Children’s Rights Who Knows, Who Cares?

Children’s Rights Who Knows, Who Cares?

by Ramendra Kumar

“Farhan Khan Shinwari starts work early, before the sun has risen over the red plains of Karkhla, 15 km east of Peshawar in Northwest Pakistan. After a meager breakfast of tea and dry Nan with his brothers, he starts sprinkling water on the mound of red clay they will mix and form into bricks. All around him on the plain, hundreds of illegal Afghan migrants squat barefoot in the clay, forming bricks with their hands for less than a dollar a day. Farhan will work for 13 hours today.

Farhan is four years old.

“A nine year old boy, Sagar, was sacrificed by his superstitious grandfather on Diwali night in the hope that the ritual would ensure the safe return of his missing son. While the whole country was celebrating the ‘Festival of Lights’, the light was snuffed out of Sagar’s life forever.”

The first piece is part of a feature which appeared in a recent issue of Time magazine while the second is a news report from Dhumka, Jharkhand, published in The Telegraph, Calcutta dated 20th November.

Miserable Plight 

If you think the events in the life of Farhan and Sagar are isolated incidents. you are quite mistaken. The plight of the majority of children, the most vulnerable section of the society, is miserable wherever you look – especially in our part of the world.

Take the case of Subbu. He is employed in a factory in Sivakasi which manufactures firecrackers. He works with hazardous chemicals whose toxic dust he inhales day after day. He works for ten to twelve hours and earns not much more than the price of a hamburger.

Or think about Irfan who works in a glass factory in Ahmedabad. It has furnaces where the temperature rises to more than 1400 degrees Celsius. And what about Venkat who rolls beedis the whole day and will in all likelihood end up with tuberculosis by the time he reaches twenty. And then there is Meena who spends the entire day in a carpet factory on the outskirts of Lucknow, her dainty fingers moving mechanically hour after hour. Are these names too exceptions? No they are not. Just look around: the rag pickers who fight with dogs and pigs for pieces of scrap, the ‘chokra’ in the dhaba who gets beaten for spilling water, the girl who works as a maid in your neighbor’s house and is thrashed for expressing the desire to learn the alphabet, the shoe shine boy in the train, the newspaper hawker at a busy traffic junction of your dazzling city and many, many more. They work for more than 12 hours a day without a break or holiday and get paid only half or one third of what an adult is paid.

It is estimated that about 5.5 crore (55 million) children in India between the ages of 5 and 14 are laborers. India has the dubious distinction of having the largest number of child laborers in the world – one in every four working children in the world is an Indian!

Even though a Supreme Court ruling in 1996 declared that an existing child prevention law should be more strictly enforced and that no child under 14 should be allowed to work in hazardous industries, no one cares a damn. This law is merrily flouted.

Children’s Rights:

I don’t know how many of you are aware that UNO has pronounced Ten Children’s Rights. These are:

  1. Right to be loved.

  2. Right to nutritious food and good health.

  3. Right to education.

  4. Right to entertainment coupled with proper physical growth.

  5. Right to get his/her nationality in his/her name.

  6. Right to get other’s attention in distress.

  7. Right to relief in cases of natural calamities.

  8. Right to nurture and develop their inherent skills and abilities so as to be a useful member of the society.

  9. Right to nurture humanitarian values and goodwill with others.

  10. Right to guard against forces dividing the country on caste, religion and other grounds.

How many of the Indian children can claim to enjoy these rights? 

It is pathetic that even after more than five decades of our country’s independence the majority of the Indian children have to struggle for even such basic needs like food, shelter and clothing, let alone think about such ‘luxuries’ like ‘developing inherent skills and abilities’ and ‘nurturing humanitarian values’.

Some time back I had the occasion to interact with juvenile delinquents in Rourkela Jail. I spent around two hours with them. I chatted with them, I told them stories and we even talked about the ‘crime’ for which they had been sent to jail. Most of them were in the age group of eight to fifteen. Quite a few had been convicted of petty crimes while three of them were facing charges of murder.

The more I talked to them the more I was convinced that there was nothing abnormal about them. They were as normal as any child – they had the same dreams, the same hopes – they loved Amitabh Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan. They enjoyed singing and dancing, flying kites and playing cricket. They wanted to grow up and take care of their parents. And all of them wanted to go to school and study.

