HR News

Volume 17                                                    No. 7                                   March 10, 2015

HR NEWS: March 10, 2015

(From March 1 to 10, 2015)

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Less cash for Dalits, tribals (2)

New Delhi, March 1: Finance minister Arun Jaitley has slashed the overall allocation for Dalits and tribals in his budget compared with last year’s proposals in a trend critics fear could see the “last man” gradually becoming the “lost man”.The media, too, came in for criticism for giving the “impression” that the country had no SC/ST citizens. Jaitley yesterday set aside Rs 30,851 crore for Scheduled Castes and Rs 19,980 crore for Scheduled Tribes out of a total plan allocation of Rs 4,65,277 crore for the coming 2015-16 financial year. That works out to 6.6 per cent of the total outlay for SCs and 4.3 per cent for STs. Last year’s budget – presented after the BJP came to power in May – had set aside Rs 50,548 crore and Rs 32,287 crore for SCs and STs, which accounted for 8.8 per cent and 5.6 per cent, respectively, of the total outlay of Rs 5,75,000 crore. The 2014 allocations were higher – in both outlay and percentage – compared with what the UPA government had set aside for SC/STs in 2013. Of the total plan outlay of Rs 5,55,322 crore in 2013 – the last full budget by the UPA government – the allocation for SCs was Rs 41,561 crore (7.48 per cent) and that for STs, Rs 24,598 crore (4.43 per cent). CPM politburo member K. Varadharajan said all governments speak about the “significance of Antodaya”, referring to the government policy that the last man on the socio-economic ladder should get priority in welfare schemes. “The SCs and STs are historically the last persons. The last man is the lost man in the budget and policy planning,” Varadharajan said. When the Planning Commission – now replaced by the Niti Aayog – was still active, it issued guidelines from time to time on how funds should be set aside for SCs and STs. The guidelines suggested that outlays should earmark exclusive funds equivalent to the population proportion of SC/STs nationally and within the states under the SC Sub-Plan (SCSP) and the ST Sub-Plan (STSP). According to the 2011 census, SCs accounted for 16.6 per cent of the country’s population and STs, 8.6 per cent. P.S. Krishnan, former secretary, welfare department, Government of India, said it was “deplorable” that the allocation for SC/STs had come down substantially. “Whatever is being allocated for SCs and STs is not being utilised,” Krishnan added. Money meant for exclusive schemes is shown to have been spent as part of other schemes like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan or the national highway project, reducing the SCSP and the STSP to arithmetical jugglery, he said. This year’s Union budget has just one exclusive scheme – the MUDRA Bank scheme – that will give priority to SCs and STs in giving loans for setting up micro-enterprises. “One scheme is a drop in the desert. The historical neglect and continuing discrimination against these people cannot be addressed by one scheme,” Krishnan said. Krishnan was also critical of the media. “The media coverage of the budget gives the impression that there are no SCs and STs in the country or they do not matter for the development of the nation,” he said. Balabhadra Majhi, a Lok Sabha MP from Odisha’s Nabarangpur tribal constituency, said the government must bring in a law for exclusive allocation of funds and schemes according to the population proportion of SC/STs. (The Telegraph 2/3/15)

2. Temple locked following dispute over entry of Dalits in Tamil Nadu (2)

Salem: Prohibitory orders were on Tuesday clamped in 21 villages in the district and a temple locked by revenue officials apprehending trouble after Adi Dravidar community people were allegedly barred from attending its consecration slated tomorrow by caste Hindus. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC were promulgated in the villages, including Thirumalaigiri where the Lord Shiva temple is located, as tension prevailed in the region following the dispute over participation of the Adi Dravidar (Dalits) community people in the consecration, police said. According to police, the Shiva temple had been renovated at a cost of Rs crore by collecting donations. Ahead of the consecration, the dominant Vanniyar community representatives allegedly refused to allow Adi Dravidars from offering worship at the temple tomorrow, leading to a near-clash between them. Revenue and police officials rushed to the village and made attempts to pacify the warring communities and sort out the problem but could not succeed. In view of the situation, Salem Revenue Divisional Officer Sheik Moideen ordered the temple to be locked and clamped prohibitory orders banning entry of anyone into the temple and gathering near it, police said. Police pickets have been posted in the village and Salem Police Commisioner A Amalraj visited the spot and inspected security arrangments.  (Zee News 4/3/15)

3. Dalits Move Madras HC For Permission to Conduct ‘Untouchability’ Conference (2)

MADURAI: A Dalit Christian forum has moved the Madras High Court bench here seeking police permission for its proposed conference in Sivaganga district aimed at creating awareness about eradicating “untouchability” in Christian community. When the petition by Federation of Dalit Christian People seeking a direction to police to grant permission for its March 15 state-level conference came up for hearing, Justice P Rajendran directed the police file their counter. The petitioner said all arrangements for the conference had been made but the Superintendent of Police was not giving permission for it. The Dalits have the right to raise their voice and protest against untouchability. Hence the court should direct the police to give permission for organising the conference. During the hearing, counsel for police said the venue of the conference was a sensitive area and the participants would have to cross the local Bishop’s House, which would cause law and order problem. Police also rejected three other locations suggested by the Federation coordinator D Arul Justin Diraviam, saying they were also sensitive areas. (New Indian Express 5/3/15)

4. Rape of Dalit women registers 500% increase since 2001, RTI reveals (2)

Gansdhinagar: Rape of Dalit women rose in Gujarat over the last 13 years, reaching the highest in 2014, higher by 500 per cent since 2001, says an RTI reply. The reply to an RTI application by Mehsana-based human rights activist Kaushik Parmar, from the office of Director General of Police (DGP), Gujarat, revealed that 74 Dalit women were allegedly raped and cases were registered under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, in 2014. According to the RTI reply, dated February 23, 2015 – provided by Deputy Superintendent of Police of DGP Office, G M Malek – the number records five-time increase in the rape incidents against Dalit women, compared to 2001 when only 14 such cases were recorded. The data provided in reply to the RTI application reveal that total 501 rape cases were registered between January 2001 and December 2014. Incidentally, the Government of Gujarat launched the women’s helpline ‘Abhayam’ in November that year for the state to check atrocities on women. The figures are in stark contrast to the state government’s claims on women’s empowerment, like 50 per cent reservation for women in local bodies, enforcing 33 per cent reservation for women in police force and highest Budget allocation for social sector. Commenting on the data, Parmar said, “The five-fold increase in the number of rape cases in Gujarat even when the chief minister is a woman shows that the tall claims of Gujarat Government on women empowerment and social harmony are hollow.” Minister of State (Home), Rajnikant Patel, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts. The RTI reply also provided data, as sought by Parmar, on the number of villages in Gujarat where Dalits were provided police protection against local influential communities in different districts. According to the reply, police protection has presently been provided to Dalits by the government in 116 villages of the state. (Indian Express 8/3/15)

5. Caste Cruelty against Dalits on Rise in South TN (2)

CHENNAI: Violence against Dalits have increased in the last few years in Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli districts with the dominant caste Hindus even going to the extent of carrying out well-planned murders to eliminate Dalits, said K Krishnasamy, president of Puthiya Tamilagam party. Speaking to reporters in a press meet here on Saturday, Krishnasamy said that last year alone around 90 Dalits were murdered in inter-caste conflicts in these two southern districts. “Caste related violence existed in these districts earlier also. But now it has gone to the extent where dominant caste members hire henchmen to eliminate Dalits who dare raise their voice against the oppression. In these 90 murders, people were specifically targeted and executed by professional assailants, as is evident from the injuries the victims suffered,” he said. L Ramakrishnan, whose younger brother L Baskaran was murdered at Pichanar Thoppu village near Srivaikundam in Thoothukudi district, said his brother was killed for daring to question the caste Hindus for intentionally letting cattle graze in the lands of Dalits. “There are about 80 families of our community living in the village which is otherwise dominated by a caste Hindu community. They repeatedly abuse and ill-treat our community people and our children can’t study in the local school or college. They try various forms of oppression and one of them is to intentionally destroy our crops. When my brother questioned them, they executed him in a well-planned murder when he was driving alone on February 22 night,” he said. He added that the caste Hindus, have also disconnected cable TV connection to Dalit houses. “They say we have apologise and only then will the cable connection be restored. What wrong did we do?”, he said. Lakshmanan, whose son Dharmaraj was murdered in Gopalasamudram village in Tirunelveli district in November 2013, said Dharmaraj was killed on Deepavali day by henchmen engaged by the dominant community in their village. “Just a week prior to that, he supported a girl from our community with whom men from other community were trying to misbehave. He also lodged a police complaint against them,” Lakshmanan told reporters. Rajeswari, whose school-going son Mariselvan was found murdered on February 5 in Vellagal village in Tirunelveli district, too believes that it was the caste Hindus who killed her son and his friend Murugan. Krishnasamy charged that the police were lethargic in taking action against those responsible for these gruesome murders, which is only emboldening the dominant community members. “Soon after each murder, a few persons surrender with the police. But even the police know these are not the real culprits,” Krishnasamy said. (New Indian Express 9/3/15)

TRIBALS

6. Leaders, officials must help tribals join mainstream: Government (6)

MYSURU: Tribals residing in deep forests need to live in civilized society so as to avoid being discriminated. Political leaders and government officers must work in tandem for their development, said social welfare minister H Anjaneya. After inaugurating Tribal Utsav organized by Karnataka State Tribal Research Institute (KSTRI) at Fine Arts College in Manasagangotri campus here on Saturday, the minister said that many people form backward classes are suffering because of social discrimination like untouchability. “But now, some of them have joined mainstream with the help of education, and occupied various positions in organizations. Thus, many of them are avoiding being discriminated. But tribals living in forests are still being humiliated. They can end this by coming out of forests,” he said. Citing some tribal communities in the state, the minister said: “Many people are living in the wild, amidst tigers and elephants. Some of them many have lost lives due to man-animal conflicts. The government is striving to help tribals. The authorities must ensure their development by providing facilities like water and infrastructure.” Further, Anjaneya said that tribal youths are talented. “There is a need to recognize such youths and tap their talents. To encourage and to promote them, KSTRI has contributed Rs 50,000 each for troupes of Koragas of Dakshina Kannada and Jenu Kuraba communities,” he added. KSTRI director T T Basavanagowda said that Utsav is an opportunity for civilized society to enjoy and gain knowledge on various tribal communities in the state. “It is also an opportunity for tribals to showcase their lifestyle, food and culture among people,” he added. Various tribal troupes from Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, Chikkamagaluru, Kodagu, HD Kote and Chamarajanagar demonstrated their folk talent while taking part in a procession from Maharaja’s College Grounds to Fine Arts College. Anjaneya also walked a distance in the procession. Over 20 tribal communities from across the state showcased their culture. In a move to encourage entrepreneurship among tribals and to promote their produce, the social welfare department has organized an exhibition-cum-sale of tribal handicrafts. A range of forest products like medicinal items, honey bee, antique ware, ornaments, agricultural equipment and household items of tribals are on display. The government is chalking out a plan to set up a museum to document history, tradition and culture of tribals in the state. “We have been collecting items belonging to different tribal communities to be exhibited in museum. Tribals their own lifestyle, tradition and culture, of which many are vanishing. We want them to protect and preserve for posterity,” Anjanyea said. Revenue minister V Srinivas Prasad, Mysuru ZP president B Pushpa Amarnath, Mysuru deputy mayor Mahadevamma and others were present. (Times of India 1/3/15)

7. National panel seeks status report of tribes (6)

New Delhi, March 3: National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has asked Jharkhand government to submit a status report on the living conditions of particularly vulnerable tribal communities, seeking an assessment that many believe is long overdue. Nine among 32 tribal communities in the state whose populations have steadily declined over the years through a combination of factors like low birth rate and early mortality are considered “endangered” and thus particularly vulnerable. “We’ve asked for details such as their headcount, literacy rate and socio-economic status,” commission chairman Rameshwar Oraon told The Telegraph. “We also want to know whether various government welfare schemes are reaching core tribal areas of Jharkhand.” Oraon said the commission was particularly concerned about the dwindling population of two communities, Birjia and Sabar, each numbering less than 10,000 as per the 2011 census. The other vulnerable tribes, who are primarily hunter-gatherers, are Asur, Birhor, Hill Kharia, Korwa, Mal Paharia, Paharia and Sauria. Their total population is estimated to be about 4 lakh. Literacy rate of vulnerable tribal groups is over 20 per cent, according to the 2011 census, which pegged the state’s average literary rate at 66 per cent. The average monthly income of a tribal household is between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500. The state government is responsible for implementing around 10 schemes for betterment of tribal communities in areas of education, health, social and economic empowerment, although some of these are funded by the centre. But sources in the commission claimed Jharkhand’s spending of the funds for welfare schemes has been extremely poor, barely 20 per cent of the money spent reached target groups. “Funds are either unutilised or diverted for purposes other than they are intended for. We have been asking the Jharkhand government to specify how much has been spent under income generation scheme and infrastructure development in the last three or four years. But, we have got no replies,” said a senior official with the commission. The official claimed from first-hand experience that no work had been done for the tribes. A senior researcher, who specialises in tribal studies and is associated with New Delhi’s Indian Social Institute, said that while there was a discernible occupational shift in tribal communities, the focus of government agencies on mainstream categorisations of agricultural labourers and cultivators masked the finer details of tribal work and their world. “The need for vulnerable tribal communities to get continued and uninterrupted access to forests for livelihood and the responsibility of the state in securing these livelihoods, ensuring their viability remains a challenge,” he said, referring to several states, including Jharkhand. (The Teleraph 4/3/15)

8.  ‘Tribal people still being exploited’ (6)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The fact that ordinary ration cards were being issued to the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG, formerly known as PTGs) in spite of the Supreme Court orders, while they should get Antyodaya Anna Yojna (AAY) cards would be taken up with Commissioner of Civil Supplies, former Principal Secretary Chaya Ratan has assured tribal people. She was speaking at the inaugural session of the two-day district-level girijan youth convention organised by the AP Vyavasaya Vrittidarula Union (APVVU) at Tamarapalli under Anjali Sanivaram Gram Panchayat in Chintapalli mandal on Wednesday. Referring to the skits presented by the APVVU volunteers on how the girijans were still being fleeced by private money lenders and private traders who use the banned measure ‘kuncham’ while buying forest produce, Ms. Chaya Ratan regretted that these practices were still continuing. She advised the tribal youth not to cultivate bad habits and ensure that the anganwadis function properly since they help a lot in the growth of children. Founder-convenor of the UFRTI, a body promoting the Right to Information Act, B. Ramakrishna Raju, regretted that people had “handed over keys to the thieves” by electing persons who have no understanding of people’s issues and problems. People’s representatives would not bother about the poor as soon as they get elected and it was the responsibility of the people to elect a proper person and not get influenced by inducements during an election, he added. APVVU general secretary P.S. Ajay Kumar explained how the Supreme Court’s orders on employment guarantee scheme, Forest Rights Act and Food Security Act were being ignored. More than 120 volunteers from 14 gram panchayats of Chintapalli and G. Madugula attended the meeting. (The Hindu 6/3/15)

9. Tribal Girl Gang-raped, Brutally Murdered (9)

CHITTOOR/TIRUPATI: In a shocking incident, unidentified miscreants brutally raped and murdered a 19-year tribal girl near Kalavakunta pancha-yat in Penumur mandal of the district Saturday evening, the eve of International Women’s Day. The police said that the victim, a native of Diguva Punepalli village in Kalavakunta panchayat, had lost her father and was staying with her mother. She was abducted by a group of miscreants near the Neeva River when she was rearing goats Saturday. After taking the girl to an isolated location, the miscreants gang-raped her and strangled her to death before fleeing from the spot. Some of the locals, who went to the place for attending to nature’s call, found the body lying in bushes and alerted the villagers, who in turn informed the Penumur police. The cops rushed to the spot and sent the body to Chittoor Government Hospital for post-mortem. Chittoor district superintendent of police G Srinivas, who visited the spot, said that special teams have been formed for nabbing those involved in the heinous crime. Stating that sniffer dogs’ team was also pressed into service, he added that the dogs went up to the borders of Tamil Nadu and stopped there. Meanwhile, chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who landed at Renigunta Airport to change into a chopper to leave for Nellore for participating in the International Women’s Day celebrations on Sunday, expressed grief over the incident and announced a financial aid worth `5 lakh to the family members of the victim. Collector Siddharth Jain, who took the issue to the notice of chief minister, told mediamen that `5 lakh will be given to the victim’s family from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. (New Indian Express 9/3/15)

WOMEN

10. Activists slam spending cut on women and child development (8)

NEW DELHI: Activists have termed the Union Budget, presented on Saturday by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, as “anti-women” as total spending on women and child development has been cut. Mr. Jaitley said in his budget speech that Rs. 10,351 crore would be allocated to women and child development in 2015-2016. In the current fiscal, Rs. 18,355 crore has been spent by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and States and Union Territories combined. The Left-aligned All-India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) said in a statement, “We call up on all organisations and the women of the country to oppose this anti-people and anti-women budget.” The AIDWA said that the total gender budget had decreased from 4.19 per cent of the total expenditure in 2014-2015 to 3.71 per cent in 2015-2016. “In absolute terms, this constitutes a decrease of 12.2 per cent in the gender budget and an almost 49.3 per cent decrease in the allocation for the MCD Ministry over the revised budget of 2014-15,” said the AIDWA. CPI(M) politburo member and women’s rights activist Brinda Karat said there had been a Rs. 20,000 crore cut across all ministries when it came to the gender budget. “There is more hype surrounding schemes like the Beti Bachao campaign, which has not been matched by budgetary allocations,” said Ms. Karat. Child rights’ activists have also expressed concern over the drop in allocation on schemes for children, saying these were low priority in the budget. Komal Ganotra, director of policy, advocacy and research at Child Rights and You (CRY), said the budget had seen a “sharp decline in the child budget” as a proportion of the total from 4.52 per cent to 3.26 per cent. “The child budget has declined from Rs. 81,075.26 crore in 2014-2015 to Rs. 57,918.51 crore,” said Ms. Ganotra. Though Mr. Jaitley said States would contribute more after devolution of taxes, activists are unsure of the same. “The worry is that if the devolution to the States as well as the additional expectations from the taxation benefits does not come through, it shall definitely be a blow to the survival and development of children,” said Ms. Ganotra. (The Hindu 1/3/15)

11. UP sarv khap panchayat launches drive against female foeticide (8)

Lucknow: Khaps, the body of village elders in northern India often associated with regressive social diktats, may be turning a new leaf after widespread criticism of their practices. At least a start has been made in a western Uttar Pradesh village where a sarv (larger) khap panchayat decided to launch a campaign against female foeticide and has announced a cash reward of Rs.2,100 for families with three daughters. his, a member of the sarv khap panchayat said, was being done “after realization that girls were as important as boys.” Sarv khap panchayat general secretary Subhash Baliyan said a decision to this effect was taken at a khap meeting over the weekend at Nala vllage in Shamli district of western Uttar Pradesh. Among other major decisions, he informed, the khap also decided to ban “splurging in weddings, minimize grandeur at marriages and curtail the ‘brahm bhoj’ (community meal)” which often burdened the bride’s family. It was also decided that for the engagement, only five people from the groom’s family will go to the girl’s house while only 21 people will participate in the marriage procession, thus giving the much sought after financial relief to the overburdened bride’s family. Major Mahendra Singh Nala (retd), another senior office bearer of the sarv khap panchayat, said that they wanted society to be strengthened while also doing away with the existing ills. “We are not always anti-progress though we may not be on the same page with modern society,” another khap member told IANS, not wishing to be named. The sarv khap panchayat also decided to encourage girls to study and pursue higher education even after marriage. Khap panchayats have so far courted controversies for banning mobile phones, banning jeans for girls, banning love marriages and many more Taliban-kind diktats. (New Kerala 3/3/15)

12. 20 schoolgirls attacked for resisting eve-teasing (8)

Muzaffarnagar: Over 20 schoolgirls were attacked and two drivers of school buses injured after they resisted an alleged eve-teasing by a group of bike-borne assailants in Muzaffarnagar, police said on Thursday. The minors were returning home after their Board exam on Wednesday at Kamalpur centre when the eight bike-borne youths allegedly started passing lewid comments and interrupted their vehicles near Taprana village, SP Vijay Bhushan said. The two drivers, Vedpal and Sanjay, of the buses in which the girls were travelling opposed the act which allegedly provoked the accused to use lathis on them, he said. The drivers were injured in the incident. Later, the accused allegedly started pelting stones on the vehicles, leaving one girl injured and vandalised the buses. Meanwhile, the parents protested against the incident and registered a complaint in the matter, he said. A case has been registered against the eight youths. Two of them, Rajesh (21) and Vijay (20), were arrested, he said. The search is on to nab the remaining absconding accused, he said. (Hindustan Times 5/3/15)

