Title

× Close
human rights

The country needs an anti-fascist force, says activist acquitted after 40 months in jail

Sudhir Dhawale, a dalit rights activist accused of having Maoist links, was declared innocent on May 15.

On May 20, after spending three years and four months in Nagpur Central Jail for crimes he did not commit, dalit rights activist Sudhir Dhawale finally walked out as a free man.

His arrest in January 2011 had outraged social activists in Maharashtra. Dhawale is a well-known poet, political commentator and publisher of Marathi magazine Vidrohi, and had attended a dalit literary gathering in Wardha district just before he was detained by the police. He was charged with sedition and, under the controversial Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, accused of being a member of a terrorist organisation and waging war against the state. Meanwhile in Mumbai, the police barged into his modest home where his young sons were alone, gathered several books as evidence and allegedly coerced his wife to sign the list of seized articles.

Last week, after the prosecution failed to prove even a single case against him, the sessions court finally acquitted Dhawale – and eight other political prisoners – of all charges. His acquittal has come four months after Arun Ferreira, another Mumbai-based social activist who spent five years in jail for being an alleged Maoist, was cleared of all charges against him. Just two weeks before Dhawale’s release, however, GN Saibaba, a Delhi University professor, was arrested by the Maharashtra police for allegedly having links with Maoists.

Despite being forced to spend 40 months in prison without bail, Dhawale is cheerful and completely unresentful. “I have been saying for a long time that the Indian state is fascist, anti-people and has been involved in the atrocities committed against marginalised people,” Dhawale told Scroll.in in Mumbai just before a meeting with members of the organisation that he founded, the Republican Panthers Jatiya Antachi Chalwal (annihilation of caste movement). The group works across Maharashtra to organise marginalised groups and respond to hate crimes, and Dhawale has already plunged back into work.

Unsurprisingly, his biggest concern these days is India’s newly-elected Bharatiya Janata Party-led Democratic Alliance government under Narendra Modi. “As such, the BJP and Congress are two sides of the same coin, with similar ideologies that disregard the poor and the marginalised,” said Dhawale. “But the BJP – which is essentially the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] – is more openly fascist, so we will have to be prepared for more oppression.”

For nearly a year, the BJP has been criticising the former Congress-led government for being too soft on Naxalism, despite the fact that thousands of paramilitary troops are stationed all over central India’s Maoist-affected areas. “Usually, actual military forces are used to protect foreign borders, not fight a country’s internal wars. But who knows, the Modi government could do anything,” said Dhawale.

Most of the development that Modi has been promising, he claimed, will actually benefit multinational companies. “Most of these multinationals have their eyes set on acquiring land in central India, which is rich in natural resources but is also the place where most adivasis live,” said Dhawale.

Throughout his jail term, Dhawale had been occupied with trying to understand the nature of fascism and people’s movements. He wrote five political commentaries in prison, of which two have been published. One is about the Shiv Sena’s deceased founder Bal Thackeray. The second is on Anna Hazare and his movement against corruption. “Hazare did start a jan andolan, but it was obvious that it was a movement for the middle-classes, attempting to address only the symptoms of a corrupt system and not the system itself,” said Dhawale.

While Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal have become the face of people’s movements, Dhawale believes the focus needs to shift to the many smaller, scattered grassroots movements across the country that are already working for the marginalised. “With this new government, it is time for all these movements to come together, be vigilant and create a strong anti-fascist force.”

 
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BULLETIN BY 

Making transportation more sustainable even with fuel-based automobiles

These innovations can reduce the pollution caused by vehicles.

