PRESS STATEMENT BY THE UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS TO SAFE DRINKING WATER & SANITATION, 10 NOVEMBER 2017, NEW DELHI
End of Mission Statement by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation Mr. Léo Heller
New Delhi, 10 November 2017
As the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, I address you today at the conclusion of my official visit to India, which I undertook at the invitation of the Government from 27 October to 10 November 2017.
India is a country with historical gaps regarding the access of its population to adequate water and sanitation services. It is reported that 40 per cent of India’s population practiced open defecation in 2015, one of the highest proportions among all countries. The situation of water and sanitation in the country has resulted in a disturbing impact on human health: diarrhoea-related deaths in India attributable to inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene corresponded to 40 per cent of the total number in all low and middle-income countries in 2012. And, to my surprise, this situation is not explained only by the level of development of the country: the Human Development Index of India is higher than that of dozens of other countries.
In recent years, the efforts of the country in addressing these problems, mainly access to sanitation services, have been recognized as an “unprecedented commitment”.
These circumstances motivated me to undertake this visit to the country in order to identify the main obstacles hindering the full realization of the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. Firstly, I would like to thank the Government of India for the invitation and organisation of the visit, and for the dialogues that took place. I am grateful to the central, state and local Government representatives that I met and I appreciate the spirit of openness with which I was able to engage with the authorities. During the visit, I also met with various civil society and community organisations, and residents. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to meet with me and who generously shared their personal experiences, testimonies and living conditions with me. Their contributions were vital to the success of this visit. I would also like to thank the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office in India for facilitating the visit. (See information about the visit at the end of the statement).
At the outset, I would like to clarify that this statement outlines my preliminary findings and recommendations based on the information gathered prior to and during the visit. My final and more complete report will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council at its 39th session in September 2018.
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At the end of this two-week visit in India, my impression of India’s water and sanitation sector and how the Government of India is addressing its human rights obligations regarding the rights to water and sanitation is largely mixed.
My first impression is greatly positive.
India’s case law on the human rights to water and sanitation are internationally recognized as progressive. While the Indian Constitution does not explicitly stipulate the human rights to drinking water and sanitation, article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the right to life, which has on several occasions been interpreted by the courts to include the right to drinking water. As early as the 1990’s, the Indian judiciary has formally recognized the right to water as derived from the right to life. Most recently, in 2014, the Mumbai High Court held that the slum dwellers who occupied illegal huts cannot be deprived of their fundamental right to water. In another case, in 2014, the Supreme Court affirmed transgender persons’ right to their self-identified gender and directed the Government to provide them separate public toilets.
At the policy level, the Government of India is in the process of implementing several national programmes that aim to improve access to drinking water and sanitation. Notably, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) was the most frequently discussed topic during my interactions with both the government and civil society. I warmly commend the Prime Minister for his personal motivation and push in building political will from the central government to the most basic unit of administrative body (gram panchayat) and to all persons in India to eliminate open defecation. The main goal of the programme is to end this practice by October 2019 through the massive installation of millions of toilets across the country and an impressive budget. This is a unique effort of a country in the contemporary world to face its challenges related to sanitation in an extremely short time span. Surely, this is a large step towards the progressive realization of the Indian population’s human right to sanitation.
However, through my dialogues and interaction with the several tiers of the Government, civil society and community members, my outlook on the way that water and sanitation services are being provided and scaled up throughout the country became more nuanced. My impression is that policy and programme initiatives in India’s water and sanitation sector, and the related implementation measures, lack a clear and holistic human rights-based approach. The national programmes do not incorporate the human rights to drinking water and sanitation as a whole but rather in a piecemeal manner.
My particular concerns for the gaps in the application of the human rights framework in the Indian water and sanitation sector are illustrated in the following pivotal issues. The aim here is to provide insights on how to introduce a more human rights oriented approach in this sector. The normative content of the human rights to water and sanitation include the following elements: availability, accessibility, acceptability, affordability, quality/safety, privacy and dignity; as well as fundamental human rights principles: right to access to information, participation and remedy, accountability, equality and non-discrimination, progressive realization. In this connection, I would like to reiteratie India’s commitment as a State party to several international human rights treaties and India’s support on the rights to water and sanitation at the international level.
1. “Open defecation free” mustn’t be human rights free
The new paradigm initiated by Clean India Mission has provided considerable impetus to build infrastructure, particularly toilets. On my last day in India, the website of the Clean India Mission showed a striking number of 53 million toilets built in the last 3 years and one month, only in the rural area. During the visit, I had the opportunity to visit some rural communities in Uttar Pradesh, certified as open defecation free, and I was able to see and hear about the significant improvements in their sanitary conditions.
According to the responsible ministries, the protocol to certify an “open defecation free” area (e.g. city, village, ward) is not the same for rural and urban areas. I learned that in some places “open defecation free” certified areas are often not de facto open defecation free. In a certified “open defecation free” village that I visited (Chinhat ward, Naubasta Kalan, Lucknow), some elderly people reported that they continue to practice open defecation for personal preference and comfort. In Mumbai, the local authority identified 118 zones that were used for open defecation and built collective toilets within 500 meters of those areas. Yet, some residents in those zones still choose to defecate in the open due to habitual, cultural and practical reasons. From the human rights perspective, making areas open defecation free is more than checking off the criteria; the status of open defecation free is not “black and white”, but is a gradual achievement in line with the progressive realization of the human right to sanitation.
