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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - India

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - India, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4114.html [accessed 25 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
 

 

India is a longstanding parliamentary democracy with a free press, civilian-controlled military, independent judiciary and active political parties and civic associations. Competitive elections produce regular changes of leadership at the national, state, and municipal levels.

Although the 25 state governments have primary responsibility for maintaining law and order, the central Government provides guidance and support through use of national paramilitary forces. The Union Ministry for Home Affairs controls the nationwide police service, most of the paramilitary forces, and the internal intelligence bureaus. Paramilitary forces are deployed throughout India and have committed significant human rights abuses, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir.

India has a mixed economy. The private sector is predominant in agriculture, most nonfinancial services, consumer goods manufacturing, and some heavy industry. The Government continued economic liberalization and structural reforms begun in 1991. India's economic problems are compounded by rapid population growth of 2 percent per year with a current total well above 900 million. Income distribution remained very unequal. Forty percent of the urban population and half the rural population live below the poverty level.

There continue to be significant human rights abuses, despite extensive constitutional and statutory safeguards. Many of these abuses are generated by intense social tensions, the authorities' attempts to repress violent secessionist movements, and deficient police methods and training. These problems are acute in Kashmir, where the judicial system has been disrupted both by terrorist threats including the assassination of judges and witnesses, and by judicial tolerance of the Government's heavy handed anti-militant tactics.

Serious human rights abuses include: extrajudicial executions, torture, and reprisal killings by security forces fighting separatist insurgents in Kashmir and northeast India; political killings, kidnaping, and extortion by militants; extrajudicial executions by police in Punjab; torture, rape, and deaths of suspects in police custody throughout India; incommunicado detention for prolonged periods without charges under special security legislation; government failure in most instances to prosecute and appropriately punish police and security forces implicated in abuse; widespread intercaste and communal violence; legal and societal discrimination as well as extensive violence, both societal and by police and other agents of government against women; infrequent prosecution of "dowry deaths" (wife murder); and widespread exploitation of indentured, bonded, and child labor.

Beginning in late 1993, the Government sought to address human rights concerns by establishing a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) with powers to investigate and recommend policy changes, punishment, and compensation in cases of police abuse. The Commission began to establish a record as an effective advocate for human rights when it examined security forces abuses committed in November 1993 in Bijbehara, Kashmir. One international human rights group commended the Commission's reports as "hard hitting." The steadfast work of local human rights groups and the contribution of the NHRC helped bring about a public acknowledgement of serious human rights abuses and the need for official steps to deal with them (see Section 4).

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Political killings by both government forces and militant terrorists continued at a high rate, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, and the northeast, where separatist insurgencies continued in 1994.

The security forces continued to commit extrajudicial killings of suspected militants in Kashmir. Human rights monitors maintain they have documented the names, dates, and circumstances in scores of extrajudicial killings each month. Typically, those killed were detained by security forces, and their bodies, bearing multiple bullet wounds and often marks of torture, returned to relatives or were otherwise discovered the same day or a few days later. While there is little information to corroborate individual cases, press reports and anecdotal evidence leaves no doubt that the pattern exists and is extensive. Security forces claim that these killings, when they acknowledge them, occur in armed encounters with militants.

Deaths in Kashmir, particularly of security forces and militants, increased in 1994 compared with the previous year. Press reports indicate that 1,296 civilians, 175 police personnel, and 1,630 militants died in insurgency-related violence in Kashmir.

In Punjab, instances of terrorist violence virtually disappeared in 1994, and the number of Sikh militants killed diminished considerably from 1993. The NHRC, visiting the state in April, concurred with a widespread public perception that Punjabi militancy was at an end and that police excesses could no longer be explained as a response to an emergency. In a report issued in August, the NHRC strongly recommended that the Punjab state government take steps to restore the normal functioning and oversight of the police. During 1994, 76 alleged Punjabi militants were reportedly killed in armed encounters, including only 4 in the last 6 months of the year, compared with more than 583 such killings in 1993. No police or other security personnel were killed in such encounters in 1994. The fact that no police died underscored the implausibility of police claims that militants were killed in "crossfire."Punjab police hit teams again in 1994 pursued Sikh militants into other parts of India. On June 24, Punjab police shot and killed Karnail Singh Kaili, a man they identified as a Sikh terrorist leader of the Bhindranwale Tiger Force (BTFK) in West Bengal. The government of West Bengal claimed that it had not been informed of the presence of the Punjab police in West Bengal, seized Kaili's body and weapons, and barred the departure of the police team until the Punjab Chief Minister apologized. In Bihar, human rights groups claim police continued to kill Naxalites in faked "encounter killings." In one case in April, police allegedly killed 11 suspected Naxalites in cold blood and then claimed the deaths had occurred in an encounter. During their August visit to Andhra Pradesh, representatives of the NHRC heard complaints of abuses committed by both Naxalites and police. The NHRC asked the Bihar government for details of nine alleged faked encounter killings by the police and recommended the payment of compensation to the relatives of the Naxalite killings, and also to the relatives of the victims of faked encounter killings.

There is evidence that the practice of faked encounter killings has spread to Bombay. The previous year's pattern persisted in 1994. There were over 60 alleged criminals reported as killed in armed encounters with the Bombay Police during the first 7 months of the year.

While state authorities continued to tolerate extrajudicial killings in areas buffeted by separatist insurgencies, the press and courts paid increasing attention to deaths in police custody and faked encounter killings. The Supreme Court directed active investigation and prosecution of custodial deaths and other cases of police abuse and negligence. In one case, murder charges were brought against Punjab policemen for a faked encounter killing. In another case, a High Court judge in July recommended murder charges for 11 Punjab policemen in a faked encounter killing and compensation to the victim's family.

In September the Supreme Court strongly criticized the Punjab police, including the Director General K.

P.

S. Gill, for inaction following the abduction by police in 1991 of 7 members of a family, none of whom has been seen since. In October the Supreme Court ordered the prosecution of 58 police officers accused in the 1991 murders of 10 Sikh youths in Uttar Pradesh. The NHRC is investigating 25 cases of suspected faked encounter killings.

Deaths of suspects in police custody continued to occur as a result of torture during interrogation. One such case was that of Madan Lal who died in November 1993 within hours of being picked up and released by police. In June the NHRC recommended the award of $1,700 to compensate Lal's family, the transfer of the investigation from the Delhi Police Department to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and the initiation of proceedings against a police officer who had threatened witnesses. The Government accepted the recommendations.

