Human Trafficking to US: India’s Hindu party legislator recieved 20,000 US $ per person

I got Rs 800,000 per person, Katara says

Sahil Makkar, Indo-Asian News Service New Delhi, April 28, 2007

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Babubhai Katara, arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle people abroad, has told the police that he was paid Rs 800,000 for every person he helped to go abroad illegally, with his aide and travel agents pocketing most of the money made in the deals.

“I was given only Rs 800,000. I really don’t know if they charged Rs 3 or 4 million for sending people abroad with me,” Katara told officers interrogating him.

He stated this when confronted with statements of his aide Rajender Gampa and some travel agents that they used to charge Rs 3 to 4 million from each person who flew abroad in the company of the MP on the latter’s family’s passports.

Police say they have evidence that Katara and his associates were involved in flying out at least 12 people to the US and Britain. The Gujarat politician had personally taken six people with him.

“They have fooled me,” a police official quoted the MP as telling investigators during interrogation.

“Though he was paid a handsome amount, it were the agents and others involved in the human trafficking racket who arranged for the passports and clients and so took a larger share of the booty,” a senior police official told.

“Our investigations show that these travel agents were in some kind of agreement with the MPs and paid them a fixed amount every time they smuggled out a client abroad. Katara was given Rs 800,000. The rest of the money was distributed among the MP’s aides and agents,” the officer added.

Katara, who had reportedly earned around Rs 3.5 million through human trafficking, was apparently not aware that Sunder Lal Yadav, a travel agent, earned more than him simply by arranging the clients and documents.

The investigating officer also revealed that travel agents identified people who could cough up Rs 3 million to travel abroad. The agents had a wide and well-organised network spread through the small towns and cities in Punjab to the big cities in Andhra Pradesh.

The Crime Branch of Delhi Police, which is conducting the investigation, has identified five travel agents involved in the racket. Three are from Punjab (Joginder Singh, Santhu Masih and Harbhajan Singh), Hyderabad and New Delhi.

The racket came to light on April 18 when Katara was arrested at the airport in New Delhi while trying to fly out a woman, Paramjeet Kaur, and a 15-year-old boy Amarjeet Singh on the passports of his wife and son.

Police later arrested Gampa, Sunder Lal Yadav and their female accomplice Kiran Dhar on charges of forging documents and passports. Yadav was charged with arranging the visas.

Kiran allegedly taught women flying abroad how to act like an MP’s wife – and how to conduct before immigration officers.

Yadav told a court in New Delhi that three Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MPs from Uttar Pradesh – Mitrasen Yadav, Ashok Rawat and Mohammed Tahir Khan – and Ramswaroop Koli of BJP from Rajasthan were also involved in the racket.

And Gampa told the court that Katara as well Mitrasen Yadav and Ashok Rawat knew that he was using their letterheads to help people immigrate illegally.

Indian teachers ‘purify’ low caste students with cow urine

Mumbai, April 22, 2007 ,

Indian teachers have been sprinkling cow urine on low-caste students to purify them and drive away evil.

In India, millions of people formerly known as “untouchables” remain oppressed at the bottom of the ancient Hindu caste system.

The Times of India reported yesterday that upper-caste headteacher Sharad Kaithade ordered the ritual after taking over from a lower-caste predecessor at a school in a remote village in the western state of Maharashtra earlier this month.

He told an upper-caste colleague to spray cow urine in a cleansing ceremony as the students were taking an examination, wetting their faces and their answer sheets, the newspaper said.

“She said you’ll study well after getting purified,” student Rajat Washnik was quoted as saying by the CNN-IBN news channel. Students said they felt humiliated.

Hinduism reveres the cow, and its dung is used in the countryside as both a disinfectant and as fuel.

In 2001, Hindu nationalists promoted cow’s urine as a cure for ailments ranging from liver disease to obesity and even cancer.

The newspaper said the two teachers were arrested after angry parents complained to police. They have been released on bail.

India’s secular constitution bans caste discrimination, but Dalits – those at the bottom of the caste system – are still commonly beaten or killed for using a well or worshipping at a temple reserved for upper castes, especially in rural areas.

Dalits, once known as untouchables, make up around 160 million of India’s billion-plus population.

In February, the New York-based Human Rights Watch group said India was failing to protect its lower-caste citizens, who were condemned to a lifetime of abuse because of their social status.

