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Covid-19 a death sentence for Prof. Saibaba: Wife demands release

In an interview to SabrangIndia's Karuna John, A.S. Vasantha Kumari asks, “Pragya [Thakur] got bail on medical grounds… but why not GN Saibaba?”

15 Jul 2020

Image Courtesy:hindustantimes.com

“Someone in a cell nearby has tested positive for Covid-19, it's a matter of days before it reaches me,”  Prof G.N. Saibaba had told his wife A.S. Vasantha Kumari when he made an ‘emergency call to her on July 11. The fact that the prison authorities gave special permission to the wheelchair bound professor, so soon after his regular call on July 6 was a cause of alarm for Vasantha. That had never happened before. “Sai is allowed only two short calls of two minutes, just two times a month. He made the emergency call to let me know that someone in a cell close to his had tested covid positive, and said it can spread to his cell within hours,” that was the last she heard from him.

“It is inevitable, he told me, that there has been an uncontrolled outbreak of Covid-19 in Nagpur Central Prison. And now he has no one to help him with basic physical tasks even as the other prisoners are very scared and now it seems that there are maybe hundreds infected including convicts, undertrials and even the jail guards,” Prof Saibaba told Vasantha. 

According to him, “barrack after barrack is being infected.” He said that on July 8,  all 20 prisoners of Anda cell, where he is lodged underwent Covid-19 swab tests and one prisoner was found infected. "The disease has reached very close to me, it is only a matter of time,” Saibaba had told his wife. 

“Everyone is mentally disturbed in the prison because of the news of Coronavirus spreading, nors and even those who would help him once are not willing to do so for fear of the illness,” she told SabrangIndia. “Even the authorities cannot assign anyone to help him,” said Vasantha, adding that Saibaba, now has to manage however he can, confined to the wheelchair, with one hand limp and the other deteriorating fast, she fears his health is spiralling from bad to worse. “His health has been bad from before anyway. His immunity is very low and if he gets Covid-19 it is a death sentence for him,” she added. His next bail hearing is due at the end of the month but Vasantha fears that the infection is spreading at a fast pace in the jail. “The judiciary could take suo moto [cognisance] of the urgency of the situation no?” she asks, 

According to her Saibaba has already been taken to the Nagpur Government Super Specialities Hospital twice since the CoviD-19 Lockdown was announced, informed Vasantha. “They gave him painkillers and advised him to undergo more tests. I think the hospital conducted an MRI-Brain scan also and some other tests, but neither I, nor the lawyers have been reported to have not been given so far. In fact I have not seen any of his medical reports since September 2018. I cannot even consult our family doctor, or now a teleconsult with a specialist. Sai needs daily physiotherapy along with his regular medicines. He has shooting pains that he tells me about. And without daily physiotherapy he will lose the movement in his right hand also,” says Vasantha who is most concerned about the quality of healthcare in the jail. “They only have basic medicines for fever and diarrhea. They say Sai refused to undergo gallbladder surgery. But we want to try Ayurveda and not surgery. What he urgently needs is physiotherapy for the pain in his hands and body,” said Vasantha adding “He said his left hand is on the verge of failing, and now his right hand also. The acute pain is spreading along the length of both the hands up to the fingers...”

Vasantha has not met her husband since February, their last ‘mulakat’ or official meeting of jail inmates and their families. Soon after that these meetings were suspended as Covid-19 began to spread. “Even his lawyer can not meet him now. There is a transport problem too. Once he was allowed a short video call but we could not see each other clearly because the network was so bad,” recalled Vasantha, “Sai said we will not video call again. I used to send him his medicines via the advocate, now I am unable to do that. Earlier the lawyer could leave the medicine at the Jail gate, and the officials would hand it to Sai, but now as Covid-19 cases are increasing even the advocates are scared to go to the gates of the prison… Now I have to wait for the court to take the situation seriously and realise this is an emergency situation,” she says her voice trailing.

Vasantha says she has to try her best to stay strong for her husband, “We have done no wrong. Not harmed anyone. We raise issues of those who suffer, and just give a voice to the voiceless. We had hope from the judiciary. But now we are stressed and upset mentally…”  According to her the professor would try and de-stress by reading newspapers but has now been denied newspapers since March.  “Reading helps him be distracted…” she says. 

Above all, Saibaba’s existing comorbidities put him in a more vulnerable situation now more than ever as he is being forced to live in unhygienic conditions, fears Vasantha. “If he ever tests positive for Covid-19 he will be confined to his cell alone. He will not be allowed to be shifted out of the jail. They isolate Covid-19 patients within the jail,” she says. 

“We had applied to seek parole, but the court rejected it in May. We applied again for the second time in June, but there has been no reply till now. They [jail authorities] say he is ‘normal’. How is he normal when he falls and faints and no one picks him up,” she asks. Vasantha says even the doctors at the Nagpur Government Super Speciality Hospital suggested that Saibaba use “cold and hot packs for pain regularly, use a medical bed for sleeping with six side pillows (to relieve continuous shooting pain), but were not provided.”

G. Suryavathi, GN Saibaba’s 72-year-old mother who lives in Hyderabad is also unwell and wants to see her son once. But the fact that the city was a containment zone led to the rejection of the first parole application. “They said Sai’s brother's residence, where my mother-in-law lives, is in a Covid-19 containment zone. We applied again for Sai’s parole almost a month ago, but there has been no response from the jail authorities so far,” said Vasantha. On July 14, a writ on medical grounds came before the Bombay High Court Bench at Nagpur and the court gave 10 days’ time for the prosecution to submit its reply and scheduled the case at the end of July.

The family also issued a formal press note on Wednesday sharing that “Dr. G. N. Saibaba suffers severe physical pain caused by the degeneration of muscles in his hands. He is plagued by pancreatitis, high blood pressure, Cardiomyopathy, chronic back pain, immobility, and sleeplessness. Consequently, his physical ailments intensified while the lack of pain relief and neglect due to inadequate medical facilities further debilitated his already fragile health. Despite interventions made by the National Human Rights Commission and authorities of international human rights organisations, the Courts have repeatedly denied him bail. Undue delays without bail for the incarcerated are a blatant denial of the fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21.”

“This is also a violation of the rights of the disabled,” Vasantha told SabrangIndia recalling that the Supreme Court of India has upheld the right to life and reflected on prisoners observing that “the treatment of a human being which offends human dignity, imposes avoidable torture and reduces the man to the level of a beast would certainly be arbitrary and can be questioned under Article 14”. 

India is also a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which recognises the inherent dignity of human beings and the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom. Furthermore, India has ratified the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on October 1st 2007. India has even adopted the United Nations Resolution 70/175 on Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules). These covenants, conventions and resolutions ensure life and dignity to all persons, prisoners and persons with disabilities and layout the essential parameters necessary for its implementation.

“I approached everybody. I wrote to Sharad Pawar also,” she said asking, “I can't understand the law but I know that even in Malegaon blast cases they have bail… everyone is free on bail… on medical grounds… Pragya [Thakur] got bail on medical grounds…  but why not Sai?”

She further says, “ The state keeps saying all is ok. The judges don't believe us! Then the judiciary should appoint a judge to go and see the [prison] cell. Appoint a committee to go and see the condition for themselves.” 

According to her, the last time Saibaba got bail from the Supreme Court in 2016, he was admitted in hospital for two months.“For one month in Hyderabad and one month in Delhi. He underwent physical therapy everyday,” recalled Vasantha.

Prof G. Haragopal, chairman, Committee For The Defence And Release Of G.N. Saibaba has also issued a statement on Wednesday saying, “In view of the precarious health condition of Dr. G. N. Saibaba, we appeal to the Maharashtra State Government and the Central Government to release him by granting bail or parole immediately so that he can avail appropriate medical treatment either at Hyderabad or Delhi where his family members are living.”

Related: 

Does India uphold Prisoners’ Right to Health?
Varavara Rao is in hospital today, but the risk to his life is not over: Family
Bhima Koregaon case: Gautam Navlakha denied default bail; NIA granted 
Don’t Kill Varavara Rao in Jail!

Covid-19 a death sentence for Prof. Saibaba: Wife demands release

In an interview to SabrangIndia's Karuna John, A.S. Vasantha Kumari asks, “Pragya [Thakur] got bail on medical grounds… but why not GN Saibaba?”

Image Courtesy:hindustantimes.com

“Someone in a cell nearby has tested positive for Covid-19, it's a matter of days before it reaches me,”  Prof G.N. Saibaba had told his wife A.S. Vasantha Kumari when he made an ‘emergency call to her on July 11. The fact that the prison authorities gave special permission to the wheelchair bound professor, so soon after his regular call on July 6 was a cause of alarm for Vasantha. That had never happened before. “Sai is allowed only two short calls of two minutes, just two times a month. He made the emergency call to let me know that someone in a cell close to his had tested covid positive, and said it can spread to his cell within hours,” that was the last she heard from him.

“It is inevitable, he told me, that there has been an uncontrolled outbreak of Covid-19 in Nagpur Central Prison. And now he has no one to help him with basic physical tasks even as the other prisoners are very scared and now it seems that there are maybe hundreds infected including convicts, undertrials and even the jail guards,” Prof Saibaba told Vasantha. 

According to him, “barrack after barrack is being infected.” He said that on July 8,  all 20 prisoners of Anda cell, where he is lodged underwent Covid-19 swab tests and one prisoner was found infected. "The disease has reached very close to me, it is only a matter of time,” Saibaba had told his wife. 

“Everyone is mentally disturbed in the prison because of the news of Coronavirus spreading, nors and even those who would help him once are not willing to do so for fear of the illness,” she told SabrangIndia. “Even the authorities cannot assign anyone to help him,” said Vasantha, adding that Saibaba, now has to manage however he can, confined to the wheelchair, with one hand limp and the other deteriorating fast, she fears his health is spiralling from bad to worse. “His health has been bad from before anyway. His immunity is very low and if he gets Covid-19 it is a death sentence for him,” she added. His next bail hearing is due at the end of the month but Vasantha fears that the infection is spreading at a fast pace in the jail. “The judiciary could take suo moto [cognisance] of the urgency of the situation no?” she asks, 

According to her Saibaba has already been taken to the Nagpur Government Super Specialities Hospital twice since the CoviD-19 Lockdown was announced, informed Vasantha. “They gave him painkillers and advised him to undergo more tests. I think the hospital conducted an MRI-Brain scan also and some other tests, but neither I, nor the lawyers have been reported to have not been given so far. In fact I have not seen any of his medical reports since September 2018. I cannot even consult our family doctor, or now a teleconsult with a specialist. Sai needs daily physiotherapy along with his regular medicines. He has shooting pains that he tells me about. And without daily physiotherapy he will lose the movement in his right hand also,” says Vasantha who is most concerned about the quality of healthcare in the jail. “They only have basic medicines for fever and diarrhea. They say Sai refused to undergo gallbladder surgery. But we want to try Ayurveda and not surgery. What he urgently needs is physiotherapy for the pain in his hands and body,” said Vasantha adding “He said his left hand is on the verge of failing, and now his right hand also. The acute pain is spreading along the length of both the hands up to the fingers...”

Vasantha has not met her husband since February, their last ‘mulakat’ or official meeting of jail inmates and their families. Soon after that these meetings were suspended as Covid-19 began to spread. “Even his lawyer can not meet him now. There is a transport problem too. Once he was allowed a short video call but we could not see each other clearly because the network was so bad,” recalled Vasantha, “Sai said we will not video call again. I used to send him his medicines via the advocate, now I am unable to do that. Earlier the lawyer could leave the medicine at the Jail gate, and the officials would hand it to Sai, but now as Covid-19 cases are increasing even the advocates are scared to go to the gates of the prison… Now I have to wait for the court to take the situation seriously and realise this is an emergency situation,” she says her voice trailing.

Vasantha says she has to try her best to stay strong for her husband, “We have done no wrong. Not harmed anyone. We raise issues of those who suffer, and just give a voice to the voiceless. We had hope from the judiciary. But now we are stressed and upset mentally…”  According to her the professor would try and de-stress by reading newspapers but has now been denied newspapers since March.  “Reading helps him be distracted…” she says. 