13. A Rajasthan village which celebrates each girl child with 111 trees (8)

Jaipur: For, this village in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district celebrates the birth of a girl by planting 111 trees, a unique achievement in a state where female foeticide is rampant and the sex ratio is one of the most skewed in the country. For Piplantri, the international Women’s Day on March 8 may not mean anything but for the past eight years, villagers have religiously stuck to this tradition initiated by the village panchayat.Shyam Sundar Paliwal, the former sarpanch who started the scheme in 2006, explained that while the parents plant the trees, the panchayat opens a fixed deposit account for the girl child.The parents must also nurture the saplings till they are mature and also sign an affidavit saying they would not marry off their daughters before 18 years of age and that no one in their family will indulge in foeticide. This initiative for the girl child has seen villagers planting an astounding number of 286,000 trees in eight years. “A girl child is considered a burden because in most parts of Rajasthan, like in many other parts of the country, her marriage is an expensive proposition. The FD account was to give the parents a sense of financial security,” Paliwal said over phone from Piplantri, around 350 km from state capital Jaipur. He said that for the FD account, Rs 21,000 is collected as donation from villagers while the panchayat gives Rs 10,000. Paliwal’s term ended on 2010, but his successors and the villagers have turned it into a movement of sorts. Gehrilal Balai, 28, who planted 111 saplings last year, said he felt the same happiness in looking after the saplings as lulling his daughter to sleep. “Now we have decided we will plant a sapling on her each birthday,” he added. During a visit to the village in August last year, chief minister Vasundhara Raje was effusive in her praise for the initiative.“A little love, some knowledge and lots of hard work have transformed this panchayat. Best use of government schemes. Congratulations to former sarpanch and villagers. It should be showcased to more people and they should replicate it in their panchayats,” Raje wrote in the visitor’s book at the panchayat office.When reached for his comments, Rajsamand district magistrate KC Verma hoped that the panchayat’s efforts will continue.The 2001 census gave an indication of the social changes the effort has brought – a sex ratio of 1,000 females to 1,000 males in the entire district. Though it came down to 990 in the 2011 census, it is still far above the state’s ratio of 929:1,000 male.The 2011-12 annual health survey also showed that in rural Rajasthan, 20.3% of the women are married off before they attain the age of 18. “This is something we want to change. And Piplantri is on its way,” Paliwal added. (Hindustan Times 8/3/15)

14. Ban on documentary condemned in strong terms (8)

ONGOLE: Taking up cudgels for Leslee Udwin, whose documentary ‘India’s daughter’ has been banned by the Centre, women’s organisations here have pressed for the screening of the film widely to pave the way for a constructive debate on a social malady. Speaking to The Hindu , Mahila Abyudhaya Samiti State president T. Aruna said: “It was time to take up the cause of women who were treated badly in a country where they are venerated as goddesses. There is need for a positive change in the attitude of society towards women.” According to Prajaswamika Rachayitrula Vedika leader and novelist P. Rajalakshmi, it is not proper to push the prejudices exposed by the documentary under the carpet. “When the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, it is unfair to ban a thought-provoking documentary by the government, which has ignored the mushrooming of pornographic sites,” she observed. Denouncing the dress code suggested by a section of people to prevent sexual assaults on women, Progressive Organsiation of Women State secretary B. Padma asked who were to blame for sexual assault on children and elderly women. “It is unfair to blame working women returning home at late hours for sexual assaults,” felt Telugu Mahila district leader T. Madhavi. “The ban is a futile exercise to stop people from viewing the documentary, which is very much there on several video-sharing online sites,” she added. (The Hindu 9/3/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

15. Combatting the Vicious Circle of Child Rights Violation (14)

CHENNAI:When a person from the largely stigmatised Kuravar community was picked up by the police in Madurai two weeks back for alleged robbery, the effect was felt by his child. Lakshmi (name changed), his 13-year-old daughter, stopped going to school as a result of the snide remarks she faced. With widespread caste discrimination and branding of communities, the effect on the rights of children can be seen in instances across the country — Dalit children being made to sweep classrooms and clean toilets at schools, eat separately and face neglect. The constant branding by teachers and classmates as the ‘other’, besides affecting the psyche of the child has been shown to increase the number of dropouts and the cycle goes on — child labour, drug abuse, alcoholism and crime. The issue of child rights is universal but the discrimination is more in India because of the socio-religious philosophy that facilitates discrimination on the basis of caste, believes social activist Vasanthi Devi, former chairperson, Institute for Human Rights Education. “Dalit children have special needs and this is not accepted by most people. Children in schools face the same issues the adults of the caste face, ” said N Thayalan, director of Human Resource Development Foundation (HRDF). Pallar, Paraiyar, and Arunthathiyar are the major Dalit groups in the State. A 2010 survey was conducted among 200 Arunthathiyar families, the group engaged in manual scavenging and considered lowest, the ‘Dalits among Dalits’. This survey conducted by the Arunthathiyar Human Rights Forum revealed that 24 per cent of children dropped out from schools, starting from Class 1 and reaching a maximum at Class 8. The top reason given by students for dropping out was slow learning  followed by peer group influence, family incompetence, teachers’ attitude and a difficult syllabus. While children may not completely comprehend the underlying factors behind this inferiority complex, around 20 per cent of the teachers quoted caste discrimination as a reason for dropouts, although the top reason was inadequate staff followed by poor parental care and economic factors. Frequent migration by parents, the occupation of the parents as manual scavengers, and the disturbed environment at home increases the chance of dropping out. “The maximum percentage of dropouts come from the SC/ST community. Children who go to school are at impressionable age and extra attention needs to be paid to counter their vulnerability,” says Shantha Sinha, Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and founder of the Andhra-based MV Foundation. The majority of students in government schools are often from marginalised communities but the schools often have poor facilities where teachers are not sensitised to non-discrimination. “The moment they step into the school, they feel the hostility. Teachers referring to them by caste names and treating them with contempt is common,” Vasanthi Devi says. A subtle difference in the dialect that these children use is often mocked by others. Schools with a majority of SC/ST students get branded as ‘rowdy’ schools with teachers who work there constantly looking for better jobs. “Should Dalit children not be there in the heart of the city?” asks Virgil D’samy, director of Arunodhaya, a foundation working for street and working children. The issues of post eviction dropouts and child labour are intertwined, she says. “Should the city only have glass buildings and house one section of society?” The State Government is trying to tackle the issues of children from backward communities through scholarships, Adi Dravidar schools and hostels, and provision of free study material. There are 1397 Adi Dravidar schools and 1304 hostels in the State, with around 90 per cent of these being in rural areas. Over 1,70,000 children study in the schools, and 10 more college hostels have been added this year. “The department conducts the Manithaneya Vara Vizha event with community feasts and programmes to create awareness about untouchability,” said the official. The post matric scheme covers college fees for all students who clear eligibility and 10 students from each block on the basis of merit are given scholarships for private schools. (New Indian express 2/3/15)

16. Children’s share in budget falling: Study (14)

Guwahati, March 3: Child rights are a raging issue in Assam but the share of the state’s budget for children has reduced in the past two years, says a study by two NGOs – Northeast Social Research Centre and HAQ Centre for Child Rights, New Delhi. It said the 2014-15 budget share for children decreased to 3.17 per cent compared to 3.49 per cent in 2013-14, though the state budget allocation increased by nearly 28 per cent during the same period. Children’s share in the budget in 2012-13 was 3.31 per cent. The study, Assam Child Budget 2014-15, by Kanu Kanta Sen and Farhana Yasmin, researchers of the two NGOs, was conducted because there is no separate mention of the monetary allocation for children in the budget. “What is alarming is that the share for child health was only 0.39 per cent within the budget for children in the current year. Both vital sectors of health and protection have been found to be given lowest priority,” said the report. Education received maximum attention – 95.26 per cent of the budget for children in 2014-15 while health received only 0.39 per cent followed by 4 per cent for development and 0.35 per cent for child protection. “Despite the inadequate health services and poor health condition of children in the state, the child health sector witnessed about 18 per cent reduction in the 2014-15 budget compared to the previous year,” the report said. It also found negligence of the issue of child protection in the budget. It noted that an increasing number of children in the state were missing, faced violence, physical and sexual abuse. The Juvenile Justice Act, which covers children in need of care and protection, has been provided with a minimum allocation of Rs 74 lakh which is almost 58 per cent less than the fund released under the scheme during 2013-14. The Integrated Child Protection Scheme meant for preventing violation of child rights failed to receive any central funding during the year, though it received Rs 43.2 crore in the previous year. However, the state’s share under the scheme was Rs 1.18 crore in 2014-15, said the report. The report said one of the important factors for the decreasing share in the budget for children was under-utilisation of the funds allocated for children by various departments. Expressing concern over the trend, the founder-director of Northeast Social Research Centre, Walter Fernandes, said government departments dealing with child related issues should work for more budgetary allocation of funds for children. (The Teleraph 4/3/15)

17. Mumbai NGO arranges ‘ghar wapasi’ of lost-and-found kids (14)

Mumbai: A Mumbai NGO, My Home India, has successfully arranged the ‘ghar wapasi’ (homecoming) of 170 lost-and-found kids who were languishing in various shelters here, an official said on Friday. The kids aged between 14-16, including nearly 100 girls, were lured from their homes with employment promises and pushed into low-paying jobs or the flesh trade, said Mithilesh Jha, national coordinator for the programme entitled ‘Sapno Se Apno Tak’. “In the past one year, we have managed to contact the families of these minors all over India, including the north-eastern states, and four from Nepal. Later, we arranged to hand them over to their respective families and bore their travel expenses,” Jha told IANS. Of the 75 from the north-eastern states, a whopping 67 young girls from Assam were brought to Mumbai with promises of jobs and then forced into prostitution. Four children from Delhi and others from Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha and Karnataka were engaged in exploitative child labour. These children, given up as ‘lost’ or dead by their families back home in remote areas, were found by the Mumbai Police after which My Home India swung into action. Earlier, the NGO chief Sunil Deodhar said that daily many innocent children run away from their homes or are lost and come to metros like Mumbai with dreams of making it big. “They land in wrong company and are compelled to work as child labour, indulge in petty crimes, begging, etc. We try to save the young unfortunate kids and re-unite them with their families as we firmly believe they are the future of India,” Deodhar said. Deodhar called on Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and apprised him of the NGO’s activities. Impressed by the effort, Deodhar said Fadnavis has assured My Home India of getting a link-up with various children’s remand homes in Maharashtra. Buoyed by the success, Deodhar now plans to expand the NGO’s activity on a national scale to help more such lost-and-found children. Jha said My Home India presently has a network of 40 teams across major cities in the country which secure the details of such children. He explained that there are multiple reasons for children getting ‘lost’ or running away from their homes. “A few are blinded by the glamour of Bollywood, some are ill-treated at home, others escape torture by one or two step-parents… A majority of them face deep emotional problems and they reveal their home addresses only after months of counselling and cajoling,” Jha said. (Business Standard 6/3/15)

18. ‘Legal System Needs to Back Kids’ (14)

CHENNAI: Children, especially those from marginalised communities, need proper schools and a better education system to keep them away from child labour and be integrated into the mainstream, feel activists.  In addition, as the focus shifts from a welfare-based approach to a rights-based approach, the laws that protect children become tantamount. For children to be treated as citizens and become entitled to their rights, courts too need to take better notice of them, say activists. Better provisions in the court and stricter implementation of laws are seen as the way forward. Law implementation is also crucial, as often, the children in question do not have the resources or a supportive guardian to come to the court and fight. For instance, in child marriage cases, the girl can only approach the court on her own after she is 18, and since the family is involved in the marriage, the girl ends up having no voice.  Better provisions in the court for children too are being looked at as a necessity. “For one, child counsellors are a necessity. In the family court, the rights of the child are looked at by the judge based on the welfare of the child,” says Sheila Jayaprakash, an advocate. The child, in case of a disturbed domestic environment, could be confused and needs proper counselling. “There must be a provision for a child counsellor whom the child can speak to, like in issues of domestic violence.” Strict enforcement and proper punishments are the answer, and a uniform age without exception, in cases like child labour is necessary, believe lawyers (Children above the age of 14, for instance, don’t come under the ambit of Child Labour Act in certain cases). “Exemptions always breed illegality. Strict action is a must,” she adds. (New Indian Express 10/3/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

19. Nai Manzil to bridge lack of skills in minorities (7)

NEW DELHI: The ‘Nai Manzil’ scheme announced in the budget is something that the Minority Affairs Ministry has been talking about ever since the Modi Government assumed office last year. In reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha on July 16, 2014, the Ministry had listed ‘Nai Manzil’ as one of the steps “being taken’’ by the Government for the welfare of minorities. It was billed as a “bridge course to bridge the academic and skill development gaps of the deeni Madrasa passouts with their mainstream counterparts’’. Seven-and-a-half months later, Mr. Jaitley flagged ‘Nai Manzil’ as a scheme that “will be launched this year’’ to enable minority youth who do not have a formal school-leaving certificate to obtain one and find better employment. The other minority community-related programme that he flagged in the Budget speech on Saturday pertained to show-casing the civilisation and culture of Parsis. The Government will support an exhibition ‘The Everlasting Flame’, he said. The allocation for the Ministry “is being protected’’ with an estimate of Rs. 3,738 crore. Last year’s budget had allocated Rs. 3,734 crore to the Ministry which was cut down to Rs. 3,165 crore in the revised estimates. A bulk of this is for the Multi Sectoral Development Programme for Minorities and the other main claimants to the allocation are the pre-matric and post-matric scholarships for minorities. However, the single para reference to minorities left them feeling “hopeless’’. Zafar Mahmood of Zakat Foundation said from two paragraphs in the Modi Government’s first Budget, the reference to minorities was down to one in the second. “It is clear where their priorities lie,” he said. (The Hindu 1/3/15)

20. ‘Minorities still persecuted’ (7)

HYDERABAD: Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi on Monday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for reacting to objectionable comments made by BJP members and those associated with Hindu right-wing only after US President Barack Obama expressed concerns over “acts of intolerance in the country”.Owaisi was addressing a gathering to mark the 57th anniversary of the MIM’s revival at its headquarters in Darussalam. While underscoring the “hate politics” prevailing in India, he said: “The PM was silent on ghar wapsi and other hateful comments. But within three days of Obama’s statement, he reacted. Aren’t you ashamed,” he asked. Owaisi said that despite this, the tirade against Muslims has continued. While he objected to Modi’s attitude, he also said that he was unhappy with a “foreigner” making the remarks. “We have differences with the BJP, RSS and VHP, but this does not mean that we will sit silently and allow an outsider to say what he pleases. Nobody should interfere in the matters of our country. We will fight for our own rights. Muslims want India to be a superpower,” Owaisi said. Owaisi said that “acche din” had arrived only for BJP workers and those against minorities. He claimed that around 40 policemen from Gujarat, including DG Vanzara, accused in the fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan, were released from jail. “They have taken the lives of people and ruined lives of innocent Muslims. And they are back in positions of power,” he claimed. He said that investments in the country could not come on account of the communally charged environment. While various state governments barred MIM leaders, including Hyderabad parliamentarian Asaduddin Owaisi, from entering cities in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, those like Yogi Adityanath have been given free passage, the MIM floor leader said. “Yogi Adityanath spewed venom and hatred at a recent public meeting,” he noted. Taking a dig at the RSS, Owaisi termed it as a “club of bachelors”. “Sakshi Maharaj and Mohan Bhagwat and others like him are not married. They cannot take the responsibility of a family and yet they ask people to have four kids,” he said. The RSS, he claimed, did not take part in the freedom struggle. The MIM intends to expand its base in UP, Bihar, Karnataka and West Bengal, he reiterated. (Times of India 3/3/15)

21. 1,121 Complaints Pending With National Commission of Minorities in Last Three Years (7)

NEW DELHI: As many as 1,121 complaints received by National Commission for Minorities over the last three years are yet to be resolved, according to an RTI reply.   NCM received 7,629 complaints from April 2011-June 2014, out of which 1,121 or 14.7 per cent are still pending. In the same period, 3,344 complaints were settled by the Commission, while 2,137 were either forwarded to the authorities concerned or closed. Report was sought in 1,027 cases while proceedings in 1,121 cases are still in process. Moradabad-based RTI activist Salim Baig had filed a Right to Information application seeking information on the number of complaints received by NCM and their completion status. The maximum number of 3,090 complaints were received from Uttar Pradesh of which 463 cases are at the stage of hearing while 1,332 cases have been closed, according to NCM’s reply.      As many as 950 complaints have been forwarded to relevant authorities while report has been sought in 345 cases. The NCM received 900 complaints from Delhi, of which 149 are at a hearing stage while 358 have been closed. As many as 205 complaints received from Delhi have been forwarded while report was sought in 188 cases.  (New Indian Express 8/3/15)

22. HC: Don’t make beef ban a religious issue (7)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Monday advised parties seeking the implementation of the new law banning the sale and possession of beef not to precipitate the matter and make it a religious or prestige issue. A division bench of Justices V M Kanade and A R Joshi was hearing a petition filed by the Bharatiya Govansh Rakshan Sanvardhan Parishad seeking that the new law be enforced. Applications have also been filed by the Bombay Suburban Beef Dealers’ Welfare Association. Besides, the ​Union government has urged the high court to add the Centre as a party in the case. The HC had pointed out last week that the law would come into effect only after the state government published it in the official gazette. The Maharashtra government told the court that it had notified the new law. Further, the BMC informed it that since its orders last week, the slaughter of bulls and bullocks had been stopped at the Deonar abattoir. The judges said that since the law had come into effect, “law will take its own course and the authorities are duty-bound to take action”. The court added that it would look into the aspect of interpretation of the law. President Pranab Mukherjee last month gave his sanction to changes in the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act. While earlier the slaughter of cows was banned, the new rule adds bulls and bullocks to that list. Now, anyone selling beef or found in possession of it can be jailed for five years and fined Rs 10,000. The HC had on March 3 directed the police commissioner and civic chief to ensure that the law banning the slaughter was not violated and action was taken against those breaking the law. On March 5, however, the court said the law could be enforced only after it was published in the official gazette. The state issued the notification the same evening, hours after the HC order. The court also allowed safe passage to livestock, housed at the Deonar abattoir, allowing dealers to take out the animals. (Times of India 10/3/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

23. Shiv Sena to Muslims: For special treatment, go to Pakistan (7)

MUMBAI: Hitting out at AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi for demanding reservation for Muslims in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena on Tuesday said that if the minority leader wants his demands to be met on religious grounds, then he should go to Pakistan and try his antics there. Terming Owaisi’s speeches “hateful”, the Sena said that the Devendra Fadnavis government should file a case against him and start legal proceedings. “(Asaduddin) Owaisi is insisting that Muslims should get reservation akin to the Marathas. Such insistence had caused the separation of Pakistan from India. Hatred for Hindus compelled a section of Muslims to take control over Pakistan. Hence Owaisi may try and get his demands based on religious grounds fulfilled in Pakistan,” said an edit piece in the Sena mouthpiece, ‘Saamana’. It added that the minority community will have to respect India as their motherland. “They (minority community) will have to respect the Uniform Civil Code and stop demanding the continuation of Article 370 for Kashmir. Asking for reservations while continuing with religious rants will not work,” it said. “Owaisi says ‘Muslims have suffered a lot and hence I speak up for them’. But will he give a count of the sufferings of Hindus due to the terrorist activities of extremist Muslims? If extremists start communal violence and terrorist activities after listening to his speeches… Owaisi’s speeches should be termed as hateful and action should be taken against him,” the Sena said. Addressing a public gathering in Nagpur on Saturday night, Owaisi, the 45-year-old Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad, had demanded reservation for backward Muslims in government jobs and educational institutes in Maharashtra. Claiming that “injustice” has been done to Muslims in Maharashtra, Owaisi had blamed the more than 50 years of Congress rule at the Centre and the Congress-NCP and Shiv Sena -BJP governments in the state for the prevailing backwardness of minority community members. (Times of India 3/3/15)

24. Muslim quota gone, Cong to stall session (7)

MUMBAI: The Congress has decided to stall proceedings in both houses of the legislature to protest against the decision of the BJP-led government to scrap reservation for Muslims. “The budget session of the state legislature is beginning from March 9. We feel that the BJP government is anti-Muslim, therefore it allowed the ordinance to provide for reservation to Muslims to lapse. We will stall proceedings in both the houses to press our demand for reservation to Muslims,” newly appointed city Congress unit president Sanjay Nirupam said recently. A former MP, Nirupam said the erstwhile Congress-NCP government had provided reservation to Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions, but the high court scrapped the reservation in jobs while upholding it in educational institutions. He said it was the responsibility of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to issue a new ordinance to provide for the reservations, but he allowed the previous reservation ordinance to lapse. On the controversy over the development plan for the city, Nirupam said people from all walks of life had raised objections on certain proposals, particularly development of the Aarey Milk Colony land. “We have made it clear to the municipal commissioner and the chief minister that no decision should be taken in haste and that there should be wider discussion on the proposals,” Nirupam said. Nirupam said he had organized a daylong workshop on the pros and cons of the proposed development plan on March 20. “We have invited leading architects, engineers, city planners and nominees of NGOs for discussion on the development plan,” he said. (Times of India 8/3/15)

25. Maharashtra non-committal on Muslim reservation (25)

MUMBAI: A week after withdrawing 5 per cent reservation for Muslims in jobs and education in Maharashtra, the State government has remained non-committal on reintroducing the ordinance providing for the quota in the budget session of the Assembly which will begin from Monday. “The earlier ordinance was lapsed and we didn’t cancel it. We are in discussion with experts about the issue. A decision will be taken soon,” said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis addressing a press conference on the eve of the budget session. To a question whether the government was planning to reintroduce the ordinance, Mr. Fadnavis said no such decision was taken yet. “There are conflicting orders from the High Court. At the same time, we are studying a judgment of the Supreme Court on this issue. Any step will be taken only after consultation,” he said. (The Hindu 10/3/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

