Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mines killed 3000 Indians in last 10 years

Binalakshmi Nepram

New Delhi, Nov 19: The historic disarmament Mine Ban Treaty entered its 10th year of entry into force in 2009. However even after ten years, India still has not signed this important treaty � with devastating consequences. According to the Landmine Monitor Report 2009, around 3000 Indians died due to landmines and over 2000 more were injured in the last 10 years. Most casualties occurred in Jammu and Kashmir followed by Manipur in the Northeast. The other states affected by landmines are Rajasthan, Punjab, Sikkim and Naxal affected areas in Eastern and Central India.

Moreover, India remains one of the few countries still producing antipersonnel mines. Its stockpile is estimated to be between four and five million, which is the fifth largest in the world. India`s last major use of antipersonnel mines took place between December 2001 and July 2002, when the Indian Army deployed an estimated two million mines along its 2,880km northern and western border with Pakistan in Operation Parakram. The operation directly affected more than 6,000 families across 21 villages and was one of the most extensive worldwide since the Mine Ban Treaty was signed in 1997.

Worldwide however, significant progress has been made in eradicating antipersonnel mines since the Mine Ban Treaty entered into force. Production has decreased, with 38 countries formally halting mine production, leaving only 13 countries as potential producers. No trade between states has been confirmed since 1999. Over the past decade, States Parties have destroyed 44 million stockpiled antipersonnel mines.

"156 countries have signed the Mine Ban Treaty. They are banning the use, production, stockpile and trade of landmines and their armed forces learnt to protect their borders without using landmines. 39 countries�including India, China, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States�have yet to join the treaty for various reasons. But India must join the process as non-explosive viable alternatives already exist", says Retired Ambassador Satnam Jit Singh, Diplomatic Advisor to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Although casualty rates have decreased steadily over the past decade, the total number of casualties is still far too high. From 1999�2008 Landmine Monitor identified 73,576 casualties in 119 countries/areas. "In the next decade more countries must meet their obligations to clear areas of existing landmines and put more effort into educating affected communities about mine hazards. Governments must ensure that no more people are killed or injured by these indiscriminate weapons. And they must also ensure that people affected are adequately compensated", says Ms Binalakshmi Nepram, of New Delhi based think tank Control Arms Foundation of India (CAFI).

According to the Landmine Monitor Report 2009, the implementation of compensation appeared unsystematic in India. According to media reports some victims (or their families) have received compensation between Rs 10,000 and 3 lakh. Others reportedly received no compensation at all. In meetings with mine survivors in Poonch (Jammu and Kashmir) in 2009, Landmine Monitor found that none of them had been compensated. Field research revealed that, partly due to the long bureaucratic claims process, no compensation had been given in Poonch for four years. Survivors confirmed that they received a pension of Rs300 every six months, but said that they are not compensated for the long distances they must travel to claim it.

The Government of India has a responsibility for its people and needs to take a much more proactive role to control the use and spread of landmines before more innocent lives continue to be lost. According to Dr. Swaran Singh, Professor, JNU, "Ten years of Mine Ban Treaty represent an era or hope and expectations. Antipersonnel landmines ban is a `model for change` in disarmament diplomacy for the 21st century world. This treaty has since inspired several other initiatives in conventional disarmament where civil society, non-governmental organizations, and policy networks have clearly come to take the lead and pressed negotiations in terms of humanitarian laws".

Control Arms Foundation of India (CAFI), along with several other organisations has been working on the issue of landmines in India over several years. Ahead of the Second Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty, the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World, to be held in Colombia from 29 November�4 December, CAFI is launching the "Landmine Monitor Report 2009" on Saturday, 21 November 2009 at Conference Room, Control Arms Foundation of India, B 5/146, First Floor, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi 110029.

The report will be launched by Dr Thockchom Meinya, Member of Parliament from Manipur.

The launch is followed by a Panel Discussion on "10 Years of Mine Ban Treaty and why India Still Haven`t Signed?" Panelists include Mr Iftikhar Gilani of Kashmir Times, Ms Medha Bisht of IDSA and Ms Binalakshmi Nepram of CAFI. Lt General (Retd) Dr BS Malik chairs the session.

About Landmine Monitor

Landmine Monitor is the research and monitoring program of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Each year since 1999 Landmine Monitor has reported on the humanitarian consequences of landmines, cluster munitions, and other ERW and scrutinized implementation of and compliance with the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. Landmine Monitor Report 2009 reports on ban policy, demining, casualties, risk education, victim assistance and support for mine action in every country in the world and eight other areas not internationally recognized as states. It also includes a special ten-year review of progress since the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty in 1999. Landmine Monitor Report 2009 and related documents are www.lm.icbl.org/lm/2009

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