Posts Tagged ‘Right to live with dignity’

How poverty wages for tea pickers fuel India’s trade in child slavery

July 25, 2013
in Assam
The Observer, Saturday 20 July 2013 22.00 BST

When the trafficker came knocking on the door of Elaina Kujar’s hut on a tea plantation at the north-eastern end of Assam, she had just got back from school. Elaina was 14 and wanted to be a nurse. Instead, she was about to lose four years of her life as a child slave.

She sits on a low chair inside the hut, playing with her long dark hair as she recalls how her owner would sit next to her watching porn in the living room of his Delhi house, while she waited to sleep on the floor. “Then he raped me,” she says, looking down at her hands, then out of the door. Outside, the monsoon rain is falling on the tin roof and against the mud-rendered bamboo strip walls, on which her parents have pinned a church calendar bearing the slogan The Lord is Good to All.

Elaina was in that Delhi house for one reason: her parents, who picked the world-famous Assam tea on an estate in Lakhimpur district, were paid so little they could not afford to keep her. There are thousands like her, taken to Delhi from the tea plantations in the north-east Indian state by a trafficker, sold to an agent for as little as £45, sold on again to an employer for up to £650, then kept as slaves, raped, abused. It is a 21st-century slave trade. There are thought to be 100,000 girls as young as 12 under lock and key in Delhi alone: others are sold on to the Middle East and some are even thought to have reached the UK.

Every tea plantation pays the same wages. Every leaf of every box of Assam tea sold by Tetley and Lipton and Twinings and the supermarket own brands – Asda, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and the rest – is picked by workers who earn a basic 12p an hour.

If it says Fairtrade on the box, or certified by the Rainforest Alliance or the Ethical Tea Partnership, it makes no difference: the worker received the same basic cash payment – 89 rupees (£1) a day, a little over half the legal wage for an unskilled worker in Assam of 158.54 rupees. To place that in context, a worker receives about 2p in cash for picking enough tea to fill a box of 80 tea bags, which then sells for upwards of £2 in the UK. The companies say they know the wages are low, and they are trying to make things better, but their hands are tied by the growers. The growers, who set the wages by collective bargaining, say it is all they can afford.

But there is a price for keeping wages so low, and it is paid by the workers who cannot afford to keep their daughters. When the traffickers come knocking, offering to take the girls away, promising good wages and an exciting new life, they find it hard to say no. “He said he would change our lives,” says Elaina, now 20. “The tea garden was closed when he came and my parents were not working, so my father wanted to send me.”

The trafficker had promised excitement and glamour: instead she started work every day at 4am and worked until midnight, and though he promised to give her 1,500 rupees a month, she was never paid. He kept her as a prisoner, unable to leave the house or contact her family.

“His wife was suspicious about what was happening. I told her he had raped me but he denied it and told me to shut up my mouth,” she says. “After that, I was always crying, but he kept me locked in the house. I was afraid. I had no money and he threatened that I would end up in a brothel.”

She was saved only when he sent her to a new owner who, on learning her story, sent her home.

Elaina’s is not an isolated case. Rabina Khatun, now 18, discovered she had been sold into slavery when she agreed to go to Delhi to work as a maid. A woman from the village had tempted her with the promise of 3,000 rupees a month. “She said, ‘Come and see Delhi. It is bigger than your village’,” she says. She was 14: it was two years before she was allowed to go home. When she complained she had not been paid, she was sold on again to three men as a plaything. “I was taken to a house and they locked me in. Then they raped me. Afterwards they took me to Old Delhi station and left me there with no money. I was physically and mentally ill from what had happened to me. I want the men to be punished. I am never going to Delhi again. I am very angry. I want to kill them.”

Both Elaina and Rabina gave the Observer written permission to identify them as a way of exposing the trade.

Indian government figures show 126,321 trafficked children were rescued from domestic service in 2011-12, a year-on-year increase of nearly 27%. But many anguished parents have no idea what has happened to their daughters. According to India‘s National Crime Record Bureau, a child goes missing in India every eight minutes, and more than a third are never found.

For the parents of the missing, the pain is hard to bear. Saphira Khatun carefully places the picture of her daughter Minu Begum on the table in front of her. There are tears in her eyes. Minu had been doing well in school and wanted to join the police. But her head was turned by promises of money from a female trafficker in the village. “She had big dreams,” says her sister Munu, 20. “Any 12-year-old wants to go to the big city: it is more exciting than the village.”

One evening, Minu failed to come home. Her family have not seen her since that day four years ago. “Nobody does anything to stop bad things happening to poor girls,” says her 17-year-old sister Nadira. “Please help us to get our sister back here. Wherever she is in India, please give me my sister back.”

Arjun and Mukti Tati’s daughter Binita would be 17 now. She was 14 when the trafficker took her away with promises of money and a better life. But a year passed, then another, and no word came. They went to plead with the trafficker to help find her, but he refused. “She was a very gentle girl, always playing, very happy,” Mukti says. “We went to him 100 times but he always said he had no information.”

The traffickers live openly among the other villagers. They argue that they are victims too. Shobaha Tirki, 50, worked in the tea gardens for years, rarely earning more than 500 rupees a month. One day he met a big trafficker who promised him good money if he would send girls from the village to his placement agency. “I took maybe 20 girls from here to placement agencies in Delhi. A lot of them came back but five or six did not.” He gets 10,000 rupees per girl. It is not hard to convince them to go with him, he says. “I tell them about Delhi and how it is good to go to a big city,” he says. “I tell them they will have a room of their own and a bathroom of their own.”

The girls who come back and have been cheated of their wages head straight for his house, he says. He tells them to talk to the agency. “They never get their money though,” he says.

Many of the traffickers are women, who find it easier to convince the girls to go with them. Kusma Takri, 27, gets 4,000 rupees for every girl. She says she needs the money. “This is my job. I know the Delhi placement agencies are bad but I am caught between the placement agencies and poverty.”

