From: Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre-PMARC <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun, Jun 20, 2010 at 6:44 PM
Subject: [PMARC] Dalits Media Watch - News Updates 20.06.10
To: Dalits Media Watch <PMARC@dgroups.org>
Sreelatha Menon: Media of the masses - Business Standard
UP govt officials cheat Dalit farmers - India Today
The Dalit evangelists - Indian Express
Sreelatha Menon: Media of the masses
Mobile-based news services have opened the media for the rural poor
Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi June 20, 2010, 0:10 IST
Dial 080-40952044 and you are transported to another world in a village in Chhattisgarh's Rajnandgaon. A reporter, Bhanu Sahu, tells you how women panches in a village are not getting payments under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme as their names are not in the muster roll. She says male panches are getting paid even without working under the scheme. The reporter says this is the state of affairs in other parts of the district too where genuine payment claims are being denied. In barely two minutes, you listen to the story of this far-away village as mobile-based news service CG Net Swara gives daily news snippets of areas that are least reported about and are vital for the media as well as the government.
Another story is about a single-teacher school in Kangri village, where classes have been suspended as the teacher has been called for census operations.
Swara was the brainchild of journalist Shubranghshu Chaudhry, who implemented it with a scholar from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as part of a fellowship project under Knight International.
Now, it has become an outlet for information from the most interior of villages, not only in Chhattisgarh but also Orissa, Jharkhand and southern Uttar Pradesh bordering Chhattisgarh.
But since it is focussing on tribal areas which also happen to be Naxal-affected, it is also causing concern to security and intelligence agencies. The service had to be stopped for some time and was revived with a new number.
The question is whether these services, which help people in villages get heard, should be banned or monitored?
So far, there is no agency to monitor the service.
Meanwhile, there is another mobile-based news service, called Gaon ki Awaaz, started by a journalist from Noida-based International Media Institute of India and aired in Uttar Pradesh. The area being covered is the Mathura region.
Whether these services are universally accepted or not, a new tool has been unveiled for use of those who wish to tell stories of the marginalised sections of the country or outside.
If phone news service numbers are popularised, people, in Jharkhand or Sikkim, will be able to air their stories by just making a call. That, it is said, will be the beginning of the end of the rural-urban divide as well as the people-media divide as the citizen takes over.
Shubranghshu Chaudhury and his wife Smita are running Swara almost alone from New Delhi with a few activists in villages providing stories. For the service to be effective, people should be in a position not only to run the service but also be familiar with the number.
Today, Swara has just three stories and a new number which has to be popularised among tribals. There is fear of the number being misused. Smita says the solution is for the government to monitor those who run the service rather than discourage or stop it.
She says Swara may be replicated in other states. However, a better thing will be more services coming up in other states or representing other interests. This will ensure that people hear stories about Dalits, Muslims, other minorities, students, women, children by calling up different numbers. This will mean more news for print and electronic media and more corrective action, wherever necessary. This will also mean more open windows and less social vermin.
UP govt officials cheat Dalit farmers
Piyush Srivastava Lucknow,
June 19, 2010
Officials of the Uttar Pradesh government cheated at least 12,500 marginal Scheduled Caste farmers in Kanpur- Rural district on the pretext of supporting them under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).
The scam could touch Rs 50 crore, the Central Employment Guarantee Council of the NREGA said.
Last year, the Centre had introduced some amendments in the Act for those SC/ST farmers who have a land holding of less than 1 hectare.
They were eligible to get high quality seeds and other assistance to cultivate their land.
An inquiry conducted by the state government has found most of the farmers who were shown as beneficiaries were landless labourers.
On the other hand, the few farmers who got seeds and invested their own money hoping to earn returns discovered the seeds were substandard.
The officials also purchased the seeds at a much higher price than rates fixed by the government's horticulture department.
Misuse or parking of fund was also detected in the construction of model ponds in each gram sabha of the Kanpur- Rural district under the NREGA. Vinod Shankar Chaubey, a retired IAS officer whom the government assigned to probe irregularities in the area, has raised these glaring embezzlements.
His report is backed by physical verification, affidavits of the farmers and reports of the district, block and village officials.
"The farmers were not lying when they said they didn't get seeds. Shankar Dayal of Mohana village has given an affidavit that he got Rs 1,400 as daily wage.
But he didn't get potato seeds as mentioned in official records.
Brijesh Kumar of Mohana took land on rent from another person.
He received 1 kg of potato seed from village secretary Arvind Kumar. He also invested Rs 8,000 on it. But it went waste because the seed was of poor quality. Brijendra Kumar got less than 10 grams of tomato seeds," Chaubey reported.
"We have received complaints that some officials took a bribe of Rs 300 from the farmers to provide them benefits under the scheme," the report submitted this week stated.
