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Showing posts from December, 2014

Even eyes can reveal a lot: When village women read the intent of lustful man

By Gagan Sethi*  This was my first experience in sexual harassment at workplace. It happened in 1983 at Golana, which shot into prominence in 1986 because of the brutal attack on our Dalit colleagues leading to the death of four. The issues were getting land for housing, minimum wages, and refusal to accept insult and humiliation suffered by them for generations. But more about this later. In 1983 we set up a cooperative in Golana. Situated in the Bhal region of Anand district in Central Gujarat, it is here that river Sabarmati meets the Gulf of Khambhat. The land allocated to us for running the cooperative was along the river. It was part saline and part productive. We decided to grow vegetables, and also some fodder, and get women to take control of the initiative . The target group was Dalits of the village. After much discussion, we agreed that women were more capable in growing and taking care of vegetables. It was a difficult challenge for us to bring in substantial number of D

Higher marginalization of Gujarat Dalit rural households compared to other sections

By Rajiv Shah  The National Sample Survey Organization’s (NSSO’s) report, “Key Indicators of Situation of Agricultural Households in India”, released in December 2014, has indicated that there is much incidence of marginalization of the scheduled caste (SC) households in rural Gujarat in comparison to other social groups – scheduled tribes (STs), other backward classes (OBCs), and those falling under the “Others” category. The data put out by the NSSO show that there are in all 4,55,300 SC households in Gujarat, out of which 1,52,700, or 33.54 per cent, are involved agricultural activities. This is compared to 66.9 per cent of out of a total 58,71,900 Gujarat all rural households involved in agricultural activities. A social category-wise breakup, interestingly, reveals that there are 68.07 per cent of 28,73,800 OBC households and 71.15 per cent of 14,48,000 ST households who are involved in agriculture. As for whose falling in the “Others” category, mainly upper castes, there are 72.3

Indebted in Gujarat: Rural households depend more on moneylenders than other states

By Rajiv Shah The new National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) report, released in December 2014, has suggested that Gujarat has one of the highest proportions rural households reporting outstanding cash loan at a very high interest rate compared to most Indian states. Titled “Key Indicators of Debt and Investment in India”, the report, based on NSSO’s 70th survey round, has suggested that, in all, there are 260 rural households in Gujarat out of every 1000 which reported outstanding cash loans. A large majority of these households, around 64.6 per cent — 30.8 per cent at the interest rate between 25 to 30 per cent, and per 33.8 per cent at the interest rate 30 per cent and above — have taken loan at more than 25 per cent rate of interest. There is just one state out of the 21 major ones, selected for the sake of analysis, which has a higher proportion of rural households reporting cash loans at the high rate of 25 per cent or more than Gujarat – Jammu & Kashmir (69.3 per cent).

NSSO suggests Gujarat cultivators’ income is worse than national average

By Rajiv Shah  There have been loud claims, which continue to be made till date, that agricultural growth in Gujarat has been a “success story”, which other states must follow. It is also suggested that Gujarat’s agricultural growth rose from 3.3 per cent per annum in the 1990s to nearly 9 per cent over the last one decade. The argument goes on: Gujarat has written the success story despite facing challenges like depletion of water tables, deterioration of soil and water conditions due to salinity ingress along the sea coast, irregularity of rainfall, and recurrent drought. However, few have sought to see what impact has it made on the actual income of the agriculturists of Gujarat, and how much they have gained vis-à-vis other states. Now, new figures released in December 2014 by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) in its report, “Key Indicators of Situation of Agricultural Households in India”, suggest that, notwithstanding claims of “big” agricultural growth (something wh

Spirit of leadership vs bondage: Of empowered chairman of 100-acre social forestry coop

By Gagan Sethi*  This is about Khoda Sava, a young Dalit belonging to the Vankar sub-caste, who worked as a bonded labourer in a village near Vadgam in Banskantha district of North Gujarat. The year was 1982. Khoda had taken a loan of Rs 7,000 from the village sarpanch, a powerful landlord doing money-lending as his side business. Khoda, who had taken the loan for marriage, was landless. Normally, villagers would mortgage their land if they took loan from the sarpanch. But Khoda had no land. He had no option but to enter into a bondage agreement with the sarpanch in order to repay the loan. Working in bondage on the sarpanch’s field meant that he would be paid Rs 1,200 per annum, from which his loan amount with interest would be deducted. He was also obliged not to leave the sarpanch’s field and work as daily wager somewhere else. At the same time, Khoda was offered meal once a day, and his wife job as agricultural worker on a “priority basis”. That year, I was working as secretary of

Turning a blind eye to discrimination towards impoverished people in schools

By Venkatesh Nayak* The print media has been reporting serious lapses in the implementation of the Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act) over the last few months. A major problem is the reluctance of some State Governments and elite schools to fulfill the obligations towards students belonging to economically weaker sections (EWS) of society. Pls see detailed articles on this subject published in “Outlook” and The Economic and Political Weekly (EPW): 1) . A copy of this article was attached to my RTI application as proof of information available in the public domain about discrimination against economically weaker sections (EWS) children. 2) . After reading these articles I filed a right to information (RTI) application with the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MoHRD). Initially the MoHRD transferred my RTI application in

