US FOR HER: MOVING TOWARDS A MORE SENSITIVE POLICE FORCE

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The date was the third of November. The place, Panchkula. A newlywed hung his head low, as his wife told a police officer that she had been tortured by his family over dowry demands. This is one of the most common complaints brought to this all-women police station. Several such all-women police stations were launched across the district of Panchkula the previous year in order to improve how the deeply patriarchal state tackles gender violence. The woman spoke softly but firmly. Not many women in India get this far.

It is undisputed that there is widespread under-reporting of crimes by female victims, especially when it comes to sexual violence. Fear of reprisal, social stigma and mistreatment by an overwhelmingly male police force are the primary reasons holding women back. Victims, especially those of rape, have endured an extremely archaic, insensitive, poorly funded and under-resourced criminal justice system which has failed to care for them medically, as well as to deliver justice. The 24,206 rapes reported in 2011 by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is the equivalent of one rape every 20 minutes, but even that is thought to be a minority of the number of such attacks across the country. This a result of the deep-rooted conservatism of Indian society. Most of these victims are scared to come forward for fear of being “shamed” by their family and community. Others who are brave enough to approach the police face challenges like unsympathetic forensic examinations, a lack of counselling, crude police investigations and weak prosecutions in the courts.

One part of the problem is certainly attitudes. A lot of government officials, especially police, allow negative and damaging stereotypes of rape survivors being promiscuous to interfere with their duties,” says Aruna Kashyap, women’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch. As a consequence of this attitude, a rape survivor approaching the police to make a complaint often faces hostility or skepticism.

In 2016, a 17-year-old village girl was drugged and gang-raped by a group of men in a field in the northern Punjab region. She killed herself because the police allegedly failed to take her complaint seriously. Disillusionment with the authorities, and the shame Indian society often attaches to women who have been raped, has led many rape victims to commit suicide, drinking pesticide, or dousing themselves in kerosene.

We often do not realise how the most common and seemingly innocent comments and actions send a strong message that men and women are not equal. This mindset is what spurs so many instances of crimes like rapes and domestic abuse against women. It is the need of the hour to raise our voice collectively as a progressive society and work towards building a safer society for women. Gender discrimination in India has developed several social and economic restraints. Men are always placed in a more advantageous position than women, contrary to the constitutional provision of equality provided to all the citizens of India.

Gender sensitisation involves changing the behaviour and instilling empathy into the views that one holds about the two sexes. The level of violence that women encounter is unfathomable. Rape and sexual offences need special attention from police, as they are the last resort a victim has. Police personnel need to be empathetic towards her.

In gender sensitisation training programmes, police personnel are imparted training on the criminal justice system, laws related to women and the method of dealing with a victim when she comes to report a case of sexual assault and so on. A simple, yet profound initiative of not interrogating a child in uniform is one of the many adopted by the police officers of the Karnataka State Police. The Karnataka State Police is arguably the first in the country to institutionalize training on gender sensitization, HIV/AIDS and trafficking at the police station level. They have also adopted the practice of interacting with women and children in a separate room in order to make them feel more comfortable. Inclusion of such practices in police ethics will have a great impact on the way justice is administered and will eventually lead to alleviation of women.

Particularly in a country like India, with a vast diversity existing in terms of customs, traditions, rituals, social values, family beliefs and individual perception, the need for a more systematic, well planned and more professional approach is felt to inculcate this sensitivity and primarily highlight the contribution of both the genders in creation and development of a well-balanced society. Gender sensitisation programmes aim to do just this. These programmes help instill a feeling of empathy towards victims of the female gender and reduce the inequality and hostile treatment meted out to them. They help in achieving the aim of a more considerate police force, which tries to understand the pain of the victims and act accordingly, without allowing the stereotypes associated with rape survivors interfere with their duties. The aim is to create stronger women, women who are not scared to stand up in the face of wrong and a society which only pushes them higher, out of distress, into the heaven of freedom.

This article has been authored by Aditi Mozika. Aditi is a student of law at Gujarat National Law University and a member of the GNLU Centre for Law and Society.

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Protecting the Black-necked Crane in India

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Early in December, the Buddhist Monpa tribe waits in the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh eagerly. Their eyes seek one sight solely, the Black-Necked Crane. This Crane is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with only 10,000 remaining in the wild (IUCN, 2017), but the Monks of this tribe seem not much concerned about this. For these monks, this bird signifies good fortune, the arrival of a new morrow, a representation of their sixth Dalai Lama. However, for the past two years, the monks have been disappointed, as the numbers of birds arriving dwindle.

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These birds are beautiful creatures, with a striking black neck. They are a migratory species who travel to India from Tibet, and halt in the north-eastern parts of the country for the winter. But why are these birds reducing? Why are their numbers falling sharply, and what does this absence signify? For this, it is necessary to look at the life cycle of the bird. In the Indian context, two sites are extremely important for these birds- The Tso Moriri Lake in Jammu and Kashmir and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. The site in Jammu and Kashmir is also classified as a Wetland of International Importance and is important as it is a breeding site for these birds. The site in Arunachal Pradesh is also crucial, as it is a wintering area for these birds, where they refuel, to help them carry on their onward migratory journey to Tibet. The former site is a lake; while the latter is a freshwater wetland, both of which are accorded protection under the Ramsar Convention. There are two main causes of threat to birds in these sites: (i) the threat of sand mining and (ii) the threat caused to these birds due to the presence of feral dogs in the area.

