Saturday, December 29, 2007

BJP wins in Himachal.

Riding an anti-incumbency wave, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday swept back to power in Himachal Pradesh winning an absolute majority ousting Congress in the assembly elections capping a year of triumphs in Gujarat, Punjab and Uttarakhand.

Conforming to the cycle of the ruling party being ejected from power in the hill state, the saffron party bagged 41 seats, five short of two-thirds majority in the 68-member assembly. In the outgoing House, BJP had only 19 MLAs.

Congress, which yielded ground to an impressive performance by BJP in all parts of the state, secured only 23 seats, down by 18. The bad tidings came for the party on its 123rd Foundation Day.

The BSP, which played the spoiler for Congress by cutting into its traditional vote bank of Dalits, made its debut in the state winning one seat while Independents took away the remaining three.

P K Dhumal (63), a professor of English literature, who was named BJP's chief ministerial candidate, led the saffron surge winning from Bamsan in Hamirpur district beating his schoolmate and Congress candidate retired colonel B C Lagwal by 26,000 votes.

Dhumal, who also represents Hamirpur in Lok Sabha, is likely to be chosen as the leader of the BJP's Legislature Party on Saturday and may be sworn in for a second term as chief minister on Sunday.

The Congress, which went to the polls under the leadership of grand old man of Himachal politics and five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, suffered on BJP's campaign plank of corruption, price rise and unemployment.

Three ministers bit the dust in the hustings while Singh survived the saffron sweep retaining his Rohru seat in Shimla district winning by a margin of 14,000 votes. The defeated ministers were Raj Kishan Gaur (Agriculture), Ramlal Thakur (Forest) and Kuldeep Kumar (Industries).

The party appeared to have conceded the race even before it had begun when Singh was harping on his continuing in power till March when the term of the current assembly expires, an implicit admission of defeat.

The saffron surge came on the back of a 11 per cent swing in its favour over the 35 per cent votes the BJP had notched in the last election. The Congress, which had 41 per cent of votes, recorded a slide of two per cent while the debutante Mayawati-headed BSP polled seven per cent. Others accounted for eight per cent.

As BJP cadres broke into celebrations, Dhumal said the party won on its campaign against price rise, unemployment, rampant corruption and the Congress failure to get special development package from the UPA government at the Centre.

Senior Congress leader Vidya Stokes won from Kumarsen after she initially trailed. Former Union Minister Sukh Ram's son Anil Sharma won from Mandi (Sadar).

G S Pali, who was shown in a television sting in the company of bar girls during his birthday party, won the Nagrauta seat in Kangra district. Pali had to resign as minister after the episode.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Winner takes it all.

Narendra Modi's impressive performance in Gujarat on Sunday won him accolades from friends and foes alike amidst indications of a possible realignment of political forces at the national level.

Having failed to oust Modi, a stunned Congress congratulated him for a "great, remarkable victory", while the Left parties voiced concern over success of "communal politics" in Gujarat.

BJP leader L K Advani described the Gujarat election results a "turning point" for national politics with his party signalling a "comeback". The party talked about the possibility of a bigger role for Modi at the national level.

As soon as it was clear that the 57-year-old leader would retain chief ministership, Modi received congratulations from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who called him.

Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said, "It is a great victory for him. It is a remarkable victory."

Among those who called up Modi to congratulate him was AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa, in an indication that the erstwhile ally of the NDA was again warming up to the BJP.

"Your spectacular victory has brought hope and cheer to the vast majority of people in this nation who now believe that all is not lost and that India can still be saved from the clutches of unscrupulous power mongers," she said in her congratulatory message to Modi.

The Left parties expressed concern over rise of "communal politics".

"The results show that where the impact of communal politics is deep, electoral efforts alone are insufficient to defeat the communal forces," the CPI(M) said in a statement.

It said what was required was a determined and uncompromising struggle against what it termed the communal ideology of Hindutva and the rightwing economic policies of the Modi government.

CPI leader D Raja said, "Gujarat election results show that secular forces would have to unitedly intensify the struggle against communal fascism, the danger of which continues."

Renewing the Left party's attack on the Congress, he said it should realise that secularism alone was not enough and it should do some serious introspection of its policies, particularly on the economic front.

