Tuesday, April 15, 2014

From the AFTERNOON DISPATCH& COURIER (Mumbai) April 15th 2014

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Debating the undebatable

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Given that six people on a television studio panel, including the news anchor himself, all yelling and screaming at the same time, or talking completely at cross purposes, or refusing to be swayed by an opponent's argument, constitutes what the public perceives as a debate, it is most interesting to note that an actual “give and take” in happening between Goa and Gujarat currently.

And perhaps precisely because the long-distance debate is not taking place in a studio, and is occurring through the media at regular intervals, it promises to grow into something remarkable that can actually add to the sum total of information on a particular subject. 

The protagonists are the Chief Minister of Goa Manohar Parrikar (in the BJP corner), and Jesuit priest Cedric Prakash, director Prashant, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit centre for human rights, justice and peace.

Three weeks ago, Prakash was in Goa, addressing groups of people, mostly Catholics, on the elections, and the need to keep in mind the dire effect of corruption, casteism and the criminalisation of politics. There was immediate backlash, some of it from within the community itself. But it was in talking about the Freedom of Religion Bill, 2003, that he seems to have stepped on some very important toes. None other than the chief minister came back very sharply indeed, to talk about how Prakash was “misinforming the public.” He also reminded the priest of how “safe” he had been in Gujarat for the past 12 years after the riots of 2002, which event had made the latter one of Narendra Modi's bitterest and most consistent critics.

Now Father Cedric has picked up the ball lobbed by Parrikar into his court and run with it. This is what he has to say about the charge of “misinforming the public” about the Freedom of Religion Bill passed in Gujarat.

“It is against Article 25 of the Constitution and violates Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mr. Parrikar is intelligent enough to know that I am not speaking about any anti-conversion laws. These in the past have been brought in both by Congress and BJP States. I amspeaking of the Freedom of Religion Law of 2003 of the Gujarat Government which necessitates that any person (adult) wanting to change his or her religion must first seek the permission of the District Collector. 

“This is clearly not about whether I have the right to convert you; but it is about, if I am a Hindu Dalit, whether I have the right to embrace Buddhism freely -- if I feel that Buddhism will help me become a better person. The irony of this law is that the Collector will first have to see if there is any force, or a fraud or an "allurement" (which is material gratification or otherwise). So if the Collector feels that"my becoming a better person" is allurement, he or she can deny you the permission! As recently as February 9, 2014, the Gir Somnath SDM filed a complaint against a woman for converting to Islam "illegally". 

And then he discusses Parrikar's remark about being “safe” in Gujarat as a matter of perception. “Thanks to the Central Government; there are mechanisms to ensure my safety and security. But this does not mean that I am not intimidated or harassed or even threatened!”

When we read the transcript of the chief minister's remarks, particularly the one about Prakash being safe in Gujarat, we were struck with dismay about how deliberately obtuse he seemed. As admirers of Parrikar's style of functioning in Goa, and the strength of his political will to get things done, we found it disconcerting that he evidently did not expect a reaction to this  remark. After all, the fact that organisations like Prashant continue to function in Gujarat in spite of the state's attempts to contain its activities, is well-known!  

So now we can wait and see what the Goa chief minister has to say in reply.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

Exactly fifty-one years ago on April 11th 1963, beloved Pope John XXIII literally shook the foundations of this earth through his Encyclical ‘Pacem in Terris’ (Peace on Earth). This was his last Encyclical that he gave to the Church and the very first one by any Pope to be addressed “to all men of goodwill”.  The Encyclical was written in the midst of the turbulence and conflict which has seized several parts of the world: the Cold War, the erection of the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Pacem in Terris in fact has a more elaborate title, which is “On Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity and Freedom”. The four pillars: Truth, Justice, Charity and Freedom are in a sense the sum and substance of the Encyclical.

The Encyclical is divided in four broad sections:

  1. the relationship between individuals and humankind; and of human rights and moral duties
  2. the relationship between man and State, dwelling on the collective authority of the latter
  3. the need and importance for equality among nations and that of the State to be also subject to the rights and duties that an individual must abide by
  4. the need for greater relations among nations and for collective (bigger) States assisting other States

Finally, Pope John XXIII reminds all men and women of goodwill (and particularly the Catholics) to be more engaged in social and political life in order that we have a more just and peaceful world. 

