The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that the AP Pollution Control Board (APPCB) postpone the public hearing slated for 31 October 2017 in respect of the Vishakhapatnam Port Trust (VPT) expansion project. We have gathered from media reports that a public hearing is to be conducted by the APPCB on VPT’s proposal to expand two oil berths at a cost of Rs 193.31 crores.
It is shocking that the APPCB has neither announced the date of the public hearing nor uploaded the prefeasibility environmental impact assessment report (EIA report) of the said project on its website. It has thus failed to provide sufficient notice to the public at large.The APPCB appears to have given up on its conventional practice of posting the date of public hearing and uploading the relevant EIA report. A public hearing is an important step in the EIA’s consultative process which cannot be undermined in any manner. The exercise would be far more meaningful if the notification is widely circulated as per the Environmental Impact Assessment norms. By not doing so, a large section of society is deprived of valuable information that is a pre-requisite for a meaningful rendering of opinion at the public hearing. In fact, the denial of this information goes against the spirit of our Constitution and the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006. A 30 day prior notice of the public hearing is mandatory according to the EIA regulations and it ought to be explicit so as to enable people from all walks of life to express their views about the project proposal in an informed manner.
The Vizag Port Trust is one of the major contributors to air pollution in Visakhapatnam city. People residing in the neighborhood of VPT have repeatedly expressed grave concern about the pollutants from the Port taking a toll on their health and well-being. We recall that the National Green Tribunal had to step in to address this issue. Beach sand erosion has also become a cause of concern in this region. Many oceanographic studies have proven the link between the presence of ports and beach erosion. Apart from these requiring a studied response, an additional concern is the location of several industries near the VPT. These have given rise to major environmental concerns including the necessity for a cumulative environmental impact assessment. All such concerns ought to be discussed and addressed at a public hearing provided such a hearing is held in a meaningful manner. In this instance, this is clearly not the case.
As the notification has not even been duly posted in the APPCB’s website, we feel that the very purpose of the public hearing would be defeated. We have brought this to the notice of the Chairman, APPCB and the District Collector and requested them to issue a fresh notification so as to facilitate a fair assessment.
We reiterate that the APPCB should postpone the public hearing scheduled for 31 October 2017 and must issue a fresh notification for the same. We also demand that the APPCB should post the mandatory 30 days’ notice of the public hearing on its website and also upload the prefeasibility report in it.
K Sudha UG Srinivasulu
General Secretary, HRF President, HRF
AP State Committee AP State Committee
The Human Rights Forum (HRF) and the Ganatantrik Adhikar Suraksha Sanghatan (GASS) demand that Greyhounds police personnel responsible for the killing of 27 Maoists and at least four civilians on the early morning of October 24, 2016 in the forest abutting Ramaguda village of Andrapalli panchayat in the “cut-off” area of Malkangiri district in Odisha be booked under relevant penal sections of the law including 302 IPC (murder) and the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act) and prosecuted. The criminal investigation in the case must be handed over to either the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or a Court monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT).This SIT must consist of officers with impeccable credentials and untainted by earlier “encounter” killings.
A four-member HRF and GASS team on November 4 visited the place of firing by Greyhounds personnel. We spoke with adivasis in the area including residents of Gusumapadar and Ramaguda, a small village which is located quite close to the place of killings. Contrary to the assertion by senior police officials in both Andhra Pradesh and Orissa that the deaths were due to cross-fire, we believe they were the result of unilateral one-sided firing by the Greyhounds. That the Maoists opened fire first and the Greyhounds were forced to retaliate resulting in the deaths is pure fiction. It is our firm belief that the Maoists were taken totally by surprise and the fatalities, 31 in all at present count, were the result of a murderous attack by the Greyhounds.
The Maoists had set up camp a day before in a fairly dense forest area at the southern tip of the Jantri reserve forest. At about half a km from Ramaguda, the camp was located next to a stream and the hillock raises to the east and north. To the west is open ground and next to it are the placid waters of the Balimela reservoir. At the break of dawn on October 24, the Greyhounds, who were positioned at a height to the east and north in a semi-circle, opened fire killing 24 at the camp site itself. The others camp inmates ran in the opposite direction crossing the stream and going towards Ramaguda and beyond where the thick growth stretches into the Kondakamberu reserve forest.
What is pertinent is that the Greyhounds who were well-armed could have arrested the Maoists but they did no such thing. They not only outnumbered the latter, but were clearly in an advantageous position on higher ground. What is more, they had the element of surprise. But as has been their practice all these many decades, the Greyhounds began firing with the express intention to liquidate those present in the camp.