While some individuals choose to defecate in the open as a matter of preference, I visited areas where open defecation remained the only feasible option. This was particularly true in slums and in rural villages and in resettlements sites, where community toilets were often far away or inexistent. In the non-notified slum Vinaykpuram (Lucknow), all dwellers defecate in the open. In my walk around the slum, I saw no functional community toilets close by and the only one dysfunctional toilet that was built two years ago. In Savda Chevras (Delhi), a resettlement site, I visited a community toilet that had no light or locks. Furthermore, in villages near the Thoubal Dam in Imphal, Manipur, local authorities had only partially constructed some household toilets and while the intended beneficiaries wait for them to be finished they have no choice but to defecate in the open.
Together with the Clean India Mission, other policy initiatives on ensuring access to water and sanitation in schools have been implemented but have evidently still not met their goals. For example, in 2015, the Department of Human Resources announced that schools should have separate toilets for boys and girls. The Government reports having built separate toilets “in every government school”: 226,000 toilets for boys and 191,000 toilets for girls were apparently constructed from August 2014 to August 2015 under the Swachh Vidyalaya Campaign. Yet, in 2016, only 61.9 per cent of schools have available and useable girls’ toilets (up from 32.9 per cent in 2010 and 55.7 per cent in 2014). Indeed, in Sarthara village (near Lucknow), I visited a school for primary and upper grades composed of 130 students where no functioning toilets are available; two small toilet facilities with 2 urinals and 1 toilet each are being built.
The Clean India Mission does possess an explicit component on Information, Education and Communication (IEC) and the central government—but not all State governments— is apparently spending the expected budget to such activities. Be it due to insufficient financial resources or inadequate methodology adopted for these activities, it is likely that this fundamental aspect of the program is not achieving its desired outcomes: the sustainable and safe usage of toilets.
The results of assessments on sustainability, safety and usage of toilets vary largely and depend on the methodology.
According to surveys conducted in 2016 and 2017 by the Quality Council of India, approximately 91 per cent of toilets that had been built were being used. An assessment conducted by WaterAid suggests a different scenario, highlighting that usage may be susceptible to decreasing very soon without continued efforts to make infrastructure sustainable. In the survey, “only 33 per cent of toilets were deemed sustainably safe (eliminating risks of contamination in the long term); 35 per cent were safe, but would need major upgrades to remain safe in the long term; and 31 per cent were unsafe, creating immediate health hazards”. Indeed, I observed several cases of abandoned or poorly maintained toilets. Toilets may also be installed with doors that do not have locks, which negatively affect users of privacy. Conversely, I observed and heard of several cases where functioning toilets exist in public places but are left locked.
Talking with government officials, community representatives and residents, it became clear to me that open defecation is often an ingrained personal and social practice, and that it can be difficult to persuade people to end this practice. In several States challenges were reported in achieving behaviour change in their communities, particularly for the elderly. At the same time, I met many individuals in villages who enthusiastically explained their satisfaction with the benefits that come with having an individual household toilet. Many, including government officials, expressed doubts that behaviour change can be done in a short time period and would be sustainable in the long term for all those recently “converted” to using toilets.
The Clean India Mission is heavily target- and performance-oriented, with a very short time frame given the scale of its desired outcomes. Implementation of the program involves strong competition at all levels (villages, districts and states).
However, likely as an unintended consequence of the desire to obtain rewards, some aggressive and abusive practices seem to have emerged. In the interest of achieving the targets and obtaining the corresponding rewards, I have received several testimonies that people are being coerced—sometimes through public authorities—to, on the one hand, quickly construct toilets and, on the other, stop practising open defecation. For instance, individuals could have their ration cards revoked, which directly impacts on their right to food. Households with overdue energy bills, hitherto tolerated by the authorities, could have their service cut off. In others cases, individuals defecating in the open are apparently being shamed, harassed or otherwise penalized. In response to such cases, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation recognized the existence of abuses associated with the Clean India Mission implementation and issued at least two advisories to all local States underlining that such practices must stop. In my view, these abuses require a continuous monitoring and accountability by the several tiers of government for the achievement of open defecation free and, at the same time, upholding the dignity of all persons and without violating other fundamental rights.
Another key concern is related to the level of sanitation services that has been provided in India. Under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the target and the indicator for universal access to sanitation (target 6.2) adopts the definition of “safely managed services”, meaning that people should use improved sanitation facilities not shared with other households. This requires providing individual households facilities to those who currently rely on community toilets. Applying this concept also indicates the need for improved management of greywater, which commonly flows into open drains in India. This standard will also require an effective faecal sludge management for excreta stored in latrines, as well as a massive increase in wastewater treatment plants for the sewage collected by sewerage systems, mostly in cities.
2. Efforts for water at a slower pace than sanitation
While the Clean India Mission has raised sanitation to the top of the country’s agenda, access to improved water has received less attention. This raises serious concerns: in India, unsafe water is responsible for 68 per cent more diarrhoea deaths than unsafe sanitation.
While India achieved the Millenium Development Goals for sustainable access to safe drinking water, I would like to highlight that the way in which Indian people currently access water services is far from meeting requirements established by the SDG 6.1 target and indicator, namely, through the already mentioned concept of “safely managed service”. This standard requires that water is accessible on premises, meaning that public water points are not considered as “safely managed service”. The concept also states that water should be available when needed, which will require that water in urban and rural areas is provided continuously. Further, “safely managed service” also means that water should be free from faecal contamination and hazardous levels of arsenic and fluoride. In connection with this, the relevant bodies at all levels require appropriate processes to monitor and survey drinking water quality, and to properly remove chemical and microbiological contamination.