The press reported that police arrested Mahesh Paswan in the Hajipur District, Bihar on the evening of February 19 and that Paswan died in custody early the next morning. The victim's father filed charges against four policemen suspected of causing his son's death. The authorities suspended one officer, and the district magistrate initiated an inquiry.

According to press reports, Bapula Das died in police custody in the Khandagiri Police Station in Orissa April 27, hours after he was detained. Two men who had been detained with Das told a local human rights group that the police tortured the three of them with electric shocks. The Orissa Government reportedly suspended three police officers, initiated a judicial inquiry, and paid the victim's family $800 in compensation.

On August 29, Kashmiri journalist Ghulam Mohammad Lone and his young son were shot dead in their home. He had received a death threat from an army officer in connection with a story reporting corrupt practices in the military. At year's end, the authorities had not charged anyone in the killing.

Terrorist attacks accounted for hundreds of deaths. As in the past, Kashmiri militant groups carried out politically motivated killings on a wide scale, targeting progovernment politicians, government officials, alleged police informers, civilians and members of rival factions. Examples included: the shooting death of Wali Mohammad Itoo, a National Conference leader and former state minister; the killings of former state assembly member Abdul Majid Pandey and a police inspector in separate incidents on July 15; and the killing of three passengers on two buses stopped by militants in the Doda District May 20. On June 20, militants allegedly shot and killed the Dr. Qazi Nissar, the Mirwaiz (Muslim religious leader) of South Kashmir, for speaking out against militancy. The Government estimated that 70 persons, including 35 militants, were killed in clashes between militant factions in the first 3 months of 1994.

Maoist revolutionary Naxalites continued to commit many killings in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Orissa. Naxalites held "people's courts" in which village headmen and others were condemned to death and summarily executed as "class enemies" and "caste oppressors." In Bihar during 1993, 300 persons were estimated to have been killed in clashes between security forces and Naxalites, and between Naxalite factions.

Extensive, complex patterns of violence continued in the seven states of northeastern India. Numerous killings can be attributed to conflicts in each of the following categories: between indigenous peoples, usually Buddhist or animist, and immigrant groups, usually Muslim or Hindu; between tribes of indigenous peoples; between security forces and militants of at least 18 insurgent groups; among factions of insurgent groups. Large numbers of security personnel were among the victims of the violence of the northeast.

b. Disappearance

There were widespread reports of disappearances again in 1994. There are credible reports that police throughout India often do not file required arrest reports. As a result, there are hundreds of unsolved disappearances in which relatives claim an individual was taken into police custody and never heard from again. Police usually deny these claims, countering that there are no records of arrest. Security forces acknowledge that they detained more than 10,000 in Jammu and Kashmir from 1990 to mid-1994 and that they released over 7,000 of them. The Government made public a list of more than 3,000 detainees in more than 20 detention centers in Jammu and Kashmir in 1994. However, human rights groups maintain that the Government does not acknowledge holding without charge as many as 7,000 additional persons in incommunicado detention.

The Government maintains that screening committees run by the state government provide information about detainees to their families. However, other sources indicate that families are able to confirm the detention of their relatives only by bribing prison guards. The Kashmir Bar Association reports that bodies bearing marks of torture of persons detained weeks earlier have been found or returned to the victim's families.

Amnesty International (AI) published a report in December 1993 on disappearances in Jammu, Kashmir, and Punjab. The Government's response to the report shed little light on cited cases. The response indicated that the Government of Pakistan and militant groups bear the responsibility for creating circumstances in Kashmir that "created possibilities of what may be perceived as excesses." The response indicated that the Government had completed inquiries on 75 disappearances: 35 were dismissed on the grounds that no missing-person reports were filed with local police authorities. That is, the relatives did not file reports with the authorities whom they believed perpetrated or condoned the abductions. Investigation continued in 12 cases, and in 10 cases the authorities released disappeared individuals from detention. The Government offered other explanations for the remaining cases.

Problems with the absence of police arrest records is particularly common in Punjab, where a number of disappearances were reported. A noteworthy case is that of Sukhwinder Singh Bhatti, a defense lawyer for accused Sikh militants. On May 12, plainclothes police officers arrested Bhatti; he has not been seen since. In a letter to the Chief Justice, a group of Punjab lawyers pointed out that Bhatti's case was the fourth in 3 years in which the police kidnaped a defense lawyer for accused terrorists. On June 17, the Haryana and Punjab High Court ordered a CBI investigation into Bhatti's case; and on July 22, the NHRC summoned the Punjab state Home Secretary to provide explanations for the disappearances of the four lawyers. The NHRC reported that the cases are under investigation or before the Supreme Court.

Militants in Kashmir and the northeast have increasingly resorted to kidnapings to sow terror, seek the release of detained comrades and extort funds. According to the government, Kashmiri militants conducted 368 kidnapings in first half of 1994, including those of an American citizen and 5 British nationals, all of whom were released unharmed or freed unharmed by police.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits torture, but there is credible evidence that it is common throughout India. The authorities often use torture during interrogations. In other cases, they torture detainees to extort money and sometimes as summary punishment. Police officials in West Bengal acknowledged in press interviews that torture is a routine practice in interrogation.

Human rights groups continue to report numerous cases in which police and paramilitary forces have used torture during interrogations in Kashmir, Punjab, and Assam. Commonly reported methods include: beatings, rape, burning with cigarettes and hot rods, suspension by the feet, crushing of limbs with heavy rollers, and electric shocks. Because many alleged torture victims die in custody, and others are afraid to speak out, there are few first-hand accounts, although the marks of torture have often been found on the bodies of deceased detainees (see Sections 1.a. and 1.b.). The prevalence of torture by police in lockups throughout India is borne out by the number of cases of deaths in police custody.

The rape of persons in custody is part of the broader pattern of custodial abuse. According to the Home Minister, 54 cases of custodial rape occurred in 1991, 79 in 1992 and 45 in 1993. A report published by the People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) in May detailed 24 cases of alleged custodial rape between 1989 and 1993 in Delhi. The PUDR noted that there have been no convictions and that the authorities reinstated three of 10 policemen dismissed in connection with these cases.

In Madras, there were three publicized cases of gang rapes of the wives of prisoners in police stations in 1994; a number of policemen have been suspended in connection with these cases. In late December, an official investigation recommended official charges against policemen who allegedly raped seven women in a melee that occurred when the police blocked the movement of demonstrators near Muzaffargarh on October 2. There were also many reports of rapes committed by security forces and militants in Kashmir and the Northeast.