Above all, Saibaba’s existing comorbidities put him in a more vulnerable situation now more than ever as he is being forced to live in unhygienic conditions, fears Vasantha. “If he ever tests positive for Covid-19 he will be confined to his cell alone. He will not be allowed to be shifted out of the jail. They isolate Covid-19 patients within the jail,” she says. 

“We had applied to seek parole, but the court rejected it in May. We applied again for the second time in June, but there has been no reply till now. They [jail authorities] say he is ‘normal’. How is he normal when he falls and faints and no one picks him up,” she asks. Vasantha says even the doctors at the Nagpur Government Super Speciality Hospital suggested that Saibaba use “cold and hot packs for pain regularly, use a medical bed for sleeping with six side pillows (to relieve continuous shooting pain), but were not provided.”

G. Suryavathi, GN Saibaba’s 72-year-old mother who lives in Hyderabad is also unwell and wants to see her son once. But the fact that the city was a containment zone led to the rejection of the first parole application. “They said Sai’s brother's residence, where my mother-in-law lives, is in a Covid-19 containment zone. We applied again for Sai’s parole almost a month ago, but there has been no response from the jail authorities so far,” said Vasantha. On July 14, a writ on medical grounds came before the Bombay High Court Bench at Nagpur and the court gave 10 days’ time for the prosecution to submit its reply and scheduled the case at the end of July.

The family also issued a formal press note on Wednesday sharing that “Dr. G. N. Saibaba suffers severe physical pain caused by the degeneration of muscles in his hands. He is plagued by pancreatitis, high blood pressure, Cardiomyopathy, chronic back pain, immobility, and sleeplessness. Consequently, his physical ailments intensified while the lack of pain relief and neglect due to inadequate medical facilities further debilitated his already fragile health. Despite interventions made by the National Human Rights Commission and authorities of international human rights organisations, the Courts have repeatedly denied him bail. Undue delays without bail for the incarcerated are a blatant denial of the fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21.”

“This is also a violation of the rights of the disabled,” Vasantha told SabrangIndia recalling that the Supreme Court of India has upheld the right to life and reflected on prisoners observing that “the treatment of a human being which offends human dignity, imposes avoidable torture and reduces the man to the level of a beast would certainly be arbitrary and can be questioned under Article 14”. 

India is also a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which recognises the inherent dignity of human beings and the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom. Furthermore, India has ratified the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on October 1st 2007. India has even adopted the United Nations Resolution 70/175 on Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules). These covenants, conventions and resolutions ensure life and dignity to all persons, prisoners and persons with disabilities and layout the essential parameters necessary for its implementation.

“I approached everybody. I wrote to Sharad Pawar also,” she said asking, “I can't understand the law but I know that even in Malegaon blast cases they have bail… everyone is free on bail… on medical grounds… Pragya [Thakur] got bail on medical grounds…  but why not Sai?”

She further says, “ The state keeps saying all is ok. The judges don't believe us! Then the judiciary should appoint a judge to go and see the [prison] cell. Appoint a committee to go and see the condition for themselves.” 

According to her, the last time Saibaba got bail from the Supreme Court in 2016, he was admitted in hospital for two months.“For one month in Hyderabad and one month in Delhi. He underwent physical therapy everyday,” recalled Vasantha.

Prof G. Haragopal, chairman, Committee For The Defence And Release Of G.N. Saibaba has also issued a statement on Wednesday saying, “In view of the precarious health condition of Dr. G. N. Saibaba, we appeal to the Maharashtra State Government and the Central Government to release him by granting bail or parole immediately so that he can avail appropriate medical treatment either at Hyderabad or Delhi where his family members are living.”

Related: 

Does India uphold Prisoners’ Right to Health?
Varavara Rao is in hospital today, but the risk to his life is not over: Family
Bhima Koregaon case: Gautam Navlakha denied default bail; NIA granted 
Don’t Kill Varavara Rao in Jail!

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18 per cent GST on alcohol-based hand sanitisers!

In March, the government had capped prices of hand sanitizers at Rs. 100/ 200 ml, but GST law has a separate list of exempted goods

15 Jul 2020

Image Courtesy:thehindubusinessline.com

Even as the Covid-19 Pandemic rages on, and most in india do not have easy access to clean water and soap to wash hands to prevent Coronavirus infection, the Authority for Advance Ruling (AAR) has ordered that 18 per cent GST will be levied on all alcohol-based hand sanitisers.

According to multiple news reports a company named Springfield India Distilleries had approached the Goa-bench of AAR to seek `classification of hand sanitisers supplied by the company, and contended that the product is taxed at 12%.’ It also wanted to know if sanitisers are exempt from GST since it is now an essential commodity. Apart from the 18% GST, the AAR, in its ruling, said  even though the Ministry of Consumer Affairs has classified hand sanitisers as an essential commodity, the GST law has a separate list of exempted goods.

As expected the news of 18% GST got many angry reactions on social media.

 

It was on March 13, when Covid-19 had begun to spread at an increasing rate, and the supplies, especially of face masks were low, that the Union Consumer Affairs Ministry had declared face masks and hand sanitisers as essential commodities. They had been clarified as ‘essential commodities’  for 100 days, to encourage manufacturers and retailers to boost supply and also to prevent hoarding of these items by consumers.

By March 21 the Union Government issued orders to cap the retail prices of hand sanitisers at Rs. 100 per bottle of 200 ml. Retail prices of surgical mask (3 ply) were capped at Rs. 10 and that of mask (2 ply) at Rs. 8 per piece. Then the Secretary, Consumer Affairs, Food & Civil Supplies, Pawan Agarwal told the media that a notification had been issued on March 20, and “both these items have already been included in the Essential Commodities Act.”

The government had also asked distilleries "to ramp production of Ethyl Alcohol and provide them to manufacturers of deodorant sprays so that there is no shortage of hand sanitisers." These were no longer classified as ‘essential items’ after  June 30. The official reason was that there was 'enough supply' in the country.

Face masks continue to be one of the top of Covid-19 prevention measures, followed by physical distancing and hand washing/sanitising. According to the government’s own data India has registered a record single-day jump of 29,429 Covid-19 cases, taking the total to 9,36,181 (till Wednesday), the fatality toll has risen to 24,309 with 582 new deaths being recorded. There are 3,19,840 active Covid-19 cases as of Wednesday.

Wearing a face cover, or mask when out in public is now compulsory in India. However, not everyone can afford to buy a mask, and hand sanitisers remain a luxury item. Most frontline workers, such as ASHA workers, and Anganwadi workers who are out for Covid-19 surveys, and sanitation workers do not have access to these protective items. Most people are out covering their mouth and noses with gamchas and dupattas, of various thickness, if they have one. They wash their hands only when they can, often at the end of the day when they return home. 

According to information from the Press Information Bureau some of the states still reporting a rise in Covid-19 cases include: 

Maharashtra, which recorded  6,497 new  Covid-19  cases in the last 24 hours, and 193 deaths. The state now has 2,60,924 cases and a death toll of 10,482. 

Gujarat has recorded 902 new cases during the last 24 hours, taking the total number of cases to 42,808. 

Rajasthan has 98 new cases and the total number of cases in the state is now above 25,000-mark.

Madhya Pradesh recorded  575 new cases (on Monday,) and now has over 18,207 Covid-19 patients. 

Chhattisgarh reported 184 new corona positive patients (on Monday,) which takes the state tally of positive cases to 4265.

Goa has 130 new cases, and a total of 2,583, with 1,026 active cases.

Kerala has 4,028 active cases with 713 persons admitted to the hospital yesterday, the highest till date.

 

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/6uqHR2E1zbZkmjywboSFnn661qUIlTq6tWn0yvN9ZKXjbSC2Ku6l5j2aKNhkklIaw1ezgU-XqBadGnRssoPUnzTVXkq4btkYkD3zTz8WFxuYFxYI_gpAPA1EHFqeLKtYeKFTyGul

 

18 per cent GST on alcohol-based hand sanitisers!

In March, the government had capped prices of hand sanitizers at Rs. 100/ 200 ml, but GST law has a separate list of exempted goods

Image Courtesy:thehindubusinessline.com

Even as the Covid-19 Pandemic rages on, and most in india do not have easy access to clean water and soap to wash hands to prevent Coronavirus infection, the Authority for Advance Ruling (AAR) has ordered that 18 per cent GST will be levied on all alcohol-based hand sanitisers.

According to multiple news reports a company named Springfield India Distilleries had approached the Goa-bench of AAR to seek `classification of hand sanitisers supplied by the company, and contended that the product is taxed at 12%.’ It also wanted to know if sanitisers are exempt from GST since it is now an essential commodity. Apart from the 18% GST, the AAR, in its ruling, said  even though the Ministry of Consumer Affairs has classified hand sanitisers as an essential commodity, the GST law has a separate list of exempted goods.

As expected the news of 18% GST got many angry reactions on social media.

 

It was on March 13, when Covid-19 had begun to spread at an increasing rate, and the supplies, especially of face masks were low, that the Union Consumer Affairs Ministry had declared face masks and hand sanitisers as essential commodities. They had been clarified as ‘essential commodities’  for 100 days, to encourage manufacturers and retailers to boost supply and also to prevent hoarding of these items by consumers.

By March 21 the Union Government issued orders to cap the retail prices of hand sanitisers at Rs. 100 per bottle of 200 ml. Retail prices of surgical mask (3 ply) were capped at Rs. 10 and that of mask (2 ply) at Rs. 8 per piece. Then the Secretary, Consumer Affairs, Food & Civil Supplies, Pawan Agarwal told the media that a notification had been issued on March 20, and “both these items have already been included in the Essential Commodities Act.”

The government had also asked distilleries "to ramp production of Ethyl Alcohol and provide them to manufacturers of deodorant sprays so that there is no shortage of hand sanitisers." These were no longer classified as ‘essential items’ after  June 30. The official reason was that there was 'enough supply' in the country.

Face masks continue to be one of the top of Covid-19 prevention measures, followed by physical distancing and hand washing/sanitising. According to the government’s own data India has registered a record single-day jump of 29,429 Covid-19 cases, taking the total to 9,36,181 (till Wednesday), the fatality toll has risen to 24,309 with 582 new deaths being recorded. There are 3,19,840 active Covid-19 cases as of Wednesday.

Wearing a face cover, or mask when out in public is now compulsory in India. However, not everyone can afford to buy a mask, and hand sanitisers remain a luxury item. Most frontline workers, such as ASHA workers, and Anganwadi workers who are out for Covid-19 surveys, and sanitation workers do not have access to these protective items. Most people are out covering their mouth and noses with gamchas and dupattas, of various thickness, if they have one. They wash their hands only when they can, often at the end of the day when they return home. 

According to information from the Press Information Bureau some of the states still reporting a rise in Covid-19 cases include: 

Maharashtra, which recorded  6,497 new  Covid-19  cases in the last 24 hours, and 193 deaths. The state now has 2,60,924 cases and a death toll of 10,482. 

Gujarat has recorded 902 new cases during the last 24 hours, taking the total number of cases to 42,808. 

Rajasthan has 98 new cases and the total number of cases in the state is now above 25,000-mark.

Madhya Pradesh recorded  575 new cases (on Monday,) and now has over 18,207 Covid-19 patients. 

Chhattisgarh reported 184 new corona positive patients (on Monday,) which takes the state tally of positive cases to 4265.

Goa has 130 new cases, and a total of 2,583, with 1,026 active cases.

Kerala has 4,028 active cases with 713 persons admitted to the hospital yesterday, the highest till date.

 

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/6uqHR2E1zbZkmjywboSFnn661qUIlTq6tWn0yvN9ZKXjbSC2Ku6l5j2aKNhkklIaw1ezgU-XqBadGnRssoPUnzTVXkq4btkYkD3zTz8WFxuYFxYI_gpAPA1EHFqeLKtYeKFTyGul

 

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Covid-19 deaths being under-reported in Surat?

