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

Tamil Nadu



I. Highlight: Tribals denied forest right

About 6.51 lakhs tribal population as per the 2001 census belonging to 36 communities in Tamil Nadu are being denied their rights and face forced evictions. These include Tribal Communities namely Toda, Kota, Kurumbas, Irular, Paniyan and Kattunayakan have been identified as ‘Primitive Tribal Groups’.

The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers Recognition of Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 could not be implemented in the State due to non-vacation of the stay order of the Madras High Court as on September 2010. In February 2008, the Madras High Court issued an interim order staying any grant of pattas under the Forest Rights Act.  In April 2008, the High Court clarified its earlier order by extending it to all rights under the Act while stating that the process of identification of rights holders will proceed. [1] According to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, 16,314 claims were filed at the Gram Sabha level and 2,312 titles were ready for distribution as on 30 September 2010. [2]

As the triabls are yet to be given their rights under the Forest Rights Act, threat of eviction was an everyday reality in their lives. Revenue and Forest Department officials often resort to eviction on the ground that they were living on government land. In September 2010, D. Pandian, Secretary of State’s Communist Party of India (CPI) asked the state government to issue a new order to enable tribals living in the hills own land as per the provisions of the Forest Rights Act. In 1998, a Government Order was issued banning pattas in hills which stood in the way of tribals benefiting from the government’s two-acre land and house patta scheme. [3]

II. Violations of civil and political rights

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recorded 444 cases of atrocity against the police and 74 cases against jail officials from the state during 2009-2010 (as on 28 February 2010). [4] 

During July-September 2010, the state repressed human rights defenders and media persons in the state.

On 15 August 2010, five human rights defenders, including three women, were arbitrarily arrested and detained on false charges for investigating Dalit human rights violations. The detainees had went to the Veeravanallur police station in Tirunelveli district as a part of their fieldwork after receiving information about a Dalit youth who was allegedly tortured by the police at the station. The victims were identified as Mr Gnana Diraviam, Mr. Anandan, Ms. Bharati Pillai, Ms Niharga Priya and Ms Sudha. They were produced before a Magistrate and sent to judicial custody. In the remand report, Mr Henri Tiphagne of Peoples Watch Tamil Nadu was referred to as the absconding accused despite the fact that no charges against him nor was he present at the police station at the time of the arrests. [5]

On 21 July 2010, S. Manimaran, editor of Tamil daily ‘Dina Bhoomi’, his son M. Rameshkumar and M. Muthiah were arrested in Madurai for publishing news on granite quarries in the region. ‘Dina Bhoomi’ had exposed revenue loss to the exchequer to the tune of several crores by some granite quarry operators in Madurai. They were arrested based on a complaint from Madurai Granite Quarry Owners’ Association alleging that the newspaper had published a series of news items, which were “false and misleading,” about the granite quarry business in the region. [6] The police charged the three with various Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including non-bailable Sections. The court released the three on bail the next day. Advocate P. Rajendran, who appeared for the three, stated that the police had dropped many of the non-bailable Sections following which bail was granted. [7]

The High Court intervened in a couple of cases to provide justice during July-September 2010.

On 24 August 2010, the Madras High Court Bench directed the State Government to pay a compensation of Rs.5 lakh to the wife of custodial death victim, husband L. Kuttiappan alias Bhoominathan. The victim was picked up and tortured at the Palam police station, Tirunelveli after his cousin eloped with a daughter of a policeman in June 2003. The victim sustained injuries on his chest, groin and genital parts after beaten up with batons and boots resulting in his death. [8]

Similarly in August 2010, the Madras High Court directed state government of Tamil Nadu to pay Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000 to 87 prisoners who sustained injuries after they were beaten up by jail officials for allegedly resisting a search for contraband in July 1995. [9]

On 6 July 2010, the Madras High Court ordered the state government of Tamil Nadu to release an undertrial identified as Kasim on bail who was kept in prison for a period longer than the maximum term awardable for the offences against him. [10]

III. Violations of women’s rights

Sexual violence, especially rape, was on the rise in Tamil Nadu.

