human rights situation in Gujarat
The state of human rights in Gujarat, especially during the last three
years that the BJP has been in power, people's life has been one of distress,
and dissatisfaction. Far from being a model state, Gujarat has lost its
high place of pride and esteem. Thanks to the poor, inefficient and sectarian
policies pursued by the state, the government seems to have lost touch
with the realities of people's problems and complaints and built a castle
for itself with complete indifference to the rising tide of people's miseries
Unfortunately, during this very period Gujarat has faced natural calamities
of droughts, f1oods, tornado and an extremely high degree of earthquake
in quick succession causing unparalleled devastation in Kutch, Ahmedabad
and certain parts of Saurashtra.
These calamities required highly skilled disaster management. Thus, the
state government had to face a challenge of unusual nature. The government
could have done this with success provided they followed a people centric
approach involving the earthquake afflicted people as well as several
NGOs who were willing and keen to render every kind of service to the
people. Gujarat has a rich tradition of service-minded voluntary organizations
ready to help with their spirit of initiative and enterprise.
Today, after six months of miserable plight and pain, the work of relief
and rehabilitation remain incomplete on account of the vacillating, uncertain,
and inept handling of the disaster. Lack of clear or definite policies
on the part of the government has left a large number of people completely
helpless" Even the public spirited NGOs are on the verge of giving
up their work about to run away on account of confused policies followed
by the government.
People's miseries have multiplied partly because the state government
does not have a properly organised infrastructure at the lower level.
The situation is the direct result of the state governments decision not
to have village Panchayat elections that were due during the last year
- a constitutional lapse for which the government have to blame themselves.
The state government have announced various packages of rehabilitation.
But they involve official delay, conflicting interpretations and not clear
enough to the general public. Even after six months, a majority have to
live in temporary shelters. While attention is being given to cities and
towns there are several villages that have suffered from complete neglect.
Clearance of debris remains incomplete causing hardships to people. But
the biggest problem for the people has been lack of guidance and coordination.
They have to run from pillar to post in search of help. As a result, they
have started leaving Kutch.
People in Kutch are facing several problems such as:
Lack of coordination between the capital and the bureaucrats working in
Official delay and red-tape
The NHRC visited Kutch and founded that great amount of delay in working
out of the task of the rehabilitation. Orphans women, children, and the
poor have not received proper attentions or care. People who have been
disabled have not received the care that they deserve. Again, the decision
making process should have been speeded up. There is also a need for setting
a group that can properly and adequately monitor the policies regarding
disaster management as well as the urgent task of rehabilitation.
PUCL, Gujarat notes with regret that the government has turned a deaf
ear to the repeated entreaties and requests made by the PUCL, including
several meetings with tile Governors of the State Minister in-charge of
Home Department as well as the police officers of the State or the formation
of state level Human Rights Commission. In the course of last two years
PUCL representatives met the visiting Chairpersons of the National Human
Rights Commission, every time hoping a positive response from the state.
While several other states, like Maharashtra and Rajasthan, have instituted
Human Rights Commissions, Gujarat remains a lone example of denying that
legitimate and much sought after right of the people of the state. Several
serious and highly disturbing complaints have been noted by the PUCL in
respect of the poor handling of the earthquake disaster by the state government.
For example, the poor have been deliberately and systematically sidelined
in providing relief. There have been glaring instances of communal bias
in the handling of disaster management and providing relief. Preferences
have been given to the higher caste and the well-to-do sections of people.
Work pertaining to education has been either ignored or pursued in a half-hearted
What is true in the disaster management is merely the expression of one
of the overall policy of saffronization. The minorities of Gujarat live
in an atmosphere of fear and insecurity, their legitimate human rights
being ignored and neglected. All the outfits of the party in power continue
to enjoy the favour and support from the government. They consider themselves
above law and often dictate policies of their choice. Whenever and wherever
they operate, their writ seems to prevail from government to educational
as well as other social and cultural institutions.
Constitutional propriety, protection of human rights, including gender
justice and rights of the child are woefully overlooked. Police atrocities,
including the tortured death of Colonel Save at Umdegaaon, South Gujarat,
have left bitter memories in the minds of people.
Gujarat, no doubt has a government b ut there is no governance. The party
in power regard themselves as above the law and corruption of every conceivable
type prevails in all walks of life. The nexus between the politicians
and criminals, irresponsible elements in society are too obvious to need
mention. The overall picture is one of the neglect, inaptitude and loss
-- Deva Vrat N Pathak,
President, Gujarat PUCL, Gautam Thaker, General Secretary, Gujarat PUCL