HR News

Volume 17                                       No.1                                      January 9, 2015

HR NEWS: January 9, 2015

(From January 1 to January 9,  2015)

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Pappu’s prescription to Dalits: convert to other religion to escape caste oppression (2)

Patna: Amid reports of conversion and re-conversion from different parts of the State, Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Pappu Yadav has suggested that poor Dalits can convert to other religions to escape caste oppression and prejudices. He also supported the Aamir Khan starrer PK and demanded a ban on militant Hindu outfits for protesting against screening of the movie in theatres across the country. “Dalits and poor people who are victims of caste oppression and prejudices in society should convert to Christianity, Buddhism or any other religion of their choice. This is the only way for them to get rid of the so-called thekedar [contractors] of religion,” declared the RJD MP from Madhepura. Mr. Pappu Yadav, who, of late, has waged a war against corrupt doctors, further said that he too would have converted to another religion had he been born in a poor and oppressed caste. “There is no way out to escape from these dharm ke thekedars [religious contractors]”, he told The Hindu wondering why some people have any objection to poor people converting to any other religion for their growth. “Why don’t they do something for their welfare instead of hyping up their re-conversion?”, he asked. He further said that only those people who were opposing conversions were against reservation for the backward and deprived sections of society. “Do they think that those who have converted are their personal property?”, asked the heavyweight MP, whose wife Ranjit Ranjan too is a Congress MP from the neighbouring Supaul Lok Sabha constituency. They are the lone MP couple in the 16th Lok Sabha. While lashing out at Hindu outfits like Bajrang Dal and others opposing the screening of PK, he demanded a ban on them while suggesting that everyone should watch this “entertaining” movie. “I demand a ban on Hindu outfits indulging in vandalism on movie theatres and burning posters of the film. Films are the mirror of society but organisations like Bajrang Dal are making this issue political for their vested interest”, he said while admitting that he watched the movie and found it a “complete entertainer with nothing objectionable”. He said, he had also asked members of Yuva Shakti, a youth organisation formed by him, to confront those protesting the screening of the film and indulge in vandalism. “When BJP veteran L.K. Advani has found the film quite entertaining, why should not those who are protesting it?”, he asked. Recently, the five-time MP, hit the headlines for waging a war against corrupt doctors fleecing poor patients in various ways in the State. He had even prescribed fees for the doctors as per their qualifications and degrees to charge from the patients. The doctors, though, have been opposing his move but the MP has been receiving a warm response from the locals wherever he held a people’s court to raise the issue. “In the next two-three days, I’m also going to file a defamation suit against state BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi who had earlier said that the doctors of the State are frightened because of me. Giving such statements, he is tarnishing my image,” said Mr. Yadav who, earlier, was acquitted of the murder of former Purnea MLA Ajit Sarkar.

Asked about the political situation in the State, he said Bihar needed leaders such as Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee “to make the functioning streamlined and corruption-free.” (The Hindu 1/1/15)

2. Bharat Ratna to two Brahmins discrimination against Dalits: Mayawati (2)

Lucknow: BSP supremo Mayawati Saturday accused the Narendra Modi-led NDA government of discriminating against Dalit icons like party founder Kanshi Ram and social reformer Jyotiba Phule while awarding Bharat Ratna to two Brahmins Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malaviya. She said the move shows the “casteist” mindset of the Modi government. She also attacked the Centre for adopting the “ordinance route” on key issues terming it “anti-farmer and made with an intention to give undue benefit to the business community”. “The BJP government has the same discriminatory attitude as that of the previous Congress-led UPA government. The Congress government had not declared national mourning after the death of Kanshi Ram and the BJP government has continued with the same casteist mindset. It has given Bharat Ratna to two persons from the same caste, which my party does not oppose, but none from the Dalit or OBC category was chosen,” she said. Mayawati said Kanshi Ram should have been given the highest civilian honour for his sacrifice and hard work for the upliftment of Dalits. “Similarly, Jyotiba Phule, who belonged to a backward caste, should have been given the award for working in the field of education and and efforts to establish equality in society. Taking exception to the Modi government adopting the ordinance route, Mayawati said this was not in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution. On the land acquisition ordinance, she said it was against the interest of farmers. “I do not find it right…the amendments could have been brought in the next session of Parliament,” she said, adding interests of capitalists were being safeguarded by the government. She said the NDA government has not shown any interest in last seven months of fulfilling the promises made during the elections. She alleged that as per a conspiracy, the quotafor Dalits and backwards was being neutralised by allocating major works to the private sector. Mayawati also criticised the organisations affiliated to BJP, saying they were hatching a conspiracy to spoil the atmosphere by raising the issue of conversion and promising a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. To a question on replacing Planning Commission by a new think-tank, NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India), she said government should concentrate on solving problems of the poor and unemployed. “Changing names will not usher in any change in the country,” she said. (Indian Express 4/1/15)

3. Dalit girl burnt alive at home in Ghaziabad, police suspect honour killing (2)

GHAZIABAD: A 16-year-old girl was burnt alive in her house in Hapur on Saturday during what her father claimed was a robbery by four men. But a dodgy account of events the father gave has turned suspicion on him, with the police not ruling out the possibility of an honour killing. In the complaint he filed at Kotwali police station, Mahesh (45) claimed his daughter was killed by the four robbers for putting up a resistance. According to Mahesh, they broke into the second floor house in Ganeshpura, where the Dalit family lived, around 1am. The robbers allegedly took a pair of silver anklets from Mahesh’s wife and were leaving when 16-year-old Neetu raised an alarm. The men, Mahesh claimed, then doused her with kerosene and set fire to her. But this theory, police officers said, fell apart when investigators visited the crime scene and started making inquiries. None of the neighbours, for instance, reported hearing any commotion from the building at the time Mahesh said Neetu was killed. Besides, there were seven family members in the house, including Neetu, at the time of the alleged crime but no one else was injured. Mahesh sells fruits to earn a living. Other than Neetu, he has three sons and a daughter. “The victim was wearing gold earrings and so was her mother. Yet, both ornaments were secure. This casts a doubt on the claims made by the family,” said Kotwali SHO Rajender Singh Yadav. Each family member also gave a different version of the cash allegedly stolen from the house. Another loophole the police found in Mahesh’s theory was his claim that the robbers had gained access to the house by jumping from the roof of an adjacent building. “We inspected the building where Mahesh lives. It’s not possible to jump into the house from the adjacent buildings because of the distance between them,” said Yadav. Hapur police superintendent R P Pandey said, “It seems the girl’s father filed a false complaint to mislead us. The girl, a school dropout, was working as a domestic help in several households. Suspecting her of having an illicit relationship, Mahesh had asked her not to work at some of the houses. It seems when she refused to obey him, her father and other members of the family killed her. A number of facts pointing towards honour killing have surfaced during our investigations.” The police are yet to receive the girl’s autopsy report. As of now, police have lodged an FIR against four unknown persons under sections 302 (murder), 302 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 394 (robbery) of the IPC. The SP said they would take action against the Mahesh based on findings of their probe. “Afresh FIR will be filed depending on the probe’s outcome,” said Pandey. (Times of India 5/1/15)

4. VHP rushes to prevent Dalits embracing Islam in Meerut (2)

Meerut: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has rushed to the “rescue” of about 60 members of a Dalit community who had threatened to embrace Islam after they were not allowed to worship at the Balmiki Ashram in Baghpat. The Dalits who are residents of Jamaalpur village in Meerut alleged they were not allowed to celebrate Balmiki Jayanti, birth anniversary of Saint Balmiki on October 8, 2014 at the Balmiki Ashram. They alleged that an upper caste priest of the Ashram had been discriminating against the Dalits. The U.P. unit of the VHP approached the families and assured that action will be taken against the priest if their allegations were found to be true. Shyam Sundar Singh, a member of the Dalit community told The Hindu that an upper caste priest had put a ban on their entry in the Ashram which he claimed belonged to Balmiki community. “There is an upper caste priest who has hijacked the Balmiki Ashram and for quite some time now has been refusing us the permission to perform pooja inside its premise. We have approached the administration against this kind of injustice,” he alleged. “If our grievances are not solved by January 26, all of us will convert to Islam en masse,” he reiterated the threat. The local VHP leader Sudarshan Chakra told The Hindu that he will look into the grievances of the Dalits to ensure the Dalits don’t convert. “We have approached the Dalit families who are angry at being discriminated. We are going to sort out their issues and ensure that they get access to the ashram and perform puja there,” he said. (The Hindu 6/1/15)

5. Dalit groups slam ‘casteist’ event in Hyderabad (2)

HYDERABAD: Banners recently put up across the city, inviting members of the Catholic Reddy Association (CRA) to the ‘tricentenary celebrations of Global Catholic Reddy families’ on January 11, has left some dalit Catholic Christian groups fuming. Lashing out at the organizers, these groups have termed the event as regressive and ‘casteist’ in nature. “Dalits can never organize such lavish gatherings. We fear that the CRA’s event would further alienate us from the mainstream, owing to our weak economic status. And this despite dalits representing 70% of the Christian population in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh,” said Jerusalem Mathaiah, president of All India dalit Christians Samakhya. He said dalit groups would stand in protest outside the venue, if the programme is not called off. “Though we have embraced Christianity, caste issues are still haunting us. We already feel wronged by the fact that not many dalit Catholic Christians have been elevated to high posts,” Mathaiah rued. When TOI contacted CRA office, Vijay Bhaskar Kommareddy speaking on behalf of the group said the tricentenary celebrations would be nothing more than a community event being organised to mark the conversion of the first Reddy member to Christianity 300 years ago. The incident took place in Anantapur in 1715. The CRA found support in Christine Lazarus, former MLA in the erstwhile AP assembly, who strongly came out in defence of the event. “We are living in a free country and there’s nothing wrong if a community comes together to celebrate an occasion,” she said. (Times of India 7/1/15)

TRIBALS

6. Project Palash gives new life to Jharkhand tribe (6)

NEW DELHI: The year 2014 definitely ushered in “acche din” for the Sabar tribe of Jharkhand. This endangered tribe, once trapped in the Maoist zone, is still struggling to beat extreme poverty and underdevelopment. It is looking forward to the New Year with new hope, all thanks to Palash, that not only offered them sustainable livelihood but also saved their tribe from extinction. Palash is an initiative to train Sabar artisans from Saraikela district to weave eco-friendly designer products to make a livelihood. Out of 32 tribes in Jharkhand, nine are endangered. Sabar is also one of the most primitive and languishing tribes in the country. Their strong resistance to British dominance resulted in the community getting listed among the 68 denotified tribes who were tagged criminals under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. Most Sabar people in Jharkhand now live in Samanpur, a village surrounded by hills and forests. Situated 60km from Jamshedpur, it doesn’t have proper road connectivity. “It was beyond my imagination to see the pathetic condition of the Sabars when I first went to Samanpur in 1996. People had not seen the light of civilization. A paradoxical situation of abject poverty prevailed in the prosperous forests. They lived in small huts of three-by-four feet, which they could enter only by crawling. They survived on roots and fruits from forests or on dead animals,” said Suchitra Sinha, joint director (industries), Jharkhand government, who initiated the project Palash. “We practically lived in the jungle, ate whatever we could gather from the forests. Never knew of education and even today I am illiterate. We used to gather firewood and sell them to earn Rs 100-200 a month. There is still no road, hospital or anything,” said Sagar Sarwar, one of the 10 artisans who are present at the India International Trade Fair. Things started turning around when Sinha saw a woman weaving a basket out of Kanshi grass in one of the huts. “I saw a huge potential in this intricate weaving. I was told that these articles had an unorganized market with meager incentives.” With the help of National Institute of Fashion Technology in Delhi, Sinha arranged training of 50 such artisans. And they now earn Rs 4,000 per month, said Vijay Sawar, an artisan. “To develop it as a model village, we need to increase our production base and participate in events like IITF. This village can also be projected as a tourism destination as it still retains its greenery,” said Sinha. The project has managed to wean many away from the Maoist movement, she added. “There is also a decrease in deforestation. Their life has improved. Now I hope these people will get the attention of the governments.” (Times of India 1/1/15)

7. Rift within govt over tribal rights (6)

New Delhi: The tribal affairs ministry has described the environment ministry circular relaxing the forest rights act provisions as in “violation of the law”. Tribal affairs ministry said diluting the forest act  had the potential to create public unrest in tribal areas, which are also Maoist-affected districts. The environment ministry in October, 2014 had written to district collectors that plantations notified as forests in 1930 and falling in areas having no tribal population should not come under the purview of the forest rights act, meaning that mandatory consent for the projects coming up there will not be required. “The letter violates the law,” said Hrusikesh Panda, tribal affairs secretary. He asked his counterpart in the environment minister Ashok Lavasa to immediately withdraw the circular dated October 28. Panda had also objected to the environment ministry issuing advisories on FRA without consulting them, the nodal ministry for implementation of the FRA. Panda also said the forest rights act does not provide any scope for an executive agency to relax the applicability of the law and the relaxation can be done only after a due process is followed. And in case of the October circular that due process was not followed. The secretary said that repeated dilution of the FRA has sent the message that the government was against “fair” implementation of the forest rights act and it was not desirable in the interest of “peace and governance” in forest areas. Panda also marked the copy of the letter to home secretary Anil Goswami saying that the issue needs to be taken up at the meeting on Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected districts, which are also the home for majority of tribals in India. Panda had also objected to repeated claims that the Forest Rights Act was leading to delay in project approvals and execution saying there was no evidence to this effect. “If there has been any study or evidence on delay of projects because of the processes of FRA, this should be brought to the notice of the (tribal affairs) ministry. Clearance of major projects take a long time because of the layers through which such clearance is given,” the letter stated. (Hindustan Times 2/1/15)

8. Govt urged not to divert SC, ST sub plan funds (6)

Bengaluru: The Karnataka State SC/ST Entrepreneurs and Industrialists Association has urged the State government not to divert funds allotted for Scheduled Caste Sub Plan/Tribal Sub Plan (SCSP/TSP) to projects other than those meant for development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Addressing a press meet during a workshop on SCSP/TCP Priority Allocation – 2015-16, Association President L Hanumanthaiah said that Rs 8,818.31 crore was allotted under the plan during 2013-14 and the allotment had been increased to Rs 15,834.18 crore in the current fiscal. “More than 50 per cent of the funds has been diverted for general schemes such as schools, colleges, roads, government buildings, drains, irrigation projects. The Planning Commission has strongly recommended that the diversion of funds for general schemes should not be more than five per cent,” said Hanumanthaiah. He said that SCSP/TCP Act provides that funds should be spent only for three purposes – members of Scheduled Castes/Tribes, their families and for general schemes. Elaborating further on the diversion of funds, JD(S) MLA from Mudigere constituency B B Ningaiah that approximately SCSP/TCP funds to the tune of Rs 6,000 crore had been spent on irrigation schemes during the period 2010-11 till date. “I was in the SC/ST Welfare Committee to oversee the utilisation of funds for the downtrodden communities. On department-wise verification of projects, we found that  SCSP / TSP funds to the tune of Rs 6,000 crore have been utilised for irrigation. After field visits, we also found out that a majority beneficiaries of the irrigation projects were not SC/STs. This is nothing but misuse of funds,” Ningaiah said. Taking lessons from the past, the association will set up its own monitoring system for utilisation of funds. It has also urged the government to utilise the funds for skill development of SC/ST youth. Association executive president G Srinivasan said that the funds under the scheme were being equally distributed among all the districts without considering the population of SC/STs. “Gulbarga has a maximum SC population, whereas Udupi has very less. But the funds are equally allotted to both districts. This leads to diversion of funds. Funds should be allotted to the districts based on the population of SC/STs in Karnataka,” he said. (Deccan Herald 5/1/15)

9. Adivasi group sniffs conspiracy theory (6)

Guwahati, Jan. 6: The All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam today alleged a political conspiracy behind the recent killing of Adivasis and questioned the ongoing operation against NDFB (Songbijit), the militant group held responsible for the massacre. The association’s president Raphael Kujur alleged that the attack was politically motivated and demanded an inquiry to identify the political forces that might have used the NDFB (S) to attack the Adivasis on December 23. “Although the NDFB (S) carried out the massacre, we suspect that a political force used them for mileage. Hence, apart from NIA investigation, a probe needs to be conducted into the political conspiracy angle too,” he said. Kujur also saw a pattern in the killing of Adivasis in the past decade. “There were attacks on Adivasis in Assam in 2006, soon after the Assembly election. The attack at Uriamghat in Golaghat district in August last year was carried out after the Lok Sabha election. The fresh attacks come ahead of the Bodoland Territorial Council election scheduled for this year and the Assembly election scheduled for next year. Although the NDFB (S) carried out the December 23 massacre, we suspect that a political force used them for mileage,” he said. So far 81 people have died in the December 23 attacks (66 Adivasis), backlash (12 Bodos) and police firing during protests (three Adivasis). Over 2.86 lakh people, both Adivasis and Bodos, have been displaced in Sonitpur, Kokrajhar, Chirang and Udalguri districts. The association also said that though the Centre had rushed hundreds of army and paramilitary forces to Assam soon after the attack, it had not yet yielded any results. “Cadres of the rebel group are still moving freely with arms in many places and recently they looted cattle and goats from Adivasi villages at Majbat in Udalguri district and Mainaupur village in Chirang district,” Kujur said. He alleged that the administration in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts were forcing displaced Adivasis to leave the relief camps without making security arrangements in their villages. “Ration has been stopped in some camps. People are caught between the fear of militant attacks and the administration’s warning to leave relief camps. We demand that fixed pickets must be set up in the vulnerable areas before sending relief camp inmates back to their villages,” he added. According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority, eight relief camps have been closed down in the past 24 hours and over 24,600 people have been sent back to their villages. More than 1.29 lakh people are still taking shelter in 77 relief camps.The executive committee of the association today decided to stage demonstrations for two hours in every district and subdivisional headquarters on January 19 and light lamps in each Adivasi household on January 23 to pay tribute to the deceased. (The Telegraph 7/1/15)

WOMEN

10. 50% girls would cancel wedding if in-laws demand dowry (8)

Kolkata: More than half of the Indian girls would cancel their wedding if their would-be in-laws demand dowry, according to a new survey.DH Illustration For Representation Purpose Only More than half of the Indian girls would cancel their wedding if their would-be in-laws demand dowry, according to a new survey. When single Indian women were asked in a survey by Shaadi.com about what they would do if they learnt about a dowry demand made to their parents, 51.4 per cent women said they would call off their wedding. Another 48.6 per cent women said they would name and shame the would-be in-law’s family by publicly humiliating them, as per the survey. The online poll received 5,680 responses from single Indians in the age group of 24 to 35 years. When single Indian men were asked how dowry seekers should be treated, 59.8 per cent of them said such persons should be instantly jailed, while 40.2 per cent said those making the demand should be socially humiliated. More than 75 per cent respondents felt dowry could be prevented, the survey said. Commenting on the survey, Gourav Rakshit, COO of Shaadi.com said the website was working towards making India a dowry-free society. (Deccan Herald 1/1/15)

11. PM to Launch ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ Programme from Haryana (8)

CHANDIGARH: Modi will launch ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme, a nationwide scheme aimed to address the dipping child sex ratio and empower girl child in the country, from Panipat in Haryana next month. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar today said the Prime Minister, in his first visit after the formation of BJP government in Haryana, would launch the programme from Panipat in Haryana on January 22. The nationwide programme ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is in the direction of preventing unfavorable impact of declining sex ratio in the country and also to sort out this serious trouble, Khattar said in a release here. The prime objective of this programme was to bring a change in people mindset towards girl child on or after her birth. Preventing determination of sex, female foeticide, ensuring safety of girls, their best possible care and providing quality education are integral part of this programme, he added. Khattar said a national level media and multi-sectoral campaigns in 100 districts in the country would also be carried out under the programme. ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme would be implemented in 12 districts of Haryana namely Mahendergarh, Jhajjar, Sonipat, Rewari, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Rohtak, Karnal, Yamunanagar, Kaithal, Bhiwani and Panipat which have the lower girl child sex ratio. The Chief Minister said a two-day seminar-cum-conference would also be organised on the beginning of the programme on January 20 and 21 next month. He said Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee would be special invitee in the seminar. Besides, women and child development ministers and Principal Secretaries concerned of all states have also been invited to express their views in the seminar. PTI (New Indian Express 1/1/15)

12. Strip search: police record statements (8)

Kochi: The city Vanitha police cell recorded the statements of the women employees of a company in the Cochin Special Economic Zone who were allegedly subjected to a strip search after a used sanitary napkin was found in the office washrooms. “The complaint was filed by 15 employees of the company. We have recorded the statements of a few of the women and will probe the matter further in the coming days,” said an officer of the women’s cell. CSEZ Development Commissioner Safeena A.N. said the SEZ had a committee in place to look at complaints of sexual harassment. “The SEZ office has such a committee and all complaints received there are resolved quickly. In this particular issue, none of the women filed a complaint with us,” Dr. Safeena said. (The Hindu 1/1/15)

13. 30 per cent of all rapes by live-in partners, on promise of marriage (8)

New Delhi: Rape by live-in partners or on the promise of marriage accounted for almost 30 per cent of all reported rape cases in Delhi last year. DH illustration Rape by live-in partners or on the promise of marriage accounted for almost 30 per cent of all reported rape cases in Delhi last year. Women reported being raped by strangers only in four percent of the 2,069 rape cases registered with police till mid December, 2014. In any case, incidents of alleged rape in the national capital in 2014 have gone up by almost one-third since the previous year, police revealed during a press conference on Friday. Twenty per cent of the rape cases this year remain unsolved, said police. Culprits in 60 per cent of the solved cases were nabbed within a week of the crime being reported, police claimed. Friends of victims or of their family members were the main perpetrators of the crime, accounting for about 45 per cent of the reported rapes in Delhi this year. Other main perpetrators were neighbours at 20 per cent and relatives in 13 per cent of rape incidents, Delhi Police’s annual report said. Over 4,000 complaints of molestation, a 25 per cent rise since 2013, were registered during the same period. Police managed to solve 67 per cent of these cases. A senior officer told Deccan Herald that the involvement of strangers in molestation incidents was higher as compared to rapes because of which many culprits continued to roam scot-free. Police’s ability to work out complaints related to eve-teasing has been even poorer. Of the 1,282 such cases registered till mid-December last year, only 54 per cent were solved. Incidents of eve-teasing increased by 45 per cent over one year. Commissioner of Police B S Bassi said women are being trained to fill the “physical capacity gap”. He said Delhi women would be trained to take on men when harassed or not given due respect. Over 15,000 women in the capital have been trained in self-defence this year and about 1.25 lakh over the last 12 years. Apart from the basic self-defence techniques, they are also taught how to use their belongings like pens, dupattas and handbags to protect themselves from molesters and snatchers. Bassi, however, said that was not adequate. He said he wanted to see women undergo unarmed combat training for a year and emerge with a minimum of a brown belt in karate. (Deccan Herald 4/1/15)

14. Modi govt proposes to set up 150 teams to probe crime against women (8)

New Delhi: The Centre has proposed to set up 150 special investigative units on a pilot basis, in some of the most crime-prone districts in the country to probe grievous offences against women, particularly rape, dowry harassments, acid attacks and human trafficking. As part of the new initiative, the Home Ministry has proposed to set up investigative units on crimes against women (IUCAW) in 20 per cent districts of each state on a 50:50 cost sharing basis with the states. In a letter to chief ministers, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that there is a need to strengthen various elements of the criminal justice system, namely, investigation, prosecution and trials by courts to deal with the issue of rise of crimes against women. The Union home minister said the objective of these units will be to investigate cases referred to them, augment the investigative machinery of the states in relation to the heinous crimes against women, especially rape, dowry death, acid attack and human trafficking. The units will also instill confidence and encourage women to come forward and lodge their complaint and improve the gender ratio in the state police forces which is adversely impacting effective implementation of the legislations relating to women. Besides, these units will have the additional functionality of proactive policing, intelligence gathering, tackling organised crime, monitoring proper implementation of the legislative provisions, helping awareness generation and promotion of social participation in checking crimes against women, an official statement said. The ministry has proposed to set up 150 such IUCAWs units initially on a pilot basis in most crime-prone districts of each state. Each IUCAW will be headed by an officer of the rank of Additional Superintendent of Police assisted by two DSPs. Out of the total 2,250 personnel required for the 150 IUCAWs, 750 will be women. This will involve a total expenditure of Rs 84 crore annually, out of which Rs 42 crore will be provided by the Centre. (Zee News 6/1/15)

