29 March 2012

Despite Sangrampur, Police Protects Illicit Liquor

Despite the spurious, illicit hooch tragedy in Sangrampur of South 24 Parganas in which 148 persons lost their lives, illicit liquor continues to flourish in the same district. Its latest victim is Maya Patra, a young 19-year-old housewife of   Village Nonapota Narayanpur 4 No Gheri, PS Kakdwip. Last night when she was on her way to the fields to relieve herself, she was abducted by six henchmen of the liquor dealers. She was taken to a nearby paan baroj where the men attempted to forcibly gang-rape her. 

Maya received this punishment because her in-laws have been actively opposing illicit liquor in their village. Nonapota has the biggest illicit hooch manufacturing units in the Kakdwip subdivision. The hooch manufacturers here flourish because they have lucrative markets in the neighbouring areas of Pathar Pratima and Kakdwip, as well as tourist areas like Fraser Ganj and Bakkhali . Chief amongst the manufacturers are Sunil Mondal and Kangal Pramanick, both residents of the same village.  

Aloka Patra, Maya’s mother in law has been actively opposing the liquor dens in her village, as they are just opposite her house and drunken men often tease their women folk. About a year ago, Aloka got fed up of the constant harassment. She went on the warpath and led a group of half a dozen women in breaking the illicit liquor dens and burning the liquor. A boycott was organised against her by the liquor manufacturers, and she was being pressured to pay Rs 80,000 as “compensation” for the loss she had caused. The police refused to help her, though she tried to file a case against the liquor manufacturers. Instead, the police would go to the village every time she complained to take money from the liquor manufacturers.  
Aloka finally came to the Shramajivi Mahila Samity(SMS) for help. The SMS organised a meeting on the issue in the village, only to find that the liquor lords and their henchmen had surrounded them and were forcing them to make a settlement fining Aloka. The activists had to finally be rescued by a police team.
After the Sangrampur incident , SMS once again pressured the police to break the liquor manufacturing units. This only led to the police taking some cosmetic action and being paid some more money. About two weeks ago, Aloka Patra and her husband were again attacked by the henchmen of the liquor lords. Aloka’s husband was hospitalised with a head injury, but there was no action from the police.

On 28 March 2012, there was again an altercation between Aloka’s daughter-in-law Maya and six henchmen of the liquor lords. To teach Aloka, Maya and their family a lesson, they abducted her and gagged her, before attempting to rape her. She however managed to raise a hue and cry, hearing which her husband and mother-in-law and other neighbours rushed to her rescue. Biswanath, Aloka’s husband, received a head injury in the process and has had to be hospitalised.
Since yesterday SMS activists and Maya’s family have been desperately trying to file an FIR and get the six criminals arrested. So far, they have only received assurances of action from the Officer in Charge, the Sub divisional Police Officer and the Additional SP (Rural) of the district. The Mahila Samity is demanding immediate arrest of the six criminals and the liquor lords, and the breaking of the liquor manufacturing units. If this action is not forthcoming, the Kakdwip police station will be gherao-ed on 31 March 2012.

Asta Bala Maity
Shramajivi Mahila Samity, G3 Balaka Apartments, 348 Basunagar, Madhyamgram

13 March 2012

Why The Food Bill Is A Damp Squib

·                The National Food Security Bill has nothing to say on the basics that would provide food security - fair employment, proper wages, control of productive resources etc. So, it amounts to the provision of a temporary dole in socio-economic conditions that remain unchanged.

·                Despite claiming to be a Food Security Bill, it is strangely silent on the very important issues of food production, procurement and storage.

·                Entitlements under the Bill are limited and targeted. It provides only cereals or ready-to-eat food and cooked meals in limited quantities to a limited number of people, only under certain conditions and at particular times. It therefore fails to guarantee access to all people at all times.

·                     Nutritional security requires a comprehensive basket of food, with adequate quantities of pulses, oil, fruits, vegetables, milk and other food items. The NFSB provides for cereals alone for the population to be covered under the PDS. 

·                     Despite clear indications of declining food consumption and increasing hunger and malnutrition and indebtedness among the working people of the country for consumption needs, the Government has only given a paltry amount of 7 kg per head per month for the priority group and only 3 kg per head per month for the general group. These quantities meet neither the nutritional requirements for a healthy life nor even the present consumption levels.

·                     The Bill has been left open-ended and gives no definite date for notification. It allows for different dates for the notification of various sections of the law.

·                     The present law delegates the selection of the entitlement holder under the category of priority and general households to the Central Government instead of Parliament itself, thus giving to the Central Government a function that is constitutionally the prerogative of Parliament.
The Bill has created three categories – the excluded, priority households and general households in place of a universal system that existed before the 1990’s.
The Bill seems to be aimed at reducing the obligations of governments. Linking benefits to reforms prescribed by Central Government punishes those living in states that have poor governance.