So what had turned them into criminals? This is one question we all should think about.

The Root Cause:

Every 14th November we celebrate Children’s Day with great fanfare all over the country. Leaders, politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists and other celebrities visit slums, orphanages, jails. They distribute sweets, clothes, toys, give profound speeches, deliver sermons on the duties and responsibilities of the citizens of tomorrow. And then they go back to their cocoons of affluence and luxury leaving the children to rot.

Kids can’t revolt, they can’t take to the streets and most important they can’t vote. So naturally no one bothers about them. They can be used, misused and abused with impunity.

So then what is the solution? 

Obviously, there are no quick answers. However, I firmly believe that it is illiteracy which is the root cause of poverty and exploitation. If the poor could be given education, made to understand their rights and responsibilities they wouldn’t subject their children to such torture. If they were educated they would realize the importance of small family norms. With lesser mouths to feed there would be less reason for children being sent out to contribute to the family kitty. If the poor were educated they would understand the value of education and send their children to school rather then sending them to hell holes to earn money.

Now the question comes who is going to impart this education? The government? Hardly. We know how effective the efforts of the government have been in enhancing literacy in the country. We, you and I, have to chip in. We are the fortunate ones who have been given an education and it is high time we share this knowledge with those who have been denied the option of acquiring it.

Each One Teach One

Some time back the Indian Government had launched a literacy programme called ‘Each One Teach One’. Even then I had liked the idea immensely, though it had failed to take off. I think this campaign should be re-launched – not by the Government but by us, you and I, if we consider ourselves the concerned and committed citizens. We should identify the illiterate in our vicinity and teach them the basics of not only the three Rupees but also about hygiene and health. And by we I mean both adults as well as children. Father and daughter, mother and son can teach together and also be taught together.
This might sound simplistic to many of you. But please keep in mind that all great revolutions have begun with a simple step and eventually led to terrific results.

An old and frail man picked up a handful of salt, on a beach in 1931, and rang the death knell of the biggest empire in the history of human civilization.

We too can make a small beginning. Each of us can pick up a single soul shrouded in ignorance and lead him (or her) on the well lit path of knowledge. All it needs is a little bit of effort, a little bit of commitment and a tiny voice in our minds and hearts that will urge us on to make the lives of those around us a little better.

Only then can we hope for a world where a four year old Farhan does not have to slave for thirteen hours and a nine year old Sagar does not have to be sacrificed to Goddess Kali.


Should Minority Run Educational Institutions Continue 25% Reservation?

Should Minority Run Educational Institutions Continue 25% Reservation?

By Fr. Anand Muttungal

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which provides for free and compulsory education to children between the age of 6 and 14 years and mandates government schools and private schools alike even the aided minority educational institutions too comes under the ambit. At the same time the unaided minority schools are kept away from it. 

The judgment said: “We hold that the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 is constitutionally valid and shall apply to a school established, owned or controlled by the appropriate Government or a local authority; an aided school including aided minority school(s) receiving aid or grants to meet whole or part of its expenses from the appropriate Government or the local authority; a school belonging to specified category; and an unaided non-minority school not receiving any kind of aid or grants to meet its expenses from the appropriate Government or the local authority.”

After Church of Madhya Pradesh issued an official statement the Church run schools will not disturb those children who are admitted or selected to the academic year of 2012-2013. I received a number of phone calls asking for the clarification to the stand taken by the Church in Madhya Pradesh. Some principals went open saying that they will not be admitting anybody under RTE any more. Some wanted to know whether we can get reimbursement from the Government for the children that we have admitted under this category. In a matter of a few hours I experienced a lot of disagreements from different parts of the state. Even though I knew that many may not have gone through various aspects of the judgements but it still troubled my conscience. Because I believed that the primary objective of every diocese and religious congregation is serving the poor.

The CJI who wrote in the judgment said: “… the admissions given by unaided minority schools prior to the pronouncement of this judgment shall not be reopened.”  It further said, “It is true that, as held in the T.M.A. Pai Foundation as well as the P.A. Inamdar judgments, the right to establish and administer an educational institution is a fundamental right, as long as the activity remains charitable under Article 19(1) (g). However, in the said two decisions the correlation between Articles 21 and 21A, on the one hand, and Article 19(1) (g), on the other, was not under consideration.