Yet another NGO alleges that actual figures are being fudged in the city

15 Jul 2020

covid19

Just weeks after the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) had reported discrepancies in the data regarding Covid-19 cases in Surat, a diamond, textiles and heavy industries hub, yet another NGO, Ekta Manch has raised serious concerns about a discrepancy in the reportage of number of Covid-19 related deaths in the city.

Ekta Manch is reportedly helping the Surat Municipal Corporation conduct last rights of Covid-19 victims hailing from both Hindu and Muslim communities. A representative of the NGO told Ahmedabad Mirror that they were cremating and burying as many as 50-60 bodies per day till about five days ago. This is in sharp contrast with government data.

According to official Gujarat Government figures (https://gujcovid19.gujarat.gov.in/) there are currently 2,969 active cases in the state. So far, a total of 224 people have died of the disease, out of which only 5 deaths took place yesterday.

However, according to authorities, the discrepancy could be attributed to comorbid cases not being included in the death toll. Indeed, Milind Torawane, in-charge of Surat city for Covid, told Ahmedabad Mirror, “As per the ICMR guidelines, the comorbid cases aren’t counted as Covid.”

But even if that were the case, it means 45-55 people are dying due to comorbidity issues everyday and this indicates that the infection is more widespread than what the official data suggests.

Discrepancies in testing data were also highlighted in PUCL’s report published on June 21. According to PUCL’s analysis, “From 1st positive case on March 16, 2020 till May 31, 2020 the positive cases in Surat stood at 1597 as given in the updates, 1662 as shown on the Covid dashboard, 1624 as total of bifurcation provided and 1399 as provided in the Zone wise data by SMC. These figures from the same source, i.e. SMC do not match each other. Why such discrepancy or mismatch? This mismatch has to be explained and answered.”

Meanwhile the Times of India reported that two dozen textile markets comprising 35,000 shops have decided to voluntarily shut down ill July 20, after 600 people working in the sector tested positive for Covid-19. Similar voluntary shutdowns are being reported from the diamond industry as well.

Related:

PUCL finds glaring discrepancies in Surat Covid-19 updates from Lockdown 1 - 4

Covid-19 deaths being under-reported in Surat?

Yet another NGO alleges that actual figures are being fudged in the city

covid19

Just weeks after the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) had reported discrepancies in the data regarding Covid-19 cases in Surat, a diamond, textiles and heavy industries hub, yet another NGO, Ekta Manch has raised serious concerns about a discrepancy in the reportage of number of Covid-19 related deaths in the city.

Ekta Manch is reportedly helping the Surat Municipal Corporation conduct last rights of Covid-19 victims hailing from both Hindu and Muslim communities. A representative of the NGO told Ahmedabad Mirror that they were cremating and burying as many as 50-60 bodies per day till about five days ago. This is in sharp contrast with government data.

According to official Gujarat Government figures (https://gujcovid19.gujarat.gov.in/) there are currently 2,969 active cases in the state. So far, a total of 224 people have died of the disease, out of which only 5 deaths took place yesterday.

However, according to authorities, the discrepancy could be attributed to comorbid cases not being included in the death toll. Indeed, Milind Torawane, in-charge of Surat city for Covid, told Ahmedabad Mirror, “As per the ICMR guidelines, the comorbid cases aren’t counted as Covid.”

But even if that were the case, it means 45-55 people are dying due to comorbidity issues everyday and this indicates that the infection is more widespread than what the official data suggests.

Discrepancies in testing data were also highlighted in PUCL’s report published on June 21. According to PUCL’s analysis, “From 1st positive case on March 16, 2020 till May 31, 2020 the positive cases in Surat stood at 1597 as given in the updates, 1662 as shown on the Covid dashboard, 1624 as total of bifurcation provided and 1399 as provided in the Zone wise data by SMC. These figures from the same source, i.e. SMC do not match each other. Why such discrepancy or mismatch? This mismatch has to be explained and answered.”

Meanwhile the Times of India reported that two dozen textile markets comprising 35,000 shops have decided to voluntarily shut down ill July 20, after 600 people working in the sector tested positive for Covid-19. Similar voluntary shutdowns are being reported from the diamond industry as well.

Related:

PUCL finds glaring discrepancies in Surat Covid-19 updates from Lockdown 1 - 4

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Does India uphold Prisoners’ Right to Health?

In this in-depth analysis, we look at prison manuals, international standards and court precedents related to ensuring good health of prisoners

15 Jul 2020

Image Courtesy:businesstoday.in

Shortly after national lockdown was declared on March 24, in light of Covid-19 being declared a pandemic, the Supreme Court had issued certain directions keeping in mind the risk faced by inmates of prisons all across the country. High Powered Committees were directed to be instituted at state level which could decide on categories of prisoners who can be released on emergency parole, convicted of less serious offences, prisoners prone to contracting the disease due to co-morbidities of old age and so on. Such committees were constituted and prisoners were in fact released to ease the burden of over-crowded prisons where it would be impossible to implement social distancing norms.

The right to health of prisoners was clearly given primacy by the judiciary in times of a pandemic which is a laudable move. But what happens to this Right to Health of prison inmates when there is no pandemic?

The recent case of political prisoner Varavara Rao, aged 79, who is an under trial in a case for allegedly instigating caste-based violence in Bhima Koregaon, Pune, has brought this discourse to the fore. Usually, rights of prisoners neither become a part of daily discourse or news channel debates, nor do they find a place in dinner table conversations. Let us explore how the prisons in Maharashtra treat prisoners who fall ill during their prison stay.

The case for Varavara Rao

On July 13, Rao was urgently shifted to JJ Hospital from Taloja Jail as his condition began worsening. According to his family Rao had been incoherent and too weak to even sustain a phone call the last time they spoke. This had alarmed them to the extent that they urgently called a video press conference on Sunday and appealed once again that he be rushed to a proper hospital and given urgent medical care he needed. 

The family states that they were not even informed that Rao had been shifted to JJ hospital and only came to know from a senior leader who had been appealing to Maharashtra government to intervene before Rao’s health took a turn for the worse. The family is apprehensive that Rao may once again be given basic treatment and then sent back to jail soon. They recall that he had been admitted at the same hospital on May 28 evening but was hurriedly discharged on June 1 and sent back to jail with a ‘comment’ that “his health is steady and all vitals normal”, despite that not being true.

Keeping in view Rao’s fragile health and advanced age that puts him, and others still in jail, at great risk which is increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

His bail plea is up for hearing on July 17 before the Bombay High Court.

Case in point: Maharashtra

The Maharashtra prison Manual Chapter 4 deals with provisions related to “Prison hospital” and is called the ‘the Maharashtra Prisons (Prison Hospital) Rules, 1970’. There are ample provisions in these rules to ensure that prisons are liveable and conducive to a healthy human living. The truth however, is that prison conditions in the country remain deplorable to a large extent.

A Medical Officer who is supposed to be stationed at the prison has numerous duties, such as checking quality of drinking water, checking whether cells are fit for occupation by prisoners, visit prison cells daily to check on inmates, supervise work of Junior medical officers and so on.

There is also provision related to the diet of prisoners whereby under Section 1 Rule 3(24) the Medical Officer is required to sign orders for extra diet and other articles required for sick prisoners whether in or out of the hospital and recommend a change in diet if needed for a sick prisoner. The Medical Officer is also supposed to keep in check the sanitary conditions of prisons which tend to have an effect on the health of prisoners in general.

Further, under Section 1 Rule 3(34) a Medical officer has the power to decide whether a prisoner may be released on medical grounds if the prisoner’s condition justifies immediate release on medical grounds. Under Section 1 Rule 3(11) the Medical officer is bound to transfer urgent cases requiring immediate surgical or other treatment which cannot be given in the prison hospital to a Civil Hospital.

The non-statutory rules which come under Section 2 make provisions for even weak, convalescent and old prisoners. The Rule 5 of Section 2 states that prisoners who have attained old age and are weak should be kept separate from other prisoners, should be allowed a different diet and other suitable arrangements are to be made for them. When a prisoner is admitted to a prison hospital, his expenses are incurred by the state and if he is shifted to Civil Hospital, the same applies.

Thus, these rules for ensuring that the health of prisoners is maintained look good on paper but do not find absolute strict implementation on the ground.

Model Prison Manual, 2016

This Manual released by the Ministry of Home Affairs enumerates rights of prisoners which includes health under ‘right to basic minimum needs’ which states that prisoners have “Right to fulfillment of basic minimum needs such as adequate diet, health, medical care and treatment, access to clean and adequate drinking water, access to clean and hygienic conditions of living accommodation, sanitation and personal hygiene, adequate clothing, bedding and other equipment.” Under the heading of “housing”, the manual states that “All accommodation provided for use of prisoners, particularly for sleeping, will meet basic requirements of healthy living.”

Under section 4.07.4, it puts the onus of medical care and health of prisoners on the medical personnel within prisons. It states that the medical personnel must “ensure the maintenance of minimum standards of hygienic conditions in the prison premises”. Medical care includes preventive care, curative care as well as general care with respect to admission in prison hospital. In Chapter VII titled “Medical Care”, the manual gives detailed guidelines on management of prison hospitals and what speciality of doctors should be available in such hospitals.

Under various sub-headings, the manual deals with the duties of the Chief Medical Officer which includes daily visits to prisons, attending to special needs of aged prisoners, treatment of drug addicts, control of diets and so on.

Prisoners’ Right to health in courts of law

The Gujarat High Court in Rasikbhai Ramsun Rana vs. State of Gujarat (1997 Cr LR (Guj) 442) the petitioners convicted in the Central Prison, Vadodara suffering from serious ailments were deprived of proper and immediate medical treatment for want of jail escorts required to carry them to hospital and negligent officers were personally held liable by the court as well as I.G. Prison and Addl. Chief Secretary. In 2005, in a suo moto writ petition the Gujarat High Court issued directions to the state government to ensure that all Central and District jails should be equipped with ICCU, pathology lab, expert doctors, sufficient staff including nurses and latest instruments for medical treatment. The Delhi High Court, in Sanjay V. State, (CRL.A.600 of 2000) s directed the prison authorities of Tihar Jail to offer meditational therapy and counselling to convicts.

The Supreme Court in its landmark judgment of Parmanand Katara Vs Union of India (1989 AIR 2039) ruled that the state has an obligation to preserve life whether he is an innocent person or a criminal liable to punishment under the law, thus laying a robust precedent for prisoners’ rights in India, especially the very fundamental right to health included under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

In 2016, the Supreme Court passed another one of its landmark judgements on legal and constitutional rights of prisoners in India especially the under-trial prisoners in Re-Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons (AIR 2016 SC 993). The petition was filed to address the status of prison reforms in India and to issue directions and the court directions led to the formulation of New Model Prison Manual, 2016 by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

International standards on prisoners’ Right to Health

Many international documents upheld and released by international organizations that deal with human rights have, by and large, equated lack of adequate medical treatment to torture. The UN Human Rights Committee has stated specifically that the right to health of prisoners could be engaged under the right to humane treatment in the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations Human Rights Commission adopted the basic Principles for Treatment of Prisoners in 1990 in which it is stated that “prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation”.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture has taken to the view that ‘‘An inadequate level of health care can lead rapidly to situations falling within the scope of the term ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’’. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has in many cases held deficient or inadequate and unresponsive medical attention as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The World Health Organization has released an information Sheet titled “Mental health and Prisons” which recommends for policy matters that National mental health policies and/or plans should encompass the mental health needs of the prison population; and specific to prisons, it recommends that prisoners should have the same access to psychotropic medication and psychosocial support for the treatment of mental disorders as people in the general community.

The First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders adopted that ‘Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners’ in 1955 which stated, among other things, that “at every institution there shall be available the services of at least one qualified medical officer who should have some knowledge of psychiatry”. It also states that a qualified mental health officer should be available to every prisoner and that the medical officer shall see and examine every prisoner as soon as possible after his admission and thereafter as necessary, with a view particularly to the discovery of physical or mental illness and the taking of all necessary measures.

