Continuous attempts are being made by the Commission to address various Human Rights Issues.Some of these issues are being monitored as Programmes on the directions of the Supreme Court.



The Programmes in pursuance of Supreme Court Remit are :-

Abolition of Bonded Labour
Functioning of the Mental Hospitals at Ranchi, Agra and Gwalior
Functioning of the Government Protective Home (Women), Agra
Right to Food


Other Programmes and Human Rights issues taken up by the Commission include :-

Abolition of Child Labour

Rehabilitation of Marginalized and Destitute Women in Vrindavan
Combating Sexual Harassment of Women at the Work Place
Harassment of Women Passengers in Trains
Abolition of Manual Scavenging
Dalits issues including atrocities perpetrated on them
Problems faced by Denotified and Nomadic Tribes
Rights of the Disabled
Right to Health
HIV/AIDS
Relief Work for the Victims of 1999 Orissa Cyclone
Monitoring of relief measures undertaken after Gujarat Earthquake 2001
District Complaints Authority
Population Policy- Development and Human Rights

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Abolition of Bonded Labour

The Commission has been involved in the monitoring of the implementation of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act as per the directions of the Supreme Court in WP (Civil) No. 3922 of 1985 (PUCL v State of Tamil Nadu & Others).

The Commission is presently monitoring the BLS (Abolition) Act by calling for information from the States on a quarterly basis on identification, release and rehabilitation of bonded labour.

In September 2000, the NHRC constituted a Group of Experts to closely examine the matter and to prepare a report on the status, suggest methods of improving the existing schemes and make recommendations to effectively implement the laws for abolition of bonded labour system and other connected matters.

The Report of the Expert Group was submitted to the Supreme Court. The Report contained a status of the work relating to the abolition of the bonded labour system in the various States. It detailed the position of the various existing schemes and made several recommendations to amend the Act so as to make it more effective.

The NHRC through its Special Rapporteurs has been interacting with the State Governments and with the Ministry of Labour to evolve suitable measures to eradicate the problem of bonded labour.

The Commission is involved in sensitizing the District Magistrates, Deputy Commissioners, Deputy Development Commissioner and other Senior Officers of the State Government by holding Sensitization Workshops. These workshops are presided over by the Chairperson and Members of the Commission. During 2003-04 sensitization workshops for the District Magistrates were held in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar
and Karnataka. During 2004-05, four additional workshops are proposed to be held.

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Functioning of the Mental Hospitals at Ranchi, Agra and Gwalior


The Management of the mental hospitals at Ranchi, Agra and Gwalior came under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court through Writ Petitions (C) No.339/96, No.901/93, No.80/94 and No.448/94 in the matter of Rakesh Chandra Narain etc. v. State of Bihar etc.. The Supreme Court in its Order dated 11 November, 1997 requested the National Human Rights Commission to be involved in the supervision of the functioning of these three hospitals. In pursuance of the Order of the Supreme Court, the Commission remains deeply
involved in overseeing the functioning of the Ranchi Institute of Neuro Psychiatry and Allied Sciences (RINPAS), Institute of Mental Health and Hospital (IMHH), Agra and the Gwalior Mansik Arogyashala (GMA), Gwalior. The Commission continues to monitor the implementation of the tasks assigned to these Institutions by the Supreme Court while granting them autonomous status in September 1994.

A Member and Special Rapporteur of the Commission visit these Institutions periodically and submit detailed reports on the working of various services and facilities, treatment and care of patients, training and research activities and community health services as specified by the Supreme Court.

As a result of the monitoring by the Commission, improvements have since been noticed in the working of these Institutions. Admissions and discharge have been streamlined in accordance with the provisions of the Mental Health Act, 1987. A clear shift from custodial to treatment and care concerns is noticeable in the functioning of these institutions. Cell admissions have been totally stopped. Switch over from close to open system of custody of patients is being steadily improved. Incidence of death of patients has come down
as a result of close scrutiny of every case by the Commission. Library facilities, training activities and research works have shown appreciable improvement at RINPAS, Ranchi and the IMH&H, Agra. The aspect of Community Mental Healthcare is receiving greater attention than before.

A Core Group headed by a Member of the Commission has been set up for rehabilitation of mentally ill cured patients languishing in the three mental hospitals.