India today is in the midst of her General Elections - regarded as the biggest democratic exercise on earth.  Pacem in Terris therefore serves as a great reminder of what values Indians should be looking for when they cast their vote for a particular candidate or party. Exactly a year ago, on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of this great Encyclical, Pope Francis said, “‘Peace on Earth’ remains extremely contemporary and can act as a guide to peace-building in today’s world”

There is so much in this Encyclical which finds a resonance in the Indian Constitution.  Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity are the core values in the Preamble of our Constitution. Our country has for her motto ‘Satyamev Jayate’ (Truth alone triumphs).  Charity is the core teaching of Jesus and his Gospel; for us Indians, it is meant to be a non-negotiable.

What the run-up to the elections has unfolded is the fact that for several Indians, these values can be conveniently put aside and be replaced with untruth, injustice, hatred and divisiveness.  All caution has been thrown to the wind for some political parties and there is a blatant attempt to destroy the fundamental rights of several groups particularly of the minorities and the marginalized. One manifesto proudly steers on the path of greater nuclearisation which is certainly not going to help in the building of a more peaceful world!

Pacem in Terris serves as a reminder and a challenge: not only to Christians but to all men and women of goodwill. John XXIII while affirming that all humans are equal in dignity and are endowed with rights, also calls upon everyone, very specially those in governance to ensure that what is foundational for peace, is never destroyed. 

On April 27th, the Catholic Church will canonize John XXIII acknowledging him as a Saint.  His contribution to us in India, this election season, is to have the courage to be communicators of justice, truth, charity and freedom. Do we have the guts to respond concretely?

10th April, 2014

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)

Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052
Phone: 79 27455913, 66522333 Fax:  79 27489018
Email: sjprashant@gmail.com     www.humanrightsindia.in

A response from Fr. Cedric Prakash to CM of Goa Manohar Parrikar & his ilk (9th April 2014)

A response from Fr. Cedric Prakash to CM of Goa Manohar Parrikar & his ilk
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

Ever since my visit to Goa about three weeks ago, I have been receiving plenty of feedback on the several talks I gave there.  Most are very appreciative but as expected, there are quite a few critical voices mainly from those Catholics and others who seem to subscribe to the BJP point of view. 

At the outset, I want to make it very clear that I hold no brief for any political party.  I do not even tell anyone whom I will ultimately vote for. Most political parties (at least the mainline ones) make tall promises particularly before the elections and never keep them.  Most are corrupt: some get exposed while others have institutionalized corruption (like in Gujarat) in such a way that corruption becomes legitimised.  Over the years, most elected representatives have increased their bank balances / assets to mind-boggling amounts!  As citizens, we surely need to deal with corruption, casteism, the criminalization of politics and much more.  We should demand greater honesty and accountability from all our elected representatives – and at all times.

At the top of my concerns however, is communalism and the way it is rearing its ugly head and poisonous fangs all over the country. One needs to objectively study the fountain-head of communalism in India: the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and perhaps read the ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ of MS Golwalkar or for that matter what VV Savarkar or KB Hedgewar stood for.  They very strongly propagated an ideology called ‘Hindutva’ in which the whole concept of India’s nationhood is defined from the narrow perspective of a ‘Hindu-nation’ State.  Above all, it propagated the dominance of the upper caste Hindus and in their scheme of things, the minorities like Muslims and Christians are meant to be treated as second-class citizens.

The fact that the BJP is the political outfit of the RSS is no secret.  The fact that it was the RSS that named Narendra Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP (inspite of much opposition from the rank and file of the BJP) is out in the open. The fact that the RSS has to decide on every single crisis where the BJP is concerned speaks volumes for the fact that both the RSS and the BJP are just one.  Above all, the Sangh Parivar (as the RSS, the BJP and their other affiliates are known) has over the years demonstrated that they do not subscribe to the Constitution of India, to the national anthem and to the secular fabric of the country  - all this has been  consistently and authentically documented.

