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Workshop for Human Rights Defenders at Ekalavya Training Centre, PARA

The first of a series of workshops for Human Rights Defenders(HRD) has begun at Ekalavya Training Centre, PARA(People’s Action for Rural Awakening), Ravulapalem, East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh on 9th April, 2010. The first day’s progamme began with the garlanding of Dr Ambedkar’s statue and lighting the lamp at 10 am by Adv Muppala Subba Rao, Convenor of AP Human Rights Association and Fr Thomas Pallithanam, Director of PARA –the two champions of Human Rights Promotion and Protection. There are about 100 Human Rights Defenders representing tens of communities and hundreds of sanghs from nine districts, actively participating in the 2-day programme conducted in collaboration with the People’s Watch –Tamil Nadu.

Adv Subba Rao spoke about the various aspects involved in human rights defence and its increasing necessity in today’s atmosphere of ever-increasing human rights violations. He explained about the various Human Rights Institutions and their terms and conditions.

Fr Thomas Pallithanam then facilitated group discussions based on the role of the participants as individuals in protecting human rights and also asked the groups to reflect and share the experiences in the various fields(land, gender, children, Adivasis, Dalits, Differently Abled, Education, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Right To Information, Domestic Violence etc.)the HRDS are working, especially as some of participants have more than 15 years of history of human rights defence. He said that Human Rights Defence is peaceful & non-violent and reminded that it is universal, based on international standards and respects the others’dignity.

It was discussed that some of the problems the HRDs face are false cases being filed against them, labeling them as anti-socials or naxals, mud-slinging, threatening, blackmailing etc by the police, officials, politicians and so on, harassing the family, forcing silence on them, creating every possible hurdles against them … It was also pointed out that in such situations, the right to assembling, communicating and organizing, the right to seek, obtain, hold information, right to immediate remedy & protection and right to lawful exercise of profession have to be explored. G. Prasad of CRAF was also one of the resource persons.

Compiled by Jose Kunnel

Youth Seminar to commemmorate the 150 years of SDB at PARA

Ravulapalem, Jan. 29.Based on the Don Bosco words of “It is enough for you to be young for me to love you very much“ A seminar is organised at PARA for the young. The relevance of the works of PARA with young Dalits was emphasised in a Don Bosco way.

A total of 100+ youngsters when they came out of the conference Hall were joyful and determined.

Commemmorating the 150 years of Don Bosco Society world wide a seminar was organised for the youth at PARA. This seminar was aimed at teaching the young of the Don Boscoan Philosophy and the Preventive System.

Mr.Gode Prasad, Project Director, CRAF and Mr.Sudheer , Coordinator, DISHA acted as the main resource persons of the seminar. Mr.Gode Prasad linked up the need of Don Bosco during the Industrial Revolution and the current situation of the young in India today.Later, During the afternoon session, Mr.Sudheer and team put them to focus on to their careers. DISHA team also shared of the placement opportunities that they are coming out with.

A short video of the salesian presence in India and the World was shown to them to conclude with.

One can see the determination to succeed in their lifes on their faces when they are coming out after the seminar ended
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Reminiscence and Celebrations: 80 Seasons of the Journey with the Dalit Bahujans of Konaseema.

That’s what it has been. The Journey of People’s Action For Rural Awakening, a journey where often times we walked, sure footed towards our vision, hand in hand with our people among whom we pitched our tents. Other times we were being pushed to greater efficiency and effectiveness by the demands on us from those we accompanied. There were seasons when we had to push and pull our people to reach out to the goals we set together. Humbly we acknowledge that there were moments and seasons when we faltered.  In all the journey has been a great learning and one if we have to start all over again we would joyfully and willingly begin anew, without any hesitation.

Comes A Time, Comes a Moment.

Individuals as well as Institutions are challenged to tread a NEW path hitherto untested, unfamiliar. Some times nature itself conspires to make it happen. For Don Bosco Mission Ravulapalem that defining moment was the 6th August 1986, the day of the devastating Godavari Floods, a flood the like of which people of Konaseema had not seen for over half a century. As the mighty Godavari broke through its confining flood banks it forced people and institutions to reach out far beyond their own boundaries and comfort zones which they had conveniently settled into.

