December 29, 2013

Roundtable discussion on the question of CARE

A brainstorming meeting was organized on 23rd of December to share the latest efforts which the various child rights and women’s rights groups have been independently or collectively undertaking as part of their work. The meeting brought together the Alliance on ECCD, NAMHHR, SAHAYOG, CHSJ, and other women’s rights, child rights and health rights groups and campaigns .The focus of the meeting was to identify common mandates and possible advocacy agenda, particularly in the context of ‘care’.  It was decided that this group would work jointly on the issue under the umbrella of ‘women’s unpaid work’, of which care work constitutes a big chunk. A concept note will be developed on this group’s framework for understanding women’s unpaid work, including a brief review of select national laws/policies/schemes.  Another,  round table meeting will be organised tentatively on 12th of February for discussions around the concept note.

Organisational Convention of RTF Campaign: Revisiting membership and Key Campaign Priorities

The 'Organisational Convention' of the RTF Campaign was organized  on 19th and 20th of December 2013 in New Delhi. 80 participants from various states participated in the meeting.  The meeting discussed the membership structure and key campaign priorities post the passage of the National Food Security Act 2013 and the recently concluded Bali WTO Ministerial Meeting.

Dates of the Right to Food Campaign's Fifth National Convention on the Right to Food and Work was also finalized for the 1-3 March 2014 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. This Convention will aim to consolidate the membership base of the campaign and build broad alliances to ensure the centrality of the right to food, work, livelihoods and social protection as political priorities in the 2014 general elections and beyond.
Ms.Aditi Sood and Ms.Neeti Singh (HealthWatch Forum UP) attended the meeting on behalf of NAMHHR.

Functioning of the NHRC Critically Examined: Has it been effective?

    Independent People’s Tribunal on the Functioning of the National Human Rights Commission of India, 14-16th December, New Delhi

NAMHHR member, Human Rights Law Network organized an Independent Peoples’ Tribunal  jointly with All India Network of NGOs and Individuals working with National / State Human Rights Institutions on the functioning of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the occasion of the 20 years of Paris Principles [1993] and 20 years of the Protection of Human Rights Act [1993] and 20 years of the Vienna Conference [1993].

The Tribunal brought together group of 9 panelists included Justice (Retd.) Hosbet Suresh, Former Judge of the Mumbai High Court, Justice (Retd.) Surendra Bhargav, Former Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court, Justice (Retd.) W A Shishak, Former Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court, Justice (Retd.) K Sukumaran, Former judge of the Mumbai and Kerala High Court, Prof. Vimal Thorat, Social Activist, Mr. Yambem Laba Former Member of Manipur SHRC, Prof. Babu Mathew, National Law University, Prof. Kamal Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Prof. Anuradha Chenoy , Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The three day event included sessions on -NHRC’s compliance to UN standards, Police encounter, custodial torture, custodial death, Killings and torture by armed forces , Attack on human rights defenders , Communalism , Violation of Women’s Rights, Dalit issues, Tribal Rights, Environment, housing and displacement ,Health rights, Child rights and Disability.  Each session included a section in which the response of NHRC to their issue was presented to the panelists.

NAMHHR convenor, was invited to be a panelist in the session on reproductive rights violation.  She began by recounting the meeting with the UN-Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health who came to India in 2010.  Although an NRHC member attended the meeting, yet the NRHC did not take the recommendations of the UNSR seriously. Recounting the submissions made by NAMHHR to the NHRC in connection with the Barwani cases (Madhya Pradesh) and Godda cases (Jharkhand), although the NHRC filed a case, no real action resulted; this despite the regular follow done by NAMHHR. This session also saw the presentation of a testimonial by a victim of forced sterilization from Chitrakoot (Uttar Pradesh), supported in her efforts to seek justice by NAMHHR member HealthWatch Forum, UP.  The HealthWatch Forum had filed her case with NHRC on 21st of December 2012 and the NHRC in turn forwarded it to the State Human Rights Commission Uttar Pradesh, which has not taken any concrete action on it as yet.

However appreciating the initiative made by the NHRC in the Universal Periodic Review 2, the NAMHHR convenor lauded their efforts at designing  a monitoring tool to monitor the implementation of the recommendation made by member countries to the Government of India.  However she stressed that much more needs to be done by this important commission to protect the human right of the citizens of our country.

Aditi Sood, Nibedita Phukan and Leena Uppal also attended the event on behalf of NAMHHR. 

