HR News

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Volume 22                                             No. 1                                                 June 10, 2017

HR NEWS:  June 10, 2017

 (From  May 20 to June 10,  2017)

Dalit/Schedule Castes

Over 20 arrested after Dalit man killed in UP’s Saharanpur, security stepped up

Police tightened security across western Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur region on Wednesday amid mounting tensions following the death of a Dalit youth a day ago in caste clashes. Police said unidentified people ambushed a group of Dalits returning from a rally by Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati on Tuesday evening, killing one man and injuring eight. This was the second wave of caste violence in Shabeerpur and adjacent areas after May 5 clashes between Dalits and Thakurs where scores of houses of scheduled caste families were torched and one man killed. The attacks began over a Thakur-led procession to commemorate Rajput ruler Maharana Pratap. Since then, the caste violence has grabbed headlines and is being seen as the first law-and-order challenge for chief minister Yogi Adityanath since the BJP swept to power in March. Saharanpur district has 26% Dalit population spread across villages and 10% Thakurs. But in Shabbirpur village, the total population of the village is 4,000 that includes 2,500 Thakurs and 600 Dalits and this lop-sided ratio worries the Dalits. Police have now launched a massive search operation and arrested more than 20 suspects on charges of inciting violence. Senior state government officials are camping in the area. Saharanpur senior superintendent of police Subhash Chandra Dubey told HT that raids were being conducted to arrest the remaining suspects. District magistrate N P Singh said the state government gave a compensation of Rs 15 lakhs to the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the other injured. The violence has worsened the situation in the caste and communally sensitive region that has seen several clashes in the past. Dalits protested against the killing, damaging some shops in adjoining vuillages. Days after the May 5 killing, angry supporters of Dalit group Bhim Army torched a police post and several vehicles in Saharanpur with chaos prevailing for hours. BSP’s Saharanpur zonal in-charge Kuldeep Baliyan told HT a meeting of party leaders was called and a delegation would meet government officials to demand immediate arresting of all suspects and provide adequate security to Dalits. On Tuesday, Mayawati met the victims of caste clashes and held BJP’s government responsible for growing violence in the state. She, however, advised Dalits not to take law and order in their hands and called upon people of all castes to work for harmony. (HT 24 May 2017)

Jharkhand: Protests erupt in Dhanbad as miscreants desecrate Ambedkar statue

Miscreants desecrated a statue of social reformer Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar at Dhanbad in Jharkhand on Thursday, drawing protests from Dalit groups and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) activists. The culprits tied a dirty scarf around the statue’s head, hung a plastic bag from its hand and placed the flags of three political parties – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and the Samajwadi Party – around it. This is the second instance of the statue, located near DRM Building, being desecrated in the last six months. Miscreants had broken its arm on March 16. Police removed the offending items from the statue as soon as the incident came to light, but photographs of the desecration had already gone viral on the Internet by then. Angry protesters hit the streets to condemn the manner in which Ambedkar – the father of the Indian constitution – was targeted. BSP activists and Dalit groups burnt Prime Minister Narendra Modi in effigy, holding him responsible for the growing bias against Dalits in the country. BSP district president Madan Mohan Ram said the administration had failed to safeguard the statue’s sanctity despite repeated incidents of the kind. “When the statue was defaced on March 16, they announced that CCTV cameras would be installed to prevent such incidents from recurring. The cameras have not been installed until now,” he added. He also pointed out that no suspects have been identified even three months after the previous incident. The BSP has decided to hold a purification ceremony for the statue on June 10. “Hundred litres of milk will be used for the purpose,” Ram said. The incident was also condemned by other political parties. Describing the statue desecration as an attempt to spread caste hatred, BJP district spokesperson M Parsarthi said: “Action needs to be taken against those behind this shameful act.” JMM district president Ramesh Tuddu also raised a similar demand. (HT 07 June 2017)

Maharashtra: Dalit woman beaten and stripped on theft allegation

Police have arrested 23 persons till today. Police also registered a case of attempted theft against the woman. Further probe is on. A 50-year-old Dalit woman was beaten up and stripped in public for allegedly trying to steal a pair of bullocks in Buldana district of Maharashtra, police said on Tuesday. At least 23 persons have been arrested in connection with the incident so far under IPC sections 324 (assault), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocity) Act. The incident occurred at Ruikhed Mayanba village under the jurisdiction of Dhad police station of the district on the evening of June 2, police said. Sakharam Ugale, resident of the village, accused the woman and her son of sneaking into his cowshed and trying to steal a pair of bullocks. He called other people to the spot; a mob of 30 persons gathered and beat up the woman and her son with sticks, police said. They also stripped the woman, police added. The incident came to light when the woman was taken to a hospital. On the complaint of the victim and medical report obtained from the hospital, a case was registered at Dhad police station, said sub-divisional police officer B B Mahamuni, who is investigating the matter. Police have arrested 23 persons till today. Police also registered a case of attempted theft against the woman. Further probe is on. (Indian Express 06 June 2017)

Tribals

Jharkhand lynching: Two cops suspended, govt report cites land sale, cattle trade

The Jharkhand government on Friday evening suspended the Saraikela-Kharsawan Deputy Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police following a report by two-member panel on lynchings in the state on May 18-19. While four persons were killed in Shobhapur in Saraikela Kharsawan, three were lynched in the Bagbera area of East Singhbhum. According to the Chief Minister’s Office, Jharkhand CM Raghubar Das directed the suspension of Deputy Commissioner Ramesh G Gholap and Superintendent of Police Rakesh Bansal with immediate effect. “The action has been taken in the light of a two-member panel’s report on the lynchings that pointed to poor handling of the situation,” said a source in the CMO. The report had pointed out that while the East Singhbhum administration and the police reacted quickly to the three killings, the Saraikela administration was found to be slow. Highly placed sources said that there was a gap of nearly five hours between the officers getting the information and reaching the spot that is 25 km from the district headquarters. Police sources said the report pointed out that people were allegedly against the sale of land to non-tribals in the Bagbera area, where three persons were killed. Sources said the child lifting rumours were used by some vested interest groups to push their own agendas. It has not held any group responsible for the incidents. In the Shobhapur area in Saraikela-Kharsawan, the panel cited opposition to cattle trade. The role of a local outfit, Muslim Ekta Manch, has come under the scanner in the report, the sources said. (Indian Express 10 June 2017) 

Chakan police under fire for wrongful arrest of tribal man 

Pune: Chakan police are facing a storm of allegations that they wrongfully arrested a 26-year-old man for kidnapping and murdering a man whose death was later ruled a suicide.Laxman Gavade, a tribal youth from Vasuli village, 15km from Chakan, was arrested on May 24 and is presently lodged in Yerawada central prison. On May 24, a 250-strong mob turned up on Ramdas Gavade’s doorstep for his son Laxman, who was sleeping inside. The mob dragged Laxman out of bed, asked him and intimidated him into confessing to the kidnap of 27-year-old Kailas Ramdas Gandekar for a ransom of Rs50,000, and his subsequent murder. They had been searching for Kailas for a few days when he failed to show up to work at a private firm in Chakan MIDC. Later, a WhatsApp forward placed Ramdas’ motorcycle in the general area where Kailas was believed to have gone missing. His relatives traced the bike to Ramdas’ house and believed his son committed the murder. The mob, which included Kailas’ relatives, hauled him in a vehicle to Chakan police station. In their statement to the police (copy with TOI), Kailas’ relatives alleged that Laxman and four accomplices had kidnapped Kailas for a Rs50,000 ransom and subsequently murdered him. “The mob handed over Laxman to us. During questioning, Laxman told us the same thing he told the mob. Based on that statement, we arrested him [under IPC sections 363 and 364,” said sub-inspector Mahesh Munde of Chakan police station. Laxman’s mother Kantabai, a farm labourer, went to the police station on May 25 where she was informed that her son was arrested. “I repeatedly requested the police officer to allow me to meet my son, but I was denied. I could hear Laxman’s screams in another room,” she said, alleging her son was mistreated in police custody. The police, however, refute the allegation. “We did not mete out harsh treatment to him,” said sub-inspector Munde. He was produced in court on May 26. “The court remanded him to custody till June 1,” said Laxman’s lawyer Gorakshnath Shinde. “During the custodial interrogation, Laxman changed the story frequently. We traced his accomplices and found out that one is currently lodged in Yerawada jail, leading us to believe he made a false confession,” Munde said. Kailas, from Bhose village on the Mumbai-Ahmednagar highway in Khed tehsil, had been missing since May 22. It was only on May 30 that his body was found hanging from a tree in Bhimashankar forest. The subsequent post-mortem, and a note that was found on his body, was enough to prove it was suicide. A forest department official had tipped off Ghodegaon police who in turn sent word to Chakan police. They, along with Kailas’ relatives, reached the spot and confirmed it was Kailas. The body was starting to decompose, and the authorities believe Kailas had hanged himself the day he went missing — May 22. His tiffin box, water bottle and motorcycle were recovered from the spot. According to the note, Kailas, who got married on May 9, was impotent. Depressed, he took this extreme step. “In the suicide note, Kailas said nobody was responsible for his death,” Munde told TOI. When the police produced Laxman before the court on June 1, they informed the court that Laxman had made a false confession, and that Kailas’ death was, in fact, a suicide. “The court remanded Laxman to magisterial custody for 14 days,” Shinde added. Laxman was sent to Yerawada jail where he is currently lodged. Inspector Manoj Yadav said, “Laxman is innocent. We are baffled as to why he made a false confession. We will start the procedure to release him soon. (TOI 09 June 2017)

Two tribal girls gang raped in Agency, hunt on for 8

VISAKHAPATNAM: Two tribal minor girls were allegedly gangraped by eight youths in Thajangi hamlet in Chintapalli police station limits in the Agency area. Cases were slapped on the accused on Monday and a manhunt was launched to nab the culprits. Though the heinous crime was committed on the night of May 20, it came to light only on Monday after the girls approached the cops. Residents of Cheruvulapalem hamlet in Lambasingi gram panchayat, the victims, aged 15 and 16 years, had gone to attend a village goddess festival at Thajangi, 15 km from their village, on Saturday. When they were coming back in the evening with two boys, it started raining and the four took shelter in a school. The eight accused approached them, beat up the boys, took their cellphones before forcing themselves on the hapless girls. SP Rahul Dev Sharma told TOI, “We have registered a case at Chintapalli and will investigate the crime and take strong action.” Police said only two of the eight accused—Naagendra and Varun from Thajangi — have been identified and efforts were on to identify the others. Chintapalli DSP Anil Pulipati said cases under section 376(D) of IPC and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act-2012 and SC/ST Atrocity Act have been registered. “We are taking the help of an elderly woman to get more details from the victims who are traumatised,” Anil said. Meanwhile, CPM district executive member Bonangi Chinnayya Padal, Lambasingi sarpanch Korra Raghunath and tribal leader Vanthala Subba Rao demanded strong action against the accused. (TOI 23 May 2017) 

Women 

Exorcist’ sacrifices girl, rapes body in Kannauj after promising parents gold  

The lure of 5 kg of buried gold led to a couple to allow an exorcist to sacrifice their daughter and rape the body in Kannauj. A couple facing financial hardship allowed an exorcist to sacrifice their 15-year-old daughter and rape her body in Kannauj Tuesday night after being promised that they would get five kilos of gold. They never found the gold. The victim’s father, Mahaveer Prasad (55), who is a jeweller, then complained to the police against exorcist Krishna Sharma for kidnapping his daughter, Kavita. The police found the body on Thursday.  Sharma, who occasionally worked as Mahaveer’s driver, was arrested on Wednesday from his village in Thatiya. Police said he told them that he advised Mahaveer and his wife Pushpa (50) that if they sacrificed their daughter they would get five kilos of buried gold within hours of the ritual. Sharma also told the police that Mahaveer had been under monetary constraint. On Tuesday night, they all went to Annapurna temple where they performed prayers before heading for a peepul tree between Piparia and Badhosa villages. Sharma said the girl, who was semi-conscious, was stripped for the ritual in front of the parents. Then he strangulated her as a part of the ritual and the dumped the body in a nearby field. While hiding the body of the girl, Sharma raped it as the parents stood nearby. He then slightly cut open the neck to collect blood to be offered to the deity. Additional superintendent of police, Kannauj, Keshav Goswami said the police had recovered the body from the field and sent it for post mortem. The girl’s parents have been taken into custody for questioning. The couple has another daughter who is married and lives just two kilometres away from the spot where Kavita was killed. (HT 09 June 2017)

Woman, daughter raped in Gurgaon

A 30-year-old woman has complained to police that a man raped her and her teenage daughter and as well as filmed the act in Gurgaon. Hours after a case was registered in the matter, the accused, Ashish, was arrested from his residence at Amar Colony in Gokulpur of Delhi, ACP and PRO of the Gurgaon police, Manish Sehgal said. She met the accused, Ashish, 25 days ago in Rajendra Park market here and shared her address with him when he asked, Sehgal said. The woman, who is a widow, told police that she lives in Vishnu Garden with her 15-year-old daughter and son (11). “The next day, Ashish reached her residence when her children were playing outside and raped her,” the victim said in her complaint. She told the police that she did not disclose the incident to anyone as she was afraid. Over the next few days, Ashish raped her several times and also filmed the act. The accused used to threaten her that he would upload the video on the Internet, the woman said. The accused later raped her 15-year-old daughter and filmed the crime similarly, Sehgal said. On the basis of a complaint by the woman, a case was today registered against him on the charge of rape and under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The case comes close to the heels of the gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman and killing of her infant daughter in Gurgaon (Indian Express 09 June, 2017)

2 held for raping Gurugram mother, killing her baby

GURUGRAM: Yogender, Amit and Jaykesh. These are the three men, all between 20 and 25 years old, who killed an eight-month-old baby and raped her 19-year-old mother in Gurugram on May 29, a crime that has provoked such widespread shock, horror and outrage for its sheer savagery. Yogender and Amit were arrested on Wednesday after a massive search operation, Yogender from the same Manesar village where the woman lives and Amit from the Delhi-Gurugram border later in the evening. All three are from Bulandshahr and have been sharing a tenement in the Manesar village, right behind the sarpanch’s office, doing odd jobs like driving autos and transporting goods to earn a living. They did not, however, know the woman. Police were conducting searches in the Uttar Pradesh district for Jaykesh when last reports came in. “We will nab the third accused soon and ensure speedy justice to the woman,” police commissioner Sandeep Khirwar said. “The accused are not just guilty of rape but also murder of the child and we will not let them get off easily,” he added. Police said Jaykesh was driving the vehicle used to kidnap the woman — a leased Magic van, not a shared auto, as was believed earlier. The trio had offered the 19-year-old a lift on NH-8 near the toll plaza in Kherki Daula late on May 29 when she was on her way to her in-laws’ place in Old Gurgaon with her eight-month-old daughter. With public transport virtually absent, she had agreed. But instead of driving to Old Gurgaon, Jaykesh took a U-turn and drove back to Manesar, deep inside the industrial township, up to Sector 8 where the three took turns to rape the woman and kill her daughter. Khirwar said on Wednesday the baby had died of asphyxiation. She choked because one or the other of the three men continuously had his hands on its mouth to stop her from bawling. Before they drove away in the van, they had flung the baby, which had died by then, on the concrete road divider. Police said the three fled to Bulandshahr after that. But late night on June 2, Yogender and Amit returned to their Manesar house for a recce. The delay in the police investigation, which began in earnest almost a week after the woman filed her complaint on May 30, probably lulled them into a sense of comfort. They stayed back and started getting back to their daily routine. But in a couple of days, as police realised their mistake and visited the village, Yogender and Amit panicked. News reports followed. The two then decided to confess before sarpanch (village chief) Ajit Chauhan on Wednesday morning. This is where two parallel lines of investigation crossed. At one point during her account of events that night, the rape survivor had told the cops she had heard the three men discussing the sarpanch was known to them and would save them, police said. When Yogender and Amit came to him, the sarpanch already knew a manhunt was on for them and informed the cops. Yogender was picked up around 11am. Amit had sensed danger and managed to flee but was tracked down and arrested in Sirhaul in the evening. “The village headman informed cops that the accused had returned after committing the crime,” said an investigating officer. Chauhan told TOI, “The two accused came to my office around 10.30 on Wednesday and confessed. They sought my help. I asked them to wait for some time and informed ACP Dharmbeer Singh. Within 10 minutes, police reached the spot and arrested Yogender.” (TOI 08 June 2017)

GRP constable held for ‘raping’ woman on train

A Government Railway Police (GRP) constable was arrested for allegedly raping a 25-year-old woman in a coach for the disabled on the Lucknow-Chandigarh Express train on Tuesday. The alleged incident came to light when the Chandigarh-bound train reached Bijnor railway station at around 9 am. The woman, a resident of Meerut who had gone to Lucknow for treatment, is admitted in the district hospital in Bijnor. A medical examination has been completed and a report is awaited. Constable Kamal Shukla (24), who was on escort duty and had boarded the train from Moradabad, will be produced in court on Wednesday. Superintendent of Police, GRP (Moradabad) Keshav Kumar Choudhary said the rape case was lodged on the basis of a complaint submitted by the victim that Shukla had allegedly sexually assaulted her inside the train after threatening to take her life. Shukla has been suspended and departmental action against him would be taken soon, Choudhary added. According to the SP, the woman boarded the train from Lucknow and first sat in the general compartment, but was feeling uncomfortable as she was ill. Shukla, who was present in the same coach, advised her to shift to another compartment reserved for the disabled. When train reached Chandpur railway station at around 8 am, Shukla took the woman to the reserved coach, where three youths were seated. The constable forced the youths to shift to another coach, said the SP. After the youths left the compartment, Shukla allegedly locked the coach from inside. As the train reached Bijnor railway station at around 9 am, the three youths began to create a ruckus outside the coach, claiming that the constable had locked a woman inside. Other passengers and railway staff at the station gathered outside the compartment, the SP added. Shukla was then forced to open the doors and passengers entered the coach to find the woman lying in a semi-conscious state.The passengers then caught hold of the constable and handed him over to the GRP police station. The woman was rushed to the district hospital. (Indian Express 30 May 2017)

Man Shot Dead, 4 Women Allegedly Gang-Raped On Highway Near Delhi

6 armed men allegedly attack, loot family near UP’s Greater Noida Family was travelling in a car from Jewar to Bulandshahr 4 women allegedly gang-raped, man shot dead while trying to save them A man was shot dead and four women of his family were allegedly gang-raped at gunpoint in the early hours of Thursday on the highway near Jewar in Uttar Pradesh, around 68 km from Delhi. The family of four men and four women was travelling in a car from Jewar, which is in Greater Noida, to Bulandshahr, to visit a relative in hospital. Their car reportedly stopped after hitting a metal object in the middle of the highway around 1 am.  When some members of the family came out to investigate, six armed men allegedly surrounded the car, dragged the women out and gang-raped them before looting the family. A 45-year-old man was shot dead when he tried to save the women. Members of the family say before getting out of the car, they called the police for help, suspecting something was wrong. The police still took more than an hour to arrive, they claim. The police say the women were harassed, but sexual assault will be confirmed by a medical test. The gang allegedly robbed the family of jewellery and Rs. 44,000 in cash. The incident is chillingly similar to one last year near the highway in Bulandshahr, when another family was targeted by a group of armed men. A woman and her 13-year-old daughter were pulled out of the car and gang-raped in the fields while the men of the family were tied up and beaten. The incident became a huge challenge to the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party government and was held up by rival parties as an example of lawlessness in Uttar Pradesh. Women’s safety was one of the promises made by the BJP, which came to power in March, decimating the Samajwadi party. Long stretches of the highways connecting UP are crime-prone and there have been allegations of rape and robbery by gangs. (NDTV 25 May 2017)

