In the Absence of the Sacred ?
NARMADA * National Day Of Action : Surprise Protest Action in Delhi / Letter to Sonia Gandhi (Madhuresh Kumar, CACIM, May 26) * Narmada Issues : Medha Patkar and Rahul Bose address Press Conference on Friday, May 26 at 4.15 pm at Azad Maidan (NBA, May 25) MUMBAI * We challenge the GoM to prove its changing statistics / Will the poor be compelled to reside at Azad Maidan forever? (NAPM, May 26) * Every child has a right to a home… (Eviction Watch, May 25) BHOPAL and Campaign Issues * Inherent Rules of Corporate Behavior (based on Jerry Mander's ideas from ‘In the Absence of the Sacred’; Jeff Milchen)
From Delhi, Saturday, May 27, 2006
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BHOPAL and Campaign Issues
"There Is A Fury Building Up Across India" (Arundhati Roy, April 29 – see CDDB 29)
National Day Of Action : Surprise Protest Action in Delhi / NAPM challenges the Government of Maharashtra / Every child has a right to a home…
In this issue we carry a thoughtful piece forwarded to us by Nity Jayaraman titled ‘Inherent Rules of Corporate Behavior’ (based on Jerry Mander's ideas from ‘In the Absence of the Sacred’, by Jeff Milchen). Given the emerging experience of displacement and state violence in India, would it be possible and useful to also formulate a set of inherent rules of state behaviour ? Yes, in the absence of the sacred ?
Jai Sen, for CACIM
Note : The CDDB (CACIM Delhi Demos Bulletin) is a digest of material on the struggles that have been going on for twenty and more years, and have recently intensified, in Bhopal, the Narmada valley, and Delhi, for a place to live in security and dignity – and everything that goes with that. The CDDB series started during late March and April 2006, when all three movements were holding protests in Delhi, and with the Bhopal and Narmada movements on ‘dharna’ (sit-down strike) simultaneously at a place called ‘Jantar Mantar’ in the city. See CDDB 1 and 2 for more details on Jantar Mantar and the demos. All back issues of this Bulletin (the CACIM Delhi Demos Bulletin), number 0 onwards, are available @ : http://www.cacim.net/twiki/tiki-view_articles.php?type=article&topic=1 http://www.cacim.net/twiki/tiki-view_articles.php?type=article&topic=1
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On 26.5.06 4:43 pm, "madhuresh" wrote:
On the occasion of the National Day of Action around 50 members of Delhi Support Group of Narmada Bachao Andolan today at 12 noon staged a surprise demonstration at Congress Party's President, Sonia Gandhi's residence 10, Janpath, New Delhi in the high security zone. The demonstration was largely peaceful, without any slogans and people wore black bands in protest against the apathy of the government and inaction of the central government. The guards were taken by surprise and didn't know what to do. We all hung our banners and posters there right in front of the entrance blocking the entry. After some time senior police officers moved in and persuaded us to stand on the side. We told them that we wanted to meet Sonia Gandhi to put forward the problems in the valley and ultimately stop the construction of the Dam before the rehabilitation is complete. Since we didn't have an appointment they won't let us meet. We insisted on meeting her and sat there for an hour or so. Then the police asked us to meet the senior congress leader Moti Lal Vora, which we refused. After an hour or so Mr. Manish, Sonia Gandhi's Secretary, Public Grievances, came to meet us. We told him our purpose of coming and asked for an appointment with Sonia Gandhi. He then persuaded us to meet Moti Lal Vora and promised to arrange for an appointment with her tomorrow. On this note the demonstration ended around 2:30 and a delegation of five people comprising Shivani Chaudhury, Bhupinder Singh Rawat, Indu Prakash Singh and two others will be meeting her tomorrow and hand over the letters which the members of Delhi Support Groups has written to her.
TEXT OF THE LETTER
May 23, 2006
President, Congress Party
Mrs. Sonia Gandhi
Respected Sonia ji,
I am writing this letter as a concerned and deeply distressed citizen of India. The current situation in the country – one that supports the violation of the most fundamental rights of the people by the government, and the suppression of people's struggles, is a real mockery of democracy.
In particular, I would like to express my dismay over your persistent silence and the Congress Party's failure to take a strong stand against the illegal construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam. Instead, the Gujarat Congress seems to have joined hands with the BJP in supporting the dam.