"It should also rethink on the Indo-US nuclear deal and carry out mid-course correction of its polities," Raja said.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) congratulated its alliance partner BJP for its performance in the Gujarat, with party working President Sukhbir Singh Badal saying: "This is people's rebuff to Congress's attempts to communalise polity."

Rebel BJP leader Keshubhai Patel, Modi's arch rival, also congratulated him.

"I congratulate Narendra Modi for BJP's victory. For the interests of the people, both the ruling and opposition parties should work together to take Gujarat forward on the road of development," the dissident leader, around whom the BJP rebels rallied, said in a statement.

Friday, December 21, 2007

TATA'S most transparent and accuntable.

The Tata Group, easily India's most respected business house, has been named the world's third most accountable and transparent company by Britain's One World Trust although US hotel chain Orient-Express has not found it worthy of an alliance.

According to Rob Lloyd, the report's lead author, the assessment is a measure of the extent to which organisations have the policies and systems in place to enhance consistent and coherent accountability to the people they affect." The report ranked GE number 1 and GlaxoSmithKline number 2 among the most transparent and accountable companies.

Tata Group, was however, considered ahead of Coca-Cola, Petrobras, HSBC Holdings, PriceWaterCooopers International and Google, when measured on the parameters of transparency and accountable leadership among global companies.

The annual Global Accountability Report considered the Tata Group at number 10, among the world's 30 most powerful organisations from the inter-governmental, non-governmental and corporate sector, to be accountable to civil society, affected communities and wider public.

Orient-Express Hotels had recently rejected an offer of alliance from Tatas, saying tying up with the "predominantly Indian" hospitality firm will erode the US hospitality chain's brand image. Tata Group's interests range from hotels to steel to salt and software and auto.

One World Trust rated UN Development Programme followed by Asian Development Bank and Christian Aid the most transparent and accountable organisations among world's top 30 organisations.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

TATA'S RS 1 LAKH CAR IN DELHI!!

The wait is now over. Tata Motors has announced its plans to unveil its people’s car on January 10 at the New Delhi Auto Expo. The biennial event has been the showcase of the Indian automobile and auto component industry for the last 18 years. A company release said that while the commercial launch will take place later in 2008, in keeping with its tradition of unveiling its new cars at the Auto Expo, Tata Motors will unveil its most-talked about product, at a special ceremony on January 10.

It may be mentioned that company Chairman, Ratan Tata, had said here in August, after the Tata Tea annual general meeting, that although there were efforts to delay the project, the Tatas would use their capabilities to make good those delays. He had, however, declined to set a date to the roll-out then, saying that vested interests were at work.

An official spokesman of the company told The Hindu that work had now intensified to overcome the delays that had crept into the project, especially after the heavy monsoons which had caused water-logging at the project site at Singur. Shapoorji Pallonji is the turnkey contractor for this project for which 1,000 acres have been acquired triggering intense opposition by Trinamul Congress mainly.

Commercial production of the four-door, five-seater, rear-engine car is targeted for the middle of 2008-09.

The expo will also see Tata Motors putting up a joint show with Fiat India Automobiles at the ninth Auto Expo beginning on January 9, 2008, with a pavilion spread over 5,200 sq. m. Besides the small car,

Tata Motors will display a range of new passenger vehicles, while Fiat will display passenger cars from its international range. It may be mentioned that Tata Motors has an agreement with Fiat Auto to build a pick-up vehicle in Argentina. It already distributes Fiat-branded cars in India.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ayurveda online.

Ayurveda remedies now at the click of a mouse! This is what the National Institute of Ayurveda (NIA) in Jaipur promises for those who want to follow the age-old herbal system of Indian medicine for any ailment.

The NIA will begin its online consultancy services within a month and later also offer telemedicine, said institute director Mahesh Chandra Sharma.

"With our online consultancy service, people will be able to report their illness on NIA's website. Operators will forward all queries to the expert concerned and submit back his or her advice. Ayurveda consultants anywhere in the world can also seek advice on treatment of a particular illness," Sharma told IANS.

NIA, run by the union ministry of health and family welfare and coming under the department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), is known for its many pioneering researches in ayurveda.