The day after, the police announced that four more Maoists were killed in yet another encounter in the area. We believe this to be untrue. What likely happened is that they found the bodies of four persons who were injured in the firing of the previous day. The police once again proclaimed that two more Maoists had died in another encounter on October 27. This is yet another falsehood. Local residents told us that after the Greyhounds left the area on October 9, the Maoists came a few days later and discovered yet another body near a rivulet. This was of a young man, a civilian who was resident of Bachilipadar, also in Andrapalli panchayat. Word was sent to his village and after his parents arrived, Ramaguda villagers helped them cremate the body near the reservoir. The toll at the moment is a total of 31 persons killed.
Senior police officials pointed out to the death of a Greyhounds commando and a bullet injury to the leg of another to buttress their claim that the Maoists had opened fire first and the police fired in self-defence. However, the Andhra Pradesh DGP has stated that the death of the commando was because he had drowned in a deep pond. It is also possible that the injury to the other commando could have been caused by a bullet fired by one of his colleagues.
In the matter of alleged encounters, the police, particularly the Greyhounds, have nothing to commend themselves. This is a commando force that was raised with the sole intention of shooting down Maoists as if they are wild game. Time and again they have attacked gatherings and killed people, including many civilians. We recall the recent killing of two adivasi farmers — Ganga Madkami (40) and Ganga Podiami (33) – by the Greyhounds on the afternoon of February 21, 2016 in the Puttakota forest area of Koyyuru mandal in Visakhapatnam district of AP. On that occasion the police peddled the fiction that the two, who hailed from Balakati and Tumsapalli villages of Korukonda block of Malkangiri district, as being members of the Galikonda area committee of the Maoists! One can go on citing many such examples.
At present, there is a pall of fear that is starkingly evident in the area with residents very afraid to speak out. What is very worrying is that the whereabouts of 14 adivasis from villages located across three panchayats –Andrapalli, Panasaput and Jodamba — are not known. According to information we could gather, 9 of them are from the village of Dhakerpadar, two from Bachilipadar and two more from Khajuriguda. Their relatives fear they are either in police custody or are lying dead somewhere in the forest after having been hit in the October 24 raid. What is noteworthy is all of them are civilians and not armed Maoist cadre. Many of them may have been in the camp because the Maoists were involved in recruiting people as militia members from several villages. In fact, two Maoists had come to Ramaguda on the night of October 23 asking that four youth come to the camp the next day for a meeting.
We urge Central and State governments to desist from viewing the Maoist movement as a mere outbreak of criminality but as a political movement and to deal with it politically. It must be acknowledged that this movement, though it does employ violence to further its goals, is one that has deep roots in material deprivation, social oppression and lack of freedom. The police do have the role to meet this violence by the Maoists but only in a manner that abides by the law and is respectful of the rights of people. It cannot resort to staged encounter killings and torture, among other illegalities.
Government must stop its ongoing policy to try to decimate the Maoists militarily. Serious efforts must be made by both the Government and the Maoists to initiate steps that would lead up to an unconditional dialogue.
VS Krishna S Jeevan Kumar
(HRF general secretary, AP&TS) (HRF president, AP&TS)
Press Release 19-10-2016
The Human Rights Forum (HRF) strongly condemns the manner in which an environmental public hearing is being sought to be held tomorrow (i.e 20-10-2016) for the proposed ACC Ltd’s limestone mining, cement plant and captive power plant at Gollapalli village in Mylavaram mandal of Kadapa district. The Andhra Pradesh government has virtually unleashed a police raj in the area and is trying to bulldoze the public hearing by whatever means.
HRF’s State executive committee member and Kadapa district convener K Jayasree has been held under house arrest with constables deployed at her residence in Proddatur. While junior level police officers are saying they had “instructions from above” to do this, senior officials are feigning ignorance. Meanwhile, hundreds of police personnel have descended upon Gollapalli and villages like Vaddirala, Bestavermula and G Uppalapadu. Evidently, the government’s intention is to prevent both HRF functionaries as well as local people from participating in the public hearing slated for Thursday. This is shameful and highly objectionable. The police are busy creating an atmosphere of fear among people who have misgivings about the desirability of the project. It may be recalled that local people have been vehemently opposing the proposed project and had even disallowed the public hearing from being held on an earlier occasion on September 9. This was because statutory norms were not followed and the local people had no proper access to information concerning the proposed project like the environmental impact assessment report.
Right now, the whole area in and around Gollapalli is teeming with police. A public hearing is part of an environmental process where people are given a chance to render suggestions, proffer opinion and raise objections about the concerned project. It must be held in a free, fair and transparent manner and not by intimidating people. This defeats the very purpose of public consultation and reduces the hearing to a meaningless exercise and a mere formality. Clearly, the public hearing process has been vitiated in this case and cannot be construed as a genuine public consultation as is mandated by law.
To now try to bulldoze a public hearing in this manner by using the police is highly objectionable. We demand that the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) intervene and stop this farce.