In 2015, 92 per cent of India population was reported to have access to improved sources of water. When we use the stricter definition adopted under the SDGs, this proportion reduces dramatically: only 49 per cent of the rural population receive water meeting this standard. For the urban areas, 73 per cent of the population have water accessible on premises and 86 per cent have it available when needed.1 No consolidated information for drinking water quality in Indian urban areas are available in the SDG baseline report.
Drinking water quality is a matter of concern. In the country, 85 per cent of rural drinking water supply and 50 per cent of urban drinking water supply come from groundwater sources. Accessing groundwater may be a serious concern in different parts of India, considering the known problems of water contamination by arsenic and fluoride, but also by pathogens. According to the West Bengal Pollution Control Board, 38 per cent of the groundwater in the State is contaminated with arsenic and fluoride. This is a huge problem, because approximately 84 per cent of the rural population in West Bengal depends on groundwater sources for drinking water. Although the central and state governments have been adopting different measures to control this chemical contamination, those measures have not been entirely effective and the problem worryingly persists, causing serious health effects. For instance, I met a man living at Gobindapur village near the Bangladesh border, who was suffering from chronic arsenicosis and who show me the effects of this disease on different parts of his skin. His brother has passed away due to arsenic contamination and his family members also suffer similar negative health impact.
Another key issue related to water quality is faecal contamination. The general state of surface waters in the country, considering the conditions of access to adequate sanitation services, particularly the deficits in wastewater treatment, poses severe threats to a high microbiological standard of the water consumed. The Joint Monitoring Programme WHO/UNICEF, for the Sustainable Development Goals, reports that more than one third of the water consumed by rural populations are contaminated. Different studies are showing doubtful microbiological drinking water quality in different parts of India. One additional relevant remark, related to health risks due to drinking water ingestion, is that many households do not treat water before consumption.
To my understanding, affordability should be treated as an integral part of the indicator’s definition of “safely managed” services. In general, access to water services by the population provided by formal systems in India, including urban population connected to the piped systems, is relatively affordable. However, I have witnessed several situations where users are forced to rely on informal providers who sell water at an extremely higher price than the formal provision. In a resettlement site in Delhi, residents that were not able to collect water from the Delhi Jal Board water tank must rely on Water ATMs, meaning that they must have adequate financial resources to ensure themselves water of an acceptable quality. In Kolkata, informal vendors transport water obtained freely through public taps and charge slums dwellers for the delivery (20 Indian rupees for 20 litres of water). In the informal settlement of Kaula Bunder, Mumbai Port Trust, a so-called “water mafia” operates a highly complex and unsafe network that is illegally sourced from the municipal water network. Although municipal and state authorities denied its existence, I witnessed a web of water mains suspended in the air (so-called “flying pipes”) between the informal settlement’s 7,000 shacks, snaking across the ground and passing through immense heaps of waste to be paid high prices for by its residents.
Just as water and sanitation services go hand in hand, the rights to access improved water and improved sanitation must be addressed as a package. The two services are highly interrelated. For many people that I met during my visit, lacking water is a major impediment to making toilet construction meaningful and to achieving behaviour change in association with open defecation. Notably, the toilet designs promoted by the Government of India in the context of the Clean India Mission—even those requiring low volumes—require water to function. For many people, needing more water can be a considerable hassle that must be worth their added time and effort. In this context, I would like to emphasize that the right to water and the right to sanitation are distinct but integrated rights.
3. Substandard services for people and groups in vulnerable situations
My findings reveal that several determinants have a heightened likelihood of predicting where or why people have lower quality access to adequate water and sanitation services: disability, gender, caste, tribe, place of residence in terms of urban or rural areas, land tenure (especially in urban areas, e.g. residence in formal vs. informal settlements), among others. The ways in which these factors can impact on one’s access are diverse but, importantly, a combination of any of these factors is likely to have a multiplying effect. For example, disabled persons widely suffer from a lack of accessible sanitation infrastructure, but female disabled persons can suffer more, and still more from the added lack of material and social conditions to ensure menstrual hygiene management.
According to a global report1, only 43 per cent of India’s population has access to piped water. In rural areas, where 67.5 per cent of the country’s residents live, access to piped water is only available to 31 per cent of the population (about 270 million people out of the country’s 1.3 billion). Meanwhile, in urban areas it is available to 69 per cent of the population. A similarly stark divide separates access to water on premises in rural vs. urban areas: 49 per cent and 73 per cent, respectively in 2015.1 Not being available on premises, rural populations—most often women and children—are thus far more likely to spend precious time fetching water from surface water, boreholes, tube wells, or in some cases public stand posts and water tankers. As several people reiterated to me during my visit, the cost opportunity associated with collecting water is high for children, as it commonly impacts their time to attend schools, and for women’s rights to equal opportunity. Women are also exposed to violence as a result of this burden; in the hilly districts of the State of Manipur, there have been reports of sexual violence when women go to fetch water.
Scheduled Tribes populations live overwhelmingly in rural areas (90 per cent according to data from the 2011 census). I met with a representative of a Scheduled Tribe population of about 12,000 people living in the Sanjay Gandhi national park near the Borivali district (located about 30 to 40 kilometers from Mumbai). Since neither district nor central government authorities have provided them with water and sanitation services after several years, the population thus has no choice but to defecate in the open and, at times, risks being attacked or even killed by wild animals. “Pani nahi, shouchalay nahi” (no water, no toilet) was the way the representative expressed his concern to me.