Children/Child Labour

India has world’s highest number of stunted children, child workers. 31 million of children in the country are a part of its workforce, the highest number in the world. India now has the highest number of children stunted due to malnutrition – 48.2 million, equivalent to the population of Colombia, as per the latest global report on childhood. Also, 31 million of its children are a part of its workforce, the highest number in the world. These two factors, along with early marriage and parenthood and lack of education, have pushed India to 116th position among 172 nations assessed for threats to childhood, according to the recent Stolen Childhoods report by Save the Children, an international non-profit working for marginalised and deprived children. Globally, 700 million children have had their childhood curtailed early, said the report which was released on June 1, the eve of the international children’s day. Three of India’s neighbouring countries did better on the index — Sri Lanka was ranked 61, Bhutan, 93 and Myanmar, 112. Nepal (134), Bangladesh (134) and Pakistan (148) fared worse than India. The index focuses on a set of life-changing events and uses certain indicators to assess countries: mortality among children under five years of age, malnutrition that stunts growth, lack of education, child labour, early marriage, adolescent births, displacement by conflict and child homicide. India with the highest number of stunted children and child labourers in the world fared badly on most indicators. India has highest number of stunted children in the world Stunted growth is caused by chronic malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, from early pregnancy to age 2. India reports highest figures for stunting and one-third of all girls in the country suffer the condition, according to the report. “Chronic malnutrition at this stage of life is largely irreversible, and stunted children face a lifetime of lost opportunities in education and work. They are also more likely to succumb to illness and disease, and can die as a result,” the report said. Only one child among 10 in India gets adequate nutrition, India Spend had reported in May 2017. As a result, mortality is high among children under five years of age. Nearly half of all deaths in children under five years of age are attributable to malnutrition according to United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. Also, one child in every 21 dies before reaching the fifth birthday in India. For every 1,000 live births, 50 children under five die, a figure comparable to the poorer African island nation of Madagascar, India Spend reported in March, 2017. 47 m youth of upper secondary age not going to schools In India, 18.6% of children are out of school in the primary and secondary age group and 47 million youth of upper secondary age are not in school, said the report. Children who are excluded from primary education will earn significantly less over their lifetimes than their educated peers. “The economic cost of not educating these out-of-school children – estimated at 0.3 to 15.2 percent of GDP in these countries – is far greater than what it would cost to achieve universal primary education” the report said. 31 m children working, highest in the world Among Indian children in the 4-14 years group, 11.8% are working. That is 31 million children, the highest in the world. Children working to support their families don’t just miss out on education, they also miss out on rest, play and recreation. They lose opportunities to engage with their community, and participate in cultural, religious and sports activities. This effectively means missing out on childhood. Half of all children in India living on the streets or from coming from homeless families work for a living – at construction sites, hotels – and do not study, IndiaSpend reported in April 2016. Early marriage means a deprived childhood. In India, 21.1% of all girls between 15 to 19 years are married while 103 million girls were married before they turned 18, according to the report. Early marriage has devastating consequences for a girl’s life, effectively ending her childhood by forcing her into adulthood and motherhood before she is physically and mentally ready. Child brides frequently feel disempowered and are deprived of their rights to health, education and safety. “Child brides are at greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, contracting HIV/AIDS and suffering domestic violence. With little access to education and economic opportunities, they and their families are more likely to live in poverty” the report said. Further, 23.3 girls per 1,000 gave birth between ages 15 and 19, as per the report. Early childbearing impacts the nation’s economy and communities. If adolescents in India waited till their 20s to become mothers, they would have greater economic productivity of upto $7.7 billion or Rs 49,600 crore, the report calculated. (HT 6June 2017)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

Have discussed with J&K on minority issue: Centre to Supreme Court (7)

NEW DELHI: Union ministries have held a meeting with Jammu and Kashmir government to find a solution to issues, including whether the 68 per cent Muslims in the state can be regarded as minority and can avail benefits under that category, the Centre today told the Supreme Court.  A bench, comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices D Y Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, granted time to the NDA government till July 31 to find a solution.  Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said officials of Minority Affairs and Law Ministries have held a meeting with representatives of the state government in pursuance of the March 27 order.  “We seek some further time for taking concrete decisions. It needs intervention slightly at higher level,” the ASG said.  Earlier, the apex court had asked the Centre and the state government to “sit together” and find a solution to “contentious issues including whether over 68 per cent Muslims in the state can be regarded as minority. The court had asked them to file a proposal on the issue within four weeks.  Prior to this, the court had issued notice to the Centre, the state government and the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on the plea filed by Jammu-based advocate Ankur Sharma, alleging that benefits accruing to minorities were being taken away by Muslims who were in majority in J-K.  The plea had also alleged that the rights of religious and linguistic minorities in the state were being “siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily” due to the extension of benefits to “unqualified  sections” of the population.  Sharma alleged that the provisions of the National Commission for Minorities Act was not applicable in Jammu and Kashmir due to a caveat put by Article 370 of the Constitution and moreover, crores of rupees were being given to members of the majority community under various schemes meant for linguistic and religious minorities. The state government was violating Article 29 (protection of interests of minorities) and Article 30 (right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions) under the Constitution, he had claimed.  Last month, the apex court had imposed a cost of Rs 30,000 on the Centre for not filing its reply to the PIL alleging that minority benefits were being enjoyed by Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir. It has been settled that the identification of minority communities has to be decided as per the population data of the state in question, Sharma had said, while seeking the setting up of State Minority Commission for identification of minorities.  The apex court had, however, refused to restrain the authorities from disbursing benefits to any community in the state.  “The population of Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir according to the 2011 Census is 68.31 per cent. Communities which are eligible to be notified as minorities, were not awarded their due share of scholarship owing to their non-identification as minorities, thereby jeopardising their constitutionally guaranteed rights enshrined under Part III of the Constitution of India. This clearly reflects the unfairness and discrimination of the state towards the communities in the state of Jammu and Kashmir which are eligible to be notified as minorities,” the petition alleged.  The plea also sought directions to consider extension of National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Act, 1992 to Jammu and Kashmir and make amendments so that benefits available to minorities of other states could also be given to the minorities of J&K. Appoint a committee of experts functioning under the direct supervision of this court to submit a comprehensive report identifying communities of the state of Jammu and Kashmir which qualify as religious and linguistic minorities,” the PIL had said. Economic times 1/5/2017

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

Jharkhand: Muslim man attacked by irate mob for taking ‘beef’ to Iftar party

The victim – identified as 35-year-old Ainul Ansari – has been admitted to the Patliputra Medical College Hospital, where he is recovering. Police said Ansari, a resident of Murahdih, was headed to Barbadda village on a scooter when 20 people waylaid him at Loharbarba. Even as they were assaulting him, somebody informed the police. A team led by Barbadda police station officer-in-charge Dinesh Kumar reached the scene soon afterwards, and rescued Ansari. “The irate mob insisted that we search the victim’s scooter. We did so, and recovered meat – probably beef – from its storage compartment,” said Kumar. Ansari’s wife, Sahida Begum, denied the allegation. “We planned to hold an Iftar party at our house on Tuesday evening. Ansari was bringing mutton for the event, but the villagers mistook it for beef,” she said. A sample of the meat has been sent to a Ranchi laboratory for identification. The villagers have accused Ansari of trading in beef for the last three months. “They claim that he purchases the banned meat from Wasseypur in Dhanbad and sells it in the area,” a police officer said. The residents of Murahdih, however, narrate a different tale. “Something like this has never happened before. We source our mutton for Iftar parties from Dhanbad because it is cheaply available there. But there’s a lot of fear now. How are we – poor village folk – supposed to celebrate the festival in such circumstances?” asked one of them. Though tension prevails in the area, no complaint has been filed so far. “Neither Ansari nor the villagers who assaulted him have turned up to lodge an FIR,” said Kumar. This incident comes amid reports of self-declared cow-protection groups running riot across the country since the BJP’s ascent to power three years ago. In 2015, a group of villagers had attacked the house of a Muslim – Mohammad Akhlaq – at Bisara village in Uttar Pradesh, and beat him to death on allegations of slaughtering a stolen calf. (HT 07 June 2017)

Karnataka: Pregnant Muslim woman burnt alive for marrying Dalit man

A 21-year-old Muslim woman from Gundakanala village, Bijapur district in Karnataka was burnt alive by her family members last Saturday for marrying a Dalit man, reported The News Minute. Banu Begum and Sayabanna Sharanappa Konnur, 24, eloped to Goa in January, where they had their marriage registered. After Banu got pregnant, the couple returned to the village hoping their parents would accept the marriage. “The families did not accept their marriage and a huge fight raged through the day,” Talikote Deputy SP, PK Patil was quoted as saying by The News Minute. “Banu’s parents wanted her to leave Sayabanna, and the boy’s father was also not too pleased with the match. On Saturday night, when the couple refused to give in to their families’ demands, Sayabanna’s father, along with Banu’s mother, brother and sister brutally assaulted him,” he added. Sayabanna, who escaped to the police station to file a complaint, returned to see his wife set on fire. She had also been stabbed multiple times. “Sayabanna arrived at the station and was severely injured. He narrated the series of events and he ran back to pick up Banu. But by the time he reached, the family members had set her on fire,” Patil said. The 24-year-old suffered minor injuries while trying to save his wife. None of Sayabanna’s neighbours came forward to help him. He claimed they went home and locked their doors after Banu was set on fire, believing the girl had done a ‘terrible deed’. Banu’s mother, brother, sister and father-in-law were arrested on the charges of murder and assault on Sunday. Four others accused in the case, including Banu’s two elder sisters and two brothers, are absconding. According to the police, Banu’s family had previously approached them to file a POCSO case against Sayabanna, claiming their daughter was a minor. “The day Banu Begum’s parents found out about their relationship, her parents had dragged her to the police station. They had created a huge ruckus there and had demanded that the police file a POCSO case against Sayabanna, while claiming that their daughter was a minor. They also filed a written complaint in this regard,” Patil, was quoted as saying by The News Minute. Shortly after this, the couple moved to Goa. (Indian Express 06 June 2017).

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

UP: Police stops church event after Adityanath’s Hindu Yuva Vahini alleges conversion (7)

Police stopped a church event attended by more than 150 people, including 10 American tourists, here after the right-wing Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) alleged that religious conversion was being carried out. The youth brigade, set up in 2002 by Yogi Adityanath who is now Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, filed a complaint against Yohannan Adam, the pastor of the church, accusing him of converting Hindus to Christianity, a charge the pastor denied. SHO, Dathauli, Anand Kumar Gupta said no prior permission was taken for the meeting, which was held ahead of Good Friday. “We stopped the prayer meeting after a complaint was registered. A probe is underway and appropriate action will be taken if the charges are found to be correct,” he said. Dathauli falls in Maharajganj district in eastern Uttar Pradesh. It borders Gorakhpur, the Lok Sabha constituency represented five times by Adityanath before he took over the reins of Uttar Pradesh. Gupta said mass was held there quite often but as this time foreigners were involved, the HYV suspected that conversion was going on. The US tourists, including a few women, were let off after police checked their travel documents. “The presence of US nationals indicates that innocent and illiterate Hindus were being converted by missionaries who lured them with money to change their religion,” alleged HYV leader Krishna Nandan, who surrounded the church with his supporters yesterday afternoon. They dispersed after police promised a probe and adequate action even as the church authorities dismissed allegations of conversion. “The charges are absolutely baseless. The people were attending a prayer meeting voluntarily. We prayed. Nothing else was done,” pastor Adam said. The Hindu right wing has been at loggerheads with Christian missionaries, accusing them of converting people through coercion and allurement. Several Hindu organisations have conducted ‘ghar wapsi’ or homecoming of such people, which minority groups say is a couched term for re-conversion. Earlier this year, HYV activists had attacked the Full Gospel Church in Gorakhpur, accusing it of indulging in religious conversion. At Christmas last year, the HYV had warned Christian priests from holding any religious function outside churches.

HYV, which has a widespread network in eastern Uttar Pradesh, has alleged that Hindus are lured to Christianity through religious functions. “We have received several inputs that Christian preachers and priests hold such religious ceremonies in rural areas and secret locations in which Hindus are brought and motivated to join Christianity, through allurements including cash. We will not let this happen,” HYV president Sunil Singh alleged. They can hold their prayers inside churches or their homes but not any place outside. We have alerted the district administration in various places about such ceremonies slated to be held and if such functions do happen, churches would not be safe,” he warned. Singh said HYV has a youth member in each village in various districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh and keeps getting inputs about such happenings. Indian Express 8/4/2017.

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

BJP MP seeks deportation of illegal migrants (13)

A demand by a BJP MP to deport large number of illegal immigrants from India alleging they were involved in anti-social and terror activities Wednesday triggered uproarious scenes in Lok Sabha. Raising the issue during the Zero Hour, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey referred to the influx of large number of “illegal” people to India from countries like Bangladesh and demanded setting up of a commission to identify the areas and examine the demographic changes there. Dubey said the illegal immigrants were involved in various terror-related activities and impacting the livelihood of people across the country, including the North East. A number of opposition MPs strongly opposed Dubey’s comments and even said that such action will go against India’s age-old humanitarian approach towards refugees. Dubey said using Aadhaar card, some of these people were staying illegally in the country and trying to obtain citizenship, which was a matter of serious concern. He said the National Population Registrar should be linked with Aadhaar database to identify illegal immigrants so that they can be deported to the country of their origin. Opposing the BJP MP’s demand, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said India has been welcoming refugees from across the world and alleged that disinformation campaign was being run against thousands of “defenceless” people, based on “unverifiable charges”. Tharoor even said he had requested the Home Minister to come out with a refugee policy as several countries have such policies. CPI(M) MP A Sampath referred to the Ministry of External Affairs extending a grant of USD 1 million for the rehabilitation of Rohingiya refugees from Myanmar. It is a sensitive issue. Even the UN is involved in it, he said. In his remarks, Dubey had sought formation of a commission to identify the districts across the country which witnessed demographic changes due to the influx of illegal migrants. Indian Express 11 April 2017

Indian-American lawmakers slam Trump’s immigration policy (13)

WASHINGTON: Indian-American lawmakers on Thursday slammed US President Donald Trump for signing executive orders to reshape the country’s immigration policies, describing the move as “anti-immigrant” that will “tear apart” families. Trump has escalated his anti-immigrants stand with a series of executive orders that will “tear families apart,” while weakening the public safety and national security, said Senator Kamala Harris, the first Indian-American to be elected to the upper chamber of the United States Congress. “Creating a deportation force to target immigrant families who are contributing to our society is not a show of strength. Asking taxpayers to pay for an unrealistic border wall is not a solution. And telling cities to deny public safety, education, and health services to kids and families is irresponsible and cruel,” said Harris. She said that the US was now “less safe” because of the “anti-immigrant” policies followed by the President. “Immigrants will report fewer crimes, more families will live in fear, and our communities and local economies will suffer,” Harris said. Indian-American Seattle representative Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who has earlier announced not to attend Trump’s presidential inauguration, slammed the President for moving forward with his “divisive agenda” that will do nothing to solve the real immigration issues. “He has doubled down on his agenda that pits mother against mother, neighbour against neighbour, tearing up the fabric of our communities,” Jayapal said. “We must take on enacting comprehensive and humane reform of our broken immigration system – to support our economy, our communities and our families – but the President offers zero leadership in this area,” she said. “Instead of building walls, we should address the underlying systemic issues that drive immigration and fix our own outdated immigration system. Instead of banning refugees and people based on their religion, we should welcome them with open arms,” she said. Jayapal said that as a world superpower it is US’s moral responsibility to provide a sanctuary to all who need it most. The lawmakers were also joined by Senator Chuck Schumer and Democratic Whip Congressman Steny H Hoyer in opposing Trump’s immigration policies. “President Trump’s plans are based on alternative facts and do nothing to keep us safe or fix our immigration system in a humane, pragmatic and effective way,” Schumer said. (Times of India 26/1/17)

Starbucks to hire 10,000 refugees worldwide after Donald Trump’s travel ban (13)

NEW YORK: Starbucks plans to hire 10,000 refugees worldwide over the next five years in response to President Donald Trump’s travel ban, the head of the US coffee-chain company said on Sunday. “I write to you today with deep concern, a heavy heart and a resolute promise,” Starbucks chairman and chief executive Howard Schultz said in a letter to employees posted on the company’s website. “We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American Dream, being called into question.” Schultz, a Democratic Party supporter, said that Starbucks had been in contact with employees affected by the new Republican president’s executive order signed Friday. The decree suspends the arrival of all refugees for at least 120 days, Syrian refugees indefinitely and bars citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. The CEO said the refugee hires would be fleeing war, persecution and discrimination in the 75 countries where the company operates. “And we will start this effort here in the US by making the initial focus of our hiring efforts on those individuals who have served with US troops as interpreters and support personnel in the various countries where our military has asked for such support,” he said. Schultz also defended Mexico, which Trump has said will have to pay for a wall along its long and porous border with the United States to deter immigrants, perhaps by the US imposing a 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports. “Building bridges, not walls, with Mexico,” he wrote, voicing support for the country that has provided Starbucks with coffee for three decades and where nearly 600 Starbucks coffee shops employ 7,000 people. “We stand ready to help and support our Mexican customers, partners and their families as they navigate what impact proposed trade sanctions, immigration restrictions and taxes might have on their business and their trust of Americans.Schultz is close to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate who lost to Trump in the November election, and supported her during her White House campaign. But he has dismissed persistent rumors that he would seek the highest office in the land. (Times of India 30/1/17)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

Government spends Rs 3.09 per Rs 500 currency note: RTI (1)

Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) spends Rs 3.09 for each Rs 500 note as cost towards paper, printing and other charges, an RTI query has revealed. The information was given here on Friday to Mumbai Right To Information activist Anil Galgali on his query on the printing costs incurred by the government for printing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. RBI Deputy General Manager P Wilson said in a written submission that the ‘selling price’ is Rs 3,090 per thousand pieces of Rs 500 denomination new currency notes, or Rs 3.09 per note for the current year, 2016-2017. The RBI buys the currency notes from the Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Pvt Ltd, its official supplier and printer for currency notes, Galgali said. The BRBNMPL said it did not have information pertaining to Galgali’s RTI query on the Rs 1,000 currency notes — which may be printed in future. However, the RBI declined to provide information on the orders placed for total quantity of (number of) notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, its value, total contract amount, amount released and pending, as it fell under the ambit of RTI Section 8(1)(a). Galgali said it was surprising why the government was not revealing the actual data on the number of the new Rs 500 printed and proposed Rs 1,000 currency notes even almost two-and-half months after demonetisation of the earlier Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8. (Business Standard 21/1/17)

36 suspended revenue officials are back: RTI (1)

MUMBAI: In the corridors of public administration, it seems to be not difficult to be in office and earn a salary despite facing serious charges of corruption. Information obtained under RTI from the revenue department by activist Jeetendra Ghadge has revealed that 36 officials suspended for criminal cases (corruption under the Anti-Corruption Bureau or Indian Penal Code) have been reinstated even when an FIR has been filed against them and prosecution sanction has been given by the Maharashtra government. Activists said this leaves scope for the corrupt to ‘tamper’ with charges and find newer ‘sources’ to route the corruption. But revenue and ACB authorities said the officials have been given non-executive work, away from the public, that will not influence decisions. This ‘backdoor’ entry of officials has been allowed using a bizarre circular of June 31, 2015, whereby after fulfilling certain conditions one-year suspension, prosecution sanction from government, departmental inquiry is on, and charge-sheet is filed officers can be reinstated. Senior ACB and revenue officials said even under suspension, the officials had to be paid 75% of their salaries, which has not only led to loss of money for the government but also affected staff strength, affecting departmental output. Papers obtained under RTI suggested that a proposal for reinstatement of four of the officers was rejected a year ago as no departmental inquiry was ordered against them. Within a year, these officers again sent proposals for reinstatement after a departmental inquiry was ordered against them in the middle of last year. A suspension review committee comprising ACB, home and revenue department officials that decided on reinstating tainted officials based on those conditions recommended the names of the four, confirming their ‘backdoor’ entry. So to get back on the job, a criteria of inquiry was fulfilled as per the ‘controversial’ circular, alleged Ghadge. He said the circular should have made a ‘clean chit’ in the departmental inquiry as a condition to get back on the job. “For this, through the same circular, the government could have suggested steps to expedite and complete inquiries within a time frame by the departments involved. People would have appreciated the government having a stringent condition in the circular which could have also helped it score morally and ethically over previous regimes,” he said. “For the public, it appears that corrupt officials are taking advantage of the circular and are getting departmental inquiries ordered against them to fulfil criteria to get back on the job. Interestingly, as per information on the ACB website, the same committee is delaying prosecution sanction to many other officials of the revenue department who have cases pending with the ACB and making way for only a set of officials,” Ghadge alleged. … Times of India 24/1/17)

Cannot disclose preparedness to handle demonetisation crisis: RBI (1)

New Delhi: The quantum of new currency notes of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 printed before the announcement of demonetisation on November 8 cannot be disclosed as it may affect interests of the State, a subsidiary of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) responsible for printing currency, has said. The response of the subsidiary came following an RTI query sent to RBI under the Right to Information Act seeking to know the preparedness of the Bankers’ Bank to handle the cash crisis arising out of sudden announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demonetise Rs 1,000 and Rs 500. The central bank forwarded the query to Bhartiya Reserve Bank Note Limited, Bengaluru which is wholly owned subsidiary of RBI to respond to query “how much currency of new Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 was printed before announcement of cessation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 as legal tender was made on November 8″.The subsidiary was established 21 years ago with an aim to augment currency printing capacity of RBI “to bridge the gap between the supply and demand for bank notes in the country” with present capacity for its presses of 16 billion note pieces per year on a two-shift basis, as per website of BRBNL. In its response to RTI query, BRBNL said the information cannot be disclosed citing section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act. The section allows declining information disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence. The Press did not give any reasons to justify as to how giving plain data about currency printed by it before November 8 would qualify in any of the categories given under Section 8(1)(a) to deny the information. Ironically, the RBI in a separate response had said that it had 2,473 million pieces of 2,000 rupee notes on November 8 which had a value of over Rs 4.94 lakh crore. The RBI has not been forthcoming with information about currency situation in the country and its preparedness in the wake of demonetisation citing one exemption or the other. The monetary policy regulator had refused to give reasons, sought under the RTI Act, behind the drastic decision announced by the Prime Minister to demonetise about 86 per cent of currency in circulationIt had adopted silence on whether the views of Chief Economic Advisor and Finance Minister were taken before demonetisation was announced. The monetary policy regulator also refused to give any details about the time it will take to replenish the currency notes. The query is in the nature of seeking future date of an event which is not defined as information according to Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, RBI had said in response to an RTI query. (Business Standard 26/1/17)