As you are aware, the lives and livelihoods of 35,000 families in the Narmada Valley are threatened as a result of the height of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) being raised from 110.64 to 121.92 metres, which will have tragic devastating and irreversible effects.
According to the Narmada Dispute Water Tribunal Award, upheld by the Supreme Court in its orders of 2000 and 2005, rehabilitation has to be completed one year in advance of submergence, and the dam height cannot be raised unless all those affected under the present height have been properly rehabilitated. Even affidavits of the Madhya Pradesh government state that rehabilitation was not done one year in advance of submergence, and in fact is still not completed.
Several agencies, including state and central government bodies have visited the Valley, and the group of three ministers, including the Prime Minister, know that rehabilitation has not been done and that construction of the dam is illegal. Yet in its latest judgement, the Supreme Court has backtracked on its own orders and failed to uphold the Tribunal Award. Despite the illegality of the situation, neither the Prime Minister nor you as President of the Congress Party have intervened nor ordered the dam construction to stop, thereby silently supporting a gross violation of human and constitutional rights.
The new committee constituted by the PM with Mr. V.K. Shunglu, J.P. Narain and G.K. Chadha has been asked to conduct a survey through the NSSO from 19 May to 19 June. The committee has been assigned the task of surveying the number of displaced people, the land available, and the area to be submerged through a sample survey, and has been asked to recommend ways and means to complete rehabilitation within 3 months. Can the rehabilitation of 35,000 families be completed in 3 months? When the law and policies clearly call for allocation of land and house plots one year before submergence and for rehabilitation to be completed 6 months before submergence, why is a central government committee that violates these legal provisions been set up?
The Supreme Court while refusing to halt construction on the dam has decided to hear the matter on 7 July after the report of the Shunglu Committee is submitted to the Prime Minister on 30 June. By this time the dam height will already have reached 121.92 metres and will result in the evident submergence of adivasi villages, houses and fields, especially with the monsoons approaching. Given the circumstances, the report of the Shunglu Committee seems to have little purpose than to conduct a post-mortem on the matter.
It is truly tragic that the highest court in the country has failed to deliver justice and truly shameful that the UPA government is supporting such injustice and failing to protect the lives of its people.
It is in this context that we would like to make a final appeal to you and urge you to intervene and use your powers to immediately halt the construction of the dam, and take measures to ensure the just and proper resettlement and rehabilitation of all the affected.
A failure to do so on your part will imply a responsibility towards what happens to the thousands of adivasis and farmers in the Narmada Valley who face imminent submergence in the upcoming monsoon.
I hope that you will act in the best interest of the people.
CACIM - India Institute for Critical Action : Centre in Movement
A-3, Defence Colony, New Delhi 110 024
Ph : +91 4155 1521 / 2433 2451 (O)
Mobile : + 91 98 1890 5316
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On 25.5.06 7:03 pm, "Pervin Jehangir" wrote:
Issues to be covered include :
- the latest situation in the Narmada valley in view of the crisis expected along with the arrival of the monsoons and increase in the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam.
- the latest on slum demolitions - post meetings with various Ministers.
- Aamir Khan and the Fanaa controversy
Please do come and help create awareness amongst your readership on the above issues.
For the NBA, Simpreet Shashi Arun Pervin and other supporters
On 27.5.06 6:34 pm, "email@example.com" wrote:
Today a delegation of slum dwellers and activists met Principal Secretary Housing, Shri N. Rama Rao; also present were Additional Collectors - City and Eastern & Western Suburbs and representatives of MMRDA. The meeting was held to protest against and discuss the demolition of slums including Mandala, Mankhurd (5000 houses) and Love Dale, Colaba irrespective of High Court orders. The plan and irregularities and illegalities in using the Mandala plot for rehabilitation of PAPs of Mithi River Development was also discussed.
On 18.06.2005, Deputy Secretary, Housing Department had filed an affidavit in High Court, Mumbai, stating that according to them 5645 households had come during 1995 and 2000 and they were eligible for rehabilitation. A survey to identify these families was once again carried out after a decision taken jointly by the Mumbai Pradish Congress Committee and the Chief Minister in June 2005, after much struggle by Mumbai‚s ousted poor, in Mumbai and Delhi.
