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29 Jul 2014

Yes, I Am a Woman…..

Shalu Nigam, Countercurrents.org, 28 July, 2014: On the occasion of this Independence Day, I continue to fight for my independence as a common woman, as a citizen of this free nation and more importantly as a human being…
Yes, I am a woman and I am proud of myself. I am strong and I am growing stronger by each passing moment. I am an independent, fearless, free thinking woman making choices at every step reaffirming my pride, contesting for my dignity and in the process shaping and writing my own destiny….
I am the one with vision you see carrying bricks on construction sites...
I am a woman toiling in an agriculture field awaiting for the crop of my imagination to be harvested...
I am a worker working in a textile organization weaving my hopes in the garments I knit…
I am a student with dreams in my eyes, cycling or running after buses…
I am a scientist inventing and imagining, an architect, shaping and cementing the foundations of the new India carving it out from the old…
I am an office goer craving to fulfill my aspirations you can see in a train or a metro…
I am a teacher with a desire to inspire the future generation…
I am a health worker continuously striving to create a healthy India…
I am an engineer with a conviction of building a bright future…
I am a house worker carrying out loads of work with thoughts of sending my daughters to the moon…
I am a woman with courage walking with a pitcher in village carrying water to miles…
I am a woman with hope and optimism cooking food, cleaning house, managing farms, factories and corporate offices….
Because I am a dreamer, believer, creator and a doer ….
I may not be having a fair, bright skin, long shiny hair or a thin hourglass figure as promoted by corporate and media. I do not believe in all such lies and false standards for I am a real woman and real persons cannot be defined, contained and shaped, labeled or designed, mocked or ridiculed by anyone. I am a common Indian woman who takes pride in herself and choose to believe in myself, my strengths, my qualities, skills and abilities.…
I am a daughter of an independent India and a successor of Gargi, Maitrayee, Razia Sultana, Mirabai, Rani Lakhsmi Bai, Kittur Chennamma, Pandita Ramabai, Sarojini Naidu, Vijay Lakshmi Pandit, Kasturba Gandhi, Aruna Asaf Ali, Raj Kumari Amrita Kaur, Annie Besant, Capt Lakshmi Sehgal, Irom Sharmila Chanu and millions of other women who struggled or are working hard not only against the colonial rulers but also against the hegemony of oppression and exploitation imposed by dominant caste, class and patriarchy, so the coming generations could have a better future. I pledge that efforts of generations of women will not go in vain, that I the descendant of their courage and audacity will strive for justice till I get it….
I have been teased, molested, raped, beaten, murdered, tortured, discriminated against, violated, yet I survived all and rose from ashes like a phoenix, much stronger, much powerful and much tough. Bend me or break me, rape me or kill me, I will not give up. Nothing could destroy my soul or my spirit….
I reside in every Mathura, Bhanwari Devi, Shah Bano, Ammena, Rupan Deol Bajaj, Tarvinder Kaur, Roop Kanwar, Imrana, Gudiya, Soni Suri, Nirbhaya and identify myself as every other girl who is being raped, burned, abducted, brutalized daily in each and every nook and corner of India and yet fought back against perpetrators in some or the other way….
I am not a silent spectator of my brutal violations. I am not a victim, rather I am a survivor. I raise my voice in Parliament, I come out on streets against injustice, I struggle against World Bank, IMF and its Structural Adjustment Programmes, and similar such instruments which played a significant role in `feminization of poverty', I even resist at home and workplace against discrimination and violence, I stand to protect my right to water, to forest, to land, to livelihood and most importantly right to a dignified life. My voice can't be suppressed, restrained or smothered….
I agitated when the Supreme Court of India released the two policemen who raped me, tribal girl inside a police station, I revolted when during 80s the part of me was burned alive for greed, lust and consumerism in the form of dowry, I protested when I was immolated as sati, I dissented against any tradition or practice which tried to kill me before, at or after my birth because I am a girl, I raised my voice against rising the height of the dam which tended to destroy everything in the name of development, I challenged Norplant and any such procedures which denies me of my right to health, I dare to protest as a law intern against a Supreme court judge who molested me, I hugged the tree in forests when my rights to forest were denied, I created a revolution in North East against rape by military and para military forces, I resisted against fundamentalism which showed its ugly face in the form of communal riots, I raised my dissent when those in the judicial fraternity threw my petition on the ground that upper caste men cannot rape a dalit woman, I declared war against those who kidnapped young children at Nithari, I went against my boss, an editor of a magazine who molested me, I initiated anti arrack movement in different places, I struggled to get my right to livelihood, health and education, I stand against acid attacks, I rise against honour killing and witch hunting, I protested when I was raped in a moving bus in Delhi and I screamed at the top of my voice when I was raped and hanged by the tree in Badaun, and I will keep on doing that until I get respect and justice I deserve, I will keep on fighting continuously, for my dignity, my pride, my self- respect, my empowerment, my emancipation ….
I fight against poverty; I struggle against patriarchy – patriarchy which exists within family, at workplace, at public spaces and within mindset; I reject the notion of a deep-rooted, misogynist tradition-fed gender hierarchy - defined, dominated and exploited by few; I challenge free market economic policies and such reforms which take away my rights to peaceful existence; I resist against fundamentalism; I protest against oppression in any form. I voice my concerns for my space, for equality and for equal opportunities….