More than 60 per cent CIC orders flawed: study (13)

More than 60 percent of the central information commission (CIC) orders are “deficient” in terms of “recording critical facts” and “grounds for decision of the IC and the basis thereof.” These findings are part of the study ‘Key findings of research on the performance of adjudicators of the RTI Act: Information Commissions (ICs), High Courts and the Supreme Court’. It was conducted by the Research, Assessment and Group (RAAG) and Satark Nagrik Sangathan, which look after the implementation of RTI. That apart, the study also showed that there was gross violation of the RTI Act by the commissions for not fining public information officers (PIO) who do not give information on time as mandatory in the Act. The study was compiled by authors Anjali Bhardwaj, Amrita Johri, and Shekhar Singh and was published in January 2017. It also mentioned the average waiting period in each state information commission. Maharahtra, as per the study has an eight month waiting period. Some benches in the state have a waiting period of over two years. The study also states that the deficiency remained despite Supreme Court’s clear directives which state that all information commission orders should have critical facts of cases mentioned in the order. 2,000 information commission orders studied stated that 63 per cent of the total orders passed did not have those details. “In some cases, we have seen that even as a lay person, we can see that the court order does not help in providing any concrete information,” said Bhardwaj. (DNA 30/1/17)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

Right to Education Act quota admissions kick off in Mumbai (11)

MUMBAI: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will be creating monitoring committees to ensure that schools follow the timetable for the Right to Education Act quota admissions. The online admission process kick started on Friday with the portal opening for schools to register themselves. This year, the admissions will conclude on April 29, after five rounds of lotteries to allot seats to students. On Friday, BMC officials held a training session for principals of unaided non-minority schools in the city. “All schools will have to register online up to February 3 and then the portal will be open for the parents to apply for admission. This time, parents will not have to upload any documents online and only submit them directly at the school,” said Nisar Khan, BMC education inspector. In the past, the process had been marred by several delays and admissions went on up to the end of the academic year. “The BMC education officer will set up committees for the three zones to ensure that the schools follow the schedule and the portal is updated on time so that we can move to the next round in time,” said Milind Sawant, deputy municipal commissioner. He added that the schools too will have to form committees to monitor the process at their level. At the training session conducted by BMC education officer, Mahesh Palkar, several principals raised concerns over the problems in last year’s admission process. They complained that seats have remained vacant in the past year and they hadn’t received compensation. Grievance redressal mechanisms for both schools and parents will be set up. “The detailed process, the rules and coordinates of the local education officials will be circulated to all the schools where they can be contacted for any troubles or roadblocks,” said Sawant. The government this year announced a detailed schedule to be followed by corporations across the state. The number of guidance centres to help parents fill up admission forms will be increased to 40 for the upcoming admissions. These will be available for parents starting February 5. (Times of India 20/1/17)

MP ranked third in ‘out-of-school’ girls (11)

Bhopal: Despite offering freebies like books, bicycle and uniforms along with scholarships among others to enhance enrolment, Madhya Pradesh is among the top three States in the country where the percentage of out-of-school girls is the highest, according to an education status report for 2016. As per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2016, in some States, the proportion of girls (age group 11-14) ‘out-of-school’ remains greater than 8 %. These States are Uttar Pradesh (9.9) and Rajasthan (9.7). Madhya Pradesh joined them at 8.5 %.This report was released recently in New Delhi by Pratham Education Foundation. “The proportion of ‘out-of-school’ girls (drop-outs as well as those who never went to school) in Madhya Pradesh was 6.2 % during 2014. This has now increased to 8.5,” Foundation’s MP Chief Sajjan Singh Shekhawat told PTI. There are about 1.22 lakh schools including 83,962 of primary level, 30,449 middle, 3,849 higher secondary and 4,764 of high schools in the State. This status report has also revealed the condition of poor quality of education and its infrastructure in the State. As far as rural areas are concerned, the report found that 2.9 % girls of 7-10 years of age group were not enrolled in schools. Similarly, 29 % girls in the age group of 15-16 years were out of schools during last year. It was pointed out that 2.9 % of the students of Class VIII in the State failed to even read letters while 13.5 % of them were able to read standard-one level text. Besides, 64.3 % students of Class VIII could read letters meant for class-II but not above. As many as 6.7 % of Class V and 1.6 % students of Class VIII of the State have even failed to recognize the digits from one to nine. Similarly, 8.1 % students of Class VIII even fail to read English capital letters. This percentage is 18.4 for Class V students. The report stated that 80.2 % students of government schools studying in Classes I to V were not attending coaching classes in year 2010. Now, this has reduced to 64.6 %. There were no toilets in 20 % of the schools in the State in 2010. This is reduced to 5.6 % in 2016, the report stated. – PTI (The Hindu 22/1/17)

Education protection campaign to be launched on Friday (11)

Thiruvananthapuram: The much-publicised General Education Protection Campaign of the State government will be launched on January 27, Minister for Education C. Ravindranath has said. The State-level inauguration will be done by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at the Malayinkeezhu school here at 10 a.m. and at Durga Higher Secondary School, Kanhangad, by Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, the Minister said. He was speaking after at a workshop on teacher education organised by the State Council of Educational Research and Training here on Tuesday. Mr. Ravindranath said the general education protection pledge was an important part of the programme. All people should get together in their nearby schools to take the pledge to protect and strengthen general education. A human chain will be formed outside all schools at 11 a.m. with the message of protecting general education, the Minister said in a statement.Academic excellence was an important ingredient of the campaign so as to attract more students to public schools. This involved upgrade in physical infrastructure in schools, and preparation of master plans. To make education more comprehensive, change should be introduced in sports and arts education. Talks would be held for this, including on manual revision, he said. He said the workshop was being organised to debate on changes, if any, to be made to teacher training so as to achieve the goal of student-centric education. He also called for training for parent-teacher association members on child-centred education. General Education Secretary Usha Titus said it needed to be determined how to unite teacher training that was conducted by various agencies at present. The campaign aimed at 1,000 hours of instruction for students, but to make this possible conferences convened by AEOs or DEOs should be done online and probably held on weekends. It also needed to be determined when training programmes should be held, whether extended programmes should be truncated, and held in smaller capsules.Later, during the discussion a number of points came up. Focus on learning, capacity building of teachers, liberal atmosphere in classes instead of regimented and draconian ways, taking teaching outside classrooms, impact of teacher education on inborn skills of trainee teachers, need to understand children’s psychology, better focus on multiple intelligence were discussed. It was suggested that a survey be held to elicit teachers’ opinion on the training programmes, and conduct aptitude tests to ascertain if teachers had the inclination for the work they did. (The Hindu 24/1/17)

School asks RTE students to pay transport fees, parents approach commission (11)

Bengaluru: The parents of several children admitted under the RTE quota in a city school have been asked by the school authorities to pay the transport fees, as the primary school functioned 14 km away from their pre-primary centre. While the pre-primary centre is at Cox Town, the primary school is at Kadusonapannahalli. A parent of a class one student, who was asked to pay ₹25,000 a year, has approached the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights for intervention. He said his son had been admitted under the RTE quota in Oasis International School. “We admitted our son in the school at Cox Town. But after LKG and UKG, they told us that we would have to pay for transport at the Kadusonapannahalli school. My house is at Chinnappa Garden and I would have to pay close to ₹25,000 as transport fees, which is just not possible given the means that we have.” Sources in the Department of Public Instruction said parents were also initially asked to pay tuition fees for 2017–18 academic year. The reason given was that the Education Department would not be able to provide reimbursement to students under the quota as the process had been centralised. Parents approached RTE task force convener Nagasimha G. Rao who forwarded their complaint to the commission. “If the department does not respond, we will fight this legally on behalf of the parents,” he said.School authorities, when contacted on Wednesday morning, said students would not have pay the tuition fees, but had to pay the transport fees. Later in the evening, they said they would not have to pay transport fees either. (The Hindu 26/1/17)

Udaipur division records worst learning outcomes: Report (11)

JAIPUR: The tribal-dominated Udaipur division has recorded poor learning outcomes in reading, comprehension and mathematics, among all seven divisional headquarters. The Annual Status of Education Report-2016 released last week showed that tribal-dominated districts — Banswara, Chittorgarh, Dungarpur, Pratapgarh, Rajsamand and Udaipur which come under Udaipur division, had alarmingly poor learning outcomes. The report says that barely 22 students for every 100 students enrolled in class VI were able to solve simple division problems. The state average is 39.7% which is placed in the last 10 states. The highest was recorded by Bharatpur division. It has 57.5% students enrolled in class VI who were able to solve the same set of simple division problems. The report further says that only 43.3% of the students enrolled in standard III can read text meant for standard I. This is among the worst learning outcomes even nationally. Bikaner and Jaipur have attained above average scores with 66.6% and 66.1%, respectively. The actual situation is worse.Notably, some villages in Udaipur division have recorded worst literacy levels in a single digit. The Mahari village with a population of 5,000 has a literacy rate of 19% which explains that most of the students enrolled in the rural areas are first from their families to attend schools. Explaining the reason behind the poor learning outcomes in Udaipur division, Aziz Ahmed, principal of senior secondary school in Mahari in Kotra tehsil, Udaipur said, “The figures may be worst among all divisional headquarters but it is fast improving. Extreme poverty along with early marriages which is a part of the local culture deters the students from attending school.”Another shocking revelation by Ahmed says that tribals living in the interiors have very few words of Hindi in their vocabulary. “I have been taking extra classes to teach students Hindi as 99% of the schools are Hindi-medium in the interiors. Here they speak a mixed dialect of Gujarati and tribal language which makes them feel outsider in the Hindi speaking state,” said Ahmed.The tribal region has 20.6% of students enrolled in the private schools which are again lowest in the state. It explains that poverty in the rural areas has restricted the growth of private schools which have performed better in the learning outcomes at the state and national levels. Bharatpur and Jaipur have highest percentage of students enrolled in private schools with 54.7% and 53.6% students enrolled in the private schools, respectively. (Times of India 30/1/17)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

No relief from hunger for city suburb (21)

Around eight per cent of families living in Mumbai’s Shivaji Nagar have at least one member who has gone hungry as many as 10 times in a month. Most of these families also have ration cards but there is still widespread food insecurity, according to ‘Life on the Margin: Charting Realities’, a situational analysis report released by Apnalaya, an NGO that has been working in the area for around four decades now. Of the families who face hunger despite having a ration card, 79 per cent spend most of their money on just water. A total of 6,631 families with 32,881 individuals were interviewed for the study conducted in April 2015. The study highlighted some facts about the ward that the BMC had already mentioned in one of its own surveys, such as that Shivaji Nagar, with a population of over 6 lakh, has no maternity home or secondary hospital. There are other findings, too, like the fact that a worker who came here 40 years ago is likely to be making only Rs 700 more than someone who would settle there now. “This highlights how most of the workers are engaged in basic, unskilled work and come here despite the poor conditions,” said Arun Kumar, CEO, Apnalaya. The report also took the BMC to task for alloting only Rs 164 crore for slum development out of its Rs 31,178 crore budget; of the allotted amount, Rs 45crore remained unspent. Health minister Dr Deepak Sawant who unveiled the report said that while he couldn’t say more since the code of conduct for elections was in place, he cautioned, “When conducting surveys it is important to have a large sample size rather than one where only 20-30 people are interviewed.” (DNA 20/1/17)

Chennai: Wasted food will now feed homeless in city (21)

CHENNAI: The city’s homeless may finally be able to have a dignified way to fill their bellies. They may no longer have to scavenge for throwaways or digging dumpsters.A project focusing on managing wasted fresh food will soon hand out proper meals and set up open fridges for the homeless. All this, without a single rupee spent on preparing these meals. The `No Food Waste’ project, a crusade against food-waste that can stave off hunger for several of the state’s homeless inhabitants, will be working with Greater Chennai Corporation to accomplish this. The group will get untouched leftover food from collection points across cities and distribute it to the homeless, with an eye on localities that have quite a few of them. A G Padmanaban, the 23-year-old founder of the project, has sought the corporation’s support for his endeavour. Parallelly, the project will also set up two refrigerators at restaurants bakeries in its initial run to enable a “public take away” system for the homeless. “To accomplish this, we are currently mapping the city for `hunger spots’, areas with several clusters of homeless population,” said Padmanaban, who is looking for not just food donations, but also vehicles and volunteers.The crowd-funded initiative, he said, was also looking to take in donations from corporates and office buildings that account for a large amount of waste. Several IT companies like ZohoCorp, he revealed, were keen on the tie-up.The project which was set to take off in 2016 had met with logistics issues “We have developed this model suited to the city’s neighbouring this time, said Padmanaban. Channelling tonnes of untouched leftover food to the needy , the project currently feeds people across Coimbatore, Erode, Salem, Trichy in the state and in the National Capital Region (NCR). (Times of India 24/1/17)

Global Goals on poverty and hunger require $265 billion annually – UN conference told (21)

New York, Jan 26 : The world must take urgent action to mobilise the estimated $265 billion a year needed to achieve the first two Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty and hunger by 2030, the head of the United Nations agency for financing rural development projects has told an international conference. The need is urgent, Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said at last nights opening of a conference, titled Investing in inclusive rural transformation: innovative approaches to financing, held in Rome, Italy on 26-27 January. Despite decades of commitments and considerable effort to end poverty and hunger, nearly 800 million children, women and men still go hungry every day, and an almost equal number live in extreme poverty, he added, stressing the need to be more creative in using public resources and mobilise financing. He also emphasized the need to make it easier for the private sector and philanthropists to invest in rural areas, where rates of poverty and hunger are highest. Speakers agreed it cannot be left up to governments alone. In 2015, Official Development Assistance (ODA) was approximately $192 billion and only $9 billion of that was earmarked for agriculture. President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Kanayo F. Nwanze, addresses the opening in Rome of a conference focused on finding innovative ways to finance rural development. Photo: IFADThe conference comes at a critical time with political changes and humanitarian crises such as war, migration and natural disasters reshaping global priorities and potentially diverting money away from development. The majority of these poor and hungry people live in rural areas of developing countries. Investments need to be targeted to transform rural areas into vibrant places that offer all people the opportunity to have decent jobs and lead dignified lives free of poverty and hunger. Nwanze stressed that the financing needs for development are enormous, but so are the opportunities. Agri-food is already a $5 trillion sector, and it is growing, he said. It holds tremendous promise for the private sector and for producers in developing countries. Co-organised by IFAD, the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Brookings Institution and the University of Warwick, the conference brings together development agencies, governments, philanthropic organisations, the private sector, academia and farmers organisations to look at innovative ways to mobilise money and smarter ways to spend it. IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, it has provided about $18 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 462 million people. (New Kerala 27/1/17)

Karnataka makes most of Railways’ pass for poor under ‘Izzat scheme’ (21)

BENGALURU: If monthly season tickets issued by the India Railways under its ‘Izzat scheme’ are any indication to poverty levels, Karnataka has the highest number of poor people and Chhattisgarh the lowest. Railways issues Izzat tickets to persons certified to be earning less than Rs 1,500 a month. The monthly fee for daily one-way travel of up to 150 km is Rs 25. Workers in the unorganised sector and those categorised as belonging to low-income groups are entitled to the scheme, which Mamata Banerjee launched in her 2009-10 budget as railway minister. A regular season ticket costs Rs 525 a month. South Western Railway, consisting of the Bengaluru, Mysuru and Hubli divisions, tops the Izzat chart, according to data sourced by ET from the Ministry of Railways under the Right to Information Act. Within Karnataka, however, while the number of passes issued dropped from 39,511 to 25,305 between 2013-14 and 2015-16, the Mysuru division recorded an increase from 20,536 to 36,736 passes in this period, although officials suspect the authenticity of poverty claims in a large number of cases. According to authorities, the railways lost Rs 9.5 crore in foregone revenues in 2015-16. There are 16 railway zones in the country covering 70 divisions.In 2015-16, these divisions together issued 1.89 lakh Izzat passes, of which Karnataka accounted for the largest chunk of 72,016 passes. The Southeast Central Railway, administering Bilaspur, Raipur and Nagpur divisions, issued the fewest passes —206. What could provide some relief to authorities is that the number of people claiming Izzat passes dropped last year. While 3.19 lakh people claimed these passes in calendar year 2013, the number dropped to 1.62 lakh in 2014-15. The 2016-17 numbers will show whether these numbers are falling further or holding firm. “When I was the railway minister, there were suggestions to discontinue with the scheme,” said DV Sadananda Gowda, minister for statistics and programme implementation. “But, then, we decided to continue since the scheme targeted poor people.” (Times of India 30/1/17)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

Regularise jobs of one crore workers: CITU (14)

Kolar: Hundreds of workers led by district unit of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) staged a protest in front of the taluk panchayat office here on Friday seeking regularisation of workers employed under various government schemes. Around one crore people are working under various schemes such as Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), National Health Mission (NHM), Sarva Shikshan Abhiyan, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and Panchayat Sevika. They have been paid very meagre wages and enjoy no facilities, the CITU said. The workers in these sectors, who are instrumental in reaching the government schemes to the masses, particularly in rural areas, are being divested from the equal work-equal wages norms, it alleged. The organisation urged the governments to take steps to regularise their services so that they enjoy all benefits.CITU district honorary president Gandhinagar Narayanaswamy, taluk president Venkatalakshmamma, and secretary M. Vijayakrishna participated in the protest. (The Hindu 20/1/17)

Bihar government team reaches Jaipur to take 108 rescued child labourers back home (14)

JAIPUR: A team of Bihar government has reached Jaipur to take 108 child labourers rescued by state government from city. Over the past few years, Jaipur has become a hub for child labour, where children from Bihar and Jharkhand come to work in manufacturing units of bangles, gem polishing and in aari-tari. The children narrated their ordeal they faced in the life. An 8-year-old child labour from Bihar told officials of one stop crisis management centre for children (OSCMCC), which is providing support for sending them back home, that his father has severe respiratory problem. “He told us that his father was ill. So, he took Rs13,000 and send his son to Jaipur for work,” Vijay Goyal said, who is incharge of OSCMCC. He said that there was a 9-year-old boy who was sexually harassed by owner of the factory where he used to work. “A case under POCSO has also been registered in police station,” Goyal said. Others also narrated their plight of being a child labourer. “Majority of them belong to poor family,” he said. There are two children, who lost their mother and father. Their brothers sent them to work in Jaipur taking Rs5,000 from the agents. Now, the state government in support of NGOs and OSCMCC, will help the children in their rehabilitation. The district administration will issue these children certificate of bonded labourers so that they would get the benefits of schemes formulated for bonded labourers. Officials said that the Centre also provided financial help to such children after being certified as bonded labour. Moreover, they will also get the benefit of schemes which are meant for BPL families. Moreover, their education and health will also be taken care of. Among 108 children, 84 belonged to Gaya in Bihar and eight belonged from Samastipur. The others belonged to districts like Patna and Nalanda.Earlier also these children were staying in care homes run by the government and NGOs as well. There are around 21 child labourers, who have been staying in the care homes in Jaipur since September. After four months of the rescue, a team of Bihar government reached Jaipur to take them back home. The state government was in touch with Bihar government for a long time to help the rescued children go back home. These children were rescued between September 2016 and January 2017. But as Bihar government officials did not come earlier, these children spent four months in care homes. The government did not initiate the process of handing over the rescued children to their parents claiming it would affect their rehabilitation. Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device. (Times of India 22/1/17)

Stripped and whipped by employer, two UP workers in Qatar seek rescue (14)

HYDERABAD: Two Indians in Qatar who say they were stripped to their undergarments and savagely whipped with a hunter rope by their employer are pleading to be rescued. The injuries and blood on their backs, hands, thighs and legs, seen in a video sent by them, reveal the beastly treatment meted out to them, allegedly by their employer. Parvez Ahmad (24) of Sant Kabir Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, and Mohammed Akram (27), also from Uttar Pradesh went to Qatar about four months ago on a Pune agent’s promise of a decent job there. To their utter shock, when they landed in that country, they were taken to an animal farm and asked to take care of camels and goats in a village on the Saudi-Qatar border. Parvez went on a work visa issued by Qatar that mentions his sponsor’s name as Saada Saleh A A Al-Marri. The agent in India who sent them there is named Mohammed Shafique Khan. Though his visa says he was recruited as a driver and has a residency duration of five years, he was taken to the border village and told to take care of camels and goats. In a voice message, Parvez, a graduate, claimed their employer beats them mercilessly. “Mai Qatar aur Saudi border se 100-150 km door main road par Tohaliya petrol pump se purab ke taraf 20-25 km door hoon (I am on the main road about 100-150 km from the Qatar-Saudi border and about 20-25 km west of Tohaliya petrol pump),” Parvej said. “It is better to be thrown in jail than suffer like we are suffering,” he told TOI in the voice message, adding that they wanted to be rescued.The marks made by the whip and the blood on the back of Mohammed Akram, whose photographs have also been sent, show what Parvez and Akram are being subjected to in Qatar.They live in such fear that Parvez said if their employer learnt they had sought rescue he might shift them somewhere else and tell embassy officials and police they had run away. “The employer should not be believed. He should be pressured to reveal where he has kept us,” Parvez pleaded. (Times of India 27/1/17)

