Goa felling

Protests against Trees to be Felled in Goa for Power Plant and Coal Transmission

In Goa, citizens have been protesting against the felling of trees for the setting up of a power plant, and the laying of tracks for coal. The ‘Save Mollem Citizen’s Group’ (SMCG) has been vocal against setting up the transmission line in Mollem where the expected project may run through Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park. People have been blocking railroads and also raising their voices online against the felling of these trees.

In and around Mollem, about 50, 000 trees have been marked for felling for three projects approved by the central government and cleared by the National Board for Wildlife in April 2020. Though the government said that no more than 3000 trees will be felled for the transmission, citizens are suspicious, questioning how the government proposes to take machinery to the said location most of which can currently be accessed only by foot.

The opposition and civil society groups had planned a rally protesting the rail double tracking from Karnataka’s Castle Rock railway station to Tinaighat station as it is allegedly done for the sole purpose of transporting coal. The South Western Railway Authority said that the double-tracking in South Goa’s Davorlim village, the flashpoint of the agitation against the double tracking, will be postponed due to “operational constraints”. The opposition and civil groups have planned a large rally in Margo to protest against the transmission line.

In July, the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa wrote a letter to Union Ministers for Environment and Forests and Tourism Prakash Javadekar and Prahlad Patel (MoS) to reconsider the environmental impact of the central projects. The Association was also concerned about the “impact that these three projects will have on the tourism industry”.

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Doctors’ end strike after their voices have finally been heard

Doctors of North Delhi Municipal Corporation have been on strike since Tuesday 27th October 2020, and over 1000 doctors participated. These doctors haven’t been paid their salary for the last 4 months.

Before this, 5 resident doctors of Hindu Rao Hospital have been on strike since last Friday.

Not paying the salaries that are due has been a frequent problem in North MCD hospitals. Despite the strike held by the doctors, some are still present at the hospital treating COVID-19 patients.

IMA (Indian Medical Association) has recently put forth a press release entitled ‘Banana Republic’, criticising the lawless state of the Hindu Rao hospital administrative staff. The association has designated the problem with non-payment of doctors’ salaries as the result of systemic failure.

Supreme Court has initiated a Suo Motu court proceedings against Hindu Rao Hospital’s administration. The apex court has also directed that the salaries of doctors need to be paid on time.

The strike finally ended on 29th October when North Delhi mayor Jai Prakash offered juice to the doctors who were on a hunger strike since Tuesday. The Mayor has promised them that their pending salaries over the last four months will be given shortly.

Previously, the doctors have threatened to hold an indefinite strike but now the situation has been assuaged due to the mayor’s promise.

Doctors have been grateful for the media’s support and the important role they played in bringing this critical issue to the attention of the masses and have been performing their duties regardless of their payment. It is high time that the officials in charge do the same.

In these troubling times, when doctors have become frontline workers in the fight against COVID – 19, it is inhumane that their salaries be withheld. Many doctors have sacrificed their lives since the beginning of the pandemic and many more are still doing so. Despite this, if their families don’t have the livelihood to survive then that is a grave injustice.

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The Invisible Reasons Behind India’s Rape Epidemic

One rape case was reported every 16 minutes in India in 2019. This makes India one of the worst places to be a woman. The rise in the cases of sexual crimes in our country is undeniable. Despite the current cultural change and conversation surrounding women’s safety, India seems to be on the brink of an epidemic. This therefore, forces us to dig deep and question the reason behind India’s rape crisis- is there an increase in the crimes committed or is the number this high due to more cases being officially reported.

Due to waves of Feminism, better education and more awareness, sex has gone from a hushed topic to a more open conversation where people unabashedly talk about their experiences with sexual abuse and assaults. This comfort not only destigmatizes the sufferers of sexual violence but also brings with it a further opportunity to better understand the plight that the victims of these heinous crimes go through. Due to the attackers now being named, understanding the mentality and motives behind these crimes is also becoming easier.

To start with it is important to understand the term xenophobia. The term xenophobia is defined as the fear or hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange. This can be linked to racism, discrimination, riots, wars and just violence in general. But how does this relate to a secular nation like India? India is in the midst of the largest migration the world has ever seen – the rural to urban migration. Close to 31 villagers are estimated to show up in a city every minute, over the course of the next four decades. This rapid and unprecedented transformation has led to a very violent cultural confrontation. Men from these villages, many of whom have had barely any interaction with the opposite sex other than their mothers or sisters for much of their lives, go from the age old well set caste systems and gendered roles to a place where these old traditional social systems and roles simply cease to exist. With the dawn of modernization and westernization, this leads to a lot of confusion in the minds of these young men and women. Moreover, the government provides less attention to the issues of these migrants.

Only ten percent of internal migrants are employed by the industries while the rest are forced into the informal sector where they work in the streets and live in the slums, disregarded by the state and even the society. This can lead to a sense of deepened xenophobia with these internal migrants viewing themselves as devalued and weaker i.e. more ‘feminine’. Something similar can also be seen in the society, when certain men fail to perform and match consistently to the perceptions of the dominant masculinities they are then devalued or feminized and placed under the same groups as the women. This rural to urban problem contributes as a causal factor in the accelerating rapes in India, especially in a city like Delhi. Despite this transformation being a contributor to this issue, it does not, however, conclude the discussion given the rise in the rates of rape cases within these villages as well. In a country like India where a woman is viewed as the honor of the family, especially in rural areas, a crime like rape becomes a tool for vengeance. With the government launching new schemes and programs to uplift the lower castes, aiming to get them jobs and education, we see a dispersion in the order between castes. This leads to a lot of anger among people of the higher castes who then project their power by raping women of the lower caste. The same tactics are observed in wars. Raping a woman is viewed as a means to ‘emasculate the men of the other community’.

