Annual Report 2015-2016
Every year, since its inception, the Foundation invites an eminent person to deliver a lecture on the subject of women, children and human rights. Last year, Nobel laureate Shri Kailash Satyarthi delivered the twenty-first Justice Sunanda Bhandare Memorial Lecture on the “Dream of a Child-friendly India” on October 27, 2015 at India International Centre, New Delhi. Shri Satyarthi paid glowing tributes to late Justice Sunanda Bhandare, who will remain a source of inspiration for generations to come.
Shri Satyarthi began his lecture by narrating the wonderful experience of a 13 year old girl named Payal from Hinsla in West Rajasthan. She was a part of a Bal Mitra Gaon, a child friendly programme which was run in the village. At the age of 11, when her marriage was fixed, she took a bold and courageous stand against all norms of the village and refused to marry. She also opposed her sister’s marriage. There was tremendous pressure on her by the members of the family; but she resisted all pressure. That created a lot of awareness in the society. One after another girl child refused to marry. As a result, child marriage stopped.
One day Satyarthi got a call from Payal, who jokingly told him, “Bhai Saheb Ji, you are going to receive an award and I am going to give you an award”. He had been nominated to receive the Harvard Humanitarian Award of the year. And Payal was going to Sweden as a member of the Jury of the International Children’s Peace Prize.
The first dream of a child friendly society Satyarthi had was when he was a boy of five. The sight of a cobbler boy sitting just outside his school waiting for some job to be given to him appalled him. Everyone tried to convince him that the practice was not uncommon. Even the boy’s father accepted this fate. Satyarthi refused to accept that some children were born to serve others at the cost of their childhood, their health and education.
The issues of children were close to his heart. Finding a solution to their problems was his passion. After completing a course in electrical engineering he took up teaching in a university. In 1980-1981, he took a bold decision to give up the job to pursue his passion. It was a hard decision, as he had to look after his family. They moved to Delhi and decided to continue the struggle.
Those days, phrases like child labour, child trafficking and child slavery were not in wide circulation. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted only in 1989 and rolled out into practice in 1990. Satyarthi started seeing the world with a different eye. That is why in the 125 years of history of Nobel Peace prize, for first time, this award has been given to this cause.
Satyarthi also narrated his experience of saving a 14 year old girl who was about to be sold to a brothel in 1981. The broker managed to escape when he and his friends confronted him. Though there was no domestic law against child labour those days, they filed a habeas corpus petition. As a result, 46 children, women and men were rescued. And that was the first judicial intervention in contemporary times when children were liberated from servitude.
Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan organised a long march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir with a demand to make education a fundamental right. As many as 168 Members of Parliament joined the march. They built a strong movement and ultimately succeeded in making education a fundamental right in India.
At the international level, they demanded a law to combat the most heinous forms of child labour, child trafficking, use of children in the armies, and so on. They moved across 103 countries, before reaching the General Assembly of ILO at Geneva. Children reached the Palais des Nations, with one single demand, “We want books, we want toys; we do not want exploitation; we want education.” Immediately, a Resolution was passed in principle. Within one year, ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour was introduced and unanimously adopted. The number of child labourers globally came down from 268 million in 2000 to 168 million in 2015. The number of out of school children sharply dropped. Fifteen years is not a long time to make such tremendous achievements.
A child friendly India needs to fight 3 enemies - apathy, fear and intolerance. People must raise their voice against heinous crimes against children. The prevailing fear in the minds of children, especially girls, must be removed. And we must not be intolerant of others. “I know and everybody knows that India is a land of 100 problems, but India is also the mother of one billion solutions,” he said.
We try to make our children happy in every possible way. But rarely are we friendly with them. Merely spending money on their health or education or doing charity to poor children is different from friendship. The giver-taker relationship does not admit mutual respect. We have to change our mindset. If children are born with certain rights, which are enshrined in our Constitution, in laws, in the international treaties and conventions, we have to adhere to them.
