Unlawful Restrictions
This is about unlawful restrictions on agricultural activities and the livelihood of the poor marginalised villagers of the Indo-Bangladesh bordering village Char Changmari under Deocharai Panchayat, Tufanganj 1 Block in Cooch Behar District, West Bengal, by the 62 Battalion - “B” Company of Border Security Force personnel posted at Jhaljhali border outpost.

About 1200 people reside in the Changmari village. Almost 70 percent of the total population belongs to Muslim community and remaining people belong to the Hindu Scheduled Caste (Dalit) background. The prime occupation of the villagers is agriculture. The average monthly income of the villagers is INR 3600.00. The distance between the border fence and the International Border Pillar is on average 1500 metre. There are about 200 acres of cultivable lands out of 3500 acres which are situated beyond the border fence. The ingress and egress of the farmers to their own agricultural land through the fencing gates are regulated by the BSF.

Farmers are not allowed to cultivate jute and maize in their own agricultural land by the BSF personnel. The farmers of Char Changmari village stated that due to this illegal restriction they faced huge losses, nearly 10000/- to 15000/- per bigha, yearly.

The nearest primary school is located 2 km from the said village. The condition of village roads is very bad, no concrete or metal or brick-built road are there. Immediate maintenance work is required but none of the authorities focus on it.

On 04.09.2022 one officer from the intelligence branch BSF visited the place and assured the villagers that they will remove the barbed wire fence which is illegally placed on the land of the farmers. But till date they did not take any action regarding the same.
Kirity Roy, Secretary, MASUM
& National Convener, PACTI


‘Vedic Democracy’
On November 15, 2022, the University Grants Commission sent a letter to 45 Central and 45 Deemed to be universities, to hold lectures on India: Mother of Democracy in order to celebrate Constitution Day on 26 November 2022. The letter directs all Universities to hold lectures on the “ancient origins of Indian Democracy” apart from reading the Preamble and the Chapter on Fundamental Duties.

“The UGC appears to have circulated a concept note on this subject which identifies 15 themes. Though the note has not been made public, several media reports and the statements of the UGC Chairperson suggest that the themes include the glorification of anti-women ancient texts and traditions. The themes of the lectures include Khap Panchayats, feudal and dictatorial monarchies and anti-women customs that follow the Manusmruti. It is very ironical that the UGC has asked Universities to celebrate Constitution Day in a manner that fundamentally ignores the rights of women to a decent and dignified life. While it asks people to read the preamble, it promotes ideas and texts that have laid the foundation of the oppression of women since ancient times.

“The UGC has been attempting to push courses of Vedic culture and alter the academic syllabus to suit the patriarchal Hindutva brigade. By issuing this letter, it has shown that it is not an autonomous agency which is wedded to the ideals of modern education, but that it is becoming a hand-maiden of the Hindutva brigade. It is directly following the direction of the Prime Minister Modi, who has been selling the idea of Vedic democracy as an ideal political system. This idea is fundamentally against the spirit of the Constitution and furthers the regressive and anti-women content of the NEP, 2020. The NEP, 2020 lays the foundation of the promotion of Hindutva morality in universities and opens the window for the glorification of patriarchal traditions. The UGC Chair-person’s latest comments, also provide a justification for legitimising illegal and conservative social institutions like the Khap Panchayats, against whom the AIDWA has waged a long campaign.”

Therefore the AIDWA calls upon the UGC to exercise its constitutionally mandated role of promoting modern education that is based on the Constitutional Values. It appeals to all members of the University to oppose attempts which will alter the character of UGC and make it an instrument of conservative Hindutva politics.
Malini Bhattacharya, President
Mariam Dhawale, General Secretary
All India Democratic
Women’s Organisation (AIDWA)

Politics meets Football
There are many who’ll tell you that politics and sport don’t mix. But come on, this is Iran against the USA that we’re talking about–the political undertones to this World Cup game were always going to be there. A roll call of some of the world’s major events of the last 70 years explains why: a CIA-backed coup against a democratically elected Iranian leader, the 1979 Islamic revolution, the Iran hostage crisis, the Iran-Iraq war, the Lebanese civil war and the Iraq war–all the way through to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, and then the subsequent withdrawal from it by the Americans.