However, by now 130 slum dwellers have been allotted house plots at Mandala and about 300 at Ambujwadi, i.e. out of 5645, only less than 500 have been rehabilitated. The authorities have to be answerable not only to the High Court but also to the people. Why only this many? the delegation asked, and the reply was: others have returned back to their native places. This was categorically denied by us. The Andolan activists and NAPM had complained about the flaws and corruption in the survey of 1995-2000 carried out, and an unacceptably small number of families declared eligible. The Principal Secretary has agreed, after much debate, to provide a list of these 5645 eligible slum dwellers, which according to the officials themselves would be difficult to find. Whether the figures submitted to High Court were false and misleading or the eligible families have been denied their entitlements and made to face illegal demolition, the Andolan will be looking into the matter and bringing o
MMRDA officials informed the delegation that the Mandala plot is intended to be used for the temporary resettlement of the dealers in scrap material, evicted under Mithi River project. But they had no answers to the questions as to how can the commercial units be Œtemporarily‚ resettled and that too on a plot which falls in ŒNo Development Zone‚ (NDZ) and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)? Such a step by Governmental Authorities is questionable, not only legally but also morally; since on one hand they are pushing the Mithi River project as environmentally sustainable, and on the other, misusing NDZ and CRZ. Such illegalities will be challenged by the slum dwellers and activists through legal course as well as by taking to street actions.
We made it clear that the State Government must immediately stop this move of pitting the poor against the poor, violating social norms and legal provisions both.
On questioning about the report of the Committee on housing policy, which was to recommend a policy to ensure housing for every citizen, taking into consideration the migrant poor as well, the Principal Secretary said that it is still pending. If it‚s so, eviction must stop and the people should be allowed to stay til an alternative is provided. Why is the state government not using the plots reserved for Housing the Dishoused, which are occupied by shopping malls and builders‚ townships? we asked. There was no answer.
The Mithi River Development project is totally based on a land-grabbing mission and as such there is no Plan, the reports are still to come, even the relevant plan documents are not being provided under Right to Information Applications. The on-going work clearly shows that the real motives are to remove the poor and grab the land under them. The real culprits, be it the Renaissance Hotel constructed right in the middle of the Powai lake, or the construction going on at Drive-in theatre near Mahim Causeway, or the Taxi bay construction by the Airport Authority of India, are not being held responsible but being absolved and protected.
The legal and human rights violations by the authorities who are backed not only by the local builders and politicians, but by International funding agencies like the World Bank, is creating havoc not only with the lives of the poor, but is also affecting society at large. The suspension by the World Bank of loans to the Government of Maharashtra proves that their policies and agreements too are violated, and now the state government is most desirous of changing the lending agency and thereby trying to weaken the policy on Resettlement & Rehabilitation. But the experience with the World Bank can also be repeated in the case of other multilateral and bilateral funding institutions, if the government is not implementing and following its own policies, and being sensitive to the needs of its poor citizens, especially the development-project affected, whose number is multiplying every year.
Mandala and Mithi river displacement is the test case for the state government if it desires to shop in the open global market for further finance and support.
Medha Patkar Mohan Chavan Raj Awasthi Simpreet Singh
On 25.5.06 5:42 pm, "Eviction Watch" wrote:
The 8th day of the indefinite dharna by the evicted families of Mandala, Mumbai was a different sight with Child Rights organisations and childrens' groups joining in solidarity with the affected children and their families.
Singing, playing and shouting on the top of their voices ‘Ghar Apne Haq Ka” (House is our right), they shared and discussed their feelings about the happening in their basti, and of course their city. The children’s Mayor of Mumbai joined the children and helped facilitate the children in their responses to the demolitions. The scene at Azad Maidan was rather different from the regular dharnas with around 300 children from demolished communities and other vulnerable children who are either homeless or are threatened by violations of their personal spaces, coming together to demand their right to a safe home.
[Photos of children’s drawings omitted]
The children from demolished slums narrated their experiences;
Salma Bano (10 years) said "My parents were dragged and beaten up by the police. My home was burnt including my books and other belongings."
Imran (12 years) lost his bicycle when his house was demolished. He got the cycle after years of request from his mother who stitches cloths to make a living.
14 year old Ibrahim's home got demolished in December 2004. He said, 'If we do not have a home, we cannot study. What will we eat if our parents lose their livelihood? Home is a place which gives you a shelter of protection".