"According to the government rate, coriander seeds cost Rs 80 per kg. But it was purchased by the officers for Rs 584 per kg from Uttaranchal Seeds and Terai Development Corporation Limited in Uttarakhand.
Tomato seeds cost Rs 27,500 per kg but it was purchased at Rs 30,600 per kg," Chaubey said.
"A pond in Mohana was shown on paper as being repaired in 2007-08 at the cost of Rs 1.94 lakh. It was repaired again in 2008- 09 for Rs 2.71 lakh, and in 2009-10 for Rs 1.66 lakh," he said.
Besides, Rs 6,720 was fixed for building eight cement benches around each model pond. However, the authorities released Rs 6,000 for each iron bench even though the market price of one iron bench is not more than Rs 3,500," the report noted.
Rural development minister Daddu Prasad said action would be taken against the corrupt officers. "We want proper and honest implementation of the NREGA," he added.
Sanjay Dixit, a member of the Central Employment Guarantee Council, said the officials had parked more than Rs 50 crore by one or the other means in Kanpur-Rural under the NREGA. "About Rs 4 crore out of Rs 4.71 crore, which was approved for seeds, was misused. They also siphoned off about Rs 10 crore in the purchase of substandard seeds.
A similar amount was misappropriated in repairing the same ponds again and again. I think the scam involves about Rs 50 crore. I have urged the state government to suspend all the corrupt officials. Kanpur- Rural was the pilot district for the project. Now, its implementation in 35 districts has been withheld," he said.
Where the money went:
- Some amendments made to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act last year said SC/ ST farmers who have less than one hectare are eligible to get high quality seeds and other such assistance. However, most of the beneficiaries were landless labourers
- Many of the farmers who did get seeds and invested their own money in the cultivation suffered a huge loss as the seeds were substandard
- The officials purchased the seeds at a much higher rate than the rate set by the Uttar Pradesh government's horticulture department.
- Some officials reportedly took a bribe of Rs 300 from the farmers to provide them with benefits under the NREGA
- An inquiry said money was also siphoned off on the pretext of repairing the same pond a repeatedly in three years
The Dalit evangelists
It's 9 at night and men stand guard at every turn along the narrow path that leads to the Dalit colony spread over a hill at Kaippattimukku near Attingal in Thiruvananthapuram district in Kerala. Inside one of the houses, a woman in a black t-shirt with a photograph of BR Ambedkar printed on it walks towards the group of women sitting on the floor and addresses them.
"We, Dalits, spend our hard-earned money for watching movies in theatres. But have you ever seen a movie that makes a Dalit proud? Have you ever seen an SC/ST woman on a film poster?'' asks Pallimon Sandhya.
Women, mostly farm workers, nod in agreement. Sandhya continues, "Political parties do not allow Dalits to grow into leaders. We have been destined to fill grounds where leaders address the public. Don't you think a change is needed?''
Sandhya is one of the 2,000-odd new generation Dalits evangelists who under the Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM) is exhorting Dalits to explore their identity and create their space in society.
At houses belongings to Dalits and tribals, DHRM 'preachers' talk to people on how Dalits have been victimised over centuries by the caste and sub-caste system and on the need for a social "rebirth". After the first class, members in a colony are put on to a 72-hour-long indoctrination session.
These sessions veer around topics like backwardness among Dalits, the need to discover the Dalit identity, ways to regain the Dalit individuality, nurturing the habit of thrift, weaning the community away from alcohol and the necessity for breathing life into Dalit folklore and ethnic music.
A Dalit outfit with an unprecedented cadre culture, the DHRM is different from other Dalit organisations that tend to stick to issues regarding reservation and land. In the two-and-a-half years that it's been around, it has been gradually gathering support. Ten thousand families have joined the DHRM, which claims its message has so far reached three lakh Dalits—it distributes amongst the community about 30,000 copies of the weekly newsletter.
In the past, a number of social movements in Kerala fought—and won—for Dalits the right to enter temples and equality with upper class Hindus. The Vaikom Satyagraha of 1924-25 played a crucial role in winning Dalit rights in the country. Where Dalits were once not allowed to even use the road near the Shiva temple at Vaikom in Kerala, the agitation resulted in the approach roads to the temple being opened for Dalits. Following this came the Temple Entry Proclamation of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore (now South Kerala) in 1936, which allowed Dalits to worship in all temples.
But 70 years after that watershed moment, a movement to call Dalits out of temples is gaining momentum in a state where Dalits constitute 9.8 per cent of the population. The DHRM is not interested in getting Dalits their place in Hindu society. Instead, they advocate a complete break from Hinduism. So, calling the Hindu caste system the biggest oppressive machine, the DHRM has embraced Buddhism as its religion and Dr B R Ambedkar as its god.