26. At Catholic rally, speakers decry anti-conversion bill, church attacks (7)

PANAJI: At a Catholic solidarity rally in Margao on Saturday, speakers condemned the proposed anti-conversion bill, the ghar wapsi movement and the attacks on churches in different parts of India. The rally, organized by the Catholic Association of Goa, began with a silent candlelight procession from Holy Spirit Church ground to Lohia Maidan, Margao. The well-attended protest was addressed by speakers Francisco Colaco, Eddie Viegas and Fr Emidio Pinto. “The Indian Constitution provides citizens with the right to embrace, follow and propagate any religion without coercion or allurement. Thus, there is no need for the proposed anti-conversion bill as the Constitution already has enough safeguards. This new bill will trespass on and interfere with a citizen’s fundamental rights. Catholics are against conversion by force and allurement,” said Pinto, Catholic Association of Goa’s spiritual director. Cardiologist and social activist Colaco highlighted the drawbacks of the proposed bill and how it interferes with religious freedom by providing sweeping powers to government officials who will then interfere with religious affairs. Catholic Association of Goa member Viegas cautioned the government against testing the patience of Catholics who follow the “peaceful path for resolving issues by following the footsteps of Jesus Christ”. He said, “Despite being a minority—2.3%—Catholics have made a vast contribution to healthcare, education and the social welfare of the country, irrespective of caste and creed.” Four resolutions were unanimously adopted at the meeting. The first demanded action against those involved in desecrating/vandalizing places of worship and sought protection for all Christian institutions and religious personnel. The second opposed moves by any government to interfere or change at the Centre or state level, the basic principles of freedom to believe, practice and propagate as provided for in the Indian Constitution. The third resolution stated that “the proposed anti-conversion bill violates the basic principles enshrined in the Constitution of India”. The crowd agreed that the provisions already in existence are sufficient to safeguard rights. The fourth sought to send a message that the Christian community is hurt at movements such as ghar wapsi where force and threats are used towards conversion. A memorandum in this regard will be submitted to the South Goa collector on March 2, said Pinto, adding that the Narendra Modi-led government has a duty towards protecting all Indians as he had taken a solemn vow to do so when his government was sworn in. Earlier, Holy Spirit Church parish priest Fr Avinash Rebello said a prayer for peace and communal harmony before the rally was flagged off by Catholic Association of Goa president Edwin Fonseca. (Times of India 1/3/15)

27. Case against Mangaluru FB user for comments against Christianity (7)

Mangaluru: A facebook user, who had allegedly posted hate comments against Christianity, was today slapped with a case after the community leaders lodged a complaint accusing him of disrupting peace and harmony. A delegation of Christian leaders today submitted a memorandum to City Police Commissioner S Murugan and Deputy Commissioner A B Ibrahim complaining that hate comments had appeared on a newsportal facebook page and sought action against the accused. Based on the complaint, a case was registered in Pandeshwar police station, Murugan said. The facebook user, identified as Shriram Yadapaditthaya, praised Sadhvi Balika Saraswati who vehemently supported ‘Ghar Wapsi’ during her speech at the Hindu Samajotsava here on March 1 and allegedly criticised the Christian community in his comments on the facebook, he said. The portal later deleted the comments from the page.Christian leaders in their complaint said Shriram’s derogatory comments amounted to a direct attack on the Christian community. The complaint said that the facebook user had posted a comment which was in violation of Section 144 of the IPC with the aim of disrupting peace and harmony among people. “The person has done gross injustice to Christianity, Indian values and to Hindu religion which preaches harmony and tolerance… as the person is a threat to the peace and harmony of society and should be taken into custody immediately,” they said in the complaint. (Deccan Herald 3/3/15)

28. Christians in Mumbai to form human chain on March 14 (7)

MUMBAI: Members of Christian NGOs will form a human chain to protest the attacks on churches in New Delhi and “injustice against minorities” Saturday, March 14. Volunteers dressed in white will link arms across various parts of the city from Churchgate to Dahisar and Thane from 6.00-6.15pm. The initiative is led by the Bombay Catholic Sabha. Other groups including United Christians of Mumbai led by Cyril Dara have pledged support. BCS president Gordon D’Souza said, “We expect thousands of people to join. We are seeking to bring the Centre’s focus back on good governance. Our Stop Hate campaign stresses the need for communal harmony.” (Times of India 7/3/15)

29. 3 Missionaries Manhandled (7)

HUBBALLI: Three women Christian missionaries were  allegedly manhandled by residents of Dalimber Pet in Old Hubballi on Saturday evening believing that they were converting a resident, Narayan Bhandari, to Christianity. However, police said the women went to Bhandari’s house  to pray on his request.  It is said that the residents manhandled the women and recovered some religious pamphlets and books on conversion and later handed them over to police. Old Hubballi police inspector Shivanand Chalwadi told Express that Bhandari had been suffering from knee pain for the past few years. On the suggestion of friends, he started visiting Mantur Road Church to offer prayers and since then, he began  feeling better. On his request, the three women went to his residence to pray, he said. Misunderstanding this, neighbours of Narayan Bhandari started abusing the women claiming that they had come to their area for carrying out conversions. However, the police reached the spot in time and prevented any untoward incident, he added. (New Indian Express 8/3/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

30. Fate of Mizo refugees hangs in balance (13)

Hyderabad: Despite fresh initiatives by the central and Tripura governments, the repatriation to Mizoram of about 35,000 tribal refugees sheltered in Tripura for over 17 years still hangs in balance.  Refugee leaders told Home Minister Rajnath Singh and his deputy Kiren Rijiju recently that they were willing to return to their homes in Mizoram if their 10 demands, including security and rehabilitation, were met. Brus left Mizoram en masse after Lalzawmliana, a forest guard, was gunned down by Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) militants in October 1997 and were lodged in North Tripura district since then. The plans to repatriate the Brus from Tripura from November 16, 2009, the murder of Zarzokima, a young boy from Bungthuam village by Bru militants not only derailed the proposed repatriation, but triggered another round of exodus due to heightened communal tension. Mizoram says that those Brus lodged in six relief camps in Tripura, who refuse to return to Mizoram after six months following the next repatriation efforts would be disfranchised as Mizoram voters. The government remains ambiguous on the refugees’ demands, including free supply of food grain for two years and allotment of land to them. The demands have also run into objections from Mizos. Tripura and Mizoram share a 109-km border. The immigrants live in small thatched homes made of bamboo and hemp in seven transitory relief camps in Kanchanpur in northern Tripura, adjoining Mizoram. Most adult men and women sit idle through the day.  After meeting the refugee leaders at Kanchanpur in northern Tripura, the central ministers and officials met Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar in Agartala.  The meeting remained inconclusive as Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla did not attend it.  About 35,000 Reang tribals, who call themselves “Bru”, have lived in seven camps in Tripura since October 1997 after fleeing western Mizoram after the killing of a Mizo forest officer triggered ethnic troubles.  Reangs are officially categorised a primitive tribe. The Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum submitted a six-page memorandum to the central ministers accusing the Mizoram government of discriminating against them.  “We are ready to go back to our homes in Mizoram. But before that the Mizoram and central governments must implement our demands,” its general secretary Bruno Msha told IANS. Home ministry officials met officers from Tripura and Mizoram in New Delhi Jan 30 and finalised a roadmap to repatriate the refugees by June 2015.  “The Tripura government will provide all logistical help if Mizoram takes back the refugees,” Tripura Relief and Rehabilitation Department Additional Secretary Karnamani Das said. The central government took the initiative to repatriate the refugees in view of the Supreme Court directions on January 16. Following a Tripura High Court order, the union home ministry last year set up a seven-member panel headed by Rajiv Gauba, an additional secretary, to oversee the condition of the refugees in the Tripura camps. The central team submitted its report to the Tripura HC. The refugees say they should be treated like Kashmiri pundits. But the Mizo Students Federation argues that the Reang tribals were not refugees in the first place and so can never be compared with the Kashmiri Pundits.  Tripura Revenue and Relief Minister Badal Choudhury said: “A serious socio-economic problem has cropped up due to the long stay of the refugees in Tripura.” “Some refugees are involved in terrorism activities. The refugees also work for cheap wages, creating an awkward situation for local labourers,” he added. (The Hans India 3/3/15)

31. Send back tribal refugees to Mizoram: Tripura urges centre (13)

Agartala: The Tripura government on Tuesday again urged the central government to take steps to send over 31,000 tribal refugees back to Mizoram to maintain ethnic harmony in the northeastern region. The Tripura assembly on Tuesday discussed the 17-year-old issue. After replying to a series of questions of the legislators, Revenue and Relief Minister Badal Choudhury told the assembly: “We urge upon the central government to ask the Mizoram government to take back the refugees.” “The central and Mizoram governments recently took a fresh initiative to repatriate the refugees in view of the Supreme Court directions Jan 16. Union home minister Rajnath Singh and his deputy Kiren Rijiju recently visited Tripura and persuaded the refugee leaders to go back to their homes in Mizoram,” he said. Choudhury said: “Union home minister tried to hold a meeting with the chief ministers of Tripura and Mizoram to finalise a road map to repatriate the refugees to Mizoram. However, Mizoram chief minister did not attend the meeting nor did he send his representative.” “It is very unfortunate that the tribals despite being Indians nationals and permanent inhabitant of a state, are unable to live in their homeland. This is dangerous for the ethnic amity, stability and peace,” the minister said. He said: “A serious socio-economic problem has cropped up due to the long stay of the refugees in Tripura. The refugees have damaged vast areas in forests in Kanchanpur causing serious environmental problems.” “Some refugees are involved in terrorist activities. The refugees also work for cheap wages, creating an awkward situation for local labourers,” the minister stated. The Reang tribals, who call themselves “Bru”, have lived in seven camps in Tripura since October 1997 when they fled western Mizoram after the killing of a Mizo forest officer triggered ethnic troubles. Refugee leaders told Home Minister Rajnath Singh and his deputy Kiren Rijiju that they were willing to return to their homes in Mizoram if their 10 demands, including security and rehabilitation, were met. The Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum submitted a six-page memorandum to the central ministers accusing the Mizoram government of discriminating against them. The Mizoram government remains ambiguous on the refugees’ demands, which also included free supply of foodgrain for two years, and alloting land to them. Mizo organisations have opposed the demands. (Business Standard 3.3.15)

32. Rescued Tripura tribal kids to be sent back home (13)

Agartala:  Sixteen of the 19 children rescued from the Guwahati railway station by the Assam Police CID and Childline, an NGO, belong to tribal refugees living in Tripura and will be handed over to their parents, an official said here on Thursday. “All the 19 children, rescued by the Assam Police CID and Childline from the Guwahati railway station on February 25, are now staying at a children’s home run by the Assam government in Guwahati,” Tripura social welfare department secretary M. Nagaraju told reporters. He said: “A team of officials from north Tripura’s child welfare committee would go to Guwahati and the children would be brought back to Tripura by March 10.” Of the 19 children, all below 18 years of age, 16 belong to the Reang refugees of Mizoram who are currently living in seven camps in North Tripura and remaining three are inhabitants of Hilakhandhi of southern Assam. Childline officials in Guwahati suspect it was a case of child trafficking. The Assam police are still investigating the motive of the two adults accompanying the children. An official of Tripura social welfare department on condition of anonymity said that the children were being trafficked to Haryana/Uttar Pradesh to be forced into child labour. “The children accompanied by two adults would have boarded a Delhi-bound train, had the Assam CID and Childline functionaries not reached the Guwahati railway station in time,” the official said. Around 31,300 Reang tribals have been living in seven camps in north Tripura adjoining Mizoram since October 1997 when they fled western Mizoram after the killing of a Mizo forest officer triggered ethnic troubles.(Business Standard 5/3/15)

33. Afghan delegation protests harassment of refugees in Pakistan (13)

Peshawar: A visiting Afghan parliamentary delegation on Monday complained about the harassment of Afghan refugees in Pakistan in the aftermath of a deadly Taliban attack on an army-run school here last December. The Afghan delegation, led by Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Syed Hussain Balkhi, met with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Governor Mehtab Ahmad Khan and Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and discussed cooperation between the two countries. The Afghan minister complained that the police was harassing Afghan refugees in Peshawar and their houses were being raided in the aftermath of Peshawar school attack last December that killed over 150 people, mostly students. The ghastly attack was claimed by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), whose leader Maulana Fazlullah is believed to be operating from Afghanistan. The minister further said that Afghan government was devising comprehensive strategy for repatriation of the Afghan refugees and sought Pakistan’s support in this regard. The KP governor denied harassment of the Afghan refugees and said that the registered Afghan refugees were living in Pakistan without any problem. He said that despite bad economic condition, Pakistan has taken care of the Afghan refugees for more than 30 years. He assured the Afghan delegation that registered Afghan refugees in custody, if any, would be released soon.  (Zee News 9/3/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

34. Angry over missing Govt file, HC directs FIR against officers (1)

Mumbai: Observing that information under Right to Information Act (RTI) cannot be denied to a citizen, the Bombay High Court has directed Deputy Secretary of Urban Development Department in Maharashtra to register an FIR against officers responsible for a ‘missing’ file. A division bench of the HC further directed that after filing the FIR, the investigation must be completed within six months and it should be headed by an officer not below the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police. Justices Abhay Oka and A S Gadkari imposed costs of Rs 15,000 on the State Government for the lapse on part of officers which led to a UDD file going ‘missing’ as a result information under RTI Act couldn’t be provided to an advocate. “The case in hand is a classic example as to how the Government officers protecting their fellow officers tend to frustrate the basic intention of the legislature behind the enactment of the Right to Information Act, 2005,” said the Judges in their order on Friday. The HC was hearing a petition filed by Sangli-based advocate Vivek Vishnupant Kulkarni, who is also an office- bearer of Swatantraya Veer Savarkar Pratishthan, a voluntary group which runs two schools having 1,600 students on rolls. The 58-year-old petitioner filed an application on September 5, 2008, with the Section and Information Officer of UDD seeking information under RTI in respect of a Government Resolution (GR) dated August 21, 1996. The resolution pertained to release of various lands in and around Sangli city in western Maharashtra which were acquired by the Government under the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976. He sought information about the Government notings and other documents on the basis of which the GR was issued. By a communication dated September 22, 2008, the UDD Information Officer told Kulkarni the required information sought by him regarding file ULC/1089/2123//ULC-2 is not available on the Department’s record and therefore, the said details cannot be furnished. In the same letter, the petitioner was also informed that some details sought by him is connected with the office of Deputy Collector and his application to that extent had been transferred to the said authority for further action. Being aggrieved by inaction of the Information Officer, the petitioner filed an appeal on November 27, 2008, before the Deputy Secretary of UDD. The Deputy Secretary asked the Information Officer to search the missing file and give the details sought by Kulkarni immediately. (Deccan Herald 1/3/15)

35. Activist denied info on environment clearance (1)

GUWAHATI, March 2 – It seems the State Level Environment Assessment Authority (SEIAA) of the State is trying to cover up some environment-related information of public interest. Or else, RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury sees no reason as to why it should deny him information on the environment clearance it has issued to the ‘B’ Category projects. The information assumes significance because of the presence of several such projects in the radius of 10 km from the Kaziranga National Park (KNP). The ‘B’ Category projects include mining of minor mineral covering less than 50 hectares (like stone quarries and sand mining, etc), hydroelectric power projects of less than 50 MW, coal-based thermal power project of less than 50 MW, construction projects covering less than 2,00,000 square metres, township project in less than 50 hectares, and cement plant generating less than one million tonnes per annum. The SEIAA, Assam, has not furnished the information under RTI Act, 2005, to Choudhury till date on the Environment Clearance (EC) issued to the Category ‘B’ projects between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014. Choudhury filed an RTI application on November 6, 2014 seeking information on the number of ECs issued to the Category ‘B’ projects between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014. Choudhry alleged that as the information was not furnished by SEIAA, a First Appeal in this regard was filed on Dec 29, 2014, with a request to provide him the information free of cost, as SEIAA has violated the stipulated time period of providing information within 30 days from receiving the RTI application. But the chairman of SEIAA furnished him only half information on January 8, 2015. On the copies of the Environment Clearance, he was told, “Necessary cost shall be paid to the authority for photocopies of EC issued by SEIAA, Assam for B category projects. Amount required to be paid will be intimated to you later on.” Choudhury contends that Section 7(6) of RTI Act, 2005, states “Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (5), the person making request for the information shall be provided the information free of charge where a public authority fails to comply with the time limits specified in sub-section (1).” The above information is important to know the number of projects (especially stone quarries) accorded environment clearance by the State government with prior approval of the National Board for Wildlife to operate within a 10-km radial distance from KNP. The government has turned a blind eye to the rampant mining in the adjoining Karbi Anglong hills. The June 18, 2003 letter of the then Director of KNP, in this connection has been ignored by the State government, he said. On top of all these, none of the minutes of the last six meetings of National Board for Wildlife has any reference of the mining activities around KNP, and therefore, it is unlikely that any of the stone quarries has approval of NBWL, Choudhury said. (The Assam Tribune 3/3/15)

36. BMC spent Rs.106 crore on court cases in 13 years (1)

Mumbai: The Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation, India’s richest civic body, spent Rs.106 crore in 13 years to fight big and small court cases, a RTI query revealed Friday. The cases mainly pertained to illegal constructions around the city, and other litigation, with a single lawyer, K.K. Singhvi, being paid Rs.19.13 crore as fees for his services, the RTI query filed by prominent activist Anil Galgali said. He had sought the details of the legal expenditure incurred by the BMC, the expenses on lawyers’ fees and total number of cases being fought by them. Replying to Galgali’s query, the deputy law officer of the BMC Law Department said that between 2001-2014, the civic body had engaged 151 lawyers and paid them nearly Rs.106 crore as fees. Among the top lawyers hired by the BMC are K.K. Singhvi (Rs.19.13 crore as fees), Anil Sakhre (Rs.10.58 crore), the late G.E. Vahanvaty (Rs.4.90 crore), E.P. Bharucha (Rs.4.28 crore) and S.U. Kamdar (Rs.3.65 crore). The top 10 lawyers from among the 151 engaged by BMC together accounted for a payment of Rs.51.88 crore – or a whopping 49.37 percent of the total amounts (Rs.106 crore) paid. Interestingly, Galgali said 21 lawyers or law firms fell in the crore-pati bracket (in terms of fees paid by BMC in excess of one crore rupees) fighting the BMC cases. “The BMC did not reply to my other important query on the total number of court cases being fought along with the fees paid to the lawyers. The law department said such a record is not available with them,” Galgali told IANS. He explained that this information would help throw light on the capability and performance of the individual lawyers and whether they represented the BMC forcefully or not in the courts. Galgali observed that instead of incurring such huge legal expenses, the BMC should open a dialogue with the litigants to prevent unnecessary and time-consuming litigation, besides saving public money. (Business Standard 6/3/15)

37. RTI activist seeks copies of third party ‘objections’ (1)

New Delhi: On March 3 this year, the PMO finally replied to RTI activist Subhash Agarwal to say that the third parties had replied to say that the information was confidential and “will have the effect of impending [sic] the ongoing inquiry, investigation and trial.” The record of deliberations by the Chief Minister “is required to be constitutionally and legally protected from disclosure”, the PMO’s reply quotes the “third parties” as having said. As a result, the PMO refused to provide the information. While the PMO’s fresh reply does not name the third parties, Mr. Agarwal says that it must refer either to Mr. Vajpayee or Mr. Modi. “From media reports, I believe that Mr. Vajpayee is not in the health to take such a decision. If Mr. Modi took the decision, I want to know if he did it as Gujarat CM or as PM,” Mr. Agarwal told The Hindu. Mr. Agarwal has filed a first appeal under the RTI Act with the PMO in which he has asked for copies of the objections raised by “third parties.” Mr. Agarwal has also objected to the PMO stating that the disclosure would affect legal proceedings, noting that the RTI allows exemption for information that would impede investigation, and not for all matters under investigation. “Making the sought information public can never impede any process of investigation now after 13 long years of the matter for which reports of several enquiry commissions have already been made public,” Mr. Agarwal said. (The Hindu 10/3/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

38. ‘25 per cent seats in private schools for poor students’ (11)

HYDERABAD: The State government will enforce allotment of 25 per cent of seats in private schools to the poor students as per the provisions of the Right To Education Act from the next academic year. Disclosing this at a media conference, HRD Minister Ganta Srinivasa Rao said here on Monday that the government was also working on setting up cluster schools with all best amenities and transport facilities to attract students from all sections to the State run primary schools. This would facilitate in improving the image of government schools and bring them on par with private schools which were preferred even by the poor for their children’s admission. Though government was spending thousands of crores on qualified teachers, infrastructure, the government primary schools were losing out their corporate counterparts. The committee of experts would offer its recommendations to bring in reforms and revamp the government primary, secondary and high schools. On the quality of education in engineering colleges, the Minister said that from next academic year, grading system would be implemented and A,B,C and D grades would be given to the colleges based on their faculty, infrastructure, placement record. Mr. Srinivasa Rao said that both the IIM and IIT institutions sanctioned by the Centre would be started this year in temporary accommodation. The funds announced by the Centre in the Union Budget for various institutions were under the heads of provision and more funds would be provided depending on the requirement, he said. (The Hindu 3/3/15)

39. Maharashtra’s Migrant Children Deprived of Education (11)

THANE: Nearly 70 per cent of migrant children in Maharashtra’s Thane and Palghar districts are deprived of education, according to a survey. Nearly 87 per cent children, mostly of the migrant brick kiln workers, were deprived of education in 2010, 77 per cent in 2011, 60 per cent in 2012-13 and 70 per cent in 2013-14, as per the survey conducted by two Palghar-based NGOs- Shramajivi Sanghatana and Vidhayak Sansad. Despite the government’s move to provide education to all under the RTE, a considerable number of children were kept away from education and even deprived of the health care facilities, a delegation of the NGOs pointed out while submitting a memorandum in this regard to Governor C Vidyasagar Rao during his visit here yesterday. Vidhyak Sansad is an NGO conducting survey and analysis of various government and private scheme. The Shrmjivi Sanghatana works for the uplift of tribals in Maharashtra. (New Indian Express 4/3/15)

