HR News

Volume 16                                            No.44                                      August 20,  2014

HR NEWS: AUGUST 20, 2014

(From August 12 To August 20, 2014)

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. No haircuts for Dalits in this K’taka village

Bangalore: In a bizarre incident reported from Karnataka, out of fear of upper caste people, saloons in village Koliwad near Hubli have been shut for more than a month not allowing the Dalits to have a haircut. The closure of haircutting shops by people of Savita Samaj (barber community) not allowing Dalits to get their hair cut is an evident fact of discrimination of Dalits that is still prevalent in this part of the country. The haircutting shops have been closed out of fear of backlash by the other community people. Even today over 100 Dalit families living in this village fear caste discrimination and are seeking help from the Government. In fact, a team of revenue officials have, on Saturday, visited the village and took a stock of the situation. The Dalits who live in Ambedkar Colony in the village are scared that this incident might turn into a major controversy where upper caste people might force them to leave the village. A Dalit youth on the condition of anonymity told that he was threatened when he went to have his regular haircut. He said that he was forced out of the shop on behest of some influential people who belonged to upper caste. He said, “We live in Ambedkar Colony and all the haircutting shops have been closed forcibly by some influential people who belong to upper caste. They are not allowing us to have haircut in the shop and we are forced to leave the shops. We have appealed to the Government and some officials have taken a stock of the situation. We want to live amicably in the village.” According to sources in the district administration, The problem started when some dalit youths went to have a haircut a few weeks ago. this was objected to by some of the villagers belonging to upper caste and the owners were forced to close the shops. According to Hubli Tahsildar HD Nagavi, the Savita community members in the village had not given haircut to anyone in the village since a month and efforts are on to help them resume work. A reconciliation meeting on the issue will be held soon. The Dalits feel only upper caste people were given haircut in the village saloons and when a few Dalits sought the service, the shops were closed. The hair cutting shop owners feel they have closed the shops as a preventive measure to avert any clash between two communities in the village. Meanwhile, many Dalit organisations have urged the administration to get justice to Dalits in the village. (Pioneer 11/8/14)

2. Dalit Author’s Family Ostracised Over Book (2)

PUDUKKOTTAI: Caste Hindus have forced people belonging to the Dalit community to ostracise one of their families as a youth from the family had published a book describing the atrocities of caste Hindus of the village and its vicinity. Duraisamy (65) son of Silamban, a resident of  Kulathiranpattu (East) near Karambakudi lodged a petition with ES Uma, District Superintendent of Police. He stated that his son, Guna, wrote and published a book titled Oorar Varaindha Oviyam (art painted by villagers) and it was released on July 12 at Gandhi park in Karambakudi. Since then, various unknown persons made threats to him and his family members including Guna and his wife. Later, on August 5, a section of Dalit residents including village panchayat president Thangaraj, Pilakurichi village panchayat vice president P Ganeshan, Manickam, Sasikumar and Sankaran, all belonging to Dalit community, came and asked him to vacate the village. They said that the caste Hindus were angry about his son’s book. They wanted to send Duraisamy’s family from the village, he said. They are reported to have further said, “The caste Hindus  dismissed  ten Dalits of the village from a quarry owned by a caste Hindu and barred Dalits from grazing cattle in their farm lands. The Dalits further told  Duraisamy that the Caste Hindus said no Dalit should come to the village bazaar to buy anything and the caste Hindu shop keepers of the village also refused to do business with Dalits. “Kulathiran pattu Dalits threatened us with dire consequences if your family does not leave the village immediately,” the Dalits told Duraisamy. Following the threats of the caste Hindus and the representation from the Dalit community, Duraisamy said he had been staying in the outskirts of Karambakudi for the last five days and his daughter-in- law and grandsons were staying at their maternal grandparents’ house, fearing for life. He urged police to take severe action against the Dalits who forced him to leave the village and the caste Hindus, who were behind the act. His petition was directed to Alangudi, Deputy Superintendent of Police, for investigations into the entire issue. Guna, writer of the book told Express, “Now I am in Chennai to make a living. Police should take severe action against caste Hindus who forced the Dalit residents to ostracise members of my family.” (New Indian Express 13/8/14)

3. Satyagraha to end discrimination: 200 Dalits to march into Hanuman temple in Parbhani

Mumbai: As the country celebrates the 68th Independence Day, about 500km from Mumbai, the Dalits of Thhole village in Parbhani district have resolved to end caste-based discrimination through satyagraha. Denied access to grocery shops and primary health-care centres by the upper castes, 200 Maaang and Matangs have decided to march into the local Hanuman temple on August 15. It all began on July 26. Marathwada, which falls in the rain shadow region, has seen even scantier rainfall this year. The Matangs felt appeasing the deity in the Hanuman temple would help. “We knew we would not allowed inside. So, we smashed a coconut on the steps outside to pray for rain,” says Atam Narayan Uphade. “And its not like the rains would benefit only Dalit farmers.” According to an FIR lodged at the Daithana police station, as word of the “gods being defiled by Dalits” got around, upper-caste youths went to the Dalit settlements, beat up the people, destroyed their properties and food grains and molested the women. Furious that the Dalits had “dared” to go to the police, the upper castes held a meeting on July 27 where they swore to “ex-communicate the Dalits and teach them a lesson.” The Dalits were denied access to grocery shops, barbers and flour mills. “We have also been restrained from taking our cattle to the common grazing ground of the village,” points out Angad Uphade, 28, who has fled with his family to a relative’s home in the neighbouring village of Indewadi. “I was roughed up and threatened with dire consequences because my goats went to the grassland. I had no option but to flee,” he said. In all 13 families have migrated from the area in the last few days, fearing violence. The village headman, Gangadhar Bhagwan Bele, an upper-caste Maratha, terms the Dalit allegations exaggerated. “They should know their limits. This is a village and we live by certain rules. If they try to break them, people will get angry,” he said defending the violence and ex-communication. While admitting to the problem, Parbhani district collector Sachindra Pratap Singh told dna, “I’ve visited the village with the Superintendent of Police. The tehsildar and I thought the problem had been resolved. I will find out whether tension is still brewing. While the administration will take strict actions against anyone practising discrimination, we also have to take preventive measures to ensure that the situation doesn’t spiral out of control.” Activist Ganpat Bhise of the Dalit rights advocacy group Samajik Nyay Andolan charged the administration with inaction. “Why should Dalits be refused entry into the premises, frequented even by stray dogs and cats of the village?” he asked and added, “People have resolved to enter the temple to see if god, too, discriminates against them. Even after so many years of independence, we are still treated as pariahs,” he said. (DNA 15/8/14)

4. Dalit writer ostracised for short story

PUDUKOTTAI: A Dalit writer of Kulathiranpattu in Pudukottai district has been ostracised by the villagers after his short story sparked a controversy. Durai.Guna said he was ostracised by a group of villagers who held a meeting on August 5. Trouble began after Mr. Guna released the book Oorar varaintha oviyam at a function at Karambakudi on July 12. While the writer said the story was about social justice, villagers objected to its contents, especially a few references to illicit relationships between some men and women of different communities in the village. They argued that the claims were contrary to truth. Mr. Guna said he was now staying at his friend’s house in Coimbatore. He left the village after the book release and was staying in Chennai for some time. He said his parents were being intimidated and his father Duraisamy moved the Superintendent of Police for protection to the family. Village panchayat president Thangaraj said the story caused ripples among the upper castes and oppressed communities. The writer defamed individuals, he said, explaining the reason for the villagers’ action. Superintendent of Police E.S. Uma said preliminary enquiry was under way and no case of intimidation was established. The parents of the writer were still in the village. (The Hindu 17/8/14)

5. ‘Nanded village dalits facing boycott’

AURANGABAD: City-based Dalit Atyachar Virodhi Sangharsha Samiti on Monday alleged that dalits have been boycotted for over three months at Nevri village in Hadgaon taluka of Nanded district. The samiti has demanded action against those allegedly involved in the boycott. The samiti members, accompanied by some dalit villagers from Nevri, alleged that the police were yet to arrest the main accused involved in the attack on Buddha Vihar and houses nearby on March 3. However, the Nanded police claimed that they have already arrested 15 people in connection with the alleged attack on dalit homes. They said they have launched a manhunt for two or three more accused. Mukunda Parghane, a member of the Nevri gram panchayat, said, “Other villagers have stopped talking to us. Some goons have warned the other villagers of fines and dire consequences if they talk to us or conduct any business with us.” D B Kamble, deputy superintendent of police (Hadgaon), told TOI that the police have not received any such complaints about the boycott of dalits by other villagers. “I will look into the matter and action will be initiated immediately after ascertaining the facts. To my knowledge, the situation is peaceful,” he said. Kamble said efforts were being taken to nab the remaining suspects so that a chargesheet is filed. “We have intensified the search for the remaining accused,” he added. Though a part of Nanded district, Nevri village is part of the Hingoli Lok Sabha constituency. The village has a population of 1,400, including 400 dalits. The samiti members and the villagers said the conflict started with the installation of a board naming the village square as Shivaji Maharaj Chowk, right in front of Buddha Vihar’s entrance 3. “The Vihar management objected to this and asked for the board to be shifted a little distance away. The villagers informed the police, who rushed to the spot and tried to bring the situation under control. Police bandobast was then deployed in the village,” said B H Gaikwad, lawyer and member of the samiti. Gaikwad alleged that on May 15, a group of about 150 people from Nevri and those belonging to neighbouring villages attacked Buddha Vihar. “They ransacked the place and nearby houses. They also torched the house of one Ramesh Parghane and looted goods worth thousands of rupees from the Vihar. The police arrested a few people from both sides. However, the main accused is roaming freely in the village,” he said. “Even though 90 days have passed since the incident, the police have not filed a chargesheet yet. This has denied the affected dalits of the assistance they are entitled to receive from the social welfare department,” said samiti secretary Buddhapriye Kabir. The samiti members warned of a state-wide agitation if the police and the administration did not take action against the alleged boycott of dalits in the village. The samiti has already made a representation to the divisional commissioner urging him to look into the alleged boycott. “We have also demanded that the divisional commissioner rehabilitate the dalits at Nanded if the police and the administration cannot ensure an end to the boycott,” Gaikwad said. The samiti members warned of a state-wide agitation if the police and the administration did not take action against the alleged boycott of dalits in the village. The samiti has already made a representation to the divisional commissioner urging him to look into the alleged boycott. (Times of India 19/8/14)

