Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Jan carvan and Karma festival against WTO-WB-IMF

Jan Carvan against WTO in eastern UP:

On 14.10.2005 a Dharna was organized by Bunkar Dastkar Adhikar Manch before District Magistrate Varanasi to protest the policies of WTO, IMF and World Bank. In this Dharna hundreds of weavers gathered from different parts of the district. Weavers submitted a memorandum to ACM (first) Varanasi, who appeared at Dharna on behalf of DM Varanasi.In their memorandum weavers demanded to halt NAMA, which is supposed to be introduced in ministerial meeting of WTO in HongKong. Weaver and Artisans signed the 4 meters banner with message of anti-NAMA demand. They shouted slogans of down –down. WTO. In this dharana hunger victims Vishambhar was also present. On the same day a press conference was organized by Jan Karvan against WTO, eastern UP in which Dr Lenin and Raj Kumari Gandhi made demand to halt the NAMA and asked the Indian Government to clarify his position on NAMA before the Indian people. He warned that if NAMA was accepted it will have disastrous effect on Indian weavers and on other marginalized communities. People’s Caravan will start its campaign in eastern UP from Balia on 24 Nov., 05, because Balia has historical importance to initiate movement against colonialism in British era. It is a land of Chittu Pandey, who led a movement against British imperialism and established independent administration in Balia for 24 hours.
On 17.11.2005 once again a press conference was organized by Hong Kong based human rights organization AHRC and Varanasi based people’s human rights organization PVCHR on KARMA FESTIVAL for land, employment and food and against World Bank-IMF-WTO, which is scheduled on 25.11.2005 - International Day Against Violence on Women would be celebrated with special focus on food security and the women in Varanasi. Famous Sarod Maestro Vikash Maharaj told that KARMA is a folk dance of Ghasia tribe of Sonbhadra. He told to media persons that 18 children in 2002-03 had been died of hunger in Raup village belonging to Ghasia Tribe and parents of the same children who died of hunger is going to perform Karma Dance in protest of WTO and in support of plural culture of Country. He told that through the policies of WTO, IMF and World Bank Indian Government was being forced to go away from the policies of welfare state and that was creating havoc among marginalized farmers, weavers and other communities and it has thrown the people on the verge of malnutrition and starvation. He said that it was duty of every Indian to come on to protest the policies of WTO-WB-IMF. Especially he called for to organized nationwide protest against NAMA, which is going to be discussed in Hong Kong next month in ministerial meeting of WTO. Ashok Sinha of Action aid International, India told that the festival would also be a symbolic protest against the decision taken by the government to withdraw subsidy on the raw materials and implements used in weaving.
Further women Human Rights activist Shruti Nagvanshi told that 152 Gram Panchayats in district Balia, UP have signed a memorandum in the protest of NAMA which would be taken to Hong Kong to give force to the protest of NAMA. In this a 30-meter long banner is being signed by so many dignitaries, which will be displayed in Hong Kong to protest NAMA on behalf of Indian people. Karma is a tribal’s resistance against monoculture of Brahmanism as well as imperialism.

From Kachnar of Varanasi in the leadership of Nandlal associated with Asha a Sampoorn kranti Yatra has been started from 23 Nov. 2005 under the banner of NAPM and Lok Samiti against the policies of WTO and Coca and Pepsi. The demand of this yatra is that India should come out of the WTO. It will end its journey at Coca Cola Plant in Mehdi ganj of Varanasi on 30 Nov. 2005.
Activists Spotlight Hunger Deaths of Indian Children
OneWorld South Asia
Fri., Nov. 7, 2003

NEW DELHI, Nov 7 (OneWorld) - The death of 18 children between July and September, allegedly due to lack of food, has sparked concerns about growing starvation in a landless indigenous community in a remote village in northern India.

As the Indian government belatedly wakes up to the long festering issue, with a decision to distribute free food packets, human rights activists working in the Sonebhadra district of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, stress that the food aid is insufficient to keep starvation at bay.

"The death of these 18 children highlights only the tip of the iceberg," says the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), a rights body based in the Uttar Pradesh city of Varanasi.

The activists fear that if the government does not give land for cultivation to the people - belonging to the Ghasia tribe - they will continue to starve. "The situation is still extremely bleak," says PVCHR convener Lenin Raghuvanshi.

The children of the Ghasia tribe - all aged between three and seven - died between July and September this year in Naibasta hamlet in Sonebhadra district in eastern Uttar Pradesh. PVCHR says that though local newspapers reported the deaths, the district administration chose to ignore the issue.

