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जेएनयू की एक बहुत पुरानी शाम से उतने भी प्यारे नहीं देशभक्तों, भारत माता के वीरों (मुँह खुलते ही स्त्रियों को गालियाँ देने वालों को सप...

December 21, 2015

यह न्याय नहीं, बदला मांगती भीड़ है.

16 दिसंबर सामूहिक बलात्कार मामले में नाबालिग सजायाफ्ता की सजा पूरी करने के बाद रिहाई पर तमाम मित्रों की प्रतिक्रियायों से गुजरना एक भयावह अनुभव है- उतना ही भयावह जितना शार्ली एब्डो के बाद कुछ मित्रों के साथ हुआ अनुभव था. विस्तार से लिखूंगा पर अभी उसका खून मांग रहे दोस्तों, खासतौर पर महिला मित्रों से कुछ सवाल- 

किसने बताया आपको कि वह सभी अपराधियों में सबसे बर्बर था? राम सिंह ने? बाकी सह-अभियुक्तों ने? पुलिस ने? फिर इंडिया'ज डॉटर में तो एक और सह-अभियुक्त ने यह भी बताया था कि वह पूरे टाइम बस चलाता रहा, बलात्कार में शामिल ही नहीं था? मान लें उसकी भी यह बात? सिर्फ मर्जी से तथ्य चुनेंगे हम? बाकी तथ्य यह है कि दिल्ली पुलिस ने किशोर न्यायालय में एक बार भी नहीं कहा कि वह सबसे बर्बर था? 

मगर अगर वह सबसे बर्बर था भी तो? किसने बनाया एक नाबालिग को इतना बर्बर? और बनाया तो इसके पहले किसी अपराध में शामिल होने का कोई जिक्र क्यों नहीं मिला? बाकी के चार बालिग़ अपराधी उस नाबालिग को साथ लेकर क्यों घूम रहे थे? उस नाबालिग को स्कूल जाने की जगह राम सिंह जैसे पुराने अपराधी (किरण बेदी के शो तक में आ चुका था वह वैसे) के साथ काम करने पर क्यों मजबूर होना पड़ा? सबसे बर्बर वह हो भी- तो उससे ज्यादा बर्बर हम और आप हैं, वह समाज है जो नाबालिगों को पढ़ाई की जगह काम करने पर ही मजबूर नहीं करता, ऐसे लोगों के साथ काम करने पर मजबूर करता है. 

बाकी किशोर न्याय (बालकों की देखरेख और संरक्षण) विधेयक 2015 पारित करवा कर संज्ञेय अपराधों में लिप्त 16 साल तक के किशोरों को वयस्कों के लिए लागू होने वाली कानूनी प्रक्रिया में लाकर अपराध रोकने का ख्याल कितना अहमकाना है यह जानने के लिए अपराध और सजा के अंतर्संबंध नहीं बस आंकड़े देख लेना काफी होगा. 16 दिसंबर सामूहिक बलात्कार के बाद उपजे देशव्यापी गुस्से को देखते हुए जस्टिस जे एस वर्मा कमेटी की सिफारिशों को ख़ारिज कर बलात्कार के लिए मृत्यु दंड का प्राविधान करने के बाद बलात्कार बढे हैं, कम नहीं हुए. खुद नेशनल क्राइम रिकार्ड्स ब्यूरो के आंकड़े देखें तो भारत में 2013 में बलात्कार के कुल 33,707 मामले दर्ज हुए थे.  सजा बढ़ने के साथ कम होने की जगह 2014 में यह संख्या बढ़कर 36,735 हो गयी है. 


और ये आउटरेज इसी मामले में क्यों? थोंग्जम मनोरमा के लिए गुस्सा कहाँ गायब हो जाता है. मनोरमा कौन? नहीं पता न? मनोरमा इसी देश की एक और बेटी जिसको आसाम राइफल्स के वीर जवानों ने आधी रात को घर से उठाकर बुरी तरह से यातना देकर मार दिया था- गुप्तांगों तक में गोली मारी थी. और हाँ, यह मैं नहीं, मणिपुर सरकार की बैठाई न्यायिक जांच समिति ने कहा है. मणिपुर दूर है? अच्छा- छत्तीसगढ़ वाली सोनी सूरी तो याद होंगी न? उच्चतम न्यायालय ने माना था कि इस देश के वीर पुलिसियों ने उनके गुप्तांगों में पत्थर भर दिए था- राष्ट्रपति का वीरता पदक भी मिला था उन्हें इसके लिए. सोनी सूरी के बारे में भी नहीं पता? 


अभी इस वक़्त दिल्ली में सामूहिक बलात्कार के बाद मौत से लड़ रही सात साल की बच्ची के बारे में तो जानते होंगे? नहीं? एम्स में है. पता लगाइए कि तमाम नारीवादियों से लेकर हम आप तक उसके लिए आक्रोशित क्यों नहीं हैं? 