Confessions extracted by force are generally inadmissible in court. Under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), a confession made to an officer above the rank of superintendent of police is admissible as evidence--provided the police believe the confession was voluntary. However, the use of torture to obtain confessions under TADA is common.

Prison guards have abused inmates for reasons unrelated to interrogation. In one particularly serious case, 7 prisoners died and 27 were injured as a result of beatings by guards in Pilibhit Jail on the night of November 8. Criminal charges have been brought against guards and other officials involved.

Although custodial abuse is deeply rooted in police practices, there is evidence of growing public awareness of the problem. The NHRC has identified torture and deaths in detention as one of its priority concerns. It has directed district magistrates to report all custodial deaths within 24 hours and stated that failure to do so will be interpreted as an attempted coverup. Magistrates appear to be complying with this directive.

The courts also have been more active in prosecuting cases of custodial abuse. Many cases are old and illustrate the slowness of the judicial system in custodial cases. Early in the year, five Delhi constables were sentenced to 5 years' rigorous imprisonment for illegally confining and beating to death Kamal Kumar in July 1979. In January the Supreme Court sentenced three Uttar Pradesh policemen to imprisonment and fined two CBI inspectors for beating a suspect on the steps of the Supreme Court. In April the Punjab High Court ordered $1,700 in compensation to 4 women who had the word "pickpocket" tattooed on their foreheads by Punjab police.

There are three classes of prison facilities. Prisoners are not classified by the nature of their crimes, but by their standing in society. Class "C" prisoners are those who cannot prove they are college graduates or income taxpayers. Their cells are overcrowded, often have dirt floors, no furnishings, and poor quality food. The use of handcuffs and fetters is common. Class "B" prisoners--college graduates and taxpayers--are held under markedly better conditions. Class "A" prisoners are prominent persons, as designated by the Government, and are accorded private rooms, visits, and adequate food, which may be supplemented by their families. Class "A" prisoners are usually held in government guest houses. The authorities do not always follow this classification: following their arrest in October 1993, Kashmiri political leaders Abdul Gani Lone and Syed Ali Shah Gilani were held for months as class "C" prisoners before they were moved to a guest house (see also Section 1.e.).

According to a statement in Parliament by Minister of State for Home Affairs, P.

M. Sayeed, New Delhi's Tihar Jail, considered one of the best-run in India, housed in March 8,577 prisoners--in facilities designed to hold 2,487. According to Sayeed, 7,505 detainees awaited the completion of their trials, while 672 others have been in trial for 3 years or longer.

The Government does not allow NGO's to monitor prison conditions. Nevertheless, prison conditions are a subject of press reports and have received greater attention from human rights groups. Press accounts of prison conditions include reports of sexual abuse of prisoners, the use of prisoners by prison officials as domestic servants, the sale of food and milk for prisoners on the black market, the sale of female prisoners to brothels, and the marketing and export of prison-made goods.

Women constitute 2 to 6 percent of the total prison population, according to the 1987 Justice Krishna Iyer Report. Although Parliament passed a Children's Act in 1960 to safeguard young prisoners against abuse and exploitation, and a Juvenile Justice Act in 1986 provides that boys under 16 and girls under 18 are not to be held in prison, most states have not implemented these Acts. The Supreme Court has criticized the state governments for not providing reformatories and separate detention facilities for children.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Over the past decade, the Government implemented a variety of special security laws intended to help law enforcement authorities fight separatist insurgency. There are credible reports of widespread arbitrary arrest and detention under these laws.

The Constitution requires that detainees have the right to be informed of the grounds for arrest, have the right to be represented by counsel, and, unless the person is held under a preventive detention law, the right to appear before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest. At this initial appearance, the accused must either be remanded for further investigation or released. The Supreme Court has upheld these provisions. An accused person must be informed of his right to bail at the time of arrest and may, unless he is held on a nonbailable offense, apply for bail at any time. The police must file a charge sheet within 60 to 90 days of arrest; if they fail to do so, court approval of a bail application becomes mandatory.

The Constitution permits preventive detention laws in the event of threats to public order and national security. These laws provide for limits on the length of detention and for judicial review. Several laws of this type remain in effect.

The National Security Act (NSA) of 1980 permits detention of persons considered security risks; police anywhere in India (except Kashmir) may detain suspects under NSA provisions. Under these provisions, the authorities may detain a suspect without charge or trial as long as 1 year on loosely defined security grounds. The state government must confirm the detention order, which is reviewed by an advisory board of three High Court judges within 7 weeks of arrest. NSA detainees are permitted visits by family members and lawyers and must be informed of the grounds for detention within 5 days (10 to 15 days in exceptional circumstances). Nationwide, more than two-thirds of the 16,000 people detained under NSA since 1980 have been released by order of the state government or an advisory board.

The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) of 1978 covers corresponding procedures for that state. In May the authorities released and immediately rearrested Kashmiri political leaders Abdul Gani Lone and Syed Ali Shah Gilani, who had been detained under the PSA in October 1993. The move followed a decision by the Supreme Court which ruled that the authorities did not have sufficient grounds to detain Lone and Gilani. However, they and 376 other Kashmiri detainees were released in October. Over half of the detainees in Jammu and Kashmir are held under the PSA.

The TADA was enacted in 1985 to fight insurgency in Punjab, but has been invoked by almost every state, including those in which there is no insurgency (see also Sections 1.c. and 1.e.). TADA stipulates that those found guilty of terrorist and disruptive acts, or membership in a terrorist gang, may be sentenced to no less than 5 years. It also carries the death penalty for certain terrorist crimes. Disruptive activities are defined broadly to include speech or actions that disrupt or challenge the sovereignty or territorial integrity of India.

The TADA extends the period to 60 days during which a detainee may be held in police custody after remand by the court, and it allows administrative detention up to 180 days (1 year in special circumstances). Suspects held under TADA must be presented within 24 hours before an executive magistrate who reviews the detention order, but human rights groups say this requirement is frequently ignored. The TADA was extended for 2 years in May 1993, at which time an amendment was added requiring authorization from a state police inspector general before a court takes cognizance of a TADA case.

According to the Government, there were 8,742 TADA arrests in 21 states in 1993, the latest year for which information is available. In May the Home Ministry informed Parliament that 61,843 persons had been detained under TADA since the law's enactment in 1985, and 48,502 had been released on bail. While the Ministry said it did not maintain information on the numbers of cases that resulted in conviction, the Minister of State conceded that the number was very low.