Another alarming reason behind these crimes is India’s skewed sex ratio. With nine hundred and ten women per thousand men in 2020, India has the second lowest sex ratio after China. This may not seem like a big number but when we translate it into India’s population we see, approximately, forty million more men than women. Because of this skewed sex ratio, the age group of 17 to 35 year olds are left single without brides. The same age group is responsible for the most crime, with ninety-five percent of these men having criminal records. Historically a less female to male ratio is correlated to an increase in the number of crimes, violence, and a more patriarchal society.

Men have raped babies as well as 90-year-old women as well as men. Despite that the conversation always seems to be centered around blaming the women and her clothing. The prevalence of rape culture and unwilling to face the facts, not only heightens this victim blaming but can lead to fewer reporting of such cases. This attitude encourages the perpetrators to keep doing all the heinous things they want without being held accountable. However, we do see a positive wave of change with both men and women pointing out the flaws of the system and uniting to seek justice for victims of these crimes. While India is still in the midst of this epidemic, it is us, all of us who should question and stand up for what’s right which moves us closer to a more equal and just society.

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Protests in Uttarakhand’s Thano forest after government plans to cut 10,000 trees

Thousands of people have recreated the Chipko Movement in Uttrakhand’s Thano forest to save 10,000 trees from being cut. The Dehradun Government is planning to transfer 243 acres of the forest to the Airport Authority of India (AAI), for their expansion plans to start international flights.

Jollygrant Airport Director D K Gautam told ANI, “For the airport expansion, the state government will denotify forest reserve according to the norms of the Environment Ministry. As far as trees are concerned, there would be plantation at some other place.”

People who have come to protest from Rishikesh and Haridwar had tied ‘raksha sutras’ around the trees, pledging to protect them. Environmentalists are concerned that cutting these trees will impact the movement of wild animals, especially since this area lies within 10 km of the Rajaji National Park.  The elephant corridors will also be affected. People have been chanting slogans and also signing online petitions to protect these trees against felling.

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19-year-old rape victim succumbs to her injuries as widespread protests demand justice

On 14th September 2020, a 19-year-old lower caste woman was raped by four men in Hathras, UP. She succumbed to her injuries at Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital on 29th September, a day after she was brought from Aligarh’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical Hospital. Protests broke out in Hathras after her death with people blocking the main market and sanitation workers from the community refusing to operate. There were protestors outside the hospital as well, shouting, “Hang the rapists”.

On September 14th, the victim had gone to collect fodder from the field when the four men attacked her from behind and dragged her with the dupatta around the neck. She was then allegedly taken to a nearby field where she was raped. The accused then tried to strangulate her but she resisted. The victim suffered multiple fractures, paralysis and a deep cut in her tongue.

The police said that around 10:30 pm that very day, the brother of the victim registered a complaint that a man named Sandeep tried to strangulate his sister. Based on the written complaint the police registered an FIR under IPC sections 307 and ST/SC Act. On 19th September Sandeep was arrested.

The woman was in a critical condition when she was admitted in the hospital and could not give a statement but on 22nd September, she named three people who allegedly gang raped her. Then the police added rape charges to the existing complaint as well. Based on the details, the accused, Luvkush was arrested on 23rd September, Ravi was arrested on 25th September and Ramu was arrested on 26th September. All of them are currently in jail and will be tried in a fast track court.

After the victim passed away, the family was given a monetary compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs and IPC section 302 (punishment for murder) has also been invoked by the police.

The woman was cremated but the family alleged that the police cremated her without their consent. Conflicting reports have emerged with some saying that the family was locked in the house while the cremation was taking place while others claim that the cremation even though without consent, took place in the presence of the women’s father. The whole village seemingly came out to protest against the police allegedly took the body of the victim away forcefully for cremation in the dead of the night.

The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, after consulting PM Modi, said that a 3-member, SIT member team will probe the case and submit a report within 7 days. The police have denied that the woman was raped but there was an outage on social media platforms, rife with details of how the rape took place. The police have denied all the details on social media and stood their ground saying that the girl was strangulated only. IG Piyush Mordiya, stood by the police and said that the medical records do not indicate rape. The medical records have been sent to the forensic science lab in Agra for further investigation.  Even the Hathras police is under scrutiny now for various lapses in the investigation.

Since the rape, apart from protests demanding justice in West Bengal, UP and Delhi, the social media platforms have also become a medium for protests. While some social media posts believe the incident to be a caste related atrocity, others have been just demanding justice and standing up for the victim and her family on Instagram, Twitter and other platforms.

Amongst the raging protests, former Supreme Court judge, Markandey Katju, among other prominent personalities, stood up for the case saying he strongly condemns the incident and demands harsh punishments for the perpetrators. In the same post on social media he also said, “If we really want to end or reduce rapes, we have to create a social and economic system in India in which there is no or little unemployment.” According to the former Judge, that India is a country where sex is allowed only after marriage and with the high rates of unemployment a lot of men are not able to get married, denying them sex which is a basic necessity. This left a bitter taste in the mouths of many readers.

On 28th September the Bhim army chief, Chandrashekhar Azad was arrested for protesting at Safdarjung Hospital, against the incident.  60 people were detained outside the UP Bhawan in Delhi for protesting on 30th September. Congress activists also arranged a candle light protest in New Delhi. These protests are slowly spreading to various parts of the country as people want justice for the 19-year-old victim and her family.