TSR Subramanian panel not interested in protection of environment

By Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant* The BJP’s Election 2014 Manifesto categorically assured the industrialists that policies to promote industrial growth will take precedence over those that ensure environmental protection. This is consistent with the “Gujarat Model of Development,” which led Gujarat State to become number one in pollution. To make operational this commitment to industrialists, on 29 August 2014 the Modi Government appointed the T.S.R. Subramanian committee to review six environmental laws. Officially known as the “High-Level Committee constituted for review of Environment and Forests Laws,” the committee was tasked with submitting an exhaustive appraisal of six environmental laws to the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) within two months, with subsequent a one month extension. The specific laws were: [1] The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, [2] The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980; [3] The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972; [4] The Water

A war won & a battle lost… When police treated complaint as dispute, not criminal act

By Gagan Sethi* The ingenious means of exploitation in tradition-bound villages of Bhal of Cambay taluka could well remind you of the feudal system. One such tradition was of members of so-called upper caste in the area — the Durbars— paying money to members of another caste — Bharwads —to steal bullock carts of any Vankar who had acquired this asset (also a sign of economic and social mobility). After the initial shock, he would get the message via community elders (called mahetars) that if he needed his cart back, he should visit the durbar who would ask him to pay Rs1,500 to Rs3,000 in return for the cart. We heard of such an incident on one of our visits to Pandad village where we were to train a youth group in 1980. We told the group they should file a police complaint. The nearest police station being Cambay (now Khambhat), we asked if there isn’t a rule of law. There is, we were told. One has to seek permission of the durbar to go to the police station. After a lot of cajoling a

In search of a doctor: No ambulance in Adivasi area, and the woman died

By Gagan Sethi*  In the adivasi-dominated villages of South Gujarat, Operation Flood of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and the Jesuits’ social work centres have been in existence for long. In 1979, buffalos were sought to be promoted in that region as an alternative to local cows, which were found to “less productive”. The Jesuits would organize doodh mandalis, and banks would reluctantly give loans. It was a long saga in the development of intensive dairy development. It all started with milk being collected by doodh mandalis. They then started taking it to chilling plants. Over time, dairies came up in Surat and Bharuch in the 1980s. Our brief was to train village veterinarians, who could help provide first-level support to animal husbandry programme. We tried an experiment of a joint dairy farming cooperative in the remote village of Bal, near Malsamot in Bharuch district. Though it was ultimately a failure, the idea was romantic. It was based on the understanding that

Victim of sexual harassment, Vasanti Vasava’s death highlights police behaviour

By Rajiv Shah  The mysterious death of the lady tribal police constable from Rajpipla — Vasanti Vasava — between November 24 and 26, 2014, has evidently exposed the indifference on the part of the police establishment, which becomes particularly glaring if the victim is a woman and is from a vulnerable community. Significantly, this came to light when the Gujarat Women Rights Council and the Navsarjan Trust were still busy in Vadodara district with their campaign against violence against women, which had begun on November 25, declared by the United Nations as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The campaign was to continue for nearly one full month, and activists, led by Manjula Pradeep, were moving around different villages of the district. On November 26 late night, news came about the death of Vasanti, a 28-year-old police constable, which was sought to be projected as death due to suicide because of hanging with a thick nylon thread tied to a ceiling fa

Survey of sanitation facilities in Ahmedabad slum areas shows open defecation in city

By Jitendra Rathod*  Manav Garima, in collaboration with Human Development and Research Centre, conducted a survey on current status of the sanitation system of individual households in two slum settlements of Ahmedabad – Shankarbhuvan and Nagorivad. After scrutinizing the current status of the sanitation system in both the areas, following aspects were taken into account for further action: Status of individual toilets, status of drainage facility, availability of electricity, and usage of individual toilets.  As seen in Table 1, there are in all 1,447 individual households in the two slum settlements, with a population of 7,493. A further breakup suggests that Nagorivad has a population of 1,677 and 317 households, while Shankarbhuvan has a population of 5,816 and 1,130 households. Individual Toilets Table 2 depicts number of households that have individual toilets, and number of households that do not have them. In the two slum settlements surveyed, 916 households do not have indivi

South African SC asks Arcelor Mittal to make eco-information public: Lessons for India

By Venkatesh Nayak* The South African Supreme Court of Appeal has recently ruled that Arcelor Mittal, that country’s steel production giant, make environmental information in its custody accessible to the people. On November 26, 2014, the Court dismissed the appeal filed by Arcelor Mittal, South Africa (AMSA) challenging the judgement of the High Court which directed it to disclose information about its compliance with environmental regulations to an NGO. Arcelor Mittal is headed by Lakshmi Mittal of Indian origin, who was dubbed one of the richest men in the United Kingdom a few years ago. What was this case all about? In December 2011, Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA) filed an information request with Arcelor Mittal under the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (PAIA) demanding access to their Environmental Master Plan including details of how the Vanderbijlpark site would be rehabilitated. Later in February 2012, VEJA filed a second request under PAIA demanding a