"The world has accepted ayurveda as an authentic form of medicine and one of the oldest medical sciences. Nowadays, ayurveda has even got a status symbol. So there is a growing demand across the world for accurate information and consultancy on ayurvedic therapies," he said.

"Apart from online consultancy service, we are setting up web-server based centers at three divisional levels - at Jodhpur, Kota and Udaipur - in the state. Practitioners of ayurveda in hospitals in these places can regularly be in touch with experts of NIA for consultancy on treatment of patients," he added.

"A panel of ayurveda experts is being constituted to provide advice on diseases like obesity, diabetes, depression and knee and abdominal pain. NIA will also provide information on different therapies like 'panchkarma', and blood purifying through ayurvedic treatment," he said.

NIA has a hospital facility in this Rajasthan capital, research centres as well as an educational institute that offers courses in all branches of ayurveda.

299 inmates escape from jail!!!

n a daring jailbreak, 299 inmates including 110 Naxal activists escaped from the Dantewada jail in Chhattisgarh after prison guards were overpowered in a planned action in which three guards and two undertrials were injured during firing and clashes.

The incident happened around 4.35 pm when the inmates were being served food after a lone Naxalite commandar Sujit Kumar overpowered a jail guard inside the prison and snatched his weapon.

Kumar then fired and injured three other guards, Dantewada jail sources told PTI over phone. As many as 377 inmates are in the district prison, about 375 km from the state capital, which is located in a Naxal infested area.

The Naxals snatched six rifles of the guards and one wireless set belonging before they fled.

Rahul Sharma, Superintendent of Police, Dantewada said the jailbreak was a ''pre-meditated conspiracy'' hatched by the undertrials who were mostly Naxal supporters. A search operation has been launched.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gujarat elections.