Born in free India, I strive to realize my constitutional right to dignified life – a life free from discrimination of all kinds. I negotiate to bridge the gap between political ideals and realities. I assert for my lawful rights, claims and entitlements and not ‘welfare programmes or scheme' given as a dole within socio-political arena. I endeavor to lead a life free from violence, right to enjoy privileges including that of water, food, education, health, land and all other amenities essential for civilized living….
I call my family to allow me to be born, and care for me as much they care for their sons, not to discriminate against me, provide me with the opportunity to get health, food and education and not marry me at an early age, not to give or demand dowry, not to inflict violence including incest, because I am powerless in certain situations….
I demand for equality in opportunities at the workplace, a work environment free from any discrimination or workplace violence…
I urge upon the society to give up misogynistic patriarchal attitude that results in violating my dignity and pride and in customs like female foeticide, honour killing, witch hunting, trafficking, buying and selling women as brides….
I am of the view that patriarchy must be abolished. In the independent India, all such practices that are offensive to anyone should be declared illegal and unconstitutional….
I am against capitalistic patriarchy that commodifies women and promote gender stereotypes that discriminate against women. I confront imperialism in its new avatar of globalization and liberalization which has led to increasing restrictions to my space, access to resources, destroyed indigenous skills and knowledge system, harmed the local ecology and devastated local forest, water systems and land.….
I defy all challenges in my way placed by fundamentalist and communal forces to exclude me, deny me visibility, keeping me propertyless and resourceless for vested interests…
I resist against militarization and nuclearization which promote brutal ways of life taking most of the budgetary provisions while denying basics …
I also demand to enact Women's Reservation Bill, enabling policies for single women and laws that strive for fair treatment. I propose to reconsider all the laws that are patriarchal, patrilineal and biased and support implementation of those laws which promote equality….
I insist that all those who opine that women misuse laws against rape or domestic violence law to just think once from a perspective of that woman who is being raped, or has survived violence within the confines of `safety and security' of home or public place; women are being raped in marital relations and in public spaces, tortured, humiliated, brutalized, murdered; the society cannot close its eyes to such incidences that are happening day in and day out. The data and statistics available with the National Crime Record Bureau and other organizations cannot be negated; the incidences reported everyday cannot be overlooked and these are only a tip of an iceberg as many of cases are not even taken to the police stations or courts. The NCRB report 2013 shows that during the year, 309546 cases were reported for crime against women which implies that so many women are being harmed in some way or the other. This is apart from rape cases which were reported as 33707 and dowry deaths cases which were 8083 in number. This data also indicates that 162238 cases were disposed of by the police, where charge sheet has been submitted in 93386 cases, investigation is pending in 50129 cases, final report (true) has been submitted in 7808 cases and only in 10864 (only 6%) cases the charges are found to be false or were treated as the mistake of law in cruelty against women cases. That is when the attitude and mindset generally is gender biased. So where is the misuse of the law? Impunity is only adding to the crime. Please be awake! And listen to those voices screaming for fairness…
I suggest to those who whine that women are abusing laws, that the number of cases are increasing as more and more women are getting aware of their rightful entitlements which have been denied to them for generations. Their voices have been suppressed for decades, but now is the time for REVOLUTION. More and more women are ready to speak up and will be claiming what is theirs!
I would like to tell those who go by the approach that `Boys will be Boys' that this patriarchal ideology to defend the crime only promoted `goondaism'. That even `girls are girls', but are mature, independent and sensible. Now, it is the time for the boys to catch up to be more responsible, wise and prudent… And many have been as depicted in the recent protests on women's rights issues when they join hands with women against violence. I salute them….
I plead all those leaders from politics, religious and other groups, who issue such statements that defy, disregard, disrespect, underestimate and misjudge dignity of women to consider the fact that women are equal citizens and humans; without them the existence of life will not be possible....
I hope that the State will ensure that half of the country's population be treated with respect as equal citizens and will receive justice in all forms – social, economic, political…
I argue that personal is political. There should not be private women sphere and public men space as asserted by patriarchy, as everything I do in personal sphere has effect on political arena...
Further, I believe, I am a change. Change begins with me. I resist, therefore I exist. I critically examine myself every day, every moment….
You may call me a family breaker but I am not against the institution of family; rather I fight against patriarchy and inequality within the family; I am not against religion but I combat communalism; I am not against indigenous culture however I resist patriarchy, sexism, discriminatory, stereotypical and misogynistic attitude; I am not striving for equality with men nevertheless I want to be an equal partner taking decisions in creating a society free from violence or discrimination. I am working to empower and emancipate myself. More than being ideological, my struggle is pragmatic….
Yes, I am a feminist and an activist and I take pride in it. No, I do not shy away from my identity which has given me an understanding to fight for my rights, to strive for justice, to struggle for freedom and endeavor for my self-respect. I dare to exhibit courage, confidence, audacity, till women in this country truly achieve independence…
Shalu Nigam is currently working with the Centre for Women Development Studies, New Delhi. The views expressed here are personal. She can be contacted at shalu_nigam@rediffmail.com