It further makes it binding on the medical officer to inspect quality of food, hygiene conditions, sanitation and such other factors that may affect the health of the prisoners.

The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that under the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stated that in order to be compliant with obligations under the right to life, health care must be available to diagnose and treat prisoners when they are ill or otherwise in need of attention, as anything less than this does not constitute a ‘‘properly functioning medical service’’ within the terms of Article 6(1) of the covenant.

Prisons in India: A status check

A research paper published in the 2017, Winter Issue of the Indian Law Institute law Review Vol.II, presented some prison data related to prison reforms. It observed reforms in Tihar Jail, Delhi and the Prison Department of the State of Andhra Pradesh. It stated that Tihar jail has to its credit several innovative reformative schemes such as Prisoner’s participation in various sports, provision of education for prisoners, legal aid, yoga, lok adalats and so on.

The official website of the Andhra Pradesh Prison Department states that many facilities like Television, Radio, Newspapers and indoor games are provided in all the prisons of the State. Further, Septic toilets and bathrooms are provided in the ratio of 1:06 and 1:10 respectively in all prisons. Apart from these facilities, degrees and certificate courses are provided through correspondence from universities at government cost. Also, there are no restrictions on writing and receiving letters by prisoners.

Dr. Kafeel Khan who is lodged in Mathur prison since January 2020 for a speech where he allegedly criticised the government during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests wrote a letter in which he described the deplorable state he was living in. Relaying the dangerous prison conditions, Dr. Khan wrote, “With just one attached toilet, 125-150 inmates, the smell of their sweat and urine mixed with unbearable heat due to electricity cuts makes life hell over here: A living hell indeed. I try to read but cannot focus due to suffocation. It sometimes feels that I might fall due to dizziness caused by that suffocation. So, I keep on drinking water.”

“In a jail made for 534 inmates, there are 1,600 people kept with one barrack holding at least 100-125 of us. There are just 4-6 toilets,” Dr. Kafeel Khan wrote in his letter.

Current State

Prison statistics in India are released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The latest report is of the year 2018 and it usually presents data on parameters such as occupancy rate, classification as per age, gender, educational qualifications, domicile, nationality, number of deaths, illnesses of prisoners and so on.

As on December 31, 2018, there were 61,621 inmates (13.2%) belonging to the age group above 50 years. In 2018, a total of 1,639 prisoners died of natural death and 149 prisoners died unnatural deaths. The report states that among the 149 un-natural deaths of inmates, 129 inmates have committed suicide, 5 inmates died in accidents, 10 inmates were murdered by inmates and 1 inmate died due to assault by outside elements during 2018. For a total of 57 inmates’ deaths, the cause of the death is yet to be known.

The number of undertrial prisoners has always been high in Indian prisons. NCRB data states that as of 2018 Indian prisons housed 69.4% undertrials out of the total number of prisoners. This marked a 10% increase in the number of under-trials compared to 2016 data.

This data discloses very little about the general health of prisoners. It is very difficult to determine whether these deaths occurred despite the best efforts of the medical personnel in these prisons and no such data can really be collated. While the Model Prison Manual as well as the Maharashtra Prison Manual which was taken as a case study, seem to follow most of the international standards on medical care for prisoners, whether the same is strictly followed and implemented in prisons across the country remains unknown. The impregnable and impenetrable nature of prison management makes it difficult to collect any real time data, apart from some isolated testimonies of prisoners eventually released from these prisons, but no such recent study has been conducted. Maybe, that is the need of the hour, to peep into these tall structures where there is little or no accountability on prison staff for safeguarding the human rights of these prisoners, so that the real picture can come to the fore and implementation of these ideal and model prison manuals can be pushed.

Related:

Varavara Rao is in hospital today, but the risk to his life is not over: Family
Gauhati Central jail turns Covid-19 hotspot!
Medical fraternity rallies to #FreeDrKafeel as he languishes in jail during the pandemic
Kafeel Khan describes prison to be ‘a living hell’ in letter from jail

Does India uphold Prisoners’ Right to Health?

In this in-depth analysis, we look at prison manuals, international standards and court precedents related to ensuring good health of prisoners

Image Courtesy:businesstoday.in

Shortly after national lockdown was declared on March 24, in light of Covid-19 being declared a pandemic, the Supreme Court had issued certain directions keeping in mind the risk faced by inmates of prisons all across the country. High Powered Committees were directed to be instituted at state level which could decide on categories of prisoners who can be released on emergency parole, convicted of less serious offences, prisoners prone to contracting the disease due to co-morbidities of old age and so on. Such committees were constituted and prisoners were in fact released to ease the burden of over-crowded prisons where it would be impossible to implement social distancing norms.

The right to health of prisoners was clearly given primacy by the judiciary in times of a pandemic which is a laudable move. But what happens to this Right to Health of prison inmates when there is no pandemic?

The recent case of political prisoner Varavara Rao, aged 79, who is an under trial in a case for allegedly instigating caste-based violence in Bhima Koregaon, Pune, has brought this discourse to the fore. Usually, rights of prisoners neither become a part of daily discourse or news channel debates, nor do they find a place in dinner table conversations. Let us explore how the prisons in Maharashtra treat prisoners who fall ill during their prison stay.

The case for Varavara Rao

On July 13, Rao was urgently shifted to JJ Hospital from Taloja Jail as his condition began worsening. According to his family Rao had been incoherent and too weak to even sustain a phone call the last time they spoke. This had alarmed them to the extent that they urgently called a video press conference on Sunday and appealed once again that he be rushed to a proper hospital and given urgent medical care he needed. 

The family states that they were not even informed that Rao had been shifted to JJ hospital and only came to know from a senior leader who had been appealing to Maharashtra government to intervene before Rao’s health took a turn for the worse. The family is apprehensive that Rao may once again be given basic treatment and then sent back to jail soon. They recall that he had been admitted at the same hospital on May 28 evening but was hurriedly discharged on June 1 and sent back to jail with a ‘comment’ that “his health is steady and all vitals normal”, despite that not being true.

Keeping in view Rao’s fragile health and advanced age that puts him, and others still in jail, at great risk which is increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

His bail plea is up for hearing on July 17 before the Bombay High Court.

Case in point: Maharashtra

The Maharashtra prison Manual Chapter 4 deals with provisions related to “Prison hospital” and is called the ‘the Maharashtra Prisons (Prison Hospital) Rules, 1970’. There are ample provisions in these rules to ensure that prisons are liveable and conducive to a healthy human living. The truth however, is that prison conditions in the country remain deplorable to a large extent.

A Medical Officer who is supposed to be stationed at the prison has numerous duties, such as checking quality of drinking water, checking whether cells are fit for occupation by prisoners, visit prison cells daily to check on inmates, supervise work of Junior medical officers and so on.

There is also provision related to the diet of prisoners whereby under Section 1 Rule 3(24) the Medical Officer is required to sign orders for extra diet and other articles required for sick prisoners whether in or out of the hospital and recommend a change in diet if needed for a sick prisoner. The Medical Officer is also supposed to keep in check the sanitary conditions of prisons which tend to have an effect on the health of prisoners in general.

Further, under Section 1 Rule 3(34) a Medical officer has the power to decide whether a prisoner may be released on medical grounds if the prisoner’s condition justifies immediate release on medical grounds. Under Section 1 Rule 3(11) the Medical officer is bound to transfer urgent cases requiring immediate surgical or other treatment which cannot be given in the prison hospital to a Civil Hospital.

The non-statutory rules which come under Section 2 make provisions for even weak, convalescent and old prisoners. The Rule 5 of Section 2 states that prisoners who have attained old age and are weak should be kept separate from other prisoners, should be allowed a different diet and other suitable arrangements are to be made for them. When a prisoner is admitted to a prison hospital, his expenses are incurred by the state and if he is shifted to Civil Hospital, the same applies.

Thus, these rules for ensuring that the health of prisoners is maintained look good on paper but do not find absolute strict implementation on the ground.

Model Prison Manual, 2016

This Manual released by the Ministry of Home Affairs enumerates rights of prisoners which includes health under ‘right to basic minimum needs’ which states that prisoners have “Right to fulfillment of basic minimum needs such as adequate diet, health, medical care and treatment, access to clean and adequate drinking water, access to clean and hygienic conditions of living accommodation, sanitation and personal hygiene, adequate clothing, bedding and other equipment.” Under the heading of “housing”, the manual states that “All accommodation provided for use of prisoners, particularly for sleeping, will meet basic requirements of healthy living.”

Under section 4.07.4, it puts the onus of medical care and health of prisoners on the medical personnel within prisons. It states that the medical personnel must “ensure the maintenance of minimum standards of hygienic conditions in the prison premises”. Medical care includes preventive care, curative care as well as general care with respect to admission in prison hospital. In Chapter VII titled “Medical Care”, the manual gives detailed guidelines on management of prison hospitals and what speciality of doctors should be available in such hospitals.

Under various sub-headings, the manual deals with the duties of the Chief Medical Officer which includes daily visits to prisons, attending to special needs of aged prisoners, treatment of drug addicts, control of diets and so on.

Prisoners’ Right to health in courts of law

The Gujarat High Court in Rasikbhai Ramsun Rana vs. State of Gujarat (1997 Cr LR (Guj) 442) the petitioners convicted in the Central Prison, Vadodara suffering from serious ailments were deprived of proper and immediate medical treatment for want of jail escorts required to carry them to hospital and negligent officers were personally held liable by the court as well as I.G. Prison and Addl. Chief Secretary. In 2005, in a suo moto writ petition the Gujarat High Court issued directions to the state government to ensure that all Central and District jails should be equipped with ICCU, pathology lab, expert doctors, sufficient staff including nurses and latest instruments for medical treatment. The Delhi High Court, in Sanjay V. State, (CRL.A.600 of 2000) s directed the prison authorities of Tihar Jail to offer meditational therapy and counselling to convicts.

The Supreme Court in its landmark judgment of Parmanand Katara Vs Union of India (1989 AIR 2039) ruled that the state has an obligation to preserve life whether he is an innocent person or a criminal liable to punishment under the law, thus laying a robust precedent for prisoners’ rights in India, especially the very fundamental right to health included under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

In 2016, the Supreme Court passed another one of its landmark judgements on legal and constitutional rights of prisoners in India especially the under-trial prisoners in Re-Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons (AIR 2016 SC 993). The petition was filed to address the status of prison reforms in India and to issue directions and the court directions led to the formulation of New Model Prison Manual, 2016 by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

International standards on prisoners’ Right to Health

Many international documents upheld and released by international organizations that deal with human rights have, by and large, equated lack of adequate medical treatment to torture. The UN Human Rights Committee has stated specifically that the right to health of prisoners could be engaged under the right to humane treatment in the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations Human Rights Commission adopted the basic Principles for Treatment of Prisoners in 1990 in which it is stated that “prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation”.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture has taken to the view that ‘‘An inadequate level of health care can lead rapidly to situations falling within the scope of the term ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’’. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has in many cases held deficient or inadequate and unresponsive medical attention as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The World Health Organization has released an information Sheet titled “Mental health and Prisons” which recommends for policy matters that National mental health policies and/or plans should encompass the mental health needs of the prison population; and specific to prisons, it recommends that prisoners should have the same access to psychotropic medication and psychosocial support for the treatment of mental disorders as people in the general community.

The First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders adopted that ‘Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners’ in 1955 which stated, among other things, that “at every institution there shall be available the services of at least one qualified medical officer who should have some knowledge of psychiatry”. It also states that a qualified mental health officer should be available to every prisoner and that the medical officer shall see and examine every prisoner as soon as possible after his admission and thereafter as necessary, with a view particularly to the discovery of physical or mental illness and the taking of all necessary measures.

It further makes it binding on the medical officer to inspect quality of food, hygiene conditions, sanitation and such other factors that may affect the health of the prisoners.

The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that under the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stated that in order to be compliant with obligations under the right to life, health care must be available to diagnose and treat prisoners when they are ill or otherwise in need of attention, as anything less than this does not constitute a ‘‘properly functioning medical service’’ within the terms of Article 6(1) of the covenant.