Press reports claim that, on the basis of official figures, 626 persons have been convicted under TADA in all of India since 1986. According to a study by one human rights group, 18 of 11,957 detainees arrested under the TADA have been convicted in the state of Gujarat, even though that state has not experienced any insurgency. The vast majority of TADA detainees are eventually freed on bail or released without charges being filed.

There are widespread accusations that the special security laws have been misused in states not experiencing civil unrest as a convenient way to hold people without trial. These accusations are borne out by government data showing TADA and NSA arrests by state. In 1993 more persons were detained under TADA in Gujarat and Maharashtra than in Punjab, which was the Act's original target. The authorities in Gujarat detained 2,902 persons under TADA in 1993--roughly one third of the nationwide total. Detentions under NSA in 1993 were highest in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.

Public opposition to TADA rose after a Supreme Court decision in March upheld the Act's constitutionality. The press, human rights groups, and lawyers' organizations criticized the decision. The National Minorities Commission and prominent Muslim members of the Ruling Congress (I) Party, including a sitting minister, claimed that TADA is used disproportionately against minorities, Muslims in particular, and called for its repeal. In July the Supreme Court issued another decision that restricted the use of TADA to terrorist crimes and called for the release of those detained under TADA after 180 days if no charges have been brought.

The Home Minister acknowledged that there has been widespread abuse of TADA and directed the chief ministers of the states to correct these practices. The pace of releases subsequently accelerated and, by the end of November, the nationwide total of persons detained under TADA was reduced to 6,432. The largest number of those still held are in Kashmir and the northeastern states in Maharashtra, where religious riots occurred in January 1993.

The Minister of State for Home Affairs stated in July that the Government might not renew TADA when it expires in April 1995, if the Government found that the states have misused the Act. The NHRC announced in August that it would ask the Supreme Court to review its March decision. In September the NHRC entered a plea before the Court challenging one of TADA's provisions. The Court denied NHRC's standing but allowed its lawyer to advise the Court.

The court system is overloaded. The result has been the detention of persons awaiting trial for periods longer than they would receive if convicted. Prisoners may be held months or even years before obtaining a trial date. According to a reply to a parliamentary question in July, more than 111,000 criminal cases were pending in the Allahabad High Court, the most serious case backlog in the country, of which nearly 29,000 cases had been pending for 5 to 8 years.

Eleven detained foreigners petitioned the Delhi High Court in July to investigate the delay in their trials and threatened a hunger strike. Four had been held for 4 to 7 years pending completion of their trials.

The Government does not practice exile.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

India has an independent judiciary with strong constitutional safeguards. Under a Supreme Court ruling, the Chief Justice, in consultation with his colleagues, has a decisive voice in selecting judicial candidates. The President appoints the judges, and they serve up to age 62 in the state high courts and 65 in the Supreme Court.

When legal procedures function normally, they generally assure a fair trial, but the process can be drawn out and inaccessible to the poor. Defendants have the right to choose counsel from a bar that is fully independent of the Government. There are effective channels for appeal at most levels of the judicial system. This is not true for cases tried under TADA, which may be appealed only to the Supreme Court. Since many TADA detainees lack the resources to appeal to the Supreme Court, the Act effectively limits appeal. The Criminal Procedure Code provides for an open trial in most cases, but it allows exceptions in proceedings involving official secrets, trials in which statements prejudicial to the safety of the State might be made, or under provisions of special security legislation such as TADA. Sentences must be announced in public. TADA authorizes secret testimony to protect witnesses and suspends the usual prohibition on the use of evidence gathered through police interrogation. Persons charged under TADA with certain crimes are presumed guilty and carry the burden of proving their innocence. Human rights groups credibly charge that these categories are so broad that they can be manipulated to fit any case. TADA trials are held before special courts, which may sit "in camera" in any district of the state where the crime was committed.

Constitutional challenges to the TADA have been raised on the premise that it violates the defendant's right to due process, abrogates the jurisdictional rights of the states by eliminating appeal to the High Court, and that it is incompatible with the constitutional guarantee of free speech.

Muslim personal status law governs many noncriminal matters involving Muslims--including family law, inheritance, and divorce. The Government does not interfere in the personal laws of the minority communities, with the result that laws that discriminate against women are upheld.

In Kashmir, the judicial system barely functions due to threats by militants against judges, witnesses, and their family members and because of judicial tolerance of the government's heavy handed anti-militant actions. Courts there are not willing to hear cases involving terrorist crimes or fail to act expeditiously on habeas corpus cases. As a result, there were no convictions of alleged terrorists in Kashmir during 1994, even though some militants have been in detention for years. In Punjab, where a similar situation had existed, the courts began to play a more assertive role in 1994 (see Sections 1.b. and 1.c.).

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The police must obtain warrants for searches and seizures. In a criminal investigation, the police may conduct searches without warrants to avoid undue delay, but they must justify the searches in writing to the nearest magistrate with jurisdiction over the offense. The authorities in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, and Assam have special powers to search and arrest without a warrant.

The Indian Telegraph Act authorizes the surveillance of communications, including monitoring telephone conversation and intercepting personal mail--in cases of public emergency or "in the interest of the public safety or tranquility." These powers have been used by every state government.

On May 25, the Punjab state government ordered the authorities to intercept any mail addressed to or mailed by various Sikh political, student, and lawyer groups, persons residing in Pakistan, or any group or person considered a danger to the state. On July 25, the state High Court ordered the state government to suspend implementing the order.

g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts

Both government forces and militants continue to commit serious violations of humanitarian law in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. Between 400,000 and 450,000 Indian army and paramilitary forces are deployed in Jammu and Kashmir, but their number substantially increased during 1994. The Muslim majority population in the Kashmir Valley is caught between the repressive tactics of the security forces and acts of wanton violence committed by the militants. Under the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, both passed in July 1990, security forces personnel have extraordinary powers, including authority to shoot to kill suspected lawbreakers and those disturbing the peace, and destroy structures suspected of harboring militants or arms. The number of cases in which the security forces caused the deaths of civilians diminished when compared with 1993. In the most serious case, 18 civilians and 3 members of the Kashmir police died and 15 were injured in the village of Kupwara on January 28. Kashmiri sources claim the deaths, including those of the policemen, occurred when security forces fired on a crowd demonstrating near the district magistrate's office. Security forces claim they returned fire when militants attacked a military convoy passing through the town. Results of a magisterial inquiry have not been made public.

