UN human rights review: India must end its doublespeak and practise what it preaches

As its record comes up for review at the Human Rights Council in Geneva today, there is little progress to show.

As India’s human rights record comes up for review under the Universal Periodic Review Process at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday, one hopes that Indian authorities will drop their defensive posturing and practise what they preach.

The peer-review system was set up in 2006 to take stock of every UN member’s human rights record in a four-year cycle. Each country gets to present what it has done to meet its human rights obligations and other member states have a chance to give feedback and recommendations on what needs to be resolved or improved.

India’s government, the National Human Rights Commission and civil society coalitions have all made their submissions to the United Nations Human Rights Office, which reported these to the council. On May 4, the government will present its record and receive recommendations from other member states.

A major concern leading up to the review has been the contradictory messages from the government regarding its commitment to human rights. For instance, the government’s official submission talks about the Supreme Court’s 2016 order against blanket immunity for security forces and the Justice JS Verma Committee’s recommendation to do away with prior sanction for prosecuting security personnel for sexual offences. However, not only have we seen no movement towards accepting the Verma Committee’s recommendation, just last week the Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi unsuccessfully asked the apex court to recall the 2016 order, arguing that the Army’s actions during military operations could not “be put to judicial scrutiny”.

The government’s submission reiterates its commitment to promoting and protecting human rights defenders. But at the March 2017 session of the council, India voted on an amendment proposed by Russia, China and Pakistan to remove the term “human rights defender” from a resolution on the issue.

The submission notes that “a vibrant civil society keeps the government accountable for its commitments”, but at home, it has used the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 to stifle dissenting non-governmental organisations, and human rights activists have faced threats and violence from vigilante groups, and arbitrary arrests and detention.

This doublespeak on human rights is unhelpful and raises questions about how seriously the Indian authorities take the review process.

Since India’s last review in 2012, despite legislative reform on some human rights issues such as violence against women, there has been limited progress on many recommendations accepted by the government, particularly on civil and political rights.

At the last review, India accepted recommendations to prevent discrimination and violence against women and girls, members of religious minorities, and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. However, the authorities have failed to ensure that cases of violence against women and girls are properly registered and investigated, and rape within marriage is yet to be recognised as a crime. Laws to prosecute crimes against members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and laws to end the practice of manual scavenging are still poorly enforced.

The government also accepted recommendations to promote equal access to justice for all, including by providing more legal aid to the poor and marginalised. But inadequate provision of legal aid continues to contribute to excessive pre-trial detention. Two-thirds of India’s prison population is of pre-trial detainees, with Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims disproportionately represented.

The government’s submission for the upcoming review reaffirms its commitment to key human rights issues such as an anti-torture legislation, non-discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and a law against enforced disappearance. However, given the lack of serious groundwork by the executive on these issues in the last four years, this promise sounds more like an attempt to evade criticism. The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 lapsed with the end of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014. Apart from announcing last year that a new Bill was ready, there is little to suggest the government is serious about introducing an anti-torture law.

On the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, the government has done little to reverse the setback of December 2013, when the Supreme Court disappointingly re-criminalised consensual same-sex relations. BJP parliamentarians have not even allowed private members’ Bills seeking amendments to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to be introduced. The only substantive response has come from civil society actors who filed a curative petition against the ruling, which of course finds mention in the government submission.

The government also claims that it is committed to ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, but we have not seen any movement towards creating an enabling domestic legislation or ratifying the convention.

Merely promising to ratify and implement human rights treaties without any apparent intent to do so does nothing to improve the human rights situation in the country. India must drop its defensive approach to human rights issues and use the review to start an earnest process of addressing key human rights challenges.

Raghu Menon works with Amnesty International India.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Also those looking to upgrade their TV to a smart one can get Rs. 20,000 off by exchanging it for the Sony Bravia 108cm Android TV.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and the super compact JBL Go Portable Speaker at 56% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

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