Category Archives: India

Indian court backs slavery survivors in compensation fight

Screenshot_2020-03-17 Indian court backs slavery survivors in compensation fight
ARCHIVE PHOTO: A survivor of slavery who wished to remain anonymous poses for a picture in New Delhi, India March 7, 2018. Picture taken March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

CHENNAI, India,- An Indian court has ordered the state of West Bengal to give trafficking survivors the full compensation they are entitled to without pre-conditions, a ruling lawyers said could help other victims access the money they need to rebuild their lives.

In a first, the Calcutta High Court last week quashed West Bengal’s policy of forcing survivors to put their victim compensation money in a 10-year bank scheme, and only allowing them access to the monthly interest payments.

In it’s ruling, the court said that the amount of money awarded to victims by the government was already “meager and ought not to be further fettered”, while calling on state authorities to end their “big brother” approach.

“The court has empowered survivors,” said policy advocate Kaushik Gupta, who represented the victims in court.

“The state had a very patriarchal and parental approach towards an adult citizen. Survivors should be given financial guidance but their money should not be controlled.”

India reported 3,000 cases of trafficking in 2017, with the victims largely being poor women and children being lured with better jobs and pushed into slavery by traffickers.

West Bengal has traditionally had very high trafficking numbers and has struggled to successfully rehabilitate survivors, anti-trafficking campaigners said.

Currently, less than 1% of India’s trafficking survivors win victim compensation – which is funded by the central government but distributed by states.

Such compensation awards are hindered by low awareness of the schemes and the high burden of proof it takes to succeed, studies have shown.

Every state has its own version of the scheme, with compensation running from 100,000 rupees ($1,400) to 1,000,000 rupees with pre-conditions attached.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200317094948-oega9/

 

India PM Modi hands over his social media accounts for Women’s Day

Screenshot_2020-03-05 India PM Modi hands over social media accounts for Women's Day
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets the media prior to the BRICS summit in Brasilia, Brazil November 14, 2019. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS

NEW DELHI, – India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hand over his social media accounts on Sunday to celebrate inspiring women on International Women’s Day, months after facing criticism over a series of high-profile rape cases.

With more than 50 million followers on Twitter, Modi, 69, has one of the biggest followings on social media among world leaders.

“This Women’s Day, I will give away my social media accounts to women whose life & work inspire us. This will help them ignite motivation in millions,” Modi said in a tweet on Tuesday.

He asked people to share entries of such women using the hashtag #SheInspiresUs, which became the top trending topic on Twitter about an hour after he posted his tweet.

His support for the March 8 event came after he faced flak for failing to check violence against women following a series of rape cases late last year that triggered mass protests.

In November, a 27-year-old vet was raped, suffocated and her dead body set alight on the outskirts of the southern city of Hyderabad.

Another rape victim was set on fire and killed by a gang of men, including her alleged rapists, in December.

In the same month, a court sentenced a former lawmaker from Modi’s ruling party to life imprisonment for raping a teenager.

These cases highlighted India’s grim record of sexual violence against women despite enacting some of the world’s toughest laws after the gang rape of a Delhi student on a bus in December 2012, which sparked global outrage.

One woman reported a rape every 15 minutes on average in India in 2018, according to government data released in January.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200303094604-h0hgs/

 

India air pollution at ‘unbearable levels’, Delhi minister says

10DE066D-AB22-4AF9-86B3-A76D33143735Worshippers braved the smog to enter the polluted River Yamuna as part of the Hindu religious festival of Chatth Puja

Air pollution in the north of India has “reached unbearable levels,” the capital Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvid Kejriwal says.

In many areas of Delhi air quality deteriorated into the “hazardous” category on Sunday with the potential to cause respiratory illnesses.

Authorities have urged people to stay inside to protect themselves.

Mr Kejriwal called on the central government to provide relief and tackle the toxic pollution.

  • How a food crisis led to Delhi’s foul smog

Schools have been closed, more than 30 flights diverted and construction work halted as the city sits in a thick blanket of smog.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain advised the city’s residents to “avoid outdoor physical activities, especially during morning and late evening hours”.

The advisory also said people should wear anti-pollution masks, avoid polluted areas and keep doors and windows closed.

How bad is the smog?

Levels of dangerous particles in the air – known as PM2.5 – are far higher than recommended and about seven times higher than in the Chinese capital Beijing.

An Indian health ministry official said the city’s pollution monitors did not have enough digits to accurately record pollution levels, which he called a “disaster”.