Rural populations’ access to water is also affected by large projects that directly or indirectly impact on essential water sources used for drinking, domestic uses or livelihood. In Manipur, I was informed of how large infrastructures (dams, railways, roads and industrial projects) impact water sources of rural villages. In particular, I visited two downstream villages of the Thoubal Multipurpose Dam who no longer relies on the river as their drinking water source, due to the deteriorated water quality, and had to pay for accessing water source of a nearby village.
Another group that falls outside the purview of any government protection are the undocumented population living in the 51 erstwhile Bangladeshi enclaves situated in India and 111 erstwhile Indian enclaves situated in Bangladesh. Since 2015, upon the signing of the Land Boundary Agreement by the Indian and Bangladesh Governments, 922 people are living in three resettlement camps situated in Dinhata, Mekhliganj and Haldibari, in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. Those people do not possess a toilet within their houses and are forced to defecate in the open. Their access to water is provided through few tube wells that were dug by the government; they mostly do not work and provide water of an inadequate quality. It is important to highlight, in this particular context, the obligation of India to uphold the rights to water and sanitation not only to Indians but also to foreigners who reside in the territory as well as those people who are not documented.
Discriminatory patterns also exist within urban areas in ways that affect several rights in addition to the rights to water and sanitation, such as the right to health, to adequate housing, and to basic dignity.
Access to drinking water and sanitation in informal settlements is concerning in various slums that I visited in Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata and Mumbai. Like in the case of Mumbai, India’s most populous city, slums are the homes of more than half of the city’s 18 million inhabitants. In this context, it is important to highlight that, in many cases, particular groups (including but not limited to special castes) disproportionately populate slum settlements. In general, adequate access to water and toilets does not exist within most of the slums that were visited.
In fact, the conditions of access to water and sanitation in those areas can differ greatly and can be considerably influenced by the legal recognition of the settlement and land tenure associated to it. “Notified”, or legally recognized settlements, at times receive some sort of services from public authorities (e.g. water tankers providing free water a few times a week), while non-notified settlements are denied any intervention from public water service providers. While some stand posts and boreholes are available within or close to some non-notified settlements, they are not always constructed by the public authorities and it is uncertain if the quality of the water is monitored. In an informal settlement located in Bhim Nagar, Maharashtra Nagar (Mumbai), access to water for a total of 160 houses came from a variety of sources, some closeby (including holes dug in the ground to access poor quality groundwater) and others farther away.
In several cases that I observed, people’s reliance on sources of drinking water outside their premises means that persons of all ages are forced to queue at specific times of the day to fetch water from public taps. Taking advantage of the acute availability, they bath outdoors and collect water in buckets and jugs. Children and elderly people, in particular, physically struggle to carry water back to their households.
Community toilets are often available in small numbers in relation to the number of families that require those facilities. Moreover, according to reports, they are usually not disability-adapted, maladaptive and unaccepting of transgender persons, and lacking adequate facilities for handwashing and for menstrual hygiene management. Moreover, the quality and safety of those facilities is usually very precarious; in some cases, community toilet infrastructure has collapsed while people have been queuing to use them, making them fall into the pits containing excreta and die. Obviously, where infrastructure exists but is not safe and accessible to users, the right to sanitation is not being realized and, in the case of India, open defecation may be unknowingly perpetuated.
During my visit, I received several reports and observed in many cases that public places, including schools, transport hubs and police stations lack sufficient and adequate facilities for water and toilets, affecting India’s large “population on the move”, which includes homeless, street vendors, rickshaw drivers and seasonal migrant workers. Whether homeless or workers, access to water and sanitation in public spaces must be guaranteed by the Government.
Discrimination against manual scavengers is another concern. Through the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, the Government has made efforts to identify and rehabilitate manual scavengers into different occupations. Having done this exercise, it is widely believed that manual scavenging no longer exists.
Yet, concerns continue to exist. During my interaction with civil society, several surveys identifying the number of manual scavengers were presented to me. There are discrepancies in those numbers, as identified by the Government and surveys by civil society. From a human rights perspective, whether individuals are engaged in manual cleaning of open pits, septic tanks or sewer lines, with or without protective gear, in direct contact with excreta—as per the definition in the Act— is not a relevant factor to ascertaining that manual scavenging is a caste-based discrimination.
During the visit, I met several people that indicated that either themselves, their relatives or neighbours continue to be employed in manual scavenging practice. I met with a number of current manual scavengers in Uttar Pradesh from various districts (Mainpuri, Hardoi, Bareli, Firojabad) who are engaged in manual scavenging. I heard from several family members, during meetings in Delhi and Lucknow, a number of relatives (husbands, brothers, and sons) that died during the hard work of emptying latrines or cleaning sewer lines, without receiving adequate compensations from the State and having faced much difficulties in filing cases for compensation.
In taking steps forward in the realisation of the right to sanitation, India may involuntarily contribute to violating the fundamental principle of non-discrimination. Particularly given the generations-old practice of imposing sanitary tasks onto the lower castes, the growth in number of toilets raises concerns that manual scavenging will continue to be practiced in a caste-based, discriminatory fashion.
Even in the case of Clean India Mission’s preferred technology for excreta disposal—the twin-pit latrine—it is nevertheless questionable that manual scavenging as a discriminatory practice will be eliminated. Firstly, communication efforts will have to be extensive and continuous for many years in order for hundreds of millions of people to acquire and assimilate the knowledge of how they function (the first pit is filled with waste, the pit is switched, the first pit is not touched for at least one year, and after that period the waste can be removed safely). Secondly, some studies have indicated that the construction of single pit latrines is actually on the rise across several Indian states, which will require even more unsafe work from manual scavengers.
