S.O.S – eVoice For Justice – e-news weekly
Spreading the light of humanity & freedom
Editor: Nagaraj.M.R…………SPECIAL ISSUE……….28.09.2009
Editorial: PRICOL VP MURDER , SATYAM CO FRAUD , SINGUR AGITATION & GRAZIONO CEO MASS MURDER
– An eye opener to irresponsible corporate India & GOI
In last week , in the state of tamilnadu India , some of the sacked laboureres of M/S PRICOL INDUSTRIES mass lynched & murdered a higher management official , for sacking them from their jobs. This act of laborers is a heinous crime , illegal & inhuman act. In India , nowadays the labour movement has been hijacked by lumpen elements , rowdies , criminals. These criminal elements are there in the posts of union leaders just to further their self interests rather than the welfare of the workers whom they represent. These lumpen elements , so called leaders thrive on controversies & creates disturbances , vitiates harmonious relations between the management – workers. The company as an organization needs team work to survive & thrive in business. These labor leaders even oppose for example OUTPUT BASED PRODUCTION INCENTIVE SCHEME – which is a win win situation for both the management & workers. These leaders go to the extent of killing the hen which lays golden eggs , all for their selfish gains. These rowdy leaders become leaders just to make money , to make political entry , to shirk-off work , to escape night shift work , etc. In the midst of these rowdy elements the genuine concerns of ordinary workers are not at all heard. The ordinary workers who depend on the organization for their livelihood , who work hard to earn more incentive , are the ultimate sufferers.
In the same manner , the management of companies must be sensible to the genuine concerns of it’s workers , it must properly balance the worker’s concern & company’s position . some of the managements enforce harsh rules on workers , o.k , the management personnel of those very same companies function without discipline , misuse company properties , siphons of company money , take commission from vendors , cheat the government of tax dues , violate environmental laws , tax laws , labor laws by bribing officials , etc. Finally this kills the organization as a whole – the end losers shareholders , lending banks , government & our economy.
The recent public agitation at singur west Bengal , India against the TATA NANO project , is nothing but a struggle for survival by the land loosers. The public of singur are living there since ancestral times , they fully depend for their livelihood on the vegetables & other small crops grown there by them. The livelihood , their survival is at stake. The irresponsible west Bengal government , to favour the corporate lobby , acquired the lands forcibly dirt cheap & gave it away at dirt cheap price to TATA’S. why such a cheap , long term lease period has been given to TATA’S ? The government literally has thrown the land loosers on street , it didn’t bother about their survival nor about their proper rehabilitation . Basically , TATA’S is a business house , their only intention is to make profits , more money , not the welfare of people. Why not TATA’S acquire land in open market ? the acquire of lands by state or central government for public good like for building dams , roads , channels are at least justified however the rehabilitation is more important. Other than for the projects concerning public good , for all the projects of private enterprises like pay & use roads , airports , industries , etc , the lands must be acquired in the open market at market prices . For some industrialists bid to make riches , lives , livelihood of thousands should not be sacrificed. It is not alround development. In a democracy , the voice of the public , locals should be honoured but not the diktats of ministers or babus in secretariats. The present corrupt system in India leading to rise of naxalism , underworld , separatist movements are all due to the government policies since independence till date according to the wisdom (?) of ministers & babus , totally dishonouring the public voice.
Now , take the case of Graziono CEO mass murder in noida , it is nothing but fallout of hire & fire policies. Every human being works for survival , on his meager salary there will be family dependents , all of a sudden if a person is fired from service , his whole family will be on streets. O.k , all corporates nowadays preach & breath the mantra of USA , for everything be it infrastructure , flexible labour policies , it compares itself with those prevailing in the USA. Now , the corporate India is getting infrastructure at dirt free prices ( very high in the USA ) , has got hire & fire mechanism by employing contract labour , very lenient environmental norms , very lenient food & drugs safety rules , relaxation in Factory Act , ESI & PF acts , etc add to it the rampant corruption in all govt departments by which you can get any certificate for a price.
In the USA , of course there is hire & fire policy , however the minimum wage levels are also very high , so that during good times workers can save money for their future. Also , there is social security net to take care of ousted workers , then why not Indian corporates paying good salary to workers during good times ? why not corporate India making good contribution to social security net ? in the USA , there are good infrastructure facilities they take pride in paying taxes to the government , the corporate India always lobbies for tax cuts , subsidies , loan waivers , etc. in the USA the environment norms are very strict , the companies manufacturing hazardous chemicals which were ousted by the US government have set up shop in India . Government of USA treats lives of people as precious , where as Indian government treats lives of it’s people as dispensable. In the USA , the food safety & drugs , medicines safety standards are very high , the drugs , high level adulteration food products banned by Government of USA are sold in the India , this is the difference between government of USA & India , the way they treat their people’s lives. Loan recovery , investor safety norms are very high in the USA , where as in India , loan defaulters , share holder swindling , Non Performing Assets is very high. Inspite of all the strict norms we have seen enron , Xerox debacles in the USA & recent bank fallouts in the USA. In India with such lax norms , only you can guess.
The lesson here for the government of India is , development must be allround , must not be at the cost of thousands. Listen to the voice of public but not to the commands of greedy selfish corporates , lobbies . Do stop thinking that only babus , IAS officers & minister are brilliant knowing all and the public people are fools fit to be herded by IAS officers. Do remember that India is a democracy not a BANANA REPUBLIC.
The lesson for corporate India , aping the USA intoto is O.k , but not by parts & bits , follow corporate USA in every aspect of corporate duties & responsibilities , transparency.
Final word , when it comes to the question of survival , life , livelihood , it know no bounds . After all STRUGGLE FOR SUVIVAL is a basic animal instinct , it is a basic human right of every individual . JAI HIND. VANDE MATARAM.
Six arrested for PRICOL VP Murder case
– by harsha subramaniam
Six sacked workers of Coimbatore-based auto component maker Pricol, who allegedly beat the HR head of the company to death, have been arrested. But this shocking incident reveals the deteriorating labour-management relations in the state.
The murder of 47-year-old Roy George, Vice President HR of Pricol, has sent shockwaves across the country. On Monday, 42 employees were sacked for deliberately disrupting production. Hearing this, seven of them attacked Roy with iron rods and beat him to death. Six have been arrested, one absconding and the government has promised action.
Said Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister MK Stalin, “Any form of violence is unacceptable and the law will take its own course, the case is investigated by the police.”
But it is government’s inaction that led to this situation in the first place says the management. The dispute began two years ago when one faction of workers led by Kumaraswamy, a Chennai based lawyer, created a parallel union and went on a strike. Calling the strike illegal, the management refused to recognise the faction. The management alleges that the workers-faction refused to negotiate and disrputed production that prompted the dismissal. Pricol Chairman and Managing Director Vijay Mohan said the government needs to play fair.
“For the management and the trade unions to function smoothly when there is a difference of opinion, when there is a rift, the government has to play a mediating role and in the mediating role they’ll have to take a neutral stand. If the management is at fault they’ll have to haul up the management. If the workers are at fault they have to haul up the workers.” Mohan said.
Pricol is not a case in isolation. In the past few months, issue of recognising trade union has created similar disputes in Hyundai and MRF. So far, the state has been a mute spectator even as investors seek more labour friendly destinations.