40. A proper education eludes special children (11)

HYDERABAD: Children with Special Needs (CwSN) in Telangana continue to get a raw deal in terms of school education, notwithstanding the provisions of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. As per an amendment to the Act, the Teacher-Pupil Ratio for CwSN should be 1:5 at the primary level, and 1:8 at the secondary level. However, in Telangana, each teacher is saddled with 126 children with special needs on an average at the primary level. At the secondary level, no special teachers are appointed at all. Telangana has close to 69,000 children between classes I and VIII, with disabilities and cognitive impairments, as per the data collated during 2014-15. At the secondary level, 22,035 CwSN are recognised. Even where special educators are employed, they are employed only on contract basis. Telangana has 548 contract teachers for imparting home-based education for CwSN, as per the information provided by the Inclusive Education Resource Teachers’ Association of Telangana State. Kalpagiri Sreenu, General Secretary of the Association, says all the contract teachers have been working under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, while the State government evades its responsibility of recruiting special educators. A Government Order (G.O.) of 2012 sanctioned 1,476 school assistant (Special Teacher) posts in united AP, under the centrally sponsored scheme for ‘Inclusive Education for Disabled at Secondary Stage’ (IEDSS), with the stipulation that Central funds would be released on actual utilisation basis. However, no teacher has been recruited under the scheme so far, while a committee was duly constituted to finalise the modalities. With the bifurcation of the State, Telangana got 616 posts for filling, for which notifications are yet to be released. Strangely, the GO identified only Visual Impairments and Hearing Impairments for the posts of special educators, while the definition of CwSN also includes speech-impaired, multiple-disabilities, orthopaedically impaired, children suffering from cerebral palsy or learning disabilities, and autistic children. “We demand that all categories of teacher posts be filled, and that the existing teachers working on contract basis be considered first for filling up the posts under IEDSS.Andhra Pradesh has already begun the process of regularisation, so the Telangana government should follow suit,” Mr. Sreenu demands. (The Hindu 7/3/15)

41. Now, digital Gender Atlas to map girls’ education progress (11)

NEW DELHI: In order to monitor how various education programmes are working vis-a-vis gender-related indicators, HRD ministry has launched a web-based digital gender atlas, a tool which will map the progress on girl education throughout the country. Releasing the gender atlas on Monday, school education secretary Vrinda Sarup said, “It is a tool used for education planning and administration and helps us target a plan of action for effective implementation of programmes.” “The atlas provides comparative analysis of individual gender-related indicators over three years and that enables a visual assessment of the change and an understanding of whether some intervention introduced in a geography at a particular point of time has worked or not,” HRD ministry said. Gender Atlas visualizes the vulnerability status of an area based on composite index of three parameters such as rural female literacy and percentage of boys and girls with disabilities, particularly girls. The performance status of individual indicators can be visualized at the state and district level, differentiated by colour coding. For instance, the level of vulnerability of districts and blocks in Bihar or remote areas of Gujarat or Telangana can be measured with the digital atlas. The atlas can be used by states, districts, block education administrators or any other interested group including NGOs, ministry officials said. “It has been developed as a hands-on management tool to enable critical decisions and actions in pockets where gaps are to be met,” Sarup said. The map has been prepared with data collated from the Unified District Information System for Education Data, Census 2011 and District-level Health Survey. While India has achieved high enrolment for girls at primary and upper primary levels, enrolment, however, remains low at the secondary level. At the upper primary level, the representation of girls in total enrolment is 48.66% and at the secondary level at 47.29%. (Times of India 10/3/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

42. Odisha to provide meal for Rs.5 to urban poor (21)

Bhubaneswar: In order to provide an affordable meal in five urban areas of the state, the Odisha government is all set to introduce “Aahar” scheme from this April, an official said here on Monday. Under the scheme, the government would provide a meal for five rupees to the urban poor in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Sambalpur, Berhampur and Rourkela. The menu of the meal will comprise plain rice and dalma (a combination of dal and vegetables). Taking a cue from Tamil Nadu, the government has decided to open Aahar centres (canteens) at bus stops, railway stations, collectorate and hospitals in the five urban areas. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik here Monday. The poor people coming to the cities can avail the Rs.5 meal only during lunch time while the government will make arrangements to provide meals to 25,000 people daily, a chief minister’s office (CMO) release said. According to the meeting, corporate houses would provide assistance for the scheme while the state’s food supply and consumer welfare department and the urban development department would set up the necessary infrastructure. The scheme would be expanded to other urban areas in the coming years if it is successful in the cities, the official added. “These initiatives have been called populist. But this model of providing affordable cooked food in urban areas ensure food security and also keeps food prices in check,” an official said. (Business Standard 2/3/15)

43. Poverty forces mother to kill daughters (21)

AJMER: Preliminary investigation suggests that poverty compelled the mother arrested for killing her two daughters Sonia, 4 and Samridhi, 1, by mixing their milk with small rusted nails to commit the crime. Alwargate police found that the accused Sunita alias Ratna had ran out of ration and had no food in the house except 200 grams of wheat flour and the girls were crying of hunger. Police also revealed that even the milk which was used to kill the girls was borrowed from the neighbour that night. Police will now move an application in the court for the mental examination of Sunita in Jaipur. “We searched Sunita’s house and found that she had no food in the kitchen. There were no vegetables or bread or anything else available. We found about 200 gram of wheat flour in polythene which was stinking,” said a police officer. Neighbours told the police that on the night of February 26, they heard the girls cry and Sunita was threatening them to stop. “She came to me at about 10pm on that day and borrowed a glass of milk. She said nothing else,” Kanta, Sunita’s neighbour, told police. Sunita, in her statement to the police, accepted that couldn’t bear seeing her children cry of hunger. “I did not have a penny to even purchase poison and I found the nails in the cupboard. I added them to the milk so that it chokes them and can’t speak anything,” Sunita told the police before she was arrested. Police said for two days Sunita slept with the dead bodies of her daughters and when they started stinking she decided to throw those bodies out in the well. “Not a single tear dropped out of her eyes over her daughters as all her emotions had died,” added a police officer. Postmortem also proved that doctors found that there was nothing in the belly of the dead girls except those nails and some milk. Police confirmed that Arun, Sunita’s husband, was earning only Rs 2,500 monthly and for more income they rented out a portion of inherited house for Rs 3,000 a month. “Whatever Arun earned he spent on liquor. He rarely gave anything to his wife and the fights between the couple were not unknown to the residents of the colony,” said Dharmendra Kumawat, a local resident. Police on Tuesday concluded the case and will seek permission from the court for mental examination of Sunita as while investigating they found that she had tried to murder her daughters even last year but failed and she also took medication for her mental problem (Times of India 4/3/15)

44. Direct cash transfer of food subsidy to begin on pilot basis (21)

NEW DELHI: Government will launch direct cash transfer of food subsidy to beneficiaries in Chandigarh and Puducherry on pilot basis. While stating that the ministry is keen to do this to stop leakage of PDS grain, food minister Ram Vilas Paswan reiterated they have “outrightly” rejected the PM-appointed committee’s recommendation to reduce food security coverage from 67% to 40%.The panel on restructuring of Food Corporation of India (FCI) in its report submitted to PM had recommended these measures besides others. The ministry has proposed the two Union Territories for direct cash transfer since these are urban areas and the will be better monitoring. Though Paswan said this is a better mechanism, there are problems as well. “If we transfer cash, beneficiary can buy food grains from open market. Then what will happen to our procurement operation and what will we do with procured food grains and our storage facilities. We need to seriously think about this before implementing it on larger scale,” he said. The panel has also suggested the government should ensure that farmers get minimum support price (MSP), meaning state-owned agencies must procure grains from farmers. Playing safe the ministry in its submission to PMO has also steered clear of the panel’s sensitive recommendation to have uniform mandi taxes of 3-4% on wheat and rice and the same to be included in the MSP. Since only West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have agreed to this proposal, Paswan said they would push this only when all states are on board. The minister also said that FCI has agreed to procure pulses and oilseeds from farmers at MSP besides rice and wheat, as recommended by the panel. On the issue of FCI’s withdrawal from buying grains in states including Punjab, Haryana, Chhattisgarh and Odisha where government procurement system has been strengthened, Paswan said the agency won’t procure any grain from Haryana from this season starting April. FCI will also stop any procurement from the next season starting April 2016. The ministry has also favoured outsourcing the testing of FCI foodgrains to private sector and is ready to try it on a pilot basis in 25 depots in Chhattisgarh. (Times of India 6/3/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

45. Children of construction workers to get quality education (14)

Mangaluru: Minister of State for Labour P.T. Parameshwar Naik on Monday said the Karnataka Labour Welfare Board has plans to provide quality education to the children of construction workers in the State, starting with those in city corporation limits, from the new academic year. For this, two options are being examined: direct admission to well-known residential schools, and the board paying their fees, or creating infrastructure for state-of-the-art schools and allowing private institutions to impart education there. A decision on it would be taken soon, Mr. Naik, who is also the chairman of the board, said. “We will start with city corporation limits and later extend the scheme across the State to bring these children on a par with others,” he said. The board has been reimbursing tuition fee of these children for all courses, besides extending scholarships of various amounts. The board is also in the process of building a full-fledged construction academy and has earmarked Rs. 256 crore for it. A 20-acre-plot has been identified in Doddaballapur taluk. The academy would focus on improving the working conditions of workers, enhancing their skills, among other aspects, he said. (The Hindu 3/3/15)

46. ‘Position of socially & financially deprived hasn’t improved’ (14)

New Delhi: The relative position of socially and financially deprived groups like scheduled castes and tribes condition have not improved relatively last 7 years ending 2011-12, a survey has showed. “Estimates from the quinquennial consumer expenditure surveys conducted in 2004-05, 2009-10, and 2011-12 indicate that the ranking of the social groups by Monthly Per Capital Expenditure (MPCE) has remained the same over the 7-year period 2004-05 to 2011-12 in both rural and urban sectors,” the survey said. According to the National Sample Survey Organisation’s Household Consumer Expenditure across Socio-Economic Groups, 2011-12, “In both sectors, ?Others? had the highest MPCE, followed by ?OBC? (other backward class), over this period. The lowest MPCE was that of the ST (scheduled tribes) group in the rural sector and that of the SC (scheduled caste) group in the urban areas.” The relative position of socially and financially backward groups especially SC and ST have not shown any improvement despite the various social sector schemes of the government. However, the average MPCE of the OBC group, in both the rural and urban areas, showed a minor improvement in respect of percentage difference from average MPCE of all-social groups between 2004-05 and 2011-12. It said that in villages, the average MPCE was Rs 1122 for ST, Rs 1252 for SC and Rs 1439 for OBC and in urban India it was Rs 2193 for ST, Rs 2028 for SC, and Rs 2275 for OBC. The average MPCE of ‘Others’ at all-India level (Rs 1719 in rural and Rs 3242 in urban India) was more than the all-groups average (Rs 1430 in rural and Rs 2630 in urban India) in both sectors. Among the rural household types, average MPCE was Rs 1509 for ‘self-employed in non-agriculture’, Rs 1436 for ‘self-employed in agriculture’, Rs 2002 for ‘regular wage/salary earning’, Rs 1159 for ‘casual labour in agriculture’, Rs 1238 for ‘casual labour in non-agriculture’ and Rs.1893 for ‘others’ as per the study. In cities, average MPCE was Rs 2415 for ‘self-employed’, Rs 3062 for the ‘regular wage or salary earning’, Rs 1514 for ‘casual labour’ and Rs 3734 for ‘others’. Among rural households classified by size of land possessed, the topmost class had an average MPCE of Rs 1953 and the lowest class had an average MPCE of Rs 1391, it added. The report is based on information collected during July 2011-June 2012 from 101651 households (59683 rural and 41968 urban) in 7469 villages and 5268 urban blocks spread over the entire country. (DNA 4/3/15)

47. Govt issues 19,000 learner’s licences to e-rickshaw drivers (14)

New Delhi: About 19,000 learner’s licences were issued to e-rickshaw drivers in special camps held by the Delhi government at 13 motor licensing offices across Delhi, the government announced on Monday.

A government spokesperson said the main thrust of these camps was to facilitate the issuance of e-rickshaw learning licences along with receiving of applications for issuance of PSV (public service vehicle) badges. The government’s Labour department also organised health camps for industrial workers on Tuesday at G T Karnal Road Industrial Area and Udyog Nagar Industrial Area.A camp will also be held at Okhla Industrial Area, Naraina Industrial Area and Mayapuri Industrial Area on Wednesday, officials said. As part of the national safety campaign, safety workshops are also being organised by the Labour department in these industrial areas. Workers have also been asked to administer an oath to observe occupational safety in order to avoid accidents, the spokesperson said. (Indian Express 10/3/15)

48. Insurance Workers Join All-India Protest (14)

BENGALURU: The employees of Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) and four public sector general insurance companies observed a nationwide strike on Monday, protesting against the passing of Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2015, by the Lok Sabha. The agitators were supported by CITU, AITUC, INTUC, BMS and other central trade unions, bank unions, BSNL and public sector enterprises. According to the protesters, the strike affected work in about 3,000 branches of LIC. There were no financial transactions in all the branch offices of LIC. In Karnataka, at least 5,000 people participated in the strike. President of All India Insurance Employees Association Amanulla Khan said the passing of the law was unnecessary. He said the objective of opening the insurance industry to private players in 1999 has not been met. “There is no justification in increasing the foreign equity limit from 26 to 49 per cent in the insurance sector. Taking the ordinance route on this Bill is like mocking the parliamentary process,” he said. “The insurance industry is not capital intensive and enough resources are available within the country to meet the capital needs of the private companies. Political parties must see the danger and prevent the passage of this Bill in the Rajya Sabha,” said Khan. (New Indian Express 10/3/15)

RESERVATION

49. Owaisi demands quota for backward Muslims in Maharashtra (25)

Nagpur: All India Majlis Ittehad ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Sunday demanded reservation for backward Muslims in government jobs and educational institutes in Maharashtra. “Mr Prime Minister, in your speech in Parliament, you referred to your vision of ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas’ (together with all, development for all). Therefore, you (PM) should pick up the phone and tell Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to extend the benefit of quota to backward Muslims so as to improve their living conditions,” he said. The 45-year-old Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad was addressing a public gathering here last night. Braving unseasonal drizzle, a large number of people attended the rally, Owaisi’s first in Nagpur, which headquarters RSS. Claiming that “injustice” has been done to Muslims in Maharashtra, Owaisi blamed the over 50 years of rule of Congress at the Centre and Congress-NCP and Shiv Sena-BJP administrations in the state for the prevailing backwardness among the minority community members. Quoting figures from Sachchar Committee and a number of other panels and also Minorities Commission, he painted a grim picture of the living conditions of Muslims across Maharashtra and said they lack access to even basic amenities. He said education level among Muslim children and youth was abysmally low. “In this backdrop, why is the state denying the socially, educationally and economically backward giving what is their due?” Owaisi asked. The current BJP-Sena Government refused to introduce a Bill in the last Winter Session of Assembly to replace an ordinance brought by the erstwhile Congress-NCP administration on Muslim reservation in jobs and education, he said. “I am always accused of making communal statements and controversial remarks. But I am the one who calls spade a spade. Why don’t those accusing me of being intemperate ponder over the serious issues I raise?” he asked. “Let the RSS bosses here get the message loud and clear – I will not sit quiet till this demand of reservation for Muslims is accepted,” asserted Owaisi. He ridiculed suggestions that the Hyderabad-based AIMIM, which won two Assembly seats in Maharashtra in last Assembly election, was a ‘BJP creation’ to wean away Muslims and Dalits from the Congress party. Owaisi maintained he was against the ideology of Hindutva, but not against Hindus. PTI (Zee news 1/3/15)

50. Telangana constitutes panel for Muslim reservation (25)

Hyderabad: The Telangana government on Tuesday constituted a commission to study the socio-economic and educational status of Muslims in the state and recommend increase in the quantum of reservation for the community. Muslims in Telangana currently enjoy four percent reservation in education and employment. The commission has been constituted by Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government as a follow-up on its poll promise to provide 12 percent reservations to Muslims. The three-member commission to be headed by retired IAS officer G. Sudhir will submit a report to the government within six months. An order issued by the minorities welfare department said there was a need for the study to enable the government to formulate policies for the amelioration and upliftment of Muslims to bring them on par with other sections of society. The commission will recommend the steps to be taken to remove the impediments in the improvement of the overall social, educational, economic conditions of the Muslim Community and to provide for reservation in education and employment to poor deserving Muslims, wherever necessary. M.A. Bari, a retired government official, will be a member while the second member will be appointed later. Meanwhile, the state government also constituted a three-member commission to study and prepare a comprehensive report on the relative increase of Scheduled Tribes (STs) population in the state and their social and economic backwardness. The TRS had also promised 12 percent quota for the STs. The panel, to be headed by retired IAS officer S. Chellappa, will examine the representations of some communities for inclusion in STs. (Business Standard 3/3/15)

51. SC/ST Students Get Short Shrift as Quota Seats Remain unfilled (25)

KOZHIKODE:Malabar College of Engineering and Technology, a self-financing educational institution located at Cheruthuruthy in Thrissur, allocates 30 seats for SC and ST candidates — eight percentage of the total seats — as directed by the government. However, only nine students from the category sought admission in 2014, with 21 seats remaining vacant. The situation was not different in previous years. While 18 reserved seats had to be left unfilled in 2013, the year 2012 witnessed 20 seats reserved for the communities lying vacant. V Nandanan, Principal of the College, said the seats were not filled because of lack of  qualified candidates.  The situation points to the absence of a  mechanism to monitor the admission to the quota reserved for the SC/ST communities, which has the potential to undermine steps for affirmative action. The Office of Commissioner of Entrance Examinations (CEE), in reply to an RTI request by ‘Express’, said a total of 1,075 engineering seats were allocated under SC\ST quota in 2014. The data collected from various institutions show that hundreds of seats have remained unfilled. They include self-financing colleges in government and private realms. The College of Engineering, Trikaripur, Kasargod, with a quota of 14 seats had six vacant seats in 2014 while the College of Engineering, Vatakara, witnessed one out of the 13 reserved seats remaining vacant. Two medical seats reserved for the SC category remained vacant in the Pathanamthitta district last year. In 2013, 1,208 engineering seats and 164 MBBS seats were filled, while the figures for 2012 stood at 1,233 engineering and 168 MBBS seats. Many seats, mainly in the engineering colleges remained vacant. The Office of the CEE said they are conducting allotment to government seats as per the reservation system prescribed in the prospectus. The Departments for Development of SC and ST said they are clueless regarding the number of candidates getting admission to the professional colleges, though there are many schemes to facilitate education of the students under these categories. (New Indian Express 5/3/15)

52. POW decries delay in passage of women’s bill (25)

ONGOLE: It’s an 18-year-long journey on a rough path that the Women’s Reservation Bill has taken since its introduction during the Deve Gowda government in 1996. Though major political parties had committed themselves to one-third reservation for women in Parliament and State legislatures, the Bill has not seen the light of the day, laments Progressive Organisation of Women (POW) State secretary B. Padma as POW activists performed a skit on the chequered journey of the quota bill to mark the International Women’s Day here on Sunday. Accompanied by Aronadaya State secretary Anjaiah, the POW activists ridiculed the “male chauvinistic” society for putting the Billinto cold storage. POW functionaries, including its district vice-president Mastanamma and joint secretary Manjula, vividly portrayed the battle for greater representation for women in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies by singing Janapada songs and dances. When the AP State Reorganisation Bill could be passed amid pandemonium by voice vote, what prevented the Women’s Reservation Bill to be adopted at a time when many parties committed themselves to passage of the Bill, asked POW district president S. Barathi. “It’s high time the NDA governmentto get Parliament’s nod early,” added POW district treasurer Ch. Padma. (The Hindu 9/3/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

53. NGOs shut for using ‘human rights’ in name (1)

COIMBATORE: Three NGOs functioning in Coimbatore are in the dock for using the term ‘human rights’ in the title of their organisations in violation of rules. The rural police registered cases against 30 people associated with the three organisations for misleading and allegedly cheating the public, but have not arrested any of them so far. “We have started collecting information about other organisations using the term ‘human rights’ in their names,” a police official said. Police said Centre had made an amendment in the Society Registration Act prohibiting the use of ‘human rights’ in the names of non-governmental organisations, associations and societies. The police had also instructed those with the nomenclature to remove them immediately after the amendment. Police received several complaints that three NGOs were functioning in Thudiyalur, Karamadai and Negamam in violation of the rules. An inquiry was ordered and action initiated against the three organisations. Thudiyalur police booked S Abdul Mazid, 50, under Sections 170 (impersonating a public servant), 420 (cheating) and under Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950. Police said he was running the organisation at Senthur complex on Mettupalayam road in Thudiyalur. He had printed visiting cards, letter pads claiming he fought against human rights violations. Similarly Karamadai police registered a case against R Chinnarasu, 37, from Karamadai and nine others for running the fake human rights organisation. He was the state secretary of the firm. Negamam police registered an FIR against Kaliyapa Gounder, president of a human rights organisation from Panappatti. K A Sundaram Chettiyar, the secretary, Palanisamy and 17 others. Police said the State Human Rights Commission has barred the use of the word of Human Rights by any society, non governmental organisation or association in Tamilnadu and that they should not use these terms in their name board, sign board, letter head, visiting card and in all correspondences. (Times of India 1/3/15)

54. Rights Panel Seeks Release of Activists (1)

KOCHI:  The Indian arm of Amnesty International, an organization fighting for human rights on Friday asked the state government to unconditionally  release two activists Jaison C Cooper and Thushar Nirmal Sarathy, immediately. The Kerala police had arrested Cooper and Sarathy in Kochi and Kozhikode respectively on suspicion of being involved in unlawful activities because they had ‘pro-Maoist’ materials in their homes, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on January 30. They were denied bail on March 3, and continue to be held in judicial custody. “Indian courts have stated on multiple occasions that mere possession of certain literature cannot be considered a crime. The National Human Rights Commission has asked for a report from the Kerala police on the arrests. Authorities must ensure that the two men are protected from torture and other ill-treatment,” said Shemeer Babu, Programmes Director, Amnesty International India in statement released to the media. The investigating officer in the case had told Amnesty International India that the men had supported banned armed Maoist groups and also supported an attack on the National Highways Authority of India’s project office in Kochi on January 29. However, the officer admitted that the only existing evidence against the men was that the police had found pamphlets and materials ‘supporting Maoist groups’ in their homes, including a book titled ‘Why Maoism?’ at Cooper’s house. The police also said that they had found in Sarathy’s house a document signed by a leader of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) armed group giving him power of attorney. “The human rights activists in Kerala must be able to carry out their work without intimidation or harassment and authorities must take prompt action against those who violate their rights,” said Shemeer Babu. In April 2011, the Supreme Court had observed while granting bail to Binayak Sen, who was  convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for sedition and helping Naxalites to set up a network to fight the State that “the mere possession of Naxalite literature does not make a person a Naxalite.” (New Indian Express 7/3/15)

