Muslims comprise less than 2% of the total population of Nagaland but account for more than 12% of the state’s prison population, in a trend visible not just in states like Maharashtra or West Bengal but also in other North Eastern states like Manipur and Meghalaya.
Is this because Muslim minorities in the North East have higher crime rates, or because they face greater discrimination from the tribal populations that form the majority? According to experts, it is both.
In Nagaland, the issue of targeted discrimination against Muslims came to light on March 5, when a mob of hundreds of Dimapur residents broke into the Central Jail, dragged a rape accused out and lynched him on the streets till he died. The victim, a Bengali-speaking Muslim called Syed Sarif Uddin Khan, was one of the two men arrested on charges of raping a Sumi Naga woman the previous week.
The other rape accused, who happened to be a Naga, was not targeted by the lynch-mob, while Khan was accused of being an IBI (a pejorative term for suspected "illegal Bangladeshi immigrants") who had dared to violate Naga honour by raping one of their women.
But how do disproportionate prison statistics for North Eastern Muslims reflect discrimination?
According to census data for 2001, Muslims form 1.7% of Nagaland’s total population (religious data from census 2011 has not yet been officially released) but when compared with the latest figures available at the National Crime Records Bureau, the minority community comprises a much larger proportion of the prison population:
This difference in the ratio of Muslims in prison and in the general population is much higher in Nagaland when compared with the figures for India as a whole:
This disproportionate ratio has been prevalent in Nagaland not just in 2013 but for at least the past five years:
And Nagaland is not alone – in Meghalaya, Muslims comprise 4.2% of the total population and in Manipur, they form 8.8% of it. Yet, NCRB figures for 2013 reveal larger proportions of Muslims in the prisons of those states:
The main reason a high number of Muslims in these states find themselves in prison is poverty and illiteracy, say experts.
“Our criminal justice system, particularly the lower judiciary, is such that it is often the poor and the marginalised who end up getting prosecuted,” said Nilim Dutta, the Guwahati-based director of the Strategic Research and Analysis Organisation. Dutta also heads the Unified People's Movement, an emerging political formation that intervenes in human rights violations. “It is not that marginalised groups are the only ones committing crimes, but they are caught more often, have no access to legal aid and are usually unaware of their rights.”
The rights of under-trials, says Dutta, are routinely flouted when it comes to the marginalised, and in those cases, even the magistrates of the lower judiciary are not very sympathetic. Lack of legal aid often means that a person, even if wrongfully detained, would have to stay in prison for a long time.
In many North Eastern states, a large section of the Muslim minority is poor, illiterate or semi-literate and largely Bengali-speaking.
“In Nagaland, there is also a floating population of Muslims who come from Assam when they are hired as farm hands or construction labourers,” said Ahidur Rahman, working president of the Muslim Council Dimapur, a non-profit organisation promoting education in the minority community in Nagaland.
Because of this floating population, Rahman believes the census figures for the Muslim population has been underestimated. “Muslims probably form around 5% of the total Nagaland population, but because of their poverty, the crime rate is bound to be higher among them, particularly for petty crimes like stealing.”
In addition to being impoverished labourers in the unorganised sector, Muslims in Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur are often Bengali speakers. This means it’s easy to label them as IBIs, even if they hail from Assam, West Bengal or other parts of Bengali-speaking India before independence.
There are, for instance, a large number of Muslims traditionally hailing from Myemensingh and Sylhet districts in present-day Bangladesh, who settled in Assam and Nagaland well before Indian independence.
“Many of the Muslims arrested and convicted in Nagaland are Myemensingha or Sylethi Muslims,” said Arif Kalam (name changed), a Dimapur citizen who did not wish to be named.
LS, a social activist who moved from Nagaland to Assam six years ago, claims that in his 30 years of living in Kohima, he came across several cases of innocent Muslims who had been wrongfully detained by the local police. “The police are often racist themselves,” said LS, who did not wish to reveal his full name. “I believe Muslims need education to fight against discrimination.”
India’s urban water crisis calls for an integrated approach
We need solutions that address different aspects of the water eco-system and
involve the collective participation of citizens and other stake-holders.
According to a UN report, around 1.2 billion people, or almost one fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is physically scarce and another 1.6 billion people, or nearly one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage. They lack basic access to water. The criticality of the water situation across the world has in fact given rise to speculations over water wars becoming a distinct possibility in the future. In India the problem is compounded, given the rising population and urbanization. The Asian Development Bank has forecast that by 2030, India will have a water deficit of 50%.
Water challenges in urban India
For urban India, the situation is critical. In 2015, about 377 million Indians lived in urban areas and by 2030, the urban population is expected to rise to 590 million. Already, according to the National Sample Survey, only 47% of urban households have individual water connections and about 40% to 50% of water is reportedly lost in distribution systems due to various reasons. Further, as per the 2011 census, only 32.7% of urban Indian households are connected to a piped sewerage system.
Any comprehensive solution to address the water problem in urban India needs to take into account the specific challenges around water management and distribution:
Pressure on water sources: Rising demand on water means rising pressure on water sources, especially in cities. In a city like Mumbai for example, 3,750 Million Litres per Day (MLD) of water, including water for commercial and industrial use, is available, whereas 4,500 MLD is needed. The primary sources of water for cities like Mumbai are lakes created by dams across rivers near the city. Distributing the available water means providing 386,971 connections to the city’s roughly 13 million residents. When distribution becomes challenging, the workaround is to tap ground water. According to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment, 48% of urban water supply in India comes from ground water. Ground water exploitation for commercial and domestic use in most cities is leading to reduction in ground water level.
