CUSTODIAL: Jesuit priest Father Stanislaus Lourduswamy died in police custody even though he passed away at the Holy Spirit Hospital in Mumbai on July 5, 2021. His application for interim medical bail was to come up before the Bombay High Court in the afternoon but unfortunately he died at 1.30pm on Monday, July 5, 2021.
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the hypocrisy of the Bombay High Court condoling the death of 84-year-old Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy is hypocritical. For a Saturday following the week when China declared on the Centenary celebrations of the Chinese Communist Party of China (CCP) that the number of people below the poverty line in China has come down to 13% over a century. For a Saturday following the week when Goa was adding to the number of its illiterate children because of covid-19. For a Saturday following the week when the police in various states in the country have been filing FIRs and even arresting young people under the anti-terrorist act for posting on Facebook. For a Saturday following the week when I discovered in an emergency you cannot get a government ambulance on 108.
AND a few stray thoughts on Bombay High Court reportedly condoling the death of Fr Stan Swamy, who died at the Holy Spirit Hospital in Mumbai. Fr Stan Swamy was due to appear for interim bail on medical grounds before the Bombay High Court on the afternoon on which he died. Though Fr Stan Swamy, died in a hospital technically, it is a custodial death. He was still in the custody of the Mumbai police at Taloja Jail. He had only been shifted to the Holy Spirit hospital after he fell very ill and he refused to go to the government-run JJ Hospital in Mumbai.
The Bombay HC has reportedly praised the Holy Spirit hospital which had been taking care of him. This is a case of the Judiciary shedding crocodile tears. It was repeatedly brought to the attention of the High Court and Supreme Court that his condition was very critical. That he had been suffering from Parkinsons disease which affects the muscles of the body. He was reduced to even begging for the comfort of a sipper glass to drink water because without this he found it difficult to sip water and he couldn’t eat properly.
This is a clear case of torture of Fr Stan Swamy in police custody. Fr Stan Swamy is a Jesuit priest who has been working for the tribal population of Bihar and other parts of the country for the last 60 years. Fr Swamy was implicated in the Elgar Parishad case relates to the clashes over the celebration of the Mahar victory over the Marathas at the Koregao battle at Bhima in January1, 1818.
There is a monumentat Koregao where the Mahars celebrates the anniversary of their victory against the Marathas. It is clear that the arrest and torture of Fr Stan Swamy is a case of the Marathas taking revenge against him and the others who allegedly participated in the celebrations.
Further Fr Stan Swamy was the senior most of the various activists who took part in public meeting. Ironically, after the tragic death of Fr Stan Swamy, a US-based consultant reported that the computer of one of the co-accused in the case, Rona Wilson, had her laptop hacked with net wire malware. Similarly the computer of Fr Stan Swamy was allegedly tempered with and uploaded with false information about his plans in anti-terrorist acts. A June 21, 2021 report of Arsenal Consulting, said “a computer belonging to Gadling, a human rights lawyers from Nagpur, was attacked with Malware for nearly two years before his arrest on June 6, 2018. It is alleged that like Gadling, incriminating information regarding Fr Stan Swamy’s Maoist links were planted in Fr Stan’s computer.
This was the basis on which Fr Stan Swamy and the ten co-accused in the Elgar Parishad case were arrested. There is been much outrage in the country not only within the Christian community but among all political parties about the alleged custodial murder of Fr Stan Swamy. The letter addressed to President Ramnath Kovind, who also comes from a backward class, was signed by Sonia Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, HD Deve Gowda, Mamata Banerjee, MK Stalin and senior leaders of the Communist party. The political leaders have demanded action against those responsible for the custodial death of Stan Swamy. The United Nations Human Rights office has also expressed its concern over the death of Fr Stan Swamy. The Ministry of External affairs has ironically claimed that India does not detain anyone for exercising their fundamental right to freedom!
Over 20,000 people watched the mass given for Father Stan live streaming on St Peters YouTube channel in keeping with Covid-19 protocol. Fr Stan’s mortal remains were cremated at Shivaji Park in Mumbai. In a YouTube address before he was arrested he spoke about his life and mission fighting for the rights of tribal communities the country over. His speech has been taken note of widely on social media.
AND a few stray thoughts on China declaring on the Centenary Celebrations of the Chinese Communist Party that its population below the poverty line is down by 13%. This is in sharp contrast to India where the number of people below the poverty line is a whopping 68.8%. The majority of China’s people have a home of their own, a job and enjoy minimum wages. But more importantly everyone is assured of rations and there is no starvation.
China in fact has developed much faster than India and everyone knows it is now competing with the United States. It is China which manufacture the Apple phone marketed Rs1,30,000. Though the wages paid to the Chinese workers who make them are very low wages. It is the lower wages in China that attract the world’s multinationals to manufacture highly sophisticated products in China.