क्या है कि इस देश में पिछले बरस 36,745 बलात्कार के मामले दर्ज हुए थे- ये बस दर्ज होने वाली संख्या है- पता है न ज्यादातर मामले दर्ज ही नहीं होते! यह भी कि इस देश की अदालतों में 2014 तक ही बलात्कार के 1,25,433 मामले लंबित थे (2015 वाले जोड़ लें तो 1,62,000 के ऊपर हुए) और इनमें से 90,000 पिछले सालों से लंबित थे. हम आप कुछ नहीं कर पाते ऐसे हजारों मामलों में इसका यह मतलब नहीं कि सारा गुस्सा एक आदमी पर निकाल दें. 

वह करेंगे तो बिलकुल उन्हीं जैसे हो जायेंगे- उन्होंने एक स्त्री के शरीर पर अपनी सारी कुंठा, सारी हिंसा निकाल दी थी. आप एक सजायाफ्ता पर निकाल देंगे पर होगी वही- कुंठा और हिंसा.

December 20, 2015

Nirbhayas need justice, not revenge or catharsis

Photo by Ramesh Lalwani via flickr



[This is an AHRC Article.]
She is not one of the faces that beamed on television screens, the faces full of emotions, such as anger, dejection, and  hope. Of course, no one expected her to be amidst the crowds on screen, whose animated faces were broadcast on television to mark 16 December 2015, i.e. three years of the notorious gang rape of a young paramedical student in Delhi, who later came to be known as Nirbhaya. This is the case that shook the nation and led to an unprecedented outpouring of pent up anger over crimes against women in general and rapes in particular. It had led to such an outrage that the Republic had to take note and amend its rape laws. 
You would not see her face in these protests. What you will, in time, is find her in the yellowing pages of the statistics reports of the crime records keepers. Gang raped by 3 men, she is a 7-year-old minor battling for her life in Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). She will be another number in the list of minors raped in the national capital this year; counting up to October 31, 824 minors have been raped in Delhi, as per government statistics admitted in Parliament.
There are lies, damned lies, and statistics, and the truth here is that the tragedy of rape far exceeds what is reported. Still lets consider the reported statistics. Delhi witnessed 1,856 reported rapes by 31 October 2015; 2,166 reported cases in 2014, with 1004 victims being minors; and 1,636 reported rape cases, with 757 minor victims, in 2013. Delhi is but a microcosm of the violent reality that damages Indian society and subsequent generations. The National Crime Records Bureau, the Indian government’s official crime records keeping body, put the total number of rapes “reported” in the country at 36,735 in 2014. Most of these crimes go unreported for various reasons. 
To add insult to the injury of being born in such a heartless and unjust society, she would not be in the minds of most of the protestors seeking justice for Nirbhaya. Many in the protests would not even be aware of her predicament, as the cacophonic media, the primary source of their outrage, was preoccupied with other manufactured outrages, such as the imminent release this month of the juvenile convicted in the December 16 gang rape. 

This juvenile will be released after having served 3 years in a correctional home. The stories about how he was the most brutal one of the lot in the commission of the crime has started doing the rounds. Outraged media, just like the crowds, have started running headlines like “Nirbhaya Rapist to be released”, both in newspapers and news channels.

Some media outlets have even openly demanded that he be hanged, often with visuals of the parents of Nirbhaya demanding the same. They have demanded lowering the legal age for being considered a juvenile if one is accused of committing heinous crimes. The refrain is the age old one: how can someone capable of committing crimes like rape and murder be considered a juvenile. Age-old debates in different societies and communities that argue against the same are summarily rubbished here, with even shriller calls for his hanging. 

Most of this outrage against him, just one of the convicted accused of committing a rape in a country that sees thousands of rapes being committed in India, comes not from any quest for justice. They are mostly rooted in the need for a closure, a forced closure, by turning the body and person of a criminal into the site of cathartic release of collective anger against rape crimes.   

India has seen similar outrages substituting their anger with revenge in the past as well; a serial rape accused named Akku Yadav was lynched by his victims inside Nagpur District Court in Maharashtra. Outrage can succeed even in securing justice in the odd case. The case of rape and murder of Priyadarshini Matto and the case involving the murder of Jessica Lal are examples. Such outrage can also bring forced closure, at times, at least for some. For instance, in Nirbhaya, this closure arrived with the fast track prosecution ending in death sentence to all convicts but the juvenile, as the State feared the outrage and ensured a speedy trial. 

This is also where the outrage way to “justice” comes at the cost of criminal justice reforms and often gets appropriated by those who want this system, which gives impunity not only to sex offenders but many others, to continue. The calls for justice are reduced to murderous calls for revenge. Patriarchal societies have always turned women bodies into a site of its assertion. How difficult would it be for them to turn the bodies of some poor rapists, into sites of revenge and catharsis. They know doing so can bring closure to the outrage at hand, while the social and institutional systems that keep up the violations of women and children can continue unimpeded. 

This is also exactly where outrage, howsoever genuine the cause, lose meanings and become weapons of revenge. This is the point where sane voices, get thrown out and the frenzied mobs take over. That is exactly where Nirbhaya protests have ended up — adding death penalty to one more crime, despite all the claims of those still known as leaders of Nirbhaya protests to be opposed to capital punishment. 

