Shri. K Siddaramaiah,
Hon’ble Chief Minister of Karnataka,
Sub: Issues concerning Human Rights in Karnataka – Appeal for urgent consideration and appropriate action.
SICHREM-South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring is an NGO working for the protection, promotion and defense of Human Rights, especially of the poor and the marginalized sections of our society. We function in Karnataka since 1995, implementing a wide range of activities such as Human Rights Education in schools, legal aid for victims of Human Rights Violations, Human Rights Helpline, etc. The undersigned is also a member of the NGO Core Team of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and until 31st March 2013 he represented the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to monitor the implementation of the Right to Education Act (RTE) in Karnataka.
We are happy to congratulate you on assuming the position of the Chief Minister of our State. We specifically note with appreciation that, you have kept out the tainted MLAs from the Cabinet. People of the State look forward to your administration with lot of hopes and we as an organization will always support your initiatives for a corruption free and responsible governance. We would like to place before you some important matters concerning Human Rights for your immediate attention and appropriate action.
1) Strengthening of Statutory Human Rights Institutions in Karnataka.
Unfortunately during the last 5 years, this state witnessed systematic weakening of the Human Rights Mechanisms. It is a matter of shame that the post of Lokayukta was kept vacant for months together. Though the Hon’ble Lokayukta is appointed now, we are always reminded of the statements from the former Lokayuta Justice Santosh Hegde, asking for more powers to deal with corruption effectively. These powers are pertaining to mainly two areas such as, the recommendations of the Lokayukta on good governance issues to be made mandatory for enforcement and the other is to deleting the provision for prior sanction for prosecution of the corrupt officials. We earnestly request your Government to look into this matter and amend the laws to give the Lokayukta more powers and authority.
The term of the Hon’ble Chairperson of the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission ended in the month of May 2012. We still do not have a Chairperson for the Hon’ble Commission. It is urgent that the Government appoints a Chairperson immediately so that Human Rights Violations are effectively addressed and the delivery of justice for the victims happens without delay.
It has been a general problem that the Chairpersons and Members of many of these institutions are appointed on the basis of political considerations. Protection of Human Rights is a very specialized skill which requires sufficient experience and correct perspectives. While we are aware of the political pressures of a Government, our only plea is that to avoid appointments to Human Rights Bodies be free of political considerations.
2) Implementation of Police Reforms.
Based on the directives of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, it is a fact that Karnataka has amended its Police Act to incorporate reforms. Unfortunately, many provisions of the Act are not yet implemented. For example the State Security Commission is not set up, the State Police Complaints Authority and the District Police Complaints Authority are not yet in place. The presence of the State Security Commission can free the police from external influences and manipulations to a greater extent and the Police Complaints Authorities can reduce the burden on the Human Rights Commission. We earnestly request you to set up these mechanisms at the earliest.
3) Enforcing the Criminal Law Amendment.
The latest Criminal Law amendment passed by the Parliament is a historical one to the effect of avoiding arrest in cases for which the sentence is not more than seven years. Unfortunately, the Police do not enforce this and thereby causing harassment of a lot of people especially the Social and Political activists. Enforcing this amendment can reduce the workload of the courts also.
4) Malnutrition among Women and Children.
Unfortunately the State witnessed deaths of several children due to malnutrition. The reason for this is the bad quality of food provided in the anganwadis under the ICDS. It has been now exposed that large scale corruption is behind the low quality of food. It is also a fact that a few top ranking officials of the Department of the Women and Child Development are suspended following the raids by the Lokayukta. It has been also exposed that the previous Government had flouted all the directives of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the context of food for children in the anganwadis. There is an urgent need for revamping the menu in anganwadis to assure that our children are supplied with the required nutrition. Also to prosecute those who are guilty of corruption, stealing from the plates of our children so that there will be a deterrence effect. Also ensure that there are no contractors involved in the supply of food in anganwadis.
5) Effective enforcement of RTE.