Migrant labour avoid cash transactions: Study (14)

HYDERABAD: A study conducted by the Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology, established by the Reserve Bank of India, reveals that there are many gaps in the formal banking system for migrant labour in Hyderabad city and Mahbubnagar district. The study that spoke to more than 500 people also found that the existing payment services, offered by the formal banking sector, are not popular as migrants prefer to carry cash or use their social network. A large part (59 per cent) of the total remittances was through this mode (carrying cash) while 27 per cent of the remittances were done through the banking or business correspondent channel. Interestingly, for remittances, the respondents did not use the services of agents, post offices or money transfer agencies. People said that they face many problems in banks for their remittance needs. These include crowded banking access points, transactions taking long time due to huge rush of customers, unsuitable timings and some transactions considered too complicated (largely a consequence of low levels of education among migrants). Crowded access points were cited as the major obstacle to increased use of banking services. Remittances are made mainly for daily needs, education needs, repaying old loans, building or buying houses and health needs of the household. Curiously 42 per cent of the respondents understand that the cost of remitting money is less than one per cent. About 27 per cent of the respondents did not know the cost of remitting money through the payment systems of the banks. The study suggested that there is a large potential for the expansion of banking services by introducing a new suite of banking services that includes doorstep banking, accepting remittances and payout of remittances. Doorstep banking and offering customization of technology solutions are possible in the form of a micro-ATM. They will escalate the scope for electronic payments since it will increases customers among migrant workers. There is great need to expand the scope of mobile usage. (Times of India 29/1/17)

RESERVATION

RSS propaganda chief calls for ending caste based reservations (25)

New Delhi: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) prachar pramukh, or propaganda chief, Manmohan Vaidya today called for an end to caste based reservations in jobs and educational institutions, and advocated equal opportunity and education for all. At the Jaipur Literature Festival, Vaidya said that BR Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India, had also argued against unending ontinuation of reservations. But Vaidya justified reservations only for Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes, which he said have faced discrimination. Vaidya’s comments suggested that the Sangh does not favour reservations for Muslims and Other Backward Classes, or OBCs, as these would lead to tensions in the society. It is likely that the comments are interpreted to mean that RSS is not just against reservation for OBC castes, like Yadavs and Kurmis, but also to peasant communities that in recent times have demanded such reservations like Patels, Jats, and Gujars. While Jats are an important community in western UP, Patels are equally important in Gujarat. Uttar Pradesh goes to polls in a three weeks’ time, while Gujarat by the end of this year. Patel leader Hardik Patel slammed the comments by the RSS chief. OBC leaders like Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, Dalit leader Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and also Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also criticised the statement. UP has a sizeable OBC population, that comprises the support base of the Samajwadi Party, while the extremely backwards among these have in the past supported not just the BSP but also BJP. The BJP, which considers RSS as its ideological parent, has reached out to non-Yadav OBCs in the state. Its state unit chief Keshav Prasad Maurya is a non-Yadav OBC, and BJP has given party tickets in the state to dozens of OBCs. It also hopes to win seats in western UP on the back of Jat support. Vaidya’s statement could impact it in what might turn out to be a repeat of the Bihar assembly polls. … (Business Standard 21/1/17)

‘RSS leader’s remark against reservation unconstitutional’ (25)

Bhopal : Rashtriya Pichhada Varg Sangh national president Jagdish Yadav, national convener Ajay Revanath Chaure and state president Ratanlal Batham have come down heavily on RSS for opposing reservation. Addressing a press conference, they said they strongly oppose the remark made by RSS leader Manmohan Vaidya against reservation during Jaipur Literature Festival. Pichhada Varg Sangh leaders said under Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution, reservation is provided to scheduled castes and tribes. They said only 27 per cent reservation is given to backward classes although they form 65 per cent of total population. Pichhada Varg leaders further said RSS projects itself as godfather of Hindus but advocates ending reservation, which is against the Constitution. They said it appears Manmohan Vaidya has no faith in country’s Constitution. (Central Chronicle 24/1/17)

Post-Jat agitation, sharp dip in girl students’ intake at IIM Rohtak (25)

ROHTAK: Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Rohtak, had celebrated induction of the 2013 batch of post-graduate programme in management (PGPM) when it had got 73 girls against 79 boys, almost matching the 1:1 ratio — highest for institute. Shockingly, for the 2016-18 batch of the same programme, IIM Rohtak got nine girl students against 145 boys, leaving the institute struggling for gender diversity. Sources in IIM Rohtak said last year’s Jat agitation for reservation coincided with their admission process and had left a huge impact on the decision of parents of the girl students. Several of the girls from different states, who were interested in joining IIM Rohtak due to its proximity to New Delhi, had backed out due to the volatile situation, sources added. The admission process in IIMs starts in February. The Jat agitation was at its peak, which started from February 18, 2016, paralysing the state for 10 days leaving many dead. An employee, who is associated with IIM Rohtak, told TOI that parents of the girls, who belonged to other states, were also concerned over the safety after violent scenes shown on electronic media. “Rohtak city also drew lots of media attention for negative reasons in the last couple of years like the infamous gang rape case of a Nepalese woman, honour killings cases and bizarre diktats of khaps clipping the freedom of women,” he said. Jagmati Sangwan,, central executive committee member of All India Democratic Women Association (AIDWA) who hails from Rohtak, said Haryana was still known as the land of unwanted daughters. “When you see the agrarian state in the national perspective, it is seen as economically forward but socially backward,” Sangwan said. She said the premier institute was at its evolving stage and reputation of Rohtak in suppressing women’s right play in the mind of girls’ parents. She said sustained efforts by the government can only transform the image in securing more females admissions in IIM Rohtak. Experts, however, said boys always perform better than girls in the Common Admission Test (CAT) exam and eventually land up in the IIMs. In a way, it can be said that engineering background was being seen as the qualifying mark for cracking the prestigious CAT exam, they said. In 2016, CAT exam out of 20 candidates, who bagged 100 percentiles, all were boys. In 2015, out of 17 candidates who got 100 percentile, there was only one girl in the list. An IIM Rohtak official said to balance the gender ratio, the institute, which is hosting the Common Admission Process (CAP) for new IIMs, has offered special weightage to girl and non-engineering background candidates. … (Times of India 25/1/17)

Protesters clash with police in Jammu (25)

Jammu: Jammu and Kashmir police used batons and tear smoke shells on Saturday to disperse people agitating for reservations. The scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities took out a protest march in Jammu to press for reservations. As the protesters demanded that some officials from the government must meet them to address their demands, police erected barricades to stop their march near Indira Chowk. The protesters brought down the barricades after which the police used batons and tear smoke shells. (Zee News 28/1/17)

Jats begin stir in Haryana, demonstrations peaceful (25)

CHANDIGARH: Seeking reservation in government jobs for the community, members of Jat organisations on Sunday started their agitation in most districts of Haryana. The call for the fresh stir has been given by some Jat outfits, especially those owing allegiance to the All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) headed by Yashpal Malik. Members of the Jat community are staging peaceful dharnas at Ramayan village near the Hisar-Bhiwani railway track, Jolilath village on Sonipat-Gohana road, Jassia village on Rohtak Highway, Rasalwala Chowk in Jhajjar, Umrakheri village near Panipat-Shamli road, Bala village near Assandh road in Karnal, Malik told PTI. “The agitation in Yamunanagar, Panchkula and Mewat districts of the state will begin from January 31,” Malik said, adding “the dharnas are peaceful…we are not blocking rail or road traffic.” Violence in last year’s Jat stir claimed 30 lives and caused huge damage to property in the state. Officials said this time, Haryana has been put on maximum alert.

Section 144 has already been imposed in sensitive districts including Rohtak, Sonipat, Jhajjar and at other places as a precautionary measure, they said.The assembly of five or more people in about 500 meters from national and state highways as well as railway stations in the city has been banned, officials said, adding paramilitary forces and state police personnel have been deployed in sensitive areas to maintain strict vigil. “We are fully geared up to deal with any situation. Although the leaders of various agitating organisations have promised to hold dharnas in a peaceful manner, yet the administration is fully geared up to maintain law and order,” Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ram Niwas said.The Haryana government had sought 55 companies of paramilitary forces from the Centre besides deployment of 7,000 Home Guards in the state. Some companies of paramilitary forces have already reached Haryana, Niwas said. (Times of India 30/1/17)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

Give Rs 5 lakh relief to man acquitted of terror charges, says NHRC to Delhi govt (1)

NHRC, delhi government, mohammed amir khan, terror charges, terrorism, terrorism case, indian express news, delhi, delhi news “The victim has been acquitted in 18 of 20 cases by astonishing acknowledgement of lack of evidence,” the NHRC noted. Observing that the actions of the state authorities took away “14 prime and precious years” of a man’s life, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended that the Delhi government pay Rs 5 lakh as interim relief to Mohammed Amir Khan — incarcerated since he was 18 — who was acquitted in cases of terror. In an order dated November 8, 2016, the commission noted that the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Vigilance, had forwarded an inquiry report to the commission, stating that Khan was arrested in cases related to a series of bomb blasts in Delhi and its adjoining states in 1996-1997. The DCP said Khan was convicted in two cases and appeals against his acquittal in two other cases were pending before the Delhi HC.“The reply to the showcause notice is not based on merits. The notice was issued on the point of acquittal of the victim in 18 cases by the courts and long incarceration of the victim in prison. The commission is not concerned with appeals pending in two cases. The fact is the victim had to spend 14 years in prison for no reason, violating his rights. The commission finds no merits in the report of the DCP, Vigilance, and recommends that Rs 5,00,000 as interim relief be paid to him,” the NHRC order said. “The victim has been acquitted in 18 of 20 cases by astonishing acknowledgement of lack of evidence,” the NHRC noted. Khan, who has been trying to stitch his life together since his release in 2012, said if the NHRC’s recommendation is implemented, this would be the first time that he will receive financial assistance from the government. “I welcome the decision. Financial assistance would help rebuild my life. But what I need more is a job to support my family. A job will restore my dignity and respect in society. I once dreamt of being a pilot but I could not complete my studies,” Khan told The Indian Express. “Implicating innocent persons would not only go against justice and the rule of law, but also lead to culprits’ escape. During incarceration, the victim suffered the death of his father. His mother became paralysed due to shock and trauma and later died,” the commission observed. It also took note of the conduct certificate Khan was given by the jailor, District Jail, Ghaziabad. Khan, who married a year after his release and has a two-year-old daughter, works with NGOs to support his family. Commission officials said the Delhi government was asked to submit proof of payment in six weeks. The six weeks were over on December 29, 2016. “We will send a reminder to the government. The matter is likely to come up again this month,” an NHRC official said.(The Indian Express 23/1/17)

Release arrested human rights activists, says Kalyan Rao (1)

ONGOLE:  Revolutionary writer G. Kalyan Rao on Monday demanded unconditional release of seven members of a fact-finding team arrested by the Chhattisgarh police allegedly under cooked-up charges. Leading a protest by those sympathetic to the cause of Maoists in front of the Collectorate here, he said the fact-finding team members were ‘illegally detained’ in Khammam district in Telangana last month when they were proceeding to Chhattisgarh to enquire into elimination of innocent tribal people in alleged fake encounters by the police. K. Sirisha, wife of CPI (Maoist) Central Committee member Akkiraju Haragopal alias Ramakrishna alias RK, condemned the undemocratic arrest of lawyers and research scholars from the Osmania University by the Telangana police last month before handing them over to their Chhattisgarh counterparts. Meanwhile, hundreds of victims of Maoist violence staged a counter-protest and said it was unfortunate the so called civil society organisations acted as frontal organisations of the extremists with least respect for the human rights of policemen and their families who sacrificed their lives for maintenance of law and order. “We too have human rights,” said Sridevi, widow of policeman Anjaneyulu killed by the Maoists along with 31 others at Balimela when they were returning after a combing operation in 2008. “Who will take up our case?” asked Prabhakar Varma, son of Assistant Sub-Inspector Prashanth Rao, who had been killed in an encounter with the extremists near Pullalachervu. Meanwhile, family members of three persons, who were allegedly killed by Naxalites, staged a demonstration at the Kurnool Collectorate on Monday. The kin of P.C. Krishna Reddy and K.C. Balasubbanna, both of Vadlaramapuram, and K. Ramayya Achari of Kurukunda village in Kurnool district alleged that the Naxalite attacks wreaked havoc in their families. A. Lakshmi Devi, K. Sravan Kumar, K. Vani and D. Prasad Rao, who lost their dear ones, said they recouped due to the government’s assistance and jobs given to them. Meanwhile, families, who lost their kin in Naxal attacks, took out a rally in Kadapa on Monday. (The Hindu 24/1/17)

NHRC questions Maharashtra government on deaths of 500 tribal girls in ashramshalas (1)

MUMBAI: Taking suo motu cognisance of media reports that more than 500 scheduled tribe girls have died under suspicious circumstances in the state-run ashram schools in the past decade, the National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to Maharashtra chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya calling for a detailed report within six weeks. “Reportedly, there have been instances of sexual abuse of the girl students by the teachers and staff of these schools,” an NHRC state ment said.The NHRC observed that the news reports indicate violation of the right to life and dignity of the girls studying in these schools and also highlight the negligence and apathy on the part of the authorities. It further observed that the state government has not taken any initiative to redress the grievan ce, which is a serious matter of concern because it has not submitted a report to a notice issued on October 10, 2016 on a similar allegation that 740 tribal students had died in ashram schools in 10 years. A reminder was also sent on November 26, 2016, the commission added. A probe revealed that the authorities keep menstrua tion records of the girls and conduct urine tests on them to rule out pregnancy, whenever the girls miss their periods or come back from vacations.Last year, when a tribal girl student of one such school in Khamgaon taluka of Buldhana district went home for Diwali, she complained of pain in stomach. She was found to have been sexually assaulted by a sweeper of the school. The school accommodates 70 girls and does not have a female superintendent. Maharashtra has 1100 state-run and aided tribal residential schools, catering to about 1.6 lakh girls and 2.3 lakh boys. According to reports, more than 1,500 students, including 700 girls, have died in these schools in the past 15 years. (Times of India 26/1/17)

Rape of a Dalit girl: NHRC takes up gruesome case with Bihar chief secretary (1)

PATNA: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has served notice on Bihar chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh after the alleged gangrape and murder of a 15-year-old Dalit schoolgirl outside a state-run school. The body of the class ten student of Ambedkar Government Girls High School at Dighi Mazirabad in Vaishali district was found in her hostel on January 8. It was alleged that she was gangraped in the hostel and then brutally killed with sharp weapons. The human rights commission has asked chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh to file a report within six weeks on the status of the investigation and the steps taken by the state government. Members of the National Women’s Commission (NWC) visited the school for an investigation and concluded that the girl was sexually assaulted before being killed. The women’s commission accused the state police of laxity in investigating the allegations. The victim’s mother, Kusumi Devi, had alleged that the girl, who was the school’s sportsperson of the year, had told her that she was being sexually harassed by a teacher. Women who had seen the girl’s body on the hostel premises said there was no cloth on her and that the lower half of the body was full of blood. According to Kusumi Devi, the rapists slashed the girl’s breasts, throat, back and abdomen with a sharp weapon and stuffed an undergarment in her private parts to stop the bleeding. Kusumi Devi also said a senior police official visited her house and offered her Rs 8 lakh to keep quiet. “I refused to accept the money. I am poor, but I am ready to fight for justice for my daughter,” she said. (The New Indian Express 30/1/17)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

Christians relieved as SC seals law on divorce (19)

MUMBAI: The Christian community is relieved that the Supreme Court on Thursday sealed an existing law that makes it mandatory for Christian couples to procure formal divorce from civil courts. Should they remarry without doing so, they could be charged with bigamy. The Catholic Church says that has always been the case. Fr Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Bombay, said, “A marriage for a Catholic has two effects: A sacramental effect and a civil effect. A marriage in a Catholic church has both these aspects it is both a sacramental marriage and a civil marriage. When a marriage breaks up and the parties choose to go separate ways, both dimensions of marriage need to be addressed. While the sacramental (religious) effect needs to be referred to a church tribunal, the civil dimension needs to be addressed in a court of law.” “Christians who seek to remarry do require civil divorce. Otherwise, it would amount to bigamy. Church annulment alone does not permit remarriage. Those who wish to remarry in church must seek church annulment as well as civil divorce with the earlier spouse,” he said. Church weddings are automatically civil marriages since the Church is the registrar of marriages. A copy of the register is forwarded to the government every few months. Women’s rights lawyer Flavia Agnes explained the perspective behind Thursday’s judgement. She said, “It is a misconception that the church grants divorce and the marriage is over. The British had promulgated a statute, the Indian Divorce Act in 1869 that orders that only the court can grant divorce to Christian couples. The Christians, in fact, have the oldest divorce law in the country.” In 1996, civil divorce was firmly enacted. “Before that there were misconceptions surrounding Christian divorce. One woman only sought a church annulment as she did not know that a formal court divorce was required. She remarried in church. Later, she fell out with her second husband. His lawyer informed him that he could easily escape responsibility as her second marriage without civil divorce was invalid in any case. Imagine how shocked she was. She could have been charged with bigamy,” Agnes said.In the present case, the 80-year-old petitioner had urged the SC to equate the Christian Personal Law with Muslim Personal Law, tribal personal laws and panchayati laws, where divorce is valid if pronounced by religious or community leaders. He wanted divorce granted by Christian clergy to be similarly valid. “Many Christians and activists like us were opposing the petitioner’s contention throughout,” said Agnes. She highlighted the dangers of such unilateral pronouncements. “There could be a religious leader who may not have the full facts of the case or may not know the religious law properly. Such divorce decrees are subjective and detrimental to individual parties,” she said.  (Times of India 21/1/17)

BJP may use judiciary to scrap Article 370: Omar Abdullah (1q9)

JAMMU: National Conference chief Omar Abdullah today warned the Mehbooba Mufti-led Jammu and Kashmir government that BJP may use judiciary to scrap Article 370 as the “saffron party has understood that they cannot use legislation to scrap it.” “BJP has perhaps admitted on their side that they cannot use legislation to scrap Article 370, which grants special powers to the state. Where they cannot use the legislation (to scrap Article 370), they can use judiciary to do it,” he said in the state Assembly here. “Those who believe that BJP has done a good job on Article 370 and that the party has accepted that the article cannot be tempered with…they are wrong,” he said in the House, where Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who had presented the grants of her Ministries of Home, Planning, GAD, Tourism and others, was also seated. The NC leader warned the PDP-BJP coalition government that the issue may snowball into a major controversy in the future. “You always blame us that we make issues out of non-issues and trigger fire. But I want to tell you that we do not create issues…they are being created by the government. We want to prepare you for a major controversy in the future,” he said. Omar also criticised the way the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFACI) Act was fought in the court of law. The Act allows banks and other financial institutions to auction residential or commercial properties to recover loans. “We were concerned on the SARFACI Act because we thought if you followed the same policy with regard to 35-A, their (BJP) aim to use judiciary will be successful. Where you are using crores of rupees to repair and reconstruct homes, please spend lakhs of rupees to put on job good lawyers to fight this case,” he added.A Supreme Court order last year had said that Jammu and Kashmir has “no vestige” of sovereignty outside the Indian Constitution and its own, while the citizens of the state were “first and foremost” citizens of India. The apex court had said this while holding that provisions of the SARFAESI Act were within the legislative competence of Parliament and can be enforced in the state. (Times of India 28/1/17)

No job on compassionate grounds for ‘second wife’ (19)

New Delhi: Under the Hindu law, marriage is a sacrament and not a contract, which can be entered into by execution of a marriage deed, the Delhi High Court observed while rejecting the plea of a woman that she be declared the legally wedded wife of a government servant, now deceased, so that she can get a job on compassionate grounds and avail of the other benefits. The court noted that when the woman got married to the government servant, Hari Ram, he already had a wife and had not applied for divorce. The second marriage, as claimed by the petitioner, was by way of a marriage deed. The petitioner, Champa Devi, had initiated the litigation mainly to get an appointment on compassionate grounds as well as the financial benefits payable to legal heirs of Hari Ram on his death. Hari Ram was a sweeper at GTB Hospital.Champa told the court that she got married to Hari Ram by way of a deed and affidavit in 1990. “Since inception, the contention of the appellant (Champa Devi) had been that her marriage with Hari Ram on June 2, 1990, was performed by way of execution of a marriage deed and an affidavit. It is not disputed by her that late Hari Ram had a living spouse, Phoolmati Devi, on June 2, 1990, and she expired on May 11, 1994,” said Justice Pratibha Rani. In the instant case, Champa applied for appointment on compassionate grounds on demise of Hari Ram. In August 2001, she was offered appointment as safai karamchari on temporary basis at GTB hospital. A month later, she was issued a show-cause notice by the medical superintendent, GTB Hospital, asking her to explain the legality and validity of her marriage with Hari Ram. The notice said that being a government servant, Hari Ram could not have married during the lifetime of his first wife and there was no proof of him having sought divorce from Phoolmati Devi. Champa Devi contended that since she was the only wife alive at the time of the death of Hari Ram on February 15, 1997, she was entitled to all the benefits payable to his legally wedded wife. She said she got married to Hari Ram on June 2, 1990. After the death of his first wife, Hari Ram and Champa got married again in June, 1994, at Delhi and then again before the gram panchayat of Mahabalpur village, Farukhabad district, U.P. The marriage ceremony was performed on December 10, 1994, Champa said.The suit was contested by the Lieutenant-Governor, the medical superintendent of GTB Hospital and the Delhi government. It was submitted that as per office record in 1994, Hari Ram had only one wife named Phoolmati Devi. Hari Ram never gave any intimation about his second marriage. (The Hindu 29/1/17)