Rama Shankar Chaurasia, chair of child rights group Bachpan Bachao Andolan, says the scale of the trafficking is immense. “They are kept as slaves, their wages are withheld and taken by their placement agency or supplier, their employers are told not to pay them directly because if they do the girls will run away.”

The going price for a maid can be as much as 60,000 rupees, he says. “The person who pays that feels they have purchased the girl. But the rising demand from the ever-growing middle class must not be at the cost of slavery for hundreds of thousands of children.”

The UK brews 165 million cups of tea a day, importing about 10% of world production. Assam, in the far north-east of India, has more than 850 tea estates. Many of the workers are descendants of tribal groups from central India originally trafficked to Assam as labour during British rule.

The state produced 590 million kilos of tea last year, more than half of the total Indian production of 1 billion kg. It sells for 140 rupees a kilogram at auction in Assam, but according to a joint report by Oxfam and the Ethical Tea Partnership, workers there are paid at rates equivalent to just 40% of the average Indian wage.

According to the Indian Tea Association, all workers in the main Brahmaputra valley estates receive a basic cash wage of 89 rupees (£1) a day – a little over half the minimum legal wage. The ITA claims that benefits in kind make the total package worth 178 rupees a day for permanent workers and 158 rupees for temporary workers.

Its director general, Monojit Dasgupta, claims the tea plantations have an agreement with the state government that whatever its members pay will be regarded as the legal wage. “It is not a question of paying so little, it is what the industry can afford,” he says. But the employers can achieve the basic legal minimum wage for the state only by including in the calculation statutory benefits such as maternity pay and sickness benefit, and discretionary items such as free tea.

Rights groups say this is unethical. “Tea planters and tea packers have known for years that wages in the industry are shockingly low – often below internationally acknowledged poverty levels,” says Ron Oswald, general secretary of the International Union of Food Workers. “Yet instead of tackling this honestly they hide behind certification schemes and claims of additional benefits and food rations – which are in fact ways of keeping workers tied into semi-feudal relations with tea garden owners.”

Murray Worthy, from War on Want, says benefits in kind are no substitute for the cash wages the workers deserve. “It beggars belief that the giant tea brands can justify these poverty wages. With the lion’s share of the price of tea ending up in their profits, they could easily afford to ensure all tea workers are paid a decent wage”.

There is a general agreement among the brands, retailers and certification bodies that wages on the tea plantations are a problem.

Fairtrade – which certifies Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose teas – says it accepts that wage levels in Assam are “well below” living wage levels and says it is working with other certification bodies to improve them. A spokeswoman said that prices need to rise if progress is to be made on improving wages.

The Ethical Tea Partnership – which certifies Twinings and Tetley – says its members are powerless to set wages but points to a joint report commissioned with Oxfam and published in May, which highlighted problems with low pay. Commenting on the report, Alison Woodhead from Oxfam said: “No matter how big and powerful, individual tea companies or certification organisations cannot tackle the deep-rooted and complex barriers to a living wage on their own. The best chance we have of eradicating poverty wages is for the whole industry – producers, governments, retailers, trade unions, companies and certification organisations – to work together to find a solution. We are delighted that that process has now started and we will continue to support its progress.”

The Rainforest Alliance – which certifies Unilever brands, including Lipton – says it hopes certified farms will be paying a realistic living wage within five years.

Typhoo says it works closely with all three certification bodies to improve conditions on its plantations.

The Indian government hopes to have 335 anti-trafficking units set up in police stations around the country by the end of this year. But even the police admit there is no simple solution.

At Laluk police station, the faces of missing girls stare out from the noticeboard. Sub-inspector Nirmal Biswas, the newly arrived officer in charge, sits behind a large desk next to his crime chart. It lists 24 kidnappings for 2012, against 10 rapes and 17 thefts.

He reports that in the past month police have registered four cases of trafficking, and recovered one girl and her trafficker.

It is progress, he says. But it will not stop the trade, because the money which has been earmarked for the area by the government never reaches those who need it.

“It is the poverty here,” he says. “If any trafficker offers 1,000 rupees, they will get girls. It will be defeated only with employment and development and eradication of poverty.”

The Article is reposted from the Guardian from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/20/poverty-tea-pickers-india-child-slavery

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Human Rights in India: Status Report 2012

June 3, 2012

Human Rights in India: Status Report 2012

This brief status report of human rights in India gives a general overview of the most critical human rights issues in India today. It has been drafted by the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR), a platform of some of Inida’s important human rights groups, as a background document to assist in the preparation of India’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that took place in Geneva on 24 May, 2012.

The UPR is a unique process conducted by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC), involving a review of the human rights record of all 192 UN Member States once every four and a half years.

The WGHR submitted a stakeholders’ report to Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) in November 2011. The present report is a more detailed and comprehensive version of WGHR’s stakeholders’ report that includes:

Information gathered from five regional and one national consultation held with civil society across India from August to October 2011;

Case studies that illustrate the text of the report;

WGHR’s initial response to the Government of India’s national report to the second UPR;

An up-to-date analysis of the status of implementation of the 18 recommendations made to India during the first UPR.

It is amply evident from the report that much remains to be done to improve the human rights situation inIndia. The scope of the UPR is enormous as it covers all recognised international human rights. If we take almost any of these human rights, the situation inIndiaremains challenging; yet the scope for improvement is immense. If the required positive changes are to take place, however, a radical change in national and regional actions by governments at all levels is necessary. The report highlights some of these required changes.

The opportunity offered byIndia’s second UPR at the HRC should not be underestimated. The clear direction that can emanate from the second UPR’s recommendations largely depend, however, on the approach adopted by the Indian delegation during the UPR in May 2012. We all look forward to a shift away from the defensive posture adopted byIndiain the first UPR to a constructive engagement with the HRC. Such an engagement can only prove fruitful if the deliberations during the UPR debate and the resulting recommendations are placed within the space of the recognition of human rights (through laws, policies, administrative actions and budgetary allocations) and their implementation.

