Captain Lakshmi Sehgal


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Captain Lakshmi Sehgal

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On July 19, 2012 Captain Lakshmi Sehgal suffered a heart attack at her residence in Civil Lines area, Kanpur. The 97-year-old, who as a young woman fought allied forces during World War II, breathed her last in a private hospital at 11:20 a.m. on July 23, 2012 due to her advanced age and multi-organ failure.

Communist Party of India (M), which she had joined in 1971, described her as an “inspiring and courageous freedom fighter, a dedicated and compassionate doctor in the service of the poor, (and) a fighter for women’s rights…

Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled the death of Sehgal, saying that the nation has lost an icon of selfless service.

Who is this Captain Lakshmi? What is so special about her?

A doctor by profession, as a young woman she fought allied forces during World War II leading the women’s wing of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose‘s Indian National Army. An activist.

Childhood

She was born as Lakshmi Swaminathan on October 24, 1914 in Madras, Madras Presidency, British India, to S. Swaminathan, a lawyer who practiced criminal law at Madras High Court and A.V. Ammukutty, better known as Ammu Swaminathan, a social worker and independence activist from the prominent Vadakkath family of Anakkara in Palghat, Kerala who later became a member of independent India’s Constituent Assembly.

Lakshmi observed how the fight for political freedom was fought along the struggle for social reform in the South. Her mother, a Madras socialite became an ardent Congress supporter. One day she walked into Lakshmi’s room, took away all the child’s pretty dresses to burn in a bonfire of foreign goods.  Lakshmi also saw campaigns for political independence waged together with struggles for temple entry for Dalits and against child marriage and dowry.

Even as a child, Lakshmi had a rebellious temperament. One day at her grandmother’s house in Kerala, she walked up to a young tribal girl, held her hand and invited her to play with her. Though her conservative grandmother was extremely angry with her, Lakshmi faced it bravely. It was her first rebellion against the humiliating institution of caste.

Doctor Lakshmi

After high school in Madras, Lakshmi obtained her MBBS degree from the Madras Medical College in 1938. A year later, she received her diploma in gynaecology and obstetrics. She worked as a doctor in the Government Kasturba Gandhi Hospital at Triplicane Chennai.

Two years later at the age of 26 she left for Singapore after the failure of her marriage with pilot P.K.N. Rao.

Fall of Singapore

In 1942, Britain and its allies had imposed a trade embargo on Japan in response to its continued campaigns in China. Seeking alternate sources of necessary materials for its Pacific War against the Allies, Japan invaded Malaya. Singapore was the major British military base in Southeast Asia and nicknamed the “Gibraltar of the East”. The Japanese saw Singapore as a port which could be used as a launch pad against other Allied interests in the area.

15 February 1942 – Lieutenant-General Percival and his party carry the Union flag on their way to surrender Singapore to the Japanese. Left to Right: Major Cyril Wild (carrying white flag) interpreter; Brigadier T. K. Newbigging (carrying the Union flag) Chief Administrative Officer, Malaya Command; Lieutenant-Colonel Ichiji Sugita; Brigadier K. S. Torrance, Brigadier General Staff Malaya Command; Lieutenant General Arthur Percival, General Officer Commanding, Malaya Command.

The Empire of Japan invaded the Allied stronghold of Singapore on February 9, 1942. The fighting lasted a week. In just seven days, Singapore, the “Impregnable Fortress”, fell to the Japanese that resulted in the largest surrender of British-led military personnel in history. About 80,000 British, Indian and Australian troops became prisoners of war, joining 50,000 taken by the Japanese in their Malayan Campaign.

Indian National Army

Lakshmi attended the wounded prisoners of war, many of whom interested in forming an Indian liberation army and young Lakshmi got drawn to the freedom struggle to liberate India from the British rule.

At this time in Singapore, there were many nationalist Indians like N. Raghavan, K. P. Kesava Menon, S. C. Guha, and others, who formed a Council of Action.  The aim of their Indian National Army (INA) or Azad Hind Fauj was to liberate India from the British occupation with the help of the Japanese. Initially composed of Indian prisoners of war captured by Japan in the Malayan campaign and at Singapore, it later drew volunteers from Indian expatriate population in Malaya and Burma. However the INA received no firm commitments or approval from the occupying Japanese forces about their participation in the war.  At this juncture the arrival of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in Singapore on July 2, 1943 ended this moratorium.

Captain Lakshmi

In the next few days, at all his public meetings, “Netaji” spoke of his determination to raise a women’s regiment which would “fight for Indian Independence and make it complete”.  Lakshmi met Netaji in Singapore and had a five-hour interview that resulted in a mandate to set up a women’s regiment, “the Rani of Jhansi regiment. ” There was a huge response from young women to join this all-women brigade and Dr. Lakshmi Swaminathan became Captain Lakshmi, a name and identity that stayed with her for life.

In December 1944, the march to Burma began. In March 1945, just before the entry of their armies into Imphal, the INA leadership took the decision to retreat. In May 1945, the British army arrested Lakshmi. She remained under house arrest in the jungles of Burma until March 1946. She arrived in India amidst the popular hatred of colonial rule, intensified by the INA trials in Delhi.

Captain Lakshmi  Sehgal

In March 1947, Captain Lakshmi married Col. Prem Kumar Sehgal, a leading figure of the INA. The couple moved from Lahore to Kanpur, where she plunged into her medical practice, working among the flood of refugees who had come from the newly formed Pakistan. She earned the trust and gratitude of both Hindus and Muslims. Even at the age of 92, she saw her patients every morning.

