16September2019

Andaman Chronicle

The Daily Diary of the Islands

Opinion

Exploitation of Jarawa Girls

Is the Law Helpless?

Are the poachers exploiting the vulnerable Jarawas taking cover of the law and roaming free after blatant violation of the PAT Regulations in force?

By Zubair Ahmed

The latest incident of exploitation of Jarawa girls by two groups of local poachers from Tirur did not come as a shock, as such repulsive acts by poachers have become a regular occurrence making mockery of the system.

The guts shown by the poachers to lure unmarried Jarawa girls to accompany them on hunting expeditions further exposes the intricate relationship the poachers have forged with the vulnerable tribe, leaving no scope for any kind of 'stringent' action as desired by the activists or the Administrator.

In this instant case, on the basis of complaint by Dr Pronob Kr. Sircar, Tribal Welfare Officer, AAJVS Tirur two cases have been registered, under section 365 IPC,  r.w.s 7/8 (2) (5) (6) of A&N Island (PAT) Regulation 1956 and r.w.s 3(1) (XII) of SC/ST (POA) Act 1989.

Although, the poachers have been charged under section 365 IPC for kidnapping or abducting Jarawa girls, it would be a Herculean task for the prosecution to defend the charges. At least, its heartening that police acted quickly without budging to any external pressure and registered cases.

But, the harmful influence that the poachers have on the Jarawas would become an impediment in taking the case to a logical conclusion. The Jarawas in most cases pertaining to Tirur sector are hands in glove with the poachers and are unlikely to testify against them. Even though, blaming the past is not going to undo the damage, the situation has worsened to such an extent that its high time there is a paradigmatic change in the approach towards Jarawas especially in Tirur. In fact, everyone accepts the vulnerability of the Jarawa tribe and their susceptibility to the negative affects of such interactions. But, its a blind alley for the police and prosecution to nail the criminals.

The Jarawa girls, who accompanied the poachers, are exploited in every sense. Similarly, sexual exploitation under the influence of liquor cannot be ruled out. However, its an improbability that the girls will testify against them. And, even if its consensual, the legal constraints needs re-examination. Whether the Jarawa girls were minor or adult should not be the subject of debate. If truth be told, their naivety is exploited to the hilt. Whether they testify or not, the issue needs to be dealt in a way that poachers do not use the protection of loopholes in the legal system to come out.

Last month one Ashush Samaddar was arrested by Police on a tip off about a group of Jarawas being sheltered by him and for serving them liquor in exchange of 20 kg of venison.  Jarawa youth Kunu along with two members were found at the poacher's residence. He was later released on bail as it was the Jarawas who visited the poacher's house and not vice versa. A senior police officer had expressed their helplessness as how to book someone in such cases.

In fact, in the last one decade, a strong illicit relationship had already been forged between the Jarawas and the poachers while the concerned authorities looked the other way, and now, when there is a realization with a major reshuffle in the AAJVS, they are finding it difficult to arrest the tide.

But, there are cases like the one in which a local poacher Nitai Mondal, resident of Guptapara had reached Chotagoja Jarawa Camp, a Jarawa Reserve on the West Coast on 3rd November with ration articles - rice, vegetable oil, sugar and tea and camped along with a group of Jarawas and the next day took two Jarawas - Dawa and Lekhte to Bambu Nallah, where other Jarawas were camping. He stayed with them for a day and later took 5 Jarawas - Anijamu (43), Illy (25), Anjale (27), Achehane(25), and Tahe (22) to Tarmugli Island. With such blatant violation of the regulations in force, how did Nitai Mondal manage a bail is very much intriguing.

If such instances keep occurring, where under political influence, cases are weakened by the authorities, conscientious ground staff who wants a meaningful change, will be demoralized and disheartened.

According to an expert, "these local poachers and sexual offenders are the worst influence that have been happening to the Jarawa for the past decade and more- often silently, with a lot of blame being conveniently directed to 'foreign poachers' while these fellows get away with the most dirty, exploitative acts - to the Jarawa, their wildlife and forests (timber)."

 

The only silver lining in the otherwise dark horizon is the change in the attitude of a section of Jarawas, who have become conscious about the exploitation meted to them by the poachers. It was a group of young Jarawas, who had sounded caution about the missing girls. The way the poachers were manhandled by Jarawas sends a clear signal what is in store if the situation worsens further. Nobody can rule out the possibility of a section of Jarawas getting back to their old ways, if the settlers especially the poachers living on the fringes of the Reserve doesn't take the cue.

  • Written by Denis Giles
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When Seeking a Solution

By Zubair Ahmed

On the issue of employment to the Islanders, the initial response of the Administration was kind of frustration and displeasure, as nothing had been happening on this front for a long time. The Lieutenant Governor came out lashing on his predecessors as well as the Member of Parliament, and the PRIs and even expressed his anguish in a tweet saying that since 2007, when the arrangement was stopped, there was no action from anywhere. He felt that he took a pro-active step to unearth the buried posts and provide employment opportunities. There is no denial on the part that he felt it necessary that the acute despair and despondency amongst the Islanders can be only addressed by providing the educated youth employment opportunities.

The Lieutenant Governor's letter to the Home Minister on the issue of preferential treatment to Islanders in employment is based more on the angst erupting in the society and seeking a remedy from Ministry of Home Affairs.

However, it becomes pertinent to look beyond the emotional outburst and have  a pragmatic approach to the issue. When he was seen expressing at various forums that 'a viable solution needs to be explored safeguarding the interests of the Islanders within legal and administrative framework', the communication sent to the Ministry fails to address the issue through proper justifications.

Apart from the reasons like the remoteness of the geographically scattered territory, forest cover, poor connectivity, stringent forest laws and lack of educational institutions for higher education, the reasons why the Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Home Affairs earlier rejected the proposal and the changed scenario should have been communicated.

Instead of putting the onus on the Ministry of Home Affairs to find a solution, some homework would have gone a long way suggesting a way out from the precarious situation. The Daman and Diu arrangement has its own lacunae, which can again attract litigation.

Soon after the Supreme Court order in 1991, the arrangement of local candidates continued till 2005, when finally the local certificate was declared invalid for employment. There had been an attempt to promulgate the “Public Employment (Requirement as to Residence) Regulation” by the President of India under Article 240 of constitution and a draft regulation was even sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs vide letter No.18-134/83-Legal dated 25.9.1988.

This was followed by several letters by Lt. Governor Ishwari Prasad Gupta dated 16.6.2000 and Lt Governor N. N. Jha dated 19.12.2001 and 11.9.2002.

Soon before the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with the Ministry of Law and Justice communicated on 22 February 2007, that the promulgation of proposed "The Andaman & Nicobar Islands Public Employment Regulation", is neither justified administratively nor sustainable from constitutional or legal angles, it had sent more than five reminders on 7 Feb 2006, 11 August 2006, October 2006, November 2006 and on 22 January 2007 asking the ANI Administration for detailed comments with justification for such a Regulation for which there was no response.

In addition, the Ministry of Home Affairs in February 2006 had sought the break-up figures of employment from 2001 to 2005 to which the ANI Admn submitted that out of 1318 appointments, only seven non-Islander candidates had applied, out of which two were employed. As the Admn was following the OM of 1984 issued by MHA, where only local candidates could apply, it had helped in preventing the non-Islanders from applying. The Ministry felt that the number of persons applying from outside is negligible based on the figures submitted and the proposal was rejected.

Since 2005, the situation has drastically changed. The mode of communication has improved and most of the posts are advertised online. Unfortunately, the letter sent by the Lieutenant Governor does not mention figures about the status of non-Islanders applying for jobs since 2006. It is learnt from reliable sources that about 161 non-Islanders have already applied for the 422 posts advertised for teachers recruitment, which is more than 40%. The facts and figures, which is not in the public domain, could have given enough teeth to the letter justifying the demand for preferential treatment for the Islanders.

The Administration though, has precisely sensed the mood of the Islanders, which reflects in the letter, a sincere exercise with proper justifications based on facts and figures could have been appreciable.

 

It is also significant that the Administration could have invited suggestions from the civil society and looked outside too for viable solutions.  Instead of viewing representations from the civil society and organisations as letters of demand or dissent, it could have paved way for a democratic approach.

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Plight of ANIFPDCL employees-The inside story

By Dr. Dinesh

All the political parties as well as the administrators of Andaman & Nicobar Islands are lamenting about the lack of employment potential inherent in these islands for years together without impacting any positives. Had there been any visionary approach with missionary zeal, the situation would have been much different by this time. The two areas of major employment presently available are tourism and fisheries. While the former is made use of by the unemployed with little investment while it requires considerably higher investment to venture into the fisheries sector, which can hardly be afforded to by many.