Rs 88 lakh fine imposed under excise law in Bihar (19)

Section 42 provides for payment of Rs four lakh to family members of those who died after consuming illicit liquor, and Rs two lakh is for seriously injured victims In a first after implementation of total prohibition in Bihar on April 5, 2016, a collective fine of Rs 88 lakh has been imposed on 14 persons accused in the Gopalganj hooch tragedy, which had killed at least 19 residents of Khajurbani village in the district. “The order, passed by the court of Gopalganj district magistrate (DM) Rahul Kumar, directs all accused, who are currently behind the bars, to pay Rs 6,28,574 each to the exchequer within a month, failing which the administration may lodge a case against them,” Gopalganj excise superintendent Priyaranjan told DNA. At least 19 people had lost their lives while six others sustained serious illnesses after drinking spurious liquor in Khajurbani village in August 2016. It was the first hooch tragedy in dry Bihar as officially accepted by the state government. The decision has been taken as per Section 42 of the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, which empowers a DM to collect fine from spurious liquor manufacturer or seller in cases of any hooch tragedy and pay it as compensation to the kin of victims. Section 42 provides for payment of Rs four lakh to family members of those who died after consuming illicit liquor, and Rs two lakh is for seriously injured victims. Accordingly, kin of the 19 who died will get Rs four lakh and six who fell sick will get Rs two lakh. The provision of imposing collective or community fine, is among the controversial sections of Bihar’s new and stringent excise law that is termed ‘draconian and Talibani’ by a section of the society and Opposition parties. (DNA 30/1/17)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

Torture at police station left painter disabled: Report (1)

CHENNAI:  More than a decade after a youth in Chennai was allegedly subjected to third degree investigation in a police station leading to amputation of nine fingers and failure of both kidneys, an inquiry has confirmed the police torture and recommended suitable compensation to the victim. G. Arun Kumar, a painter, was picked up by the police on suspicion in a theft case in 2006. Alleged brutality at the Mambalam police station led to the failure of both his kidneys and amputation of nine fingers. His involvement in the theft was never proved. His pregnant wife was also taken to the police station and allegedly beaten up, resulting in her suffering an abortion. With no resources to pursue a legal battle, the victim was resigned to his fate. After his parents died and his wife left him, Mr. Kumar lives in the debris of a demolished room in T. Nagar. Though justice is in sight after a decade, thanks to the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), which took up the case in the Madras High Court, the tormenting hours of torture continue to haunt Mr. Kumar, now aged 32. While the Crime Branch CID that probed into allegations levelled by Mr. Kumar found no highhandedness on the part of the police, the Revenue Divisional Officer’s investigation found evidence to confirm torture. In the final status report submitted in the Madras High Court recently, the RDO opined that Mr. Kumar was taken to the Mambalam police station on December 11, 2006 ,on the suspicion that he was involved in a theft. “It has also been found that the fingers of both the hands were individually tied using rope, which led to blockage of blood circulation and subsequent kidney failure, though the medical reports are not available. The responsibility has been fixed on seven police officials for torture and a recommendation made for appropriate compensation to the affected victim from the police department,” the report said. When the matter came up for hearing before the First Bench of the High Court recently, the Public Prosecutor sought time to obtain instructions on the quantum of compensation. The case would come up on February 23. “I was picked up for inquiry and detained in the police station for two weeks. I was subjected to various kinds of torture. With just one finger and failed kidneys, I am finding it hard to do any work now. I will be grateful if the government can provide good treatment and help me find a job. I cannot even afford medicines and the dialysis recommended by doctors,” Mr. Kumar told The Hindu on Friday. The Tamil Nadu government will soon announce the quantum of compensation to the victim and action contemplated against seven police officials. (The Hindu 21/1/17)

Mysuru jail authorities recommend names of 26 convicts for release on RD (1)

Mysuru: As many as 26 convicts in Mysuru Central Prison are expected to be released from jail for their good conduct on Republic Day. Following an approval by the advisory board, the jail authorities have recommended the names of 26 prisoners — all men — to the government for their release on good conduct. Only those who have served 14 years in jail, including the period of detention, are eligible for release on good conduct. On August 15, 2016, 52 convicts, including 17, women were released. Divyashree, superintendent, Mysuru Central Prison, told TOI that she may get the list of prisoners to be released in a day or two. There are 927 prisoners including 51 women in Mysuru jail , of them 513 are undergoing life imprisonments for various offences including murder and rape. (Times of India 23/1/17)

3 policemen sentenced to life for custodial death (1)

Pune: The Kolhapur sessions court on Friday awarded life imprisonment to two police officers and a constable in the case of custodial death of a 21-year-old youth in August 2014. Additional District and Sessions Judge L.D. Bile sentenced Assistant Police Inspector Sanjiv Ramchandra Patil, Assistant Sub-Inspector Baban Dadu Shinde and police naik Dhanaji Shivajirao Patil to life imprisonment for the death of Jagdish alias ‘Sunny’ Powar. The judge also imposed Rs. 15,000 in penalty on each. A sum of Rs. 25,000 from the penalty amount should be paid to the family of the deceased as ‘compensation.’ According to the official version, a clash broke out between two groups during the Mahalaxmi Yatra on August 23, 2014. Powar and some residents, belonging to one faction, demanded police action against the other and allegedly took part in agitations against the police. A bus of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation was damaged in stone-throwing. Powar was detained and, according to later reports, mercilessly beaten by the accused policemen in the station. He was rushed to the Chhatrapati Pramila Raje Civil Hospital in the city where he was declared dead on arrival. As the news of his death spread, a mob torched police vehicles and stoned the police station. Powar’s elder brother, Jaydeep, filed a complaint against the accused. The case was quickly transferred to the CID, which concluded that the death was “unnatural” and held the three policemen responsible for it. (The Hindu 28/1/17)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Media must stand up to fear, speak out today more than ever:VP (1)

Kozhikode: Today, more than ever, the media must stand up to fear, seek information and speak out, Vice President Hamid Ansari said today stressing that press has an important responsibility, particularly in a democratic polity, to hold power to account. The media should “tell the truth to the powers that be, even if the powers that be have a habit of not liking this,” he said while invoking Mahatama Gandhi. “Today, more than ever, the media must stand up to fear, seek information and speak out. It must not hesitate to tell the powers their errors in commission and omission,” Ansari said at a function here after giving away the C H Mohammed Koya National Journalism Awards 2017, instituted in the memory of former chief minister of Kerala. “It is a fundamental function of the media and a basic requirement for the functioning of a healthy democracy,” he said A healthy, vibrant democracy not only creates the space for a free media, but rather it needs an impartial and independent media for its survival. Journalism as a professional calling is more than a mere job, it is a public good, he said. “Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said on the eve of our independence, ‘Freedom and power bring responsibility’. “The media has an important responsibility, particularly in a democratic polity, to tell the truth to the powers that be, even if the powers that be have a habit of not liking this,” he said. Ansari said Koya believed in using the media to bring about social awareness and change and his role in advancing the educational infrastructure in Kerala as education Minister is well-known. “In this era of ‘post-truths’, where ‘advertorials’ and ‘response features’ edge-out editorials, we would do well to recall one of the greatest journalists that India has ever produced, and look at the ethos and principles that powered his journalism,” Ansari said, referring to Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji was associated with six journals, and for two very influential weeklies, he was the editor. He published no advertisement, at the same time he did not want his newspapers to run at a loss. He had gained considerable experience in South Africa, where he had taken over the editorial role of the ‘Indian Opinion’ in 1904 and published it in English, Tamil and Gujarati, sometimes running the press himself.For Gandhiji, the three objectives of the press were– One, to understand the popular feeling and give expression to it; to arouse among the people certain desirable sentiments, and to fearlessly expose popular defects, he said. …  (Business Standard 20/1/17)

Indian universities under threat, need to foster dissent, freedom of expression: Manmohan Singh

Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], Jan. 20: In the wake of the recent unrest being witnessed at Hyderabad Central University ( HCU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University ( JNU), former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Friday raised concerns at the attempt being made to suppress the freedom of expression and speech in Indian universities and said it is imperative to guard this freedom “zealously”.  Speaking at the Presidency University, Singh said “I believe every university must give the freedom to pursue knowledge even where the knowledge may be at odds with established intellectual and social traditions. We must guard this freedom zealously.”  “Regrettably independent thinking and freedom of expression at Indian universities are now under threat. Political interference in university and academic appointment is highly short sighted,” he added.  Noting that there is a rise in nationalist tendencies which are responding to populism and directing hatred, Singh said universities have a vital role to play as it is in the universities that would help citizens to distinguish fact from fiction and disregard propaganda. “We must make every effort to protect the autonomy of our universities and to foster the right of our students to express ideas that powerful interest may not always agree with. True nationalism is found where students, citizens are encourages to think freely and speak freely and where dissent is encouraged and not suppressed,” Singh said.  Singh further said there is a greater need for introspection and must think about how one can better one’s willingness to engage with dissent and added that it displays a sign of inherent strength. (India.Com 21/1/17)

Press Council issues notice on scribe’s arrest (1)

NEW DELHI: Press Council of India (PCI) Chairman Justice Chadramauli Kumar Prasad has taken suo motu cognisance of the arrest of Kunal Shankar, reporter of Frontline, during coverage of news at Hyderabad Central University and asked the Telangana Chief Secretary, the Vice-Chancellor and the Superintendent of Police to file a report on the matter. “Press Council of India Chairman … has expressed grave concern over the arrest of Kunal Shankar, Reporter, Frontline, during coverage of news on the campus of Hyderabad Central University and also again imposing restriction on media in the University.“The Chairman felt that prima facie, the action of HCU impinges on the freedom of the press,” said a release from the PCI. (The Hindu 24/1/17)

Centre committed to upholding freedom of expression: Prakash Javadekar (1)

Guwahati: The BJP-led government was committed to upholding freedom of expression, thought and writing, because these constituted the very essence of democracy, Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar said here on Saturday. “Freedom of expression, thought and writing is the very essence of democracy and this government is committed to upholding it,” he said, while speaking at the inauguration of the first Brahmaputra Literary Festival. The three-day festival has been organised jointly by National Book Trust and the Assam government. Recalling the “dark days of Emergency”, Javadekar said the BJP-led government had great respect for freedom of speech. “This government values freedom of speech, thoughts and writings as we believe that this will take the nation forward. Many of us had fought against the dark days of Emergency, went to jail and had it finally revoked,” he said. The minister also described literary and cultural festivals as “major investments” and said these were as important as industrial investments. “I consider literary and cultural investments like this as important as industrial investment. Therefore, the way we hold investment summits in different states, there should also be literary and cultural summits and festivals like these,” he said. Underlining the importance of a campaign to boost reading habit among all sections of people, Javadekar said all kinds of reading — in print, through audio or e-books — must be encouraged at all costs. He also described libraries as the “pride of a nation” and called for making libraries “a part of our lives and set-up in every part of the country”. “India has, since ancient times, had a rich tradition of libraries in Nalanda, Takshila and Vikramshila, and history has been witness to the fact that invaders have always attacked and vandalised libraries first,” he added. (Indian Express 28/1/17)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

Judge recuses from Teesta’s quashing plea (7)

AHMEDABAD: Justice J B Pardiwala of Gujarat high court on Thursday recused himself from proceedings on a quashing petition filed by social activist Teesta Setalvad. The judge said “not before me” to Setalvad’s lawyer and commented that he would prefer to stay out of controversy because such a case is widely reported in media, sources said. Justice Pardiwala had denied Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand anticipatory bail in connection with allegations of fraud by former residents of Gulbarg Society. The court had then castigated the functioning of NGOs. In this petition, Setalvad urged the court to quash an FIR filed by Ghatlodia police for her posting on Twitter juxtaposed images of a Hindu deity and journalist James Foley with an ISIS terrorist a couple of years ago. Setalvad was booked in two police stations in the city, as members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Shiv Sena took exception to her posting the two pictures – the ISIS militant and photo-shopped images of Hindu imagery such as Sudarshan Chakra and goddess Kali. The complainant Raju Patel claimed he was offended at seeing the image on his Facebook page. Setalvad was booked under sections 153A, 295A of IPC, and under provisions of the Information Technology Act for the alleged attempt at promoting enmity among different groups and for deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings of a class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. (Times of India 20/1/17)

Forty communal riots in West Bengal since Mamata came to power: Vijayvargiya (7)

Malda: BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya today claimed that 40 communal riots have taken place after Mamata Banerjee became Chief Minister of West Bengal in 2011. Vijayvargiya, the party’s co-observer of the state, however, did not elaborate on this issue while talking to reporters here on the sidelines of a BJP state executive committee meeting. There is no law and order in West Bengal and 40 communal riots have taken place during the Mamata Banerjee’s regime, he alleged. “The police were siding with the rioters,” he said.The senior BJP leader alleged that a section of state government officers were involved in chit fund scam and they would not be spared. Due to these reasons, no investment would come to the state, Vijayvargiya said in reference to the business summit currently being held by the state government in Kolkata. Claiming that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government was importing the culture of Bangladesh in the primary education, he said, his party would soon launch a movement against it. BJP is not getting permission from the administration to organise party programmes, he said. He alleged that the party’s posters and banners outside Town Hall, the meeting venue, were torn by the ruling party activists. The party would soon start a campaign – “Save democracy, save culture, save Bengal”, Vijayvargiya said. Banerjee came to power with a debt burden of Rs 2 lakh crore and now it has increased to Rs 3.60 lakh crore, though no development has taken place in the state, he claimed. Earlier, the party’s state president Dilip Ghosh said that the increase in BJP’s vote percentage in the two Lok Sabha by-polls is being discussed in the party’s national level. In the Coochbehar Lok Sabha bypoll held in November last, BJP finished second bagging 3.7 lakh votes compared to 2.1 lakh votes it had secured in 2014 pushing Forward Bloc, a Left Front partner, to the third position. In Tamluk LS seat bypoll held at the same time, BJP got third position but secured 1.9 lakh votes, up from 86,000 votes the party got in last Lok Sabha polls. Many ruling party supporters were joining BJP, he claimed saying the TMC is counting its last days. On Bhangar unrest, he said it was the fallout of TMC’s infighting. TMC had opposed Left Front’s move to industrialisation, and now they were facing the same, he said. (Indian Express 21/1/17)

Bal Thackeray stood by Narendra Modi after Gujarat riots, Shiv Sena recalls in Saamna (7)

Mumbai, Jan 23: On the 91st birth anniversary of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, the party recalled how he saved Narendra Modi after infamous the 2002 Gujarat riots. In its mouthpiece Saamna, Shiv Sena said Bal Thackeray stood by Narendra Modi when he was accused of sponsoring communal violence in Gujarat in which hundreds of Muslims were killed. Bal Thackeray always believed the country needs a leader like Hitler who put national interest before everything, though he was not completely agree with his ideology, said Shiv Sena. “Bal Thackeray never supported atrocities committed in the name of democracy. Though he wasn’t convinced with everything what Hitler stood for, but he wanted a leader like him who would put national interests before everything,” said Shiv Sena in Saamna. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was planning to sack Narendra Modi after Gujarat riots, but Bal Thackeray convinced him for not doing so. “Modi gaya to Gujarat gaya (If Modi is gone, Gujarat will also slip out of BJP hands),” Bal Thackeray had told L K Advani, recalled Shiv Sena. “Narendra Modi was criticised by everyone, but Bal Thackeray stood by him,” stated Saamna. Shiv Sena said the late founder of the party was always on the hit list of terrorists but it never made him scared. “Bal Thackeray proved Hindutva is the future,” said the Saamna editorial. “Bal Thackeray used to say, ‘I don’t know the BJP. I don’t what is Shiv Sena. I just know Hindutva’,” stated Shiv Sena. Bal Thackeray was born in Pune on January 23, 1926. Bal Thackeray died on November 17, 2012. (India.com 23/1/17)

‘Beef’ thrown in temple: Bengal govt worried as communal clashes spread (7)

Alampur, a locality on the western edge of Kolkata’s Metiabruz area, continues to be tense since January 23 after some chunks of alleged beef were thrown into a temple. No arrests have been made so far. Authorities have imposed prohibitory orders disallowing assembly of four or more people in the area that has a mix of slums and high rises. The prohibitory orders also banned workshops after Hindus groups blocked traffic following the alleged desecration of the two temples. Muslims are in majority in the area which also houses a government undertaking – Garden Reach Ship Builders and Engineers. But, what makes Alampur incident alarming is that it is not a stray incident. There has been a pattern. Ten districts of West Bengal have seen similar such communal incidents since October 2016 which is proving to be a major challenge for the state government. “I will not allow anarchy in Bengal,” said chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday. “Police is dealing with such things with a strong hand. We will soon bring a strong legislation against arson, where anyone setting fire to government or private party will be have to pay. One political party is trying to fan violence,” she said, without naming the BJP.For its part, the BJP had submitted a representation to Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi on October 21 demanding Central intervention on ground that the government has failed to control law and order. “Attacks on Hindus are going on in different parts of the state. Metiabruz is the latest in the series and the administration has failed to control them,” said Sayantan Basu, state BJP secretary. The Congress and the Left have also claimed that the situation was “getting dangerous” in Bengal. “Trinamool Congress brought in communal politics in Bengal by appeasing communities for political gains. Now things are going out of control,” said Abdul Mannan, Congress MLA and leader of the opposition in the Assembly. Over the past few months incidents of communal clashes have been reported in over ten districts of Bengal. The clashes have eerie similarity with such incidents in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh last year. For instance last October, Bihariganj town in Madhepura district of Bihar and Bijnore in Uttar Pradesh saw such low scale communal clashes. “Here is an urgent need for political will and wisdom. They should not show oversensitivity for a particular community who are its loyal vote bank. The ruling party must ensure fair dealings while handling the culprits. On one hand there is a rise of radical Islam and on the other there is an attempt from the opposite section to flare up things. This is an unprecedented atmosphere in Bengal,” said Shibaji Pratim Basu, political analyst. Since October, pockets and villages in Kaliachak, Chanchol (Malda district), Jalangi (Murshidabad), Chandannagar (Hooghly), Bhagabanpur (East Midnapore), Kharagpore (West Midnapore), Hajinagar, Kanchrapara (North 24 Parganas), Sankrail, Dhulagarh (Howrah), Katwa, Jamuria and Kaksha (Burdwan) have witnessed clashes. (Hindustan Times 29/1/17)

COMMUNALISM

RSS holds Hindu Aakrosh rally against govt policies in Jaisalmer (26)

Jaisalmer: RSS, Bajrang Dal and Seemajan Kalyan Samiti along with other Hindu organizations and large number of BJP workers took out a resentment rally in Jaisalmer on Friday over BJP’s appeasement polices and working style of the district administration. Around 5,000 swayam sevaks and workers took out a rally and later organized a meeting at Hanuman Choraha.In the presence of sangh pracharaks, saints and other leaders and workers, speakers appealed to Hindus to stay united and spoke about the double standards developing among Hindus and rising influence of minority community. Surjan Das Maharaj of Ramdwara ashram in Pali, RSS pracharak Ishwar, Bajrang Dal regional convener Indrajeet Singh and Sangh’s Bhagwan Das and others addressed the Hindu meeting. Few communities protested against the rally which created slight tension. After the tension, SP Gaurav Yadav, deputy SP Narendra Dave and STF reached the spot and controlled the situation. On the call of RSS, Hindu Aakrosh Rally was taken out protesting against the government and administration at Jaisalmer. Large number of people from various parts of the state attended the rally that started from Mukteshwar Mahadev temple and reached Hanuman Choraha. In the meeting, speakers condemned the behaviour of administration with hindu community. BJP Pokaran MLA Shaitan Singh, Jaisalmer MLA Chotu Singh Bhati along with other BJP members were present among others. Hindu aakrosh rally samiti district convener Sharad Vyas said issues like cow slaughter, theft from temples, illegal possession of pasture lands, illegal construction of religious places from international border to city’s main road, open support to anti-religious elements to harassing workers demanding justice for hindu community were hurting Hindu sentiments. If all such acts are not protested now, the western Rajasthan border will become violent like Kashmir and northeast states. (Times of India 22/1/17)