SDG 6.2 also requires equitable access and special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations. To uphold India’s commitment to achieve the SDGs by 2030, the Government of India needs to monitor the progress towards targets 6.1 and 6.2. Moreover, to uphold India’s human rights obligations, it must develop methodologies that take into account the normative contents of the human rights to water and sanitation, and monitor inequalities in access to these services. India must adopt a national consensus on the next steps on water and sanitation policies so that no one is left behind.
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My official visit to India took place at the crucial juncture of India’s rapid progress towards achieving the goal of eliminating open defecation through the Clean India Mission. I would like to take the opportunity to reiterate my praise to the Government of India for the important progress that has been achieved and emphasize that the Clean India Mission, together with all other concurrent activities in the water and sanitation sector, must incorporate a human rights perspective. This will be essential to safeguard the rights of its population and for India to meet the targets of the Agenda 2030. In other words, better access to water and sanitation in India will strongly benefit its population and will help the country to meet the commitments of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Two-weeks is not sufficient to fully understand all aspects of the situation of human rights to water and sanitation in a country as big, diverse and complex as India. After the visit, I will gather further information, provide an analysis of and recommendation to the issues that I have mentioned today, together with other issues including but not limited to regulatory framework, privatization, national legislation recognizing the human rights to water and sanitation and disaggregation of monitoring data.
Information about the visit
I met with Government officials at the Union, State and local level: Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Railways, National Institute of Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, National Human Rights Commission and National Commission for Women, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Safai Karamacharis, Delhi Jal Board, Government of Uttar Pradesh, Government of Maharashtra, Government of Manipur, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, and Municipal Corporation of Imphal.
During the visit, I also visited and interacted with communities in Delhi, Sarai Kale Khan (homeless shelter and flyover), Lal Bagh (non-notified slum), Mansarovar Park, Savda Ghevra resettlement site, Mundka Ward; in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh: Chinhat ward Naubasta Kalan, Daulatpur village, Naubasta Kala village, Sarthara village, Vinaykpuram (slum) and small Jugauli (notified); in Kolkata, West Bengal, Tangra Dhapa and North Tangra; and in Imphal, Manipur, Nungbrang and Leirongthel Villages (downstream villages located near Thoubal Multipurpose Project.
The Special Rapporteur has accepted the invitation from Manipur! He is expected in Imphal from 7-8 November 2017.
Profile of Mr. Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation
Mr. Léo Heller is the second Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. He was appointed by the Human Rights Council in November 2014, having started his mandate on 1 December that year. Heller is currently a researcher in the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil. Previously, Heller was Professor of the Department of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil from 1990 to 2014. During his career in the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Heller held several positions including the Head of the Department of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering, Associate Provost of Graduate Studies, Dean of the School of Engineering and coordinator of the Graduate Program in Basic Sanitation, the Environment and Water Resources.
Heller has extensive experience in formulating policies, teaching and researching in the field of public policy and management and of environmental health related to water and sanitation. He has been coordinating large interdisciplinary research groups and he is author of several books, book chapters and journal articles on technological, health and policy dimensions of water and sanitation. He has long tradition of working together with and taking part in social movements related to human rights to water and sanitation, especially in Latin America.
He holds a BA in civil engineering, MSc in water, sanitation and the environment and PhD in Epidemiology, with a thesis on the association between water and sanitation and health outcomes. He also carried out post-doctoral research at the University of Oxford (2005-2006), focusing on the theoretical aspects of public policy and management in the water and sanitation sector.
Heller speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese.
A delegation of CSCHR attended the 36th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. During the session for the adoption of the outcome document on India’s 3rd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to improve its human rights situation, on 21st September 2017, the Government of India (GoI) formally accepted 152 recommendations out of the 250 recommendations given by 112 member states of the United Nations. The remaining 98 recommendations were simply noted. However, most of the human rights issues critical to the situation in Manipur including the repeal/review of AFSPA, ratification of Convention on Protection of All Persons Against Enforced Disappearances (CED), moratorium on death penalty, ratification of the Rome Statute on International Criminal Court, etc., are only noted without indicating a follow up plan and not accepted. Many international organizations including Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurist, FORUM-ASIA, WGHR, etc., strongly denounced the GoI’s continued refusal to accept the recommendation for the repeal/review of AFSPA.
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CSCHR to launch “A Civil Society Report” on India’s voluntary national review by UN High Level Political Forum of Sustainable Development Goals: Agenda 2030 coordinated by Wada Na Todo Abhiyan
CSCHR will, on Wednesday, 5 July 2017 at the Manipur Press Club, Imphal organise the launch of a national civil society report on Sustainable Development Goals: Agenda 2030 that has been coordinated by the Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, a national campaign to hold the government of India accountable for its promise to end Poverty, Social Exclusion & Discrimination.
India’s challenges and achievements in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals: Agenda 2030 is being reviewed this month (July 2017) by the United Nations High Level Political Forum (HLPF). India’s Voluntary National Review Report on Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals has been submitted to the UN.