The scenario till the beginning of 90s was different when we had timber based industries like Andaman Timber Industries (ATI), WIMCO and Kitply Industries etc which were providing employment to the local populace. Unfortunately all these factories had its natural death due to the policy change of the Government of India in timber extraction activities.

The Forest Corporations were established in all the States and Union Territories with the clear mandate of commercial exploitation of mature and over mature trees that would have been otherwise subjected to natural decay in the forest. It had other objectives too such as employment generation etc. ANIFPDCL was thus formed in these islands too and it has been entrusted with extraction of timber from Little Andaman and identified areas of North Andaman.

It also raised Red Oil Palm Plantations in Little Andaman and later on added Palm Oil extraction unit to produce Crude Palm Oil. Altogether ANIFPDCL had been achieving the set objectives and achieved the status of ‘Mini Ratna’ in 1997.Apart from being one of the largest employment providers, it had been contributing considerably to the national exchequer too.

The abrupt change in the policy of the Government of India in the matter of forest conservation, the timber extraction activity of ANIFPDCL was stopped catapulting its hitherto vibrant financial health to anaemic condition. It exhausted its surplus savings and subjected itself to scrap the bottom of the barrel. The employees were not getting salaries for months together. Attention of the authorities was drawn into the serious situation and various committees were formed to suggest ways and means to restore the vibrancy of ANIFPDCL. Pending final decision on its fate funds were released to make payment of salary and wages of the employees annually. The employees were however, not allowed the benefit of intervening pay scale revisions and they have been sustaining on the pre-revised wage/pay structure unlike their contemporaries in government departments.

The proposals to wind up ANIFPDCL made by various Committees constituted time and again were not accepted by different agencies at different time, the latest being A&N Administration. While seeking opinion on the proposal for phased closure, the A&N Administration furnished their decision to take over the Corporation transferring the ownership from MoE&F. The proposal was accepted by the Government of India and fresh Cabinet Note was prepared based on the proposals submitted by the A&N Administration, which is taking, considerably long time to hand over the reins to the Administration, i.e. w.e.f 1st April 2014. The finalised Cabinet Note was sent to A&N Administration and also among other government agencies, more than fours moths back for comments. While all other departments have furnished their positive comments, the same from the Administration has been kept pending for no plausible reasons all these days. Reminders from the Ministry of Home and the MoE&F have been received despite which the comments have been prolonged at the bureaucracy.

Now that it is known that the A&N Administration has turned volte face and it is learnt that the comments contains proposal for virtual winding up of ANIFPDCL. Considering that it is not a viable entity, perhaps only looking at its poor performance during its period of crisis/uncertainty of continuance. Moreover it is also understood that in the revival proposal for ANIFPDCL, the A&N Admn. Surprisingly has not included the commercial forestry activities, the very purpose for which this Corporation has come to existence. In fact, the MHA, MoE&F and the A&N Admn. Had earlier committed to entrust all the commercial forestry activities to the ANIFPDCL and thus the Department of Forests was declared as ‘service department’. This was also included in the Action Taken Report (ATR) submitted by the A&N Admn. To the Hon’ble Apex Court.  The employees of ANIFPDCL are living without salary/wages from Sept.  2013 for the reason that the Ministry has emphatically pitted it with the finalisation of Cabinet proposal.There has been natural accretion in the number of employees of the Corporation these years.

It also had to withstand the vagaries of dreaded Tsunami in 2004 when it lost many of its employees. All apart; there have been untimely deaths of employees too.

Decimation of ANIFPDCL by its winding up will not only cause its primary impact of economic activities of islands like Little Andaman, which has been pivoted around the salary/wages of the employees of the Corporation. It will leave a large bunch of unemployed people, who are demographically disadvantaged to seek further employment elsewhere with all other social evils to follow.

 

Having decided to run A&NIFPDCL with renewed mandate by the Administration duly taking over its ownership and also having fixed the date of transfer of ownership, now it is for the Administration to return the Cabinet Note with only positive comments. It is more important that finalising the Cabinet Note is directly interlinked with release of further funds to payment of salary and wages of the employees of the Corporation, who have been basking in the hope of getting their salary/wages immediately. The sky rocketing prices of essential commodities, children’s education, managing family has become a nightmare. The Hon’ble Lt. Governor, who has exhibited his prowess in containing the adverse situations with his visionary skill as a brave soldier of the country, needs to adopt a pragmatic approach in this matter, and the anguish and agony of the employees of ANIFPDCL.

  • Written by Denis Giles
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