Reuters

More than 50 pc Muslim women backward in West Bengal : survey

If being born as a girl child is not the bottom-line, as revealed by the nation-wide survey on child abuse, perhaps being born as a Muslim girl in West Bengal is, so points out the National Family Health Survey II.

Be it education, media exposure (watching TV, cinema), health family planning or even in basic decision-making like whether a woman should visit her parents, go to market, or take care of her health, it is the Hindu women, who stalk much higher than their Muslim counterparts.

The National Family Health Survey II has pointed out a glaring gap of more than 50% backwardness among Muslim women, when compared with their Hindu counterparts, in key areas as education and health awareness.

For instance, the survey points out about 56.8 % of Muslim women has no media exposure as against 32.7 % of Hindu women.

Under media exposure, the survey shows that while 6.5% of Muslim women bother to read newspaper as against 17.8% of Hindu women, only 22.3% is interested in watching TV and 30% in listening radio as against 47.2% of Hindu women watching TV and 45% listening radios.

While educational backwardness, illiteracy are reasons of lack of information, TV watching or going to cinema are generally not encouraged because of religious reasons. Principal secretary of Social Welfare department, S.N. Haque, when asked on this said that even till recent times many affluent families would go without TV sets because pictures of women and men and the kind of clothes they wear, being aired, are prohibited in Islam. They are considered “najayez” in our religion.

Islam prefers women being covered up and being properly dressed with minimum exposure of skin. Even men are not allowed to go about in public in anything short of knee-length.

On newspaper reading habit, Haque said that since literacy rate of Muslim women is 20% less than that of Hindu women, reading newspaper is yet to catch up. Even very few Muslim homes keep daily newspaper. Men are in the habit of reading newspapers from local tea-stalls or stationery shop. “It is considered as an unnecessary expenses,” said Mr Haque.

What is worse, GK about anything, for example AIDS, is disastrously low. While only 10.3% of Muslim women have heard about AIDS, 31.2% of Hindu women are aware and updated on AIDS. Again while 47.8% of Hindu women is clueless about avoiding AIDS, nearly double the number of Muslim women (73.8%) is unaware how AIDS could be avoided. The state government has sampled a number causes behind educational backwardness: economic constraints, lack of school facilities in the locality, prejudice regarding education of women.

In health sector, knowledge about immunization, medication is poor among Muslim women. While there are cases of 24.5% fully immunized Muslim infants, the percentage is more than double (52.0%) in case of Hindu infants. Again, Muslim children, receiving one dose of Vitamin A, account to only 27.5% against 50.5% Hindu children, who are administered the dose.

In fact, while 80% of child deliveries among Muslims is not attended by doctors or trained health workers, only 40% of deliveries in Hindu families happens without supervision of any trained-on hands.

While cases of reproductive health problems, mal-nourishment are higher among Muslim women, the percentage of Muslim women suffering from anemia is much less, because consumption of red-meat among them is quite high.

Incidentally, though only 37.6% of Muslim women use modern contraceptive methods as against 50.2% Hindu women, the Muslim women are more open to discussing family planning with their husbands than their Hindu counterparts. Nearly 20.3% women can freely talk with their husband on family planning, whereas Hindu women would rather discus it with mother, sister, friends, neighbours and even daughters.

1. Reads newspaper at least once a week
Muslim–6.5%    Hindu—17.8%

2. Not exposed to media
Muslim–56.8%….Hindu—32.7

3. Percentage involved in decision making on own health care

Muslim–42%—Hindu—46%
4.Access to money

Muslim–42.5% …Hindu–54.0%

5. Knowledge about AIDS

Muslims–10.3%….Hindus–31.2%

Romita Datta, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, April 12, 2007

http://www.nfhsindia.org/westbeng.html

Judicial nepotism rampant in India

In the first step in the fight against judicial nepotism, the Law Ministry wrote to the Bar Council of India last month asking it to ensure that lawyers don’t appear in cases before judges who are close relatives. However, it appears to have ignored the wider problem of what is called Son Stroke or Uncle Judge, where judges have close relatives practising in the same court.

NDTV discovered that this trend, where two judges or a group of judges have children practising in each other’s courts, is widespread. While not everyone takes advantage of what has been described as a mutual cooperative society, many of them do. This problem first surfaced in 2003, when the Bar Council of India demanded the transfer of all judges whose relatives practised in the same courts.

A year later, BK Roy, then Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, issued an administrative order barring a group of 10-12 judges from hearing any case pleaded by each other’s relatives.