Turning The Tide of Labour Unrest in India
Santosh N Gambhire
Ajitsingh K Patil
Jamanalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai
Recent clash between the Labour and Management of Honda Motors and Scooters India in Gurgaon has again brought back the bogey of strikes of socialist era. Everyone including MNCs, government, economist and employers are skeptical of resurgence of Labour movement. If labour Movement gets a new life, it can give a severe jolt to Indian economy. Therefore, it is necessary to analyze the reason behind these events and curb the nip in the bud.
Globalization and Liberalization has forced government to give a serious thought to our anarchic labour law, which makes our companies uncompetitive globally and discourages foreign companies from investing in India. Indian labour laws are among the most rigid in the world. Some recent data compiled by the World Bank collate the level of rigidity of hiring and firing rules in different nations -100 being the score of the highest conceivable rigidity. India is among the most rigid countries with a score of 48. China has a score of 30, Korea 34, Norway 30; Singapore closes to 0. Therefore this crisscrossing network of chaotic, strangulating, overlapping and often- contradictory laws need an overhaul. The single most important labour law is arguably the Industrial Disputes Act (IDA), 1947. This was enacted a few months before India’s independence and guides the hiring and firing rules of the industrial sector and is a good example of a well-meaning policy that is founded on antiquated economics and a handsome misunderstanding of the way markets function. The IDA makes it very hard for firms to fire workers. This law has probably done more to hold back the growth of India’s manufacturing sector than any other policy.
In this scenario, Government recognized the need for increased flexibility in Labour market, but they can not bring the policy of hire and fire approach, more so, since the institutions of social security, particularly unemployment insurance are not well developed in our country. Therefore structural reforms in labour laws must ensure the welfare of workers. Reforming labour laws will boost industry and create more jobs.
Besides Government, it is the responsibility of the employer to develop some well specified procedure that must not create undue unrest among workers and whenever they need more manpower ,they should a give preference to the workers it is retrenching at present. They should also introduce some Unemployment Insurance schemes made by the contribution of employees and employer.
The fact that the less rigid nations also have more efficient economies, higher wages and a smaller share of laborers who are long-term unemployed is not a matter of coincidence. Given that the reform of labour laws is, contrary to popular perception, in the interests of the workers, what government needs to do is have this topic debated and explained so that workers, instead of opposing such reform, become its advocate.
Are the labour unions back? The riot that followed the labour management dispute in Gurgaon over the Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India spat could be the first major sign of things to come. After a decade-and-a-half of market friendly policy changes, the union seems to be sticking their neck out again to ensure they are being heard. Some says the left parties in power are the force behind this resurgence, the central unions disagree. They see the UPA government in the Center as a major conducive environment for their woes to be heard. For now, the battleground has been cleared and the soldiers are back home. A peace pipe is being passed around and the warring factions appear momentarily happy to take a drag as they put behind them the images of mayhem that hit the industrially flourishing Gurgaon-Manesar region in Haryana. But behind the wall of silence, tremors can still be felt. The question on everyone’s mind is how to ensure that what happened on Black Monday in Gurgaon does not happen again.
Research has revealed that labour strikes globally hit once in eight to 10 years. That period is now nearing. “The Honda incident should be taken as early warnings of a big wave of labour militancy in the future.” The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), which has just claimed a conquest by bringing Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India’s workers’ union into its fold, has now trained its guns on Maruti Udyog Ltd, the leading producer of passenger cars in the country pertaining to the dismissal of 92 employees during a labour trouble at Maruti in 2000-2001 and several hundreds opting for a voluntary retirement scheme, which, it is alleged, is not exactly voluntary.
These are the clear signs of tide of labor unrest to come.
A labour unrest is a social phenomenon of enormous complexity and it is very difficult to give any complete explanation of this phenomenon. It is a matter of controversy whether the predominant factors underlying labour unrest are economic or non-economic. It has been concluded that so long as income remained the all important means for satisfying human wants and needs, wage would continue to be major consideration in labour unrest.
Considering the nearing period of labour unrest with the recent cases of Honda and Maruti, it is the time to do root cause analysis and find out what are the possible reasons which lead to labour unrest so as to address these issues and untide the tide of labour unrest.
STATISTICS OF THE LABOUR UNREST
ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS
From the study of some of the strikes and lockouts over last 10 years, we concluded that all the possible reasons can be classified into five major heads. As specific problems are branched out from the major effect area, the result appears to look something like a fishbone diagram. The potential problems can then be researched to find the root cause and correct it. The five heads are as follows: –
* Job Specific
FISHBONE DIAGRAM FOR ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS
All the causes mentioned above have some impact on the labour dissatisfaction which may eventually lead in Labour Unrest depending on the intensity of the problem. But the study done for the last 10 years led to conclude that major reasons for the strike and lockouts are as follows:
* Retrenchment of labour which calls for sorting out the differences between employers and employees regarding Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
* Management’s decisions to go for contract labours without giving them permanent job security and denying fair wages. This issue can be adderessed by bringing consensus between trade unions, employers, government and political parties in Contract Labour Act, 1947 based on their interests.
In order to bring down Labour unrest, there is need to cater for these issues separately.
UPGRADE LABOR SKILLS TO JUSTIFY HIGHER WAGES
Workers will not be happy to sacrifice on wage and job security. So long as income remained the all important means for satisfying human wants and needs, wage would continue to be major consideration in labor unrest. Government official warned that failure to upgrade labor skills in a globally integrated economy will make it more difficult for unskilled and low-skilled workers to demand higher wages. This situation, in turn, may worsen labor unrest.
As the economy globalizes, it would be difficult to increase wages for unskilled or low-skilled laborers. Companies need to continue improving their training programs to meet the critical skills needed in a globalizing economy, which can be identified through industry signals. Improving labor skills would effectively solve labor unrest in the country, as it will result in higher wages and, therefore, better quality of lives for the people.
A shortage in skilled labor would discourage investors from putting up factories or companies in the country. They might opt to transfer to other neighboring countries whose labor skills are comparative to those of the Philippines yet require less pay. So managers and factory owners should invest in people and machines in order to compete globally.
Honda says its 50 workers who were suspended for indiscipline will not be reinstated pending an independent inquiry – an issue that caused bloody clashes between its workers and police on Black Monday. Dismissing four employees, 13 more were suspended without reason in May, followed by suspension notices to 37 others a month later. HONDA took a stand of not allowing the suspended workers into gates until the third party inquiry is completed and management gets the report. Management decided to take a call on their reinstatement based on the inquiry’s findings. But in any case, four employees who had caused the initial disruption of work will not be taken back under any circumstances.
The trouble at the group’s two-wheeler unit began when some 2,000 workers protested a lockout of the factory and dismissal of some colleagues. This was followed by clashes with the police that left scores wounded after some irate workers vandalized civic facilities, police vehicles and shops.
But it stresses the need to study and find out the reasons for the labour unrest at Honda.
The misgivings between the Honda management and employees find roots in the demand for a union to protect workers’ interests. Though the demand for a union did not go well with the management, the government and other companies in Gurgaon, the workers applied for registering the union. And even after the union was registered, there was a lot of pressure from the management, which finally dismissed four employees in the first two weeks of May.