15. Government Order on Sexual Abuse in Schools (8)

BHUBANESWAR: The State Government on Tuesday asked the schools under ST and SC Development department to sensitise and educate girl students through life skills to prevent sexual harassment and abuse. In fresh guidelines issued by the State Government for schools under the department, teachers and other employees have been asked to create an enabling environment for students in schools and hostels. Measures have been prescribed in the guidelines for prevention and protection from sexual abuse. Besides, a code of conduct and duties for teachers and other staff have also been issued. There should be frequent interaction between the teachers and students, the guidelines stated and asked the hostel authorities to record every movement of boarders and visitors. The guidelines also stated that school monitoring reports of the district welfare officers (DWOs), assistant district welfare officers (ADWOs) and district inspectors of schools will be submitted to the ST and SC Development Department through e-mail. (New Indian Express 7/1/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

16. Mission Khoj to find missing kids (14)

New Delhi: The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) on Wednesday has launched an operation ‘Khoj’ for finding the missing children. Chairperson of DCPCR Arun Mathur said that the commission was concerned over the increasing number of missing children in the capital. He said that under the operation ‘Khoj’ the DCPCR will tap information about “missing children from all sources and circulate the same along with photographs to all networked Homes for immediate action.” A network of approximately 45 children’s homes in Delhi has been created and in case a child is found in one of the homes, the DCPCR will take appropriate steps to identify and reunite the child with his family. “The information will be sought through email ID missingchild.dcpcr@gmail.com and the reply is also expected on the same ID,” said DCPCR. The DCPCR decided to commission a study to assess and analyse the available data about rescue, recovery and post rescue procedures besides issues of inter-state coordination. Mathur said that the commission intends to enlarge the network to include more homes and organise regular meetings for sensitisation of the home in-charges. The Commission expects that through proper follow-up many cases related to missing children can be solved. According to the DCPCR, 7,235 children were reported missing in Delhi in 2013. Some 5,248 children went missing in 2012, 5,111 kids were reported missing in 2011. About 5,946 children went missing in 2009 and some 5,091 kids were reported missing in 2010. Some 6,268 children were reported missing from Delhi in 2008. Mathur said the DCPCR has been monitoring the cases both at an individual level as well as the policy level. “In individual cases, the commission issues notice to the concerned police station for an Action Taken Report in the matter. It was seen that the replies from the police station reach the commission quite late,” said DCPCR in a statement. A national consultation on inter-state coordination for rehabilitation of rescued child labourers came to the conclusion that there is not the need for strengthening the rehabilitation mechanisms of child labour in source states as well as in Delhi, but also the necessity of improving inter-state coordination. (Deccan Herald 1/1/15)

17. Railways’ SOP about rights of kids found on its premises still on paper (14)

The standard operation procedure (SOP) laid down by the Railway Board to safeguard rights of children arriving at and living on railway stations doesn’t seem to have amounted to much. It’s been a year since the Board passed an order to implement the SOP immediately, but the order has just remained on paper. The detailed SOP talks about the role various stakeholders need to play to ensure that children on railway platforms, including those who have run away from home, have gone missing from railway premises and who work there, are safe and protected. “We received the letter about the implementation of SOP a year back, but we have not been given any funds to implement it,” said a city station master. “I have written several letters to my superiors for kick-starting the implementation of the SOP, but I haven’t got any reply so far.” According to the SOP, the railways needs to create children assistance centres at all major stations. It further demands that the railways make arrangements for proper clothing, toilet, first aid and medicine for children. “We don’t have a single centre; whenever we get such children, we make a basic entry in our register and hand them over to the Government Railway Police (GRP),” said a station manager.  The SOP instructs the railways to maintain a detailed record of children found alone or in distress on platforms. The station master is expected to maintain a record of the children — name, age, parents’ names, details of siblings, address, and reason for leaving home. The SOP adds that there need to be advocacy messages put up at stations to create awareness on this, installing a functional public telephone at the centres, and creating a sufficient fund with station masters to meet the expenditure on food, clothing, toiletries and first-aid kit, and commute cost when a child is taken to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). A station master, however, said, “We aren’t given any money to spend on the children, we spend from our own pocket. We just hand them over to the GRP, who later they take them to the CWC.”.. (DNA 4/1/15)

18. Cuttack police rescue 10 child labourers (14)

CUTTACK: Ten child labourers who were rescued by the police, were on Sunday sent to a local shelter home here after conducting an ossification test on them to determine their ages. The children were brought here from Murshidabad district of West Bengal by two agents to employ them as labourers in coal mines at Talcher. They were however, rescued by Chauliaganj police on Saturday after they alighted from a train here to catch a bus to Talcher. The police arrested one of the agents—Sheikh Majibul and sent him to court. On the other hand, the district Child Welfare Committee (CWC) made arrangements to keep the children at a shelter home here until they are reunited with their families. (The Hindu 5/1/15)

19. Muzaffarnagar cops to launch hunt for missing kids (14)

Muzaffarnagar: Following directions of the state government, police have launched a month-long campaign called “operation smile” to trace missing children in the district. The drive will go on till January 31. Of the 11 children who had gone missing in 2014, three are still missing. According to senior superintendent of police, HN Singh, a task force has been formed for Operation Smile. The aim of the initiative is to trace and rescue children who had been reported missing in the district in the last ten years. “The campaign aims to identify, trace, locate and rehabilitate children who were either kidnapped or who had left home on their own and have been subjected to abuse, exploitation or employed as child labour,” Singh said. Police sources say that a list of missing children has been prepared. Once such children were identified as missing, cops will match their details with those of the kids in the list. Data from the district, zonal and state levels would be compared. It will also be shared at the national level. Cops will keep strict vigil at bus stands, railway stations, shelter homes and other public spaces. If children are found in these places, the police will take their details and upload them, along with photographs of the kids, on a dedicated portal for missing children. Recently, the operation was launched in Ghaziabad and was deemed a huge success. 225 missing children were traced and reunited with their parents. After the success of the campaign in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh’s principal secretary (home) instructed police officials in all districts to launch the operation. SSP HN Singh has ordered all station officers in the district to launch the drive in areas within their jurisdiction. (Times of India 6/1/15)

20. Street Kids Find Home and Mentor (14)

VIJAYANAGAR: Eighteen children of construction workers are looking at a bright future, thanks to the Right to Education Act and a kind education official. For many years, the street was their home, their playground and workplace. Today they have found shelter, protection and admission, and are basking in their newfound life. For these children, moving from the dusty, chaotic streets to a safe, steady and protected environment has been a life-changing experience. Children of workers who have migrated from Madhya Pradesh, they are grateful to Nagarathnamma D, Block Education Officer, South Range-2, for making it possible. When they were fending for themselves, they sold balloons on the streets, looked after their younger siblings, and played amid the dirty, dug-up roads beneath the Metro Rail bridges. They cannot believe they have a roof over their heads, food on their plates, books to read, a place to relax and play, and school uniforms and good clothes to wear. They even go on picnics and Metro rides. In 2013, 33 children were identified under the ‘out of school’ Education Department survey in Vijayanagar. The department initially put up a tent school and imparted a bridge course, preparing the children for school. Eventually, 18 children were admitted to five private, unaided schools. They have adjusted well, face no discrimination, and are coping with their studies, say officials. Schools that have admitted them are RNS Vidyaniketan, Holy Angels School, Sree Bharatiya Vidyalaya, Adichunchungiri English School, and New Cambridge School. If nine are studying in the first standard, the rest are in LKG. The schools follow the ICSE and the state syllabi. Nagarathnamma told City Express the department had to overcome much suspicion and opposition from parents. “They are homeless, illiterate, and speak only Hindi. Since they had been working on the stretch along Yelahanka, Peenya and Vijayanagar for 10-15 years, they were on the streets, with no avenues to educate their children. We managed to convince them about the importance of school,” she said. Nagarathnamma is passionate about educating such children and does her best to get them to school.”Of the 33 we initially identified, 10-12 went back to Madhya Pradesh but the rest were clothed, housed, and admitted to big schools,” she said. She is assisted by many people, including teacher C H Chandrashekaraiah and parent Jayanthi. After much thought, they decided to house the children at the Government Model Primary School in Hosahalli and turned two big classrooms into a dormitory with an attached kitchen. Others pitched in to help. If Vijaynagar MLA Krishnappa looks after their daily breakfast needs and provides clothes, NGO Annapurna is donating their groceries. The group has not taken any funds from the government to run this initiative. Mela, a chirpy girl now enjoying her holidays on the streets with her big family of five siblings, is happy she is studying. Playing at the government school that has become their home, Kiran and his friends shower all their love on Nagarathana whom they affectionately call amma. Mela, who has started learning English and Kannada, said, “I enjoy going to school.” Thanks to the initiative, these children are finding a way out of their poverty and squalor. (New Indian Express 7/1/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

21. Minorities’ welfare still on the backburner in Telangana (7)

HYDERABAD: At a time when the Telangana government is making announcements, minorities continue to be discriminated against at the policy level in terms of eligibility criteria vis-a-vis other weaker sections, experts opined on Tuesday. At a meeting on ‘Development of Minorities in Telangana State – Possibilities and Challenges’ at Lakdi-ka-pul, speakers cited the example of schemes rolled out by the Centre. “The income ceiling for the minorities for pre-matric scholarships is Rs one lakh, for post-matric is Rs 2 lakh and for merit cum means is Rs 2.5 lakh. On the other hand for the OBC creamy layer it is Rs 4.5 lakh per annum. There must be parity in the ceiling,” said MIM legislator Syed Amin Jafri. He also underscored the glaring differences in age restrictions in availing bankable schemes. “While the SCs and the STs have a five-year age relaxation, there is no such provision for minorities. For minorities, the age limit for this scheme is between ages 21 and 40, whereas that for other communities is 21 and 45. The number of beneficiaries has decreased because of this and also because of an income ceiling of Rs 75,000 per annum. This is not right,” he said. Analysts said that the role of the AP state minorities finance corporation was reduced to that of a “post office”, with no schemes of financial inclusion. They expressed concern over the abysmal utilisation of budget for the welfare of the minorities. Of the Rs 1,030 crore allocation in Telangana, only Rs 174 crore has been released. Similarly, of the Rs 372 crore earmarked in AP, only Rs 126 crore has been released, they claimed. “There are only three months for the budget to lapse. In these circumstances, the Telangana government must increase the allocation for the next financial year to Rs 2,000 crore,” an analyst reasoned. Analysts observed that contrary to the missive of the Reserve Bank of India, which directed banks to earmark 15 per cent priority sector lending for minorities and meet this target by 2009, the current achievement stands at around 6 per cent in Andhra Pradesh and around 7 per cent in Telangana. Bureaucrat Mohammed A Abid said that many bureaucrats were under the impression that schemes for minorities were a “fad” and not a part of the “mainstream”. “For instance, the wakf act is not taught in the Lal Bahadur Shastri, National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie. Sooner or later the two states will start recruiting. Muslims should see how they can enter lower judicial services and police,” he said. (Times of India 1/1/15)

22. Socio-economic status of minorities to be assessed (7)

Shivamogga: Balkhees Banu, Chairperson of the Karnataka State Minorities Commission, has said that the socio-economic survey of minorities in the State will commence by February-end. The survey, conducted once in 10 years, will help the government to assess the socio-economic status of minorities and design programmes for their uplift. The enumerators will visit every household as part of the survey and elicit answers to 58 questions, she said at an interaction programme organised by Shivamogga District Working Journalists Association here on Saturday. Cooperation of the local masjid committees, the district-level wakf advisory boards would be sought for the survey. Teachers from government and aided educational institutions would be deputed for the survey, she said. Ms. Banu said she had requested the State government to establish a legal cell in the commission. Many innocent youths were being booked under false charges during communal violence. The commission plans to extend legal assistance to such victims through the cell, she said. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had responded positively for the request, she said. In 2014–15, education loan was sanctioned to 2,000 students from minority communities who joined professional courses, under the Arivu scheme. The government wants to extend the benefit to 5,000 students in 2015–16, she said. The commission would recommend to the government to fill vacant posts of teacher in Government Urdu Schools at the earliest. The commission would organise programmes to promote communal harmony across the State and first one would be held in Dakshina Kannada district. President of the Shivamogga Working Journalists Association N. Ravi Kumar and general secretary Vaidya were present. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

23. Jain community’s PIL wants say in minority commissions (7)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to consider a representation by the Jain community demanding to be treated on par with other minorities and given representation in the state and national minority commissions. Akhil Bhartiya Jain Mahasabha (ABJM) in its PIL alleged that the governments had been pursuing policy to appease the Muslim community alone by extending the benefits meant for minorities while ignoring other similarly placed communities. The petitioner said even after being declared a minority community, it had not got any governmental financial assistance as was given to other minority communities. Till date only 11 states have recognized Jains as minority group, it said and alleged that the Centre was not responding to its representation on this issue. A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice A K Sikri, after a brief hearing, asked the Centre to consider the earlier representation given by the Jain community. ABJM alleged the government had ignored the interests of the Jain community. “The government has adopted an appeasement policy towards Muslims and in the name of the minorities all the benefits are being given to this community whereas other minorities are not being given the same benefit and status. It has come to notice and it is a matter of record that the government has always appointed chairman of Minority Commission from a particular community. The Muslim community is given the major share in the representation ignoring the interest of Jains. Till date no member of this community has found representation either in the State Minority Commission or in the National Minority Commission,” the petition said. Petitioner’s counsel Rajeev Sharma contended that there must be uniform criteria for governmental assistance to minority communities without any discrimination. The purpose of categorizing Jains as minority community would fail if they were not treated equally with other minority groups, he said. “The budget allocation and financial assistance for minorities by the Central/state governments is being utilized only for serving the political end and such assistance is totally denied to the Jain Community,” he said. Jain community was declared a minority community in January last year. Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist, Christian and Zoroastrians were declared minority groups way back in 1993. (Times of India 8/1/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

24. Gujarat Police make ‘dummy terrorists’ shout pro-Islamic slogan in mock drill (7)

Ahmedabad: A video of police mock drill showing dummy militants shouting pro-Islamic slogan emerged on Thursday in Gujarat, a day after controversy erupted over men, playing the part of terrorists, being made to wear skullcaps in a similar exercise in Surat. Reacting to the Surat episode that came to light on Wednesday, Chief Minister Anandi Patel admitted it as a “mistake” to show people posing as terrorists in the drill in skullcaps. The latest video is of another anti-terror mock drill at Narmada dam site in Kevadia area of Narmada district. It shows policemen holding two dummy terrorists who were shouting “take our lives, if you want. Islam Zindabad (long live Islam)”. When contacted by PTI, Narmada Superintendent of Police Jaypalsinh Rathore said an inquiry will be conducted into the issue. “I came to know about this incident (of projecting terrorists as Muslims) through media. If such an incident has happened, we will conduct an inquiry and take necessary actions against those responsible,” he said. “The mock drill was a routine police exercise which was conducted a week ago in Kevadia area,” Rathore added. As the Surat episode generated controversy and invited criticism from several quarters, including from the chief of Gujarat BJP Minority Cell, Patel told a TV channel it is wrong to link religion with terrorism. “It’s wrong to link religion with terrorism. The issue has been resolved and the matter should be put to rest now. The mistake has been rectified,” she said. The anti-terror drills were conducted ahead of the two high-profile events being held in the state – Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (January 7 to 9) and Vibrant Gujarat Investors Summit (January 11 to 13) – both in Gandhinagar. (Indian Express 1/1/15)

25. Muslims must stop demanding reservation: Najma Heptullah (7)

MUMBAI: Union minister for minority affairs Najma Heptullah said on Saturday that Muslims should stop demanding reservation and should, instead, concentrate on empowering themselves with education and skills. On her second trip to the city after she joined the Narendra Modi-led cabinet, she was speaking the media and Muslim activists at Sahyadri Guest House, Malabar Hill, on Saturday, Heptullah said, “I have always maintained that reservation is a crutch, which saps the energy to face challenges. Muslims will not get reservation as the Constitution doesn’t allow quota on religious ground. I am a Muslim and a woman. Did I ever need reservation? The same applies to my fellow community members,” said Heptullah, claiming ignorance of the grounds on which the BJP government in the state has brought in a bill for Maratha reservation (16%) while keeping mum on the 5% Muslim reservation in government jobs and education declared by the Congress-NCP government. “I reiterate that Muslims should not waste time and energy, demanding quota as it is mere tokenism,” she said. She, however, promised to convey the disappointment of Muslims to the Maharashtra CM and the PM . Heptuallh said that of 7 lakh Wakf properties across the country, Maharashtra alone has 30,000. “If fully utilized, Wakf properties will generate around Rs 20,000 crore annually which can make the community self-reliant,” she said. Heptuallh announced the regional offices of National Minorities Development Finance Corporation which will undertake skill training of minorities. She said her department plans to set up a western regional office in Mumbai to take centre’s schemes to the beneficiaries in this part of the country. (Times of India 4/1/15)

26. After communal row, Hindus, Muslims join hands, demand justice for each other (7)

Agra: From the communal cauldron of UP, here’s a heartwarming story of Hindu-Muslim amity. Nai ki Mandi was the site of violence during the Barawafat procession on Sunday, to mark the birthday of Prophet Mohammad. On Tuesday, however, Hindus and Muslims rallied together in the area. While Muslim shopkeepers urged police to release the two Hindus arrested on Sunday, Hindus gathered at the spot to demand proper security for Muslim shopkeepers. This show of solidarity even moved the cops who decided to release the arrested shopkeepers late in the evening. Tension had prevailed in the area on Sunday when a scuffle broke out between two groups after a dangling electricity wire allegedly touched a vehicle in the Barawafat procession. While one group alleged that the wire was deliberately kept loose with the intention of interrupting the procession, the other group claimed that it was because of the procession that electricity wires in the city got disturbed. The situation worsened when a few miscreants started pelting stones. Police had to intervene and FIRs were duly lodged against almost 500 persons for rioting and breach of peace. However, on Tuesday, the area presented a picture of communal amity that would have moved even a die-hard skeptic. Over 300 people, both Hindus and Muslims, joined hands to demand justice for each other. Muslim shopkeepers met senior police officials and requested them to release the two Hindu businessmen, Haresh Singh, a cable TV operator and PD Gupta, a jeweler, claiming they were innocent. “Those who started the violence were outsiders. They took their procession inside our market and created a ruckus. As far as we are concerned, police have arrested our innocent brothers and we will not rest till we get them released,” said Shabbir Quadri, president of the Nai ki Mandi market association. Endorsing his sentiments, Yamin Warsi, another shopkeeper, added, “We have been working in the Nai ki Mandi area for several years but there has never been a fight between Hindus and Muslims. There are some 300 shops in the market of which 70% are owned by Hindus and 30% by Muslims. Our president is a Muslim while other senior members are Hindus. We will continue to fight for our brothers till they get bail.” In reciprocation, Hindu shopkeepers organized a sit-in in the market demanding better security for Muslim shopkeepers. “Police should ensure that Muslims in the area do not feel threatened,” said Manish Agarwal, a shop owner from the area. Added Navendu, another shopkeeper, “Already their festival has been spoilt due to the ruckus and now their business is also getting hit as shops have been closed for the past two days. We feel strongly for them.” (Times of India 6/1/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

27. Over 100 reconverted to Sikhism in Amritsar (7)

Amritsar: Around 120 people from 15 families were re-converted to Sikhism from Christianity in a ‘ghar wapsi’ event in Amritsar. The families, who originally belonged to the Mazhabi Sikh community, were lured into Christianity. “We were lured into Christianity by saying that if we convert all our sorrows and worries will disappear, and ghosts would stay away. We are uneducated so we changed our religion then,” said Raj Kumar, who was known as Raj Masih, before his conversion. Reportedly, the conversion function was organised by Dharma Jagran Manch, a body associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), after people expressed their desire to return to Sikh faith. Many have accused that these conversions are done forcefully but Kumar said no one forced him to change his religion. Meanwhile, a Christian priest Father Dominic Emmanuel said the ones involved in forced conversions are not going succeed in their task. “By doing these kinds of things they are only trying to break the unity in this country. This country, in which people have lived in peace and harmony for 2000 years with people of all religions, these people are trying to break that unity and harmony,” he said. (New Kerala 1/1/15)

28. 3 churches come together to demand ban on ‘ghar wapsi’ (7)

AMRITSAR: Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of extending “tacit support” to the ‘ghar wapsi’ programme of saffron outfits, churches here have threatened to take to the streets if the government doesn’t impose a ban on the practice. Church of North India, the Roman Catholic Church and the Salvation Army Church have also warned of legal action against communal forces trying to convert people forcibly. In a joint press conference by Diocese of Amritsar Church of North India, Diocese of Jalandhar of the Roman Catholic Church and the Salvation Army Church, P K Samantaroy, bishop of Amritsar and moderator Church of North India, said Modi should give a clear-cut statement on the ‘ghar wapsi’ programme and tell the nation why the government has not been able to stop “forcible” conversions. “Keeping silent on such a sensitive issue construes his silent approval,” he said. Samantaroy added that all the heads of churches would soon hold a meeting and take up the issue of conversions at the national level. “We will also write to chief ministers and governors of all the states regarding truth of reconversion programmes,” he said. He alleged that organizations like RSS, Dharam Jagran Manch and Vishwa Hindu Parishad were carrying out forcible conversions through coercion in the name of ‘ghar wapsi’ to meet their political ends, which may benefit some vested interests, especially in the ruling party. Bishop Franco of the Roman Catholic Church alleged that conversions were merely a tool in the hands of communal and fundamentalist forces to divide the dalit communities to indulge in communal violence for their political gains. Divisional Commander of Salvation Army Church Major Manuel Masih said there were many dalit families in which half of the family members were Mazhbi Sikhs and the other half were Christians and the same was true in case of Balmikis. Father John of the Roman Catholic Church said religion was adopted by following the inner voice and not under any external pressure or monetary allurements. Director of Socio Economy Development Programme, Diocese of Amritsar, Daniel B Das said, “We all are Indians and we never left home. So, there is no question of ghar wapsi.” Samantaroy demanded that ghar wapsi programmes be banned, failing which the Christian community would be forced to take to the streets. (Times of India 5/1/15)

29. Dalit groups slam ‘casteist’ event in Hyderabad (7)

HYDERABAD: Banners recently put up across the city, inviting members of the Catholic Reddy Association (CRA) to the ‘tricentenary celebrations of Global Catholic Reddy families’ on January 11, has left some dalit Catholic Christian groups fuming. Lashing out at the organizers, these groups have termed the event as regressive and ‘casteist’ in nature. “Dalits can never organize such lavish gatherings. We fear that the CRA’s event would further alienate us from the mainstream, owing to our weak economic status. And this despite dalits representing 70% of the Christian population in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh,” said Jerusalem Mathaiah, president of All India dalit Christians Samakhya. He said dalit groups would stand in protest outside the venue, if the programme is not called off. “Though we have embraced Christianity, caste issues are still haunting us. We already feel wronged by the fact that not many dalit Catholic Christians have been elevated to high posts,” Mathaiah rued. When TOI contacted CRA office, Vijay Bhaskar Kommareddy speaking on behalf of the group said the tricentenary celebrations would be nothing more than a community event being organised to mark the conversion of the first Reddy member to Christianity 300 years ago. The incident took place in Anantapur in 1715. The CRA found support in Christine Lazarus, former MLA in the erstwhile AP assembly, who strongly came out in defence of the event. “We are living in a free country and there’s nothing wrong if a community comes together to celebrate an occasion,” she said. (Times of India 7/1/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