Prisons in India: A status check

A research paper published in the 2017, Winter Issue of the Indian Law Institute law Review Vol.II, presented some prison data related to prison reforms. It observed reforms in Tihar Jail, Delhi and the Prison Department of the State of Andhra Pradesh. It stated that Tihar jail has to its credit several innovative reformative schemes such as Prisoner’s participation in various sports, provision of education for prisoners, legal aid, yoga, lok adalats and so on.

The official website of the Andhra Pradesh Prison Department states that many facilities like Television, Radio, Newspapers and indoor games are provided in all the prisons of the State. Further, Septic toilets and bathrooms are provided in the ratio of 1:06 and 1:10 respectively in all prisons. Apart from these facilities, degrees and certificate courses are provided through correspondence from universities at government cost. Also, there are no restrictions on writing and receiving letters by prisoners.

Dr. Kafeel Khan who is lodged in Mathur prison since January 2020 for a speech where he allegedly criticised the government during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests wrote a letter in which he described the deplorable state he was living in. Relaying the dangerous prison conditions, Dr. Khan wrote, “With just one attached toilet, 125-150 inmates, the smell of their sweat and urine mixed with unbearable heat due to electricity cuts makes life hell over here: A living hell indeed. I try to read but cannot focus due to suffocation. It sometimes feels that I might fall due to dizziness caused by that suffocation. So, I keep on drinking water.”

“In a jail made for 534 inmates, there are 1,600 people kept with one barrack holding at least 100-125 of us. There are just 4-6 toilets,” Dr. Kafeel Khan wrote in his letter.

Current State

Prison statistics in India are released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The latest report is of the year 2018 and it usually presents data on parameters such as occupancy rate, classification as per age, gender, educational qualifications, domicile, nationality, number of deaths, illnesses of prisoners and so on.

As on December 31, 2018, there were 61,621 inmates (13.2%) belonging to the age group above 50 years. In 2018, a total of 1,639 prisoners died of natural death and 149 prisoners died unnatural deaths. The report states that among the 149 un-natural deaths of inmates, 129 inmates have committed suicide, 5 inmates died in accidents, 10 inmates were murdered by inmates and 1 inmate died due to assault by outside elements during 2018. For a total of 57 inmates’ deaths, the cause of the death is yet to be known.

The number of undertrial prisoners has always been high in Indian prisons. NCRB data states that as of 2018 Indian prisons housed 69.4% undertrials out of the total number of prisoners. This marked a 10% increase in the number of under-trials compared to 2016 data.

This data discloses very little about the general health of prisoners. It is very difficult to determine whether these deaths occurred despite the best efforts of the medical personnel in these prisons and no such data can really be collated. While the Model Prison Manual as well as the Maharashtra Prison Manual which was taken as a case study, seem to follow most of the international standards on medical care for prisoners, whether the same is strictly followed and implemented in prisons across the country remains unknown. The impregnable and impenetrable nature of prison management makes it difficult to collect any real time data, apart from some isolated testimonies of prisoners eventually released from these prisons, but no such recent study has been conducted. Maybe, that is the need of the hour, to peep into these tall structures where there is little or no accountability on prison staff for safeguarding the human rights of these prisoners, so that the real picture can come to the fore and implementation of these ideal and model prison manuals can be pushed.

Related:

Varavara Rao is in hospital today, but the risk to his life is not over: Family
Gauhati Central jail turns Covid-19 hotspot!
Medical fraternity rallies to #FreeDrKafeel as he languishes in jail during the pandemic
Kafeel Khan describes prison to be ‘a living hell’ in letter from jail

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Gauhati Central jail turns Covid-19 hotspot!

Inmate alleges 95 percent of prisoners are infected

14 Jul 2020

central jail

In a shocking turn of events the Central Jail in Guwahati has turned into a Covid-19 hotspot. This was revealed when lawyers of Sattra Mukti Sangram Samiti (SMSS) leader Manas Konwar went to secure his release at around 8 P.M on July 13, after Konwar got bail from a National Investigation Authority (NIA) Court.

In a letter to the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Kamrup (Metro) district, the lawyers; KK Kalita, Krishna Gogoi, Manoj Kumar Deka and Sujit B reveal how they came across this shocking information. The letter says, “We arrived there to hand over the bail order, but we were not allowed to even enter the gate as the entire jail is a containment zone now.” But alarmingly police personnel were allowed to enter allegedly without any thermal checks.

The letter by the lawyers may be read here: 

english

Shortly after that a bus with around 60-70 inmates left the jail premises and one of the inmates named Dadul Das threw out a letter in Assamese where he describes the condition inside the jail. Das’s letter says, “95 percent of the prison inmates are infected with Covid-19. Not everyone has been tested so far.” Das goes on to say, “We were left for 40 hours despite our positive test results. We were not given any treatment or proper diet. The prison authorities said they did not know anything.”

The inmates grew frustrated and restless and started setting fires forcing the authorities to act. Das wrote, “Today we set fire to the inside of the closed room and are the jail authorities are now sending us for a medical check-up.”

Das goes on to further describe the sordid condition of the inmates saying, “Covid-19 positive and negative persons are kept together inside the prison. Inmates sleep just two feet apart, there are more than 50 people in one room. The jail authority is trying to hide all this.”

The letter by Dadul Das may be read here:

letter1

 

letter2

Assam

Assam

It is noteworthy that last week, two leaders of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) Bitu Sonowal and Dharjya Konwar had tested positive for Covid-19 while serving sentence inside the jail. They were subsequently shifted to Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital (MMCH) on Wednesday and later shifted to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) on Thursday morning as per East Mojo.

KMSS adviser Akhil Gogoi too allegedly showed symptoms, but at that time jail authorities dismissed claims of him having caught the infection.

Dasarath Das, IGP of Guwahati Central Jail, had at that time told Northeast Now, “Reports of Akhil Gogoi testing COVID-19 positive is fake. Media houses saying that he has been mistreated and has tested positive for the virus is not true.”

Gogoi thus remained in jail, where poor hygiene and absence of social distancing ensured that the virus spread quickly. Meanwhile an initial test result came negative after his swabs were sent to Delhi. But Gogoi’s test reports came positive on Saturday.

Das told The Wire, “It was a rapid test which was conducted on him on Saturday that showed that he is positive. Earlier his swab samples were sent to New Delhi for examination. Those samples showed negative.”

It is noteworthy that the Supreme Court had directed that jails be decongested in wake of the coronavirus crisis to check the spread of the disease. Several precautionary measures had also been recommended by various government authorities. Looks like the Guwahati Central Jail authorities failed to implement these measures.

There is also the apprehension that vindictive authorities may have purposely sent a negative test report to exacerbate Gogoi’s suffering. Gogoi and his comrades have been a thorn in the administration’s side for years now; first for their peaceful struggle for peasant rights and recently for their participation in the movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Meanwhile, Manas Konwar walked out of jail on Tuesday afternoon.

 

Related:

No Maoist links, NIA trying to smear anti-CAA agitation: KMSS

Assam police sends anti-CAA protestors from KMSS to home quarantine

Akhil Gogoi goes on indefinite hunger strike in Assam

Gauhati Central jail turns Covid-19 hotspot!

Inmate alleges 95 percent of prisoners are infected

central jail

In a shocking turn of events the Central Jail in Guwahati has turned into a Covid-19 hotspot. This was revealed when lawyers of Sattra Mukti Sangram Samiti (SMSS) leader Manas Konwar went to secure his release at around 8 P.M on July 13, after Konwar got bail from a National Investigation Authority (NIA) Court.

In a letter to the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Kamrup (Metro) district, the lawyers; KK Kalita, Krishna Gogoi, Manoj Kumar Deka and Sujit B reveal how they came across this shocking information. The letter says, “We arrived there to hand over the bail order, but we were not allowed to even enter the gate as the entire jail is a containment zone now.” But alarmingly police personnel were allowed to enter allegedly without any thermal checks.

The letter by the lawyers may be read here: 

english

Shortly after that a bus with around 60-70 inmates left the jail premises and one of the inmates named Dadul Das threw out a letter in Assamese where he describes the condition inside the jail. Das’s letter says, “95 percent of the prison inmates are infected with Covid-19. Not everyone has been tested so far.” Das goes on to say, “We were left for 40 hours despite our positive test results. We were not given any treatment or proper diet. The prison authorities said they did not know anything.”

The inmates grew frustrated and restless and started setting fires forcing the authorities to act. Das wrote, “Today we set fire to the inside of the closed room and are the jail authorities are now sending us for a medical check-up.”

Das goes on to further describe the sordid condition of the inmates saying, “Covid-19 positive and negative persons are kept together inside the prison. Inmates sleep just two feet apart, there are more than 50 people in one room. The jail authority is trying to hide all this.”

The letter by Dadul Das may be read here:

letter1

 

letter2

Assam

Assam

It is noteworthy that last week, two leaders of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) Bitu Sonowal and Dharjya Konwar had tested positive for Covid-19 while serving sentence inside the jail. They were subsequently shifted to Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital (MMCH) on Wednesday and later shifted to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) on Thursday morning as per East Mojo.

KMSS adviser Akhil Gogoi too allegedly showed symptoms, but at that time jail authorities dismissed claims of him having caught the infection.

Dasarath Das, IGP of Guwahati Central Jail, had at that time told Northeast Now, “Reports of Akhil Gogoi testing COVID-19 positive is fake. Media houses saying that he has been mistreated and has tested positive for the virus is not true.”

Gogoi thus remained in jail, where poor hygiene and absence of social distancing ensured that the virus spread quickly. Meanwhile an initial test result came negative after his swabs were sent to Delhi. But Gogoi’s test reports came positive on Saturday.

Das told The Wire, “It was a rapid test which was conducted on him on Saturday that showed that he is positive. Earlier his swab samples were sent to New Delhi for examination. Those samples showed negative.”

It is noteworthy that the Supreme Court had directed that jails be decongested in wake of the coronavirus crisis to check the spread of the disease. Several precautionary measures had also been recommended by various government authorities. Looks like the Guwahati Central Jail authorities failed to implement these measures.

There is also the apprehension that vindictive authorities may have purposely sent a negative test report to exacerbate Gogoi’s suffering. Gogoi and his comrades have been a thorn in the administration’s side for years now; first for their peaceful struggle for peasant rights and recently for their participation in the movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Meanwhile, Manas Konwar walked out of jail on Tuesday afternoon.

 

Related:

No Maoist links, NIA trying to smear anti-CAA agitation: KMSS

Assam police sends anti-CAA protestors from KMSS to home quarantine

Akhil Gogoi goes on indefinite hunger strike in Assam

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PUCL lauds Rajasthan CM for announcing that no manual scavengers will enter sewers

On July 6, 2020, Ashok Gehlot had asked district authorities to make sure that all sewer cleaning work be done by machines

14 Jul 2020

Image Courtesy:indiatoday.in

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has lauded the Rajasthan Government’s decision where it announced that no sanitary worker will enter into sewerage or septic tanks for manual cleaning and that all such work would henceforth be carried out by machines.

On July 6, 2020, the Rajasthan government appreciated the work of sanitation workers in the curbing of the coronavirus infection in the state and asked district magistrates and municipal authorities to ensure that no sanitation worker enters septic pits for cleaning. In the video conference conducted with public representatives of urban bodies and sanitation bodies Gehlot had said, “This work should be done entirely by machines. It should be ensured that nobody loses their life due to entering into a septic tank.”

PUCL said that the state government’s decision was very commendable and a great victory of the safai karamchari movement. It added, “Of these, we consider the safai karamchari movement run by Prakash Kardale (Hadale) in Rajasthan and the movement run by Bezwada Wilson run at the national level, the Safai Karamchari Andolan, a great success.”

It has also urged the state government authorities to take urgent action on Gehlot’s words by purchasing essential equipment for the same, lest it become just another declaration on a piece of paper.

