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,

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46 per cent Indians believe ghosts exists, 24 percent consult a palmist

93 per cent Indians believe in God

New Delhi, January 24, 2007

Here are some common beliefs about religion — Indians used to be very religious but no longer are, religion is the domain of women and the elderly, and educated and urbane India has no time for religion.

If you also thought so, it is time you took a look at the findings of the HT-CNN IBN State of the Nation Survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). Every alternate respondent in this survey — 7,670 to be precise — was asked a series of questions about their religious beliefs, attitudes and practices. The findings are bound to surprise you.

The survey found that urban, educated Indians are more religious than their rural and illiterate counterparts. Yes, women are more religious, but metropolitan women are far more religious than rural women. Predictably, the youth are a little less enthusiastic about religion. But the point is: religion in the country is on the rise.

If there is one social group that is least enthusiastic about religious practices, it is the adivasis. And if there is one group that is more religious than any other, it is upper caste Hindus who have been exposed to modern life more than others.

Consider these facts:

1) 93 per cent believe in god; education makes no difference
2) 64 per cent visit a temple, mosque or gurudwara regularly
3) 53 per cent pray daily; the educated pray more regularly
4) 46 per cent believe ghosts exist
5)  24 per cent consult a palmist
6)  68 per cent participate or take interest in religious functions of other religions

Do you think these figures reflect the rise of the BJP? Not quite. The party gets a little more than average support from among the very religious, but so does the Congress.

So what drives people to religion? Sociologists tell us that the stress of urban living pushes people to search for anchors in their lives. Since they cannot go back to their villages, they recreate a community through religion. That explains the religiosity among those who live in big cities.

In the process, religion changes from a personal experience to something that is more public and congregational. Hence, the proliferation of jalsas, satsangs and ratjagas. Market and the media play a greater role in defining religion.

Religious programmes on television are the latest vehicle for religious communication.

(Kumar and Yadav are social scientists working with the CSDS, Delhi)

Sanjay Kumar and Yogendra Yadav, Hindustan Times

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

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

Malaysia to sign labour MoU with India

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

New Delhi – India and Malaysia are to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on labour in October following which a Malaysian government agency will recruit blue-collared Indian workers directly, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said.

Ravi, who visited Malaysia last week, said a delegation led by Malaysian Human Resources Minister Fong Chan Onn will visit India in October and sign the MoU.

‘Once the agreement is made, the Malaysian government will directly recruit the Indian workers and distribute them to their companies, which need such workers,’ Ravi told IANS.

‘This agreement on labour will basically avoid the hassles and troubles created by the recruitment agencies. It would be the responsibility of the Malaysian government to ensure the safety of the workers and good wages for them there,’ he added.

Ravi said the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), the Malaysian governmental agency, would recruit the workers – mainly for the construction companies in the country – and distribute them.

‘The officials from the CIDB will visit India to train the workers,’ the minister said, adding that the Indian government would identify the agency that would recruit people from here.

‘The agreement will ensure good wages, good living conditions and better medical facilities for the workers. The government will be responsible for these. That makes a lot of difference,’ Ravi explained.

He admitted that there have been serious complaints against recruitment agencies that they did not ensure good wages and living conditions for workers going abroad.

Indian workers form the third largest foreign work force in Malaysia, with 140,000 of them eking out a living there. Ethnic Indians comprise seven percent of Malaysia’s population of around 24 million.

Fijian Hindu Leaders reject Hindutva claim of preferential treatment

Thursday, July 06, 2006

THE Hindu American Foundation, controlled by Hindutva forces says Fiji should stop granting preferential treatment to members of the Christian community.

This was contained in its survey of human rights reports on a number of countries where people of Indian origin resided, including Fiji, it said. The report said Fiji Hindus continued to face a barrage of anti-Hindu speeches and criticisms and that several temples were desecrated, destroyed or looted.

It said the Methodist Church repeatedly called for the creation of a Christian State and has endorsed forceful conversion of Hindus during previous coups.

“Many Fijian leaders today perpetuate hate and intolerance against Hindus on the island,” the report said.

However, a prominent Hindu religious organisation yesterday denounced the report.

The Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji president Kamlesh Arya said the authors of the report did not see it fit to hold dialogue with local leaders of the various Hindu organisations in the country to ascertain the truth.

“There are occasional social thuggery, criminal intrusions, personal attacks and stealing of property but these cannot be regarded as orchestrated criminal offence against the Indian community per se in Fiji compared to Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.

Mr Arya said they have also relayed their concerns on hate speeches and derogatory remarks by extremists and had asked the Government to take a more firm position on such matters.

With inputs from FIJI Times online

Undertrials exceed Convicts in Indian jails

Indian jails are packed with people who are still being tried for crimes they may or may not have committed. Many of them are in for petty crimes, often serving a longer jail term than they would have if they had actually been convicted. There are more undertrials in the jails than the convicts at present. In its last survey in 2002, the National Human Rights Commission found that 74 per cent of the prisoners in the country are undertrials.

The National Crime Records Bureau in 2003 has more conservative, but no less shocking, estimates of nearly 67 per cent undertrials.

Shocking tale

The story holds true all over India, even in modern states and cities like Mumbai where a right to information activist asked for details of how many are trapped as prisoners of the law.

Shailesh Gandhi, the activist, found that Maharashtra has twice the number of undertrials than convicts.

In just one of Maharashtra’s 38 prisons, Mumbai Central, as many as 26 undertrials have been there for over 10 years.

Across the state, 336 undertrials have already been in jail for over three years.

Damning factors

The culprit is not just legal delays. The situation becomes even more grim because of the indifference towards prisoners.

They are left in prison for years for minor glitches like case papers getting lost or eaten up by rodents. In other cases, there are no escorts to accompany them to court.

“There was a 23-year-old man who had been in jail for three years. First he was not produced in court when he should have. Then the judges were not available. Later there was no lawyer to speak for him. So nobody gave a damn and he remained in jail,” said Yug Mohit Chaudhry, a lawyer.

What is worse is that thousands of undertrials remain in jail because they’re uneducated and too poor to get lawyers or even pay bail.

“Most people are arrested for petty crimes like stealing a manhole cover. We had a case where a worker stole a vada pav Rs 2 because he hadn’t been paid. He was in jail for six months,” said Vijay Hiremath from the India Centre for Human Rights and Law.

“The problem often is the high bail amount. The rich can pay, but the poor have no choice. They can’t hire lawyers and even the most elementary legal aid. So they end up staying in jail even though there’s no evidence on record”.

It’s ironic that in a country where the powerful routinely get away with bail even in serious crimes, the poor languish in jails for years for petty stuff.

Tuesday, 20 June 2006,Priyanka Kakodkar, Imtiaz Jaleel, NDTV.COM