We hope this report will contribute to such a debate at the HRC.Indiamust meet the human rights accountability challenge posed by the contents of its own Constitution and the international human rights instruments it had ratified. To meet this enormous challenge, nothing but a radical shift in economic, security and social policy is needed. It is hoped thatIndia’s second UPR will provide solid recommendations to make such a radical change possible, which is urgently required to reverse the adverse human rights situation faced by a significant part of the people ofIndia.

The Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC, though is not a formal member of the WGHR, participated in the preparation of the report. Dr Prasenjit Biswas and Mr Waliullah Ahmed Laskar took part in the North East regional consultation held in Shillong and the former represented the BHRPC in the national consultation in New Delhi. Along with reports on starvation deaths of tea labourers in Assam the BHRPC also provided inputs in other subjects.

The report can be downloaded from here and from the WGHR website.

NHRC to hear starvation deaths and rights violation cases in North East India

May 27, 2012


Guwahati, 27 May 2012: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will hear cases of human rights violations concerning Assam and Meghalaya including the cases of starvation deaths of the tea workers in Cachar district in camp sitting in Guwahati and Shillong from 28 May to 30 May 2012.

In the Assam sitting at North-Eastern Development Finance Corporation (NEDFi) house,G.S. Road, Guwahati on 28 May about 50 pending cases will be heard and disposed of. Alongside the hunger deaths in the Bhuvan valley tea estate, other important cases to be considered include land-grabbing and deprivation of sources of livelihood of 300 families who face eviction in Karimganj district, alleged eviction of about 6000 adivasis by forest officials from Lungsun forest area in Kokrajhar district, rehabilitation of children rendered orphan or destitute in communal riots in upper Assam districts, denial of basic facilities to the residents of 22 villages in Kamrup district, witch hunting, sexual exploitation of women, illegal coal mining in Tinsukia district, deaths in encounter and custody.

The starvation deaths case and the case of land-grabbing have been filed by the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC).

In the former case the BHRPC has alleged that so far 15 people died in the Bhuvan valley tea estate, a tea garden owned by a Kolkata-based private company, due to starvation, malnutrition and lack of proper health care since 8 October 2011.

In the case of land-grabbing it has been alleged that around 300 families of traditional forest dwellers in and around Patharia forest reserve in Karimganj district have forcibly been deprived of their sources of livelihood and now living under severe threat of imminent eviction from their dwelling houses by some businessmen who reportedly grabbed lands measuring approximately 130 hectares (330 acres) allegedly for rubber plantation in a village where the families of the forest dwellers have been living for generations depending on the forest produces for livelihood.

In both the cases the NHRC has already issued notices to the chief secretary ofAssamcalling for action taken reports.

In a release to the press the NHRC said that a delegation headed by its chairperson Mr. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and comprising of members, director general (nvestigation), registrar (law) and other senior officers will be in Guwahati, Assam from 28 to 29 May, 2012 and on 30 May, 2012 in Shillong, Meghalaya for its camp sittings.

The cases of Assam will be considered for disposal with necessary directions to the public authorities during the camp sitting at in NEDFi house. Out of the 50 cases, 17 cases will be heard at the full commission sitting chaired by Mr. Justice K G Balakrishnan. 12 cases will be taken up by the division bench comprising of Mr. Justice G.P. Mathur and Mr. P.C. Sharma. 21 cases will be taken up by the division bench comprising of Mr. Justice B.C. Patel and Mr. Satyabrata Pal.

The NHRC in the brief further stated that on 29 May, 2012 the commission will hold discussions with the chief secretary, district magistrates and concerned officers on the progress made by the state government on its recommendations relating to different human rights issues. These will include silicosis, mental health, manual scavenging, prison matters, labour issues, child marriage, prenatal sex selection, population policy etc. A meeting with local NGOs on human rights issues will also be held later in the day.

Cases relating to Meghalaya will be heard in the camp sitting at Hotel Pinewood, Shillong from on 30 May, 2012. The commission will take up nine pending cases, which will be heard by the full fommission and the two division benches respectively. These will include issues of child labour in coalmines, dead male foetus found in several parts in the state, deaths in police firing, torture of labourers at West Garo Hills by Border Security Force (BSF) personnel and ostracization of 17 families facing denial of food grains for 72 months.

In the afternoon session the commission will hold discussions, with senior officers on the progress made by the state government on its recommendations relating to different human rights issues. These issues will include mental health, 28 district programmes, labour issues, manual scavenging, child marriage, prenatal sex selection, population policy and custodial death cases among others.

Hunger Alert: Urge India to save her people from hunger death

May 21, 2012

Dear friends,

Very shockingly, the enforced conditions of starvation and famine and resultant tragedy of hunger deaths of the tea workers of Assam still persists with its all menacing ugliness. Labourers of tea estates in this North East Indian state known worldwide for tea production are dying one after another due to malnutrition and lack of proper health care.

So far 15 workers of a particular tea garden in South Assam died and several others are counting their days, according to the information available with the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC).

 Please support the tea workers and sign the petition:

 Further information:

The BHRPC conducted a fact-finding study during the last days of January 2012 in the Bhuvan valley tea garden after receiving reports of hunger deaths and released a fact-finding report on 1 February revealing information about deaths of 10 residents of the estate allegedly caused by starvation, malnutrition and lack of proper health care. After that deaths of four more persons were reported.

The latest unfortunate death was of Lakhi Prasad Dushad, a permanent worker of the estate and a resident of North bank division who died on 3 May 2012.

He was only 38 years old. He left behind him his wife Imti Dushad (aged about 30), his sons Kishan Dushad (15), Eleven Dushad (13), Sujit Dushad (11), Hitesh Dushad (8) and 5 year old daughter Sweetie Dushad. Their survival is uncertain and matter of grave concern.