·                     The Bill has left the door open to a wholesale replacement of the PDS with cash transfers, impacting household food security. This will also affect farmers as the Government will not procure grain or store it. This is a threat to the nation’s food security. 

·                     While the Supreme Court orders have made all services under the ICDS universal, the Bill talks of only universal supplementary nutrition.

·                     Services to migrants, homeless and destitute and the disabled have been left undefined.

·                     The proposed grievance redress mechanism under the NFSB begins at the district level, which is too far away for people to effectively access.

·                     Though the Bill has provisions dealing with transparency and accountability, they are not sufficient. Too much of discretion has been left to the Government to decide the modalities of inspection.

The NFSB 2011 gives sweeping powers to the Central Government. These sections are clearly in violation of the federal system of governance.

Our detailed critique is available at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/85182662/Food-Bill-Critique

12 March 2012

State-Level Consultation Meeting On National Food Security Bill

State Consultation on National Food Security Bill 2011

March 16, 2012, 12 noon to 5 p.m.

Venue: Nabaparjay’s union office at Shed No. 11, Khadya Bhavan, 11A Mirza Ghalib Street (near New Market), Kolkata

To discuss the critique of the National Food Security Bill 2011 tabled in the Parliament and
Plan strategy to force the Government to bring in a law that:

·         Ensures food security to all and the elimination of malnutrition and hunger in children and adults in the country
·         Addresses production, procurement and storage issues, establishing the dignity of farmers
·         Provides a universal PDS, removing targeting to BPL alone 
·         A Grievance Redress scheme that guarantees effective and immediate redress locally.

In December 2011, the Government of India placed the draft National Food Security Bill 2011 in Parliament. To say the least, the Bill is a great disappointment to all those who are striving for food security and the elimination of hunger in the country.  The Bill is now before the Parliamentary Standing Committee for discussion and finalisation before being placed in Parliament for the final debate and voting.

The National Right To Food Campaign, along with a number of West Bengal-based unions, groups and networks, is organising a State-level consultation on “National Food Security Bill 2011”.

During the consultation on March 16, we expect different groups to present their views on the Bill and to plan for a joint programme to influence the Standing Committee as well as to create public opinion. The agenda of the meeting would be to understand the content of the National Food Security Bill 2011 and its impact on food security. We would also look at West Bengal’s experience with legal entitlements, vigilance and redress in the rationing system and other schemes. We hope to come up with a campaign plan on the NFSB 2011 for West Bengal.

Some of the organisations who have agreed to participate in this programme are (in alphabetical order): Asanghatit Khetra Shramik Sangrami Manch, Binodini Shramik Union, Durbar Disha Griha Shramik Samanvay Committee,  Griha Adhikar Manch, Hawkers Sangram Committee, Hosiery Workers Unity Centre, Human Rights Law Network, Hunger Free West Bengal Campaign, Institute for Motivating Self Employment, Jana Swasthya Adhikar Raksha Samity, Liquor Shop Employees Union, MASUM, National Alliance of People’s Movements, New Trade Union Initiative,  Paschim Banga Jeevan Jeevika Surakhsha Manch, Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity, Sara Bangla Truck Parichalak Sanghathan Samnavay Samity, Shramajivi Mahila Samity, Shramajivi Samanvay Committee, Sundarban Banadhikar Sangram Committee, Udayani Social Action Centre, Uthnau and West Bengal Government Employees Union (Nabaparjay). 

Kavita Srivastava, the National Convenor of the Right to Food Campaign, will also be present. A contribution of Rs10 from each participant is requested to cover the costs of the meeting.

Saumendra Narayan Basu, Debashis Pal, Mijanur Rehaman, Jothi Sj., Anuradha Talwar

Observe Nandigram Day on March 14

Though it is five years now since the terrible massacre of March 14, 2007, events that led up to the massacre and its aftermath remain unforgettable for the people of West Bengal and the country and even perhaps the world. The contribution of Nandigram to the present politics of West Bengal has also been considerable. People's movements, especially the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee, which went beyond party banners, played an important role in this movement. Today, however, the movement has become associated with a political party, with the banners that transcended party being pushed into oblivion.   

On the fifth anniversary of March 14 or Nandigram Diwas, Nandigram Manch, (a loose platform of individuals and organisations that came up in November 2007 outside of party banners to stand by and support the struggling people of Nandigram), invites you to an evening of review, along with remembrance and homage to the people of Nandigram. The focus of the evening will be on assessing the relevance of the Nandigram struggle in West Bengal’s present political context.

Nandigram Manch invites you to observe Nandigram Divas on March 14 at  Bharat Sabha  Hall, Kolkata,  at 5 p.m. We will observe the day with the formal inauguration of two books: one on Nandigram and Jangalmahal by Sukumar Mitra and other by Tushar Bhattacharya on the mass murder at Bijan Setu. A film on Nandigram, Nandigrame Nutan Surjauday, will be screened.

Swapan Ganguly for Nandigram Manch