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Video of Minor Himachali Schoolgirls, Boys Smoking Making Rounds on Social Media: It’s Time We Realise Reasons, Law & Ethics

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Himachali School Girls Smoking Video 1

Shimla-A video showing some boys and girls of a school experimenting with tobacco appeared on social media platforms WhatsApp and Facebook on Monday, March 4, 2019. All the students were in school uniform, though it is not confirmed yet whether students were of a government or private school. From the dialect used by these students in conversation with each other, it can be guessed that the video is recorded in some part of lower Himachal.

For the public, it is an OMG moment, which they are not able to resist sharing on social media.

Apparently, the video went viral in no time, raising questions over the productivity of school campaigns organized by the State Police and Government to create awareness among studentsabout ill habits like smoking and substance and drug abuse.

Local media also got its hands on the video and uploaded it with disregard to the fact that it contains visual of minors.  It is pertinent to mention that the Juvenile Justice Board legally prohibits making any such content public which violates a minor’s right to privacy and causing embarrassment or humiliation.

The person who recorded it was heard telling students that he has filmed them smoking and that he would go to their school with it. Speaking in the same local dialect, he appears to be someone who is unaware of laws related to minors. His sharing this clip on WhatsApp could be attributed to this lack of awareness. 

However, media persons are expected to be aware of the laws. Opposed to it, the regional news portals hardly compromise viewership in effort to upholdethics of journalism.The regional media portals compete with online editions of national Hindi dailies for viewership. They want to be faster than these dallies, which makes it difficult to accommodate ethics while reporting.

Himachal Watcher tried to confirm if the video was old or morphed. HW searched the web and consulted some journalists working with Hindi dailies and online portals. Though the police could not confirm anything about the school or the authenticity of it, the video did not appear tobe old or edited.  

There are two major reasons why the public should refrain from sharing such videos of minors on social media platforms. 

It’s an Offence

First, it’s a legal offence and there is a punishment for it.

Himachal Watcher talked to legal consultant Deven Khanna about the laws strictly prohibiting exposing such visual content containing minors to the public.


Right to privacy of a child under article 21 of the Constitution is violated when such images are spread without his consent and against his interest, it can lead to harassment and abuse. Right to privacy as (stated by Supreme Court) with its attendant values assures “dignity” to the individual, and it is only when life can be enjoyed with dignity can liberty be of true substance. Privacy ensures the fulfilment of dignity.

said Deven Khanna.

He guided us to The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act that lays down:


The media should not disclose the names, addresses or schools of juveniles in conflict with the law or that of a child in need of care and protection, which would lead to their identification. The exception, to the identification of a juvenile or child in need of care and protection, is when it is in the interest of the child. The media is prohibited from disclosing the identity of the child in such situations.

Similarly, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) stipulates that:


No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.

The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks, said Deven.

Article 40 of the Convention, states that the privacy of a child accused of infringing penal law should be protected at all stages of the proceedings, he said.

Second, it could prove to be a disaster that may push these tender victims deeper into drug/substance abuse.

It Would Do More Harm Than Good

If we take a careful look at the video and hear their conversation, then there is a very crucial perspective, which is being neglected completely.

From their conversation, it is not hard to figure out that most of these students were newly introduced to tobacco, suggesting they were in still the experimentation phase.  Adolescents are the most vulnerable population to initiate tobacco use. There are piles of scientific research studies to establish this fact. Adolescence tobacco use is a global issue and researchers have worked on several aspects in hope to determine what makes adolescence most vulnerable to tobacco use.

In the video, one of the girls is showing her friends she can exhale smoke through the nostrils. Some of them do not even know how to take a puff.

Why you smoke it? What do you experience; one of the girls can be heard asking her friends curiously.

A boy and a girl can be heard inviting another girl to try a smoke. They encourage her to inhale it properly. 

“It’s ok, inhale it,” a boy tells a girl while handing her a smoke.

The girl tries it and ends up coughing and leaves the smoke. Only two of them appeared to be smoking for a while.