Bangladesh Liberation War

The Bangladesh Liberation War started on March 26, 1971 between the State of Pakistan and East Pakistan. India intervened on December 3, 1971. Armed conflict ended on December 16, 1971 resulted in the secession of East Pakistan, which became the independent nation of Bangladesh. Refugee camps were set up in the border areas in West Bengal.

Lakshmi’s daughter Subhashini had joined the CPI(M) in early 1970s brought to her mother’s attention an appeal from Jyoti Basu for doctors and medical supplies for Bangladeshi refugee camps. Captain Lakshmi left for Calcutta, carrying clothes and medicines, to work for the next five weeks in the border areas.

After her return Lakshmi applied for membership in the CPI(M). For the 57-year old doctor, joining the Communist Party was “like coming home.” “My way of thinking was already communist, and I never wanted to earn a lot of money, or acquire a lot of property or wealth,” she had said.

AIDWA

Captain Lakshmi was one of the founding members of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) formed in 1981. She later led many of its activities and campaigns.

After the Bhopal gas tragedy in December 1984, she led a medical team to the city; years later she wrote a report on the long-term effects of the gas on pregnant women.

She was out on the streets in Kanpur, during the anti-Sikh riots that followed Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, confronting anti-Sikh mobs and ensuring the safety of Sikh or Sikh establishments in the crowded area near her clinic.

In 1996, she got arrested for her participation in a campaign by AIDWA against the Miss World competition held in Bangalore.

Presidential candidate

In 2002, the Left fielded Captain Lakshmi as their presidential candidate against Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. During her whirlwind campaign across the country, she addressed huge crowds at public meetings. She frankly admitted that she did not stand a chance of winning and she used her platform to publicly condemn a political system that allowed the growth of poverty and injustice.

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Greenland ice sheet melted at unprecedented rate during July 2012


 US environment correspondent
Tuesday 24 July 2012 17.48 EDT

Scientists at Nasa admitted they thought satellite readings were a mistake after images showed 97% surface melt over four days

The Greenland ice sheet on July 8, left, and four days later on the right. In the image, the areas classified as ‘probable melt’ (light pink) correspond to those sites where at least one satellite detected surface melting. The areas classified as ‘melt’ (dark pink) correspond to sites where two or three satellites detected surface melting. Photograph: Nasa

The Greenland ice sheet melted at a faster rate this month than at any other time in recorded history, with virtually the entire ice sheet showing signs of thaw.

The rapid melting over just four days was captured by three satellites. It has stunned and alarmed scientists, and deepened fears about the pace and future consequences of climate change.

In a statement posted on Nasa’s website on Tuesday, scientists admitted the satellite data was so striking they thought at first there had to be a mistake.

“This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?” Son Nghiem of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena said in the release.

He consulted with several colleagues, who confirmed his findings. Dorothy Hall, who studies the surface temperature of Greenland at Nasa’s space flight centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, confirmed that the area experienced unusually high temperatures in mid-July, and that there was widespread melting over the surface of the ice sheet.

Climatologists Thomas Mote, at the University of Georgia, and Marco Tedesco, of the City University of New York, also confirmed the melt recorded by the satellites.

However, scientists were still coming to grips with the shocking images on Tuesday. “I think it’s fair to say that this is unprecedented,” Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told the Guardian.

The set of images released by Nasa on Tuesday show a rapid thaw between 8 July and 12 July. Within that four-day period, measurements from three satellites showed a swift expansion of the area of melting ice, from about 40% of the ice sheet surface to 97%.

Scientists attributed the sudden melt to a heat dome, or a burst of unusually warm air, which hovered over Greenland from 8 July until 16 July.

Greenland had returned to more typical summer conditions by 21 or 22 July, Mote told the Guardian.

But he said the event, while exceptional, should be viewed alongside other compelling evidence of climate change, including on the ground in Greenland.

“What we are seeing at the highest elevations may be a sort of sign of what is going on across the ice sheet,” he said. “At lower elevations on the ice sheet, we are seeing earlier melting, melting later in the season, and more frequent melting over the last 30 years and that is consistent of what you would expect with a warming climate.”

Zwally, who has made almost yearly trips to the Greenland ice sheet for more than three decades, said he had never seen such a rapid melt.

About half of Greenland’s surface ice sheet melts during a typical summer, but Zwally said he and other scientists had been recording an acceleration of that melting process over the last few decades. This year his team had to rebuild their camp, at Swiss Station, when the snow and ice supports melted.

He said he had never seen such a rapid melt over his three decades of nearly yearly trips to the Greenland ice sheet. He was most surprised to see indications in the images of melting even around the area of Summit Station, which is about two miles above sea level.

It was the second unusual event in Greenland in a matter of days, after an iceberg the size of Manhattan broke off from the Petermann glacier. But the rapid melt was viewed as more serious.

“If you look at the 8 July image that might be the maximum extent of warming you would see in the summer,” Zwally noted. “There have been periods when melting might have occurred at higher elevations briefly – maybe for a day or so – but to have it cover the whole of Greenland like this is unknown, certainly in the time of satellite records.”

Jason Box, a glaciologist at Ohio State University who returned on Tuesday from a research trip to Greenland, had been predicting a big melt year for 2012, because of earlier melt and a decline in summer snow flurries.

He said the heat dome was not necessarily a one-off. “This is now the seventh summer in a row with this pattern of warm air being lifted up onto the ice sheet on the summer months,” he said. “What is surprising is just how persistent this circulation anomaly is. Here it is back again for the seventh year in a row in the summer bringing hot, warm
air onto the ice sheet.”

He also said surfaces at higher elevation, now re-frozen, could be more prone to future melting, because of changes in the structure of the snow crystals. Box expected melting to continue at lower elevations.