According to the Policy Note of the State Home Department which was tabled in the State Assembly on 7 May 2010, the number of rape cases increased in the state with 523 cases in 2007 to 596 cases in 2009. While the number of cases charge sheeted was 432 in 2007, it was only 269 in 2009. [11]

Women Police personnel in the state were also reportedly facing sexual harassment from the male counterparts. In September 2010, the Madras High Court directed the Director General of Police, Tamil Nadu to enquire into a complaint lodged by a woman Sub-Inspector against N. Rajasekaran, Superintendent of Police, Shivaganga district, N. Ramachandran, Inspector of Ilayankudi and Senthamaraikannan, Head Constable. The Court pointed out that no enquiry had been conducted on the basis of the complaint lodged by the appellant on 19 June 2010. [12]

Domestic violence was widespread in the state. According to the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women, as many as 5,697 complaints of domestic violence were received at the District Protection Officer of Krishnagiri district as in July 2010. Of these complaints, 892 complaints were received from January to July 2010. [13]

IV. Violations of the rights of the Dalits

Untouchability and discrimination continued to be practice in several parts of Tamil Nadu.

On 10 September 2010, about 150 families of caste Hindus of N Kumarapalayam village in Tirupur district erected two barbed fencing to prevent 50 dalit families living in the Aandikattu Thottam village from using public roads maintained by Nanjiyampalayam village panchayat. The fences forced the Dalit families to take a detour of 3km to access the nearest ration shop, school and
market. The caste Hindus stated that the roads passed through the graveyards of their forefathers and the frequent movement of dalits may ‘‘pollute their sanctity.’’ On 15 September 2010, the police directed the caste Hindus to remove the two fences. [14]

In Tamil Nadu, seats were reserved for the dalit in the panchayats.  But, the elected representatives of the dalits were given no freedom to function independently by the caste Hindus.

In September 2010, S. Karuppan, a dalit Panchayat President of Kottakachiyenthal village in Virudhunagar district, alleged that panchayat president’s office had been usurped by the vice-president and he was prevented from executing his duties. Mr. Karuppan was allegedly forced to sign blank cheques without being briefed about their utilisation. There was no cooperation from the dominant caste members at panchayat council meetings. There was no access to panchayat records, account books and registers. Work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme was not being allotted regularly and the details of the work were not made available
to him. [15]

Apart from untouchablity and discrimination, the Dalits were subjected to atrocities in the state.

< align="justify"p>Over 1,000 cases were filed under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocity) Act 1989. According to Adi Dravidar Welfare Department, 1050 cases, including 22 murders and 24 rapes, were booked under the Prevention of Atrocity Act in the state from January-September 2010. [16]

However, the conviction rate is very low. Official data show that the rate of conviction in cases of atrocities against Dalits is very low. According to information provided by the Inspector-General of Police (Social Justice and Human Rights), there were 18,752 cases – 4,445 fresh cases and 14,307 “brought forward” cases – involving Scheduled Castes before special courts between 2003 and 2009. Of these, only 412 ended in conviction, whereas there were 3,354 acquittals. In 2009 alone, there were 420 acquittals against 29 convictions; 2,656 cases were pending at the close of the year. [17]

In February 2010, the National Commission for Scheduled Caste (NCSC) stated that there were large number of pending cases and the conviction rate low under the Prevention of Atrocity Act. The NCST also noted that the failure of the police to complete the investigations in time in many cases and the details pertaining to the grounds for acquittal in many cases were not made available to the commission. [18]

V. Violations of the ESCRs

a. Violations of right to food

Smuggling of public distribution system (PDS) items meant for the poor is widespread in Tamil Nadu. The PDS items were being smuggled to the neighboring states.

