1-man army fights tradition of shame
Veerappan Four in bail blackmail
Renewed mahajot calls on Ghani exit signal
Cyberabad under radioactive cloud
Rabri sets price

 
 
1-MAN ARMY FIGHTS TRADITION OF SHAME 
 
 
FROM SUCHANDANA GUPTA
 
Morena, Aug 17 
At eight, he rescued his cousin from a brothel. That was the beginning.

Sixty years later, Ram Sanehi is a one-man army who has saved more than 1,000 sex workers.

Sanehi runs an ashram, which exclusively educates children of Bedias — a nomadic clan of traditional sex workers from Morena, Bhind, Gwalior and other adjoining areas of Bundelkhand. The total population of Bedias in the region is around 3,500.

Bedia women in Bundelkhand are the sole bread-earners of their family. Introduced to the trade by their parents, their first day in prostitution is celebrated. Men in this tribe do not work. At best, they pimp for the women.

Born in Got, 40 km from here, Ram Sanehi was often witness to violent quarrels between his parents. His father was a Bedia but his mother belonged to a family of Chambal dacoits.

“My mother was not a prostitute since she was not a Bedia,’’ Sanehi said. “As a child and the eldest among three sons, I wondered why my mother looked down upon all other women in my family and the neighbourhood.’’

Unable to continue school beyond the third standard, Sanehi was packed off with his aunt to set up a family business. His aunt hired a dingy room in Neel ki Gali, the largest red-light area of Meerut. Sanehi was shocked to discover that her daughter “was one of the cheapest prostitutes available in the market”.

“She bargained for one or two rupees per customer and would hang out of the window calling out to prospective clients. Rarely, however, was she able to earn more than Rs 100 a day”, Sanehi reminisces.

Unable to stand the ill-treatment meted out to his cousin, Sanehi would often take food to her when she was hungry “After two months, I helped my cousin escape. She asked me to get a rope so that she could slide down from the first-floor window.’’ Having kissed his forehead, the girl escaped. Sanehi never saw her again.

His aunt beat him black and blue and sent him back to his parents in Got. Then on, with each passing day the boy grew up realising the reason for his mother’s contempt for his race.

By 15, Sanehi had decided that unshackling his tribe from the curse of traditional prostitution would be his goal in life. He went back to Neel ki Gali, where he lived on sundry jobs — working as a bootpolish boy, a porter and a truck driver’s helper in Meerut.

He also turned a police informer, tipping them off on where and when to raid Neel ki Gali. Sanehi claims he helped the police end sex trade in Neel ki Gali in three years.

Soon, social workers and associations joined him in his crusade. “As a child I loved listening to my mother’s narration of stories about Laxmibai and Durgavati. Maybe I wanted to see a Durga- vati in every woman,’’ Sanehi said.

By the end of the 1950s, Sanehi was a known name. In 1959, Sanehi returned to Morena and persuaded the Samajik Swastha Sangh to open a branch in Gwalior through which he launched reformist moves against the Bedia tradition.

For the next three decades, his efforts to end the Bedia prostitution continued. Though the Suppression of Immoral Traffic Among Women Act (SITA) was passed in 1956 and came into force a year later, no notifica- tion was issued in Madhya Pradesh.

Sanehi filed a public interest litigation to make the state government take notice of the Act. Through his efforts, Morena district in north Madhya Pradesh has been declared a sensitive area under PATA (successor of SITA) for prevention of prostitution among Bedias.

Sanehi’s efforts made the state government launch a “Jawalika’’ scheme in 1992, aimed at rehabilitating Bedia children. Taking a single-storied building, Sanehi started his Adbhudaya Ashram. He educates children, even providing training in tailoring, computers and handicrafts. He also trains girls in the the art of self-defence.

At present, the ashram has 225 children. The government has promised Sanehi land and material help for his rehabilitation programme. District collector, Pramod Agarwal said: “We have already supplied all necessary items for vocational programmes — stitching machines and computers. Land will also be given to the ashram very soon”.

In 1971, Sanehi got the first Bedia marriage registered in court. He was ex-communicated for having

gone against the tradition. He has since had more than 40 marriages registered. Fourteen of his girl students are leading happy family lives.

One, however, was not so lucky. “She was married off into a wrong family. They refused to accept her later and the girl committed suicide,’’ Sanehi rues.

Impediments have stared Sanehi in the eye several times. But the man refuses to break down, continuing his fight against flesh trade relentlessly.    