About half of Greenland’s surface ice sheet melts during a typical summer, but Zwally said he and other scientists had been recording an acceleration of that melting process over the past few decades. This year his team had to rebuild their camp, at Swiss Station, when the snow and ice supports melted.

Lora Koenig, another Goddard glaciologist, told Nasa similar rapid melting occurs about every 150 years. But she warned there were wide-ranging potential implications from this year’s thaw.

“If we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome.” she told Nasa.

The most immediate consequences are sea level rise and a further warming of the Arctic. In the centre of Greenland, the ice remains up to 3,000 metres deep. On the edges, however, the ice is much, much thinner and has been melting into the sea.

The melting ice sheet is a significant factor in sea level rise. Scientists attribute about one-fifth of the annual sea level rise, which is about 3mm every year, to the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

In this instance of this month’s extreme melting, Mote said there was evidence of a heat dome over Greenland: or an unusually strong ridge of warm air.

The dome is believed to have moved over Greenland on 8 July, lingering until 16 July.

Source: guardian.co.uk

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Maldives Cabinet Makes a Splash by Holding an Underwater Meeting!


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Note: What you are about to see and read happened in October 2009. Though the news is old I was impressed by the event and want to share it with you.

“If the Maldives cannot be saved today we do not feel that there is much of a chance for the rest of the world” –  President Mohamed Nasheed (fourth president of the Maldives from November 11, 2008 to February 7, 2012)

Amazing beach – Maldives

The islands of the Maldives archipelago stand an average of 2.1 metres (7 feet) above sea level.

In March 2009, scientists at a meeting in Copenhagen predicted that glaciers and ice sheets melting as a result of global warming could boost the level of the world’s oceans by as much as a metre by 2100; and at the rate of rising sea levels, the whole archipelago could end up under the water by the end of the century.

The government of the Maldives held a cabinet meeting underwater on October 17, 2009 to draw attention to to the threat global warming poses to the low-lying nation in the Indian Ocean.

Maldives cabinet holds underwater meeting 1 Maldives cabinet holds underwater meeting!

President Mohammed Nasheed and members of his cabinet wore scuba gear as they arrived for the meeting in a lagoon off the island of Girifushi.

They sat at a table anchored to the sand on the floor of the Indian Ocean and signed a document calling on all countries to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.

They spent half an hour on the sea bed, communicating with white boards and hand signals.

Maldives cabinet holds underwater meeting 2 Maldives cabinet holds underwater meeting!

Maldives cabinet holds underwater meeting 3 Maldives cabinet holds underwater meeting!

Officials from around the world will meet in the Danish capital in Copenhagen in December 2009 under UN auspices to hammer out a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, aiming to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions that are blamed for global warming.

“We’re now actually trying to send our message, let the world know what is happening, and what will happen to the Maldives if climate change is not checked,” President Nasheed said, speaking six metres below the surface..

“If the Maldives cannot be saved today we do not feel that there is much of a chance for the rest of the world. We want other countries to come to an understanding [at the World Climate Congress] in Copenhagen. We do not want to see Copenhagen fail,” he added.

Maldives cabinet holds underwater meeting 4 Maldives cabinet holds underwater meeting!

Officials from around the world will meet in the Danish capital in Copenhagen in December 2009 under UN auspices to hammer out a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, aiming to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions that are blamed for global warming. The president said the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen cannot be allowed to fail.

At a later press conference while still in the water, President Nasheed was asked what would happen if the summit fails. “We are going to die,” he replied.

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Is manual scavenging a result of India’s caste divide?


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Sagarika Ghose Sagarika Ghose, CNN-IBN

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Sagarika Ghose: The story of Prabhu and Guru Dhodiya and the terrible plight of manual scavengers. They do their job standing all day in human waste, standing in the unbearable extreme stench of night soil; they often have to stay dead drunk to do this job. They are sometimes unable to eat because of the human waste they are surrounded by. Many of them get asthma and the life expectancy is 30 years for many in their community. Our sister channel IBN Lokmat reported on manual scavengers in Pandharpur, Maharashtra leading the Maharashtra government to reinforce a ban. Actor Aamir Khan has also taken up the issue with the PM and on his show Satyamev Jayate. But despite the law, despite the ban, why is manual scavenging continuing.

Sagarika Ghose

Day after day working in the unbearable conditions and stench of human waste. Why should human beings, citizens of democratic India have to do this? Why is it that manual scavenging is increasing in India in spite of a 1993 law banning the practice?

Joining us Asim Sarode, he is a lawyer of High Court and Human Rights activist, Pradip More, convenor of the campaign against Manual Scavenging in Maharashtra, from Pune we have S Anand, Publisher of Navayana. And Paul Divakar, General Secretary of National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR). Thank you very much for joining us.

We will also get you the views of Mukul Wasnik, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, to whom I spoke to earlier. When I spoke to Mukul Wasnik, I asked him why in spite of the law, in spite of the government efforts – why is manual scavenging still continuing, in fact increasing? Did it require an Aamir Khan to wake up the government on the issue of manual scavenging?

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Mukul Wasnik: It didn’t require anybody to tell the government as to what needs to be done. Basically the government has been attending to this as a national priority recently after the data of census 2011 became available where it was pointed out that all most about 26 lakh insanity latrines exist. We thought it would be better for us to call collectors from various districts where the incidences are on the higher side. Similarly our present approach will be compared to what we did in 1993, when the law was enacted basically keeping the sanitation in mind. This time we are preparing a draft, rather a draft is already under circulation for inter-ministerial consultation, which will be base on human dignity. This we are attending to as a national priority. And by national priority, I mean, we take such issues on war footing. And when I say we take up these issues on war footing means that other things can wait but this cannot. People who would like to join in this campaign are most welcome and I am happy that Aamir Khan had taken up this in one of his programmes. But he was also telling me in one of the conversations that in his 47 years, 46 were such where he was totally not aware about this issue existing. But let many more people join this.