According to the WHO’s Ambient Air Pollution Database released in 2016, ten of the twenty most polluted cities in the world are in India, with Gwalior and Ahmedabad occupying the second and third positions. Pollution levels are usually expressed in the levels of particulate matter (PM) in the air. This refers to microscopic matter that is a mixture of smoke, metals, chemicals and dust suspended in the atmosphere that can affect human health. Particulate matter is easily inhaled, and can cause allergies and diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Indian cities have some of the highest levels of PM10 (particles smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter) and PM2.5 particles (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter). The finer the particulate matter, the deeper into your lungs it can penetrate causing more adverse effects. According to WHO, the safe limits for PM2.5 is 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

Emissions resulting from transportation is regarded as one of the major contributors to pollution levels, especially particulate matter. A study conducted by the Centre for Ecological Sciences of the Indian Institute of Science estimated that the transport sector constitutes 32% of Delhi’s emissions. It makes up 43% of Chennai’s emissions, and around 17% of Mumbai’s emissions.

Controlling emissions is a major task for cities and auto companies. The Indian government, to this end, has set emission standards for automobiles called the Bharat Stage emission standard, which mirrors European standards. This emission standard was first instituted in 1991 and has been regularly updated to follow European developments with a time lag of about 5 years. Bharat Stage IV emission norms have been the standard in 2010 in 13 major cities. To tackle air pollution that has intensified since then, the Indian government announced that Bharat Stage V norms would be skipped completely, and Stage VI norms would be adopted directly in 2020.

But sustainability in transport requires not only finding techniques to reduce the emissions from public and private transport but also developing components that are environment friendly. Car and auto component manufacturers have begun optimising products to be gentler on the environment and require lesser resources to manufacture, operate and maintain.

There are two important aspects of reducing emissions. The first is designing vehicles to consume less fuel. The second is making the emissions cleaner by reducing the toxic elements.

In auto exteriors, the focus is on developing light-weight but strong composite materials to replace metal. A McKinsey study estimates that plastic and carbon fibre can reduce weight by about 20% and 50% respectively. A lighter body reduces the engine effort and results in better fuel economy. Additionally, fuel efficiency can be increased by reducing the need for air conditioning which puts additional load on the vehicle engine thereby increasing fuel consumption. Automotive coatings (paints) and sheets provide better insulation, keep the vehicle cool and reduce the use of air conditioning.

Most emissions are the result of inefficient engines. Perhaps the most significant innovations in making automobiles and mass transport systems more eco-friendly are being done in the engine. Innovations include products like fuel additives, which improve engine performance, resist corrosion and reduce fuel consumption while offering a great driving experience, and catalytic converters that reduce toxic emissions by converting them to less harmful output such as carbon dioxide, Nitrogen and water. Some of these catalytic converters are now capable of eliminating over 90 percent of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.

All of these are significant measures to bring the negative impacts of vehicular pollution under control. With over 2 million vehicles being produced in India in 2015 alone and the moving to BS VI emission standards, constant innovation is imperative.

Beyond this, in commercial as well as passenger vehicles, companies are innovating with components and processes to enable higher resource efficiency. Long-lasting paint coatings, made of eco-friendly materials that need to be refreshed less often are being developed. Companies are also innovating with an integrated coating process that enables carmakers to cut out an entire step of coating without compromising the colour result or the properties of the coating, saving time, materials and energy. Efforts are being made to make the interiors more sustainable. Parts like the instrument panel, dashboard, door side panels, seats, and locks can all be created with material like polyurethane plastic that is not only comfortable, durable and safe but also easily recyclable. Manufacturers are increasingly adopting polyurethane plastic like BASF’s Elastollan® for these very reasons.

From pioneering the development of catalytic converters in 1975 to innovating with integrated process technology for coatings, BASF has always been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to making transport solutions more sustainable. The company has already developed the technology to handle the move of emissions standards from BS IV to BS VI.

For the future, given the expected rise in the adoption of electric cars—an estimated 5~8 percent of car production is expected to be pure electric or plug-in electric vehicles by 2020—BASF is also developing materials that enable electric car batteries to last longer and achieve higher energy density, making electronic mobility more feasible. To learn more about how BASF is making transport more sustainable, see here.

Watch the video to see how automotive designers experimented with cutting edge materials from BASF to create an innovative concept car.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.

× Close