The boundaries of Don Bosco Mission Ravulapalem were literally breached. People came pouring in hundreds upon hundreds seeking shelter, relief and rehabilitation. Lead by Fr. Muthalkuzhiyil Sebastian, the community responded generously, not only providing succour to those who came in search of it but also by seeking out those who needed it.

Thus began the work of People’s Action For Rural Awakening (PARA) an initiative that literally became our Pilgrimage with the Dalit Bahujans of Konaseema, the land between the Gowthami and Vaishta, the two branches of the mighty Godavari. Till 1988 PARA worked under the name: Don Bosco Welfare Centre.  By the end of 1988 registered as Society with a legal entity different from Don Bosco Mission People’s Action For Rural Awakening realised that the time had come to move away from relief and welfare to take up challenges posed by man made disasters of economic exploitation, social exclusion, political oppression and unending human rights violations against the poor especially the Dalit Bahujans. After 80 Seasons of that journey PARA has an identity of its own as an organisation that will not compromise on the rights of the underprivileged.

Reminiscence and Celebrations:

14th, 15th, and 16th of October we relived that journey. Over 1500 people participated in the events planned for the occasion

  1. Workshop on 20 years of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989 – Review and Recommendations:

14th was a State level Workshop on the 20 years of implementation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989. Despite the tardy  implementation the Act did render a measure of justice to the Dalits. And because of that there is also immense pressure on the Indian State to withdraw the act on the pretext that it is being misused to harass the upper castes! The workshop attended by over 120 dalit rights activists and graced by the Mr.V. Elisha, Director, National SC/ST Commission for AP, MP and Chattisgrah, came out with far reaching recommendations to strengthen the implementation of the act.(refer photo gallery)

  1. Public Hearing on Violence Against Adolescent Girls and Women.

15th October was dedicated to Public Hearing on Violence on Adolescent Girls and Women. 25 out of 123 cases registered with the Gender Desk of PARA came up for hearing. The stories of violations were heart-rending. The most tragic of them was that of E.Baby (name changed) of Kakinada, just a nine year old girl raped by a 40 year old, family friend. The incident had occurred on 17th September, only 29 days before the Public Hearing! Around 250 people mostly women attended the hearing. They went away determined to stand up and be counted in the arduous task of moulding a society where as the Mahatma hoped “any woman will feel secure to walk the streets alone even in the middle of the night”

  1. Stand Up and Take Action – for Millennium Development Goals:

We joined the Global Community on that day to Stand Up and Take Action in support of Millennium Development Goals. That day saw over 1500 at the city centre taking pledge along with the local member of the legislative assembly and ex-minister of AP. It was a grand show of civil society from all walks of life standing up in solidarity with the Lord’s “little ones” the same to whom the Maiden had promised more than 2000 years ago that “He will fill the hungry with good things………” Earlier in the day under the guidance of PARA 845 students of Don Bosco School took the pledge against poverty in the presence of Rev.Fr.Provincial, Fr.Noel Maddichetty and the Principal Fr.Bobba Joji. Those numbers added up to the 420,000 (mostly students in the Human Rights Education Programme) PARA mobilised across India on the days of Stand Up from 16th to 18th of October.

These numbers tell us that out there, there are those who are willing to Stand Up and be counted and work for “Another World (That) is Possible. So our Journey will go on and as a sign of that resolve we laid the foundation stone for Ekalavya Navajeevan Home at Rajamundry for children on the street. The Journey will go on for another, more important reason: for  Someone keeps walking with us and HE does not tire nor  tarry.

WOMEN WIN THEIR WAGE STRUGGLE AT PULIDINDI

The success story of 354 women  who struggled for 24 days to make sure that they receive a fair deal for their daily toil.