30. Quit Pakistani refugee camp, Afghans staying illegally told (13)

Islamabad : The authorities have asked Afghans staying illegally in a refugee camp in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to vacate within 15 days to avoid eviction, a media report said Saturday. “We’ve asked illegal Afghans to leave the Azakhel camp or face eviction,” a district administration official said. “We can shift them to Shamshatoo camp in Peshawar and provide them with tents and other necessary items if they show willingness,” Dawn online quoted the official as saying. He said around 1,500 Afghan refugees have been illegally living in Azakhel camp. After the massacre of school children in Peshawar last month, the government had begun surveys of refugee camps in the province, including those in Azakhel, Akora Khattak, Khairabad, Jalozai and Pabbi, to learn about illegal occupants. The government has already informed the UN High Commissioner for Refugees about the refugees living in Azakhel camp illegally. The official said the administration had asked Afghan refugees to reveal their plans after vacating the camp. He said if refugees wanted to return home, then the law-enforcement agencies would provide them with security. Meanwhile, Afghan refugees living in Azakhel camp have appealed to the government to extend the camp vacation deadline. (Business Standard 3/1/15)

31. No humanitarian aid to 3 lakh displaced (13)

Guwahati: The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) here on Friday said that Assam government failed to provide relief, particularly warm clothes, baby food, safe drinking water and assistance for pregnant women and lactating mothers, to those among over three lakh internally displaced persons after the carnage in Assam. The ACHR, which had sent a team to study the condition of the relief camps however said that some food items were supplied by local public and organisations but sanitation and hygiene were almost non-existent in the relief camps. In its report released on Friday, the ACHR said that there are over 3,00,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Assam which is largest displacement of world in 2014. Pointing out that among those displaced 2,87,182 are adivasis (plantation workers) reeling under a man-made humanitarian crisis in 65 relief camps Sonitpur, Kokrajhar, Udalguri and Chirang districts. The ACHR also said, “The Assam government has been hesitant to fully extend humanitarian assistance to all displaced persons in order to prevent more displacement and reduce cost of rehabilitation.” There are about 13,091 displaced Bodos taking shelter in 20 relief camps in Chirang district. Out of these 20 relief camps, three camps with a population of 2,219 Bodo inmates are unregistered camps, the ACHR in its report claimed. The team of Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) assisted by the Adivasi civil society organisations visited the affected areas on December 27. The ACHR team had limited access as curfew was imposed in Sonitpur and Udalguri districts, and the police did not allow visit to the interior places for security reasons. The ACHR team however visited Jiagabharu High School Relief Camp, Hugrajuli Relief Camp and Tinisuti Relief Camps. The ACHR has asked the Assam government to fully extend humanitarian assistance. (Asian Age 4/1/15)

32. 10,000 frightened villagers abandon homes in Kashmir (13)

Jammu: The number of people abandoning their homes in border villages of Jammu and Kashmir crossed 10,000 Tuesday amid heightened tension following Pakistan shelling on the international border that killed a trooper Monday. “Following indiscriminate targeting of civilian areas along the international border by Pakistan yesterday (Monday), more people have abandoned their homes close to the border in Samba and Kathua districts,” a senior official told IANS here. “The number of villagers lodged in makeshift accommodations at safer places has crossed 10,000 and their migration is continuing today (Tuesday),” the official added. Pakistan Rangers continued mortar shelling and firing at Border Security Force (BSF) positions in Kathua and Samba districts late Monday. “Pakistan Rangers targeted more than two dozen BSF posts in Kathua and Samba districts yesterday (Monday). The BSF retaliated effectively to silence Pakistan guns,” a senior police officer here said. The officer said no firing has been reported from the Pakistan side Tuesday morning. A trooper was killed Monday when the border outpost manned by him was hit by Pakistan fired mortar. BSF Director General D.K. Pathak will visit the international border Tuesday to take stock of the situation. (Business Standard 6/1/15)

33. West Pak refugees can now join paramilitary forces (13)

NEW DELHI: Seeking to address concerns of West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) settled in Jammu and Kashmir, the Home Ministry on Tuesday decided to consider such people for jobs in paramilitary forces. This came as Home Minister Rajnath Singh approved “certain concessions” for WPRs that include a direction to directors-general of all paramilitary forces to consider such people from the state, who are Indian citizens and have valid Voter IDs, for recruitment to the forces. Singh also wrote to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar that similar concessions like waiving off the condition of producing domicile certificates and other identity certificates. Singh’s move came a fortnight after the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs asked the Centre to take steps to ensure that these groups get benefits like other citizens. Jammu and Kashmir does not grant these section of people permanent resident status and they encounter problems in getting government jobs. According to the state government records, 5,674 families consisting of 47,215 persons migrated from west Pakistan and were settled in Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts during partition. As of now, these people face difficulty to fulfil documentary evidence of residency in support of their applications as the paramilitary recruitment rules seek furnishing of domicile certificates from the candidates while the state government issues only Voter ID with Non-Permanent Residency (NPR) status to such Indian nationals. Singh also wrote to the state government to resume issuing the domicile certificates to refugees settled in the state so as to enable such people to avail equal employment opportunities. The Home Ministry has also issued instructions to the Department of School Education under Human Resource Development Ministry to accommodate the children of such people for admission to the Kendriya Vidyalayas in the state. (Deccan Herald 7/1/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

34. Maharashtra: RTI online on trial basis from today (1)

There is partial good news for people looking to file online RTI application at Mantralay. rtionline.maharashtra.gov.in will start functioning today on a trial basis. The trial period will give people the opportunity to give suggestions and raise objections if any. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had said recently that the facility would start functioning from January. The government had been giving dates of its formal inauguration (four departments) since August, but kept postponing it. Even now, it’s not known when exactly the facility would formally be launched. “We are starting it on a trial basis. The principal secretary of IT department is not here, so this will be like a soft launch. Only after the formal launch will it start functioning at full stretch. As of now, people can look at the site and give suggestions or raise objections if any,” said Virendra Singh, director, Information Technology. The site that is in Marathi and English has the facility for filing application and for first appeal. It also has an option to know the status of one’s application. The mode of payment (RTI application fees) is internet banking, ATM cum debit card and credit card (Master/Visa). Thirty one of the 37 departments in Mantralay are shown on the site. All the departments within Mantralay would be covered first. The facility would be expanded to other public authorities later. Once an application is filed, the applicant will be given a registration number through SMS and email. According to RTI Act, for providing information, an applicant has to be an Indian citizen. Besides asking an applicant’s mobile number, e-mail (if any) and details of his/her card through which transaction will be conducted, there is little by way of verification to ensure that the person seeking information is an Indian. The central government too has the same issue. dna tried to get in touch with authorities, but could not get through to them. “Where is the question of suggestions and objections. It is not a policy decision. They adopted the central government software over two years ago, and were to start the facility early this year. It should at least have been ready when the CM made the announcement. This is the bureaucracy’s ploy to buy time,” said Vijay Kumbhar, an RTI activist. “The question of nationality should not be a big issue as most of the information sought is suo motu disclosure. In case of sensitive information, the PIO can check on the applicant,” he added. (DNA 1/1/15)

35. Security cover: Jashodaben continues her RTI fight (1)

Ahmedabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s wife estranged wife Jashodaben has again sought details of the security cover provided to her, filing an application under the Right to Information Act after she was denied answers to all her questions in her first letter, her brother said on Friday. Jashodaben had filed an application under the RTI Act in November last year with Mehsana police seeking details of the security provided to her after Modi became prime minister. Mehsana police, which denied her earlier request, had said the questions asked by her fell under the purview of the local intelligence bureau, which has been insulated from the RTI act by the Gujarat government. “She has filed an appeal before the superintendent of police of Mehsana district as the earlier set of questions were not answered by the police,” Ashok Modi told HT. He also queried why the police, in their original reply, had referred to Jashodaben as the daughter of Chimanbhai Modi, while in her application Jashodaben had called herself the PM’s wife. After Modi took over as the PM in May last year, the Gujarat government provided Jashodaben with four commandos at her residence. They tail her wherever she goes, including during her recent trip to Mumbai. In both her applications, Jashodaben stated: “I, the petitioner, who is the wife of Prime Minister Narendra Modi… travel by public transport while my bodyguards travel by official vehicle.” “I should be provided a certified copy of the order under which security is provided to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s family members, brothers, sisters and me,” she wrote, asking for details to be given within 48 hours as the issue pertained to a “life and death” matter. Elaborating, she cited the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi by her own commandos. “The commandos assigned to me have no official order by which they have been posted at my residence,” the application said. Jashodaben is a retired school teacher in her early sixties who lives with her brother Ashok in a north Gujarat village. (HindustanTimes 2/1/15)

36. 36000 RTI queries pending as CIC remains headless (1)

New Delhi: At a time when transparency and access to information have emerged as prerequisites of good governance, there are over 36000 pending Right to Information (RTI) queries pending at the Central Information Commission (CIC), which has been functioning without a Chief Information Commissioner for almost four months now. According to information furnished by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), 203 people, including all seven serving Information Commissioners and a former DoPT secretary, have applied for the top post, lying vacant since 22nd August. The information was provided to Commodore (retired) Lokesh Batra in response to a RTI query. The query also revealed that the number of pending cases in the CIC bench increased by 47 per cent, from 7655 to 11212, in the four months since the retirement of the last CIC Rajiv Mathur. The government had invited applications for the post of CIC on 24th October. The last date for application was 23rd November. As on January 4th, there were 36,319 pending cases before the Central Information Commission. The bulk of these — 28,888 to be precise — were appeals while the rest (7,431) were complaints. According to the monthly progress reports put up by the CIC on its website, Vijay Sharma, at 5971, had the most pending cases (complaints and appeals) among the seven information commissioners, followed by Yashovardhan Azad at 4902 and Sharat Sabharwal at 3999. Manjula Prasher, the only woman member of the commission, had 3418 pending cases while Basant Seth, MA Khan Yusufi, and M.S. Acharyulu had 3408, 1491 and 1772 pending cases, respectively. When it came to disposing off applications in 2014, Mr. Acharyulu was at the top with resolution of 2891 RTI applications. He was followed by Mr. Sharma at 2660, Mr. Seth at 2351, Mr. Azad at 2202, Mr. Sabharwal at 2183, Ms. Prasher at 2036 and Mr. Yusufi at 1713. For the Chief Information Commissioner, the monthly progress reports shows zero cases disposed against 11317 pending complaints for the entire last year, which is interesting considering CIC Rajiv Mathur held the post till August 2014, after which it fell vacant. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

37. BJP armed with RTI reply, lashes out at AAP (1)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party relied on RTI replies to lash out at Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal’s claims of a ‘zero-raid policy’ during the 49-day rule. The BJP on Monday said that 151 raids were conducted on commercial establishments during the AAP government’s rule. “In recent meeting with traders in Nehru Palace, Kejriwal claimed that his government didn’t conduct a single raid. But, this is a lie. In a RTI reply, we got to know that during his 49-day rule, 151 raids were conducted,” said Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay. BJP alleged that from January 5 to January 31, 2014, 51 raids were conducted while from February 1 to 14 last year, 100 raids were conducted due to which, on an average, the national capital witnessed one raid every two hour during AAP tenure. Accusing former chief minister Arvind Kejriwal of ‘misleading’ the people on the issue of tax collection, Mr. Upadhyay said, “Mr. Kejriwal had also claimed that during his tenure Rs. 5,666 crore was collected as tax collection, but RTI’s reply says that in the 49-day rule of AAP’s government, Rs 2033 crore was only collected.” Mr. Upadhyay said that between January 1 and 15 last year, Mr.Kejriwal’s government received a revenue of Rs. 231.92 crore and also, from January 16 to 31 in the year 2014, Rs 1505.24 crore were collected. From February 1 to 14 in 2014, Rs 296 crore tax was only collected, he claimed. The AAP responded to the allegations and said in a press statement that “a frustrated BJP is resorting to lies and misinformation about the tenure of the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi, since it has nothing positive to show about the seven months since its central government is controlling the national capital.” “The AAP reiterates its stand that no raids were allowed on ordinary traders during the tenure of Arvind Kejriwal government and VAT collection during that quarter was higher than in the same quarter in the preceding years. The BJP has hidden the fact that during the AAP government no raids were allowed on ordinary traders and it has also not revealed that raids which it is falsely referring to were sample checks conducted on petrol pumps, checks on liquor vends and notices to recover tax dues from repeat defaulters,” said the statement. (The Hindu 6/1/15)

38. RTI activist to file appeal against Kanchi acharyas (1)

PUDUCHERRY: A Chennai-based social activist has sought copies of the orders passed by a Puducherry court acquitting Kanchi seers – Jayendra Saraswathi and Vijayendra Saraswathi and 22 others in a murder case – to file an appeal against the court order. R Varaaki, a RTI and PIL activist from Chennai filed an affidavit before the Puducherry chief judicial magistrate seeking certified copes of judgment and all related documents in the murder case of A Sankararaman. He pointed out that the Supreme Court in the case of Subramaniaswamy and Manmohan Singh declared that ‘any citizen has got locus standi to set the criminal law in motion including filing revision petition against the order of acquittal passed by the sessions’ court. He said since the Puducherry and Tamil Nadu governments had not filed an appeal against the acquittal of the seers and 22 others he proposed to file a revision petition or appeal against the acquittal. Nine years after A Sankararaman, manager of Sri Varadharajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram, who levelled charges of financial mismanagement against the Kanchi seers, was found murdered the Puducherry principal district and sessions’ judge C S Murugan in November, 2013 acquitted the seers and 22 pointing out that the prosecution failed to prove the motive of the murder. Most of the main witnesses including the wife and son of the murdered A Sankararaman – Padma and Anand Sharma – respectively turned hostile. As many as 187 witnesses were examined and re-examined by the prosecution and defence counsels. Eighty-two witnesses and a lone approver, Ravi Subramanian, turned hostile. Kanchi seers, the main accused in the case, were also charged with criminal conspiracy, misleading the court by giving false information, criminal trespass and supply of funds to carry out the criminal activity. Puducherry government decided not to file an appeal following the opinion of the attorney general. (Times of India 8/1/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

39. City-based NGO sends 60 kids back to school (11)

KOLHAPUR: Avani, a city-based NGO surveyed around five districts in Western Maharashtra and two districts in Karnataka in its ambitious project. It identified over 200 kids who are without access to education or are employed. In all 63 children from the two states will attend school in the 2015 academic year due to the NGO’s efforts. Sattappa Mohite, Avani survey coordinator, said, “We arranged temporary schools for kindergarten students aged between three and five. For those above six years of age, we enrolled them in nearby zilla parishad schools during the work season in Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Ahmednagar, Nashik, Bijapur and Belgaum districts.” Mohite added that families return to their native place once the work season is over. “We noted everyone’s address and surveyed the status of students’ continuity in education later in August, September and October. Surprisingly, many students were found attending schools, where they had enrolled earlier and those who were not attending, we managed to convince their parents to send them to school,” he added. He added that parents also supported the initiative and responded positively. “We are quite satisfied with the survey and the same kind of initiative will be organized in 2015 too,” he added. According to Mohite, for this survey they visited many villages in Radhanagari, Shirol, Karveer, Jath, Miraj, Mohol, Shrirampur, and Chandwad taluka. NGO members convinced 35 parents to send their children back for elementary education. The rehabilitation of these children for their education has given hope for the NGO to organise the same activity this year too. Under the Right to Education Act (2009) elementary education to the age group of 6-14 year children has been made compulsory and free at all government-aided schools. Kolhapur: For over 60 kids in Maharashtra and Karnataka, the early months of year 2015 will be hectic one. Though remaining busy and exhausted for hours is not a new thing for these kids, the only difference will be this time they will not be working for someone at any construction site, brick production unit, or at any sugarcane cutting and rather will be busy in doing their homework for their school assignment. Avani, the city based NGO in its one of the ambitious projects surveyed around five districts in Western Maharashtra and two districts in Karnataka, and identified over 200 kids either working or not having the facility of education. “We had arranged temporary schools for the kindergarten students for three to five age group, while for over six year old kids we had enrolled them in the nearby Zilla Parishad schools, during the work season in Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Ahmednagar, Nashik, Bijapur and Belgaum districts,” said Sattappa Mohite, survey coordinator, Avani. Mohite added that, families migrate back to their native place once the work season is over. “We had noted everyone’s address and surveyed the status of students’ continuity in education later in August, September and October. Surprisingly many of the students were found to be attending the schools which they had started and those who were not attending, we managed to convince their parents to send them to school for the education,” he added. The parents too supported the initiative and have responded positively and we are quite satisfied that through this survey and the same kind of initiative will be organised in the year 2015 too, he added. According to Mohite, for this survey they visited many villages in Radhanagari, Shirol, Karveer, Jath, Miraj, Mohol, Shrirampur, and Chandwad taluka. The NGO members managed to convince 35 parents to send their children back for the elementary education. The rehabilitation of these children for their education has given a hope for the NGO to organise the same activity for this year too. It has to be noted that under the Right to Education (RTE), act, 2009, elementary education to the age group of 6-14 year children has been made compulsory for free at all government aided schools. (Times of India 1/1/15)

40. More than 4.5 lakh children out of school in MP (11)

More than 4.5 lakh of children in MP still don’t go to school. Also the state has earned the dubious distinction of having one of the worst dropout rates in the country, much higher than the national average. This as per a national sample survey of estimation of out-of-school children in the 6-13 age group conducted by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). According to Right to Education (RTE) Act, an out-of-school child is either not enrolled or has been absent for more than 45 working days or has discontinued studies from school. MP’s neighbours have less number of out-of-school kids in comparison. While Naxal-infested and tribal- dominated Chhattisgarh has 1.6 lakh kids out of school, Gujarat and Maharashtra have 1.5 lakh and 1.4 lakh children, who don’t attend school respectively. However, two other neighbours- Rajasthan and UP have more number of out-of-school kids. While the former has almost 6 lakh such kids, UP has 16 lakh kids, who are out of school. Also, the total number of children in the state is more than 4 crore. The 4.5 lakh out-of-school children account for 3.78% of total kids in the state. Interestingly though, more number of urban kids are out of school (4.61%) than their rural counterparts (3.58%). The state is also among the worst performers where dropout rates are the highest among its neighbouring states. The state has a dropout rate of 52% compared to Chhattisgarh (42.8%), UP (28.9%), Rajasthan (36.6%), Maharashtra (29%) and Gujarat (44.4%). Among the 4.5 lakh kids, who are not in schools, around 77,000 are slum children while more than 50,000 are children with special needs (CWSN). MP also lags far behind the national average of around 37% in dropout rate of kids from school. SSA is government of India’s flagship programme for achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE). It looks at elementary education for all as mandated by the 86th amendment to the Constitution which makes free and compulsory education to children between 6- 14 years of age a fundamental right. The survey’s findings were recently posted on the SSA’s website. Those surveyed cited poverty and economic conditions as the foremost reasons. Besides, girls reported that they needed to help in domestic work or take care of younger siblings. Surveyed households also reported education was not considered necessary by the head of the house. (Times of India 3/1/15)

41. Awareness drive on Right to Educationonline admissions (11)

Bengaluru: With admissions to seats under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act in the State going online for the first time this year, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has asked all Deputy Directors of Public Instruction (DDPIs) and Block Education Officers (BEOs) to conduct awareness drives to better acquaint parents with the process. Speaking to Deccan Herald on Monday, Mohammed Mohsin, Commissioner, DPI, said: “The DDPIs and BEOs should conduct the awareness drive at every level, be it at the district or taluk level. They can take the help of local NGOs in this.” Mohsin said that handbooks highlighting the steps with regard to the process of admission to RTE seats have also been given. “The handbook lists all necessary steps for both online and offline admissions. The same will be used by DDPIs and BEOs in conducting their drives,” he said. An official from the department said that DDPIs and BEOs have been instructed to give wide publicity to the process of RTE (both online and offline) admissions. “It depends on the BEOs how they want to organise their awareness drives. It may be by way of conducting awareness camps or through other measures. However, the message should reach the poorest of the poor,” he said.   H B Manjunath, DDPI, South Bengaluru, said: “We are having a district-level meeting of headmasters and BEOs tomorrow (Tuesday). We will decide about conducting such awareness drives in the meeting. Once decided, I will issue guidelines to CRPs (cluster resource persons) and BRCs (block resource persons) to carry out an information drive.” Ever since the news about RTE admissions going online was announced, there has been a number of apprehensions about the move from parents and NGOs.  Many of them claimed that online admissions would not help the poor who have no knowledge about the Internet and computers.    (Deccan Herald 6/1/15)

42. Illiterate parents to blame for school dropouts (11)

Nikhil Sharma, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, January 07, 2015 A national-level survey has revealed that illiteracy of parents is one of the main reasons behind school dropouts in Chandigarh. A total of 1,090 children, all Dalits, have been reported as school dropouts in the survey and all have illiterate parents. The survey, “National Sample Survey of Estimation of Out-of-School Children in the age 6-13 in India, 2014″, was commissioned by Educational Consultants India Limited with support from the ministry of human resource development (MHRD). Interestingly, the survey, which was released last month, highlights that the education status of children get affected with the educational status and standards of parents. As per the findings of the survey, in the urban parts of the city, a total of 2.48 lakh children fall in the age group of 6-13, out of which 1.36 lakh are boys and 1.12 lakh are girls. Out of total number of children, 1,090 have been included in the category of dropout or out-of-school children. Interestingly, all dropouts are boys in the city and no girls have figured in the survey. One of the reasons mentioned in the survey due to which parents pull the child out of the school or children themselves opt out is the economical condition of the family. The study also reflects that a child is required to work in order to add to the household income. Other major reasons are parents do not feel the need for educating their children as they have enough monetary terms at home or business. Also, the children do not feel like studying as they do not get required atmosphere at home and thus, they show less interest in education. Anujit Kaur, principal of Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 16, said, “Sometimes it becomes really difficult to convince people to send their children to school. They claim earning good from their work and thus they say that the education is just a waste of time for their children. Hawkers or even beggars do not want their children to learn in schools.” (Hindustan Times 7/1/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

43. Project Palash gives new life to Jharkhand tribe (21)

NEW DELHI: The year 2014 definitely ushered in “acche din” for the Sabar tribe of Jharkhand. This endangered tribe, once trapped in the Maoist zone, is still struggling to beat extreme poverty and underdevelopment. It is looking forward to the New Year with new hope, all thanks to Palash, that not only offered them sustainable livelihood but also saved their tribe from extinction. Palash is an initiative to train Sabar artisans from Saraikela district to weave eco-friendly designer products to make a livelihood. Out of 32 tribes in Jharkhand, nine are endangered. Sabar is also one of the most primitive and languishing tribes in the country. Their strong resistance to British dominance resulted in the community getting listed among the 68 denotified tribes who were tagged criminals under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. Most Sabar people in Jharkhand now live in Samanpur, a village surrounded by hills and forests. Situated 60km from Jamshedpur, it doesn’t have proper road connectivity. “It was beyond my imagination to see the pathetic condition of the Sabars when I first went to Samanpur in 1996. People had not seen the light of civilization. A paradoxical situation of abject poverty prevailed in the prosperous forests. They lived in small huts of three-by-four feet, which they could enter only by crawling. They survived on roots and fruits from forests or on dead animals,” said Suchitra Sinha, joint director (industries), Jharkhand government, who initiated the project Palash. “We practically lived in the jungle, ate whatever we could gather from the forests. Never knew of education and even today I am illiterate. We used to gather firewood and sell them to earn Rs 100-200 a month. There is still no road, hospital or anything,” said Sagar Sarwar, one of the 10 artisans who are present at the India International Trade Fair. Things started turning around when Sinha saw a woman weaving a basket out of Kanshi grass in one of the huts. “I saw a huge potential in this intricate weaving. I was told that these articles had an unorganized market with meager incentives.” With the help of National Institute of Fashion Technology in Delhi, Sinha arranged training of 50 such artisans. And they now earn Rs 4,000 per month, said Vijay Sawar, an artisan. “To develop it as a model village, we need to increase our production base and participate in events like IITF. This village can also be projected as a tourism destination as it still retains its greenery,” said Sinha. The project has managed to wean many away from the Maoist movement, she added. “There is also a decrease in deforestation. Their life has improved. Now I hope these people will get the attention of the governments.” (Times of India 1/1/15)