Rape is a crime, a heinous one and warrants prosecution and punishment for the perpetrators. Victims should not need an outrage to get justice, not in a society that claims to be a republic. But then, the republic is the same where many of the rapes don’t get reported for many reasons. The most prominent is the stigma attached with being a rape victim in a society that treats women’s bodies as both the primary site where patriarchal codes of honour are defined, as well as carriers of purity and pollution of the caste system. 

Highly insensitive handling of complainants and victims by law enforcement agencies and fear of further reprisals from the perpetrators and their accomplices adds to this and increases underreporting. The victim, here, means every victim – be it Nirbhaya or the seven year old battling for her life in AIIMS or Thangjam Manorama who was brutally tortured and killed by Assam Rifles personnel of the Assam Rifles – as established by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice (retd.) C. Upendra Singh. 

The malaise of such crimes will continue until Indian justice institutions ensure that victims can seek redress and justice as their right and perpetrators get punished without needing a public “outrage”. Add to this the fact that most of the victims even from “mainstream” India do not see Indians “outraging” for them, forget those like Thangjam Manorama caught in the dozens of the faultiness that divide the Republic. In fact, even a rank stranger following events in India can vouchsafe that many of the ones outraged for Nirbhaya would be equally, if not more ferociously, outraged, if Manorama’s perpetrators were brought to book! 

Back to the case at hand: the NCRB also shows that 1,25,433 cases of rape were awaiting trial in 2014, out of which 90,000 cases were pending from previous years. Can a people outrage for justice in so many cases? Should it mean no justice to the victims, if the people cannot outrage on and on? 

December 15, 2015

Citizen lives matter – before, during, and after demolitions like Shakur Basti

[This is an AHRC Statement.] 


Few experiences can bring more pain to families than having their homes demolished. For the urban poor in India, and across the world, this is unfortunately a recurrent event in their lives. Demolitions of their houses and communities are so routine that they hardly make news, and remain confined to the inside pages even if they do. And even when they do make front-page news for some reason – for example, the scale of demolitions and brutalities committed by the law enforcers – they rarely receive sympathetic coverage. For most of the mainstream media, catering to the middle classes, poor persons homes only appear as encroaching shanties that scare urban landscapes.

A quiet burial in rubble of their community would have been the fate of approximately 1,000 families of Shakur Basti in Delhi, but for the tragic death of a six-month child. The child allegedly died during the early morning demolitions of 500 “shanties” by the Indian Railways. Had it not been for the tragic death of the child, the demolitions would have been routine. Worse, had it not been for the political dynamics of the City, with political groups at odds with each other governing the Railways and the City, even this infant death would have failed to get the incident the attention it deserved.

The Railways, caught on the back foot, following the death of the infant, have since been insisting that procedures stipulated for carrying out such evictions from its lands were followed. The Railways is asserting that it served repeated notices to the “encroachers”, asked them to voluntarily leave its premises, and carried out the operation only after being left with no alternative. It also claims that the child died before the demolitions commenced at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning. The Government of Delhi, on the other hand, has blamed the Railways for carrying out the demolition and has supported allegations that the infant died during the operation.

Herein lies the irony of the incident that is making cacophonic news. The discourse and debate has virtually no one invoking the right to shelter, for example, a basic human right, well recognized in both international and Indian jurisprudence. The Delhi High Court has itself recognized the right of the urban poor repeatedly, for instance in Sudama Singh & Others v. Government of Delhi on 11 February 2010.

The judgment states:

“This Court would like to emphasise that the context of the MPD, jhuggi dwellers are not to be treated as ‘secondary’ citizens . They are entitled to no less an access to basic survival needs as any other citizen. It is the State’s constitutional and statutory obligation to ensure that if the jhuggi dweller is forcibly evicted and relocated, such jhuggi dweller is not worse off. The relocation has to be a meaningful exercise consistent with the rights to life, livelihood and dignity of such jhuggi dweller. (Writ Petitions (Civil) Nos. 8904/2009, 7735/2007, 7317/2009 and 9246/2009)

It is evident from the judgment, any evictions without relocating dwellers with dignity will violate the basic survival needs of the dwellers and will thus be in contravention of the Order.

Which procedures have the Railways followed, then?

Similarly, the primary responsibility of looking after the interests of the slums, and also their resettlement, lies with the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which functions under the control of the Govt. of NCT of Delhi.

What was DUSIB doing when the Railways were serving eviction notices to the community? Was it even aware of these notices? And, what actions did it take to ensure resettlement? Or, never mind resettlement – what action did it take to even resettle them or at least get the Railways postponing the demolitions till the biting winters of Delhi pass?

The Government of Delhi claims that the Railways did not keep it in the loop. If that is true, it represents both a lack of coordination between government authorities and a criminal neglect for the lives of the urban poor. Their lives mean nothing for the government labyrinth that stifle the poor, choke life out of them. It then keeps passing the buck from one department to other, one agency to other with no identifiable command to take the blame and offer redress.