Lakhi Sabor, wife of Giridhari Sabor of Boali area in the garden. She is very weak and has low appetite and low vision.

Lakhi Sabor, wife of Giridhari Sabor of Boali area in the garden. She is very weak and has low appetite and low vision.

It all started in this tea estate, owned by a private company based in Kolkata (West Bengal),  when the owners closed down the estate on 8 October 2011 and abandoned the labourrer, about 500 of whom were permanent and another 1000 casual workers, in response to their demands for payment of outstanding dues of wages, increase in the wages which was about Rs. 41,00 for casual workers and Rs. 55.00 for permanent workers and far below the statutory minimum wages and payment of other withheld benefits. He illegal closure of the estate resulted in loss of means of livelihood of the workers that pushed them into the condition of starvation and famine leading to the deaths and death-like condition of living. The rights of plantation workers to fair wage, bonus, provident fund, housing and basic medical facilities in accordance with the Plantation Labour Act, 1951 have not been enforced. In the course of closure, the government also failed to make any intervention to guarantee their fundamental rights to live with dignity. It is further found that basic medical care and food distribution for the poor under the government schemes including the ICDS did not properly reach even those workers who lost their livelihoods and that it was one of the causes that led to the deaths.

Even after deaths of so many people the central government ofIndiaand the state government ofAssamhave not yet taken any effective actions for amelioration of the situation except some inquiries designed to serve as a cover-up. Therefore, workers in the garden are still dying.

In view of the above and the commitment ofIndiato the protection of human rights of every citizen and prevention of starvation deaths, the BHRPC urges that:

A. The authorities should provide urgent relief to the tea workers in terms of food supply and medical treatment to prevent further deaths and deterioration of health conditions of sick workers and their dependents.

B. The authorities should conduct a prompt, impartial and objective inquiry into the situation of the garden to fix responsibility for the deaths and the conditions that led to this situation including corruption in implementation of government welfare schemes and non-adherence to the provisions of the Plantation Labour Act, 1951 and other laws applicable in the estate management by an independent commission of inquiry headed by a sitting or retired judge of a high court or the supreme court and comprising of, among others, medical experts, nutrition experts, labour rights and human rights experts.

C. The officials or other persons who would be found negligent and derelict in their legal duties and responsibilities that directly contributed to the developing of the situation that led to the deaths should be prosecuted according to law.

D. The kin and the dependent of the deceased person should be provided with adequate reparation so far money can provide.

E. The authorities should ensure that all outstanding dues of the labourers are paid immediately and the wages of all tea labourers ofAssammade equal for the time being and that the tea gardens are run according to the laws providing all rights and benefits to the labourers under the laws.

In sum, we would also like to see assumption of some moral responsibility for these calamitious circumstances of death under conditions of hunger and malnutrition, instead of a mere legalistic standpoint. We expect that the Govt. at the state and the Centre should speak the truth and does not issue mere denials in a circumlocutory fashion. In this situation of famished deaths, “ought” is more important than “is”.

Please support the tea workers and sign the petition:

 

Bablu Bauri lying in his courtyard. His father Atul Bauri died of hunger recently.

Bablu Bauri lying in his courtyard. His father died of hunger recently.

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More information:

The sources of important information in detail about the starvation deathsand the condition of the tea workers that can be found in the internet are given below:

 

BHRPC reports on the continuous tragedy in Bhuvan valley tea estate

1. Preliminary fact-finding report:

            Tea labourers dying of hunger in Assam

            (https://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/hungeralert1/)

 

2. Update-I:

 

            Situation of hunger deteriorates in Assam tea garden

            (https://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/situation-of-hunger-deteriorates-in-assam-tea-garden/)

3. Update-II:

             Two more people died in Assam tea garden

             (https://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/hungeralert3/)

4. Update-III:

            Assam government’s actions regarding starvation deaths are inadequate and misleading

         (https://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/assam-governments-actions-in-starvation-deaths-are-inadequate-and-misleading/)

5. Update-IV:

             Deaths continue unabated in Assam tea garden

            (https://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/hungeralert4/)

6. Update-V:

             Another death in starving tea garden of Assam

            (https://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/hunger-alert-5/)

 

Reports and actions by other organizations:

1. Hunger Alert issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission:

            INDIA: Assam government failed to ensure the right to life with dignity of tea plantation workers leading to ten deaths

            (http://www.humanrights.asia/news/hunger-alerts/AHRC-HAC-002-2012)

2. Update on the AHRC Hunger Alert:

            INDIA: Two more estate workers die from starvation while the government denies responsibility

            (http://www.humanrights.asia/news/hunger-alerts/AHRC-HAU-001-2012)

3. Preliminary report of the People’s Rights Forum and other oganisations:

            Other civil society groups corroborate hunger deaths in Assam tea garden

(https://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/bhuvan-valley-other-ngos/)

 

News reports and articles in the media (important ones only)

1. 19 January 2012:

            Inquiry into Cachar hunger deaths

            (http://www.telegraphindia.com/1120119/jsp/northeast/story_15021706.jsp) –News report in the Telegraph

2. 5 February 2012:

Swami Agnivesh writes to Assam CM on starvation deaths

(http://www.sentinelassam.com/cachar/story.php?sec=2&subsec=12&id=105944&dtP=2012-02-05&ppr=1) – News report in the Sentinel

3.  9 February 2012:

            Tea workers die of starvation

            (http://www.asianage.com/india/tea-workers-die-starvation-031) – News report in the Asian Age

            Rights group seeks prove into starvation deaths

            (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-02-09/guwahati/31041559_1_starvation-deaths-rights-group-inquiry-panel) – News report in the Times of India

4. 21 February 2012:

Stay hungry: The story behind Assam tea

(http://ibnlive.in.com/blogs/arijitsen/148/63192/stay-hungry-the-story-behind-assam-tea.html) – News reports and talk show in CNN-IBN

5. 25 February 2012

Did they die of hunger? The Question Haunts Barak Valley

(http://tehelka.com/story_main51.asp?filename=Ne250212Hunger.asp) – Current Affairs report in the Tehelka Magazine

6. February 2012:

            Tea Industry in Barak Valley vis-à-vis Assam and The Plight of The Tea workers (http://swabhimanngo.blogspot.in/2012/02/tea-industry-in-barak-valley-vis-vis.html) –Blog Article in Swabhiman

7. 5 March 2012:

            Team of doctors confirm malnutrition of tea workers

            (http://www.deccanherald.com/content/232180/team-doctors-confirm-malnutrition-tea.html) – News report in the Deccan Herald

8. 13 March 2012

Dispur rap on garden for deaths

<http://vv.telegraphindia.com/1120314/jsp/northeast/story_15246290.jsp&gt; – News report in the Telegraph

9. 1 April 2012:

Bhuban Valley TE labourers not getting loans from PF

(http://sevensisterspost.com/?p=1944) – News report in the Seven Sisters Post

10. 4 April 2012:

            Assam government fails to protect right to life with dignity of tea workers

            (http://newsblaze.com/story/20120404060251zzzz.nb/topstory.html) – Op-ed article in the Newsblaze

11. 18 May 2012

            The dark side of India’s tea industry

            (http://www.france24.com/en/20120518-india-tea-estates-assam-malnutrition-workers-rights) – News report and analysis in the France 24 Television

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Please support the tea workers and sign the petition:

 

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Guwahati, Assam

21 May 2012

Fore any clarification or further information contact:

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Mobile: +91 9401942234

Email:wali.laskar@gmail.com

France 24 reports starvation deaths of Assam tea workers

May 19, 2012

After the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) released reports on deaths of workers due to starvation, malnutrition and lack health care in the Bhuvan valley tea estate of south Assam, many national and international media groups along with some rights groups including the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) have taken up the matter and in their own ways attempted to address the situation. Latest one is a report that has been broadcast today by FRANCE 24 Television, an international news channel based in Paris, on the basis of the findings of an independent investigation undertaken by its correspondents Natacha Butler and Vikram Singh. They found that people are still dying due to malnutrition and several others are suffering from diseases related to chronic malnutrition due to low wages and absence of medical facilities in violations of laws passed by the Indian parliament as well as international human rights laws. Here is the report:

The dark side of India’s tea industry

Indians are the world’s biggest tea drinkers and producers. Half of the country’s entire output comes from the north-eastern state ofAssam, but the conditions for many of those who work on its tea plantations are appalling. Workers earn well below the minimum wage and malnutrition is also common. Laws about facilities and conditions on tea estates exist, but many don’t comply. Our correspondents Natacha Butler and Vikram Singh went to visit one such estate in the south ofAssam.

By Natacha BUTLER / Vikram Singh

http://www.france24.com/en/sites/all/modules/maison/aef_player/flash/player_new.swf

 

Found at http://www.france24.com/en/20120518-india-tea-estates-assam-malnutrition-workers-rights accessed on 18 May 2012

 

BHRPC comments on police report on rape of a patient by her doctor

May 12, 2012

 The Cachar district superintendent of police submitted a report to the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on allegations of rape of a patient by her doctor raised by the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC). Below are the comments of the BHRPC on the police report:

       1. The findings of the police investigation that the charge under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 against the accused/alleged violator is established as stated in the report of the district superintendent of police (SP), Cachar is substantially correct.

        2. The medical report can not be relied upon for a number of reasons:

                             i. There was inordinate delay in conducting the test;

                             ii. The report goes against the circumstantial evidences;

                            iii. The report goes against the accounts of the witnesses as recorded by the police;

                      iv. The element of sympathy of the doctors who conducted the test towards the doctor who is the alleged violator creeping in and vitiating the objectivity of the findings can not be ruled out as both of them are colleagues and belong to the same profession.

        3. The findings of the police is correct because there are supports and corroborations among the accounts given by the victim/survivor in her First Information Report (FIR), her statement before the judicial magistrate recorded under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973 and the accounts of witnesses recoded by the police.

         4. As the report of the medical test is not reliable for the reasons stated above the claim in the report about the age of the victim/survivor being between 18 to 20 years can also not be relied upon.

      5. According to the statements of the victim/survivor in both the FIR and that which has been recorded under section 164 of the CrPC and the witness accounts, it appears that the victim was a minor at the time of violations of her rights.

       6. The facts and circumstances described in documents on record including the FIR, victim’s statement under section 164 of the CrPC, and the report of the SP clearly establish commission of offence of rape by the alleged violator upon the victim/survivor. Therefore, it is established that human rights of the survivor/victim have been violated.

     7. The filing of charge-sheet by the police will facilitate the criminal court to conduct trial on the criminal aspect of case in order only to fix criminal liability and proportionate penal measure called for under the law. It is not the domain of the trial court to consider human rights liability of the violator and remedies to the victim/survivor.

    8. Therefore, it comes under the jurisdiction of the Commission to fix human rights liability and more importantly to provide redress to the victim/survivor in terms of adequate compensation.

In view of the above submission, the BHRPC most humbly urges that the Commission may be pleased to:

  1. Recommend to the authorities to provide an adequate amount of compensation to the victim/survivor;
  2. While fixing the quantum of the compensation the Commission may take into consideration the aggravating factors involved in the case such as (a) that the alleged violator is a government servant paid from the state exchequer for acting as savoir for those who are suffering from physical distress; (b) that the victim/survivor went to the alleged violator in full trust as his position demands; (c) that the alleged violator took benefit of position of custodian of the victim/survivors at the moment of commission of the violating acts; (d) that the case has a clear custodial angle; (e) that the age and social and other circumstances of the victim/survivor are such that the minor girl has had an entire life full of colours but which has been destroyed beyond repair for no faults of hers and her life has become an undesirable and unbearable burden on her fragile shoulders; and
  3. Any other recommendations and/or actions as the Commission deems fit and proper for vindication of human rights of the victim/survivor and to meet ends of justice.