VHP’s Ram Mahotsav to fuel drive for temple (26)

Sangam (Allahabad): In order to pressure the Narendra Modi government to bring legislation in Parliament for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has decided to launch a decisive campaign, Ram Mahotsav across the country, starting this Ram Navami. This is for the first time that the VHP has set a deadline for starting Ram temple movement.A decision in this regard was taken by VHP’s central decision-making body, ‘Marg Darshak Mandal’, at its annual meeting at Magh Mela in Allahabad here on Tuesday. The saints and VHP leaders were unanimous in their decision for such a campaign. The meeting was presided over by Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas president Mahant Nritya Gopal Das and attended by president of supreme governing body of akharas, ‘Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad’, Mahanat Narendra Giri, VHP general secretary Champat Rai and organisation secretary Dinesh among others.”The VHP will pursue Ram Mahotsav agressively at each village and in urban localities to mobilise people for construction of the Ram temple from Ram Navmi this year. This will be our answer to the Modi government if it fails to make a law for construction of Ram temple,” said Mahant Nritya Gopal Das. Mahant Narendra Giri said the campaigns would be different from the ‘Ram Shobha Yatras’ which they took out earlier for construction of the temple. (Times of India 25/1/17)

Amit Shah releases BJP manifesto in UP, promises Ram temple, free internet data (26)

Lucknow: The BJP promised on Saturday to push for a controversial temple to Hindu god Ram if it won power in Uttar Pradesh, unveiling an election manifesto that appeared designed to appeal to voters along religious lines. The party’s apparent return to an agenda of Hindutva marks a departure from its initial election narrative built around two of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s boldest decisions: The scrapping of high-value banknotes to fight corruption and a “surgical strike” against militants across the de facto border with Pakistan. The change in tack also contrasts with the party’s election plank three years ago when it swept the political bellwether on a promise of development. The BJP’s lurch towards Hindutva comes in the backdrop of an election alliance between the ruling Samajwadi Party and the Congress, which are traditionally backed by Muslims, who form a fifth of the state’s population. The party’s election promises included ascertaining opinion of Muslim women over the Islamic divorce practice of triple talaq, closing down illegal slaughter houses and stemming the alleged migration of Hindus from riot-hit Muslim-majority towns in western Uttar Pradesh. The manifesto, released by party president Amit Shah, also made a raft of populist proposals, including waiving off loans for small farmers, abundant electricity, new hospitals and universities, free school education for girls and free laptops to all college students with one 1 GB free internet a month. The party also promised to raise “anti-Romeo” police battalions to tackle crimes against women, a proposal that appeared to ring of a controversial campaign by Hindu groups against love between Hindus and Muslims.But the charter referred to neither the surgical strikes nor the demonetisation move, although Shah told reporters that the vote could be a referendum on the decision to junk 500-and 1000-rupee notes. Instead, the manifesto appeared to talk up a Hindutva agenda to win back power in a state it last ruled 15 years ago. The state votes in seven phases starting February 11.“A BJP government in UP would press for an early solution to the temple tangle within the ambit of the constitution,” Shah said, referring to a disputed religious site that remains India’s most potent communal flashpoint between many Hindus and Muslims. For decades, both Hindus and Muslims have revered the disputed site in Ayodhya town. In 1992, a Hindu mob tore down a 16th century mosque at the location, saying the Muslim ruler, Babar, destroyed an original temple to Ram and built over. Muslim groups then appealed to the Supreme Court, which is still hearing the matter.  (Hindustan Times 28/1/17)

16 years on, RSS takes out route march in Chennai (26)

CHENNAI: Hundreds of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists on Sunday took out a route march in Chennai to commemorate the anniversary of four national figures, namely, Saint Ramanuja, Guru Gobind Singh, B R Ambedkar and Subhas Chandra Bose. Organised by RSS Chennai chapter, the march saw about 2,000 activists from various walks of life gathering at Rajarathinam stadium in Egmore, from where the march was flagged off. While the march was earlier scheduled to take place on Kamarajar Salai (near Marina Beach), the imposition of Section 144 under CrPC prohibiting movement in large crowds there resulted in organisers shifting the venue to Egmore. The activists, dressed in khaki pants, white shirts and black caps, marched from the stadium for a distance of about 1.5 km up to the end of Rukmini Lakshmipathy Salai before returning to the starting point. BJP State president Tamilisai Soundararajan was present during the march. Police were deployed in adequate numbers for security reasons with entry to Rukmini Lakshmipathy Salai remaining blocked for outside traffic. Portraits of the four figures were prominently displayed, with their contribution towards building a prosperous and egalitarian society highlighted. Speaking to Express, an RSS activist said, “We are holding the route march in Chennai after 16 long years. Previous attempts to organise the march were not sanctioned permission by local authorities. Also, another march took place in Salem simultaneously.” Around 200 policemen, including a Deputy Commissioner of Police, one Assistant Commissioner of Police, five inspectors were deployed at Egmore to ensure no untoward situation was reported. (The New Indian Express 30/1/17)

TERRORISM

We will eradicate radical Islamic terrorism: Trump (12)

Washington: In his first address as the 45th President of the U.S., Donald Trump said his administration would unite the “civilised world” against Islamic terrorism. “We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilised world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth. Promising to overhaul America’s trade and foreign relations as he has argued throughout his campaign, the President said: “We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.” He went on to add: “But that is the past…We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.” Echoing his campaign rhetoric on how the existing U.S. policies have adversely affected the common people, Mr. Trump said: “Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s Capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.” He added: “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” The transition from a Democratic president to a Republican took place before a crowd of former presidents, dignitaries and hundreds of thousands of people on the grounds of the National Mall. The crowd stretched westward on a cool day of occasional light rain.  (The Hindu 21/1/17)

Two soldiers killed in Arunachal encounter (12)

NEW DELHI: Two soldiers were killed and three injured in an encounter with terrorists after an Assam Rifles vehicle was ambushed in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh on Sunday. Two terrorists were neutralised during the search operations later. The vehicle was escorting a large number of tourists attending the Pangsau festival when it was attacked with grenades along the Assam-Arunachal border. The United Liberation Front of Asom–Independent and the Coordination Committee (CorCom), an umbrella group of six banned underground organisations of Manipur, claimed responsibility for the attack. (The Hindu 23/1/17)

India, UAE to coordinate efforts to counter misuse of religion for inciting hatred (12)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at a joint statement during signing of agreements between the two countries in New Delhi on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena In a veiled reference on Pakistan, they also condemn efforts by states to use religion to sponsor and sustain terrorism against other countries. In a veiled reference on Pakistan, India and the UAE on Thursday condemned efforts by states to use religion to sponsor and sustain terrorism against other countries In a joint statement, they also agreed to coordinate efforts to counter radicalisation and misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred and perpetrating acts of terrorism. Acknowledging the common threat posed by terrorism to peace and security, the two countries reaffirmed their “strong condemnation of and resolute opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, wherever committed and by whomever, and declared that there could be no justification for terrorism anywhere.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan held comprehensive talks on Wednesday on bilateral, regional and international issues after which the two sides signed a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement and over a dozen pacts in key areas like defence, security, trade and energy.Without naming Pakistan, the statement said, “The two sides condemned efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, sustain and sponsor terrorism against other countries. They further deplored efforts by countries to give religious and sectarian colour to political issues and pointed out the responsibility of all states to control the activities of the so-called ‘non-state actors’.” Expressing satisfaction at the growing bilateral collaboration on counterterrorism, information-sharing and capacity-building, the two sides exuded confidence that these efforts would contribute to regional and global peace and security. “The two sides emphasised need to facilitate regular exchanges of religious scholars and intellectuals and to organise conferences and seminars to promote the values of peace, tolerance, inclusiveness and welfare that are inherent in all religions,” the statement said. The Indian side expressed a deep appreciation of the solidarity expressed by the UAE on the terrorist attacks on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot in January 2016 and on the Army camp in Uri in September 2016. Mr. Modi and Mr. Al Nahyan strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in Kabul and Kandahar on January 10, and underscored need to bring the perpetrators to justice, the statement said. Mr. Modi conveyed his condolences at the loss of lives of the UAE and Afghan nationals in these attacks and wished speedy recovery to the UAE diplomats injured in the attacks. Both sides noted the importance of efforts to disrupt terrorist networks, their financing and movement, in accordance with the relevant principles and purposes of the U.N. Charter and international laws.Both sides called for early the conclusion of negotiations on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the U.N., the statement said. (The Hindu 27/1/17)

NIA arrests two for joining ISIS in Kerala (12)

Kochi (Kerala) [India], Jan. 28 : The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested two people in connection with the criminal conspiracy hatched within and outside India, with the intention of furthering the objectives of the Islamic State(IS) and for joining and supporting the organization. Accused Abdul Rashid Abdulla, resident of Kasaragod district and Yasmeen Mohammad Zahid, resident of Sitamarhi district, Bihar were booked on Friday under under sections 120-B and 125 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), besides sections 38, 39 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967. The NIA probe has established that accused Abdul Rashid was the main conspirator behind the offence of motivating youth, hailing from Kasaragod district to exit from India along with their families, to join the terrorist organisation. According to officials, Rashid had conducted classes at Kasaragod and other places in support of the terrorist organization and its ideology of violent jihad. He motivated another set of 14 co-conspirators, including another arrested accused Yasmeen Mohammed Zahid, to join the proscribed organization and plan for Hijrah to the Caliphate announced by the ISIS. The investigation has revealed that the conspiracy had been in operation since the month of July, 2015. Zahid was intercepted at the New Delhi International Airport on the July 30, 2016 while she was trying to exit India for Kabul, Afghanistan, along with her minor child, with the intention of joining her co-conspirator Abdul Rashid, in the territory under the control of ISIS in Afghanistan. According to the investigation conducted by the agency, it has established that Rasheed had raised funds for the terrorist organization and transferred such funds to Yasmeen, who utilized it for her activities with the intention of supporting the terrorist organization. (New Kerala 28/1/17)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

Odisha poll panel postpones election in Chitrakonda due to Maoist threat (12)

BHUBANESWAR: Maoist threat forced the State Election Commission (SEC) to postpone the rural polls in Chitrakonda block of Malkangiri district. The SEC announced it on Saturday based on a report jointly submitted by the district collector and superintendent of police (SP). The report said that adequate security personnel could not be deployed for safety and security of poll personnel in the cut off areas. “The law and order situation in the block is not satisfactory according to a report filed by the district administration. So, we have decided to postpone the elections in Chitrakonda block,” said SEC secretary R N Sahu. The block with heavy Maoist presence has total 222 wards, 18 each gram panchayats and samitis and two zilla parishad zones. Fearing Maoist attack, not a single nomination was filed for the posts of sarpanchs and ward members in the nine panchayats inside the cut-off areas. The announcement to postpone elections came a day after DGP K B Singh visited the cut-off areas and assured full security for peaceful elections. “We are keeping a close watch on the developments and adequate security will be provided in the cut-off area where filing of nomination process was affected due to Maoist threat,” he had said after reviewing the situation there. Last week, the Maoists had released five poll officials after producing them in a praja court (kangaroo court of the Maoists) in the cut-off area. The poll officials were freed with a warning not to come to the area in future for poll-related work.The cut-off areas under Chitrakonda block is surrounded by reservoir water created by the Balimela hydroelectric project. Over 20,000 people of 10 gram panchayats don’t have access to basic needs like road and electricity. The villagers depend on motor-launch to reach to the block headquarters. Taking the physical advantage of the region, the reds have established their presence in the area. In 2008, nearly 38 security personnel were killed by the Maoists when they were passing through the reservoir. The poll panel, meanwhile, announced fresh dates for filing nomination in places where no nomination was filed during January 11 to January 17. The polling in these places would be held according to the pre-announced schedule. According to sources, candidates can file nomination papers from January 27 to January 30 which would be scrutinized on January 31. The final list of candidates would be announced after withdrawal process on February 4. (Times of India 21/1/17)

Jharkhand Police to seek custody of naxal leader Ranjit Pal (12)

Ranchi: The Jharkhand Police would initiate the proceedings to seek custody of Maoist Ranjit Pal, who surrendered along with his wife before the West Bengal Police on Wednesday. Pal is wanted in the murder of the then MP from East Singhbhum Sunil Mahato of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in 2007. Besides, he is wanted in at least 16 cases registered in different police station areas of East Singhbhum.Police sources maintained that, while his surrender would have a definite impact on Maoist activities in the area, Pal had, of late, been reported to have been lying low following some differences within the Maoist hierarchy. In April and August last, his squad was involved in an encounter with the security forces in different areas of East Singbhum. During that time, the reports began coming in that he was killed. However, the same was never confirmed. “Now, it appears that he wanted to mislead the police into believing that he had died,” said a police officer on the condition of anonymity. Additional Superintendent of Police (Operations), East Singhbhum, Pranav Anand Jha said: “He was a major functionary of Maoists. A few things about him not being too active are being reported, but the fact remained that he used to be present in East Singhbhum area, along with his squad. It was increasing police pressure from East Singhbhum that ultimately appears to have forced him to surrender. Jha added that the proceedings for seeking his custody, as he was wanted in many cases, including the murder of the then MP, were registered against him.” The police said that there were reports about Pal’s differences with one of the secretaries in the Maoist hierarchy. There were a total of 16 cases against Pal in Ghatshila, Patamda, Bodam and Galudih police station areas. The Jharkhand police had declared Rs 25 lakh reward on his head. On March 4, 2007, Pal and his squad members opened fired at Sunil Mahato during a football match to mark Holi and killed him, besides two guards and another person, at Bankuria village in East Singhbhum. They also looted four INSAS rifles from the spot in Dainmaari area of Jamshedpur. The government had immediately ordered a CBI probe into the incident. In 2008, Pal, who was also said to be the head of the strike squad and a member of the Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa border committee, killed another JMM leader on August 22 and then, on August 30, killed sub-inspector and 10 other jawans by blowing up a police jeep through landmine in Burudih. In May 2010, he was involved in killing the bodyguard of the then Sub-Divisional Police Officer Anish Gupta, who somehow escaped. (Indian Express 26/1/17)

Jharkhand cops to seek custody of Maoist couple (12)

Ranchi: Jharkhand Police will initiate proceedings to seek custody of Maoist Ranjit Pal who, along with his wife, surrendered before West Bengal Police on Wednesday. Pal, a member of the Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa border committee of CPI (Maoist), is wanted in the murder of JMM leader and then East Singhbhum MP Sunil Mahato in 2007. That apart, he is wanted in at least 16 cases registered in different police station areas of East Singhbhum. Police sources said that Pal’s surrender would have an impact on Maoist activities in the area. Of late, he was reported to have been lying low. (The Indian Express 27/1/17)

Chhattisgarh ‘Naxal surrenders’: Screening cleared just 3 per cent in 2016 (12)

Raipur: A screening and rehabilitation committee set up by the Chhattisgarh government held that 97 per cent of the Naxal surrenders it reviewed in 2016 from the affected districts in the state did not adhere to the definition of “Naxal cadre” and were not eligible for benefits under the Centre or state government’s rehabilitation policy. The committee — comprising senior government, police and paramilitary officers and headed by the Special DG, Anti Naxal Operations and State Intelligence Bureau — receives applications from districts of surrenders made to them, and vets each case on the basis of guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Over the past three years, surrender numbers have shot up in Bastar, with 1,210 listed in 2016. The committee met on two occasions in 2016. At the first, on May 5, it looked at 135 proposals of Naxal “surrenders” between December 2015 and March 2016. Of these, 126 were sent back to the district superintendents of police, asking them to reassess if they qualified as cadre to be rehabilitated under the scheme, with only nine being kept for “further consideration”. At the second meeting, on August 12, 2016, it was found that district police heads in Bastar had sent back only six of the applications that had been returned to them, with an additional two more for the committee to consider. Eventually, of the nine applications that the committee had initially found fit for further application and the other eight sent to it, it only cleared four as fit for compensation and rehabilitation. D M Awasthi, the Special DG, Anti Naxal Operations and State Intelligence Bureau, and chairperson of the committee, said the purpose of the surrender and rehabilitation policy was to ensure that “top cadre” found it worthwhile to lay down their arms, and it had to concentrate on “top-quality surrenders”. “This has been communicated to the forces several times, and the focus is not on quantity. In any case, if the top cadres surrender, that will break the backbone of those under them. I urge the Naxals to join the mainstream,” he said. Admitting that the purpose of the committee was to carefully go into each case given the benefits extended to surrendered Naxals, Awasthi added, “These include a Rs 1.5 lakh grant for rehabilitation, a monthly stipend and money for weapons as well.” … The Indian Express 28/1/17)

TRAFFICKING

Anti-trafficking operation uproots four kids from their homes (1)

Four families which accepted lifelong responsibility of unwanted babies and nurtured them for months have been torn apart by a hurried police inquiry into suspicions of interstate child trafficking that have proved unfounded. In December, the Mankhurd police snatched from the families four babies — whose biological parents didn’t have the resources or will to raise them — assuming the infants had been abducted from Mumbai and sold in Goa, Karnataka, and Gujarat. The infants, now aged between 5 months and 10 months, were placed in a government-approved shelter’s care only for cops to conclude that no real crime had been committed: the biological parents had willingly consented to their children being raised in a new family. The realisation came too late as the infants’ immediate future is now ensnared in legal complexities, which do not favour the four adoptive families.As the infants were declared as rescued victims of a trafficking ring, the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) will either seek to return them to the biological parents, who didn’t want them in the first place, or put them up for adoption. If the latter option is initiated, the four couples, from Gujarat, Goa and Karnataka, may not necessarily get the custody as they had not signed formal adoption papers with the biological parents. Only affidavit were signed by both parties, a process that is not recognised by the law. It’s a heartbreaking prospect for the couples as they had been raising the children as their own for months, even giving them names. Nearly a month after the children were brought to Bal Anand orphanage in Govandi, some of the couples are still camping in the city with the hope of holding them again. “Divyesh is my son. I held him, fed and bathed him every day for 10 months. I didn’t let him out of my sight even for a minute. Suddenly one day, he was taken away from me?” said 40-year-old Vasanti Gaokar, who brought home Divyesh when he was only 15 days old. The Gaokars live on the outskirts of Ponda city in Goa. “Every day, my mother-in-law, who is 80 years old, asks: ‘Where is my grandson?’ We don’t know what to tell her,” she said. “She sits in the veranda all day waiting for Divyesh,” said Vasanti, who recently returned from Mumbai. … (Times of India 21/1/17)

Emigrants protection body meet with NRI dept to curb trafficking (1)

HYDERABAD: The Protector General of Emigrants (PGE), Ministry of External Affairs, and Government of India will visit Hyderabad and meet officials of the NRI department on the measures to be taken to prevent trafficking of women to Gulf countries. “I will be in Hyderabad on February 27 and meet officials of the NRI Department and others to highlight ways to promote safe migrationof emigrants and prevent trafficking of women from Telangana,” MC Luther, PGE, New Delhi told TOI. Sources said, a large number of illegal recruiting agents operate in Old City to trap women and send them to Gulf. There are only six authorised recruiting agencies in the country , including TOMCOM of Telangana, located in Hyderabad. Illegal recruiting agents operate in a chain. A local Hyderabad agent generally works for an agent in Mumbai. This agent has connections in the Gulf countries. The main agent in the gulf country is given an amount of `3 lakh by the Kafil (employer) to get a person to work for him in that country. The money is shared by the three agents. The women who are trafficked are given a rosy picture of life in Saudi Arabia or other gulf countries and offered big amounts as salaries. On landing there, the women who realise that they have been trapped and want to leave are not allowed to by the Kafil. The agent also refuses to help because he has received money in the chain of human trafficking. For this reason, the Embassy of India in Riyadh has issued a reminder of guidelines to people who are seeking employment in the gulf. The Telangana Overseas Manpower Company Limited has also alerted people, especially women, against falling prey to illegal agents. (Times of India 22/1/17)

Couple lures girls to Noida with study offer, sells them (1)