Sagarika Ghose: You are speaking about a new law on this but there is already a 1993 law banning the practice of manual scavenging and there has been no punishment. No one has been convicted for practicing manual scavenging. Will this new law be implemented and effective?

Mukul Wasnik: It will provide survey of manual scavengers, it will provide their rehabilitation and it will provide cognisable offences, non-bailable offences, with penalties which will be appropriate for a crime like this.

Sagarika Ghose: What about political will, activist say that there is no political will to act against manual scavenging?

Mukul Wasnik: See, Sagarika, I have just mentioned to you and I will again repeat that it is not about political will. We are addressing this issue with total seriousness. But I will just mention to you that these are the people who are living on the margins of society. They may be on the remotes corner of the village or in a remotes corner of an urban pocket; we have to reach out to them, not only the government but the society. As a nation we have to reach out to them. And with concerned efforts with all the concerned people, I think, the day will come sooner than later.

Sagarika Ghose: But the explain to me, why is it so difficult to eradicate this practice? Why is the government up against so many odds? Why is it so difficult to tackle it head on?

Mukul Wasnik: This is a very deep rooted, this is in the remotes corners of villages, and in the urban pockets. This is going on for generations, ages have witness this kind of thing and therefore to come out of this we will have to provide proper training to the manual scavengers. We will have to provide them with sufficient resources to come up with alternative self employment measures so that once they are out of this they can live their life with dignity. And that is the way we are trying to address this thing.

Sagarika Ghose: The minister there, Mukul Wasnik talking about what the government plans to do to eradicate manual scavenging. He was talking to me a little earlier. Let’s now turn it over to our panel. Asim Sarode, you are lawyer of the High Court, you are a human rights activist, do you find minister’s (Mukul Wasnik) comments convincing? Do you feel that the government will act, can act, can the law be implemented?

Asim Sarode: Sagarika, I beg to differ from the minister because actually what he is saying is very misleading. The act is prevailing since 1993, the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. But ask the minister to show one punishment which happened using this law. This law is already cognisable, then why are they making a new law? What is the need of the new law? I am sensing suspicion on the presentation of the new law on this issue. Because they are trying to make hazardous manual cleaning of safety tanks and latrines. So why are they adding this hazardous thing in the definition, because they want to escape from the responsibility that this is not hazardous and this is hazardous. See manual scavenging is itself hazardous. It is degrading, it is inhuman and it is anti-human, so they should completely ban rather then creating spaces to escape from the responsibilities. He have filed a case in December 2011, and three hearings took place in High Court but no government official was present. This is there sense of responsibility.

Sagarika Ghose: They have completely insensitive approach. Let me get in Mr Pradip More as well, Pradip More do you agree with those comments that are being made. That in fact government is not serious, there has not been a single conviction for anyone who is employing manual scavenger.

Pradip More: Yes, we need to see all these facts that in spite of this act and also before this act came he had various committees, and commissions were appointed to see this inhuman practice in India. Like Barkway Commission, we have Lord Committee, we had Malkana Committee. Many committees had given so many recommendations to the government but government was insensitive to see all this. And of course there are many charges that the workers are doing all this. The authorities are saying them to do this but they are doing this. All these practises are with the sense of untouchability

Sagarika Ghose: It is because of untouchability because of social discrimination. Let me put to Paul Divakar, you know, the shocking illustration that we have shown that you have to stay drunk to do that all day. Day after day you are standing neck deep in human waste, the most degrading practice. Now is cast prejudice the reason why there is so much apathy?

Paul Divakar: It is definitely trans based discrimination, it is just the panicle at the end. The worst form of discrimination is forcing people who are meant… as you know cast is meant for pollution and think to do with death, anything to do with unclean, these are the things which are thrust upon untouchables. And one think, we need to pull up the government is leave the society alone for a while. What is the government doing specially with the Railways? Today you have the entire track, I think, lakh of kilometres, and Railways has not done a single think today to have a sensible system of sanitation. And you have all the tracks right along (*) shit all along the way. So make that first the national priority and say from 2012-2013 you are going to fix the system. Every Railways in the world, Railways has managed this. Why is it that Indian government which is so developed is not able to have a system. So some where it is not just the society. There is a will that needs to be harnessed and government can’t tolerate this kind of cast based discrimination.

Sagarika Ghose: It’s cast based discrimination which is leading to the apathy. You were telling me about the sewer workers who are also a part of sub-cast scavengers. And you were saying that they are forced to do it. It is assumed that there cast is as such that they have to go down the sewer.

S Anand: Sagarika the larger thing is, whether we raise it on this panel or Aamir Khan talks about it, the crux of the issue is that it is a part of a larger ideological apparatus, which sustains the entire cast system. It is about the cast occupation nexus in society. So it is no surprise that due to urbanisation you have these sewer lines in Delhi, let’s talk abut Delhi. 5300 kilometres of sewer line, 9 inch diameter pipes that go down you bathroom. You put a cleaning acid, what every you are putting. People flush down sanitary pads, to condoms and even construction rubble goes to these sewer lines. Why do we do that, because these people we die… there is an estimate, which I arrived when I was doing a story for Tehelka about four years again, and it was a conservative estimate arrived with Lela Vesaria, person who is a demography expert, and she and I arrived at this figure of 22,327 deaths per year all over India. In Bombay alone according to an RTI 3,495 deaths in just 24 wards in just once city. Now if you compare it with Army people who died in Kashmir from 1990 to 2007, 5,100.