He quoted eminent jurist HM Seervai: “Experience shows that an impression is created in the public, however unjustified it may be, that it would be advantageous to engage a judge’s son as an advocate.”

“It was generally believed that A, B, C and D (all judges) constituted a mutual co-operative society, in the sense was believed that each of the four judges (A, B, C and D) would protect the sons of the three other judges.”

The order sparked off a protest by judges in Punjab who took mass leave. Justice BK Roy was subsequently transferred, and since then, the order has been ignored.

“Some relatives misuse their connections more blatantly than others, but the problem remains in principle. An especially acute feature of problem of nepotism as it exists here is that apart from relatives of high court judges, children of sitting Supreme Court judges from this region also practise here at Chandigarh.”

“The advantages, the benefits that accrue to them from their connections is well known to all and is fully exploited,” said Anupam Gupta, Senior Advocate, Punjab & Haryana High Court.

Recently an MP raised the issue of judicial nepotism again and claimed that out of 490 judges of the various High Courts and the Supreme Court, relatives of 131 judges are practising in the same court.

Limited directive

Finally, four long years after the issue was first raised by the Bar Council, the Law Ministry issued a directive. But it was confined to saying that no lawyer shall plead a case before a judge who is a close relative.

It completely skirts the issue of close relatives of a judge practising in the same court – the Uncle Judge or Son Stroke syndrome.

“There are complaints from all over the country that judges’ children are practising in the same high court and that is causing grave problem in regard to handling of cases and the judges favouring and one judges son appearing before another judge,” said M N Krishnamany, President, SC Bar Association.

Judges are, in fact, expected to follow a code of conduct which points out that: “Close association with individual members of the Bar, particularly with those who practise in the same court, shall be eschewed.”

But is this distance really possible?

“If your son, brother or sister is practising in the same court, you can’t eschew close association with your son, daughter or brother.”

“Therefore, you should not be a judge in the same court; you should opt to be transferred to some other court where a close relative is not practising,” said Prashant Bhushan, Member, Committee on Judicial Accountability.

However, as figures show, this is clearly not the trend.

In the Punjab & Haryana High Court, the relatives of eight sitting judges plead cases, while in Delhi High Court, the close relatives of nine sitting judges are practising lawyers.

Also senior lawyers feel that the children of judges are often favoured.

“That instances have come that a relation of a judge having joined only three four years in the practise suddenly his briefs are huge in number so that is what it is under scrutiny because he takes advantage of his position,” said Jaganath Patnaik, President, Bar Council of India.

“It is very clear also as I know personally so many judges in the High Courts their children are practising and are being pampered also,” said M N Krishnamani, President, SC Bar Association.

The public impression is that in order to get a favourable order, it’s better to hire a close relative of a judge to plead your case.

Now the questions that remain to be answered are can the Bar Councils keep a check on this practise and is the Law Ministry seriously concerned about ending nepotism?

Ajmer Singh, Wednesday, April 11, 2007 (New Delhi), NDTV.COM

Two out of every three children in India are physically abused

Two out of every three children in India are physically abused, according to a landmark government study.

Commissioned by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the study says 53% of the surveyed children reported one or more forms of sexual abuse.

This is the first time the government has done such an exhaustive survey on the controversial issue of child abuse. Abuse of children, particularly sexual abuse, is rarely admitted in India and activists have welcomed the study. Releasing the report at a press conference in the capital, Delhi, Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury said: “In India there’s a tradition of denying child abuse. It doesn’t happen here is what we normally say.

“But by remaining silent, we have aided and abetted the abuse of children.”

Thousands quizzed

Describing the findings of the study as “disturbing”, Ms Chowdhury called for an end to the “conspiracy of silence”.

The issue of child abuse has been raised in the past by non-governmental organisations, but this is the first time an attempt has been made by the government to document the scale of the problem.

The study took two years to complete, and covered 13 states where 12,247 children (between five and 12) and 2,324 young adults (over the age of 12) were quizzed.

Dr Loveleen Kacker, the official in charge of child welfare in the ministry, compiled the report.

She said the study had revealed that contrary to the general belief that only girls were abused, boys were equally at risk, if not more.

She said a substantial number of the abusers were “persons in trust and care-givers” who included parents, relatives and school teachers.

Dr Kacker said a disturbing finding of the study had been that 70% had not reported the abuse to anyone.

Besides surveying physical and sexual abuse, the study also collected statistics on emotional abuse and neglect of girls.