VS Krishna S Jeevan Kumar
(HRF general secretary, TS&AP) (HRF president, TS&AP)
The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that those police personnel who participated in the alleged encounter killing of Mohd. Nayeemuddin near Shadnagar in Mahbubnagar district on August 8, 2016 be booked under relevant provisions of the IPC including murder. The investigation into the case must be conducted by an agency as independent as possible of the Telangana and AP police. The version of the police that Nayeemuddin died in an exchange of fire with the police and that the police only retaliated and fired in self-defence leading to his death, cannot be the last word in the matter. While we hold absolutely no brief for Mohd. Nayeemuddin, we wish to make the point that whether his death is the result of a genuine exchange of fire or an extra-judicial killing by the police has to be determined in a court of law. The court is the proper authority to decide upon the veracity or otherwise of the police version. It will not do for the police to simply put out an ‘encounter’ story and wash their hands of the matter.
Mohd. Nayeemuddin was possibly the most notorious and vicious of the criminal counter-insurgent gangs that operated and terrorised society with total impunity since over two decades. It is an open secret that these gangs, and Nayeemuddin in particular, enjoyed State patronage. His is the most glaring case of the State managing to co-opt militants who had earlier worked in Naxalite parties and then encouraged to form paramilitary gangs. He was allowed to operate as a virtual don, settling private land and business disputes with the undisguised use of violence, making a fortune for himself and his associates with the police benignly looking on and perhaps even taking a share of the gains. These armed gangs would also regularly issue threatening and abusive statements in the Press demanding of activists of various democratic organisations that they forthwith give up their activity.
There is very little doubt that it was Nayeemuddin’s gang that killed T. Purushotham of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) on 23-11-2000 in Hyderabad, and Md. Azam Ali of the same organisation at Nalgonda on 18-2-2001. Nayeemuddin personally participated in the kidnapping of Dr G. Lakshman, then President of APCLC, on 6-11-2003 in the aftermath of the near-fatal attack on the then Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu near Tirupati on 1-10-2003 by the Peoples War. Dr. Lakshman was tortured and forced to deny the kidnapping and the torture. Nayeemuddin’s outfit would also regularly issue threatening and abusive statements in the Press demanding of activists of various democratic organisations that they forthwith give up their activity.
We believe that successive governments’ had ample chance all these years to arrest this gangster but chose not to do so. This is because he was doing the State’s bidding and there was close nexus between several high ranking policemen and Nayeemuddin. We recall that complete disarming of these killer gangs was one of the demands raised during the six month period in the later half of the year 2004 when there was a cease-fire between the police and the Maoists and some attempt at a dialogue was made. However, nothing happened.
The HRF, in particular late K Balagopal, has time and again pointed out that such criminal gangs, actively abetted by the State, should have no place in a civilised society. We have consistently campaigned against the phenomenon of private gangs operating in the name of ‘Tigers’ and ‘Cobras’ and killing people with impunity in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. We have, along with other rights organisations across the country, pointed to the dangers of the State deliberately encouraging private militias and standing silently by as they committed murders and forced activists of democratic organisations by public threats to resign and become inactive.
HRF also demands that a comprehensive enquiry be held to unearth facts of the nexus between such criminal gangs and the police.
VS Krishna S Jeevan Kumar
(HRF general secretary, TS&AP) (HRF president, TS&AP)
Press Release 20-7-2016
We demand that personnel of the Special Operations Group (SOG) who participated in the macabre firing that resulted in the death of five civilians of Gumudumaha village in Paranpanga panchayat of Tumdibandha block in Kandhamal district of Odisha on July 8, 2016 be duly charged under relevant provisions of the IPC as well as those of the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and criminally prosecuted.
A four-member team of the Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakhya Sangathan (GASS, Odisha) and the Human Rights Forum (HRF, AP and Telangana) visited Gumudumaha village on July 17 and spoke with local residents including eyewitnesses to the killings. Over 15 residents of the village had hired an auto-rickshaw at Balliguda on the evening of July 8 to take them to their village. Most of them were returning home after having collected their MGNREGS wages at the sub-divisional headquarters (Balliguda). At about 8.20 pm the auto was close to the village but had to get over a steep incline. The passengers got down and while the women, two of them carrying infant sons, walked ahead, the men pushed the auto up the kutcha road.
Upon reaching the top, the women first began to get into the auto when SOG personnel lying in wait amidst bushes not more than 10 to 15 metres away to the left of the road opened fire with no warning whatsoever. Five people, including three women, and a two-year old boy were killed instantly while seven others were wounded, five of them seriously. The dead and wounded belong to the adivasi Kondh and the Scheduled Caste Pano communities.
Every single person that our team spoke to (those who were at the spot that night) stated emphatically that the firing only emanated from the left and that there was no firing from the other side of the road. This clearly rules out the possibility of any exchange of fire. Soon after the firing began, those who were not hit ran to the village which was not more than 200 metres. Within a few minutes they rushed back with other residents to the spot only to find the dead. They carried the injured back to their homes in the village where five of the seriously hurt spent the entire night in pain, terror and delirium.