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Functioning of the Government Protective Home (Women), Agra


As per the directions of the Supreme Court of India in the Writ Petition No.1900/81 - Dr. Upendra Bakshi & Others v State of Uttar Pradesh vide Order dated 11-11-1997, the Commission has been supervising the functioning of the Government Protective Home (Women), Agra. The District Judge of Agra has been entrusted with the responsibility of conducting monthly inspections and submitting a visit report to the Commission. The Reports are scrutinized by the Commission and appropriate directions given to the State Government for
overall improvement of the functioning of the Home.

A Member of the Commission as well as a Special Rapporteur of the Commission frequently visit the Home to make a broad assessment of the functioning of the Institution. The Home was last visited on 5th May, 2003 and certain discrepancies were noticed during the visit. The Commission has taken up the matter with the State Government.

The Commission called the Director (Women's Welfare), Govt. of Uttar Pradesh for a discussion alongwith the Superintendent of the Home and the District Probation Officer, Agra to review the functioning of the Home on 20-01-2004. The Director (Women's Welfare) was directed to take pro-active steps in Agra and elsewhere in the State for effective cooperation between the concerned wings of the administration for effective implementation of the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act. The Director (Women's Welfare) was asked to draw up an action plan within a given time frame for implementation of the Act in law and spirit.

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Right to Food

On 3rd December, 1996, the Commission took cognizance of a letter from Shri Chaturanan Mishra, the then Union Minister for Agriculture regarding starvation deaths due to the drought in Bolangir district of Orissa. On 23rd December, 1996, the Indian Council of Legal Aid and Advice and others filed a Writ Petition (Civil) No.42/97 before the Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of the Constitution, alleging that deaths by starvation continued to occur in certain districts of Orissa.

When the Writ Petition came up before the Supreme Court of India on 26th July, 1997, the Court directed as under:-

"In view of the fact that the NHRC is seized of the matter and is expected to give its report after an enquiry made at the spot, it would be appropriate to await the report.Learned Counsel for the petitioner submitted that some interim directions are required to be given in the meantime. If that be so, the petitioner is permitted to approach the National Human Rights Commission with its suggestion."

Pursuant to the Orders of the Supreme Court, the Indian Council of Legal Aid and Advice filed a petition before the Commission on 1st September, 1997 making a number of suggestions in regard to interim relief to the affected population.

After due consideration of the matter, the Commission, on 17-02-1998, arrived at the view that some interim measures should be undertaken for an overall period of two years. The Commission also requested the Orissa State Government to constitute a Committee to examine all aspects of the Land Reform question in the KBK Districts. Further the Commission with the assistance of one of its Special Rapporteur has been regularly monitoring the progress of implementation of its directions.

The Commission observed that as starvation deaths reported from some pockets of the country
are invariably the consequence of mis-governance resulting from acts of omission and commission
on the part of the public servant, they are of direct concern to the Commission under the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. The Commission holds the view that to be free from hunger is a Fundamental Right of the people of the country. Starvation, hence, constitutes a gross denial and violation of this right.

Following this, the Commission felt the need to formulate a programme of action for making Right
to Food a reality in the country. With this in view, a meeting was organized, with leading experts on the subject, in January, 2004 to discuss issues relating to ‘Right to Food’.

The Commission has approved the constitution of a Core Group on Right to Food, that can advise
on issues referred to it and also suggest appropriate programmes, which can be undertaken by the Commission.

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Preventing Employment of Children by Government Servants: Amendment of Service Rules

With a view to preventing employment of children below 14 years of age by Government servants, the Commission recommended that the relevant Service Rules governing the conduct of Central and State Government employees be amended to achieve this objective. The Union Ministry of Personnel and Public Grievances and Pensions (Department of Personnel & Training), has informed the Commission that the Central Government has amended the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968 as well as the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964. Except for the State of Manipur, all the States/UTs have also brought out the required amendments to the Conduct Rules of their employees.

The Commission intends to monitor the issue and see whether the Central and State Governments
actually take action against those public servants who continue to employ children as domestic servants.

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Abolition of Child Labour

The NHRC has been deeply concerned about the employment of child labour in the country as it leads to denial of the basic human rights of children guaranteed by the Constitution and the International Covenants.