To conclude, an idea of forming union did not go well with the management of HMSI. This finds the root in Industrial Dispute Act (IDA), 1947 which restrict the labour market flexibility. Had IDA included sections allowing labour market flexibility, HONDA would not have taken action against employees forming a union. It necessitates the changes in labour laws and calls for labour reforms in such a way to protect the interests of both employers and employees.
EFFECT OF LIBERALIZATION AND GLOBALIZATION ON LABOUR MARKET
Liberalization of the Indian economy is almost a decade and a half old. Of all the economic liberalization reforms, labour market reforms have gained maximum attention. It is widely argued by many economists that in the open economy and liberalized trade, the country can no longer afford to carry on labour market rigidities. The employers (industrialists) have been vehemently pressing for labour reforms on the plea that these are necessary for making Indian industry globally competitive and for attracting more of foreign direct investment. The existing laws, it is contended by employers, slow down growth and job creation. They say that under the existing labour laws the churning of new skills is slower, companies lose cost cutting flexibility and ability to bounce out of recession quickly. The employers further contend that Labour Market will become more flexible with the amendments; more workers can be hired legitimately and can ask for better benefits including better work conditions, safety standards, welfare measures and health benefits.
The structural analysis of Labour Reform
Any change or reform in labour law will depend on the four competitive forces: Trade Union, Employer, Political parties and Government. In these forces, Trade Union and Employer take diametrically opposite stand on any issue. Employer wants more flexibility in retrenchment policy to become competitive, whereas Trade Union primary concern is on Job security and their influence on workers, which determines their bargaining power with Management. Political parties want vote bank from workers as well as financial support from businessmen. Whereas Government is keen to bring the labour reforms in order to keep Country on the fast track of development but don’t want to create unrest among the workers.
LABOUR REFORMS IN INDIA
Labour laws need to be amended to suit the changing economic scenario. However, different stakeholders like Employers, trade unions and political parties seem to differ on the issue. For e.g. the political parties in the ruling coalition of the Central Government possess contradicting ideologies on labour related matter. Leaders of the Communist Party of India (CPI), an important party of the coalition, have been opposing the flexibility to industry on labour related matters. The congress has been arguing for “labour reforms” to attract Foreign Direct Investment in the country. However, the journey for labour reforms seems to be difficult owing to inherent contradictions among the stakeholders involved in the process.
The trade union opposes the Employer’s demand saying that any loosening of government control over the industry by way of labour reforms would throw workers out of job safety net. They want among other thing strengthening of social security for the workers, extension of social security benefits to workers in the organized sector, and participation of workers in the management.
THREE ISSUES THAT NEED TO BE ADDRESSED
* Industrial Disputes Act, 1947
* Contract Labour (Regulations and Abolition) Act, 1970
* Social security net
INDUSTRIAL DISPUTE ACT (ID ACT), 1947
It is a principal legislation dealing with the core labour issues like investigation and settlements of industrial disputes, regulation of strikes, lockouts, lay-offs, retrenchment, and other related matters. According to the chapter VB of ID Act it is compulsory for any industrial establishment employing more than 100 workers to seek permission before resorting to lay-off, retrenchment or closure. Employers and some political leaders have been arguing for a change in this provision.
Employers want that the limit for the application of Chapter VB should be raised to 1000. NDA government, during its tenure had expressed its willingness through various statements to amend ID Act to free employers from the restrictions on them in the chapter. It was proposed to give an additional retrenchment compensation of 45 days wages for every completed year of service. But trade unions are very much opposed to it, as almost every unit would come under this limit, giving employer’s unrestrained right to close their units.
POSITIONS AND INTERESTS OF DIFFERENT STAKEHOLDERS ON THIS LEGISLATION
Trade Unions: They oppose the increase of limit specified in Chapter VB from 100.
Behind this stance they want to safeguard some interest:
* Unions’ influence at the workplace will decrease by this amendment
* Their bargaining power will be reduced
* Loss of job will be a major threat to workers
* It may affect Worker’s economic welfare
* It will boos Union’s identity as savior of worker’s right
Employers: They support the idea of increasing the limit specified in Chapter VB up to 1000. They expect following favorable effects from this change.
* It will provide the flexibility at work.
* It will help in cutting cost
* They will gain global competence
* They will have favorable exit policy
* There will be less legal battles
* They will have better management control
Political parties: There is lack of consensus among different key personnel among political parties regarding this amendment. They face following threats and advantage by bringing the changes in law.
* They might lose the political support of worker
* They will get financial support from employers to meet election expenses.
Government: Every government talks about bringing the requisite change in the law. It is necessary to bring change in our archaic Labour law if government wants to attract huge amount of Foreign Direct Investment. But they don’t have the enough political will to take such concrete step, as it can adversely affect their chances in election. So they also talks about revival of sick units to protect employment. But such a step will only ensure the locking of huge fund in unproductive work, which could have used in more wealth creation and employment generation.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT IN LEGISATION
As seen from the above list of interests, the ruling political parties carry a dilemma as to how to balance their interests regarding political support of the workers, financial support of the employers and attracting foreign investments. Clearly the interest of the trade unions and the employers are conflicting on the issues of managerial control at the workplace. The freedom to retrench people would construe to significantly higher managerial control of employers at the workplace. Unions are unlikely to agree to such scenario.
* One way to maintain the balance of control at the workplace between the employers and the trade unions would be to develop well specified procedures to retrench employees. Such procedures do not provide flexibility to the employers to retrench arbitrarily. Hence, it could protect the balance significantly.
* Some mechanism could be developed whereby, the company retrenching the employees should take an undertaking that whenever it needs to diversify or need more manpower, it shall give preference to the workers it is retrenching at present.
* Companies could also opt for unconventional problem solutions:
* Cutting working hours of workers to avoid possible retrenchments, transfer or redeployment of labour from excessive labour to labour deficient units.
* Labour can be given three to six weeks break and encouraged to go in for skill enhancement. It will lead to a two way gain: personal growth for the employee and employer can put to use worker’s enhanced skills.
There are a number of companies for e.g. Volkswagen, who have successfully used these methods to steer themselves out of the economically tough situations without opting for conventional means like freezing recruitments, going in for retrenchment or lay off etc.
* Amendments under Industrial Relations Bill of 1982 should be implemented as it contains many provisions that would attend to the current concerns like setting up of a time-bound grievance redressal, fixing a time limit for the adjudication of individual and collective disputes.
Contract Labour (Regulations and Abolition) Act, 1970
For some time past there has been growing agitation for the abolition of employment of contract labour, as it was realized that the execution of work on contract through a contractor, who as an employer of the employed labour, was primarily to deprive of its due wages and various privileges of labour laws. It was also realized that certain work by their very nature can conveniently be executed by contractors through contract labour, or by labour on contract basis. In this regard, the matter of abolition and regulation of contract labour, caught attention of law makers. According to the Section 10 of the Act ” Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the appropriate Government may, after consultation with the Central Board or, as the case may be, a State Board prohibit, by notification in the official Gazette, employment of contract Labour in any process, operation or other work in any establishment “.
On the current status, union leaders are of the opinion that a reference to labour reforms in the current context of economic liberalization can only mean a freedom to the employers to resort to a policy of ‘hire and fire’ as opposed to some what sheltered environment that the labour enjoys with the stringent norms on retrenchment, lay-offs and closure of industrial establishments under the present regulatory framework.