Their conversation and body language suggested the usual reason for an inclination towards this bad habit – a sense of adventure and peer influence. By the time children reach adolescence, their sense of exploration and self-identity also intensify, which is a natural process.

What Does Psychologists Say

HW talked to Ranjana Sharma, who has worked as a school counselor for over five years and is also perusing her PhD in Psychology from Himachal Pradesh University.

This is an unethical and unlawful way to deal with school students in their adolescence. It could bring a lot of embarrassment for these tender minds and cast long-term adverse effects on the personality of these students. That’s the reason the Juvenile Justice Board has prohibited the publishing of any content that violates the privacy of the minors,

Ranjana said

She explained that the circulation of this video would lead to the identification of these school students, at least in their respective localities. Within no time, the entire school staff and other students would be spotting these students out.It would lead to their branding as bad students. These, like in most cases where students are caught in such situations, would become a topic of staff-room gossip.

They would be facing regular teasing from other students and their social circle. They would become vulnerable to bullying. It would be too much for adolescent minds to cope with. A continuous negative reinforcement could push them deeper into substance/drug abuse, she said. 

Instead of uploading this video directly on social media, the person who shot it should have approached the principal of their respective school and shares this video with him/her. In an ideal situation, the principal would have identified the students and with the help of staff members could have referred them to the school counselor.  The counselor could then counsel them first and then talk to their parents. It’s fitting to point, the Government, unfortunately, has no clue how badly schools need professional counselors, a reason, most schools do not have a student counselor.

So, here, in the lack of a counselor, the school should summon the parents and make them aware of the instance. The principal must ensure that the identity of these students remains confidential and the staff must be advised to do the same.

In case, it is not possible to elicit the name of the school from students, then one can go to the local police station and provide them with a copy of the video for investigation.

Again, the police would have to ensure confidentiality regarding the identity of the students.  

This matter is more complicated than it would appear to a layman.  It is now well established that most of the adult users of tobacco start tobacco use in childhood or adolescence. Researchers also suggest the age at first use of tobacco has been reduced considerably. Moreover, this section is the prime targets of the tobacco industry.

There are several factors leading to the initiation of tobacco use in adolescence. It’s a complex amalgam of factors like risk-taking behaviors, easy access, advertising and exposure to tobacco products at the point of sale, personality factors, the macho feeling, underlying emotional and psychological problems, peer influence etc.

Researches On Early Adoloscence Tobacco Use

Poor school performance, truancy, school dropout, and low aspiration for the future are found related to early use of tobacco.

As per 2003 study titled “Tobacco use by Indian adolescents” published in a research journal,


Adolescents typically become addicted to nicotine while still being teenagers. Usual interval between the first cigarette consumption and daily smoking is 1–2 year(s). More than half of the adolescent smokers try to quit smoking every year with fewer than 20% being able to quit for a month.

Smoking by a close relative (father, mother, sister/brother) or friends isalso associated with smoking by the adolescent.

As per a 2018 Indian cross-section study on tobacco consumption practice in school going adolescent of a Gujarat city,

Adolescent generally aspire for tobacco consumption from their parents or any family member. Prevalence of tobacco consumption was higher in adolescents of the family having any tobacco consuming member (81.91%). Family problems led adolescents to use tobacco. Prevalence of tobacco consumption was significantly higher (64.78%) in adolescents coming from families where family problems were very common.

As per a study titled “Longitudinal study of adolescent tobacco use and tobacco control policies in India”,

Exposure to tobacco advertisements and products at the point-of-sale has been linked to adolescent tobacco use, increased brand recognition in students, impulse purchases of tobacco in smokers, and exposures are concentrated in low-income neighbourhoods.

Working status of the mother plays a crucial part in the development of their children. Adolescents of working mothers were more prone to tobacco consumption in comparison to adolescents whose mothers were housewives. The difference related to the working status of mother and tobacco consumption by their adolescents was statistically significant

A 2019 study tries to assess the association between socio-demographic factors such as age, gender, the area of residence, father’s education, and standard of living and the likelihood of tobacco use in adolescence.