Well, look at how domestic events in Iran have affected this FIFA world cup tournament. The Iranian team didn’t sing the national anthem in their first game, a sign the country’s anti-government protesters took as tacit approval for the protest movement. The team then proceeded to sing in the next two, with some speculating there may have been government pressure–especially following the arrest of a former national team player for supporting the protests. And in the stands, pro- and anti-government Iranians were both present, leading to tense situations at times, with some protest supporters even ordered to remove anti-government symbols by Qatari security.

The Americans themselves got involved in the act. A US Soccer social media account used an altered version of the Iranian flag to “support … women in Iran”. That was not well-received by the Iranian Football Association, who demanded that the US be thrown out of the tournament.

As for the actual football, well, it was essentially a play-off for qualification to the knockout stages. The Iranians didn’t really turn up, at least not until the latter stages of the game, and the US won 1-0, sending Iran home.
Abubaker Al Samahi, Al Jazeera

Poll Results
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)is steadily and diligently expanding its influence in the tribal belts—all over the country.

Even then, it indicates failure on the part of the Congress organisation.

To sum up, on the one hand the BJP—by taking, due and undue, advantage of its expanding and tightening grip over the various levers of the state, including the watchdog bodies—was increasing its strength at an accelerating rate and, on the other, the Congress—the only other national party—was dying a slow death.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra has stated —to be sure, only started—bringing in a new element into the equation.

It's a hugely audacious move to change the mood of the nation—by raising the call of "Jodo" as opposed to the incessant moves in the direction of "Todo". All at the same time, it'd, hopefully, also open up the possibility of the renewal of the Congress—both ideologically and organisationally.

Even in the event of achieving that—which is far from guaranteed— it won't be too easy to overpower the BJP electorally. More so, given the situation with the ECI and the MSM, in particular.
But, that appears to be the only possible escape route from the looming doom.

And giving up is just no option.
Sukla Sen


 Social Security Pensions and Maternity Entitlements

Smt Nirmala Sitharaman
Finance Minister, Govt. of India

Re: Social Security Pensions and Maternity Entitlements

Dear Madam,
This is a follow-up to our letters of 20 December 2017 and 21 December 2018 (addressed to your predecessor, Shri Arun Jaitley), where we tried to flag two priorities for the next Union Budget: an increase in social security pensions, and adequate provision for maternity benefits. Since both proposals were ignored, we are writing again, well in advance of the next Budget, with the same recommendations. Our argument, much as before, is as follows.

Social security pensions: The central government’s contribution to old-age pensions under the National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS) scheme has stagnated at just Rs 200 per month since 2006. This is unfair. It is also a missed opportunity: NOAPS is a good scheme (with low leakages and administrative costs) that reaches some of the poorest members of society. The central government’s contribution should be immediately raised to Rs 500 (preferably more) at the very least. This requires an additional allocation of Rs 7,560 crores or so, based on the current NOAPS coverage (2.1 crore pensioners). Similarly, widow pensions should be raised from Rs 300 per month to Rs 500 at the very least. This would cost just another Rs 1,560 crores.

Maternity entitlements: Maternity benefits of Rs 6,000 per child are a legal entitlement of all Indian women (except those already covered in the formal sector) under the National Food Security Act 2013. For many years, the central government did not act on this. In 2017, a scheme was finally launched for this purpose: the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMVVY). However, the provision made for it in the Union Budget never exceeded Rs 2,500 crore – less than one third of what is required based on NFSA norms. Further, in flagrant violation of the Act, PMMVY restricts the benefits to Rs 5,000 for just one child per woman. The Union Budget 2023-24 should provide for full-fledged implementation of maternity entitlements as per NFSA norms. This requires at least Rs 8,000 crores (assuming a birth rate of 19 per thousand, effective coverage of 90% and 60:40 ratio for centre: state contributions). Along with this, the illegal restriction of maternity benefits to one child per woman should be removed.

It is also important to streamline payment systems so that pensions reach the recipients on time every month, i.e. by the 7th day of the month as directed by the Supreme Court in its order of 28 Nov 2001.

We urge you to accept these modest recommendations.
Yours sincerely,
Abhijeet Singh (Assistant Professor of Economics, Stockholm School of
Economics) & 50 others

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Vol 55, No. 26, Dec 25 - 31, 2022