The law may forbid retrenchment or closure, but in practice employers simply stop paying salaries or running mills. Owners prevented from downsizing see no point in putting any more money or effort into a revamp. Instead they strip the assets of their ailing companies. Industrial sickness has been growing and many workers in the sick industries have employment security only in the theory. Employers search for escape routes has led to greater use of casual and contract workers. The growing casualisation of labour is reflected through employer’s preference to outsource drivers, gardeners, canteen staff etc.
POSITIONS AND INTERESTS OF DIFFERENT STAKEHOLDERS ON THIS LEGISLATION
Trade Unions: According to the Trade Union Section 10 should not be amended to the disadvantage of contract workers. It will ensure following favors for workers.
* Ensure due wages to workers.
* Job security
* Get benefits of labour laws.
Employers: Employers want amendment in Section 10 to facilitate of activities without any restrictions. It will help them in
* Reducing costs.
* Getting more flexibility at work place
* Power and control at work place.
* Saving from legal battles.
* More flexibility leads to better outputs and a more competitive working environment.
Political parties: There is lack of consensus among different key personnel in political parties. They have to make balance between the two diametrically opposite interests,
* Political support of workers
* Financial support of employers to meet election expenses.
Government: It varies with the political party in power; NDA government seemed more inclined to allow outsourcing and engaging workers on contract. It is the responsibility of government to bring requisite amendment in this act so that more money can flow in India in form of Foreign Direct investment.
POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVE SUGGESTIONS
Though there are significant conflicts in the interests of the trade unions and employers, the contact workers are quite freely changed by employers owing to high vulnerability of those workers. The high job insecurity and unemployment in the country virtually forces the contract workers to insure compliance to employers. It enhances the control of the employers at the workplace. Hence, the trade unions are keen to develop strict norms of employing least number of contract labour and higher number of regular employees. In such scenario, it is a challenge to both the employers and trade unions to reach to a common ground to get solution to the present situation.
SOCIAL SECURITY NET
There is an urgent need to revisit our labour policies and other labour related issues, if India as a country has to remain competitive and in fact has to assume its legitimate share in global economy, give the country’s size and resources. But one of the major constraints in making our labour laws flexible has been absence of an adequate and broad based safety net for the country’s workforce.
India has two main social security schemes for workers in operation since 1950s in the organized sector. These are Employees Provident Fund Scheme and Employees State Insurance Scheme. The former provides social security like provident funds, pension on superannuation etc. to about four crore employees while the later caters to the medical care needs of specific group of workers particularly in the unorganized sector.
Despite being among the largest social security schemes in the world, the two main schemes mentioned above cater to not more than 8 to 9 per cent of the country’s total work force. Secondly, these schemes don’t have built-in mechanisms to neutralize/compensate for the adverse fall out of globalization like closures, retrenchments etc.
The closure of industrial Units and bankruptcies are normal feature in the developed economies all over the world. The workers of such unit do not feel adverse impact as they are covered by well-established social security system.
Cover during Unemployment
The advocate of the ‘hire and fire’ also wants to bring about a fundamental change in the nature or perception of employment. They want employment to be on the basis of contracts for stipulated periods- a total departure from the current system in vogue in most kind of employments.
Most of the developed countries where the majority of jobs are contacts have elaborate and effective system of social security. Even in China, to quote an instance, there are stringent laws on social security system that takes care of worker’s income and requirements at least for two or three years of transition or unemployment. In India we don’t have such provisions. There is a need of Unemployment Insurance. Let every worker in the organized worker pay Rs.10 per month into an unemployment insurance fund, and let every employer make a matching contribution. Rs.10 is a small sum but if 28 million workers contribute Rs.10 each, that means 28 crores per month. With matching contributions from employers, the sum rises to Rs.56 crores per month. Even allowing for the some defaults, that is sufficiently large and sustainable to take care of retrenchment compensation. Unemployment insurance can provide retrenched workers with 100 per cent of basic wages for six months, failing to 75 per cent, 50 per cent and 25 per cent in the next three six-month periods that will support workers for up to two years while find fresh jobs.
It must be recognized that labour market reforms are not going to be easy in a situation where employment opportunities have been shrinking. Also there is a larger question of providing social security to the workers employed in the organized sector. The vast unorganized labour force, which constitutes over 90 per cent of the total, is denied fair wages and even modest levels of social security. Hence, labour market flexibility must be accompanied by some kind of insurance and social security to the vast unorganized labour force in the country. Government should make all possible efforts to dispel the fears of trade unions by enlarging the scope and coverage of the social security net.
Hence no solution can be reached if the stakeholders continue to take extreme positions. There has to me a meeting ground to address everyone’s interests, to the extent possible. The immediate challenge in bringing about the desired labour reforms is to resolve the anti-labour stand in the employer’s mindset, and labour prejudices. They have to realize that employer and employee are not separate entities but two faces of the same coin. They equally need each other and the relationship between the two can only be harmonious if they work towards defending each other’s interest rather than contesting the same. Hence employers should pay more attention to human resource development and capacity building of their employees. Industrial bodies have to take up workers education. Workers on the other hand realize the importance of ‘no work no wages come’.
There should be a general consensus on the labour reform ideology among the major political parties. Political leaders should look beyond their narrow interests and develop consensus for the larger benefits of the Indian economy. It demands to bring in a balanced view whereby concerns of all the stakeholders, especially the trade unions and the employers are addressed. This may further be strengthened through a wider debate involving academicians, legal experts, policy makers and public at large. All the stakeholders should arrive at some consensus so that there is something for everyone.
Once such consensus is developed; it may be coupled with good and clean corporate governance.
CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY IN INDIA
CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY Scandals related to the appalling practices of multinational corporations like Union Carbide (now DOW), Enron, Coke, Cadbury, and
others may have shocked the nation and the world in the recent past, but the media rarely highlights corporate crimes that extend to murders, destroying habitats, threatening indigenous cultures, causing disease, contaminating the planet’s food supply, poisoning
our groundwater and even destroying the very air we breathe.
You think this is an exaggeration? Well consider this. In Bhopal, India more than 8,000 people died in the first three days after 40 tonnes of lethal gas spilled out from Union Carbide’s pesticide factory in December 1984. People woke in their homes to fits of coughing, their lungs filling with fluid. 520,000 people were exposed to poisonous gases. 150,000 victims are chronically ill, and even now one person dies every two days. Union Carbide merged with Dow Chemical Corporation two years ago and has ceased to exist as an entity while the present owners Dow refuse to accept any pending liabilities in Bhopal including clean-up of the abandoned site.
In Kodaikanal, India, Hindustan Lever, a subsidiary of Unilever Plc, an Anglo-Dutch multinational dumped mercury waste from its thermometer factory in the surrounding forests and on an innocent local community. When the scandal was exposed, first the company denied that there was a problem and later fudged facts and figures until the Indian authorities forced them to come clean. Since then Unilever has retrieved and sent back to USA some of the waste for disposal but are shying away from compensating affected workers and further environmental remediation measures.
Monsanto, one of the world’s largest pesticide companies, continues to sell its genetically engineered seeds to farmers around the world despite growing evidence of failure of crops like Bt cotton, that has reduced once well-to-do farmers in the developing world to penury and poverty while the threat of contamination of indigenous species by GE
seeds increases everyday.