We must remember that any school that denies admission to the children whom they have selected or admitted for the coming academic year (2012-13), will mount to contempt of Court. It can even lead to serious punishments. It is also to be noted that each person involved in the mission has a moral responsibility to project the right image of Christ through our schools. Christianity is known for its works of charity and service to the poor and less privileged. 

It is a common fact that all those children whom we have admitted under RTE category are not genuinely poor. It opens a possibility to collect their income certificates and charge accordingly but education of the poor and less privileged must not be stopped. It is true that we are no more bound to reserve 25 % for the less privileged but our social responsibly has not lessened but has challenged our real willingness to teach the less privileged. It is very important to understand that all RIGHTS in the constitution are meant to build a nation of people brought up in culture and education. And above all Christianity has been the forerunner of the same.

Bangalore archbishop in land row

Bangalore archbishop in land row

The Akhila Karnataka Catholic Christian Association has accused Bangalore Archbishop Bernard Moras of misusing church property. The association, on Thursday, held a protest, demanding that the government hand over the case investigation to the CBI. It also submitted a memorandum to chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda in this regard.

Association general secretary Raphael Raj alleged that the archbishop leased 1 acre of land that belonged to the St. Pius Church in Kammanahalli. The 2.8-acre church property was donated by an Andhra Pradesh-based donor, Joseph Reddy, for the construction of a church, school and hospital for the poor.

However, the archbishop leased the land to a realtor for 40 years. The realtor now plans to construct a mall and has even carried out a survey of the premises. The association and residents of the area have opposed the move and approached the court and managed to get a stay order. The land is meant for religious activities and being the head of the community, the archbishop tried to commercialise the area, said Raj.

Meanwhile, archdiocese spokesperson Rev Fr AS Anthonyswamy said land has not been sold, but leased to generate financial resources. He said the archbishop authorised the lease agreement as per the church norms and directives. The archbishop discussed the matter with the members concerned, before signing the deal, added Anthonyswamy.

Since the residents of Kammanahalli have approached the civil court and the matter is sub judice, the archdiocese would not like to make any further comments, he said.

Exorcisms in the Catholic church are real.

Please note that a man possessed by the devil can many times speak fluently in languages which he has not studied. Fr. Amorth mentions of a poor Italian peasant who spoke fluent English. Some speak Latin, Aramaic, Hebrew, Swahili etc.
 Also the superhuman strength exhibited by some possessed people compared to their physique and phenomenon like levitation and even sometimes prophecy or revealing hiddens sins of the exorcist  baffles even the most stubborn rationalist.

Exorcisms in the Catholic church are real.

Dear Mr. Sanal Edamaruku,

      I saw you on TV challenging the “miracle” of  the dripping cross in Mumbai. As a man of science, I do not believe that the dripping cross is a miracle just like many other fellow Catholics. It is because of capillary action as you pointed out.

     However I differ with you on exorcisms.

     Regarding your skepticism regarding exorcisms in the Catholic church, Bishop Agnelo Gracias could not explain the phenomenon of possession and exorcism well on TV.

     I suggest you read the book “An Exorcist tells his Story” by Fr. Gabriele Amorth and the sequel to this world famous book is More Stories by the same author and then challenge it. Also please note that Fr. Amorth takes medical opinion to rule out mental illness like schizophrenia etc. before performing an exorcism and the doctor at hand witnesses the exorcism. Fr. Amorth is a world famous exorcist and handles the most difficult cases.

     I would also like to point out that Fr. Jeremy Davies,  a medical doctor and a Catholic priest also performs exorcisms in England, hence the phenomenon of possession by the devil cannot be ruled out as it is handled by experts and not by charlatans.



Most priests prone to call of flesh, says Kerala nun

Most priests prone to call of flesh, says Kerala nun

source: Deccan Chronicle

Most priests prone to call of flesh, says Sister Mary - DC

Most priests prone to call of flesh, says Sister Mary – DC
While the Catholic Church is still struggling to come out of the impact of Amen –The Autobiography Of A Nun, penned by Sr Jesme, another nun, 76-year-old Sr Mary Chandy, who had served the Presentation Convent for more than five decades, is all set to rock Kerala with yet another tale of bitter truth replete with incidents of sexual abuse, rape attempts and killing of new-born babies, through her autobiography, Swasthy.

