Common Cause and Lokniti Programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), launched India’s first Status of Policing in India Report (SPIR 2018) at the India Habitat Centre on May 9.

Read More+


H.D. Shourie

One comes across all sorts of news. This happens everywhere, in every country, in every part of a country. News are of various types, of different qualities, relating to different happenings.

There are news that are pleasant; they are welcome; they are heartening. Contrary-wise, there are news that are unpleasant, news that hurt, news that are heart-rending and heart-breaking, and sadly there are news that can only be described as news that bleed, that cause intense agony and pain. While in our country there are occasions and news that savour of welcome happenings and enjoyment, and news of festivities, of joy, of achievements, welcome and entertaining, for individuals, families and gatherings. There are unfortunately every day occasions when one comes across news that cause anguish and intense pain. In the present recount we will focus only on the sad news and painful news, for the specific objective of waking up people about their happening, about how they can be minimised, by joint efforts of the people, administrative machinery and effective governance.

There are news of havoc caused by floods, droughts, fires, riots, thefts, corruption, scams, murders, and even of terrorist activities. There is no abnormality about these, such unfortunate occurrences happen often and in every country. We in this country specialise news that are extremely agonising.

Take one sad example. In the South, in the village Kamdavkanon of Tamil Nadu, recently 92 children got burnt and killed because thatched roof of the school building caught fire and all escape routes were barred. Imagine the intense agony and shrieking and screaming of children who were burning and there was no succour or rescue. There was a report of another school, at Sellur in Madurai, which caught fire, but luckily all the 200 children in it had Providential escape. In a municipal school at Pune, which has 120 students, who were not at that time in the class room, a gas cylinder burst, causing damage to the floor and collapse of rickety stairs leading to the school room.


School children, elderlies, women and others, sometimes get crushed and killed under buses on the roads. In Delhi this has happened quite often. Buses crushing against each other have caused many casualties. It is very serious consequence that road accidents in India, according to governmental statistics, cause as many as 80,000 deaths annually; 4,00,000 accidents take place annually on the roads of cities, towns and National Highways; 3,30,000 persons receive serious injuries in these accidents. It is easy to talk and hear about statistics of accidents, of children getting crushed under the wheels of buses, but imagine the extreme intense pain that is caused while being crushed, and the agony that is caused to relatives. There was recently news of a bus skid in a gorge killing 17 of its passengers. Such events recur often.
Road accidents lead us to railway accidents. Large number of very serious railway accidents have taken place during last many years, by collisions of trains, accidents caused by failure of signals, and crashing through weakened bridges, compartments hanging from the bridges down to the river, with bodies of passengers protruding out of windows.
Let us now come to certain other news that are heart-rending, the news that have no better expression than that these are news that bleed. We will focus only on recent news.
There was recent news of a middle-aged resident of Delhi having been arrested and sent to jail for having sexually assaulted his two daughters – one of twelve years and the other, a child of nine years. He is reported to be alcoholic and accustomed to sexual abuse of his daughters whenever he was in inebriated state. The man hails from Patna; he was Captain in Merchant Navy. He is stated to have started assaulting his daughters after his wife died.
Rape is obviously the beginning of a nightmare for the victim if she understands what has happened to her. From the legal battles and struggle to come to terms with what happened, the victim also has to face social stigma and lack of acceptance. Post rape trauma leaves the victim scarred for life. She is constantly plagued by thoughts of her future, her marriage, her parents and what the neighbours were thinking about her. In most cases the culprit is a neighbourer; in a number of cases the culprit is a relative, a friend or tenant. Over 60 percent of the accused are of 18 to 25 years. Over 55 percent of these are illiterate and school drop-outs. Most unfortunately, conviction rate has been abysmally low, only about 20 percent.
An instance of such shameful episode was that of 9 years old Shoma of Bagalpur. She was brutally raped by her 50 years-old neighbour when she was only seven years old. This child has not yet got over the physical pain and she is still very confused as to why her “uncle” raped her. The incident left her hospitalised for almost two whole months. The psychological effect is that she hates human touch and rushes for a bath whenever someone touches her, even by accident.
Another shameful case is of Kavita, of 17 years, a beggar in Jaipur. She was gangraped by five boys, including her cousin, at the age of 12. The brutal incident left her unconscious for 12 hours. She still suffers from violent emotional outbursts. The trauma has adversely affected her comprehension capacity.
There is a case of Sunaina of 16 years, in a Madhya Pradesh town, who has completely shut herself from rest of the world. She was raped by her stepfather and stepbrother four years ago just a month after her mother’s death; she cannot get over the emotional loss, trauma and grief caused by the incident.
Two other cases of rape are worth mentioning. One is of a young foreign tourist, of about 24-years, from New Zealand, who was raped by the taxi driver who had picked her up at the airport for taking her to the hotel she had named. She was pushed into bushes, raped, and left wailing; the taxi