The BJP chose to release their election manifesto only on April 7th (the day elections began in the country) and it continued with emphasising on its core activities: the building of the Ram Mandir, the abolition of Article 370 and the establishing of a Uniform Civil Code. This clearly shows that they care two hoots about the Constitution of India, the Supreme Court and are not at all sensitive to issues of the minority communities.
Let us then address some of the points which seem to have rankled the BJP in Goa:

  • Freedom of Religion Law 2003
Late last evening, the Chief Minister of Goa Manohar Parrikar seems to have lambasted me at a public meeting (as reported in sections of the media )on several accounts and very particularly on “misinforming” people about the ‘Freedom of Religion Law of Gujarat’!

Facts and documented evidence speak for themselves. Without doubt, the so-called ‘Freedom of Religion’ law of Gujarat the single most draconian piece of legislation in the history of any democracy or civilized nation in the world.It is against Article 25 of the Constitution and violates Article 18  of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Mr. Parrikar is intelligent enough to know that I am not speaking about any anti-conversion laws. These in the past have been brought in both by Congress and BJP State. I am speaking of the Freedom of Religion Law of 2003 of the Gujarat Government which necessitates that any person (adult) wanting to change his or her religion must first seek the permission of the District Collector. This is clearly not about whether I have the right to convert you; but it is about, if I am a Hindu Dalit, do I have the right to embrace Buddhism freely - if I feel that Buddhism will help me become a better person? The irony of this law is that the Collector will first have to see if there is any force, or a fraud or an “allurement” (which is material gratification or otherwise). So if the Collector feels that “you becoming a better person” is allurement, he or she can deny you the permission!  As recently as February 9th 2014, the ‘Gir Somnath SDM filed a complaint against a woman for converting to Islam ‘illegally’.

Besides, there are any amounts of forms to be filled out when asking for permission. One also has to provide complete details of all those who will be present at say your “Baptismal ceremony” while applying for permission.

If this is not a draconian and anti-constitutional law, I challenge Mr. Parrikar to tell me what is?

  • “Fr. Cedric Prakash is safe in Gujarat for the last twelve years”.
The very fact that some BJP leaders are making this statement is definitely a serious warning of the possible times to come. Every citizen should be safe and secure in any part of the country. The Government of the day is meant to protect the life and property of every single citizen; the police and the other arms of law and order are meant to help the Government in the execution of this responsibility. Unfortunately, the world knows that the Gujarat Government abdicated this responsibility in 2002 which even prompted the then Prime Minister Vajpayee to tell Modi that he should practice “raj dharma”.

Early in 1998-99, when the Sangh Parivar attacked the Christians of the Dang districts and other parts of South Gujarat, PM Vajpayee flew down to say that this should not happen to anyone, anywhere in India.

Being “safe and secure” in Gujarat is a matter of perception; thanks to the Central Government; there are mechanisms to ensure my safety and security. But this does not mean that I am not intimidated or harassed or even threatened! I have the courage to stand my ground and I am really not afraid of those who are trying to do everything in the book to cow me down. All this is well documented too, but I really do not want the focus to be upon me.

The truth is that Christians of Gujarat are harassed subtly and not so subtly consistently. The same happens to Muslims and other minorities. There is plenty of evidence to substantiate this.

  • “Why should Fr. Cedric Prakash come to Goa?”
Fr. Cedric Prakash was in Goa for the simple reason that he was invited by the Catholic Association of Goa (CAG) and other Goans. Fr. Prakash is a free citizen, he, therefore has the right to travel anywhere in the country and speak / address any group.

Once again, the very fact that the members of the BJP can even think of raising such questions portends ill for the future of the country.  It clearly shows their fascist mindset! In the same breath, these very people have no guts to ask why Modi is seeking election from Varanasi or Advani from Gandhinagar, when both are not residents of these Constituencies.

Above all, there are several who are really rankled that the Church, Priests and religious are taking a stand on what is right and just. These very same persons had absolutely no problem in cheering the Church when in the past elections, the Church asked the laity to take a stand against those who were “corrupt”.  Besides, these very guys also become totally dumb when the so-called ‘Gujarat development model’ has proved to be a bunch of lies, half-truths, myths and highly paid propaganda!