Five crore Gujaratis or five crorepatis? The election build-up has been shrill but Nistula Hebbar says that behind the glitz of development is the squalor of those the reforms are hurting badly.
Two days before campaigning is to be suspended for the Gujarat Assembly polls, cyber fans of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi complain that they are unable to open his website. Even a site that diehard fans have set up, unsurprisingly called www.fansofnarendramodi.com, opens to a dating site. Congress conspiracy, or too many hits leading to a crash? When it comes to Narendra Modi, anything is possible.
As I land in Ahmedabad, on my way to cover the Assembly elections in his state, it is Modi who is everywhere — on ringtones “Modi ko harana mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hai” to the TV delight that is the Modi mask.
“Hello, madam, I am Narendra Modi,” says one mask wearer to me when I visit the BJP office. “And I am Sakina Banu and will not vote for you,” I tell him, just to be provocative.
For a lot of people outside Gujarat, Modi’s developmental claims — his electrification of over 17,000 out of 18,000 villages in the state, his success in reducing girl child dropout rates in school from 48.3 per cent in 1997-98 to 11 per cent in 2005-06, and the fabulous highways (19,000 km) and rural roads (30,000 km, all black topped) — are all eclipsed by the riots of 2002.
An election that saw Modi romp home with a majority of 127 of a total 187 seats in the Assembly, with the Congress a distant second, a few independents and one seat for the Janata Dal (U). Traditional strongholds of the Congress in the tribal belt had also crumbled in the face of this onslaught.
On arrival, I made my way to Sarkhej, a sprawling ghetto close to the highway outside Ahmedabad occupied by members of the minority community.
According to an estimate by the Gujarat Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the state suffered losses of up to Rs 22.5 billion during the riots. Ismail bhai, better known as Narendra Modi’s Muslim classmate, owned four hotels in Ahmedabad, not a single one of which survived. Five years after the riots, Ismail bhai has a hotel and a restaurant, but with two Hindu partners.
Dhando paani (business) has to go on,” says his associate. A real estate boom is on in Ahmedabad, but most Muslims are restricted to ghettos in Sarkhej. The minority grouse is that their areas barely scrape the rates that Hindu zones get (yes, there is apartheid), and so to get a part of this pie, the Muslims are getting Hindu partners and buying into the action. The bitterness exists, but there is also the determination to get on with life.
This dedication to a business ethic has seen Gujarat control the world’s trade in diamond polishing and cutting, produce 45 per cent of pharma products in India, and seen Kandla port control a third of the country’s exports.
But...“Madam, this is all a sham, you travel to Amreli, the farmers are unhappy, go meet the real Gujaratis,” says Praveen Kotadiya, a youth Congress leader, to my wide-eyed recounting of these facts. “Instead of vibrant Gujarat, Modi has sent vibrations and shaken everything up,” he says with a cynical laugh.
In fact, it is not the secular challenge to Modi which is the worrying factor, but the Sardar Patel Utkarsh Samiti, headed by BJP’s own dissidents, headquartered in Amreli. People who were MLAs and ministers in Modi’s government are openly campaigning against him, calling him a dictator and worse.
The RSS and the VHP too are keeping away, sulking over their treatment by Modi. In Saurashtra, home of the dissidents and the Leuwa Patel caste, the severity of the raids on farmers to curb power theft and the big fines being imposed are being highlighted.
Jyotigram, Modi’s pet project through which 17,826 of a total of 18,065 villages in Gujarat now get 24 hours of power, has also seen many farmers committing suicide, unable to pay the price of stolen power. With over 13.89 lakh connections sealed by the Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Limited, Modi will have to pay a political price for it.
In Amreli district in Saurashtra, the Takani family lost four members only recently, unable to pay the Rs 3 lakh fine imposed on them. “My uncle, aunt and my grandparents stole away in the night to Somnatheswar and drowned themselves in the sea,” says nephew Mansukh bhai Takani. He has had to leave his diamond polishing job in Surat to take care of those left behind.
“Farming is no good, the ground water is depleting and input costs are going up,” he says. “I cannot lock up and leave, but what should I do?” he asks. Saurashtra accounts for 52 of the 87 seats which went to the polls on December 11.
In Rajkot and in Kutch, Sonia Gandhi talks about these issues at her rallies, in the midst of a Gujarati rendition of Latina pop star Shakira’s “Hips don’t lie, now called Panjo (or hand, the Congress’s symbol). Gandhi is trying to create the magic of the 2004 General Elections, where India Shining was defeated by the anger of the farmers.
The Congress’s slogan “Chak De! Gujarat” is emblazoned across the dias. Innovas, rented for two months, sport the slogan. “The Innovas bought for the Uttar Pradesh campaign have not been returned, so the Gujarati common sense was that if we rent, we reduce the liability,” says a Congress worker. Dhando paani rules, I think.
As Sonia Gandhi arrives in a helicopter, the crowd forgives her stiff style, the cheers as much for the helicopter as Sonia Gandhi herself. Posters of Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi adorn the stage. The crowds are impressive — for some, like in Bhuj, this is high entertainment indeed.
On the same day that she makes the famous “Maut ke saudagar” speech at Navsari, this crowd wants some pyrotechnics, but must remain satisfied with the helicopter. Congress leaders counter Modi’s avowed devotion to “five crore Gujaratis” by saying that he has replaced them with “five crorepatis”. The implication is that only big business has done well. In the same breath, they confide, should they come to power, they too are ready to do business with anyone.
In contrast, Modi’s rallies are instructions in Moditva. He travels by road in a converted rath, arriving at election meetings to be greeted by his own doppelgangers wearing the Modi mask, and is showered with rose petals.
His style is interactive, dramatic. He poses questions, the crowd answers. “Did Ram exist?” he parleys. Yes, answers the crowd. “Did he go to Lanka to rescue Sita?” he asks again. Yes, thunders the crowd. “But the Congress says there was no Ram,” he says. “They lie,” roars back the crowd. “This is Italian mud being slung, and a lotus [the BJP symbol] will bloom,” he says, referring to Sonia Gandhi’s speeches. The youth, especially, hang on to his every word.
“He was a sanyasi earlier, you know, he used to beg for alms, and that is why he knows the problems of the people,” says one young man in the crowd. No such official record exists, of course.
Another whispers that when Modi was in jail during the Emergency, he wrote a book on his philosophy. “What book was that, Mein Kampf?” asks a reporter, clearly not a fan. This is the sort of legend that has grown around Modi, part fact, part fiction.
In Bhuj, we check into Prince Hotel, once the pride of Kutchh, now only one of the many three-star establishments that have come up in the area since it became a boom town. With over $34 billion in investment and a rehabilitation tax holiday being declared in the region following the 2001 earthquake, the survivors of Bhuj have seen their incomes skyrocket. The hotel is full to the brim with wedding parties; this is, after all, wedding season in Gujarat.
Alarmed by the seeming flight of potential voters, a “pehle matdaan, phir kanyadaan (vote first, honeymoon later)” movement is being run by both parties. Newlyweds Jigar and Shivangi of Bharuch in south Gujarat postponed their honeymoon to vote on December 11. “We couldn’t let Narendra bhai down,” says Jigar, splashed across all the major Gujarat dailies.
In Bhavnagar I meet Arun Mehta, the only Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate in the fray. This time round he has Congress support. “Unlike what you think, this is not simply an entrepreneurial state, there are labour problems here, and Bhavnagar has been hit hard by raids to curb power theft — nearly 4,000 raids have taken place in Bhavnagar alone,” he says. “And no, Nandigram is not an issue here,” he adds defensively.
What does all this mean? Amidst the glitz of beautiful roads, electrified villages, booming industry, broadband connections in remote areas, and a leader who has captured the imagination not just of the state but the whole country, is there an underbelly of dissatisfaction.
Is it enough to pull off an upset victory by the Congress? The answer to that will be evident enough on December 23. As for me, it is enough that Gujarat has become more than just a prohibition state improbably populated by vegetarians with a talent for business.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How to make your blog popular?

