Monday, June 9, 2014

Supreme Court accepts idea of new Mullaperiyar tunnel


In 2012, C.P. Roy, who was ousted from the chairmanship of Mullaperiyar Samara Samithi, because he did not favour the idea of a new dam, met Justice K. T. Thomas, Kerala’s representative on the Empowered Committee appointed by the Supreme Court, and submitted a memorandum outlining his proposal for a new tunnel at 50 feet as a solution to the dispute with Tamil Nadu.

Today, when the Kerala Assembly took up the Mullaperiyar issue for discussion in the light of the Supreme Court’s rejection of the State government’s plea, Roy staged a demonstration outside the Legislature Complex with a few friends to draw attention to the Supreme Court’s endorsement of his proposal, which meets Kerala’s twin slogan “Water for Tamil Nadu, Safety for Kerala”.

Roy distributed an extract from Page 151 of the Supreme Court judgment, which reads as follows:

3.  In the existing MPD (Mullaperiyar Dam) project, as noted in Chapter II(b) (supra), a tunnel had been designed with a D-Section 12 feet wide and 7.5 feet high with provision of the sluice head gate having sill at El 106.5 ft for diversion of water from Periyar reservoir to Vaigai basin in the SoTN (State of Tamil Nadu). This tunnel was modernized by widening and lining in the year in the year 1958. The tunnel can allow reservoir draw-down to 106.5 ft as per criteria laid down in (i). Storage lower than El 106.5 ft to an identified elevation based on assessment of likely distress cannot be drawn-down through the present arrangement of drawal of water for the SoTN through the existing tunnel.

4. Further, digging of a New Tunnel at say at El 50 ft, of course, after conducting surveys, designs, and techno-economic feasibility studies, with requisite sluice gates for evacuation of reservoir water from El 106.5 ft to say 50 ft. These studies will have to be undertaken within a specified time frame. It goes without saying that the water flow from the New Tunnel can be used for power generation or for any other purpose by making changes in its existing infrastructure. Depending upon a decision about the elevation of the New Tunnel outlet, evacuation of the MPD reservoir will be possible in corresponding time period.

a) The new tunnel will need to be constructed by the SoTN since the ownership of the existing dam vests in it. The total expenditure for construction of the new tunnel should be borne by the SiTN. The costs may be small as compared to the cost of the replacement of the new dam. The SoTN should accomplish surveys and feasibility studies for the proposal of having a new tunnel within a year.

b) The New Runnel say at El 50 ft will enable the SoTN to use additional water available in storage between El 106.5 ft to 50 ft. At present these waters are remaining unused.

c) More importantly, if this alternative is implemented in an agreed period of time, the fear perception in the minds of people of the SoK (State of Kerala) will be set at rest. They can then appreciate that the New Tunnel is going to help evacuation of storage faster and better, in case the dam develops any distress. As a gravity dam seldom gives in suddenly, such evacuation will reduce Dam Break flood (DBF) magnitude significantly.

d) Though the demand of the SoK for 1.1 TMC of water for Environmental Flow is not substantiated, yet a legitimate need which is yet to be assessed can be met with after the FRL is raised to 142 ft. A small pipe outlet of a suitable diameter through right bank hillock can be dug to release….  

The government and the opposition, who are being led by some vested interests, have paid no attention to the Roy proposal which offers a cheaper alternative to the Kerala proposal for a new dam. Instead of wasting more time on litigation, the government should seek talks with Tamil Nadu to give effect to the idea of new tunnel, which has already met with the court’s approval.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Campaign to save a 125-year-old school and its tree wealth



                            A view of Attakulangara Central School, Thiruvananthapuram

Here’s the recent history of a 125-year-old government school in Kerala.  
                                                                     
1,700 students in 1988
1,200 students in 1998
200 students in 2008
48 students in 2014
The school: Attakulangara Central School, Thiruvananthapuram. 

It is located close to the Sree Padmanabhaswami temple in the East Fort area which has been declared as heritage site.

The school’s list of former teachers includes celebrated Malayalam poet Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer (1877-1947), former Chief Minister Pattom A. Thanu Pillai (1885-1970) and well-known social reformer K. Ayyappan (1889-1968).

The school compound is known for its rich flora. Tree Walk, Thiruvananthapuram, which made a survey last March found about 60 varieties of plants there. A study by Warblers and Waders, Thiruvananthapuram, in April revealed the presence of 31 kinds of birds, including migratory ones, there.

I have drawn the above information from an article by S. Anitha in the latest issue of the Malayalam weekly Mathrubhumi (dated June 8, 2014). She is an active member of Tree Walk, which is spearheading a campaign to save the school and the trees around it which serve as a lung of the city.   

The school’s experience is symptomatic of that of many government institutions which have declined continuously over the last quarter century under successive governments. Now the authorities are looking upon the property of dying schools as real estate to be used for urban development projects.

Last year the Kerala government’s Revenue department issued an order directing the Education department, which is in possession of the school land, to hand it over to the Thiruvananthapuram Development Authority (TRIDA) to build a bus bay and shopping complex for the Transport department.

Tree Walk submitted to the government a document titled Green is Gold stressing the need to preserve the rich natural wealth of the school compound. It also suggested an alternative site for the bus bay and shopping complex. However, the government insists on appropriating the two-acre school compound.
  
The Tree Walk campaign is focused on the following points:
1. Maintain the historical, cultural and ecological space that the school is.
2. Find alternative spaces for development projects.
3. Evolve a holistic approach to development of the East Fort area which is a heritage zone and a public hub.
4. Factor in green lungs, open spaces, safe walkways, children's parks and de-stress zones into City development 
5. Form a panel to analyze the reasons for government schools becoming uneconomical and to improve the quality of education and increase enrolment, instead of closing them down and handing over the land for commercial purposes. 


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Meet Aam Admi Party's prospective candidate for Thiruvananthapuram



Ajit Joy, a former IPS officer, seeking Aam Admi Party ticket to contest for the Lok Sabha from Thiruvananthapuram, was among the prospective candidates who appeared before a screening committee set up by the party, according to a local newspaper report.

Thiruvananthapuram is now represented by Union Minister of State Shashi Tharoor (Congress). Under the LDF seat sharing formula, this is a CPI constituency and former General Secretary A B Bardhan has said the party is considering fielding a non-party man. The BJP is said to be planning to renominate former Union Minister of State O Rajagopal, who was among the unsuccessful candidates in the 2009 election.

After graduating in Law from Kerala University, Ajit Joy took the civil service examination and joined the Indian Police service in 1992. He was in the Bihar cadre. While serving as Superintendent of Police, he took leave and studied for LLM at the Harvard Law School in the US. Overruling the Bihar government’s objections, the Election Commission had ordered him to be posted as SP at Chapra when Lalu Prasad Yadav sought election from there.  In 2004, he took leave to set up practice as Supreme Court lawyer. 

Later, he resigned from the service without waiting to complete 20 years of service and qualify for retirement benefits.

In 2005 Ajit Joy joined the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Regional Office for South Asia (UNODC ROSA) as Project Coordinator, Human Trafficking.

When Mahendra Singh, a three-time CPI (ML) MLA from Bagodar, was killed by hired assassins, Ajit Joy wrote an article paying a personal tribute to him, describing him in these words: “For the police, a nightmare; for the establishment, a terror; but for the people, a messiah”. He said, as SP of Giridih, he had shared a love-hate relation with him. He added, “In a land where most MLAs were corrupt, he was known to be a man of integrity. I respected him for that. However, for revolutionaries like him, opposing the entrenched interests and arrogance of the state was a mission. The police, the most visible agency of government, often became the target of his struggles. He was certainly a pain in the side for us. Which SP would like to see a national highway that connects Delhi and Kolkata blocked or his police station picketed? Singh was sure to do all this, to correct some wrong, highlight some injustice. No assembly session passed by without some uncomfortable questions from him on the police.”

On his return to Kerala, after eight years with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Ajit Joy, 45, began quietly involving himself in activities dear to him. With a friend, Riju Stephen, a US-returned geologist, he undertook a ten-day 130-kilometre trek along the Pampa, to study the condition of the polluted river and assess the progress of the efforts to save it.  A newspaper report quoted him as saying later, “A good sewage treatment plant has still not been commissioned at Sabarimala, which sees an inflow of pilgrims equivalent to the entire population of Kerala.” His copiously illustrated account of the Pampa walk can be seen at WalkforPampa.

On return from the Pampa walk, Joy writes, “Riju Stephen and I joined a new kind of revolution sweeping the country today. The revolution of the Aam Admi Party. This is the revolution that guarantees respect for humans, for environment, for justice, for dignity of the common man and a clean and decent society.”

“Be original” was the advice he gave students while an IPS officer. After Lalu Prasad was convicted and hailed in a fodder scam case, he wrote, “The real icing will only come when the loss to the state, that is the Rs 37.7 crores in question, is realized from the convicted….The corrupt should not under any cost enjoy the fruits of their corruption.”

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Police attack on woman lawyer: AHRC's urgent appeal

The Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, has circulated an urgent appeal for intervention in the case of the torture of a woman lawyer by the police at Thrissur, Kerala state.

The following is the text of the statement:

ISSUES: Custodial torture; impunity; police reforms; professional freedom of judges and lawyers
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the case of brutal attack by the local police of a lawyer, practising at Thrissur courts. It is reported that the incident happened when the victim in the case, Ms. R. K. Asha, went to help her client and friend Ms. Neethu. The Sub-Inspector of Police, Mr. Lalkumar, stationed at Thrissur East Police Station not only assaulted the lawyer, but detained in custody her son, on fabricated charges and assaulted the lawyer's minor daughter at the police station. The children had accompanied their mother since the lawyer was travelling at night. The Thrissur Bar protested against the incident and has organised a public rally demanding immediate action against the police officer.

CASE NARRATAIVES:

According to the information received, Ms. Neethu, a client as well as friend of the lawyer Ms. Asha, contacted Asha at about 10:00 at night on 22 February. Asha was home having dinner with her children. Neethu informed Asha that she requires immediate legal assistance, since the local police was trying to arrest and detain Neethu and her friends.

Being already late into the night, but willing to help, Asha went to meet her friend Neethu. Neethu had informed Asha that the police is trying to take them into custody from a restaurant in town. Asha took along with her, her son as well as minor daughter for company. At the restaurant, while Asha was trying to gather information from Sub-Inspector of Police, Mr. Suraj, stationed at the Thrissur West Police Station.

At this moment, the Sub-Inspector of Police from Thrissur East Police Station, Mr. Lalkumar came to the scene accompanied with other police constables. Without provocation, Lalkumar started assaulting Asha's son and daughter. The officers also in the meanwhile assaulted Neethu and her friends and dragged them into a police vehicle. Before Asha could do anything, the police also took along with them, Asha's son.
Asha followed the police vehicle to the Thrissur East Police Station. At the police station Asha tried explaining to the police officer that her son had come along with her since it was late and has nothing to do with Neethu and her friends and for whatever purpose the police have arrested Neethu. Hearing this, the Sub-Inspector of Police, Lalkumar pushed Asha out of the police station room upon which Asha fell down on the ground. Then Lalkumar started kicking on Asha's leg, wherein Asha suffered serious injuries on her both legs. Then the police dragged Asha out of the police station building. Not satisfied, the officer then slapped Asha's minor daughter. After this the officer asked Neethu was ordered to sign a release letter and was allowed to leave. They took Asha to Aswini Hospital where Asha is receiving treatment. While the police officer was assaulting Asha and her daughter, they were also using filthy language against the lawyer, the other women as well as Asha's daughter.

There is a background to this incident. About two weeks before Asha had been to Thrissur East Police Station concerning another case. At that moment, despite knowing that Asha was representing her client, the police officer Lalkumar had misbehaved with Asha, against which Asha had filed a complaint against the officer at the office of the City Police Commissioner. Asha claims that the reason why the officer assaulted Asha on this occasion was to wreck vengeance against Asha filing complaint against the officer.

Asha is a lawyer practicing at the Thrissur Bar for the past 14 years. Asha is a civil rights activist, has regularly lectured at the Police Training College, and was a member of the Thrissur Police Advisory Board. Despite all this that this officer has dared to brutally assault a lawyer shows the vested and adverse interest that the officer entertains against Asha.

No one should be assaulted at a police station. A lawyer is the officer of the court, while a lawyer is engaged in legitimate acts that are covered under the professional engagement of a lawyer with his or her client. Assaulting and torturing a lawyer, while the lawyer is discharging his or her official duties, is equal to attacking the court. Therefore, the officer has not only committed an act of torture against a citizen, but has also attacked an important institution. It is also important at this juncture to be aware that torture is not limited to acts of physical attack upon suspects, but also involves acts of violence that could be treated as punishment.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the concerned authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case.
The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers calling for an intervention in this case.
To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER
Dear ................,
INDIA: Torture of a lawyer in Thrissur must be investigated
Name of the victim: Ms. Asha R. K., Advocate, Thrissur Bar Association, Ayyanthole Post, Thrissur, Kerala state, India
 
Alleged Perpetrators: Mr. Lalkumar, Sub-Inspector of Police, Thrissur East Police Station, Thrissur, Kerala state, India
 
Date of incident: 22 February 2014
 
Place of incident: Thrissur East Police Station, Thrissur District, Kerala State, India

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing to you to express concern about the assault and injuring of a lawyer by the Sub-Inspector of Police at the Thrissur East Police Station. The incident reported to the AHRC is as follows:

The victim in this case is a lawyer with 14 years of standing at the Thrissur Bar. Ms. Neethu, a client as well as friend of the lawyer Ms. Asha, contacted Asha at about 10:00 at night on 22 February. Asha was home having dinner with her children. Neethu informed Asha that she requires immediate legal assistance, since the local police was trying to arrest and detain Neethu and her friends.

Being already late into the night, but willing to help, Asha went to meet her friend Neethu. Neethu had informed Asha that the police is trying to take them into custody from a restaurant in town. Asha took along with her, her son as well as minor daughter for company. At the restaurant, while Asha was trying to gather information from Sub-Inspector of Police, Mr. Suraj, stationed at the Thrissur West Police Station.
At this moment, the Sub-Inspector of Police from Thrissur East Police Station, Mr. Lalkumar came to the scene accompanied with other police constables. Without provocation, Lalkumar started assaulting Asha's son and daughter. The officers also in the meanwhile assaulted Neethu and her friends and dragged them into a police vehicle. Before Asha could do anything, the police also took along with them, Asha's son.

Asha followed the police vehicle to the Thrissur East Police Station. At the police station Asha tried explaining to the police officer that her son had come along with her since it was late and has nothing to do with Neethu and her friends and for whatever purpose the police have arrested Neethu. Hearing this, the Sub-Inspector of Police, Lalkumar pushed Asha out of the police station room upon which Asha fell down on the ground. Then Lalkumar started kicking on Asha's leg, wherein Asha suffered serious injuries on her both legs. Then the police dragged Asha out of the police station building. Not satisfied, the officer then slapped Asha's minor daughter. After this the officer asked Neethu was ordered to sign a release letter and was allowed to leave. They took Asha to Aswini Hospital where Asha is receiving treatment. While the police officer was assaulting Asha and her daughter, they were also using filthy language against the lawyer, the other women as well as Asha's daughter.

There is a background to this incident. About two weeks before Asha had been to Thrissur East Police Station concerning another case. At that moment, despite knowing that Asha was representing her client, the police officer Lalkumar had misbehaved with Asha, against which Asha had filed a complaint against the officer at the office of the City Police Commissioner. Asha claims that the reason why the officer assaulted Asha on this occasion was to wreck vengeance against Asha filing complaint against the officer.
Asha is a lawyer practicing at the Thrissur Bar for the past 14 years. Asha is a civil rights activist, has regularly lectured at the Police Training College, and was a member of the Thrissur Police Advisory Board. Despite all this that this officer has dared to brutally assault a lawyer shows the vested and adverse interest that the officer entertains against Asha.

No one should be assaulted at a police station. A lawyer is the officer of the court, while a lawyer is engaged in legitimate acts that are covered under the professional engagement of a lawyer with his or her client. Assaulting and torturing a lawyer, while the lawyer is discharging his or her official duties, is equal to attacking the court. Therefore, the officer has not only committed an act of torture against a citizen, but has also attacked an important institution. It is also important at this juncture to be aware that torture is not limited to acts of physical attack upon suspects, but also involves acts of violence that could be treated as punishment.

I therefore request you to:
1. Undertake an independent investigation in the case;
2. That a judicial magistrate records the statement of the victim and witnesses;
3. That the officer accused in the case is placed on immediate suspension from active service;
4. That the officer should be prosecuted.

Yours sincerely,
-----------------------------------------------
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mr. Ramesh Chennithala
Minister for Home and Vigilance
Ground Floor, Main Block
Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
INDIA
Fax + 91 471 2327451

2. Mr. Balasubramanian (IPS)
Director General of Police, Kerala
Police Headquarters, Trivandrum – 695010, Kerala
INDIA
Fax + 91 471 2726560
E-mail: dgp@keralapolice.gov.in

3. Chairperson
Kerala Women's Commission
Near Lourdes Church, P.M.G
Pattom, Thiruvananthapuram - 4, Kerala
INDIA
E-mail: keralawomenscommission@yahoo.co.in

4. Honourable District & Sessions Judge
Civil Lanes, Thrissur
Ayyanthole Post, Thrissur, Kerala
INDIA

5. District Police Chief
Civil Lanes, Thrissur
Ayyanthole Post, Kerala
INDIA

Thank you.
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)




Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Between sensationalism and suppression



The Kerala media which diligently report developments relating to Malayalees as also others with roots in Kerala have maintained discreet silence over a story which has been making headlines in Chennai for a week and has been picked up by newspapers elsewhere too.

The story is about a Mercedes Benz running over three children at the dead of night, resulting in the death of one of them in hospital. The incident occurred on May 23.  Police allege the driver and other occupants were drunk.

It is not clear who was at the wheel at the time of the accident: the owner, who slipped away from the scene of the accident and is said to be still at large or his driver. According to newspaper reports, both of them have alleged that the police is framing them.

What has earned the hit-and-run story big headlines is the VIP angle. The car belongs to Shaji Purushothaman, son of M.P. Purushothaman, Chairman of the Empee’s group which owns distilleries and hotels. M.P.Purushothaman’s daughter is married to Vayalar Ravi’s son but he has connections across the political spectrum. When CPI-M leader Pinarayi Vijayan was forced to break journey in Chennai while flying to New Delhi for a Politburo meeting following the discovery of bullets in his laptop case at the airport, it was to Purushothaman’s house that he drove to spend the night.

The Hindu is taking in this story an interest which is uncharacteristic, presumably driven by the compulsions of competition – this is the kind of thing the Times of India revels in – as also the current editor’s desire to reshape the paper according to his own light.  

M.P. Purushothaman, apart from being a prominent businessman, has been associated since long with Malayalee and Sree Narayana organizations in Chennai.

The failure of the two large Malayalam newspapers which have bureaus in Chennai to report developments relating to this case in their Kerala editions must be deliberate.

Between sensationalism and suppression, there is an acceptable, professional way of handling events of this kind.  

For the benefit of those who wish to know more, I am giving below links to stories which have appeared in the national newspapers:

The Hindu:

Who are the Purushothamans?

Both Shaji, driver claim they have been framed in accident case

RTI activists up in arms over speeding Merc case

Mystery deepens over Egmore car accident case

A day later, boy hit by drunk car driver dies

Speeding car hits 5 at bus shelter in Egmore


Other newspapers:

Shaji had own hard-partying set of friends

Tamil Nadu business family scion who drove over kids is on the run