driver fled, taking her baggage with him. Another case was of an Australian lady of 59 years, a regular visitor to India. She was looted, raped and murdered by the Taxi driver who picked her up from the Delhi Airport; she was going to Brahamkumari Ashram, Karol Bagh, planning to spend some months in the Ashram, to imbibe the essence of heritage of India’s religious and cultural history. Case of this type makes one really cry.
While this piece is being written, today’s newspaper carries the horrendous story of another rape. This is of a 5-years-old girl, who was raped by her relative, visiting his sister’s house in Ghaziabad near Delhi. Girl’s cries were heard by some neighbourer who immediately acted and handed over the youngman to police.
Eight people have been arrested in Madhya Pradesh in a case of gangrape of three women from Dalit low caste community. They are said to have been enraged on account of a Dalit boy’s elopement with the girl from an upper caste Yadav family. The police complaint alleged that a band of about 30 Yadav men raped the boy’s mother and his two aunts, having first paraded them in the streets.
Five passengers in the last Borivali bound train one night witnessed a yough sexually assault a minor mentally-deranged girl in the second-class compartment. He was eventually handed over to police by other passengers.
The number of rape cases in Delhi has been showing a rising trend in the last three years. As against 490 cases in 2003, 269 were reported till June this year. In 2002, there were 403 cases and 404 in the earlier year 2001. A woman is raped in Delhi every 24 hours, and in overwhelming majority of cases registered by the police in the last six months the rapists were known to victims. 2359 rape cases were registered by the police between 1999 and June this year. Majority of victims (89) and the accused (113) arrested this year were illiterate. The Governmental authorities claim that special patrolling has been ordered in vulnerable areas and traffic police asked to step up drive against the vehicles using tainted glass. All pan-shops and shops selling liquor are required to be closed by 11.00 P.M.
Prostitution has also been on the increase in the city. 125 women were arrested on prostitution charges in the capital during the recent three months. A Hotel-owner was arrested in April, 2004, and an amount of Rs. 4 lakh was recovered from his establishment in connection with prostitution being carried out in the hotel. Cases of prostitution rackets are increasingly being reported from various cities.
Another area of heart-rending and distressing news is that of large number of farmers’ suicides that take place, practically everywhere, in the villages of this country, arising from conditions of droughts and floods which severely damage their crops and expectations. Farmers facing the calamities of floods and droughts, often have to resort to take loans for meeting their urgent requirements, the failure of crops disable them from repaying the loans, which ultimately drives them to commit suicide.
Estimates have been that in Andhra Pradesh nearly 900 farmers committed suicide last year and that total has been more than 3,000 in the last five years. These figures are in fact stated to be under-estimated. Reports are that in the year 2000 Andhra Pradesh recorded 9,905 suicides. Since half the population in rural areas consists of farmers, one can imagine the condition of those who have to face situations caused by floods and droughts.
The money required for procurement of pesticides and fertilizers is the major cause of farmers’ deaths. The Government decision to give free electric power to farmers inevitably leads to excessive pumping, falling water table which too drive the farmers ultimately to suicide. It is obviously necessary that groundwater use should be regulated and electricity should be charged at full cost to discourage over-pumping. It would be desirable that the Government should in fact levy tax instead of subsidising inputs, power, water, pesticides and the use of groundwater. Higher input costs for farmers are offset by higher agricultural prices.

Nearly 15 percent of farmers are reported to have recently committed suicide in the Vidharba region of Maharashtra after they lost their crops in the dry spell. Very little help coming from banks in terms of credit, most farmers are at the mercy of money-lenders, and of the dealers of seeds and pesticides. Their failure to return the loan leads them to commit suicide.
Procuring credit from rural banks, both nationalised and cooperative sector, is not easy. The loans are five times less than the requirements and their interest rates are steep, 11 percent to 14 percent. A borrower has to resort to crop insurance on payment of high premium. Ram Chandran Chauhan of Vidharba, allegedly hanged himself to death. For three acres of land Chauhan had taken a bank loan of Rs. 20,000/- and Rs. 7,000/- from Cooperative Society; his Soya crop was severely damaged by inadequate rainfall. Another farmer, Gangadhar Bhure, of 27 years, from Narkhed Taluka, district Nagpur, and Ram Chandram Chauhan, eventually had to resort to commit suicide by consuming insecticide. Another farmer, Vanihalli of village Hommali in Devangere, had a number of debts to clear and had no alternative to his release through suicide. Bellary in Karnataka has had the misfortune of excessive rain. Farmers have to bear the brunt. When monsoon fails they suffer; the crops are lost. And when heavy rains arrive, the farmers cannot take loans. One of them was Dasvaraj, of 40 years, a farmer of Kurngidu who compelled himself to consume poison because he had lost the entire Chilli crop cultivated on six acres of land, due to his fields getting flooded by rains, which destroyed the crop.
Suicides take place not only in the South but also in other parts of the country. There is news of 38 suicides having taken place recently in Ghaziabad, a town near Delhi. 14 out of them were under-graduates or school-dropouts; they committed suicide either by hanging or poisoning themselves. Death of women, out of the total of 38, was influenced more by conflict in the family; they use more gruesome means, like burning, drowning or lying under a train. Men were driven to death by poverty, by complete loss of hope, for meeting their essential needs.
These are the types of news that cause deep hurt, other than the news of thefts, burglary, murders and riots etc. It is not easy to curb happenings of this nature, but law and order authorities and administrative apparatus need to devise special measures to effectively minimise these types of happenings. There is also great need of wide spread of knowledge and awareness, besides anticipatary steps which will help to avoid events of such nature which are heart-rending and can best be described as news that bleed.
  • Everybody is eligible to take membership of COMMON CAUSE. No form is required. Merely send your name and complete address, preferably written in CAPITAL LETTERS. Send it to our new address: COMMON CAUSE, Common Cause House, 5, Institutional Area, Nelson Mandela Road, Vasant Kunj, NEW DELHI 110070. We are ever so grateful to Mr. Vikram Lal, of Eicher Tractors for having enabled construction of COMMON CAUSE HOUSE.
  • Membership fee for individuals is Rs.100 for one year; Rs.500 for life membership for individuals; Rs. 200 for annual membership of organisations and associations. Send by crossed cheque in favour of COMMON CAUSE.
  • We receive numerous letters. Replies are invariably sent. On the average our receipt is about 20/30 letters every day. Kindly, therefore, write only when you must; letters received in local language present us difficulties in deciphering.
  • Donations to COMMON CAUSE are eligible for exemption available under Section 80-G of the Income Tax Act. Your donations, and those of your friends, will be most welcome indeed.



October-December 04