55. Activist defies ban on ‘India’s Daughter’, shows docu in Agra village

AGRA: In an angry response to the ban on ‘India’s Daughter’, the BBC documentary on the Nirbhaya gang-rape, an activist involved with the NGO ‘Stop Acid Attacks’(SAA) set up a huge projector in an Agra village on Sunday evening, and screened the film. The activist, Ketan Dixit, an independent documentary film-maker, said that he was prompted to organize the screening, which had the support of his NGO, as a “mark of protest against the ban” and that he was ready to “face any action that was initiated against him.” The audience at Rup Dhanu village, located almost 40km from Agra, sat in rapt attention as the documentary unspooled on the makeshift screen made up of bedsheets. Although the documentary was in English, volunteers at hand explained to the audience in Hindi what was being said. Many women in the village, who were part of the audience of about 70, said that they could empathize with Nirbhaya’s plight. Some wondered why a film like this needed to be banned. “After seeing the film, I think the rapists should simply be hanged,” said Meera Parmar, a village resident. Deeksha, an 18-year-old, added that the film portrays the primitive and orthodox mindset of many in society. “Every woman should see it. The government should revoke the ban immediately.” Dixit, who is also the official spokesperson of SAA, said that he had contacted many villages in the area for screening the documentary but most of them were apprehensive. “Many outrightly denied permission, others expressed solidarity with the government’s ban. However, when we approached Rupdhanu residents and explained the background to them, they readily agreed.” He added that he would soon be arranging screenings in colleges in Agra as well other villages in the region. Meanwhile, officials in the UP government, which is responsible for enforcing the ban in the state, when contacted, said they were awaiting instructions. “We will carry out whatever instructions we receive from the Central government. So far, we have not received any directions or order in writing regarding the ban,” said principal secretary(Home), Devashish Panda. (Times of India 8/3/15)

56. NHRC seeks report over claims of jailed doctor treating inmates (1)

Bhubaneswar: The National Human Rights Commission has sought an action taken report from Orissa chief secretary over allegations that an undertrial doctor who is accused of chopping his wife into small pieces is treating other undertrials in Bhubaneswar jail. The commission’s order has come in response to a complaint filed by human rights activist Akhand who alleged that routine health services and emergency healthcare in Bhubaneswar’s Jharpada Jail is being looked after by retired doctor of Indian Army, Colonel Somnath Parida. In June 2013, police arrested Parida, a 71-year-old retired Army doctor who allegedly killed his 61-year-old wife and then chopped off her body into very small pieces before stashing them into small tiffin carriers. Since then he has been in Jharpada Jail waiting for his trial to end. In his complaint, Akhand alleged that the doctor assigned to treat the 700 undertrials and convicts reaches the jail at about noon and leaves at 1 pm. He again comes at 4:30 pm and leaves at 5:30 pm. “That leaves health care in the hands of Colonel Somnath Parida. His assistant is another undertrial Hari, a sweeper of a clinic in the city who killed the owner of the clinic,” he alleged in his petition. While the mental stability of Col. Parida has always been in question after the crime, the capability of sweeper Hari to discharge duties of a compounder is unacceptable by any standard of medical practice, he alleged. “The patients are left with little choice. They have to either take the chance of getting treated by an allegedly mentally unstable doctor and untrained compounder or not get treated at all,” he alleged. (Indian Express 9/3/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

57. HC observation on triple talaq at one go (19)

MADURAI: Pronouncing talaq (divorce) thrice at one go without a time gap of about three months between every pronouncement, in order to facilitate reconciliation, is considered a sinful act even as per Muslim personal law, the Madras High Court Bench here has observed. Justice M. Sathyanarayanan made the observation while dismissing a revision petition filed by an individual who had been ordered by a lower court under the Code of Criminal Procedure to pay Rs. 6,000 a month to his divorced wife and Rs. 2,000 to his minor daughter as maintenance. The judge held that the amount awarded by the lower court could not be termed exorbitant in view of the inflationary trend and periodical rise in the prices of essential commodities. He also said pronouncement of triple talaq would go to show that the petitioner was not interested in living with his wife. “He should have pronounced talaq by giving time intervals so that mediatory efforts would have been possible. But the petitioner, by his own act, has prevented the mediatory efforts which would have enabled the first respondent (his wife) to begin living with him once again,” the judge added. Though the petitioner claimed to have got separated from his wife when she was carrying a four-month-old foetus in her womb and that he did not even know the name of the child born to her, the judge said it could not be a reason to avoid payment of maintenance since he had not disputed the paternity of the child. Mr. Justice Sathyanarayanan also said a document signed by the petitioner’s father and the office-bearers of a jamath would go to show that the bride’s family had gifted gold jewels and household articles though the petitioner was unemployed at the time of marriage. (The Hindu 2/3/15)

58. Property disputes may shift to commercial courts (19)

NEW DELHI: The government is contemplating shifting all property-related disputes to commercial divisions under high courts once they are set up. The government plans to set up at least 50-60 commercial courts in the country across the country. A bill to create commercial divisions in high courts to decide on high value commercial disputes and another seeking increase in the pecuniary jurisdiction of Delhi High Court is pending in Parliament. On Wednesday, Rajya Sabha deferred passage of the Delhi pecuniary jurisdiction bill asking the government to bunch it together with the commercial courts bill. The commercial courts bill provides for key amendments that include setting a time limit of 90 days for delivery of judgment after conclusion of arguments besides powers to the courts to impose “exemplary costs against defaulting parties for willful failure to disclose all documents”. Once the bill is passed by Parliament, it will lead to setting up of at least 50-60 commercial courts across the country or about two to three courts in each state. The bill also provides for appellate division benches in high courts which will hear appeals from commercial courts. These courts will have judges with expertise and experience in commercial disputes and may get a fixed tenure of two years so that continuity is maintained. The bill provides for “training and continuous education of judges” by the national and state judicial academies. Recently, the Law Commission had submitted a report to the government on commercial courts where it had expanded on its earlier report and sought empowering all HCs to set up commercial divisions under its jurisdiction to exclusively deal with such disputes. The commercial divisions so far are restricted to only a few HCs. Long pendency of commercial disputes is seen as one of the major problems for India not getting foreign investments. The World Bank had in a recent report ranked India 142 among 189 countries on the index of ‘Ease of Doing Business’. The reason was largely the pendency of cases in courts and non-implementation of judicial reforms. (Times of India 5/3/15)

59. India’s Daughter: HC refuses urgent hearing on PIL to lift ban (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Monday refused to give urgent hearing to a PIL seeking lifting of the ban on telecast of a controversial documentary featuring an interview of one of the four convicts in the December 16 gangrape case. A bench of justices B D Ahmed and Vibhu Bakhru said there is no so urgency in the matter and it will be heard on Wednesday (March 11). “It will be listed on Wednesday. Nothing so important, that it needs to be heard today,” the court said. The court’s response came after two law students — Arun Menon and Kritika Padode — in their public interest litigation (PIL) sought urgent hearing, saying the ban on the documentary is a clear violation of their fundamental rights under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. The duo approached the high court after a trial court on March 4 had banned until further orders the broadcast of the interview of December 16, 2012 gangrape convict Mukesh Singh, which was allegedly conducted in July 2013 inside Tihar jail here. Earlier, a trial court had restrained the media from broadcasting or publishing the interview of Mukesh Singh after the Delhi police moved court for a restraining order against his interview. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has also issued an advisory to all television channels to not broadcast the documentary on the victim. The government has also sought an explanation from Tihar jail authorities over how the convict was interviewed while being in judicial custody. A similar petition was filed last week, by a law student, who has sought lifting of the ban on the ground that it is “nothing but a honest look at the mind and mindset of one of the convicted rapists of the young woman”. Monday’s plea, which was mentioned before the bench by advocate Naman Joshi also sought direction to the Bar Council of India to expedite action against the two lawyer — advocate A P Singh and M L Sharma — who had allegedly made derogatory anti-women remarks in the documentary. (Indian Express 9/3/15)

60. Beef traders to petition HC against `draconian’ Act (19)

Beef, traders will soon petition the Bombay high court against the “draconian” Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995.The bill, which received Presidential assent recently , extends the ban on cow slaughter to bulls and bullocks, which has rendered thousands engaged in the trade and the leather industry jobless. Organizations representing traders and other community leaders met on Sunday . “We are preparing for a long-haul legal battle as the blanket ban has left thousands jobless,” said Mohammed Qureishi, president, Mumbai Suburban Beef Deal ers’ Association.Senior community leaders have counseled the traders to keep their agitation peaceful. “I told the Qureish community , which is traditionally in beef trade, not to do anything which may create a law and order problem. We will first move the HC against the law, and then take the battle to the Supreme Court, if needed,” said Pune educationist P A Inamdar, who addressed the traders. “Seeking relief from courts is our best option. It is a long fight,” said Sirajuddin Qureishi, president, All India Jamiatul Quresh, an influential body of the Qureishis. -Mohammed.Wajihuddin (Times of India 10/3/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

61. Article 370 Not to be Touched, AFSPA to Stay, No Citizenship to WRPs in J&K (1)

SRINAGAR: After taking over reigns of the State on Sunday, the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir released the much-talked about Common Minimum Programme (CMP), according to which Article 370 will remain untouched, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will stay and West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) won’t be given State citizenship. The CMP was released in a joint press conference by PDP patron and Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Dr Nirmal Singh in Jammu, winter capital of the State. The CMP was framed by PDP and BJP leaders after about two months of tough negotiations especially on contentious issues – Article 370, lifting of AFSPA, Settlement of WPRs and resumption of talks with Pakistan and separatists. On Article 370, CMP states that present position will be maintained on all the constitutional positions in Jammu and Kashmir including Article 370, granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Indian constitution. The BJP has all along been demanding revocation of Article 370 while PDP had been pressing for its strengthening to further cement State-centre ties. On WPR issue, the CMP stated that the State government will take measures for the livelihood and sustenance of West Pakistan refugees, who have been living in Jammu and Kashmir since 1947. The CMP has not promised citizenship rights to the WPRS as was being demanding by the refugees and the saffron party. PDP has been opposing granting citizenship rights to WPRs and favours settlement as per State’s constitutional norms. On lifting of AFSPA, CMP states that the State government will review security situation with a view to examine the need for all special laws in the State. “The government will examine need for de-notifying Disturbed Areas Act,” it further states. However, the CMP does not give any timeframe by which the process for revocation of AFSPA will be started. BJP had been opposing revocation of AFSPA while PDP had been favouring its lifting from peaceful areas of the State. On talks with separatists, CMP states that the State government will facilitate sustained dialogue with all internal stake holders. Also Read: Omar Congratulates Mufti Mohammed Sayeed on Becoming J-K CM The government promises to put in effort for national reconciliation on J&K. “I urge central government to start talks with separatist Hurriyat leaders in the State,” Mufti said while addressing the press conference. Asserting that Kashmir has been a problem for every PM since 1947, he said, “Let us take Hurriyats and separatists on board too as they also have a view point”. To the surprise of many, Mufti praised Pakistan and militants for polling in the State. “Pakistan, separatists and militants allowed conductive environment for Assembly elections in the State”. The State witnessed record voter turnout in Assembly polls held in November-December. On his party’s alliance with BJP, Mufti said, “I forged alliance with BJP out of conviction and not for convenience. It is alliance for governance”. (New Indian Express 1/3/15)

62. Home Ministry opposes AFSPA repeal (1)

New Delhi: The controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will stay as Union Home Ministry has rejected an official Committee recommendation for repeal of the Act. A senior Home Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a recommendation for rejection of BP Jeevan Reddy Committee report has been sent to Cabinet Committee on Security headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Brushing aside all criticism against the Act which is dubbed as “draconian” by several human rights organisations, the Home Ministry said the Act was needed for Army to operate in areas hit by militancy or insurgency.The Reddy Committee had submitted its report in 2005 suggesting scrapping of the law as it was a “a symbol of oppression”.The committee was set up in 2004, in the wake of intense agitation in Manipur following killing of a woman, Thangjam Manorama, while in the custody of Assam Rifles and the indefinite fast undertaken by activist Irom Sharmila against AFSPA. The five-member committee, headed by Justice Jeevan Reddy, a former Supreme Court judge, had submitted its report on June 6, 2005. The 147-page report recommends “the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, should be repealed.” The committee in the report observed that “the Act, for whatever reason, has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high handedness”.”It is highly desirable and advisable to repeal the Act altogether, without of course, losing sight of the overwhelming desire of an overwhelming majority of the (northeast) region that the Army should remain (though the Act should go),” it said. Various organisations in Northeast have termed the controversial law as “draconian”. Ever since the killing of Manorama, Sharmila has been on an indefinite fast and had declared that she would continue her fast till the Act is repealed. (BN Live 2/3/15)

63. Four cops get 7 year jail for custodial death (1)

New Delhi: A city court has sentenced four Delhi police personnel to seven years in jail for torturing to death a man in their custody in 1999 observing that they “snuffed out” a precious life and the victim’s cries cannot be forgotten. The court has also directed them to pay Rs 2.5 lakhs each to the family of the deceased, While awarding the jail term to head constables Bhagwan and Ujjagar Singh and constables Shri Pal and Siyaram, the court said that being the custodians of law, they tortured a man at the police station to such an extent that he died. “Cries of a man (deceased) within the four walls of the police station while undergoing extreme pain during torture cannot be forgotten,” the court noted in the order. Proceeding against fifth accused, constable Chaman Lal, was abated as he died in 2006 during the pendency of trial. “… Already the society has an impression that usually the culprits of custody death do not even face trial and when in a rare case a culprit of custody death is found guilty, if such person is released lightly and sentence is not commensurate, society is going to get signals as if even the courts do not play their part in appropriately sentencing such offenders,” the judge said. “Compensation to family of deceased has to be in addition to the substantive sentence and not in derogation thereof. The sentence should be such that it can act as deterrent even to other members of the police force,” the court said. Referring to various verdicts of the superior courts, the judge noted that custodial death was perhaps one of the most “barbaric acts” and such cases “need a different approach while sentencing the offender”. According to the prosecution, the accused police constables, who were then posted with the Alipur police station, arrested the deceased for allegedly possessing counterfeit currency on August 15, 1999 and was kept in illegal detention. (Asian Age 9/3/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

64. Conditional entry for scribes at Secretariat (1)

New Delhi: The tussle between the Delhi Government and journalists over entry into Delhi Secretariat was resolved on Monday to some extent with the AAP Government allowing “conditional entry” to scribes. The government’s stand comes after a delegation of the Delhi Press Accreditation Committee (DPAC) met the senior officials. DPAC chairman Ratnesh Mishra said, “According to the government’s decision, journalists with DIP accreditation cards can enter the Secretariat at 3 p.m. onwards. “Journalists who don’t have DIP accreditation cards will have to get entry pass issued in their names at the reception before entering the Secretariat.” Mr. Mishra said, “Government has also decided to review the entry of journalists every month.” The government has already made it clear that it has not banned the media entry into the Delhi Secretariat, but some restrictions were imposed on their entry. —PTI (The Hindu 3/2/15)

65. Govt asks YouTube to remove Delhi rape documentary, threatens action against BBC (1)

New Delhi: The government on Thursday asked YouTube to take down the controversial BBC documentary on December 2012 Delhi gang-rape and is also examining options on whether to take legal action against the broadcaster after it aired the film in the UK. The BBC had defied a home ministry’s directive not to telecast the documentary anywhere in the world and broadcast it in the United Kingdom on Wednesday night at 10pm GMT and also uploaded it on the YouTube. “All options are open. We are examining all facts,” home minister Rajnath Singh told reporters when asked whether the government was contemplating legal action against the British media giant for defying the ban. However, the BBC has conveyed to the government that it has no plans to telecast the film in India in compliance with the directive. Officials said that the home ministry is also planning legal action against award-winning British filmmaker Leslee Udwin for allegedly violating stipulated permission conditions. Communications and IT ministry has told YouTube that the issue is very sensitive and it should review its position on the matter, and remove it from the website, PTI quoted unnamed sources as saying. A YouTube spokesperson told PTI, “While we believe that access to information is the foundation of a free society and that services like YouTube help people express themselves and share different points of view, we continue to remove content that is illegal or violates our community guidelines, once notified.” The video sharing site did not confirm whether it has received a notification from the government, which is required to remove the content from its site. The documentary is still available on YouTube and has gone viral with multiple shares. A Delhi court had said that the order restraining airing or broadcasting of the interview of the convict Mukesh Singh, which was conducted inside the Tihar Jail in Delhi, will continue till further orders. Earlier in the day, the home minister had said the BBC should not have telecast the documentary and the government will action against the broadcaster. The government moved to block the film worldwide with Singh telling Parliament he was “stunned and deeply hurt” when he heard about the controversial interview of one of the accused. “We had asked to not release the documentary, but BBC still released it, and we will investigate and the MHA will take action accordingly… The conditions have been breached so action will be taken accordingly. I won’t comment any further on it,” Singh was quoted as saying by NDTV. The news channel also said that the home ministry has sent a copy of the court order prohibiting airing of the documentary to the BBC. The 60-minute documentary includes a lengthy interview conducted in jail with convict Mukesh Singh. It also has interviews with the victim’s parents, two defence lawyers ML Sharma and AP Singh, legal experts Leila Seth and Gopal Subramaniam, and relatives of the other convicts in the case that had triggered a nationwide outrage. In portions of the documentary that appeared in the media and on YouTube on Tuesday, death row inmate Mukesh Singh, who was driving the bus when the crime took place, blames the 23-year-old victim for the brutal assault that ultimately killed her. On Wednesday, the home minister had directed the BBC and the ministries of information and broadcasting, external affairs, and information technology to ensure Udwin’s film was not broadcast or put on social platforms anywhere in the world, officials said…..  (Hindustan Times 5/3/15)

66. BBC documentary: scribes welcome PCI move (1)

HYDERABAD: The Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU) has welcomed the decision of the Press Council of India (PCI) Chairman, Justice C.K. Prasad, not to issue any advisory to the media to restrain from publishing any news or contents of the BBC documentary “India’s Daughter” as sought by the Government of India. In a statement here, IJU President S.N. Sinha, Secretary-General Devulapalli Amar and PCI member K. Amarnath said the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry in a letter dated March 4 requested the Press Council of India to issue an advisory to the media not to publish news of the documentary as a Delhi court banned the airing of the same. (The Hindu 8/3/15)

67. India’s Daughter: BCI sends notices to rapists’ lawyers (1)

New Delhi: Taking serious exception to the controversial remarks said to have been made by two lawyers, M.L. Sharma and A.K. Singh, defending the accused in the “Nirbhaya rape case” in the BBC documentary India’s Daughter, the Bar Council of India (BCI) has issued a showcause notice to them, seeking their replies for the remarks. The legal fraternity demanded action against the two lawyers for their outrageous remarks and the executive committee of the BCI met on Friday in that context. The meeting considered the remarks of these lawyers and decided to get their comments before initiating further action, according to Bar Council of India chairman Mannan Kumar Mishra. He said, “We found that there is a prima facie case of professional misconduct against them warranting issue of showcause notice. They have been asked to respond in three weeks.” The documentary includes an interview with Mukesh, the driver of the bus in which the December 16 gangrape took place. Speaking to this newspaper, Mr Sharma said, “I have not yet received the showcause notice from the BCI. As and when I get it, I will give a proper reply.” He said, “My comments were misconstrued and misrepresented. The BBC filmmaker, Ms Leslee Udwin, interviewed me for 10 minutes but has used only a part of what I said. I have not spoken anything against women. In fact, I had stated that women needed protection. The media is misrepresenting my comments without watching the full documentary. I will initiate action against the television channels.” The documentary includes a controversial interview with the convict Mukesh, the driver of the bus in which a 23-year-old paramedical student was brutally gangraped by six men on December 16, 2012. The convict blamed the woman for the incident since she was returning late. India has imposed a ban on the documentary, in which the lawyer, Mr Sharma, reportedly said: “December 16-like incidents could happen again if girls go out without proper security.” Another defence lawyer, Mr Singh, had also made similar comments against women. Meanwhile, the Indian Journalists Union has demanded that the Government of India revoke the ban on the BBC documentary as such a ban would amount to severe restriction on the freedom of expression guaranteed under the Constitution. In a statement, IUJ president S.N. Sinha and two other office-bearers rejected the argument that the film on the gangrape of Nirbhaya glorified one of the convicts in the case. On the other hand, they said, “The film brought to the fore the deep prejudices harboured in the minds of a section of the people of the country. It is hypocritical to think that such documentaries will damage the prestige of the country abroad.” (Asian Age 8/3/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

68. Six accused of killing 3 Britons in Guj riots acquitted (7)

AHMEDABAD: Thirteen years after three British nationals were killed near Prantij during the 2002 Gujarat riots, a special SIT court in Himmatnagar on Friday acquitted six people accused of the murders. On February, 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra carnage, four people including three British citizens were killed on national highway-8 near Vadvasa village near Prantij town in Sabarkantha district. They were Saeed Dawood, Shakeel Dawood and Mohammed Aswat. A driver, Yusuf Sulaiman Piraghar, was also allegedly burnt alive by a mob. Another visitor from the UK, Imran Dawood, was injured but managed to escape and later filed a complaint. Special judge I C Shah exonerated Mithanbhai Patel, Chandu alias Prahlad Patel, Ramesh Patel, Manoj Patel, Rajesh Patel and Kalabhai Patel for want of evidence. The court said that the prosecuting agency, the Supreme Court-appointed SIT, “failed to prove the charges against all the accused beyond reasonable doubt, therefore, I have no option but to acquit them.” The court also chided police investigation because the prosecution could not establish the motive behind the unlawful assembly of the accused and the murders. It criticized police for poor investigation, not holding identification parade and taking witnesses’ statements under section 164 of the CrPC. “This also suggests inexplicable helplessness of the police in identifying, investigating, arresting or prosecuting real culprits,” the court said. The court refused to believe complainant Imran Dawood because during his deposition through video conferencing, he was assisted by someone and he was carrying notes. It objected to his use of notes saying he could not have been forced to do so as he was also a victim of the violence in which three of his compatriots were killed.During the trial, three eyewitnesses – Kaluji, Badarji and Dalpatsinh – turned hostile and refused to identify the accused. (Times of India 1/3/15)