TRIBALS

6. Tribal families yet to get promised land

KALPETTA: As many as 218 Mullakuruma tribesmen at Nellarachal in Wayanad district are yet to get compensation or land as promised by the State government in the 1970s. The government had acquired 100 acres of paddy for the Karapuzha irrigation project. Revenue officials had then promised our parents a handsome compensation, land, and a rehabilitation project, N.K. Babu, a tribal leader, told The Hindu . The Revenue list had listed 218 families as beneficiaries of the proposed project. The government had only provided a compensation of Rs.5,000 per acre, he said. The government had set up a housing project to rehabilitate 82 families and gave away 75 cents of land each a decade ago at Koyilamkunnu. Most people left their houses due to lack of basic amenities, N.K. Ramanathan, a social activist, said. Later, the government gave 75 cents of land to 66 families but no housing project materialised. Nearly five years ago, the then Water Resources Minister, N.K. Premachandran, had announced that the Tribal Welfare Department would execute a housing project. But, that too had not materialised, he said. Revenue officials said they were unable to identify the legal heirs of the remaining 70 tribal families, who were yet to get any incentives, sources said. If the officials conducted an adalat, the legal heirs could appear before the officials, Mr. Babu said. This apart, 500 families in the Paniya, Kattunayakka, and Ooraly tribes were yet to get any assistance from the government as they had no deeds to prove their rights on the land. They were mostly tenants of wealthy farmers, he said. (The Hindu 12/8/14)

7. M’giri tribals to observe Aug 15 as Black Day

Bhubaneswar: Around 500 people gathered at Marigeta village under the Kalimela police limits in Malkangiri district on Monday hoisting black flags and raised slogans against the Government protesting its tyrannical attitude. The tribals said they would observe the ensuing Independence Day as Black Day. The people staged a rally at the village and discussed about six major issues including police atrocity in the name of anti-Maoist operations in their areas. In the protest meeting, the leaders said the police have arrested several innocent tribals implicating them in false cases. The leaders released the list of innocent tribals who are languishing in different jails. Some of them were Gangi Kummi and Podiyami Debba of Bidigeta village, Budra Madhi, Joga Madkami, Podiya Madhi and Joga Madhi of Tekaguda village, Ganga Kabasi and Ganga Madhi of Kuru village and Irsa Podiyami of Marigeta village. The tribals participated in the meeting said the revolutionary people should be released and the police should not torture their family members. “If the State does not take any step, they will continue their fight to get their right and basic necessities,” said tribal man. (Pioneer 13/8/14)

8. Delay in grant of education aid costs tribal girl’s life

BERHAMPUR: : The delay in sanction of financial assistance by Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) for pursuing B.Sc. Nursing course allegedly led to the suicide of Sunita Raita, a tribal girl at R. Udayagiri in Gajapati district of Odisha, on Wednesday. It is an irony that as per claims of officials, ITDA of Gajapati district had approved the sanction of the money on Tuesday. But the news had not reached her. The girl, who hailed from a Below Poverty Line (BPL) family, had hanged herself in her home. According to police sources, investigation is on to ascertain the real cause of the suicide. People blocked the Mohana-Paralakhemundi road for several hours when the news of suicide spread around. The district administration has declared payment of Rs. 20,000 to her family for the funeral. Speaking to The Hindu , the Project Administrator (PA) of Gajapati ITDA said the district collector has also promised to take up the matter with the State government for more compensation to her family. Apart from it, the ITDA is also planning to sponsor the education of the sister of the deceased. The deceased along with another girl of R. Udayagiri block, Sujani Raita, who faced a similar problem, had met the Gajapati collector during his grievance hearing held at R. Udayagiri on August 11. The collector as well as the PA of ITDA had promised the girls to solve their problem as early as possible. According to sources, Sunita and Sujani who had passed higher secondary had been selected by the ITDA in 2013 for the provision of financial assistance to study Auxiliary Nurse and Midwife (ANM) course. But these two girls had got themselves admitted in the B.Sc. nursing course instead without proper permission of the ITDA. Later they had urged the ITDA to provide them financial assistance to which the ITDA had agreed with the clause that it would be provided only after ascertaining the affiliation of the nursing institute in Bhubaneswar where they had got admitted. But the process got delayed and recently authorities of the nursing institute had barred these two girls from appearing for examination as their fees had not been deposited. It had worried the girls. On August 11, following the complaint before the collector the documents related to affiliation of the nursing institute where the girls were admitted had been verified. As the institute was found to be credible, on Tuesday, the Gajapati ITDA had decided to transfer the fees of these two girls via e-transfer to the institute account. But before this news could reach the girls, one of them committed suicide… (The Hindu 14/8/14)

9. PWD fares poorly in works for tribal development

Pune: The State Public Works Department (PWD), which has drawn fire for incomplete work of the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi, has been found equally wanting when it came to construction of buildings for the tribal development department. While 49.21 per cent of the work that was undertaken for the tribal development department was completed in 2011-12, only 24 per cent of the work undertaken for the year 2012-13 was completed by the PWD. Tribal Development Minister Madhukar Pichad told this paper that discussion with PWD officials have failed to get the desired results. The lacklustre performance of the PWD was seen to be in sharp contrast to its performance in completion of projects for other departments. In 2011-12, the work completed by the PWD for departments other than the tribal development department ranged from 88 to 109 per cent (exceeded target). When it came to departments like social justice, it was 107 per cent of the target, which means the work surpassed the target that was initially set. Documents accessed under Right to Information show the budget of the tribal development department was one of the highest amongst ministries. In 2011-12, for construction of 63 buildings, an amount of Rs 163.30 crore was sanctioned. In 2012-13, of the targeted 83 buildings, only 20 were constructed by the PWD. The slow pace of construction was noted during a customary audit of the PWD undertaken by the Auditor General (AG) of Maharashtra. “The construction works executed with funds of the Tribal development department, through the PWD, are for giving more benefits to tribal people by way of construction of hostels for tribal students, construction of ashramshalas etc. The non-achievement of target during 2011-12 shows that the tribal people were deprived of such benefits. Further, it was noticed that during 2012-13 (upto January 2013) the target achieved ranged from 0 per cent to 50 per cent in the first nine months of the financial year,” were the AG’s observation about the pace of work. Pichad expressed his disappointment at PWD’s slow pace of work. Pointing out that the department itself does not construct the buildings, but awards the work to contractors, he said that PWD officials told him that they were finding it difficult to get contractors to execute works in tribal areas. “This explanation was not tenable as they get contractors in the same region for other department’s work,” he said. Pichad said that the tribal development department was hampered by its inability to have its own construction wing and has to depend on the PWD to get its work done. (Indian Express 17/8/14)

10. Poor Progress of Tribal Areas: State to Study Cost Challenges

BHUBANESWAR: To understand the slow pace of development in tribal dominated pockets, the Odisha Government has proposed to undertake a study on the factors that inhibit or delay projects in the Schedule Areas of the State. The study “An Empirical Study on Cost Disability in Hilly and Scheduled Districts of Odisha” will look into the additional cost incurred due to endowment factors, issues relating to constitutional and legal obligations. The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Research and Training Institute (SCSTRTI) which has submitted a proposal to the Finance Department in this regard seeks to develop a Cost Disability Index for various sectors so that demand for additional funds can be placed when projects are chalked out. Currently, the tribal population in the State stands at 96 lakh, about 22.8 per cent of State’s population. In eight districts, the tribal population comprises 50 per cent or more whereas in another six, it is more than 25 per cent. The proposed study is expected to have a direct impact on the policies devised for this populace whose poverty incidence has risen despite a host of schemes and projects in the past. In fact, the study will be an extension of the rankings issued by Planning Commission based on Geographical Area Disadvantage Index and Infrastructure Deficit Index including the Hilly Terrain and Flood Prone Area component. Since cost of projects undertaken in the hilly areas are likely to be higher than their corresponding costs in non-forested areas, the Government suggests that a model for compensation must be estimated through developing a Cost Disability Index. Since various sectors provide different services, the cost disability varies given their priority and focus. The study will look at the effect of geographical factors on development or under-development of the tribal-dominated districts. Similarly, transaction cost,  taking into account the topographical factors, will also be computed to arrive at the index. “The study will enable us to understand the unit cost of services or projects for plain and hilly areas on actual basis. Similarly, differentials in the project implementation periods will also be known,” said official sources. Cost of legal adherence such as tribal laws and environment clearances, infrastructure facility and gap will also be ascertained. Critical sectors such as health, education, women and child development and welfare services such as pension distribution will be covered by the study. Similarly, a comparison of infrastructure projects meant for rural and urban areas will also made. (New Indian Express 18/8/14)