So there are sacrificing their life but they are not wearing the flag so nobody bothers. Media gets very exited when a young boy goes down the little pipe, I mean, he has to be rescued. The Army is called, you have shows. But these are workers we don’t see them. When Aarushi murder case happened, they sent two workers down the sewer to find the murder weapon. Nobody discussed that in the media. What is the middle class which is watching Aamir Khan’s show doing?

Sagarika Ghose: These are invisible people. Asim Sarode, they are invisible workers, they are invisible to us. We don’t know that they are going down the sewer everyday. They are standing neck deep in night soil everyday. They are inhaling this terrible stench everyday. And yet they don’t have rights because the society believes that is their job, they are by birth cleaners of night soil.

Asim Sarode: They are also invisible in urban areas. In rural areas they are there, in urban areas they are they; they are there on the railway tracks. So political will is absent to see them and to recognise their existence. It is not the issue of manual scavenging; it is the issue of cast based violation. It is the issue of health rights of the people who are working in unorganised sector. It is also issue of how and why they are not getting medical aid, they are not getting shelter. So what is think is if Mr Mukul Wasnik is coming up with a new bill, then the people should demand and they (Government) should also consider…there should be no legislation with out people’s consideration. People should be consulted, their opinion should be gathered and only then new bill should be presented in Parliament. Otherwise, as I pointed previously, if they insert these words like hazardous and create space to escape from responsibility that should not be done.

Sagarika Ghose: You heard Mukul Wasnik there, telling us about his solutions, that he wants to provide proper condition, provide alternative livelihood, do a survey, so do you think these solution will work or do you think much more drastic punishment is the answer?

Paul Divakar: First I feel what we can, what the government can in its own hand, they must begin to implement. There is money that is being allocated, that money is not being spent. Now the question is why the money that has been allocated from the relief and rehabilitation, elimination of the manual scavenging for the last five years, why has it not been spent ferociously in a way that you can eliminate it. Then there are wider issues where you have education, you have special component plan, which is suppose to allocated certain proportion of money… today you don’t have a legislation to implement it. Now why is it… at least, Sagarika, there are 37510 crore that are allocated every year for the development of schedule cast and schedule tribes, including some of the people we have seen on the TV. If this money would have gone for their relief, rehabilitation, education, civic amenity today we would have not these scenes.

Sagarika Ghose: But as Guru (manual scavenger) was saying he has no other option. He said this is the option he had from last four generations and his family has been doing this therefore this is what I’m going to be doing.

Paul Divakar: That is because there is a force on the people and they are forced to some of these jobs. If they refuse there is violence, they are not given job anywhere else. So on one hand there is a mind set which forces them to do this job and on the other hand the wider community says that you are not fit for any other employment. There are lawyers, advocates who do this job in the evening because they are not able to sustain themselves.

Sagarika Ghose: Forced to do the job because born into a particular community. The reform measure of Mukul Wasnik didn’t convenience you.

S Anand: Not at all because reform is an agenda which has a huge Gandhian kind of aura around it. Ambedkar was for annihilation of cast.

Sagarika Ghose: So the reality is that no Brahman will go down the sewer.

S Anand: No Brahman will ever go down the sewer. Whatever you do, even you pay them Rs 1 lakh a month as a salary. You are not going to see reform. Reform is the problematic language which the state has been speaking. Especially because of this triangle hold which I call Gandhian piety. Here is a man whose photo still adorns National Commission for Safai Karamcharis’s office and he says this, you know, you have to really see this… because that is the ideology that inflects the policy on manual scavenging.

Sagarika Ghose: It is a kind of middle class… Gandhian ideology…

S Anand: Ideology which says an ideal banghi should be able to examine night soil and tell you what is the quality of your urine and tell whether it has go germs in it. And this was at a time when Ambedkar was talking about annihilation of cast. So unless you delink occupation and case…

Sagarika Ghose: You have to delink occupation and cast. As Anand is saying that no Brahman will ever go down a sewer and stand neck deep in night soil. That is a very shocking indictment of the democratic rights of manual scavengers. No person should be a manual scavengers, we must have awareness and must pressurise government to have strict punishment for those employ manual scavenging. Thank you very much indeed, Asim Sarode, Paul Divakar, S Anand. This is because of caste discrimination that manual scavenging is continuing.

Reproduced from 

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Manufactured Shame – The telecast of a young girl’s molestation



‘Please come quickly, she has been caught… (to the mob) the camera is here. Hold her. Hold her,’ the voice in the footage is heard saying

The telecast of a young girl’s molestation in the heart of Guwahati by a local news channel has jolted the nation’s consciousness. Ratnadip Choudhury exposes the sordid truth behind the horrific act. 

Public outcry Youngsters protesting the horrific molestation that shook up the city. (Photo: Ujjal Deb)

WHAT WAS initially touted by a news channel as an exposé on the depravity and moral turpitude in society is now emerging as an event which was manipulated by the channel to “create” news. On 9 July, the whole country was outraged by a video clip aired by News Live, a leading news channel of Assam, which showed a young girl being groped, clawed, beaten and molested in full public glare outside a pub on the busy GS Road of Guwahati, the Northeast’s biggest city.

People were shocked, the people of Assam more than anybody else. Public morality had hit an all-time low. How could this happen on a busy street of a state capital? How could bystanders watch as a mob of not less than 30 men humiliated a young girl? Where was the police in all this? There was a storm of outrage as social media sites went into overdrive. Questions were raised and debated, calling for a strong protest against this heinous act.