India is a contracting party to the Ramsar Convention. The Ramsar Convention is a multilateral environmental treaty calling for the wise use of wetlands.[1] This wise use requirement extends to all wetlands within the territory of a country which is a party to the convention. Under Article 4.1 of the Ramsar Convention, India is expected to conserve the waterfowl (birds which depend on the water resource in question) housed in a wetland. Helping to maintain the level of biodiversity in the wetland area is a crucial component of the wise use of wetlands in the territory.[2] This directly puts a duty on India to conserve the black-necked crane in both these sites. With regard to feral dogs, the restrictions on them are few and they are largely the cause of death of these birds. But, there is one more clear area where direct human action adversely impacts the habitat of these birds, this area is sand mining.

The Ramsar Convention also recognizes the threat caused to biodiversity through acts of sand mining.[3] Activities of mining in areas near water resources hamper the ground water ecology of an area, impacting not only the water resource in question, but also other water resources in its vicinity.[4] The NGT in India also banned sand mining through a 2013 notification around both these water resources. However, in Arunachal Pradesh in particular, this notification has had no effect. The forest department has washed responsibility off its hands by stating that the wetland is not a part of forest cover, while the department of mines and minerals has simply failed to curb the land mining in the area, which only increases as trucks of sand leave the area repeatedly, heading illegally towards China. The industrialists in the area have also planned a hydroelectric project in the area, which calls for greater fervour towards mining to clear up areas. The Supreme Court in 2012 laid down the requirement of an Environment Impact Assessment for any such mining project.[5] Previously, such a procedure under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986 was not applied in cases of sand mining as sand is a minor mineral under the Mines and Minerals Act, 1957. But this judgement made these procedures non-derogatory in case of sand mining as well. Today, no such mining can take place without an EIA as well as approval from the Ministry of Environment and Forests. However, these provisions only exist on paper.

 Mining continues in Arunachal Pradesh without any Environment Impact Assessment despite these provisions. The implications of the mining on the crane are not directly established, but monitoring shows that the number of black necked cranes wintering in Arunachal Pradesh reducing each year. These birds face a dual threat when they enter India. There is a lack of protection for these birds in their breeding area, where their eggs are carried away by feral dogs, and the birds often lose their lives fighting with them. When the birds reach their wintering area in Arunachal Pradesh, they find themselves in a habitat which is degrading more and more year after year, forcing them to seek shelter elsewhere.

India, through its treatment of this vulnerable species, is consistently violating both national as well as international law, changing crucial sites supposed to be safe havens for birds into a nightmare for them. These birds do not just have great international importance [particularly, in light of the Black-necked crane festival in Bhutan, celebrating the bird] but also are culturally important for monks in India. It is necessary to develop a plan with stakeholders, to conduct proper management of the two important sites for these birds in India, to protect and conserve the species and to enable it to continually serve as a harbinger of good luck, and a reminder of a better future.

This Article is authored by Samidha Mathur. Samidha is a student of law at Gujarat National Law University and a member of the GNLU Centre for Law and Society.

[1] Article 3.1, Convention on the Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat [Ramsar Convention], Feb. 2, 1971, 996 U.N.T.S. 245.

[2] Ramsar Convention Secretariat, Handbook 1: Wise Use of Wetlands 1 & 9 (2010).

[3] Ramsar Resolution 9 (VII) (Nov. 26, 2002) 21.

[4] Ramsar Monitoring Procedure, Report No. 29,  St. Lucia Site ¶10.

[5] Deepak Kumar v. State of Haryana, (2012) 4 SCC 629.

40 Months: A Grim Reality|Neep Saikia

On this September, The BJP led NDA Government completed its 40 months. The essence of these 40 months can be summed up through two simple words-“Lies” and “Failure”. The result of these 40 months is clearly visible. Lies and Failure dominated each and every aspect of BJP’s mode of governance. The BJP Government has proven to be an utter failure in delivering an effective governance to the citizen of India.

Communal harmony is disturbed, Federalism has been watered down, Internal Security is in shambles be it Kashmir, be it the North East, be it the Naxalite Affected Areas. Economy has hit its all-time lowest. All the glory that our India had attained in the last 70 years has been lost in just 40 months of Modi Government’s rule.Infact, India has witnessed the worst form of governance since its independence. No government acted so irresponsible to the nation like this government did.

The Narendra Modi Government has reserved its place in the Economic History of India as a Government which squandered away all the gains of a shining Economy and reversed its ranking from the fastest growing large Economy to a sluggish, stagnating and a declining one.