It must be noted that a 2014 Supreme Court judgement in the matter, prohibits anyone from working in sewers or septic tanks. If it has to be done in case of an emergency, it can only be allowed with the use of adequate safety gear like facemasks, goggles, gloves, safety belt, etc. The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 also prohibits the manual cleaning of sewers without protective equipment, the violation of which is punishable by imprisonment and fine or both.

As per data made available on the National Safai Karamchari Commission website, from 1993 to July 5 2019, around 38 people have lost their lives from working with sewers in the state. In a 2018 survey by the Central government, as many as 7,381 people registered themselves as manual scavengers, but only 2,590 (35%) were identified by the state, The Wire reported. Even this more than a three-fold rise, from 338 workers in 2013. It was also reported that of all those sanitation workers who lost their lives cleaning sewers between 1993 and 2019, families of only eight workers received the full compensation of Rs. 10 lakh each as set by the Supreme Court.

On July 8, 2020, two days after the government announced the decision, The Times of India reported Conveyor of NGO Safai Karamchari Andolan Prakash Hadale as saying, “These declarations have been made many times in the past but nothing has been done on ground level. Though manual scavenging is illegal as per law the practice is still prevalent in the state. The Safai Karamchari Commission which is supposed to monitor such activities, is defunct since assembly elections. Many private bodies are employing sanitation workers to go down in manholes for cleaning but the government has no control over them.”

Hence, while the decision is appreciative, what remains to be seen if it will still be implemented on ground, especially during this trying time.

Related:

Sanitation & Justice: Classify Sanitation Workers as Health Workers
Death by excreta: The cursed lives of India's manual scavengers
Stop killing us in sewers and septic tanks: Bezwada Wilson

PUCL lauds Rajasthan CM for announcing that no manual scavengers will enter sewers

On July 6, 2020, Ashok Gehlot had asked district authorities to make sure that all sewer cleaning work be done by machines

Image Courtesy:indiatoday.in

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has lauded the Rajasthan Government’s decision where it announced that no sanitary worker will enter into sewerage or septic tanks for manual cleaning and that all such work would henceforth be carried out by machines.

On July 6, 2020, the Rajasthan government appreciated the work of sanitation workers in the curbing of the coronavirus infection in the state and asked district magistrates and municipal authorities to ensure that no sanitation worker enters septic pits for cleaning. In the video conference conducted with public representatives of urban bodies and sanitation bodies Gehlot had said, “This work should be done entirely by machines. It should be ensured that nobody loses their life due to entering into a septic tank.”

PUCL said that the state government’s decision was very commendable and a great victory of the safai karamchari movement. It added, “Of these, we consider the safai karamchari movement run by Prakash Kardale (Hadale) in Rajasthan and the movement run by Bezwada Wilson run at the national level, the Safai Karamchari Andolan, a great success.”

It has also urged the state government authorities to take urgent action on Gehlot’s words by purchasing essential equipment for the same, lest it become just another declaration on a piece of paper.

It must be noted that a 2014 Supreme Court judgement in the matter, prohibits anyone from working in sewers or septic tanks. If it has to be done in case of an emergency, it can only be allowed with the use of adequate safety gear like facemasks, goggles, gloves, safety belt, etc. The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 also prohibits the manual cleaning of sewers without protective equipment, the violation of which is punishable by imprisonment and fine or both.

As per data made available on the National Safai Karamchari Commission website, from 1993 to July 5 2019, around 38 people have lost their lives from working with sewers in the state. In a 2018 survey by the Central government, as many as 7,381 people registered themselves as manual scavengers, but only 2,590 (35%) were identified by the state, The Wire reported. Even this more than a three-fold rise, from 338 workers in 2013. It was also reported that of all those sanitation workers who lost their lives cleaning sewers between 1993 and 2019, families of only eight workers received the full compensation of Rs. 10 lakh each as set by the Supreme Court.

On July 8, 2020, two days after the government announced the decision, The Times of India reported Conveyor of NGO Safai Karamchari Andolan Prakash Hadale as saying, “These declarations have been made many times in the past but nothing has been done on ground level. Though manual scavenging is illegal as per law the practice is still prevalent in the state. The Safai Karamchari Commission which is supposed to monitor such activities, is defunct since assembly elections. Many private bodies are employing sanitation workers to go down in manholes for cleaning but the government has no control over them.”

Hence, while the decision is appreciative, what remains to be seen if it will still be implemented on ground, especially during this trying time.

Related:

Sanitation & Justice: Classify Sanitation Workers as Health Workers
Death by excreta: The cursed lives of India's manual scavengers
Stop killing us in sewers and septic tanks: Bezwada Wilson

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Gujarat BJP leader celebrates birthday with alcohol in public amid lockdown

The incident took place in Gujarat’s Mahisagar district where the BJP leader was seen cutting his birthday cake with a sword

13 Jul 2020

BJP

On Friday, BJP’s Mahisagar district convener Kawan Patel threw a birthday party in public, in the middle of the road, breaking all social distancing rules. In a video that went viral on social media, Patel could be seen cutting his birthday cake with a sword as his friends poured alcohol all over him and themselves. It must be noted that Gujarat is grappling with increasing cases of the coronavirus infection and is treating as many as 10,662 patients with the infection at the moment. It is also noteworthy that Gujarat is a dry state i.e there are stringent alcohol prohibition laws.

 

 

Besides Patel, those involved in the act include BJP district president for Mahisagar, Yogendra Mehra, reported India Today. It has been said that the police have arrested seven people in the matter on charges of consuming liquor and brandishing weapons in public. Mahisagar Deputy SP NV Patel told Ahmedabad Mirror, “We have arrested Kavan Patel, Yogendra Mehra and five others based on the video that went viral. We are also in the process of identifying others who were at the party and will duly arrest them. The sword with which the cake was cut has been seized and the accused have been arrested for offences including prohibition, violation of notification and Epidemic Diseases Act for not wearing masks and failure to maintain social distance.”

However, BJP’s regional spokesperson Bharat Pandya issued a statement saying that the BJP was in no way involved in the event and those participating were neither BJP office bearers nor active members of the party.

 

 

Last year, in a similar incident, Nikhil Murkute, a BJP leader from Belagavi, Karnataka was arrested for celebrating his birthday by cutting the cake with a sword.

This is not the first time that the members of the BJP have been found to be involved in such an incident during the lockdown. In May, BJP President of Ward No. 7 Anil Parmar and seven others had been arrested by the Vadodara police after they were found celebrating a birthday party violating all lockdown norms, Indian Express had reported.


Related:

BJP MLA violates lockdown, invites 100 people to birthday bash

 

Gujarat BJP leader celebrates birthday with alcohol in public amid lockdown

The incident took place in Gujarat’s Mahisagar district where the BJP leader was seen cutting his birthday cake with a sword

BJP

On Friday, BJP’s Mahisagar district convener Kawan Patel threw a birthday party in public, in the middle of the road, breaking all social distancing rules. In a video that went viral on social media, Patel could be seen cutting his birthday cake with a sword as his friends poured alcohol all over him and themselves. It must be noted that Gujarat is grappling with increasing cases of the coronavirus infection and is treating as many as 10,662 patients with the infection at the moment. It is also noteworthy that Gujarat is a dry state i.e there are stringent alcohol prohibition laws.

 

 

Besides Patel, those involved in the act include BJP district president for Mahisagar, Yogendra Mehra, reported India Today. It has been said that the police have arrested seven people in the matter on charges of consuming liquor and brandishing weapons in public. Mahisagar Deputy SP NV Patel told Ahmedabad Mirror, “We have arrested Kavan Patel, Yogendra Mehra and five others based on the video that went viral. We are also in the process of identifying others who were at the party and will duly arrest them. The sword with which the cake was cut has been seized and the accused have been arrested for offences including prohibition, violation of notification and Epidemic Diseases Act for not wearing masks and failure to maintain social distance.”

However, BJP’s regional spokesperson Bharat Pandya issued a statement saying that the BJP was in no way involved in the event and those participating were neither BJP office bearers nor active members of the party.

 

 

Last year, in a similar incident, Nikhil Murkute, a BJP leader from Belagavi, Karnataka was arrested for celebrating his birthday by cutting the cake with a sword.

This is not the first time that the members of the BJP have been found to be involved in such an incident during the lockdown. In May, BJP President of Ward No. 7 Anil Parmar and seven others had been arrested by the Vadodara police after they were found celebrating a birthday party violating all lockdown norms, Indian Express had reported.


Related:

BJP MLA violates lockdown, invites 100 people to birthday bash

 

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What will happen to India’s tourist season 2020?

Though officially open, tourism in the wake of Covid-19, faces an uncertain future in J&K, Himachal, and even Goa

11 Jul 2020

Image Courtesy:hotelierindia.com

Tourism continues to be one of the worst hit sectors in the Covid-19 pandemic. From Jammu and Kashmir to Goa, there are too many restrictions,  and not enough tourists willing to take the risk of contamination. Even as states have ‘officially’ reopened for the tourist season 2020, the citation remains precarious for the industry.

For example, according to a news report in the Tribune, the Jammu and Kashmir government has announced that hotels in the union territory will now be opened at full capacity. However, there are no takers, the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage major draw for domestic tourists around this time, has been suspended in the wake of Covid-19. Most other tourist places are also still shut. The Tribune reports that most hoteliers continue to keep their establishments closed due to “non-availability of customers” and “unfavourable circumstances”.

They say that this decision to reopen “holds no meaning” for them as there are no tourists coming in anyway. Rakesh Wazir, president of the Katra Hotel and Restaurants Association told the Tribune that their establishments can’t be opened as they wont be financially viable “till the government takes a decision on allied and related sectors, including opening of tourist destinations and resumption of pilgrimage. There are around 600-650 hotels and lodges in Katra town and, except five to six which are being used as quarantine facilities, all are closed.”

He told The Tribune that the hotel industry in Katra was facing losses of upto to Rs 4.5 crore per day and estimated a total loss of Rs 600 crore. Over 25,000 employees have also been jobless as the season is yet to open in the real sense. However, according to the administration’s guidelines for Unlock 2.0, hotels can function at full capacity in Jammu and Kashmir, and restaurants can have 50 per cent capacity for dine-in services.

Inderjeet Khajuria, chairman of the All Jammu Hotels and Lodges Association, told The Tribune that tourists cannot even reach the state because, there are no train or inter-state bus service to J&K, and “it will take at least two years” for hotels  to return to normal business. He estimated a daily loss of Rs 1 crore to Rs 1.5 crore. 

In Himachal Pradesh, the other hill tourist state popular with tourists the state government has also allowed reopening of hotels and restaurants however, according to news reports, the industry stakeholders in major tourist areas of Kangra district do not want to restart operations just yet. The Tribune reports that most of the hoteliers in Kangra will keep their businesses, including home stays, closed till September as they are scared that an influx of tourists from other states can bring the risk of Covid-19. Kangra has already seen a rise in Covid-19 cases in the past fortnight, said the report.

Anyone coming to the state is required to undergo a 14-day home quarantine. Those coming from abroad are required to be sent to seven-day institutional quarantine and seven-day home quarantine. There is strict monitoring by health officials and the police too.

Similar stringent restrictions for tourists  have been put in place in Goa, another tourist hotspot which sees a deluge of both domestic and international tourists as soon as the Monsoons retreat. 

Goa officially reopened for tourists on July 2. Chief Minister, Goa, Dr Pramod Sawant had made the announcement with caution, “Goa is reopening for tourists. Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the state and is the backbone of our economy. In this unlock phase, we are kick starting our economy again by keeping the highest health safety norms in place in view”

 

The state government has made a comprehensive checklist tourists have to follow even before they travel. Tourists are required to pre-book the hotels approved by the government. They have to fill a self-declaration form and are encouraged to carry a Covid-19 negative certificate issued in the last 48 hours. Those without one will have to pay and get tested in Goa, as soon as they enter by road, train or air. After the swabs are collected the tourists will have to stay in isolation at their hotel till the results are declared. In case they test positive they will be sent to “institutional quarantine.”

