Bulldozing of Sarva Seva Samiti
12th August, 2023 witnessed a horrific and shameful attack on the ideas and values of Gandhi, Vinoba and Jayprakash Narayan by this fascist regime. Sarva Seva Samiti, situated in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, which has been active in the last 6 decades, fostering democratic ideals was brutally bulldozed by the BJP Govt. The Samiti campus consisting of more than 10 thousand progressive books, which preserved a remarkable history of the country, was razed to the ground.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court in its Order dated 7th August, 2023 had directed the lower court to conduct the hearing expeditiously. Despite being pending in the court, the process of demolition started at 6 am on 12th Aug morning without any competent order.

On 11th August, 2023, a large public protest meeting was organised in which representatives of people’s organisations from all over India and hundreds of common citizens of Banaras were also present. The meeting was addressed by many well-known leaders and activists including Prof Anand Kumar, Rakesh Tikait, Medha Patkar, Yogendra Yadav, Faisal Khan, Dr Sunilam, Feroze Mithiborewala etc. The meeting challenged the ruthless bulldozer policy of the Government, be it in UP or Haryana, especially targeting Muslims and also raised the issue of illegal occupation of lands of fisher people and other marginalised communities in the name of ‘development’. The Sarva Seva Samiti played an important role in strengthening the Indian progressive ideas. Hence, this should be seen as an attack by the present ruling party on the ideas that strengthen Indian democracy.

Besides, there are concerns that the Government plans to hand over this land to capitalists in the name of ‘Railways’.

National Alliance of People’s Movements strongly condemns this unconstitutional, subversive activity by the BJP Government.
National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)

RGW Bill and Gig Workers
Rajasthan Government has taken a pioneering step in recognising the importance of gig workers by introducing the Rajasthan Platform-based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill, 2023 (RGW Bill). The Bill was passed on 24th July. This landmark legislation sets a precedent not only within India but also holds global significance as it addresses the challenges faced by gig workers and strives to provide them with social security measures. With an estimated 300,000 gig workers in Rajasthan, the state government's proactive approach reflects the growing global recognition of the need to protect and promote the rights of this emerging segment of the workforce.

The RGW Bill in Rajasthan shares common objectives with initiatives from around the world while tailoring them to the Indian context. It defines gig workers, establishes a Social Security and Welfare Fund, incorporates a grievance redressing mechanism, and emphasises gig worker representation and participation. These provisions reflect global trends in acknowledging the need for gig worker welfare and fair working conditions.

While the Rajasthan RGW Bill represents a significant step forward, it also faces challenges and raises questions that resonate globally. Striking a balance between funding welfare measures without disincentivising gig work and coordinating state and federal-level laws are among the challenges. Additionally, addressing the cross-border implications of gig work requires international cooperation and coordination.

The Rajasthan Platform-based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill, 2023 sets an example for the global gig economy. Policymakers worldwide can learn from Rajasthan's efforts to protect gig workers' rights while promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. Collaboration, knowledge sharing, and continuous adaptation of regulations are crucial in addressing emerging challenges in the gig economy.
Vikram Raj

China’s Economic Miracle
As prices rise in the United States, they are falling in China. In the twelve months leading up to July, China’s Consumer Price Index fell by 0.3 percent, the National Bureau of Statistics announced this week. (During the same period, consumer prices rose by 3.2 per cent in the United States.) On the face of things, lower prices are a boon for Chinese consumers. But this deflation has been accompanied by other signs of economic weakness, including a sharp slowdown in GDP growth, sluggish retail sales, a fall in exports, and a renewed downturn in real-estate prices. These developments have raised fears that the world’s second-largest economy, which for many years looked like a miracle, could be descending into an extended slump. It is a perilous moment, for China.

Many analysts attribute some of the current weakness to public concerns about Chinese authorities’ economic stewardship.

But the larger issue is the nationwide real-estate bust, which has left many Chinese banks burdened with bad debts, and many homeowners facing decreases in their net worth. To relieve the pressures on the property market and the financial system, the government has eased some borrowing restrictions for developments, reduced some reserve requirements for banks, and cut interest rates slightly. Earlier this year, these measures appeared to be stabilising the property market, but home prices are now falling again, and that is putting more pressure on the highly indebted developers.
John Cassidy, The New Yorker

Religion and Caste
One can change religion easily but it is not that easy to change caste. After conversion converts carry their previous caste identity. No matter where the convert goes, his caste won’t go away even after death.