The Indian Government is officially running several programs like National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP), National Adolescents Health Programme (NAHP) and National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancers, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS.) 

However, the situation is not getting any better.

The government needs to understand that this situation can be best handled with a scientific approach.

As a counselor, over plain lectures, I develop actual activities to create awareness about the ill effects of tobacco use of drug/substance abuse. The students take part in these activities with more interest,

Ranjana said. 

At the same time, to deter the public from uploading such content on social media, the Cyber Cell of the State Police and the Government need to take steps to create awareness regarding laws related to minors.

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 9 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture the world around him in his DSLR lens.

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HP Health Deptt Scam: BJP Chief Bindal Resigned on “Moral Grounds” or Asked to Resign by High Command?

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Why Rajive bindal resiged

Shimla-In a time when the corona pandemic is haunting India as well as the entire world and a huge lot of budget is being allocated for health infrastructure, services, and equipment like PPE kits, ventilators etc., officials and politicians in India are as usual ensuring their cut in corruption. Are All the donations that people had been making towards the PM/CM Relief Funds to fight COVID-19, safe in the hands of the current Government? No surprise that a cut from the 20 lakh crores, which the Prime Minister claims has been released as a relief for the people, would end up in the personal pockets of bureaucrats, politicians and middlemen.

The latest example is Himachal Pradesh’s Health Department and politicians. Right after a week, an audio clip of an alleged deal between the Director, Health Services, Dr Ajay Gupta and an employee and close aid of a politician appeared, Dr. Rajiv Bindal has resigned from the position of State BJP Chief. His resignation was also accepted almost immediately. He claimed that he resigned on “moral grounds” as he was hurt after the party’s name was associated with the alleged scam. It’s hard to digest that BJP Chief resigned even though no particular name of any political leader has been confirmed officially. The pubic and oppositions are sensing something fishy in this act of the BJP party chief. 

The mater soon reached the Office of the Prime Minister and the resignation came right after it. Some sources said that Bindal didn’t resign but was asked to resign on the behest of PM Office anticipating a political upheaval not only in the State but at the national level.  Five times MLA Bindal has served as health minister, remained the Speaker of State Legislative Assembly, and then given the charge to lead the party in Himachal.

Oppositions and public are demanding a CBI probe into all purchases made during the period of lockdown. Senior BJP leader and former Chief Minister Shanta Kumar also expressed anguish over the ongoing corruption in the health department, especially when the nation is going through turbulent times due to the pandemic. 

प्रैस विज्ञप्तिभारतीय जनता पार्टी के वरिष्ठ नेता एवं हिमाचल प्रदेश के भूतपूर्व मुख्यमंत्री एवं पूर्व सांसद, शांता…

Posted by Shanta Kumar on Saturday, 23 May 2020

It’s pertinent to mention that it’s not the first such scam, and earlier irregularities were reported in the purchase of sanitizers. According to the allegations, hand sanitizers were bought on a price higher than the actual price. Moreover, last year, a letter from a BJP’s leader had created a stir in which serious allegations were labelled against the minister and officials of the health department.

What Happened Earlier

Director, Health Services, Dr Ajay Gupta was suspended after a 43-second-long audio clip leaked to media on May 21, 2020. In the audio, two persons are conversating about bank accounts and transaction of Rs. 5 lakh. The charges are that the Director was allegedly asking for a bribe in purchase-related to health equipment in wake of the pandemic.  

Additional Chief Secretary RD Dhiman had to hand over the case to the Vigilance department soon after the audio clip appeared.  Ordering immediate probe is something that BJP is presenting as a proof of State Government and Chief Minister Jairam Thakur’s innocence.   

The Director confessed that he was one of these two persons heard speaking in this clip. Later, at late-night, the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested Gupta.