This brings us back to the question of the right to life with dignity for the slum dwellers. To quote from the same judgment of the Delhi High Court cited above:

“It cannot be expected that human beings in a jhuggi cluster will simply vanish if their homes are uprooted and their names effaced from government records. They are the citizens who help rest of the city to live a decent life they deserve protection and the respect of the rights to life and dignity which the Constitution guarantees them.”

It seems that human beings in slum dwellings do not exist for the authorities. If they did, those homes would not have been demolished with the winters having set in, exposing the children and the elderly, especially, to the mercy of the elements.

Demolitions of people’s houses without dignity cannot be humane. Those responsible for deciding and executing such a demolition should have looked into their common humanity even more than the procedures and refrained from this drive in the winter.

Key to eradicate hunger is making public institutions work

[This is An AHRC Statement.]
Who can enjoy any of the basic human rights guaranteed to them by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 through the United Nations General Assembly resolution 217, if they face chronic hunger, or even worse, starvation? The answer to the question is simple. The rights guaranteed by the UDHR to peoples of all nations would be nothing more than a cruel joke on them.

Sadly, this is the truth that millions of hungry souls in the world encounter meal by meal, day by day, month by month, even 67 years after the declaration and 19 years after the recognition by the world community. This is the realizing of everyone’s right of access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food. It is the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger. 

This concept was put forth on November 13 1996, in Rome, at the World Food Summit called by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The world has seen progress since then and equally spectacular failures to achieve a planet free of hunger. As the FAO itself notes in its State of Food Insecurity in the World report (SOFI) for 2015; 72 developing countries out of 129 it was monitoring for the Millennium Development Goals targets, have achieved them. But, we still see globally more than 793 million people who remain undernourished. The numbers have come down from 960 million, but is this acceptable?

A regional breakdown of hunger statistics makes things even more worrying. It tears apart claims of economic development and growth being the best weapons for eradicating hunger. India, for instance, is one of worst offenders in failing its hungry citizens. However, it maintained its spectacular annual growth rate of over 7 percent for almost all of the decade gone by-even when the rest of the world was on the brink of an economic break down not seen since the 1970 Oil Shock. The same period has also seen other countries not doing that well when dealing with hunger on the economic front. Bangladesh was much better.

The reasons behind the prevalence of chronic hunger are as varied as the countries and communities in which it is endemic. Armed conflicts and insurgencies raging in Africa have pushed millions more into starvation in an Africa that has always been beset with hunger. India has seen the same without having such violence except in a few border areas. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, did not suffer much food insecurity despite three decades of civil war. In the case of food scarcity- it threatens the food security of millions across the world but millions of others in India go hungry despite food grains rotting in government warehouses.


However, there is one commonality among all those countries who have failed to arrest hunger and starvation. It appears that almost all of their public institutions are either completely defunct or just pretending to be functioning. This denies their hungry citizenry of any attempt at seeking redress. The rot in the public institutions of these countries runs too deep-from their justice to their social welfare institutions-with the end result remaining the same. The end result is brilliantly summarized by Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros in their book The Locust Effect. They say countries remain stuck in the cycle of poverty because of the failure of the justice system, law enforcement and the government in saving the poor from day to day violence, slavery or forced labor. Governments, and the world community, might have a thousand schemes ready to fight hunger. The question is worth asking, what would they be on the ground fighting against bullies? Often in connivance with law enforcers than not, stealing all the benefits from the intended beneficiaries who have no justice system to seek redress against such theft.

“Hunger is more than a lack of food—it is a terrible injustice,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the World Food Day, albeit in a very different context. It cannot be further than the truth. It is a terrible injustice that public institutions, which can eradicate hunger, do not work for the hungry people and most of them have no justice institutions in which to turn. A massive reengineering and rebuilding of these public institutions is the key to eradicate hunger.

December 09, 2015

हाँ आप हमारे कवि हैं, रहेंगे विद्रोही दादा.

8 दिसंबर 2015 को कवि, कामरेड, दादा रमाशंकर यादव विद्रोही 
के असामयिक 
निधन के बाद उमड़ आई कुछ स्मृतियाँ, फेसबुक पर बिखरी स्मृतियों पर कुछ टिप्पणियाँ-  

1. अलविदा कामरेड रमाशंकर यादव विद्रोही। आप सच में जनता के कवि थे- संघर्षों के चितेरे- जैसे जाते हैं जनता के कवि वैसे ही गए। लड़ते हुए, सड़क पर, Occupy UGC के लिए भिंची हुई मुट्ठियों के साथ। पर जेएनयू आज और ख़ाली हो गया, और बेगाना भी। आपके बिना गंगा ढाबा कैसा तो लगेगा! 