WOMEN

11. Sonia Vows to Fight for Women’s Quota Bill

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi has said that UPA would continue to mount pressure on the new Government at the Centre to pass the  Women’s reservation Bill by using its majority in the Lok Sabha. Inaugurating the 16th state annual  conference of Kudumbashree State Mission here on Tuesday, Sonia Gandhi said during the UPA Government’s tenure several  legislations were enacted and schemes introduced to empower the women and protect  the women and children from harassment and exploitation. “Today 40 per cent of people’s representatives in the the local bodies  in the country are women. Here in Kerala 50 per cent of the representatives are women.  We had passed the Women’s reservation Bill  in the Rajya Sabha when the UPA was in power to provide 33 per cent reservation for women in state Assemblies and Parliament. We will continue to mount pressure on the NDA Government to pass the   Bill in Lok Sabha where it has a majority,’’ she said, to the applause of the hundreds of Kudumbashree workers attending the annual conference.  She pointed out that women had a greater role to play in the emancipation of women. “You have done it in Kerala.  Kerala is once again showing the way for the country. Now you are celebrating the anniversary of Kudumbashree under the theme of ‘Resistance against  poverty and social injustice’. Others have to learn from your experience’’ she said. She said Kudumbashree self-help groups could empower lakhs of women from the weaker sections of the society. Lakhs of self-help groups have associated with banks to provide scholarships for girl students, pension for widows. New laws have been enacted to prevent sexual harassment in workplace, domestic violence  against women and children. Sonia said she was apprehensive about the increase in violence against women. “Kerala has implemented the Nirbhaya, a tangible project to secure the life of women. I inaugurated the scheme early this year in Kochi. Government’s initiatives are essential for women’s empowerment. But massive support from the people is also needed’’ she said. Presiding over the function, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that Kudumbashree’s achievements had earned international acclaim and become pride of Kerala. “Ashraya scheme has been providing great help to persons who have no one to rely on. Our Government adopt such people,’’ he said. He said the government was looking forward to bring the Kudumbashree products under a common brand to the market. Finance Minister K M Mani, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, Industries Minister P K Kunhalikutty, Health Minister V S Sivakuamr, Shashi Tharoor MP, former Union Minister O Rajagopal spoke. Local Self-Government Minister  M K Muneer welcomed the gathering  and Kudumbashree executive director K B Valsala Kumari proposed a vote of thanks. (Indian Express 13/8/14)

12. Only ‘Hi-fi Girls’ Raped, Says School Official

BANGALORE: Sexual assaults take place only in affluent schools, B S Jayaramarao, secretary of Adarsha High School, said on Wednesday. He was speaking at a conference organised for over 60 school managements to draw up safety measures to prevent sexual assaults on children in the Malleswaram assembly constituency. “Rapes and sexual assaults take place only in high-end schools, not in schools like ours. Just because something happened in a school, all schools should not be punished,” said Jayaramarao, whose school is located in Yeshwantpur. The discussion was moderated by Malleswaram MLA C N Ashwathnarayan. Over a hundred people — headmasters and representatives of government, aided and unaided schools — took part in the meeting. Jayaramarao went further to say sex crimes take place only against “hi-fi” women and girls. “Hi-fi” is a slang word used commonly in Bangalore, approximating to ‘fashionable’ and ‘high society’. “Nobody looks at children living in slums. The problem is that girls don’t dress appropriately. We need to bring a dress code for girls,” he said. Later, when reporters asked how a dress code was relevant for a six-year-old girl, Jayaramarao did not have a coherent answer. Ashwathnarayan, who did not respond to Jayaramarao’s comments during the discussion, later told reporters he did not endorse such a view. “I did not respond then as I wanted members of the audience to share their opinions,” he said. Management representatives at the conference described various problems they faced from police, education and transport officials. (New Indian Express 14/8/14)

13. Women activists cold to PM homilies

New Delhi, Aug. 16: The Prime Minister’s prescription to reduce rapes and female foeticide, delivered in the form of homilies to parents in his Independence Day speech, appeared to impress some in the audience but left activists and victims unmoved. “Parents ask their daughters hundreds of questions but have any parents ever dared ask their son where he is going, why he is going out, who his friends are?” Narendra Modi asked. “After all, a rapist is also somebody’s son,” he added, suggesting “every parent… impose as many restrictions on the sons as have been imposed on our daughters”. To Meera Deshmukh, a 45-year-old mother of two girls, it sounded like the “absolute truth”. “His speech was something every parent can identify with. It was unusual for a PM to pick such a routine topic and make it a point to ponder over,” she said. On female foeticide, Modi made a “request” to doctors “not to kill the girl growing in the womb of a mother just to line their own pockets”. He told mothers not to “sacrifice daughters”, who might look after them in old age whereas sons might not. Mitu Khurana, a paediatrician who had taken her husband to court for pressuring her to kill her female foetus, said Modi’s “speech will not change a thing”. “Will people who rape change themselves because Modiji said so?” she said, stressing the need for strict laws. “Which mother doesn’t worry about where her son is? Can a mother or a doctor alone stop foeticide?” Acid attack victim Parvati said Modi’s “nuggets of wisdom” were just “rhetoric” that would achieve nothing. (The Telegraph 17/8/14)

14. Women bank staff can choose branch

New Delhi: As part of the women friendly policies of the Narendra Modi government, the finance ministry has advised PSU banks to formulate women-friendly transfer policies so that they can get transfers at places where their husbands are working or parents are living. “It has been brought to the notice of this department that female employees of the public sector banks (PSBs), married or unmarried, when placed or transferred away from their husband or parents, as the case may be, to distant locations face a genuine hardship and develop a feeling of insecurity,” said a circular of department of financial services. The circular said that it has been decided to accommodate as far as possible “placement/transfer of married employees, on her request, at a place where her husband is stationed or as near as possible to that place or vice versa.” In case of unmarried female employees, the banks have been asked to accommodate them “at a place where their parents” are stationed or as near as possible. PSBs have been advised by the finance ministry to frame a policy on the subject with the approval of their boards suitably incorporating these and take immediate action for implementation and compliance. “Pending requests ( of the female employees for suitable postings) may also be considered under these guidelines,” said the finance ministry. There are 27 PSBs, including the latest Bharatiya Mahila Bank. Of the nearly 8 lakh employees in PSBs, about 2.5 lakh are females. The previous UPA government had set up the Bharatiya Mahila Bank as part of its women empowerment policy. (Asian Age 18/8/14)

15. Jharkhand: Woman paraded naked on orders of panchayat

Ranchi: In an inhumane act, a panchayat in Jharkhand’s Gumla district on Sunday evening punished a young tribal woman, for allegedly having illicit relation with her brother-in-law, by parading her naked and tonsuring her in public. The incident took place in the Itkarihath Adar village under the Ghagra-police- station area, around 100 km west of Ranchi. Malti Oraon (name changed), 29, a mother of three, on the panchayats orders was also pelted by villagers, while some of the woman folk kicked and beat her. The victim was admitted to the Ghagra primary health center by the police. In her statement to the police, Malti said, “I was dragged, stripped and beaten. Then I was paraded. I had close bonding with my brother-in-law, Sibu Oraon. My husband and villagers put it in the panchayat as an illicit relation.” “They were not satisfied and alter pelted stones at me,” said Malti. An FIR was lodged by the victim at the Ghagra-police-station against her husband, Suresh Oraon and six others on Monday. Police said that villagers accused that Malti had developed an affinity towards Suresh as they both worked in the same brick kiln. “She has been housed in the police station. The six accused, including the panchayat members, are on the run,” said Ghagra sub divisional officer, Deepak Kumar. This is not the first time in Jharkhand that a woman has been stripped and beaten. Each year, as per police records, there are at least four such incidents in the state’s tribal heartlands. Chairperson women’s commission, Mahua Manjhi, could not be reached for a comment on the case. In most cases woman blamed for having illicit relations are banished from the village or osterized. (Hindustan Times 18/8/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

16. At 240 million, India has a third of child marriages in the world

A recent United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef)report said 720 million women around the world, alive today, were married before 18 years compared to 156 million men. One-third of these are in India – about 240 million. The report focussed on child marriages and women affected by the practice. (The UNICEF report has done a two-fold level analysis of child marriages below 15 years of age and child marriages below 18 years of age, which is also the legal age of marriage in most countries. But for the purpose of this report, we have taken the data together for all marriages under 18 years of age.)  IndiaSpend had earlier reported on child brides in India. India is ranked 6th among the top 10 countries based on high rates of child marriages among women. The table below shows the percentage of women in the age group of 20 and 49 years who were married before 18 years. The corresponding female-to-male ratio of Human Development Index (HDI) 2012-13 is also given in the table. If we compare countries with high child marriage rates, their female HDI ratio is lower than the world average except in Burkina Faso. The data clearly brings out the correlation between child marriage and lower development of women. The report, however, concludes that the trend of child marriages has been declining globally, especially the trend of marriages below age 15. But the report has some serious implications for India. There is an interesting finding of the Unicef study: one-third of the child brides of the world are from India. That could well be the fact given the high population of the country and greater proportion of population living in rural areas with low levels of literacy. Unicef had earlier released a report in 2012 on child marriages in India. Early marriage, other than lower level of educational attainment, is also the cause for poor maternal health and higher infant mortality rates. Child-bearing at a young age is detrimental to the health of both the mother and the infant. National Family Health Survey (NFHS 3) shows the rate of child bearing in girls aged 15-19 years. Data shows that 16% or one in six girls in that age group have started bearing children. This is the reason why child marriage affects women more than men other than the fact that men are less likely to be getting married as children. Let us now look at maternal and infant mortality ratios and reduction targets from the latest Census reports. Maternal mortality rate (the number of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth per 100,000 live births) has declined only marginally from 254 in 2006 to 212 in 2009. The target set by the Government for next year i.e. 2015 is 109. … (Hindustan Times 12/8/14)

