ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Journalists' Protection

LETTERS

Issn 0012-9976

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Closing Schools in Karnataka

I
t looks as though Venkatesha Murthy (“Closure of Primary Schools”, EPW, 25 February 2012) is indirectly defending the Karnataka government’s senseless decision to close as many as 1,500 primary schools on the ground that there are few children attending them. He seems to suggest that there is no need for the gov ernment to provide “learning space” (primary schools) in such villages and that this is unecono mical. Primary education is not a business and under the Right to Education Act, the State is bound to provide a school even if one child wishes to attend.

The Karnataka minister for primary education says that the state will provide autos for those children who cannot walk long distances to attend neighbouring primary schools. However this appears to lack any common sense; rural schools are not like their urban counterparts. Further, primary schoolteachers in Karnataka are well paid but many loiter around, without attending school, run tea shops and grocery stores, etc. Why cannot the government dismiss such primary schoolteachers and merge primary schools with few children with the anganwadi (where children of the 3-5 year age group attend and where nutritional supplements are also provided) of that particular village. The whole purpose of launching anganwadis in the 1970s was to attract the 3-5 year age group children and prepare them to enter primary schools. Now they can be combined and managed by primary schoolteachers and anganwadi workers for both the preschool and the primary school (6+ age group) children.

Anganwadis are run by the social welfare department and the primary schools are run by the education department and there is no coordination between them. Many of the anganwadis are run in private buildings of villagers and the primary schools are state-owned. In such cases anganwadis can be shifted to the primary school

march 24, 2012

building. This will be merging in terms of space but not in terms of learning. Another alternative would be to outsource these schools to private educational institutions which would be happy to run them instead of closing them down. It is hoped that better sense prevails with the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in Karnataka on such critical issues affecting the children in the state.

Manu N Kulkarni

Bangalore

The Child and the Family

W
ell said, Vasanthi Raman (“The ‘Foster Parent Industry’ of Norway”, EPW, 10 March 2012). We need more informed discussion about the State supporting the family rather than breaking it up in the attempt to provide for child welfare. We need to fl esh out the notion of the “child” which really is an omnibus term for the very different stages of being and experience that the human being goes through from infancy, through the toddler years, to early childhood, to the teenage years and then to young adulthood. We have to pay more attention to differentiating between these stages and to the different parameters of well-being that apply to each stage, particularly in reference to the presence of the mother and father in the life of the child in each stage.

We need to educate the public on the pressing need for help that mothers of very young children have. We also need to speak of the rights, within reason able parameters, of parents to have access to their children and to have control of decisions regarding their children’s education, doctors and treatment. And most importantly, we have to challenge and question foreign- funded and affiliated organisations in India that are advocating child’s rights, having swallowed hook, line and sinker the anti-family, or family-neutral, ideology of child welfare services in the developed world. Suranya Aiyar

Delhi

vol xlviI no 12

EPW
Economic & Political Weekly

LETTERS

Police Raj

T
he People’s Union for Democratic Rights (pudr) has drawn the public’s attention from time to time to the lawless conduct of the security forces in war zones across the country. Recent developments reported from Chhattisgarh show that security forces enjoy so much impunity that they have begun to fl out even the instructions/orders of the state home minister. And such is their clout that they can dismiss warrant/s issued by judicial officials, knowing fully well that no action against them would ensue.

Chhattisgarh Home Minister Nanki Ram Kanwar told reporters on 15 February that the police do not follow his orders. He complained to them that on 12 February he had asked the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Korba to file a fi rst information report (FIR) against two police personnel of the Kotwali police station for molesting and attempting to rape a minor, daughter of Milon Das, resident of Dhanmarpara, in Korba district. However, the Korba SP dismissed these allegations and claimed he had not received any such order from the minister. The home minister told the media that there is a Supreme Court ruling stating that a mere oral complaint by a girl victim is enough in such cases for fi ling a FIR.

This is the same Chhattisgarh police that also eulogises as “Chhattisgarh hero” a fugitive from justice and alleged rapist and killer, Kartam Surya.

Kartam Surya is a 29-year-old police constable who was one of the three “informal” commanders of a band of approximately 100 special police offi cers (SPOs) dubbed as “Koya Commandos”. After the Supreme Court declared as illegal the recruitment of SPOs, nearly all of them were absorbed in a special auxiliary force constituted by the Chhattisgarh government. Kartam Surya was accused of raping three tribal women, aged 19-23, at Sam Sehi village in 2006. On 17 November 2009, the sessions court issued a warrant against the accused, including Kartam Surya. The prosecutor claimed that Kartam and others could not be traced, although Kartam and other SPOs continued to engage in raid and search operations in Sukma district, living under police protection inside the police camp. Additional director general (Naxal) of police dismissed the warrant and accusation as being part of a “wellconceived strategy of Naxals”, the SP (Security) at Chhattisgarh police headquarters went so far as to say that Kartam Surya “was able to instil fear in the ultras for his ruthlessness” and praised him for being a “Chhattisgarh hero”.

The fact that the police routinely fl out judicial warrants/orders against their own personnel accused of rape and killing or even refuse to obey the home minister to record a FIR against their personnel for molesting a minor is not an aberration. It is the inner logic of fi ghting a war against our own people. Paramjeet Singh, Preeti Chauhan Secretaries, PUDR New Delhi

Journalists’ Protection

P
ress freedom in our country is not a special privilege of journalists. They enjoy the general freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution for all citizens. Whether special freedom needs to be given to journalists or not may be a matter of two opinions. But special protection should be given as journalists are attacked, killed and their offices are ransacked by dissatisfied activists mostly belonging to sociopolitical organisations or criminal elements. Madhya Pradesh journalist Chandrika Rai and his family members were killed recently, allegedly by the local mining mafia. Earlier, the office of a Marathi daily in Mumbai was assaulted and ransacked by activists of a political party. There have been numerous similar incidents and journalists have consistently demanded better protection, including legislation.

But whether such legislation should be at the state level or national level has not yet been decided. An attempt to decide the issue at the state level seems to be foiled in the case of Maharashtra. The committee appointed for the purpose prepared the recommendatory draft of the bill which has not yet been pressed for further action. The chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan has reportedly disclosed that most of the political parties were not in favour of the legislation, although individual members express their support. It is diffi cult to understand why political parties are afraid of this legislation. The legislation is urgently needed as the assaults on journalists and newspapers are increasing by the day. Especially in the semi-urban and rural areas allurement, threats and attacks are being used to pressure journalists.

Instead of relying on states for the legislation, the union government should take the initiative to pass a central act which will be binding on all states. It is similar to the Right to Information Act which was passed by Parliament and the rules under the Act are made applicable to all states in the country.

The assignment to prepare a draft of such a central legislation may well be entrusted to the Press Council of India, whose head is a former justice of the Supreme Court and has been vocal and critical about the inability of the government to protect the press. A draft prepared by the Press Council will have legitimacy and will incorporate the requirements of the journalists. The central government should waste no further time and speed up the process of drafting such a legislation. Prabhakar Kulkarni

Kolhapur

EPW Index An author-title index for EPW has been prepared for the years from 1968 to 2010. The PDFs of the Index have been uploaded, year-wise, on the EPW web site. Visitors can download the Index for all the years from the site. (The Index for a few years is yet to be prepared and will be uploaded when ready.) EPW would like to acknowledge the help of the staff of the library of the Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research, Mumbai, in preparing the index under a project supported by the RD Tata Trust.

Economic & Political Weekly

EPW
march 24, 2012 vol xlviI no 12

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