Those who died in this gruesome firing are two-year old Jehad Digal who was hit by a bullet that went through his stomach, three women Kimuri Mallick (35), Bimbuli Mallick (45) and Midiali Mallick (40) and Kukala Digal (42) who was the former sarpanch of Paranpanga.
Though it was a cloudy night and there was no moonlight, the two head-lights of the auto were switched on and from where the SOG personnel lay in wait, they could easily see that it was civilians who were by the auto. That the SOG still resorted to firing upon a group of unarmed villagers reflects a mind-set that can only be described as morbid.
When the villagers went to the spot the next morning, the SOG personnel disallowed them from moving the bodies. They even disallowed them from taking the injured in the village for treatment. On the other hand, no effort was made by the administration to shift those who were hurt to hospital. It was only after several adivasi and dalit organisations in Tumdibandha block raised an outcry and held protests that the injured were allowed to be taken to hospital. While two of the injured remained in the village since their wounds were very minor, the other five were carried by the villagers on foot and they reached the road point at Kurtamgarh, a good 15 km away, by the afternoon of July 9.
Four of the injured are now being treated at MKCG Hospital in Berhampur. They are Luka Digal and his wife Sunita who are parents of the two-year deceased boy Jehad, Tempu Mallick (50) and Gottisi Digal (35). Bannomali Mallick (35), who is in a serious condition, is in the SCB Medical College, Cuttack. In what can only be described as extreme luck, Kajanti Mallick (22), who was holding her 17-month son Krishna in her arms, got away with a bullet only scraping her left calf. Sahalu Mallick also escaped with a splinter on his back.
As is their habit, the police put out the customary concoction of an exchange of fire with the Maoists. The official version is that a 15-member joint drive by the police and SOG based on intelligence inputs about Maoists presence in the area was fired upon by the latter who had positioned themselves atop a hillock. The SOG, who were approaching the hillock, retaliated in self-defence. While the exchange was going on, an auto-rickshaw that was passing by got stuck in the mud forcing the passengers to alight and therefore the helpless villagers got trapped in the crossfire!
This is pure nonsense. To describe these killings, like some in the security establishment are doing, as “an engagement with the Maoists gone horribly wrong” is to miss the point. This is by no means an isolated case. During our joint fact-findings over the past few years (the list is given below) we have found that special forces, whether the CRPF, SOG or BSF have killed 17 persons, most of them adivasis and all unarmed civilians, in the South Odisha districts of Kalahandi, Rayagada, Koraput , Kandhamal and Gajapati.
Almost a year ago, on July 26, 2015, CRPF personnel shot dead Dhubeswar Nayak (50) and his wife Bubhudi Nayak (45) near their village Pangalapadar in Madaguda panchayat of Kotagarh block, also in Kandhamal district. The couple were on a hill-top about half a km from their village speaking over the mobile with their sons who were in Kerala when they were murdered by the SOG. They were atop the hill since that is the only place where mobiles phones can pick up BSNL signals and like many of Pangalapadar residents they make the climb occasionally to avail of the facility. Till date, no official has visited the village nor has any meaningful investigation taken place. On that occasion too public protests forced the government to hand over meagre compensation to the family but there has been no initiation of criminal proceedings against the killer SOG personnel. If those responsible for such deliberate and wanton killings been brought to book, would the Gumudumaha killings have happened?
We have conducted fact-findings into each one of these incidents and found them to be cases of unilateral firing by the security forces. These deaths of civilians can only be described as murders. The sad reality, however, is that in not a single one of these cases have those who perpetrated the crime been criminally prosecuted though it is a basic requirement of law. Mere quibbling over standard operating procedures will not be of much use. What is required is accountability.
The government of Odisha persists with the undemocratic policy of continuing to treat the Maoist movement as an outbreak of criminality which can be sorted out with the deployment of more and more security forces armed to the teeth. This was once again echoed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik during the recent Inter-State Council meet in Delhi where he described “left wing extremism is the biggest threat” and sought deployment of even more troops to meet it. While the impunity given to these special police is a matter of serious concern to society at large, to those residing in the 5th Scheduled districts of South Odisha it is a matter of life and death. Small wonder that we heard the uniform plea by local residents that they wanted an immediate withdrawal of para military forces from the region.
We have consistently made the point that the Maoist movement is a political movement that has to be met politically. Any response by the police to the violence by Maoists has to be within the ambit of the law without trampling upon people’s rights.
A day after the full horror and inhumanity of the Gumudumaha killings had sunk in, the Odisha Chief Minister made the customary noises of “deep regret and unfortunate deaths” and proceeded to announce compensation and employment of sorts to a family member of those killed. This, however, does not meet the ends of justice. For that to happen a diligent criminal investigation is a requisite. This must be done by an agency as independent as possible of the local police. We consider the SIT constituted by the State DGP to investigate the deaths as a mere eyewash. We cannot accept policemen sitting in enquiry on the homicidal deeds of their fellow policemen.