The Commission on ‘child labour has observed that –
“No economic or social issue has been of such compelling concern to the Commission as the persistence, fifty years after Independence, of widespread child labour in our country. It prevails, despite articles 23,24,39(e) & (f), 41, 45 and 47 of the Constitution and despite the passing of various legislations on the subject between 1948 and 1986. It has defied the terms of six Conventions of the International Labour Organization to which India is a party and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in addition. Despite the announcement of a National Child Labour Policy in 1987, the subsequent constitution of a National Authority for the Elimination of Child Labour (NAECL) and the undertaking of National Child Labour Projects (NCLP) in an increasing number of areas of our country, the goal of ending child labour remains elusive, even in respect of the estimated two million children working in hazardous industries who were to be freed from such tyranny by the year 2000”.

The Commission focusing its attention on the following industries where from rampant reports of child labour were received. These interalia include the :-
∑ Bangle/glass industry
∑ Silk industry
∑ Lock industry
∑ Stone-Quarries
∑ Brick Kiln
∑ Diamond cutting
∑ Ship-breaking
∑ Construction-work
∑ Carpet-weaving

The Commission monitors the child labour situation in the country through its Special Rapporteurs, visits by members, sensitization programmes and workshops, launching projects, interaction with the industry associations and other concerned agencies, coordination with the State Governments and NGOs to ensure that adequate steps are taken to eradicate child labour.

The Commission believes that unless and until the reality of free and compulsory education for all upto the completion of the age of 14 years is realized, the problem of child labour shall continue. The Commission has involved the NGO sector in the non-formal education of child labourers and a number of such schools/training centres are functioning in the districts of the carpet belt. There has also been a distinct improvement in the level of awareness among the general public about child labour issues.

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Rehabilitation of Marginalized and Destitute Women in Vrindavan

The Commission, since 2000, has been monitoring the implementation of its recommendations for the rehabilitation of marginalized and destitute women residing in Vrindavan. In this context, it had also directed the concerned officials of the Government of Uttar Pradesh to regularly apprise the Commission about the overall progress made towards improving the condition of destitute and marginalized women.

 

            In order to have first hand information about the status of marginalized and destitute women in Vrindavan, Members and senior officials of the Commission, have been visiting Vrindavan from time to time and reiterating Commissionís directions regarding grant of pension, accommodation, LPG connections, ration cards, health care & sanitation, cremation fund, vocational training, social security cards and recreational facilities to the concerned officials so that expeditious action is taken on the matter.

 

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Combating Sexual Harassment of Women at the Work Place

The Commission has taken a keen interest with regard to the implementation of the guidelines and norms prescribed by the Supreme Court on preventing and combating sexual harassment at the workplace (1997 VII AD S.C. 53), popularly known as the Vishaka guidelines. Due to its persistent perseverance and supervision, all the States and Union Territories have forwarded their compliance reports confirming thereby the constitution of complaints mechanism and the required amendments in the Conduct Rules for their employees.

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Harassment of Women Passengers in Trains.

The Commission has been deeply concerned about harassment of women passengers in trains. In order to find a solution, it held several meetings with the officials of the Ministry of Railways, Railway Protection Force, Government Railway Police and representatives of NGOs. In pursuance of the decisions taken in those meetings, the Ministry of Railways have made available FIR forms in Hindi, English and a few regional languages in trains. It has also incorporated a module on gender sensitisation in the training programmes for the Probationers of the Traffic and Security Department of the Railways. The Commission also recommended to the Ministry of Railways the following – (i) availability of FIR forms in all other regional languages, (ii) preparation and display of messages in the railway coaches, (iii) preparation and display of graphics and other publicity materials at the railway platforms, (iv) printing of the message on the back of the ticket saying that sexual harassment of women in trains is a crime, and (v) preparation of power point presentation that could be made in software for the television showing briefly the issue and its implications.

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Abolition of Manual Scavenging

The Commission has been vigorously pursuing the need to end the degrading practice of manual scavenging in the country. It has taken up this matter at the highest echelons of the Central and State Governments through a series of interventions.

The Commission held a number of meetings with the State Governments. On the eve of Independence Day, 2002, the Chairperson, NHRC wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of India drawing his attention towards the problem. As a result, the Prime Minister in his Independence Day speech stressed the need to end the practice of Manual Scavenging . As a follow up of the Prime Minister's announcement, the Planning Commission has prepared a 'National Action Plan' for the Total Eradication of Manual Scavenging by 2007. Emphasis in this Action Plan is on -

i) Proper identification of those engaged in manual scavenging
ii) Enforcement of the prohibition law
iii) Involvement of NGOs.
iv) Better coordination at Central and State levels

According to information available with the Commission the following States have adopted the Central Act:-

Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat , Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh,
Maharashtra, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal. The State of Punjab has adopted their own similar Act.

