States Round Up Issue-01 July to September 2010 Index Page
Full version of the report

Punjab



I. Highlight: Food wasted in floods

Ruled by the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition, Punjab was in the headlines as some 48,315 tonnes of wheat procured by the Punjab government rotted in the government godowns and have been declared unfit for human consumption. The stock which was enough to feed about 7.1 million people for a month through the public distribution system (PDS) was piled up over the previous three years. [1] In the context of the rotting food grains, on 12 August 2010 the Supreme Court asked the government of India to distribute foodgrains free of cost to the poor instead of letting it rot. [2]

The Central government replied that the Supreme Court’s order was not implementable. As of 1 July 2010, of the 48,315 tonnes wheat that have rotted, 34,396 tonnes were in the yards of Punjab Agro Food Grain Corporation, 7,768 tonnes with Punjab State Grains Procurement Corporation, 6,032 tonnes with Punjab State Civil Supplies Corporation, and 119 tonnes with Punjab Marketing Federation. The Food Corporation of India blamed the Punjab government and its procurement agencies for ignoring preservation norms. [3]

II. Violations of civil and political rights

During July to September 2010, the ACHR documented some cases of violations of civil and political rights.

On 11 July 2010, an undertrial identified as Vikramjit Singh Vicky died due to alleged torture in Central Jail, Bathinda. He was lodged in the jail in connection with a drugs smuggling case. The deceased was found dead inside his cell under mysterious circumstances on the night of 11 July 2010.  The deceased’s family members alleged that he died due to torture. [4]

On 25 July 2010, an undertrial prisoner identified as Gursewak Singh (43 years) died under mysterious circumstances in the Central Jail, Bhatinda. The jail authorities claimed that the deceased had suffered a massive cardiac arrest and died while being taken to the Civil Hospital. However, the deceased’s family and other inmates of the jail alleged that Gursewak Singh was subjected to torture which resulted in his death. The prisoners also protested against overcrowding. [5]

On 6 August 2010, Subeg Singh died in the custody at Patti sub-jail in Tarn Taran district. On 19 June 2010, Subeg, a resident of Bhura Karimpura village, was booked for quarreling with his brother. He was sent to Patti sub-jail on 25 June 2010 from where he was brought in serious condition to Civil Hospital, Patti and was shifted to Guru Nanak Dev Hospital, Amritsar, and later admitted to Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, where he died on August 6. The police denied that he was tortured. [6]

On 28 July 2010, Kulwant Singh was allegedly tortured in the custody of the State Special Operation Cell (SOC) of Intelligence Wing of Punjab Police in Amritsar. He was arrested on the same day along with four other persons on the suspicion of being members of Babbar Khalsa group. Kulwant Singh was allegedly tortured and subjected to electric shocks on the ears and private parts during interrogation in custody. He had to be admitted in serious condition at Guru Nanak Dev Hospital (GNDH), Amritsar. Dr. Saurabh Dhanda of GNDH, stated that “There were electric shock injuries on his (the victim’s) ear and private parts. Kulwant’s stomach also had injuries owing to severe beating with batons.” [7]

In a case of medical negligence, on 8 September 2010 a woman undertrial Balwinder Kaur gave premature birth to a baby girl in the jail toilet in Ludhiana and the baby died. Balwinder Kaur’s father Amarjit Singh alleged that the doctors at the Civil Hospital carried out two scans on the victim but they could not tell that she was pregnant; instead they had diagnosed her to be suffering from a tumour in her uterus. The victim’s father further alleged that the jail officials accused her of making false claims to get bail in the case. On 16 September 2010, Punjab Jails Minister Hira Singh Gabria stated that the inquiry by Deputy Inspector General (Jails) Jagjit Singh gave a “clean chit” to prison officials in this case and blamed the Civil Hospital authorities. [8] A board of doctors constituted to look into the matter stated that Balwinder Kaur was carrying a 32-34-week baby who had died in her womb but surprisingly neither jail doctors nor Civil Hospital doctors could find out that she was pregnant. [9]

