ICBL urges Govt to ban Landmines

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New Delhi, Apr 25: The Indian Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) has said it would try to persuade the government to ban the use of anti-personnel landmines in the country. At the conclusion of a two-day conference on ''Towards A Mine Free World and Ottawa Treaty'' here last evening, ICBL said it would make serious efforts to create a political will on the crucial issue.

ICBL National Coordinator Balkrishan Kurvey said it planned to engage with the Parliament Standing Committee of the Defence Ministry and persuade the government to march towards a mine free world and the Ottawa treaty. Dr Kurvey appreciated the government for looking at the humanitarian aspect of the Ottawa treaty, and said the issue of landmines could be tackled through dialogue.

Earlier, participants dwelt upon the impact of landmine on agriculture and environment in detail, calling for an immediate end to the use of landmine.

Environmentalist and biologist Dr L K Dadhich said toxic elements in landmine contains poisonous lead and mercury, which lead to soil erosion and have ill effects on environment.

Wildlife board member from Maharashtra, Dilip Yardi, said there was a hazardous effect of landmines on wild animals. Several incidents have been reported on wild animals becoming victims of landmine blasts.

India is committed to the humanitarian ideals of the Ottawa treaty, he said, adding that the government had certain reservations on signing the agreement due to the long porous border it shares with neighbours.

However, India had attended all meetings on the issue since the Nairobi Review Conference as an observer, Mr Yardi said.

Brigadier S H Mahajan from the External Affairs Ministry said only armed forces in India were allowed to use landmines. Also areas under landmines were properly fenced to prevent casualties. However, he said India fully supported vision of a world free from the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war, where individuals and communities live in a safe environment conducive to development and also mine survivors were fully integrated.

Brig Mahajan further said India was working in coordination with the UN policy on landmines. On rehabilitation of civilian casualties, he said India had taken adequate measures.

Acting Canadian High Commissioner Ken Macartney said India's participation was crucial in the international dialogue on mine action and the Ottawa convention.

He hoped that the Ottawa convention and mine action could become a possible means of building confidence between India and its neighbours as this region has its own issues.

India and other countries, which have not signed the convention, should be persuaded to do that, Mr Macartney said, adding that it should be ensured that armed non-state actors do not use mines.

Society for All Round Development (SARD) Chief Executive Officer Sudhir Bhatnagar said inclusive rehabilitation of mine victims was very important as it involved social integration.

He stressed on the need for joining of hands by the government and other stake holders in rehabilitation of landmine victims and their families.

Mr Bhatnagar alleged that other than the forces, non-state actors had also got access of usage to this deadly weapon which had become a disturbing trend.

He, however, maintained that SARD, had been holistically working towards mobilising the youth force in nurturing their energies towards positive facets of rehabilitation of victims and their meaningful engagement so that they could lead a contented life.

International Red Cross Society's Vincent Nicod said India and the international community could be a role model in the region as the issue need to be addressed on priority.

On Ottawa convention, he said a lot had been achieved but much more needed to be done while urging India to sign the treaty.

UNI

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