States who claim themselves to be "Manual Scavenging Free" are :

Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim; and States who have not yet adopted the Central Act are :

Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Manipur, Rajasthan, West Bengal.

The Union Territories of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu,Lakshadweep and Pondicherry have not furnished the information.

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Dalits issues including atrocities perpetrated on them

Deeply concerned by the discrimination and other human rights violations faced by the Scheduled Castes, the NHRC has taken several initiatives to ameliorate their situation and protect their rights. They include the redressing of individual complaints; constitution of a Dalit Cell in 2003 headed by a Member of the Commission with the aim to monitor implementation of programmes; research studies on the socio-economic conditions of the Musahars, and the political and cultural status of dalit women in Haryana; and the preparation
of a handbook on discrimination in order to sensitize teachers. The Commission requested Shri KB Saxena, IAS (Retd.), to conduct a study on the atrocities against the Scheduled Castes, which has been completed. The Commission proposes to mount an appropriate campaign in this regard.

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Problems faced by Denotified and Nomadic Tribes

The communities designated as Denotified Tribes (DNT) and Nomadic Tribes (NT) of India were
identified as "Criminal Tribes" (which included both castes as well as tribes) in pre-independence India. Though the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 was annulled soon after independence, the police, as well as members of the public, frequently and most regrettably continue to treat persons belonging to these communities as "born criminals" and "habitual criminals". They, therefore, remain amongst the most discriminated and disadvantaged groups in the country.

Acting on a petition filed by eminent activist and author, Smt. Mahasvetadevi, President, Denotified & Nomadic Tribals Rights Action Group in May, 1998, the Commission convened a meeting of the Chief Secretaries and senior officers of the concerned States on 15 February, 2000 to deal the matter.

The recommendations included that a retired senior police officer of high reputation may be appointed in every state to watch the cases of atrocities against DNTs. The National Police Academy and other institutions imparting training to police officers be advised to reorient their syllabi and Habitual Offenders Act be repealed. The States were asked to report the action taken on the recommendations made. These included proper enumeration providing education, employment and other infrastructural facilities to them, and work out
action plans for DNTs.

The matter has been taken up with the State Governments, and is being pursued by the Commission.

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Rights of the Disabled

The NHRC is deeply concerned about the fact that people with disabilities face various forms of discrimination, social exclusion and marginalization. The Commission has therefore taken several initiatives to protect the rights of the disabled. Notably, the NHRC has been redressing individual complaints from NGOs and others; the Commission reviewed relevant legislations and made recommendations for improvements thereon; it has successfully championed the need to enumerate the disabled in Census 2001. It has made recommendations
to both Union Ministers and Chief Ministers of all States and Union territories requesting them to evolve a State Disability Policy and Plan of Action, to provide social security, employment opportunities, rehabilitation, and barrier-free infrastructure to benefit the disabled. In addition, the Commission has been taking steps to spread awareness of the rights of the disabled through publications, besides undertaking research studies. The Commission has been advocating the need for a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the
Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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Right to Health

For the Commission it has been important to link the issue of health to that of human rights. When linked together, more can be done to advance human well-being than when health, and human rights, are considered in isolation. The Commission constituted a Core Advisory Group on Health, comprising of eminent medical experts with a request to prepare a plan of action for systemic improvements in the health delivery systems of the country. The Commission organized three major national consultations on maternal anemia, human rights and HIV/AIDS, and access to healthcare. Based on these consultations, detailed recommendations have been
sent to the concerned authorities. Furthermore, the Commission has also been working on issues like sub-standard drugs and medical devices, illegal trade in human organs, emergency medical care, and fluorosis. In partnership with Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, between July to December 2004, the Commission is organizing five regional and one national public hearing on access to healthcare.

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HIV/AIDS

Deeply concerned about the need to protect the human rights of those affected/infected by HIV/AIDS, the Commission has been redressing individual cases relating to discrimination faced by them. It has organized a national consultation on this issue and made recommendations to concerned authorities on issues like consent, testing, respect for confidentiality, protectionof vulnerable groups, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, etc. It has also launched a multi-media campaign to disseminate information on human rights and HIV/AIDS to various target groups. A Member of the Commission has been designated to serve as the Focal Point on HIV/AIDS related maters.

