PUCL Bulletin, February 2005

Proceedings of the12th national council meeting, Ahmedabad, December 4 & 5, 2004

[Also see, General Secretary’s Report to National Council: December 4 & 5 2004, Ahmedabad. Click ]

The National Council met at Peace Research Centre, Gujarat Vidyapith on Saturday, December 4 and Sunday, December 5, 2004.

Following 31 members from 14 State branches attended the meeting (in alphameric order):
Andhra Pradesh: K.G. Kannabiran;
Bihar: Kishori Das; Prabhakar Sinha; Ram Chandra Lal Das; Ramashray Prasad Singh; Surendra Kumar; Vinay Kumar Kanth;
Chhattisgarh: Binayak Sen;
Delhi: Kuldip Nayar; Pushkar Raj; Rajindar Sachar; Surendra Mohan; Y.P. Chhibbar;
Gujarat: Deva Vrat N. Pathak; Gautam Thaker; Jharkhand: Nishant Akhilesh; S. Bhattacharjee;
Karnataka: P.B. D’Sa; Ram Das Rao; V. Laxminarayana; Kerala: Mathew Manakattu; Thomas Joseph Therakam (Fr.);
Mumbai: Yogesh V. Kamdar;
Orissa: Pramodini Pradhan;
Rajasthan: Kavita Srivastava (Ms);
Tamil Nadu: V. Suresh;
U.P.: Chittaranjan Singh; Ravi Kiran Jain; R.B. Mehrotra;
Uttarakhand: Himanshu Bourai (Ms.); Rajendra P. Dhasmana;

Guests: Bhadraben Savai (Ms); Dinesah Shukla; Kapilbhai Deshwal; Pushpa Motiyani (Ms); Sadhana Vora (Ms.); V.R. Shanabhai.

Agenda of the meeting was as follows:
1. Discussion on ways and means to strengthen the finances of the organisation.
2. Future programmes and expansion.
3. A suitable memorial programme in the name of V.M. Tarkunde.
4. Resolution as per the suggestion of the auditors.
5. Suggestion by the General Secretary for curtailing expenses.
6. Election and other constitutional requirements.
7. Any other item with the permission of the chair.

(1) Deva Vrat N. Pathak, President of Gujarat PUCL welcomed the delegates on behalf of Gujarat PUCL. He gave a brief history of Gujarat Vidyapith and then dwelt at some length on the painful story of communal carnage in Gujarat in the year 2002. The Gujarat branch of the PUCL played its role in relief and rehabilitation, though the task at hand was stupendous. He said that Gujarat was passing through a critical situation and needed gigantic and multi pronged attempts for establishment of peace and for mending the torn social fabric. The PUCL alongwith other NGOs did commendable work to ease the situation.

(2) The General Secretary read his report. The meeting condoled the death of 20 of its members since the National Council meeting of August 18 & 19 2001 at Allahabad The biggest loss was the death of VM Tarkunde which was deeply mourned by all the branches of the PUCL in the country. It was pointed out by Prabhakar Sinha that the name of B.D. Prasad of Patna who died in December 2003 had been left out. His name was added. (See the list in General Secretary’s report published in January 2005 issue of the ‘Bulletin) The national Council members stood in silence in honour of memory of departed members at the end of the General Secretary’s report.

(3) Yogesh Kamdar felt that the National Council should place on records its appreciation of the work done by the Gujarat State branch collectively and the PUCL members individually also during the days of the communal genocide following the Godhra incident. The suggestion was unanimously accepted.

(4) Taking up the first item of the agenda, ways and means to strengthen the finance of the organisation, a majority of the members present were of the opinion that the suggestion of debarring the national Council members if they do not contribute Rs. 1000/- per year should not be put into practice. They should be persuaded and the State branch should be approached to find a way to make up the contribution. Some members pointed out that at times some members elected to the National Council from the branches were really not in a position to afford to pay Rs. 1000/-. It was suggested that they should be persuaded to enroll life members in lieu of their contribution.

