PUCL Bulletin, May 2001

Twentieth PUCL Journalism for Human Rights
Award & Twenty First JP Memorial Lecture

Also, Saswati Bora wins the 20th PUCL 'JOURNALISM FOR
HUMAN RIGHTS' Award

The JP Memorial Lecture: Diminishing Freedoms of the Poor - The Poor Future By S.R. Sankaran

The PUCL held its JP Memorial function at Chennai this year. The function is held every year at different places. This years function was held at Book Point Hall in the Orient Longman Building at Chennai. Sri Era Sezhiyan, one of the founders of the PUCL and an associate of JP presided. Shri SR Sankaran, delivered former IAS Officer, presently Convenor of the Committee of the Concerned Citizens, Hyderabad delivered the JP memorial Lecture.

Before the start of the proceedings Dr. Y P Chhibbar requested all those present to strand in silence for one minute in the memory of thousands of people who lost their lives in the Cyclone in Orissa and the earthquake in Gujarat. He also mentioned the passing away of Shri G Kumara Pillai. a founder member of the PUCL and the former President of the Kerala State branch and Justice T. Chandrasekhara Menon, the President of the Kerala State PUCL.

Shri Era Sezhiyan presented the Journalism for Human Rights Award of Rs. 20,000/-, a plaque, and a Citation to Ms. Saswati Bora of The Asian Age, Mumbai. He also presented a Special Mention and Rs. 5000/-to Shri G Venugopal of Mangalam Daily, Kottayam, Kerala. (See the Citation for Saswati Bora and the Special mention for G Venugopal along with their acceptance Speeches elsewhere in this issue)
After the presentation ceremony Shri K.G. Kannabiran introduced Shri SR Sankaran to deliver the Lecture (See the lecture and the introduction of Shri Era Sezhiyan and Shri SR Sankaran elsewhere).

In his remarks as the President of the function, Shri Era Sezhiyan picked up the theme of Shri Sankaran's topic. He said that after a decade of liberalization of Dr. Man Mohan Singh we now have the 2001-02 budget of the present government. He made light of the Finance Minister's remarks that poverty had fallen from 36% in 1993-94 to 26% now. He said that it was fallacious to attribute the fall in the poverty percentage to the GDP growth, as there were periods when the rise in the rate of the GDP growth did not have lower poverty percentage. He further said that if one looked at some selected ministry's and their schemes for the welfare of the masses, one would find that the NDA government had not only failed to adequate funds, it had woefully failed to spend even the meager grants obtained through the annual budgets. He emphasized that failure to eradicate poverty was a failure to protect the human right of life of the poor. He cited figures to support his point.

He said that the Union Agricultural Ministry had no time to use the grants totaling Rs. 18730/- crores in 1998-99, 1999-2000 and 2000-01. It had surrendered Rs. 1502/- crores relating to health and family welfare, surrendered 1107 crores out of 1841 crores. Urban employment and Poverty alleviation Ministry surrendered 212 crores out of 1100/- crores. The Ministry of small-scale industries and agro and rural industries surrendered 262 crores out of 2741 crores. On the other hand, there is Cabinet Secretariat whose annual expenditure has been expanding in 1998-99 its budget estimates was 6.16 crore and in 2000-01 the revise estimate was 24.04 crores. The budge allocation for 2001-02 is 36.07 crores. The government needs to explain why the growth of the macro level economy has not improved the micro level economics. Without equitable distribution of benefits the production growth and creation of wealth is widening the gap between the rich and the poor. The budget of removal of poverty will be effective only after removal of poverty of the budget itself.

Shri K. G. Kannabiran in his remarks as the president of the PUCL pointed out that if we relate Shri Sankaran's Lecture with the remarks of Shri Era Sezhiyan it becomes clear that poverty levels are not diminishing. Whereas on the one hand, we have nuclear war capacity and global level Cyber technology there are millions of rural families that have no drinking facility, electricity, primary education etc. In such a situation the poorest of the poor and the most neglected of the disadvantaged i.e., the dalits, and the tribals, women and children are deprived of their human rights. The thriving corruption in all walks of urban life is a direct assault on the rights of the poor.

After this Dr. Y. P. Chhibbar, National General Secretary thanked Shri Era Sezhiyan and Shri SR Sankaran. He also thanked the TN & Pondy State branch of the PUCL for hosting the function this year, especially Shri Ravi Kumar the State PUCL President, Dr. V. Suresh the State General Secretary, Ms. Sudha Ramalingam, the former State President, and Ms. Saila for the efficient arrangements made for the function. He also thanked a large number of members and sympathisers of the PUCL from all over the country who sent it donations to meet the expenses and others who extended to meet the expenses and other who extended to help in various ways.(See list elsewhere). He thanked his colleagues in the National Office who worked untiringly for the success of the function. (SarvaShri Brij Lal, Sharif Khan, Rati Pal Singh, BP Bhatt, Babita Garg, Valsala N, Pramod Kumar, Ashok Kumar), especially Ms. Bindu Raj who worked up to 8-9 hours a day. Dr. V Suresh thanked his colleagues in the TN & Pondy PUCL for their help, financial and otherwise for making the arrangements, especially Shri Srinivas for making comfortable arrangements for the stay of the outstation guests.

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