When the dalit women of Pulidindi village began their struggle, little did they realize that they were going to make a quantum jump in their wages. these dalit women of Konaseema found themselves at the forefront of the struggle, that too when everyone in the state thought that their wages would be among the highest, being in the most fertile region of the state. What they have achieved could perhaps is only the beginning of things to come in the development of the Dalit Bahujans in Andhra Pradesh.

Konaseema area is the most fertile land in Andhra Pradesh, situated at the delta of the mighty Godavari river. Here anything grows at any time of the year because of the abundance of water. Yet in some of the villages the daily wages are abysmally low, a paltry 40 rupees a day.

The dalit women of Pulidindi village, in Athreyapuram Mandal, realized that the wages they were receiving were not adequate. With the prices of food and other essential commodities spiralling high, they decided to demand better wages. As no farmer listened to their timid pleas, they grew bolder and finally decided to strike work from 19th July this year. Soon the rest of the village got galvanised into action and joined the dalit women. They had been asking for just a pittance, an increase of Rs. 10.00 a day. The farmers were merciless and refused.

On the 6th day they approached People`s Action for Rural Awakening (PARA) for support and guidance. Mr. Yosebu, PARA staff and the District Coordinator of the Dalit Bahujan Shramik Union – AP, responded immediately along with the union members. They hiked the demand to the legal minimum wages, viz. Rs. 139.00 per day. Even as the strike got prolonged, the Union supported the people to the hilt. 18th August, 21st day of the struggle, saw negotiations in the labour office at Kothapeta, 28 kilometres from the village. The people went in big numbers in hired vehicles to participate in the negotiations. But the big land lords kept away. The next meeting on 19th August was at the Pulidindi Panchayat itself in the presence of the Assist Labour Commissioner. A third round of negotiations took place on 20th August in the presence of the Mandal Revenue Officer, again ineffective because the big land lords refused to participate.

On 21st August, on the 24th day of the strike, people were indeed getting desperate, being without work and wages for so long. The farmers were still refusing to listen to them and come to a compromise. The government failed them in not supporting them or providing work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the flagship programme of the UPA government. Now the activists and DBSU-AP leaders in the state capital, Hyderabad, swung into action – to pressurise the state government to act, the labour department to ensure minimum wages and the department of Rural Development to implement NREGA.

On 21st the negotiations went on beyond midnight with the women becoming very vocal about their demands. They were determined to clinch the deal at all costs. Their leader at one point shamed the farmers to pay at least half the legal minimum wage – a mere seventy rupees. What began as a demand of just Rs. 10.00 a day now rose to Rs. 30/-. The people were happy because they got far more than they had initially bargained for, a hefty 75% increase at one go. In absolute terms, if they work for 300 days a year, this was an increase of Rs. 9000.00 per person or 40 lakhs for the village union.  You can imagine the difference when they will begin to get their legal minimum wage of Rs. 139.00 per day, double the present wage. Evidently no government scheme or welfare programmes of NGOs can equal this just and dignified gain of the women.

The dalit women clinched their victory as the feast of the Queenship of Mary was dawning. These victorious women  sang Mary`s song in their own way: “The Lord puts forth his arm in strength… He casts the mighty from their seats and raises the lowly.“ The traditionally powerful landlords rued the day they refused the first demand for only Rs. 10/- a day. The labour and revenue officials left the scene in shame because they did not do their duty, viz. to enforce minimum wages. They have also reason to fear. As the struggle goes on, demands will escalate, and action will have to be taken against them for gross neglect of duty.

The good news has now spread to neighbouring villages where the dalits were waiting anxiously for the outcome of this struggle at Pulidindi. They initial success has boosted their morale and is already spurring them on to make the same demands in their villages. The demands will be scaled up seeking the implementation of minimum wages to the full and assured employment under NREGA.

36 teachers, 66 student peer leaders for HRE

The  serene campus of Don Bosco Navajeevan Campus, Ramanthapur played host for three days from 8th to 10th August to 36 teachers and 66 students from 24 schools across the state of Andhra Pradesh. They were there as part of the three days residential training programme of Human Rights Education being conducted by People’s Action For Rural Awakening.