2. लोग कहते हैं विद्रोही आधे पागल थे। पर फिर ऐसे पागल अब कहाँ मिलते हैं जिनके जाने की ख़बर पर दुनिया भर में हज़ारों आँखें नम हों, हज़ारों गलों में निवाला न उतर रहा हो।

3. जनकवि विद्रोही को इस ठण्ड में सुबह 7 बजे बिना जूतों के जाते देख जेनयू की ही ईरानी-फिलिस्तीनी कामरेड Shadi Farrokhyani ने पूछा कि जूते क्या हुए?
विद्रोही दा का जवाब था- उस दिन प्रदर्शन में फेंक के पुलिस को मार दिया। यह जनवरी 2013 की स्मृति हैTop of Form


4. विद्रोही दादा से अकसर हो जाने वाली मुलाकातों में उनका पैसे लेना भी अक्सर होता था. ए समर- 10/20 ठू रुपया दा से धीरे धीरे जितना संभव हो उनके हाथ में जबरिया ठूंस देने तक. तमाम बार उनके प्रतिरोध के बावजूद.

पर यहाँ ठहरा जाय ताकि किसी भ्रम की गुंजाईश न रहे.


बस एतने चाहि/ फलाने दिहे रहिन आज/ खाना होई गय ढेर नाय चाही से लेकर तमाम ऐसे ही जवाबों से लैस विद्रोही ने कभी किसी से पैसे मांगे नहीं- वह बस ले लेते थे. क्यों, क्योंकि उनका हक था- लेनिन की पेशेवर क्रांतिकारिता की परिभाषा में, मैं तुम्हारा कवि हूँ के सहज भाव में. एक बात और- विद्रोही ने 'किसी से भी' पैसे नहीं मांगे तो नहीं ही मांगे- लिए भी एक चुने हुए तबके से- उस तबके से जिनकी वह आवाज थे, जिनके वह कवि थे. मुझसे पहले के जेएनयू के साथियों से लेकर बहुत बाद आये नए साथियों तक सिर्फ उनसे जो धड़ा कोई भी हो वामपक्षी थे.
'तू रहय द्या फलाने तू द्या - जेएनयू की तीखी राजनैतिक लड़ाइयों के बावजूद दक्षिण से बरास्ते मध्यमार्ग वामपंथियों तक में सहज दोस्ताना रिश्ते भी आम थे (इकलौता अपवाद अतिवामपंथी थे, शायद अब भी हैं पर वह फ़साना फिर कभी) और उनका ढाबे पर इकठ्ठा चाय पीना भी. उन्हीं में से एक में यह हादसा हुआ था- हम लोग लाइब्रेरी कैंटीन में खड़े थे और विद्रोही कहीं पीछे से आये थे- तनी कुछ रूपया दा हो- मेरे घूमने तक एक प्यारे दोस्त मगर गैरवामपंथी जूनियर ने जेब में हाथ डाला था और विद्रोही फिर उसी सहजता से- तू रहय द्या समर तू द्या.' फिर उनकी इस बात पर निगाह रखने लगा था- और फिर एक दिन पूछ लिया था- जवाब उस बार भी साफ़ था. 'मैं तुम्हारा कवि हूँ'. कहने की जरुरत नहीं यह 'तुम्हारा' किसका सर्वनाम है.

5. कब आया हो समरकस हया- जेएनयू में रहने ही नहींछूट जाने के बरसों बाद भी गंगा ढाबे पर लौटते ही इस सवाल से मुठभेड़ हो ही जाती थी। तिस पर यह समर कोई अकेला समर नहीं थातमाम पीढ़ियों का सर्वनाम था- हम लोग आते जाते रहेविद्रोही जेएनयू का स्थायी भाव थे- उन सब सपनों का भीसंघर्षों का भी जो जेएनयू का स्थायी भाव थे। 

December 04, 2015

INDIA: Soft loans for sugar barons, suicide for farmers


[This is an AHRC Article
Also published in Countercurrents.] 

By 30 June 2015, 1300 farmers had killed themselves in Maharashtra, according to the state government’s own admission, with half of the year still to go. The ongoing drought in Marathwada was supposed to deepen the crisis, which it did, with the toll reaching 997 there alone by 30 November 2015. The total number of suicides in the state has crossed 2400, as against 1981 suicides it admitted in 2014.

The government further concedes that many of these are ‘eligible’ farm suicides: the land was in the victim's name and there was evidence of indebtedness, which makes them ‘eligible’ for compensation. Even overlooking the fact that these criteria oust women and landless labourers squarely from even a possibility of getting considered ‘eligible’, the numbers are significant. According to the Maharashtra government, 722 out of the 1300 farm suicides by June 30 were ‘eligible’ suicides. Revenue officials also admitted to 626 out of 997 farmers’ suicides in Marathwada being ‘eligible’. That the government has yet to provide the compensation is another matter altogether.