Distribution and water loss issues: Distribution challenges, such as water loss due to theft, pilferage, leaky pipes and faulty meter readings, result in unequal and unregulated distribution of water. In New Delhi, for example, water distribution loss was reported to be about 40% as per a study. In Mumbai, where most residents get only 2-5 hours of water supply per day, the non-revenue water loss is about 27% of the overall water supply. This strains the municipal body’s budget and impacts the improvement of distribution infrastructure. Factors such as difficult terrain and legal issues over buildings also affect water supply to many parts. According to a study, only 5% of piped water reaches slum areas in 42 Indian cities, including New Delhi. A 2011 study also found that 95% of households in slum areas in Mumbai’s Kaula Bunder district, in some seasons, use less than the WHO-recommended minimum of 50 litres per capita per day.
Water pollution and contamination: In India,almost400,000childrendie every year of diarrhea, primarily due to contaminated water. According to a 2017 report, 630 million people in the South East Asian countries, including India, use faeces-contaminated drinking water source, becoming susceptible to a range of diseases. Industrial waste is also a major cause for water contamination, particularly antibiotic ingredients released into rivers and soils by pharma companies. A Guardian report talks about pollution from drug companies, particularly those in India and China, resulting in the creation of drug-resistant superbugs. The report cites a study which indicates that by 2050, the total death toll worldwide due to infection by drug resistant bacteria could reach 10 million people.
A holistic approach to tackling water challenges
Addressing these challenges and improving access to clean water for all needs a combination of short-term and medium-term solutions. It also means involving the community and various stakeholders in implementing the solutions. This is the crux of the recommendations put forth by BASF.
The proposed solutions, based on a study of water issues in cities such as Mumbai, take into account different aspects of water management and distribution. Backed by a close understanding of the cost implications, they can make a difference in tackling urban water challenges. These solutions include:
Recycling and harvesting: Raw sewage water which is dumped into oceans damages the coastal eco-system. Instead, this could be used as a cheaper alternative to fresh water for industrial purposes. According to a 2011 World Bank report, 13% of total freshwater withdrawal in India is for industrial use. What’s more, the industrial demand for water is expected to grow at a rate of 4.2% per year till 2025. Much of this demand can be met by recycling and treating sewage water. In Mumbai for example, 3000 MLD of sewage water is released, almost 80% of fresh water availability. This can be purified and utilised for industrial needs. An example of recycled sewage water being used for industrial purpose is the 30 MLD waste water treatment facility at Gandhinagar and Anjar in Gujarat set up by Welspun India Ltd.
Another example is the proposal by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to recycle and reclaim sewage water treated at its existing facilities to meet the secondary purposes of both industries and residential complexes. In fact, residential complexes can similarly recycle and re-use their waste water for secondary purposes such as gardening.
Also, alternative rain water harvesting methods such as harvesting rain water from concrete surfaces using porous concrete can be used to supplement roof-top rain water harvesting, to help replenish ground water.
Community initiatives to supplement regular water supply: Initiatives such as community water storage and decentralised treatment facilities, including elevated water towers or reservoirs and water ATMs, based on a realistic understanding of the costs involved, can help support the city’s water distribution. Water towers or elevated reservoirs with onsite filters can also help optimise the space available for water distribution in congested cities. Water ATMs, which are automated water dispensing units that can be accessed with a smart card or an app, can ensure metered supply of safe water.
Testing and purification: With water contamination being a big challenge, the adoption of affordable and reliable multi-household water filter systems which are electricity free and easy to use can help, to some extent, access to safe drinking water at a domestic level. Also, the use of household water testing kits and the installation of water quality sensors on pipes, that send out alerts on water contamination, can create awareness of water contamination and drive suitable preventive steps.
Public awareness and use of technology: Public awareness campaigns, tax incentives for water conservation and the use of technology interfaces can also go a long way in addressing the water problem. For example, measures such as water credits can be introduced with tax benefits as incentives for efficient use and recycling of water. Similarly, government water apps, like that of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, can be used to spread tips on water saving, report leakage or send updates on water quality.
Collaborative approach: Finally, a collaborative approach like the adoption of a public-private partnership model for water projects can help. There are already examples of best practices here. For example, in Netherlands, water companies are incorporated as private companies, with the local and national governments being majority shareholders. Involving citizens through social business models for decentralised water supply, treatment or storage installations like water ATMs, as also the appointment of water guardians who can report on various aspects of water supply and usage can help in efficient water management. Grass-root level organizations could be partnered with for programmes to spread awareness on water safety and conservation.
For BASF, the proposed solutions are an extension of their close engagement with developing water management and water treatment solutions. The products developed specially for waste and drinking water treatment, such as Zetag® ULTRA and Magnafloc® LT, focus on ensuring sustainability, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the water and sludge treatment process.
BASF is also associated with operations of Reliance Industries’ desalination plant at Jamnagar in Gujarat.The thermal plant is designed to deliver up to 170,000 cubic meters of processed water per day. The use of inge® ultrafiltration technologies allows a continuous delivery of pre-filtered water at a consistent high-quality level, while the dosage of the Sokalan® PM 15 I protects the desalination plant from scaling. This combination of BASF’s expertise minimises the energy footprint of the plant and secures water supply independent of the seasonal fluctuations. To know more about BASF’s range of sustainable solutions and innovative chemical products for the water industry, see here.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.