Monday, August 22, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Dalit Rights Group Slams Modi Government’s

Dalit Rights Group Slams Modi Government's
Stand On Child Rights

By Yoginder Sikand

19 August, 2011

Gujarat under Narendra Modi is touted about as Hindutva's most
successful laboratory. The corporate world and influential sections of
the 'mainstream' Indian media never tire of singing paeans to Modi's
'developmental model', which they uphold as eminently worthy of
emulation by the rest of the country. Scores of middle-class Hindus
passionately advocate Modi as India's next Prime Minister, who, they
fondly hope, will propel the country into the league of the economic
and military 'super-powers'.

As in the rest of India, but perhaps to an even greater degree, the
much-applauded Gujarat model of rapacious capitalist 'development' has
led to mounting inequalities and pauperization of vast numbers of
people, particularly belonging to the Dalit and Adivasi communities,
at the same time as it has greatly enriched Gujarat's already
well-entrenched social and economic elites. While Adivasis and Dalits
together comprise more than a fifth of Gujarat's population, they
remain at the bottom of the state's steeply hierarchical social
pyramid. This clearly illustrates the caste-class interests that the
politics and ideology of Hindutva and Modi's 'developmental model' are
geared to promoting.

Much of Gujarat's reported economic 'success' owes to the exploitation
of cheap Dalit and Adivasi labour. Gujarat enjoys the dubious
distinction of having one of the largest numbers of child labourers in
the country, most of who are Dalits and Adivasis or belong to other
such marginalized caste groups. They work in miserable, often
bonded-labour like, conditions, being paid a pittance, and the state
government, apparently, is completely apathetic to their plight.

Early last month, a friend of mine, the indefatigable social activist
Rajesh Solanki, Secretary of the Ahmedabad-based Dalit Hak Rakshak
Manch ('Dalit Rights' Protection Forum'), shot off a memorandum to
Kamala Beniwal, Governor of Gujarat, drawing her attention to the
absence of a State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights'
(SCPCR) in Gujarat, which, it indicated, meant that children's
rights', particularly of marginalized communities, continued to be
violated on a large scale across the state. It argued that despite the
fact that the Commission for the Protection of Child Rights Act 2005
had made it a duty of state governments to set up such commissions,
the state Government of Gujarat continued to ignore this. It pointed
out that the claim of the Gujarat government that in place of a
separate SCPCR it had arranged for child-rights-related issues to be
handled by the Gujarat State Women's Commission was specious and, in
fact, in violation of the Commission for the Protection of Child
Rights Act. Given that the Women's Commission had its own specific
mandate and that it did not possess adequate human resources to deal
additionally with the violation of children's rights, the memorandum
insisted that the Gujarat Government must set up a separate Child
Rights' Protection Commission as was required by law. Delegating the
work of such a commission to the Women's Commission, it pointed out,
was leading to the subversion of children's rights on a large scale.

The memorandum submitted by the Manch, which is one of the most active
Dalit groups in Gujarat, elaborated on the extent of gross denial of
rights to children (particularly belonging to marginalized caste and
tribal communities in the state), all of which necessitated, it said,
a full-fledged Child Rights' Protection Commission. It pointed out the
existence of at least 400,000 child labourers in Gujarat (who must be
mostly Dalits and Adivasis) making the state ninth among India's 28
states in terms of child labour. Despite child labour being declared
illegal, it noted that the state had exhibited little enthusiasm to
tackle the problem. Less than 4500 child labourers were 'freed' from
child labour during the period 2001-2010, it pointed out. As on 31st
January this year, it noted, more than ten thousand cases related to
children in the state remained pending before the Juvenile Justice
Board, and only around a fifth of them have been disposed. Every year,
the memorandum added, thousands of workers (who are mainly
impoverished Dalits and Adivasis), along with their children, are
lured to Gujarat from neighbouring states—to work in farms and
factories under extremely harsh and exploitative conditions. Yet, it
noted, the Gujarat state had failed to arrange for an inter-state
coordination committee to address the serious problems of such migrant
workers and their children.

More than 100,000 children, the memorandum indicated, including minor
girls, 'are being exploited and sex-ploited' in hybrid cotton seed
farms across seven districts in Gujarat. In this case, too, most of
these child labourers would be from the marginalized and historically
oppressed Dalit and Adivasi communities. The memorandum noted with
dismay the refusal of the Collector of the Banaskantha district to
acknowledge the presence of such child labour in his district when
confronted with evidence to the contrary by activist groups. The
memorandum noted that the Dalit Hak Rakshak Manch has requested the
National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights to use its
quasi-judicial powers and summon government officers in Gujarat to
inquire as to why they continue to allow such an obnoxious form of

The memorandum stressed that the separate Child Rights' Commission
which it urged the Gujarat Government to establish was also needed for
the proper implementation of the Right to Education Act 2005. It noted
that vast numbers of children across the state (probably mainly Dalits
and Adivasis) are denied access to primary education facilities, in
part due to what it called the 'callousness of the government'.
Gujarat, the memorandum pointed out, lagged behind 21 other states in
the immunization coverage of infants, and this clearly exposed what it
called 'the tall claims' of the Gujarat Government about its
achievements in the health sector. It criticised the Gujarat
Government for giving the task of the implementation of the Right to
Education Act to the State Women's Commission, which, it stressed was
'nothing but a mockery of the Right to Education Act. All this, the
memorandum stressed, were additional reasons why it was imperative for
Gujarat to establish a separate state Child Rights' Commission.

The memorandum concluded with an appeal to the Governor to issue
appropriate orders to the Gujarat Government, which it termed as a
'penny-pinching miser' that 'does not want to use resources for this
vital issue related with future citizens of this state'.

So much, then, for the story of the Modi 'Model of Development'.


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