City activists take plunge into politics with BBMP polls

This council election will see Veena, a transsexual, and Anil, a former teacher, contesting from Okalipuram (Ward 196) and Hebbal (Ward 21) respectively. Both represent citizen group Praja Rajakiya Vedike.

By Vaishnavi Vittal
15 Mar 2010, Citizen Matters

In what is their first step towards mainstream politics in Bangalore, a group of city-based activists have come together for the BBMP council elections by floating two independent candidates. These activists have formed a group called the Praja Rajakiya Vedike, which will support the candidates in these elections.

Says Elavarthi Manohar, one of the members of this group, “We have all fought with regard to human rights, women’s rights, sexuality minority rights. We wanted to bring about a change. So we all got together”. Manohar is also the founder of Sangama, a sexuality minorities human rights organisation for individuals oppressed due to their sexual preference.

Over the last two years, these activists held meetings and consultations to understand the work and agendas of various political parties in the state. “Big parties are not transparent. Small parties work only during elections”, says Manohar. This was when they decided to form their own political party to create a conducive environment wherein every stakeholder would be equally respected irrespective of their caste, colour or creed. That’s how Praja Rajakiya Vedike came to be formed with about 20 to 30 core members and about 200 supporters. It is however not yet a political party.

For the upcoming elections, two candidates – Veena S, the first transsexual in south India to contest in an election and A Derick Anil, a former teacher and activist – will contest from Okalipuram (Ward 196) and Hebbal (Ward 21) respectively. The duo filed their nomination papers today.

South India’s first hijra contesting from Bangalore’s Okalipuram

Thirty-four year old Veena who works for Dalit rights, sexual minorities, sex workers, domestic workers and garment factory workers, says she decided to contest in the polls as she had always wanted to get into politics.

Veena, contesting bbmp elections

Veena, a transsexual, will contest from Ward 196. If elected, she says she will ensure that the voice of the people will be heard. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal

Incidentally, Veena is also the first transsexual in South India who will be contesting in an election.

Hailing from a poor Dalit family, Veena was born and brought up in Okalipuram. She has studied upto 10th standard. From a young age, when she was a boy, she always knew she was different. “I didn’t like being a male”, she says. Tortured and teased by both friends and family, she eventualy got herself castrated and underwent a sex change operation. Initially her parents and four siblings treated her as an outcaste. Today, however, she is the sole bread-winner of the family.

“I’m proud to be a woman today”, she says proudly. Veena doesn’t speak English fluently but understands the language. She speaks Kannada, Tamil and Telugu.

Veena has previously worked with Sangama in the area of HIV-AIDS. She has also worked as Treasurer at Samara, a community organisation of sexual minorities and sexworkers. She recently resigned from this job as she now works full time for Praja Rajakiya Vedike. She is also the Vice President of the Karnataka Sex Workers Union, member of Dalit Mahila Horata Koota and is the President of an Anekal-based group called Sanchaya Nele that works with Dalit women.

For the BBMP elections, Veena says there are several problems in her ward that she is looking to start working on. She says the Corporation school in the area is being closed because of the Metro Rail construction. “Where will the children go to study? I want to fight this,” she says, adding that she also wants to build toilets, a playground, library and proper anganwadis.

Her anger and frustration towards the ruling government is clear when she says, “They want to make green city, silicon city and spend crores on painting the walls. Couldn’t they give this money to the poor?”

Having lived in a low income neighbourhood (commonly known as a slum) herself, Veena says she wants to empower the people of the ward so that their voices are heard.

Even as this is her first election, Veena is confident of winning this time. “Everyone has been supporting me – lawyers, media and others. This has given me the courage to fight. I won’t stop”.

Though Veena belongs to the sexuality minority community and is the first transsexual to contest in an election in Bangalore, her contesting in the election has more to do with her work as an activist than her sexuality. “I don’t think me being a hijra is going to affect votes or the elections”. But she also hopes that more people like her come out and contest in elections next time round. “Things are not like before. Today, when you tell people something, they listen. It gets them thinking.”

Former teacher and PT instructor contesting from Hebbal ward

Taking the plunge along with Veena, is her friend and colleague A Derick Anil, who is contesting from Hebbal.

This former English teacher and physical education instructer, has been actively involved in activism from a young age. Anil has been involved with issues related to consumers, environment, women, agriculture, tribals, Nethravati river diversion and beedi workers. He has previously worked with the Nagarika Seva trust, Society for People and Action for Development, and Centre for Research on Environment, Development Innovations, Technology & Trade (CREDITTe), mostly in the area of research. Anil has a masters degree in sociology.

Anil contesting elections

Anil, who is contesting from Hebbal, wants to make it a model ward. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal

He now works independently and is working with regard to Right to Information (RTI), water and sanitation issues.

Ask him why he decided to contest in the elections now and the 37-year-old says, “In my entire activism life, I realised that the decision making body is the government. Many things are promised. Very little is done. Out of what little is done, few lobbies come and hijack that also. That made us think of alternatives”. Politics was one of them, for Anil and his activist friends.