(5) It was proposed by some members that membership fee for Life members and Patron members may be increased to Rs. 1000/- and 2000/- respectively from the existing Rs. 500/- and 1000/-. This was approved.

(6) Kuldip Nayar spoke on a number of issues without reference to the agenda and expressed his reservations about the proceedings of the meeting of the National Executive held at Delhi on October 31st suggesting a number of names for various posts and the unanimous decision that K.G. Kannabiran should be requested to continue for one more term. Yogesh Kamdar and a few other embers clarified that the National Executive had only made a suggestion and not tried to pre-empt the decision to be taken at the National Council and that the elections were the business of the National Council.

The General Secretary pointed out to Kuldip Nayar and Rajindar Sachar, who had expressed reservations on the National Council electing the office bearers of the PUCL, that this was a provision of the amended Constitution which had come into force at the Jaipur National Convention on April 24, 25 1999. This team would assume office at the National Convention to be held within 3 months. If the members had reservations on this provision of the Constitution an appropriate amendment should be moved in due course. Kuldip Nayar went on to suggest that such members who had not lived up to the ideals of the PUCL should be expelled. He also mentioned a name. Many members protested on this suggestion. Yogesh Kamdar, K.G. Kannabiran, Prabhakar Sinha, and others said that an organisation like the PUCL should value difference of opinion and freedom of action. Kuldip Nayar said that the name he had mentioned was only an example and not as a case in point.

The Council did not approve of his suggestion. Kuldip Nayar also said that he was opposed to Y.P. Chhibbar being paid Rs. 5000/- per month for the use of his residence, as suggested by the National Executive in its meeting on October 31, after he ceased to be the General Secretary. Y.P. Chhibbar pointed out that he had earlier drawn the attention of the house to his remark while reading his report that he had strong reservations on this recommendation of the National Executive. R.B. Mehrotra took strong exception to Kuldip Nayar making wide ranging observations without any reference to the agenda.

(7) The General Secretary had proposed in his report that as the interest of journalists in the ‘Journalism for Human Rights’ Award had gone down and as the expenditure on the function was on the path to diminishing returns, the Journalism Award may be discontinued and only the annual JP Memorial Lecture be continued. This proposal was supported by K.G. Kannabiran and Yogesh Kamdar. V. Suresh and some other members opposed the idea and volunteered that from the next year they would under-take collecting money and organising the Award function. Kuldip Nayar interjected to say that he was prepared to fund the Award for three years. The General Secretary said that any money should not be accepted from anyone for a specific purpose. All donations should go to the organisational funds and the organisation should be free to use it according to its priorities.

Every one agreed that an annual Tarkunde Memorial Lecture should be started. It was decided that the lecture should be held every year on November 23 the day on which the Constitution of the PUCL was adopted and the organisation was so named in 1980 in a conference at Gandhi Peace Foundation. Every one agreed that this year now it was too late to organise journalism Award. It may be resumed next year.

(8) Ravi Kiran Jain, T.J. Therakkam, V. Suresh, Kavita Srivastava, Vinay Kanth, and others emphasised that the PUCL should take up newly emerging issues as well as the universal problems of deprivation, inequality, divisiveness, and corruption, etc., whenever these impinge upon Human Rights and Civil Liberties. Himanshu Bourai lamented that the State branches faced difficulties in arranging finances of their activities.

(9) Nishant Akhilesh, Chittaranjan Singh, P.B. D’Sa, Pushkar Raj, Ramashray Prasad Singh, Ram Das Rao, and Deva Vrat N. Pathak made suggestions apart from points raised in the General Secretary’s report, regarding finance, etc.

These can be summed up as below:

  • Receipts form membership should be increased by increasing the number of members and also by increasing membership fees.
  • Annual membership fee should not be increased.
  • Selectively Corporates, Trusts, NRI’s should be approached for donations.
  • Branches can raise funds by publishing reports, souvenirs, etc.
  • Appeal can be made on the website for funds from individuals.
  • A Core Committee to organise fund raising was formed comprising V. Suresh, Kavita Srivastava, Yogesh Kamdar, Vinay Kanth. This group would put forth some proposals at the National Convention.