The Economy was growing and it has been derailed due to absolutely unwitting and disastrous decision making – as in the case of Demonetization which will be remembered as the biggest economic scam ever perpetrated  and a good idea like the GST that was translated into a flawed law that suffered from bad and hurried implementation, affecting many industries in the manufacturing sector.WhatsApp Image 2017-12-23 at 7.38.49 PM

A swift turn in the story came as the Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, in a well-reasoned piece in the Indian Express, attacked the Modi Government for pushing the nation’s economy into a fiscal mess.This needs no explanation and no proof as the economic health of India will have to be admitted in ICU very soon if the Government don’t come up with any proper economic policy as a remedy.

At 5.7 per cent, India has witnessed the slowest quarterly economic growth since the Modi government took over throne in 2014. An analysis of the GDP growth rate for April-June quarter suggests that even this less than par economic growth was achieved on account of increased government spending.Indian Economy shined under able leadership of Dr.ManMohan Singh when the growth rate was touching double digits even when the Global Economy was passing through its hardest phase after 1930 depression.

The story of this Great Economic mismanagement doesn’t end here. Informal sector comprises about 90 per cent of India’s GDP.Effect of this mismanagement cut short the rowth rate of informal economy to just 3.2%.While for the manufacturing unit it was just 1.2%.and real estate witnessed 1.7 per cent growth rate. Industry, as whole, grew at merely 1.4 per cent.In order to sustain an effective combat against poverty,India’s GDP needs to grow at over seven per cent for an effective fight against poverty. This is not a foretell by any layman but a recent statement by Ex RBI Governor Bimal Jalan.

In the past one year, the government has come up with two major reforms: demonetisation and the goods and services tax. Both were introduced with a view to correct the Indian economy. But, these steps brought a reverse impact. It gave a lethal blow have to the unorganised sectors which traditionally employed huge percentage of workforce. Even the organised sector couldn’t save itself from the wrath of  demonetisation and GST. Loss of lakhs of jobs in real estate and construction sector have been witnessed. Demonetisation will always be marked as the greatest organised loot and legalised plunder of a nation’s wealth in human history.The phenomenon of Job cut began even before November 8th ,2016. Reports from 2015-16 suggest that in urban areas only three out of five job seekers got employment throughout the year.The present data will be even more a bleak one.

Another mismanagement done by Modi Sarkar is in the Banking sector.The official data released as soon 31st March states that 19 out of 21 PSU banks have bad loans or NPA of over 10 per cent. In case of 6 Banks, it stood even more 25 per cent level.Unofficially, according to the bank officials it is the big industry players who have pushed the  banking sector into a cripple scene. Reports say that 22 % of the loans to the big players are never returned and thus bad loans. As a result of extreme bad loan stress, the banks have shown reluctance in lending to industry, especially in smaller towns and villages. The big players still get loans under political influence. In rural areas, the ratio changed to only one in every two.

The Modi Government ensured that the wave Hindutva was high enough to flow above all the crucial issues and thereby promoting a majoritarian thrust in politics in order to deviate the masses from every other crucial national issue. The true test however, of the enlightenment of the citizens, shall be seen in the 2019 elections, where Modi will be unable to hide behind the garb of ‘achhe din‘.

This Article is authored by Neep Saikia. Neep is a student of law at Gujarat National Law University.

 

The Case of Judicial Backlogs in India|Ventakesh Joshi

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How would you know that it is time to take a step back and bring reforms? Is it when the Chief Justice of the largest democracy in the world breaks down in front of the Prime Minister of the country?

On 23 April, 2016 while attending an inauguration the former Chief Justice of India raised significant questions and pointed out vital facts directly consequential to the inefficient judicial system, a salient but defeated pillar of our democracy.

India’s population at present being pegged at 1.324 billion and the latest figures (12 Oct,
2017) provided by National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), total judges in India are 18,341.
Evidently the judge to population ratio is very low in the country, much more fascinating is the fact that a Law Commission Report in the year 1987 suggests the requirement of 50 judges per million. It might be argued that lack of judges lie as a root cause to backlog of cases in judiciary; a power struggle between the judiciary and the government, but even after another 30 years it will not be bemusing that the data has not met the required numbers.

The NJDG website (as on 12 Oct, 2017) provides comprehensive data on pending figures
with 22,98,195 cases pending over 10 years, 41,68,392 cases pending between 5 to 10 years, 73,55,518 cases pending between 2 to 5 years and 11,88,77,353 cases pending for less than two years this adds up to a total of 2,56,89,458. Even for a country as populated as India these numbers are befuddling and should create a lot more concern than they did.

Figures only provide facts and facts have never been enough for justice. These facts give
birth to a series of questions, questions of utmost importance and questions which need
immediate public, judicial, and governmental recognition. Mere lack of adequate number of judges cannot be the sole reason for such a humongous accumulation of cases. It deserves more heed than it is being given and it should be frowned upon. Institutions need to shed off their personal egos, and help save this hallmark of democracy.

This Article is authored by Venkatesh Joshi. Venkatesh Joshi is a student at Gujarat National Law University.