PUCL Bulletin, January 2005

Press Statement on the PUCL National Council Meeting Held at Ahmedabad on 4-5 December, 2004 Issued in a Press Meet on Dec 6, 2004

The PUCL National Council met at Ahmedabad on 4th and 5th December, 2004 at Gujarat Vidyapeeth mainly to discuss organizational matters and to elect the team of National Office bearers that will assume office at the next National Convention within the next three months.

The meeting started with a solemn and brief address by the President of Gujarat State branch, Prof. Dev Vrat N. Pathak, who lamented the communal carnage that look place in Gujarat in 2002, the role of the Gujarat PUCL in efforts to restore confidence, normalcy, and peace and the need of justice, rehabilitation, and compensation to bridge the breach that had been created between people and people. It was noticed that a divide based on hatred was seeping into the psyche of the people all over the country and it had to be fought.

The Gujarat branch presented the following statement on the situation in Gujarat which was placed on record:
The seventh bi-annual conference of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties held at Ahmedabad expresses its grave concern and worry on the sad conditions prevailing in Gujarat in respect of human rights and appeals to all the people of Gujarat and to the Gujarat government to take all necessary steps for proper protection and furtherance of human rights in Gujarat.
Taking into consideration the dastardly acts of violence at Godhra and the subsequent widespread carnage and massacre, the conference, while symphathising with the victims of violence, insists upon providing full and fair justice to all the victims without fail at the earliest so as to enable them to settle down in their life in a satisfactory manner.

The society in Gujarat is suffering from divisive communal tensions resulting in polarization of mind and ghettoisation of minorities. Their segregation and marginalisation are the most regrettable development of modern times.
The most pressing need of the hour is to bridge the gap between communities and cultivate feelings of brotherhood, mutual regard, tolerance, and understanding. The conference takes a solemn note of the decision of the Supreme Court to reopen as many as 2000 cases and transferring a few of them outside Gujarat thus highlighting the failure of the state government in providing justice to their citizens.

The ghastly events of 2002 have dealt a severe blow to the economic life of Gujarat, the state having slid down in terms of the rate of growth as well as witnessing a decrease in foreign investments. Once a prosperous and fast developing state, Gujarat, now suffers from overall decline in almost all spheres of public life. Unemployment, high debt (Rs. 60,000 crore), slow growth rate have deleterious impact on social life resulting in high rate of suicides.

Lack of development, poor prospects in agriculture and increasing rural unemployment have led people to migrate to urban areas thereby multiplying slums where they lead subhuman lives. 40 to 45% of city population are compelled to live in this dire condition without adequate supply of water, lack of sanitation, and electricity.

Globalization and privatizations have produced a situation where labour suffers the most having been reduced to uncertain employment due to hire and fire policies of the employees.

Gujarat presents a very poor picture in the realm of education. Apart from the poor record in primary education where students studying in fourth or fifth year can hardly read or write, the number of drop-outs has continued to grow, thereby swelling the number of child labourers. The state is paying scant attention to secondary and higher education. Hundreds of posts in educational institutions have remained vacant. The new trend is to hire teachers on a contractual basis reducing them to the status of daily wagers.
In the prosperous and so called progressive Gujarat women suffer the most. Events of 2002 have inflicted massive brutalities on women. Even otherwise every day ten to twelve young women meet unnatural deaths due to ill-treatment, evil of dowry, and domestic violence. Female foeticide is widespread even among the rich and the educated families.

Same if not worse, are the sufferings of dalits. Even today the legally prohibited practice of manual removal of night soil is prevalent in some parts of Gujarat.

Industrial development of Gujarat is concentrated on the "golden corridor" from Ahmedabad to Vapi based mostly on Chemical industries. This has resulted in poisoning the rivers, underground water, as well as general environment. Gujarat is sitting on a volcano of highly polluting industries. Little success has been achieved in attending to this deteriorating situation.
Perhaps the most tragic aspect is the general failure of the State in providing equal protection and treatment to its citizens, the most basic criterion of good and sound governance. Neither the fundamental rights nor the basic tenets of our Constitution have been fully and properly observed. Today walls of prejudice and hatred have been built up between communities thereby damaging the basic democratic tenets of governance.

The civil society of Gujarat should rise to the occasion about all these evils and shortcomings and provide sound guidelines to the State for removing them. The PUCL National Council meeting voices its concern about all these issues. – Dev Vrat N. Pathak, Gautam Thaker.

The National Council decided to organize an annual V.M. Tarkunde Memorial Lecture in honour of its first and founding President V.M. Tarkunde who breathed his last on March 22, 2004 at Delhi, every year on November 23, the date on which the name PUCL was adopted in an All India conference in 1980,

The meeting also discussed a detailed note presented by the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand PUCL branches on the Right to Human Development.
The draft presented by the President of Uttar Pradesh branch, Ravi Kiran Jain, says that the time had come to focus on issues other than mere civil liberties and to emphasize the development aspect of Human Rights.
The Note maintains that at the center of realization of human rights by the citizens is their right to human development to be ensured necessarily by the State and its democratically elected government.

It seeks to pinpoint that unless a struggle for assisting the people's basic right to human development is placed at the core of future agenda of the organization, the relevance of its existence will suffer. We must focus on the emancipation of the hungry, the illiterate, the exploited, the deprived, and the marginalized human beings.

The National Council approved the draft presented and decided that it should be circulated more widely to all the members and should be adopted at the next National Convention.

The National Council elected K.G. Kannabiran and Y.P. Chhibbar, the current President and General Secretary, for one more term in their posts. The council also elected other National office bearers. – December 6, 2004, Ahmedabad PUCL, Y.P. Chhibbar, General Secretary


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