Leaders hopeful of results in fifth round of tea talks

SNS, Siliguri, 28 July : The state labour department will convene a fifth tripartite meeting at Uttarkanya on 7 August to discuss tea workers’ wages in the Terai, Dooars and Darjeeling Hills after four such meetings earlier were inconclusive. Though the labour department had announced that the fifth meeting would be held on 25 July, the state decided to defer it due to technical reasons.
Joint labour commissioner Muhammad Rizwan said state labour minister Malay Ghatak will attend the talks at Uttarkanya.
Trade union leaders have already been informed about the date of the meeting and that discussions may stretch to the next day.
The leaders expect that the new labour minister, Mr Ghatak, will take positive steps to resolve the crisis after dialogue with the planters in the fifth meeting.
Notably, Mr Ghatak was also present in the fourth tripartite meeting at Uttarkanya and he had appealed to the planters’ apex body, Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (CCPA), to rethink on the demands of the house and offer their proposal to continue dialogue, and this at a time when almost all the trade unions stood united, demanding the basic minimum wage structure, including the variable dearness allowance (VDA).
It may be noted that an internal feud among the Trinamul-backed trade unions came to the fore during the fourth meeting on 16 July. In the fourth talks, almost all trade union leaders, including the Left-backed ones, overwhelmingly supported senior Trinamul leader Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, as he had started arguing in favour of the basic minimum wages and VDA to take on the ruling party-backed INTTUC state president, Dola Sen, who had been strongly opposing the demands.
In the third tripartite meeting, planters had offered an increase of only Rs 21 for workers for three years with effect from 1 April this year.
The three-year tripartite agreement earlier expired on 31 March this year.
Workers in the Terai and the Dooars still get Rs 95 a day, following the last tripartite agreement, and workers in the Hills get Rs 90 a day following a bipartite agreement between the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha and Tea Associations in Darjeeling Hills.
In a significant development, the trade unions (even the GJMM-backed plantation labour union) are almost united, except for the union led by Ms Sen, and they held a meeting in Darjeeling on 21 July and formulated strategies to demand the basic minimum wage structure and the VDA.

Hunger deaths stalk Dooars tea gardens

TNN | Jul 29, 2014, JALPAIGURI/ ALIPURDUAR: The picturesque tea estates of North Bengal hide a gruesome truth - malnutrition deaths. Nearly 100 people have reportedly died in five closed tea gardens since January, with 10 deaths reported this month.

It's a chilling reminder of the starvation deaths in Amlasole, West Midnapore, 10 years ago following which Supreme Court had ordered an inquiry. But just like the Left Front government then, the Mamata Banerjee administration refuses to categorise them as malnutrition deaths.

The Godhulibazar North East Society for Empowerment of Public, an NGO working in tea belt, says the number of deaths has touched 100. "Seven people have died in Redbank and Raipur tea estates alone," said society coordinator Md Azhar on Monday.

Over the past decade and a half, more than 1,000 garden workers and their family members have died in the sprawling but decaying tea estates of Dooars, say NGO workers. Though many gardens that were closed a decade ago have since reopened, deaths continue to stalk this belt. This month, six persons have died at Redbank Tea Estate. Many more are emaciated and vulnerable to disease and death, say sources.

The closure of once flourishing tea gardens has dealt a staggering blow to the Dooars economy. Tea workers were never a happy lot, with low wages, poor quality rations and inadequate medical facilities. But things have turned worse now with death and disease becoming a part of daily life in the 'Coolie' lines.

"Tuberculosis is rampant. So are other ailments. We don't have electricity and had planned to boycott the election this time but couldn't coordinate the effort. There is hardly anything to eat. The rice we get through public distribution system is unfit for human consumption. Though doctors visit the garden thrice a week, we don't have money for medicines or tests. I've been told I need a surgery but can't afford it," says Anup Oraon, a worker in Redbank.

Two more gardens in Jalpaiguri are shut: Surendranagar and Dharanipur. And in the adjoining Alipurduar district, two gardens - Dheklapara TE and Bandapani - have been shut for years. These five gardens account for nearly 15,000 workers and 45,000 dependants. Though they get a few days work under NREGA, payment is irregular.

With no money to even buy food, workers have been known to resort to extremes, like selling children. A woman in Bandapani tea estate sold both her daughters to escape penury. The older of the two daughters was later rescued by her father but there is no trace of the younger one.

"We barely survive, collecting leaves and shrubs from the garden to eat. Children attend school as they get to eat once a day (under the mid-day meal scheme)," said a worker. What makes the situation even more complex is the pride of the adivasi workers and their shame in speaking of their poverty.

Starvation, malnutrition and disease are not new to the region. According to Fagu Tanti, who used to be the 'Pump Babu' at Dekhlapara that has been shut for 14 years, workers are now dying of diseases that were unheard of in Dooars. "Perhaps, lack of nutrition is to blame. It is also possible that they have picked up these diseases from places where they go to work," he said.

While it is impossible to prove a starvation death, doctors say malnutrition is rampant in the closed gardens. This lowers immunity and could be the reason for most of the premature deaths.

The doctor and pharmacist at Raipur tea estate told TOI that over 50% labourers are almost starving. "Most of the labourers who turn up at our health centre are malnourished. We provide them with a few medicines, but they don't have money to buy the other medicines from the market. Left without work, the labourers cannot even buy food," said Sudip Jana, the doctor at the health centre.