The statement of BHRPC on the matter can be viewed here.

Police report on alleged rape of a patient by her doctor in Assam

May 12, 2012

….

On perusal of relevant records of the case, it transpired that on last 27/11/2011 the complainant (name and address withheld by the BHRPC for protecting identity) lodged an FIR at Dholai PS interalia alleging that on the same day @ 4PM the complt. being accompanied by her sister in law (name withheld) had been to the chamber of Dr Dilip Paul at Sadagram (Dholai Bazar) where he refused to check her up. Instead, he asked her to be in his residential chamber for her check up and treatment. On her arrival at his residential chamber the accused doctor asked her to go inside while her sister in law was asked to wait outside. As soon as she entered the house, the accd. doctor closed the door and window from the outside and forcibly raped her.  Hence the case was registered and investigated.

In course of investigation the I/O examined the complt. (victim) and recorded her statement U/S 161 CrPC as well as recorded judicially U/S 164 CrPC. In both statements given to police and to the court, the complt. corroborated the gist of the FIR. The I/O also visited thePO, drew up sketch map. The I/O got the complt. medically examined at SMCH, Silchar and collected medical report where the concerned doctor of the SMCH, Silchar opined that (1) Evidence of recent sexual intercourse not detected (II) evidence of violent mark not detected in her private part and (III) her age is above 18 years and below 20 years. The I/O, also, in course of investigation examined the following witnesses who appeared to be acquainted to the fact or the case. Their statements were recorded U/S 161 CrPC.

WITNESS:

  1. (Name withheld by the BHRPC)
  2. (Name withheld by the BHRPC)
  3. (Name withheld by the BHRPC)
  4. Mrs Manjuma Sangami

The first three of the four witnesses examined above corroborated the gist of the FIR to the extent of their knowledge about the occurrence. The fourth witness Mrs Manjuma Sangmai being the wife of the accd. doctor relayed the story in her statement in the way to defend her accd. husband.

In course of investigation the accd. Dr Dilip Paul was arrested in connection with the case and examined and interrogated thoroughly vis-à-vis the charges leveled against him. Later on, he was released on bail as per the direction of the Hon’ble Gauhati High Court. During the investigation the charge under section 376 IPC found established against the accd. Dr Dilip Paul. Hence charge-sheet was already submitted against him on 13/03/12.

………

Sd/

Superintendent of Police

Cachar, Silchar

Date: 17/03/12

(This report (vide No. G/SR/1281 dated 16/03/12) was submitted to the Deputy Registrar of the Assam Human Rights Commission in response to the notice issued by the AHRC for report on the complaint filed by the BHRPC and has been registered vide AHRC Case No. 302/2/11-12.)

(In response to a letter of the Deputy Registrar, AHRC, the BHRPC submitted its comments on the report which is available here and BHRPC statement can be viewed here.

Assam police charge a government doctor of raping his patient

May 12, 2012

Press briefing

For immediate release

Assam police charge a government doctor of raping his patient

The police inAssam have filed a charge-sheet in the court against a doctor for raping his patient. The charge-sheet under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 has been filed by the officer-in-charge of the Dholai police station (PS) on 13 March 2012 at the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate in the district of Cachar after investigation of a case filed by a minor girl on 27 November, 2011. This is disclosed recently by the district superintendent of police (SP) in Cachar in a report (vide No. G/SR/1281 dated 16/03/12) submitted to the Deputy Registrar of the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in response to a notice of the AHRC.

The report states that the survivor lodged a First Information Report (FIR) at Dholai PS inter alia alleging that on 27 November, 2011 at about 4 PM the complainant being accompanied by her sister in law (name withheld to protect identity) had been to the chamber of Dr Dilip Paul at Sadagram (Dholai Bazar) where he refused to check her up. Instead, he asked her to be in his residential chamber for her check up and treatment. On her arrival at his residential chamber the accused doctor asked her to go inside while her sister in law was asked to wait outside. As soon as she entered the house, the accused doctor closed the door and window from the outside and forcibly raped her.

The AHRC issued a notice to the SP for a detailed report about the case after it registered a case of human rights violations (vide AHRC Case No. 302/2/11-12.) on the complaint filed by the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC).

The report of the SP, however, mentions that the medical test conducted after the investigation of the case started do not corroborate the allegations of the victim as well as those of the BHRPC against the doctor. It says that (1) evidence of recent sexual intercourse not detected, (II) evidence of violent mark not detected in her private parts and (III) her age is above 18 years and below 20 years.

The BHRC claimed that the victim/survivor is a minor girl studying in class IX.

However, on the examination of the witnesses of the complainant, witnesses of the accused and the place of occurrence the investigating police officer found that charge under section 376 of the IPC which provides punishment for rape is established, states the SP.

 When the AHRC asked the BHRPC for its comments on the report of the SP the latter submitted a detailed response pointing out why the medical report can not be relied upon. According to the BHRPC the medical report can not be relied upon because (i) there was inordinate delay in conducting the test; (ii) the report goes against the circumstantial evidences; (iii) the report goes against the accounts of the witnesses as recorded by the police; and (iv) the element of sympathy of the doctors who conducted the test towards the doctor who is the alleged violator creeping in and vitiating the objectivity of the findings can not be ruled out as both of them are colleagues and belong to the same profession.

The BHRPC also said that the filing of charge-sheet by the police will facilitate the criminal court to conduct trial on the criminal aspect of case in order only to fix criminal liability and proportionate penal measure called for under the law. It is not the domain of the trial court to consider human rights liability of the violator and remedies to the victim/survivor. Therefore, it comes under the jurisdiction of the Commission to fix human rights liability and more importantly to provide redress to the victim/survivor in terms of adequate compensation.