If one is a true follower of Jesus today, one will surely take a stand against all that is wrong in society! The values that are enshrined in the Constitution of India: justice, liberty, equality and fraternity are also core values of the Gospel of Jesus. No disciple of Jesus be it laity, religious, priest or Bishop should fight shy of upholding, propagating and being a witness to these sacred values at all times in all places.

Finally, we should all have the moral courage to give a resounding defeat at these General Elections to all those who are divisive, sectarian, spread hatred and would like to destroy the pluralistic character of our country and the secular fabric of our Constitution.

9th April, 2014

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)

Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052
Phone: 79 27455913, 66522333  Fax:  79 27489018
Email: sjprashant@gmail.com     www.humanrightsindia.in

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

We need to talk about this BJP Manifesto - By N. Ram in "The Hindu" (Apr 7th 2014)

We need to talk about this BJP Manifesto - By N. Ram in "The Hindu"

A close look at the BJP’s election manifestoes from 1996 shows a consistent pattern of fielding the core Hindutva issues. What does the failure to present a serious Manifesto this time mean for the party that hopes to lead the next government?
No official statement has come from the Bharatiya Janata Party to explain its strange decision to release, in the face of the Election Commission of India’s displeasure, its Manifesto on April 7, 2014 — the first of the nine ‘Poll Days’ constituting the 16th general election.
Election manifestoes are no big deal. That’s the message seemingly conveyed by the party that, according to most opinion polls, will form the next coalition government in New Delhi, assuming of course that it can solve its ‘last mile’ problem by finding enough allies to connect to the magic number of 272 Lok Sabha seats.
The big deal is the ‘Vikas Purush’ avatar of a former outlier, Chief Minister Narendra Modi, whose campaign machine has done everything in its power to obfuscate or draw attention away from the past, 2002 and all that. Who needs a Manifesto when there is MODIMANTRA, which actually heads the list of ‘Core Issues’ at the BJP’s official website, www.bjp.org? Who needs a Manifesto when there is the ‘Gujarat Model’ of governance, development, and social engineering that the rest of India needs to aspire to? (This message seems to fly notwithstanding the availability of a growing literature that reveals that when you look at various development and social indicators, Gujarat is no model State.)
Message and reality

What is clear by now is that the message is quite different from the reality: the BJP’s failure to unveil its Manifesto weeks after most other parties, national and regional, have come out with their mostly elaborate exercises is no small deal. So what’s the real reason for this negation of the very idea of an election Manifesto, which is meant to appeal to the heart and mind of voters?
Fortunately, pro-BJP voices in the news media are more forthcoming than the party’s present high command. One of them, R. Jagannathan, editor-in-chief of Network 18 group publications, tackles the question in a provocative opinion piece titled “Modi is the manifesto: Why BJP doesn’t need a hefty document.” At the end of the article, Mr. Jagannathan comes to the real point: “Manifestoes can be constricting”; they can act as “a tripwire for a party that hopes to win and form a government.”
In other words, an election Manifesto, if taken too seriously, can spell trouble for the future, especially when the party seems close enough to taking power. The less it reveals about – the more it camouflages – the ideology and character of the party, its real programme, policy agenda, and intentions, its stand on sensitive and highly divisive issues, the better. In the case of the BJP today, what evidently needs to be underplayed, if not kept out of public view, is the Sangh Parivar’s well-known repertoire of core issues: the concept of Hindutva; the project of building a Ram Temple in Ayodhya (on the grave of the Babri Masjid); the abrogation of Article 370, which confers a special constitutional status on Jammu & Kashmir; coming up with a Uniform Civil Code; banning religious conversions, cow slaughter, and so forth.
The irony of it all seems to have escaped general attention. The BJP, after all, is a highly ideologised political entity. It is a member of a volatile family, the “Sangh Parivar,” which is “nurtured” by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological or conceptual brain directing family affairs. To represent intra-familial relationships in this right-wing communal formation, there is no need to go to any external source. Here is how the History section of the BJP’s official website, www.bjp.org, presents the relationships: “The Bharatiya Janata Party is today the most prominent member of the family of organisations known as the ‘Sangh Parivar’ and nurtured by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)…History is the philosophy of nations…the Sangh Parivar has a very clear…conception of Indian history…[The RSS] has no doubt about Hindu identity and culture being the mainstay of the Indian nation and of Indian society.”
The BJP has come a long way since 1984, when it suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of a Congress that rode a sympathy wave to an unprecedented electoral triumph. The BJP’s highly ideological nature, its organisational strength, and the depth of reserves provided by its membership of the Parivar explain its resilience, its ability to re-invent itself in accordance with changing socio-political circumstances. Historically, it began to taste electoral success only after trading its vague and somewhat indeterminate right-wing platform of its formative years (1980-1986) for the platform of aggressive Hindutva, adopted at its Palampur session in 1989.
Core Hindutva issues