In April the NHRC released a report on the October 1993 incident in Bijbehara, in which Border Security Force (BSF) personnel killed 41 civilians by gunfire. In the report, the NHRC asked the authorities to keep it informed about the disciplinary proceedings initiated against 14 BSF personnel. It also recommended compensation for the families of the victims and a government review of BSF operations in situations in which civilians may be affected. A Commission of Inquiry has not completed its investigation of the January 1993 incident in Sopore, in which a BSF unit fired on civilians, killing 45, while responding to a hit-and-run attack by militants.

There were credible reports that security forces retaliate against civilians following attacks by Kashmiri militants. In March in Mahand village, seven persons, including two children, died while asleep at home after a paramilitary unit set off an explosion in apparent reprisal for an earlier landmine attack on their own forces.

In July a Ministry of Defense spokesman announced in Srinagar that a court-martial had sentenced two army enlisted men to 12 years' rigorous imprisonment for raping a Kashmiri woman 1 month earlier. The announcement broke with the Government's previous policy of not announcing the disciplinary sentences handed down to security forces personnel in Kashmir.

Kashmiri militant groups were also guilty of serious human rights abuses. In addition to political killings and kidnapings (see Sections 1.a. and 1.b.), militants engaged in extortion and carried out acts of random terror that left hundreds of Kashmiris dead. A bus bombing near Jammu on July 16 killed 6 and left 27 injured. According to the Government, the number of deaths caused by militants, including the deaths of hundreds of civilians, continued at a level comparable to 1993. Also, according to the Government, these militant groups killed about 70 members of rival factions, including 35 militants between January and mid-April 1994. Such deaths were said to have totaled about 100 in all of 1993.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution protects these freedoms, and with some limitations they are exercised in practice. A vigorous press reflects a wide variety of public, social, and economic beliefs. Newspapers and magazines regularly publish investigative reports and allegations of government wrongdoing, and the press as a whole champions human rights and criticizes perceived government lapses.

The Press Council of India is a statutory body of journalists, publishers, academics, and politicians, with a chairman appointed by the Government. Designed to be a self-regulating mechanism for the press, it investigates complaints of irresponsible journalism and sets a code of conduct for publishers. This code includes not publishing articles or details that might incite caste or communal violence. The Council publicly criticizes newspapers or journalists it believes to have broken the code of conduct, but its findings, while noted by the press community, carry no legal weight.

National television and radio, which are government monopolies, are frequently accused of manipulating the news to the benefit of the Government. However, international satellite television is widely distributed in middle class neighborhoods via cable and is gradually eroding the Government's monopoly on television.

Under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), the Government may restrict publication of sensitive stories, but the Government sometimes interprets this broadly to suppress criticism of its policies. In January a journalist and two other persons were prosecuted in Kerala under the OSA for photographing and photocopying documents at an All India Radio (AIR) station in a restricted area. The journalist had earlier published a series of articles critical of AIR's broadcasting.

The 1971 Newspapers Incitements to Offenses Act remains in effect in Jammu and Kashmir. Under the Act, a district magistrate may prohibit the press from carrying material resulting in "incitement to murder" or "any act of violence." As punishment, the Act stipulates that the authorities may seize newspapers and printing presses. Despite these restrictions, newspapers in Srinagar regularly carry militant press releases attacking the Government and report in detail on alleged human rights abuses. The authorities allowed foreign journalists to travel freely in Kashmir, where they regularly spoke with militant leaders, and filed reports on government abuse. Militant groups also threatened journalists and editors and even imposed temporary bans on some publications.

In January the Punjab police raided the office of the Punjabi daily Aj Di Awaz and arrested several employees under the TADA. The authorities subsequently released all the detainees except editor Gurdip Singh on bail, and the newspaper has resumed publication. In another incident, the police detained a Punjabi journalist for 4 days for questioning about press releases issued by militants. On July 1, police officers beat two journalists who had asked Punjab Director General of Police, K.

P.

S. Gill, embarrassing questions at a press conference in Delhi.

On July 3, the authorities in Assam arrested Ajit Bhuyan and R. N.

D. Barua, the editors of two local newspapers, under the TADA on suspicion of their links with Assamese militants. Bhuyan, who also heads a local human rights group, claimed he was interrogated about the sources of articles on official corruption but not about possible links with militants. At year's end, both were released on bail. In late December 1993, the authorities filed charges under the TADA against a newspaper editor, Parag Kumar Das, following his publication of a book advocating Assam's independence. The police reportedly confiscated his manuscript and all copies of the book.

A government censorship board reviews films before licensing them for distribution. The board deletes material deemed offensive to public morals or communal sentiment. Producers of video news magazines must also submit their products to a government censorship board, which occasionally censors stories that portray the Government in an unfavorable light. The board's ruling may be appealed and overturned. In March the board's decision to ban a film on the 1992-1993 riots in Bombay was overturned.

Citizens enjoy complete academic freedom, and students and faculty espouse a wide range of views. In addition to 10 national universities and about 160 state universities, states are empowered to accredit locally run private institutions.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution protects the right of peaceful assembly and the right to form associations, and these rights are generally respected in practice.

Authorities sometimes require permits and notification prior to holding parades or demonstrations, but local governments ordinarily respect the right to protest peacefully. At times of civil tension, authorities may ban public assemblies or impose curfew under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The authorities in Punjab frequently imposed such restrictions in previous years but limited their use in 1994; opposition Akali parties were permitted to hold public rallies and conduct membership drives.

However, in Andhra Pradesh the authorities arrested 400 persons in February for violating Section 144 in an effort to prevent a conference on "Suppression of People's Movements," sponsored by the Communist Party--Marxist Leninist. In northeastern India, the authorities used Section 144 to prohibit members of the Bodo tribe from entering the Darrang District and to prohibit rallies by the All Assam Students' Union. The authorities also invoked Section 144 to prohibit entry into the Dhule District by activists opposing construction of the Narmada dam.