The BHRPC in its submission urged the AHRC to recommend to the authorities to provide an adequate amount of compensation to the victim/survivor; and while fixing the quantum of the compensation the AHRC should take into consideration the aggravating factors involved in the case such as (a) that the alleged violator is a government servant paid from the state exchequer for acting as savoir for those who are in physical distress; (b) that the victim/survivor went to the alleged violator in full trust as his position demands; (c) that the alleged violator took benefit of position of custodian of the victim/survivors at the moment of commission of the violating acts; (d) that the case has a clear custodial angle; (e) that the age and social and other circumstances of the victim/survivor are such that the minor girl has had an entire life full of colours but which has been destroyed beyond repair for no faults of hers and her life has become an undesirable and unbearable burden on her fragile shoulders.

Date: 12 April, 2012

Guwahati,Assam

For any clarification and more information please contact

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Mobile: 09401942234

Email:wali.laskar@gmail.com

The police report can be viewed here and the BHRPC comments can be viewed here.

‘Assam police yet to achieve its legitimacy and lawfulness’, reports police body

April 22, 2012

The Sentinel published a report on 22 April 2012 on the findings and recommendations of the 2010 annual report of the Assam State Police Accountability Commission. The Bengali version of the report as published in the 23 April 2012 issue of the Dainik Prantojyoti can be seen here.

Will policing in Assam ever have a ‘‘humane face’’ in the real sense of the terms? When will the police really begin to behave as a service in a democracy, and not as a brutal, colonial-type force as it acts in many cases? When will ordinary citizens really feel they are being served by the police? These are inconvenient questions, but the police in a democracy must face them and evolve as a people-friendly force.

The issue of policing in Assam has become a much-talked-about subject these days. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had, on April 16, at the Chief Ministers’ Conference on Internal Security in New Delhi, laid stress on ‘‘policing with a human face’’ in the State, which has seen militancy-related violence ebbing in recent times. The State Police Accountability Commission, in its annual report for 2010, has also given thrust on ‘‘democratic policing’’.

The annual report of the Accountability Commission prepared by Justice (retd) DN Chowdhury, who is also the chairman of the Commission,  states that ‘‘democratic policing is used to describe the characteristics of policing in a democratic State where police serve the people of the country, not a regime’’.

 The report has revealed that the State’s police force is ‘‘yet to change its attitude towards democratic policing’’ and ‘‘if the police is to achieve its legitimacy and lawfulness, it must seriously endeavour to become accountable to law’’.

Regarding the lodging of First Information Report (FIR) at police station, the report states that FIR is not registered at the first instance concerning issues relating to breach of trust, misappropriation of properties, and other issues. “Sometimes even if the FIR is registered, though belatedly, investigation does not take its due course with end result that the registration of the case becomes a mere formality to escape from the charge of serious misconduct,” adds the report.

On the issue of ‘‘general diary’’ maintained by the police, the report points finger at the Assam Police Act 2007 that has not been amended in order to make the general diary a legal instrument with its transparency at the level of thana/outpost activities, which is overdue. “The scope of enhancing police accountability is very wide in the general diary to be maintained having the force compatible with that of the RTI Act,” states the report.

“The general diary in respect of information of non-cog nature under the provision of CrPC 155 is one of the important indices of police performance at Thana/Outpost level. The Commission has observed that many of the complaints received by the Commission relate to non-registration of cases and refusal in the guise of non-cog to police. Hardly the police action is supported by the initial records as may be required under the provision of CrPC 155 to find mention in the general diary with advice to the complainant to approach the nearest judicial magistrate for ordering investigation of the non-cog cases by police,” states the report.

Wrath of police: Photo courtesy merinews.com

Wrath of police: Photo courtesy merinews.com

The report has also emphasized computerization as a strongest tool for transparency and accountability of the police to the law. “It is needless to emphasize that the right of the citizens will be better addressed by receiving FIR in the computer through networking having access to the general public,” adds the report.

Regarding supervision of cases registered against cops, the report states that such cases are invariably to be supervised and the cases should be dealt with newer provision in the ‘‘rule book’’ to be amended on a greater priority putting them even as special report cases. “The government should take suitable action in this regard and direct the Director General ofPolice,Assamto initiate proposal to the government accordingly,” says the report.

“In our earlier reports we also mentioned that the directives of the Commission for indicating the erring police personnel accountable were not taken in right spirit. Instead instances were found for out-manoeuvring our guidelines and directives. Setting up of the District Accountability Authority and the appropriate steps for creating awareness among the public are some of the issues which need to be addressed for effective functioning of the Accountability Commission and for greater benefit of the people,” says Justice DN Chowdhury in his report.


Source: http://www.sentinelassam.com/mainnews/story.php?sec=1&subsec=0&id=114551&dtP=2012-04-22&ppr=1#114551 accessed on 22 April 2012.


New born baby dies at hospital in Assam due to negligence of doctors

April 11, 2012


The Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) has learnt that a new born baby died at a hospital in Assam within about 50 hours of his birth on 1 April 2012 due to negligence of doctors. An expectant mother in labour was brought to the S K Roy Civil Hospital in Hailakandi at about 1pm on 30 March. No doctors saw the woman and with the help of nurses she had to give birth to a male child. It was a forced birth. The conditions of both the mother and child started to worsen soon thereafter. Still no doctors in the hospital saw them. They then went to the Silchar Medical College and Hospital, Silchar (SMCH) and the baby died there at about 6pm on 1 April. It was the first child of the couple.

After the BHRPC first learnt about the incident from local newspapers (see 5 April 2012 issue of the Dainik Nababarta Prasanga, a daily Bengali newspaper published from Karimganj, Assam) on 5 April, it contacted the family and verified the information given in the newspapers and collected other relevant information.