On 24 September 2010, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission sought a report from the state government of Punjab on a report claiming that a person identified as Wasil Khan had been lodged in an Amritsar jail for eight years after being wrongly labelled as a Pakistani citizen. The report stated that Mohazra Khatoon, a resident of Bihar, claimed that Khan was not a Pakistani citizen but her “younger brother” who had gone missing ten years ago. Khan was arrested in 2000 as a Pakistani citizen and later in March 2002 the Punjab police booked him in connection with a bomb blast in Sirhind. [10]

III. Violations of the rights of the child

On 15 July 2010, the Punjab and Haryana High Court directed the Punjab Government to make
the state child-labour free. [11] During the Child Labour Elimination Week from 6-12 June 2010, as many as 31 child labourers were rescued and 30 people booked under the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, 1986 in Ludhiana. [12] In Amritsar district, the district authorities rescued as many as 18 child labourers on 9 June 2010. [13]

IV. Violations of ESCRs

a. Violations of the right to health in Malwa Region

Punjab which has 2.5 per cent of the total agricultural land in India reportedly consumes more than 18 per cent of the total pesticides used in India. [14] This has led to serious health problems.

Within the state the worst affected is the southwestern belt known as the Malwa region comprising of the districts of Bathinda, Mansa, Moga, Faridkot, Sangrur, Barnala and Ferozepur. This region has become the “cancer belt” of Punjab. The use of extremely high level of chemical fertilizers has led to contamination of water in the entire belt which has led to a rise in diseases like asthma, cancer, joint aches, premature greying of hair and even mental disorders in areas where the pesticide load was high. [15] In an investigation by Delhi based Centre for Science and Environment in 2005, it found 15 different pesticides in the 20 blood samples tested from four villages in Punjab which “indicates that each person is exposed to and carries a body burden of multiple pesticides which might be due to combination of direct and indirect exposure to these pesticides”. [16]

As many as 70 cancer patients per day on an average leave from Bathinda railway station on Passenger Express 339 train (rightly nick named as “‘cancer express’’) to get treatment at Acharya Tulsi Regional Cancer Treatment and Research Centre in Bikaner in Rajasthan. [17] A recent study by the United Kingdom-based non-governmental organisation, “Roko Cancer” has found that the Malwa belt has the highest number of breast cancer in the state. [18]

On 14 August 2010, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad assured that he would sanction a cancer treatment unit for the Malwa region. [19]

Endnotes:
1. 48,315 tonnes of wheat procured by Punjab fit only for cattle, The Hindustan Times, 26 July 2010 
2. Don’t let grain rot, give it free to poor, hungry: SC, The Indian Express, 13 August 2010 
3. 48,315 tonnes of wheat procured by Punjab fit only for cattle, The Hindustan Times, 26 July 2010 
4. ACHR’s complaint with the NHRC dated 22 July 2010, ACHR Ref No:PN/22 /2010 
5. Undertrial’s death triggers protest, The Tribune, 27 July 2010 
6. ‘Custodial death’ of Cong man sparks protest, The Tribune, 10 August 2010 
7. ACHR’s complaint with the NHRC dated 6 August 2010, ACHR Ref No. PN/24/2010 
8. ‘Clean chit’ for jail officials - Death of inmate’s baby, The Tribune, 16 September 2010 
9. Jail inmate was pregnant: Inquiry, The Tribune, 27 September 2010
10. Man ‘wrongly’ jailed for eight years as Pakistani citizen; activists seek report, The Hindu, 25 September 2010 
11. Make state child-labour free: HC, The Tribune, 16 July 2010 
12. Over 30 people booked in four days under Child Labour Act, The Indian Express, 10 June 2010 
13. 18 child labourers rescued in Amritsar, The Indian Express, 11 June 2010 Thu Jun 10 2010
14. No pause in Punjab’s toxic harvest, The Indian Express, 30 July 2010 
15. Ibid
16. “Analysis Of Pesticide Residues In Blood Samples From Villages Of Punjab”, Down To Earth Magazine, Centre for Science and Environment, March 2005 
17. Cancer Express, The Hindustan Times, 16 January 2010 
18. Punjab’s Malwa belt has high incidence of breast cancer, reveals study, The Hindu, 28 September 2010 
19. Centre assures of cancer hospital for Malwa, The Tribune, 15 August 2010
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