Click Link to Download the India Report
Leave No One Behind
A Life of Dignity for All
5 July 2017
Manipur Press Club, Imphal
Organized by Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and UN (CSCHR)
Supported by Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA)
02:30 Pm Welcome by CSCHR
02:35 Pm Briefing on SDGs and the Process till today
02: 45 Pm Discussion: Moderated by Dr. Debabrata Roy Laifungbam (Convenor, CSCHR)
03:30 Pm Release of Report “Leave No One Behind” by Professor Dr. Elangbam Bijoykumar Singh, Director, Centre For the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP)
03:40 Pm Conclusion
Imphal, 13th January 2017
The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and UN (CSCHR Manipur) submitted its joint stakeholders’ submission report, “BROKEN PROMISES AND ABDICATED OBLIGATIONS” on the status of human rights in Manipur to the UN Human Rights Council for consideration during the examination of India in the third cycle of Universal Periodic Review on the 4th of May this year. The report, which was submitted on 22 September 2016, was prepared through a collective wide-ranging consultative process, consisting of several formal meetings conducted from August to September 2016.
While voicing clear concerns regarding the increasingly openly and deliberately flaunted human rights protection and promotion by states worldwide, CSCHR’s report focuses on the continuing serious concerns regarding the human rights situation prevailing in Manipur. Manipur remains one of the States with a continuous peoples’ movement for the right to self-determination in India since its merger with the Indian union in 1949 in conditions that violated international law.
The report also highlighted very substantive gaps between the information shared by the government and other stakeholders, the recommendations arising therefrom, the acceptance of such recommendations and their implementation by the government of India. India’s approach to this review of deciding to selectively “accept” specific human rights recommendations regarding the outcomes of its UPR 1st cycle and UPR 2nd cycle reviews undermines the basic principle of human rights and its total disregard of parliamentary scrutiny and public accountability also defeats the purpose of setting up such principles and mechanisms to monitor the implementation and achievements in protecting and promoting human rights.
India has also failed to realize its guarantee under Article 253 of its Constitution in fulfilling international human rights obligations by making necessary and appropriate legislation or incorporating new amending provisions in existing domestic laws in accordance with international standards.
Describing the serious situation prevailing in Manipur, the CSCHR report sought the Human Rights Council’s attention on serious violations of civil and political rights under a repressive de facto military regime and state of emergency that has existed from the 50s. Militarisation has impacted on every sphere of human development and governance, and indigenous peoples’ rights are being aggressively violated. CSCHR also informed the UN about the serious challenges confronting the indigenous peoples of Manipur today due to the state sponsored infusion of outsiders and migrants into Manipur that has dangerous implications to the survival of the native inhabitants, and has also led to land alienation, economic subjugation, political repression, irreparable injury to indigenous culture and tradition, conflicts and violence.
The following recommendations were submitted to be made to the government of India and its union States:
- Government of India should respect the Manipur peoples’ right to self-determination as per the General Assembly Resolution 1514, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples and seek a political solution to the ongoing armed conflict in Manipur.
- Government of India should repeal Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 as recommended by previous UPR Working Group, Human Rights Committee, Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women as well as the Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defender, Summary, Arbitrary and Extra-judicial Executions, Violence Against Women, etc.
- Government of India should also repeal other security legislations and counter terrorism measures, such as the Unlawful Activity Prevention Act, 1967, National Security act, 1980, etc.
- Government of India should promptly investigate and prosecute all Indian security forces involved in gross human rights violations.
- That the Government of India should remove all its “Reservations” and “Declarations” on all International Conventions and Treaties.
- The government of India should ensure that all MoUs for mega dams in Manipur, without indigenous peoples free, prior and informed consent be withdrawn.
- The Government of India and Jubilant Energy should stop all petroleum and drilling related activities in Manipur till indigenous peoples’ rights over their land and resources are recognized.
- Policies introduced such as the North East Hydrocarbon Policy, 2030, the Manipur Hydroelectric Policy of 2012, Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection) Act, 2006, should be repealed.
- Stop all plans for forced commissioning of Mapithel Dam. The 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project should be decommissioned
- The Government should stop targeting human rights defenders and indigenous organizations involved in promoting sustainable development and in challenging destructive projects
- All projects financed by IFIs should take the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples and fully adheres with the provisions of the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples (UNDRIP)
- Recognition of indigenous people as ‘indigenous’ by guaranteeing all indigenous rights of protection and positive discrimination that includes ownership over land and resources.
- The Government should fully implement the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007
- Ratify the International Labour Organisation’s convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Rights.
PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO READ THE FULL REPORT
The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and the UN submitted its second report to the UN Human Rights Council for the forthcoming third Universal Periodic Review of India. The report named STATUS OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN MANIPUR: BROKEN PROMISES AND ABDICATED OBLIGATIONS can be seen and downloaded from the links provided below:
On 21st June 2015 (New York time), CSCHR submitted its comprehensive general and specific comments to the Zero Draft Outcome Document of the UN’s post-2015 Development Agenda (called the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs). The comments raised some serious concerns about the path of development being visualised by governments and sought to pursued as an agenda till 2030.
The these concerns include:
- Indigenous peoples vital role in SD absent, no reference to UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), perhaps the most important UN declaration for collectives and natural & cultural heritage
- “Peoples” left out from the stakeholders in the decision making process: and self determination of peoples narrowly defined against UN standards and past commitments
- Peace, militarisation and armed conflicts, including arms trade as impediments to SDGs (AFSPA and martial laws including) not addressed in the plan
- Neoliberal development aggression and model pursued relentlessly
- Business and private sector as unaccountable “stakeholder” partner with increasingly larger role. No distinctions or categories made regarding this sector.