India is a land of great saints, great traditions and great heritage. We must ask our spiritual leaders what they have done for deprived children. We cannot claim to be a developed nation if we fail to bring smile to the face of the last child, a girl belonging to a minority or Dalit community living in the remotest village, he said.
Satyarthi said that he had great respect for the judiciary. However, justice is often delayed. He referred to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012, which was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children. However, only 1% of the cases registered resulted in conviction, he lamented.
Justice T.S. Thakur, Chief Justice of India, was the Chief Guest on the occasion. He recalled meeting Justice Sunanda Bhandare in Jammu in early 1970s, when she came there to argue a case. He found in her a very knowledgeable, clear headed, extremely polished and articulate lady.
On the subject of a child-friendly India, Justice Thakur said that it was a pity that our system was so indifferent and pathetic towards child abuse and child labour. He also recalled that he once organized a seminar with the help of Bachpan Bachao Andolan where the organisers invited employers, rescued children and enlightened college students. On the same platform, all the three parties were put together and an effort was made to study the issue from three different perspectives.
Unfortunately, there are very few shelter homes for rescued children, he said. Only if there is public awareness and if people revolt against what is going on in our society and force the government to take measures to rehabilitate rescued children, it will serve the purpose.
Justice Thakur narrated the plight of a woman from Assam, who with her seven year old son, came out to search for her two daughters who had left home. She came to Delhi, from there to Punjab and then to Jammu and finally she had to return home without finding her daughters.
Justice G. Rohini, Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, presided over the function, which was attended by judges, lawyers, professors, activists and students, among others.
Earlier, Ms Shreya Singhal delivered the welcome address. At the end, Ms Manali Singhal proposed a vote of thanks.
Empowerment of Women with Disabilities
On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation, in collaboration with the All India Confederation of the Blind and Enabling Unit of Daulat Ram College, Delhi organized a seminar on “Empowerment of Women with Disabilities: Legal Aspects” at Daulat Ram College on March 7-8, 2016. The seminar was inaugurated by Shri Murlidhar C. Bhandare, former MP and former Governor, Odisha, who is also the Managing Trustee of the Foundation. In his address, Shri Bhandare cited instances of people who overcame their physical handicap and achieved goals which even able-bodied people find difficult to do. He also told how the Foundation filed a PIL and pursued it to get the implementation of the Disability Act. Dr. Savita Ray, Principal of the College delivered the welcome address. The programme was coordinated by Smt. Manjula Rath, Lecturer in Political Science of the College and Shri H. N. Gandhi and Shri Takreem Ahmed of the Foundation. Issues concerning women, especially women with disabilities, such as property rights, uniform civil code, Right to Information Act, UN Convention on the rights of children with disabilities, domestic violence, adoption and surrogate mothers were discussed in the four working sessions spread over two days. Among others, Ms Malavika Rajkotia, Shri Dalip Singh, Ms Rekha, Ms Shreya Singhal, Dr. Arun K. Mohanty, Dr. Sukant Vats and Dr. Sunanda Bharti participated in the seminar.
Legal Awareness Programmes
1. Gender Sensitization of Delhi Police: A gender sensitization programme for police personnel was organized on November 5, 2015 at the Lotus Temple premises, Kalkaji. About 200 police personnel from 30 police stations of South East Delhi besides a number of social activists participated in the programme. Shri H.N. Gandhi, Administrative Officer of the Foundation and Smt. Seema Malhotra, Social Activist, acted as resource persons. Senior police officers, who also addressed the participants, informed them about police reforms and the initiatives taken by Delhi Police in this regard.