"They died of the disease of hunger, what else," Somaro, a village elder, told a PVCHR team that recently visited the area to probe the starvation deaths.

"As soon as the team entered the village, all children, women and the old gathered to see who had come. We found that most of the children were mere skeletons, as if their body and flesh had been sapped away. It was obvious that they were being dragged into the cruel clutches of death," the team said in a report to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) - a New Delhi-based government-instituted body.

On the basis of the complaint, the NHRC Tuesday asked the Uttar Pradesh administration to examine the allegations. The state authorities have to present their report to the NHRC within six weeks.

"At a recent meeting, the full commission noted that if the allegations were true, the matter required urgent attention by the authorities, as precious human rights of the tribals were alleged to have been violated," NHRC says in a statement.

The Ghasia tribe has been living in a settlement declared a forest area by the government. Decades ago, the tribe made the forest their home, after fleeing their ancestral villages to escape the tyranny of the region's feudal landlords.

PVCHR says they cleared a part of the forest and cultivated coarse grains for food. Dependent on forest produce, they supported themselves by making and selling brooms out of grass, combs and clay drums.

But forest officials drove them out of the woods, and the villagers were forced to settle in an area just near a district town.

Here, officials of the government-run Forest Department reportedly did not allow them to forage for food in the forests.

According to Lenin, as a consequence, the families are surviving on poisonous grass and wild mushrooms for the last four years.

"The adults somehow managed to survive the ill effects of the poisonous intake, but the little children were unable to tolerate the poison and succumbed to death," PVCHR says.

After the NHRC's intervention, food was distributed to the affected families on Wednesday. Lenin stresses though, that the Ghasia people need land for survival.

Only land distribution and agrarian reform can stave off deaths, he says.

Lenin states that 40 nongovernmental organizations in eastern Uttar Pradesh have launched a movement to press the demand for land for the Ghasia people.

The organizations plan to hold demonstrations and launch a signature campaign for this.

Struggle against Hunger is going on..
After agriculture, weaving is the lifeline in the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh. There are an estimated 5 lakh (million) weavers in the district of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. As a result of a slowdown in the weaving industry since the last four to five years, several weavers have lost their jobs, are on the look out for alternative means of livelihood and are barely surviving. Being illiterate, over half of them have been forced to take up menial jobs like pulling rickshaws. Several have opened tea stalls and other small shops. Some have migrated. But not all have been able to find an alternative means of livelihood and source to feed them. They depend on the public distribution system (PDS) for their survival.