The study called for efforts to make society aware of the rights of children and officials say the data will help them formulate better policies to protect children.

‘One too many’

The report has been welcomed by child rights activists who say such a study was sorely needed in India.

Roland Angerer, country director of Plan International, told BBC News it was “very important that the government has finally taken up the issue”.

“It doesn’t matter what statistics say. Whether the percentage of abused children is 75 or whether it is 58 is unimportant. Each child that is abused is one too many,” he said.

“It’s important that parents and adults must learn that children are not property, that they have rights too.”

In India, parents are often reluctant to admit child abuse and sexual abuse of children involving family members is almost always hushed up.

Perhaps that is why – as the study shows – more than 50% of the young adults surveyed wanted the matter of abuse to remain within the family.

Only 17% of the abused young adults wanted harsh punishment for the abusers.

Officials and activists say the biggest challenge for the authorities and society is to ensure that children are encouraged to report abuse.

India is home to almost 19% of the world’s children. More than one-third of the country’s population – 440m people – is made up of children below 18 years of age.

According to one study, at least 40% of these children are in need of care and protection.

The country has millions of child workers.

Many are employed in hazardous industries and also in homes and small restaurants, which makes them vulnerable to violence and exploitation.

Last year the government banned children under 14 from being employed in homes and at restaurants to avoid their exploitation and abuse, but millions of children continue to work in these sectors.

India is a signatory to various international laws on the protection of children, but implementation of these laws is often lax.

BBC NEWS , Geeta Pandey, 9 April 2007,

Employment and Unemployment Situation among Religious Groups in India from NSS

This report is based on the seventh quinquennial survey on employment and unemployment conducted in the 61st round of NSS from July, 2004 to June, 2005. The survey was spread over 7,999 villages and 4,602 urban blocks covering 1,24,680 households (79,306 in rural areas and 45,374 in urban areas) and enumerating 6,02,833 persons (3,98,025 in rural areas and 2,04,808 in urban areas).In this survey information on religion followed by each household was collected as part of the household characteristics. The reported religion of head of the household was considered as the religion of all the household members irrespective of the actual religion followed by individual members. Seven main religions were identified in the survey. They were Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism. Among these the followers of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity formed the three major religious groups. Some of the key findings are stated below: * In rural areas, about 84 per cent per cent of households having 83 per cent of population followed Hinduism whereas 10 per cent of households followed Islam with about 12 per cent of population. Further, about 2 per cent of households and population followed Christianity. In urban areas, the percentage of households and population were about 80 and 77 respectively for Hinduism, 13 and 16 for Islam and 3 and 3 for Christianity. Even after excluding the state of Jammu and Kashmir, having different geographical coverage in different NSS rounds, the proportion of persons by major religious groups remained more or less same.

* The sex ratio was the highest among the Christians (994 in rural and 1000 in urban areas) followed by the Muslims (968 in rural; 932 in urban) and the Hindus (961 in rural; 912 in urban).

* In the rural areas, ‘self-employment’ was the mainstay for all the religious groups. About 37 per cent of Hindu households were dependent on ‘self-employment in agriculture’. The corresponding proportion was 35 per cent for the Christians and 26 per cent for the Muslims. The proportions of households depending on ‘self-employment in nonagriculture’ were 14 per cent for the Hindus, 28 per cent for the Muslims and 15 per cent for the Christians. In the cas*e of ‘rural labour’ households, the proportions varied from 32 per cent (Muslims) to 37 per cent (Hindus). In urban India, the proportion of Hindu households depending on ‘self-employment’, ‘regular wage/salary’ and ‘casual labour’ were 36 per cent, 43 per cent and 12 per cent respectively, whereas the corresponding shares for the Muslims were 49 per cent, 30 per cent and 14 per cent respectively and for the Christians 27 per cent, 47 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

* In rural India, proportion of households in the lowest three monthly per capita expenditure (mpce) classes combined (viz. less than Rs.320 for a month) was highest among Hindus (14 per cent), followed by Muslims (12 per cent) and Christians (8 per cent). In urban India, the proportion of Households in the lowest three mpce classes combined (viz. less than Rs.485 for a month) was the highest among the Muslims (25 per cent) followed by the Hindus (12 per cent) and Christians (8 per cent) On the other hand, in the urban area, proportion of households in the highest three classes of mpce combined (viz. more than Rs.1380 for a month) was 38 per cent for Christians, 28 per cent for Hindus and 13 per cent for Muslims. In rural areas, proportion of households in the highest three classes of mpce combined (viz. more than Rs.690 for a month) was 47 per cent for Christians, 24 per cent for Hindus, and 20 per cent for Muslims.