A close look at the BJP’s election manifestoes from 1996, which began the era of the party bidding seriously for power at the Centre, shows a consistent pattern of fielding the core Hindutva issues, with 1999 constituting the sole exception. The language, the style, and the treatment of the issues vary but the core issues are embedded in the manifestoes. The ideologues evidently saw to this, despite the reported sporadic attempts of A.B. Vajpayee to moderate or soften the message.
The BJP’s 1998 Manifesto is nothing if not outspoken on all the core issues. It speaks of “Sanatana Dharma [as]…synonymous with Indian nationalism” and commits the party to the concept of “One Nation, One People and One Culture.” It proclaims that “the evolution of Hindutva in politics is the antidote to the creation of vote banks and appeasement of sectional interests.” Asserting that “Shri Ram lies at the core of Indian consciousness,” it commits the party to facilitating “the construction of a magnificent Shri Ram Mandir at Ram Janmasthan in Ayodhya where a makeshift temple already exists.” It promises to “explore all consensual, legal and constitutional means to facilitate the construction of Shri Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.” As for the special constitutional status of Jammu & Kashmir, the party’s 1998 Manifesto issues a threat: “The BJP will abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution.” Further, it proposes to “entrust the Law Commission” with the formulation of “a Uniform Civil Code based on the progressive practices from all traditions.”
There was no BJP Manifesto for the 1999 Lok Sabha elections. Instead, the newly formed National Democratic Alliance came out with a “National Agenda for Governance,” which included none of the core Hindutva issues.
But broad alliance considerations did not deter the BJP from fielding these highly divisive issues in its next general election Manifesto, which was titled “Vision Document – 2004.” It expresses fealty to “the philosophy of Integral Humanism as enunciated by Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya” and to Hindutva, claiming that “Hindutva is not a religious or exclusivist concept” but is “inclusive, integrative…” Among the 2004 Manifesto’s highlights is reaffirmation of the party’s “commitment to the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya,” if necessary through a judicial verdict but preferably through a process of speeded-up dialogue between parties to the dispute. The demand for the abrogation of Article 370 does not find a place in this Manifesto but the demand for “Autonomous Regional Councils for Jammu and Ladakh with adequate financial and administrative powers” does.
Hardening stance

The BJP’s 2009 Manifesto saw a hardening of the core Hindutva stance. It extols the “Hindu world view.” It includes a paean to the Ayodhya movement, which had been led by the party’s prime ministerial candidate, L.K. Advani, as “the biggest mass movement in India since Independence,” a movement that “initiated a powerful debate on cultural nationalism and the true meaning of secularism.” Claiming that “there is an overwhelming demand of the people in India and abroad to have a grand temple at the birth place of Shri Ram in Ayodhya,” it commits the BJP to exploring “all possibilities, including negotiations and judicial proceedings, to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.” The 2009 Manifesto reaffirms the BJP’s commitment to the abrogation of Article 370. And it proposes, “as a first step,” to “set up a Commission to draft a Uniform Civil Code, drawing upon the best traditions and harmonising them with the modern times.”
It is not as though the BJP did not do homework on its Manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In fact, its preparations began earlier than other major parties, with the October 2013 launch of a website inviting suggestions from voters for its Manifesto. Given the historical background, it would be na├»ve to think that the failure of the BJP to come up with a serious Manifesto in time, on account of unresolved tensions between the old guard in the BJP Manifesto Committee and the aggressive Modi team, means the side-lining of core Hindutva in the event of the NDA forming the next government. Recent developments, including the Parivar’s highly communal campaign in Uttar Pradesh and Amit Shah’s inflammatory rhetoric addressing a Jat audience, are intimations that the BJP, “the most prominent member” of the family of Hindutva organisations, is not about to change its spots.