- Government acts as proxy and negotiates on behalf of corporate sector, the sector itself is absent in the debates and negotiations
- Lack of social protection
PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW TO READ THE ZERO DRAFT AND OUR COMMENTS
The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and the UN (CSCHR), a coalition of twenty-three (23) indigenous peoples’ human rights organizations of Manipur in India’s North East region, is extremely concerned with the deepening political instability in Manipur and particularly with the situation of open armed conflict on the eastern flank of Manipur, in Chandel District bordering with Myanmar’s Sagaing Division. It has been widely reported that after the 4th June lethal apparently pre-planned ambush of a convoy of the 6th Dogra Regiment of the Indian Army near Paraolon Village by unidentified cadres of an armed opposition group or organisation that left at least 18 army personnel dead and many more injured, General Dalbir Singh Suhag, chief of the Army and top commanding generals of the Eastern Command gathered in Imphal the next day to initiate activities to “sanitise the area completely”.
CSCHR is a coalition that upholds the principles and statutes of humanitarian and human rights law that are established worldwide, to which members of the United Nations Organisation (UNO) including India are state parties. The coalition does not believe in armed conflict and militaristic solutions aimed at objective of peace and development as a final solution to intractable and sensitive political situations. In this context, and in solidarity with many civil society organisations that have voiced their disapproval in strongest terms, CSCHR does not support or condone in any way, the escalations of armed violence and confrontations between government and non-state armed forces in Manipur and the North East Region of India.
We strongly disapprove of the de facto “state of siege” that exists in Chandel district today, which is beyond the “Rule of Law” and the gaze of the public through the media. We grieve for those who have lost precious lives unnecessarily, as no line of duty in this modern world should involve the grave risk of such violence and untimely death.
Considering that the State of Manipur, for several decades, has been continuously declared a “disturbed area”, with the imposition of the Armed Forces [Special Powers] Act of 1958 (AFSPA) to manage the law and order situation, this abrupt development augurs ill for the State and central governments’ views and policies pursued to maintain peace and tranquillity in Manipur. It is far from clear who is in control of the situation in the localities around the ambush site in Chandel District, with the 3 Corps GOC Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat stating that a “people friendly” operation is being carried out to flush out the non-state opposition groups from Manipur completely. Surprisingly, the State government and the district administration seem to have no visible or vocal role in this sanitisation exercise, except for a tacit acquiescence.
With more dead bodies, some suspected to be civilians, being still found from the area, the perceptible lack of involvement or coordination between the central armed and paramilitary forces and the Chandel District administration is underlined by the Deputy Commissioner of Chandel having reportedly to seek “permission” in writing from the army for the families of missing persons to carry out search and identification procedures.
It is perplexing how the Chief Minister of Manipur, who is the chairman of the Unified Command structure of Manipur under the jurisdiction of AFSPA, does not consider he is accountable for the activities of the central armed and paramilitary forces in Chandel District. It is unacceptable that neither he nor the Deputy Chief Minister in charge of home affairs in the State have visited the district immediately after the incident to take stock of the situation, even though top generals of India have flown in from New Delhi! If it is also true, as widely reported that the Indian army unit, which suffered tragic fatalities and losses, had been violating Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), the Unified Command under the chairmanship of the CM of Manipur seems to have abdicated its role and functions totally.
There seems to be dual commands stand in this ongoing situation with the State and central governments both announcing having launched simultaneous inquiries. This non-transparent and dual situation, with the central authorities calling the shots, does not comply at all with a “people friendly” operation. If the statement by Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat is to have any credence whatsoever, the Chandel District administration, the Manipur police including women police officers must lead the search operations with the cooperation of central security forces. The media must be allowed into the area unhindered as there are no more fire fights or active hostilities as reported.
It is incumbent on the state to ensure that humanitarian laws, especially Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions as the minimum standard, and human rights are respected in all aspects of the present operation. Humanitarian law is particularly critical because of the involvement of the Indian Army undertaking war-like operations in civilian, especially tribal areas of Manipur. Utmost due diligence is expected from the high command under which the central military and paramilitary forces are presently undertaking this operation. In this context, and in cognizance of the Supreme Court of India’s rulings on such matters as counterinsurgency operations, CSCHR views with contempt that civil administration officials do not form a central part of the current operations being conducted in the indigenous tribal peoples populated Chandel, as ordered by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
We concur with the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s views that “modern Constitutionalism posits that no wielder of power should be allowed to claim the right to perpetrate state’s violence against any one, much less its own citizens, unchecked by law, and notions of innate human dignity of every individual;” and that the state in a democracy, is not justified in resorting to illegal means to deal with such movements, in violation of the Constitution, statutory laws and the ‘Rule of Law’, as this would lead to ever increasing levels of escalating violence, in particular in the face of genuine discontent as reported by official committees of the government, reminding governments, law makers, civil and military officials and citizens.
The State Government and District administration, having declared a curfew in Chandel, must clarify the exact geographical extent of the search operation. The Director General Police of Manipur must update the public and media daily on the activities and developments in the area of the operation. Civilian populations displaced and affected in any way by the search operation must have immediate access to humanitarian and legal aid, psychosocial support and adequate shelter including food, sanitation and safe drinking water though a procedure of direct assessment conducted jointly by competent officers and representatives of the District administration and non-government organisations.
The unforgettable tragedy that befell Oinam in Senapati District of Manipur in 1987, when the civilian population was put under a state of violent siege, terrorised, tortured, killed and subjected to the most inhuman abuses must never be repeated. The State Government has a crucial responsibility to ensure that the civilian population of Chandel District is accorded the fullest protection under the law; and it is unacceptable that the home minister Gaikhangam merely spouts the usual term “unfortunate” and has not described what the “maximum efforts” that the State government is making.