17. Punish parents for forcings kid into child labour, HC told

New Delhi: The Delhi High court has sought a response from the central government on a plea seeking directions to prosecute parents who force their minor child into the labour market. A division bench of Justice G. Rohini and Rajiv Shah Endlaw issued notice to the labour ministry and ministry of woman and child welfare and fixed Oct 29 as the next date of hearing. The court was Wednesday hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocates Anu Mehta and Rubinder Pal Ghumman seeking formulation of guidelines for handling cases of child labour to ensure that every offender, including a delinquent parent, be dealt with sternly. The plea said guidelines were required to create a state of ‘zero tolerance’ to stop child abuse. “Children are immature, tender and incapable of guarding in situations of economic   and physical exploitation as they lack the understanding, maturity and strength to protest against exploitation wrecked at the hands of parents,” it said. It also sought measures and comprehensive mechanisms to deal with child-related laws and crime against children as, the advocates claimed, there was an inherent flaw and lacunae in the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act and Children (Pledging of Labour) Act. No punitive action was directed against erring parents who actively exploit their children, the advocates contended. “State mechanism must be created to investigate the role of parents in child abused otherwise the government will not be able to reach the root of the problem and the recovery of children subjected to trafficking will be re-routed to the erring parents,” the plea said. It said it has been seen in a growing number of cases that parents actively push their minor children into the labour market, acting with collusion with exploiters and child traffickers and thus have “active role in participation in perpetrating crimes towards their own children”. (Deccan Herald 16/8/14)

18. Two lakh street children lured into substance abuse in Delhi

NEW DELHI: There are around 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh street children in the Capital and almost 80 per cent of them are involved in substance abuse, a study by Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action (CHETNA), an organisation working for the cause of children, has found. Even if the children earn Rs.50 per day, their major money goes into buying white fluids, cannabis and tobacco for inhalation. The study by CHETNA also concludes that the street children buy substances worth Rs.27 lakh per day in the Capital from various illegal sources available to them. The areas in Delhi where drug abuse among children is the highest include Nizamuddin, Nehru Place, Govindpuri, Taimur Nagar and under Okhla flyover. A similar study conducted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) from 135 sites in 27 States has thrown light on the widespread substance abuse across the country. According to the study, nearly 85 per cent of the street children who are into substance abuse are from urban areas, 58.8 per cent of them were not studying and only 22.9 per cent went to regular school. Among the substances the children are addicted to, tobacco was found to be the most widely used, followed by alcohol, inhalants and cannabis. Peer pressure is the most important factor that drives the children to substance abuse. The susceptibility of street children, however, is much higher than those living with their families and going to school. According to the study, the main reason for school going children and children living with their families taking to drugs is the influence of another family member who uses drugs, followed by family fights and abuse. The NCPCR in its study has also made some recommendations to prevent drug and substance abuse by children. Providing life skill methods and education to children is one of them. CHETNA, which works for the rehabilitation of street children, also works for the cause of children addicted to drugs. The organisation runs a shelter home for such children in Nizamuddin area. Its founder Sanjay said: “Imparting education to children is the most effective way in which we try to get their mind off drugs. However, there are a number of challenges that we face. Most children complain that they are not able to keep away from drugs because it is available everywhere. They tell us – stop the sale of drugs and we will not buy it.” “It is not in our hands to stop the sale of drugs, the government should do something about it,” added Mr. Sanjay. “Lack of parental support is also the reason that many young boys relapse. We take care of them for the time they are with us but once they go back home, there is no one to see what they do,” he added. (The Hindu 18/8/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

19. No fixed reservation for religious minorities in central police force: Govt

New Delhi: Government today said there is no reservation fixed on the basis of religion in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles. Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told Lok Sabha in a written reply that while the Assam Rifles had 16.16 per cent of minority representation in their ranks, the corresponding figures for Border Security Force stood at 11.69 per cent, Central Reserve Police Force 9.24 per cent and Central Industrial Security Force 9.14 per cent. The representation in the Indo-Tibetan Border Police stands at 6.18 per cent while in the Sashastra Seema Bal it is 7.02 per cent of the total force strength, the Minister said. “There is no reservation fixed on the basis of religion in CAPFs and ARs,” he added. (Business Line 12/8/14)

20. Black day, say Valley pandits

Srinagar: While July 13 is observed as “Martyrs’ Day” in Jammu and Kashmir at official and unofficial levels and on both sides of the Line of Control as well as by Kashmiri Muslim expatriates elsewhere, it is a black day for sections of Kashmiri pandits and their outfits. On Sunday, groups of displaced Kashmiri pandit including Panun Kashmir and Kashmir Vahini in Jammu and elsewhere chose to hold small rallies to mark the occasion. Their plea is July 13, 1931 also marks the beginning of the “persecution” of the minority Hindus in the Valley by the Muslim majority. “Not only the day witnessed mob vandalism against Kashmiri pandit community in different Srinagar localities but 14 members of the minority community were killed, nine of them in central district of Budgam in reprisal,” said a Kashmiri pandit leader. A joint forum of Kashmiri pandit outfits held a protest outside the Press Club of Jammu. The community leaders while speaking on the occasion repeated the charge that it was subjected to “loot, arson, murder and mayhem on a large scale in the Valley” on this day in 1931. They also said that the observance of the July 13 as “martyrs’ day” by the political structures of the state “tantamount to rubbing salt to the festering wounds of the minority Hindu community of Kashmir.” said Dr Agnishekhar, convenor of Panun Kashmir. He added: “The process of genocide of the Kashmiri pandits began in 1931 and culminated in 1990 with the mass exodus of the entire population of our community.” Dr. Khema Kaul of Kashmira Vahini said that the Kashmiri pandit community “cannot forget the wounds of history and it is important to put the facts in correct perspective for the future generations.” She alleged the attitude of the state government towards Kashmiri pandit community and other minorities of the state “is reflective of the mindset of 1931 Muslim Conference mindset against the minorities.” Kashmira Vahini, a frontline displaced Kashmiri pandit women organisation, also separately held a rally at Jammu’s Sanskriti Bhawan at which the speakers vowed to lend their massive support to ongoing fight for separate homeland. (Asian Age 14/8/14)

21. Centre urged to pursue 4.5 p.c. quota for minorities in SC

HYDERABAD: Deputy Leader of the Congress in Legislative Council Md. Ali Shabbir has urged Centre to pursue the 4.5 per cent minorities sub-quota case in the Supreme Court. At a press conference here on Sunday, Mr. Shabbir said he had received a letter from Union Minister for Minority Affairs Najma Heptullah where in she expressed happiness over the successful implementation of Muslim quota in Andhra Pradesh since 2004. He said Ms. Heptullah had assured that the Centre would take a view on the Muslim reservation policy after the judgement of the Supreme Court. Welcoming Centre’s stand on the quota, he urged the Union Minister to direct Attorney General of India to follow up the case in the apex court with regard to 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities announced by Centre in 2013. The Congress MLC said minorities sub-quota by Centre and separate reservation by the States would ensure educational, social and economical development of Muslim community across the country. (The Hindu 17/8/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

22. Muslims rally against ‘comments’ on social media

Ahmedabad: Muslims took out rallies in Amreli, Rajkot and Surendranagar districts in protest of alleged objectionable comments posted on a social networking site by a man from Mahuva in Bhavnagar districts two days ago. The community members condemned the incident and demanded action against the accused by submitting separate memorandums. In Wadhwan town of Surendranagar, Muslim youths reportedly forced closure of a few shops in Muslim-dominated Dholi Pol and Geban Shah Pir area in the morning to gather support for their protest against the Mahuva incident. However, police soon intervened and opened the markets. “A group of youths forced closure of four to five shops. Police intervened and convinced Muslims to refrain from such acts. Eventually, they took out a rally and submitted a memorandum to mamlatdar of Wadhwan,” Surendranagar district superintendent of police (DSP), Rajendra Asari said. Meanwhile in Rajkot, Muslims also took out a rally and submitted a memorandum in the office of city police commissioner. Similar rally was taken out in Amreli and a memorandum was submitted to the district collector. On the other hand, Muslims in Savarkundla town of Amreli took out a silent rally and submitted a memorandum to local mamlatdar condemning Israel’s attack on Palestine and social media comments “hurting feelings of Muslims.” “Isarel’s attack is killing Muslims in Gaza Strip. We can’t go there to protest and therefore are expressing our solidarity with them through this rally. We also condemn the objectionable comments posted on a social media site which is insulting our faith,” Faruq Kadri, member of working committee of All Muslim Jamat Association of Savarkundla, said after the rally. Local leaders of BJP and Congress also joined the rally in Savarkundla. “We understand the concern of Muslims about objectionable comments about their faith and therefore express our support. At the same time, they should not blow an issue out of proportion,” Manglu Khuman, vice president of Savarkundla taluka panchayat and a local BJP leader said. Muslims in Talaja town of Bhavnagar had also given a bandh call the previous day but it remained peaceful. “There are no reports of any untoward incident from anywhere. Talaj is completely peaceful,” Bhavnagar SP Dipanker Trivedi told The Indian Express. Hordes of Muslims had gathered outside Mahuva police station Saturday evening after comments forwarded by Mehul Valaki (20), an embroidery worker based in Ahmedabad started doing the rounds and news spread that he was brought there. Salim Bamusha, a trader of Mahuva had lodged a complaint in this regard and Valaki, originally a resident of Kalsar village in Mahuva taluka, was arrested from Ahmedabad. (Indian Express 12/8/14)