December 19, 2013

Recommendations for Odisha State Policy for Girl Child and Women Health and Well being

Thrust Area
Issues / Concerns / Barriers
Health and Well being
Maternal health and nutrition

Maternity Benefits and entitlements
·           The Public Distribution System must be made universal with protein items included
·          As per the final NFSA, it is mentioned under Chapter  II PROVISIONS FOR FOOD SECURITY, clause 4,  Subject to such schemes as may be framed by the Central Government, every pregnant woman and lactating mother shall be entitled to—

(a) meal, free of charge, during pregnancy and six months after the child birth,  through the local anganwadi, so as to meet the nutritional standards specified in Schedule II; and
(b) maternity benefit of not less than rupees six thousand, in such instalments as may be prescribed by the Central Government:
Provided that all pregnant women and lactating mothers in regular employment with the Central Government or State Governments or Public Sector Undertakings or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force
shall not be entitled to benefits specified in clause

·         Universal health care coverage should be provided to all women to protect them from devastating out of pocket expenses
·         Regularize Village and Health Nutrition Day (VHND) and ensure that they provide women with full ANC including per abdomen examination, checking hemoglobin, weight and blood pressure, TT injection, IFA tablets, counseling on diet, rest, birth planning & complication readiness
·      Maternity entitlements should be unconditional - the Age Eligibility and Parity Criteria should be done away with in Mamata Scheme
·       Maternity benefit should be linked to wages foregone, they should not be arbitrarily fixed, rather they should be compiled on the basis of highest minimum wages and should be periodically reviewed
·          Maternity Benefits should be provided for 9 months (beginning from the third trimester of pregnancy till six months after birth) to enable women to rest before pregnancy and promote six months of exclusive breastfeeding
Livelihood, Employment and Work
·  Absence of crèche facilities
·  Loss of wage during pregnancy months
·  Money is not disbursed in regular installments
·  Lack of availability of channels for grievance redress system
·      Free Crèche facilities be made mandatory in communities and the workplace
·       Setup easily accessible Grievance Redress  Mechanisms

December 01, 2013

NAMMHR submits Suggestions on the New Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013

MANUAL SCAVENGING PICTURE (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights (NAMHHR) is a civil society Alliance that works on strengthening rights-based approaches for preventing maternal mortality and promoting the highest quality of maternal health for the marginalized in India. The group recognizes that there is an urgent need for women's organizations, health organizations, groups working on law and human rights, and mass-based organizations to come together on this issue. The Alliance currently has members from twelve states of India, as well as expert advisors working with research, Right to Food, public health, right to medicines and budget accountability.

We are pleased that the Government has drafted the “Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013” and has invited comments on it from stakeholders. We think that this act is an important one because this inhuman practice of manual scavenging is a profanity not only on those involved in this practice but also on the country and putting an end to it is the responsibility of the country as a whole. Those who are involved in manual scavenging suffer from the inhuman pain of scavenging human faeces and also go through the unbearable pain and humiliation of discrimination, untouchability and social exclusion. A very small percentage of children of these communities are in schools not because they  'drop out' but because they are 'pushed out' from there.

However, the proposed rules drafted by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (Government of India) in The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013”, need further strengthening to eradicate manual scavenging totally and ensure comprehensive rehabilitation of liberated scavengers

 In this view, NAMHHR strongly recommends the following suggestions to the draft rules :

1.   Chapter - 4 of the act is focusing on the rehabilitation component of liberated manual scavengers, but in the Rules they have not discussed single point of the rehabilitation. Even they have not used the word – “Rehabilitation in the draft rules (apart from in the name of the rules).    
2.   Section – 13 of the new law is providing provisions related to rehabilitation of the liberated manual scavengers, like scholarship for the children, residential plot and financial assistance for house construction or a ready–built house, training in a livelihood skill with monthly stipend, subsidy and concessional loan for taking up an alternative occupation on a sustainable basis and other legal and programmatic assistance. But the Rules do not provide any of these provisions.  
3.   Draft rule – 3 says “No person shall be engaged for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank” and same time 
rule – 4 says “Any person engaged to clean a sewer or a septic tank shall be provided by his employer the following protective gear and safety devices. Like Safety body clothing/ safety body harness/ safety belt, normal face mask, safety torch, hand gloves, safety helmet, etc. This rule is violating the provision of total eradication of manual scavenging. 
4.   Rule no. 38 of the Draft Rules says about the quantum of initial, onetime cash assistance. But they are not providing provision about the amount of the cash assistance, time period providing cash assistance, as well as the responsible authority.  
5.   Rehabilitation of the former manual scavengers who are liberated from this inhuman practice in the period before passing the law, are not covered under the rules.
6.   Not clear and concrete provisions have provided in the Draft Rules for enforcement of the law in government institutions like Indian Railways, Defense, etc.
7.   Liberated manual scavengers often face discrimination,  caste-based atrocity or violence, Non-SC scavengers (Dalit Muslim, Dalit Christian) is not protected under the SC/ST (PoA) act 1989. Unfortunately neither the, new Act and nor the Draft Rules  mention any provision of the protection for these communities.
8.    Rules are very technical and gender-blind, despite the fact, that Lakhs of Dalits and Dalit Muslims as well as very high proportion of them are women, who are forced to continue in this inhuman practice. Yet the proposed rules do not focus Caste as an important aspect of the issue.
9.    In many States, Administration and local authorities like Municipal Corporation and Gram Panchayats as well as the local Railway stations force Dalit or Safai Karmcharies to do manual scavenging. But, under the Draft Rules they are responsible for enforcement of the law, which includes grievance redress. This will lead to conflict of interest as we cannot expect them to effectively eradicate the practice.
10.  In many states like Maharashtra, Manual Scavenging in Open Toilets (not in the dry toilets) are institutionalized. The rules are not covered this form of manual scavenging.

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