Five million masks were handed out in schools on Friday as officials declared a public health emergency and Mr Kejriwal likened the city to a “gas chamber”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution.

“This is having an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco,” the WHO says on its website.

How are people reacting?

Mr Kejriwal’s most recent comments are unlikely to please government officials, reports the BBC’s South Asia regional editor Jill McGivering. She said Indian politicians were blaming each other for the conditions.

On Sunday young people in Delhi came out to protest and demand action.

“You can obviously see how terrible it is and it’s actually scary you can’t see things in front of you,” said Jaivipra.

She said she wanted long-term and sustainable anti-pollution measures put in place.

“We are concerned about our futures and about our health but we are also fighting this on behalf of the children and the elderly who bear the biggest brunt of the problem here,” she said.

Some ministers have sparked controversy on social media by suggesting light-hearted measures to stay healthy.

Harsh Vardhan, the union minister for health and family welfare, urged people to eat carrots to protect against “night blindness” and “other pollution-related harm to health”.

Meanwhile, Prakash Javadekar, the minister of the environment, suggested that you should “start your day with music”, adding a link to a “scintillating thematic composition”.

“Is that the reason you have turned deaf ears to our plight on pollution?” one Twitter user responded. “Seems you are too busy hearing music that you are not able to hear us!”

What’s caused the pollution?

A major factor behind the high pollution levels at this time of year is farmers in neighbouring states burning crop stubble to clear their fields.

This creates a lethal cocktail of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide – all worsened by fireworks set off during the Hindu festival Diwali a week ago.

Vehicle fumes, construction and industrial emissions have also contributed to the smog.

Indians are hoping that scattered rainfall over the coming week will wash away the pollutants but this is not due until Thursday.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-50280390

 

 

 

 

 

Catholic snakebite clinic in India saves thousands of lives each year

Snake bite
Sister Philomena Guria, RNDM, treats a snake bite patient. Photo courtesy of the Sisters of Our Lady of Missions.

.- In most religious orders’ novitiate year, prospective sisters study and pray. Sister Crescencia Sun, however, had another habit to acquire: killing venomous snakes.

In rural Bihar, about 4,500 people die of venomous snake bites each year. When the Sisters of Our Lady of Missions arrived in the Indian state in the 1990s to educate young girls, the sisters realized that God was calling them to another mission – a medical snakebite clinic.

“Initially, we didn’t have in mind to open the snakebite clinic, but because the people, so many of them suffered from snakebites and … many people were dying, we trained our sisters to learn this because they are nurses already,” Sister Crescencia Sun told CNA.

During the hot summer, the sisters treat 40-50 patients per day at their snakebite clinic, saving the lives of thousands of snakebite victims each year.

“In this place, many people are bitten by snakes … such as cobra, vipers, russell vipers, and krait to name a few,” Sr. Sun shared at the “Women on the Frontlines” symposium in Rome Oct. 16.

The symposium – hosted by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See – highlighted religious sisters’ work in some of the most dangerous parts of the world.

“Women religious are among the most effective and vital partners we have on the frontlines in fragile communities around the world,” Callista Gingrich, US ambassador to the Holy See, said at the symposium.

“Women religious are often the last beacons of hope for millions of people who otherwise would not have a voice. They serve the displaced and the desperate, frequently at the risk of personal harm, in places where governments have failed and humanitarian organizations struggle to operate,” Gingrich said.

Sister Sun told CNA that, at first, she found the work at the snakebite clinic to be very emotionally draining.

“The first three months that I stayed there, I saw very many people dying of snake bites. I was very sad, and I said: ‘Maybe this is not the mission for me,’” Sun shared.

“But, you know, when you see the people keep coming, then you get the courage, and I prayed to God everyday ‘Lord, if this is what you want me to do, you are the one to give me the courage and the strength,’” she said.

Apart from treatment, the sisters work in preventative education, explaining to people in the surrounding villages the danger and how to protect themselves from the snakes.

“Hindus worship snakes, so they do not kill them, even when they become victims of snakebites. So during summer, we work 24/7 day and night,” she said.

Because of poverty, many of the patients they see live in huts made of bamboo and grass with a type of mud floor that can attract venomous creatures, particularly in the summer and rainy seasons.

“We have many stories of people telling us that when they get up in the morning, they just put their foot down from their bed and that is where they were bitten by a snake,” Sun said.