(10) Taking up the issue of future programmes and expansion Prabhakar Sinha said that apart from the points mentioned in the report of the General Secretary it was necessary for us to realise that the present context of our work was different from what it was at the time when the PUCL was formed. The present challenge is how to secure the support of the Civil Society to the values implicit in the concept of human rights. While there should not be any let up in the commitment to civil and political rights, new issues have to be taken up. Two such issues that he mentioned were right to work and right to quality elementary education.

(11) S. Bhattacharjee laid emphasis on the need of programmes and activities concerning people’s problems and suggested a dharna at the Parliament House for amending the NHRC Act suitably. Ravi Kiran Jain brought up the issue of Human Rights vis-à-vis poverty, inequality, and development, which was decided to be taken up later (see January issue of the ‘Bulletin). Nishant Akhilesh felt the need of guidance and training member activists for which suitable committees could be formed. Following this Kavita Srivastava and Binayak Sen raised the issue of identification of some common agenda or promotion of campaigns at the national level. Pramodini Pradhan felt that right to work could be an issue relevant to different parts of country.

Laxminarayana drew attention to the issues relating to environment and human rights, which have been taken up in Karnataka and pleaded for a national PUCL position on the draft National Environment Policy which was a retrograde document. Ram Chandra Lal Das commented upon inequality in the field of basic rights obtaining in different States of India. Among other things, V. Suresh pleaded for a futuristic vision and perceptive human rights and concomitant changes needed in the organisational structure and preparation for leadership. Several groups and specialistic cells need to be set up at the National level, he said. A mechanism needs to be designed for closer interaction between the Centre and States on the one hand and State and the Districts on the other hand.

(12) M.A. Rane, President of Mumbai PUCL, could not attend the meeting due to ill health. He sent a letter to the General Secretary with his comments and suggestions and requested that the letter be read out in the meeting of the Council. The letter is reproduced below:
“… I have noted that the meeting of the National Council of the PUCL will be held at Ahmedabad on 4-5 December 2004. You are aware that I am unable to move out of Mumbai. Please, therefore, excuse my absence. Yogesh will be attending the same. Therefore, I am sending this letter with him personally to be handed over to you, so that National Council may consider the views expressed by me herein below.

“Shri Kannabiran as President of the PUCL and yourself as General Secretary have done very valuable work for the PUCL. I am glad that Kannabiran has agreed to continue as President of the PUCL for a year more. We will have to find his successor. I am of the opinion that Shri Prabhakar Sinha is a proper person to be elected as President of PUCL, as he is with the PUCL since its inception.

“As regards office of the General Secretary I think it is high time that you are relieved in view of your delicate health. It is difficult to substitute you as the General Secretary. I agree that the office of the PUCL should be located in Delhi, because having office in the capital of the country is always necessary. You may therefore choose two persons, i.e., Ajit Jha or Pushkar Raj as Secretary as proposed during the meeting of the National Executive. Your association with the PUCL should be continued as a Vice President.
“I have to make one suggestion to the National Council about which I have already written to you in the past.

I am of the opinion that the next year we should discontinue the PUCL Award for Journalism because of heavy expenses required to be borne by the PUCL for giving the Award of a paltry sum of Rs. 20,000/- We are required to collect about Rs. 75,000/- for that purpose. The PUCL was pioneer in encouraging investigative journalism among the young journalists dealing with the problems of deprived sections of the people. We have done it for more than 20 years. Now there are several Awards instituted for encouraging journalists. In view of the heavy costs I am of the view that it should be discontinued from the next year. The moneys that we raised for the function may be utilized for building a corpus for the PUCL as discussed by the National Executive.

“However, I am of the view that the Annual J.P. Memorial Lecture should be held on 23rd March of every year as usual. To the best of my knowledge it was on this day when Smt. Gandhi withdrew the notification of Emergency, which she had kept hanging on the heads of Indian people even though she declared elections. If she was elected she would have continued the Emergency.

