Category Archives: Campaigns

Can we count on our counting systems?

A shorter version of this article appeared on BMJ Blogs on October 31, 2013 under the same title.  Co-written with Himabindu G L of IPH, Bangalore.

Much of the material remains unprocessed, or, if processed, unanalysed, or, if analysed, not read, or, if read, not used or acted upon

Robert Chambers

Basic demographic information forms the basis of policy, planning and public

The Registrar General of India promptly responded with this instruction to all states. But since then...

The Registrar General of India promptly responded with this instruction to all states. But since then…

discourse.  The system through which governments record vital events such as births and deaths is the civil registration system. Defined by the United Nations as “the continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events”, it forms the basis for identity, citizenship and civil rights. Established perhaps first by Sweden, as early as 1631,  its importance was globally recognised and more countries have worked towards establishment of efficient and comprehensive civil registration systems.

 

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NarcondaMn

Update: Apparently, the ayes have it! The Envt. & Forests Ministry’s committee decidees NOT TO go ahead with the proposal!

The Narcondam Horbill, an endangered species of hornbill from the Narcondam Island in the Andaman & Nicobar chain of islands is under threat. A

Sketch of the Narcondam Hornbill (Aceros narcondami)

proposal (a short-sighted one, clearly) to install a RADAR and a power supply source on this 681 hectare island by the Indian ministry of defence could endanger this species of hornbill found nowhere else in the world. Continue reading

“old and fragile records” in an age of RTI and computers: How our heritage collections are managed by ZSI

The Zoological Survey of India has an illustrious history. On 1st July, 1916, the organisation was instituted with a mission to “…to promote survey, exploration

Alfred Alcock, the physician-naturalist who was instrumental in the creation of the Zoological Survey of India

and research leading to the advancement in our knowledge of various aspects of exceptionally rich life of the erstwhile British Indian Empire” (Emphasis mine). Alfred William Alcock was a British physician-naturalist, a common breed in those colonial days when doctors were still excited about working in “difficult” Continue reading

Justice not so blind in Chhatisgarh

It is a shameful day in the history of Indian judiciary, when a doctor who stood as a voice for the poor, oppressed and marginalised is polished off in the most unceremonious way to a life in the prison. What is on trial is indeed justice itself in this case. Over the last few years, my feelings went from indifference (here was a doctor and an acclaimed activist; not so easy to foist cases on him, I (foolishly) thought), to shock, dismay and exasperation. I wonder what it is about such cases that holds back many people like me who are inspired by the work of Binayak. What prevents me from protesting loudly against such travesty of human rights? What prevents young civil activists from challenging democratic institutions? After all, it is the trust in these institutions that keeps us all together in spite of differences in opinions. And today, that trust was broken, a court in Chhattisgarh went to the frontiers of common sense and civil justice and romanced with foolishness in rewarding Binayak Sen with a life in jail for a life of service. Shame to you Justice Verma. Shame to you….

We cannot stay silent. Do your bit – raise your voice, write letters, support campaigns and make the ones in high places aware that they cannot sit quiet. Sign the online pettition or write to the president, as these people did. Write in your local languages and local press and spread the message.

A recent photo of Binayak Sen: Courtesy NDTV

Reproduced below is the statement of Jana Arogya Andolana from Karnataka.

We, the Jana Arogya Andolana Karnataka (JAAK), the Karnataka chapter of the People’s Health Movement, which is a coalition of Karnataka State level networks, organizations and persons actively working for health rights in the State, express our outrage at the verdict of the Raipur district and sessions court judgement declaring Dr Binayak Sen guilty of criminal conspiracy of sedition. Dr Sen has an illustrious record of over 25 years of selfless public service in areas of health and human rights. He has been the General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties and Vice-President of the National PUCL and has contributed to the democratic movement in the country. He has been closely associated with the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, the Indian chapter of the People’s Health Movement.In recognition of his work, the Christian Medical College, Vellore conferred on him the Paul Harrison Award in 2004, which is the highest award given to an alumnus for distinguished service in rural areas. He continues to be an inspiration to successive generations of students and faculty. Many of his articles based on his work have been internationally appreciated. His indictment under the draconian and undemocratic Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006, and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and the sentence of life imprisonment is utterly condemnable. Not only has the farcical nature of the trial been reported in the media, the charges against Dr Sen, of engaging in anti-national activities, have been widely held as baseless.This judgment is an unacceptable attempt to intimidate and vilify those who advocate for the rights of the poor and the marginalized, and reveals the indiscriminate use of state machinery to stifle democratic dissent.

JAAK believes that a great derailment of justice has been done, not only to Dr Sen but also to the democratic fabric of this country. We consider this as a typical case where the judiciary has betrayed the cause of the poor and the marginalized of this country. JAAK salutes Dr. Sen’s work, and also demands that the unjust and erroneous judgement be reviewed immediately.

Get it right, the copyright

The Government playing Blindman's Bluff with its citizens instead of being inclusive!

Responding to a call posted on the Rajya Sabha Website where now and then, standing committees mulling over our collective future as a nation act responsibly by inviting comments, I sent off the following comments on the proposed amendment to the Indian Copyright Act, 1957. All in all an opportunity which has only been half, if improperly used by the Government. In any case, in hope that all comments are given their due, I have shared mine within the deadline of May 31st, 2010 (So, run and send yours too; there are two more days).

Thanks to a tweet from Sunil Abraham of Centre for Internet and Society.
It is a laudable effort of the Government to bring the existing legislation up to date with international consensus and frameworks. Kindly note the following comments.

1) We endorse the reading of “fair use” to apply to private and personal use legalising any use of copyrighted material for private or personal use such as making backups of material for personal use, which in some country contexts (like the DMCA of USA) has not been read as fair use.

2) While it is commendable that the Act removes the need to pay royalty/seek permission for conversion of copyrighted text to Braille, the spirit of inclusivity is lost as most people with visual impairment have moved on to e-readers and audiobooks. We strongly recommend that the amendment be widened to be applied for all types of devices/technologies that are geared towards making a particular text available for visually impaired. Such a wide application of the amendment would make India indeed a pioneer in inclusive legislation.

3) We appreciate the move to give content creators more rights over their creation and this move to shift some power from industry to individuals who create content is commendable.

4) While the efforts to provide copyrights as a right to assert authority over intellectual or other kinds of original work is an important role for legislation, we believe legislation should also make space for frameworks which explicitly try to improve and open up opportunities for collaboration. Various such frameworks are in use worldwide today, one well known among them being the Creative Commons system. Original work ‘copyrighted’ under this system encourages the spirit of sharing while still allowing the creator to retain ‘intellectual rights’ over his/her work.

For more, please see http://creativecommons.org/education?utm_source=ccorg&utm_medium=ccedu

Leading institutions and governments are now in the process of adopting and endorsing the Creative Commons system. We request that the Committee consider the option of providing a legal space to such licensing within a legislative framework.