Wednesday, January 30, 2013

the inhuman juvenile

We have all been shocked and dismayed to learn the fact that the perpetrator of the most inhuman cruelty in the Nirbhaya case is a juvenile, ie, someone younger than 18 years. His case will be placed not before the criminal court but the Juvenile Justice Board, and as per the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, the maximum period of detention to which he can be sentenced is 3 years. For most juveniles, the place of detention is a special home except when the crime is of so serious a nature that the Juvenile Board orders the State government to make special arrangements for his protective custody. The law does not permit a harsher sentence and explicitly prohibits life imprisonment and death sentence. This has appalled the ordinary citizen who had expected the perpetrator of such a barbaric act to be put behind bars for the rest of his life, at the very least. 

Trial as an adult for serious offences

The Justice Verma Committee has declined the suggestion that the upper limit for defining a juvenile be lowered from the current 18 years. Even if we do not lower the limit, we can look at the other alternatives for treating cases where the juvenile has committed as horrendous a crime as in the Nirbhaya case.  There are countries where the law provides for a juvenile to be tried as an adult, and to be sentenced to imprisonment in an adult prison , depending upon the seriousness of the crime and past criminal activity. It is time that we demanded such a provision ----a statutory provision that a juvenile offender be tried as an adult, in a criminal court, for certain types of criminal conduct. 

Disqualification under ROPA

Another worrisome provision of the Juvenile Justice Act is that the conviction of a juvenile for any crime whatsoever shall not be a disqualification under the Representation of People Act. This means that, hypothetically speaking, the perpetrator of the barbarous acts that have led to Nirbhaya's death could some day contest elections, and even worse, the voters would not even be aware of his crime because the Juvenile Justice Act requires that all the records relevant to a juvenile's conviction shall be removed once the appeal period has expired. There is a need to review this provision of the law, and to provide that juveniles who are convicted of serious crimes face the repercussion of getting disqualified under the Representation of People Act.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

build a woman a toilet

Did you know that millions of Indian women are vulnerable to sexual assault when they step out because they do not have toilets at home? Beyond the protests and processions and prayer meetings for Nirbhaya that so many of us have participated in, are you ready to help a woman build a toilet, and help her protect herself from sexual assault?

Here's an easy way to do it ----- make a loan via MILAAP ( I made my first Milaap loan in September 2011, and in the succeeding months, I have made 38 loans. There hasn't been a single default since I made the first loan, and the mails from Milaap revive every month the immense satisfaction I experience in having made a contribution, however minimal, in the lives of women living thousands of kilometres away.

This is how MILAAP works.

Milaap is an online platform that enables you to lend to India's working poor. It  partners with established organizations that have a strong presence at the grass roots and a deep understanding of the 150 million Indian households with no access to water, sanitation, healthcare, education and energy. Milaap and its field partners design customized loan programs and Milaap then shares the requirements, backgrounds and photos of all borrowers. The online listing of borrower profiles enables the lender to select the cause and the borrower of his choice and give a loan of minimum USD 50 or Rs 1000. 

Every month, Milaap sends the total loan collected to its various field partners who disburse the loans and regularly monitor the progress of the borrowers and collect repayments from them. Monthly deposits of the repaid loan instalments are made into the lender's Milaap account. At the end of the loan cycle, the lender can choose to withdraw the repaid loan amount or relend it to another borrower on Milaap. 

Right now, there are at least 15 women looking for a Milaap loan to build toilets ( ----- make a loan today, and make a difference!

On World Toilet Day, the World Bank has informed us that with over 600 million people in India or 53 per cent of Indian households defecating in the open, absence of toilet or latrine is one of the important contributors to malnutrition ----- do your bit, help someone build a toilet by making a loan via  MILAAP .
(updated Novemember 18th, 2013)

Its International Women's Day today ------ and my way of celebrating it is to give a loan to a woman (Rani Chinappan and her group of 4 women) to help her build a toilet.
(updated 8th March, 2013)

On a day that I read the Budget speech and was struck by a sense of deja vu, succeeded rapidly by despair, I also received a mail from MILAAP, informing me that my monthly re payments have come in. I have re lent the amount, to Selvi Kumar of Tamil Nadu, to help her build a toilet. It takes the edge off the sense of frustration and helplessness one feels sometimes. Do it, one feels a tiny bit better at having DONE something, not just fulminated at the government.
( updated, 28th February, 2013, 0945 pm)