Amidst all this clamour, another question gnawing at the sides was the role played by the news channel, News Live, which filmed the whole episode. RTI activist and leader of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) Akhil Gogoi claimed to have laid his hands on video clippings that demonstrated that the News Live reporter who filmed the whole incident had instigated the mob. TEHELKA has reviewed these clips and the truth is horrifying.

Akhil alleged that Gaurav Jyoti Neog, the News Live reporter who had called in his camera unit to film the incident, had orchestrated the molestation to “manufacture” a “sensational news piece” to boost the channel’s TRP. “News Live is promoted by Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, his wife Riniki Bhuyan Sharma is its chief managing director (CMD),” says Akhil. “The channel has been involved in false and fabricated news from the start, but this one has been the most unethical. News Live reporter Gaurav Jyoti Neog has instigated the molestation and I have video footage to prove that.” The raw footage has since been handed over to state DGP Jayanto Narayan Choudhury. Sources say that in its preliminary report to the Union home ministry, the police has hinted at the reporter’s involvement in instigating the molesters. Gaurav has been working for News Live since 2009.

Interestingly, the News Live office is located at Christian Basti, not far from Club Mint Bar where the incident occurred. The channel has admitted that Akhil got the footage from somebody in their office. TEHELKA has found that there were people in the office who were against this kind of unethical journalism, and these were the people who handed over the footage to Akhil to blow the lid off the whole episode. The channel’s Managing Editor Syed Zarir Hussain has admitted that it was a News Live reporter who shot all the raw footage. There are two shots of footages. One shot by an open camera used by channels to cover news, and the other footage, which actually indicts the news reporter was shot by the reporter himself on his own mobile camera. The digital camera visuals were shot by News Live reporter Dibya Bordoloi and his cameraperson Jugal, reporter Gaurav Jyoti Neog shot the other clips with his cell phone.

Permanent scar A video grab of the girl being molested by the mob in Guwahati

In a reconstruction of the hitherto unaired footage, we have tried to recount what happened outside the Club Mint Bar on the evening of 9 July.

According to News Live, reporter Gaurav Jyoti Neog was on his way home from work when he heard the ruckus outside Club Mint (the bar is about 200 metres from the channel’s office) and started shooting with his cell phone. Sensing something sensational afoot, he asked his office for a camera unit to be sent to the spot.

Though the channel claims that Gaurav had asked the news desk to inform the police, nothing in the raw footage or otherwise that establishes this claim. The Assam Police has maintained that they received no calls from News Live or any other media organisation informing them about the molestation. The first calls it got, the police claims, came from Club Mint and later from the Hotel Gateway Grandeur, situated close to the pub.

The footage starts at the point after two girls have been thrown out of the pub following a scuffle over a lost ATM card as the victim recollects later. The girls are waiting on the road for an autorickshaw, when ambient noises are heard in the background. The conversation is not very clear. Later, one can see that a group of boys, who were standing outside the bar at a wine shop, had been recording the girls’ movements with their cell phones and had passed some comment. One girl in a white T-shirt and a pair of shorts slaps one of the boys. The footage then shows the girl engaged in a physical struggle with the boys. The other — the victim — is wearing a black top and shorts. A male voice is heard: “Send a camera immediately near the income tax office.” Akhil claims this is the voice of the News Live reporter Gaurav, a fact admitted by the channel, which has aired the same visual with the same voice claiming it to be Gaurav’s.

FURTHER, THE raw footage shows the other girl being chased by a group of boys. Someone shouts: “Catch her, make her naked, make her naked, catch her.” This voice is strikingly similar to the voice the channel admits belongs to Gaurav. (The authenticity could only be proved by a forensic examination, but ex facie it does appear to be Gaurav’s) This can be deduced from the circumstances around the clippings. In a situation where there is a lot of noise in the background, it is likely that the most audible voice will be of the person holding the phone. Also, most of the people voice matches the earlier male voice that News Live had itself identified as belonging to Gaurav.

What follows there after are horrific scenes of the girl being pulled from all sides, thrashed and fondled. Someone pulls her top to expose her bra, another man gropes her private parts when she is pinned down. She cries and shouts for help, and tries her best to free herself. A voice is heard saying: “Make her naked, let people see her… she is a prostitute and she dares to do this.” The molestation gets even more violent, more brutal. The frame, albeit shaky, is clear enough to see the girl struggling all the while screaming “help, help!” This blood-curdling scene plays out again and again. Bystanders can be seen watching, some from a distance, some to get a ringside view. No one comes forward to help the traumatised girl.

Hunter-to-hunted Rup Kanta Kalita (27), Deba Das (22), Nabajyoti Barua (22), Jitu Moni Deka (30) and Dipak Deb (50), five of the alleged accused being produced before the CJM Court on 17 July

As the recording continues, the same male voice is heard again, this time distinctly: “Please come quickly, she has been caught… (to the mob) the camera is here, hold her, hold her.” Circumstances suggest that this could again be Gaurav’s voice, because he has called his colleague at the News Live office, Dibya Bordoloi to come to the spot with a camera team.

Night duty reporter Dibya Bordoloi arrives with the cameraperson. The camera rolls, this time with the lights on. The face of the main accused Amarjyoti Kalita becomes distinct here. Kalita in a red T-shirt and a cap, takes charge of what has by now become a circus. The footage shows how the girl breaks away twice from the molesters, only to be brought back each time. Pulled by her hair, her jacket ripped apart, her undergarments visible, the mob was enacting a “live act” in its most horrific form. Amarjyoti was pulling the girl by her undergarments, another assaulter was pulling her by her hair. This part of the raw footage caught on News Live cameras holds the key for the police investigation. This is the part that Akhil has not released to the media and News Live has not aired.