The government is not always slow in dealing with distress however, as seen in the case of the sugar mill owners. These poor guys owed some Rs 2,532.49 crore to the Maharashtra sugar cane farmers, many of whom figure in the suicides statistics, whose sugarcanes they bought and did not pay for. They could not, as Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (hereafter Food Minister) Ram Vilas Paswan told the Lok Sabha in February, due to the falling sugar prices. "The outstanding sugarcane dues are mainly on account of low realisation from sale of sugar," he had said in a written reply to a question. That not a single sugar mill owner has reportedly committed suicide, unlike thousands of farmers, is beside the point.
Well aware of the crisis and its impact on farmers, the Union Government approved a Rs. 6,000 crore interest-free loan to sugar mills to enable them to clear cane arrears payable to farmers in June 2015. The gazette notification for the same was issued by the Department of Food and Public Distribution and can be accessed here.
This was, interestingly, not the first such package for sugar mill owners to bail out farmers—the incumbent union government had given interest free loans of Rs. 4,400 crore to the sugar industry for paying cane arrears in June 2014 as well, soon after coming to power after the general elections in May 2014. The previous government had also approved an interest free loan of Rs. 6,600 crore for the mills for clearing sugarcane arrears.
Unfortunately, going by the government’s own data, not much of the money seems to have reached the farmers. The total payments sugar mills owed to the farmers in June 2014 was pegged at 11,000 crore. The amount, as per Food Minister Paswan’s own admission, rose to Rs 16,364 crore by February 2015, and to a whopping Rs 21,000 crore by April. Out of these arrears, Uttar Pradesh sugar mills owed the farmers the maximum at Rs 7,870.57 crore, followed by Maharashtra at Rs 2,532.49 crore, and Karnataka at Rs 2,154.97.
The government, of course, makes the claim that the money owed by the sugar mills have come significantly down to Rs 12,248 crore at the end of the 2014-15 season. Have a cursory look at the figures and the lie gets busted. The arrears that stood at Rs. 11,000 crore at the end of 2013-14 season reached to Rs. 12,248 crore at the end of the 2014-15. That is a clear increase of Rs. 1248 crore, not a ‘reduction’, significant or otherwise because of whatever relief measures the government claims to have pressed in service.
Where did all the money given to the sugar mills to pay the farmers go, then? The answer to this is far from clear, though one possibility is it having been used to keep the sugar mills afloat, most of them privately owned with a very small number being under cooperatives. The presence of leakages is admitted by officials themselves. A senior government official from the co-operative and marketing department of Maharashtra, quoted in this media report, admits the same-
“Banks should ensure that the amount is given to farmers only. Banks need to play a crucial role. Otherwise, it happens that the money is taken from the government but never reaches the farmers. We hope that all sugar mills will implement this decision in the larger interest of the farmer community."
Even if some of the funds made it to the farmers, this would not change their predicament as they would need to spend the money on expenditures warranted from the last year as well; such as daily needs, education, health care and other social responsibilities.
Such soft loans to sugar mills therefore cannot effectively address the crisis of the farmers, a crisis they have to deal with day in and day out. While sugar mill owners can wait for government bailouts, ordinary farmers do not have this luxury, a fact that keeps surfacing in farm suicide statistics. Furthermore, many of the private defaulters do not have their businesses confined to the sugar industry alone; they have diverse portfolios that include huge profit making businesses, some even based on the byproducts of the sugarcane crushing, such as ethanol refineries.
Why then, do governments keep bailing out the industrialists and not the farmers? The answer is simple: industrialists are indispensable to the system that masquerades as democracy in India, while farmers—divided over a hundred fault lines—are not. The industrialists fund political parties and their electoral campaigns, farmers cannot. Further, helping ‘industry’ goes well with the dominant ‘growth and development’ discourse propagated by powers across the world, whereas helping farmers comes under ‘subsidies’ that need to be done away with.
Sadly, with so many farm suicides, this state of affairs cannot continue without having serious consequences to both the society and the republic. And the republic cannot solve the farm crisis by bailing out sugar barons. It needs to come up with something that addresses the real problems ailing both the farmers and the industry. Keeping mills afloat with public money, and making farmers continue to grow sugarcane with diminishing to no returns, resulting in farm suicides, is not a solution to the problem.

December 03, 2015

Droughts don’t wait for ‘official declaration'

[This is an AHRC Statement.] 
More than 100 farmers have reportedly committed suicide in Uttar Pradesh, one of the most impoverished states in India, because of a hailstorm that destroyed their crops. The situation will only worsen with 50 of 75 districts being hit by a severe drought. Despite having evidence of the drought, the provincial government took two and a half months to declare it. They announced it step by step, a few districts at a time, with the final declaration coming as late as 19 November, 2015-the Rabi season having already set in! Unfortunately, Uttar Pradesh is not the only province awaiting a drought declaration. The practice is routine for most states, Telangana being a similar case this year.

Uttar Pradesh administration was well aware of the drought-like conditions prevailing in the state by the first week of September. It had admitted that the deficit rainfall in the Kharif season had reached a disastrous 55% in western Uttar Pradesh and was highest in all meteorological sub-divisions in the country. Rainfall deficit for eastern Uttar Pradesh was topped to reach as high as 43 percent.