Blogging is today's way of connecting to the world and letting others know of your views and existence.The art of blogging needs a lot of discipline as your readers expect you to write new things.This continuous demand of new is challenging at the same time full filing to.

The Bloggers have made a niche for them selves and there efforts are getting recognition throughout the world.Google has a very big role in this communication revolution.The company has made some serious writers out of the run of the mill bloggers.
Bloggers have published there own books,and are regarded as celebrities at the right forum.This has made a new breed of bloggers to come out from the closet and reveal there identity.The hard work of the bloggers gets noticed if the blog is listed with Search engine marketing and promotional services.
These professionally run companies submit the blog in search engines and help drive traffic to the blog.
Many big bloggers are taking the help of these agencies to boost there traffic.

Indian thinking in jack magazine.

Hi readers.
It gives me immense pleasure to inform that Indianthinking was invited to write an article on life and times in Mumbai,the article was published in Jack an Italian magazine of repute.
I received the copy of the magazine today.Though the article is in Italian it looks good and feels good!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

DEMOCRACY AT ITS BEST!!!

Talk about the unofficial perks of high office. The central and state governments have decided to spend a whopping Rs 400 crore to build a new airport at Amravati, President Pratibha Patil's hometown. The same state government is, however, unwilling to write off the loans of misery-ridden Vidarbha farmers whose suicide toll now stands at more than 1,500.

Initially, the Airports Authority of India and the Maharashtra Airport Development Corporation (MADC) had considered upgrading the existing airstrip of 1,200 metres at Amravati, but found that NH No 6 and the Yavatmal-Amravati highway were coming in the way. So, on Saturday, a decision was taken to build a new airport which would enable the President and her family to fly directly to their hometown. On November 15 TOI was the first to report the move to develop an airport and other infrastructure projects at Amravati.

In private, officials are questioning the wisdom of such a spend when Nagpur airport is only three-hour drive to Amravati. However, civil aviation minister Praful Patel says he will support the proposal in all possible ways.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Nandigram Update.

A week after five burial mounds were found and skeletal human remains unearthed in West Bengal's Nandigram, another burial mound was found in the violence-scarred area on Monday afternoon, sparking fresh tension.

The mound was found at Parulbari near Maheshpur in an area dominated by the Trinamul Congress-backed Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC).

''The grave-like structure was spotted at Parulbari area. Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel have cordoned it off.'' said East Midnapore Superintendent of Police SS Panda.

He said the grave would be dug up Tuesday in the presence of the Haldia Judicial Magistrate.

Earlier, five burial mounds were found on the side of a road at Khejuri near Nandigram from which charred skeletal remains were unearthed.

The charred bones were later sent to Central Forensic Science Laboratory and will be sent for DNA tests, police said.

The West Bengal government has already ordered a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) inquiry into last week's incident.

A CID team, led by Inspector General of Police (CID)-II DP Tarania, visited the site where the burial mounds were found.