“I request you or Yogesh to read this letter of mine and my suggestions to the National Council at Ahmedabad. – M.A. Rane”.

(13) A lively debate was witnessed on the issue of democracy within the organization. Y.P. Chhibbar cautioned against a rhetoric use of the term. T.J. Therakan quoted from PUCL constitution to explain the role of National Council. On behalf of a group constituted for the purpose of making recommendations for improving financial situation of PUCL, a brief presentation was made by V. Suresh. He promised to finalize details in consultation with other members in a month which may be placed before the National Convention.

(14) Ravi Kiran Jain, President of UP PUCL read a document prepared on behalf of the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand PUCL on the issue of Human Development and Human Rights (this document was published in the PUCL Bulletin of January 2005.) it was decided that it should be made available to a larger number of members through the ‘Bulletins for building up a wider movement at local levels and then should be adopted in the National Convention to be held in three months time.

(15) Rajendra Dhasmana, who was the Chief Editor, Collected Works of Gandhi, 100 volumes, raised the issue of tinkering with the ‘Works saying that this amounted to falsification of history and the PUCL should take notice of the issue.

(16) Kavita Srivastava remarked during the discussion that PUCL gave the impression of being male dominated and Brahmanical. Yogesh Kamdar and Ram Chandra Lal Das agitatedly countered it and urged her to see the past record of work and organisational lists of office bearers. Dev Vrat N. Pathak brought up the larger issue of right to peace, starting from right to life, which forms the core of human rights. Some other members extended the discussion and brought up other issues like hunger, education, health and environment which should engage the attention of human rights activists more.

(17) Organizational elections were held in another session with Dev Vrat N. Pathak in the chair. Rajinder Sachar was requested to join him to complete the task. KG Kannabiran and Y.P. Chhibbar agreed to continue as President and General Secretary for the next term on the request of the delegates. Kavita Srivastava, Pushkar Raj, and Ajit Jha will assist Y.P. Chhibbar as Secretaries to run the office and other affairs.

List of the office bearers elected for the next term is as follows:
Office bearers for the next term to begin with the next National Convention. President: K.G. Kannabiran; General Secretary: Y.P. Chhibbar; Vice Presidents: (In alphameric order) Binayak Sen; Mathew Manakattu; Prabhakar Sinha; Ravi Kiran Jain; Sudha Ramalingam (Ms); Yogesh Kamdar; Secretaries: Ajit Jha; Kavita Srivastava (Ms); Pushkar Raj; Organising Secretaries: Chittaranjan Singh; Gautam Thaker; Himanshu Bourai (Ms); N. Kotishwar Singh; Nishant Akhilesh; P.B. D’sa. Treasurers: D. Jagannathan & S.A.A. Pinto.

(18) A resolution was unanimously passed to place on record the deep appreciation of the organisation for the sterling contribution made by Y.P. Chhibbar to the PUCL. A shawl was presented to him by the Gujarat State branch as mark of honour (see the resolution in the January issue of the ‘Bulletin).

(19) The house approved the resolution regarding the merger of the Silver Jubilee Fund with the Corpus Funds as suggested by the auditors. The General Secretary had suggested that the next 2 years should be devoted to strengthening the existing branches and to reviving the non-functional branches. The branches mentioned in this connection, were Assam, Goa, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Mumbai, Punjab, Orissa, and West Bengal. This suggestion was approved besides other suggestions already mentioned.

(20) The meeting ended with a vote of thanks by the General Secretary on behalf of the National PUCL and by the General Secretary of Gujarat PUCL on behalf of the State branch.

(21) After conclusion of the meeting of the National Council, a meet was organized with representatives of various groups which had played a role during the Gujarat riots in 2002 and after. Many persons recounted their experiences and tales of woe while some explained the work undertaken for rescue, relief, and rehabilitation. – Y.P. Chhibbar, Ph. D., General Secretary, 5th December 2004


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