Anyone, with even a cursory knowledge of agriculture, would know that such a heavy rainfall deficit well into the Kharif season would make crop survival very precarious. Common knowledge would know the effects it would have on farmers already caught in a web of suicides induced by agrarian distress. But then, the government of Uttar Pradesh is not just anyone. It sat on all the data and waited until November to declare a drought. Their declaration put all revenue collections from farmers on hold and brought in a host of relief measures… at least in theory.

Delay in declaring a drought denies farmers of temporary relief measures, despite the fact that they are often the only life lines available to small and marginal farmers. Revenue collection, for instance, keeps popping up in farm suicide data reports. Failure to pay their dues and the resultant harassment from revenue officials causes a loss of honour. At times it becomes a strong enough reason to force farmers to take their own lives in a society deeply rooted in patriarchal codes of honour.

Other drought-relief measures include: state supported contingency crop planning, relief employment providing a source of livelihood, aid in setting up tube wells or other sources of irrigation and providing food as well as cattle fodder. All of this, however, would only start after an official declaration of drought. With negligible insurance coverage for farmers in India, some studies put Uttar Pradesh at the bottom of the list with merely 3.5 percent of farmers with crop insurance. Crop failure often means the beginning of the end for affected families.

Add to this the absurd eye estimation of a revenue clerk looking at a crop while calculating the losses’ practice employed for deciding compensation for loss. It seems the picture cannot get grimmer. But it can. It is a fact that under the National Diaster Relief Fund norms, the maximum cash relief a farmer can get is Rs 2,750 per acre in rain fed areas and Rs 5,465 per acre in assured irrigation areas. The cash relief is then capped at Rs 13,475 and Rs 26,778 for rain fed and irrigated areas respectively. A cruel joke indeed.

This is the situation on the ground, in the face of the need of building a real time response system for dealing with the agrarian crisis. Real time responses, however, need to acknowledge the crisis in real time. A drought, that would destroy lives, cannot wait for ‘official recognition’.

December 02, 2015

COP21-Climate Change Conference Paris-Got To Tackle Both Doomsday And The Disaster At The Door


[This is an AHRC Statement.]

Climate change is a real and urgent issue putting the very future of humanity at stake. Unfortunately, it is not only the concepts like the progressively increasing temperature of the earth that can sink islands or disasters that could affect millions if not billions of people. These scenarios, always so dear to doomsday predictors, have dominated the discourse at the cost of other, even more urgent issues like food insecurity, hunger and starvation plaguing the marginalised sections of the society across the globe. It is also about the deepening agrarian crisis with farmers in the least developed and developing countries bearing the brunt of the situation.

Take the unending saga of farm suicides in India, for instance. Several studies have exposed the suicides, pegged at 12,360 by the National Crime Records Bureau, the country’s official record keeper, despite massive underreporting and fudging of categories to keep the numbers low. They tell the tale of a disaster that has been unfolding for almost two decades and have ensnared more than 200,000 lives even by the most conservative estimates. These deaths have hardly figured in the multilateral forums discussing climate change. They have been caused, in part, by the impact of the same-like repeated crop failures- especially cotton cash-crops that farmers have been forced or allured into cultivating.

Not that the world community is unaware of the fact. A report of the Food and Agricultural Organisation released last week, ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris notes that the average annual number of disasters caused by natural hazards, including climate-related events have almost doubled since the 1980s between 2003 and 2013. It further notes that the most marginalized sections of society like small and marginal farmers, forest-dwelling communities, fisher-folk, and those dependent upon livestock are so often the worst hit; many of them have seen a complete erosion of their livelihood during such disasters.

The only thing worse than the disasters themselves, has been the world communities response to them. “Worldwide, the livelihoods of 2.5 billion people depend on agriculture, yet only 4.2 percent of total official development assistance was spent on agriculture between 2003 and 2012 - less than half the United Nations target of 10 percent”.

One can pause here for a moment and think of the Bangladeshis known as ‘delta migrant’- the people forced into distress migration to Dhaka every year because of the vagaries of nature that forces the Ganges delta to change course every year.

These people, some 3, 50,000 erstwhile agriculturalists in the fertile delta end up in the Dhaka slums as per World Bank estimates. Yet they often fail to find even a passing mention in the global discourse on the issue, perhaps because the delta has been changing course over centuries and has not been directly related to climate change until now. That will not remain the case forever, and increased global warming would in all likelihood accelerate the displacements caused by lands getting washed away.

Ironically, the current thrust of the climate debate seems to have forgotten the very people who have borne the brunt of the change and are becoming more vulnerable. The excessive focus on cutting down the carbon emissions without taking into consideration both the historical patterns of the emissions and the current and immediate need of energy for such vulnerable populations, will only push them further into distress. The ensuing food and livelihood security of such communities should be a primary and non-negotiable task of the conference. Ways to fight climate change with all the doom and gloom that it brings must be fought with a focus on, as FAO puts it, not losing sight of universality, solidarity and inclusiveness.

Climate change is real and urgent but so are agrarian distress and environmental disasters threatening the lives of billions of small and marginal farmers, fisher-folk, indigenous communities, and forest dwelling communities. The battle for the survival of the world cannot be fought at the cost of their lives.