Yogesh Medar, Childrens Mayor of Mumbai, expressed his solidarity and support with the children from demolished commmunities. He said, "Every child has a right to have a secure home and that right cannot be denied by anybody. The government is responsible for securing rights of children and these rights also include right to housing. It is important that we as children raise our concerns regarding issues affecting us."
Later children painted their images of a home on a 15-meter-long cloth which will now remain in Azad Maidan for public display.
A small children's park was also made with flags and balloons for the children to play.
The children then inaugurated their dream house in solidarity with all children who are homeless in this world before taking out a procession around Azad Maidan.
The children vowed to protect their symbolic house, till their Balawadi in Mandala is re-established and their right to housing and education is gained.
The Child Rights organizations including Bal Adhikar Sangarsh Sangatan, Bal Haq Abhiyan will take forward this process demanding the child’s right to housing.
On 24.5.06 3:54am, "Nityanand" wrote:
Is the notion of a “responsible corporation” an oxymoron? Read on to find out more about the inherent inability of corporations to do good unto all, or even obey the law. You can understand them, but not change them.
By Jeff Milchen
In his 1991 book, In the Absence of the Sacred, Jerry Mander outlined what he called, 11 "Inherent Rules of Corporate Behavior." He aimed to help readers understand that publicly-traded corporations are best understood as machines programmed to accomplish specific results and that corporate behavior was largely independent of the individual morality of its officers and directors. His insights have never been more timely, as they illustrate the severe limitations of promoting "corporate responsibility" and illustrate the essential truth that corporations must be redefined and subordinated to democracy, not merely regulated or pleaded with to do the right thing.
The rules don't distinguish between publicly-traded and privately-owned corporations. To a degree, privately-held companies can be guided by individual standards of morality, but competition eventually will pressure all but community-serving or small niche businesses toward similar behavior.
Taken together, these rules make a compelling case that the most destructive corporate impacts on our society and environment are inevitable under the form and power that we currently permit corporations to assume. Primary among the rules are:
The Profit Imperative
Because maximizing return to shareholders is legally required of corporate officers, profit must be the ultimate measure of all corporate decisions. Profit necessarily takes precedence over community well-being, worker safety, public health, peace, environmental preservation, and national security.
The primacy of profit over ethics may have moderately destructive impacts, as with Enron's manipulation of electricity markets to maximize profit on the backs of California citizens. In other instances, it can mean hundreds, or even thousands of innocent people dying. A few years ago Ford and Firestone executives concealed known danger to keep selling a product combination they knew was killing many of their customers. Their decision stemmed from a cost-benefit analysis which indicated that settling lawsuits resulting from fatal accidents was less costly than a recall — the correct decision from an objective view.
If you were to knowingly withhold such information when selling your personal vehicle, you could be convicted of manslaughter in the event of a fatality; yet those executives will never see the inside of a prison cell — they effectively enjoy corporate immunity.
The latest such case to make national news is Merck Inc., witholding evidence that the cholestorol reducing drug Vioxx may have caused up to 55,000 deaths when used as directed.
When atrocities like these emerge, it's natural to be outraged at the executives in charge, but we should work past our visceral response and recognize the executives really are parts in the corporate machine.
Consider that the much-publicized financial fraud cases have occurred in the most highly scrutinized and regulated realm of corporate behavior. What might be unearthed if we adequately staffed and funded investigations into other areas where the profit imperative has more serious consequences, such as violations of workplace safety or compliance with laws to keep our drinking water and air free of toxins?
Amorality (Not Immorality)
Corporations are artificial creations, shielded from obligations of personal morality and responsibility by their design. As a result, decisions that may be antithetical to community interests, workers' welfare, or public and environmental health are made without risk of personal liability. Furthermore, having no real commitment to a particular locale, corporations can relocate easily to escape taxes, unionized employees, and environmental protection laws.
In light of growing public awareness, more corporations are seeking to veil their amorality and appear altruistic. This practice of "greenwashing" is intended to coax more people to buy their products, services or stock. But when benefits do not accrue, altruistic poses soon are dropped. For example, when Exxon Corporation executives realized that their spending to mitigate damage to Alaskan shores after the Valdez oil spill was not swaying public opinion enough to benefit the company's bottom line, they dropped the pretense of ethical behavior and stopped the cleanup.
By understanding the combined effect of the profit imperative and institutional amorality, we realize that we can best prevent future harm by focusing on restoring citizen control over corporations systemically, not tackling one offender or harm at a time.
