Dalit atrocity cases: Just 15% convictions

NEW DELHI: When the Prime Minister termed continuing atrocities on Dalits a “national disgrace” at the week-end conclave of chief ministers, he was not way off the mark. Not only are caste-inspired crimes refusing to end, even the redress mechanism is failing to deliver.

Consider this. The conviction rate under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act is 15.71% and pendency is as high as 85.37%. This when the Act has strict provisions aimed as a deterrent. By contrast, conviction rate under IPC is over 40%.

The high acquittal rate appears to be a direct fallout of police delay in booking the guilty. A study on POA Act, by S Japhet of National Law School, has laid bare reasons behind the low conviction, while also revealing how ground is prepared for acquittal at the investigation stage itself.

Of the 646 cases studied by the NLS team from POA courts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, 578 were disposed of and 68 are pending. Just 27 of the decided cases resulted in conviction; 551 in acquittal. On the whole, 13 acquittals were reported from AP and TN each, and one from Karnataka.

The study notes that while POA cases are disposed of possibly as fast as those under IPC, with an average period of two-and-a-half years, the police all along appeared to facilitate acquittal rather than conviction.

While an average six days were taken to file an FIR, it took as many as 260 days on average to file chargesheets in cases of atrocities against Dalits.

Maximum period for chargesheeting under CrPC is 90 days. The long delay at this stage, the study says, proves crucial in the final adjudication.

Southern states have set up exclusive courts to deal with POA offences besides designating certain courts like district sessions courts as special courts to facilitate Dalit cases.

These exclusive courts have improved the situation to an extent but, on the whole, conviction rates remain abysmally low.

On an average, the study found that arrest of the main accused took 25 days in exclusive courts and 98 days in designated courts. “They are neither given top priority nor are investigations completed within the shortest possible time,”it states.

Also, more than 450 days are taken by the two types of courts to start the hearing after the submission of chargesheet.

The report says, “Huge intervals between various stages of case processing need some serious attention because they are working against the whole idea (of justice to Dalits).”

The nature of offences, too, are an eye-opener. The second most common offence under the POA Act — after atrocities to humiliate — is outraging of modesty of SC/ST women. As the study notes, “It indicates a tendency to use the dominant caste position to sexually exploit Dalit women.”

Subodh Ghildiyal,12 Dec, 2006 TIMES NEWS NETWORK

Nearly 70,000 killed in 17-year Kashmir insurgency: rights group

SRINAGAR, India: Nearly 70,000 people have died in the 17-year conflict in India’s portion of Kashmir, a local human rights group said Friday, a figure markedly higher than the latest police count.

The Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society came up with the death toll after reviewing news reports and conducting door-to-door surveys in every district in Kashmir, Khurram Pervez, the head of the group, told The Associated Press. Most of dead were civilians.

Pervez said his group’s survey of news reports alone shows about 50,000 people have died, but he added, “We don’t subscribe to this figure as newspaper reports are mostly based on police handouts. Neither do we accept the government figure of 41,000.”

The latest police estimate said 19,987 rebels, 16,253 civilians and 4,982 security forces’ personnel were killed between January 1990 to November 2006.

However, Kashmir’s inspector-general of police, S.M. Sahai, acknowledged that many deaths went unreported in the early years of the violence.

“The initial years (of Kashmir insurgency) were chaotic … and hundreds of incidents went unreported,” Sahai said.

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, the main separatist political alliance in the state, says more than 100,000 people have been killed in the nearly two decades of violence. A combination of police and human rights figures compiled by AP have previously put the death toll at 68,000.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but both claim it in its entirety. The two nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947.

More than a dozen Islamic groups in Kashmir have been fighting for independence or a merger with predominantly Muslim Pakistan since December 1989.

International human rights groups have accused both the rebels and the Indian army of abuses in Kashmir. India says Pakistan arms and supports the Islamic insurgents, but Pakistan says it only gives the rebels diplomatic and moral support.

