Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Report from Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ : DOOT RECEIVES ICPA AWARD 2010


Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ


            "Pavan Hrudaya DOOT" received Fr. Luis Carreno Award 2010 of Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) at Chennai on February 19 for its "distinctive contribution to journalism". The ICPA Fr. Luis Carreno Award consists of a citation, a plaque and Rs.10,000/=.


            Dr. Lawrence Pius, Auxiliary Bishop of Madras-Mylapore gave away the Award to DOOT during the 16th National Conference on "Climate Change – Media Response" held in the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre, Chennai.


            A well known author and journalist and one-time editor of DOOT, Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ read out the citation conferring the Award to DOOT; and a contributor to DOOT and novelist Mr. Raman Ignas Macwan received the Award on behalf of DOOT.


            Among the large number participants in the National Conference and Award Ceremony there were a former editor of DOOT, Mr. Simon Parmar and a DOOT editorial team member Dr. Roman Bhatia along with the members of ICPA and the students and professors of Department of Journalism, University of Madras, Chennai, who were co-sponsors of the 16th National Conference.


            The Award Citation says, "The Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) is pleased to present the Annual ICPA Award 2010 to PAVAN HRUDAYA DOOT for its distinctive contribution to Journalism and for being the only second magazine in Gujarati language to complete a hundred years of uninterrupted publication.


            "The magazine has contributed tremendously in educating, informing and promoting involvement of its readers to voice various social concerns affecting society though the incisive writings and reports on various social, political and economic issues appearing in the magazine from time to time.


            "The ICPA presents this award to PAVAN HRUDAYA DOOT in memory of Fr. Luis Carreno SDB, a noted writer."


            The Award is signed by Adolf Washington, President of ICPA and given at Chennai on February 19, 2010.


            ICPA gives annually three other similar awards. They are (1) ICPA – Swami Devanand Chakkungal Award, (2) ICPA – Fr. John Barret Award and (3) ICPA – Award for Best Reportage on Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes and OBC, which carries Rs.15,000/=.


            ICPA is a national organisation of Catholic journalists including editors, publishers, teachers of journalism, publishing houses, news agencies, regional press associations. The organization with more than 200 members in India has been promoting excellence in professionalism and values in print media for over four decades. The 46-year-old organisation is affiliated to the Geneva-based International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP).



NANO in GUJARAT...a NANDIGRAM in the making???


Nano Project –
A Bane For
Voiceless Villagers?

Is Another Nandigram...
Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Farmers of four villages in Sanand taluka in Gujarat are up in arms against so-called vibrant government of Modi after it issued a notification to acquire 5,062 acres of land to set up an industrial park next to the Nano project. Five thousand families stand to lose their land in the process. More than 3,500 original land records have gone "missing" from government custody in Sanand, which has turned into a real estate hotspot with the Tatas setting up the Nano plant there. Revenue officials admit that no effort has been taken to find these records or fix responsibility.

The notification was issued to the Sanand mamlatdar and the four village panchayats of Hirapur, Charal, Bol and Siyawada on December 4. K D Upadhyay, deputy secretary, revenue department, who issued the notification, said, "Yes, we've cleared the proposal sent by the district collector to acquire the land. And we've already published it in a gazette on November 18 this year."

However, the villagers refuse to abide by the decision. Around 500 farmers of the four villages led by Karamsinh V Patel met at Hirapur village on Sunday night to oppose the government's decision.

A letter opposing the deal signed by all the farmers was later submitted to the GIDC Land Acquisition Unit at Fadia Chambers on Ashram Road.

Govindji Thakor, sarpanch of Charal village, said, "Under no circumstance we will part with our land, even if the government gives us Rs 25 lakh or Rs 50 lakh for one bigha. Land is our mother. We will give up our lives, but not our land. Most of us are illiterate farmers who have witnessed the sorry state of farmers who gave away their land for the GIDC Changodar project."

Karamsinh Patel said, "We won't give an inch of land even if the government shoots us or lathicharges us. We will beat up any official coming to admeasure our land. If need be we will break their bones."

We are setting up a farmers association and will present our case to the collector, DSP and the GIDC, Patel said.