North Bengal development department minister Gautam Deb acknowledges the need to reopen the closed gardens but insists there are no deaths due to malnutrition. "Efforts are on to reopen these gardens. Meetings are being held in Kolkata and N Bengal to find a solution. Our government is very keen to resolve it. Such reports are intended to malign the government," he says.

It is this very attitude that UTWF - an umbrella organization of trade unions in the tea belt - opposes. "The administration doesn't have any idea of what is going on. The officials, whether in Kolkata or Siliguri, are insensitive. Such deaths will continue till this apathy exists. We will visit the closed gardens and submit a report to SC," said spokesperson Debjit Datta. Right to Food activist Anuradha Talwar is the UTWF convenor.

TMC opens HQ in building that houses CPM office

TMC leaders at the new party office in Darjeeling on Monday.
EOI, Darjeeling, 28 Jul 2014:  The hill Trinamool Congress has opened its party headquarters here at Judge Bazaar in an empty government building that also houses the CPM’s office on the lower floor.
While the latter alleged the reason for the TMC to have its office in the same building is because it is keen for a confrontation, the TMC maintained it has put a vacant government building into use and would empty it if the government wanted the party to move out.
“We opened our headquarters here today in this building as it has been lying empty for quite some time. The two storeys we have rented will include a hall and office spaces. The building will also have offices of our youth and women’s wing and trade union,” said hill TMC president Rajen Mukhia.
When asked if the TMC had taken permission from the government, he said, “We do not know which department this building belongs to so we have no idea as to whom to approach. However, if the government wants us to vacate it, we will act accordingly. This is why we are not spending a lot of money for renovation work but only making essential changes.”
The building in question, in which the CPM has had its office since the past several years, belongs to the industry department and was left incomplete in the mid 1980s when the Gorkhaland agitation was ongoing led by the Gorkha National Liberation Front. As the building was incomplete and empty, the CPM, which was in power then, set up its party office on one of the floors maintaining it had applied for a lease for that portion.
Now, the CPM is accusing the TMC of trying to intimidate it by opening an office in the same building.
“We have nothing to say when a political party opens up its office, but we do not understand why the TMC had to open one in the same building where we have ours. This only means the party wants a confrontation with us,” said CPM senior leader Saman Pathak.
He added, “Moreover, there is also a process involved such as applying for a lease and so on. We have done so with the industrial department in Kolkata but have not received any response as yet. We only want to regularise our office there.”
The CPM has had its party office in the building since 1997.
When asked whether a controversy would be created as the CPM already has its office in the same building, Mukhia said, “The CPM has an office on the floor below ours and we have no qualms with them and they can operate peacefully in the same way we will be functioning.”
When contacted, Darjeeling district magistrate Puneet Yadav said, “We can only take action if we receive an official complaint.”

State Govt appoints new departmental advisors, chairpersons

DICHEN ONGMU, EOI, Gangtok, 28 Jul 2014: The Sikkim government Saturday issued a notification appointing advisors and chairpersons of various departments and organizations. Eleven Advisors and 23 chairpersons were appointed, informs an SDF release.
According to the SDF release, the government advisors are BS Pant (Engery & Power), Mingma Tshering Sherpa (Roads & Bridges), P.L.Subba (Transport), Binod Rai (Water Security & PHE), M.B. Dahal (Tourism), C.B. Karki (Rural Development), Sonam Gyatso Bhutia (Agriculture), Menlom Lepcha (Sikkim State Trading Corporation), Lakpa Tshering Ghisingh (Ecclesiastical), Madan Cintury (Irrigation), Em Prasad Sharma (Building & Housing).
The chairpersons appointed by the government are Shanta Ghatani (Sikkim SC Welfare Board), Sonam Dupden Lepcha (Sikkim Primitive Tribe Welfare Board), K.B. Chamling (State Bank of Sikkim), Rastaman Rai (Sikkim State Trading Corporation), Puran Kumar Gurung (Denzong Agriculture Cooperative Society), Pintso Lepcha, (Transport), Basant Lamichaney (Sikkim SC, ST and OBC Development Board), Mallika Suba (Sikkim Khadi), Topda Bhutia (Sikkim Labour Welfare Board), K.B. Subba (Sikkim Poultry Development Board), Phurba Sherpa (Sikkim Juvenile Justice Board), Manita Mangar (OBC Welfar Board), Mohan Chamling (Temi Tea Board), Chopel Bhutia (Commerce & Industries), Krishna Bhandari (Sikkim Industrial Development & Investment Corporation), I.B. Rai (Sikkim State Cooperative Bank Limited), Pema Tshering Lama (Sikkim ST Welfare Board), Sumitra Subba (Sikkim Consumer Cooperative Society), Indra Pradhan (Sikkim Welfare Board), R.N. Rai (Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation), P Shankar (Environment Board), Khem Prasad Dahal (Sikkim Agriculture & Horticulture Board) and J.B. Tamang (Sikkim Medicinal Plants Board).