69. Strong Action Against Those Disturbing Communal Harmony: Rajnath (7)

NEW DELHI: Strong action will be taken against those who disturb communal harmony, government asserted in Rajya Sabha today while stating that such incidents had “shown a decreasing trend” during the last few months of last year but increased again in January this year. “Whoever breaks communal harmony…strict action will be taken,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh said while replying to questions. He said people who try to disturb communal harmony will be given a “befitting” response. At the same time, he said “health” of communal harmony cannot be measured on the basis of number of incidents. Giving details of communal violence since October 2014, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said such incidents have “shown a decreasing trend during the last few months of the year 2014 from October to December 2014″.As per the information provided in the House, 72 communal incidents were reported in October, 49 in November and 33 in December. But the incidents increased to 72 in January 2015. Singh said he was not patting back of his government as the number of communal incidents were on the wane or criticising the previous UPA government for the increase during its regime. Digvijay Singh (Cong) earlier raised the issue of provocative speeches to disturb communal harmony. When a member referred to attacks on churches and violence in Trilokpuri area of Delhi last year, Rijiju said whether those were communal or not would be known only after investigation. As per the data, three communal incidents took place in Delhi in October 2014, and no other incident took place in the following months through January 2015. To related queries, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already denounced communal statements. Rijiju said he himself was a “minority” and assured the members that there would be no discrimination on the basis of religion. The data showed that 21 communal incidents took place in Maharashtra during January followed by 12 in Bihar and 10 in Karnataka. Replying to a question on improving working conditions of women in police forces, the MoS Home said the government has asked all Union Territories to increase the strength of women police personnel to 33 per cent. Police is a state subject and states have to implement the police reform and welfare measures. Rijiju added that the Centre advises the states from time to time to bring in requisite reforms in the police administration. To another question, Rijiju said it has been found that a number of associations in Andhra Pradesh receiving foreign contributions have not filed annual returns of accounts. “Notices were issued to 1,441 defaulting associations in the state of Andhra Pradesh for non filing of returns for the financial years 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12…,” he said. The Minister added of the 1,441, registration of 1,142 associations have been cancelled. (New Indian Express 4/3/15)

70. Holi celebrations marred by violence, 2 die (7)

AGRA: The festive spirit of Holi proved to be a dampener for some as revelry was marred by violence at some places in Agra and Mathura. Two persons lost their lives in different cases of communal violence while a policeman was severely injured in a fight over a DJ. An FIR under section 147 (balwa) and 151 (breaching peace) of the IPC has been lodged against 20 named and 40 unnamed persons by Narendra Singh, inspector in Tajganj police station, who was severely injured in violence that occurred in Digner area under Tajganj police station on Friday. The violence erupted over running a DJ during Holi celebrations in which two groups from different communities were involved in a scuffle. What started as an argument soon degenerated into violence after a a miscreant fired in the air and several others took to pelting stones at one another. “Udayveer Singh, village head man, was injured in the clash along with Narendra Singh, the police inspector. More than a dozen persons were also injured in the clash. An FIR has been lodged against 60 people for breach of peace in the city,” said SSP Rajesh Modak. Earlier on Thursday, one person died while two, including a woman, were injured after several rounds of firing at Supana village under Kosikala police station in Mathura district. The fight started between members of the Jaat and Jatav communities over running DJ during Holi celebrations. Heavy police force reached the spot after being informed by locals. CO, Chatta police station, Atul Kumar informed that an FIR against a 20 people, both named and unidentified, has been lodged under various sections like attempt to murder, breaching of peace and communal violence. The injured persons are being treated in Mathura district hospital. More than 10 people were injured in another case of communal violence that occurred at Bhogipura village under Shahganj police station. A named FIR has been lodged against seven people under various sections for attempting to kill a boy and his mother. According to police, Mamta, wife of Hari Mohan, has lodged an FIR against seven people who fired at her and her eight-year-old son who was playing inside a temple where members of a particular community are barred from entering. The miscreants allegedly saw the boy inside temple and started beating him. The accused fired on the boy and his mother. The locals who came to their rescue were also beaten up by the miscreants. Some people summoned the police who arrested five of the accused while others managed to flee. The situation was tense at the village even on Saturday. Another case of violence was reported from Nenana Jatav village, where two groups had a brawl over burning of the Holika on Thursday evening. The argument turned deadly between Jatav and Brahmins. Situation become tense as a few people started pelting stones and others resorted to firing in the air. Heavy police force reached to the spot and pacified the groups. At Dhanauli village under Malpura police station, around five people were booked under section 151 of the IPC for breaching peace in the city. The accused passed lewd comments against girls of another community during Holi celebrations. The brother of the girls tried to stop them (allegedly from another community) and slapped them. Matters took an ugly turn when families of both groups reached the police station. Cops booked five people in the matter. (Times of India 7/3/15)

71. Communal violence cases dropped by 22% from 2013 to 2014 (7)

NEW DELHI: Communal incidents in the country fell by almost 22% to 643 in 2014 from 823 in 2013. In fact, the latest figure is the lowest in the last three years, with 2012 having recorded 668 cases. A look at the data released by the government in reply to two Parliament questions dated December 2, 2014 and March 4, 2015 shows that Uttar Pradesh took much of the credit for the dip in communal attacks, recording the biggest drop (43.3%) from 247 incidents in 2013 to 140 last year. Incidentally, the high incidence of communal violence in UP in 2013 was mainly on account of the riots in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas in August and September that year. The state-wise break-up of communal attacks reported in 2014 puts UP at the top of the table with 140 incidents, followed by Maharashtra with 93, Gujarat with 75, Karnataka with 74, Rajasthan with 70 and Bihar with 61. The incidence of communal flare-ups was higher in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan in 2014 compared to 2013. While Maharashtra and Gujarat reported a marginal rise in incidents from 88 to 93 and 68 to 75 respectively, Rajasthan witnessed a significant increase in attacks from 52 in 2013 to 70 last year. The level of communal violence in Bihar and Karnataka remained more or less the same between 2013 and 2014. While Bihar saw 61 incidents last year against 63 in 2013, Karnataka saw 74 incidents of communal rioting against 73 in 2013. Tamil Nadu recorded just 14 incidents in 2014 compared to 36 in 2013, though Delhi recorded higher incidents at seven (an apparent outcome of the Trilokpuri riots last November) from just two in 2013. As per a monthly break-up of communal incidents from October 2014 to January 2015, put out as an annexure to the government’s reply to a Rajya Sabha query, 49 and 33 attacks were reported across the country in November and December 2014 respectively, though this went up to 72 incidents in January 2015. The sharp rise in incidents in January was on account of higher cases reported in Maharashtra (21) and Bihar (12). (Times of India 9/3/15)

COMMUNALISM

72. 55 converted at ghar wapsi event in Pollachi (26)

COIMBATORE: In one of the biggest reconversion exercises in the state so far, Hindu Munnani members claimed that they reconverted more than 55 people to Hinduism at an event at Pollachi in Coimbatore district on Sunday. The reconverted people from various Christian and Muslim families in and around Pollachi said they returned to Hinduism by choice. The event was held in a wedding hall and organizers prevented police from stopping the event by saying it was a personal event in a private building. “I converted to Christianity last year to marry a girl from that religion. I was baptized and named John Stephen. But the girl changed her mind and refused to marry me. So I am returning to Hinduism,” said N Prakash, 27, an auto driver from Moottampalayam near Pollachi. Arumugam, a daily wage labourer from Kumaran Nagar in Pollachi, married Mubina Begum six years ago. He approached Hindu Munnani saying his wife and two daughters wanted to convert to Hinduism. “We did not lure anyone by offering money. Those who wanted to reconvert approached us and we helped them,” said R Sivakumar, south district secretary of Hindu Munnani, Pollachi. The event was held at a wedding hall at Chinnampalayam in Pollachi. Hindu Munnani members presented copies of the Bhagavad Gita to the new converts, who were whisked off soon after the event to prevent them from talking to the media. T Gopalakrishnan, Pollachi west urban secretary of Himdu Munnani, said that if the identities of those who had reconverted was revealed, they might be targeted. “We plan to approach the police and get protection for them,” Gopalakrishnan said. Initially, police did not allow the Hindu Munnani members to conduct the event. But the functionaries opposed the police saying it was being held in a private hall. “Hindu groups are spending money to lure the people from other religions to Hinduism. This will neither help any religion nor society,” said K Ramakrishnan, general secretary, Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam. Hindu Munnani, however, brushed aside the charges, stating that Hindu groups have become soft targets. “No one is ready to blame other religions for conversion efforts,” said Sivakumar. (Times of India 2/3/15)

73. VHP, Bajrang Dal harass people by capturing cattle: Government (26)

Lucknow: THE state government on Tuesday accused RSS wings — Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal — of harassing people by capturing their milch animals in garb of a campaign against illegal slaughter. Animal Husbandry Minister Raj Kishore Singh, while replying to a supplementary question by BJP’s Lokendra Singh in the state Assembly, said: “Members of VHP and Bajrang Dal snatch cattle from the public on grounds of protecting them from illegal slaughter. They beat them up and even torch their vehicles. Ask these VHP and Bajrang Dal people not to do such activities.” The minister cited an example of his colleague who had allegedly faced the wrath of these outfits. “My fellow minister Chauhan (Tourism Minister Moolchandra Chauhan) told me about the incident. His daughter has a dairy farm and some milch cattle were being transported. Members of VHP and Bajrang Dal captured the cattle and set the vehicle on fire,” he said. Denying cases of illegal slaughter, Raj Kishore claimed that the existing slaughter houses were not operating to their full capacity, as they were not receiving the required number of animals. He further told the House that currently, 36 licensed slaughter houses are operating in the state. BJP MLA Lokendra Singh, however, cited the example of Bijnor. He said that illegal slaughter leads to communal tension if any animal goes missing and the thief belongs to another religion. BJP’s Suresh Rana claimed that it is not a religious issue as milk is need by everyone. He inquired about invoking NSA against those caught indulging in illegal slaughter. Claiming that the state was committed in stopping illegal slaughter, Raj Kishore said the government has passed instructions for invoking Goonda Act, Gangster Act and opening historysheet of the accused involved in the crime. Dairy industry is on the rise in UP with introduction of Kamdhenu dairy scheme, he added. The minister further said that in 2012, the state government had registered 3,655 cases of illegal transportation of animals and booked 8,217 people. In 2014, the number of cases related to of illegal transportation of animals rose to 4,400 and 8,206 people were named as accused. (Indian Express 4/3/15)

74. VHP Sadhvi booked for hate speech, disturbing harmony (26)

Mangaluru : A case has been slapped against VHP leader Sadhvi Balika Saraswati from Madhya Pradesh who was the star speaker at the Hindu Samajotsava held here on March 1 for allegedly disturbing communal harmony through her provocative utterances. Police said the case has been booked under Sections 153(A) of IPC based on a complaint from Suresh Bhat Bakrabail, Dakshina Kannada District president of Komu Souharda Vedike, an organisation that professes by communal harmony. Stoking a controversy, the Sadhvi, in her speech, had said “People who eat and live in India and praise Pakistan should be hit with shoes and sent to Pakistan.” (Asian Age 7/3/15)

75. RSS asks J-K CM if he is an Indian after Masarat Alam’s release from jail (26)

New Delhi: Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad SayeedJammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad SayeedRashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on Sunday questioned the motive of Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed after his government decided to free Kashmiri separatist leader Masarat Alam from jail and asked him “if he is an Indian or not”.RSS in its mouthpiece ‘Organiser’ said, “BJP must make it clear to the PDP leader to be clear if he is an Indian or not. He cannot adopt double standards.” The right-wing Hindu nationalist group commented after various political parties, including Congress, slammed the PDP-BJP led government for releasing the separatist leader from Baramulla jail. Alam had organized an anti-India protest in the Valley in 2010 that saw the death of more than 100 people.  Criticizing the move, the Congress party said, “PM and BJP must answer as to why peaceful atmosphere of J&K is being sought to be disturbed by successive unilateral moves by PDP-BJP govt.” “We strongly condemn release of Masarat Alam, responsible for anti-India protests and stone pelting incidents that led to death of 112 people” and his release endangers the hard earned peace, it said. AICC communication in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala has asked the PM to come clean on his stand. The PDP chief has also been criticized for praising the separatists for the peaceful polls in the Valley. “PM must answer to the nation whether he subscribes to such ill thought remarks & adventurism by his party’s coalition govt. in J&K,” the Congress party tweeted on Sunday. “PDP-BJP govt. had thanked separatists, terrorists & Pak for peaceful polls instead of thanking valor of people of J&K, security forces and EC,” it added. Masarat Alam’s release has sent PDP’s partner BJP scurrying for cover. Some BJP leaders in the state have outrightly rejected this move. BJP MLA Ravinder Raina said, “This move will turn situations ugly in the state.” Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah also slammed the move on twitter, saying, “Alam was the chief architect of the 2010 protests. It’s not a coincidence that the protests died out after his hard won detention. Either Alam has turned a new leaf & done a deal with Mufti Syed or he will go back to organizing trouble in the valley.” PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, the CM’s daughter, however defended the move saying it was aimed at reconciliation, the IBNlive.co.in reported. Alam, who was detained under the public safety act for the past four and half years, said he will continue with his protest. “I have come out of smaller jail to bigger one. Government did not release me but I have completed my sentence,” the IBNlive quoted him as saying. (India Today 8/3/15)

TERRORISM

76. Modi govt restrains NIA’s hands in 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case (12)

New Delhi: In what could be an indication of the Centre’s changing approach towards probes into instances of so-called “Hindu terror”, the NDA government asked the NIA not to challenge the Andhra high court giving bail to two accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, sources told HT. Devendra Gupta and Lokesh Sharma were arrested after the attack at the Hyderabad mosque that killed nine people – five others died when police opened fire on an angry mob protesting the incident. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had 90 days to file an appeal in the apex court after the high court granted bail to the two men on March 12, 2014. Sources say the agency immediately asked for sanction from the home ministry then headed by Sushilkumar Shinde, but the general elections followed soon after and the UPA was voted out. “The NDA government came to power and with the regime change at the centre the statutory limit of 90 days to file an appeal also got over,” said a senior government official requesting anonymity. “After the expiry of the statutory period, the home ministry told the NIA that after deliberations on the issue it found there were insufficient legal grounds for challenging the high court order.” Experts say as the NIA didn’t appeal against the bail order, it has become absolute and the defence counsel can cite it while seeking bail for their clients in the cases being tried under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The two men are still behind bars as they have also been charged in other terror cases – Gupta in the 2007 Dargah Ajmer Sharif attack and Sharma in the 2006 Malegaon blast as well as the 2007 Samjahuta Express blast. Referring to some of these incidents, the then home minister Shinde accused the BJP and RSS in 2013 of fomenting what he described as “Hindu terrorism” through some training camps. He expressed regret over his remarks days later following strident protests from the BJP and RSS. The BJP says the so-called “Hindu terror” probes launched by the UPA government were a conspiracy to malign the Sangh Parivar and its affiliates. While granting bail to Gupta and Sharma, the Andhra high court said the charges against them didn’t appear to be “prima facie true”. It also made interesting observations on the changing fortunes of some high-profile cases and drove home the point that an accused cannot be equated with a convict. “….Allegations of huge amount of money, changing hands, were made with tonnes of supporting material; ultimately ended almost with a covering letter of apology, while returning the amount confiscated from the accused,” the court said, referring to the Bofors case. (Hindustan Times 2/3/15)

77. ISIS threatens Twitter for suspending jihadists’ accounts (12)

SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter is investigating threats against its employees from the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, the company said in a statement. The threats follow a decision by the social networking site to block the accounts of jihadists. “Our security team is investigating the veracity of these threats with relevant law enforcement officials,” Efe news agency quoted the statement issued on Monday as saying. On Sunday, people claiming links with the ISIS posted a threat against Twitter co-founder Jack Dorseyon on image-sharing site JustPaste, saying that his “virtual war” against the militants would trigger a real war against him. The threat said in Arabic that “Twitter (is) a target for the caliphate”.”We told you from the beginning it’s not your war, but you didn’t get it and kept closing our accounts on Twitter. But we always come back,” said supporters of the group that seeks to create an Islamic “caliphate” in large parts of Iraq and Syria. The post went on to question how the Twitter founder would be able to protect the company’s employees once they became targets of the militant group. Twitter’s user policy prohibits the posting of direct threats against other people. Since last June, Twitter, together with other social networks, has been closing accounts of IS supporters. Twitter was founded in 2006 and has more than 500 million users. (Times of India 3/3/15)

78. Alam release: Home Ministry seeks report from J-K govt (12)

New Delhi: Union Home Ministry has sought a report from Jammu and Kashmir Government on circumstances leading to release from jail of hardline separatist leader Masarat Alam, who has over 15 cases pending against him. Despite being a Sunday, officials of the Kashmir division in the Home Ministry worked overtime to gather all facts from the state government on the issue which has led to strain in the PDP-BJP alliance. The ministry wanted to know the reasons that led to release of 44-year-old Alam, who spearheaded 2010 agitation, from the Baramulla jail last night. According to sources, Alam had around 15 cases pending against him which included those registered under section 120 and 121 Ranbir Penal Code (waging war against the country) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. With Opposition parties in Parliament already up in arms over Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s statement last Sunday when he credited Pakistan, Hurriyat Conference and militant outfits for smooth conduct of elections in the state, the Government expects disruption over this development as well when the session resumes tomorrow after the Holi break. Home Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to outline the Government position on the issue which has kicked up a political storm. The sources said Union Home Secretary L C Goyal had also spoken to Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police K Rajendra to ascertain the reasons behind the release of Alam, who has also been booked by police under criminal conspiracy for 2010 agitation during which about 120 youths lost their lives. In Jammu, the Police Chief held a meeting with the Chief Minister over the issue. As many as six policemen were promoted when Alam had been arrested in October 2010 from Harwan area on the outskirts of Srinagar city besides distribution of Rs 10 lakh cash reward to the cops as well as to the informers. He was carrying a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh on information leading to his arrest. (Deccan Herald 8/3/15)

79. GNLA asks students to remain in exam centres for 8 hours (12)

TURA, March 08: The Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) is now expecting the students who are appearing for their examinations to remain at their respective exam centres for 8 hours at a stretch. This was indicated by the conditions that the banned outfit has placed when it allowed students who are appearing for various examinations to use vehicles during the bandh which the outfit has called on Monday in protest against the alleged fake encounter of Sengbat Ch Marak, who was killed on March 4, 2015 in his village of Romba Ading in Oragitok, West Garo Hills (WGH). According to an online post by a member of the GNLA, vehicles carrying students need to ensure students are within centres by 9 am and only leave the exam premises only after the end of the bandh call at 5 pm. The outfit has also asked for students who use school uniforms to wear them and to carry their examination identification cards to the centre. Teachers at examination centres have also been asked to be in the exam centres by 9 am but should only leave after the bandh is over at 5 pm. The outfit has demanded an independent inquiry into the killing and has stated that the bandh call in Ampati is indefinite. The outfit however has warned that action would be taken against anyone breaking the bandh call. Meanwhile the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of WGH, Pravin Bakshi has informed that all Tura Public Transport Service (TPTS) buses have been asked to ply to allow for students to come and go between examination centres. “We have asked all TPTS buses to ply to ensure students are able to appear for their exams. We have also asked private operators to ply,” he said. The Garo Students’ Union (GSU) is also set to help students reach examination centres along with the district administration. (Megalaya Times  9/3/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

80. Odisha Govt seeks two copters for anti-Maoist operations (12)

Bhubaneswar: Odisha government urged the Centre today to provide two MI-17 or equivalent helicopters to the state for undertaking anti-Maoist operations in an effective manner. “I would request you to consider deploying two MI-17 or equivalent helicopters in the state at the earliest for effectively undertaking anti-naxalite operations,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said in a letter to Unoin Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Patnaik said he had earlier requested the then Home minister in a letter on October 29, 2010 for stationing two dedicated MI-17 Helicopters at Koraput and Bhubaneswar for anti-naxalite operations in Odisha. In response, the then minister of state for Home Affairs in his letter of November 26, 2010 had intimated that Government of Odisha could hire a helicopter as per the approval given by the ministry to the work plan of the state under SRE (Security Related Expenditure) scheme of central government for 2010-11, he said. The state government had hired one MI-172 helicopter from Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd (PHHL) and made it operational from August 7, 2011 for movement of force in Maoist affected areas and evacuation of casualties, Patnaik said in the letter copy, which was released here. However, because of prolonged pilot strike, the services of MI-172 helicopter by PHHL is not available to the state for operational purposes and the company has replaced it with an eight-seater Dauphin helicopter, including four crew members, with effect from 4th February, 2013 which is now in service, the chief minister said. “The state government has also requested the ministry of Home Affairs time and again to deploy two MI-17 or equivalent helicopters in the state. However, it has not yet materialised. Due to non-deployment of Government of India helicopters, the state government had to hire the Dauphin Helicopter from PHHL,” he said. (Business Standard 2/3/15)