GREATER NOIDA: A trafficking racket that lured girls from poor families by promising good education but sold them to customers in Haryana and Rajasthan was busted in Greater Noida on Thursday. Three girls from Gorakhpur, siblings aged 14, 15 and 16, were rescued. Police made a total of five arrests — Arvind Kumar (40), his wife Kamlesh (38) and their son-in-law Yogesh Kumar (25), the trio that ran the racket from Greater Noida, and the two men who had ‘bought’ the girls. Mahesh, a 26-year-old resident of Mahendergarh in Haryana, paid the racket Rs 5 lakh for one of the girls and married her after she was brought to him, police said. Ganesh (26) of Alwar had struck a similar deal and paid Rs 3.5 lakh for the other girl. The youngest of the three sisters was kept in confinement till a “match” was found. A police team rescued her from Bulandshahr, where Arvind, Kamlesh and Yogesh are originally from.The smooth-talking Arvind, investigators said, was the kingpin of the racket. It was he who had convinced the girls’ father to send them to him, promising he would take care of their education. The gullible Gorakhpur resident did. But when he came to the flat in Omicron-1 where his daughters were to have their new lodgings, he would the apartment locked. He also failed to contact Arvind or the three girls. That’s when he went to the police. The girls’ father said he had met Arvind at a hospital. Arvind had claimed he was a wealthy man and could provide good education to his daughters for free. He agreed and sent the girls, who were to be based in the rented Omicron flat. A police case was filed on January 19. Sujata Singh, SP (rural), said police put Kumar’s phone under surveillance and arrested him and his wife from a flat in the same sector. Arvind’s interrogation led them to Manoj in Mahendergarh and Ganesh in Alwar. The youngest girl was with Yogesh in Bulandshahr. It also unearthed a more sinister plan. Arvind told the police he had advised the girls to flee from the houses of the men they were sold to after marriage so that he could sell them again. “He gave a pack of sleeping pills to the minors before they were sold. The girls were told to spike the drinks of their new family with the pills and flee,” a police officer said. The girls were also told to make a call to Arvind after they fled. Arvind’s plan was to use them to strike similar deals with other men. Police said Arvind lived in rented flats and changed his hideouts frequently to evade arrest. A hunt is on for more people who police suspect are involved in the racket. “The accused have revealed that Arvind had trafficked girls from Nepal, Bihar, and UP in the past,” a police officer said. A case of trafficking under Section 372 of the IPC and also under the POCSO Act has been registered against the five accused. The police seized a Mahindra Scorpio and a Toyota Innova from their possession. (Times of India 27/1/17)

Anti-trafficking groups release charter (1)

PANAJI:  Anti-trafficking groups in Goa, led by the Anyay Rahit Zindagi (ARZ), on Friday unveiled a charter of demands that they want all political parties in the State to include in their manifestos. These groups want the parties to adopt policies to save women and children from sexual exploitation and trafficking.The groups want, among other things, full-time police officers at the anti-human trafficking police units that should exclusively work on human trafficking cases; establishment of special courts to try traffickers; special prosecutors to handle such cases, a committee against sexual harassment in hotels, massage parlours, casinos, clubs; rehabilitation scheme for sex workers along with a financial provision for it in the State Budget; and steps to improve living conditions and facilities at government protection homes. (The Hindu 28/1/17)

CORRUPTION

Second chargesheet filed in nursing recruitment scam (5)

KOCHI: CBI, which is probing a multi-crore scam in connection with recruitment of nurses to Kuwait, has filed one more chargesheet naming Kochi’s protector of emigrants (PoE) L Adolphus as the prime accused. The chargesheet names Mailakkattu Varghese Uthuppu – who used to run the Kochi-based Al Zarafa Manpower Consultants Pvt Ltd, his wife Susan Thomas (then chairman of Al-Zarafa) and two of their employees Jossy and Pradeep K S as the accused. Also, two hawala operatives – V S Suresh Babu of Suresh Forex and Abdul Nasser who runs Malabar Foreign Exchange in Kochi – were arraigned as accused in the chargesheet. CBI sources maintained that the accused entered into a conspiracy to accept an exorbitant Rs 19.5 lakh as service charge for issuing nursing visa to candidates. The candidates were offered jobs with the ministry of health in Kuwait.The accused also entered in to a conspiracy to collect certificates and other valuables securities from the candidates. The accused aimed ‘to obtain undue pecuniary advantage to themselves by corrupt or illegal means,’ states the chargesheet. The chargesheet states that the accused committed offences under IPC sections 120 B, 384 and 420 and sections 13(2) and 13(1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and sections 24 and 25 of the Emigration Act, 1983. Sources said investigating agencies had found that the accused Suresh and Abdul Nazar assisted Varghese to transact Rs 230 crore through hawala channels. The enforcement directorate had conducted raids at offices and residences of the accused based on the information and had booked them under provisions of the Money Laundering Act. The CBI had recently filed another chargesheet in a separate case registered in connection with the scam where Adolphus and Reny Eapen of JK International Manpower Consultants were named as accused. According to the central agency, the recruitment agencies cheated candidates with active collaboration and support from the ministry of overseas Indian affairs’ PoE. (Times of India 22/1/17)

Coal scam: SC orders probe against former CBI Chief Ranjit Sinha (5)

New Delhi , Jan. 23 : The Supreme Court on Monday directed to conduct a probe against former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Ranjit Sinha for his alleged involvement in the coal scam. The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Madan B Lockur and also comprising Justice Prafulla C Pant asked the CBI to go ahead with the investigation for his alleged involvement and hand in glove with certain accused to scuttle the probe in the coal block scam case “Prima facie a case is made out against him for allegedly in conniving with certain accused in the coal block scam case,” the Bench of the Apex Court said in its order. The Supreme Court passed the order after going through in great detailed the arguments put forth by NGO, Common Cause seeking a thorough investigation against Sinha for his alleged involvement and hand in glove with certain accused in the coal block scam case. (New Kerala 23/1/17)

India in red zone on transparency list (5)

NEW DELHI: The annual index of Transparency International issued on Wednesday for 2016 placed India with Brazil and China in the 40th position. A major international index of corruption and transparency has placed India on the watch list for its inability to curb mega corruption scandals and petty bribery. The annual index of Transparency International issued on Wednesday for 2016 placed India with Brazil and China in the 40th position. India’s condition showed growth with inequality, it said. “India’s ongoing poor performance with a score of 40 reiterates the state’s inability to effectively deal with petty corruption and large-scale corruption scandals,” said Transparency International. The impact of corruption on poverty, illiteracy and policy brutality showed that not only was the economy growing but so was inequality. India’s current ranking, putting it in the high corruption zone, has drawn critical observations from transparency campaigners. Nikhil Dey of People’s Campaign for Right to Information said the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not done enough on the issue of Lokpal and whistleblower protection. “A lot of scams in the previous government were unearthed with the help of the right to information that the government itself allowed. But the present government has done nothing to boost the anti-corruption structure. The demonetisation process is the latest indicator of the lack of transparency in the system, where even the Reserve Bank of India is not able to spell out the exact details of the operation,” Mr. Dey said. “Growth with inequality is disastrous on its own. But in the case of India, such a growth also legitimises corruption,” he warned. South Asia had performed poorly. Bangladesh at 27th and Nepal at 29th positions were slotted in the highly corrupt section. Pakistan, at 32, also came in the red zone. Afghanistan ranked 15th was in the “highly corrupt” list with South Sudan, North Korea and Libya.The organisation recognised China’s recent anti-corruption campaign under President Xi Jinping which had been targeting ‘tigers and flies’ and slotted it alongside India. China’s latest score was an improvement of three points. India, though it improved two ranks, remained in the same red-zone of corruption. (The Hindu 26/1/17)

EC pulls up Kejriwal for ‘wild allegations’ (5)

New Delhi: The Election Commission on Sunday pulled up Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for targeting the poll panel and warned of stern action if he abetted bribery ahead of elections. In a strongly-worded letter to Kejriwal, the Election Commission said his remarks against the panel were “baseless”, “scurrilous” and “highly depreciable”.The Aam Aadmi Party leader was asked to produce evidence of corrupt practices instead of making “wild allegations”.The Election Commission, which on January 20 had censured Kejriwal for “abetting bribery”, reiterated it would be forced to take stern action if the AAP leader persisted with his remarks. “Instead of taking the EC’s advisory in the right spirit, you have been persistently indulging in objectionable activity,” it said. (Business Standardf 29/1/17)

BSF jawan alleges corruption in force (5)

AHMEDABAD: Even though Army chief General Bipin Rawat has advised soldiers to come directly to him rather than voice complaints on social media, the online medium has become a favoured complaint-box for those posted on the border. After constable Tej Bahadur Singh’s video of burnt rotis and watery dal being served to BSF jawans on the border went viral, another BSF jawan posted in Gandhidham, Kutch, has uploaded a video on social media complaining of rampant corruption in the Border Security Force (BSF). “Money earmarked for the mess is also not spared. If we complain, there is only a one-sided inquiry. In 150 Battalion, liquor bought using the money collected for jawans is sold to outsiders,” alleged the BSF jawan, identified as Navchetan Chaudhary, in the video. “I want to ask the PM when will this corruption end. My DG says that secret complaint are acted upon. However, I have made several complaints but only got transferred frequently,” the head constable claimed. BSF officials said Chaudhary has done his Master of Arts and serves as a head constable- ministerial (clerk) in the BSF at Gandhidham. He was posted at Gandhidham a year ago and is currently on leave in Bikaner.”The jawan has never been deployed on the border and is finding fault with everything since his posting in Gujarat, about a year ago,” said a senior BSF official. “We ordered an inquiry into his allegations. He has also been called back from leave to substantiate his allegations with evidence. An inquiry against the jawan is also pending for his fault-finding attitude and escaping of responsibilities,” said the senior BSF official. The BSF official further said that there seems to be conspiracy to defame the force. “We have an online redressal facility. The jawan should have used it or approached senior officers at the frontier HQ where we discuss issues and problems on Mondays and Fridays,” he added.BSF officials said this is gross indiscipline and the BSF Act does not permit the way jawan has acted. “He has crossed all levels. He should have approached his sub-inspector or the DIG or should have directly approached the director general through the proper channel,” added a senior BSF official. (Times of India 30/1/17)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

India needs 12 crore toilets, says Sulabh founder Pathak (9)

Bengaluru, India needs over 12 crore toilets to get rid of the tag of the country with most number of people practising open defecation, said Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of Sulabh International. Pathak told DH on Friday that the government alone cannot do it. He termed the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBM) an inspiring initiative but fraught with hurdles due to the bureaucracy and substandard works by contractors. He also doubted the success of the Abhiyan and its goal of making the country open-defecation free by 2019. Pathak said only a network of spirited NGOs can ensure quality infrastructure and suggested non-resident Indians, corporate social responsibility and charity donations as three promising financing models. “The toilets built with subsidy from the Centre do not have two pits, something which will make them unusable within a matter of five-six years. We should focus on durable infrastructure,” he said. His views assume importance against the backdrop of last year’s study by the Centre for Policy Research which found that nearly 40% of the toilets built under the SBM were unusable. Sulabh has 295 restrooms spread across 28 districts of Karnataka. The founder of the country-wide sanitation facility was in the city to receive an award from the New York-based Rocheston Accreditation Institute. (Deccan Herald 21/1/17)

NGT challenged for objecting to EIA exemption to real estate (9)

New Delhi: The Union Environment Ministry on Monday challenged the National Green Tribunal (NGT) stating that it does not have jurisdiction to quash its notification exempting certain construction projects from obtaining the environment clearance. The tribunal on January 5, said that the Union environment’s notification — a subordinate legislation — shall not be adhered until further ordersThe Environment Ministry on December 9, 2016 issued a notification exempting big buildings and real estate projects spanning an area of 20,000 sq. m. to 1,50,000 sq. m. from getting environment clearance. The ministry however challenged the NGT, stating that the green court has no power there. “We have taken the preliminary objection as the notification was a subordinate legislation issued by Environment Minister to which the NGT has no jurisdiction to quash. Now its for the tribunal to decide,” Divya Prakash Pandey, Union Environment Ministry’s counsel told IANS. The ministry’s notification rejected by the Tribunal also replaced the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) authority from the state of centre to the local urban authorities like municipalities or development authority. The green court made the observation following the petition of an NGO Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity. (Business Stndard 23/1/17)

Soon, plants to treat construction waste in 29 Rajasthan cities (9)

JAIPUR: The state government has decided to set up a Construction and Demolition of Waste Processing Plant (CDWP) in 29 cities including state capital, Jaipur. In these plants, construction waste would be processed and recycled to produce bricks, tiles and concrete blocks. “For Jaipur, the Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC) has completed the tender process. Two companies have shown expression of interest (EOI) to set up this plant. Soon one company will be selected for the same,” said a senior JMC official. In the state capital, 1,300 tonnes per day (TPD) of municipal solid waste is produced. Out of which, 274 (TPD) construction waste material is lifted from the road sides near the construction sites. It is estimated that 941 (TPD) construction waste is produced in the entire state. “In Jaipur the company will set up to recycle 300 (TDP) waste. The estimated cost of the plant will be Rs 6 crore for Jaipur. Nearly 6 acres of land will be required to establish the plant. Land will be allotted near the existing dumping stations,” official said. Construction debris in Jaipur and other cities of the state is choking roads, wetlands and green areas and the problem is becoming more acute every year. Dumped callously wherever there is space, it is rarely recycled on a large scale. Once these plants will be established, the state government will be able to recycle 70- 80% of the construction waste. “We have estimated Rs 48 crore to establish these plants in 29 cities, which will recycle 1050 (TDP) waste,” the official said. As per the proposal, the JMC and local bodies will provide a helpline number for developers, private firms and government buildings to get construction and demolition waste cleared from their sites and disposed of at designated sites. This will put an end to the haphazard dumping of construction debris. “The awarded firm will lift the debris and waste from the construction sites, in return it would charge Rs 150 to Rs 200 per ton,” the official said. (Times of India 26/1/17)

Bringing back a biodiversity hotspot to life (9)

AMEENPUR (SANGAREDDY DIST): A catwalk by college girls with face painted and carrying the cut-outs of native bird species added zest to the festivities at Ameenpur lake here on Saturday. The atmosphere at Manohara Ameenpur, a programme organised by the Telangana State Special Protection Force (TSSPF) in association with Hyderabad Birding Pals (HBP) and Friends of Flora and Fauna (FoFF), was upbeat and the event saw a large turnout of youth, including school and college students, and wildlife photography enthusiasts. The wildlife photographers put on display their photos shot on the location enabling the visitors to identify the species of birds that regularly visit the lake, a biodiversity hotspot. The tank attracts 227 species of birds from different parts of the world. Officials also have identified some local varieties of fish in the tank. “This is one of the important sites that we have to conserve. It is India’s first biodiversity destination identified by the government,” said Aswin Kadiyala, one of the wildlife photographers representing HBP. As part of the programme to conserve the tank, over 5,000 saplings were planted on the bund and its surrounding areas. The TSSPF has adopted the Ameenpur lake system on August 7, 2015, and since then, it has taken up many initiatives to protect the tank and improve the ecosystem. The officials too were successful in arresting the release of polluted water and wastage from polluting industries into the tank. As many as 200 staff of the TSSPF have cleaned the tank for over 100 times so far.Patancheru legislator G. Mahipal Reddy, after participating in the programme, said they have proposed to establish a sewage treatment plant (STP) to clean the tank and said it could be developed as a tourism spot.Director General of TSSPF, Tejdeep Kaur Menon, said they were making efforts for the past two years to keep the tank clean and avoid pollution. She said a meeting with the Government Special Advisor, Rajiv Sharma, was scheduled for January 31 in which various issues would be discussed, including industrial pollution and establishment of the STP. (The Hindu 29/1/17)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

‘Farmer had cleared bank loan a week before his suicide’ (20)

Chikkamagaluru:  It has come to light that a farmer, who had committed suicide at Kusuburu in N.R. Pura taluk on Sunday, had cleared his bank loan by selling off one acre of his land only a week before his death. His relatives said that he had been under tremendous pressure to clear the loan and this eventually led to his suicide. Venkataramana Naika (65), plunged into the Tunga near his village on Sunday evening. His family learned about the death only after his body was found in the river the next day. He is survived by his wife, Indramma, and two children. Speaking to The Hindu on the phone on Friday, Ms. Indramma said, “Only a week ago, he had sold an acre of his land and cleared the dues in the bank. My son, Rathish, had accompanied him to the bank to clear the loan. The bank officials repeatedly forced him to clear it,” she said. Venkataramana had borrowed Rs. 5 lakh from Syndicate Bank at Muttinakoppa in N.R. Pura taluk. Ms. Indramma said she was unaware of how much he had earned from the sale of the land. However, she was sure that he had cleared the loan. “He was deeply upset because he had to sell a part of his land. Even after this, there were more loans that he had borrowed from people in the village to clear off,” she said. The family had three acres of land.Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee Kissan Cell president Sachin Miga met the family members on Thursday and later submitted a memorandum to the senior police officers in Chikkamagaluru to take action against the bank officials. (The Hindu 21/1/17)

Farmers urge Centre to reduce tax on cigarette industry (20)

New Delhi: A farmers body on Monday urged the Centre to reduce tax on the cigarette industry to enable tobacco growers to get the right prices for their crop. The Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA) said the measure was required as the tobacco farmers’ agricultural output was currently in less demand by the cigarette companies. The association– representing millions of farmers of commercial crops in India — said tobacco provides livelihood to 4.6 crore farmers, farm labour, retailers and bidi workers. It claimed that it was witnessing a continued onslaught in terms of punitive and sustained increase in taxation and impractical regulation over the past few years. “We are very disturbed because of the declining off-take from the domestic manufacturers. The Indian tobacco exports are also sluggish and this has resulted in 22 per cent decline in the farmers’ returns,” said Murali Babu, General Secretary, FAIFA. A Regulatory overreach has created panic and strain for the flue-cured Virginia (FCV) tobacco farmers in the country, he added. For the first time in independent India, 22 FCV farmers have committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka, Babu said. According to the FAIFA general secretary, the suicides of tobacco farmers were a result of the excessive increase in the excise duties levied on tobacco products. There was a cumulative increase of 118 per cent since 2012-13, leading to 22 per cent shrinkage in the legal cigarette volumes, Babu said. “The steep increase in the excise duty has led to smuggling of cigarettes in the country due to the high tax arbitrage,” he said. India is the world’s second largest producer and third largest exporter of tobacco, earning the country foreign exchange of more than Rs 6,000 crore. “Any further tax increase on the already over-taxed legal tobacco industry will only accelerate the process of diversion of tobacco consumption into the illicit and the unorganized tobacco sector,” Babu added. “This would lead to adverse consequences on revenue collection and the tobacco control objectives of the government and serious implications on the farmers livelihood,” he said. (Business Standard 23/1/17)

SC favours national policy over farmers’ suicides (20)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday favoured a comprehensive national policy to protect farmers, many of whom have committed suicide due to rising debt and crop failures caused by natural calamities, terming it a “sensitive” matter of public interest and human rights. “It is a sensitive matter of larger public interest and human rights which covers the entire country,” a bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice N V Ramana said. The bench, on its own, expanded the scope of the petition which has raised the issue of farmers’ suicides in Gujarat, to entire country. “In this matter, we are of the view that all states should assist and accordingly we implead all state governments, Union Territories, the Centre and the RBI,” the bench said asking them to file their responses in four weeks. The court was hearing the appeal, filed by NGO ‘Citizens Resource and Action and Initiative’ on issues relating to farmers in Gujarat.During the brief hearing, the court said that many farmers were committing suicide because of crop failure and indebtedness and yet there was no national policy to protect them. The PIL which was confined to Gujarat had sought compensation to families of 619 debt-ridden farmers who allegedly committed suicide in the state since 2003. The NGO has also sought a direction to the state to pay compulsory financial aid of Rs 30,000 per hectare to the farmers who suffered crop failure. It has challenged the July 10, 2013 order of the Gujarat High Court dismissing its plea for compensation and alleged that farmers were being neglected by the state government. During the hearing, the court was told that there is another PIL on the issue of farmer suicides pending before it in which the Centre had in 2015 filed an affidavit stating that the number of suicide deaths of farmers had declined since 2009 and there were factors other than agrarian which had led them to take their lives. The affidavit of Ministry of Agriculture had submitted that out of a total of over one lakh suicides in the country in 2013, farmer suicides were recorded at 8.7 per cent. Referring to the data maintained by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) as per which the number of suicides by persons self-employed in farming/agriculture in 2009 was 17,368 which had come down to 11,772 in 2013. It had submitted that as against the total population of 122 crore (estimated) during 2013, the total number of suicides in the country was 1,34,799, of which suicides under the category of self-employed (farming/agriculture) was 11,772 which is 8.73 per cent of the total suicides. Earlier, the apex court had indicated that the suicides may be linked to certain inherent deficiencies in the National Policy for Farmers, 2007, which may be revisited. (Times of India 28/1/17)

Farmers demand drought-hit status for affected mandals (20)

VISAKHAPATNAM: With the northeast monsoon failing to impress, farmers of Visakhapatnam district who have planted their second crop of the year are worried about the impact of the dry weather and falling water tables. The second crop in the district, especially in the upland areas and dry plains, are chiefly lentil crops such as sesame, horse gram, black gram and other types of dal.”Though these crops are dry weather crops and require very little water support, they need to be watered at least once every 10 days on an average during the 80-day period and this year we believe that the water table levels have badly shrunk,” said K Ram Babu, a farmer from Eti Gavirampeta, Narsipatnam division. Sources in the government agriculture department disclosed that almost 1,000 water tanks used for small scale irrigation have dried up and so have the hill streams feeding them. Badly hit by demonetisation, the farmers were hoping to make something out of their second crop this year. E Raman Prasad, a farmer from Uratla observed, “Lack of water is a problem in the upland areas of Narsipatnam and Anakapalli divisions. Much of the agriculture in these zones is hence dry crop agriculture. Now, with the northeast monsoon playing truant, the farmers are in for trouble.” Officials said a vast majority of the farmers, however, would not be troubled too much. K Srinivasulu of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra said, “Much of the land in the upland areas of Narsipatnam and Anakapalli plains is either under horticulture such as mango and cashew or timber (Casuarina, Acacia). Hence the loss of crop would be negligible.” He further added, over all not more than 10 mandals should be affected. The farmers, however, maintain that they would face severe losses due to lack of rains and further demanded that the district be declared drought hit. “The authorities cannot claim that farmers will not be affected just because the mango and cashew are in bloom. They must understand that the second crop is equally important, especially for food security. They should at least identify mandals which will be very badly affected and declare them drought hit, if not the entire district, ” Raman observed. (Times of India 29/1/17)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