Bayer AG, a German transnational continues to manufacture and sell phased out pesticides like Methyl Parathion (brand name Folidol/Metacid) in Asia despite an assurance to their European investors and stake holders that they would stop manufacturing these organo-phosphate poisons.
Ship-owning companies (and indeed, their countries) like Bergesen (Norway), and Chandris (Greece) meanwhile, regularly violate international and national laws and dump their hazardous wastes at ship-breaking yards in India, Pakistan, China, Turkey and Bangladesh. The voluntary guidelines issued by International Marine Organisation
are not enough and it is imperative that these guidelines are made mandatory to make the ship-owners liable and responsible.
In the era of globalization, multinational companies increasingly move around assets, products and wastes on a global chessboard to maximize their profits and minimize their costs. These companies are using differences and loopholes in national environmental and health laws for example to export pesticides and destructive technologies to
poorer countries to the detriment of local communities. What international body oversees them, or sets rules for their behaviour, or holds them accountable when they transgress?
It is no longer just the conspiracy theorists who believe our world is increasingly ruled and ruined by large multinational corporations. The World Trade Organisation has supplanted environmental treaties and regulations. Corporations have become accountable only under the rules of a free market, free trade and a free for all on human rights and the environment.
The state of our environment has not improved, in fact it has deteriorated. The gap between the world’s rich and poor has widened. Instead of providing developing countries with the tools for sustainable development, corporations have pushed their dirty
technologies and polluting industries on to some of the world’s poorest countries.
A recent UN report revealed that Exxon, with $63 billion, is worth more than Peru or New Zealand. General Electric more than Kuwait. Shell is worth more than Morocco or Cuba.
In the past ten years, corporations have not only resisted
environmental challenges, they have lobbied to water down
international treaties and even succeeded in getting countries to
pull out of environmental agreements altogether. They have maintained
their unsustainable practices in all sectors. It is apparent that
more than just voluntary measures are needed to control these
A recent report by WWF states that if we continue at current levels
of consumption we will use up all of the Earth’s resources within 50
years, and we will need two more planets to meet our resource needs.
We either take urgent action to save the planet, or we get off.
The UN Environmental Programme agrees that “the state of the planet
is getting worse.” They say “there is a growing gap between the
efforts of business and industry to reduce their impact on the
environment and the worsening state of the planet.”
At the root of our environmental problems are the unsustainable
practices of the corporations that shape our economies. But what is
the good of a short-term healthy economy if we can’t drink the water,
eat the foods in the fields or breathe the air?
Current systems of governance in Asia (as elsewhere) are proving to
be deficient against the activities of abusive multinational
corporations. To roll back the excessive powers of corporations and
to pressure governments to check corporate abuse and prosecute
corporate crimes, greater public participation is a must. The Rainbow
Warrior’s Corporate Accountability Tour of India is part of a global
movement to change the climate of opinion against abusive
corporations and to turn the tide in favour of fundamental human
Corporations need to be held accountable for their actions that are
destroying the planet, destroying people’s lives around the globe.
There is only one answer. We must stand up to the corporations. Our
governments must agree on international, legally binding rules for
corporate responsibility, accountability and liability: a set of
rules that business must follow, and governments must enforce.
The list of rules is long, but so are the crimes.
The world needs corporations to be held accountable to the following
laws – no matter where they operate in the world. HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
is calling upon the Indian Government to endorse the Bhopal
Principles on Corporate Responsibility, which call on Multinational
• Accept liability for environmental damage and compensate victims of
• Accept liability for the damage, no matter when it happens, what
the cause or who in the corporation is responsible;
• Accept responsibility for damage and injury beyond national borders
including accidents in the oceans and atmosphere;
• Ensure that they do not infringe upon basic human rights;
• Disclose all information regarding releases into the environment to
• Protect human and social rights including the highest standards for
rights to health care and a clean environment;
• Avoid influence over governments, combat bribery and practice
• Allow states to maintain their sovereignty over their own food
• Implement a precautionary principle and take preventative action
before environmental damages or health effects are incurred; and
• Promote and practice clean and sustainable development
INDIA’S ENTRY INTO WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION (W.T.O)-Right or
Years back , india signed the general agreement on trade & tariffs
Recently, india has gained the full fledged entry into W.T.O . now, it has
started to pinch us. W.T.O’s objective of establishing a free
market is good. The market won’t be free if one continues with subsidies ,
patronisation & asks others to stop the same. Hypothetically, if the
became truly free, the advanced countries like U.S.A, U.K, FRANCE ,ALL G-8
COUNTRIES will only benefit due to their higher technical prowess,
& natural wealth. The people living in poorer countries with deficient
prowess, productivity & natural wealth will suffer. In such an
traders & governments of advanced countries will takeover & control
economic systems of the poor countries. In turn looting the resources
countries. the running race between ace athlete ben johnson & a
cripple is not
fair. If at all the race is to be conducted , it should be between ben
the cripple mounted on a cycle, to bring parity & fairness.
Until the poorer countries achieve technical excellence , the advanced
must transfer the technical know-how to them at affordable costs. The
countries must offer the patented medicines & food products to poorer
at affordable costs. The advanced countries must provide financial
poor countries orelse the poorer countries must be permitted to levy
imports , to improve it’s domestic industry & infrastructure. By these
only, a truly free , non-partisan global market is possible.
The people living in advanced countries like U.S.A are causing more
the environment , through their luxurious , wayward lifestyles . a single
american uses more fossil fuel, cuts more trees, releases more CFCs,
water than 1000 indians put together. The man who throws rubbish, is
clean it. All G-8 countries must give major contribution towards global
environment clean-up excercise.
The mechanism to resolve trade disputes, consumer disputes between
organisations & individuals must be instituted & must be fair ,
Now, the time has come for poor countries to come together. The
of G-8 countries are saturated. To drive their huge growth engines
need the markets of developing & poor countries. Now, all countries
G-8 must come together , play our cards well. However the G-8
breaking this unity by inducing civil wars, terrorism in our
countries. They are
also breaking the unity by dangling economic loli pops, sops , etc. We
careful about this. Entering W.T.O is right, but it must be on terms
to our society never on terms of others.
WHY MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES ARE INVESTING IN INDIA?
We condemn the brutal massacre by police on farmers – who are going to loss all their lands , sources.of livelihood for the sake of special economic zones , industrial parks , etc in various states of India.
In every mega projects undertaken by government , both the state government & central government have functioned like REAL ESTATE / COMMISSION AGENTS for the rich & mighty . the government says it is acquiring lands for development of industries , for public good. In reality there is only good of rich & mighty.
For forming S.E.Zs , corporates gets speedy single window approvals from government , lands at concessional rates – lower than market value , soft loans from Indian banks , tax exemptions for years from the government , dedicated power supply , etc , from the government . these corporates are even given free hand to raise share capital in the Indian market. the government has enacted flexible labour laws specifically for S.E.Zs , they can hire & fire without bothering to pay gratuity , etc and they are exempted from providing P.F / E.S.I coverage to their employees ie they need not worry about the occupational health hazards of their employees , they can employ them till they are fit & throw them on streets afterwards. These corporates take our own money, employ our own people , use our own natural resources & finally take away the net profits to their home countries – what they give back ? – environmental pollution , tax evasions , low paid occupational hazardous jobs to locals , stock market scams .