To keep themselves safe, the sisters have also trained dogs to detect the presence of snakes.

“I was very much afraid of snakes. But, being in Bangalore for my novitiate, training to become a religious, in that area we also have plenty of snakes and cobras. That is where I learned how to deal and even have killed a number of snakes, so when I came here, that was a kind of preparation for me,” she said.

In 2018, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Our Lady of the Missions treated more than 6,000 snakebite patients at their snakebite clinic in Kanti, Bihar.

“I believe that God uses us religious as instruments and miracles take place because God heals,” Sister Sun said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-snakebite-clinic-in-india-saves-thousands-of-lives-each-year-47768

Millions await their fate as India plans to publish citizens list

CitizenshipHalimun Nessa stands with her children and displays a photograph of her husband Rahim Ali, who committed suicide [Anupam Nath/AP Photo]

On the day before his five children were due to appear in front of a tribunal in India’s northeast state of Assam to prove they were genuine citizens, Rahim Ali hanged himself outside their corrugated metal shack in the village of Banti Pur in Barpeta district, his wife said.

He was worried the children would be excluded from a government citizens list set to be published on Saturday, said Halimun Nessa, standing over Ali’s fresh grave. He had feared they would be sent to a detention camp.

“He was saying we don’t have any money to fight this case,” Nessa, 32, told Associated Press. “He was thinking that his children will be taken away. He went to the market, came back and did this,” said Nessa, adding that she does not know what she will do if her children’s names do not appear on the National Register of Citizens, or NRC.

The Supreme Court-monitored NRC process started in 2015 and a draft NRC list was published last year that excluded more than four million of Assam’s 32 million people.

Critics fear the final NRC list will leave off millions of people, rendering them stateless. And the Hindu nationalist-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which fully backs the citizenship project in Assam, promises to roll out a similar plan nationwide.

The government has assured that people left out from the final list will be given an opportunity to prove their citizenship. But the people who are anxiously waiting for the lsit to be released, are worried.

Habibur Rahman and his wife Aklima Khatun along with their sons Nur Alam and Faridul Alam were among the four million left out of last year’s draft list. Their two daughters, Samira Begum, 14, and Shahida Khatun, 11, however, were able to make it onto the list.

They have submitted documents again as part of the appeal process.

“I was never worried like this. This is the biggest test of my life. If our names are not featured in the final list, what do we do?” a concerned Rahman told Al Jazeera from Goroimari village in Kamrup district – over 66 kilometres from the state capital Guwahati.

Those suspected of being in the country without documents must prove their citizenship under what is seen as a messy, overly-bureaucratic system.

A section of people, mostly Muslims, complained of harassment from NRC officials as they were summoned at short notice and made to travel up to 400-500km from their homes for hearings.

“We did everything we were asked to do to prove we are Indians. We felt like it was the end of our world,” Bahatan Khanam, 35, said.

Those suspected of being in the country without documents must prove their citizenship under what is seen as a messy, overly-bureaucratic system.

A section of people, mostly Muslims, complained of harassment from NRC officials as they were summoned at short notice and made to travel up to 400-500km from their homes for hearings.

“We did everything we were asked to do to prove we are Indians. We felt like it was the end of our world,” Bahatan Khanam, 35, said.

Khanam from remote Dakhin Godhani village in Barpeta received the notice on August 5 and she was asked to attend the hearing on August 6 in Golaghat district, which is located some 400km away.

“Now, I just hope that my name appears in the list. That’s the ultimate dream anyone can have. We have been long waiting for this day. If the name appears, I hope to lead a dignified life as an Indian and if it doesn’t the struggle will continue,” Khanam told Al Jazeera.

Critics view the NRC process as an attempt to deport millions of minority Muslims, many of whom have entered India from neighbouring Bangladesh.

People like Rahman are worried. “I have submitted all the documents that were necessary. We have land papers in our father’s name that dated back to 1948. What else do we need to prove our citizenship?” asked Rahman.

India’s government sought to ease concerns ahead of the imminent “citizens register”.

“DO NOT BELIEVE RUMOURS ABOUT NRC,” a spokesperson for the Indian home ministry tweeted in capital letters.

Tens of thousands of paramilitary personnel and police have been deployed ahead of the publication of the citizens list.

Police said 60,000 state police and 19,000 paramilitary personnel will be on duty on Saturday, according to Reuters.

“All precautionary measures have been taken with security forces deployed in strength,” said Assam police chief Kuladhar Saikia.