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act prohibits the establishment of organizations that promote communal hatred. The Government has used this Act to prohibit two organizations, one Hindu and one Muslim, after Hindus destroyed a mosque in Ayodhya in December 1992. However, the authorities do not rigorously enforce this law. Srinagar and other parts of Jammu and Kashmir were under sporadic curfew during much of the year.

c. Freedom of Religion

India is a secular state in which all faiths generally enjoy freedom of worship. Government policy does not favor any religious group. There is no national law to bar proselytizing by Indian Christians. Foreign missionaries can generally renew their visas, but since the mid-1960's the Government has refused to admit new resident missionaries. Those who arrive now do so as tourists and stay for short periods. As of January 1993, there were 1,923 registered foreign Christian missionaries in India. As in the past, state officials refused to issue permits for foreign Christian missionaries to enter some northeastern states. Tensions between Hindus and Muslims continue to pose a challenge to the secular foundation of the State (see Section 5).

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens enjoy freedom of movement within the country except in certain border areas where, for security reasons, special permits are required. Under the Passports Act of 1967, the Government may deny a passport to any applicant who "may or is likely to engage outside India in activities prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India." The Government uses this provision to prohibit the foreign travel of some government critics, especially those advocating Sikh independence.

Citizens may emigrate without restriction. Millions of people of Indian origin live abroad. Although India is not a signatory to the U.N. Convention and Protocol on Refugees, the Government follows its general principles. The Government recognizes certain groups, including Chakmas and Tamils from Sri Lanka, as refugees by providing assistance in refugee camps or in resettlement areas, as in the case of Tibetans. The Government neither deports Afghans, Burmese, and other nationalities nor recognizes them as refugees. Instead, these people receive renewable residence permits and are recognized as refugees by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), or are ignored.

Pursuant to a 1993 agreement with the Government of Bangladesh for expeditious repatriation of Chakma refugees, 1,850 were repatriated in February and some 3,000 more were repatriated in July and August. Some human rights groups claim that in many cases these repatriations were involuntary and refugees staged a hunger strike to protest them. The Government has rejected offers by the UNHCR to monitor these repatriations. Human rights organizations and the press corroborate claims by refugees that the Government has reduced rations and cash assistance to refugee camps holding Chakmas to encourage their repatriation.

According to the UNHCR, 102,437 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka were living in India in early September. Of the total, 69,150 lived in 122 camps in the state of Tamil Nadu, 31,668 more are living with friends and relatives, and 11,629 suspected of militant activities are detained in special camps. The state government, using central Government resources, provides shelter and subsidizes food to those in the camps. Enforcement of a Tamil Nadu government ban on nongovernmental organization (NGO) assistance to the camps has been relaxed. NGO's visited the camps in 1994. Voluntary repatriation under UNHCR supervision continues. According to the Government, 7,000 were scheduled to be repatriated to Sri Lanka in early fall.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens exercise this right freely. India has a democratic, parliamentary system of government with representatives elected in multiparty elections under universal adult suffrage. A Parliament sits for 5 years unless dissolved earlier for new elections, except under constitutionally defined emergency situations. State governments are elected at regular intervals except in states under President's rule, i.e., rule from the center.

On the advice of the Prime Minister, the President may proclaim a state of emergency in any state in the event of war, external aggression, or armed rebellion. Similarly, President's rule may be declared in the event of a collapse of a state's constitutional machinery. The Supreme Court in May upheld the Government's authority to suspend fundamental rights during an emergency.

The Home Ministry has indicated its desire to replace President's rule with an elected state government in Jammu and Kashmir but says law and order problems are an obstacle to the holding of state assembly elections. President's rule remained in effect in Jammu and Kashmir throughout the year. President's rule in Manipur was extended on May 11 and was in effect through the entire year. President's rule in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Rajasthan, invoked following the December 1992 Ayodhya crisis, ended with state assembly elections in November 1993. A state assembly for the national capital territory of Delhi was elected for the first time in November 1993.

The Constitution reserves seats in Parliament and state legislatures for "scheduled tribes" and "scheduled castes" in proportion to their population (see Section 5). Indigenous people participate actively in national and local politics, but their impact depends on their numerical strength. In Northeastern states, indigenous peoples are a large proportion of the population and consequently exercise a dominant political influence in the political process. In Maharashtra and Gujarat, on the other hand, tribal peoples are a small minority and have been unsuccessful in blocking projects they oppose.

There are no legal impediments to the participation by women in the political process. A large proportion of women participate in voting throughout the country, and numerous women represent all major parties in the national and state legislatures.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Independent human rights organizations operate throughout India investigating abuses and publishing their findings which are often the basis for reports by international human rights groups. However, the police targeted human rights monitors for arrest and harassment. As noted in Section 1.b., the police in Punjab abducted a lawyer involved in defending accused Punjabi militants, and he subsequently disappeared.

The Government appointed a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in October 1993 with powers to investigate and recommend policy changes, punishment, and compensation in cases of police abuse. In addition, the NHRC is directed to contribute to the establishment, growth and functioning of nongovernmental human rights organizations. The Government appoints the members and finances the activities of the NHRC, which is prohibited by statute from investigating allegations of abuse involving army and paramilitary forces. Indian human rights groups criticized the legislation creating the NHRC; they remain skeptical, but have indicated that thus far most of their concerns appear to be unfounded. In its first year of operation, the NHRC received 3,000 complaints of human rights abuses and investigated cases in nearly every state in India. Despite the limitation on its activity, the NHRC also investigated allegations of abuse by paramilitary forces.

Disposition of this case load was not available at year's end. During its first six months of operation, The NHRC considered 496 complaints, recommended punishment and compensation in 174, dismissed 274, and sent 48 to other fora. The NHRC's report on the October 1993 killing of 41 civilians in Bijbehara, Kashmir was described as "hard hitting" by an international human rights group. In addition to closely following court martial proceedings initiated against 14 BSF members, the NHRC recommended that the BSF conduct a full review of force deployment in civilian areas and pay compensation to the families of the victims. The Commission directed district magistrates nationwide to report all cases of custodial death to it within 24 hours or be presumed to have attempted a coverup. A typical example inquiry into a custodial death by the NHRC was that of the case of Madan Lal. The Delhi police complied with all the Commission's recommendations including the institution of departmental proceedings against a police officer who had threatened witnesses (See Section 1.a.).

The Commission's report on its visit to Punjab strongly criticized the state government for abuses by police and recommended corrective measures. At year's end, the state government had not responded to the NHRC's recommendations.

The Government granted requests for visits to India by some international human rights organizations but refused others. In January it permitted Amnesty International to visit Bombay, the first such visit in 14 years to visit to India.

In March the Government permitted representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to make a humanitarian needs survey in Jammu and Kashmir. The survey resulted in a formal offer of ICRC's services. Discussions were not concluded at year's end. ICRC representatives also conducted training of police and border security force personnel in international humanitarian law.