During Previous License Regime foreign, investment was not directly welcome in India. As people at that time perceived it as “Neo colonisation” & detested it. There were various restrictions on foreign investments. The local industrialists under monopolistic
environment thrived, who were no way better than day light robberers, of course with a few exception. Under the political patronage, the cunning industrialists looted public money, cheated the government of tax, cheated lending banks & cheated the investors
too. They easily flouted labour laws & made labourers to work in inhuman conditions.
During 1990’s under the international pressure India signed GATT & slowly started opening it’s economy. Now, from 01/01/05 even product patent has come into force in India. Are MNCs bringing high technology intensive industries to India? No, not at all. They are actually denying sophisticated technologies to India. They are only
bringing the FMCG industries – salt, chips, ketch-up, colas, for which India is a huge home market. They are into services like Hotels, medical care, marketing. In other cases, they are just marketing the products manufactured at their bases in U.S.A. or Europe.
They are not bringing in new production technologies in the areas like space research, nuclear energy, bio-technology, pharmaceuticals or pollution control, to India. Also, some MNCs are relocating their highly polluting industries to India, as they are subjected to stringent environmental protection standards in their own home countries. Whereas, In India the Government is highly corrupt & can be bought for a price. The attractive points for foreign direct investment (FDI) in India are,
1. There is lack of comprehensive environmental norms.
2. The enforcement of environmental norms is lax.
3. The cost of health coverage, social security net to be provided to the workers exposed to the occupational hazards is less.
4. The cost of compensation to be paid to the persons-who died or suffered damages due to occupational hazards/environmental pollution is meager.
5. The enforcement of labour laws are lax.
6. Public money can be easily raised through lending Banks, primary market within India & the public can be easily cheated.
7. The tax can be evaded through various loopholes like transferring money to holding companies situated at Mauritius or countries which have double taxation avoidance agreement with India.
8. The tax can be evaded, company money can be cheated by lending money to sister / holding concerns at low interest rates or by selling shares, materials to their private companies at low rates or by buying shares, materials from their holding/sister concerns at exhorbitant rates, etc.
9. The corporate governance laws are almost absent in India & it’s enforcement nil.
10. Above all, the time can be bought by very slow Indian legal system, if any dispute arise.
11. On top of it, well trained, technically qualified people are available at low rates through contractors.
Just consider the following cases which highlight the apathy, irresponsibility of government of India and emboldened the cunning, MNCs:-
1. The India which boasts of so much scientific/technological advancements, is till date has been unable to provide potable water to it’s people. People of west Bengal , Karnataka , Andrapradesh states are forced to drink Arsenic, Fluoride poisoned water.
2. The people living near the mines of R.E.M.P. in Kerala are suffering due to exposure to the radio active materials, Same is the case with the people of Jadaguda, Jharkhand, living near the U.C.I.L. plant. Both M/S R.E.M.P & M/s U.C.I.L are department of atomic energy enterprises.
3. Few years back, In Mysore railway station containers of radio- active materials were left unattended. The dome of reactor building at construction stage collapsed in nuclear power plant at Kaiga. A fire tragedy occurred in Kakrapar nuclear power plant. In the recent Tsunami waves onslaught, certain important facilities of Koodakulam atomic plant were damaged near Chennai.
4. In 1984, U.S. based MNC union carbide mass murdered nearly 20,000 people, injured lakhs who are still suffering health problems. The polluted poisonous accident site i.e. Union carbide plant in Bhopal is not yet cleared off toxic materials even after 20 years.
This is still further damaging the residents of Bhopal.
5. In the above union carbide disaster, the Government of India didn’t present the case properly before supreme courts of India & U.S.A.. As a result the MNC just paid a pittance as compensation. As per that the cost of Indian lives are just a fraction of cost of
American lives. Just imagine if a same disaster occurred in U.S.A. at the plant of a MNC headquartered in India, what would have been the consequence?
6. In India, hazardous chemicals laced with food additives are passed through the drinks, beverages like pepsi, cola, coco cola very easily.
7. The medicines like nimesulide, paracetamol, etc. with hazardous side effects which are banned in U.S.A.& Europe, are easily marketed by the same U.S.& Europe based MNCs in India.
8. In India spurious drugs, medicines, food stuffs are easily marketed.
9. In India, the clinical trials of new medicines under research are done without proper compensation structure to those being tried upon ie. Virtual guinea pigs.
10. In India, the genetically engineered BT crops are being introduced without paying attention to formers, ecology or eco-system.
11. In India, during setting up of large projects, scant attention is paid to environment, eco-system & the displaced persons.
Most of the times, in government projects itself the displaced persons are cheated by the government in numerous ways.
12. In India, various Government as well as private hospitals dumps hospital wastes with deadly viruses in the open, with scant regard to public health.
13. In India, aged ships belonging to foreign countries are breaked down to scrap in ship breaking yards of Gujarath , Maharashtra & AP. Various toxins like the Asbestos, lead, etc & the hazardous, dirty water, Oil inside the ship are drained into Indian seashore. The labourers here are forced to work without any safety gears.
14. When specific cases of human rights violations were brought before the government & Judiciary by us , both of them didn’t respond at all.
All the above cases highlight the fact that, government of India & Indian judiciary treats it’s citizens lives as cheap, dispensable at will. This is the major attracting force for MNCs to India.
BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY 1984 -Bhopal, India
At the first instance the Government of India failed to ensure that Union carbide India Limited (U.C.I.L) has installed proper safety measures and fully implemented it in practice, at it’s plant in Bhopal. The Government of Madhyapradesh through it’s labour
department, factory inspectorate & pollution control board failed to enforce safety practices & environmental protection. In turn, the U.C.I.L didn’t install in full, the safety measures being followed by it’s parent company union carbide corporation (U.C.C) at it’s
Various plants in the U.S.A. The U.C.I.L. didn’t give community training to residents of nearby localities, to cope up with emergencies ie. Industrial accidents. U.C.I.L gave a go – by to safety practices, as it treated Indian lives as cheap. The government of Madhya pradesh instead of shifting slum dwellers around U.C.I.L, to other safe place, gave them legal title deeds just months before the tragedy in 1984.
Now, refer the following:-
1. After the accident at it’s U.C.I.L. plant at Bhopal, India in 1984, when the U.C.C. Chairman/C.E.O. came over to Bhopal from U.S.A to visit the accident site, local police arrested him on the charges of manslaughter. However, the Government of India got him released.
2. In 1985, Government of India enacted “Bhopal claims Act” took- away the right of appeal of all the Gas tragedy victims & declared itself as the sole representative of all victims. This said act itself is violative of victim’s fundamental & human rights. The
victims didn’t choose Government of India as it’s representative under will, agreement, trust or pleasure.