* The Christians had the lowest illiteracy rate both for rural (20 per cent for males and 31 per cent for females) and urban areas (6 per cent for males and 11 per cent for females). Except for rural females, the proportion of literates among the Hindus was higher than that among the Muslims. Among the rural females, the illiteracy rates were almost equal among the Hindus and the Muslims (59 per cent). The corresponding rate was as low as 31 per cent among the Christians.

* In the rural areas, Worker Population Ratio (WPR) among the males was highest among Christians (56 per cent) followed by Hindus (55 per cent). The corresponding figure for Muslims was lower (50 per cent). As in the case of males, WPR for females for Christians (36 per cent) and Hindus (34 per cent) was much higher than that for Muslims (18 per cent). In urban India, the WPR among the males was the highest among Hindus (56 per cent) followed by Muslims (53 per cent) and the Christians (51 per cent). The WPR for Christian women (24 per cent) was much higher than those among Hindu (17 per cent) and Muslim women (12 per cent).

* For the rural males in the age group 15 years and above, WPR in the educational level secondary and above was the highest among the Hindus (76 per cent) followed by the Christians (72 per cent) and the Muslims (67 per cent). However in urban areas, it was equal (71 per cent) among Muslims and Hindus and lower (64 per cent) among Christians. For the rural females in the same age group with same education level, however, the rates were highest among the Christians (37 per cent) followed by Hindus (30 per cent) and Muslims (18 per cent). Similar pattern was also observed among urban females in the same age group.

* More than half of the workers in the rural areas were self-employed, the proportion being the highest among the Muslim workers both males (60 per cent) and females (75 per cent). In the urban areas also, the same pattern is observed. The proportion of regular wage/salaried workers was highest among Christians in both rural and urban areas among both males and females. The proportion of casual labourers was highest among Hindus for females in both rural (34 per cent) and urban (18 per cent) areas.

* In rural areas, the unemployment rates (URs) were higher among the Christians (4.4 per cent) as compared to those among the Hindus (1.5 per cent) or the Muslims (2.3 per cent). In the urban areas also same pattern was observed. However, the URs in urban areas were more or less same for Hindu and Muslims (4 per cent). Further URs for females were generally higher in all major religious groups as compared to males in both rural and urban areas. The UR was highest (14 per cent) among the urban Christian women.

Defence spending causes poverty in India

NEW DELHI, April 2 (Reuters) – South Asian nations need to cut defence spending and increase funding for women and children’s welfare, healthcare and education to curb poverty in one of the world’s poorest regions, activists said on Monday.

The call by a coalition of about 200 voluntary groups — representing women, tribal people, trade unions and refugees — came on the eve of a summit in New Delhi of a regional grouping which aims to boost trade and development.

The group, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Afghanistan is set to join it as the eighth member during the April 3-4 conference.

But the People’s SAARC, as the coalition is called, urged the governments to cut defence spending by 10 percent.

“We realise that the lavish spending on weapons by poor South Asian countries is one of the major causes of rampant poverty in the region,” Arjun Karki, a coordinator of the coalition, told a news conference.

“We also demand that India and Pakistan stop the arms race and give up nuclear weapons, which pose a great threat to the 1.5 billion inhabitants of this peaceful region.”

India raised its defence budget by nearly 8 percent to $22 billion this year while its traditional rival Pakistan increased it by nearly 4 percent to $4.2 billion in 2006 despite their new moves to make peace.

Activists said money spent on arms not only fuelled tensions in the region but also diverted crucial funds meant for development.

“It helps to accentuate tensions within SAARC nations and it takes away food from the children and employment from the unemployed … it is a senseless expenditure,” said Kamal Mitra Chenoy, who teaches at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Activists said Nepal spent $260 million on defence last year, compared to about $29,000 on agriculture despite the fact that 80 percent of the population depended on farming for its livelihood.

The group also called on governments to do more to help stem violence against women, human trafficking and adhere to global conventions on respecting human rights.

“The tragedy of the situation in SAARC is that there is very little discussion on human rights, and if we follow the World Trade Organisation’s rules, we should also follow the principles we have committed to under various human rights conventions,” said Chenoy.

(Additional reporting by Manjusha Chatterjee)