Many questions arise out of this. Did any of the molesters personally know the reporter? Police sources confirmed that almost all the molesters whose faces have been identified did not have prior criminal records. A well-placed source in the Assam Police has confirmed that Gaurav knew prime accused Amarjyoti pretty well; a few others in the mob knew each other since they worked in the same area.

So the question automatically veers towards the intent of “manufacturing” news. Or does it go deeper than that? Only a forensic test of the raw footage will throw up conclusive answers. Managing Editor Hussain defends his reporter. “It is because News Live had aired the visuals that the molesters are behind bars,” he says. “If we had given the footage to the cops directly, it would have been put in cold storage as has happened frequently in the past.”

Even after Mukul Kalita and some other people restore order and call the cops, Amarjyoti Kalita is still seen trying to grab the girl from behind

In the open camera footage, the perpetrators were clearly enjoying being filmed. Some were even smiling at the camera. Gaurav is also seen wearing a black T-shirt and a pair of jeans. “Initially, Gaurav tried to protest, but things went out of control so our reporters kept rolling,” defends Hussain. TEHELKA found no video frames or audio streams in the raw footage, to remotely suggest that Gaurav tried to dissuade the mob at any time. Though the footage does show that the other reporter Dibya shouts at the molesters and even tries to rescue the girl. Despite numerous attempts to contact Gaurav, the reporter was not available for any comment.

The footage then shows the girl running towards traffic on the busy GS Road asking car drivers for help. The mob follows her shouting that she is a prostitute. Incredibly, this seems reason enough for people not to intervene in what they could have seen as an act of moral policing. A man on a motorcycle tries to stop the crowd, but in vain. It is only when vernacular daily Ajir Axom’s senior journalist Mukul Kalita, who happened to be passing by, interferes, that some other people also come to the rescue of the girl. Dibya also tries to bring some order. No such effort is made by Gaurav.

After some order has been restored, Gaurav is heard shouting at Dibya for not carrying the channel mic ID (channel logo attached to the mike) and snatches the gun mic before asking the victim: “Please tell me what happened.” What the girl says is perhaps the most telling statement in the footage. “I was returning home after attending a birthday party, you have done it… you people have done it,” she says. This is a shocking revelation. Akhil claims that the victim was talking about Gaurav and the molesters. News Live claims nothing is conclusive; traumatised as she was, the girl might have meant all the people or some people around her, or may be venting at the constant rolling of the camera.

Atanu Bhuyan Tarun Gogoi
Former News Live Editor-in-chief Atanu Bhuyan; Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi addressing the media

TEHELKA has in its possession a copy of the victim’s statement at the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court. Written in Assamese, one section of the statement reads thus: “…they started to tear off my clothes; a media team was shooting the scene instead of helping me. The mob tore my clothes and started groping my private parts. I somehow saved my face from being exposed by the camera. I was shellshocked. A gentleman saved me, the police arrived and dropped me home.”

The footage reveals people led by Mukul Kalita trying to convince cops to reach the spot fast and also trying to ensure the girl’s safety. Even then, Amarjyoti Kalita is seen smiling and grabbing the victim from behind.

Above the din, Dibya is heard telling Gaurav: “This girl’s career, future is ruined.” After a brief pause, a voice, probably Gaurav’s, is heard: “Ruined meaning?” Leaning towards Gaurav, Dibya’s face is visible for a second. “I have done all this!” someone says. Though TEHELKA cannot independently verify this, a comparison with other audio streams in the clip gives the impression that the voice making this boast belongs to Gaurav. The footage ends with the girl being taken away by the police. The molestation even then and the mob groped the girl even while she was seated in the police van.

THE COPS have already taken voice samples of Gaurav and confiscated the News Live camera, tapes and computers where the video footage was processed. The memory card of the cell phones that he was using has also been sent for forensic tests. After Akhil handed over the raw footage to the cops, Gaurav resigned from News Live. In his defence he said he had quit to ensure “a free and fair investigation”. On 18 July, he applied for an anticipatory bail at the Gauhati High Court, though he still has not been named an accused or detained by the police.

Launched in January 2008, News Live gained reputation for its smart presentation, vast coverage and a knack for breaking news before anyone else. The past few months had seen the channel dedicating huge chunks of airtime to what many describe as “on-air moral policing”. From stories of young girls getting drunk and unruly scenes inside bars and on the streets to hosting regular panel discussions on what women should wear, the channel was almost on a moral crusade.

In 2011, News Live Editor-in-chief Atanu Bhuyan made it to the headlines of national dailies after he made unsavoury comments about Aahom girls from upper Assam. The Tai-Aahom Students’ Union had even locked down News Live bureau offices in upper Assam towns.

Interestingly, Akhil’s claims of “manufactured” news got approval from an unexpected quarter. In a press conference, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi came down heavily on the news channel. “I cannot approve the fact that the TV crew went on rolling their tapes for almost 45 minutes without making efforts to save the girl,” said a stern-looking Gogoi. The chief minister has asked the CID to investigate the role of the channel in the molestation. A team of police officers led by DGP Choudhury has been entrusted with the task of nabbing the culprits. The chief minister has said that a crackdown will happen without infringing on the freedom of the press.

Of the 14 molesters who have been identified, the cops have already arrested 12. At the time of going to press, two, including prime accused Amarjyoti Kalita — a casual employee of the state government’s information technology agency AMTRON — were still absconding.