2. Empowerment and Safety of Women: A legal awareness programme on Empowerment and Safety of Women was conducted at Chandni Mahal, Darya Ganj on October 15, 2016, in association with Sur Nirman Educational and Cultural Society and Samarpan Foundation. There were about 100 participants, mostly those working for their self employment by way of computer training, training in beauty parlour and tailoring and embroidery. There was also a 24x7 helpline unit comprising a Counselor and staff, to help women in distress in cases of domestic violence. Shri H.N.Gandhi, Administrative Officer of the Foundation spoke about the invention of the safety locket by a California-based Indian lady, functioning of mahila police stations and the 11 one-stop centres in 11 districts of Delhi to help women in distress. Shri Dalip Singh, Advocate touched upon legal aspects of women’s issues. Mrs. Sajida Khan, Chairperson, Sur Nirman Educational and Cultural Society, spoke about the welfare programmes undertaken by her organization.
3. Empowerment through Education: A legal awareness programme on the Rights and Safeguards for Women Empowerment was organized on October 22, 2016 at 2.30 PM at Girls’ Senior Secondary School No. 1, Tagore Garden, New Delhi. The programme was held in association with National Association Targeting Upliftment of Rehabilitation through Education (NATURE). Shri H.N. Gandhi and Shri Takreem Ahmed represented the Foundation while NATURE was represented by Smt. Manjula Rath.
4. Voyage of Women’s Empowerment: A legal awareness programme on Women’s Empowerment was organized on November 12, 2016 at Community Hall, Ganapati Apartments, Dwarka. Shri M.C. Bhandare, Managing Trustee of the Foundation, chaired the programme. In his address, he recounted how he visited his friend’s house in a slum in Mumbai and swept the floors of his house. He also narrated how he fought a case to get electricity to people living in unauthorized colonies.
Prof. Sidheshwar Nath Tripathi of Gorakhpur University, Shri Padam Kant Saxena, former Addl. District Judge, Delhi, Dr. Abha Agarwal, Rule of Law Society of India, Dr. Seema Ahuja, Counselor, Dwarka Police Station, Mrs. Magdlean Marien, President, Palam Women’s Association, Ms. Anjul Sharma, Advocate, Shri P.P. Bansal, former President, Ganapati Apartments and ten volunteers working for slum dwellers participated in the programme which was coordinated by Dr. K.S. Bhatti, Shri H. N. Gandhi and Shri Takreem Ahmed.
The Centre for Health of Women and Children has taken several initiatives for the health check up of women, the elderly and differently-abled persons. The Centre organized a programme for distribution of aids and appliances for the rehabilitation of physically challenged and mentally retarded persons on December 4, 2015 at Safdurjung Hospital, New Delhi. Shri Murlidhar C. Bhandare, Managing Trustee of the Foundation, addressed the recipients of appliances, volunteers and officials who attended the meeting. Dr. A K Rai, Superintendent of the Hospital, was the Chief Guest. Aids and appliances such as wheel chairs, walkers, auxiliary crutches, elbow crutches, tripod walking sticks and rotators were distributed among differently-abled persons.
The Foundation’s Centre for Counseling and Legal Aid, assisted by a panel of professional counselors, lawyers and volunteers, rendered speedy and effective justice to women in distress. Cases of harassment were referred to the Foundation in workshops, consultations and by volunteers working in the field. The legal experts offered them advice free of cost. They helped them in filing cases and seeking legal remedy to their suffering.
The Foundation pursued the case for differently-abled persons who were not getting their entitlements granted by the Constitution. Hon’ble Supreme Court had delivered judgment for the implementation of the statutory provisions for Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. The Foundation further filed an application for modification of judgment only to the extent that the Central Government, State Governments and Union Territories be directed to file a quarterly/ half yearly status report to the Hon’ble Court.
This year the Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its Order dated 26.04.2016 was pleased to pass direction to all States and Union Territories to comply with the Judgment passed earlier and further directed them to file an affidavit giving assurance that steps were taken in pursuance of the Judgment. The UGC has assured that they have made the best of their efforts by asking all Universities to comply with the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 and to make the requisite reservations.