Left Front demands probe into Bhangar killings (4)

Kolkata : A section of Left Front activists on Friday held a demonstration here demanding a probe into the killing of two villagers in West Bengal’s Bhangar over the ongoing anti-land acquisition movement. Led by CPI-M leader Sujan Chakraborty and Kanti Ganguly, the activists blocked the gate of Milan Mela grounds in the eastern fringes of the city where the third edition of the ruling Trinamool Congress-organised “Bengal Global Business Summit” is being held. Holding aloft placards and black flags, the agitators clashed with police in front of the venue on the arterial stretch Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. Traffic was halted as several protesters squatted on the road. A section of the demonstrators were held and taken to Kolkata police headquarters in Lalbazar, police said. “Some protesters, including Chakraborty, Ganguly and Anadi Sahoo were held on the spot,” said Supratim Sarkar, Joint Commissioner of Police Headquarters. Chakraborty, also the Left Front legislature party leader, who was at the forefront of the protest, said the government is playing out a “drama” in the name of business summit and demanded a judicial inquiry into the killings at Bhangar. “This government is anti-industry, anti-employment and anti-youth. They have already once destroyed such a prospective investment in Singur. Now they are wasting people’s money in the name of business summit. This is nothing but a drama,” Chakraborty told IANS. “This government is placing common man’s land in the hand of land mafias and killing the innocent farmers. They are helping out the mafias in the name of industry. We demand judicial inquiry into the killing of two innocent farmers in Bhangar,” he added. (Business Standard 20/1/17)

Rights of farmers, other land owners will be protected: Deshpande (4)

MANGALURU: The interests of farmers and other land owners will be safeguarded and they will be paid adequate compensation before acquiring land for expansion of Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited, Large and Medium Scale Industries Minister R.V. Deshpande has said. Speaking to reporters after visiting the Kadri Manjunatha temple here on Saturday, Mr. Deshpande said adequate precautions were being taken to safeguard interest of farmers and other land owners during acquisition of land in five villagers of Mangaluru Taluk. Apart from monetary compensation those losing land will get jobs in public sector units. Houses too will be provided. There will be no pollution from units that come up here, he said.The preliminary notification for acquisition of 1,011 acres was issued in December. Activists and farmers are questioning this acquisition as this was being done under provisions of Karnataka Industrial Area Development Act 1966 and not under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. (The Hindu 21/1/17)

Tension prevails at Vamsadhara project site (4)

SRIKAKULAM: Tension prevailed for five hours on Sunday at the Vamsadhara reservoir area of Hiramandalam with the locals demanding higher compensation in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act-2013. The agitators set a few vehicles including a police zeep afire in spite of the presence of heavy police force. The agitators vociferously demanded jobs, legitimate compensation and proper valuation of their properties. J. Brahma Reddy, Srikakulam SP, and other senior officials held talks in vain with the local leaders. With the government’s directive to complete the project work by June 2017, the irrigation officials have taken up the work on a war footing in the last two days. The villagers of Padali, Tulagam, Duggupuram, Pedasankili, Barripeta, Korada and others places gathered at the project site and raised slogans against the government. Palakonda RDO R. Gunnayya said the government had announced a youth package recently and it was not correct to take up agitations to obstruct the work. While the locals insist on jobs and financial benefits for all youngsters who are above 18, the government says it is not possible to do so. CPI(M) district president Bhaviri Krishnamurthy and other officials alleged that the government was trying to continue the work with the help of the police force instead of resolving the demands of the local people.Meanwhile, Left parties decided to hold a roundtable on Monday to express their solidarity with the farmers and displaced persons. They also demanded that the contractors stop all the works till payment of compensation was made. CPI senior leader Chapara Sundarlal asked Labour Minister K. Atchannaidu and Mr. Brahma Reddy to find an amicable solution to the problem instead of antagonising them with unwarranted statements. “The displaced persons have waited patiently for many years. They have been agitating for the last few days as they are left with no other option. It is the failure of the government,” he added. A delegation of the CPI(M) would visit Hiramandalam after the roundtable to hear the grievances of the locals.(The Hindu 23/1/17)

Villagers protest mining in Gadchiroli (4)

GADCHIROLI: Sixty-year-old Ratia Gunia Tigga, an Urrao tribal from Bande village in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, is unsure about the produce from his eight-and-a-half acres of farmland this year. Mr. Tigga, who looks after a family of five, cultivates paddy. He manages to produce around 50 bags every year. “But this year, even 20 bags look unlikely, because there is dust all over my farm,” Mr. Tigga said. His farmland is situated near the road to the Surjagad mining site, where the Lloyd Metals had been extracting iron ore until last month and the trucks carrying the extract spread dust and other particles on his paddy crop. Mr. Tigga is not the only person who is concerned about mining in the area. Over 70 Gramsabhas (village bodies) from Surjagad have submitted a memorandum to the district authorities, opposing to the mining operation on Surjagad hills. The main concern of local tribals is the damage to their religious deity Thakurdev’s shrine, which is situated on one of the Surajgad hills. “We cannot see the displacement of our god. We are also apprehensive about the damage to the forest produce in this area. The mining will also create pollution and our land will be destroyed,” Danu Ichami from Reknar village said. The local tribals have united under the banner of ‘Visthapan Virodhi Janvikas Andolan’ (Agitation against Displacement) to oppose mining, which began in April last year, after a gap of eight years. The operations were allegedly ceased due to threats by the Maoists, who torched 81 vehicles of the Lloyd Metals last month, leading to suspension of work again. However, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said that the project would be completed “no matter what the situation is”. A local activist and a central convener committee member the VVJA, Mahesh Raut, said, “The area is a cultural heritage of local tribals. The legalities do not permit mining here. The PESA Act [Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act] says that Gramsabhas have rights over the forest in scheduled areas. The district officials claim that local people have rights on minor forest produce but not on the complete forest land.” He added that Gramsabhas have to be consulted in connection with land diversion in the area, which has not been done done in this case. “There is confusion over the public hearing about the environment impact assessment of the site. The mining, according to the Lloyd, will provide employment to around 500 local people, but the work is limited to cutting trees and construction of the road. There won’t be any employment to the local tribals in technical jobs. The mine will also destroy three water streams,” he said.The VVJA organised many public protests in different parts of the district last year to mobilise the local tribals against the mining activities. … (The Hindu 26/1/17)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

500 TB cases recorded in Telangana last year (3)

HYDERABAD:  A recently conducted study has revealed that more than 500 cases of tuberculosis meningitis (TBM) or brain TB have been recorded in the State in the first eleven months of 2016. A field study on the prevalence and challenges in the management of TBM was undertaken by city-based NGO Helping Hand Foundation, which released the findings on Thursday. According to the report, most of the cases were detected in private hospitals. The number of male patients and female patients was 232 and 210 respectively. The majority of the patients were found to be aged above 30 years. B. Ranga Reddy, president, Infection Control Academy of India (IFCAI), and advisor, Public Health Foundation of India, stressed on the need for more awareness about the medical condition, and appealed to the policy-makers to initiate steps towards its detection at early stages and effective treatment. He also cautioned that MDR (multi drug resistance) and AMR (anti-microbial resistance) are a major issue in the country which can cost trillions of dollars to the government if preventive steps were not taken. Reduce the unnecessary usage of antibiotics in agriculture and livestock and promote newer and rapid diagnosis to render treatment in a focused manner, Mr. Reddy said. Mujtaba Hasan Askari, founder-trustee of the foundation, said, “It is time that the civil society and the medical fraternity take up the fight against TB and mount pressure on the health authorities. Our NGO has been working for the welfare of TB, MDR TB, and HIV patients for a long time now. We see four to five cases of TB and HIV in Hyderabad each month, and the patients basically approach us for financial assistance.” He complained that though they had filed an RTI application with the State Chest Hospital on TB cases, they did not get a reply even after 60 days. (The Hindu 20/1/17)

Vaninagar’s victims of endosulfan: 17 years later, no respite (3)

KASARGOD: Sitting on the cold oxide floor with her face cupped between her raised knees, Muthakka Shetty, 69, was sentinelling an oil lamp flickering in memory of her younger son, Shridhar Shetty, 32. She did the same when he was alive, stayed by his bedside. After being bedridden for two years, he died on January 15. The lamp will be kept alive for 11 days, says the frail woman.Her elder son, Kitanna Shetty, 34, is seated beside her wearing a blank look. He is paralysed from waist below.The Shettys of Balike at Vaninagar was one of the earliest families in Enmakaje panchayat to be affected by the 20 years of aerial spraying of endosulfan on cashew plantations. In 2000, Star TV showed visuals of Muthakka Shetty, then 53, with Kitanna on her hips, to break the news to the world that endosulfan has caused congenital deformities, physical disabilities, mental retardation and gynaecological problems to the people of Kasargod. In 2001, Muthakka’s blood sample was among the 25 samples taken by the Centre for Science and Environment to be tested for the presence of endosulfan. In the study report released on February 21, 2001, endosulfan residues were found to be much higher in her blood. Kitanna was born with physical disabilities. Muthakka’s eldest daughter Lakshmi “fell” into a well and died 25 years ago. She was then 22 years old. Her second daughter, Saraswati, 40, is at home. Her right arm is swollen, which she is not able to use. Shridhar, who was seemingly a healthy child, started losing control of his muscles two years ago and soon became paralysed. He was diagnosed with dehydrated discs and compression of traversing nerve roots. The family says the government gave the two sons Rs 1.5 lakh each as compensation. The government even paid a bill of Rs 1.40 lakh to KMC, Mangaluru, for treating Shridhar for 15 days in April 2015, said Sanjeev Shetty, a cousin, who was his caregiver then.Sanjeev says though there was a proposal to upgrade the Vaninagar Primary Health Centre (PHC) to a community health centre (CHC), it has never happened. “In fact, there is no regular doctors or nurses at the PHC now,” he says. Three years ago, a physiotherapist used to visit the patients at home. “Those days, there was marked difference in Kitanna. Now even the post is not there in the PHC,” he says. On December 30, 2010, the National Human Rights Commission recommended the upgrading of PHCs in 11 affected panchayats to CHC, but none were elevated. … (New Indian Express 23/1/17)

State IMR, MMR better, thanks to govt spend (3)

PATNA: Thanks to sustained public expenditure in the health sector over the last 15 years, infant mortality rate (IMR) and maternal mortality rate (MMR) in Bihar have bettered, and somewhat commensurate with the UN-sponsored millennium development goals (MDG) 2000-15. However, the achievement is still below the national mark. Sources said the state is now readying to enter the new phase of UN- sponsored sustainable development goals (SDG) 2015-30 to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all in all ages” to which India is also a signatory. The SDG was adopted after the completion of work under the MDG 2000-15. According to Central Statistical Organisation, the Centre under the MDG targeted to reduce the country’s IMR from 80 deaths (valid for 1990) to 27 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2015. It was estimated to have reached 39 by 2015. Against that, the Bihar figure stood at 42 in 2013, and has continued to hover around it. Similarly, the country’s MMR of 437 per one lakh live births in 1990 was to be reduced to 109. Against that, the average MMR was 167 in 2011-13, and was estimated to have reached 140 by 2015. The Bihar average of MMR in 2011-13 stood at 208. Incidentally, Bihar, along with UP, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan contributed 67% of the country’s MMR. Another positive aspect pertaining to Bihar is that the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel at government and private hospitals has been rising steadily and stands at 53.2% of total births. As a result, life expectancy at birth in the state improved to 65.8 years during the 2006-10 against the national average of 66.1 years. The per capita expenditure in the medical and public health sectors in Bihar has gone up from Rs 97 in 2005-06 to Rs 147 in 2010-11. It increased to Rs 295 in 2014-15, and was Rs 305 in 2015-16. However, state finance department sources said, the revenue loss due to demonetisation and prohibition, coupled with the financial burden caused by the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, will make it difficult to sustain the increased expenditure in the health sector. The situation will become clear only from the state budget for 2017-18 to be presented in the assembly in February. The ray of hope is that the Centre has agreed to the World Health Organisation’s proposal to increase the health expenditure to 2.5% of the GDP by 2020, which should also benefit Bihar. (Times of India 28/1/17)

Sharp decline in maternal, infant mortality rate: Nadda (3)

Various healthcare schemes and awareness programmes undertaken by the present government have resulted in a sharp decline in the maternal and infant mortality ratio in India when compared to global average, Union Health Minister J P Nadda said today. “The comparison between Sample Registration System’s report released in 2005 and 2015 clearly shows the decline. It is an outcome of various programmes implemented by the new government,” Nadda said at a conference on ‘Healthcare: Commodity or basic human need’, organised by the Tata Memorial Centre on the occasion of its Platinum Jubilee. “We have increased the immunisation scale across the country. Measures like educating people about healthcare, empowering health workers are also supporting the government’s efforts. All these initiatives are benefiting the society,” said the minister. “India is projected to nearly achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 4 and 5, while the MDG 6 goal to reverse the incidence of Malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS has already been achieved. “What is perhaps noteworthy is that India’s mortality rate for age under five and maternal mortality ratio declined at a higher pace than global average. There has been a significant decline in Total Fertility Rate (TFR),” said Nadda. “It is our endeavour to ensure that all persons have access to quality healthcare; however, a lot more needs to be done for achieving universal access to equitable, affordable and quality healthcare services,” he said. “Our country faces twin burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Compared to last century, when communicable diseases were more prevalent, the current challenge is of non-communicable diseases,” he said. “It is more about lifestyle. The socio-economic impacts of NCDs are thus that it attenuates our progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The government will soon provide a pictorial book educating school students about junk and health foods. “It will also provide primary level information about ideal ratio of body weight and its height, television watching and its impact,” Nadda said. “Cancer control is a major challenge for all of us,” he added. (MORE) (This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.) (DNA 29/1/17)

HIV/AIDS

HIV+ mother, girl thrown out of house (3)

EGRA: An HIV-positive woman and her daughter in Egra were thrown out of their house by her in-laws for protesting against her husband who hid his HIV-positive status before marriage. The woman, who was diagnosed with HIV during a routine blood test, approached an NGO for treatment. There she learnt that her husband was also on the patients’ list and had been HIV-positive before their marriage in 2014. She has filed a case against her husband and in-laws. East Midnapore SP Alok Rajoria said, “We will act if we find evidence that they were tortured and thrown out.” (Times of India 20/1/17)

Only 1% of R&D funds for HIV, TB, malaria: WHO (3)

NEW DELHI: Investments in health research and development (R&D) are poorly aligned with global public health needs, the World Health Organisation has said, highlighting that merely 1% of the total funding on health R&D was allocated towards neglected diseases like HIV , tuberculosis and malaria which account for over 12.5% of the global disease burden. “Investments in health R&D are still insufficiently aligned with global public health demands and needs,” the UN agency said in its assessment which showed that high-income countries had 352 times more health researchers than low-income ones. According to the Global TB Report-2016, India accounts for 24% of global TB cases. Six countries –India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa account for 60% of the global total. India is also a hub of multi-drug resistant TB with nearly 480,000 contracting it in 2015. India is under international pressure to tackle the TB problem, as it accounts for 1,400 of the 5,000 TB deaths daily. Though the number of TB deaths has come down in the past few years globally and in India, a huge rural population living with poor sanitation and poor nutrition makes elimination of the disease look like a distant dream.The HIV and malaria burden is also significantly high. In 2015, the number of people living with HIV in India was estimated at 21.17 lakh, with 86,000 new HIV cases in that year. India also accounts for the highest malaria burden outside Africa. Around 7.5 lakh cases and 188 malaria deaths were recorded till September 2016. (Times of India 24/1/17)

HIV children treated badly in schools: plea (3)

NEW DELHI:  Denial of admission, outright expulsion, segregation, breach of confidentiality to cleaning toilets and classrooms. These are the ways schools treat children living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The treatment meted out to HIV-positive children, whose deaths account for seven per cent of all AIDS-related deaths in the country, is part of a writ petition filed by NGO Naz Foundation (India) Trust in the Supreme Court. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar has sought the government’s response on why — despite the Right to Education being a Fundamental Right — children suffer this way. According to the NACO estimates in 2012-2013, the total number of people living with HIV is estimated at 20.9 lakh in 2011. Children under 15 years account for seven per cent (1.45 lakh) of all infections. “India has a substantial number of HIV-positive children who are of school-going age and need to be in school. Schools can play a crucial role in improving the prospects of children affected by HIV. A good school education can give children higher self-esteem, better job prospects and economic independence and create opportunities for lifting children out of poverty,” the NGO, represented by senior advocate Anand Grover and Purushottam Sharma Tripathi, argued.The petition takes a leaf out of the lives of many HIV-affected children who act as both caregivers and bread winners for their sick parent(s) as well as for their younger siblings.“They are publicly ridiculed by school authorities, humiliated and treated unfairly in schools, to the extent that they have been segregated from other children in schools and have been made to clean toilets and classrooms,” the petition stated.This discriminatory and degrading treatment is a direct assault on the children’s privacy, autonomy and dignity under Articles 21, 21A and 14 , the plea contended. (The Hindu 26/1/17)

NLC distributes aid to HIV affected children (3)

CUDDALORE:  Yogamaya Acharya, president Ladies Club and Sneha Opportunity School of Neyveli distributing Poshak Food packets and Sweets to HIV +ve Children during her visit to the Vridhhachalam on 28.01.2017. Also seen are, Shri J. Peter James GM/CSR, Shri Balachandar AEE/CSR and members of Neyveli Ladies Club.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement. The Corporate Social Responsibility team from NLC India Limited, along with Neyveli Ladies Club patrons and members, distributed essentials to children under the care of the HIV+ve Society Vridhachalam in Cuddalore. Yogamaya Acharya, president, Neyveli Ladies Club and Sneha Opportunity School of Neyveli, J. Peter James, general manager, CSR, distributed food packets, a specially prepared nutritious food items to HIV affected children, which contains cereals. Stocks of channa , dates, snacks, soaps and uniforms were also distributed to 75 children and sarees and lungis provided to their parents. NLC has committed its CSR team to provide ₹1.25 lakh worth food packets to 225 children at Puthupalayam and 75 children of Vridhachalam every month. (The Hindu 30/1/17)

UP: Police stops church event after Adityanath’s Hindu Yuva Vahini alleges conversion (7)

Police stopped a church event attended by more than 150 people, including 10 American tourists, here after the right-wing Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) alleged that religious conversion was being carried out. The youth brigade, set up in 2002 by Yogi Adityanath who is now Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, filed a complaint against Yohannan Adam, the pastor of the church, accusing him of converting Hindus to Christianity, a charge the pastor denied. SHO, Dathauli, Anand Kumar Gupta said no prior permission was taken for the meeting, which was held ahead of Good Friday. “We stopped the prayer meeting after a complaint was registered. A probe is underway and appropriate action will be taken if the charges are found to be correct,” he said. Dathauli falls in Maharajganj district in eastern Uttar Pradesh. It borders Gorakhpur, the Lok Sabha constituency represented five times by Adityanath before he took over the reins of Uttar Pradesh. Gupta said mass was held there quite often but as this time foreigners were involved, the HYV suspected that conversion was going on. The US tourists, including a few women, were let off after police checked their travel documents. “The presence of US nationals indicates that innocent and illiterate Hindus were being converted by missionaries who lured them with money to change their religion,” alleged HYV leader Krishna Nandan, who surrounded the church with his supporters yesterday afternoon. They dispersed after police promised a probe and adequate action even as the church authorities dismissed allegations of conversion. “The charges are absolutely baseless. The people were attending a prayer meeting voluntarily. We prayed. Nothing else was done,” pastor Adam said. The Hindu right wing has been at loggerheads with Christian missionaries, accusing them of converting people through coercion and allurement. Several Hindu organisations have conducted ‘ghar wapsi’ or homecoming of such people, which minority groups say is a couched term for re-conversion. Earlier this year, HYV activists had attacked the Full Gospel Church in Gorakhpur, accusing it of indulging in religious conversion. At Christmas last year, the HYV had warned Christian priests from holding any religious function outside churches.

HYV, which has a widespread network in eastern Uttar Pradesh, has alleged that Hindus are lured to Christianity through religious functions. “We have received several inputs that Christian preachers and priests hold such religious ceremonies in rural areas and secret locations in which Hindus are brought and motivated to join Christianity, through allurements including cash. We will not let this happen,” HYV president Sunil Singh alleged. They can hold their prayers inside churches or their homes but not any place outside. We have alerted the district administration in various places about such ceremonies slated to be held and if such functions do happen, churches would not be safe,” he warned. Singh said HYV has a youth member in each village in various districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh and keeps getting inputs about such happenings. Indian Express 8/4/2017.