Thursday, April 15, 2010

How Main-Stream Media/Propaganda Works

Maoists Worst Human Rights Offenders the Headline of a news-item on the IBNLive (April 14th). It goes on to say:

New Delhi: Naxalites are India's worst human rights offenders, says a new report on Torture in India. But Maoist supporters maintain that the Naxals are fighting for survival.

A report on Torture in India has made the startling revelation. The Asian Centre for Human Rights says that the Maoists are the worst violators when it comes to torture. For the first time ever, a top human rights group in India has accepted and highlighted that fact.

So to find out the details I went to The Asian Centre for Human Rights site. The Press-Release of the report - Torture in India - quoted by IBNLive is titled

41.66% increase of custodial deaths under the UPA from 2000
- Government urged to hold public debate on the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 -

It starts...
New Delhi: The Asian Centre for Human Rights today released its report, Torture in India 2010, at a press conference in New Delhi and stated that taking 2000 as the base year, custodial death have increased by 41.66% persons under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government between 2004-2005 to 2007-2008. This includes 70.72% increase of deaths in prison custody and 12.60% in police custody.

“It is the aam aadmi who are the majority victims of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment. However, the UPA government has failed to do address the issue of torture and other human rights violations” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director, Asian Centre for Human Rights..... “If government of India can hold public discussion on the Food Security Bill, why is it treating the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 as a secret document? It shows that the government has more to hide as its earlier draft, Prevention of Torture bill, 2008, contained only three operative paragraphs relating to (1) definition of torture, (2) punishment for torture, and (3) limitations for cognizance of offences. The Prevention of Torture bill, 2008 was highly flawed.”
... Etc.

The full-report can be downloaded here

In this 99-page report,:
  • 33 pages are devoted to Torture in Police Custody, which includes 20+ pages on "Patterns and Practices of Torture in Police Custody" and other sections on "Custodial torture of women and children" "impunity" etc...
  • 1 page on Torture in the Custody of the Armed Forces
  • 3 pages on Torture in Judicial Custody
  • 2 pages on naxalites' use of torture

    Moral of the Story: There is no Moral in the Story!

  • Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Between Hope and Despair (2): Hunger amidst Abundance

    I had posted an article by the same title - Between Hope and Despair... a couple of years back... and some vague mental association brought it back today.

    Read a news-item Food-shortage forcing children to eat mud today. Some excerpts:

    "Under an unusually hot April sun, skinny, hungry children silently poked around on the dusty edges of a stone quarry in Ganne village, 45km east of Allahabad and a 12km walk from the nearest road.

    “It tastes like powdered gram, so we eat it,” said Soni, 5, a listless girl with a protruding belly. It’s a learnt experience. Older children such as Soni wait for the excavated moist mud. The younger ones imitate them.

    With most families reduced to one or two daily meals of boiled rice and salt—with a watery vegetable on a lucky day—the mud is a free but deadly option at the 20 stone quarries sustaining the poorest villagers.

    Eating the mud worsens malnutrition and disease, but these families are not eligible for subsidized food and other state programmes, though each of a family of five earns about Rs400 a month; UP’s official poverty line is Rs435 per person per month."

    What an irony, when another news-item informs us: Food grains rotting away in Indian godowns, streets:

    "India has godowns to store 16 million tones when it needs almost three times that. What that means is wastage in these times of shortage.

    Agricultural scientist Ashok Gulati said, "The total storage capacity is 28 million tonnes .. this leads to losses of 10 – 15%. Translate this into value... that is 6 million tonnes of grains damaged, unfit for human consumption ... it amounts to Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 crores annually."

    ...and one also comes across news-items like these:

    along with one like this:

    I have experienced this irony in the microcosm of life I live in - the XLRI Campus. Here we have a reasonably well-off educated community, secluded from the rest of the world, and even families of "domestic help" living in the out-houses are much better off than their counterparts elsewhere. Their kids go to schools, play in the campus with other kids, they have TVs at home - some even have air-coolers fitted in their windows....

    About two years back, on an early morning, while in my balcony, I saw these two small girls diligently and furtively looking for something from the ground below. I found their innocent seriousness and concentration quite delightful - and trigger-happy as I am, clicked a photograph.

    Suddenly they looked up and saw me, and became diffident and apprehensive. When I smiled and asked them what were they looking for, they became slightly relaxed. One of them mentioned a name, and then explained that it is a wild weed. What will you do with that, I asked.

    I still remember her matter-of-fact reply, "Amma will cook it for our meal."

    just about 100 meters away, in the students' hostel mess, everyday a huge amount of un-eaten food is thrown away, wasted...

    As the 12 Myths about Hunger mentions:

    "Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world's food supply. Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide every human being with 3,200 calories a day. That doesn't even count many other commonly eaten foods: vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. Enough food is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day worldwide: two and half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs- enough to make most people fat! The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food."

    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    Dantewada, Naxal Attack and "Restoring Administration"

    The attack by the Maoists/Naxals on the CRPF in Dantewada, Chhatisgarh on April 6th has caused much high-decibel outrage, anger and pathos across the media, political establishment and urban discourse... "surgical strikes", "coordinated multi-pronged approach", "fitting reply", "SriLankan Solution to LTTE" etc., seem to be flavour of the day...

    One of the stated objectives of the "Operation Green Hunt" is that it will "clear, hold and build", i.e., clear the ultras, hold the place till governance and development can be brought in - and thus bring the local tribals into the fold.
    (Note: "Operation Green Hunt" is a term which the government says is a media-creation - and perhaps it is - though large-scale deployment of CRPF and para-military forces has been done. Those who have been deployed find this denial that the operation exist, by the government strange, and even demoralising - check: Chidambaram says no, but troops believe ‘Green Hunt' exists, The Hindu, April 10).

    Noble and logical as this aim to "Clear, hold and build" may seem from a distance, its success clearly depends on the capabilities of the forces to achieve the first step, i.e., "clear" in the first place.

    Before "restoring the administration" of the cleared area, there is also the issue of the 'governance'/'administration'/'capacity' of the deployed forces - a point which is mostly ignored in the jingoism about the might of Indian forces... so here are some reportage, which I could pick up - which are less visible/ less discussed - and so may complement the picture...

  • Slain CRPF jawans never trained to fight Naxals (One India)
    "Army chief General V K Singh said on Thursday, Apr 8, that the 76 CRPF personnels who were killed by Maoists were never trained in jungle warfare to fight the Maoists... Responding to the query on the Dantewada massacre, Army Chief said that what had happened in Dantewada was the result of internal deficiencies."
    Read on...
    (Note: this has been denied by the Ministry of Home Affairs - so one is left with the choice whether to believe the words of the 'training agency', which is Army, or those who send the forces for training.)

  • On Naxal trail, they haven't fired in a year (The Times of India)
    "It's war. And every officer and constable of Jharkhand police deployed in Maoist-hit areas is well prepared for it. Right? Wrong. In the last three years, most of them have not fired a weapon at a paper target — far less a Maoist bent on killing them.

    Brandishing AK-47s and Insas rifles, they are good at inspiring awe among children and villagers, but how are they in combat? "In a crunch situation, I don't know how my men will react or even if they fire, whether they will make the bullets count," admitted an inspector."

    Read on...

  • No medical evacuation plan for paramilitary forces (The Hindu)
    "Around the world, medical experts are agreed on the concept of the “golden hour” of evacuation in which the maximum lives can be saved. “All trauma patients, particularly in warzone situations, must be evacuated to a tertiary medical centre within 60 minutes if they are to survive,” said retired Admiral S.K. Mohanty, who served as a surgeon in Kashmir during the Kargil War...

    ...“In Chhattisgarh, we are lucky if we get information about an attack within the golden hour, let alone evacuating people in 60 minutes,” said a senior police officer. “The lines of communication are poor and the telephones don't work.”

    Read on...

  • No water, food or medicines. Now, go fight 'biggest threat'(The Times of India)
    "For six years, the government has cried hoarse about Maoists being the single biggest security threat to India. Yet, the Indian state is sending its footsoldiers into battle on an empty stomach, without adequate drinking water and medical facilities.... "We are losing lives in a battle that can be sorted out. There are many ways in which our force can be better utilized," said the jawan."
    Read on...

  • Anger spills over in CRPF camp (The Times of India)
    "People are issuing statements, expressing grief over the incident, but how many have tried to see the condition we work in," yelled a jawan from inside the camp. "Media are flashing fabricated reports about senior officers making visits or camping at our site. No one has actually turned up," he added.

    He said politicians were finding faults with them. "They say it was a mistake. How can they pass such a judgment sitting in Delhi?" asked another jawan. Another jawan joined in to take a dig at the politicians.

    Read on...

    The Solution??... There must be many serious changes which must be being contemplated, but when one comes across examples such as this one, one wonders...

  • Now, motivational classes to boost jawans (The Times of India)
    "The Dantewada massacre of CRPF personnel at the hands of the Maoists has given the paramilitary forces in this state the opportunity to go for motivational classes and interpersonal exercise to boost the morale of the jawans... Senior CRPF officials said they would soon ask the authorities concerned to hold motivational classes to pump the morale of the jawans engaged in the anti-Maoist operation in the border districts of the state connecting West Bengal, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.... Measures, including yoga, motivational classes, inter-personal meeting and sports comprises the broad exercise that goes into the building of a high morale of the jawans during their normal stay in the base camps."
    Read on...

    Commenting on and analysing this lack of capabilities and preparedness, in a rather incisive article "India's Maoists and Dreamscapes of 'Solutions'", Security Analyst, Dr Ajai Sahni had pointed out last month:

    "...under the Centre's projected operational plans, that is, 28,000 or 42,800 CPMF personnel, as the case may be, for six worst-affected States with a total area of 1.86 million square kilometers and a total population of over 446 million. This is like trying to irrigate the desert with dewdrops.

    Of course, the Centre's 'operational strategy' seeks to concentrate this Force in areas of specific Maoist dominance, to 'recover' these areas, and 'bring them under civil administration'.

    ....What is fascinating in these narratives is their exquisite simplicity and their utter divorce from reality. It would, indeed, be quite miraculous if the state could even 'restore civil administration' to vast expanses of rural India where the Maoists have no presence whatsoever, but where virtually the entire apparatus of governance has vanished. At least some of these areas are little more than a stone's throw from Delhi.

    The problem with these various 'strategies' is that they aren't 'strategies' at all. These are borrowed ideas with no reference to capacities, capabilities, resources and the conditions of the ground."