The number adds to the 42 teachers and 110 students that got trained during the summer holidays at the Ekalavaya Training Centre, Ravulapalem. Together they form the new generation of brave hearts willing to make differences a  reason for celebration and not exclusion and  discrimination. Celebrating Differences is the theme of the Human Rights Education Programme being run by PARA.

These 78 teachers and 176 student will do their mite to contribute to make possible a human culture and  another world that is possible.

HRE Camp to be conducted at Ramanthapur – Hyderabad

The HRE Camp for the children in different schools and teachers will be conducted at Ramanthapur, Hyderabad.

This camp is conducted to educate the young minds on the various issues related to Human RIghts in line with the “World Programme of Human Rights Education”  being implemented in 150 schools in the state of Andhra Pradesh, INDIA.

This program will be conducted by PARA and IHRE together

Accidental Death of a Visionary Teacher

Ramakrishna, Hails from a Fisherman Family in Uppada (A a village in the coast of Bay of Bengal in East Godavaru District of Andhra Pradesh, most famous for the disaster caused by Tsunami).  It is not a common practice in these Fisherman families to send their children for Higher studies mostly because of their poverty and several other causes of Livelihood, Backwardness etc. But Ramakrishna successfully wade through all these problems and completed his Graduation.

With a view to educate the children of this community and bring awareness: He started working with PARA and Bosco Seva Kendra and run a Bridge School in Uppada. At times there are 100-120 children attending his classes.

Normally after the Evening classes, some of the children sleep in his house itself. on the 8th June, in the similar manner 5 of the children remained in the house of Ramakrishna after their Class. A short Circuit had occured in the Night and it lead to the death of 5 people (Ramakrishna and 4 other children). The Lone survivor of the accident Kodanda, has 50% burns on his body.

A visionary teacher had passed away. however he’ll be remembered in the hearts of his students and countrymen for his efforts to uplift their community by way of education.

Bravo! Ramakrishna…. wherever you are … We from PARA assure to continue the good work you have participated.

The below is the news from a Local News Paper describing the Accident:ImageHandler9ImageHandler10

Humiliated Girl sets herself on fire

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This is the story of a 15 year old girl studying 9th Class, who set herself on fire after the village elders gave a judgement against her.

On the 1st of June, when Venkatalakshmi (The victim) was in her house alone around 11.00 AM P.Subrahmanyam, aged 20 years (The Accused) had overpowered the girl and had raped her. Venkatalakshmi had informed this to her parents and the parents went to the village elders for judgement on the 2nd June.

The Village elders gave a judgement in favour of the Accused (Subrahmanyam) by saying The Victim went into the house of the Accused and had stolen Rs.6,000.00 from the Accused house and in the judgement copy it was also mentioned that the victim family has to pay Rs.3,000.00 as a compensation for the theft.

Venkatalakshmi came to know of this on 3rd June. Because of the Humiliation caused to her, on the same day (3rd June 2009) she had set herself on fire by pouring kerosine and had suffered 90% burns.

From the PARA Gender Desk, Sesha Ratnam , Nagur , Vimala, Chinna Babu had gone to the victims’ place for fact finding and had succeeded in filing an FIR in the local police station.

The saddest part, The Girl died on the night of 6th June 2009. The Girl would not have died had the Village elders, given her the justice. Even if the justice is not given had the village elders not been so unjust A lifw would have been saved.

We at PARA demand that the village elders who are responsible for this be arrested

May the Girl’s Soul rest in Peace.

Godavari Child Rights Forum General Body Meeting to be held on 11th July 2009

The Godavari Child Rights Forum General Body Meeting will be held on 11th June 2009.

Do attend the meeting without fail to strengthen the forum.

Date                 11th July 2009
Time                 10.00 hrs
Venue               Ekalavya Training Centre / PARA Campus/ Ravulapalem

Agenda for the GBM

  • Annual Report
  • Audit Statement
  • Appointment of Auditor
  • Appointment of New Coordinator
  • Admission of New  members
  • Plans for the coming year
  • Any Other

For Further Details Click here to Contact Us