3. The paradox of this “Bhopal claims Act” is that, Government of India which is also a party to the crime, tragedy, itself is the appellant. The appellant (Petitioner),defendant are Government of India, Prosecution by Government of India & Judged by Government of
4. In 1989, when an appeal about interim compensation to be paid by the U.C.I.L to all the victims was being heard in the apex court, the supreme court of India without giving a chance to the victims to make their point, without consulting them, without making a proper assessment of damages/losses, gave an arbitrary figure as verdict & dropped all civil, criminal proceedings against U.C.C.&U.C.I.L
5. In the same year 1989, the Government of India without consulting the victims of disaster, without making proper assessment of damages/ losses, negotiated a settlement with the U.C.C. and in turn gave full legal immunity to U.C.C.& U.C.I.L from civil &
6. Even the Government of India didn’t present the case of victim’s-gas tragedy victims, properly before the U.S.courts, where the U.C.C is based. All these premeditated acts only benefited the criminals- U.C.C&UCIL. Are not the supreme court of India & Government of India, here to safeguard Indians and to safeguard Justice?
After all these crimes, the Government of India failed to distribute compensation in time to victims. It has failed even to provide safe drinking water to the residents near the accident site, It has failed to provide comprehensive medical care to the victims, till
date . It has even failed to get the accident site cleared off toxic wastes either by the culprit management or by it self, that too after 20 years. The very presence of these toxic wastes since 20 years is further contaminating, polluting the environment and taking toll of more victims.
Particularly in the case of “Bhopal Gas Tragedy” the supreme court of India & Government of India are deadlier criminals than U.C.I.L&U.C.C.
Just consider a case here, Just a few years back an U.S.based M.N.C ENRON set-up a power project in Maharashtra, India through it’s subsidiary. When Maharashtra state Electricity Board failed to lift power from Enron& pay them monthly guaranteed revenue, Enron threatened to invoke, open the “Eschrew Clause” with the Government
of India & to approach international arbiter U.K. Government of India has stood as conter-guarantee in this case. Finally the Government paid, of course subsequently the parent ENRON collapsed due to other reasons. If in this case if Government of India failed to pay-up as a counter guarantee & refused to comply with the award of International arbiter, definitely Government of U.S.A. would have stepped into the scene to protect it’s MNC. Hypothetically, In the same vein if Enron has caused damages to Indians either through negligence of safe practices or industrial accidents or bank frauds
amounting over and above it’s Capital base & insurance cover, then it would have been the duty of parent Enron & Government of U.S.A. to step in & pay-up.
In the same way, the U.C.I.L has caused massive damages to Indians & refusing to pay commensurate to damages. Dow chemicals which took- over U.C.C. is also refusing to pay. DOW chemicals which is the new owner of U.C.C. naturally inherits both profits, credits lent & liabilities to pay of U.C.C. Still it is refusing to pay. Now it is the turn of Government of U.S.A. to cough-up the sum.
Nowadays, it has become routine for central & State ministers to go- on foreign jaunts, to globe -trott inviting F.D.I / M.N.Cs to India. They do sign numerous agreements, only favouring MNC. When tragedies occur or when they cheat Indian banks/ investors, it is Indians who suffer. The ministers & bureaucrats thinks themselves as wizards and enters into agreements with MNCs, industrialists in a hush-hush manner, with vast scope for possible corruption. Is it not the duty of government to be transparent ?
CORPORATE CRIMINALS RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL ILLS IN INDIA
In India , a small shop owner to big industrialist have mastered the art of TAX EVASION . their teachers – some corrupt tax officials & auditors. The black money thus created is causing inflation, feeding the mafia , underworld. Some industrialists lobby ( bribe ) with the government & gets favourable laws enacted. This black money is the main source of funds for political parties , religious bodies & terrorist outfits.
The recent raids by C.B.I & KARNATAKA LOKAYUKTHA have proved how the tax officials have become multi-millionaires. The sad part is that some of the police officials who are on deputation to C.B.I & LOKAYUKTHA themselves are utterly corrupt.
This scourge can only be cured by corporate accountability intoto. However , all the industrialists , traders who are demanding for more flexible labour reforms , economic reforms , infrastructure , etc are not at all concerned about their own accountability with respect to tax , environment , other laws. The MNCs coming to India are not coming here for best Indian talents or infrastructure alone. In their own countries they are feeling the
heat of strict environment laws , consumer laws , share holder disclosures , corporate accountability. Some of these MNCs are being kicked out of their countries , by it’s own people .These MNCs are aware that in India , by greasing the palms environment laws , labour laws , tax laws , etc everything can be flouted , cases in courts can be dragged on for years . share holder disclosures , corporate transparency is minimum.
However when a concerned citizen complains about the crimes of guilty corporates , organizations or corrupt public servants , immediate action is not taken. The file is kept pending for months , years together , allowing the criminals to manipulate all the evidences , records , ground situations. Finally even if action is taken guilty will be let out due to favorable evidences , there are chances that the concerned citizen himself is falsely implicated & put behind bars . in all such cases all the involved parties must be subjected to lie detector tests .
Bottomline : development is a must , it must be all around . but not at the cost of majority to make a few richer.
An appeal to honourable supreme court of USA & HE Honourable president of USA Mr.Obama
Your government protects all Americans, all American companies both inside America & abroad. If an American tourist is murdered in a third country , American investigators fly over to that country to conduct investigation in total disregard to local laws. In the same way , if the interests of an American company is threatened in a third country American government goes to it’s rescue.
However , when an American company butchers , causes mass man slaughter in a third country , as an American company did in Bhopal India , no action by American government. Still the said American company has not removed , cleared the accident site of poisonous debris at Bhopal India since decades and still causing mass man slaughter , no action by American government why ?
Some US based companies are selling soft drinks , food products , medicines , drugs in third world countries , which are causing grave health damages to the public. The quality standards of these products are fit cases of rejections by US FDA. Some US companies are selling drugs ( which are banned in the USA ) to third world countries , still us companies are exporting such dangerous medicines , foods to third countries . no action by US government , why ? is it because you think that the lives of non Americans are cheaper than Americans ?
Hereby, I do request your kindself ,
1 . to initiate criminal prosecution against US based key management personnel responsible for Bhopal gas tragedy .
2 . to make either the respective company management or US government to pay compensation to victims of Bhopal gas tragedy on par with American lives , as if the same tragedy happened in the USA itself.
3 . to order the management of the said company to clean up Bhopal off poisonous debris , from the accident site at their own expense.
4 . To legally prosecute US exporters & US based companies selling products ( which violates US FDA regulations or banned in the USA for domestic consumption ) to third countries.
Doctors Aiding Police to inflict 3rd degree Torture on detainees
By Stephen Lendman
In April 2009, a confidential February 2007 ICRC torture report was publicly released. Titled, “ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen ‘High Value Detainees’ in CIA Custody,” it detailed harsh and abusive treatment from their time of arrest, detention, transfer, and incarceration at Guantanamo where ICRC professionals interviewed them.
Besides detailed information on torture and abusive treatment, they obtained damning, consistent detainee accounts of medical personnel involvement, including:
— their monitoring of and direct participation in torture procedures;
— instructing interrogators to continue, adjust, or stop certain ones;
— informing detainees that medical treatment depended on their cooperation;
— performing medical checks before and after each transfer; and
— treating the effects of torture as well as ailments and injuries during incarceration.