November 29, 2015

हम हिन्दुस्तानी बोले हैं, तुम उर्दू हिन्दी सुने हो.


[उर्दू पर एक और पुराना लेख यहाँ देखें ]  

तमाम हिन्दी वाले इतनी अच्छी उर्दू कैसे लिख लेते हैं? और 'उर्दू' वाले हिन्दी? दोस्त Meenu के इस सवाल में ही उन तमाम जवाबों के रास्ते खुलते हैं जो उर्दू हिन्दी का बँटवारा कर कचहरियों को गुलज़ार किये बैठे भाइयों को उनकी माँ हिन्दुस्तानी तक ले जाते हैं- उस माँ तक जहाँ उनके अलग होने का झगड़ा बिना अपील की इजाजत के खारिज हो जाता है. 


पर इस जवाब के रास्ते इन दोनों भाषाओँ, या जुबानों के माजी में मिलेंगे। कहाँ से आयीं ये? कब आयीं? हिन्दी इस लफ्ज़ का जुबान, या भाषा के हवाले में पहला जिक्र कब मिलता है? और उर्दू का? ढूँढ़िएगा, बेतरह चौंकेंगे। उससे ज्यादा तब जब ये जानेंगे कि उर्दू दरअसल तुर्की भाषा के ओर्दू लफ्ज़ से निकली है- जिसका मतलब फ़ौज़ होता है. उसकी वजह भी थी- पारसी बोलने वाले मुगलिया सल्तनत के पूरी तरह से हुकूमत ए हिन्दुस्तान हो जाने के पहले तुर्क लड़ाके भी खूब आते थे और फिर लड़ने को भी बातचीत की जरुरत होती है. फिर दोनों लड़ने वाओं को आपस में ही नहीं बल्कि उस अवाम से भी बात करनी होती थी जिसके बीच ये खेमे लगाते थे, लड़ते थे. कमाल ये कि ओर्दू से निकली इस उर्दू में तुर्की जुबान अमूमन नदारद है- फ़ारसी जरूर खूब है. सफर मोटा मोटा मुहम्मद बिन कासिम से शुरू मान लें- माने सातवीं सदी से और अमीर खुसरो के आने तक पूरी हो गयी- 

इक़बाल अशार को याद करें- 
उर्दू है मेरा नाम मैं खुसरो की पहेली 
मैं मीर की हमराज़ हूँ ग़ालिब की सहेली। 
कमाल ये कि खुसरो ने खुद जो बोली (और जो कव्वाली और ग़ज़ल दोनों के बाबा आदम हुए) ने जो जुबान बोली उसे कभी उर्दू नहीं कहा. जो कहा वो आप पता लगायें- सब हमहीं बता देंगे तो आप क्या करेंगे। हाँ जो बोली उसे उर्दू नहीं तो क्या कहेंगे ये भी बड़ा सवाल है- देखें-

ज़ेहाल-ए-मिस्कीं मकुन तग़ाफ़ुल
दुराये नैना बनाये बतियाँ
कि ताब-ए-हिज्राँ न दारम ऐ जाँ
न लेहु काहे लगाये छतियाँ..... 

पहला मिसरा ठेठ फ़ारसी मगर दूसरा? अब यहाँ एक लम्हा ठहरें और एक और बात जोड़ें- फौजी खेमों वाली इस उर्दू के साथ साथ इसकी एक बहन भी है- रेख्ता। मोटा मोटा कह लें तो इस जुबान की दिल्ली के आस पड़ोस वाला अंदाज- बड़ा फर्क यह कि वह खेमों में नहीं- बाज़ार में बातचीत की जरुरत पूरी करने के लिए पैदा हुई थी. उसके पहले की उर्दू की जरा तुर्शी और रेख़्ता की जरा नज़ाकत के राज इसी फर्क में छिपे हैं. इस रेख्ता का वक़्त है 17वीं सदी के बाद का- और बावजूद इसके कि रेख्ता का अपना अलहदा अंदाज़ आज भी बचा हुआ है, जुबान जो है अब वो उर्दू ही है. अब इकबाल भाई का ऊपर कहा याद करें और चचा ग़ालिब को 

रेख्ते के तुम ही उस्ताद नहीं हो ग़ालिब 
कहते हैं अगले ज़माने में कोई मीर भी था

मतलब साफ़ हुआ- जो उर्दू थी वही रेख्ता है, जो रेख्ता है वही उर्दू है. हाँ, ठुमरी और ख़याल- इन दोनों में रेख़्ता वाला अंदाज ही ज्यादा मिलेगा- ध्यान से सुने तो दोनों में अब भी बचा महीन सा फर्क भी. 

पर हिन्दी कब आई- और कहाँ से आई? और ये हिन्दी वाले, उर्दू वाले भी? इन नुक्तों से जूझेंगे फिर कभी. शुक्रिया मीनू, एक और सवाल से मुठभेड़ करवाने के लिए. तब तक उर्दू पर एक और पुराना लेख देखें-