44. 63 million people faced with poverty due to healthcare expenditure (21)

NEW DELHI: A whopping 63 million people are faced with poverty every year due to “catastrophic” expenditure over healthcare which neutralises the gains of rising income and various government schemes aimed to reduce poverty, according to the health ministry. The draft of National Health Policy cites this as a significant reason for a new health charter as it seeks to ensure universal access to affordable health care. “Incidence of catastrophic expenditure due to healthcare costs is growing and is now being estimated to be one of the major contributors to poverty. The drain on family incomes due to healthcare costs can neutralise the gains of income increases and every government scheme aimed to reduce poverty. “Over 63 million persons are faced with poverty every year due to healthcare costs alone. It is because there is no financial protection for the vast majority of healthcare needs,” says the draft put out by the Health Ministry on its website for inviting public suggestions. Healthcare costs are more impoverishing than ever before and almost all hospitalisation even in public hospitals leads to catastrophic health expenditures, it says. In 2011-12, the draft says, the share of ‘out of pocket’ expenditure on healthcare as a proportion of total household monthly per capita expenditure was 6.9 per cent in rural areas and 5.5 per cent in urban areas. “This led to an increasing number of households facing catastrophic expenditures due to health costs (18 per cent of all households in 2011-12 as compared to 15 per cent in 2004-05),” it said. India needs a new health policy that is responsive to these contextual changes, it says while citing rising burden of non-communicable diseases and rapidly-growing health care industry as other reasons for framing a new health policy.  (Times of India 4/1/15)

45. 27% people in urban areas are poor, finds census (21)

New Delhi: About 27.6% of 377 million people living in urban India, or 104 million people, have been identified as poor, according to preliminary figures of the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC). While the poor in rural India have been identified several times since 1999, this is the first time the urban poor have been identified. Started in 2011 by the UPA government, the SECC is being conducted to identify families falling below the poverty line (BPL) in urban and rural areas. It is expected to help the government better target the poor for its welfare schemes. For example, it will enable a homeless household to be targeted for a housing scheme, while an unemployed person can be targeted under a livelihood scheme. The survey was conducted by the housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry in urban areas, while the rural development ministry was conducting the house-to-house exercise in rural areas. About 14.63 per cent of 17 million people living in Delhi have been identified as poor. Of all the states and union territories, Manipur (43.06%) has the maximum number of poor people living in urban areas followed by Bihar (41.4%), Tripura (40.75%), Odisha (39.4%) and Mizoram (37.9%). Prior to this census, the erstwhile Planning Commission had accepted a report of an expert group headed by Suresh Tendulkar that estimated the urban poverty ratio at 25.7% based on consumption expenditure. The SECC has used a three-stage process recommended by a panel headed by former Planning Commission member SR Hashim to identify the urban poor. These are — automatic exclusion, automatic inclusion and scoring index — all based on social, occupational and residential vulnerability. For example, a family stands to be automatically included as ‘poor’ if it does not have a home, or any income, or if the household is headed by a female or physically challenged person. Households having either a four-room house or in possession of any one of these assets — a four-wheeler, air conditioner and computer/laptop with Internet were automatically excluded. The third criteria is a scoring index that gives households scores from 0 to 12 based on their vulnerabilities with a higher score signifying more deprivation. Households that score 0 are ineligible to be included in the BPL list. The Union Cabinet needs to fix the cut-off score under which a household will be classified as ‘poor’. “The figures will go up marginally once the government decides up to what score a family will be included in the BPL list. We are going to the Cabinet soon to get the scoring list finalised,” said a housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry official. (Hindustan Times 5/1/15)

46. Ensure that Benefits of Government Schemes Reach Tribals: HC (21)

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday held that health survey and other necessary surveys should be conducted in the tribal areas, including Attappadi, and that appropriate measures should be taken so that benefits of the schemes that have already been initiated by the State reach the needy. A Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice A M Shaffique issued the order while considering a petition filed by High Court lawyer R Sudha, seeking a directive to constitute a body to ensure that the funds earmarked for the welfare of the tribal people are reaching them. The petitioner submitted that no proper steps were being taken in the Attapadi tribal area, and that infant deaths were occurring on account of starvation. “The authorities are not extending the benefits of the schemes as has been initiated by the State,” the petitioner said. The State Government submitted that various steps have been initiated for the welfare of the tribal people, and that a detailed affidavit had been filed. The petitioner submitted that the details and affidavit were insufficient.   The State assured that a fresh affidavit with the latest information would be filed.   The Bench observed that ‘filing of affidavit/statement in the court did not mean that it has actually been done’. (New Indian Express 7/1/15)

47. Nearly two crore families in Tamil Nadu to get smart ration cards from June (21)

CHENNAI: The state government has approved a contract for Rs 318 crore end-to-end PDS computerization with smart ration cards. As many as 1.89 crore families would get smart cards by the year-end. The cards with biometric parameters would be rolled out in Perambalur and Nagapattinam districts in the month of June and the rest of the state would be covered by December this year. The database would be completely based on biometric data obtained under national population register and Aadhar. “This will put an end to bogus/ghost ration cards. The shops will be automated with an electronic point of sale (E-POS) device and the end server will manage all the transactions,” a senior government official said. The existing database is mired in controversy due to anomalies. In 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India slammed the government’s poor maintenance of PDS records. The audit found that the total number of persons (8.37 crore) included in the family cards in the previous year, was more than the population of the state by 1.16 crore, indicating large-scale existence of bogus cards. In its reply, the state had outlined its proposal to have biometric-based smart cards in two to three years to eliminate bogus cards. Sources said the Census department has captured biometric parameters of 74.71% of the 6.74 crore population aged over five years. Aadhar numbers had been generated to 95% of them, roughly translated to 4.78 crore. It is not uniform across the state with less coverage in districts like Chennai, Sivganga, Tirupur, Namakkal and Dindigul. The high coverage, exceeding 85% was recorded in Perambalur, Nagapatinam, and Ariyalur. More permanent centres to capture biometric parameters are afoot in district collectorates and local bodies. (Times of India 8/1/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

48. Farm workers plan nation-wide strike (14)

VELLORE: The All India Agricultural Workers’ Union (AIAWU) affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxists) has decided to launch a nation-wide agitation if the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance Government does not give up its move to dilute the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), according to Sunith Chopra, all-India general secretary and S. Thirunavukkarasu, all-India president of the Union. Talking to newspersons on the sidelines of the meeting of the general council of the Vellore district unit of AIAWU here on Tuesday, they said that even though the various unions of rural workers have fought for and won job security through the introduction of the MGNREGA, the Modi government is using backdoor methods to violate the right to work that has been won by the rural masses. The methods include cutting down the outlay, attempting to limit the area of operation of the Act, limiting payments in banks to Aadhar card holders, holding back wages, and trying to introduce machinery and contractors. “We believe MGNREGA to be part of our basic right to life and we will not allow it to be bartered away”, he said.False propaganda “It is a false propaganda being spread through motivated agencies”, Mr. Chopra said when his attention was drawn to the grievance being expressed by the farmers that they do not get labour in view of agricultural workers being weaned away for works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). In fact, farming activities have declined owing to the large-scale migration of farmers to the urban areas in search of employment. “With 60 per cent of farmers having migrated, we have had the largest migration of farmers in the last 90 years. This migration can be prevented if MGNREGA is strictly implemented”, he said. Mr. Thirunavukkarasu said that the workers were getting wages only for about 40 to 50 days in a year against the promised 100 days. “Workers will certainly come for farm work if the farmers / landlords provide higher wages than what they got under MGNREGS”, he said. Mr. Chopra said that 10 lakh acres of farm land have gone to the non-farm sector, while nine lakh farmers have sold their land and become agricultural labourers dependent on MGNREGS. G. Mani, Tamil Nadu state secretary of the AIAWU, said that the union would be organising a `kathiruppu porattam’ (waiting agitation) in front of the Collectorates, Revenue Divisional Offices and taluk offices throughout Tamil Nadu on January 20, when poor landless workers would wait in front of the offices till they were given free house site pattas and till the old age pension was restored to those for whom it was cancelled. (The Hindu 1/1/15)

49. 25,000 NREGA workers in RR yet to get wages (14)

HYDERABAD: A well-known private bank and state government officials are literally slugging it out on every front after a dispute arose regarding payment of workers under the NREGA scheme. The officials of the Rural Development Department of Rangareddy district had slapped a criminal case against the Axis Bank at Gandhinagar police station for misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs 2 crore some weeks ago. The bank was chosen to disburse the funds under the central government scheme for the district. Caught in the midst of it are the 25,000 workers who are yet to get their dues after toiling hard for projects pertaining to various land development projects in Rangareddy district. It all began when the officials found out that a large number of workers had not received payments between April and June 2013. In a series of official mails (which are in possession of this newspaper) which began soon after, the district officials squarely blamed the bank for its inefficient fund monitoring system involving its various business correspondents. The officials had asked the bank to disburse the amount meant for the employees but the higher officials of the bank conveyed through the mails that they were still working on the issue. The bank made a part-payment of a few lakhs in late 2013, however there was not much headway since then. The officials had also requested the government not to have any business tie-ups with the bank in future. “We have given them the complete list of the workers who had not been paid,” said C. Chandrakanth, Project Director, District Water Management Agency, Rangareddy district who is pursuing the case. “We had asked them to show the proof in case they had made the payments. Till date, they could not do so and are indulging in time buying tactics. It is their responsibility to make sure that the payments reach the workers through proper channels. If they had failed to do so, they have to make that payment. The poor workers need to be paid with interest and we will fight till the case reaches a logical end,” Mr Chandrakanth said. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

50. Allow flexibility to employees in PF deduction: Employees’ plea to govt (14)

New Delhi: Around 500 companies, including many big ones, have written to the Union government to allow employees more flexibility in their retirement funding. “The petition to the ministry of labour requests giving all employees three individual choices in deciding how they are paid their salary,” stated recruitment consultant TeamLease, also involved in drafting the petition. A person who has seen the petition said some of the companies are Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro Enterprises, Larsen and Toubro Infotech, Mahindra Finance, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, HDFC Bank and Biocon. In a joint communique to Union labour secretary Gauri Kumar, these companies have asked that employees be given an option on whether or not to opt for the (currently statutory) 12 per cent deduction in their wages for contribution to the Provident Fund. “At present, 94 per cent of workers in India are working in the informal sector. Giving a choice to such employees will incentivise them to join the formal workforce,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, convenor of the effort on the petition and a co-founder of TeamLease. At present, both employees and employers mandatorily contribute 12 per cent each of the former’s salary towards employees’ PF contribution. This is applicable to any company employing more than 20 people. The petition asks for a choice to employees on whether to park the employer’s contribution with the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) or the National Pension System, the latter regulated by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority.  According to the norms, only salaried employees can contribute towards EPFO; any individual above 18 years of age can invest in NPS till the retirement age of 60. At present, EPFO doesn’t invest part of its total funds in the equity market but NPS can. “India’s labour laws mandate the highest salary  deductions among various countries in the world; in a cost-to-company term, this can mean a 44.31 per cent salary deduction for low wage employees. And, contrary to public objectives, this is only 5.32 per cent for high wage employees,” stated the letter. Economic data tells us that most low wage employees do not have such high saving rates and this leads to high attrition and informal employment, as these employees cannot live on half their salary, the letter added. “What safety net do we talk about when 94 per cent of employees are out of it? We want to give the workers a simple choice to divest their funds according to their needs,” said Chakraborty. Employers, she said, were keenly awaiting the Union government’s reaction in the coming Budget session of Parliament in February. Recently, the Union labour ministry had proposed some changes in the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, to empower the government to waive or reduce the share of employees’ contribution towards the PF, if it feels the financial position of any class of companies covered under EPFO is getting weaker.(Business Standard 6/1/15)

51. Kerala pushes for more works under job scheme (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State on Tuesday requested the Union government to include more works, including paddy cultivation, dairy farming, coconut farming, and production of coir yarn, under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). In a memorandum submitted to Union Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh, the State made the following suggestions: MGNREGS workers to be part of paddy production expansion initiatives by engaging in land development activities such as bunding, fertilizer application, irrigation, harvesting and so on, apart from weeding, tilling, and land preparation. Cleaning sheds, feeding and milking of cattle, and so on as part of dairy farming using MGNREGS workers. Use of the workers for removal of disease-affected juvenile palms, old and senile palms, and replanting as part of coconut farming Inclusion of coir production – husk collection, retting and defibering, spinning, and bundling Inclusion of Khadi and handloom work under MGNREGS and payment of wages to the workers under the scheme Minister for Rural Development K.C. Joseph submitted the memorandum. (The Hindu 7/1/15)

52. Unemployment Rate Up at 4.9% in FY14: Labour Ministry (14)

New Delhi: Unemployment rate in India rose to 4.9 per cent in 2013-14, mainly on account of an increase in joblessness in rural areas despite the government’s flagship employment scheme MGNREGA. According to the latest survey report by Labour Bureau, a wing of Labour Ministry, the unemployment rate inched up to 4.9 per cent at all India level last fiscal year, from 4.7 per cent in 2012-13. On the positive side, the unemployment rate dropped in urban areas to 5.5 per cent in 2013-14, from 5.7 per cent in the previous fiscal year. Meanwhile, although 93 per cent of the households in rural areas benefited from MGNREGA, the unemployment rate increased to 4.7 per cent last fiscal year, compared to 4.4 per cent a year ago. Unemployment rate among men increased to 4.1 per cent in 2013-14, from 4 per cent in 2012-13. Among women, it increased to 7.7 per cent last fiscal year, from 7.2 per cent in 2012-13. However, the unemployment rate among women came down to 12.4 per cent in urban areas, from 12.8 per cent in 2012-13. The study revealed that the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) is estimated to be 52.5 per cent last fiscal year, whereas the Worker Population Ratio (WPR) is estimated to be 49.9 per cent. As many as 49.5 per cent people are estimated to be self-employed, followed by 30.9 per cent as casual labour, 16.5 per cent wage/salary earners and the rest 3 per cent as contract workers. About 60.5 per cent of people aged 15 years and above, who were available for work for all the 12 months during the period, were able to get work throughout the year. In rural and urban sectors, this proportion was 53.2 per cent and 78.5 per cent respectively The ‘Fourth Annual Employment & Unemployment Survey 2013-14′ has been conducted in all the states/UTs by covering all the districts. The field work was executed from January to July last year. A total of 1,36,395 households were covered by the survey – 83,385 in rural areas and 53,010 in urban areas. (NDTV 8/1/15)

RESERVATION

53. ‘Quota for Dalits in Pvt Sector Essential’ (25)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Lok Janshakthi Party(LJP) leader and Union Minister for Food, Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs Ram Vilas Paswan said that providing quota for Dalits in jobs in the private sector was essential for their uplift in the country. Speaking to ‘Express’ here on Wednesday, he said that it was not true that the living conditions of the Dalits were remaining the same even several decades after Independence.“There are definitely changes in the living conditions. But it has to  get further momentum. But what has been there  is only job quota in government service. Even that too is not distributed in a just manner in all parts of the country. What is actually required for Dalits is quota in jobs in private sector as well,’’ he said. When pointed out that though he had been in various Union Cabinets since 1989 there is little  progress for the community to which he belonged, Paswan said  during the the first UPA regime he could persuade the  government to include the job quota for Dalits in private sector in its Common Minimum Programme(CMP). However, under the second UPA regime, it was deleted from the  CMP. When asked about the pathetic living conditions of Dalits in Bihar and UP despite the successive rule by parties of the Janata Pariwar and so-called  socialists, Paswan said it was true that  there was backwardness and poverty among the Dalits. He said the ‘’misrule’’ of the so-called Janata Parivar outfits which had been ruling the state of Bihar for the last several years, was responsible for the stagnation in overall development front. ‘’In Bihar, Lalu Yadav and Rabri Devi ruled the state for 15 years. Under their misrule the state suffered a lot. Nitish Kumar who defeated them came to power promising a change. But now he is aligning with the Lalu. An alliance with Lalu Yadav means alliance with misrule. It was two days back that a police inspector was killed. Nitish Kumar is bringing back the Lalu raj in Bihar,’’ he said. Paswan hoped that if the SC, ST Parliamentary forum where all parties have representation could function effectively and bring the issues of Dalits to the government’s attention, there could be perceptible change and progress in the living conditions of the Dalits. (New Indian Express 1/1/15)

54. Muslim quota row: MIM to launch stir on Jan 6 (25)

Mumbai: Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) will launch an agitation against Maharashtra government’s decision to scrap job reservations for Muslims. The party will hold a rally in Beed on January 6, to be addressed by party President Asaduddin Owaisi. MIM MLA from Aurangabad, Imtiaz Jaleel and Byculla MLA Waris Pahan will also be addressing the gathering which will be attended by party workers from across the state. The party has asked all MIM units to submit a memorandum to respective district collectors or tehsildars on January 6 to register their protest against the state government’s indifferent attitude towards reservation for Muslims, Jaleel said. “The state government has brought a bill in the Nagpur state legislative assembly session in December that will enable 16 per cent reservations for Marathas while refusing to bring an ordinance for continuing reservations for Muslims,” he said. The matter related to reservations for Muslims and Marathas is scheduled to be heard in the Bombay High Court, after the Supreme Court refused to entertain the petition of the state government. (Business Standard 2/1/15)

55. Muslims must stop demanding reservation: Najma Heptullah (7)

MUMBAI: Union minister for minority affairs Najma Heptullah said on Saturday that Muslims should stop demanding reservation and should, instead, concentrate on empowering themselves with education and skills. On her second trip to the city after she joined the Narendra Modi-led cabinet, she was speaking the media and Muslim activists at Sahyadri Guest House, Malabar Hill, on Saturday, Heptullah said, “I have always maintained that reservation is a crutch, which saps the energy to face challenges. Muslims will not get reservation as the Constitution doesn’t allow quota on religious ground. I am a Muslim and a woman. Did I ever need reservation? The same applies to my fellow community members,” said Heptullah, claiming ignorance of the grounds on which the BJP government in the state has brought in a bill for Maratha reservation (16%) while keeping mum on the 5% Muslim reservation in government jobs and education declared by the Congress-NCP government. “I reiterate that Muslims should not waste time and energy, demanding quota as it is mere tokenism,” she said. She, however, promised to convey the disappointment of Muslims to the Maharashtra CM and the PM . Heptuallh said that of 7 lakh Wakf properties across the country, Maharashtra alone has 30,000. “If fully utilized, Wakf properties will generate around Rs 20,000 crore annually which can make the community self-reliant,” she said. Heptuallh announced the regional offices of National Minorities Development Finance Corporation which will undertake skill training of minorities. She said her department plans to set up a western regional office in Mumbai to take centre’s schemes to the beneficiaries in this part of the country. (Times of India 4/1/15)

56. Pvt Colleges in Vellore Force SC/ST Students To Pay Fees (25)

VELLORE: Private educational institutions in the district, completely disregarding a Government Order, have been forcing students belonging to SC/ST communities to pay tuition and examination fees and several of them have not been allowed to appear for the examination over non-payment of the fees. The failure of authorities to act promptly has given a free hand to the institutions to harass the students demanding that they pay the fee in contravention of the GO of June 2012. The GO  says the institution should not collect fees from the students of SC/ST communities and the same would be paid to the institution by the respective district Adi Dravidar welfare officer after receiving the fund from the State and Central governments. A group of second and third year students of Ranipet Institute of Technology said they had not received scholarship of `21,700 per year since their first year. They have paid anywhere between `10,000 and 22,500 depending on the fee structure per semester.  “Initially, the management said I need not pay a paise as the fees will be covered under the scholarship. But they asked me to pay `10,000, claiming that they will repay it after getting the scholarship amount from the government,” said a second year EEE student of the institution. The management even threatened that those SC students, who do not pay the fees, won’t be allowed to attend the exams. “We have been marked absent for the last two hours of our Friday class despite the fact that we attended them. We were marked absent for not paying the fees. The principal told us that we will not be allowed to attend the semester examination on Monday, if we fail to pay the fee,” the student added. “The same thing happened during the last semester,” said Kumar (name changed), a second year student of Mechanical Engineering. Several students were not allowed to attend the examination as well as the lab test during the second semester for the same reason. Kumar, along with about 45 students, petitioned the district administration on Monday to take suitable action against the college administration for not waiving the fees as per the government order. For the polytechnic course, the government gives `6,500 for government quota and `21,700 for management quota. The institutions do not disclose this to the students and admit them with the false promise that they can study free of cost. The problem is experienced across the State as most of the private institutions do not comply with the GO to waive the tuition and examination fees for the SC students, said an official in the Adi Dravidar Welfare Office in Vellore. “Students had not been issued exam hall tickets, citing non-payment of semester fees of `14,000,” said an official. (New Indian Exprerss 6/1/15)

57. Muslims deserve reservations, says Owaisi (25)

Beed: The former Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra kept the Muslim community backward and it deserves reservations, MIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi has said. The Sachar committee and other similar panels had recommended reservations for the Muslim community, he pointed out. “The Congress-NCP government kept the community backward and denied it benefit of reservations,” Owaisi alleged. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief was addressing an election rally here yesterday. As per the Articles 15 and 16 of Indian Constitution, a community which has remained backward should be given reservations, he said. The Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad clarified that his party is not against the reservation to the Marathas, but Muslims too should get their right. After the Bombay High Court stayed the Congress-NCP government’s decision to offer quotas to Marathas and Muslims last year, the new BJP-Shiv Sena government got passed a Bill in the state Assembly in December 2014 which gave reservation to Marathas in education and government jobs, but left out the Muslims. Owaisi also said that many Muslims are languishing in prisons without trial and even charge sheets are not filed for years together in such cases. Muslims account for only four per cent of Maharashtra police force and three to four per cent of government servants, therefore, reservation is necessary for them, he said. Journalist-turned MIM legislator Imtiyaz Jaleel said that Muslims were more backward than Dalits and for the last 65 years, they have been treated only as vote bank. “Now, the NCP and Congress are scared as we (MIM) have entered the fray. We will contest the municipal elections,” Jaleel said.  (Zee News 7/1/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

58. Bihar Human Rights Commission to digitize records in next three months (1)

PATNA: The Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC) plans digitization of its records in the next three months for the convenience of petitioners. Addressing a press meet to apprise the media about the yearlong activities of the commission on Wednesday, BHRC chairman Bilal Nazki said, “While the number of cases coming to the rights panel has increased, the staff shortage keeps our hands tied. We hope the state government will appoint a registrar and an assistant registrar within a month, so that we are able to computerize our records.” The digitization of records will help outstation petitioners to check the status of their cases online. “A number of petitioners from far-off districts need to come to the commission or call to inquire about their cases. If the records are online, they’ll not need to come all the way to Patna,” Nazki said. A total of 5,598 cases were taken up by the BHRC in 2014, of which 3,688 were disposed off. “About 1,150 cases were rejected as they did not fall under the ambit of the commission. Over 80 cases were suo motu taken up by the commission on various issues,” he said. The commission has held sensitization programmes for students and police officers in the last few months. “We plan to take the sensitization programme for students to every district and form a task force which will help spread awareness among people. It is important that people become aware of human rights,” Nazki said. He added police officials in all districts, who directly interact with people, will also be covered under the sensitization programme. The commission also plans to organize interaction with the principal secretaries of various departments, so that solutions are obtained at the government level itself. BHRC members Neelmani said the commission held a briefing programme with IPS probationers on Wednesday. While most cases coming to the commission are related to police excesses, the commission also takes up various other types of cases, such as service matters, education and health sectors. BHRC member Justice Mandhata Singh and BHRC IG Pravin Vashista was also present on the occasion. (Times of India 1/1/15)