But those who have been leading the fight for such a list say the project is meant to protect the cultural identity of Assam’s indigenous people, no matter what their faith is.

Those excluded are presumed to be foreigners unless they can prove otherwise at one of the hundreds of quasi-judicial bodies known as Foreign Tribunals presided over by people who are not judges.

They have 120 days to file appeals with the tribunals and can take their case to higher courts. If no appeal is filed, a district magistrate makes a referral to the tribunal to strip them of their citizenship.

It is unclear what will happen to those ultimately branded as foreigners because India has no treaty with Bangladesh to deport them.

Earlier this summer, India’s Supreme Court criticised the central government and that of Assam state, saying thousands of people who had been declared foreigners over the years had disappeared. About 1,000 others are being held in six detention centres located inside existing prisons.

For hundreds of years, the verdant, hilly state of Assam has drawn workers from neighbouring Bangladesh to its enormous colonial-era tea plantations.

But resentment of these immigrants runs deep. In 1983, a mob in Assam massacred more than 2,000 Bengali-origin Muslims. No one was ever prosecuted.

Modi’s home minister, Amit Shah, has called undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh “infiltrators” and “termites”.

Millions of people whose citizenship status is now unclear were born in India to parents also born in India. The year 1948 was decreed to be the official cutoff date for refugees from Pakistan, including East Pakistan – now Bangladesh. The date was later updated to 1951 when the first NRC was prepared.

According to a 1985 deal signed between the central government and Assam politicians running a campaign against undocumented immigrants, March 24, 1971, was set as the final cutoff date to be eligible to be granted Indian citizenship.

Hundreds of people with voting rights of diverse lineage, including Hindus and Assamese, have been arrested and held on suspicion of being undocumented migrants.

“I am very shocked that I served 30 years to the nation, now I am a beggar for citizenship,” said Army veteran Mohammad Sanaullah, who lives in Guwahati.

Shah, the home minister, has promised to expand Assam’s registry nationwide, using mandatory identification cards.

At the same time, Modi and Shah are pushing to amend citizenship law to grant citizenship to Bengali-origin Hindus who do not make it to the list.

The registry comes less than a month after the Modi government unilaterally stripped Indian-administered Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, of special constitutional protections that gave it political autonomy and exclusive land rights.

A team of United Nations experts, including the special rapporteur for freedom of religion or belief, said in July that the NRC could “exacerbate the xenophobic climate while fueling religious intolerance and discrimination in the country.”

Samujjal Bhattacharya, who has been part of a movement in Guwahati against undocumented immigrants for decades, said the idea that Muslims are being targeted is propaganda pushed by a pro-Bangladeshi conspiracy.

“They are propagating that human rights is violated here. We’d like to ask them, ‘who is violating human rights?’ In our own motherland, our rights are being violated by the illegal Bangladeshis.”

In 2010, the government selected Barpeta, one of Assam’s nine Muslim-majority districts, for a pilot NRC programme as part of a plan to verify voter rolls.

When protests erupted about the programme in the bucolic village of Khandakar Para, police gunfire killed four demonstrators, including 25-year-old Maidul Mullah. He is buried behind a mosque that dates to 1916, and his gravestone honours him for “sacrificing his life on streets of Barpeta for the cause of NRC”.

Another slain protester was Majam Ali, 55. His widow, Noor Begum, is illiterate, but a neighbour helped her submit documents dating back more than a half-century, including her grandfather’s listing on the original 1951 NRC and tax details, to no avail.

“My husband shed his blood for the NRC,” she said, “Everyone who should be on the list should be on it. Then only will (his) death be worth it.”

Manjuri Bhowmik, a 51-year-old Hindu, dreads what it will mean for her two sons if she is declared a foreigner.

Originally from the state of West Bengal, Bhowmik said she had lived in Assam since moving there to marry her husband in 1991. She recently received notice that she was a suspected “D-voter”, or “doubtful voter”, placing her status and that of her children at risk.

Despite submitting copies of ID cards, her degree from Calcutta University and a deposition from her brother, she sat outside a foreigner tribunal in Barpeta waiting for her chance to prove her citizenship.

“People are being harassed,” she said. “This causes great mental stress.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/millions-await-fate-india-plans-publish-citizens-list-190830091610747.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amid efforts to rebuild, residents of Karala face another round of floods

flood
Flooding along the Ganges River Aug 21, 2019. Credit: Sanjay Kanojia / AFP / Getty Images.