Nandigram, about 150 km from Kolkata in East Midnapore district, flared up in January over proposed land acquisition for a special economic zone (SEZ), including a chemical hub - a plan that was scrapped by the state government later in the face of stiff resistance.

Thirty-five people have died in violence-hit Nandigram since January. A fresh bout of violence broke out in November after ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist cadres allegedly recaptured their lost bases in the area by launching a massive onslaught on the rival anti-land acquisition BUPC.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Money transfer and technology.

There was a time when the village post man will bring the money order from the worker based in city to his family. The arrival of the postman meant happiness,joy fulfillment and a lot of anticipation.The poor lady running the household in the absence of the head will pay the prime lenders like the grocery guy and the money lender.
The remaining sum will meet the ends for few days only,after this another long wait for the next postal money order which use to take 10-15 days to reach. I have seen poor villagers pay an illegitimate commission to the post master and the post man. The one not complying to the ransom will have to run around to get his money in time!

Consider the scenario today with the advancement in technology and the penetration of the Internet in village have given multiple options to send money or receive money.The ways of money transfer are many, bank account to account,visa card to visa card,transfer through phone etc.

The real beneficiaries are the parents of the NRIs who can get instant money transfer to India from abroad.Like a guy based in USA can pass on a prepaid visa card to his parents in India which can be used at any visa ATM around the world.That means to send money to India one need not go through a time consuming and expensive old way.
The new secured and visa certified website are reliable and profesional,though one must be discreet in on-line transactions to maintain the confidentiality and security.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Life after the stripping for Assamese girl.

Five days after she was stripped and made to run along a road just a kilometre away from Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s office at Dispur in the heart of Guwahati, 16-year-old Chameli (the family doesn’t want her real name to be used) is trying to muster up courage to somehow fight the trauma of what happened on her first visit to the city. And, in the process, wittingly — and sometimes unwittingly, too — she is getting drawn into the political campaign that sparked off violence across the state.

“I am no longer bothered about what happened that day,” she told The Indian Express today. “Instead, that incident has made me bolder and I have resolved that I will not back down.” A student of Class X — her Board exams are next year — Chameli sits on the verandah of her bamboo house with a tin roof in a village 240 km away from Guwahati in Sonitpur district. One of three brothers helps her with the intravenous fluid supplement she has been on since Sunday.

Gogoi has announced a Rs 1 lakh “compensation” to Chameli. “I don’t want to talk about any monetary compensation. It is of no use,” she says. The immediate milestone to cross, however, is her Class X exams. “I need to be educated,” she says, “I need to at least graduate.”

Chameli had gone to Guwahati by bus with two of her brothers, a cousin sister and several other boys and girls from her village and those adjoining, all travelling through Friday night to be part of Saturday’s rally organized by the All Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA). The rally was called to demand Scheduled Tribe status to the Adivasi and tea-labourer communities (of present-day Jharkhand, Orissa, and parts of Bihar, MP, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh).

Chameli says she was trying to rescue her cousin from the grip of a group of hooligans trying to molest her during the violence and chaos that the rally had turned into when she herself fell into the trap. It was one Bhagiram Barman, a local shopkeeper, who not only helped her with his own shirt after she ran for about half-a-kilometre but also handed her over to the police. By then, Chameli had been trapped in several cameras and numerous cellphones — and then on national TV.

She is the youngest child and the only daughter of Mangloo Orang, 65, a farmer, who recalls with pride the story of how his grandfather Kripa had come as a labourer from Chandapara in Ranchi to the tea gardens in Assam during the Raj. Orang has, incidentally, served a five-year term in jail in connection with a murder case in a property dispute — he claims his ancestral property was being fraudulently grabbed.

Chameli’s mother Durga is illiterate. “I know something very bad has happened with my daughter. But I am proud that she is facing it bravely,” she says.

Orang’s family of nine (including two grandchildren) live in two huts made of bamboo mats and tin roofs, one having three rooms plus a verandah. The other has two rooms and is one of the few which has an electricity connection in the village.

The family has nine bighas with the three sons helping the father grow paddy that helps meet the family’s requirement for the whole year. “We don’t have to buy rice but it is difficult to make both ends meet,” says Orang. “I don’t know what my sons will do if they don’t get jobs. It is not possible for the three of them to run their families when they grow up with the land that I have.”