The public distribution system is made up of ration shops across the country through which grains, sugar, cooking oil and so on are sold at subsidized rates. Depending on the type of card allotted a person is entitled to subsidised items from the ration shops. There are mainly two types of cards available. APL (Above Poverty Line) cards for the families of Above the Poverty Line and BPL (Below Poverty Line) cards for those families belonging to Below Poverty Line. Other cards coming under the BPL category were the AAY (Anthyodaya Anna Yojana Scheme) cards for the poorest families among the BPL families and ANP (Annapurna Scheme) meant for the senior citizens above the age of 65 in BPL families. The PDS is not without flaws. Prices of items in the PDS are sometimes too high not affordable to some of the poor who as a result starve to death. The process of identifying the poor is flawed as many a times the poorest do not get identified as AAY recipients. In addition the PDS is ridden with corruption worsening the situation of the poor.
Vishambhar son of Ram Nandan aged about 35 yrs belongs to a landless scheduled caste family of village Shankarpur under Chiraigoan Block, PS-Chaubepur in district Varanasi,UP,India.
He is a weaver. He took loan of Rs. 6000 from kashi Gramin Bank in 1991 and established a handloom at his home and used to earn livelihood for his 7 members family by weaving. There were total almost 5 lakhs weavers in the district of Varanasi. As a result of slow down in the weaving industry since last four to five years, most of them have lost their jobs. Vishambhar was one of them. Vishambher lost his job as a weaver but he had no land or any other source of income. Then he resolved to continue weaving at the house of his Gaddidar in Varanasi city but after some time his Gaddidar was also forced to close down his own loom.
Due to this Vishambher once again lost his job and could not be able to get job of weaving for himself again and there appeared imminent apprehension of starvation before his whole family.
Vishambher’s wife Jigna Devi joined Satyam Self Help Group (SHG), which was promoted by a NGO named HUMAN WELFARE ASSOCIATION. Jigna Devi took a loan of Rupees two thousands from SHG to give the bribe to village secretary for allotment of land. But land allotted to them was unfertile and un- productive and they could crop up nothing from that land. They got indebted but their family forced to go through the starvation.
Here it is to be noted that what the role of SHGs is for the poor people who need entitlement for their rights to right- livelihood? Therefore it is quiet clear that this type of self-help group is good for nothing. SHGs have no vision to ensure the entitlements in favour of poor people, so that they could earn their livelihood with dignity.
Vishambhar’s starving family suffered from acute malnutrition and hunger related illness. Despite facing starvation his family was not given a red ration card under the AAY and not identified as a beneficiary of subsidized food grains from the public distribution system. Due to the dereliction of duty on the part of village panchayat secretary and gram pradhan Vishambher wife Jigna died on April 16, 2005 and his 16 years old daughter Soni died on April 21 due to starvation and hunger related diseases. But it was not the end of agony. On May 21 his two-month old son also died of hunger and malnutrition. Due to the help of Lok Chetana Samiti three children of starving weaver family were sent to SOS children village at Caubeypur, Varanasi.
People’s Vigilance committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) taking the matter up of starving family filed the petitions to NHRC, Supreme Court’s Commissioners, DM and Chief Minister of UP.PVCHR raised the matter before the AHRC and FIAN international, then both human rights organizations launched hunger alert letter campaign to appropriate authorities. In the case of hunger deaths after the intervention of AHRC and FIAN international, BDO had given 20 kg rice, 50 kg wheat and 3 litres kerosene oil, but all that has finished very soon. He received AAY red card after a long battle about it.In spite of the fact that district administration has given Rs. 25 thousand for housing and 10 thousand under national family benefit scheme, but it is matter of great regret that village secretary has not handed over the money to Vishambher till today except the half installment of hosing scheme . United Nations Human Rights Commission in its Asia Pacific Daily News Review (10th June, 2005) has reported Vishambhar’s case from hunger alert of AHRC.This case of hunger deaths was published in so many newspapers from local level to national level.Vishambhar met with Mr. Jean Ziegler,UNCHR Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food on 22 August 2005 in New Delhi and reported him about his miseries and told him that there were total 400 weavers families in his village were facing imminent starvation. There is a weaver named Kanhaiya who died on 18 September 05. His plight of starvation and death has been published in Times of India, Lucknow edition. In spite of the so called expenditure of rupees 1.36 lacs under the scheme of SGRY during 2004-2005 but most of its inhabitants have been seemingly kept away from scheme and Vishambhar and family of Kanhaiya have been forced for begging. Under the scheme of food for work there is a pond near temple has been dug. In the digging of pond rules and regulation of food for work was totally ignored and machines was used in digging work.
Having met with Dr. Lenin from PVCHR,Vishambhar told about the starving families of his village. He told that nobody wanted to come forward from my village to take the matter before appropriate authority because people from upper caste and neo feudal backward community fear that they would be disgraced to take the actual condition of weaver’s family up before the society or civil society and therefore they are following the policy of silence. He told Dr. Lenin on 5th September 05 that he had begged ten rupees and hope that he would manage to get food for one time after two days.
Trade union working in Varanasi named as Boonkar –Dastkar Adhikar Manch(forum on rights of weavers and crafts persons) took up the issue of hunger death of a weaver family seriously and has decided to organize convention on the rights of weavers and has decided to launch a nation wide campaign for the rights of the weavers in era of globalization.
Convenor of PVCHR,Dr. Lenin and a member of district food and supply advisory committee, Shruti Nagvanshi filed petition on 19 September,05 with DM, Supreme Court’s Commissioners and NHRC on hunger death of Kanhaiya. It was demanded that enquiry should be made immediately about hunger deaths, social audit on SGRY,to provide the assistance to widow of Kanhaiya under the national family benefit scheme,and village secretary should be ordered to hand over the cheques to Vishambhar.
Despite so many ambitious schemes and programmes conducted by Indian Government and directions given by Supreme Court to implement these schemes, it seems that there is a little change at gross root level and incident of hunger deaths are on increase without any effective resistance. Almost whole population of scheduled cast and scheduled tribes work hard to earn their livelihood and are involved in all sorts of menial jobs but they get very meager returns for their hardworking and it becomes impossible for them to live a healthy life and as a result earning members of such SC/ST families become very soon an easy prey of malnutrition and if they once fall ill, they can hardly recover from illness and ultimately die a painful death leaving behind their whole family to die a tragic hunger death.
AHRC issued hunger alert and again issued update on it. FIAN International also issued an urgent appeal and again launched the hotline campaign on this case on 16 October 2005 (World Food Security Day).AS a result of this wife of Kanhaiya and Vishambhar were given AAY-red card and Kanhaiya’s wife Sheela was given ten thousand rupees by District Administration under the National Family Benefit

No comments: