NHRC questions rationale of continuing with AFSPA

NHRC has said the government has noted that the country does not face any armed conflict situations.

New Delhi: Questioning the rationale of
continuing with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in
Jammu and Kashmir, the National Human Rights Commission has
said the government itself has noted that the country does
not face any armed conflict situations.

The NHRC observation came in its Second Universal
Periodic Review of human rights in the country.

"The AFSPA remains in force in Jammu and Kashmir and the
North-Eastern States, conferring an impunity that often leads
to the violation of human rights.

"This, despite the fact that India`s 2011 report on the
Optional Protocol to the Convention of Rights of Child (CRC)
states that India does not face either international or non
international armed conflict situations," the NHRC report
said.

The continuance of AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir has kicked
up a row with Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah
pushing for its revocation. In Manipur, Irom Sharmila is on a
fast for the past over ten years demanding revocation of the
Act, dubbed "draconian" by activists.

On the Naxal movement, it said the spread of this violent
Left-wing extremist movement is a cautionary tale.

"Estimates are that 200 out of the 600 districts in India
are affected, though the government puts the figure at around
60 districts; even so this means that perhaps 120 million
people are affected," it said.

Belatedly, the government is trying to bring the fruits
of development to these areas, but the violent opposition of
the Naxals, who destroy even schools and attack officials,
means that in the areas they control, human rights have become
even more parlous, it said.

"It will be an immense challenge for a democracy to
defeat a movement that respects no human rights, through means
that safeguard and do not violate the rights of the citizens
it must protect. The NHRC report also criticised the Prevention of Torture
Bill, passed by the Lower House of Parliament. The Bill has
been greatly strengthened by a Select Committee of the Upper
House, and it would be a "travesty" if the original Bill is
adopted.

"The scheduled castes and scheduled tribes remain
particularly vulnerable despite laws to protect them, because
of the indifference of public servants," it said.

Noting that "custodial justice" remained a problem, the
report said jails are overcrowded and unhygienic, disease
rampant and treatment poor.

"Sixty-seven per cent of prisoners are under trial,
either unable to raise bail or confined far longer than they
should be because of the huge backlog of cases. There are
inordinate delays in the provision of justice. 56,383 cases
were pending in the Supreme Court at the end of October 2011,"
the report said.

It also said government`s contention that ambitious
flagship programmes will provide rights to people remains
"precarious" and rued a massive public distribution system has
not assured the right to food because malnutrition is endemic.

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme guaranteed
100 days of work a year to any rural household that needed it.
Government data showed that 56 million households applied, 55
million were given work but on average received half the wages
guaranteed.

"The scheme has not, therefore, made enough of an impact,
very large sums of money have been siphoned off, and it does
not provide long-term employment or build permanent assets,"
the report said.

It said the quality of education, particularly in the
villages, is dismal, the infrastructure is appalling, teachers
are absent, para-teachers are poorly trained. Learning levels
and literacy are both very low.

PTI

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