Not Encephalitis, but dengue onset suspected in Kurseong

Kurseong SDMO Dr. R Mondal.
EOI, Kurseong, 28 July 2014: If people are down with Japanese Encephalitis in the plains of Siliguri, two persons suspected of dengue have been admitted at the Kurseong sub-divisional hospital.
Japanese Encephalitis is spreading like an epidemic across North Bengal, but when Kurseong sub-divisional medical officer R Mondal was approached for updates, she said no patients with Japanese Encephalitis have been admitted at the sub-divisional hospital.
Mondal informed two patients were admitted at Kurseong hospital on July 17 and 21 with complaints of fever. However, both of them have been discharged and they were suspected of being suffering with dengue. The hospital is awaiting reports to verify whether the fever was dengue or something else, said the official.
As per hospital sources, both patients had travelled from Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh and it is suspected they may have been infected with the illness during the journey.
Mondal further said encephalitis is being reported presently from the plain areas, where mosquitoes are found in abundance. She added the possibility of encephalitis spreading in the hills is least likely.
She also said the Kurseong hospital is equipped with adequate medical equipment for treating viral fever, but if the illness goes beyond control, such patients are referred to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri for further treatment as special tests are not available here in Kurseong.
It has been learnt that a medical team from Kurseong visited the Sittong area Sunday to visit a suspected dengue patient and also to find out if any others have been infected in the region. A nine-year-old girl from Sittong was brought to the sub-divisional hospital here for a checkup. She was released after it was determined the child was suffering from common fever.

Karmapa issue has become major political problem: KSSK

Rajesh Lama, General Secretary of the 17th Karmapa Sewa Samiti
Kathmandu at a press conference in Gangtok on Monday
DICHEN ONGMU, EOI, GANGTOK, 28 Jul 2014: Karmapa issue has become a major political problem in international, national and the state level according to Rajesh Lama, General secretary of 17TH Karmapa Sewa Samiti Kathmandu.
For the very first time someone from outside the state was seen claiming Dawa Sangpo as the 17TH Gyalwa Karmapa.
Lama on behalf of his Samiti held a press conference in Gangtok today and claimed Dawa Sangpo as the 17th Karmapa. He also reiterated the demand of holding a test between all the three 17th Karmapa claimants- Ugen Thinley Dorjee, Dawa Sangpo and Thai Karmapa, through which the real Karmapa can be traced and brought to Rumtek Monastery.
“We will consider the one who passes the test as the 17th Karmapa and we will follow him without any controversies,” he added.
“We all know that Ugen Thinley Dorjee is acknowledged as the 17TH Karmapa both by the ruling and opposition party of the State but we feel they are taking the stand as a political compulsion as the majority portion of the population in Sikkim supports him. If the government does not support the majority then the issue will affect its governance and political stand,” observed Lama.
“If the Central and the State Government declares Ugen Thinley Dorjee as the real 17th Gyalwa Karmapa in the near future without any tests or proof, then who will be held responsible for the bad impact in the State which will occur after their false declaration?” he questioned.
Stating the western countries and the central government would be ineffective in resolving the issue, Lama urged the state government to take the initiative and bring the rightful heir to the Rumtek throne.

Pune run as virus name eludes

The North Bengal Medical College and Hospital
MRINALINI SHARMA AND AVIJIT SINHA, TT, Siliguri, July 28: A senior health official today said that as the maximum patients who had died had tested negative for Japanese Encephalitis, the state had sent some blood samples to Pune’s National Institute of Virology to determine what had killed them.
This move has come almost a month after deaths from suspected Japanese Encephalitis peaked in north Bengal.
Doctors in the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital said that the institute, which is treating the most cases of the viral outbreak does not have the expertise or laboratory wherewithal to test for an enterovirus or any other kind of viral infection.
The Pune virology institute had suggested last week that some of the deaths that were being classified as Acute Encephalitis Syndrome could be because of a water-borne virus or enterovirus, not the result of a vector-propagated outbreak.
The treatment in both cases is symptomatic but if the source of the virus is known, prevention of a future outbreak would become easier.
So far, all the preventive efforts — like segregating pigs and killing mosquito larvae — have been done assuming that the main cause of deaths is Japanese Encephalitis. If that is not so, the public health drives would need to refocus on new ways of prevention, which is now one month late.
Of the 111 deaths that have been declared by director of health services B.S. Satpathy, 24 are from Japanese Encephalitis. The other 87 deaths have been attributed to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome.
Acute Encephalitis Syndrome or AES is an umbrella term that represents a basket of possibilities. A person said to be a patient of AES could be suffering from any other virus attack but as the symptoms are similar, it can complicate diagnosis.
Detection of Japanese Encephalitis using medical kits takes a few hours.
Satpathy said today: “We are conducting JE tests on all the samples of patients in NBMCH. It is because these tests are being conducted that we are able to categorise these deaths as JE and non-JE.”
A senior NBMCH doctor, who did not want to be named, as he is not authorised to speak on the matter, said: “Going by what the director of health services has said, it is evident that these 87 people tested JE-negative. This is why the officials are concerned as the virus… is yet to be traced.”
Satpathy and Sushanta Banerjee, the director of medical education, said samples were being sent to the NIV lab in Pune to detect the virus.
Satpathy said: “The NIV team that was here collected 24 samples. Of that, 14 were collected during field visits and 10 indoors (from NBMCH and other hospitals). Till now, they have informed us that seven of the 24 samples tested positive for Japanese Encephalitis. They have not informed us about detection of any other virus or enterovirus yet.”
In NBMCH, one more death was reported today, but Satpathy refused to confirm it, saying he had not been informed. Sources in NBMCH said Dukru Burman, 32, of Kaliaganj in North Dinajpur, died today.
“I do not have any reports of fresh deaths at NBMCH. However, six new patients were admitted to NBMCH,” Satpathy said today.
Scientists from NIV confirmed that the second batch of samples was sent to Pune today. They did not say how many samples were sent.
Gherao push
North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb on Monday advised a resident to “gherao” the Pareshnagar ward councillor’s house to protest the lack of civic services.
Deb’s advice was to a lady in ward 43 where Deb was sprinkling bleaching powder with party workers. Deb told the lady who criticised him: “First gherao the councillor, then come to me.”
The councillor of ward 43 is CPM’s Ragini Singh, who filed a police complaint later and said Deb had tried to incite the people of her ward.