23. Muslims Pledge to Make Mumbai Drug-free

MUMBAI: In a unique initiative, Muslim clerics, intellectuals and social activists Friday pledged to make Mumbai drug-free, especially the city’s minority-dominated areas, on the occasion on India’s 68th Independence Day. The special event was organised at the Islam Gymkhana where a debate was conducted between police and the public on how to tackle the growing menace of drugs among youths and eradicate it from society. Prominent cleric Hazrat Maulana Syed Moin Miyan expressed alarm at the increasing use of psychotropic drugs among youngsters, and said it was spreading like an infection among all sections of society. “This infectious wave has rattled thousands of homes, including many from the minority community. In fact, there is evidence to show that the use of such drugs is rampant in Muslim-dominated areas in the city, which is a matter of great concern,” said Hazrat Maulana, president of the Jamia Qadariya Ashrafia. He said there is a large number of drug peddlers in the minority areas, an estimated 200, plus those who surreptitiously sell the killer drugs and trap the youths. Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority chairman Yusuf Abrahani termed the drug menace “a real challenge for all Mumbaikars, especially the minorities, and police”.”Despite spreading awareness about the dangers of drugs, its consumption seems to be increasing and youngsters are becoming addicts,” he said. Calling for intense efforts to step up policing, Mumbadevi legislator Amin Patel said conscious citizens who attempt to curb these illegal activities have been brutally attacked by drug peddlers and the mafia in south Mumbai. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Anti-Narcotics Cell) Namdeo Chavan and police inspector of Azad Maidan police station Suhas Gokhale assured full cooperation to the citizens in curbing and eradicating the drug menace, especially from minority areas. (New Indian Express 15/8/14)

24. Markandey Katju: hindus, muslims must change mindset

If Hindus and Muslims want to become “real Indians”, they must change their mindset, Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju has said. In his latest blog posting, the former judge of the Supreme Court said, “Hindus will become real Indians when they stop regarding SCs as inferior, and marriages between non-SCs and SCs take place on a large scale.” the former chief justsice of India said.“Muslims will become real Indians when marriages between the so called ‘upper caste’ Muslims and ‘lower castes’ take place on a large scale, and when a large number of Muslims demand abolition of the unjust Muslim Personal Law which treats women as inferior. “….So it must be abolished (just as the old Hindu Law was abolished by the Hindu Marriages Act, 1955 and the Hindu Succession Act, 1956).” (Asian Age 18/8/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

25. Dalit Christians, Muslims demand Schedule Caste tag

Bhubaneswar: Dalit Christians of Gajapati District joined Mulanivasi Mancha in observing ‘Black Day’ demanding acceptance of Christians as Schedule Caste (SC). Members of Churches, Mulanivasi Mancha, college and school students with common mass pinned a piece of black badge on their shirts and held mass rally and presented a memorandum for the Prime Minister through the local Tehsildar. The Constitution in 1950 allowed only Hindus to become SC while an amendment in 1956 allowed Sikhs and Buddhists to be included in the category. But the Muslims and Christians were long ignored, the Mulanivasi Mancha convenor said. As the order is against fundamental rights of the Dalit Christians and Muslims, the Black Day (Kala Dibas) was held to mark a protest, he explained. The Constitutional provision delayed us in their missions to convert Scheduled Caste people like the Dalits as they ceased to enjoy the status once they converted to Christianity, Thomas Michel-General secretary of Gajapati Christian Council said. He lamented that the Central Government was not implementing the recommendation of the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission, which had told that consideration of SC status be delinked from religion. More than twelve State Government and Union Territories and also several leading political parties have recommended to the Centre for granting SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims but in vain, said Zilla Parisad Rashmee Rathan. While observing the Black Day on Aug 10, we earnestly pray to the Government to implement the justice Ranganath Misra Commission report, said Bishop of Brahmapur Diocese. (Pioneer 12/8/14)

26. Iraq Christians fleeing jihadists long for exile

Ainkawa, Iraq: Iraqi Christians who fled a jihadist onslaught and are packed several families to a room in a church in Kurdistan have lost hope in their country and long to emigrate. “This is our country. We have suffered before, but the attack by the Islamic State (IS) has been the worst,” said Salwa, a 40-year-old civil servant and grandmother. “I want to leave Iraq,” she said. Speaking to AFP in the garden of Ainkawa’s Saint Joseph church, on the outskirts of Arbil, Salwa is among the tens of thousands of Christians who have in recent weeks sought refuge near the Kurdish capital. She said most of her extended family fled Iraq’s largest Christian town of Qaraqosh last week, as attacking jihadists offered them a bleak choice. Iraqi Christian children, who fled with their families the violence in Iraq’s largest Christian town of Qaraqosh, pose in a room of Ainkawa’s Saint Joseph church in northern Iraq. “They said either we convert or we flee,” said Salwa. “Only a few stayed behind, because they were too sick or old to walk. They are locked up in the houses.” Salwa said she held little hope her lot would improve with the US air strikes on jihadist positions in the area. “The IS has attacked Christians three times in the past three months alone. We are vulnerable here, we have no real guarantees. And I want safety for my children,” she said, clad in a blue jalabiyah (traditional robe) as she sat at the entrance of the pre-fab shed she now calls home. Her 22-year-old daughter Sarah, who is pregnant with her fourth child, echoed her despair. “We fled the (jihadist) shelling on Qaraqosh with nothing except the clothes on our backs. We walked for hours in the dark, the children wailing with hunger,” said Sarah, forcing a smile as she described the terror. A 74-year-old nun, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, was also among the displaced. “I have seen many wars in my lifetime, but I have never seen anything like this. I understand that people want to leave Iraq, even though it is our home,” she said, clothed in a white robe with a wooden rosary hanging from her pocket. In an open letter published Sunday, the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon said there are 70,000 displaced Christians in Ainkawa alone. “The level of disaster is extreme,” wrote Louis Raphael Sako, who also heads Iraq’s Catholic bishops assembly. “Something should be done to save this people who have their history in this land from their beginnings.” .. (Hindustan Times 13/8/14)

27. Pope tells Asia’s communist nations not to fear Christians

South Korea: Pope Francis, in remarks clearly intended for communist-ruled countries such as China, North Korea and Vietnam, said on Sunday that Asian governments should not fear Christians as they did not want to “come as conquerors” but be integral parts of local cultures. Francis made his comments, some of them unscripted, in an address to about 70 bishops from 35 Asian countries gathered in the town of Haeme, south of Seoul, on the next-to-last day of his trip to South Korea. He told them the Church was committed to dialogue with everyone, saying: “In this spirit of openness to others, I earnestly hope that those countries of your continent with whom the Holy See does not yet enjoy a full relationship, may not hesitate to further a dialogue for the benefit of all.” Francis then added, in unscripted remarks, that he was talking of “not just political dialogue but also fraternal”. He added that “Christians do not come as conquerors” who erase national and cultural identities but wanted to “walk together”.The pope’s words were applicable to several nations in Asia where the Church is associated with colonialism, particularly China, which has had no formal relations since shortly after the Communist Party took power in 1949. “It’s an offer, an openness, a readiness to engage in dialogue for the well-being of the Church and the people in these different lands,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters. “Good Catholics can also be good citizens. The authorities do not have to fear the Holy See as something that exercises power in their land. It is religious.” The Catholic Church in China is divided into two communities: an “official” Church known as the “Patriotic Association” answerable to the Communist Party, and an underground Church that swears allegiance only to the pope in Rome. (Hindustan Times 17/8/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

28. United Nations says Sri Lanka violates international refugee law

Geneva: The UN refugee agency on Tuesday accused Sri Lanka of breaking international law in its growing campaign to kick out Pakistani asylum seekers without a fair hearing. “Fundamentally, this is a breach of the principle of no forced returns. That’s a clear violation of international law,” said Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR). Sri Lanka has deported 88 Pakistanis since August 1, despite claims that they could be at risk in their homeland, Edwards said. Starting with men who had been placed in detention, the country has widened the net to cover whole families, he told reporters. “We are very concerned at the continued deportations that are happening. We want deportations stopped.” In all, there are now 11 women and eight children among the deported, said Edwards. “Some of the latest deportees had their passports and asylum-seeker certificates seized last week. They were told to go to Colombo airport, where they were placed on flights to Pakistan,” he said. He added that UNHCR staff had also heard of families being separated — including a man sent home over a week ago and whose pregnant wife remains in Sri Lanka. Hundreds of Pakistani Christians fleeing persecution have been arriving in Sri Lanka in search of a haven. Sri Lanka has defended its crackdown, saying a state’s responsibility under international law had to be “nuanced and balanced in the context of domestic compulsions”.Edwards could not immediately give details about the background of the deportees but said UNHCR guidelines stipulate that asylum claims from Pakistan’s Christian, Ahmadiyya Muslim and Shia Muslim minorities should be given particularly careful attention. He said UNHCR also wants access to 157 asylum seekers — including 84 Pakistanis, 71 Afghans and two Iranians — who remain in detention in Sri Lanka. “These recent developments have heightened anxiety among the refugee and asylum-seeker population in Sri Lanka. Many are afraid to leave their homes for fear of arrest, detention and deportation,” Edwards said. (Zee News 12/8/14)

