People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Kerala Chapter

TARGET: To remain function as a secular, democratic body for that raises its voice voicing against issues affecting the common man and mobilises public opinion on topics such as corruption, human rights violation and environmental issues, to name a few.

ORIGIN: People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), said to be one of the most visible bodies working in areas of grave social concerns, was the fallout of the turbulent socio-political atmosphere during the Seventies. It was Jayaprakash Narayan who formed PUCL in 1976 and the organisation currently has wings across the country. The primary aim of PUCL was to act as the mouthpiece of the voiceless and the marginalised with a special emphasis on women, children and jail inmates. Memberships are categorised as yearly (Rs.50) and life (Rs. 1,000), while one can be a patron by remitting Rs. 2,000. As of now, the Kerala Chapter of PUCL has 489 members among which around a hundred are life members.

ACTIVITIES: The Kerala Chapter of PUCL began functioning within a couple of years of the formation of its parent body. Since then, PUCL has engaged itself with various issues, be it human rights violation, corruption or ecological, that largely goes against the interest of the common man. “We have always made it a point to remain focused on a debated issue in a non-partisan manner,” reveals Adv. P.A. Pauran, currently president of the Chapter.

Over the years, PUCL has come to be identified as a whistleblower. It has consistently moved courts, sent fact-finding commissions and mustered public opinion against the governmental apathy on issues of severe social concern.

The agitation against Coca Cola at Plachimada in Palakkad, campaigns against fake medicines and food adulteration, the issue of unwed mothers, the indiscriminate pollution of rivers such as Periyar and Pampa and the mysterious deaths of 201 tribal people in a short span of three years between 2002-05 at Attappady; these are just some of the agitations spearheaded by PUCL, Kerala Chapter.

Many of their moves also have caught national headlines owing to their relevance, the latest being the struggle for the 30,000-odd landless poor in Malappuram district. “We have carried out an exhaustive survey and identified the land but the Government is yet to act on it”, adds Pauran.

It was also due to PUCL’s intervention that the Supreme Court ordered the formation of Monitoring Committees throughout Kerala to look into the management of industrial hazardous waste .

IMPACT: Through consistent interventions and aggressive campaigns, PUCL has brought to light several startling truths which would otherwise have been buried alive.

They were also able to raise the awareness level of not only commoners but also that of industrial units in being environment friendly, with the latter meeting with marginal success.

GETTING IN TOUCH: To know more about People’s Union for Civil Liberties and their interventions, call 9447481811 (General Secretary) or 9446250219 (President) or email them at puclkerala@gmail.com

SUNIL NALIYATH