Signs of change are now there at the ghettoes where the DHRM has gained control. In houses of the group's activists, pictures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses that had graced the walls for generations, have been replaced with photographs of Ambedkar.
Some DHRM families pray to Ayyankali, a social reformer of the last century who worked for the rights of the Dalits. They have stopped going to temples and offering rituals. Customs performed at the occasions of birth, marriage and death are held according to Buddhism.
FLOATED as a charitable organisation in 2007 at Paravoor near Kochi, the DHRM was formed after a group of Dalit leaders who had worked in various political parties and Dalit outfits, regrouped and got together. Its chairman V V Shelvaraj, 29, had been an active worker with the BJP, another founder and South Kerala organiser Varkala K Das is a former member of an CPI (M) area committee.
"The DHRM envisages freeing Dalits from the clutches of the caste system. Hence, we have embraced Buddhism, which Ambedkar followed. Besides, Buddhism was identified as the religion to regulate the undisciplined Dalit life,'' says Das."We want to break the shackles of the caste structure and organise the community democratically," he adds.
"A Dalit becomes a DHRM activist only when a person realises that he or she is not a Hindu. We are facing the charges of extremism from police and the mainstream political parties because we teach Dalits to abandon Hinduism. But our activists will not sport any Hindu identity,'' says Das.
To help Dalits value their traditions and culture, the DHRM promotes folklore and music. "We have only disgust towards the dance forms such as Mohiniyattam which belongs to the upper class Hindu tradition,'' says Das.
The organisation also tries to foster a sense of belonging among members. So, members address each other as brothers and sisters and eat together at functions with their families. In fact, unlike other movements which woo only the youth, the DHRM strives to draw families into its fold. Its appeal to members to quit smoking and drinking has gone well especially with women.
Rajan N, a farm worker, who joined the DHRM, had abandoned the routine visit to the local temple. "The money I gave to the temple, I now give to the DHRM fund. I strongly believe that the movement will make the lot of the next generation better.''
AS Dalits in Kerala get mobilised under a new banner, political parties in the state are beginning to get worried. In south Kerala, where Dalits are traditionally CPI (M) voters, several Dalit grassroot workers of mainstream political parties are shifting allegiance. Many of them say they moved to the DHRM, after they realised that political parties would continue using them for small jobs and for carrying out violent activities but would never share power with them.
CPI (M) secretariat member and Attingal MLA Anathalavattam Anandan admits their vote bank is shrinking. "The DHRM is working to weaken the Left vote bank. With the DHRM wooing the Dalits, the Dalit vote will split and this will hit the Left,'' he says.
Meanwhile, Hindu organisations and other Dalit movements in the state too are beginning to feel the heat. Several Shiv Sena and BJP members have left and joined the DHRM. Hindu Aikya Vedi state secretary R V Babu alleges that the DHRM gets support from "the Islamic world". "The National Development Front (NDF) and the Jama'at-e-Islami had the tradition of extending their support to the Dalit politics to use the community as a hitting tool," he says.
DHRM members, meanwhile, complain of being harassed by both the Left and the Shiv Sena. According to Das, the CPI (M), BJP and Shiv Sena have brutally attacked members. "These parties have realised that the Dalits who have joined the DHRM would not act as per their directives. Fearing attacks from political parties, our men have to guard people when our classes are held."
At Munambam near Kodungalloor, siblings Shinsa and Shansa who belong to a CPI (M) family, are active DHRM workers. "Several men in the region had gone into hiding after the police harassed them on charges of terrorism,'' says Shansa.
State intelligence sources admit that Dalits under the DHRM have emerged as distinct bloc. "In the past, the Congress and the CPI (M) used to dispatch trucks to colonies fetch the Dalits for party functions. This has stopped happening in colonies where DHRM calls the shots. Also the consumption of liquor, which was high in these Dalit settlements, too has come down significantly,'' sources say.
Some in the state say the DHRM is being helped by the right-wing Muslim outfit Popular Front of India (PFI), which had floated a political party, the Social Democratic Party of India.
Says PFI senior leader Nazeerudheen Elamaram, "What is wrong in supporting an outfit which struggles to regain the Dalit identity. The CPI (M) and the Shiv Sena have joined hands to destroy the Dalit wave.''
Das, however, says the DHRM was propagating a hardcore identity for Dalits and would not allow the PFI's dream to build a Muslim-Dalit plank to be realised. The DHRM, he adds, would field its own candidates in the coming elections to the local bodies.
On behalf of
Dalits Media Watch Team
(An initiative of "Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre-PMARC")
Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre- PMARC has been initiated with the support from group of senior journalists, social activists, academics and intellectuals from Dalit and civil society to advocate and facilitate Dalits issues in the mainstream media. To create proper & adequate space with the Dalit perspective in the mainstream media national/ International on Dalit issues is primary objective of the PMARC.