59. NHRC received 277 complaints on HR violations from JK this year (1)

Jammu: Signifying high incidence of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, National Human Rights Commission has received 277 complaints from the trouble torn state during the year 2014, taking the total number of complaints received by the HR watchdog in last five years to 1672. As per data available with Greater Kashmir, the commission has received 1672 complaints from J&K during last five years (till Nov 25, 2014). Out of these, 1180 have been disposed off while 288 are still pending with the Commission. In further breakup, the data reveals that in the year 2014, NHRC received 277 complaints till Nov 25, out of which 181 were disposed off and 96 are pending. In the year 2013, 389 cases were reported from the state of which 389 cases were disposed off and 73 are pending. In the year 2012, 411 cases were reported and 391 were disposed off while 20 are pending and during 2011, 371 cases were reported of which 272 were disposed off and 99 remained pending. The data further divulges that during 2010, NHRC received 224 complaints of which 206 were disposed off leaving 18 pending. Talking to Greater Kashmir, Secretary, State Human Rights Commission, Dilshad Ahmad Baba, said that maximum complaints reported to NHRC are about the excess by Army and paramilitary forces. He said that complaints related to state authorities are generally dealt by SHRC. Meanwhile, human rights activists in the State are of the opinion that the increase in registration of such cases was due to apathetic attitude of concerned authorities and less conviction rate. Khurram Parvez, a Srinagar-based HR activist, said rights violations were increasing with every passing day in the state which in turn has triggered civil resistance. He said that less conviction rate was the main reason for rise in human rights violations in the state. “On one hand government claims that Kashmir issue would be resolved through negotiations, on the other it uses every means to suppress the voice of the people,” he added. Jammu-based human rights activist Om Parkash expressed concern over indifference of authorities towards social injustice and the ‘defunct’ J&K State Human Rights Commission. (GreaterKashmir 1/1/15)

60. NHRC Seeks Report on Medical Neglect of Tribal Students (1)

BHUBANESWAR: Increasing incidents of medical neglect of ailing inmates of residential schools in tribal areas has drawn the attention of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The Commission, which had asked the State Government to accord top priority to the health of inmates in tribal residential schools in November last year, has sought an action taken report on the matter. The direction has been issued on the basis of a petition filed by rights activist Akhand alleging serious neglect towards health concerns of the inmates. Neither were they provided with prompt and adequate medical care during illnesses nor were the guidelines on health check-up of the inmates complied with on a regular basis. The petitioner submitted that he had visited some residential schools in Rayagada district to find students and inmates living in utterly miserable conditions. The situation at Bankili High School under Konara block was the worst. “At the time of the visit, we found around seven students lying on the floor due to illness. On enquiring, we found that though they were unwell since days, they had not been taken to a doctor or accorded with proper treatment. They were being given medicines by consulting a local medicine store,” Akhand complained. He stated that the headmaster took the alibi of lack of fund provisioning by the Government for not taking the inmates to hospitals. Further, for a residential school that had around 600 boys and 110 girls, the infrastructure was pathetic. The kitchen was broken and food cooked in most unhygienic conditions leading to frequent health problems among the inmates. The authorities were totally indifferent to the health issues of the students. The petitioner drew attention of the Commission’s observations during its three-day camp sitting in Bhubaneswar in November last year, where it had broached on the very issue of health of the inmates. Commission member SC Sinha had called upon the Government to set up a unified structure involving different departments concerned as the School and Mass Education, ST and SC Development and Health to ensure proper coordination and effective redressal of education and health concerns. The Commission had also directed the Government to ensure that the ANMs and health workers pay proper attention to the health issues of inmates through regular visits and check-ups. However, the directions have not been acted upon, Akhand alleged. The NHRC has directed the ST and SC Development Department Secretary to submit action taken report within four weeks. (New Indian Express 5/1/15)

61. Rights body to give legal help to torture victim (1)

KOLKATA: The Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) has decided to provide legal support to a young man who was allegedly tortured by a police officer of Gariahat police station in South Kolkata. Bapi Rajbanshi of a South Kolkata slum was allegedly kicked several times in his genitals and rectum by Pritam Sekhar of the Gariahat police station. These led to severe injuries. The APDR is a Kolkata-based human rights organisation. The officer-in-charge of the police station, Ujjal Ray, has questioned the authenticity of the allegation. “If Mr. Rajbanshi and his family give their consent, then we will provide them legal assistance. But the case would be much stronger if he files it himself,” APDR vice-president Ranajit Sur told The Hindu here on Tuesday. In case they did not want to file the case themselves, the APDR would file a Public Interest Litigation in the Calcutta High Court. (The Hindu 7/1/15)

62. NHRC takes cognizance of reports about price hike of medicines (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today issued notices to the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Union Ministry of Commerce and Fertilizers and National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority over reports of hike in the prices of cardiovascular and anti-diabetes drugs. “The Commission has taken a suo-motu cognizance of a media report alleging that withdrawal of an order by the National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority (NPPA) which may lead to arbitrary hike in the prices of 108 cardiovascular and anti-diabetes drugs. “Such a decision may amount to violation or denial of right to health to poor and marginalized citizens of the country,” the Commission said. The NHRC has sought a report from the concerned authorities in the matter within six weeks. Reportedly, the NPPA withdrew its May 29, 2014 guidelines on September 22, 2014 which were meant for putting a cap on the prices of 108 cardiovascular and anti-diabetes drugs to insulate them from arbitrary hikes through market mechanisms. The decision to do so followed an order dated September 19, 2014 of the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP). This does not present any robust logic for doing away with a policy that was aimed at easing access of common man to medicines. While issuing the notices, the Commission has also observed that the availability of essential drugs at reasonable prices is extremely important for fullest enjoyment of right to health by the citizens of the country, especially the poor and the marginalized. Withdrawal of the guidelines dated May 29, 2014 is likely to impinge upon the access of common man to health and medicare.  (Business Standard 8/1/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

63. Madras HC: Right or wrong, court orders must be obeyed (19)

CHENNAI: Right or wrong, obey court orders, especially when the order is not appealed against or stayed, the Madras high court has said. Justice M Venugopal, refusing to initiate contempt of court proceedings against state information commissioner P Tamilsevan said, “An order passed, right or wrong, has to be obeyed. If a party is affected by an order, he ought to take prompt/diligent steps in resorting to further appellate or revision proceedings in accordance with law. He cannot ignore the order and plead about the difficulties of implementation at the time of initiation of contempt proceedings.” The matter relates to an application filed by Vijaya, who wanted information from the Andipatti deputy tahsildarunder the RTI Act. When the officer could not furnish the information, she moved the information commission for action in December 2013. Due to delay in action, she then moved the HC. She filed the present petition saying he had violated the HC order. In case of contempt, Justice Venugopal said an apology could not be used as a defence to purge the guilt of contempt. (Times of India 2/1/15)

64. Jail terms proposed for racial bias – NE discrimination panel suggestions accepted (19)

New Delhi, Jan. 2: The Centre today said it was “considering” two new penal code provisions to punish racial discrimination and racial insults, recommended by a panel as a safeguard for people from the Northeast living elsewhere in the country. Home minister Rajnath Singh announced a slew of other measures too for migrants from the region while signalling acceptance of the M.P. Bezbaruah committee’s recommendations. Officials clarified that the proposed Sections 153C and 509A would be general enough to cover anyone from any part of India facing any kind of racial bias. The law and justice ministry has agreed to the amendments, they added. Section 153C relates to “imputations, assertions prejudicial to human dignity” and aims to punish any discriminatory act on the basis of race or racial customs, behaviour or way of living. The draft provision says that if such an act causes or is likely to cause alarm or a feeling of insecurity among members “of that racial group”, it can attract a jail term of up to five years. It will be a non-bailable offence. Section 509A relates to “word, gesture or act intended to insult a member of a particular racial group or of any race”.One common complaint voiced by people from the Northeast is of being taunted with terms such as “chinky” or “Chinese”. Insulting a person on the basis of their place of origin or racial features or behavioural pattern will now be a bailable offence carrying a maximum prison term of three years. The Bezbaruah panel was set up in February after the lynching of teenaged Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Tania at a Delhi market on January 30 last year. It handed in its report in July, with the Centre committing to act on it within six months. “This is the sixth month, so we had to announce it now,” Rajnath said when asked if the announcement had been timed with an eye on the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections. Bezbaruah, a member of the North Eastern Council – which advises the Centre on the region’s social and economic development – welcomed the Centre’s announcement. “We had stated in our report that the immediate measure should be to amend the IPC while a debate goes on about a full-fledged anti-racial legislation,” he said over the phone from Shillong. Activists issued a qualified welcome. Binalakshmi Nepram, whom the Bezbaruah panel had consulted, said Rajnath had “skimmed through” some of the committee’s recommendations. For instance, Rajnath announced that the Delhi police would recruit 20 personnel from each of the eight northeastern states whereas the panel had recommended recruitment of 600 cops from the region, Nepram said. Rajnath also announced a panel of two male and five women lawyers to provide legal assistance to people from the Northeast in Delhi. “The Delhi government will also be providing compensation and monetary assistance to the Northeast people under the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011,” he said. (Telegraph 3/1/15)

65. PIL challenges NJAC in Supreme Court (19)

NEW DELHI: A former solicitor general has filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of Parliament enacted law which scrapped the 20-year-old apex court-evolved ‘judges appointing judges’ procedure, popularly known as collegium system. Former ASG Bishwajit Bhattacharyya termed the law creating a high-level National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) as a direct attack on the independence of judiciary and requested the court to quash it. Headed by Chief Justice of India, the 6-member NJAC would include two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, Union law minister and two eminent people. One of the eminent people would be chosen from among scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, minorities, Other backward classes or women. “Primacy and vital role of the office of Chief Justice of India (CJI) under article 124, 127, 128, 217 and 222 of the Constitution have been knocked out and has been substituted by NJAC where even two non-judge members could veto the choice of CJI and two senior most judges of the Supreme Court,” the petitioner said. “This amounts to a frontal attack on the office of CJI and two senior most judges of the Supreme Court and, therefore, this subverts independence of the judiciary, doctrine of separation of power and the basic feature of India’s Constitution,” he said. Bhattacharyya said it amounted to subversion of the Constitution by the executive to take over judiciary’s task of appointing and transferring judges of superior courts and was incongruent to fair play since the executive government itself was the biggest litigant in courts. “The NJAC Act and amendment of the Constitution are unconstitutional and violate the basic structure of India’s Constitution, as various clauses stipulated therein make a frontal attack on the independence of the judiciary as also on the doctrine of separation of powers,” the petitioner said. The SC had earlier refused to intervene on the issue of Constitutional validity of the amendment when the Bill was passed by Parliament saying it was a premature to challenge. But it had allowed Bhattacharyya and other petitioners to move the court if other states approved the law leading to its notification. NJAC received presidential assent on December 31. (Times of India 6/1/15)

66. Government promulgates ordinance merging PIO, OCI schemes (19)

NEW DELHI: The Citizenship (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015, promulgated on Tuesday, relaxes the condition of one-year continuous stay in India before applying for Indian citizenship and allows a minor child born to Indian citizens to be registered as an overseas citizen of India (OCI). As per the amended Act, if the Central government is satisfied that special circumstances exist, it may, after recording such circumstances in writing, relax the period of one-year uninterrupted stay in the country, and allow different breaks not exceeding 30 days, for travel abroad. Besides providing for registeration of a minor whose parents are Indian citizens as OCI, the Ordinance also paves the way for registration as OCI by a child or a grand-child or a great grandchild of such a citizen. The new legislation enables registeration as OCI by such spouse of a citizen of India or spouse of an OCI registered under Section 7A and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the citizenship application. The Ordinance allows the government to specify, by a gazette notification, a particular date from which all existing PIO card holders will be deemed to be OCI cardholders. The Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 provides for acquisition, termination, deprivation, determination of Indian citizenship and other related aspects. The Act provides for acquisition of Indian citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalization and incorporation of territory under certain circumstances. (Times of India 7/1/15)

67. Jain community’s PIL wants say in minority commissions (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to consider a representation by the Jain community demanding to be treated on par with other minorities and given representation in the state and national minority commissions. Akhil Bhartiya Jain Mahasabha (ABJM) in its PIL alleged that the governments had been pursuing policy to appease the Muslim community alone by extending the benefits meant for minorities while ignoring other similarly placed communities. The petitioner said even after being declared a minority community, it had not got any governmental financial assistance as was given to other minority communities. Till date only 11 states have recognized Jains as minority group, it said and alleged that the Centre was not responding to its representation on this issue. A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice A K Sikri, after a brief hearing, asked the Centre to consider the earlier representation given by the Jain community. ABJM alleged the government had ignored the interests of the Jain community. “The government has adopted an appeasement policy towards Muslims and in the name of the minorities all the benefits are being given to this community whereas other minorities are not being given the same benefit and status. It has come to notice and it is a matter of record that the government has always appointed chairman of Minority Commission from a particular community. The Muslim community is given the major share in the representation ignoring the interest of Jains. Till date no member of this community has found representation either in the State Minority Commission or in the National Minority Commission,” the petition said. Petitioner’s counsel Rajeev Sharma contended that there must be uniform criteria for governmental assistance to minority communities without any discrimination. The purpose of categorizing Jains as minority community would fail if they were not treated equally with other minority groups, he said. “The budget allocation and financial assistance for minorities by the Central/state governments is being utilized only for serving the political end and such assistance is totally denied to the Jain Community,” he said. Jain community was declared a minority community in January last year. Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist, Christian and Zoroastrians were declared minority groups way back in 1993. (Times of India 8/1/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

68. Picked up by police, mechanic kills self; kin allege custodial torture (1)

CHENNAI: A 24-year-old two-wheeler mechanic committed suicide by hanging at his house on Friday after being allegedly tortured in custody at the Kilpauk police station. Relatives of Sudarshan staged a protest in front of the city police commissionerate seeking action against Ezhilarasan, the sub-inspector of the station. They said he was repeatedly taken to the police station many times since December 25. They alleged he was stripped and beaten up. They said police forced Sudarshan’s mother to pay 2,000 for his release. On Friday evening, Ezhilarasan took Sudarshan from his house claiming that a two-wheeler needed to be repaired at the station. He only returned around 8pm. “He was upset and in a bad mood. He committed suicide when his mother went out,” a relative said. A relative said the police officer used to collect money from Sudarshan, who has been running a roadside mechanic shop after his father died three years ago. A relative said the police officer used to collect money from Sudarshan, who has been running a roadside vehicle mechanic shop after his father died three years ago. (Times of India 4/1/15)

69. AFSPA extended in Assam by another year (1)

Guwahati: The Centre has extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 declaring Assam as a ‘disturbed area’ for another year beyond November 3 last, a State government release said here on Saturday. “The Government of India vide order dated November 4, 2014 has extended the earlier notification regarding ‘disturbed areas’ under the provisions of Section 3 of the AF(SP) Act 1958 for another one year beyond November 3, 2014 which is presently in force,” the release said. “The Government of India in exercise of powers under AF(SP) Act, 1958 has also declared, besides other areas, the area falling within 20 km wide belt in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya along their border with the Assam as disturbed area,” it said. “The Government of India extended and issued the notification after considering the law and order situation in Assam due to the violent incidents caused by the underground outfits,” it said. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

70. Youth alleges torture by cop (1)

Kolkata: More than a month after an “unprovoked” attack by a policeman, a young man is still in trauma even as he is recuperating in a city hospital. Bapi Rajbanshi (28), a casual worker in a flower shop, says he was kicked repeatedly by a police officer in his genitals and rectum leading to profuse bleeding. Bapi, who lives in a South Kolkata slum, is recuperating in a city hospital. On Sunday, Bapi, told The Hindu that he was tortured by a police officer of Gariahat police station in South Kolkata “without any provocation.” The incident took place in the last week of November. “Pritam Sekhar, an officer of Gariahat police station in South Kolkata, caught hold of me and asked if I am an extortionist. On denying the claim, he started to beat me recklessly and took me inside the (Gariahat) police station,” alleged Bapi, lying on a hospital bed. However, the assault did not stop here. He was taken inside the station and beaten. In her complaint to officer in charge of the police station Ujjal Ray, the victim’s mother Bani Rajbanshi wrote, “…in presence of other police officers (my son) was brutally and inhumanly assaulted by fist blows and kicks” thus causing “severe pain (from) injuries (in the) abdomen and private parts” and he started urinating “black blood.” In the same complaint, a copy of which is with The Hindu, Ms Rajbanshi said that her “son’s condition deteriorated” as blood kept flowing with urine and he had to go through prolonged treatment in various hospitals. Eventually, on December 5, Rajbanshi was admitted to SSKM Hospital. While Bapi is clueless as to why he was assaulted, his lawyer Bimalkanti Danda claims that instead of taking any legal action against the accused officer, the police “locked my client after beating him severely”.Mr. Ujjal Ray, however, questioned the authenticity of the allegation against Mr. Sekhar. “As per the complaint, the assault took place on November 30, 2014. Then why was the complaint letter submitted almost a month later on December 29?” When asked whether any action had been taken against Mr. Sekhar, he said “inquiry is going on”. Explaining the reasons for the delay, Mr Danda said, “Within a few days of the assault, Ms Rajbanshi went to the police station several times, but her complaint was not registered. She was made to sit in the police station for hours every time she went there. Only after she sought legal help, did the police receive the written complaint.” He also claimed that the police asked Bapi “to keep shut if he wants to survive”. The officials however, refused to deny or confirm if the police station has an officer named Pritam Sekhar. “There is confusion about the name,” said an officer. (The Hindu 5/1/15)

71. Six cops suspended for custodial death (1)

LUCKNOW: In another case of “khaki terror” in Uttar Pradesh, six policemen were suspended in Agra district for their alleged involvement in a case of suspected custodial death of a 24-year-old youth. The suspended cops were posted at the Achhnera police station and action followed after a case under Section 302 of IPC against was registered on Sunday on a complaint by the deceased’s father. State IG (Law and Order) A..Satish Ganesh said the suspension order was issued late on Sunday night by the Agra SSP. Those suspended are Station House Officer Arun Kumar, head constable Jagdish Prasad and constables Ram Nath, Prem Narain, Suresh Babu and Manoj Kumar. He said the details of the case have been sent by the Agra SSP to the State ADG (Human Rights) and the other relevant authorities. Mr.Ganesh said the deceased’s autopsy was conducted on Monday and his body was handed over to his relatives. He told reporters police investigations have revealed that five cases, including a case of auto lifting at the Fatehpur Sikri police station, had been registered against him. The deceased, identified as Sanjay, was detained by the Achhnera police on Sunday on charges of motorbike lifting. He is alleged to have been beaten by the policemen as a result of which he died.Meanwhile, two other policemen, said to be relatives of Vir Pal Singh Yadav, one of the accused in the alleged rape of a minor in a police station in Badaun district, were suspended on Monday. Mr. Ganesh said efforts are underway to arrest the two constables, Vir Pal Singh Yadav and Avnish Yadav. They are absconding. (The Hindu 6/1/15)

72. 3 Chennai cops to face action for teen’s sexual torture in custody (1)

CHENNAI: A probe into the alleged sexual torture of a teenager in police custody has found the involvement of three police personnel. The CB-CID wing of the city police, which conducted the investigation following a report in TOI on the incident, has submitted its report and sources said departmental action will be initiated against the three police personnel soon. The 19-year-old, who was arrested for snatching a mobile phone from a woman, was allegedly forced to indulge in sexual acts with three minors in custody. The incident came to light after the youth, who was subsequently lodged in Puzhal prison, fell ill and doctors who examined him found severe infection and injuries on his private parts. He was admitted to a government hospital, where he underwent a surgery. Tamil Nadu director general of police Ashok Kumar directed CB-CID probe the allegation. Four SPs – P Perumal, T S Anbu, M V Jaya Gowri and V Nagajothi – were assigned to probe the case. They inquired with doctors at Government Royapettah Hospital, where the youth was treated, the prison doctor, prison officials, policemen, the youth, the three minors and their family members, before preparing their report. Sources said the report submitted to the DGP has confirmed the involvement of three policemen in the teen’s torture in the Mambalam police station on December 10. The report will be sent back to CB-CID for registering a case against the three policemen and carrying out further investigation. “A formal order will be issued on Wednesday,” a police officer said. During the investigation, all the 62 police personnel attached to the Mambalam police station were summoned for the identification parade held at the CB-CID office. The youth identified the three policemen in the presence of the investigation officer, superintendent of police Perumal, sources said. Police sources said special sub-inspector Ramadoss nabbed the youth for snatching a mobile from a pedestrian and handed him over to Mambalam police on December 10. Subsequently, police slapped four more bike theft and robbery cases on him. On the same day, they also arrested three minors on theft charges and kept them in the police station. It was alleged that the youth was forced to indulge in anal sex and oral sex with the minors. The next day, the three minors were admitted in a juvenile home and the youth was sent to Puzhal prison. (Times of India 7/1/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

73. Government blocks 32 websites to check ISIS propaganda (1)

NEW DELHI: The Centre has blocked 32 websites, including vimeo.com, dailymotion.com, pastebin.com and github.com, in an effort to curb ISIS propaganda, prompting a wave of online protests. An Indian “hacktivist” group, Anonymous India, has threatened reprisal. By Wednesday evening, however, websites that had complied with the government order to remove objectionable content had been unblocked, sources said. A confidential department of telecom order, dated December 17, instructing all internet service licensees to block the websites appeared online on Wednesday. When contacted to verify the news, Dr Gulshan Rai, director of the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), told TOI the directions had been issued to internet service providers following a Mumbai additional chief metropolitan magistrate’s November order directing the government’s Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) to implement the same. He added that Mumbai’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had approached the judiciary after interrogating Arif Majeed, a 23-year-old ISIS recruit from Kalyan. More recently, Bengaluru professional Mehdi Biswas was arrested for allegedly spreading ISIS propaganda on Twitter. “These websites were being used to invite youths to join ISIS. We had contacted the websites sometime back and asked for the removal of the objectionable content. At that time, our communications were ignored. Some of them have now agreed to work with the government. The websites that have complied are being unblocked,” Rai told TOI. The move met with opposition from the online community. While the tech community opposed the Github ban, others were upset about video-sharing websites like dailymotion.com and vimeo.com being taken down. “By blocking vimeo and dailymotion along with other websites, India is walking in the footsteps of Pakistan,” tweeted @baawraman. The list of websites in the DoT document was heavy on large text-sharing and collaboration websites, like Github and Pastebin, popular with coders and software developers. Many objected to the blocking of entire websites instead of specific URLs hosting problematic content. However, Rai explained that individual URLs could not be blocked because of the “high mobility of content” on the websites. “It can just be removed and pasted elsewhere. There are no checks and balances,” he said. Hacktivist group Anonymous India tweeted, “One fine morning, Indian government decided to block sites like Github. Now now, it is time to wake-up. Government of India, Expect Us,” a tweet from their handle @opindia_revenge said. As questions began to be raised on social networks, BJP IT cell head Arvind Gupta tweeted, “The websites that have been blocked were based on an advisory by the Anti-Terrorism Squad, and were carrying anti-India content from ISIS. The sites that have removed objectionable content and/or cooperated with the ongoing investigations, are being unblocked.” The sustainability of counter-measures like blanket blocking to contain threats is being questioned. Prasanth Sugathan, counsel at Software Freedom and Law Center, said such a move is short-sighted. “If you block one website, terrorists can always use another one. Or they will move to using encrypted channels, peer-to-peer communication or even telephones. One can’t block everything. In my opinion, such a move only inconveniences the daily users and doesn’t solve the long-term purpose,” said Sugathan. The sentiment was echoed by common Twitter users as well. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet from August 2012 condemning blanket blocking of websites was pulled out for recirculation. “As a common man, I join the protest against crackdown on freedom of speech! Have changed my DP. ‘Sabko Sanmati De Bhagwan.’ #GOIBlocks,” Modi had tweeted on August 24, 2012. Pranesh Prakash, policy director at Bengaluru-based Center for Internet and Society, questioned the lack of transparency around the practice of blocking websites under the Indian law. “Qn for govt: Why does the law require secrecy of web blocking orders when it doesn’t allow such secrecy for books, films? #GoIBlocks,” he tweeted, adding, “The 69A Rules don’t allow for transparency, accountability, time-limits on blocks, etc. So easily misused by govt. + courts + individuals.” The websites were blocked under section 69 A of the IT Act, 2000 and the IT (Procedure and sdafeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) rules, 2009. Currently, the Supreme Court is in the middle of hearing a clutch of petitions challenging several IT Act provisions, including blocking and takedown of websites. (Times of India 1/1/15)