According to the official update, till Friday, Goa had 2,251confirmed cases, out of which 895 were active, and nine people had succumbed to Covid-19.

Related: 

India has the lowest cases and deaths/million population: Dr. Harsh Vardhan
Covid-19 and a tale of two cities

What will happen to India’s tourist season 2020?

Though officially open, tourism in the wake of Covid-19, faces an uncertain future in J&K, Himachal, and even Goa

Image Courtesy:hotelierindia.com

Tourism continues to be one of the worst hit sectors in the Covid-19 pandemic. From Jammu and Kashmir to Goa, there are too many restrictions,  and not enough tourists willing to take the risk of contamination. Even as states have ‘officially’ reopened for the tourist season 2020, the citation remains precarious for the industry.

For example, according to a news report in the Tribune, the Jammu and Kashmir government has announced that hotels in the union territory will now be opened at full capacity. However, there are no takers, the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage major draw for domestic tourists around this time, has been suspended in the wake of Covid-19. Most other tourist places are also still shut. The Tribune reports that most hoteliers continue to keep their establishments closed due to “non-availability of customers” and “unfavourable circumstances”.

They say that this decision to reopen “holds no meaning” for them as there are no tourists coming in anyway. Rakesh Wazir, president of the Katra Hotel and Restaurants Association told the Tribune that their establishments can’t be opened as they wont be financially viable “till the government takes a decision on allied and related sectors, including opening of tourist destinations and resumption of pilgrimage. There are around 600-650 hotels and lodges in Katra town and, except five to six which are being used as quarantine facilities, all are closed.”

He told The Tribune that the hotel industry in Katra was facing losses of upto to Rs 4.5 crore per day and estimated a total loss of Rs 600 crore. Over 25,000 employees have also been jobless as the season is yet to open in the real sense. However, according to the administration’s guidelines for Unlock 2.0, hotels can function at full capacity in Jammu and Kashmir, and restaurants can have 50 per cent capacity for dine-in services.

Inderjeet Khajuria, chairman of the All Jammu Hotels and Lodges Association, told The Tribune that tourists cannot even reach the state because, there are no train or inter-state bus service to J&K, and “it will take at least two years” for hotels  to return to normal business. He estimated a daily loss of Rs 1 crore to Rs 1.5 crore. 

In Himachal Pradesh, the other hill tourist state popular with tourists the state government has also allowed reopening of hotels and restaurants however, according to news reports, the industry stakeholders in major tourist areas of Kangra district do not want to restart operations just yet. The Tribune reports that most of the hoteliers in Kangra will keep their businesses, including home stays, closed till September as they are scared that an influx of tourists from other states can bring the risk of Covid-19. Kangra has already seen a rise in Covid-19 cases in the past fortnight, said the report.

Anyone coming to the state is required to undergo a 14-day home quarantine. Those coming from abroad are required to be sent to seven-day institutional quarantine and seven-day home quarantine. There is strict monitoring by health officials and the police too.

Similar stringent restrictions for tourists  have been put in place in Goa, another tourist hotspot which sees a deluge of both domestic and international tourists as soon as the Monsoons retreat. 

Goa officially reopened for tourists on July 2. Chief Minister, Goa, Dr Pramod Sawant had made the announcement with caution, “Goa is reopening for tourists. Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the state and is the backbone of our economy. In this unlock phase, we are kick starting our economy again by keeping the highest health safety norms in place in view”

 

The state government has made a comprehensive checklist tourists have to follow even before they travel. Tourists are required to pre-book the hotels approved by the government. They have to fill a self-declaration form and are encouraged to carry a Covid-19 negative certificate issued in the last 48 hours. Those without one will have to pay and get tested in Goa, as soon as they enter by road, train or air. After the swabs are collected the tourists will have to stay in isolation at their hotel till the results are declared. In case they test positive they will be sent to “institutional quarantine.”

According to the official update, till Friday, Goa had 2,251confirmed cases, out of which 895 were active, and nine people had succumbed to Covid-19.

Related: 

India has the lowest cases and deaths/million population: Dr. Harsh Vardhan
Covid-19 and a tale of two cities

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Foreign attendees of Tablighi Jamaat Markaz pay small fine, may go home soon

Delhi Police say that none of the 956 foreigners were charged with serious crimes, yet Indian Muslims however continue to deal with hate

11 Jul 2020

Jamaat

The Delhi Police had filed over 50 chargesheets in what was branded the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz case. The right wing propaganda machine successfully branded them ‘super spreaders’ of coronavirus in the country. State governments ran exclusive bulieteins of TJ members testing positive for Covid-19 and accused them of spreading it. Communal social media trolls turned ‘experts’ on both Covid-19 and religion and fanned hate fires against all Muslims. Indian Muslims once again found themselves attacked, ostracised and continue to be vilified even if they have no connection with the Jammat. 

After all that breaking news now reports that Malaysia and Saudi citizens who had come to attend the annual meeting of Tabhilghi Jamaat and allegedly overstayed / flouted visa rules, will now fly home after paying a small fine. According to reportage by CNN-NEWS18, these 121 men from Malaysia and 11 more from 1 from Saudi Arabia had pleaded guilty to of violating Covid-19 lockdown rules and visa rules. They were then meted out a punishment of a fine between Rs 7,000-Rs10000.

The first batch may leave early next week. According to the news report, Delhi Police which had swooped down on the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters at Nizammudin, in one of the most publicized events in the city, had not raised any objections to the foreigners being let off with a mere fine. They had chargesheeted 956 foreigners in the case.

 

 

According to the news report these TJ members “moved their applications for plea bargaining,” and the metropolitan courts recorded "the mutually satisfactory disposition between the State and the convict." Those who came from Saudi Arabia may be allowed to return home on “protective passes after a magistrate issued appropriate directions to the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) a day ago,” stated the news. All the foreign nationals were punished with a fine that ranged between Rs 7,000 and Rs 10,000. 

Interestingly, the CNN-NEWS18 report added that the foreigners were also “given a token punishment of imprisonment till the rising of the court. This got over the same day and they were off the hook within hours.”  Reportedly the the Delhi Police has clarified that “none of the 956 foreigners had been charged under serious charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder or the attempt to commit the crime.“

The foreign nationals then moved their bail pleas, which was also not resisted by the Delhi Police. Subsequently, applications for plea bargaining were filed by those out on bail. This time too, the Delhi Police did not oppose. Makes one wonder what all the hue and cry over the Tablighi Jamaat was for? Not to mention the hate and vilification of Indian Muslims, who continue to deal with the consequences in various degrees, across the country.

According to the CNN-NEWS18 report, “Officers of the Delhi Police Crime Branch are currently busy in identifying the hundreds of foreign nationals so that they could plead guilty and be free”.

A criminal case was registered against Maulana Saad, and other members of the Tablighi Jamaat were booked under some sections of the Disaster Management Act and Sections 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease), 271 (disobedience to quarantine rule) and 120b (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

On its part, Markaz Nizamuddin, the international headquarters of the Jamaat for nearly 100 years, had said when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the "Janta Curfew" on March 22, they discontinued ongoing programmes but a large number of people were stuck there because of the closure of transport services.

Last month, in two separate bail orders, the Allahabad High Court and the Madras High Court had given protection, in their respective cases, to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation members who had gathered at Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi. These foreign nationals have been arrested on the ground that they had engaged in religious activities in breach of the visa conditions and for violating the lockdown regulations issued by the government.

At Allahabad High Court (Lucknow bench), the single judge bench of Justice Attau Rahman Masoodi, in the order dated June 9, noted the constitutional provisions under Article 20 of the Constitution of India which guarantees an equal protection to foreign nationals in the matter of trial in criminal cases and Article 21 which guarantees protection of life and personal liberty in equal measure. The applicants have been booked under section 188 [Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant] of the IPC; Section 3 [penalty for disobeying regulation] Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897; Section 56 [Failure of officer in duty or his connivance at the contravention of the provisions of this Act] of Disaster Management Act, 2005; Sections 13 [Attempts to contravene the provisions of this Act], 14B [Penalty for using forged passport] and 14C [penalty for abetment] of the Foreigners Act,

As reported earlier, most news coverage related to the breakout of the COVID 19 pandemic had  been sensationalised and concentrated on the Tablighi Jamaat’s Congregation held from March 11-13 in Delhi. The Delhi government had called it a ‘Covid-19 hotspot’.

Most mainstream ignored the events that followed, even when many members of Tablighi Jamaat were the first to donate blood plasma after they recovered from Covid19. Plasma donation has now become a nationwide call. The communalisation of the pandemic however continued to be fuelled by some TV news channels. 

The focus for many news channels even as Covid-19 pandemic raged on was on an anti-Muslim narrative so that viewers develop animosity towards their fellow members of society and even people who have lived in harmony, start discriminating against families belonging to Muslim communities. For instance, India TV in one of its shows claimed, “Doctors and Experts are of the opinion that had Jamaatis not hidden themselves at Markaz (Nizamuddin) then the lockdown could have ended on April 15”, without any expert quotes or data to back the same. Further, India Today aired a show called “Madrasa Hotspots” whereby a sting operation was conducted on Madrasas, which serve as hostels for poor, destitute and orphaned children and they were compared with the Tablighi Jamaat incident saying that despite warnings, children are kept crammed up in Madrasas. The complaint questions why Madrasas were being selectively targeted saying, “If madrasas are doing something wrong by keeping children within their premises, taking care of their needs, then by that logic, your channel should go on to question orphanages and old age homes as well.”

The Supreme Court, on May 27, had asked the Centre to submit a response in three combined petitions which seek strict action against the media for communalisation of the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Delhi. The three petitioners are Jamiat-ulema-I-Hind, DJ Halli Federation of Masjid Madaaris and Wakf Institute.

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) called out the blatant communalisation of the pandemic. CJP  sent written complaints to news channels like India TV and India Today which had made false claims relating to Tablighi Jamaat and its connection with COVID19 as well as for sensationalising and communalising news reportage of the pandemic. In these complaints, CJP has brought the news channels’ attention to the fact that “Inciteful speech has been recognised by innumerable Judicial Commissions adjudicating into communally targeted pogroms (read “riots”) to have created a complicit public atmosphere where wider social sanction is given to such othering by hate which –after this kind of hate speech is widespread and systemic –then can lead to killing, later extermination.” It also emphasized that “such selective, sensational narratives created and promoted by the electronic media that influence social behaviour, legitimises the spread of exclusion and hate, and in extreme conditions leads to killing and violence”. 

 

Related:

Tablighi Jamaat: HCs come to the rescue of foreign nationals, grant bail, ask govts to avoid criminal trial

Don’t let people instigate law and order issues: SC on communalisation of Covid-19

Tablighi Jamaat members still under the scanner

Maulana Saad deliberately neglected verbal warnings of COVID19: Delhi Police

Policing in the times of corona has many tones, depending on who you are

 

Foreign attendees of Tablighi Jamaat Markaz pay small fine, may go home soon

Delhi Police say that none of the 956 foreigners were charged with serious crimes, yet Indian Muslims however continue to deal with hate

Jamaat

The Delhi Police had filed over 50 chargesheets in what was branded the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz case. The right wing propaganda machine successfully branded them ‘super spreaders’ of coronavirus in the country. State governments ran exclusive bulieteins of TJ members testing positive for Covid-19 and accused them of spreading it. Communal social media trolls turned ‘experts’ on both Covid-19 and religion and fanned hate fires against all Muslims. Indian Muslims once again found themselves attacked, ostracised and continue to be vilified even if they have no connection with the Jammat. 

After all that breaking news now reports that Malaysia and Saudi citizens who had come to attend the annual meeting of Tabhilghi Jamaat and allegedly overstayed / flouted visa rules, will now fly home after paying a small fine. According to reportage by CNN-NEWS18, these 121 men from Malaysia and 11 more from 1 from Saudi Arabia had pleaded guilty to of violating Covid-19 lockdown rules and visa rules. They were then meted out a punishment of a fine between Rs 7,000-Rs10000.

