I. Highlight: Ordinance on MFIs failed to prevent farmers’ deaths
During October-December 2010, scores of farmers either committed suicide or died of cardiac arrest after suffering crop losses in Andhra Pradesh. On 26 December 2010, School Education Minister K Pardhasaradhi admitted that 49 farmers had committed suicides or died due to cardiac stroke in December 2010 due to crop losses caused by the cyclone and heavy rain in Krishna district. Most of the deceased were tenant farmers who had invested huge amounts of money for both tenancy and raising the crops in their fields. Similarly, 13 persons, including two women, either committed suicide or died of trauma caused by the crop loss in Guntur district.
Farmers also committed suicide because of harassment from micro-finance institutions (MFIs) which provided loans to farmers at exorbitant interest rates and used coercive methods to recover the loans. The problem was so much that the state government decided to bring a legislation to control the MFIs. NGOs working in the tribal areas alleged that the MFIs target illiterate women, violating the Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Area Money Lenders Regulation that calls for a licence to carry on business of money lending in Scheduled Areas. Khammam Collector V Usharani, in a letter to the state government in February 2010 stated that the MFIs even have certificates of registration from the Reserve Bank of India.
On 15 October 2010, the State Government promulgated the Andhra Pradesh Microfinance Institutions (Regulation of Money Lending) Ordinance to check the MFIs. As per the Ordinance, no institutions will be allowed to lend money without registration with the state government and any person found involved in harassing the people for the repayment of loans will face a punishment of three years imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. Further, it will be compulsory for all the MFIs to clearly display their rate of interest on a board at their offices and abide by that.
However, the Ordinance on MFIs failed to bring any relief to the poor borrowers as five more persons committed suicide on 25-26 October 2010. As of 26 October 2010, the number of suicides by borrowers from micro finance institutions during the preceding one and half month reached the total of 72. On 5 November 2010, a petty vendor identified as Narsaiah Setty died of heart attack allegedly due to harassment by MFI agents in Weaker Sections’ Colony in Kurnool city.
II. Violations of civil and political rights
More than 50 per cent of complaints received by the Andhra Pradesh State Human Rights Commission are against police officers and government administrators. The most common complaints are harassment of the common man by the police, manhandling of subordinates or domestic help, torture of prisoners in jail, non-registration of complaints, not taking action in dowry cases, illegal arrests, not investigating properly by invoking relevant sections of the Indian penal code and framing a comparatively milder charge.
During October-December 2010, ACHR documented numerous cases of human rights violations including right to life.
On 1 October 2010, Nakka Suresh (28 years) died in custody at the Fifth Town Police Station in Vizag city allegedly due to torture by police. The victim was taken into custody for interrogation on 30 September 2010 for allegedly cheating gullible youth, forging the signature of the Joint Collector and issuing fake appointment orders.
On 5 October 2010, police claimed to have shot dead notorious habitual offender Adapa Venkanna alias Kranthi Kiran alias Srinivasa Rao (40 years) in an encounter at Snanala Revulu of Pedapulipaka village in Vijayawada district. But, his wife Mahalakshmi alleged that the police killed him in a fake encounter. The Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee alleged that the police were threatening the deceased’s wife with dire consequences if she approached advocates or civil society and human rights organisations. The Police allegedly further threatened to file false cases against her.
On 2 November 2010, Bala Murgesh (32 years), a native of Kadiyamam village in Cuddalore district in Taimil Nadu died in a police station in Mudigubha in Anantapur district. The victim was in illegal detention at the police station since 30 October 2010 after residents of Dalit Colony in Mudigubba handed him over to the police.
During the night of 16 November 2010, Kashanna Goud (52 years), a resident of Thadoor village under Nagarkurnool police station in Mahabubnagar district, died under mysterious circumstances in the custody of excise officials of Nagarkurnool division. The victim was taken into custody by the excise officials following complaints of illegally transporting and selling toddy.