74. Media should criticize, maintain credibility: PM Modi (1)

KOLHAPUR: Media should focus on maintaining credibility of news and emphasize on criticism instead of making allegations. Criticism of government work helps us run the administration more efficiently, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Kolhapur on Saturday. “It is sad that today media emphasises on allegations instead of criticism. Allegations are simple and there is no responsibility to prove them. But when it comes to criticism, the reporter has to work hard, analyse the information and then file the story for which he is responsible. This brings credibility to the newspapers,” he said while speaking at a function organised to mark 75 years of the foundation of a Marathi daily. The prime minister said that criticism is important for strengthening the democratic institutions of the country. “This helps in keeping a check on all the government and NGOs. All the departments of the government and semi-government institutions should welcome the criticism. Criticism on government offices helps us to run the government more efficiently,” he said. Modi said that the media today faces an important challenge of credibility. Media persons have to take responsibility to maintain this credibility because everyone trusts the media more than anyone else, he said, adding that the role of media has changed from what it was 30 years ago. In his 18-minute speech, the leader cast a glance on the journey of newspapers from the day’s of the country’s freedom struggle. “The media has played major role in India’s freedom struggle. Even during the emergency, when major leaders were in the jail and there were restrictions on newspapers, people wanted to know the truth. The newspapers then played a major role in providing true information to the people and nurtured their faith in the democracy.” The event at the police parade ground in the city was held amid tight security. Maharashtra governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, Union railway minister Nitin Gadkari and Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu also attended the function. Dignitaries from Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara across all the sections of society also attended the function. (Times of India 4/1/15)

75. Scribes set to meet CM over increasing assaults (1)

NAGPUR: Members of Nagpur Union of Working Journalists (NUWJ) plan to meet chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday over increasing assaults and police’s apathy to take such incidents seriously. The senior office-bearers of Tilak Patrakar Bhavan Trust are also expected to join the deputation. Apart from meeting Fadnavis, NUWJ president Shirish Borkar stated that detailed information regarding a series of assaults and threats on scribes would be sent to the President of India. “We also have plans to send a detailed report to the Press Council of India, central and state human rights commission and other bodies regarding the recent incidents of harassment to the media persons working in the field,” said Borkar. He added that several journalists, including TOI’s scribes, have been humiliated but no concrete action has been initiated by the city police chief KK Pathak. “Police have been curtailing media’s freedom of expression,” he said. In a recent incident, an assistant PI from Ajni police station snatched camera and boom of GTPL cable news reporters and allegedly manhandled them on Monday while the journalists were covering an agitation. The equipment of the reporter was also damaged in the process. Trust president Pradip Kumar Maitra also appealed to the members of the NUWJ to remain ready for a bigger agitation against the establishments for reinstating the rights of media expression. (Times of India 7/1/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

76. No lives were lost in riots, violence (7)

NEW DELHI: Communal tension and law and order arrangements kept Delhi Police on its toes for most part of the year. However, not a single life was lost during these incidents as cops successfully managed to curb the violence in time. When Trilokpuri simmered with violence, Delhi Police judged the situation well in time and acting promptly which saved precious lives. It was not easy to control the mob which had anti-social elements inciting the public and leading them into initiating violence. Gunshots were fired and stones and Molotov cocktails were hurled in plenty. However, the cops not just handled the crises well but led by special commissioner (law & order) Deepak Mishra they also went on to use modern gadgetry like drones for surveillance and operational purposes. This was tried for the first time by any police force during riots. Cops fished out numerous sacks of stones, bricks and bottles kept hidden on the rooftops with the help of drones. As an aftermath of Trilokpuri riots, trouble mounted in areas like Bawana, Khajuri, Okhla, among others. Also, the Karbala issue did not give cops room to breathe along with multiple cases of violence throughout the year. Policemen also fared well in managing 11,890 protests and demonstrations in the city apart from managing peaceful Lok Sabha elections. With the figure shooting up to 4,170, Dharnas doubled from 2013 when the count was just 1,836. Demonstrations also almost doubled from 1,467 in 2013 to 2,409 in 2014. There were 1,044 processions carried out as well. The year also had the cops busy with visits of foreign dignitaries, including Chinese president XI Jinping and Vladimir Putin from Russia, amongst several others dignitaries. Tension also erupted when Kawariyas carrying out their Yatra in the city. (Times of India 3/1/15)

77. Tension in central Mumbai after communal clash (7)

MUMBAI: Tension prevailed at Lalbaug after a group of people allegedly hit people from another community at around 10pm on Sunday. Heavy police bandobast was deployed near Lalbaug flyover and all the bikers were being frisked and examined for their documents. A bike was reportedly set on fire. The reason for the tension between two groups was not clear. Sources said that a group of boys from a community were returning after attending Eid-e-Milad procession at south Mumbai when they got involved in a heated argument with some boys from another community at Lalbaug. The situation went out of control and some bikers were hit. A group of people, who hit the boys, was carrying lathis in their hand. A sizeable number of police personnel were dispatched to the spot and police restricted entry of vehicles from south towards north end at Lalbaug. Traffic routes were diverted. “There was no curfew but a curfew like situation. People were running to reach home early knowing the tensed situation,” said a source. A Sion resident woman who had gone to meet her friend at Tardeo was returning home in a cab along with her two year old baby when she saw people running helter skelter. “I got scared there were too many people running on the road. We didn’t know what exactly happened. I could see a large number of policemen all over the roads. All the flyovers till Sion were completely jam packed. Near King’s Circle, cops were checking all bikers, perhaps their documents too, and police vehicles were seen stationed,” she told TOI. An additional police commissioner said that the issue was sorted out and things were under control. No casualty or injury was reported to the police till news going to the press. DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni, city police’s official spokesperson, was not available for comment. (Times of India 4/1/15)

78. Hyderabad’s Kishanbagh suffers in aftermath of communal riots (7)

HYDERABAD: A religious flag was allegedly burnt. The result was ghastly: two communities clashed, stones were pelted, shots were fired, houses were burnt and lives were lost. But now, a good nine months after the incident, normalcy refuses to return to Kishanbagh, where communal clashes between Sikhs and Muslims broke out last May. The riots, triggered by the burning of the Nishan Saheb (Sikh religious flag), escalated into a major clash between the members of Sikh Chavani and the Muslims. The two groups have always had little waves of trouble every now and then, but this was a first major incident that saw three people losing their lives and over 50 injured. The riots were finally halted by imposing a curfew which lasted for over a week. However, the story did not end there. Following the riots, Rajendranagar police decided to nip the problem in the bud. As a result, many arrests from both communities were made. But, there were reports that security forces, including the Border Security Force (BSF), had not done enough. There was considerable flak which the police faced for having ordered firing to quell the mob in the area, dominated by around 1,500 Sikhs and over 4,000 Muslims. “After the riots, they arrested many people from our community. Over 40 people were taken in custody and kept there for a couple of weeks before being granted conditional bail,” says Tej Bahadur Singh. Tej himself was put in custody on charges of rioting and attempt to murder. He along with 40 others now has to go to the police station every week to sign, which he says is a cause of concern to them. “Riots happened from both sides. But what has followed has put a lot of our lives in trouble. We have to go to the police station every week for a signature. Sometimes we are called on immediate notice and have to rush to the station. This keeps us from returning to our normal lives and ends up interfering with our work,” he explains. As a result of the constant checking and search operations by the police, normal life in the area has taken a big hit. The people who are accused of the violations have to be available at the police station at short notices which has caused many of them to lose their jobs. In addition, the inquiry has caused many of the traders to lose their business as they are frequently at the police station to record statements. The case is no different with those from the other community. “The riots were a really bad thing that happened. What has followed is worse. There is no communal tension as of now, but then, the cops keep coming and checking for irregularities. Sometimes it ends up interfering with our normal lives,” explains Md Abdul Samad, a resident of Kishanbagh. “There are times we wish the clashes never really happened,” adds a concerned Samad. The cops, however, feel that they are right in carrying out the cordon and search operation. Kishanbagh has been known for such clashes for quite some time now. Mostly small groups clash and the issue is taken care of before it spirals into a big controversy like the last one. However, after the riots of May, the cops have increased the intensity of dealing with such issues. Despite that 17 people are yet to surrender on various counts of violation of law. (Times of India 7/1/15)

COMMUNALISM

79. VHP: PK makes fun of Hinduism in every possible way (26)

Demanding a ban on Aamir Khan-starrer “PK”, right-wing group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Tuesday termed the film part of a larger scheme to discredit Hindu religion and rituals. VHP spokesman Vinod Bansal told IANS that they have also demanded an overhaul in the film censor board which approved the movie, and a “change in its character” is needed. “The movie makes fun of Hinduism in every possible way. For those who are saying it hits at other religions too, all together the scenes of attack on Christianity and Islam will last for two minutes. But for the rest of two and half hours or more, they keep making fun of Hinduism,” said Bansal, on a day when protests were held at cinema halls in Delhi screening the film. “The movie is so insensitive, the character was an alien, but the director was not,” he said. Bansal called it a part of a scheme to discredit Hindu rituals. “We want an immediate ban on the movie, and the government needs to change the character of the censor board. Every one says that we should not have problem when the censor board has cleared the movie, the question is who is heading the board…” he said. Bansal added that National Investigation Agency (NIA) must probe the source of funding for the movie, after Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy’s claim that the movie was funded by ISI. Asked about the vandalism, the spokesman said: “Are the theatres not guilty of screening the movie and being a party to the malignant agenda.” He also claimed that there was no vandalism in Delhi theatres. “We staged peaceful protest at Delite cinema, and another protest at Priya cinema”.Asked to air his objections on the movie, Bansal said there is a long list. (Times of India 1/1/15)

80. Hindu Mahasabha wants Gandhi image off currency notes.. (26)

LUCKNOW: The Hindu Mahasabha is going full on to uphold its agenda of propagating Nathuram Godse’s ideology. In a fresh move, the Hindu Mahasabha has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding Mahatama Gandhi’s photo be replaced on Indian currency notes with that of Veer Shivaji, Maharana Pratap along with image of B R Ambedkar who gave the country the Constitution post-Independence. So far, Ambedkar had been hailed as a Dalit icon by the Bahujan Samaj Party and its chief Mayawati to woo backward classes, especially in Uttar Pradesh. Mayawati had been by and large successful in her objective until 2014 Lok Sabha election, where Modi wave is said to have dented the Dalit votebank of the BSP to a certain extent giving hope to the BJP, which is patronised by the Rashtriya Swayemsewak Sangh (RSS), to woo them to party fold in the run up to Vidhan Sabha election scheduled to be held in 2017. Though Hindu Mahasabha claims having no association with the RSS whatsoever, ideologically speaking both the mahasabha and sangh pariwar sail on the same boat as far as “undivided Hindu nation” theory is concerned. The mahasabha has also urged the PM to stop universities and colleges from teaching students that Mahatama Gandhi is “father of the nation” when the same has not been done officially by the government. Hindu Mahasabha’s fresh demands follow plan to install bust at several places and construct a temple of Godse in Sitapur district. It is a one-month long awareness campaign that would continue until January 30, the day Mahatama Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse, said Kamlesh Tiwari, who claims to be working president of the mahasabha which plans to observe January 30 as “shaurya diwas” putting up photographs of Godse at parks and other community centres and propagating his ideology on the day. Officially, it is observed as Martyrs Day. The shaurya diwas would be observed in 20 districts throughout the country. A Hindu Mahasabha delegation from the mahasabha would seek time from the prime minister and meet him in a bid to apprise him about the need to propagate Godse’s ideology, Tiwari said. (Times of India 4/1/15)

81. Godhra RSS school urges students to collect money for Madhav Vidyapeeth (26)

Vadodara: The students of Saraswati Vidyalaya in Godhra, run by the RSS education wing Vidyabharti, have been asked to collect donations for helping run a similar school in Bharuch. The students of Class VI-VIII are busy collecting “donations” for their sister-concern RSS school, Madhav Vidyapeeth, located at Kakadkui village in Bharuch district. The donations are aimed to “help educate children of tribals” in Bharuch as Madhav Vidyapeeth does not charge any fees from the students. The students of Saraswati Vidyalaya in Godhra have been collecting funds as part of an assignment from their school ahead of Makar Sankranti on January 14. Madhav Vidyapeeth is the latest addition to the list of RSS-run schools in Gujarat. The parents of students studying there, mostly form backward classes, said they were not informed about the assignment. A parent, who did not wish to be identified, said, “We expect the school to at least inform parents about such assignments being given to students to collect donations. Our children are going around the town after school hours asking unknown people for money to fill up the leaflets. Most students feel responsible about the assignments and it must be communicated to parents .” The trustee of Saraswati Vidyalaya, Prakash Soni, who is also a Sangh member, says the exercise will instil a “sense of responsibility” in the minds of the children and is not mandatory. Soni told The Indian Express, “The funds are being collected for Madhav Vidyapeeth in Bharuch which imparts education to tribal children from 125 villages free of cost. There are 300 schools in Gujarat run by Vidyabharti. A Vidyabharti leaflet distributed during the Madhav Vidyapeeth inauguration in Kakadkui said, “Vidyabharti is educating tribals to make sure they are aware of what is happening around them. It is unfortunate that people see Vidyabharti as a violent organisation. It is not true. The aim is to educate through the tenets of Hindu way of life.” (Indian Express 8/1/15)

82. Durga Vahini uses morphed Kareena image to reconvert ‘love jihad’ victims (26)

This is one magazine cover that will not make Kareena Kapoor too happy. A morphed image of the actress in half a niqab, was used by the Durga Vahini to launch another campaign to ‘reconvert’ hindu women who have married muslim men. PTI file photo of Durga Vahini members. This is one magazine cover that will not make Kareena Kapoor too happy. A morphed image of the actress in half a niqab, was used by the Durga Vahini to launch another campaign to ‘reconvert’ hindu women who have married muslim men. The image which was used on the cover of the latest issue of Himalaya Dhwani also ran with the rider of ‘conversion of nationality through religious conversion’. Rajni Thukral, who brings out the magazine was quoted in Hindustan Times, as saying, “Sixteen Hindu women who married Muslim men posing as hindus have approached us for ghar wapsi. We have already reconverted two. One has also been remarried,”. Durga Vahini, is the young women’s wing of the VHP where women between the ages of 15-35 are taught self-defence techniques. It has in the past been known for starting riots in Bijnor in 1990 and also ransacking the Orrisa assembly in 2002. (Deccan Herald 8/1/15)

TERRORISM

83. Probe agencies want single anti-terror mechanism (12)

NEW DELHI: Investigating agencies have recommended the setting up of a central anti-terror mechanism placing intelligence and investigation wings under a single command for more coordinated action against emerging internal security challenges. The Union Home Ministry has received a proposal that such a unified body, encompassing the intelligence gathering, analysis and dissemination wing; forensic divisions; and investigation and prosecution wings, be created through an executive order. The Central Bureau of Investigation was also set up in the same manner under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act. It has been suggested that the Multi Agency Centre and the operations wings of the Intelligence Bureau, other than those dealing with political intelligence, be brought under the new setup. “However, many IB officers have expressed reservations about such a mechanism. They also have concerns about the safety and security of field officers and the secrecy of covert operations,” said a senior official. Arguing for insulating the intelligence wing from any vulnerability under the proposed single command, some security experts said all the divisions could function independently. “In fact, we need such a mechanism, as investigations into cases of Left-wing extremism are altogether different from those involving outfits like the Indian Mujahideen. We need dedicated units to pursue specific areas,” an official said. Even the National Investigation Agency, which has statutory powers under the NIA Act to probe terrorism cases either with the consent of the State governments or on the direction of the Union Home Ministry, can be brought in as the investigation and prosecution wing. It was after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack that the then Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, suggested setting up of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), on the lines of the one in the United States and the British Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, for coordinated counter-terror operations. However, concerned that such an agency could well be abused by the Centre for political ends, many Chief Ministers struck down the idea primarily because the unit was to function under the Intelligence Bureau and, unlike the U.S. agency, it would be empowered to conduct searches and arrests under Sections 43 and 43A of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. In 2012, the Centre came up with an office memorandum defining the functions, powers and duties of the NCTC as a single and effective point of control and coordination of all counter-terrorism measures, which would work through the existing agencies in the country. (The Hindu 1/1/15)

84. Abandoned Pakistani boat found off Gujarat coast (12)

NEW DELHI: Around a fortnight before a suspect Pakistani boat blew itself up after an hour-long chase by Indian Coast Guard, a mysterious fishing boat found abandoned off the Gujarat coast had created a ripple within the intelligence establishment. According to intelligence sources, the alleged Pakistani fishing boat was found empty 10-15 days back, floating in the Arabian Sea off the Gujarat coastline. Not only were there no men on board, but no item of interest or equipment was found on the vessel, making agencies wary if it was abandoned by a group of infiltrating terrorists before they shifted to another vessel and possibly made their way to the Indian coast for a possible terror act here. “The Coast Guard as well as states like Gujarat and Maharashtra were alerted to keep an eye in the Indian waters as well as along the coastline, and track any suspicious movement,” said an official. During the 26/11 attack, the 10-member LeT attack module had left the Karachi port in a Pakistani vessel, before intercepting an Indian fishing vessel, MV Kuber, off the Gujarat coast, for the onward journey to Mumbai. They finally landed at the Mumbai coast (Colaba) in an inflatable dinghy, before splitting and heading for the terror targets that included Taj Hotel, Leopold Cafe and Nariman House. (Times of India 3/1/15)

85. Patna blast case: NIA files charges against 10 (12)

PATNA: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Special Court, Patna, on Tuesday framed charges against 10 accused, all suspected to be members of banned Indian Mujahideen (IM) and Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) for the serial blasts at ‘Hoonkar’ rally addressed by then prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at Gandhi Maidan here on October 27, 2013. NIA special judge Anil Kumar Singh also directed the prosecution to produce witnesses from January 19 onwards. Altogether six persons were killed and 89 others were injured in the serial blasts. Charges were framed against Umer Siddique and Azharuddin Queshi from Chhattisgarh, Ahmad Hussain and Fakkruddin, both native of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, Haidar Ali alias Black Beauty, Numan Ansari, Mohammed Mujibullah Ansari, Mohammed Firoz Aslam, Mohammed Ifteqaar Alam and a juvenile – all the six accused are native of Ranchi, Jharkhand. The charges framed under sections 120(B), 153A, 307, 324, 436, 458 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code; Sections 3 and 4 of Explosive Substances Act and sections 16, 17, 18, 18A, 18B, 20 and 23 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967. The NIA investigation revealed that accused Haider Ali, who was SIMI in charge of Jharkhand, along with his associates conspired to target and attack Modi. In pursuance to this conspiracy, Haider Ali and his associates conducted reconnaissance of various rallies of Modi to take stock of the security arrangements and plan for attacks. The accused realized that it was not possible for them to reach Modi during his rallies due to stringent security arrangement, so they decided to trigger bomb blasts at public rally which would result in a stampede, the investigation said and added the accused targeted the rally and collected explosives from Mirzapur and other requisite materials from Ranchi. The charge sheet suggests Haider Ali and his associates, all are members of SIMI, had been motivating and recruiting young boys from Ranchi and other places by showing them jihadi videos and videos of alleged atrocities on Muslims across the world. They followed ‘Sithio Module’ formed by Haider Ali, the charge sheet said. Earlier the special court of NIA framed charges against Imtiyaz Ansari against whom NIA had filed the first charge sheet on April 24, 2014, in connection with the same case. (Times of India 7/1/15)

86. Two more terrorists executed in Pakistan (12)

Islamabad: Two convicted terrorists were hanged till death in Pakistan Wednesday morning, media reported. The latest executions have brought the number of those hanged until death to nine. The executions started as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium on capital punishment in the country in the aftermath of the Peshawar carnage that left some 150 people, most of them children, dead, Dawn online reported. Prison officials had already received the death warrants for the two men a couple of days ago. The warrants were issued by anti-terrorism courts as mercy petitions of the convicts had been rejected by the president Monday. The convicts: Ahmed Ali alias Sheshnag and Ghulam Shabbir alias Fauji alias doctor belonged to a banned organisation. Ahmed Ali, a resident of Shorkot, Jhang district, was handed capital punishment for killing three men: Altaf Hussain, Mohammad Nasir and Mohammad Fiaz and injuring Mohammad Pervez and Mohammad Siddique on the Railway Road in 1998. Ghulam Shabbir, a resident of Talamba area of Khanewal district killed Deputy Superintendent of Police Anwar Khan and his driver Ghulam Murtaza on the Bohar Gate Road Aug 4, 2000. Charges of sectarian violence were also proved against him. He was sentenced to death by a special anti-terrorism court June 21, 2002, and the conviction was later upheld by the Supreme Court. Both convicted men were hanged at 6 a.m. Earlier, strict security measures were taken around the jail precincts and the adjoining areas. Army personnel were deployed outside the jail, while elite force personnel were positioned inside the prison premises. Following the removal of moratorium, President Mamnoon Hussain has turned down mercy appeals of 17 convicts for death penalty. Since then, nine prisoners have been executed. After the moratorium was lifted, the first executions took place December 20, 2014. Aqeel alias doctor Usman and Arshad Mehmood were executed in Faisalabad on that day. A couple of days later, December 22, 2014, four more convicts, Zubair Ahmed alias Tauseef, Ikhlas Ahmed alias Roosi, Ghulam Sarwar and Rashid Mehmood alias Teepu were also hanged at district jail in Faisalabad. All four militants were convicted of their involvement in an attack on former president Pervez Musharraf. Later, December 31, 2014, Niaz Mohammad, a former Pakistan Air Force junior technician who was also convicted in the Pervez Musharraf assassination attempt case was executed at the Peshawar Central Prison. Even now though, 7791 prisoners are on death row in the country. (Business Standard  7/1/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

