Monday, August 10, 2009

Human Rights Issues in Odisha

Violence against women was high in Odisha. The National Crime Records Bureau reported 6,249 cases of violence against women, including 799 rape cases, 547 abduction cases, 334 dowry deaths, and 1,671 cases of cruelty by husband and relatives, among others in Odisha during 2005. According to the Government of Odisha, 2,550 cases were registered relating to dowry and non-dowry torture in 2005.Women were killed on the charges of being “witches”.

The National Crime Records Bureau reported 86 cases of child abuse in Odisha during 2005, including 9 murder cases, 28 rape cases, and 16 kidnapping cases, among other. The Dalits, who constituted 16.53% of the states' total population, were neglected lot. About 52.30% of the Dalits lived below the poverty line. The National Crime Records Bureau reported 1,439 cases of crimes against the Dalits in Odisha . Their houses were burnt and they were denied access to public places and services such as community tube well and temples.

Dalit women were often subjected to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment. On 19 September 2005, a group of Dalit women belonging to the barber community were reportedly dragged out of their houses and paraded naked on the streets by upper-caste Khandayat community in Bhubanpati village in Puri district. The women had been punished as their husbands refused to wash the feet of a bridegroom and other members of the barati during an upper-caste marriage held in July 2005.

In Kendrapara district, Dalit women applying for the job of cooks in schools under the mid-day meal scheme were allegedly turned away by the school authorities for the fear that upper caste students might not take the food cooked by Dalits. This was in contrary to the government directive for recruitment of women preferably from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes about 1,420 primary schools in the district.

The tribals constituted 22.13% of the state's total population according to 2001 census. About 73.08% of the tribals lived below the poverty line. Their literacy rate was as low as 37.37%.The National Crime Records Bureau reported 602 cases of atrocities against the tribal peoples in Odisha, which amount to 10.5% of the total cases of atrocities against the tribals in India during 2005.The police also tortured tribals and filed false cases to arrest them on the charges of sheltering the Maoists.

The State government of Odisha did not recognise the land rights of the tribals in the state, and suppressed any movement by tribals demanding such rights. During 2002-2005, the Odisha government signed 42 Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with companies for proposed steel and other plants in the state as a result of which thousands of tribals would be displaced.About 2 million people, most of them tribals, had been reportedly displaced in Odisha between 2005 and 2009 due to dams, canals, mines and other industries. Majority of the displaced persons had not received compensation and rehabilitation.

During 2002-2005, the Odisha government signed 42 Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with companies for proposed steel and other plants in the state which would displace thousands of tribals.The MoU with Korean steel major Pohang Steel Company (Posco) signed on 22 June 2005 for setting up a steel plant at Paradeep in Jagatsinghpur district in Odisha with a total investment of $12 billion would displace around 4,000 tribal families.

Trafficking was rampant in Odisha. A study conducted by the Bhubaneswar-based Institute of Socio-Economic Development in collaboration with United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) revealed that the holy place of Puri remained the main destination of victims of trafficking with 43.83 per cent, followed by capital city of Bhubaneswar with 30%. The study covered 13 out of the State's 30 districts and identified 559 cases of trafficking from 275 villages in 83 blocks under 21 districts.

These districts include the tribal dominated districts of Koraput, Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Nuapada, Mayurbhanj & keonjhar and other districts of Bhadrak , Balasore , Ganjam, Puri, Khurda, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Jajpur & Cuttack with industrial and mining towns, tourist spots and large urban centres. The study further revealed that sex work was the primary means of survival for most of the victims within the age group of 18 to 35 years.


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