The first batch may leave early next week. According to the news report, Delhi Police which had swooped down on the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters at Nizammudin, in one of the most publicized events in the city, had not raised any objections to the foreigners being let off with a mere fine. They had chargesheeted 956 foreigners in the case.

 

 

According to the news report these TJ members “moved their applications for plea bargaining,” and the metropolitan courts recorded "the mutually satisfactory disposition between the State and the convict." Those who came from Saudi Arabia may be allowed to return home on “protective passes after a magistrate issued appropriate directions to the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) a day ago,” stated the news. All the foreign nationals were punished with a fine that ranged between Rs 7,000 and Rs 10,000. 

Interestingly, the CNN-NEWS18 report added that the foreigners were also “given a token punishment of imprisonment till the rising of the court. This got over the same day and they were off the hook within hours.”  Reportedly the the Delhi Police has clarified that “none of the 956 foreigners had been charged under serious charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder or the attempt to commit the crime.“

The foreign nationals then moved their bail pleas, which was also not resisted by the Delhi Police. Subsequently, applications for plea bargaining were filed by those out on bail. This time too, the Delhi Police did not oppose. Makes one wonder what all the hue and cry over the Tablighi Jamaat was for? Not to mention the hate and vilification of Indian Muslims, who continue to deal with the consequences in various degrees, across the country.

According to the CNN-NEWS18 report, “Officers of the Delhi Police Crime Branch are currently busy in identifying the hundreds of foreign nationals so that they could plead guilty and be free”.

A criminal case was registered against Maulana Saad, and other members of the Tablighi Jamaat were booked under some sections of the Disaster Management Act and Sections 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease), 271 (disobedience to quarantine rule) and 120b (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

On its part, Markaz Nizamuddin, the international headquarters of the Jamaat for nearly 100 years, had said when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the "Janta Curfew" on March 22, they discontinued ongoing programmes but a large number of people were stuck there because of the closure of transport services.

Last month, in two separate bail orders, the Allahabad High Court and the Madras High Court had given protection, in their respective cases, to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation members who had gathered at Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi. These foreign nationals have been arrested on the ground that they had engaged in religious activities in breach of the visa conditions and for violating the lockdown regulations issued by the government.

At Allahabad High Court (Lucknow bench), the single judge bench of Justice Attau Rahman Masoodi, in the order dated June 9, noted the constitutional provisions under Article 20 of the Constitution of India which guarantees an equal protection to foreign nationals in the matter of trial in criminal cases and Article 21 which guarantees protection of life and personal liberty in equal measure. The applicants have been booked under section 188 [Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant] of the IPC; Section 3 [penalty for disobeying regulation] Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897; Section 56 [Failure of officer in duty or his connivance at the contravention of the provisions of this Act] of Disaster Management Act, 2005; Sections 13 [Attempts to contravene the provisions of this Act], 14B [Penalty for using forged passport] and 14C [penalty for abetment] of the Foreigners Act,

As reported earlier, most news coverage related to the breakout of the COVID 19 pandemic had  been sensationalised and concentrated on the Tablighi Jamaat’s Congregation held from March 11-13 in Delhi. The Delhi government had called it a ‘Covid-19 hotspot’.

Most mainstream ignored the events that followed, even when many members of Tablighi Jamaat were the first to donate blood plasma after they recovered from Covid19. Plasma donation has now become a nationwide call. The communalisation of the pandemic however continued to be fuelled by some TV news channels. 

The focus for many news channels even as Covid-19 pandemic raged on was on an anti-Muslim narrative so that viewers develop animosity towards their fellow members of society and even people who have lived in harmony, start discriminating against families belonging to Muslim communities. For instance, India TV in one of its shows claimed, “Doctors and Experts are of the opinion that had Jamaatis not hidden themselves at Markaz (Nizamuddin) then the lockdown could have ended on April 15”, without any expert quotes or data to back the same. Further, India Today aired a show called “Madrasa Hotspots” whereby a sting operation was conducted on Madrasas, which serve as hostels for poor, destitute and orphaned children and they were compared with the Tablighi Jamaat incident saying that despite warnings, children are kept crammed up in Madrasas. The complaint questions why Madrasas were being selectively targeted saying, “If madrasas are doing something wrong by keeping children within their premises, taking care of their needs, then by that logic, your channel should go on to question orphanages and old age homes as well.”

The Supreme Court, on May 27, had asked the Centre to submit a response in three combined petitions which seek strict action against the media for communalisation of the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Delhi. The three petitioners are Jamiat-ulema-I-Hind, DJ Halli Federation of Masjid Madaaris and Wakf Institute.

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) called out the blatant communalisation of the pandemic. CJP  sent written complaints to news channels like India TV and India Today which had made false claims relating to Tablighi Jamaat and its connection with COVID19 as well as for sensationalising and communalising news reportage of the pandemic. In these complaints, CJP has brought the news channels’ attention to the fact that “Inciteful speech has been recognised by innumerable Judicial Commissions adjudicating into communally targeted pogroms (read “riots”) to have created a complicit public atmosphere where wider social sanction is given to such othering by hate which –after this kind of hate speech is widespread and systemic –then can lead to killing, later extermination.” It also emphasized that “such selective, sensational narratives created and promoted by the electronic media that influence social behaviour, legitimises the spread of exclusion and hate, and in extreme conditions leads to killing and violence”. 

 

Related:

Tablighi Jamaat: HCs come to the rescue of foreign nationals, grant bail, ask govts to avoid criminal trial

Don’t let people instigate law and order issues: SC on communalisation of Covid-19

Tablighi Jamaat members still under the scanner

Maulana Saad deliberately neglected verbal warnings of COVID19: Delhi Police

Policing in the times of corona has many tones, depending on who you are

 

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Lakhs of anganwadi workers observe ‘Lalkar Diwas’

They demand recognition and rights as workers, safety gear, insurance, and risk allowance when on Covid- 19 duty

10 Jul 2020

While politicians and celebrities may be wary of holding a physical protest, even with full Covid-19 protocol in place, nearly three lakh anganwadi workers and helpers stepped out to demand their rights. Blazing bright in red outfits and red masks covering their mouths and noses, they demanded safety gear, insurance and risk allowance when assigned on Covid- 19 duty. The anganwadi workers also seek recognition as workers, with the right to minimum wages and pension and social security, and most importantly, an increased budget allocation for Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).

The ICDS is the government run scheme that has been set up to provide “food, preschool education, primary healthcare, immunization, health check-up and referral services to children under six years of age and their mothers”. On Friday, July 10 Anganwadi workers and helpers from 22 states;  Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Pondicherry, Rajasthan, Telangana, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, observed an “Demands’ Day” at the call of the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH). Workers in Karnataka, will launch a three-day event on July 13.

The nearly 26 lakh anganwadi workers and helpers are also being tasked to work as front-line workers and go for door to door campaign including distributing supplementary nutrition, pensions etc to beneficiaries, educating them on Covid related protocols, conducting surveys of patients, and if asked even monitoring those under quarantine. However according to A R Sindhu, Secretary CITU and General Secretary AIFAWH, the workers have not been given any safety gear to the workers, “nor are they covered under any insurance scheme.”

The workers have submitted a memorandum to their local authorities, to be forwarded to the Prime Minister and WCD Minister. 

They have demanded :

1.   Double the allocation to ICDS urgently. Increase the quantity and quality of nutrition supply to the beneficiaries. 

2.     Recognise anganwadi workers and Helpers as workers, Pay minimum wages Rs.30,000 pm to workers, and Rs.21000 to Helpers; Equal wages to Mini Workers; Provide Pension, ESI, PF etc as per the recommendations of 45th and 46th ILC

3.     Provide safety gear for all anganwadi workers and helpers, especially those in the health sector; PPEs for those who are engaged in containment areas and red zones; free Covid-19 test of all frontline workers 

4.     Rs 50 lakhs insurance cover to all frontline workers covering all deaths on duty; coverage of treatment for Covid-19 for the entire family. 

5.     Make ICDS permanent with adequate budget allocation. No privatisation in any form; No Cash Transfers in ICDS; Convert all Mini centres to Full Centres;

6.     Additional Covid Risk Allowance of Rs.25,000 per month for all anganwadi workers and helpers engaged in Covid -19 duty. Payment of all the pending dues immediately

7.     Compensation of minimum Rupees Ten lakhs for all those who got infected while on duty

8.     Strengthen the ECCE in anganwadis. 

9.     Ensure food, healthcare, education, income, jobs and shelter to all

10.   No increase in working hours from 8 to 12 hours; No freezing of Labour Laws

11.  No Privatisation of PSEs and services

12.  Withdraw the ordinances on agricultural trade and ECA immediately

 


Related:

Trade unions launch nationwide protest Centre’s anti-worker policies
ASHA Workers on Covid-19 duty demand safety gear, healthcare, insurance and better wages
Reports of glaring vacancies of ASHA workers in Covid-19 hotspots, no pay emerge

 

Lakhs of anganwadi workers observe ‘Lalkar Diwas’

They demand recognition and rights as workers, safety gear, insurance, and risk allowance when on Covid- 19 duty

While politicians and celebrities may be wary of holding a physical protest, even with full Covid-19 protocol in place, nearly three lakh anganwadi workers and helpers stepped out to demand their rights. Blazing bright in red outfits and red masks covering their mouths and noses, they demanded safety gear, insurance and risk allowance when assigned on Covid- 19 duty. The anganwadi workers also seek recognition as workers, with the right to minimum wages and pension and social security, and most importantly, an increased budget allocation for Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).

The ICDS is the government run scheme that has been set up to provide “food, preschool education, primary healthcare, immunization, health check-up and referral services to children under six years of age and their mothers”. On Friday, July 10 Anganwadi workers and helpers from 22 states;  Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Pondicherry, Rajasthan, Telangana, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, observed an “Demands’ Day” at the call of the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH). Workers in Karnataka, will launch a three-day event on July 13.

The nearly 26 lakh anganwadi workers and helpers are also being tasked to work as front-line workers and go for door to door campaign including distributing supplementary nutrition, pensions etc to beneficiaries, educating them on Covid related protocols, conducting surveys of patients, and if asked even monitoring those under quarantine. However according to A R Sindhu, Secretary CITU and General Secretary AIFAWH, the workers have not been given any safety gear to the workers, “nor are they covered under any insurance scheme.”

The workers have submitted a memorandum to their local authorities, to be forwarded to the Prime Minister and WCD Minister. 

They have demanded :

1.   Double the allocation to ICDS urgently. Increase the quantity and quality of nutrition supply to the beneficiaries. 

2.     Recognise anganwadi workers and Helpers as workers, Pay minimum wages Rs.30,000 pm to workers, and Rs.21000 to Helpers; Equal wages to Mini Workers; Provide Pension, ESI, PF etc as per the recommendations of 45th and 46th ILC

3.     Provide safety gear for all anganwadi workers and helpers, especially those in the health sector; PPEs for those who are engaged in containment areas and red zones; free Covid-19 test of all frontline workers 

4.     Rs 50 lakhs insurance cover to all frontline workers covering all deaths on duty; coverage of treatment for Covid-19 for the entire family. 

5.     Make ICDS permanent with adequate budget allocation. No privatisation in any form; No Cash Transfers in ICDS; Convert all Mini centres to Full Centres;

6.     Additional Covid Risk Allowance of Rs.25,000 per month for all anganwadi workers and helpers engaged in Covid -19 duty. Payment of all the pending dues immediately

7.     Compensation of minimum Rupees Ten lakhs for all those who got infected while on duty

8.     Strengthen the ECCE in anganwadis. 

9.     Ensure food, healthcare, education, income, jobs and shelter to all

10.   No increase in working hours from 8 to 12 hours; No freezing of Labour Laws

11.  No Privatisation of PSEs and services

12.  Withdraw the ordinances on agricultural trade and ECA immediately

 


Related:

Trade unions launch nationwide protest Centre’s anti-worker policies
ASHA Workers on Covid-19 duty demand safety gear, healthcare, insurance and better wages
Reports of glaring vacancies of ASHA workers in Covid-19 hotspots, no pay emerge

 

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