On 27 November 2010, P Kishtaiah (45 years) died due to alleged torture at Dharur police station in Ranga Reddy district. The deceased, a daily wager, was taken into custody for his alleged involvement in a murder case. The police claimed that the deceased committed suicide by hanging himself with a ‘shoe lace’. However, the local residents alleged that the deceased died due to torture during interrogation.
On 22 December 2010, an undertrial Y Harshvardhan (39 years) died under mysterious circumstances at Cherlapally Central Prison in Nalgonda district. The jail officials claimed that the deceased committed suicide by jumping from the terrace of the jail.
On 24 December 2010, Vattikuti Lakshmana Rao, a construction labourer, was found dead under suspicious circumstances at Penugonda police station in West Godavari district. The victim was allegedly involved in theft of LPG cylinders and cycles and taken into custody by the Penugonda police on 23 December 2010 from Rajahmundry police in whose custody he was being kept since a few days earlier.
III. Abuses by the AOGs
The Maoists were responsible for violations of international humanitarian law. They killed civilians including a daily wage labouerer identified as Vanthala Bhaskara Rao of Digududpalli village in Chintapalli mandal Vishakapatnam district on 8 October 2010 and Nupa Babu Rao (55) of Tippapuram village in Cherla mandal in Khammam district on 9 October 2010. Both the deceased were accused of being police informers.
IV. Violations of the rights of the tribals and Dalits
Violations of the rights of the Dalits and tribals continued to be reported in Andhra Pradesh.
Andhra Pradesh which is ranked fifth in terms of Scheduled Caste population in the country is ranked third with regard to number of atrocity offences against them. On 20 October 2010, expressing concern over high pendency of cases and low conviction rate under the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in Andhra Pradesh, Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes P L Punia stressed on the need to sensitize prosecution officers to improve the situation. The NCSC chairman lamented that though there is a rise in number of atrocity cases every year but charge sheet has been filed in a very less number of cases which are less than the number of cases closed. He lamented that acquittals are very high, running into thousands, whereas convictions are only in hundreds.
Indigenous and tribal people continued to be alienated from their land and resources in Andhra Pradesh. It was no different even within the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA). The ITDA authorities miserably failed to protect the interests of tribals despite Special Deputy Collector (SDC) deciding several cases of land disputes in favour of the tribals. The ITDA authorities failed to take over the disputed lands from the control of non-tribals for distribution to the tribals. As many as 240 cases were settled by the SDC regarding an extent of 32,000 acres hit by the Land Transfer Regulation (LTR) Act in the Agency of West Godavari district falling under Buttayagudem and Jeelugumilli mandals. But the tribals were never given possession of these lands due to the reported non-tribal-official nexus.
As of 18 December 2010, nearly 6,000 posts in various government departments reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) candidates were lying vacant for the past three years. Of them, 2,052 posts were reserved for SCs and 3,834 were reserved for STs. Though the government had identified these “backlog posts” in 2007 and had issued orders directing the respective departments to fill up the posts within six months, the departments were yet to release the notifications as this report goes to print.
V. Violations of ESCRs
i. Right to work - NREGA
In a welcome development, Andhra Pradesh Government initiated to cover the differently-abled under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) by providing them annually 150 days of work. Under the scheme, the differently-abled persons can be given works such as raising nurseries, water carrying, vermi-composting, village information wall writing and the likes from among the sanctioned works under the scheme besides being provided with implements and transport costs.
The implementation of NREGA however continued to be marred by controversies over payment of wages lower than wages under the Minimum Wages Act and irregularities in implementation of works under the scheme.
On 8 December 2010, a Single Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court directed the Central Government to explain in one week how it could declare that the wages payable to the workers under the NREGA could be lower than the wages fixed under the Minimum Wages Act. The court was hearing a writ petition and a contempt case filed by Andhra Pradesh Vyayasaya Vruthidarula Union and four other labourers of Visakhapatnam district. They had challenged the Central Government’s notification fixing Rs. 80 as the minimum wage payable to the workers in Andhra Pradesh under NREGA as the same is lower than the minimum wage of Rs.119 stipulated by the State government to be paid to agricultural labourers.
Officials responsible for implementation of NREGA continued to indulge in irregularities. In October 2010, Kurnool District Collector Ramasankar Naik suspended six officials - Catherene (Mandal Parishad Development Officer), Madduleti (APO), Nagesh Kumar, Venkateswarlu, Ravi Kumar (Technical Assistants), T. Ramakrishna Reddy (VRO) and Hussain (Assistant Engineer, Minor Irrigation) - on charges of indulging in irregularities in the implementation of NREGA in Krishnagiri mandal in the district. Show cause notices were reportedly served on nine field assistants.
In a case of corruption, officials in Jukkal Mandal of Nizamabad district showed Justice Vijayrao Patel, a District Judge in Sholapur in Maharashtra employed under the NREGA. As per records, the Judge was issued NREGA job card (ID no 09011011038) in his name at Gullabig, a village in Nizamabad district bordering Maharashtra.
ii. Right to health
Andhra Pradesh launched many health programmes.
On 8 November 2010, the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation launched Suraksha health cards for the poor living in the city under which the poor on payment of Rs. 150 towards premium could avail themselves of treatment for up to Rs. 30,000 from any of the 15 designated hospitals in the city.
On the occasion of Children’s Day on 14 November 2010, State Government launched an ambitious health programme, Jawahar Bal Arogya Raksha, (JBAR) to exclusively target the students of government and government-aided schools. The JBAR programme is estimated to reach out to 85,32,635 children across the State initially and would slowly expand to other children. Under the programme, every child in the age group of five to 15 years is to be issued a unique health and education record card that would document both educational as well as health particulars of a student.
However, launch of these ambitious health programs sits uneasily with the sorry state of existing government hospitals in the state. Most government hospitals in the state do not function properly and were virtually in shambles resulting in deprivation of much needed service to the people, mostly the poor.
The Karimnagar Government Hospital located at the district headquarters lacks basic facilities. Karimnagar town unit of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti alleged that poor patients were suffering due to non-availability of doctors, medicines and other facilities for treatment. The hospital was plagued with several problems such as non-availability of doctors, medicines, shortage of blankets, bed-sheets, etc. The protesters charged the doctors with referring even ordinary cases like fever to the private hospitals and denying them treatment at the 350-bedded government hospital.
iii. Right to education
Andhra Pradesh claimed that as many as 50,000 children were given admission in 600 state government-run residential schools without any entrance test in compliance of the Right to Education Act. Further, on 8 November 2010, the State government approved a proposal for free uniforms to all girl students and boys belonging to the below poverty line (BPL) in all government schools. With the expenditure of Rs 210 crore the scheme is expected to benefit 52 lakh students. The Chief Minister also announced launching of 10,000 new ‘anganwadi’ centres in the state on 14 November 2010, the Children’s Day.
However, it was alleged that Right to Education Act remained only on paper as the state government even failed to draft the model rules prescribed under the RTE Act at the end of 2010. In the absence of the model rules, two Government notifications with regard to giving 25 per cent reservations in private schools for underprivileged children and fixing an upper cap on fee structure in private schools could not come into force. According to Minister for Secondary Education D. Manikya Varaprasada Rao about 1.27 lakh children in the school-going age were still out of school in the state. The state government also failed to fill 31,000 posts of secondary grade teachers, which have been lying vacant since 2008.
The state of the government schools and hostels remained deplorable. Most schools lacked basic facilities and building were in dilapidated condition while hostels were improperly maintained or lacked supply of provisions like food items. On 7 November 2010, scores of hostel students from Kondapur mandal headquarters held a demonstration before the Collectorate in Sangareddy against the lack of facilities, water seeping in from the terrace, insufficient food and improper maintenance. Residential School for Girls at Borlam in Banswada mandal in Nizamambad district also lacked even basic infrastructure like compound wall, dining hall and other necessary facilities.
iv. Right to adequate housing
Right to adequate housing remains a dream for hundreds of poor in Andhra Pradesh as the State Government fails to keep its promises.
In October 2009, the Chief Minister had announced his government’s plan to construct about 1,00,000 houses within six months for flood victims in five districts of Mahbubnagar, Kurnool, Nalgonda, Guntur and Krishna. But even after a year, construction work has not started in any other part of Mabhubnagar district except at Kutkanoor in Aiza mandal.
The state Government had also promised to construct 80 lakh houses for the poor across the State. However, out of these only 20 lakh houses had been constructed while 20 lakh houses were still at the foundation level. Of the 1.47 lakh poor people identified as beneficiaries of housing scheme under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in Vijayawada city only 400 beneficiaries had been alloted houses at the end of October 2010.
. 49 farmer deaths in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh in December due to crop loss, available at: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_49-farmer-deaths-in-krishna-district-of-andhra-pradesh-in-december-due-to-crop-loss_1486537
. Law to rein in micro-finance bodies’ bullying, The Hindustan Times, 12 October 2010
. Andhra takes a Kalahandi turn, The Deccan Herald, 12 October 2010
. Ordinance to curb loan recovery in place but suicides continue, The Pioneer, 16 October 2010
. Ordinance on MFIs has failed to stop suicides, says TDP, The Hindu, 27 October 2010
. Rs. 5 lakh compensation urged for MFI victim’s kin. The Hindu, 7 November 2010
. State staff are biggest human rights abusers, The Deccan Chronicle, 14 December 2010
. Man dies in police custody in Vizag, The Hindu, 3 October 2010
. Habitual offender killed in ‘encounter’ near city, The Hindu, 6 October 2010
. Encounter: rights groups depose, The Hindu, 9 November 2010
. Man, 32, dies in Police custody, The Deccan Chronicle, 4 November 2010
. Toddy tapper’s death in custody sparks protest, The Hindu, 18 November 2010
. Complaint of Asian Centre for Human Rights to National Human Rights Commission, 29 November 2010
. Complaint of Asian Centre for Human Rights to National Human Rights Commission, 23 December 2010
. Labourer dies in custody of police, The Deccan Chronicle, 25 December 2010
. Two tribals killed by Maoists, The Hindu, 10 October 2010
. Punia concerned over high pendency of cases under SC/ST Act, The Indian Express, 21 October 2010
. ST panel chief draws flak from tribal outfits, The Hindu, 31 December 2010
. 6,000 SC/ST posts lie vacant since 3 yrs, The Deccan Chronicle, 19 December 2010
. Differently-abled to benefit from MGNREGS, The Hindu, 7 November 2010
. NREG wages: court seeks Centre’s explanation, The Hindu, 10 November 2010
. Six officials suspended for NREGS irregularities, The Hindu, 23 October 2010
. Judge, family have NREGS job card, The Times of India, 16 December 2010
. Suraksha health cards distributed, The Hindu, 9 November 2010
. New health scheme for schoolchildren, The Hindu, 15 November 2010
. TRS protests poor facilities in hospital, The Hindu, 4 November 2010
. With 50,000 kids in school, Andhra takes RTE lead, The Times of India, 25 October 2010
. Free uniforms for BPL students in govt schools, The Times of India, 9 November 2010
. 10,000 anganwadis launched, The Hindu, 15 November 2010
. RTE remains only on paper, The Deccan Chronicle, 27 December 2010
. 10,000 anganwadis launched, The Hindu, 15 November 2010
. Vacant teacher posts: AIYF plans stir, The Hindu, 11 October 2010
. Students protest against poor facilities, The Hindu, 7 November 2010
. Four girls go missing from hostel, The Hindu, 7 November 2010
. Housing scheme still on paper, The Deccan Chronicle, 2 October 2010
. CPI(M) warns State against neglect of poor, The Hindu, 21 October 2010