The Growth Imperative
Corporations live or die by whether they grow — for a publicly-traded corporation, there is no such thing as "big enough." The growth imperative fuels the corporate drive to continually pursue new resources and markets around the world. As natural resources are depleted, new frontiers continually are sought and more of the world's few remaining pristine places are targeted for commercial exploitation.
Corporate planners relentlessly lure "less-developed societies" into the global corporate economy to tap new sources of consumers and cheap labor while institutions like the World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund supplement those enticements with coercive power.
Corporations constantly generate PR touting global corporatization (misleadingly promoted as "free trade") as the best way to raise living standards and offers hopr to the poor. But this story often is contradicted by global economic data, which demonstrate that corporate colonialism
the siphoning of profit from the country or region of production is having a debilitating impact on many developing countries.
Corporations require subjective values to be translated into objective quantities that are easily tallied on balance sheets. Forests, for example, are valued only in terms of "board feet." Their immense value in sustaining life or providing clean water and spiritual nourishment goes uncounted. This carries over to government institutions that are heavily influenced by industry. Hence the U.S. Forest Service considers trees worth thousands of dollars to timber companies to be economically worthless unless they are cut down.
Such accounting without human values allows corporate cost/benefit analyses to be the measuring stick for many public health policies. The resulting policy of "risk-assessment" inflicts sickness and death from preventable pollution or unnecessary toxic pesticides to avoid the "excessive" costs of healthier alternatives.
Corporate political powers succeeded in pushing Congress to effectively abandon the Precautionary Principle (addressing or preventing probable health hazards proactively, rather than waiting for definitive scientific proof of public harm) when it repealed the Delaney Amendment in 1996. Delaney simply required that our food be free of proven carcinogens.
Exploitation & Homogenization
Corporate profit depends not only on minimizing employee compensation but also on shifting costs created by business onto society as a whole, commonly called externalization. We all foot the bill for such externalized costs of pollution, illness, health care, public infrastructure to support corporate expansion, and much more.
Corporate employees often are dehumanized--seen as replaceable parts in a machine. For managers in the corporate workplace, personal morality must not interfere with profit-based decisionmaking, though these decisions often carry deep personal, community, or environmental consequences. A CEO who resists moving a factory overseas to evade environmental regulations or refuses to cut workers' pay soon will be replaced if these actions result in an unexploited opportunity for profit.
Corporations have a tremendous stake in fostering homogeneous consumers and conformity. Consumption accelerates as more people believe that certain commodities bring material satisfaction. Inner satisfaction, self-sufficiency, and contentment in nature are subversive to corporate goals. As transnational chains increasingly dominate commerce, native societies are pressured to give up their traditional ways and join the corporate global culture--uniqueness is gradually vanquished.
Lack of Limitations
Our country's founders and many subsequent generations recognized the danger in allowing corporations to grow in size and power. Corporations initially were given a limited lifespan, barred from engaging in any activity not expressly permitted, and relegated to a narrow range of permissible actions. Corporations were deemed appropriate tools to serve a public benefit through engaging in commerce but were fully subordinate to democracy and prohibited from legally attempting to influence elections, education, public policy, and other realms of civic society.
But it's easy to forget lessons not learned through personal experience. For more than a century, we have permitted corporations to elude democratic control and escape our limitations on their lifespan, size, and activities. We have yielded to them immense power to weaken citizen sovereignty over business and to shape our laws and government.
As a result of vast political power, the majority of harms caused by corporations are perfectly legal, rendering even rigorous enforcement of the laws governing corporate actions inadequate. Banishing corporations from political participation is a necessary first step to reclaiming our democracy.
We must abandon the absurd notion that corporations can reform themselves. Such notions deceive and distract us from our fundamental work. This does not mean we should fail to support the efforts of those working to improve corporate actions from within; but merely asking for greater "corporate responsibility" makes little more sense than asking a bulldozer to act responsibly.
Even Business Ethics magazine founder Marjorie Kelly
a long-time "corporate responsibility" advocatenow writes "it won't be enough to rely on voluntary initiatives, codes of conduct, enlightened leadership...we must change the fundamental governing framework for all corporations in law.
It is We the People who must be responsible, as we have not been for over 100 years, and relegate corporations to their proper role--a tool for serving the public interest. Only by disillusioning ourselves can we hope to see the roots of our problems and recognize our responsibility: to restore our authority over corporations as citizens and re-program the machine.