A judicial enquiry into the killings is no substitute for a proper criminal investigation by an independent authority. We recall the slaughter of 17 adivasi civilians at Sarkeguda village in Bijapur district of South Chattisgarh on June 28, 2012 by security forces. The political dispensation in power then and now in that State is the BJP. Four years down the line, the judicial probe ordered in that case is yet to be completed.
We demand that:
1. SOG personnel who participated in the killing on five civilians near Gumudumaha village on July 8 be booked under provisions of the IPC including murder as well as relevant sections of the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and criminally prosecuted.
2. The investigation into this case must be handed over to the CBI.
3. Compensation amounts must be enhanced considerably than what have been being announced.
4. The same procedure is to be followed in all the other five cases cited below.
5. The government must desist from viewing the Maoist movement through a purely law and order prism. It must acknowledge that it is primarily a political movement and deal with it politically.
VS Krishna (HRF, AP-TS) Deba Ranjan (GASS, Odisha)
GASS-HRF fact-finding team members:
Deba Ranjan and Debi Prasanna (Members, Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakhya Sangathan, GASS), VS Krishna (general secretary, Human Rights Forum, HRF) and K Sudha (HRF executive committee member).
List of killings of civilians by security forces in South Odisha:
1. July 8, 2016. Jehad Digal, Kimuri Mallick, Bimbuli Mallick, Midiali Mallick and Kukala Digal of Gumudumaha village of Paranpanga panchayat in Tumdibandha block of Kandhamal district. Shot dead by SOG.
2. February 27, 2016, Manda Kadraka of Rangamati village in Parsali panchayat, Kalyansingpur block, Rayagada district, shot dead by SOG.
3. November 16, 2015, Harishankar Nayak, Sukru Majhi and Jaya Majhi of Nisanguda area in Jugsaipatna panchayat of Kalahandi district. Shot dead by CRPF.
4. July 26, 2015, Dhubeswar Nayak and his wife Bubhudi Nayak of Pangalapadar village of Madaguda panchayat in Kotagarh block of Kandhamal district. Shot dead by SOG.
5. October 29, 2013, Gangadhar Kirsani of Litiput village in Gunnepada panchayat of Lamtaput block, Koraput district. Shot dead by BSF.
6. November 14, 2012, Aiba Padra of Bujuli village in Gadhapur panchayat, Shyamson Majhi of Bhingiriguda in Saramuli panchayat, Ghasiram Bagsingh of Mardhipanka village, Saramuli panchayat, Sanathan Mallick of Gaheju village in Hatimunda panchayat, all in Daringabadi block of Kandhamal district and Laxmi Kanta Nayak of Lujuramunda village in Bahadasahi panchayat of Tikabali block in Kandhamal district. All five were shot dead by SOG.
(This is by no means an exhaustive list. We have mentioned only those cases that we have elicited facts about.)
The Human Rights Forum (HRF) is of the opinion that both the Congress and YSRCP have no moral right to talk about exploitation of adivasi natural wealth in the Visakhapatnam Agency region. This is because when in power, their parties and leaders tried their worst to get the bauxite mined so as to hand it over to private players for a song. The TDP, of course, is the original culprit in the matter. Back in 2000, Chandrababu Naidu as Chief Minister even tried to hand over bauxite mining to a Dubai-based private company! All three political parties have a dubious track record on the bauxite issue. These parties paid no heed whatsoever to protective legislation for adivasis like PESA, Forest Rights Act of 2006 etc. We also remember the manner in which a farcical public hearing was gone through in June, 2008 for Anrak’s alumina refinery at Makavaripalem.
HRF believes that bauxite mining as well as refining for alumina and then aluminium is unviable in legal, social and environmental terms. These are hugely destructive projects that will devastate the livelihood and sustenance basis of adivasis as well as plainspeople, undermine water security in the hills and plains and cause irreparable damage to the environment. Mining for bauxite will disturb local hydrology and deplete the springs. For instance, Galikonda and Rakthakonda hills which contain bauxite in the Araku-Anantagiri area act as dividers for two important watersheds and are the catchments for the Sarada and Gosthani rivers. Galikonda is one of the sources for the Raiwada reservoir while Rakthakonda feeds Thatipudi reservoir.
Bauxite mining will poison the land and destroy the livelihood of culturally and ecologically fragile communities residing in the area. The scars of bauxite mining will be permanent. Mining for bauxite will lead to displacement of adivasi communities like the Khond, Nooka Dora, Bagata and Manne Dora. Some of them would be suffering multiple displacement as they had moved into the hills of the Visakha Agency due to several destructive projects in the erstwhile Koraput district of Orissa. They would again be forced to abandon a habitat that gave them land for farming, adequate water and forest for sustenance.