'We will not part with our land, even if the government gives us Rs 25 lakh or Rs 50 lakh for one bigha' says Govindji Thakor, sarpanch Charal village Farmer Jagabhai Govardhan, 51, of Hirapur village said, "I have 50 bighas of land. I grow rice, wheat and jowar. My joint family of 50 persons is dependent on the earnings from the farm. We know nothing except farming. We don't want to sell our land and impoverish ourselves. I won't give any portion of my land."

Another farmer, Zalabhai Govabhai Patel, from the same village has 300 bighas of land. Patel says, "My extended family of 250 people depends on earnings from our land. No one in our family is educated and we will not give our land at any cost."

Meanwhile, the government also plans to acquire another 2,000 acres in three more surrounding villages. This would up the total area for the industrial park to 7,000 acres.

The farmers have alleged that the Nano plant's boundary wall has been extended beyond the prescribed limit, which has resulted in the 30-metre road coming up outside the plant cutting into parts of their agricultural land.

mamlatdar Sudhir Patel told, "Yes, we had received complaints from the farmers after which I visited the site, I've seen the farmers' position and believe the GIDC will compensate those who've lost parts of their land. The roadwork has cut through two farmers' land."

Cattle too affected

'My joint family of 50 persons is dependent on earnings from the farm. We know nothing except farming.' – Jagabhai Govardhan, farmer of Hirapur village Khoda and Bol villages are the most affected by the Nano project coming up in Sanand. The cattle and youth of these villages are at the receiving end.

Mahipatsinh Khumansinh Vaghela, a farmer, said, "The authorities did not even inform me about parts of my land being taken over. It was only after 50 people came with bulldozers and dug up my land, that I raised an objection on why they were encroaching upon my land."

To this a case was filed against Vaghela at the Sanand police station for putting a spanner in government work, he said. "I had paid Rs 2,500 for a survey of my land on an urgent basis. However, even after 15 days no one came to admeasure the land. I met the Ahmedabad district collector over the issue and have faith that I will get justice," he said.

Mukeshsinh Vaghela, a leader of Khoda village, said, "With the Nano project coming up, we have had to face quite a few problems. Forty farmers, who had to walk 50 metres to their farms, have now to take a circular route of 3 km to their farms."

Hari Vaghela, the officer in charge of land records (talati) in Sanand, revealed this in his reply to an RTI application. According to the reply, records from No. 1 to 3036 and from No 5046 to 5564 have gone "missing". Vaghela said the records were sent to the mamlatdar's office and were never returned. Regarding the plight of cattle, Vaghela said that around 1,000 cattle used to get ample fodder during the monsoon. After all the grazing lands have been cleared, they have been at a loss. "The agricultural university used to get 50 lakh kilos of dry grass from this land... This has stopped completely," he said.

Nilesh Navasinh, a B Com graduate, but unemployed, had pinned his hopes on a job at the Nano site. "But until now we have got no jobs. Even jobs for labourers are not forthcoming," he said.

Bahadursinh, a farmer, said, "Our ancestors had donated the land to a trust for using the land during famine to settle cattle and create feed for them there. We are saddened that the land is no more of use to us now."

Hari Vaghela, the officer in charge of land records (talati) in Sanand, revealed this in his reply to an RTI application. According to the reply, records from No. 1 to 3036 and from No 5046 to 5564 have gone "missing". Vaghela said the records were sent to the mamlatdar's office and were never returned.

But mamlatdar Sudhir Patel denied this. "I have verified it, the talati has no evidence to prove that the records were sent to mamlatdar's office and were not received back by him. Records of rights documents are part of the talati office and they are responsible for it," he said.

With both the talati and mamlatdar passing the buck, the land owners are in trouble. Pankaj Vaghela, a member of Ahmedabad District Panchayat staying in Godhavi village, said: "The records are necessary to prove our right over a piece of land. With these documents missing many people who want to establish their right on their land won't be able to file even a civil suit. Many small land owners have been left helpless by this mess up" he adds.