As a child, Anil says he harboured the dream to become the Chief Minister one day! “But that was emotional. I was later averse to politics”. It was in 2007 when he started giving it a serious thought and eventually decided to dive in.

About his ward Hebbal, he says he would like concentrate on the issues of water, waste, sanitation and roads. After elections are over he plans to get information through RTI on all the developmental work that has been carried out in Hebbal in the last three years.

Anil wants to make Hebbal a model ward and envisages that a time should arrive when should not have to knock on the door of an elected representative. “Everything should be available to everyone. There should be equitable distribution”.

He feels that his experience as an activist and involvement in various issues makes him an ideal candidate to win.

“We will ask people for Re 1 and one vote”

Even as both Veena and Anil are using these elections to gain experience in electoral politics, they are working strategically to win. “Opponents are working with money, muscle and liquor. When we go on our door-to-door campaign, we will ask people for one rupee and one vote”, says Veena. They are using this strategy to also mobilise funds for their campaign. Veena and Anil together are looking to spend not more than Rs 4 lakhs on the elections. They are looking for funds from friends, relatives and supporters.

Praja Rajakiya Vedike will use banners and pamphlets to promote their candidates and go around in autos with loudspeakers.

Mainstream parties versus independent candidates

As Manohar explains, the Vedike’s main aim is to bring about a clean, efficient and transparent governance process. They are clear when they say that they are not just a social movement.

Siddharth Narrain, a lawyer with Alternative Law Forum or ALF, feels that this is an indication of the current scenario of politics. “It brings in a different perspective. Both these candidates are raising broader issues. No mainstream politician will focus on the harassment that is meted out to hijras”, he says. ALF is a Bangalore-based lawyers’ collective and has worked with regard to sexual minorities’ rights.

Narrain feels that independent candidates like Veena and Anil have better chances of winning in these local elections. “If they win, it’s a sign that people are fed up with mainstream political parties”.

But those in mainstream politics themselves do not think much of these independent candidates contesting in the elections. BJP MLA (Yeshwanthpur) Shobha Karandlaje feels that these candidates should instead support mainsteam parties like the BJP. “Will they win as independents? It’s not possible when we are working in full force”, she says.

Shobha adds that she herself has worked on issues concerning sexual minorities and will continue to do so.

Congress MLA (Mahalakshmi Layout) Narendra Babu feels that as long as you are committed to serving the public, you can contest. “It doesn’t matter who you are. You need to be service-minded”, he says, adding as an after-thought, “It’ll be better if they contest as a party candidate.”

Meanwhile, for Praja Rajakiya Vedike the BBMP election is the first step in their entry into politics. They are looking to eventually form a political party that respects diversity, equality, non-violence and individual freedom. For now, their eyes are set on winning the city council elections.

15 Mar 2010

Vaishnavi Vittal is a staff journalist with Citizen Matters.






The Government of Karnataka plans to make ID cards mandatory to enter Cubbon Park and Lalbagh, and that at a cost of Rs 200/person. This is the beginning of the state’s encroachment of people’s right to freely access public spaces and a stage is being set to privatise public commons. All sorts of devious reasons are being flung at the public, including security concerns, morality and misuse of parks by “unnecessary elements”. The manner in which the policy is formulated encourages the particular exclusion of access rights of the urban poor (especially from minorities), street and working children, elderly people, transgenders , migrant workers, labourers, street vendors, drivers of autorickshaws and taxis, differently abled, families with children, etc. The idea of having to carry an ID merely to access these two parks, fundamentally distances them from their unfettered and constitutionally protected Right to Use Public Spaces. This policy also promotes discriminatory access to public spaces as it privileges ‘regular walkers’ and thus negates the very concept of parks as public commons. Simply stated this draconian policy encroaches our very fundamental Right to Live a Healthy Life based on dignified and unfettered access to public spaces. Join the Protest against this fundamental encroachment of Our Right to Access all Public Commons




Queen’s Statue, Cubbon park, Monday, 30th November, 4.00 pm – 6.00 pm


Protest initiated by Environment Support Group, Slum Jagatthu, CIEDS, Vimochana, Dalit Sangharsh Samiti- Samyojaka (Bangalore Dist.), Sanmathi, Alternative Law Forum, Sangama, Stree Jagruthi Samithi, CIVIC Bangalore, Hasiru Usiru and Open Space.


For more details contact: Environment Support Group,1572, Outer Ring Road, Banshankari 2nd stage, Bangalore-560070 Tel:-91-80-26713559-60, Website:

Jet Airways – Stop Union bashing, NTUI Press Statement

See below the press statement by New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) on the anti-worker actions of Jet Airways and Indian Government:

NTUI logo

MEDIA RELEASE: 9 September 2009, New Delhi
Jet Airways – Stop Union bashing!
Support the workers fight for right to association and trade union rights!

The New Trade Union Initiative condemns the illegal dismissal of two Jet Airways pilots, Captains Balaraman and Sam Thomas on 31 July 2009, exactly 7 days after the pilots registered their union, the National Aviators Guild (NAG), on 24 July 2009. Captains Balaraman and Sam Thomas, the General Secretary and Joint Secretary respectively of NAG, had been at the forefront of union formation and the union has the support of 85% of the 760 pilots employed by Jet Airways. Jet Airways management refused to recognise the union and went on to summarily dismiss two of its office  bearers. Management has dismissed an additional 5 pilots earlier today for supporting the struggle for their democratic rights.

The right to association is a recognised right of workers, enshrined in this country’s constitution and protected by national statute and requires no justification. In fact, the pilots were forced to register a union because the Jet Airways management stopped consulting with the ten year-old pilots’ welfare body, the Society for Welfare of Indian Pilots (SWIP), on the grounds that this body did not have any legal standing to negotiate with management. Jet Airways management has also refused to recognise the National Aviators Guild which is a duly registered union with the Registrar of Trade Unions, Maharashtra. Hence, the Jet Airways management believes it is above Indian law.

Both SWIP and NAG gave the Jet Airways management ample time to reinstate the illegally dismissed pilots before NAG finally issued a 2-week notice for a strike on 24 August, three weeks after the dismissal of the two pilots. The matter was referred to the Regional Labour Commissioner (RLC) for conciliation the next day. The RLC advised that under provision of law, the Jet Airways management cannot terminate the services of any pilot and the pilots cannot go on a strike as long as the matter was under conciliation.

The Jet Airways management went to the Bombay High Court despite the matter being under conciliation. Since there is no strike, the strike notice was withdrawn, and no court of competent jurisdiction has declared it illegal, the Bombay High Court ought not to have interfered at this stage, particularly as the Union was not present and may not have been served notice. However, by terminating the services of the additional pilots today, the management has acted in contravention of the conciliation proceedings under the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act. Furthermore provisions concerning public utilities can not be invoked against a single service provider when other service providers are available to travelers.

The Government of India has also allowed itself to act in concert with the Jet Airways management with the Union Home Secretary G. K. Pillai writing to the Chief Secretaries of all states advising them to invoke ESMA against the sick leave of Jet Airways pilots. Earlier this afternoon the Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge was virtually egging on the Ministry of Civil Aviation to invoke ESMA.

The actions of Jet Airways management against a duly registered trade union with publicly displayed support of those it represents, engaging in legally sanctioned actions to have its grievances addressed, stands in stark contrast to the same management’s actions earlier in August 2009 when it got together with other private airlines and attempted to arm-twist Government by threatening to suspend all airline operations if the
Government did not bail them out of a financial crisis of their own making.

The NTUI demands that the Jet Airways management:
· Stop violating the Indian constitution and recognise the National Aviators Guild
· Reinstate all the dismissed pilots immediately
· Stop victimisation of workers
· Stop engaging in unfair labour practice

The NTUI calls upon the Ministry of Labour to defend the right to association and ensure that Jet Airways management follows the due process of law and engages in negotiation with the registered trade union, the National Aviators Guild.

Gautam Mody
New Trade Union Initiative

B-137 Dayanand Colony, First Floor,
Lajpatnagar Part IV,
New Delhi 110024
Tel: 91-11-26214538 /26486931
Fax: 91-11- 26486931


Report Release: ‘Trade Union Protections for Sex Workers’, Bangalore, 9 SEP 2009


Dear Friend(s)

Karnataka Sex Workers Union invites you to the

Releasing of the report

Trade Union Protections for Sex Workers

By Com. Ashim Roy (General Secretary, New Trade Union Initiative)

On 9th September 2009, Wednesday, at 4PM

At Ashirwad, 30 St. Marks Road, Opposite State Bank of India, Bangalore

Trade Union Leaders, Human Rights Activists and Sexworker Leaders will address the meeting after the report release.

This report, Trade Union Protections for Sex Workers, shares insights from a meeting held from January 30 to February 1, 2009, in Belém, Brazil, in conjunction with the World Social Forum. The meeting brought together trade unions, sex workers, and other activists who believe that workers in the sex sector deserve basic labour rights, including the right to organize and bargain collectively, to be free of discrimination and to be free from forced labor. The participants came from Bolivia, Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, the United States. Critical issues addressed during the meeting included:

– The links between trafficking, migration and sex work.

– How a trade union analysis of sex work might help address problems such as poor working conditions, or sex worker health and safety concerns – issues that most states and NGOs do not typically care about, since they treat sex workers as either victims or criminals.

– How to shape a common agenda with trade unions, when many do not automatically come from the understanding that “sex work is work.”

– Strategies for organizing within mainstream labour movements, and the ways in which alliances with a union movement could help sex workers combat stigma and police violence, and lobby for legal change.

Karnataka Sex Workers Union (KSWU) is a trade union of sexworkers (women, men and transgender) in Karnataka. KSWU strives to get sexwork recognised as dignified labour, demands labour rights that are guaranteed to all other workers and campaigns for the decriminalisation of sexwork. KSWU defends the rights of sexworkers and resists violence, oppression and exploitation by the police, goondas, government agencies and others. KSWU advocate for fair working conditions and social entitlements and full social security.

For more information, contact: 97310 18694, 99455 25411

In Solidarity


General Secretary

Karnataka Sex Workers Union

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