87. Suspected Maoist attack on stone quarrying unit in Kannur distirct of Kerala (12)

Thiruvananthapuram:  A suspected gang of Maoists attacked the office of a stone quarrying unit, situated near a tribal settlement close to forest region of Kannur district in the wee hours of Friday. The quarry has been facing protest from tribal people, indicating that Maoists are intervening in such issues sidelined by mainstream political parties in Kerala. According to police, a five-member armed gang damaged the furniture and took away CCTV cameras before torching the office of New Bharat Stone Crusher at Nedumpoyil under Peravoor police limits. They threatened the security staff at gunpoint and posted pro-Maoist notices in the premises of the office. The posters, issued on behalf of the western ghat zone of the CPI (Maoist), urged the tribals and farmers to gain control over soil, water and forest. The group, in military fatigue, raised slogans also. Later, the gang went to the nearby tribal colony. A woman named Radha told the media that they woke a family up to inform them that “we have attacked the quarry unit which has been causing trouble for you.’’ The colony had earlier also reported the presence of suspected Maoists activists more than once. Some of the colony inhabitants spoke in a manner that they were familiar with the members of the gang. This is the second suspected attack of Maoists at a stone quarrying unit in the western ghat region of North Kerala. In 2013, a quarry unit in Kozhikode district was attacked and an earth mover located in the unit was torched. Recently, Maoist pamphlet Kattuthee (forest fire) had warning against illegal quarrying units operating in the Western Ghats. Indicting the tourism industry for displacing tribals, it called for armed struggle to regain the control over soil, water and forest. Stone quarrying units and resorts have come up in large numbers in several sensitive zones in the Kerala belt of the Western ghat. A resort, which had allegedly erected on an alienated tribal land, had been attacked in Wayanad last month. Mainstream political parties have been silent on such stone units and resorts, which have come up floating norms. Friday’s incident came close on the heels of Kerala home minister Ramesh Channithala’s two-day visit to tribals belts in Wayanad as part of steps to instill confidence among tribals about government machinery. Chennithala had spent his new year in Wayanad dining with tribals. Chennithala said, “the attack in Kannur was a handiwork of those supporting Maoists.’’ (Indian Express 2/1/15)

88. Naxals: search on Varushanadu hill intensified (12)

THENI: The teams covered even village temples and tribal habitats in the Western Ghats as Maoists could easily win the confidence of tribal people  A special Naxal squad in association with forest officials intensified search operation on Varushanadu hill on Sunday to check possible migration of Naxals from Kerala, in the wake of an encounter between Thunderbolts personnel and an armed group in Wayanad district in Kerala. The team combed the hill bordering Kerala since morning. The operation would continue for some more days, said the police. Q Branch police had stepped up combing operation in the reserve forests along the Kerala border, especially the Western Ghats on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border, and also in upper Kodaikanal hill in Dindigul district. The teams covered even village temples and tribal habitats in the Western Ghats as Maoists could easily win the confidence of tribal people by fulfilling their basic needs and offering timely help. They suspected that they could mingle with nomads easily. A special team had watched even Sri Mangala Devi Kannagi Temple area where movement of men was very less. (The Hindu 5/1/15)

89. Two tribals killed by Maoists amid anti-rebel operations at Andhra-Odisha border (12)

Malkangiri (Odisha): Two tribals were killed by Maoists on suspicion of being police informers here, even as security forces launched an operation against the rebels at Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border. Around 30 armed ultras stormed Keriaguda village last night and took away the two youths from their houses, police said on Monday. Their bodies were later found by locals beside a forest road in the outskirts of the village, they said. The victims, who have been identified, were believed to have been beaten to death by the red rebels who suspected that the two were police informers, police said. A joint anti-Maoist operation was launched in the cut-off areas of Malkangiri district along Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border yesterday by the elite Greyhound police of Andhra Pradesh and Special Operation Group (SOG) personnel of Odisha, IG (South-West), YK Jethwa said. The operation was launched following information about activities of Maoists in the area and there were reports about exchange of fire taking place in few locations, he added.  (Zee News 5/1/15)

90. 5 Maoists ‘killed’ in joint Andhra-Orissa operation (12)

Bhubaneswar: At least five Maoists are suspected to have been killed in a significant anti-Maoist operation involving Greyhound force of Andhra Pradesh police, Orissa’s Special Operations Group and state police that started in the cut-off area of Malkangiri district on Sunday night. Inspector General of south-western range Yashwant Jethwa, however, said officially the deaths cannot be confirmed, as the teams have not recovered any body. “The operation is still on. There were three encounters in the last 24 hours. We have got information that there have been five casualties from the Maoist side. We can confirm about any casualties only after our teams return from the spot,” said Jethwa, adding that there was no casualty from the police side. Jethwa said the teams recovered several bags and grenades from the spot. The cut-off area, separated from mainland Orissa for last five decades due to Balimela reservoir, has been a hotbed of Maoist activities since last decade.  As the area is closer to Andhra Pradesh, Maoists from Andhra have been active there for over a decade. Maoists had abducted former district collector R Vineel Krishna in February 2011 from a village in cut-off area. Police officials said the operation started following intelligence information that the Maoists led by central committee member of the party Ramakrishna alias RK were running training camps at Vejingi and Pingapuram in the cut-off areas. However, police officials could not confirm if Ramakrishna managed to escape. They, however, said RK was probably addressing a plenary session in the area. Meanwhile, Maoists killed two tribals in Malkangiri district on Sunday night. About 30 armed rebels went to Keriaguda in Kalimela police station area in the evening and called out Jaga Kabasi and Jaga Sodhi. After conducting a ‘praja court’ in the village, they tied up the two villagers to a tree and beat them to death. (Indian Express 7/1/15)

TRAFFICKING

91. Bihar launches operation against child trafficking (1)

Patna, Jan 1 (IANS) Bihar Police Thursday launched a special drive named “Operation Mahavir” against trafficking of children, an official said. “We have launched ‘Operation Mahavir’ to trace and free children who are victims of human trafficking,” said Additional Director General of Police (Weaker Section) Arvind Pandey. He said police will observe 2015 as the year to free child victims of trafficking. A team of policemen has been set up in each of the 38 districts to crack down on gangs involved in trafficking of children. Police will closely monitor places like brick kilns, roadside hotels, markets, bus stands and railway stations to trace missing children. The Bihar government had told the Supreme Court in October 2014 that 2,241 children who went missing from the state have been recovered, while at least 617 were still untraced. (Yahoo News 1/1/15)

92. Three kids rescued, ZYF condemns trafficking (1)

Imphal: In the wake of the kidnapping of three minors from Tamenglong district by a 45-year-old man, Ozish, the Zelingrong Youth Front (ZYF), Assam, Manipur and Nagaland has cautioned people to be more vigilant and check the menace. Strife-torn Manipur has witnessed frequent cases of trafficking of children mostly from Tamenglong and other hill districts to other states over the last five years. Child activists, NGOs and government agencies have rescued hundreds of children from several unregistered homes in south Indian cities. The accused, Ozish from Maharastra, was travelling his car with the three kids towards Imphal when a CRPF frisking team rescued the children and pulled him up from Khambiron check post in the Zeliangrong-dominated district on Friday morning. Hailing from Nungba area, the kids revealed that they were kidnapped by the man and before long, irate locals torched Ozish’s car. A local court on Saturday remanded Ozish in police custody for a week. The children, all below 10 years of age, were kidnapped from near Puiluan, said the ZYF in a statement. ZYF cautioned people particularly the Zeliangrong community living along National Highway 37 ( Imphal-Silchar route) to be more vigilant as criminal activities frequently take place along the highway. An inquiry conducted by the ZYF revealed that Ozish had been travelling across the country in his car since July 2014, the statement said. (Times of India 5/1/15)

93. Up to 8,000 Nepali girls trafficked to Dubai (1)

NEW DELHI: A multi-agency international operation, led by Central Bureau of Investigation, has stumbled upon an organized racket of trafficking of young Nepalese girls to Dubai for alleged prostitution and Delhi’s IGI airport is the transit point for their travelling to the gulf country. The investigation has revealed that nearly 6000-8000 Nepalese girls aged between 20 to 30 years have been trafficked to Dubai via Delhi till December 2014. The agency has informed the ministry of external affairs, ministry of home affairs, bureau of immigration and Nepal authorities through Interpol about the organized syndicate, which sends the girls on tourist visas. The sources said during the inquiry which was being covertly conducted by the agency, probe officers collected information from Foreign Regional Registration Office, Air India, Qatar Airways, Bureau of Immigration and 15 travel agents based in Delhi. Giving details of modus operandi of the alleged trafficking, a senior agency official said, the girls are booked with tickets, provided visa and hotel reservation in Nairobi via Dubai for tourist purposes but when they land in Dubai, their tickets for Nairobi and hotel bookings are cancelled. The girls also carry with them ‘Paper Visa’ to work in Dubai which they keep hidden with them. Once the tickets are cancelled in Dubai, they go to their agents there, stay for two-three months and come back, the official claimed. When asked about Nairobi connection when they can easily go to Dubai and come back as they have valid documents, the official said there could be many reasons–the Nepalese officials seek details of employer and nature of work and prostitution is never encouraged, girl going to Dubai for work is a social stigma among others. The sources said after getting a tip-off, agency had carried out a surprise check which revealed that 76 girls were travelling to Nairobi via Dubai on an Air India flight in July 2014 after which records of such travels were checked. “We could not take any action as all the documents were found proper,” an official said. The official said that agency has written to MEA, MHA and other concerned authorities to look into the issue and plug the loop holes in the immigration system which is exploited by the agents to supply girls to gulf countries. It is very difficult to know if the person has completed his journey as per the travel itinerary specially on a paper visa, the official said adding that there were other loop holes also which have been flagged in the correspondence to the MEA and MHA, which controls the Bureau of Immigration. “We found that Indira Gandhi International Airport has emerged as a major transit point for alleged prostitution rackets supplying girls to gulf countries through such channels. We estimate about 6000-8000 girls being trafficked in such a manner till December alone. We have asked the MEA to look whether Indian girls or the girls of other SAARC countries are also sent in this manner,” the official said. (Times of India 7/1/15)

CORRUPTION

94. Property papers of over 40 acres recovered in raids (5)

RAIPUR: On-going searches by a joint operations team of Economic Offences Wing (EOW) and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on the premises of six officials of Chhattisgarh irrigation department, who were raided on Tuesday, has led to the recovery of documents relating to 40 acres of property, 2kg gold besides Rs 6 crore cash that was seized earlier. Raids were conducted on officials, including chief engineer BS Vaishnav and executive engineer Alok Agarwal and M Kujur, after a tip off. Their interrogation had subsequently led to more raids on the premises of their associates from where huge quantities of cash and other valuables were seized. Raids were conducted at 16 premises and over 100 personnel of EOW and ACB carried them out. (Times of India 1/1/15)

95. At least 102 govt employees in MP Lokayukta net in bribery case (5)

Indore: The Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta police caught red-handed 102 state government employees, from top rank officers to peon, for allegedly accepting bribe in Indore division last year. “A total 130 criminal cases were registered after 102 state government staffers were caught red-handed accepting bribe in 83 traps laid by the anti-corruption watchdog last year in the division,” Indore Lokayukta Superintendent of Police Arun Mishra told PTI today. He said that ill-gotten swanky houses, besides properties fetching Rs 7 to 8 crore according to present market value, of three officers including assistant engineer, have been attached under Madhya Pradesh Special Court Law, 2011 during last year in the division. The attached immovable properties are being used to run ‘aanganwadis’ and schools, he said. The Lokayukta police registered 37 cases against people for “misusing” official position, he said. Besides, chargesheets were filed in special courts in connection with 45 cases of corruption, Mishra said. The courts pronounced punishments in 22 cases, while in two cases the accused were acquitted, he said adding that the rest of the cases were being heard in courts. (Zee News 2/1/15)

96. 91 illegal appointment cases detected in Jorhat (5)

JORHAT, Jan 3 – Exposing an extreme case of corruption in Jorhat district, the findings of a district-level screening committee have revealed that 91 employees were illegally appointed in various offices of State Health department and hospitals including Jorhat Medical College Hospital (JMCH), who have already withdrawn several crores from the government exchequer, as their salaries for the past some years. Citing the detailed inquiry report and suggestions of the committee (received through RTI) at a press conference here on Friday, advocate Gautam Bora, Rintu Goswami and BJP State general secretary Santanu Pujari said the Deputy Commissioner of Jorhat has conspicuously refrained from taking any necessary action against the employees and the “corrupt” Health department officials and treasury officials who were found to be involved in the case of corruption. Pujari had sought documents from the Health department officials through RTI procedures in 2012, suspecting illegalities in the appointment, but the department’s officials allegedly refrained from giving him the official papers. However, as his repeated requests for a probe into the case, ultimately compelled the district administration to launch an investigation into the case by a 12-member screening committee. “The screening committee has observed that the placement of the field staff like vaccinator, SW and others in Jorhat Medical College and Hospital, Medical Institute and SHTO have created chaos in administration. Moreover, it is contrary to the interest of the public. The committee is of the opinion of stopping this kind of practice,” stated the screening committee’s report. The 12-member screening committee, comprising an Additional Deputy Commissioner, medical officers and a treasury officer detected the involvement of district malaria officer A Rahman, Guna Kalita (UDA), Sushil Dutta (head assistant), Mala Phukan (LDA), Md Siddique (retired accountant) Prabhat Saikia (bill clerk), Lakhyanath Pegu (UDA) in the case. During the probe, the committee found some other surprising facts about the massive cover-up by senior officials who refrained from preventing the illegalities in the offices concerned. While some employees were found withdrawing their salary without attending office, two others produced fake appointment letters. “Those employees were neither appointed nor transferred from any other districts to Jorhat. As powerful politicians and a few journalists of the electronic media are involved in the case, the officers did not take any initiative to stop this illegality in the district,” advocate Rintu Goswami stated. As the Deputy Commissioner is yet to take proper action against the corrupt officials to stop the illegal disbursement of public money from the treasury, advocate Goswami questioned the administrative role of the DC in this particular case. In their submission to the Deputy Commissioner, the screening committee also suggested action against the officials involved as per legal provisions. “The employees suspected to be involved in the case are still occupying their allotted tables in the same officilal capacity and thus creating problems in procuring official documents and related facts. Their continuation in service at the present positions will definitely hamper the process of investigation. The committee has expressed the opinion that the nexus existing in different branches of the Health department be broken up,” the report submitted to the Deputy Commissioner stated. (The Assam Tribune 3/1/15)

97. Corruption cases in TN up, but convictions see a fall (5)

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu appears to be a haven for corrupt government officials. The number of cases investigated by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-corruption (DVAC) has been going up since 2000 but the number of convictions has been dropping. Data from DVAC shows that the agency investigated and made enquiries in 295 cases in 2000-01, a number that went up to 462 in 2013-14. However, the conviction rate has dropped from 53 in 2000-01 to 21 in 2013-14. Experts and anti-corruption activists say ineffective investigation, sluggish judicial system, political pressure and poor law enforcement have resulted in the steady decline in the conviction rate. In several cases, officials say, complainants backtracked or withdrew from cases due to pressure from political parties. In many cases, said sources, the accused “convinces” the complainant to “settle the case privately”, a euphemism for bullying or compelling a person to withdraw a complaint. The number of enquiries and investigations taken up by DVAC has declined from 750 in 2005-06 to 381 in 2012-13. The numbers saw a marginal increase to 462 in 2013-14. The number of traps laid by DVAC to nab corrupt government staff has also reduced from 312 in 2008-09 to 206 in 2013-14. DVAC conducts investigations and enquiries into allegations of corruption and builds the case, which then goes to court. However, the conviction rate is poor. Activists have said DVAC should be brought under the preview of the Right to Information Act, 2005. They allege that DVAC has been kept out of the RTI ambit to prevent citizens from obtaining information on corruption cases. However, officials says bringing DVAC under RTI will affect investigations. (Times of India 6/1/15)

98. Peon from Land survey dept booked for demanding Rs 4 lakh bribe in Raigadh (5)

Thane: A peon with the Land Survey office in Raigadh district who allegedly demanded Rs 4 lakh bribe has been booked by the Thane Unit of the ACB. Additional SP ACB Thane Unit Shrinivas Ghadge told PTI Wednesday that peon Chandrakant Goud, with the Land Survey office at Panvel demanded the sum from the complainant on December 11, 2014 for carrying out a survey of a plot in Kharade Khurd. Following this, the complainant approached the ACB which registered an offence against the peon with the Panvel police station yesterday, he said. The peon has been booked under section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1998. He has not been arrested yet, the officer added. The complainant is working as a liasoning officer with the Anthony Garage which had a plot of land in Kharade Khurd for which the survey was to be carried out. (Zee News 8/1/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

99. Pollution turning Taj Mahal yellow: Study (9)

NEW DELHI: India’s white marvel, the Taj Mahal, is slowly turning brownish-yellow because of air pollution, says an Indo-US study which also identifies the pollutants responsible for the effect. It says Taj is changing colour due to deposition of dust and carbon-containing particles emitted in the burning of fossil fuels, biomass and garbage. The study confirms what has been suspected for long — that Agra’s poor air quality is impacting India’s most celebrated monument. The research was conducted by experts from US universities — Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin — as well as Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Archaeological Survey of India. The paper was published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal in December. The findings can lead to targeted strategies to curb air pollution in and around Agra and more effective ways to cleanse the marble surface of the 366-year-old mausoleum, which remains by far the most visited man-made structure in the country with footfalls of more than 6 million in 2013. The researchers first analysed air samples at the site for roughly a year using filters and found high concentrations of suspended particles that could potentially discolour Taj’s surface. Clean marble samples were then placed at various points on the monument accessible only to ASI staff. After two months of exposure, the samples were analysed using electron microscope and X-ray spectroscope. The pollutants deposited on the marble were identified through these investigations. Researchers found 3% of the deposits to be black carbon, around 30% organic carbon (or brown carbon) and most of the rest dust. Black carbon is emitted by vehicles and other machines that burn fossil fuels. Brown carbon is typically released through burning of biomass and garbage, a common practice in the region. S N Tripathi of IIT Kanpur, one of the authors, said the team then used a novel approach to estimate how these deposited particles would impact light reflecting off the marble surface. “We found that black carbon gives a greyish colour to the surface while the presence of brown carbon and dust results in yellowish-brown hues,” he said. “Results indicate that deposited light absorbing dust and carbonaceous particles are responsible for the surface discolouration of the Taj Mahal,” the study concludes. Since 2008, ASI has been trying to fight the yellowing of the monument by giving it a clay pack treatment using the lime-rich Fuller’s earth (Multani mitti) to clean the marble surface. Researchers are now keen on studying the efficacy of this method and finding ways of improving it. “Now that we know what’s causing the yellowing, the focus should now shift to undoing the effect,” Tripathi said. (Times of India 2/1/15)

100. ‘Concerned people’ vow to protect Western Ghats (9)

The meet convened by the People for Western Ghats at Peaceful Society, Madkai, unanimously resolved to work for the protection and conservation of the eco-sensitive, biodiversity-rich wildlife corridor in the Western Ghats. Pandurang Hegde and Kalandand Mani initiated and guided the discussions wherein various issues pertaining to the present status of protection and conservation of the Western Ghats, the concept of responsible tourism, politics behind non-implementation of Western Ghats Environment Expert Panel and efforts which are going on to dilute existing environmental laws were discussed. Members of the organizing group expressed grave concern over unplanned tourism activities hampering the eco-sensitivity of the biodiversity rich Dudhsagar valley of the Mollem National Park. Hegde cited the example of successful eco-tourism model followed at Sirsi, in Karnataka. Nirmal Kulkarni mentioned how compensatory afforestation funds which were to be used mainly for the purpose of afforestation and infrastructure were instead being utilized for tourism projects. Vaishali Patil informed that in Sindhudurg District of Maharashtra, a political decision seems to be taken not to implement ESA. A government order dated June 4, 2014, requires that public hearings are to be conducted for people’s opinions on ESA implementation, wherein a government representative comes up to the public and asks people for their opinion. People many occasions are misinformed about the implications of the ESA this causes panic and gram sabha resolutions are passed refusing the ESA notification thereby working detrimental for Western Ghats. Claude Alvares informed that the matter on implementation of the HLWG & WGEEP reports have been disposed by NGT (Application 26/2012), leaving scope for challenging any notifications in this regard. He also said that the gram sabha, the Biological Diversity Act and the 73rd Constitution Amendment Act[1] are paramount in environmental decision making at the grassroots. Members also discussed on issues of forest clearance, private forests, land regulation, Forest Rights Act, CRZ regulations, need for environment impact assessment, cumulative impact and carrying capacity. 14 resource persons from Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka took part in the meet. (Times of India 5/1/15)

101. Foresters step up chop down of invasive plant types in TN (9)

CHENNAI: The forest department has intensified its efforts to eradicate invasive plant species that pose a threat to native varieties and the natural ecosystem of protected areas such as wildlife and bird sanctuaries as well as elephant and tiger reserves. Officials said they are removing alien species like lantana camara complex, prosopis juliflora, a kind of mesquite native to Mexico and South America, and wattle (Acacia) and will then take steps to improve critical habitat. The Rs 7.5 crore project will cover an estimated 3,000 hectares of the total protected area of 6,078sqkm, or roughly 29% of the state’s total forest area. Protected areas in Tamil Nadu are split into 15 forest divisions. Foresters are removing lantana and prosopis juliflora, which heavily infest around 2,000 hectares in Tirunelveli, Srivilliputhur, Hosur and Dharmapuri divisions, making the forests in these areas uninhabitable for wildlife. They are also removing wattle from around 1000 hectares in the Nilgiris and Kodaikanal. They have so far razed wattle on 325 hectares and lantana on 500 hectares. Species like lantana complex, which includes four species, are ornamental plants from Mexico that spread very fast and do not allow other plants, shrubs or even grass to grow in the area they cover. This alien species and wattle can have a calamitous impact on biodiversity because they cause large-scale migration of herbivores or a severe decline in their numbers, which in turn leads to shortage of food sources for carnivorous animals like leopards and tigers. Principal chief conservator of forests Rama Kant Ojha, who is also chief project director of the Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening Project (TBGP), said foresters are using a standard technique to remove the plants. “We cut them at 3cm to 5cm below ground level, upward to the shoot before inverting the plant,” he said. “It is a systematic approach and a continuous process. We continuously monitor areas we have covered.” Prior to uprooting the plants, forest officials had conducted a survey to study the spread of alien plant species. They removed them pre- and post-monsoon. Officials said they are sowing seeds of local plants and grass seeds and have observed that local species were making a comeback in many places where invasive species were removed. The process, however, is long drawn. “After we remove the plants in one area, we have to move on to other areas where they have multiplied,” chief conservator of forests and TBGP project director Rakesh Kumar Dogra said. (Times of India 8/1/15)

102. Prakash Javadekar takes up ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (9)

Pune: Minister of State (MoS) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday participated in ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ in Pune. “I am very happy today that all the people, NGO’s, students and officers of the area in which I live in Pune , have come together to keep the surroundings clean,” said Javadekar. “Plastic, glass and thermacol increase the garbage. Daily around 15,000 tons of plastic garbage is produced out of which 9,000 ton is collected and 6,000 ton is left. This is very dangerous for our society,” he added. Talking of future plans in the same regard Javadekar said, “In every 100 meters a dustbin is going to be put. We are also planning to start a scheme under the name of ‘Plastic free India’. This is just the first step.” The cleanliness drive, which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014, focuses on sanitation, hygiene and waste management. It encourages people to sweep, remove garbage, debris and unauthorized encroachments from roads, markets and residential places. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan aims at making India a clean country by 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.  (Zee News 8/1/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

103. Take steps to stop suicides of farmers: TRRS (20)

SANGAREDDY: Telangana Rytu Rakshana Samithi (TRRS) has urged the policy makers to take steps to stop suicides of farmers. In a release here on Thursday, TRRS founder president Pakala Srihari Rao has alleged that casual handling of national agriculture policy has resulted in destroying economy of lakhs of farmers across the country apart from destroying gross domestic product (GDP). “The production cost of per acre has increased considerably while yield per acre has reduced drastically because of indifferent attitude by the rulers all these years,” he said. Profitable price to agriculture produce, linking of MNREGS to all agriculture operations, wavier of all private and crop loans of farmers, sanctioning of Rs. 1 lakh loan for each functioning bore well and implementing crop insurance in farmer friendly manner are some of the suggestions made by him. (The Hindu 2/1/15)

104. ‘Farmers suicide on rise since BJP came to power’ (20)