Which is not to say that China does not have its own IITians. Among the most famous is Jack Ma, considered among the richest people in the world. He is the Chinese version of Bill Gates. China because of its low wages manufactures the entire range of products from pharmaceuticals to Ganesh idols. Not to mention fire crackers which originated in China. It is not as though there is no corruption in China. The leader of the Chinese revolution Mao Zedong, launched a cultural revolution where he asked the youth of China to rebel against corrupt party and government officials. Some of the senior most party leaders and officials were sent to labour camps.
The transformation of Chine began when Deng Xiaoping took over as chairperson. Like Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh did in India, Deng began the process of liberalising the Chinese economy. Private enterprise which was completely banned was encouraged. Special economic zones like Shanghai were created. The restrictions on movement of labour from villages to urban areas were removed. All this saw the growth rate in China overtake that of India and even countries like the US and the UK.
The progress that China has made can be assessed from the fact that they are the only other country who have set up their own play station besides the United States. They recently launched their first space craft which would go live on their own play station.
Admittedly, there are no democratic freedoms in China. But people below the poverty line prefer their meals on time and jobs instead of freedom of speech. In any case in practice politicians only use labour as vote banks. In China labour is provided with good minimum tools and facilities. Contrast this with our own Goa where the linesmen of the Electricity and PWD departments do not even have enough ladders, let alone other safety equipment of the very best kind.
We are not suggesting that democratic rights should be abolished in India but we would perhaps do better if we adopt the Chinese model of work culture.
In fact under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah there is very little difference between India and China. Freedom of speech has been killed by the BJP. But unlike China the alternative of jobs for the poor and the freedom to run businesses without paying bribes to politicians does not exist. The hypocritical Indian style of democracy has only benefited the political class and its bureaucratic officials who share in the bribes.
AND a few stray thoughts on Goa adding to its illiteracy rate. As it is Goa’s population growth rate is the lowest in the country. Just to maintain the population it is necessary that every Goan couple should have at least two children. The ground reality in Goa is that couples marry late and the birth rate is below the replacement rate. Couples make the sacrifice because they want to give their children the best education. To the extent that in covid-19 times when formal schooling is not possible due to the physical distancing that has to be maintained, E-learning has poorly substituted former learning.
Even if parents cannot afford schools fees and books for their children, they make sacrifices buying their children smart phones but even then the E-learning process is poorly implemented. The starting hurdle is that E-education teachers have no experience in E-teaching. And even presuming that the teachers have over the last one year of covid-19 picked up the basic technological skills, the children have no access to lessons designed for them.
As senior journalist Gauri Malkarnekar has revealed, less than 9% of the 800 plus government schools have an internet connection. Without an internet connection they have no access to the lessons taught by their teachers. To add to the miseries of children in government schools there is a severe shortage of teachers. It is not unusual for four classes to be handled by one teacher. The bitter ground reality is that we do not have the infrastructure for digital class rooms.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant who is also the finance minister may have sanctioned Rs350 crore for extending broad band connections to all villages. But like the Rs300 crore sanctioned by the Centre to celebrate Goa’s 60th Liberation anniversary, the money will be wasted in building samadi for the late Manohar Parrikar at Miramar beach and go into the pockets of the cabinet ministers.
Even vaccination cannot solve the problem as no vaccines have been developed for children in the age group of 3 to 10 years which is the starting point of education, according to the new education policy. It is being suggested that all teachers should be vaccinated. How will this help the children if they are not physically attending classes? The virus is not transmitted across smartphones. Which is why I believe that before Covid-19 is eliminated our children will grow up in ignorance. On the contrary however, they may all become Mark Zuckerbergs and Steve Jobs, who dropped out of school and college. So may be with all the kids getting smartphones they may become IT kings like Bill Gates.
AND a last stray thought on the Pramod Sawant government sacking all the contract workers who were employed to take care of covid-19 patients. At the peak of the covid-19 pandemic in Goa where there were thousands of cases, a lot of casual labour was employed and given training to look after patients at covid-19 centres. The government set up dozens of covid-19 centres including mega covid-19 centres at the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium and the Fatorda Stadium. Last week all casual labour involved with the care of Covid-19 patients were given floral bouquets costing Rs30 each. And they were promptly sacked.
Never mind that in the same breath Pramod Sawant is claiming that he is preparing for the third wave. The positivity rate which had gone down has started rising again. It has been admitted that a large number of migrant labour and even niz goenkars have not taken the vaccination. When the third wave comes nobody will be willing to work with the Health department, which as one of their contract workers has described on Facebook, they are used and thrown away by the government. But I understand from CCP commissioner Agnelo Fernandes that the plan for also sacking the existing contract labour with Babush chamcha has been cancelled. They won’t be sacked.