.- Just a year after devastating floods swept through Kerala, India, the state is again facing devastating flooding.

Indian officials said that heavy rains this month have resulted in landslides and flash floods. According to ucanews, 100 people in Kerala have been killed and 1,115 homes have been destroyed.

According to the Indian Express, over 150,000 people have been relocated to one of the 1,221 relief camps in Kerala.

Father George Vettikattil, secretary of the Justice, Peace and Development Commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, said 300 church institutions are being used as relief camps for about 45,000 people. Like last year, he said, Catholic fishing communities are also using their boats for rescue missions.

“We have opened all our institutions to accommodate needy people in temporary and safe accommodation,” he told Vatican News.

Vettikattill told ucanews that “the destruction is less than last year.” In 2018, the monsoon season was the worst Kerala had seen in nearly a century. The natural disaster took over 400 lives and damaged 75,000 homes.

Families are still working to rebuild after last year’s floods.

Vettikattill said many people have offered money and volunteer work to help rebuilt the community. Caritas India alone has carried out $4 million worth of rebuilding efforts, including a loan program to help families buy goats, which can then be used to sell milk. In three years, the families are expected to repay the diocese with a baby lamb.

The loans help, but they are not enough, according to Kunjumol and Velayudhan, one couple participating in the program. They said the income from the goat’s milk will not be enough to rebuild their damaged home. They believe the government must do more to assist.

“The government has almost abandoned us,” he said, according to ucanews. “Some officials came and asked us questions but we got none of the benefits the government promised in the media.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/amid-efforts-to-rebuild-residents-of-karala-face-another-round-of-floods-53016

Conflict drives global rise in sexual violence against women

Attack A woman rests at a camp for people fleeing conflict in the Congolese province of Kasai. Photograph: John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images

Sexual violence is on the increase both inside and outside of wartime contexts and women remain the primary victims, warns new research.

In their report, researchers from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (Acled) analysed data gathered from 400 recorded sexual violence events that occurred between January 2018 and June 2019.

They found an overall increase in reported events where the offender directly targeted women and girls; in only 5% of cases were the victims male.

At 140, the total number of reported events nearly doubled in the first three months of 2019 compared with the same period in 2018.

The report’s authors said this was “largely due to an upward trend in violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which consistently registers high levels of reported sexual violence”.

Dr Roudabeh Kishi, director of research at Acled, said: “It is important to remember that sexual violence in or outside of conflict remains a pressing issue for victims, regardless of gender or age.”

Identifying that the primary perpetrators of public, political sexual attacks were regional political militias followed by state forces, Acled compared statistics for 2018 and 2019 in order to identify high-risk regions where women are more vulnerable to attack.

In 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo topped the list followed by South Sudan, Burundi, India and Sudan. By 2019, the list had changed, with India rising to second place behind the DRC. South Sudan and Burundi followed, with Mozambique and Zimbabwe in equal fifth position.

In both years, researchers found that events were often accompanied by lethal attacks, especially during armed conflict.

Breaking down the data into regions, Acled found that the largest proportion of reported events were committed by political militias, anonymous or unidentified armed groups in Africa and south Asia. In the Middle East, south-east Asia, eastern and south-eastern Europe and the Balkans, events were carried out by state forces.

In the same time period, more than 100 government-perpetrated sexual violence events were recorded, which accounted for more than a quarter of all incidents that occurred or were most common in India, the DRC, Myanmar, South Sudan, Burundi, and Sudan.

There are no comprehensive statistics for the number of women and men subjected to sexual violence during conflict, but the figures are believed to be in the thousands

According to Acled, women are frequently targeted during political violence, which makes up only one-third of all events involving violence targeting women and extends beyond sexual violence, where they say that levels of organised violence are high.

However, even where they identified that organised violence was not the primary objective, women often still face high levels of targeting outside of conventional conflict: for example, attempts by a state to enforce order through repression, or a mob targeting a woman accused of indecency. Such instances have arisen in Burundi and Pakistan, which provide indicative case studies.

“On the heels of commemorating the international day for the elimination of sexual violence in conflict, we need the support of states to hold perpetrators accountable,” said Kishi.

“It is damning to find that some states are among the primary perpetrators of such violence themselves. Impunity plays a troubling role in the continuation of such violence.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/jun/28/congo-abuses-drive-global-rise-in-sexual-violence-against-women