Hassan: Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda alleged, the number of farmers suicide has increased in the country after BJP came to power at the Centre. About 105 farmers suicide cases have been reported from Gujarat alone.An affidavit has been submitted to the Supreme Court in this regard, he said. Addressing a press meet, after attending a private programme here, on Sunday, Gowda said, his efforts to explain the status of the farmers of the State during the Winter Session of the Parliament turned futile. Though he had sought permission from the Speaker to speak about the plight of farmers in the Session, it was not considered. After a few days, he again sought permission under Act 193 as he was a former prime minister, it was also not considered. Though he has been seated in the first row, as he was a former prime minister, he was not given an opportunity to speak. “Should I attend the Parliament session just for Rs 2,000 allowance?” he questioned.  Pointing out the rumours that his Hassan stay has come to an end in a month, Gowda said, he was in Delhi attending the Winter Session. Later, he was involved in sorting out party issues and strengthening the party. He will visit Hassan on January 7 and 9, Gowda said. (Deccan Herald 5/1/15)

105. Cultivator reaps big with organic farming (20)

MADURAI: Unlike the usual trend of depending on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, an enterprising farmer here has adapted to organic farming and reaped a handsome harvest this year. A N M Tiruppathi from Kulamangalam village has revived the agricultural methods of his ancestors using cow and sheep dung and compost to enrich the soil, and adopted organic pesticides on his 15 acres of paddy cultivation. On Monday, Tiruppathi commenced the harvest of his land in the presence of officials from the agriculture department. The sample harvesting carried out on 20 cents of land in the presence of officials yielded 12 bags, with each weighing 66 kg. It is estimated that the harvest in one acre of land will touch the 60 bag-mark which, according to the agriculture department officials, is a good harvest. “He has been trying to convert his cultivation into the organic mode for many years and regularly sought information and ideas from us. He is an innovative farmer. The sample harvesting was quite promising,” said R Selvan, assistant director of agriculture. “When I was growing up, I saw my parents carrying out organic farming and switching to chemical inputs later. I have also observed how the quality of food grains deteriorated due to chemicals. Hence, I am reviving the organic agricultural practices and adapting them to the current trends. This way, I can harvest good crops which are eco-friendly and good for the health,” Tiruppathi said. To get the results, he has been regularly using green manure and cow dung on the soil and ploughing once every 15 days ahead of cultivation. To get quality seedlings, the nursery area was enriched with sea weeds, groundnut oil cake and pseudomonas, an organic insecticide that is used to control pest. “Wild paddy varieties are ideal for organic farming because they are resilient and require less agricultural inputs. Thus great expenditure is cut down on inputs, improving our profits,” Tiruppathi said. “It is a positive trend among the farmers in our district at present, since many are turning towards organic farming for good. There are innovative farmers who did not hesitate to combine modern technology and traditional knowledge,” said Jayasingh Gnanadurai, joint director of agriculture. (Times of India 5/1/15)

106. GM crops a solution to growing farmer suicide? (20)

Mumbai: Speakers said that there were some misunderstandings among the people regarding GM crops which needed to be addressed on a priority basis. Genetically modified crops can be a solution for the growing farmer suicide in the country. Speakers at the 102 nd Indian Science Congress while discussing in the symposium on “GM crops: the use of Modern Biotechnology in Agriculture” said that GM crops would be the long-term solution for the country. However, they added that there were some misunderstandings among the people regarding such crops which needed to be addressed on a priority basis. While highlighting the misunderstandings of the people regarding GM crops Dr Anupan Varma, senior scientist of the Indian national Science Academy said that people regarded genetically engineered crops to be against nature and harmful for consumption. Citing many examples of GM crops Dr Varma explained the need for resorting to modern technology and stressed on the need to give serious thought on the same. “Today India is doing well in the field of agriculture and is considered one of the foremost in cotton production due to the modern means of production adopted by the policy makers. However, the issue facing us is of bio-safety and a solution needs to be found by doing extensive research on different methods that can be adopted to avert the dangers of bio-degradation,” said another speaker. (Asian Age 6/1/15)

107. Agriculture extension service strengthened (20)

Coimbatore: The extension service in the agriculture sector in India has been strengthened and the ministry was paying special attention to technology transfer to farmers, a top official said here on Tuesday. Technologies are reaching farmers through various means, including training, regional melas, publications, exhibitions and production of video films, O P Dhahiya, Director, Farm Information, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, said. In his address to the Southern Regional Agricultural Fair and state-level farmers’ Day at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, he said the service in cooperation with the State extension wing has brought in phenomenal improvement in agricultural development and increased farmers’ income. Inaugurating the Fair, C Rajendran, Joint Secretary, Deparment of Agriculture, Tamil Nadu,said doubling productivity and tripling farmers’ income was their motto. Since most farmers involved in food production are poor, the government was aiming at promoting welfare schemes for them, he said, adding value addition and storage facilities would be given more importance in years to come. K Ramasamy, Vice-Chancellor, TNAU said regional fairs were organised with the objective of allowing farmers know the technologies and scientists and extension workers to know what was to be done in future. Despite 11 districts in last year and 31 districts in penultimate year were declared as drought hit, Tamil Nadu produced 11.3 million tonnes of foodgrains, he said. He asked farmers to regularly visit the fields and properly utilise technologies in an era of changing food habits and climate. With the theme ‘Profitable and Sustainable agriculture,’ hundreds of farmers from Southern States – Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry are participating in the four day fair. (Business Standard 7/1/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

108. Trinamool opposes ordinance amending Land Acquisition Act (4)

Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress, which has vowed not to implement the proposed amendments in the Land Acquisition Act, took out rallies across West Bengal Wednesday, protesting the “black ordinance” approved by the Narendra Modi cabinet. “The ordinance has been approved without any consultations with the chief ministers of the states. The ordinance has been cleared undemocratically and we will never allow this draconian law to be implemented in Bengal,” Trinamool trade union leader Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay said. Taking out rallies in the city as well as in other districts of the state, including North 24-Parganas and Birbhum, the Trinamool leaders burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as copies of the “black ordinance”.Accusing the Modi government of “bulldozing” democracy, Trinamool supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Tuesday asserted that her government will not implement the proposed amendments in the Land Acquisition Act. “As long as I am alive, I will never allow any forcible acquisition of land. They will have to acquire land only on my dead body,” Banerjee had said Tuesday, calling the people to burn the “black ordinance” that was approved by the Modi cabinet Monday. The amendment to the Land Acquisition Act was approved to remove “procedural difficulties” in acquiring land for national projects and to “further strengthen” provisions concerning “affected families”.”Trinamool and Mamata Banerjee will never allow such a draconian law to be implemented in Bengal. We will continue to protest against the Centre’s attack on democracy,” Chattopadhyay, leading a rally in the city, said. (New Kerala 1/1/15)

109. Left Front stir against ‘anti-farmer’ land act (4)

Kolkata: The CPI-M led Left Front in West Bengal Friday announced a state wide agitation Jan 5 against the proposed amendments in the Land Acquisition Act, calling them “undemocratic” and “anti-farmer”.Front chairman Biman Bose said the ordinance approved by the Narendra Modi cabinet to amend the law doesn’t caters to the interest of the farmers. “During the (erstwhile) UPA regime, when the land amendment bill was brought before the parliamentary standing committee, it was agreed that interests of all those associated with land, apart from land-owners, will also be looked into. But this ordinance has omitted those clauses,” Bose told media persons here. “The step by the central government making changes in the Land Acquisition Act is anti-democratic and anti-farmer,” he said, adding that the Left will Jan 5 undertake a statewide agitation. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too has opposed the amendments to the act that seek to remove “procedural difficulties” in acquiring land for national projects and to “further strengthen” provisions concerning “affected families”. (Business Standard 2/1/15)

110. Land acquisition act amendments for enhanced compensation: Jaitley (4)

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Sunday came out against criticism of the amendments to the land acquisition act, made through an ordinance, saying they “balance the developmental needs of India, particularly rural India” and provides enhanced compensation to the land-owners. In a Facebook posting, titled “Amendments to the Land Acquisition Law – The Real Picture”, he said that the 2013 Act had “over 50 drafting errors” and the “provision” in the ordinance with regard to rectification of errors “will be used to cure most of them. “Some are being cured through this ordinance which alters the earlier mandate of the 2013 law that unused land has to be returned five years after the acquisition. The earlier provision was clearly defective”.”Creation of smart cities, townships, industrial corridors, business centres, defence projects, cantonments, ports, nuclear installations, building of highways, irrigation projects, dams have a long gestations period. They cannot be completed in five years. “If the earlier provision is to be effected, we would be a nation of incomplete projects on account of defective legislative drafting,” he said. Countering criticism of the acquired land to be also given to developers, he said that the draft provisions of the 2013 Act “enthusiastically provide that no part of an acquired land could be used for a private educational institution or a hospital. “How will new smart cities and townships come up? Will they only have a civil hospital and a government school/college and no other healthcare and educational institutions will be allowed to be established there? “The ordinance permits hospitals and educational institutions to be established on an acquired land. That is the purpose of acquisition for townships. A township without a social infrastructure would be inherently incomplete.” Jaitley said the needs of “a modern growing and developing India need a balanced approach” where “development and justice to the land-owner must coexist. One cannot be done at the cost of the other”. According to him, the amendment ordinance “is based on extensive consultations where state government of most political parties supported these changes. Those who are opposed to it can certainly mandate their party’s state governments not to use the provisions of the ordinance. History will judge how these states will lose out in the era of competitive federalism. On Dec 31, the government promulgated an ordinance to amend provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, 2013. (Business Standard 4/1/15)

111. ‘Ordinance will harm rural population’ (4)

New Delh: Alleging that the ordinance passed by the Centre on land acquisition is against the interests of farmers and the rural population of the national capital, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal announced on Sunday that the party will not allow the BJP government to acquire land of farmers in Delhi without their consent. The party said that the public meeting marked the beginning of the AAP’s nationwide campaign against the ordinance and the party will organise protest meetings across the capitals of states and district headquarters from Monday onwards. Addressing the party’s Village Dialogue at Chattarpur, the former chief minister of Delhi said that the ordinance brought by Narendra Modi government to amend the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 is against the interests of farmers and the AAP will strongly oppose it. “Both the changes made in the ordinance to amend the 2013 law will adversely affect the farmers and rural population of Delhi. The party is of the clear view that land owned by farmers can only be acquired by the government, if they are in favour of it and forcible acquisition cannot be allowed,” he said. He asserted that the Modi government had imposed its wrong decision on the country by removing the clause from the 2013 law on land acquisition which made it mandatory to seek a consent of around 70 per cent land owners of the area, but the ordinance states no consent will be required for acquisition in five particular categories, which are so wide that government can now acquire land for private companies without caring for farmers. Referring to the second change made by the ordinance, which removes the clause related to return of land to the owner in case the purpose for which it was acquired is not completed within five years, Mr Kejriwal said this change in the 2013 law is particularly detrimental to the interests of poor people of Delhi. Citing the example of unauthorised colonies, the AAP chief said that in some parts of Delhi such colonies have come up on the land owned by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). “These colonies have not been regularised since a long time due to wrong policies of successive governments, does it mean that now the government agencies will become the owner of this land according to the provisions of the ordinance,” he questioned. He said according to this ordinance, the land on which unauthorised colonies stand will now be called government land, which means that it can demolish these colonies at will or it can eve charge a higher amount from house owners in the name of regularising them. Mr Kejriwal said the ordinance on land acquisition has been brought to please the corporate houses which had spent a hefty amount on BJP’s campaign for the Lok Sabha elections. (Asian Age 5/1/15)

112. ‘Take people into confidence before amending LA Act’ (4)

HYDERABAD: Concerned citizens representing a broad spectrum of political parties and people’s organisations on Tuesday expressed their fears over the way amendments were being proposed to the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 in the form of an ordinance and said people’s consultation was a must before any amendments were made. At a round table conference on the ordinance issued by the Government of India on Land Acquisition, Relief and Rehabilitation Act 2013, organised by the Bhoomi Upadhi Hakkula Vedika and Dalit Bahujan Front, Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC) chairman M. Kodandaram said in the past, land was acquired only for irrigation projects or for large factories, but post 1990s, private parties with influence have managed to acquire large tracts of land. While influential people managed to get away without losing their land, it is the poor who always suffered, he said, adding that any amendments to the draconian Act could be proposed only after extensive consultations with the concerned people. He wanted the government to withdraw the proposed amendments, saying it amounted to violation of people’s rights. Senior journalist Mallepalli Laxmaiah from the Telangana Intellectuals’ Forum said that earlier there was a social mobilisation aspect to land acquisition to establish whether it was for a public purpose or not. The government could take any land, but for specific purposes only, if it were for infrastructure development or housing and the like, but public consultation was an integral part of the process, he pointed out. Others who spoke on similar lines included P. Shankar representing the Bhoomi Upadhi Hakkula Vedika, Congress leaders M. Kodanda Reddy and Addanki Dayakar, researchers Usha Seetalaxmi and Ashalatha, Secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, Andhra Pradesh, P. Madhu and Malla Reddy of the CPI(M), former MLA of the CPI Gunda Mallesh, K. Goverdhan of the CPI-Marxist Leninist (New Democracy) and Sunil of the Rural Development Institute (The Hindu 7/1/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

113. ‘Health system in India ill-equipped’ (3)

New Delhi: Expert said that the weak health system in the country is not geared to provide an effective response on major health indicators, such as infant mortality, maternal mortality and child nutrition. Public Health Foundation of India president Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, said that India’s health system is ill-equipped to deal with these concomitant challenges, at the desired level of access, affordability and quality. While some tertiary care institutions are world-class, primary and secondary care services have suffered from gross neglect, Prof. Reddy added. Prof. Reddy was giving annual oration of Ganga Ram Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (GRIPMER on “Health Assurance: Giving Shape to a Slogan”. Highlighting India’s challenges and solutions in providing Universal Health Care (UHC), Prof. Reddy said, “India is confronting multiple health challenges but its weak health system is not geared to provide an effective response. On major health indicators, such as infant mortality, maternal mortality and child nutrition.” “Low levels of public financing, severe shortages in several categories of health professionals and frontline functionaries, weak regulatory systems and variable standards of governance across states have combined to debilitate India’s health system over the years,” he added. He pointed out that India compares poorly with many developing countries, including several South Asian neighbours. At the same time, there is a surge in cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, mental illness, respiratory disorders and other chronic diseases which are killing or disabling millions of young or middle-aged adults. On the occasion, chairman (board of management), Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Dr D.S. Rana, said that 90 research project of the GRIPMER are being funded by the ICMR, department of biotechnology, WHO, department of science and technology, ministry of environment and many others. (Asian Age 1/1/15)

114. Government set to revamp health policy for BPL families (1)

New Delhi: Introduced during the UPA regime, the government is all set to revamp the existing Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), a scheme that provides cashless health insurance of up to `30,000 per year to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. While, the scheme is at present managed by the labour ministry, it will soon be transferred to the health ministry. The Union health ministry has already worked on the broad contours of the scheme and a meeting to this effect has already been taken in the PMO recently. According to senior officials in the health ministry, the existing scheme, once streamlined, will be part of the newly-proposed National Health Assurance Mission (NHAM) — which plans to offer a basket of services by providing 50 essential medicines, diagnostic services, etc. The scheme is likely to be started from January in a phased wise manner. To start with, the RSBY will be responsible for providing secondary health services, unlike the NHAM — which will help poor get free treatment. RBSK covers over three crore workers from the unorganised sector. The Central government under the ministry of labour & employment, had launched the RSBY in 2008. According to the government figures, while the population coverage under the various schemes increased from almost 55 million people in 2003-04 to about 370 million in 2014 (almost one-fourth of the population). Nearly two-thirds (180 million) of this population are those in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category. Evaluations show that schemes like RSBY, have improved utilisation of hospital services, especially in private sector and among the poorest 20% of households and SC/ST households. However, there are some problems. “One problem is low awareness among the beneficiaries about the entitlement and how and when to use the RSBY card. Another is related to denial of services by private hospitals for many categories of illnesses, and over supply of some services improve access to hospitalisation services and to protect households from high medical expenses,” the newly-proposed health policy 2015 reads. The RSBY scheme which is now all set to be shifted to the ministry of health & family welfare, will help the state and Central ministry move to a tax financed single payer system approach. (Asian Age 3/1/15)

115. Tribal health issues to be targeted separately (3)

New Delhi: Separating tribal health issues from the mainstream, malaria, sickle cell anaemia, nutrition and maternal and child health would now be targeted in a new initiative of the government. “Statistics say that the tribal health issues are different from the mainstream health issues as a result of which they are in the bottom line of indication,” an official release said here Tuesday. All these special tribal health issues would be discussed threadbare at a seminar jointly being organized by the ministry of tribal affairs and the Indian Council of Medical Research, the release said. The main objective of the day-long seminar to be held Wednesday is to share good case studies and researches to eradicate burning health problems of the tribals and to find out how the findings from these case studies can be replicated by other states. The seminar would also discuss the role of various ministries and agencies, including NGOs. The release said that the initiatives would be taken to make small and affordable measures which can significantly reduce the health risks that women face when they become pregnant. A web-enabled mother and child tracking system is also being implemented by the health department as a mission mode project under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) to register and track every pregnant woman. (New Kerala 6/1/15)

116. NGO launches campaign on sanitation hygiene (3)

Habitat for Humanity, an NGO engaged in housing and sanitation, has initiated a sanitation behaviour change movement around the coastal belts of Puducherry using street plays and dance skits. Rolled out under the ‘Sensitise to Sanitise Campaign’, the drive focused on bringing behavioural change among coastal residents and raising the need for sanitation hygiene. The programme reached out to over 600 coastal residents who were sensitised on the importance of hygiene, especially the need to end the practice of open defecation, and the risks of disease from poor sanitary lifestyles. As part of a handwashing drive, residents — especially children — were taught to properly wash hands to prevent diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera, which are major killers in India. According to Rajan Samuel, managing director, Habitat for Humanity, India, more than 70 per cent of Indians practise open defecation due to lack of access to functional sanitation facilities. “Even where facilities are available, people prefer to practice open defecation due to cultural and social barriers…we are keen to bring about behavioural change through structured education and awareness campaigns,” he said. (The Hindu 8/1/15)

HIV/AIDS

117. HIV positives find perfect matches, new lives (3)

NASHIK: Youth living with HIV/AIDS are increasingly breaking the shackles of social stigma to start life afresh in the form of life partners through a city-based non-governmental organization. Ravindra Patil of Yash Foundation, the NGO working with support from Mahindra & Mahindra as part of its corporate social responsibility, said they have come a long way since 2007 in terms of providing nourishment to children living with HIV/AIDS and rehabilitation programmes and opportunities to women living with the disease, especially after they lost their husbands and abandoned by family members. “Our focus is now on match-making so that the young people living with HIV/AIDS can lead a positive life,” he said. Rajesh, a mechanical engineer from Mumbai, “I was 28 when I was diagnosed with AIDS. The world surrounding me changed all of a sudden and I felt that all doors of opportunities were closed for me. Leading a regular life appeared impossible. It was like being confined in a dark room. For couple of years, I struggled to come to terms with the fact and I was losing on health. But it was after I got in touch with the foundation that I realised that there is life beyond HIV/AIDS. Members of foundation helped me find a bride. And life is beautiful once again,” Starting with enquiries from eight eligible PLHAs (People Living with HIV/AIDS) and converting one into marriage in 2010, the foundation in 2014 received 180 enquiries. Three marriages were solemnised and another eight confirmed. “After working with children for three years, our focus shifted to the youngsters and hence we started Mangal Maitri, an annual event that brings the prospects together. Considering the figures, 2014 was the best in the past three years. Currently, as 22 youths have found partners for themselves through our organisation. The prospects are bachelors as well as the ones who are in their widowhood,” Patil said. The first marriage solemnised by the organisation was between the two individuals, whose partners had succumbed to the disease. They both adopted each other with their children and that started off the marriage. “There are common queries about trying to look for people from the same castes. But there are also others who want to go ahead with life with a suitable person,” Patil added. Similar is the case of Shankar and Sarita, who got married in 2012. They now have a one-year child. While Shankar works with an engineering firm, Sarita is in the medical field. Both of them acquired the disease from their parents. However, timely monitoring and treatment ensured they being in better health till date. “I joined the NGO sometime around 2008. I was in college then. I participated voluntarily in programmes organised for the positive people. I eventually came across Sarita, who had registered in the marriage bureau of the NGO. We are from different castes but our parents were for us living together,” said Shankar. (Times of India 1/1/15)

118. Ability of HIV to cause AIDS slowing: study (3)

London: A research study has found that HIV – and as a consequence AIDS — is slowly becoming less aggressive in parts of Africa. These are the significant findings of a study conducted by Professor Philip Goulder and his team at the Nuffield Department of Medicine at Oxford University that have been published in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. Based on a study of about 2,000 pregnant women in Botswana and South Africa, the team has demonstrated that the weakening of the immunodeficiency virus is due to its rapid evolution and ability to mutate over time. In Botswana the epidemic took off in the 1980s, a decade before it hit South Africa. “Overall we are bringing down the ability of HIV to cause AIDS so quickly,” Prof. Goulder told Reuters. Scientists were aware that a gene known as HLA-B*57 in a person acted as a protection against the HIV virus. The new study finds that the virus has adapted to the gene, which therefore no longer offers protection. However, the unforeseen result of this is that the mutation of the virus also weakens it and reduces its ability to replicate. One reason for this could be because of the growing use of HIV drugs. “HIV adaptation to the most effective immune responses we can make against it comes at a significant cost to its ability to replicate,” Prof. Goulder told Reuters. “Anything we can do to increase the pressure on HIV in this way may allow scientists to reduce the destructive power of HIV over time.” Although it is too early to extrapolate the findings to other regions of the world, the study “does serve to highlight the tremendous progress that has been made in the response to HIV since the virus first gained attention as a public health threat. It also serves to highlight the vital nature of funding for research to improve our understanding of the virus and to develop potential vaccines and treatments,” Matt Grady, Policy & Networks Adviser of the campaign group STOPAIDS told The Hindu. He said that although there had been a huge increase of people accessing treatment, today 60 per cent of adults living with HIV are outside the treatment net. “Without the financial and political leadership required to accelerate towards the end of AIDS, potential scientific breakthroughs like the one announced will not have the impact needed,” Mr. Grady said. (The Hindu 2/1/15)

119. NGO bid for HIV/AIDS awareness (3)

GUWAHATI, Jan 3 – With an aim to promote awareness about the prevention of HIV/AIDS, the Population Health Services, India (PHSI), North-East, launched a communication van activity at the start of the New Year. Specifically targeting the rural populace and youths, the van will hold an awareness campaign about the correct and consistent use of condoms. The PHSI, a non-profit NGO with pan-India operations, is supported by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), which monitors and supervises its activities. The organization has its presence in the North-eastern States of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The van is going to travel around the State in the five districts of Kamrup (Metro), Kamrup, Dhubri, Sonitpur and Barpeta. The van was flagged off by Probal Baruah, Field Operation Manager, PHSI-NE. “Principally supported by the NACO, we also have an activity sharing collaboration with the Assam State AIDS Control Society. The communication van is an SUV which carries awareness messages regarding condom usage. The principal motive of the PHSI-NE is to spread awareness regarding HIV/AIDS,” Pranom Datta Mazumdar, Communications Manager, NE, told The Assam Tribune. The respective promoter in each district will travel along with the van, and conduct interpersonal communication activity among the general population, specifically targeting the rural masses, migrant labourers and the youths. The activity has already been initiated in some of the areas under the Chandrapur block, targeting migrant labourers and the youths in general. “The communication van activity of the PHSI-NE will certainly enhance the visibility about condom promotion in Assam and help in reaching the general masses, thus leading to awareness about precaution from HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infection and prevention of unwanted pregnancies,” said Mrinal Kanti Ghosal, State Programme Manager of the organization. (The Assam Tribune 3/1/15)