81. Kerala HC declines bails to alleged Maoist activistsMahir Haneef, (12)

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday dismissed the bail pleas of Thushar Nirmal Sarathy and Jaison C Cooper, who allegedly belong to a Maoist front organisation and were behind the attack on NHAI office here. Turning down the bail pleas, justice B Kemal Pashad held that the contents of the case diary prima facie reveal their complicity and the matter requires thorough and continued investigation. Considering the seriousness of the allegation and the present stage of investigation, it is premature to grant bails now, the court said. Petitioners’ counsel KS Madhusoodanan had argued that the investigating officers have not collected any evidence to show any imminent threat or danger to the peaceful life in the country from the part of the petitioners. Therefore, no unlawful activity, as defined under section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) of 1967, occurred, he submitted. Further, the counsel submitted that absolute human rights violation is going on in forests wherein basic human rights are being denied to tribals. This leads to severe unrest among the tribal community. By forming an association for their protection and by lending support for the protection of their basic human rights, an organisation cannot be styled as a terrorist organisation, he argued. Opposing this, director general of prosecution (DGP) T Asaf Ali submitted that ‘Janakeeya Maushyavakasha Prasthanam’, in which the petitioners are members, is a front organisation for Maoist activities, which is banned as per UAPA. UAPA not only identifies CPI (Maoist) as a terrorist organisation, but all its formations and front organisations are also banned, the DGP argued. While it is true that there is human rights violations among the tribals in the forests, illegal activities which tend to overthrow a government or government machinery, which are constitutionally installed, through violence cannot be whitewashed, the DGP contended. Dismissing the petitions seeking bails, the court upheld the DGP’s argument and noted in the judgment that it is a matter that requires continued investigation. (Times of India 4/3/15)

82. Govt’s Welfare Measures Take a Toll on Maoists (12)

NEW DELHI: At a time when the lawmakers in the country concede that some of the government-run welfare schemes have been rendered inefficient due to large-scale corruption at the implementation-level, the Maoists feel the other way round. They find a number of schemes effective on the ground and believe they have adversely impacted the ‘red revolution’ much more than the security forces’ anti-Naxal operations. The unexpected acknowledgment of the improved socio-economic conditions of the people by the ultras, who exploit poverty and under-development of the villagers, confirms that they are now rattled by the welfare measures including subsidised ration, MNREGA, land reforms, rural banks and construction of roads. The Maoist leadership has asked the various state committees to carryout a field survey to assess the impact of welfare programmes on the ground. “In this regard, Eastern Regional Bureau of CPI (Maoist), which supervises activities in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam, Eastern Uttar Pradesh and North Chhattisgarh, has asked various state committees to carryout a detailed field study in villages and circulated a 19-column proforma to be filled during the survey,” a recent Intelligence Bureau (IB) report to the PMO said. The IB has also shed light on the unrest among the Naxal cadre due to the development programmes in villages. It said, “The Maoists blame these programmes for the rising attrition rate as village-level activists now get involved in various contract works associated with the schemes.” Subsidised rations are also a reason for the dwindling number of cadre, the outfit believes. For the field survey, the ultras have asked the cadre to study how the welfare schemes are affecting the ‘revolution’ and accordingly the group is planning a suitable modification of its tactics. “Lamenting the lack of maturity on the part of some its senior leaders, who could not sense the changing ground realities, the outfit asserted that the need of the hour is a comprehensive survey of the situation in the rural areas from a Marxist perspective,” the IB dossier further stated.  The extremist oufit has proposed meetings between middle-level/lower-rung cadre and the villagers to assess the impact of relief and rehabilitation schemes including subsidised rations, MNREGA, health centres, establishment of schools etc.  And the Maoists’ are apprehensive that the government schemes will sound the deathknell of the organisation. (New Indian Express 7/3/15)

83. Naxal survey to counter schemes (12)

New Delhi: The dreaded CPI(Maoist) is undertaking a major survey to fine-tune its tactics to counter the Modi government’s development agenda. Field committees of the Naxals have been asked to undertake the study by circulating performas to study the socio-political-economic impact of the various government schemes, like opening of rural banks, construction of roads and land reforms etc. The Maoists feel such initiatives can influence the village activists who are getting involved in them which can be a major setback to the Maoist armed movement. It says that the aim behind the survey by Maoists is to ascertain the impact of development schemes on its rural cadres and its support base in villages as it has weaned away some of its “active” cadres and village support base, ringing alarm bells in the top rung of the banned outfit. Terming the development agenda of the government “sugar-coated bullets”, the outfit has proposed meetings by medium and low ranking activists with the villagers to assess the impact of various relief and rehabilitation schemes, including subsidised rations, MNREGA, land reforms, construction of roads, establishment of schools, banks, health centres and panchayati raj institutions. “The objective of these interactions would be to find out whether these programmes led to any improvement in the condition of women, children, landless labourers, displaced farmers, employment opportunities for youth, lessening of victimisation by money lenders and so on,” warns an Intelligence Bureau report submitted to the home ministry and top security brass, including the national security adviser. The study will be undertaken under the supervision of the regional bureaux of the CPI(Maoist) in nine states, including Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, eastern Uttar Pradesh, north Chhattisgarh and states like Assam where Maoists are making heavy inroads. The IB warns that for the CPI(Maoist), the peasantry is its “firmest and most dependable ally” as it believes that its agrarian armed revolution is the key for creation of an unending supply of “armed cadres” which will ultimately lead to the establishment of “people’s army”. (Asian Age 8/3/15)

TRAFFICKING

84. Selling girls a business in Jharkhand, everybody has a share in the ‘trade’ (1)

As with thousands of children trafficked from Jharkhand every year, Delhi has been very cruel to Reeta. While visiting a market on Republic Day last year, she was lured by two men and a woman to Delhi with a promise of clothes and lots of money. Once in Delhi, the girl was sold to an agent who got her employment as a maid in a home where she was subjected to sexual and physical assaults. Reeta fled and spent two months at a women’s home before her father brought her back home. Reeta was one of the lucky ones. Thousands of girls trafficked every year by interstate gangs to metros and states, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Haryana, Punjab and Goa, simply disappear without a trace. Most of girls serve as bonded labour who are not allowed to interact with anyone except their employers. The less fortunate ones are made to work as sex slaves or become surrogate mothers and organ donors.Revelations by some rescued girls have blown the lid off the flourishing human trafficking racket in Jharkhand’s tribal hinterlands, a hotbed of modern day slavery where family members, neighbours, local politicians and even NGOs are involved in well-organised rings.A 2013 report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime identified Jharkhand as one of the states most vulnerable for trafficking of women and children. Much of the trafficking is done by placement agencies that are actually organised crime syndicates, the report said. Another report by the Action against Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children (ASTEC) in 2010 said about 42,000 girls had been trafficked from Jharkhand to metropolitan cities. The problem, civil society groups say, has become worse as trafficking rings have forged inter-state links to get around enhanced vigil by state governments. One ploy used by traffickers is to take girls from Jharkhand to far-off places like Assam, where they are less likely to attract the attention of police, before sending them to metros like Delhi. Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) has identified Rangia railway station in Assam as a transit point for trafficked children from eastern states. Around 58 girls, 18 of them from Lohardaga, were rescued from Doboka in Assam in September last year. Girls from Gumla, Lohardaga, Khunti and Simdega are also taken to Chattisgarh or Orissa and handed over to agents who send them to other destinations.The BBA also found that agents in Punjab, Haryana and the National Capital Region are working together.“These agents in eastern and northern states are functioning in a joint racket under the same syndicate based in New Delhi,” said Rakesh Sengar, director of victim assistance in BBA. ….  (Hindustan Times 2/3/15

85. Jharcraft plans skills training for victims of human trafficking (1)

RANCHI: Having provided direct or indirect employment to more than three lakh people, Jharcraft is set to work towards the skill development and rehabilitation of trafficking victims. The move came after the state-run undertaking was contacted by Delhi-based NGO Shakti Vahini. A T Mishra, the managing director of Jharcraft, readily accepted the offer. “We are a socio-economic outfit and would be happy to be of any help to trafficking victims,” he said. Mishra has asked Shakti Vahini to give him a list of such victims with the requisite details. Jharcraft would then locate and provide them skill development training, he said “We will send our staff to meet these girls and know what their areas of interests are, be it bamboo art, terracotta, weaving silk, etc. There could be some who already have an idea about a particular skill. It will be easy for us to train them,” he reasoned. Explaining the process, he said: “We will link them to our production clusters nearest to their villages where they will be trained to porduce various kinds of products. In the beginning, we will buy whatever they make. But when the girls gain expertise in one of the skills, they can become independent entrepreneurs.” Meanwhile, Shakti Vahini is preparing a list of 10 rescued girls from Khunti and Sahibgunj, which will be sent to Jharcraft in a day or two. Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini said, “We are selecting only 10 girls now for the pilot project. As things progress, we will get more rescued girls enrolled with Jharcraft. We are also ready to provide any type of help needed so that we could make a difference to their lives. We will also try to rope in other partners to help the cause as well.” He added, “This initiative will definitely bring a change and be an eye opener for other departments of the state government inspiring them to work against trafficking as well. This will also strengthen the PM’s vision of skill development in the country.” (Times of India 5/3/15)

86. Rescued Tripura tribal kids to be sent back home (1)

Agartala: Sixteen of the 19 children rescued from the Guwahati railway station by the Assam Police CID and Childline, an NGO, belong to tribal refugees living in Tripura and will be handed over to their parents, an official said here on Thursday. “All the 19 children, rescued by the Assam Police CID and Childline from the Guwahati railway station on February 25, are now staying at a children’s home run by the Assam government in Guwahati,” Tripura social welfare department secretary M. Nagaraju told reporters. He said: “A team of officials from north Tripura’s child welfare committee would go to Guwahati and the children would be brought back to Tripura by March 10.” Of the 19 children, all below 18 years of age, 16 belong to the Reang refugees of Mizoram who are currently living in seven camps in North Tripura and remaining three are inhabitants of Hilakhandhi of southern Assam. Childline officials in Guwahati suspect it was a case of child trafficking. The Assam police are still investigating the motive of the two adults accompanying the children. An official of Tripura social welfare department on condition of anonymity said that the children were being trafficked to Haryana/Uttar Pradesh to be forced into child labour. “The children accompanied by two adults would have boarded a Delhi-bound train, had the Assam CID and Childline functionaries not reached the Guwahati railway station in time,” the official said. Around 31,300 Reang tribals have been living in seven camps in north Tripura adjoining Mizoram since October 1997 when they fled western Mizoram after the killing of a Mizo forest officer triggered ethnic troubles. (Business Standard 5/3/15)

87. Trafficking in women high in tribal areas (1)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Cases of trafficking in women are high in tribal villages in the district because of the tribal family system, and the Police Department is trying to solve the problem with the help of NGOs, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) C.M. Trivikram Varma has said. He delivered a talk at GITAM University on Saturday on the eve of International Women’s Day. Talking about measures taken to enhance security of women, he said a special women police station had been set up with an ACP-rank officer heading it.A helpline (1091) for working women, three kiosks (I-CLIK) to enable women to lodge complaints, and Abhayam, a special software for responding to distress calls, were other initiatives, he added. Andhra Medical College former principal Kalpana Subrahmanyam, GITAM University Vice-Chancellor G. Subrahmanyam, Women Empowerment Cell chairperson P. Sheela, and convener Kasimbi participated . (The Hindu 8/3/15)

CORRUPTION

88. Bill soon to criminalize bribery in private sector (5)

NEW DELHI: The government is considering amendments in domestic laws that would criminalize any attempt to bribe foreign public officials and officials of public international organizations, and bring in other legislative changes that would make India fully compliant with the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). The home ministry is also considering a proposal for amendments in Indian Penal Code (IPC) for criminalizing acts of bribery in the private sector. For this, the ministry has circulated a draft amendment bill among states for their views. The proposed amendments will address all pending legislative changes required for India to fully ratify UNCAC. Responding to a TOI article, the government said it was not dithering on ratifying UNCAC. “It may be mentioned in this context that the question of criminalization of bribery within the private sector is part of the general criminal law and, accordingly, a proposal for carrying out necessary amendments in IPC for criminalizing acts of bribery in the private sector is under consideration of the MHA,” an official statement said. On the reference contained in the article to the mandate of Article 16 of UNCAC, “it may be pointed out that in order to meet its obligations under this article, the government had introduced a standalone bill in Parliament, namely, the Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organizations Bill, 2011″, it said. “The said bill, however, lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha. A proposal for introduction of a fresh bill for criminalization of foreign bribery is under active consideration of the government,” it added.TOI had earlier reported how the government’s proposed amendments to the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act had partially addressed corruption in private sector, short of adequate changes that would satisfy Article 12 and 16 of UNCAC. Bringing corruption in private sector within the ambit of the PC Act is the prime focus of the proposed amendment bill. However, the government has addressed this issue partially by incorporating provisions on private entities to be held accused for bribing public servants, but excluded any provision that would have addressed rampant corruption within the private sector and criminalizing any act of bribing foreign public servants. Article 12 of UNCAC deals with preventive measures, which, inter alia, includes measures aimed at preventing corruption involving the private sector, enhancing accounting and auditing standards in the private sector, and, where appropriate, provide effective, proportionate and dissuasive civil, administrative or criminal penalties for failure to comply with such measures. The article contemplates the measures that can be taken by the state parties, in accordance with their respective domestic laws. (Times of India 2/3/15)

89. JBT scam: HC upholds 10-year jail term of Chautalas (5)

New Delhi: Delhi High Court today upheld the 10-year jail term awarded to former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, his son Ajay Chautala and three others for corruption in a teachers’ recruitment scam case. Justice Siddharth Mridul also upheld the 10-year sentence of Sher Singh Badshami and two IAS officers Vidya Dhar and Sanjiv Kumar, saying they “vilified” the process of recruiting teachers and “marred” the exercise by “corruption”.The judge also said that the convicts “challenged the ethical standards of other public servants” and “pressurised” others to do their bidding. The high court also modified to two years the sentence of the remaining 50 convicts. It disposed of all the bail applications pending before it and directed them to surrender. It also said that those who have already served their two year sentence, will be released. 78-year-old Chautala had on February 7 moved the High Court challenging his conviction and sentence, seeking suspension of his jail term on the ground that “he was unwell and suffering from various ailments”.The INLD chief, his MLA son Ajay Chautala and 53 others including two IAS officers were convicted on January 16 by the trial court for illegally recruiting 3,206 junior basic trained (JBT) teachers in Haryana in 2000. The court had awarded 10 years imprisonment to Chautalas and three others — Sanjiv Kumar, the then Director of Primary Education, Chautala’s former Officer on Special Duty Vidya Dhar, both IAS officers, and political adviser to the then Haryana CM Sher Singh Badshami. All the 55 convicts had been convicted and sentenced under sections 120B(criminal conspiracy), 418(cheating), 467 (forgery), 471 (using forged documents as genuine) of the IPC and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. (Deccan Herald 5/3/15)

90. LDF to organise protest march to Kerala Assembly on March 13 (5)

Thiruvananthapuram: As part of its plan to intensify stir against Finance Minister K M Mani seeking his resignation in the bar bribery case, CPI(M)-led LDF today decided to organise a protest march to the state Assembly here on March 13 when the budget is to be presented. Addressing reporters here after a LDF state committee meeting, Front Convener Vaikom Viswan said it was decided to carry out protests in front of government offices in all Assembly constituencies on that day. He said if the Chief Minister did not remove Mani, the Opposition would try all possible means to oust him. “Thousands of people are expected to participate in the Assembly march on March 13. Similar marches and sieges will be held in front of respective government offices in all Assembly constituencies across the state simultaneously,” Viswan said. The LDF also decided to carry out demonstrations across the state on March 12 and symbolic trial of the Finance Minister in panchayats and municipalities on March 7 to press their demand, he said. Earlier in the day, the CPI(M)-led LDF Opposition boycotted the Governor’s address on the first day of the budget session to mark their protest against Mani and the government over the bar bribery issue. (Zee News 6/3/15)

91. ABC traps government servants for bribery (5)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in separate cases at Osmanabad and Kolhapur trapped a couple of government servants for accepting bribes. At Osmanabad, accused Santosh Wadkar an employee from the Tehsildar’s office was caught accepting Rs 1,500 as a bribe to issue an income certificate to complainant. At Kolhapur, the accused, Chandrakant Kadam, who was an assistant sub inspector from the Shahuwadi police station (Bambavde outpost) was caught taking Rs 3,500 for not initiating action against an accused (the complainant) on a complaint received against him. Both have been booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The bribe money has been recovered from them. (Asian Age 8/3/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

92. Medha Patkar joins campaign against neutrino project (9)

MADURAI: Social activist Medha Patkar on Sunday said the campaign against proposed neutrino observatory project in Tamil Nadu will be taken up as a “national battle”, because some foreign companies were attempting to destroy the Western Ghats in India. Environment impact assessment was not done properly while choosing Pottipuram in Theni district, she alleged, adding that the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project was proposed at a cost of Rs.1,500 crore. Extending her support to MDMK general secretary Vaiko, who has been opposing the underground observatory, Ms. Patkar said that it was the responsibility of Centre and scientists to answer the questions raised with regard to safety of people’s lives and the biodiversity of the Western Ghats. Addressing a joint press conference along with Mr.Vaiko, she said digging of a huge tunnel would negatively impact the Western Ghats. “The Kasturirangan report pointed out the fragility of the Western Ghats. If the scientists are sure that the safety is intact, are they ready for a public debate,” she asked. She also asked the Centre to clarify whether the INO site will be used for storing nuclear waste coming from the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. “On behalf of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), I express my support to Mr.Vaiko, because there are well-founded fears that even the scientists involved in the project may not know what will happen in the observatory,” Ms.Patkar said. Mr.Vaiko, who had briefed her about the people’s concerns, said that Ms.Patkar’s support would galvanise the Movement Against Neutrino (MAN), of which he is the president. “I want the Tamil Nadu government to take a clear position on neutrino project. INO is a threat to both Tamil Nadu and Kerala,” he added. (The Hindu 2/3/15)

93. India appeals rich nations to vacate carbon space for emerging economies (9)

NEW DELHI: With countries getting ready to present their respective climate action plan in advance ahead of the crucial Paris talks, India on Wednesday appealed the rich nations to vacate the carbon space for developing and emerging economies. It would be possible only if developed countries, whose per capita respective carbon emission is much higher than those of the developing counterparts, cut their emissions substantiallly both duing the pre-2020 and the post-2020 periods. Articulating the point, India’s environment, forests and climate change minister Prakash Javadekar said, “The developed world which has occupied large carbon space today must vacate the space to accomodate developing and emerging economies. We need to understand that ultimately the per capita emission of both developed and developing countries need to move towards a convergent path”.He was speaking at African Ministerial Conference on Environment in Cairo, Egypt on Wednesday. India has been invited to this Conference for the first time. Referring to the crucial climate negotiations this year in run up to the final talks in Paris where a global deal is expected to be signed in December, Javadekar said, “Any negotiations must be based on the principles of equity and fairness. There has to be equitable sharing of the carbon space….We must also respect the equilibrium of commitments under the convention (UNFCCC) between developed and developing countries. The right to development has to be respected while collectively moving towards greener growth trajectory”.He emphasized that the developed countries have to take lead in this regard. “The emission reduction targets that developed countries agree to for pre-2020 period must be ambitious and reflective of their commitment to the cause. We (developing countries) on our part shall do our actions on our own commitment for inter-generational equity and in our fight against climate change though we are not required to such actions as per Kyoto Protocol”, said the minister. As the countries are in the process of formulating their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), the minister said, “Certain issues need immediate attention. One of those is technology transfer along with know how at an affordable cost, so that we are able to move expeditiously towards lowering of the energy intensity of our economic growth and improving energy efficiency in various sectors”.Expressing his anguish that the pledges for Green Climate Fund are inadequate, Javadekar said, “The issue of critical technology is still unresolved. Time is short. The world must act fast. If we want Paris Convention to happen smoothly, we need to sort out these issues well in time”. (Times of India 4/3/15)

94. Land mafias accused of deforestation on forest land (9)

JAIPUR: The villagers and environmentalists have accused land mafias in connivance with forest department of cutting 400 trees on a forest land in Kharwadi village on NH 8 near Chandwazi area. The area is a kilometer away from the proposed Appu Ghar. The trees were cleared on khasra no. 418 that were sprawling in an area of 3200 hectare land in a period of eight months and no FIR has been filed in this case. Ramesh Kumar, a villager accused land mafias of chopping trees even after several complaints were filed against them. “The land mafias have forged the documents of that land which is in the list of forest lands. The biggest concern is that that they made the land barren and also made a kuchcha road in that area,” said Kumar. TOI called RP Gupta, district forest officer, who refused to comment on the issue but admitted that there are many cases of dual allotments in Jaipur. “I have received several complaints of dual allotments which we are investigating,” said Gupta. The environmentalist said cutting of trees has caused grave environmental imbalance in the region which is facing desertification. (Times of India 5/3/15)

95. Growing seasons changing across the globe (9)

Washington: A new study using satellite data has found that the growing seasons have changed everywhere around the world during the last couple of decades. The results may have significant impact on agriculture, interactions between species, the functioning of ecosystems among others. “There is almost no part of the Earth that is not affected by these changes”, explained Robert Buitenwerf, Ph.D. scholar at the Goethe University, Frankfurt. He evaluated satellite data from 1981 to 2012 with regard to 21 parameters on vegetation activity in order to determine the point in time, the duration, and the intensity of growth of vegetation. On 54 percent of the land surface, at least one parameter of vegetation activity has moved away from the mean value by more than two standard deviations. Earlier studies showed that leaves are now sprouting earlier in most of the climate zones of the far north. The overall vegetation period has grown longer but the trees and shrubs are losing their leaves later than they have up to now. “Although vegetation changes in the northern hemisphere have conclusively been attributed to climate change by other studies, attributing all the changes found in our study would require a more complex analysis,” Buitenwerf emphasised. In the northern hemisphere species whose life cycles depend on the vegetation period are endangered by these severe changes. Consequences for species in the southern hemisphere are not so clear so far. The study appeared in the journal Nature Climate Change. (Zee News 8/3/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