While appreciating all the positive efforts taken by the Government to enforce RTE so far, many issues remain unresolved in its implementation. Free and compulsory education for all the children in Karnataka has not yet become a reality. As you know, enforcing RTE is the best alternative for eradicating child labour. The fee fixation for unaided schools is an urgent issue to be settled. The quality of midday meals is another area of concern. Learning form the bad experience of the anganwadis, we do hope that your esteemed Government will resist the plans for supplying packaged food for midday meals. Kindly look into the unfortunate situation that the children are forced to do all kinds of menial work in the school premises as the Government schools have not appointed ayahs though there is a provision made for the same.
Permission to start private schools should be restricted; and banned where Government schools are already available. Reduce annual family income limit from 3.5 lakhs to 1 lakhs or lesser in order to make it more inclusive to reach out to the deserving poor. Special programs for revival of Govt. schools and schemes to improve attendance in schools that are dying are needed, instead of closing them. The Karnataka State Plan of Action on Child Rights (2003-2010) to be updated to cover the next five years and ensure all the rights of the child. State Government should insist upon higher allocations for children in national budgets with special reference to education.
6) The Need for introducing Human Rights Education in Schools.
Human rights education has been the need of the hour since we see a downslide of values, ethics and morality and a ‘don’t care attitude’ for the rule of law and for fellow human beings. While there is an increase in the violations, society has failed to instill those humane values and our education system too has failed us on all fronts to instill the much needed value system and reasoning.
We seek that the State Government take the much needed measure to compulsorily introduce a training of teachers on human rights, constitutional values and international law and make it mandatory, and thereby introduce the subjects of human rights to be taught in all schools from the middle school up to college level including professional courses, so that the much required intervention and the idea of rights and reasoning is imbibed in students at a tender age.
7) Prevent Cultural Policing.
It has been a bleak situation in the state, where we have witnessed the youth especially the girls being attacked and policed in the name of culture. Fresh in our minds are the pub attack in
Mangalore and the attack on the youth in a homestay birthday party. Youth belonging to different communities also have been constantly attacked when they meet in public programs, travel together etc. We seek that the Government deal with this in an effective manner and deal with the ‘fundamental elements’ strictly despite whichever party affiliation or communal groups they belong to and to ensure that they don’t transgress the law of the land and violate the fundamental freedoms of citizens.
8) Building confidence among Minorities.
The ever increasing onslaught on christians and muslims in various parts of Karnataka have brought in severe insecurity among the minorities. This has brought down the reputation of the state which is known for its secular credentials and communal harmony. We seek that the Government intervenes in cases of communal violence on priority basis and deal with the elements strictly and also to ensure that the law enforcement department does not abet the crime directly or indirectly.
9) Harassment and false cases against media professionals.
A free press is essential for the functioning of a democratic society and protection of Human Rights. Instead of giving them a free hand to do their job, we have seen an increase in the incidents of intimidation, threats and filing of false cases on media professionals. The cases of Shahina, B.V Sitaram and Naveen Surinji require special reference. We seek that the press be given freedom to report the truth. Police should not be given any authority to deal with cases against media professionals. If there is any indecency and impropriety in reporting, the Press Council of India or the courts of Law should have the authority to deal with such cases.
10) Justice for Abdul Nasser Maudani.
Mr. Abdul Nasser Maudani is a political leader from Kerala and is allegedly an accused in the Bangalore blast case who has been arrested by the Bangalore police and remanded to judicial custody. As everybody knows his health condition is seriously deteriorating, suffering seriously from diabetes and other ailments and is on a wheel chair.
He had earlier spent more than 9years in prison in Tamil Nadu and has come out without any charges proved against him, and now here in Karnataka he has been in prison for more than 3years on similar allegation.
It should be noted that the well known jurist V.R Krishna Iyer has also written to the previous Chief Minister for releasing him from incarceration.(Ltr dtd 10 Aug 2012). It is also a known fact that all political parties in Kerala including Congress, except BJP, are in solidarity for his cause.