 
 
VEERAPPAN FOUR IN BAIL BLACKMAIL 
 
 
FROM T.N. GOPALAN
 
Chennai, Aug. 17 
The Tamil Nadu government has run into a new glitch in the release of five prisoners demanded by Veerappan in exchange for Kannada actor Raj Kumar.

Four of the five prisoners have refused to apply for bail, turning their back on the state government’s suggestions to do so. The prisoners are insisting that the government withdraw all cases against them unconditionally.

Sankarasubbu, the counsel for some of the inmates, told The Telegraph this evening that when one of his colleagues met four of the prisoners in the Trichy jail in central Tamil Nadu, they were categorical that they would not move for bail.

The four are identified as Venkatesan of the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA) and Sathiyamurthy, Muthukumar and Manikantan of the Tamil Nadu Retrieval Troops (TNRT).

“That would set a bad precedent when we are not guilty. Anyway, why should we go about looking for sureties and be hassled on similar counts, especially so when Veerappan has demanded our unconditional release?” one of the prisoners was quoted as asking the lawyer.

The prisoners have also demanded that when they are taken to the forests after their release, a select group of journalists should accompany them.

Veerappan has demanded that they all be set free and left in the forests to join his group. But the prisoners fear for their life if they allow themselves to be escorted by policemen alone. The four are expected to submit an affidavit in the court.

Nothing is known about the stance of the fifth prisoner, Ponnivalavan of the TNLA, detained in a prison in Salem in the western region, but the chances are that he too would toe the line of the other four.

The government had revoked the National Security Act against the four, dropped the Tada charges against the fifth and suggested that they all move the high court for bail, promising not to oppose their plea.

But the prisoners’ demand for unconditional withdrawal could complicate matters for the government as that could come in for criticism from the Opposition.

Besides, one of the charges against some prisoners relates to an attempt to blow up a television tower. That falls within the purview of the Centre, and it has to formally agree to drop the case.

This would mean further delay in the release. Whether Veerappan would agree to free Raj Kumar, if the five are kept in jail remains to be seen.

Court reserves order

In Mysore, the judgment on the plea against dropping Tada cases against 51 prisoners, suspected to be associates of Veerappan, was reserved for August 19 by a designated court today.Abdul Kareem, a retired deputy superintendent of police, had moved the court against the release.    

 
 
RENEWED MAHAJOT CALLS ON GHANI EXIT SIGNAL 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Aug. 17: 
Ending two months of uneasy silence, pro-mahajot Congress leaders today revived the call for the grand alliance, even as the high command sent out strong signals of replacing the state unit chief.

A majority of the leaders here are of the view that it would be difficult to resuscitate the faction-riven West Bengal unit without tying up with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress.

According to party sources here, the two names doing the rounds who could replace A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury as head are that of working committee member Pranab Mukherjee and state vice-president Pradip Bhattacharya.

The process of consultation in Delhi began soon after AICC general secretary in charge of Bengal Prabha Rau visited Calcutta a fortnight ago. Rau said that during her visit, state leaders who met her suggested a number of names who could replace Chowdhury.

“During my meetings with party leaders in Calcutta I have received at least a dozen names,” she said, indicating that the post of the state chief was, perhaps, more like a crown of thorns with every leader suggesting names of their rivals for the job.

The sources, however, pointed out that a change seems inevitable. Along with choosing a new president, the high command, they said, would in all probability do away with the post of working president, currently held by Priya Ranjan Das Munshi.

“Most of those who met me in Calcutta did not want a dual leadership as it created a number of problems,” Rau said.

But though the Kamal Nath report recommended revamping the state unit, both Mukherjee and Das Munshi appeared reluctant to replace Chowdhury.

The report paints a bleak picture of the Congress here and makes it clear that it has virtually no hope in Calcutta. Instead, it wants the party to concentrate on three districts — Malda, North Dinajpur and Murshidabad — from where it returned three MPs to the Lok Sabha.

Informed sources said Sonia requested Mukherjee to take over the mantle. But the former PCC chief, they said, has sought time to think it over. Those who want Mukherjee to take charge said his presence would put an end to the mahajot talks and also help bolster the party’s sagging morale.

Sources close to Bhattacharya — the other leader in the race — said he would accept the onus if it was bestowed on him. As for Chowdhury, the sources said, Sonia intends to retain him as a permanent invitee to the CWC.

However, the pro-mahajot lobby feels that with a few months to go for Assembly polls, a new leader would further confuse the ranks. Leaders like state unit general secretary Sultan Ahmed feel the high command was never serious about the Bengal unit and is experimenting without taking stock of the ground realities.