In an exclusive interview to DC on Saturday, the nun said that almost all those who choose the cloister are more vulnerable to the ‘call of the body than the call of the spirit’.

Fondly called Sisteramma, the saree-clad, soft but strong willed nun was at the tiny rented house of Santhisadhan Balamandiram on the outskirts of the border town here, where she lives with 17 abandoned children whom she calls ‘children of God’.

The nun goes back to her own experiences. “I was once the target of rape and when I protested a clergyman’s attempt and carried the issue to the church, it was I, and not he, who was put under tremendous mental pressure”, she said.

Sr Mary left the order 12 years ago. “Now I feel closer to God”, she said.

“In the system when you question the order, what is left for you is only tears and suffering”, she added.

“Most of the nuns succumb to persuasive machinations which result in unwanted babies, sin and situations”, said Sr Mary.

“My autobiography, Swasthy, when published, will surely create a whirlwind of sorts as I have exposed the sequence of many such ordeals I experienced in my 56 years as a nun”, she said.

Is she afraid to go public about such subjects? Or is she rebelling?

“I am not a rebel and am not afraid of anybody, except God”, she said. Sr Mary is of the opinion that there should be people ready to express bitter truths, only then can the system be refined.

“Why does the system allow people who are incapable of keeping their vow of celibacy, to continue in the church? Such people should be allowed to have a gentle exit.

However, the nun is not interested in being photographed. “I expect a storm after the release of the book, we can save the ‘photographs’ for reports after the storm”, she said with a smile.

The publishers, Kairali Books, based at Kannur, is all set to release Swasthy soon.

Christof Heyns, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

Press Statement
Country Mission to India
Christof Heyns, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
19–30 March 2012

(Note:  The “Conclusions” section of the press statement, pp. 8-9, is excerpted here. Emphasis added. The full text of the statement is attached.)

There is reason for serious concern about extrajudicial executions. The National Human Rights Commission has on occasion said ‘extrajudicial executions have become virtually a part of state policy’. The position may have improved in some respects, but has not been resolved, and the legacy of the past is bound to continue into the future.

To a large extent the required structures to decrease extrajudicial executions are already in place. The steps to be taken have also by and large been identified within the system. What is required is a concerted and systematic effort by the state, civil society and all others concerned to eradicate its occurrence. In this process some of the best practices that are already followed in the country should be used as models for reform elsewhere. I have been impressed, for example, by the measures taken in Kerala State to make the police force more responsive to the needs of the public.

Impunity for extrajudicial executions is the central problem. This gives perpetrators a free reign, and leaves victims in a situation where they either are left helpless, or have to retaliate. The obstacles to accountability that are in place—in particular the need for prior sanction of prosecutions—should be removed. Women and minorities—religious minorities, as well as dalits and adivasis—as well as human rights defenders, including right to information activists, are especially at risk, and their protection deserves special measures.

Almost everyone interviewed said that the courts, and the Supreme Court in particular, play a central role in the fight against unlawful killings. The same applies to the role of the media. I was also struck by the level of expertise and responsibility in civil society.

It is evident that the killings of people take place in the context of other abuses, such as torture and enforced disappearances. Preventing these other abuses can under some circumstances prevent the taking of life.

It is clear that in general the underlying causes of some of the violence need to be addressed, including the levels of development of those who are currently using force to oppose state policies. Andhra Pradesh was mentioned to me as an example in this regard.

There is a strong need for victims to speak about their experiences. A large number of the almost 200 victims who made presentations to me emphasised the need to know the truth, and to ‘clear the names’ of their loved ones who had been killed in ‘fake encounters’. However, a credible national process will have far greater legitimacy in this regard than an international one. Some form of—internal—transformative justice is called for. In Jammu and Kashmir the Chief Minister called for a truth and reconciliation commission. It must be underscored that justice for the victims, accountability and punishment of the perpetrators, that is a real end to impunity for extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and torture, are essential elements of any such process.

A public commitment to the eradication of the phenomenon of unlawful killings is needed. In this context it could be valuable to highlight to the public and to those in the structures of the State the historical and global role the country has played in promoting non-violence worldwide, including non-violent demonstrations, and the fact that extrajudicial executions is its opposite. A Commission of Inquiry, drawing on some of the outstanding jurists and other figures that the country has produced, can play this role.