We welcome the news reported that the Indian army is being divested of counter-insurgency duties in the North East Region of India. With such a national policy level trend within the government of India, as reported, the AFSPA should now be seriously considered for repeal by parliament, as recommended repeatedly at the international and national levels. The governments of Manipur and India must leave no stone unturned to see that a peaceful and confidence building situation is in place for a just resolution to this tragic and prolonged armed conflict.
CLICK ON LINKS BELOW TO READ THE STATEMENT IN MEDIA WEBSITES
END MARTIAL LAW GOVERNANCE, INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT AGGRESSION IN MANIPUR, INDIA: PROMULGATE A FITTING PUBLIC POLICY TO PROTECT INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN MANIPUR
“Protecting indigenous peoples is protecting the Earth.”
[CSCHR, Solidarity Statement to the WCIP 2014]
22 SEPTEMBER 2014
On the occasion of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. a High Level Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly, from 22-23 September 2014, New York City, CSCHR transmitted a Solidarity Statement through its delegation led by Mr Jiten Yumnam.
- Manipur, an ancient indigenous native state of Asia known by various names in the past – Mekley, Kathé, Kangleipak – now an Indian provincial State located in its North East territories aptly embodies the struggles indigenous peoples worldwide are undergoing today, at the same time tragic and heroic in character.
- Like most indigenous peoples territories, from the Amazon and the Andes to North American plains and river basins, from the southern Africa to the Asia and the Pacific, where indigenous peoples and their communities have always lived close to each other and shared their natural inheritance, Manipur is a province with a territory shared by 33 communities indigenous to the region that straddles South and South East Asia.
- Throughout the greater part of the modern period of India’s independent history, from the 1950s till today, the indigenous peoples of Manipur comprising broadly of the Meitei, Naga and Kuki-Chin groups face three critical areas of threat that are relentlessly obliterating us, destroying our lands and extinguishing our great cultural heritage.
- Protecting indigenous peoples is protecting the Earth. The Government of India must end its denial of the existence of indigenous peoples within its territories, and embrace totally the undertaking in the United Nations to secure the rights of indigenous peoples.
TO READ THE FULL SOLIDARITY STATEMENT, CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW
URGENT PRESS STATEMENT
Imphal, 12 September 2014
The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and the UN (CSCHR), a coalition of twenty-four (24) indigenous peoples’ human rights organizations of Manipur in India’s North East region, in an Emergency Meeting held today, expresses deep distress that the affirmative steps being taken up by the government of Manipur to find a just resolution to the public campaign for a significant and appropriate policy to safeguard the rights of the indigenous peoples of Manipur by promulgating a system comparable to the Inner Line Permit System (ILPS) has been derailed by a widely reported irresponsible Manipur police action on Monday, 8 September 2014 by officers from Imphal East District. The ILPS issue has seen two separate constructive resolutions in the Manipur State Assembly in 2012 and 2013, and the government of India has also been kept abreast of this demand by the people of Manipur.
On last Monday, a large number of Manipur Police officers from Imphal East reportedly picked up 12 (twelve) human rights defenders including four women and two students from the office of the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) located in Nongmeibung, Imphal after beating up several persons and vandalising the office. The arrested persons are identified as Moirangthem Angamba Singh (34), Johnson Nongmaithem (29), Sumanta Monoharmayum (23), Elangbam Bijendra Meitei (22), Longjam Abothe Meitei (24), Konsam Phulindro Singh (54), Md. Sajad Buya (19), Sarangthem William Milton (25), Khumukcham (n) Naosekpam (o) Rashesori Devi (55), Okram (n) Khomdram (o) Gunabati Devi, Hijam Ibema Devi (42) and Nameirakpam Ibemcha Devi (55). It has been also reported that the office computers of JCILPS have been also seized by the police. In this arbitrary action the police did not serve any warrant to arrest and enter and search the JCILPS office or any arrest memo, clearly in violation of the law. Nongmeibung is within the Imphal Municipality area where the draconian AFSPA had been withdrawn since 2004. The Manipur police action is in clear infringement of even the terms laid down by the Honourable Supreme Court of India regarding the powers conferred to Union security forces only in disturbed areas where ASPA is enforced.
Mr Phulindro Konsam, Chairman of the Committee on Human Rights (COHR) Manipur, a renowned human rights defender of Manipur was among those arbitrarily arrested and charged by the police, and subsequently remanded to judicial custody. It is a matter of great ignominy that Mr Konsam who was just visiting the office of JCILPS for consultations on the imminent talks upon the invitation of the government of Manipur scheduled the next day (Tuesday, 9 September 2014) was randomly charged with several section of the IPC including common cause, wrongful concealment and confinement, voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons and extortion without any evidence.
The steps taken by the police are in clear negation of India’s commitments under the UN Human Rights Defenders Declaration and also breach the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A legitimate and democratic people’s campaign for the protection of their rights has been sought to be criminalised. COHR has further claimed in a media statement that its Chairman, Mr Konsam is innocent. CSCHR finds it totally perplexing that in Manipur, upholding the law seems to have been delegated as a task of the civil society; and officers of the state’s law enforcement agencies obligated to uphold the law are conducting themselves in a repressive and autocratic manner as if the rule of law has been dumped.
CSCHR urges the government of Manipur to ensure that the conducive climate for talks with JCILPs, which had been further enforced by the release of its co-convenor, Advocate P. Arun on 6 September 2014, be restored immediately by taking decisive disciplinary action against its erring law enforcement personnel whose arbitrary and illegal actions have resulted in the abrupt disruption of a political process highly crucial for the future of the indigenous population of Manipur.
SEE THE FULL RELEASE HERE