Condoning or participating in torture grievously breaches medical ethics and the 1975 World Medical Association (WMA) Declaration of Tokyo “Guidelines for Physicians Concerning Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Relation to Detention and Imprisonment.” It states:
— in all cases at all times, “physician(s) shall not countenance, condone or participate in” torture or any other form of abuse;
— they “shall not use nor allow to be used (their) medical knowledge or skills, or health information” to aid interrogation in any way;
— they “shall not be present during any procedure during which torture or any other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is used or threatened;”
— they “must have complete clinical independence” in treating persons for whom they’re medically responsible; and
— WMA encourages the international community and fellow physicians to support medical professionals who face “threats or reprisals resulting from a refusal to condone” all forms of torture and abuse.
Protocol I of the 1949 Geneva Conventions states:
“Persons engaged in medical activities shall neither be compelled to perform acts or to carry out work contrary to, nor be compelled to refrain from acts required by, the rules of medical ethics or other rules designed for the benefit of the wounded and sick, or this Protocol.”
On July 7, 2005 in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Gregg Bloche and Jonathan Marks published an article titled, “Doctors and Interrogators at Guantanamo Bay” in which they cited evidence that “Health information (was) routinely available to behavioral science consultants and others” engaged in interrogations, in violation of strict medical ethics.
In early 2003, detainee medical records were readily available, and since late 2002, psychiatrists and psychologists were involved in crafting extreme stress techniques “combined with behavior-shaping rewards to extract actionable intelligence from resistant captives.”
“Wholesale disregard for clinical confidentiality” seriously breaches medical ethics “since it makes every caregiver into an accessory to intelligence gathering.” It also “puts prisoners at greater risk for serious abuse.”
In July 2006, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) published a report titled, “Report on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment of Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba” that included evidence of medical personnel involvement in torture.
Detainee Othman Abdulraheem Mohammad was told that medical treatment would depend on his cooperation. Lakhdar Boumediene said every time he requested care he was told to ask permission from his interrogators. They “controlled his access, (and it) was granted or denied based on the interrogator’s assessment of his level of cooperation.”
Bosnian prisoner medical records confirmed that medical staff were present during their interrogations “and authorized (them) to proceed.”
Medical personnel monitored Mohammed al Qahtani’s interrogation during nearly two months of “severe sleep deprivation and physical stress.” At one point, they rushed him to the base hospital when his heart rate dropped dangerously low. After stabilization, they returned him the next day for more interrogation.
Other prisoners described doctors performing unnecessary and abusive procedures, including forced amputations, after which they were denied proper treatment.
Psychiatrists and psychologists designed “extreme interrogation techniques as part of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT).” In late 2002, it was tasked “to torment detainees in interrogations….”
International and US Laws Prohibiting Torture
Numerous international and US laws unequivocally ban torture under all conditions at all times with no allowed exceptions ever, for any reasons, including in times of war.
The Third Geneva Convention covers war prisoners and detainees. It prohibits torture and protects their right to be treated humanely against “violence to life and person (and) humiliating and degrading treatment” as well as to judicial fairness and proper medical treatment. The Fourth Geneva Convention affords the same rights to civilians in times of war.
The federal anti-torture statute (18 USC, 2340A) prohibits its use outside the US and defines it as “an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering….upon another person within his custody or physical control.”
The 1991 Torture Victims Protection Act authorizes civil suits in America against individuals, acting in an official capacity for a foreign state, who committed torture and/or extrajudicial killing.
The 1984 UN Convention Against Torture bans all forms of torture, cruel and degrading treatment in all circumstances at all times with no exceptions ever allowed.
The US Constitution’s Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.
The US Army’s Field Manual 27-10 states that military or civilian persons may be punished for committing war crimes (that include abusive interrogations) under international law. Army Field Manual 34-52 outlines interrogation procedures and specifically prohibits force, mental torture, threats, and inhumane treatment.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) bans cruelty, oppression, actions intended to degrade or humiliate, and physical, menacing, and threatening assaults. Army Regulation (AR) 190-8 protects detainees from violence, assaults, and insults, and directs that they be treated humanely with respect.
The 1996 US War Crimes Act prohibits grave Geneva Convention breaches, including (as stipulated under Common Article III) “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture (as well as) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”
Other binding international laws also prohibit torture, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1992 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with no exceptions or justifications allowed, such as orders by field commanders, Pentagon officials, or the President of the United States.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)
Founded in 1986, PHR “mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice and promotes the right to health for all.” It also “investigates human rights abuses and works to stop them” in conflict zones, US prisons, and offshore detention facilities where torture is routinely practiced.
In 2005, it published a report titled, “Break Them Down: Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by US Forces,” which it called the first comprehensive examination of “the use of psychological torture by US personnel in the so-called ‘war on terror,’ ” including sensory deprivation, prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, using fierce dogs to instill fear, cultural and sexual humiliation, mock executions, and threatened violence against loved ones.
It called the effects devastating and longer-lasting than physical torture, and said psychological abuse is morally reprehensible and illegal under international and US law.
In August 2009, PHR published a new report titled, “Aiding Torture: Health Professionals’ Ethics and Human Rights Violations Revealed in the May 2004 CIA Inspector General’s Report,” including ethical misconduct not previously known. It revealed the role of health professionals involved “at every stage in the development, implementation and legitimization of this torture program.”
It explained that doctors and psychologists actively participated in abusive interrogations and contributed to the physical and mental suffering of detainees. It called their actions “an unconscionable affront to the profession of medicine,” made worse by experimenting on inmates, then “aggregat(ing) data on (their) reaction to interrogation methods.”
PHR’s Steven Reisner said “They were experimenting and keeping records of the results,” a war crime under Geneva and the Nuremberg Code that requires “voluntary consent” of human subjects and prohibits experiments:
— that inflict “unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury;”
— if there’s “an a priori reason to believe death or disabling injury will occur;” and
— from being implemented if there’s reason to believe they’ll cause “injury, disability, or death to the experimental subject.”
PHR’s report detailed the psychological and medical effects:
— forced shaving inflicts psychological harm “by means of humiliation, both personal and religious;”
— hooding disorients and causes acute anxiety depression, depersonalization, and abnormal behavior;
— dietary manipulation inflicts discomfort and psychological stress;
— prolonged diapering causes physical and psychological stress and harm;
— walling inflicts physical injuries as well as psychological stress, rage, and helplessness;
— confinement in a box in extreme stress positions causes extreme physical and psychological pain and trauma; and
— other abuses, including waterboarding that simulates drowning and the feeling of helplessness to prevent it.
Involvement of Medical Professionals
They help develop, implement, provide cover for, and justify torture and abusive practices. They’re actively involved in designing harmful interrogation techniques in clear violation of the law and medical ethics. They’re “complicit in selecting and then rationalizing (methods) whose safety and efficacy in eliciting accurate information have no valid basis in science.” Their actions constitute “a practice that approaches unlawful experimentation.”
CIA guidelines require health professionals, including a doctor and psychologist, to be present during enhanced interrogations, “thereby placing (them) in the untenable position of calibrating harm rather than serving as protectors and healers as” their ethical code demands.
They also participate in initial physical and psychological assessments, then monitor all subsequent interrogations. They know their actions are harmful, unethical, and illegal, yet they serve willingly.
PHR believes they should be investigated on charges of “alleged criminal conduct.” Those proved guilty should be prosecuted, lose their license, professional society memberships, and any standing in the medical community henceforth.
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