Then, he got admitted to the Indira Gandhi Medical Hospital complaining of poor health due to his diabetic condition. He was discharged on Monday. After his discharge from hospital, he was produced in a court from where he was remanded to five days of police custody.

His house was raided by a Special Investigating Unit headed by IPS Shalini Agnihotri and jewelry worth Rs. 4 lakh and Rs. 28 cash were ceased. Several documents, mobile phones etc. have also been ceased.

By May 25, the Vigilance team said that the Director holds over a dozen accounts in various banks. As many as 20 ATMs and Credit cards were also ceased in the raid on his office and residence.

Then, media reports said that the entire scam is linked to some influential leader of Bharatiya Janata Party. According to a Hindi Daily, the person to whom the Director was speaking to is an employee of the firm that this politician is affiliated to. This firm was allotted the tender for the purchase of equipment related to COVID-19. The Daily said the Director had negotiated the deal for a bribe of Rs. 5 lakh.

Also, the politician involved was reportedly also making attempts to get an extension for the Director who was to retire on May 31. After the audio clip went viral, the politicians tried to hush it up but could not do so as the Vigilance had already arrested the director.

Not only the Director but the committee constituted for taking decision on purchases for the Health Department has also come under the scanner.  

Since Gupta’s arrest, the Vigilance Department has not released any information regarding the person on the other side of the phone. No other arrest has been made so far. However, it was reported that a close aid to the politician involved was being questioned regarding the scam.

However, as the public fears, the investigation of this scam is likely to be botched up as influential politicians and bureaucrats are said to be linked with it. In the name of investigation, the Director or a couple of other officials would be held responsible. Still, the investigation might not reach its conclusion for years, as it happens when influential politicians of a party are involved in scams.  

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Response of Judiciary to India’s Migrant Crisis During Lockdown

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Mingrant labourers crisis in India and indian judiciary

Shimla-Judiciary has a duty to make the Government accountable for the conditions that migrant workers are facing today. In a series of articles, we will be going through the response of Indian Judiciary to the present Migrant Crisis. In the first of these series, we go through two important directions of the Patna High Court to the Government, which can help in elevating the condition of the Migrant Workers who are the victims of the present lockdown.

Patna High Court this month acknowledged the seriousness of this crisis and passed two important Orders which are marked by empathy for the plight of the present victims.

In one of the order, it has sought a reply from the Bihar government on a petition alleging ‘poor condition of quarantine centres’ in the state where migrant workers have been mandated to stay for three weeks upon their return from other parts of the country. In the other order, it has urged the State Government to reconsider its policy of not engaging with members of civil society in handling the COVID-19 crisis.

Order regarding the poor condition of quarantine centres

(C.W.P No.5656 of 2020)

A Division Bench headed by Hon’ble Chief Justice Sanjay Karol directed the state government to file its reply, noting with concern that Bihar has the “highest population density” in the country and “any mismanagement” at the quarantine centers could lead to a substantial increase in the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

Order Stated:

“From the record, it can be inferred that perhaps in the State of Bihar, more than 2450 quarantine centres stand established by the Disaster Management Department, in anticipation of housing 2.5 lakhs persons, termed as migrants, who are desirous of returning home. Perhaps the figure may be more. Such quarantine centres are to be established and managed as per the guidelines for quarantine facilities framed by the Government of India. There has to be proper segregation of the areas, prominently labelled as low risk, moderate risk and high risk areas. The entry and exit points of the said centres are required to be secured properly, with proper facilities of sanitation etc. Any mis-management in proper handling of such centres may result into the spread and/or increase of the disease in Bihar.

..The relevance, significance and importance of ensuring proper sanitization, cleanliness and orderliness at the Centres is highly imperative, more so looking into the economic condition, demography and population of Bihar. Today, 1/10th of the population of India lives in Bihar with highest density of population ratio. Hence the need, all the more, for monitoring the centres directly by senior level officer(s) at the level of the Government and with a greater vigil.

..In the response, it be categorically stated, in a tabulated form, district-wise, (a) the number of quarantine centres established in the State of  Bihar; (b) number of persons (migrants) housed therein; (c) number of persons who have been allowed to return to their respective places of destination after expiry of the mandatory period of quarantine;  (d) total number of persons (migrants), who are further expected to enter the State of Bihar; (e) the capacity of centres to house such persons; (f) whether provision for security, sanitation and food exists at each one of such centre or not; (g) whether such facility stands outsourced or is being provided  or sought to be provided directly by the employees of the State; (h) whether there is a provision for providing medical aid/facilities; and (i) mechanism for lodging complaints and its redressal.”

Direction for engaging members of civil society in the fight against Corona Virus.

(C.W.P No.5609 of 2020)

A division bench headed by Justice Sanjay Karol in another order observed that “in a democratic society, the Civil Society cannot be ignored”, Order Stated:

“Well, at this stage, we need not say anything further, save and except, that the role of Civil Society, be it in the form of individuals/ CSOs/NGOs, in helping the orphans; elderly persons; and specially challenged persons, cannot be undermined. Public and private participation to overcome natural disasters and adversities is not alien to the culture and heritage of this great nation. Also Practices and teachings of Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira are well entrenched in the State of Bihar. One cannot forget the importance and significance of the Directives Principles of State Policy, Part IV, (Article 39) and Part IV-A Fundamental duties, more specifically, (Article 51-A (h)) of the Constitution of India, while dealing with the problems arising out of the Pandemic Corona Virus (COVID-19).

We are also of the view that for centralized monitoring of the problems faced by the sectors mentioned above and the relief provided/action taken, technology be used. Perhaps, a Website, to be operated at the level of the Government of Bihar can be opened up where any member of the Society (organized or un-organized) wanting to help the Government or the citizenry, in whatever manner, be it in the form of material or human resources, can register their request and the same dealt with promptly by a duly authorized competent and a responsible officer. We only hope that the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar shall have part of this order implemented latest by day-after-tomorrow, 29.04.2020.”

List of verified NGOs, charities and private institutions, which are working on the ground:

  1. safaindia.org
  2. cjp.org.in
  3. parikrmahumanityfoundation.org
  4. feedingindia.org/donate
  5. kashtakaripanchayat.org
  6. robinhoodarmy.com
  7. https://goonj.org/support-covid-19-affected
  8. fdci.org or write to them at [email protected]seedsindia.org/covid19/
  9. https://tinyurl.com/ydgmfpcm
 
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Migrant Workers in Himachal’s Baddi Forced to Walk Back Home as State Govts Remain Apathetic

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Baddi migrant labourers going back home on foot

Solan: The heart-wrenching exodus of stranded migrant workers from cities back to villages in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown happening across the country is now unfolding in Himachal’s industrial belt Baddi as well. About 30 organisations, comprising of trade unions, civil rights groups, youth alliances, independent social organisations and networks from Himachal, Uttar Pradesh and the country today issued an appeal in support of workers from other states stranded in Himachal and the need for urgent coordination between states to ensure and facilitate their safe return to their homes.

The Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Industrial area in the Solan district of Himachal Pradesh houses more than 2000 industrial units and is known as the pharma hub of Asia, said the collective appeal of these organizations.

With an annual turnover of more than 60,000 crores, this zone has a major concentration of migrant workers in the state of Himachal Pradesh, possibly between 1.25 to 1.5 lakh people. These workers belonging to various states mainly Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa have been under severe distress due to the sudden announcement of a country-wide lockdown, the appeal said.

The appeal specifically highlights the distressful state of thousands of migrant workers in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh industrial area and the lack of response of the administration and respective governments to ensure urgent evacuation of those who want to leave.

“Post the lock-down, as factories remained closed down, in the absence of any sources of income, these workers soon ran out of the savings, if any, to buy rations and pay off their room rents. In the initial period contractors took care of some relief which soon ended and accessing the government-sponsored relief has not been easy either. Their only desire and demand, for the last month and a half, has been to be able to return to their homes, but it is unfortunate that while the Himachal Government has been able to bring back its native residents, the same efficiency and empathy has not been shown in ensuring the return of these workers who contribute hugely to the state’s economy”,

the statement said.

“Although the news has clearly stated that Himachal government will bear the cost of travel for migrant labourers, private operators have started plying their buses with the permission of administration but have been charging exorbitant amounts from the already deprived workers. This has been causing further panic and stress among these communities. Over the last few days, with no Government assistance forthcoming, after losing all hope and patience, workers have picked up their bags and baggage, their tiny children, the elders and the women and have started walking on foot the journey of several kilometres in a desperate attempt to return back to their homes,”

the statement said.

Specifically highlighting the case of workers from Uttar Pradesh, who have long registered themselves on the online portals to travel back, the statement also raised that “private bus operators are charging exuberant fares from already deprived people and with no State help forthcoming, the migrant labourers have been forced to walk back home several hundred kilometres with their children, elders and women”. 

The statement also condemned the dilution of labour laws as well as the suppression of freedom of the press by filing charges against journalists reporting the plight of the workers and the negative impacts of the lockdown and demanded the withdrawal of these.  Highlighting that the Haryana Government has arranged for free food and public transportation trains as well as buses till state borders for labourers to reach their respective States, the statement questions why Himachal has not done the same.

“The Himachal Government needs to understand that any coercive or apathetic measures in regard to forceful retention of these workers will only lead to psychological insecurities and loss of their trust in Himachal as a State”

read the statement.

The signatories in their appeal stated that it is the responsibility of the State government to ensure that the dignity, the constitutional and human rights of these migrant labourers are protected and respected.

Following Are the Demands Made Through This Appeal:

  1. Himachal government needs to coordinate with other state governments and urgently facilitate movement of migrant labourers stuck in Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Industrial area.
  2. Public transportation by bus for the evacuation up till the state borders needs to be arranged by the state government free of cost.
  3. Up until then a mechanism of ensuring that relief rations with regular follow-ups are provided to the families of stranded migrant workers without having to make repeated demands needs to be put in place.
  4. The status update of these arrangements should be released in public domain through the media and regular press releases so that people have all information and clarity is established.
  5. We condemn the suppression of freedom of press through the FIRs on media persons reporting on issues of migrant workers and demand that these charges be dropped immediately.
  6. The suspension and dilution of labour laws along with the provision of extension of working hours for adult workers from 8 hours to 12 hours be immediately withdrawn.

 

List State and National Signatories

Himachal Pradesh Organizations

  1. All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC)
  2. Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti
  3. Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU)
  4. Citizens’ Rights Forum, Kangra
  5. Communist Party of India, Himachal Pradesh
  6. Himalayan Students Ensemble (HSE)
  7. Himdhara Environment Collective
  8. Jagori Grameen
  9. Mountain Women Rights Forum
  10. People’s Action for People in Need (PAPN)
  11. People’s Campaign for Socio-Economic Equity

 

Uttar Pradesh Organizations

  1. Sangatin Kisan Majdoor Sangathan (SKMS)
  2. MNREGA Majdoor Union
  3. Purvanchal Kisan Union
  4. Humsafar
  5. Mahila Yuva Adhikar Manch
  6. Rihai Manch
  7. National Alliance of People’s Movements, UP

National Organizations

  1. Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN)
  2. National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
  3. Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), Rajasthan
  4. National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW)
  5. Socialist Party of India
  6. Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan (JJSS), Bihar
  7. Pennurimay Iyakkam, Madurai, Tamilnadu
  8. National Platform for Small Scale Fish Workers (Inland) [NPSSFW(I)], West Bengal
  9. Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union (APVVU)
  10. Kosi Navnirman Manch, Bihar
  11. Telangana Vyavasaya Vruttidarula Union
  12. Sanyukt Trade Union, Pithampur, Madhya Pradesh
  13. COVID Action Support Team (COAST)
  14. Khudai Khidmatgar
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