29. Still 4,000-5,000 Yazidis on Iraq mountain: Pentagon

Washington: There are still 4,000 to 5,000 Yazidi refugees sheltering on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, the Pentagon said on Thursday, after President Barack Obama said the siege of the range had been broken. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said US special forces had found that not all of the Yazidis, a religious minority under attack from Islamist extremists, planned to flee. “A number of them — perhaps 2,000 or so — reside there and may not want to leave. It’s home to them and they won’t be necessarily looking to leave,” he said, downplaying calls for a rescue mission. “That’s our best estimate based on the assessment teams,” he said, referring to the 4,000-5,000 number. Earlier, Obama said the United States was withdrawing the special forces units that conducted the assessment mission to Sinjar after concluding that the Yazidis were no longer in mortal danger. He said the US air strikes that were launched last week to protect the refugees and the Kurdish city of Arbil could continue, but only if US personnel or facilities were in danger. “We believe that the threat to the mass violence on Mount Sinjar has passed, largely passed,” Kirby said. “That said, we’re not going to take our eye off and we’re going to be watching,” he said, adding that humanitarian aid drops had continued. “We still have several thousands left on that mountain and many of whom may want to leave, and so we’re mindful of that, which is why we did another airdrop last night.” (Zee News 15/8/14)

30. Survey brings migrants back to Telangana

Hyderabad: The Intensive Household Survey has indeed provided an opportunity of reunion with their family members for those migrated to far off areas in search of livelihood in Medak, Nizamabad and Karimnagar districts. Reports indicate that a large number of migrants are returning to their native places in these three districts. In Medak district, an estimated 50,000 people mostly hailing from Siddipet, Dubbak and Gajwel have settled in Bhiwandi, Surat, Sholapur, Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra. Most of them hail from the weavers’ community and work in power looms. After announcement of the survey by the government, most of them booked their tickets in trains to reach Hyderabad and those who could not get train reservations were depending on bus services. Some of them were even stated to have contacted the TRS MPs requesting for arrangement of special trains so that they could reach their villages in time to participate in the survey. “It was expected that more than 20,000 people staying outside may come on August 19 to participate in the survey. Many are not ready lose the chance,” said L. Ravi, who earlier worked as a supervisor in a power loom industry in Maharashtra. “We have information that large numbers of people are returning to their native places on that day to participate in the survey. However, we do not have information on the exact number,” said Medak District Revenue Officer Dayanand. In Karimangar distrit, power loom weavers from Sircilla textile town migrated to Bhiwandi, Sholapur and Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra are returning now. Sensing that their ration cards and housing schemes could be cancelled, the power loom weavers have been returning for the last two days. Power loom Weavers Trade Únion leaders say that more than 3,000 weavers had settled in Bhiwandi, Sholapur and other parts of Maharahstra. Another 2,000-odd families, who had also settled down in Bhiwandi and Sholapur regions were running their own powerlooms. “Following the media coverage and the officials’ statements, people fear that their ration cards would be cancelled if they are not present during the survey,” said Samalla Mallesham, AITUC leader of Sircilla textile town. Muninder, a powerloom weaver and native of Siiclla and presently settled in Bhiwandi, said: “I don’t have any identity proof such as Aadhar card or ration card in Sircilla. But I own a house. I was told to come back to native village to participate in household survey. But, I am worried about enrolment of details in the survey as I do not have any identity proof in the district.” A majority of people living in neighbouring Maharashtra come in trains and alight at the Kamareddy station and board RTC bus to reach Sircilla. (The Hindu 17/8/14)

31. Months Needed to Repair Facilities in Gaza: UN

TEHRAN: United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said today on a visit to Iran that it will take months to repair damage to the UN’s infrastructure caused by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. “Damage to hospitals, schools and UNRWA shelters where people displaced sought refuge will take months to rebuild,” she said, referring to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees. Amos was speaking to reporters at the start of a two-day visit for talks with Iranian officials on the humanitarian crises wreaked by conflicts in the Gaza Strip, Syria and Iraq. “The UN response continues including deliveries of food, water and households goods. Medicines and fuel are being delivered to hospitals,” she said. A total of 97 UNRWA installations, including health and food distribution centres as well as schools, have been damaged in the war since July 8 between Israel and the Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip. The conflict, in which an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire has taken effect, has killed almost 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 67 on the Israeli side, almost all soldiers. Amos noted the United Nations had made “strong statements” about “the violation of international humanitarian laws and human rights laws by all parties in Gaza”.Turning to Syria, she said that 11 million people were in need of humanitarian aid, including 241,000 living in areas under siege. “Insecurity, fragmentation of armed groups and administrative obstacles imposed by the government hamper the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” she said. Amos welcomed the role played by Iran, a key ally of the Syrian government, and other countries with influence on the warring parties to gain access to conflict zones. “This remains a work in progress because we still have substantial numbers of people that we are unable to reach,” she said. (New Indian Express 18/8/14)

32. UNHCR launches humanitarian aid programme in Iraq

Geneva: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Tuesday launched a major humanitarian aid scheme for Iraq’s nearly half a million internally displaced people. Adrian Edwards, spokesman of the UNHCR, told a press conference that the air, road and sea operation, due to start Wednesday, will begin with a four-day airlift using Boeing 747s from Aqaba in Jordan to Erbil in northern Iraq, Xinhua reported. The agency will also send road convoys from Turkey and Jordan, and sea and land shipments from Dubai via Iran over the next 10 days. The initial aid shipments included 3,300 tents, 20,000 plastic sheets, 18,500 kitchen sets, and 16,500 jerry cans, said Edwards. The major focus of the aid operation was to improve living conditions for the displaced in the region, particularly people without shelter or housing, the UN agency said. Some 200,000 Iraqi people have made their way to Iraqi’s Kurdistan since early August, when the city of Sinjar and neighbouring areas were seized by armed groups, according to the UNHCR. The Islamic State militants in past few weeks have stormed towns in the northern part of the country. Thousands of civilians – many of them from the ethnic Yazidi minority – are trapped in the Sinjar mountains where they took shelter and are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance after fleeing attacks. According to the the agency’s estimate, in all there are more than 1.2 million internally displaced people in Iraq, including an estimated 700,000 in the Kurdistan region which already hosts some 225,000 Syrian refugees. (Zee news 19/8/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

33. With no leader of opposition, govt in a spot over appointment of CIC

NEW DELHI: The absence of a leader of opposition could put the Modi government in a spot with the appointment of a new Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) likely to come up soon. The present CIC Rajiv Mathur retires on August 22 leaving the position vacant. According to the RTI act, the CIC is appointed by the President on the recommendation of the appointments committee that includes the PM, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha and one union minister nominated by the PM. However, with the government adamant on not allowing Congress the position of LoP, the appointment could be delayed. Sources said the government is looking at options provided in the rule book by which the process can be completed without the presence of a designated LoP. The RTI Act does provide for the exceptional case when there is no LoP. Section 12(3) of the Act says, “The leader of the single largest group in opposition of the government in the House of the People shall be deemed to be the Leader of Opposition.” A former director with the country’s spy agency, Intelligence Bureau, Mathur has had a short 3-month tenure as CIC. He was appointed as information commissioner in March 2012. Other information commissioners including Vijai Sharma and Basant Seth are the senior-most after Mathur. Traditionally, the government has appointed the senior-most IC as the CIC even if they have a short tenure. This time, however, there is a buzz that the government may chose to ignore precedents and appoint Yashovardhan Azad as the chief. Currently, there are seven information commissioners including Yashovardhan Azad, Sharat Sabharwal, Manjula Prasher, M A Khan Yusufi and Prof Madabhushanam Sridhar Acharyulu besides Sharma and Seth. The Commission is supposed to have a strength of 10. (Times of India 13/8/14)

34. RTI ‘warriors’ to take on the corrupt

VIJAYAWADA: The United Forum for Right to Information Campaign (UFRIC) is grooming a strong force of ‘RTI warriors’ to demolish red-tapism and the ‘firewalls’ that usually shield the ‘evil forces’ eating into major chunk of the public funds. “We want to have a strong network in every nook and cranny of the State and we intend to put them on the task of scrutinising expenditure of each government department bringing transparency into public domain,” says the Forum convenor B. Ramakrishna Raju. District-level RTI committees are being formed and in places like Karimnagar, Srikakulam and parts of Warangal and Khammam, the forum has formed mandal-level panels as well. The Forumhas been relentlessly working to spread awareness on this crucial law. (The Hindu 16/8/14)

35. Centre sits on Whistleblower Act as toll soars

NEW DELHI: More than 40 whistleblowers have been threatened, attacked or murdered so far, but the government continues to drag its feet on the Whistleblowers Protection Act which got Presidential approval in May and awaits notification of rules. “Since the time the act was passed by Parliament, at least three more people have been allegedly killed for exposing corruption. These whistleblowers could have been afforded protection had the act been enforced,” Anjali Bhardwaj, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) member said. The NCPRI has now written to the PM and minister for personnel, public grievances and pensions Jitendra Singh urging that the issue be taken up with urgency. The NCPRI has even drafted model rules for the act which was passed in Parliament in 2014 after a sustained campaign by the NGO and families of slain whistleblowers. Activists fear that any further delay could endanger more lives. *Seventy-year-old RTI activist Mangat Tyagi, was allegedly murdered in April 2014 in Hapur district of Uttar Pradesh for exposing corruption in public works. He had filed around 14,000 requests for information under the RTI Act in a bid to expose corruption and was shot dead outside his village by three assailants. *Chandra Mohan Sharma, aged 38, had filed over 300 requests for information regarding encroachments on government land, costs for building government roads, the functioning of residents’ welfare associations and allotment of land by the government. His body was recovered from his car near his house in Greater Noida in May 2014; both he and the vehicle were badly charred. *RTI activist Sanjay Tyagi was shot dead in Meerut on May 25, 2014 following which a case of murder against unknown persons was registered… (Times of India 17/8/14)