The state government had seized several tonnes of PDS rice, but the smuggling continued to occur. For some, the smuggling of PDS rice had turned into a family business in Vellore district. The state government provides the PDS rice to the BPL families at Re 1 per kg rice. The smugglers collect the PDS rice from ration cardholders by paying Rs 5 per kg and they sneak it into the border areas of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and sell it to their customers for Rs 13 to Rs 15 per kg. As on 18 August 2010, the revenue officials had seized about 100 tonnes of smuggled ration rice in Tirupattur taluk in the district since January 2010. However, many were able to smuggle the PDS rice without any hindrance due to alleged collusion of railway officials, employees in the revenue department and DSO office. [19]

The smuggling of PDS rice means that the poor beneficiaries, including the tribals who live in remote and inaccessible areas, were denied the right to food. 

For example, the state government even failed to open a PDS Shop for the tribals living in Vettukkadu village in the Western Ghats until 20 September 2010. This was the first government project in the village having a population of 70 tribal families after more than six decades. These tribals faced hardship for survival as they could not get essential food items, especially in rainy seasons since all routes connecting the village to the mainland are usually cut off due to floods. They had no choice but to starve during rainy season since they cannot buy and store large quantities of food with their paltry income. [20]

b. Violations of the right to health

Tamil Nadu has made an incremental difference with respect to health. Yet, in spite of state’s visible success in health care and health service delivery, as elsewhere in India issues of neglect, accessibility and corruption plague it too. According to Child Rights and You (CRY), a national child rights advocacy organization working closely with the State’s under-served communities such as Dalit people, found that they still face strong social discrimination and children are disproportionately affected.” The conditions of women and children among the few tribal pockets are still abysmal. [21]

For example, the tribals, especially women and children, suffer from anaemia and malnourishment in remote and inaccessible tribal hamlets. In September 2010, medical officials detected several anaemic mothers and malnourished children in six villages on lower Kodaikanal and Pachalur Hills during an inspection. After preliminary tests of over 350 tribals, particularly women and girl children in six villages, over 70 women were found anaemic and many children malnourished. [22]

This suggests that the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), a pioneer scheme for taking care of the welfare of the Mother and Child, was reaching them.

The dilapidated conditions of the anganwadi centre at Sepatampalayam village in Ammapet block in Erode district is also a testimony to the official apathy towards the effective implementation of the ICDS in the state. The centre had been functioning in a dilapidated building as in the first week of July 2010. The building poses threat to the safety of the children attending it. The walls and roof of the centre were in a bad shape that they may collapse any time. A number of parents have stopped sending their children to the centre. The people had made repeated representations to the officials in the district administration to shift the centre to another building. But no step was taken. The Centre also lacks basic amenities, which is adversely affecting the health of the children. [23]

c. Violations of the right to education

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, which came into effect on April 1, 2010, prohibits detention of any student in the same class as per sections 4 (Special provision for children not admitted to or who have not completed elementary education), 16 (Prohibition of holding back and expulsion) and 30 (Examination and completion certificate) of the Act. [24]

On 12 July 2010, the state government ordered that “No child shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education in a school.” The order came in the wake of a Madras High Court Order in June 2010 that directed a matriculation school to promote a student detained in Class VI to Class VII. Earlier, the state government has been following a ‘no detention policy’ till Class V in its schools. [25]

The government order is a positive step towards the implementation of the Rights to Education Act. However, schools meant for the rescued child labourers were on the verge of closure due to lack of adequate funds.

In July 2010, a public interest litigation (PIL) petition was filed in the Madras High Court seeking a direction to the Centre as well as the State Government to provide adequate funds for 587 schools managed under the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) across the State. The Court directed the Additional Advocate General to obtain instructions from the officials concerned with regard to allotment of funds. The PIL was filed by an association of teachers and other employees of these special schools alleging that non allotment of funds would eventually lead to the closure of the NCLP schools which have proved to be a boon to hundreds of rescued child labourers. According to the petition, already eights schools in Virudhunagar district had been closed down. [26]

A survey conducted by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in April 2010 found that over 3000 children were not attending school in Chennai alone. The survey found that some of these were working as child labourers. [27]