The promise of thousands of jobs to adivasis in the event of mining is mere eyewash. Open-cast mining is a highly mechanized process and not labour-intensive. The few jobs that would be available would require skilled personnel and adivasis would lose out.
Vedanta in Orissa, about which much has been discussed in the recent past, represents only the tip of the iceberg of the mining industry in India. The two bauxite mining franchises in AP itself (Jindal & Anrak) will reveal similar statutory infringements. They too come into serious conflict with the tribals’ rights under Schedule V of the Constitution. These statutes lay down clearly that prior consent of the gram sabha is required for bauxite mining and any diversion of forest land. Like Vedanta in the Niyamgiri, the bauxite mining proposals in Visakha Agency also involve equally serious violations of human rights. Their impact on local ecology is extremely deleterious. In fact, the impacted area will be much larger.
Alumina refineries and smelters are also notoriously water hungry. Given lack of sufficient water for irrigation, domestic and existing industrial needs in the area, how can large amounts of water be handed over to bauxite refining companies? This is bound to undermine water security in the region. Diverting large amounts of water for such industries and depriving citizens of their legitimate share is unacceptable.
The APMDC is acting like a benami for private players in order to circumvent protective legislation for adivasis and to induct companies like Anrak surreptitiously through the backdoor. The Supreme Court had laid down in the Samata judgement that lands in Scheduled areas cannot be transferred to non-tribals, as such a transfer would attract provisions of the AP Land Transfer Regulation, 1959 read in conjunction with relevant provisions of the 5th Schedule of the Constitution.
Moreover, the recent GO 97 (issued on November 5, 2015) by the AP government, was not even shown to the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC). TAC ratification is mandatory under the 5th Schedule of the Constitution. GO 97 therefore, has absolutely no legal validity and must be immediately revoked.
VS Krishna S Jeevan Kumar
(HRF general secretary) (HRF president)
Press Release 19-8-2015
The Human Rights Forum (HRF) condemns in the strongest terms the foisting of a false case by the Malkangiri police on human rights defender Deba Ranjan. We believe that the case booked against him under Section 354 (B) of IPC (relating to molestation of a woman) and other charges to be a completely fabricated one. Its sole purpose is to try and demoralise and malign Deba Ranjan and to stop him and the organisation he works with, the Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakhya Sangathan (GASS) from pursuing their human rights work. We demand that the Odisha government immediately direct the police to withdraw the false cases registered against Deba Ranjan.
Over the past two decades Deba Ranjan has been a consistent and passionate voice against injustice both within and outside Odisha. As a writer, film maker and human rights activist he has highlighted and critiqued policies of destructive development, unbridled mining practices, displacement, police impunity, atrocities on dalits, women and adivasis, the inhuman and ugly politics of hindutva and more recently issues of farmers’ suicides in a context of acute agrarian distress. It is this activism that the police seek to throttle by the filing of this false case. They have stooped to the level of misusing law pertaining to sexual violence on women in their attempt to browbeat Deba Ranjan.
Deba Ranjan is a long associate of not only the HRF and several rights organisations, he is a friend of many ongoing movements across the nation. He was part of a joint fact-finding exercise along with the well-known human rights activist late K Balagopal in the summer of 2009 that looked into police violence on adivasis in the name of curbing the Maoist movement in the districts of South Odissa. He has been part of extended fact-findings that investigated attacks on Christians in Khandhamal and Karnataka and on massacres of civilians by the paramilitary in South Chattisgarh. His documentary films depicting these and other issues with immense sensitivity have been screened in various States as well as in international fora.
Deba Ranjan and GASS are among the few voices in Odisha that are speaking out against governmental lies and distortions and are striving to draw out the truth. More recently, they have played a seminal role in bringing to light the extra-judicial killing by BSF personnel of an adivasi farmer Ganga Kirsani of Litiput village, Koraput district. This is one of those rare instances when it was even established officially that it was a killing by unilateral firing of the BSF.
We deplore this attempt by the State to scuttle voices of dissent. We call upon the Odisha government to sincerely address issues raised by human rights defenders in a democratic manner and to desist from such disgraceful attempts at framing dissenters.
S Jeevan Kumar (HRF president)
VS Krishna (HRF general secretary)
The Human Rights Forum (HRF) strongly urges the AP government to drop the proposal to set up a super thermal power project of 4000 MW capacity by the National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd (NTPC) near Pudimadaka in the Atchyutapuram-Rambilli mandals of Visakhapatnam district. If the plant is established it would result in an environmental and human disaster in the area.
Residents in the region are already suffering acutely from the toxic pollutants being emitted by the NTPC Simhadri plant of 2000 MW capacity. There is a possibility of another 1000 MW thermal power being added by the nearly complete Hinduja National Power Corporation Ltd (HNPC) plant nearby. Both these projects are only about 20 km from Pudimadaka where a 4000 MW coal-based energy project is now being proposed. This would mean a combined capacity of a staggering 7000 MW in a fairly short stretch of land. Also, not very far from this area is the highly polluting Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City. A single power plant of 1000 MW is in itself a serious threat to the environment. To imagine 7000 MW in such a small area is mind boggling. This is a recipe for a human and ecological disaster in the area. The negative consequences of these plants on human, marine health and the ecology will be multiple causing irreparable and irreversible injury.