Paul probe order Apathy of police points to depths of lawlessness: HC Court to monitor speech inquiry

LEGAL REPORTER, TT, Calcutta, July 28: Calcutta High Court has asked Bengal police to register within 72 hours an FIR on a “hate speech” by Trinamul MP Tapas Paul — something the state government has refused to do for nearly a month.
The court also proposed to monitor the probe and keep the case pending. “I am sceptical about effective progress of investigation should the writ petition be disposed of,” Justice Dipankar Dutta said in the order.
The stinging order — bristling with the soaring words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and a barrage of telling observations on the police and the State — cracked open an issue chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her aides had tried their best to bury.
Footage showing Paul threatening to shoot political opponents and unleash his boys to rape their families had surfaced on June 30. For 28 days, the political leadership and the administration refused to enforce the law, saying Paul had apologised “in the right spirit” and the matter was closed.
Justice Dutta, who concluded that Paul did deliver a “hate speech”, struck at the root of that defence. “To whom did he tender an apology? To his party or to the public, I asked? He (Paul’s counsel) was silent. Apart from tendering an apology to his party, nothing of worth has been shown to me that Mr Paul has tendered a public apology. If indeed a public apology had been tendered by Mr Paul at the site from where he delivered the hate speech and (if he) had shown remorse for his conduct, different considerations may have arisen,” Justice Dutta said.
Trinamul national spokesperson Derek O’Brien, who had uncorked the “right-spirit” logic after Paul’s letter of apology addressed “to All of you” was circulated, could not be contacted for comment.
The state government has the right to appeal the order — it has often exercised that option including at least one case that was once presided over by Justice Dutta. Trinamul all India general secretary Mukul Roy said tonight: “We will assess the order in detail and give our reaction after that.”
For the assessors, the 43-page order is unlikely to make happy reading.
Justice Dutta said in the order: “There has been a rise in shameful speeches delivered by politicians encouraging crime in this State, but in most cases the police has looked the other way. The apathy and indifference of the police not to swing into action immediately points to the depths of lawlessness that the State has touched. The present case is no exception.”
The SP of Nadia, where Paul delivered the speech, has so far been saying that the police are studying the complaint filed by a social activist, Biplab Kumar Chowdhury.
In his interim order, Justice Dutta did not leave any room for ambiguity.
“The inspector-in-charge, Nakasipara police station, shall immediately but not later than 72 hours of service of an authenticated website copy of this order upon him register an FIR on the basis of the complaint dated July 1, 2014, lodged by the petitioner,” the order said.
The order continued: “Having regard to the sensitivity involved, it would further be in the interest of justice to entrust the CID to investigate the complaint. The director-general of police shall issue appropriate instruction to DIG CID for free, fair, proper and meaningful investigation….
“Since investigation would be monitored by the court, the investigating officer shall not file the police report without the leave of the court,” the judge said, adding that on September 1, the investigating officer would have to submit a progress report.
The judge had heard two petitions. One was moved by an advocate, Subrata, seeking an order asking the police to initiate suo motu proceedings against Paul.
The judge dismissed the first petition, saying that although the police were empowered to arrest an offender without waiting for an FIR, it was their discretion whether to act suo motu. The court drew a distinction between “a mandatory statutory duty” and “statutory power conferred” on an official.
But the court admitted the second petition as the petitioner had already moved the police in vain.