Due to denial of community certificate, students were unable to pursue higher education. For example, the Revenue Department failed to issue a community certificate to a 17-year-old girl, E. Deepa (17) belonging to Irula tribe in Peerkankaranai near Tambaram failed. As a result, she could not pursue higher education. The girl had applied for the certificate three years ago but yet to receive it as on 4 July 2010 to join a government-aided college near Tambaram. The college authorities insisted on her community certificate for admission under the quota for scheduled tribes. The girl is the first among 20-odd families belonging to the Irular community living in Devanesan Nagar, Peerkankaranai near Tambaram, to have completed schooling. The case of E. Deepa is not a one off case, there were several applications pending with the Revenue Department for many years now. [28]

d. Denial of affirmative action

In February 2010, the National Commission for Scheduled Caste criticized the state government for non-clearance of the backlog of promotions and non-appointment of a liaison officer to take care of the interests of Scheduled Caste government employees. The Commission also pulled up the state government for the introduction of 3 per cent internal reservation for the Arunthathiar community without consulting the commission. [29]

Yet, the backlog vacancies for ST/SC were not filled up. In July 2010, the Madurai District Unit of SC/ST Employees’ Welfare Association of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) appealed to the state government to fill up backlog of SC/ST vacancies through a special examination. The association urged the BSNL to fill up the vacancies in posts such as Junior Accounts Officer and provide reservation for SC/ST employees in promotion. [30]

Further, funds meant for SC/ST were also diverted for other purposes. In July 2010, the Madurai District Unit of SC/ST Employees’ Welfare Association of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) in a resolution opposed the diversion of funds allocated for SC/ST welfare for other purposes. [31]

Endnotes:

. Court Cases, The Forest Rights Act, available at: http://www.forestrightsact.com/madras-high-court

. Status report on implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 [for the period ending 30th September, 2010], Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India

. CPI seeks new G.O. to enable tribals own land, The Hindu, 15 September 2010 

. Figures of Police Atrocities against prisoners reported to NHRC from 1 April 2006 to 28 February 2010, Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No 2001 Answered on 09.03.2010 

. India: Arrest and detention of five human rights defenders investigating Dalit Human Rights Violations, Frontline, 17 August 2010 

. ‘Dina Bhoomi’ editor held, The Hindu, 22 July 2010

. Dina Bhoomi’ editor released on bail, The Hindu, 22 July 2010 

. Pay Rs.5 lakh in custodial torture case, The Hindu, 25 August 2010

. Assault on prisoners: Govt asked to pay relief to 87 inmates, The Times of India, 12 August 2010

. ‘Can’t keep undertrials beyond term’, The Times of India, 7 July 2010

. Rape cases on the rise, The Hindu, 8 May 2010 

. Police officers should not hesitate to face sexual harassment probe: court, The Hindu, 4 September 2010

. Over 2,300 petitions submitted under Domestic Violence Act disposed of, The Hindu, 22 October 2010

. ‘Untouchability fence’ in TN pulled down, The Times of India, 16 September 2010

. Dalit panchayat president alleges sidelining by colleagues, The Hindu, 25 September 2010

. Conviction rate poor under SC & ST Act: official document, The Hindu, 4 November 2010

. Facing flak, Frontline, Volume 27 - Issue 06 :: Mar. 13-26, 2010

. Ibid

. Ration rice smuggling is big biz, The Deccan Chronicle, 18 August 2010

. This tribal village gets its first ration shop after Independence, The Tribune, 21 September 2010

. How Tamil Nadu has made an incremental difference, The Hindu, 16 September 2010

. Tribal women anaemic, children malnourished, The Hindu, 6 September 2010

. Anganwadi children unsafe in dilapidated building, The Hindu, 8 July 2010 

. No detention of students till Class VIII, The Hindu, 23 July 2010 

. Ibid

. PIL seeks funds for schools, The Hindu, 17 July 2010

. “Over 3000 children are not going to school”, The Hindu, 19 April 2010 

. Community certificate eludes her, The Hindu, 4 July 2010

. Facing flak, Frontline, Volume 27 - Issue 06 :: Mar. 13-26, 2010 

. Plea to fill SC/ST vacancies, The Hindu, 9 July 2010 

. Ibid

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