Clashes in India among Ten’ most underreported humanitarian stories of 2006 : MSF Report

New York – The staggering human toll taken by tuberculosis (TB) and malnutrition as well as the devastation caused by conflicts in Haiti, Somalia, Colombia, Chechnya and various parts of India, Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are among the “Top Ten” Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2006, according to the year-end list released today by the international humanitarian medical aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

Clashes in central India

Ongoing conflict in several parts of India – including northeastern Assam and Manipur states highlighted in last year’s Top 10 Underreported Humanitarian Stories list – Report says that it has gone virtually unnoticed by the outside world for years. In central India’s Chhattisgarh state, clashes between Maoist insurgents, Indian security forces and Hindutva sponsored militias, also known as Salwa Judum, has been occurring for more than 25 years, resulting in the displacement, sometimes reportedly forced, of more than 50,000 civilians.

Others flee into neighboring states while thousands of people have lost their livelihoods and have little access to their land, food, essential healthcare or emergency medical services. MSF provides medical treatment in camps for displaced people in Dantewada district, located in south Chhattisgarh. Medical teams also provide mobile health services and nutritional support to those in need in remote rural areas.

Surprisingly, the situation in Chhatisgarh is only one of several armed conflicts occurring throughout India for years, with civilians caught between various belligerent parties. As a consequence, many people continue to live in an atmosphere of fear and violence with little or no access to health care.

“We know that media coverage does not generate improvements on its own,” said MSF (USA) Executive Director Nicolas de Torrente. “However, it is often a precondition for increased assistance and political attention. There is perhaps nothing worse than being completely neglected and forgotten.” Many conflicts worldwide are profoundly affecting millions of people, yet they are almost completely invisible,” said MSF (USA) Executive Director Nicolas de Torrente. “Haiti, for example, is just 50 miles from the United States and the plight of the population enduring relentless violence in its volatile capital Port-au-Prince received only half a minute of network coverage in an entire year.”

According to Andrew Tyndall, publisher of the online media-tracking journal The Tyndall Report, the ten countries and contexts highlighted by MSF accounted for just 7.2 minutes of the 14,512 minutes on the three major U.S. television networks’ nightly newscasts for 2006. Treating malnutrition, TB, and Chechnya were mentioned, but only briefly in other stories. Five of the countries highlighted by MSF were never mentioned at all.

The 2006 “Top 10” list also focused on the devastation caused by TB and malnutrition.

Read the complete Report at MSF website

50,000 caste related cases against Dalits are still pending in Uttar Pradesh, India

 India fails to protect its lowest castes – panel

In Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, around 50,000 caste-related cases against Dalits are pending. But only four have been resolved by fast-track courts since 2002.

Dalits in rural areas were often discouraged by police from filing reports, Verma said, adding the actual number of attacks or incidents of discrimination in 2005 — the year for which figures were last compiled — were probably around 150,000.

Though India has reserved government jobs and college seats for Dalits and a Dalit is currently the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the community remains among the poorest and most socially and economically deprived.

In December, a hungry Dalit girl from the eastern state of Bihar had the fingers of her right hand chopped off by an upper-caste land owner for taking spinach leaves from his field.

In another case, all upper-caste passengers walked out of a bus in southern India when a Dalit got on, the commission said, according to a report it received last year.

“It is to be regretted that even after 57 years since untouchability was ‘abolished’…we are unable to implement successfully basic provisions (of laws protecting Dalits),” Vaghela said.

Kamil Zaheer, Reuters, Tue Feb 6,2007,

Caste system is the greater barrier to social harmony in India, BBC Poll

LONDON: Nearly two-thirds of all Indians are fiercely proud of ‘Mera Bharat Mahaan’ but more than half of India believes the caste system is a “barrier to social harmony” and is holding the country back, according to a BBC poll to be published on Monday.

India-watchers expressed surprise at the poll’s finding, the first for a nationwide ‘attitudes’ survey conducted by an international agency, that Indians still seem to have caste firmly on their minds in one way or the other, even though leading sociologists have long argued that urbanisation and industrialisation has helped break down caste-barriers.

The survey aims to itemise exactly how Indians view their own country, at a time when much of the world appears to have a view alternately on “emerging India” or “overheating India”. The survey was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan.

The survey found that 71% are proud to be an Indian; nearly as many (65%) think it is important that India is an economic superpower; 60% think it’s important India should be a political power and the same number believe it should be a military superpower. Just under half of all Indians said India’s economic growth over the last 10 years had not benefited them and their families. The survey comes as part of BBC’s ongoing ‘India Rising’ week of special programming that charts changes in different sectors of the Indian economy.

In a special message to the BBC’s estimated 163 million listeners in 33 languages, President Kalam called for worldwide engagement with his vision of citizenship, notably a “three-dimensional approach involving education with value system; religion transformed to spirituality and economic development for societal transformation of all the nations.” Kalam, who called upon BBC’s global audiences to flood his website with suggestions and debate, was speaking on a special edition of the BBC’s ‘Discovery’ programme, to be broadcast on Wednesday.

Monday’s BBC survey concentrated on asking more than 1,500 Indians a series of questions focusing on social and political issues. It found that Indians overall, seven in 10 exhibited a positive sense of identity by agreeing to the statement, “I am proud to be an Indian.” The survey found the view was uniform across all age, income groups, even though it differed among religious groups with Christians (73%) the proudest; Hindus (71%) close behind and Muslim pride in being Indian languishing at 60%.

The poll found that Indians’ positive perceptions about their present also extended to the Indian marketplace. A 55% majority said the justice system “treats poor people as fairly as rich people”; 52% said “being a woman is no barrier to success” and just under half of all Indians (48%) declared they would rather “work for a private company than for the government.” Interestingly, six in 10, or 58% said they believed India’s security is “more in danger from other Indians than from foreigners” and 55% said the “caste system is a barrier to social harmony.” 47% said “corruption is a fact of life which we should accept as the price of doing business.” But a cheering 45% of 18- to 24-year-old Indians said they were less tolerant of corruption than the older generation.

On religious belief, 50% said “people don’t take their religion seriously”; 40% lamented that “young Indians have lost touch with their heritage.”

Rashmee Roshan Lall , 5 Feb, 2007 TIMES NEWS NETWORK