“Two years ago, the AICC imposed a double-barrel leadership which couldn’t rejuvenate the party. Now what wonders will a new president work with a few months to go for the Assembly polls?” he asked.    


 
 
CYBERABAD UNDER RADIOACTIVE CLOUD 
 
 
FROM G.S. RADHAKRISHNA
 
Hyderabad, Aug. 17 
There is concern over a radioactive capsule which was lost from a hospital in the city. The capsule can cause environmental hazard, some experts feel.

Administrators of the Mehdi Nawaj Jung Cancer Hospital here admitted a Caesium-137 spring with 73 millicurie of radioactivity was lost two months ago. The capsule was reportedly thrown away by a ward boy, hospital sources said.

Atomic scientists and hospital staff have been scouring municipal garbage bins and sewers for the capsule in vain over the past two months.

Municipal authorities were directed by Delhi to “sift through all garbage dumps” in the city as a precautionary measure. Hospital authorities are not sure whether the material is lying loose or in a cylinder. “The 16 mm x 3 mm cylinder is also reportedly lost along with the radioactive material,” they said.

“Continuous exposure to the material for over a week or less might cause infection leading to leukaemia or dermatitis allergy,” cardiologist Kakarla Subba Rao of the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences here said.

“It may also cause burns. But if it has been submerged in water, it will not have any after-effect,” he said.

The loss of the source is rated at level 2 in the International Nuclear Event Scale of the International Atomic Energy Agency, indicating it is an “incident” without major safety hazard.

The caesium spring is used for treatment of gynaecological cancers.

According to the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC), the hospital kept the loss under wraps since June fearing an outcry. The material had thrown away with other hospital waste. The missing caesium indicates a serious procedural lapse on the part of the hospital, said secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board K.S. Parthasarathy.

The Nuclear Fuel Complex, which was approached by the hospital, failed to locate it.

The hospital tried to trace the garbage by following the municipal van which carried hospital waste. It also examined the Golconda garbage dump on the outskirts of the city. For nearly two weeks it poured water twice over the garbage everyday to dilute the material. Two teams of the BARC scientists, who investigated the entire episode, concluded that the radioactive material was “somewhere alive in Hyderabad”. The rains in June disrupted the search.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board secretary visited Hyderabad last week on a fact-finding mission to the hospital. Following the finding of procedural lapses, the hospital’s licence for procuring radioactive material was also suspended by the board. Some patients being treated for breast cancer were advised to shift to other institutions in the city.

Municipal authorities, however, denied that there was any panic search for the missing radioactive material. “The hospital and the Nuclear Fuel Complex reported the matter to the municipal corporation only at the end of July. We have begun the search since then. But you know how difficult it is to locate a cylinder as small as a bottle cork. Besides one is not sure whether the material was still in the cylinder,” said a senior municipal engineer in charge of the operations.

All residents living close to drains have been advised to get preventive medicines against dermatitis allergy. BARC has advised health authorities and the municipal corporation to check the garbage points till the material is finally located.

“The inadequate precautions in hospitals against radioactive material is proverbial in Hyderabad. There should be a government depository of radioactive material which should be drawn and dispensed under strict vigilance of trained personnel,” said Dr K. Purushottam Reddy, convenor of the Centre for Environment Concerns, an NGO.    


 
 
RABRI SETS PRICE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 17 
Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi today quoted a fresh price for the carving out of Jharkhand. In a meeting with Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant, she made it clear that Bihar will not settle for anything less than grant of a special status and a Central loan waiver.

Rabri Devi had earlier demanded more than Rs 1,75,000 crore as compensation for the loss of revenue and resources. If the new demand for a loan write-off is added to the bill, it would take the figure to over Rs 2 lakh-crore.

She also demanded setting up of a new Central power plant in north Bihar to compensate for the plants being given away to Jharkhand and a special package for development of infrastructure, irrigation and water resources in the poverty-ridden state.

Pant, who heads the Central panel looking into the economic fallout of the break-up and the compensation package, did not promise anything at the meeting.

The government plans to hold a core group meet on the issue tomorrow. It is difficult for the Centre to agree to most of Rabri Devi’s demands, given the astronomical figures being quoted. However, it is working out some form of compensation, of which loan waivers will form a part, officials said.

Today’s meeting was called to fix Bihar’s annual plan size and Central assistance for the current fiscal. Though the meeting pegged the plan size at Rs 3,100 crore, the decision remained inconclusive. It is yet to be worked out how the amount will be divided between Bihar and Jharkhand, once it is carved out. Officials said “a political decision which would be taken later”.    

 

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