Given the nature of coal combustion, these projects will contaminate the land, water and air with significant amounts of mercury, lead, zinc, cadmium, arsenic, chromium and even radioactive isotopes. Generating electricity on this scale will involve burning huge amounts of coal every day and the spewing of thousands of tonnes of toxic ash and sulphur into the environs. It will involve a daily drawal of about 10 lakh cubic meters of water from the sea and the pumping back of waste water at higher temperatures thereby destroying marine wealth. As is evident from such drawal and pumping by the NTPC Simhadri plant, these thermal plants directly undermine fisher-folk livelihood.
It is well to remember that the world over, nations are moving away from thermal power plants. This is because of the sound understanding that coal is an extremely dirty source of energy and a realization that practical and sustainable alternatives like solar and wind power are indeed available. Rejection of fossil fuels is also because of growing awareness about the threat of climate change to which these energy sources are direct contributors.
Both the State government and the MOEF have been extremely callous in according clearances for such projects without bothering to sincerely comply with statutory obligations. Local people have been fed false promises of jobs which are simply not there. Instead of halting this environmental vanadalism, the government is busy trying to facilitate it. Consequently, there is a human and environmental disaster waiting to happen in the district. The combined pollution onslaught of these plants will affect human health within a 25 km radius and agriculture within a radius of 80 to 100 km. There is not even an attempt at a thorough cumulative appraisal of all these projects. There is simply no effort by government and regulatory agencies at a comprehensive and integrated appraisal on the impact of these highly polluting projects on land, sea, livelihoods, agriculture, ecology, water bodies and health of the people.
These thermal plants are a threat not only to residents of Pudimadaka, Lalam Koduru, Lovapalem, Jangireddypalem, Sitapalem, krishnampalem, Duppituru, Tikkavanipalem, Mutyalammapalem, Pittavanipalem, Devada, Swayambhuvaram and other villages in the Atchyutapuram, Paravada and Pedagantyada mandals but also Visakhapatnam city itself. HRF demands that the proposed public hearing for the NTPC 4000 MW plant slated for August 12 be cancelled forthwith. The government must embark on a cumulative environmental appraisal of all existing thermal, pharma and other polluting industries in the region. Till such an appraisal is done, all such projects must be put on hold.
VS Krishna M Sarat
(HRF general secretary, AP & TS) (HRF Vizag district president)
There cannot be a better case than Yakub Memon’s to prove that capital punishment should be abolished in this country.
Yakub Memon is an accused in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case in which 257 people were killed. His brother Tiger Memon is prime accused in the said crime. The Supreme Court confirmed death penalty to Yakub. A mercy petition filed by Yakub’s brother was dismissed by the President. The TADA court which tried the case issued a death warrant while a curative petition was pending in the Supreme Court. The curative petition was subsequently dismissed by the court. Meanwhile Yakub filed a mercy petition and also a petition before the Supreme Court contending that the TADA court has not followed its rulings in the Shabnam case in which the court has strongly discouraged executions of persons on death row ‘in haste’. The whole case is falling apart as it is writ with procedural lapses and lack of evidence. There are several loopholes which make a strong case for commutation of the death sentence into life imprisonment. The following are some of the reasons why Yakub Memon must not be hanged unto death:
1. The place of arrest is a disputed fact. While the police claim that he was arrested at the New Delhi railway station, Yakub maintains that they nabbed him in Nepal. The veracity of this material fact is questionable.
2. One reason for his conviction is that Yakub would know about the conspiracy which took place in his house as he shared the same roof with his brother Tiger Memon. Such a fact might lead to a suspicion but it is not a conclusive proof of his involvement in the crime. There is a likelihood of his knowing but that suspicion in itself is not sufficient to prove his guilt.
3. The conviction was based completely on circumstantial evidence. Yakub is entitled to a benefit of doubt on this count.
4. He was tried by a special court constituted under the draconian law, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (TADA). The Parliament allowed this infamous law to lapse in 1995 as there was widespread protest against its misuse.
5. Yakub was found guilty for conspiring and not for his direct involvement in the crime. The maximum punishment for conspiracy under the infamous TADA is life imprisonment, not death penalty.
6. While those found guilty of direct involvement in the commission of the crime were imposed lesser punishment Yakub who is accused of conspiracy is awaiting death penalty. This indicates that Yakub is being punished for the guilt of association rather than for committing the crime. His being a brother of Tiger Memon is not a crime for which he should face the gallows.