Back in her village, hundreds have visited Chameli over the past three days and local leaders are already talking about her as an icon. “I am surprised by her willpower and courage. Any other girl would have collapsed after what happened that Saturday. But she is surely of different mettle. She is a story of courage that needs to be told to the rest of the world,” says Lata Lakra, a leader of the All Adivasi Mahila Samiti, who came down all the way from Gossaigaon in Lower Assam to meet Chameli. “What happened to her will only help make the case for Scheduled Tribe status to our community stronger.”

(On the family’s request, all names have been changed)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Whats happening in Brazil?

It sometimes seems that there is little left to say about prisons and the system of detention in Brazil that still has the capacity to shock.

Even so, the report that a young woman, possibly as young as 15, was left to share a cell in a police station with around 20 men and is said to have been repeatedly sexually abused, does stand out for its sheer horror.

The fact that police officers involved then started to dispute her age, as if it mattered whether she was 15 or 20, does say something about the inability to grasp the scale of what had been done.

The girl does not appear to have been helped by the involvement in the case of women officials at various levels.

According to Brazilian media reports the officer in charge of the station where the case was processed was a woman, who has since been suspended, while a woman judge who dealt with the case did not authorise a transfer.

The governor of the state of Para, where the incident happened, is also a woman.

"I am shocked and angry," Governor Ana Julia Carepa told the Brazilian media.

"My political life was always dedicated to the defence of human rights and it would not be different in my administration."

As an effort continues to shift blame for what happened, the civil police of Para say that the judicial officials knew that the girl was being held with a large number of male prisoners.

They have produced a document which suggests a request was made to transfer the girl to a centre for young offenders on 7 November, at least a week before she was discovered by an official responsible for child welfare.

The discovery was only made after an anonymous tip-off.

The document - presented to the judge - requested the urgent transfer of the young woman to a detention centre for women, and said that she ran the risk of "any type of violence".

The police request for a transfer was only made after the girl had been in custody for 15 days, and in total she was held for 26 days, according to the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.

Welfare officials say the girl reported that she had suffered sexual abuse from about 20 prisoners and had to offer sex in return for food. She also showed marks of cigarette burns on her body.

Cell deficit

Brazilian prisons have long had a reputation for violence, appalling conditions and overcrowding.

Criminals using mobile phones in their cells are even able to directly organise crimes outside.

In August, 25 prisoners died after fellow inmates set fire to mattresses in a cell in a jail in the state of Minas Gerais.

map

The most notorious case in recent Brazilian history happened in 1992 following a riot in Carandiru jail in Sao Paulo when 111 prisoners were killed, the vast majority shot by military police.

In 2002 alone, 303 inmates were murdered by other prisoners.

A preliminary report from the United Nations Committee Against Torture, released on Friday, makes a grim analysis of the state of Brazilian prisons.

It speaks of endemic overcrowding, filthy conditions and pervasive violence, as well as torture "meted out on a widespread and systematic basis".

Part of the problem is that Brazil does not have a federal prison system and all prisons are run by the 27 different systems, although they are governed by a single penal law.

Between 1995 and 2003, the number of prisoners in the system more than doubled, from 148,760 to 308,304 men and women.

More than 100,000 new prison spaces were created but the country still has a huge deficit.

In recent years as many as 25% of prisoners have been held in police cells due to shortage of space, even though this is illegal. In some states the figure is even higher.

While the number of women in Brazilian jails is in line with other countries, it is clear that the level of overcrowding and violence means they can be extremely vulnerable.

Tim Cahill, Amnesty International's researcher on Brazil, said the organisation received extensive reports of women in detention who suffered sexual abuse, torture, substandard healthcare and inhuman conditions, showing that this case is far from isolated.

"Even though women in Brazil make up a small percentage of the overall prison population, their numbers in detention are rising," he said.

"There is a desperate need for the government to address their needs, which are rarely, if ever, met."

The security secretary for the state of Para, Vera Talvares, told Folha de Sao Paulo that any type of violation of a woman's rights was a violation of human rights and should receive exemplary punishment.

If that resolve leads to a change in policy in Para, and in other parts of Brazil, it would at least be something, but past events do not leave much room for optimism.

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