However, the Government refused a requested visit by the U.N. Human Rights Commission's Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions to evaluate reported violations of the right to life in Kashmir. The Government stated that the NHRC will undertake such investigations. It also denied entry visas to two Human Rights Watch researchers.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The traditional caste system as well as differences of ethnicity, religion, and language deeply divide Indian society. Despite laws designed to prevent discrimination, there are other laws as well as social and cultural practices that have a profound discriminatory impact.

Women

India has an elaborate system of laws to protect the rights of women, including the Equal Remuneration Act, the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act, and the Sati (widow burning) Prevention Act and the Dowry Prohibition Act. However, the Government often is unable to enforce these laws, especially in rural areas where traditions are deeply rooted. Female bondage and forced prostitution are widespread in parts of Indian society. According to a government study, borne out by press reporting, violence against women--including molestation, rape, kidnaping, and wife murder ("dowry deaths")--has increased over the past decade.

Domestic violence in the context of dowry disputes is a serious problem. In the typical dowry dispute, a groom's family will harass a woman they believe has not provided sufficient dowry. This harassment sometimes ends in the woman's death, which family members often try to portray as a suicide or kitchen accident. Although most "dowry deaths" involve lower and middle-class families, the phenomenon crosses both caste and religious lines.

Government figures show a total of 5,377 dowry deaths in 1993, an increase of about 12 percent from 1992. Under a 1986 amendment to the Penal Code, the court must presume the husband or the wife's in-laws are responsible for every unnatural death of a woman in the first 7 years of marriage--provided that harassment is proven. In such cases, police procedures require that an officer of deputy superintendent rank or above conduct the investigation and that a team of two or more doctors perform the postmortem procedures.

Nonetheless, convictions in dowry death cases are rare. Lawyers note that judges and prosecutors, usually men, are uninterested in cases of domestic violence and susceptible to bribes. In May the Law Ministry stated that in the Uttar Pradesh High Court, 33 dowry death cases were pending from 1985, 26 from 1986, 35 from 1987, 54 from 1988, and 56 from 1989. With few exceptions, the accused are free on bail. The personal status laws of the religious communities discriminate against women. Under the Indian Divorce Act of 1869, a Christian woman may demand divorce only in the case of spousal abuse and certain categories of adultery, while for a man adultery alone is sufficient. Under Islamic law, a Muslim husband may divorce his wife spontaneously and unilaterally; there is no such provision for women. Islamic law also allows a man to have up to four wives but prohibits polyandry.

The Hindu Succession Act provides equal inheritance rights for Hindu women, but married daughters are seldom given a share in parental property. Islamic law recognizes a woman's right of inheritance but specifies that a daughter's share should be only one half a son's. Under tribal land systems, notably in Bihar, tribal women do not have the right to own land. Other laws relating to the ownership of assets and land accord women little control over land use, retention, or sale.

There are thousands of grassroots organizations working for social justice and economic advancement of women, in addition to the National Commission for Women. The Government usually supports these efforts, despite strong resistance from traditionally privileged groups. This resistance is illustrated by a September 1992 incident in rural Rajasthan when a women's rights monitors was gang-raped by men who objected to her work against child marriage. Five accused persons were arrested in December 1993; three were released on bail in April. The court case continues.

Children

There are an estimated 500,000 street children nationwide. Child prostitution in the cities is rampant, and there is a growing pattern of traffic in child prostitutes from Nepal. According to one estimate, 5,000 to 7,000 children, mostly aged 10 to 18, are victims of this traffic.

The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act of 1976 prohibits child marriage, a traditional practice in northern India. The Act raises the age of marriage for girls to 18 from 15, but the Government does not enforce it effectively. According to one report, 50 percent of the girls in Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are married at or before age 16.

Amniocentesis and sonogram tests are widely misused for sex determination, resulting in a disproportionate number of abortions of female fetuses. In July a bill was introduced into Parliament that would prohibit the use of these tests for sex determination. Human rights groups estimate that at least 10,000 cases of female infanticide occur yearly, primarily in poor rural areas. Female foeticide and infanticide have produced a steady decline in the ratio of females to males. This ratio has decreased to 927 per 1,000 in 1991, from 955 per 1,000 in 1981, and 972 per 1,000 at the turn of the century. Parents often give priority in health care and nutrition to male infants. Women's rights groups point out that the burden of providing girls with an adequate dowry is one factor that makes daughters less desirable. Although abetting or taking dowry is theoretically illegal under the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, it is still widely practiced.

Indigenous People

The Innerline Regulations, enacted by the British in 1873, still provide the basis for safeguarding tribal rights in most of the border states of northeastern India. These regulations prohibit any person, including Indians from other states, from going beyond an inner boundary without a valid permit. No rubber, wax, ivory or other forest products may be removed from the protected areas without prior authorization. No outsiders are allowed to own land in the tribal areas without approval from tribal authorities. Despite constitutional safeguards, the rights of indigenous groups in eastern India are often ignored. There has been encroachment on tribal land in almost all the states of eastern India, including by illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and businesses which have removed forest and mineral products without authorization. Moreover, persons from other backgrounds often usurp places reserved for members of tribes and lower castes in national education institutions.

Such violations have given rise to numerous tribal movements demanding protection of land and property rights. The Jharkhand movement in Bihar and Orissa, and the Bodo movement in Assam, reflect deep economic and social grievances among indigenous peoples. In the Jharkhand area, tribal people complain that they have been relegated to unskilled mining jobs, have lost their forests to industrial construction, and have been displaced by development projects. The Government has considered the creation of an independent Jharkand state, but the affected state governments oppose the idea.

However, there is some local autonomy in the region. In Meghalaya tribal chiefs still wield influence in certain villages. The Nagaland government controls the rights to certain mineral resources, and autonomous district councils in Tripura, Assam, and Meghalaya control matters such as education, rural development, and forestry in cooperation with the state governors.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Constitution gives the President authority to specify historically disadvantaged castes and tribes which are entitled to affirmative action in employment and other benefits. These so-called "scheduled" tribes constitute about 8 percent of the Indian population and "scheduled" castes about 16 percent. Scheduled tribes and castes benefit from special development funds, government hiring quotas, and special training programs. A national commission investigates specific complaints about deprivation of the rights of scheduled castes and tribes and submits an annual report.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 specifies new offenses against disadvantaged people and provides stiffer penalties for offenders. However, this law has had only a modest effect in curbing abuse. Government statistics indicate that 19,774 cases of "atrocities" were committed against members of scheduled castes tribes in 1993, as compared with 20,834 in 1992 and 21,505 in 1991. A Government commission is charged with giving special attention to the problems of these minorities.