7. Mr B Raman, a former Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat who was one of the officers who brought Yakub to justice and played a pivotal role in prosecuting him took an exception to imposition of death penalty on him. In a letter, he stated in unequivocal terms that Yakub deserves a reprieve for providing vital information to the police and for convincing his family members to surrender and face trial. Mr Raman considered this as a mitigating circumstance. Though Mr Raman’s letter is brought to judicial notice through the media much later it has to be taken into cognizance now while considering Yakub’s writ and mercy petitions.
8. Various empirical studies including the one recently conducted by the National Law University (Delhi) indicate that most of those who are on death row belong to the marginalized sections including Dalits, backward classes and Muslims. And many other studies also point out that people belonging to disadvantaged sections are not adequately represented in the higher wrungs of the judiciary. The judge who imposed life imprisonment on Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi in the Naroda Patiya massacre case of Gujarat has been receiving threatening calls. Such disturbing facts reinforce the idea that judges are under duress and subject to prejudices as well and judgments are many times reflective of the values of the social milieu.
HRF urges the President to stay Yakub’s execution, slated to be carried out on 30 July 2015, and to commute his death sentence into life imprisonment. There is always a scope of error in judgment. Capital punishment once carried out becomes irreversible. That is one among many reasons why the HRF has been time and again demanding that capital punishment should be abolished in India.
VS Krishna S Jeevan Kumar
(HRF general secretary) (HRF president)
Press Release 30-6-2015
The Human Rights Forum (HRF) views with extreme concern the precarious health situation in the Agency region of Visakhapatnam district. We call upon the government to rush medical and health personnel to the 11 mandals in Visakha Agency so as to prevent adivasis succumbing to cerebral malaria, gastro-enteritis, TB and typhoid. Health personnel have to be at least doubled in the Agency mandals and they must be recruited on a permanent basis. Importantly, it must be ensured that they remain in the Agency and carry out their duties. Unless a meaningful and concrete medical intervention takes place, HRF fears that there might be a general outbreak of falciparum malarial epidemic like the ones that claimed thousands of adivasi lives in the Visakha Agency in 1999, 2005 and 2010.
A three-member HRF team visited 9 villages in two Agency mandals (in the Boithili panchayat of G Madugula mandal and Vanuguma and Lakshmipuram panchayats of Munchingput mandal) on June 28 and 29. There is a serious health crisis in the region with adivasis being afflicted principally with malaria and other ailments. In every village we visited there were not less than five persons bed-ridden with clear symptoms of malaria like high fever, chills, intense sweating, nausea and lack of appetite. The situation in the remote habitations is worse. There is no reason to believe that conditions are any different in the other 9 mandals of Visakha Agency. Even though it is a known fact that malaria and gastro-enteritis visit the Agency before and during the monsoon months, sufficient preventive steps have not been taken.
It was clear to the HRF team that despite claims by the government that malaria is under control, the deadly disease continues to stalk the Agency region. Only a few of the sick have been treated by existing medical and health personnel. Even the first round of anti-larval spraying operations have not been carried out properly and comprehensively. For instance, only the first round of spraying was done in April and that too in only 3 of the nine villages we visited. The 1st round of spraying is supposed to have been completed in all villages in late March-early April and the second by June-July, followed by a 3rd round in November-December.
The community health workers (CHWs), the basic health unit in every village are not only badly trained, they have not had their monthly honorarium of Rs 400 paid since the past 11 months. This is atrocious.
Potable water is a basic human requirement and the government has a responsibility to provide it to all citizens. It is shameful that this basic need has not been met in the 5th Scheduled region by the government. In many remote villages adivasis have no go but to consume polluted water. In the event, given the poor food security status of the adivasis, they are more prone to succumbing to preventable diseases. All that the administration seems to be doing is drawing up contingency plans and putting out statements of intent. Very little is being done on the ground.
The medical and health department is consistently trying to play down the extent of the crisis and only resorting to temporary fire-fighting measures. This irresponsibility can lead to tragic consequences since if the extent and nature of the crisis is not even acknowledged, then prevention and cure cannot be taken up successfully. This has happened in the past and has only resulted in adivasis succumbing to these preventable and treatable diseases with fatal regularity year after year.
It may be recalled that over 4,500 adivasis died of cerebral malaria in the North Andhra Agency region in the summer of 1999 and thousands more of the same ailment in the summers of 2005 and 2010. The deaths were because they had no access to clean drinking water, inefficient and insufficient medicare, malnutrition leading to enfeebled resistance to disease, poor protection from mosquito bite, appalling public hygiene and pathetic health intervention by successive governments. The negligence of the State in its minimal administrative and welfare responsibilities was the proximate cause of these unconscionable deaths.
This governmental neglect is still evident in the Visakhapatnam Agency. Unless appropriate and substantive medical care combined with nutrition and clean drinking water is provided for, many adivasis may succumb to preventable and treatable diseases as the monsoon progresses.
(HRF general secretary, AP & TS)