Monday, April 07, 2014

The PLAIN TRUTH of GUJARAT from THE WEEK (March 31st 2014)

Modified Data 
Story Dated: Monday, March 31, 2014 14:39 hrs IST 
Narendra Modi's tall claims are debunkedby reports from various agencies
Text Size
* Value added tax on petrol, diesel and kerosene in Gujarat is among the highest in the country and highest VAT on CNG in India-15 per cent.
* Gujarat has maximum incidences of labour unrest including strikes and lockouts.
* Gujarat has one of the worst Public Distribution Systems and the highest rate of foodgrain diversion.
* Ankleshwar and Vapi in Gujarat top the list of severely polluted industrial areas in India.
* Critics say the Gujarat government reduced its power generation capacity over the years and thrust is on to buy more power at higher rate from private companies.

Health* Per capita health expenditure in Gujarat is among the lowest in the country.
* Gujarat has one of the lowest numbers of hospital beds available per one lakh population-143.
* Gujarat has high maternal and infant mortality rates.
* Almost every second child under five in Gujarat is undernourished and three out of four are anaemic.
Source: National health accounts of India and SRS 2012.

World Health Day - 7 April 2014

World Health Day - 7 April 2014

The topic for 2014 is vector-borne diseases

World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948. Each year a theme is selected that highlights a priority area of public health. The Day provides an opportunity for individuals in every community to get involved in activities that can lead to better health.
The topic for 2014 is vector-borne diseases.

What are vectors and vector-borne diseases?

Vectors are organisms that transmit pathogens and parasites from one infected person (or animal) to another. Vector-borne diseases are illnesses caused by these pathogens and parasites in human populations. They are most commonly found in tropical areas and places where access to safe drinking-water and sanitation systems is problematic.
The most deadly vector-borne disease, malaria, caused an estimated 660 000 deaths in 2010. Most of these were African children. However, the world's fastest growing vector-borne disease is dengue, with a 30-fold increase in disease incidence over the last 50 years. Globalization of trade and travel and environmental challenges such as climate change and urbanization are having an impact on transmission of vector-borne diseases, and causing their appearance in countries where they were previously unknown.
In recent years, renewed commitments from ministries of health, regional and global health initiatives – with the support of foundations, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and the scientific community – have helped to lower the incidence and death rates from some vector-borne diseases.
World Health Day 2014 will spotlight some of the most commonly known vectors – such as mosquitoes, sandflies, bugs, ticks and snails – responsible for transmitting a wide range of parasites and pathogens that attack humans or animals. Mosquitoes, for example, not only transmit malaria and dengue, but also lymphatic filariasis, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever.

Goal: better protection from vector-borne diseases

The campaign aims to raise awareness about the threat posed by vectors and vector-borne diseases and to stimulate families and communities to take action to protect themselves. A core element of the campaign will be to provide communities with information. As vector-borne diseases begin to spread beyond their traditional boundaries, action needs to be expanded beyond the countries where these diseases currently thrive.
More broadly, through the campaign, we are aiming for the following:
  • families living in areas where diseases are transmitted by vectors know how to protect themselves;
  • travelers know how to protect themselves from vectors and vector-borne diseases when travelling to countries where these pose a health threat;
  • in countries where vector-borne diseases are a public health problem, ministries of health put in place measures to improve the protection of their populations; and
  • in countries where vector-borne diseases are an emerging threat, health authorities work with environmental and relevant authorities locally and in neighbouring countries to improve integrated surveillance of vectors and to take measures to prevent their proliferation.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

‘ Minorities are treated as second class citizens in Gujarat’ (from THE HERALD , Goa , April 2nd 2014 Pg 5)