28 Jul 2014

The Only “Single Issue” Is Collective Liberation

Mickey Z, Countercurrents. org, Mickeyzvegan. wordpress.com, 27 July, 2014:  “I think that in terms of emotion, our culture allows men to be angry. The animal rights movement gives men a legitimate reason to be angry. … [it] should not be the place to give men more reasons to be angry. That is not what we need in the world.” (Carol Adams)
Warning: This just may be my Dylan Goes Electric moment.
I’ve been vegan since 1995 and an animal liberation activist—in one form or another—for just as long. It’s been gratifying to see awareness increase and our ranks grow but even so, the vegan/animal rights (AR) crowd is typically relegated to the fringes of the activist world. This understandably leads to an “us against them” vibe as vegans often seek solace and approval in each other’s company.
As much as anyone, I’ve appreciated this insular sense of shared purpose. So much so that I’ve possibly slowed my own activist evolution by becoming too complacent within the movement. One thing is certain: I’ve definitely missed some ominous warning signs.
Thus, in the name of personal honesty and collective liberation, it’s time to be more true to my holistic vision. It’s time to evolve…
Single White Male Seeks Followers
The popular white male vegan guru, Gary Francione, has convinced a wide range of his minions that single issue campaigns = bad, very bad. Here’s a sample of how he explains why such campaigns are perfectly fine for human issues but not so for animal issues:
“We all recognize that the suffering of innocent humans is a bad thing wherever it occurs. The fact that we choose to help in Haiti does not mean that we think that the suffering of humans in, say, Darfur, is good or that those in Darfur matter less. Similarly, the fact that we choose to work on issues of child abuse does not mean that we think rape is acceptable or is morally less objectionable. In sum, if X, Y, and Z are all viewed as morally undesirable, the choice to work on X does not convey the message that Y and Z are morally acceptable.
“When it comes to animals, the analysis is different. Most people think that eating meat, dairy, and all other animal products, or wearing or using animal products, is as natural as drinking water or breathing air. So when we single out one form of animal exploitation, we necessarily distinguish it for moral purposes.”
To buy Francione’s logic, one has to first accept a premise so patently false as to be laughable: that “we all recognize” all forms of human suffering— “wherever it occurs”—as “morally undesirable.” In addition, does he (or anyone) actually believe that the average human would perceive, say, an anti-fur protest as a statement on the relative morality of eating meat?
Francione’s disdain for single-issueism is obviously both counterproductive and self-serving but, don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to critique about this activist approach.
Regardless of purpose, what we call “single issue campaigns”—by definition—fragment movements by separating concerns from their larger context and thus potentially reduce opportunities for essential coalition building across the activist spectrum. They also legitimize power by having us beg representatives of an abusive system for minor reforms.
Even so, this doesn’t mean we should totally abandon single-issueism.”Every campaign for animals provides an opportunity to promote the vegan message and the goal of animal liberation,” writes long time AR activist, Karen Davis.
As always, diversity of tactics rules in a culture that limits debate while crushing dissent with ease and impunity. The long-term vision of activism cannot be based on single-issueism, but a few victories here and there would sure be helpful for morale and momentum.
Sadly and ironically, AR activism—even the Francione branch—epitomizes single-issueism as the vast majority of the movement is white, middle class, and virtually agnostic when it comes to challenging human-to-human forms of oppression.
Such narrow-mindedness is typically cultivated in an inherently top-down hierarchy with men like Francione ruling by decree. Sadly, he’s far from the only one.
The Joke’s on Us
In late 2013, another white male vegan celebrity, Gary Yourofsky, declared: “I care about animals, who are the only oppressed, enslaved, and tormented beings on this planet. Human suffering is a joke.”
(There goes Francione’s premise that “we all recognize” all forms of human suffering— “wherever it occurs”—as “morally undesirable.”)
Here are a couple more pearls of compassionate wisdom from Yourofsky, the architect of “the best speech you will ever hear”:
“Rapists, murderers and child molesters should be vivisected, executed, and dissected, allowing researchers the opportunity to gather useful information that would actually benefit human health for a change.”
“Every woman ensconced in fur should endure a rape so vicious that it scars them forever.”
Hence, I must ask my vegan/AR comrades:
>> What does it say about the movement when this guy is a revered and sought-after global animal rights superstar? 
>> Do you feel he “represents” you in any way? 
>> Do you agree on any of the points I posted above?
>> Would you be willing to publicly denounce such stances?
Side note: Yourofsky was a paid employee of PETA for several years.
Oceans of Denial
Yet another major white male vegan icon is Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The famously brusque Watson is apparently not shy about embracing racist stereotypes in the misguided belief it’ll help save marine mammals.
“The brutal killing of whales has become an icon for the Japanese identity,” Watson declares. “This is not unusual. Japan has always closely identified with blood and slaughter. From the decapitations by the Samurai upon innocent peasants to the suicidal insanity of the Kamikaze, violence and self destruction have been a part of Japanese culture.”
Yeah, those darn Japanese are so enamored with “blood and slaughter,” they nearly exterminated an entire continent of humans, enslaved another continent’s worth of humans, and the “greatest generation” of them went on to slaughter 672,000 humans via coordinated firebombing before willfully targeting “innocent peasants” with atomic weapons.
Wait…oops, my bad. That wasn’t “part of Japanese culture;” it was god’s country—you know, the Home of the Brave™…and the victims in the last two examples were (wait for it) Japanese.
Watson’s anti-Japan rant is not an isolated case of racism from him and he has been called out for such sentiments. His response is classic mansplaining:
“I … don’t believe that racism is relative to the ecocentric world. There is only one race that I recognize and that is the human race and racism is a form of behavior caused by abstract and nonsensical prejudices among members of the same species. No intelligent person can be a racist because it makes no ecological or biological sense. I have found it interesting that when I maintain that all humans are equal and all members of one species that some find this statement racist because I refuse to see any distinctions between people based on skin color or features.”
How cliché: A famous white man finds it “interesting” to be called on his racism yet still refuses to see “any distinctions between people based on skin color or features.” (Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised that Sea Shepherd named one its ships after convicted racist, Bridgette Bardot.)
Through it all, however, Watson is revered like a vegan rock star.
And speaking of vegan rock stars, there’s John Joseph—vegan icon and lead singer of the infamous Cro-Mags. When Joseph decided he wanted to share his tough guy approach to veganism, he wrote a book named (wait for it) Meat is for Pussies.
Just in case you don’t have a problem with Joseph’s book title choice or feel the urge to “explain” why he’s justified in using it, please allow me to introduce a simple thought experiment:
How would you feel about a pro-vegan book called Meat is for N*ggers or Meat is for F*gs or Meat is for R*tards or Meat is for Tr*nnies?
Need I go on? I certainly hope not.
“There is nothing hardcore about reclaiming traditional patriarchal language and behavior in the name of an ethical movement,”explains Jamie J. Hagen. “And remember: If you aren’t sure how to do better, please ask a vegan feminist. We would love to help!”
Evolve or Perish
Individuals like those mentioned above have more in common than their skill at exploiting both vegan exceptionalism and white male privilege. They’re also the embodiment of single-issueism and have subsequently helped shape a movement often as myopic, marginal, and misanthropic.
In person, on social media, everywhere…I witness AR activists hating on humans, calling for population control (or even human extinction), and never crossing over into human rights activism. I even encounter AR activists literally mocking those who engage in actions against human oppression (again, contrary to Francione’s flawed premise).
Such behavior virtually guarantees that AR will never be taken seriously nor will it reach beyond its current homogenous and negligible demographic. If you’d like to win over a few more humans to any given cause, it usually helps to demonstrate to them that you care—even a tiny bit—about the issues that impact them. (FYI: That means more than declaring you don’t see skin color or gender because “we are all one.”)
Let’s ask ourselves: Why would any oppressed person feel welcome within our movement? Why would any woman feel safe around activists who think this approach from PETA is acceptable or perhaps even “clever”?
Let’s remind ourselves: Without such growth and diversity, we are doomed, the animals are doomed, the ecosystem is doomed.
So, how about we start exhibiting some of that compassion we never stop talking about? How about we stop allowing the dominant paradigms of privilege to define us—even in the realm of dissent? It’s high time we reject smug complacency and instead seek out new challenges in the name of revolutionary progress.
Angela Davis—a high-profile vegan who most definitely breaks the patriarchal mode—has said that being a vegan is “part of a revolutionary perspective—how we not only discover more compassionate relations with human beings but how we develop compassionate relations with the other creatures with whom we share this planet.”
This is the kind of message vegans should be conveying and representing: inclusive, holistic, accessible, uncompromisingly revolutionary, and not dripping with privilege.
Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on a couple of obscure websites called Facebook and Twitter. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.
(Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism can be ordered here.)