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Relief work for the Victims of 1999 Orissa Cyclone

The Commission has been observing the system of providing relief by various Governmental and non-Governmental Organisations to the affected people of Orissa to ensure that relief reaches the deprived ones on a uniform basis. In the beginning, the Special Rapporteurs of NHRC were directed to keep a watch on the system of dispensation of the relief measures to the affected people and send reports to the Commission on daily basis. The Commission considered the reports submitted by the Secretary General and the Special
Rapporteurs on 08.12.1999 and issued several directions/recommendations for implementation by the State Government. The directions/recommendations were also brought to the notice of concerned authorities of the State Government as well as in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Chairperson, NHRC carried out a review of the Cyclone Relief and Reconstruction work in a meeting taken at Bhubaneswar on 29.1.2002. The Chief Secretary, Orissa was asked to send quarterly reports of the progress. Quarterly reports are being monitored by the Commission on a regular basis.

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Monitoring of relief measures undertaken after Gujarat Earthquake 2001

The Commission took suo-motu cognizance of the calamity that arose from the devastating earthquake, which hit large areas in the State of Gujarat on 26th January, 2001. The Commissionobtained a report from one of its Special Rapporteurs on the relief and rehabilitation measures being under taken so as to enable the Commission to take steps for issuing appropriate directions/guidelines to the concerned authorities. The Secretary General, NHRC also visited the affected areas and submitted a report. The reports submitted by the
Secretary General and the Special Rapporteur were considered by the Commission on 29.5.2001 and
it gave certain directions and made recommendations for immediate attention and action by the concerned authorities in Gujarat and the Central Government.

In order to monitor closely the follow-up action taken by the State Governments to impact its directions, the Commission set up a Group consisting of Shri PGJ Nampoothiri, Special Rapporteur, NHRC; Shri Gagan Sethi, Managing Trustee of Jan Vikas Trust; Smt. Annie Prasad, President of Kutch Mahila Sangathan and Prof. Anil Gupta, IIM, Ahmedabad. The Commission considers the reports sent by the Committee in its meetings held from time to time.

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District Complaints Authority

The Commission had mooted the idea of setting up of a district level setup to promote Police-Community relations and suggestions were invited from a number of Senior Police Officers. Shri Rajbir Deswal, then Superintendent of Police, Fatehbad informed the Commission that they had established an organization called "Fateh Dwaj", a registered organization to promote police-public relations with a membership of about 80 persons drawn from different walks of life. The Commission discussed the issue and the Kerala pattern of District Human Rights Authority, and recommended two measures to promote public confidence and means of
redressal of the members of the public against increasing police incivility and high-handedness.

The composition of the "District Police Complaints Authority" was as under :-

1. The Principal Judge of the District concerned - Chairman
2. The Collector of the District - Member
3. The Senior Superintendent of Police - Member
In-charge of the district

The District Superintendent of Police shall be the ex-officio Member Secretary of the Committee.

The functions of the Authority are to examine grievances of the public in the matter of rude and uncivil behaviour towards the public, abuse of authority, misuse of power, wrongful arrests and detentions, custodial violence and to make appropriate recommendations to Government or the State or National Human Rights Commission. This system is in existence and is working in the State of Kerala.

As the approval of the High Courts of the concerned State Governments was required for the implementation of the proposal, Chief Justices of all High Courts and Chief Ministers/Administrators of States/UTs were addressed by the Commission to constitute a District Complaints Authority in each District.

Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Orissa and UT of Lakshadweep reported to have constituted the District Complaints Authority.

The matter is being pursued with the State Judiciaries and State Governments/Union Territory Administrations.

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Population Policy – Development and Human Rights

In order to initiate a dialogue from the perspective of both development and human rights with regard to the implementation of effective population policies at the Centre and State levels as well as deliberate on the mechanisms to achieve this objective, the Commission in collaboration with the Department of Family Welfare, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the United Nations Population Fund organised a two-day
Colloquium on ‘Population Policy – Development and Human Rights’. The Recommendations and Declaration that emerged from this Colloquium was adopted by the Commission and the same were sent to all the State Governments/Union Territories for compliance.

The Commission is following-up the matter with the State Governments/Union Territories.

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