The commissioners of the Supreme Court had received
disturbing information about acute food and livelihood distress of people
who were internally displaced by the disturbances in Gujarat. They were
informed that many families continued to live in relief colonies in very
difficult conditions with acute problems of food and livelihood security.
It was brought to our notice that the directions of the honourable Supreme
Court of India (in CWP 196/2001) on the food and employment schemes,
including the ICDS, MDMS, PDS, NREGA, Antyodaya and Annapurna Yojana,
NOAPS, NFBS and NMBS, were being violated.
Since we are mandated by the honourable Supreme Court to
monitor all the food and employment schemes in Writ 196/2001, we
subsequently wrote to the government of Gujarat requesting them to look
into the matter and ensure that food schemes were implemented by the
government of Gujarat as per the directions of the honourable court in
The government of Gujarat responded back to us that there
were no relief colonies of people displaced by the violence of 2002 in
Shortly thereafter, the National Commission for Minorities
(NCM) deputed three members to visit the state from October 13 to 17, 2006
and they went to 17 relief colonies. Their report is annexed in Annexure
3. They observed the difficulties that were faced by the residents of
these colonies and the non-implementation of state programmes. In relation
to livelihoods and food schemes, the commission made the following
"The residents were frustrated by their inability to earn
their own livelihood and to support themselves in the manner to which they
were accustomed. Before the violence many of these people were small
self-employed traders, artisans or industrialists. The violence put an end
to their means of livelihood since their old clients were unwilling to use
their services. The impression the team received is that very few of them
were employed in service. In the new environment, they are unable to
resume their earlier professions and because of this they find it
difficult to survive."
They add, "NCM members examined the homes in several
rehabilitation colonies and found evidence of abject poverty. With some
exceptions, the houses contained little except for bedding and kitchen
utensils. Despite these signs of poverty, the NCM found that many
residents did not have ration cards. Even when ration cards were issued,
most of the residents were given above the poverty line (APL) ration cards
instead of below the poverty line (BPL) ration cards. This makes a big
difference because BPL ration card holders are entitled to get food
grains, cereals, kerosene and other basic consumer items at subsidised
rates. Indeed, in several camps, especially in rural areas, the women
without exception had just one major demand: they wanted BPL ration cards
to be issued to them."
The report of the NCM clearly established that the
government of Gujarat had misrepresented the situation to the
commissioners of the honourable court by denying the existence of these
colonies. It also established prima facie evidence of the fact that the
directions of the honourable Supreme Court with regard to food and
employment schemes were being violated.
My colleagues further completed a full survey of the state
and found similar conditions in 81 such relief colonies across the state
of Gujarat. The report of this investigation (guided by senior academic,
Dr Ghanshyam Shah, and state adviser, Dr Indira Hirway) is appended in
Annexure 4. It found 4,545 families comprising around 30,000 persons still
living in very difficult conditions in 81 relief colonies.
The study found that none of the colonies had been set up
or assisted by the state government. Only five of the 81 colonies had
government or government recognised schools and only four served midday
meals to the children. Only five had ICDS centres, of which four served
supplementary nutrition to the children, and one to nursing and expectant
mothers. Only three had PDS shops and only 725 out of 4,545 families were
recognised as BPL although their intense poverty as internally displaced
persons facing economic boycott was acute. People who had APL cards are
reluctant to apply for a transfer of the card because they fear that this
may be cancelled.
It is therefore proposed that the following steps are
immediately undertaken to ensure state accountability for the food and
livelihood rights of its citizens who remain internally displaced nearly
five years after the 2002 incidents.
1. Contempt of court notices are issued to the chief
secretary and other officials of the government of Gujarat for
misrepresenting facts and furnishing incomplete and inaccurate information
to the commissioners appointed by the Supreme Court.
2. All families who continue to live in relief colonies
must be given Antyodaya cards as internally displaced persons who lost all
their belongings, face fear and economic boycott, and are too afraid to
return to their original homes.
3. Primary schools with midday meals should be opened in
all 81 relief colonies immediately and in any case before the next
financial year. The location of the school should be such that it is
accessible not only to the residents of the camp but to the surrounding
host communities, to promote integration.
4. All 81 colonies should have fully functioning ICDS
centres, with the entire contingent of nutrition and health services,
within two months.
5. PDS shops should be opened in all colonies where these
are not available within a distance of three kilometres.
6. There should be a drive within three months to ensure
that all eligible persons for NOAPS and widows pensions receive these.
7. Job cards under NREGA should be issued in all NREGA
districts to all residents of relief colonies who are desirous of these.
8. The chief secretary should personally certify that all
these steps have been undertaken in an affidavit to the Supreme Court
within three months of the passage of the order.