36. RTI activist demands inquiry against Himachal minister for wrong information

SHIMLA: Alleging that health and revenue minister Kaul Singh Thakur has concealed vital information in his affidavit filed during assembly election, an RTI activist has wrote a letter to chief election commissioner seeking an inquiry on the issue. In his complaint to chief election commissioner, RTI activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya has alleged that minister has concealed some information about the plots owned on lease by him at housing society in Heeranagar in Shimla. He said that while the lease rule says that no commercial activity could be carried from the land given on lease, the minister has rented out the premises which amounts to commercial activity. To substantiate his allegation, Bhattcahrya has also enclosed the copy of lease deed with his complaint. He said that in his affidavit filed during the assembly election the minister has termed the building as commercial while as per the rule the building was to be used only for residential purpose. (Times of India 19/8/14)

37. TN info panel puts up annual RTI reports, but only till 2008

CHENNAI: Nine years after the Right to Information (RTI) Act came into effect, the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission (TNSIC) has uploaded annual reports on its website (www.tnsic.gov.in). Disappointingly, however, is that the latest reports are of 2008. TOI had carried a series of articles about the delay in uploading annual reports of the information commission on its website. RTI activists had been demanding the same. But the commission had so far been reluctant to upload annual reports even once though Act came into effect on 2005. An annual report of a commission is to declare the number of RTI applications received by public information officers (PIOs) of government departments, cases disposed of and fines imposed on PIOs by the commission for violation of rules under the RTI Act. According to the annual report for 2008, the commission received 41,520 letters from applicants, of which it had issued orders on 18,016 appeals in 2008. “Show cause notices were issued against PIOs in 355 cases. It had recommended disciplinary action against public authorities in 90 cases and imposed penalty in respect of 28 public authorities,” said the report. The commission’s annual report shows that the revenue department received the maximum number of RTI applications – 27,178 – among all government departments in the state, followed by school education (11,714) and home, prohibition and excise department with 10,365 applications in 2008. The commission had imposed maximum fines against public authorities in revenue department (2.27 lakh) for delaying and denying information to applicants. It is followed by PIOs of rural development department and housing department, which were penalised with 1.24 lakh and 1.13 lakh in fines. Many RTI activists welcomed the commission’s move, but said they were disappointed with the delay in updating information. Vijay Anand, coordinator of 5th Pillar, an NGO, said: “Ideally, information commission should set an example for other departments by making proactive disclosures. But it is re yet to update its own information. We hope remaining reports will be updated.” Asked why the revenue department tops in RTI application, Anand said: ‘Every individual is a victim of the department because of the delay in getting services.” A survey by NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative found that Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Manipur, Sikkim and Tripura have failed to table reports of their RTI cases in the assembly or put them online, which is mandatory under the RTI Act. State chief information commissioner K S Sripathi recently pleaded helplessness over the information not being made public, saying his department had sent reports till 2010-11 to the government, which tabled reports only till 2006-07 in the assembly. (Times of India 20/8/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

38. HC Tells Government to Work With NGOs to Cover More Dropouts

BANGALORE: The High court on Tuesday asked the State government to take the assistance of non-government organisations (NGOs) and formulate a plan to cover more kids who have dropped out from school over socio-economic issues. A division bench headed by Chief Justice D H Waghela was hearing a suo motu case regarding more children being deprived of education despite the state enforcing the Right to Education Act. The government submitted that after the order of the court, the government has identified around 1.68 lakh kids who have been deprived of education and, with the help of various agencies, it has already admitted around 99,000 children to schools. The state also submitted that it is also working on various schemes. In order to find solutions to the root cause for children not being able to attend schools, the state has constructed adequate number of day creches in all wards to take care of children of contract workers. The state further submitted that the funds from Building and other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board will be utilised. Moreover, the government has also started a website where people can upload details of dropouts. However, NGOs alleged that the state has not taken adequate steps and many more kids are still deprived of education. The High Court has now asked the state to hold a meeting with these NGOs and work out a better plan with their help and cover as many children as possible. (New Indian Express 13/8/14)

39. Cases of schools harassing students on rise

BHOPAL: State’s child’s panel has received as many as 169 Right to Education (RTE) Act violation complaints in the last two years. Most of the complaints are related to mental and physical harassment of students by schools. School-related complaints dominated the state commission for protection of child rights (SCPCR) bench on Tuesday as well with as many as seven cases of private and missionary schools across the state up for hearing. Chairperson Usha Chaturvedi told TOI, “We have received as many as 169 RTE violations complaints in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Violations are under Section 17 of the Act that prohibits corporal punishment. What is worrying is that they are on the rise. In many cases, the school has been given a stern warning and if repeated, action has also been taken as per the provisions of the Act.” Commenting on the private and missionary schools being the subject of most of these complaints, she said, “Missionary schools may be exempt from providing 25% seats to underpriviledged children but they are covered under the RTE in all other aspects. They have to abide by it.” “The need right now is to make teachers accountable as well as schools in case of such complaints,” she added. TOI had reported on August 11 that SCPCR had written to the state government expressing concern in the matter. On Tuesday, cases of discrimination, physical beating and insensitivity towards a special child came up before the commission. Among the Bhopal schools, cases were heard against Red Rose School, Trilanga, St Francis School Jehangirabad, Shree Bhavans Bharti Public School, St Thomas School, Mother Teresa Senior Secondary School, Kolar and Government Naveen Girls School, Nehru Nagar. The other schools whose complaints were heard were Emmanuel Mission High School, Morena and Angel’s Abode Public School, Tikamgarh. Besides, a complaint against Naandi foundation, Indore was also heard where worms were found in the mid-day meal of a student. Besides Chaturvedi, members Vibhanshu Joshi and R H Lata were also present. (Times of India 14/8/14)

40. More kids dropped out of school in 2012-13

PUNE: Four years ago, the Right to Education (RTE) Act promised all children the right to education. But the state has many miles to cover in primary school education as the drop-out rate has increased from 0.58 % in 2011-12 to 0.97 % in 2012-13 as per statistics released by the Union ministry of human resource and development recently. On an average about 10 lakh students enrol for Class I each year, and by the end of primary education, at Class IV 9,700 students dropped out in 2012-13 and about 5,600 students dropped out ithe previous year. At the upper primary level (Class V to VII), the drop-out rate in Maharashtra fell from 1.88 % in 2011-12 to 1.74% in 2012-13. The statistics were part of the annual report of the Union government called the Unified District Information system for Education (U-DISE) for 2013-14. The statistics revealed that the drop-out rate of girls in both the sections was very high when compared to boys. As per the flash statistics, the drop-out rate of Maharashtra at the primary and upper primary levels is much lower than the national average which is 4.67 % at the primary level and 3.13 % at the upper primary level. Puducherry had the lowest drop-out rate, whereas Mizoram recorded the highest drop-out rate. Mahavir Mane, state director of education (primary) said, “We need to do a grade-wise study on where the rate of drop-out is high and then arrive at a conclusion on the percentage increase. The increase, though, is not very high and can be taken care of in the current year.” Mane added that the Maharashtra State Council of Education Research and Training (MSCERT) has been asked to design a syllabus for dropped-out students who come back into the education mainstream. This will help reduce the drop-out rate.”The implementation of RTE has been poor in the state. The RTE admissions are not smooth, neither is there efficiency as far as compliance of RTE parameters by schools is concerned. Despite introducing the law in the state almost three years ago, it is disappointing that students are still leaving schools. A detailed study must be carried out by the education department to find out what led to the increase in students leaving schools and appropriate measures must be taken,” education activist Matin Mujawar said… (Times of India 17/8/14)

41. Opposition raps government over student suicides

BERHAMPUR: Opposition political parties hit out at the government for three girls committing suicide in southern Odisha in the last one-and-half months after their parents failed to meet their education costs. “The series of suicides by tribal girls has exposed the poor delivery system of the government,” the leaders said. “The government’s policies are only on pen and paper. It is clearly proved from the frustrations of these girls,” said former Union minister Chandra Sekhar Sahu. “Since the delivery mechanism has completely failed, government assistance did not reach students to help them continue their studies,” alleged senior BJP leader and former deputy speaker of the assembly Ram Chandra Panda. He said these suicides should be inquired upon by the house committee. “The condition of poor tribals is very critical. They are unable to afford the education of their children. We think the government is not functioning,” alleged senior CPM leader Ali Kishor Patnaik. Three girls allegedly committed suicide in Ganjam, Gajapati and Nabarangpur districts after failing to pay the education fee or buying study materials. The latest victim was Kanakadei Bhatra, 16, of Nabarangapur’s Kutiguda village on August 14. Kanakdei, a class X student of Ghataguda UG High School, set herself ablaze on July 23 after her parents failed to pay an annual fee of Rs 148. She died of burns at SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack. On August 13, Sunita Raita, 21, a student from R Udayagiri in Gajapati district committed suicide by hanging herself in her house after the district administration could not provide the financial assistance through Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) to pursue her studies in nursing. Similarly on June 25, a Class VII student Banita Nayak of Aska in Ganjam district died as she had allegedly set herself ablaze when her parents were reluctant to buy her books and pencil. The administration had not provided her the annual stipend for the last two years. “In all three incidents, one thing is common. The administration failed to provide them financial assistance to pursue their study,” said former state president of Bharatiya Janata Yuba Morcha Bibhuti Jena. (Times of India 17/8/14)