There should be a special focus on the areas of the country where specific forms of unlawful killings take place. In some instances some form of transitional justice may be required, to ensure justice to the victims, break the cycle of violence, and to symbolize a new beginning. Specific and targeted attention should be given to the following issues: challenging the general culture of impunity; addressing the practice of ‘fake encounters’, to ensure that it is rooted out; and ensuring that swift and decisive action, with concrete outcomes, is taken when there are mass targeted killings. The Commission has to be required to complete its work within a reasonably short period of time, also to demonstrate that a new approach is being followed. In this respect it will be useful to look at possible lessons to be learned from the recent appointment of a judge to investigate extrajudicial executions in Gujarat, which at this stage appears to be a positive development.

RIMS Authority Notified to Remove Two Churches

Press Release

RIMS Authority Notified to Remove Two Churches

Christian Council Met Former Manipur Chief Minister Rishang Keishing and Appealed NCM to Intervene

Dr. Joseph D’souza, President, All India Christian Council
Dr. John Dayal, Secretary General, All India Christian Council
For further detail, please contact Madhu Chandra +919716004939
New Delhi, April 1, 2012
The Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), Imphal, Manipur summoned Church elders and ordered to remove two church constructions within 15 days. All India Christian Council took up the matter with one and only the standing member of first Lok Sabha and appealed to the National Commission for Minorities to protect the interest of Minority rights.
According to the request letter addressed to the President of All India Christian Council from Lamphel Bapstist Church, Imphal, Manipur said, “the Office of the Deputy (Admin), RIMS summoned the elders of Lamphel Baptist Church and Rongmei Naga Baptist Church and served 15 days notice to remove the church building otherwise, the authority will forcefully the church buildings on March 29.”
Dr. John Dayal – Secretary General and Rev. Madhu Chandra – Regional Secretary of All India Christian Council and Spokesperson of North East Support Centre & Helpline took up the matter with honourable Member of Parliament and Former Chief Minister of Manipur, Shri Rishang Keishing yesterday and conveyed the grievances faced by the members of two churches with RIMS campus. Shri Rishang Keishing has assured to take up the matter with Chief Minister of Manipur, Shri O. Ibobi Singh.
Dr. John Dayal has been closely following the matters related to minority rights and interest in the state of Manipur. He says, “The Christian members in the state of Manipur are increasing facing the threat from public as well as from the state Government. It is the duty of the elected government to protect and serve the interest of minorities in the state.”
Rev. Madhu Chandra says, “Lamphel Baptist Church and Rongmei Naga Baptist Church have been existed within the campus for last forty years. It has become sanctity of religious place. The authorities of RIMS, serving 15 days notice to remove otherwise to destroy forcefully is the irresponsible decision. The decision violates the fundamental rights of religious minorities and insults the religious sentimental.”
The All India Christian Council has taken up the matter with National Commission of Minorities and Manipur State Minority Commission so that the interest of Minorities must be protected.
All India Christian Council calls upon the Authority of RIMS to adopt the way PGI Chandigarh, (Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh), where the authority has setup the religious places – Temple for Hindus, Gurdwara for Sikhs, Mosque for Muslims and Church for Christians within the campus. This will help the people to live in peace, harmony and co-existence among all sections of societies, particularly for the state like Manipur where heterogeneous communities live together.
The Lamphel Baptist Church was established by the employees of the Regional Medical College, now Regional Institutes of Medical Sciences in 1973 for the purpose of prayer, worship and the members of the church belong to Meiteis, Nepalis, Tangkhul, Thadou, Kuki, Vaiphe, Mao, Rongmei, Inpui, Lianmei, Tarao, Anal, Monsang, Kom, Hmar, Chiru, Aimol, Lamkang, Mayon, Maring, and Paite. The 70% of the members of the church are the employees of RIMS. The space occupied by Lamphel Baptist church is just 100 x 70 feet.
Many churches among Meitei and Rongmei villages have been destroyed and Christians have been attacked in last 15 years in the state of Manipur. Two churches in Naga River, Imphal are currently served to vacate and churches in Lamphel housing colony threatened to vacate.