The Associated Press  IHT , December 8, 2006

10 % of the rural housholds are landless in India: Survey

Despite the emphasis on land reforms, the survey found that about 10% of rural households were landless — owning either no land or less than 0.002 hectare. The corresponding urban figure is 49%. This would indicate that high rates of migration are creating an increasing number of people who do not own their dwellings. The percentage of landless households as estimated by the latest survey (2003) was not very different from 1971-72, which was 9.6%.

The latest survey by National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) shows that the average land owned per household in the rural sector was highest in Rajasthan (2.077 hectare) and lowest in Kerala (0.234 hectare).

When it comes to maximum number of landless households in rural areas, the percentage in the rural sector was Sikkim (31%), followed by Arunachal Pradesh (22%), Maharashtra (18%), Tamil Nadu (17%) and Himachal Pradesh (15%). This would show that a large state like Maharashtra still has a significant number of landless persons, perhaps reflecting poverty figures of deprived areas of Vidarbha and Marathwada.

The estimated total area owned by households in rural sector during 2003 was 107.23 million hectare. The corresponding area in the urban sector was 7.21 million hectare. The per household average land owned in the rural sector in 2003 came to 0.725 hectare, about 27% less than the corresponding figure in 1992 which could suggest fragmentation as well as creeping urbanisation in some cases.

The share of land owned by different social groups was 11.2% for STs, 9% for SCs, 43.5% for OBCs and 36% for others in rural areas. The per household land owned by OBCs, at 0.758 hectare, was higher than the national average of 0.725 hectare.

According to the survey, land owned per household was 0.767 hectare for STs, 0.304 hectare for SCs, 0.758 hectare for OBCs and 1.003 hectare for others.

The figures of the survey are drawn from a nation-wide sample and could reflect a trend on well-to-do OBCs purchasing land in rural areas even though there are no comparisons with the previous years. In urban areas, OBCs control over 36.8% of the land. The percentage of land owned by STs was 3.3%, SCs was 4.8% and others controlled 55.2%. The per household land ownership was about 0.145 hectare for STs, 0.041 hectare for SCs, 0.139 hectare for OBCs and 0.151 hectare for other groups, while it was 0.130 hectare for all households in urban areas.

http://www.mospi.nic.in/mospi_nsso_rept_pubn.htm

India lost 181.82 crores because of strikes and lockouts

Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times

New Delhi, December 4, 2006

The numbers are worrying. India lost 13.75 million man-days and incurred Rs 181.82 crore as production-related losses because of strikes and lockouts in the first nine months of 2006, data with Ministry of Labour and Employment has revealed.

The Ministry, however, says the lining of hope is the reduction in the number of strikes and lockouts as compared to 2005 or even 2004. The total number of strikes and lockouts till September 2005 were 397. The corresponding figure for this year is 346.

Minister of State for Labour and Employment Oscar Fernandes told Lok Sabha on Monday that there was no proposal to review the existing mechanism; to avoid strikes as the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 provides a mechanism to maintain harmonious relationship between employer and employee.

The Act provides a framework for investigation and settlement of the Industrial disputes. It also seeks to regulate illegal strikes and lockouts, and provides protection to the workmen in case of lay-off, retrenchment and closure of establishments.

The declining trend in strikes and lockouts was around 4 per cent in 2005 compared to 2004. During 2004, the rate was 13 per cent as compared to 2003.

West Bengal, though its government is considered to be a progressive one at present, is an easy first among states in terms of losing out on man-days. In 2005, West Bengal was responsible for the loss of 13.99 million man-days or 60.15 per cent of the total man-days lost. In 2004 too, West Bengal led accounting for 17.56 million man-days.

A Ministry official said the definition of a man-day may vary from one company to the other, but on average it comprises a working day of eight hours. He added that while employees trigger strikes, the employer puts lockouts in force. “Reasons for a lockout could vary from weakening demand of the company’s product, resulting losses or indiscipline on the part of workers,” he said.

The official said the last few years have seen comparative industrial peace with none of the major strikes – with the possible exception of state bank employees’ strike that lasted for a few days – having an impact on general life.