The practice of untouchability was in theory outlawed by the Constitution and the 1955 Civil Rights Act, but it remains an important aspect of life in India. Intercaste violence claims hundreds of lives each year. There was a surge of intercaste violence in the early months of 1994, following the success of parties representing "backward" and scheduled castes in November state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and their formation of a governing coalition in the state. Members of the scheduled castes were disproportionately the victims of this violence, which also occurred throughout the country, but especially in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Religious Minorities

Controversy between Hindus and Muslims continues over whether to build a temple or rebuild the mosque on a disputed site in Ayodhya. The potential for renewed Hindu-Muslim violence remains high. Muslim groups protested the disproportionate number of Muslims detained under the TADA, particularly in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra and the city of Hyderabad (see Section 1.d.).

The Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act makes it an offense to use any religious site for political purposes or to use temples for harboring persons accused or convicted of crime. While specifically designed to deal with Sikh places of worship in the Punjab, the law technically applies to all religious sites.

People with Disabilities

The Government's Ministry of Welfare has principal responsibility for programs for the disabled, and it delivers comprehensive rehabilitation services to India's rural population through 16 district centers. A national rehabilitation plan commits the Government to putting a rehabilitation center in each of India's more than 400 districts, but services are still concentrated in urban areas. The Government reserves 3 percent of positions in official offices and state-owned enterprises for people with visual, hearing, or orthopedic disabilities. The Government provides special railway fares, education allowances, scholarships, customs exemptions, and rehabilitation training to assist people with disabilities. There is no legislation or otherwise mandated provision of accessibility for the disabled.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right of association; workers may establish and join unions of their own choosing without prior authorization. There are five major recognized national trade union centrals, each of which is associated with, but not necessarily controlled by, a political party.

Trade unions often exercise the right to strike, but public sector unions are required to give at least 14 days' notice prior to striking. Some states have laws requiring workers in certain nonpublic sector industries to give prior strike notice.

The Essential Services Maintenance Act allows the central Government to ban strikes and requires conciliation or arbitration in specified essential industries. Legal mechanisms exist for challenging the assertion that a given dispute falls within the scope of this Act. The Industrial Disputes Act prohibits retribution by employers against employees involved in legal strike actions. This prohibition is observed in practice.

Abuses against nationally organized unions or unionized workers are generally not a problem. However, unaffiliated unions of low caste or tribal workers are not always able to secure for themselves the protections and rights guaranteed by law.

Unions are free to affiliate with international trade union organizations.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The right to bargain collectively has existed for decades. The Trade Union Act prohibits discrimination against union members and organizers, and employers may be penalized if they discriminate against employees engaged in union activities. Collective bargaining is the normal means of setting wages and settling disputes in the organized industrial sector. Trade unions vigorously defend worker interests in this process. Although a system of specialized labor courts adjudicates labor disputes, there are long delays and a backlog of unresolved cases. When the parties are unable to agree on equitable wages, the Government may set up boards of union, management, and government representatives to determine them.

In practice, legal protections of workers' rights are effective only for the 28 million workers in the organized industrial sector, out of a total work force of 376 million. Outside the modern industrial sector, laws are difficult to enforce. Union membership is rare in this "informal" sector and collective bargaining does not exist.

There are 7 export processing zones (EPZ's). Entry into the EPZ's is ordinarily limited to the employees. Such entry restrictions apply to union organizers. While workers in EPZ's have the right to organize and bargain collectively, trade union activity is rare. Women workers constitute the bulk of the work force in the EPZ's.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced labor, and legislation passed in 1976 specifically bans the practice of "bonded labor." A Supreme Court decision defined "forced labor" as work at less than the minimum wage, which is usually set by the state governments. Under this definition, which differs from that of the International Labor Organization (ILO), "forced labor" is widespread, especially in rural areas."Bonded labor," the result of a private contractual relationship whereby a worker incurs or inherits debts to a contractor and then must work off the debt plus interest, is illegal but widespread. The Government estimates that between enactment of the Bonded Labor (Regulation and Abolition) Act in 1979 and March 31, 1993, approximately 251,424 bonded workers had been released from their obligations. Other sources maintain that those released are only one-tenth of the total number of bonded laborers. State governments are responsible for enforcing the Act. Offenders may be sentenced to up to 3 years in prison but prosecutions are rare.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Article 24 of the Constitution prohibits employment of children under 14 years of age in factories, mines or other hazardous employment. Article 45 encourages the state governments to provide free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14. A law passed in 1986 banned the employment of children under 14 in hazardous occupations, such as glass making, fireworks, match factories, and carpet weaving, and regulated their employment in others. The Factories Act and the Child Labor Registration Act limit the hours of workers below the age of 15 to 4.5 hours per day.

The Government estimates that there were 17.5 million child workers in 1985. The ILO estimates the number at 44 million, while NGO's claim the figure is 55 million. The enforcement of child labor laws is the responsibility of the state governments. Enforcement is not effective, especially in the informal sector where most of the children are employed. The continuing prevalence of child labor may be attributed to social acceptance of the practice, the widespread belief that poverty causes child labor, and the failure of the state governments to make primary school education compulsory.

In September a group of carpet manufacturers and exporters, in cooperation with NGO's and an export promotion project with Germany, introduced a program to label export carpets as being "child-labor free." This initiative is being undertaken on a trial basis in response to consumer pressure in Germany.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Minimum wages vary according to the state and sector of industry. Such wages are considered adequate only for a minimal standard of living. Most unionized workers receive much more than the minimum wage, including mandated bonuses and other benefits. The state governments set a separate minimum wage for agricultural workers but do not enforce it well.

The Factories Act established an 8-hour workday, a 48-hour workweek, and various standards for working conditions. These standards are generally enforced and accepted in the modern industrial sector, but tend not to be observed in older and less economically robust industries. State governments are responsible for enforcement of the Factories Act. However, the large number of industries covered by a small cadre of factory inspectors and their limited training and susceptibility to bribery make for lax enforcement.

Although occupational safety and health measures vary widely, in general neither state nor central government resources for inspection and enforcement of standards are adequate. Safety conditions tend to be better in the EPZ's.

 

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