We urge that the Government of Karnataka take appropriate action urgently to provide him with all necessary medical and legal help and speed up the process of trial. We seek this to ensure that Karnataka government and all its agencies will uphold the rule of law and implement the secular and democratic principles of the Indian Constitution.
11) Atrocities on the SC, ST and the implementation of the Special Component plans.
The atrocities and practice of untouchability still continues to be practiced against the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes and is prevalent in various forms in Karnataka. These most marginalized in the society are to be protected by the Government strictly by implementing the provisions and the rules of the SC ST( POA) Act, 1989 and the Rules, 1995, to send a clear message to the members of the other castes and to all Government departments and its officers indulging in violation of the rights of SC and ST’s. We call upon the Government to ban ‘Made Snana’ with immediate effect.
The Special Component Plan (SCP) was introduced 1980 and the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) in 1978. It aims at bringing equity between the SC/ST community in par with the other sections of the society in socio-economic and cultural aspects. Even though 33 years and 35 years completed after the SCSP/TSP came into being majority of the people do not know the existence of the various schemes under SCSP/TSP. A separate Ministry should be set up for SC/ST development and the SC/ST Sub-Plan should be given statutory status by passing legislation in this regard, as in Andhra Pradesh. A separate authority should be set up at state level for its effective implementation.
We seek that your Government puts in efforts to review the departments and main stream them so that action oriented projects should be implemented on time lines.
12) Attack on RTI and human rights activists.
Several activists who have been instrumental in unearthing scams and corruption in the various departments have been threatened, intimated and murdered. Many have false cases filed on them and undergoing harassment by the forces inimical to a transparent functioning of the Government.
We seek that such cases be withdrawn and steps be taken to bring more transparency in the administration and defenders of rights be given protection.
13) Bonded Labor and the Safai Karmachari Issue
The Bonded Labour system still exists in other forms and is very rampant in the state. But officials have been brushing it under the carpet for various reasons. The Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976 (BLA) has been underutilized by the State Government, resulting in continued perpetration of the crime of Bonded Labour, resulting in human rights abuse, loss of wage and loss of freedom for the SC/ST communities who are from Karnataka or have migrated from other States to work here.
We seek that the state strictly implements the provision of the Bonded Labour Act and punish the culprits as well as hold directly responsible the district adminstration for negligence and inaction on their part.
Death of several safai karmacharis have been reported in the state who have continued doing menial and inhuman jobs assigned by civil society and state agencies. This still continues in spite of the abolition of the system of using and construction of dry latrines. We demand that the state reign in the departments that are showing callous attitude in the implementation of the Act and also demand that a Commission for safai karamacharis be set up for the welfare and development of this community.
14) Rights of Adivasis.
Several of the tribal groups in the state have been demanding their rights for development inspite of the Forest Rights Act passed with an aim to give their right over natural resources. We demand that the Forest Rights Act’s implementation be reviwed and all impediments removed. Community and individual rights certificates to the areas where adivasis have been living traditionally, as per the Forest Rights Act 2006 and Rules of 2008, should be provided. The Government should take a decision to declare the areas occupied by adivasis in Karnataka as Scheduled Areas and send this recommendation to the Centre.
All basic rights and entitlements, such as food, water, child care, education, health, employment and social security should be universalized. These should be delivered by the state machinery ensuring universal access, availability and affordability and not privatized.
SICHREM hereby requests the Government under your able and dynamic leadership to look into the human rights concerns and demands that we have highlighted.
This is an opportunity for your Government to demonstrate your commitment to the citizens of this state who have voted you to power. Restore Karnataka on the progressive path by ushering in genuine, honest pro-people policies that guarantee all people their individual and collective rights and entitlements for a life of dignity.
- Shri K.J George, Hon’ble Minister of Home Affairs
- Shri T B Jayachandra, Hon’ble Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs