Thursday, July 30, 2015
ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY !!!
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
So Yakub Memon was finally hanged to death early this morning (July 30th) in the Nagpur Central Jail! The 54-year old Chartered Accountant was convicted for the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts which took the lives of 267 people and injured many more. The team of lawyers defending him tried every possible option to stay the death penalty but to no avail.
President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Memon’s final plea for clemency despite a petition from several eminent citizens. The petition which was signed by over 300 persons (former Supreme Court judges, academia, human rights activists, film makers, politicians and others from civil society) requested the President to stay Memon’s execution citing procedural lapses and “disturbing aspects of this case which make the award of death sentence of Yakub Memon as grossly unfair, arbitrary and excessive”.
Apart from the fact that Yakub Memon had already served more than the stipulated time for life imprisonment and that there was little evidence of his direct involvement in the blasts, he was still hanged. Several citizens have termed it as ‘legal murder’.
A sense of permissiveness seems to have permeated several sections of Indian society. From last evening, one could see a sense of gloating of ‘fait accompli’ - as people thronged the gates of Nagpur Central Jail for ‘selfies’; media anchors and reporters felt that it is their divine responsibility to scream and yell for a man’s blood! The three members of the Apex Court wouldn’t even consider a further fourteen days reprieve.
On the other hand, Maya Kodnani the linchpin of the Naroda Patiya massacres (and already convicted to more than a life term) gets bail today from the Gujarat High Court; the master-minds of the Gujarat Genocide and the encounter killings of innocent youth, roam freely with immunity and impunity and also hold some of the highest offices of the land; Jayalalitha has been acquitted due to ‘miscalculations’ of her scandalous assets; the Vyapam scam has already taken the toll of more than forty lives; the ‘Lalit-gate’ corruption issue; the killings of dalits, tribals and minorities; the hate-speeches of law makers – for all this and more, many conveniently turn a blind eye.
“There is indeed something rotten in the State of Denmark!”
No, we are not advocating the death penalty for anyone! The death penalty must be abolished! It is a barbaric act and not in sync with civilised society. No violence can be justified; no murder can be rectified; death penalty however is not the answer! Objective studies clearly demonstrate that in nations and societies where the death penalty has been abolished, the crime rate has decreased dramatically.
On March 20th Pope Francis writing to the International Commission Against Death Penalty says, “today the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed; capital punishment contradicts God’s plan for man and society and does not render justice to the victims but rather fosters vengeance.”
Two wrongs have never made a right. Let us hope that at least in this ‘legal murder’ of Yakub Memon that we all awake and work towards the abolition of the death penalty in India!
July 30th 2015
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)
Address: ‘PRASHANT’, Hill Nagar, Near Saffron Hotel, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052
at 5:24 AM
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
NEW REPORT: ‘Cotton’s Forgotten Children’
Almost half a million Indian children produce cottonseed
Utrecht, The Hague, 23 July 2015
Almost half a million Indian children are working to produce the cottonseed that is the basis for our garments and all the other textile products that we use. Around 200,000 of them are below 14 years of age. This is one of the shocking results of the new study ‘Cotton’s Forgotten Children’ by India’s long-term expert on the issue, Dr. Davuluri Venkateswarlu.
It is equally shocking that the number of children working in the cotton seed fields has increased with almost 100,000 since the last all-India study on this issue in 2010. Children’s below 14 constitute around 25% of the workforce on the fields of the farmers that supply their seeds to both Indian and multinational companies. Another 35% of the workforce are children between 14 and 18 years of age.
The report criticises the Indian state governments, especially those of Gujarat and Rajasthan, for ‘not paying serious attention to tackle the issue’ and ‘being in the denying mood’. On the role of the seed companies it states: ‘The response of the seed industry as a whole to address the problem of child labour is minimal’.
Long working days – Exposed to pesticides
Children below 14 – of which two-thirds are girls - are employed in the seed fields on a long-term contract basis through loans extended to their parents by local seed producers, who have agreements with the large national and multinational seed companies. Children are made to work 8 to 12 hours a day and are exposed to poisonous pesticides used in high quantities in cottonseed cultivation. Most of the children working in cottonseed farms belong to poor Dalit (‘outcaste’), Adivasi (tribal) or Backward Castes families. Around 70% of the children are hired or even trafficked from other states while 30% is ‘family labour’. Most are school-dropouts.
There are also some hopeful signs. The number of children below 14 working on seed farms – in proportion to the total workforce - has dropped in all states. In Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu there was a significant decline of 42% and 69% respectively of young children working in the seed fields.
The report also recognizes a number of initiatives undertaken by multinational companies like Bayer, Monsanto and DuPont, some local companies, government agencies, Unicef, NGOs like MV Foundation in Andhra Pradesh and a union like DRMU in Gujarat which helped to reduce the number of young working children.
However due to the very substantial increase of production area, especially in Gujarat and Rajasthan, the total number of working children has nevertheless increased substantially. The number of adolescents doing this work has increased since 2010 with 70,000 and the number of young children with almost 30,000.
Below minimum wages for women
The other main issue in the new report is the payment of wages below the official minimum wage, especially to women. For specific tasks mainly allocated to women and children – especially the labour-intensive cross-pollination – wages are paid that are substantially below the official state or zonal minimum wages. This happens in all the states. Despite this and earlier reports on the issue (e.g. Wages of Inequality, December 2012) this issue has not yet been tackled effectively by government and companies and has hardly been taken up by civil society.
The 47-page report contains 11 recommendations for both companies, the National Seed Association of India and the (state) governments to tackle child labour, below official minimum or living wages and other labour rights violations.
A few of these recommendations are:
1. Seed companies need to do a proper review of their procurement policies to ensure that growers have enough margins to tackle child labour and pay at least the official minimum wage to workers.
2. Government and independent agencies have to do research if the present minimum wages are actually living wages that allow adult cottonseed workers a decent life. Cottonseed workers should also be covered under social security benefits like the Provident Fund.
3. In view of the magnitude and seriousness of the child rights violations and other violations in cottonseed production, a special taskforce of state governments to ensure labour rights in this sector is recommended. Such a taskforce should work in close co-operation with local groups, village panchayats, local (child) rights groups, NGOs and unions.
4. Every Indian or multinational seed company, as well as the NSAI, should have an effective grievance mechanism where both farmers and agricultural labourers can safely file grievances on violations of labour rights at the farm level and resolve those issues. In cases of systemic violations, programmes to tackle these violations have to be developed.
5. The National Seed Association of India (NSAI) should play a more proactive role in urging their members to combat child labour and respect labour rights, including by setting up joint programmes and requiring from members to report on progress.
director India Committee of the Netherlands
3511 LH Utrecht
at 10:56 AM