96. Agrarian crisis deepens in Marathwada, 93 farmer suicides reported in 2015 (20)

New Delhi: 93 farmers have reportedly committed suicide since January 1, 2015. Successive droughts, hailstorm in 2014 and faulty agriculture policy are all contributing to the crisis.  In February, 40-year-old Shamrao Rambhau Parde owning less than acre of land in Shiradshahpur in Hingoli district of Maharashtra and reeling under weight of debt committed suicide by consuming poison. The region has reported 569 suicides in 2014. Hingoli farmers said, “Soyabean, wheat everything was destroyed. We didn’t get a rupee from the government. I have lost all crops, how do we live.” With traditional crops not bringing them suitable price in the market, a large number of farmers have opted for water intensive orchards and perennial crops like sugarcane, grapes, banana. The move came despite Marathwada being an arid region. The orchard farming is capital intensive, and so framers incur large debts. There is a long waiting period for the yield and sometimes it take years for the investment to payoff. Crores of rupees of relief packages were announced after successive droughts and hailstorm, but it didn’t always reach the intended beneficiaries or took far too long. (CNN IBN 3/3/15)

97. 89 Gujarat farmers committed suicide in last four years: Govt (20)

Gandhinagar: Gujarat agriculture department on Wednesday said that 89 farmers committed suicide in the state in the last four years, while claiming that crop failure was not the reason behind the extreme step in any of the cases. “As many as 89 farmers have committed suicide in the state from 2010 to July 31, 2014, while none of them committed suicide due to crop failure,” Agriculture Minister Babu Bokhiria said in a written reply to a question in the state Assembly. The agriculture department has made four categories of reasons with regard to the farmers’ suicides, including crop failure, increase of agricultural debt, increase of (other) debt and other reasons. Notably, as many as 78 farmers committed suicide due to ‘other reasons’, while only eight took the extreme step due to increase of debt, he said in the reply. Only three farmers ended their lives due to increase of agricultural debt, while none of them committed suicide due to crop failure, he said. As per the figures released today by the state government in response of a query of Congress MLA Tejshree Patel from Viramgam seat, the state’s Saurashtra region has the worst conditions for farmers as the maximum number of suicides have been reported from there. The Jamnagar district of Saurashtra witnessed maximum 46 suicides by the dejected farmers. Two other districts in Saurashtra, Junagadh and Amreli, registered 14 and seven suicides respectively by farmers in four years, said the figures. Rajkot registered five such fatalities, whereas Kutch reported three such cases in the same time span, it said. Two cases each of farmers’ suicides were registered in Bhavnagar and Porbanadar districts of Saurashta region. The South Gujarat’s Dang tribal district reported three suicides by farmers, while one case each was registered in Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Mehsana, Surendranagar, Vadodara, Narmada and Surat districts. (Zee News 4/3/15)

98. Farmers may get aid for crop loss (20)

New Delhi: With unseasonal rains causing damage to crops in the national capital, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation on Tuesday decided to urge the Central and the state government to compensate farmers for the loss after duly assessing the damage caused. The civic agency has also instructed the concerned officials to survey the damaged farms. The issue surfaced during the standing committee meeting of the North Corporation. According to NDMC standing committee chairman Mohan Prasad Bhardwaj, who also has interest in agriculture, the unusual rain has harmed 90 per cent crops, including spices and vegetables. He said, “The farmers have faced heavy losses. On an average, the farmers invest about `20,000 per acre on seeds, irrigation, spray of pesticides, manpower.” Considering that suicides by farmers continue despite a financial package being announced for them, the corporators conveyed that a lot still can be done by the BJP-led government in the Centre and the AAP-led government in Delhi. “The unforeseen rains have damaged most of the standing crops in the state. The damage is quite severe. Also, most of the crops of wheat have been damaged considerably. Most of the horticulture crops are also under stress,” said Mr Bhardwaj. The national capital on Sunday and Monday experienced heavy unseasonal rains which brought down temperatures, also posing a threat to agriculture crops. The untimely rain has become a cause of worry, the corporation has also urged the revenue department to adequately compensate farmers after duly assessing damages caused by it. The heavy downpour caused damage to tomatoes, peas and coriander grown in the city. An unusually potent storm system lashed India over the weekend, bringing copious rain. (Asian Age 6/3/15)

99. Modi govt. has deceived farmers, says Anna (20)

PUNE: Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare compared the Narendra Modi government to the British Raj, alleging that it had sold out to corporate interests. “This government has deceived farmers on [the benefits of] the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 by pandering to the so-called pro-development lobby. Acquiring fertile farmland has become very easy with the government passing an ordinance under the pretext of ‘easing land acquisition [rules]’,” he wrote on his blog. In his first attack on the Prime Minister, Mr. Hazare said farmers voted for Mr. Modi because of his campaign slogan of Achche Din . But they were disappointed. “The violence and the tumult of the agitations in Singur [in West Bengal] and Maan [in Maharashtra] had compelled the government to introduce this Act. Under it, 70 per cent of the farmers need to favour land acquisition. This crucial clause has been deleted when the Modi government passed the ordinance,” he said, terming the measure “blatantly anti-democratic.” (The Hindu 7/3/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

100. Land Bill 2015 to Take Care of All Farmers’ Concerns (4)

CHANDRAPUR: Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers Hansraj Ahir, who had fought for the cause of farmers against Land Acquisition Act, 1894, claimed here today that Land Bill 2015 would take care of all aspects pertaining to farmers. Addressing reporters on Sunday afternoon, Ahir stressed that Land Acquisition Bill is neither anti-farmer nor anti-poor as perceived by some of the political leaders, but is solely aimed at bringing about greater focus on agriculture and welfare of the farmers.  He brushed aside speculations that Shiv Sena, an ally in NDA government is opposed to the Bill by stating that Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has taken initiatives to explain facts in the Land Bill to Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray. “Many of the political leaders and social workers are simply jumping into conclusions that the Land Bill is for the corporate houses, ignoring the welfare of farmers, which is not true. I urge all such critics to spare some time to study the Bill and pin-point the drawbacks in the act. Even, Anna Hazareji has been misguided by his associates in this regard,” he said.  . “The government has removed the clause of 70 per cent consent from land holders for acquisition, if and only if it is acquired for government projects like irrigation, roads, railways, hospitals and health centres. The clause of consent continues to remain in force for the projects other than government ones,” he said.   He further informed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his address to the Parliament, made it clear that the government is prepared to rectify flaws in the Act if someone pointed out any clause that goes against the interest of farmers in the country.   (New Indian Express 2/3/15)

101. Akalis press for changes in Land Bill (4)

New Delhi: The central government deferred introduction till Monday of the contentious land acquisition Bill in the Lok Sabha. It also indicated confidence that the Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal in the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would support it, with some changes. The Akalis have given a list of “suggestions”, requesting the government to follow the Punjab Land Acquisition Policy. They have said the current comfortable position of food security was primarily thanks to the intensive farming in Punjab, contributing 40 to 50 per cent of the county’s food requirement from a geographical area that is a mere 1.5 per cent of India. Yet, smaller landholdings and growing urbanisation have put excess pressure on agricultural land in Punjab. To ensure food security, more land across the country will need to be brought under agriculture to prevent excessive exploitation only of certain regions. “Any acquisition of land must keep in mind the future needs of the country on the food security front,” it has said. Sources said the government could accommodate some of these suggestions, including a demand by the Akalis that “multi-cropped land is acquired only as a last resort”. However, demands such as retaining the social impact assessment and consent clauses might not find favour. A senior minister said the government was unlikely to amend the core of the Bill. “It isn’t a Bill for non-acquisition of land,” the minister quipped. In their suggestions, the Akalis said land acquisition in Punjab was a “time-tested success story”. Land in the state is acquired through consultation and after ensuring compensation close to the market value, it said. The Akalis have argued that both the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 and the current Bill lack “foolproof safeguards” for compensating farmers with adequate market value. They claim land owners in Punjab are given an option of market rate plus a displacement allowance or becoming partners in the proposed project through a land pooling policy. It said land should be acquired only by the government for public purposes and it should not get into acquisition for private entities. Other suggestions include that the farmer not be denied the right to approach a court; that there be no acquisition without the consent of a majority of farmers/landowners, and states be given free hand to fix market price of land, applicable for all acquisitions, regardless of whether done for the state or central government. (Business Standard 5/3/15)

102. Acquiring irrigated multi-crop land may become more difficult (4)

New Delhi: The government is considering various options to ensure the smooth passage of the controversial land acquisition amendment Bill, listed for tabling in the Lok Sabha on Monday, in both Houses of Parliament. According to officials in the know, some of the alterations to the proposed amendment Bill might make it very difficult to acquire irrigated multi-crop land for sectors outside the ambit of social-impact assessment (SIA) and consent clause. The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha. The sectors that are exempt from SIA and consent clause are defence, rural infrastructure (including rural electrification), affordable housing & housing for the poor, industrial corridors & infrastructure, and social infrastructure projects under public-private partnership (PPP) where ownership of land rests with the government. “This will ensure government land and wasteland are acquired on priority in all projects, and irrigated multi-crop farmland is touched only as the last resort,” said a senior official. The Bill, listed for tabling in the Lok Sabha on Monday, will replace an ordinance approved by President Pranab Mukherjee in December last year. The alterations to the Bill, though, might not be incorporated at the stage of tabling; these, according to the official, could come in reply to a debate on the Bill. These likely moves were seen as measures to also dispel the impression that the new Bill was ‘anti-farmer’, added the official, who did not wish to be named. But even these changes are to be incorporated only after all of the Centre’s efforts to reach a consensus on the amendments fail. So far as acquisition of irrigated multi-crop land is concerned, the government might move closer to the position of the previous Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, passed by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of the time. The Act of 2013 had in its Chapter 3 (titled ‘Special Provision to Safeguard Food Security’) said that irrigated multi-crop land should not be acquired; any such acquisition, if at all, should only be in exceptional cases. The Act also said, whenever such an irrigated multi-crop land was acquired, an equivalent area of culturable wasteland should be developed, or an equivalent value be deposited with the appropriate government for investment in agriculture. Culturable land is that which can potentially be developed as vegetative cover but is not being used due to constraints like erosion, water logging, salinity, etc. The Act of 2013 had exempted linear projects, such as railway lines, from this provision. “Linear projects like railway lines, highways, major district roads, irrigation canals, power lines, etc, are kept out of the purview of this provision,” the Act had said. However, in amendments to the original Land Bill, the current government also exempted defence, rural infrastructure, industrial corridors, etc, from the provisions of Chapter 3 that deal with acquisition of irrigated multi-crop land. “Now that there has been some opposition to the ordinance in its current form, we are considering bringing back the provisions of Chapter 3 on the hitherto exempt sectors. That will ensure irrigated multi-crop land is not acquired for the sectors under any circumstances,” the official said. This implies the linear projects might continue to be exempt from the provision but the five sectors added in the ordinance by the current government will also have to follow the rule. The Akali Dal, a key NDA ally, had also demanded that the Centre ensure that irrigated multi-crop land is not acquired under any circumstances. There have also been suggestions on notifying land parcels where SIA and consent clause will not be applicable for the exempt sectors. Officials, however, said the Bill might not change the contentious issue of removing select sectors from the ambit of SIA and consent clause. (Business Standard 9/3/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

103. 59 kids injected with single needle (3)

HYDERABAD: In an incident that throws light on the alarming state of government-run hospitals, 59 children were injected an antibiotic __ all with a single syringe and needle__ on Sunday night at Niloufer Hospital in the city. Such unsafe practices raise the risk of acquiring blood-borne infections like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV. “The incident clearly shows violation of the fundamental rule in safe injection practices: one needle, one syringe and to be used only one time,” said Dr Mahesh Joshi, head of emergency services, Apollo Hospitals. As the news broke early on Monday morning, Niloufer Hospital witnessed chaotic scenes as irate parents staged protests. An immediate probe revealed that a staff nurse, identified as Prameela, who was on night shift at the hospital on Sunday, injected ‘Monocef’ antibiotic to treat infections, following prescription by doctors attending on the children, aged mostly between three months and four years. These children were suffering from various illnesses, including pneumonia, respiratory infections, diarrhoea, and viral fever, among other infections, for which they were being examined. Parents and relatives protested after they noticed rashes on the skin and swelling on the arms of children soon after they were given the injection. “My 11-month-old daughter was continuously crying after she was administered the injection. When I questioned the nurse why she was using a common syringe and needle for all, she brushed aside my objections,” said P Ramakrishna, a resident of Mahbubnagar, whose daughter was referred to Niloufer following a serious bout of pneumonia. Insiders said the nurse, in the absence of duty resident medical officer Dr J Krishna and lack of proper supervision by nursing superintendent Jude Smith, used the common syringe and needle for injecting all the ailing children with the drug. “I protested looking at the way the kids were being injected, but to no avail. Luckily, when my ailing five-month-old baby boy’s turn came to take the injection, the nurse ran out of the antibiotic,” said a relieved Anwar Pasha, father of the boy, who was referred to Niloufer from Kothagudem, Khammam recently. The incident comes three days after World Health Organisation (WHO) urged India to use ‘auto-disable smart syringes’ after it pointed to unsafe injection practices for the rise in hepatitis B and HIV cases. Niloufer superintendent Dr K Devaraj ordered an inquiry, and moved all the children to its emergency block on Monday morning. Devaraj said all the children were in stable condition and the hospital would take action based on the probe report to be submitted by resident medical officer Dr J Krishna, who was allegedly absent from duty at the time of the incident. Worried doctors said state-run hospitals must immediately ensure that nurses were properly trained and doctors available throughout their duty hours. “Even for administering Monocef, it should not be given through a rapid mode by directly injecting the antibiotic through IV cannulation. Instead, the ideal way is to give it through a drip mode within a span of 15-30 minutes from a normal saline bottle. Otherwise, it would result in irritation and unbearable pain in any case,” said Dr Altaf Naseem, consultant pediatrician, Candy Children’s Hospital, Tolichowki. (Times of India 3/3/15)

104. Health policy needs plan to counter NCDs: Experts

NEW DELHI: Medical practitioners and health policy experts have recommended inclusion of an integrated action plan, a nodal agency and key intervening strategies as part of the proposed National Health Policy, 2015 to address the mounting instances of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The suggestions are part of the stakeholder comments on the draft policy, framed recently by the health ministry. The draft policy was in the public domain till last month to invite suggestions from the public. “NCDs are the major cause of mortality in India. Building and strengthening primary healthcare network with a focus on disease screening, prevention, risk-factor control and health promotion should form the rudimentary structure of the integrated action plan to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with NCDs,” said Kenneth Thorpe, chairman, Partnership to Fight Chronic Diseases, a global organization working to combat such diseases. India is set to lose $4.58 trillion as a result of NCDs between 2012 and 2030 said a report released in 2014, by World Economic Forum and Harvard School of Public Health. The report, however, said primary prevention of NCDs with a focused approach, if implemented, can reverse this trend with a return on investment of at least 15%.While the new draft policy, introduced almost 13 years after the last health policy was drafted, talks about the rising burden of NCDs like cardio-vascular diseases and diabetes, experts say it fails to create a mechanism to address the concern. According to the draft health policy, NCDs constitute 39.1% of India’s disease burden. The draft policy also highlights that national health programmes for non-communicable diseases are “very limited in coverage and scope”. (Times of India 4/3/15)

105. HC to Hear PIL on ‘Poor’ Healthcare Facilities in Tihar Jail (3)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has agreed to hear a PIL alleging poor healthcare facilities in Tihar Jail leading to deaths of many under trials and convicts lodged in South Asia’s largest prison complex. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw fixed May 7 for hearing the issue, which was sent to it by a single bench judge, who took suo motu note of media reports last year on deaths inside Tihar. The single judge in his letter to the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court asked whether she could take up the issue suo motu on the basis of the news items and call for an explanation from the authorities concerned. Taking note of the request made by the judge, the Chief Justice converted the issue into a PIL, in which the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Delhi government and its administration department have been made respondents. The single judge had also suggested a need for a policy to treat inmates at Tihar suffering from chronic diseases like cancer and AIDS. Usually the average death rate of inmates in Tihar remains around two to three deaths a year, except the cases of death sentences, the news reports had stated. But in the past one-and-a-half years, the trend has seen an unprecedented change and death rate inside the jail premises has increased by a whopping 100 per cent, the reports had said and the single had taken note of these in his letter to the Chief Justice of the High Court. (New Indian Express 8//1/15)

106. Officials for birth plan model to curb MMR, IMR (3)

MACHILIPATNAM: The Krishna district authorities are gearing up to implement an exclusive ‘Birth Plan’ to prevent the infant and maternal mortality rate in the district. Krishna Collector Babu. A on Monday asked the officials concerned to identify two clusters to implement the pilot project from March second week. According to the Birth Plan initiation, data pertaining to the health status of the pregnant women and their trimester details would be collected to ensure timely medical treatment. The pilot project was aimed at bringing down the maternal and infant mortality rate to half by the end of the year. Mr. Babu gave away prize money of Rs. 2,000 each to the 14 AASHA workers for their services in child and mother care offered by the government. (The Hindu 10/3/15)

HIV/AIDS

107. Human rights commission closes case of HIV+ pupils (3)

Margao: The Goa Human Rights Commission (GHRC) has closed the proceedings in the case pertaining to the denial of admission to HIV+ infected children from an orphanage in Rivona last year, following an undertaking given by Fatima high school, Rivona, to the effect that the students will be granted admission in the next academic year, if they so desire. Headmaster of the school Fr Jerry Vaz, who was present at the hearing, said that “if any of the students applies to be re-admitted in the next academic year, the school will have no objection to it.” He further clarified that the school will also not publicize the medical records of any of the HIV-affected students. Green Goa Foundation (GGF), a registered public trust, had moved the GHRC over the matter. GGF had brought to the notice of the GHRC that Fatima high school denied admission to 27 children on the grounds that 13 of the children were HIV positive, and subsequently made known to the some members of the public the HIV status of the children. It was the case of the GHRC that “the HIV status of children being admitted to schools is irrelevant and should not be open for discussion,” particularly in the light of the Supreme Court notification dated March 3, 2014, whereby the court has urged the Centre and the states not to discriminate against HIV positive school children. Speaking to TOI, chairman of GGF Raison Almeida said that in the event the orders of the GHRC were not obeyed, the trust would move the high court to ensure that justice is done to the affected children. “This decision of the GHRC spells victory for the Goan society at large and is another step towards protecting human rights and the fundamental rights of innocent children affected by HIV in Goa,” Almeida said. (Times of India 2/3/15)

108. Gorilla origins of two AIDS virus lineages confirmed: Study (3)

WASHINGTON: Two of the four known groups of human AIDS viruses originated in western lowland gorillas in Cameroon, scientists said. The virus that causes almost all the cases of AIDS worldwide, called HIV-1, has jumped species to infect humans on at least four separate occasions, generating four HIV-1 lineages – groups M, N, O, and P, Xinhua reported on Monday. Previous research has found that groups M and N originated in geographically distinct chimpanzee communities in southern Cameroon, but the origins of groups O and P remained uncertain. The new study, published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, conducted a comprehensive survey of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection in African gorillas. The scientists screened faecal samples from western lowland gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas, and mountain gorillas in Cameroon, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda for the presence of SIVs that are thought to be the precursors of HIV- 1. They identified four field sites in southern Cameroon where western lowland gorillas harbour SIVs. “Viral sequencing revealed a high degree of genetic diversity among the different gorilla samples,” said co-author Professor Beatrice Hahn of Pennsylvania University in a statement. “Two of the gorilla virus lineages were particularly closely related to HIV-1 groups O and P. This told us that these two groups originated in western lowland gorillas.” Martine Peeters of the University of Montpellier in France, who led the study, said the finding is critical to gauge future human infection risks. “From this study and others that our team has conducted in the past it has become clear that both chimpanzees and gorillas harbour viruses that are capable of crossing the species barrier to humans and have the potential to cause major disease outbreaks,” Peeters added. HIV-1′s four known groups have had very different outcomes in humans. Group M gave rise to the AIDS pandemic, infecting more than 40 million people worldwide by spreading across Africa and throughout the rest of the world. Groups N and P, at the other extreme, have only been found in a few individuals from Cameroon. But group O, although not as widespread and prevalent as group M, has nonetheless infected about 100,000 people in Africa. Another virus type, called HIV-2, also causes AIDS, but is endemic only in West Africa. (Times of India 4/3/15)

109. Study shows healthcare providers ignore victims of gender-based violence (3)

RAIPUR: Healthcare providers in Chhattisgarh perceive gender based violence (sexual and domestic violence) as a law and order problem, holding police and judiciary accountable despite the fact that Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 makes them equally responsible to provide services to survivors. A recent study conducted by Sama, a Delhi based resource group on women and health, along with Chhattisgarh based organisation, Chaupal, in four districts of state, Raipur, Koriya, Kabeerdham and Mahasamund, reveals that the response to gender based violence (GBV) is limited largely to medico-legal aspects rather than being comprehensive. The study states that health sector is ignoring its role in provision of therapeutic services to GBV victims. It also states that the standard responses for emergency treatment and psychological care such as providing STI and HIV post exposure prophylaxis, management of unwanted pregnancy, providing emergency contraception, providing psychological counseling or referral are not included in the components of treatment and care post assault/rape. The study, conducted between January-September 2014, also reveals that majority of healthcare providers, who were interviewed, perceived most survivors of sexual and domestic violence as fake cases. The study also points out that certain unethical and violative practices, including conducting two-finger test, observing status of hymen, and commenting on past sexual history of the victim are being practiced while conducting medical examination of survivors of sexual assault. Talking to TOI, Chaupal’s Sulakshana Nandi said the study recommends that Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and protocols and guidelines developed by ministry of health and family welfare should urgently be implemented by state. Orders for their implementation need to be passed and circulated to different health facilities as well as to other stakeholders, including police and judiciary. It also suggests immediate redressal to the practice of two finger test to ascertain whether the survivor is habitual to sex or is a virgin. (Times of India 9/3/15)