SKM-SDF in war of words... SKM condemns Chamling statement; SDF defends CM, says He were misquoted

SNS, Gangtok, 27 July 2014: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling’s statement to divert all development schemes to south and west districts has sparked fresh controversy with both ruling SDF and the Opposition SKM party sparring over his word.
Days after Chamling allegedly said all the development programmes will be shifted to south and west districts ignoring the east and north districts as people voted for the SKM in these regions in the recent elections, SDF hits back terming the statement as un-parliamentary, unconstitutional and irresponsible.
SKM legislator, Kunga Nima Lepcha on Saturday said the statement was unfortunate and condemnable. “If such a state of affairs continues, it has the potential to jeopardize the entire administration of the state,” he said. Lepcha also questioned the Lok Sabha MPs raking Article 371 F in the parliament.
Attacking back on Lepcha, SDF spokesperson, PD Rai, said the present controversy is to distort the reality. Reiterating his party’s stance on protection of Article 371F, Rai accused Lepcha of attempting to obfuscate the issue for vested interests.
Mr Rai said Chamling was thanking the people of South and West Districts for voting the party to powerfor a record fifth term which had been distorted and misquoted.
“Lepcha has not understood the Chief Minister's words or mine. He should first make his stand clear," he said.

Govt plans encephalitis vaccination for adults

SNS, Siliguri, 27 July 2014: The state health department has planned to approach the Centre to launch an immunization drive among adults to combat Japanese Encephalitis (JE) in north Bengal.
According to Minister of State for Health, Chandrima Bhattacharya, there was only one child, who died yesterday, among the 71 persons who have died so far of the acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) and JE in the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) this month. The health department took the decision to approach the Centre after studying the trend of patients’ death.
“The child was a resident of Cooch Behar, an unimmunized district for JE.
But no death of children was reported from Jalpaiguri, the badly affected district in north Bengal,” said Mrs Bhattacharya, adding, “We have come to a conclusion that immunization of persons below 15 years of age in Jalpaiguri district was effective.”
“We will propose to the Centre to launch immunization programme among the adults in the JE-affected region following a pilot project, which is going on in Assam,” Ms Bhattacharya said. She also claimed: “Vaccination drive against the JE menace was usually carried out among children below 15 years. As a result, there is no such death report among children. But the present trend showed that a maximum of elderly people, who were out of the immunization drive.”
“We would launch a special drive in Cooch Behar, which was out of the purview of the JE immunization drive, following the death of a child there,” she added. At a time when Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia has demanded that the state government provide compensation for the next to kin of the victims, Mrs Bhattacharya yesterday told reporters: “We are looking into the matter.” Mr Ahluwalia raised a question, pointing out to the state’s initiative to compensate relatives of hooch victims two years ago, and asked why it should not provide financial assistance to the relatives of persons who died of encephalitis.