RTI activist Harinesh Pandya said the 'record of rights' documents fall under Category 'A' which have to be preserved by the Revenue Department forever. "If for some reason the records have been destroyed, they have to be regenerated or restored. If these documents have gone missing, the Revenue Department has to fix the responsibility on the officer concerned," he explained, calling it a "very serious lapse".

Senior lawyer Vinod Brahmbhatt said a criminal complaint can be filed against revenue officers under Section 201 and 217 of the IPC for missing records.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Today(20th February) is World Day for Social Justice



 - Fr. Cedric Prakash sj *


February 20th : 'The World day of Social Justice!'  A time for each one of us to reflect on the realities around us and how best we need to justly respond to them. 


It is not without reason, that the fathers of our Constituent Assembly, insisted that 'Justice' (social, economic and political) be the core principle in our Preamble and in fact, that it permeates every dimension of our Constitution.


 It should therefore, be a cause of concern that in several parts of India, 'exclusion' rather than 'inclusion' is slowly becoming the order of the day. The recent happenings in Mumbai where one group decided to define to whom the city belongs to, is a case in point.  The very notion of parochial or jingoistic politics runs contrary to the idea of justice.  This time there were definitely some protests and netizens throughout the world (though invisible) were very vocal in their condemnation.  The sad fact, however, is that there is no serious build up within civil society to resist such injustice.


Closer home, a recent Planning Commission Report highlights the fact that 31.8% of Gujarat lives below the poverty line; and that among the major Indian states, Gujarat has slipped from the 6th to the 8th position in poverty ranking.  This is truly alarming for a State that boasts of an "economic vibrancy" and a growth rate apparently higher than the national average.


In several spheres, Gujarat still woefully lacks an environment of justice.  Defenders of the unjust system are quick to point out to the "so-called" industrial growth, the road network and what not.  Unfortunately, that does not take away from the hard reality that large sections of society still constitute the under-belly and are denied their basic rights. Justiciable food entitlements is denied to the sub-alterns. Eight years after the Gujarat Carnage, most victims still knock at every possible door for a ray of hope and a chance to live as citizens of the state. 


There are systemic injustices which continue to keep the Dalits, the Adivasis and other vulnerable sections away from access to a more dignified life.  In recent weeks several Christian institutions across the State have received 'Notices' from the authorities with queries which are blatantly anti-Constitutional and obviously meant to intimidate and harass. 


No amount of 'cosmeticization' can hide the fact, that if one truly wants to ensure justice for all, endemic issues have first to be addressed with a political will.  Amartya Sen in his tome, 'The Idea of Justice', puts it simply in a statement "Justice being seen to be done".


The best and only way, to observe the World Day of Social Justice, is to make this a reality!



(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)


Friday, February 19, 2010

Lent and the Charter for Compassion by Fr John Dear sj

Lent and the Charter for Compassion


By  John Dear SJ on Feb. 16, 2010


On the Road to Peace


As the Holy Season of Lent begins, we put on ashes once again and repent of the mortal sins of war, greed, nuclear weapons and empire -- national sins for which each of us is responsible. Yes, we must repent, and we must make repentance and conversion to Jesus' loving nonviolence a way of life, if we are to remain human during inhuman times. Preserving what is human is our hope, our calling, our political future, our salvation.


"Lent is a time for personal and societal repentance, a time for radical conversion, renewal and transformation," wrote my friend Art Laffin of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in Washington, D.C., last week.


Living under the brutal occupation of the Roman empire, Jesus declared: "The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel." (Mk.1:15) Living in the U.S. empire, which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world," we need to heed Jesus' proclamation now more than ever.


Art invites us to join the annual Catholic Worker Ash Wednesday service of repentance in front of the White House and, every Friday during Lent, a weekly vigil for peace.

"The purpose of this witness is to call for repentance and conversion of ourselves, our society and yes, our churches, to the Gospel way of justice, nonviolence and a reverence for all life and creation," Art continues.


We call for an immediate end to the sinful wars being carried out in our name. We call, too, for reparations for Iraq and Afghanistan; for total disarmament, the abolition of all nuclear and conventional weapons, and an end to the militarization of space; an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank; an end to torture and the closing of Guantanamo and Bagram, U.S. military prisons and other military torture training centers like the SOA/WHINSEC; the eradication of poverty; universal health care; unlimited aid and assistance to help rebuild Haiti; a just economic order; and climate justice. We call for the proposed FY 2011 $708 billion military budget, which includes $7 billion to upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal, to be converted to meet urgent human needs.


The late Howard Zinn once wrote: "What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but 'who is sitting in' -- and who is marching outside the White House pushing for change."


Art and other D.C. friends make Lent a time, not just to give up desserts, but of public witness. For their Lenten practice, they stand up publicly, call for an end to our nation's imperial violence, and practice the Gospel alternative of nonviolence.


How can we mark Lent? While it's good to give up sweets (and eat healthy!), I hope we can all make similar efforts during these forty days to join local campaigns of Lenten repentance and conversion to Gospel nonviolence. That may mean attending a weekly peace vigil, giving time each week to write to politicians and the media, meeting with local church leaders, or joining some national event to protest our wars and weapons.


The practice should help us to accompany in spirit the nonviolent Jesus who walks from the desert -- where he rejects the temptations to violence and supremacy -- to Jerusalem, where he confronts the structures of violence and gives his life for humanity through loving nonviolence. Somehow, we need to walk with him, share his spirit, take up his cross, and carry on his work of compassion, mercy, justice and peace.


Compassion is at the heart of things. Last month a priest friend on Prince Edward Island told me that at all his weekend Masses he recently read the Charter for Compassion, drafted by Karen Armstrong and other religious leaders. He did it, he said, to encourage everyone to reflect anew on their own compassion as a way to renew their discipleship, as a measure of their spiritual life.


So off I went and looked it up, the Charter for Compassion. It declares that compassion lies at the heart of every major religion. It's the link to our basic humanity, the key to an authentic spiritual life.


So perhaps one way to enter more deeply into the holy season of Lent is to reflect on compassion and to experiment with it, as we advocate for a more just world; also to see how we can promote social compassion, to help us as church people become a truly nonviolent community.


In the wake of the horrific earthquake in Haiti, that has left some 240,000 dead and millions wounded, our country and the world have shown compassion. There has been a global outpouring of concern, donations, and solidarity. But the Charter goes further. It says that compassion mustn't hinge on disaster but must be the central focus of our lives.

We can't offer compassion on the one hand and on the other, simultaneously support the bombing of children of Iraq and Afghanistan, build nuclear weapons, vote for the death penalty, and remain silent in the face of corporate greed, global climate change, and systemic injustice. That's not the compassion of Jesus.


Compassion comes from our experience of God's love, nonviolence and mercy. Especially in Lent, we try to grow more aware of God's compassion, nonviolence and love toward us in our ordinary day to day lives, and then, spread and share that compassion, nonviolence and love toward others. God's compassion melts our hearts and leads us to share that same compassionate, nonviolent love. Compassion is shown through our actions and deeds toward others, but if we're all doing our job, should lead to new nonviolent structures, laws that favor the poor, and finally, a more just world. This social compassion should disarm hearts and nations.


For example, social compassion might impel lending nations to cancel Haiti's $890 million debt -- and the debt of every Third World nation. Thus we'll move toward greater social (responsible)and economic justice and institutionalize reconciliation.


So while Art and our friends keep vigil outside the White House, while Jesus undertakes his Lenten journey to Jerusalem, we'll let the spirit of nonviolence and compassion deepen within us, take public steps to stand up on behalf of those in need, offer concrete assistance, and advocate for a new world without war, poverty, nuclear weapons and global climate change. In other words, during Lent, we try to become more and more like the nonviolent, compassionate Jesus.


As we embark on forty days of Lenten nonviolence and compassion, I offer here below the interfaith-based Charter of Compassion in the hopes that it resonates in our hearts and inspires us to spend Lent repenting of violence, becoming more compassionate and nonviolent -- individually, nationally, globally.



The Charter for Compassion

"The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there, and to honor the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception (and fear), with absolute justice, equity and respect.

"It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting (hurt and) pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others -- even our enemies -- is a denial of our common humanity (and dignity). We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

"We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the center of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings -- even those regarded as enemies.

"We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to (or for) the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community."