposure to mass media and deepening of democracy through participation of marginalised sections has helped achieve this turnaround,” Mishra says.

Political scientist Zoya Hasan told DTE that the change is because of reservation for women in Panchayat elections and development programmes targeting women. In the last decades, several such programmes, including those with direct transfers of benefits, have led to awareness among women.

“This change can be attributed to an unprecedented increase in political participation by women, panchayat reservation and women-centric development programmes that have boosted women’s participation (in politics),” says Zoya. The change has also triggered designing of more schemes, mostly conditional cash transfer programmes, to gain women’s votes.

There are about 0.6 million elected women panchayat leaders in the country. Reservation for women in panchayats not only raised awareness, but also nurtured them to become leaders.

“Up to 50 per cent reservation for women in Bihar and further reservation of extremely backward castes has led the most dominant of the communities, mostly the Yadavs, to field women candidates in panchayat polls,” Soroor Ahmed, a senior journalist in Patna, says.

Across India, there is now up to 58 per cent reservation for women in Panchayatiraj institutions.

The rising political participation of women also finds its roots in the ever-increasing SHGs in the country. According to NABARD (the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development), there are eight million SHGs in the country with about 97 million members.

SHGs have emerged as the most dynamic village-level institutions led by women and are involved in almost all development activities. Studies in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh show the self-help movement has led to larger electoral participation of women.

It is no surprise that states now overtly declare schemes and incentives to SHGs to get their political support. States such as Odisha, Karnataka, Bihar, Telengana and Chhattisgarh have given priority funding to SHGs.

Women as a targeted constituency have gained political weightage since the re-election of Nitish Kumar as CM of Bihar in 2010. He had launched a series of populist schemes and declared 50 per cent reservation for women in panchayats to nurture this constituency.

Schemes like cash incentives to girl students scoring high in examinations and cycles for high-school students created a captive vote bank. In MP, the BJP-ruled government also floated similar incentives. CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan launched several schemes for women and girl children, including cash benefits for education and marriage after eligible age. So is his focus on women-related schemes that he is popularly known as “mamu” (maternal uncle) among women.

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/elections-2018-19/not-bjp-not-congress-women-voters-are-real-winners-today-62445

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The untold story of how India’s sex workers prevented an Aids epidemic

Beating Aids is India’s greatest public health achievement. A new book says it wouldn’t have happened without women

Ashok Alexander
 Ashok Alexander, author of A Stranger Truth, speaks during a 2006 interview with Reuters in New Delhi. Photograph: Vijay Mathur/Reuters

In 2002, a major report predicted an Aids catastrophe in India. The country would have 20-25m Aids cases by 2010. People were being infected at the rate of about 1,000 a day. Aids orphans numbered 2 million. This scourge would ravage families, society, and the economy. India was going to be the Aids capital of the world.

But 2010 came and went. India averted an Aids epidemic. That victory – India’s biggest public health achievement – has remained uncelebrated. But a new book by one of the major HIV campaigners of that time finally honours the people he says were crucial in guiding India away from its seemingly inescapable destiny: the country’s sex workers.

Ashok Alexander spent a decade at the helm of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s campaign against HIV. In his book, A Stranger Truth: Lessons in Love, Leadership and Courage from India’s Sex Workershe says the miracle would never have happened without the cooperation of sex workers.

Alexander, 64, was born into India’s elite. His father, PC Alexander, was principal secretary to Indira Gandhi. In leaving his career as senior director in the India office of McKinsey & Company to join the campaign to stop the spread of HIV, Alexander swapped a life of plush boardrooms and fine dining with CEOs for sitting on mud floors with sex workers, gay and transgender people and intravenous drug users. In short, a world of which he had little knowledge.

His account begins with his first day in the field, walking through a park in Vizag, in south India, in pitch darkness. As they navigated around couples having sex on the grass or behind the bushes, a local NGO worker urged: “Please don’t step on the people having sex.”

This was where sex work took place in India – in parks, at bus stops, on street corners. The fact that brothels accounted for only 7% of sex work presented a fundamental difficulty for the success of Avahan, as the foundation’s programme was called. How do you contain an epidemic in a setting where women are not clustered in one place, but dispersed and on the move? Where sex workers on the highways would get picked up by truckers then, when finished, cross the road to return on another truck?

Inevitably, a lot of data crunching and analysis had to happen – about which sex workers worked where, for how long, at what risk, and with how many customers – and this was entrusted to impoverished sex workers. They could have refused, but took on the task.

Tackling fatalism, an aspect of the national psyche, was harder. This quality can be seen every day on India’s roads, where drivers burst on to highways in the path of oncoming traffic without looking right or left. As one trucker told Alexander: “HIV might kill us in 10 years but this truck might kill us the next minute.”

Add the poverty, helplessness and lack of choice facing sex workers to this inherent fatalism, and the risk of catching the virus from unprotected sex seems remote and hypothetical compared with the brutal reality of survival. “You are telling me that if I get HIV I will die in 10 years’ time. But sir, 10 years is a lifetime for me. I have other, more serious things to worry about now,” said Theny, 25, a street-based sex worker.

Simple things often worked beautifully. At the outset, Alexander had no idea that a safe place to sit for a few hours, away from the violence of boyfriends, pimps, and police, could be so important. Avahan opened drop-in centres where, from 1-4 pm, they could unwind, have a hot shower and rest on a mattress on the floor. There was also the chance to be checked for sexually transmitted infection by a doctor without fear of being identified and stigmatised. For Avahan, the centres were a way of collecting the women in one place to be able to give them the information, support and condoms they needed.

Sex workers in Sonagachi, Calcutta’s biggest red light district
 Sex workers in Sonagachi, Calcutta’s biggest red light district. Photograph: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters

As a former management consultant who has guided corporate executives on leadership qualities, Alexander couldn’t help but notice that the women – who gradually became his friends and colleagues – had these skills in abundance. In fact, he places sex workers a notch above business leaders on account of the sheer range of their skills. They are excellent judges of character and tough negotiators. Every day, they courageously battle emotional, financial and health crises while simultaneously keeping violence at bay.

Avahan scaled up with striking speed. It had a presence in 550 towns in just two years; within three, it had become the world’s largest privately sponsored HIV prevention programme.

Ashok Alexander out in the field
Pinterest
 Ashok Alexander out in the field. Photograph: Antara Foundation

But before scaling up, Alexander had to figure out the solutions. That required understanding sex workers’ lives and why they took the risks they did. Helpful here was the willingness of sex workers to mobilise as a community. The women knew what was best for them. All Alexander had to do, as he says, was tap into “the strength inherent in even the most marginalised of people if they are enabled to come together in a common cause”.

At the height of Avahan’s activities, Alexander and his teams were providing HIV prevention services to more than 270,000 sex workers, working in 672 towns, and distributing over 13m condoms a month. The programme, which cost $375m (£297m), is credited with an important role in the subsequent decline in India’s HIV status. Today, 2.1 million Indians are living with HIV. The prevalence of HIV is 0.22%, lower than that of the US.

The reason India’s sex workers never been praised for their contribution to this achievement, says Alexander, is that this was a success story no one wanted to author: “Their selfless contribution will never be recognised because of the stigma that still surrounds this disease.”

A Stranger Truth by Ashok Alexander is published by Juggernaut

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/dec/13/the-untold-story-of-how-india-sex-workers-prevented-an-aids-epidemic-ashok-alexander-a-stranger-truth

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