According to the information, the unfortunate parents are Mr Bijoy Dev and his wife Ms Tumpa Dev. They are residents of Ward No. 10,College Road, Hailakandi town in the district of Hailakandi. Mr Bijoy Dev is a small shopkeeper and provides the family from earnings of his pan shop (a small store where shopkeeper sells a mouth-freshener chewing item prepared by mixing different types of areca nuts, betel leaf, tobacco etc. according to order of the customer) that he runs  in front of his house. His wife 20-years-old Tumpa Dev conceived the baby for the first time. After conception the couple were seeing Dr Shubhendu Chakrabarti regularly at his private chamber. Although Dr Chakrabarti is a government doctor posted at the S K Roy Civil Hospital he has his private practices like almost all other government doctors inAssam.

Mr. Bijoy Dev stated that when Ms Tumpa Dev went into labour at the normal time on 30 March her husband and other relatives brought her to the S K Roy Civil Hospital at about 1pm. But there were no doctors on duty in the 100-bedded hospital. Dr Shubhendu Chakrabarti was in Guwahati, the capital city ofAssam. Therefore nurses tried to help her. After much agony and tribulation she delivered a baby at 4pm. It was a boy. However, his condition was critical. He could not breathe properly. The nurses started giving him oxygen. Meanwhile the father of the baby and other relatives were desperately looking for a doctor. They were informed by the hospital staff that at that time Dr D K Dev should have been in duty. They went to his residence. Mr Bijoy Dev’s older brother Mr Joydeep Dev and brother-in-law Mr Rajesh Dev urged Dr D K Dev to come to the hospital and do something to save the life of the new-born. Dr Dev told them that he was tired since he was at a health fair at Bilaipur, a remote village in the district for the whole day. He refused to help the baby in his fight for life. In the meantime, health condition of the mother also started getting worse.

The relatives then went to another doctor of the hospital Dr Abul Hussain at about 10pm. He was at home but refused to visit the hospital. He asked them to bring the patients at his house. The mother and baby then were brought to the place of Dr Hussain who after examining them wrote a prescription. Mr Bijoy Dev told the BHRPC that Dr Hussain told them that the condition of the baby and mother became so serious due to the forced delivery. According to him, it was a fit case of caesarean section. The doctor told that he was of the opinion that if the delivery would have been caused through caesarean there would not be any complexities since the baby appeared otherwise alright.

Mr Bijoy Dev stated that after they got the medicines prescribed by Dr Hussain from an outside drug store they brought the baby and his mother back to the hospital. One Dr L D Sinha came on duty next day morning. When the medicines prescribed by Dr Hussain failed to check the deterioration of the health condition of both the mother and her baby Dr Sinha referred the patients to the SMCH. At about 7.30 am on 31 March they were brought to the SMCH and were admitted in the department of obstetrics and gynaecology. Dr P Nath, an associate professor in the department examined them. Dr Nath also confirmed the findings of Dr Hussain that the forced delivery caused the complexities. According to Mr Bijoy Dev, the doctors and the staff at the SMCH tried their best to save the baby but he was declared dead at about 6pm. However, Mr Dev also informed the BHRPC that the hospital did not provide them with any medicines and he had to buy them from outside stores.

This appears to be a clear case of causing death by negligence within the meaning of section 304A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 if the opinions of Dr Nath and Dr Hussain are to be believed even if keeping in mind the rules laid down by the Supreme Court of India in Jacob Mathew Vs State of Punjab (2005) (Appeal (Crl.) 144-145 of 2004) for application of the section in cases of negligent and rash acts or omission of doctors.

Most importantly, it is a prima facie case of violations of fundamental right to life as laid down in Article 21 of the Constitution of India. In a catena of cases the Supreme Court held that the right to health care is a part of the right to life.

The negligent conduct of the doctors, particularly that of Dr D K Dev, that caused the death of the baby also amounts to violations of the rights enshrined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 that reads: “(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” 

“(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.”

The allegations also constitute violations of provisions of legally binding human rights instruments to which Indiais a state party. Such as the right to life provided under Article 6 of the International Covenant o Civil and Political Rights, 1966. Clause 1 of the Article lays down: “1. Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”

As a positive entitlement the right to health and health care is recgonised in  Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 which says: “The right to the highest attainable standard of health”. The General Comment 14 the Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states that the right to health requires availabilityaccessibilityacceptability, and quality with regard to both health care and underlying preconditions of health. This case is a glaring instance of gross violation of this universally recognised provision.

Further, it is also a case of violations of relevant provisions of other United Nations convention such as Article 12 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979 (CEDAW)[1] and Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 (CRC)[2].

After documentation of the case BHRPC filed a complaint at the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the Assam State Commission for Women (ASCW). Letters were also sent to the other authorities including the prime minister ofIndiaand the chief minister ofAssamurging them to take appropriate actions including:

 1. a prompt, objective and exhaustive investigation into the alleged negligence of Dr D K Dev and other doctors of the S K Roy Civil Hospital, Hailakandi;

 2. payment a prompt relief in terms of money to the parents of the baby pending the inquiry/investigation;

3. adequate reparation in terms of monetary compensation to the parents of the baby for loss of life of their son and for suffering physical and mental agony;

 4. prosecution of the alleged negligent doctors for fixing their criminal liability;

At a time when the government of Assam is busy advertising its ‘achievement’ in the health sector with much fanfare it will be interesting to follow the actions of the government that may be or may not be taken in response to these specific allegations.

11 April 2012

Guwahati,Assam

For any clarification or more information you may contact

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Mobile: +91 9401942234

Email:wali.laskar@gmail.com


[1] Article 12 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979 (CEDAW) reads:

“Article 12

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning.

2. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph I of this article, States Parties shall ensure to women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.”

[2] Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 provides:

“1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.

2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.”