70 out of 250 Christian families in Ayyampatti village of Tiruchy district in TN are Dalits. Members belonging to BC community have an issue with Dalits taking part in festivals held at St Mary Magdalene Church and in using the community hall.

Following protests, collector M Pradeep Kumar inspected the place on February 26 and gave an assurance that Dalits would be allowed to take part in church festivities. Following the assurance, the church constituted a 12-member panel involving Dalits. But, members of BC communities allegedly did not want the panel to play any role in the church’s annual festival. They also allegedly tried to stop the Dalits from mobilising funds.

At a peace meeting scheduled on July 20, when a Dalit raised the issue of their community having a separate graveyard, the tahsildar said, “You are what you are born.Your caste will never change and you will have a separate burial ground.”

CPI’s Tiruchy sub-urban district secretary Rajkumar said, “Tahsildar is an executive magistrate in the taluk. In this case, he has acted in favour of the BCs. Casteist motives of excluding Dalits from a decision-making body and discrimination cannot be accepted. The state government should not allow such persons to hold office.”
Nacchinarkkiniyan M, Tiruchy

Gagging the Media in Kashmir
Gagging the media has a long history in the Kashmir valley. Anuradha Bhasin, the editor of Kashmir Times, offered a vivid narrative of what happened to the media world on the day of abrogation of Article 370, which provided a special constitutional status to the State: “Mobile internet stopped functioning in the plains of Jammu and Ladakh. In the rest of the state, including the hill districts of Jammu, everything fell silent – landline phones, mobiles and the internet…Kashmir had disappeared. Kashmir-based reporters, including our entire bureau, remained untraceable. So it was, in the hill districts of Rajouri, Poonch, Doda and Kishtwar.” (Anuradha Bhasin, A Dismantled State: The Untold Story of Kashmir After Article 370, Harper Collins, 2023)

Very recently, Muzaffar Raina reported in The Telegraph: “The Centre has blocked the website and social media handles of The Kashmir Walla, one of the few surviving independent media outlets in the Valley since the 2019 crackdown following the revocation of the erstwhile state’s special status under Article 370.” It is further reported: “The Kashmir Walla is one of the few media outlets that spoke truth to power after the 2019 scrapping of special status, writing on the government crackdown on dissent and on alleged rights violations”. (See The Telegraph, August 21, 2023)

The above narratives testify what kind of ‘normalcy’ prevails in the Kashmir Valley.
Arup Kumar Sen

Appeal to the Supreme Court
The PUCL appeals to the Supreme Court to appoint a Supreme Court monitored–Special Investigation Team (SIT) drawn with police offcials of proven integrity from outside the state, to investigate all the significant criminal cases registered in the wake of the ethnic violence. The names must include those suggested by civil society and fresh FIR’s must be lodged wherever necessary. At least three major allegeincidents need to be investigated. The SIT should necessarily investigate:

A.  3rd May incident in Churachandpur
B.  Sexual violence incidents reported across the state
C.  Khamen Lok massacre

The PUCL also appeals to the Supreme Court to appoint a Women’s Committee made up of respected women’s jurists, academics, activists and others, whose names should include suggestions by civil society, to visit Manipur and give an independent report directly to the SC.

Considering the di?cult nature of the terrain and the large number of victims who still live in their thousands in IDP Camps, the PUCL requests the Supreme Court to appoint a Team of Advocate Commissioners, based on suggestion by civil society, to visit all the camps and record statements of victims.
The PUCL also appeals to the Supreme Court to appoint a Committee of Mental Health Experts including Trained Counsellors, Psychiatric doctors, Trauma specialists and others to give a report on the state of mental health and remedial measures to be undertaken on an Emergency basis.
Kavita Srivastava, President, PUCL
Dr V Suresh, General Secretary, PUCL

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Vol 56, No. 10, Sep 3 - 9, 2023