Angry wave Social activist Akhil Gogoi leading a demonstration in front of the News Live office on 15 JulyPhoto: Ujjal Deb

Editor Atanu Bhuyan quit his office, not owning moral responsibility, but citing apprehensions that the chief minister would “pressurise” the management to sack him. For his part, the CM got the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW) Mamta Sharma to visit Guwahati and meet the victim, after an earlier NCW fact-finding team led by Alka Lamba left Guwahati without meeting him. Lamba was later removed for naming the victim during a press conference. Shockingly, even the CM’S office repeated the same callousness. After Tarun Gogoi had met the victim, the CM’s office released pictures of the girl with Gogoi. Not only this, they even revealed her identity. Though Gogoi later apologised for the slip-up, asking the media not to publish the pictures, he continued naming her.

THE INCIDENT has scarred Assam. The state that prides itself on its treatment of women has now been reduced to a group of bystanders. “The rest of the country protested violently, people started calling Guwahati a city of bystanders,” says Guwahati-based author Ayushman Dutta. “People watched with voyeuristic pleasure the horrific scenes of a girl being ravaged on the streets. Some even took photos and made the odd MMS, but no one stopped their car to help her, they did not even bother to lower their car windows.” The incident has also sparked a debate on the mad race of news channels for TRPs.

Interestingly, the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), both of which have never missed a chance to issue diktats on New Year’s or Valentine’s Day, have maintained a stony silence on this.

But, it is with the police that the buck finally stops. The government has put the wheels in motion. The SSP, Guwahati city, Apurba Jibon Baruah has been transferred. “We are looking at all aspects of the evidence. If the reporter and the channel are found guilty, we will act,” says DGP Choudhury.

The brutality was not confined to the street. NCW member Alka Lamba, and even the CM’s office, named the victim without a care for her reputation

Tarun Gogoi has declared that he will create the position of a City Police Commissioner. But many of the recommendations of the expert committee constituted after the 2008 serial blasts in Guwahati has been kept in cold storage. “Almost all our recommendations have not been implemented,” says HK Deka, former DGP and member of the expert committee on police reforms. “With the city moving fast to becoming a metro, police modernisation is a must, transferring the SSP is not a solution.” In size and population, Guwahati is similar to Bhubaneswar. However, where the Odisha capital has 3,500 dedicated police personnel, the Guwahati City Police has 210 sub-inspectors and 1,300 constables manning the streets. Nowhere is this void felt more than in the pubs and clubs of the city.

But for all this, if it turns out that the media has behaved in a callous manner, its very relevance will be questioned. If proven true, this would perhaps be the first incident in which a media house has had a frighteningly complicit role in a despicable crime against a woman. While it is almost sure that this is our News Of The World moment, media houses, especially electronic media, need to rethink their priorities: higher TRPs or news ethic. Until that happens, the spectacle will continue.

Ratnadip Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka.
ratnadip@tehelka.com

Reproduced from Tehelka

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2012 Olympics – First Joke


At the gate to the London Olympic Games 2012 , a Scotsman, an Englishman and an Irishman want to get In, but they haven’t got tickets………………..

The Scotsman picks up a manhole-cover, tucks it under His arm and walks to the gate.

“McTavish, Scotland ,” he says, “Discus,” and in he walks.

The Englishman picks up a length of scaffolding and Slings it over his shoulder.

“Waddington-Smythe, England ,” he says, “Pole vault,” And in he walks.

The Irishman looks around, picks up a roll of barbed Wire and tucks it under his arm.

“O’Malley, Ireland ,” he says, 

“Fencing.”

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Reproduced from A Daily Thought (July 7, 2012)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside


Inside their Mother’s wings …

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Theru Koothu – The dying folk art of Tamilnadu, India – Karna Motcham


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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This is a sequel to my article “Theru Koothu – The dying folk art of Tamilnadu, India” published on July 3, 2012.

The art of Theru Koothu is handed down from one generation to the next. The performers hail from poor down trodden families of the lower echelon of society. They know no other trade. Theru Koothu is now virtually a dying art – dying because of the popularity of cinema, dying for want of patronage.

In earlier times these artists were held in high esteem for their artistry and talent. They entertained the village folk on invitation by the respective village elders. But nowadays they are a forgotten lot and perform during temple festivals in villages of their own accord and live on hand-outs.

This Tamil short film “Karna Motcham” directed by S. Murali Manohar is a real life depiction of a day in the life of a rural Theru Koothu (Street Play) artist who comes to a school in Chennai City to dance for the children at a function to be held there.

The emotions of disappointment, pain and anguish of the artist are well brought out by the actors, the director and in the dialogues written by S. Ramakrishnan.

This film has won more than 60 awards including National award by Government of India, Best short film awarded by Tamilnadu Government , Best Director award at the Canadian International Tamil Film Festival.

 

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Late Night Thoughts on the Eaton Center Shooting


tvaraj:

Jessica Ghawi known professionally and on Twitter as Jessica Redfield, an aspiring sports blogger, was one of those killed. She had moved to Colorado from San Antonio only a year ago. Earlier in June, after having narrowly escaped an irrational shooting at a mall in Toronto, Canada, she wrote this article “Late Night Thoughts on the Eaton Center Shooting,” a foreboding of what was to come.

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Originally posted on A Run On of Thoughts:

I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm‘s way. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting.

What started off as a trip to the mall to get sushi and shop, ended up as a day that has forever changed my life. I was on a mission to eat sushi that day, and when I’m on a mission, nothing will deter me. When I arrived at the Eaton Center mall, I walked down to the food court and spotted a sushi restaurant. Instead of walking in, sitting…

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