‘ Minorities are treated as second class citizens in Gujarat’
(Fr Cedric Prakash who was in Goa recently at the invitation of the Catholic Association of Goa and the All India Catholic Union has been openly critical of the Gujarat model under Narendra Modi. The Ahmedabad based Jesuit priest who actively campaigns for human rights believes it is important for him to speak out against the treatment of minorities in his state. He spoke to LISA ANN MONTEIRO)

What is the condition of minorities living in present day Gujarat?
 Minorities in Gujarat by and large find it very tough living here. Most live in a kind of fear. The government blatantly regards them as second class citizens. Minorities are very subtly being denied government jobs, promotions and even admissions in government– run institutions of higher education. A case in point is how Muslim students were denied scholarships with money ( given to the state) from the Centre— till the Gujarat High Court and later the Supreme Court came down heavily on the State government over this.

Can you give us an idea of the religion- wise composition of the population of Gujarat. Surely the Catholics must be a very small minority in your state.
Hindus comprise approximately 85 per cent of the state’s population, Muslims are about 10 per cent, and the remaining five per cent consists of Christians, Jains, Buddhists, adivasis ( animists) and others.
According to the last census, Christians are a miniscule 0.53 per cent of the population of 60 million, and from this total, Catholics must be the largest single denomination.

Have things gotten worse specifically for the Christians over the last few years? 
Yes, in several ways. There is constant intimidation and harassment by government officials on Church- run institutions and personnel.
Police and other officials consistently visit our institutions to check on the baptism registers etc. They also demand that we provide details of certain individuals who do not want to show externally that they are Christians. Then, of course, there are the other subtle ways.

But how can you be sure that the Gujarat CM or the BJP in the state were in some way responsible for these attacks?
 The duty of any government is to protect the life and property of every single citizen under their care. When they abdicate this responsibility, when they allow their goons to intimidate, harass and even attack others without even attempting to book them, the complicity of the government and the ruling dispensation is obvious. We have several instances in Gujarat where police have killed innocent youth belonging to the minority community in so- called fake encounters.
Thanks to the Supreme Court, some of these police officers are in jail today but everybody knows who were behind these fake encounters.

Why have you opposed the Freedom of Religion Bill?
 For the simple reason that the Freedom of Religion law is unconstitutional and is clearly in violation of Article 25 of the Constitution.

Was this Bill passed because many conversions were taking place by Christians in Gujarat? 
Not at all. . . In fact, the bogey of “ conversions" was raised to create a fear ( psychosis) in the minds of the majority community. The percentage of Christians in Gujarat has been diminishing over the years.

Can you provide some statistics to support this?
 The census of 2001 pegged the figure of Christians of Gujarat as 0.56% while that of 2011 puts it around 0.53%. So though minimal, it is still a diminishing number.

Why do you believe that the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, would not make a good prime minister?
 Modi is unable to govern Gujarat in a democratic way. He is unable to work in a team. Besides during his tenure both the economic and social indicators of Gujarat have fallen drastically.

Modi is being promoted as a development messiah with Gujarat being projected as a highly developed state. Can you throw some light on the ground realities?
 Gujarat has always been one of the more developed and industrialised states of India. There are enough of studies to authenticate this. But thanks to the vested interests of some big corporate houses and certain sections of the media who have no heart for inclusive development, he is being promoted as their " Messiah". The truth is, during Modi’s reign of Gujarat, the state has fared badly both socially and economically. The scenario is rather frightening.

Don’t you think the fact that Christians and Muslims are constantly being pigeonholed as ‘ minorities’ works against them?
 Christians and Muslims are minorities in this country. This is a non- negotiable fact that has to be accepted. However, I do believe that none of us should suffer from complex of " minoritysm" but rather assert our identity, fight for the rights and privileges and continue to serve the country selflessly— through education, medicare, social, justice and peace. And above all, to defend the Constitution courageously from the fascist and fundamentalist forces that are all out to destroy our secular fabric.
The duty of any government is to protect the life and property of every single citizen under their care. When they abdicate this responsibility, when they allow their goons to intimidate, harass and even attack others without even attempting to book them, the complicity of the government and the ruling dispensation is obvious