42. Apex Court Team to Review RTE Act Implementation

VISAKHAPATNAM: A team of the Supreme Court officials will visit the district for two days from Tuesday to inspect the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. The team will verify whether basic amenities especially the toilets are available at the schools. According to collector N Yuvaraj, the team would visit various government schools on August 21 and 22. He held a review meeting with RDOs and MDOs Monday and informed them that a route map was been prepared for the team. However, there was no confirmation on whether the SC team would follow the route map.  The collector alerted the officials concerned to take steps to ensure toilets were built at every school in the district. Yuvaraj said the administration had already sanctioned 1,738 toilets to about 1,000 schools. He  directed the officials to complete the works in the next three days. He directed the officials to replace the existing contractors wherever the works were not completed. (New Indian Express 19/8/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

43. Tea owners running ‘closed’ gardens at Rs. 35-a-day wage in Bengal

Siliguri: At least 100 people died of malnutrition at the six locked out tea gardens in the area since January this year. Although one of the gardens — Raipur Tea Estate where five people died of hunger in June — has reopened, the fate of the other five, with 4,000 workers, is still uncertain. When HT scoured the area to find out the reasons for closures and the perennial sickness of the gardens, workers said lockouts were often a ploy. The owners first engineer labour unrest by denying the workers statutory and fringe benefits and defaulting on provident fund deposits. Then local politicians and influential people are brought in to form operating management committees to run the officially closed gardens, as tea bushes need regular plucking. The arrangement helps the owners, as they continue to sell the produce to factories, while the workers have to accept whatever they are offered. “A few prosper while we suffer and the government loses revenue,” a labourer at Red Bank garden said. The Dooars branch of Indian Tea Association, the owners’ body, however, said prolonged closures would be disastrous for both the industry and the workers. The Trinamool Congress government, like its Left predecessor, is underplaying the deaths. “The situation has improved. Doctors are visiting the garden four days a week and workers are getting five kilos of rice and wheat per month at `2 a kg,” said local TMC leader Jagadish Roy. But the story of Parvati Oraon, 55, tells a different tale. Malnutrition accentuated the tuberculosis and leukaemia she is suffering from as Dharanipur garden was locked out for 10 years before reopening in 2012, only to be closed again a few months later. “We had no money to continue the treatment at a faraway hospital,” Parvati said. And hunger is slowly eroding her family. “Only death can end her suffering and let the rest of us live longer on insufficient subsidised food,” her son Sanjay, 35, said. The story of Fulumoni Rawatia of Dheklapara garden is even crueller. She gets neither subsidised food nor the Rs. 1,500 monthly dole under the Financial Assistance to Workers of Locked out Industries. The reason: The upper age limit for recipients of the central scheme is 58 years. Rawatia is 62 years old. Her son earns Rs. 35 a day by plucking leaves at Dheklapara garden — officially closed since 2002, but run by an operating management committee. Normally, a worker earns Rs. 100 a day, plus subsidised ration and healthcare. Fulumoni wrote to chief minister Mamata Banerjee on November 8, 2012, seeking death rather than starvation. The letter made the state machinery rush aid. But it continued to attribute subsequent deaths to various diseases, and not hunger. The official cause of the death of 16 people in Dharanipur and of 30 others in Red Bank garden was not hunger. For instance, Sekhar Nagarsi, 40, was reported to have died of alcohol-induced jaundice and Bina Pradhan, 40, officially died of Japanese encephalitis. Bidyut Das, a doctor with an NGO running the Dharanipur garden hospital said, “Malnourishment makes children as well as adult workers susceptible to diseases.” Even children from operating gardens get admitted at the Nutritional Rehabilitation Centre at Saptibari in Jalpaiguri district, said child development officer Sandip Kumar Dey. Although Pritha Sarkar, Jalpaiguri district magistrate, said, “We are doing our best to provide relief in the closed tea gardens,” hunger refuses to leave the prosperous Dooars. (Hindustan Times 12/8/14)

44. India wants final solution to food security issue in WTO

NEW DELHI: India Wednesday clarified that its decision not to ratify WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) is aimed at ensuring that the country’s efforts to ensure food security remain consistent with its international obligations. “The stand taken by India is aimed at achieving a permanent solution on the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes so that the country’s efforts to ensure food security remain consistent with its international obligations,” Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply. India’s stand is that without such a permanent solution, public stockholding measures in developing countries will be hampered by the current ceiling on domestic support at 10 percent of the value of production. Such support is considered as a trade-distorting subsidy to farmers under existing WTO rules. During the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Bali, Indonesia in December 2013, WTO members, including India, agreed on a Bali Package comprising an agreement on Trade Facilitation and on issues relating to agriculture and development. “While there was progress on the Trade Facilitation Agreement, other decisions including one on public stockholding for food security purposes and other development issues were sidelined,” Sitharaman said. Since its decision not to ratify the TFA, India has followed up with suggestions on how to ensure time-bound delivery of an outcome on public stockholding for food security, she added. (The Economic Times 14/8/14)

45. Low growth, high inflation not acceptable: Jaitley

MUMBAI: Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said the current situation of high inflation and low growth has to be reversed to achieve sustainable GDP expansion along with improvement in price situation. “If inflation is high then you begin at a point where growth is low. We need to change this situation. And, I believe that unless we find out the reasons which have led us to such a situation, it is difficult to solve it,” he said. Jaitley was speaking at a BJP forum meeting here, his second engagement in the nation’s financial capital after becoming the finance minister. He attributed the reasons for the current predicament to policy paralysis and the populist measures of the previous UPA regime. “Some of the populist schemes like free medicines in Rajasthan did not help the then ruling party to come back to power,” the finance minister said. Stating that the Narendra Modi government inherited very low growth, Jaitley said GDP grew at 4.5% and 4.7%, respectively in 2012-13 and 2013-14. “The manufacturing sector for one year was flat and another year it was negative. When manufacturing growth becomes negative, the customs and excise duties come down, revenue of government also comes down, forcing it to borrow more,” he said. Calling for eradication of poverty, the Minister said one of the challenges for the nation is to remove poverty and to increase the pace of development. “People are not ready to accept that the pace of development is slow and we are not able to remove poverty,” he said. (Times of India 16/8/14)

46. There should be a transparent process to select housing beneficiaries: Madhwaraj

Issues such as housing sites for the poor, destruction of agriculture fields by wild animals, and implementation of works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) figured at the tri-monthly Udupi taluk Karnataka Development Programme (KDP) meeting here on Monday. Chairing the meeting, Pramod Madhwaraj, MLA, sought to know the extent of land available for distribution of housing sites to those under poverty line and the procedure for providing them. T.G. Guruprasad, Udupi tahsildar, said there were 25 acres of government land available at Yellur near Kaup, and 200 persons had been selected to be given sites on five acres. The remaining 20 acres would be given to people from the neighbouring village. Sites were distributed only after it was cleared by the gram panchayats and a committee headed by the local MLA. Some sites remain undistributed because they were not sent in the proper format and due to objections raised in villages, he said. Mr. Madhwaraj said there should be a transparent process for selecting beneficiaries. Village accountants and panchayat development officers should be directed to survey government land available in panchayat limits. A list of these sites and the beneficiaries should be sent to the taluk panchayat and the committee. After the beneficiaries were chosen, the list should be again sent back to the gram panchayats for their approval. If any beneficiary was wrongly added, he/she could be deleted by the gram panchayats. “Sites should be given to the poor living in rented houses,” he said. In Udupi city, instead of sites, four-storey apartment blocks should be built so that 78 beneficiaries could be accommodated in each block. Such an exercise had been done in Kanakapura in Bangalore, he said. When the issue of MNREGA came up for discussion, officials said the response to it was poor because of the low wage of Rs. 191 a day. Mr. Madhwaraj directed the officials to encourage people to take up individual works. People could be told to take up field cleaning work, and construction of cow sheds, hen sheds, wells and roads. There should be proper publicity for individual works. Udupi district ranked the last in the State in the implementation of MNREGA works, he said. On the destruction of fields by wild animals, officials of the Forest Department said a compensation of Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 10,000 was given per acre of land destroyed. Mr. Madhwaraj said they should take more steps to send back wild bisons, monkeys and leopards to forests. Complaints of fields being destroyed by wild bisons and monkeys were increasing, he said. (The Hindu 19/8/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

47. MNREGA ‘irregularities’ in UP, ED files 8 money laundering cases

New Delhi: In a first, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) today filed as many as eight money laundering cases into alleged financial irregularities in the implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in Uttar Pradesh. Reuters file photo. For representation purpose In a first, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) today filed as many as eight money laundering cases into alleged financial irregularities in the implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in Uttar Pradesh. The central probe agency registered a criminal FIR (called Enforcement Case Information Report) by taking cognisance of the CBI complaint in this centrally-sponsored scheme which guarantees a minimum number of days of employment to an individual in a rural area. This is the first time that the ED has registered a criminal complaint in this social welfare scheme aimed to benefit the poor across the country. The probe period, by the ED, is between 2007-10 in six districts of the state — Balrampur, Gonda, Mahoba, Sonebhadra, Sant Kabir Nagar and Mirzapur. During this period BSP leader Mayawati was the Chief Minister. “Eight separate FIRs have been filed by the agency under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). A number of government officials have been charged. Notices for questioning will soon be issued,” sources said. The ED, sources said, will look into the “proceeds of crime” of the laundering amount of Rs 12 crore which the CBI has alleged to have been fraudulently utilised in lieu of implementation of the MNREGA in these selected districts. CBI after registering the cases early this year had carried out searches at numerous locations in UP, documents of which the ED would now be obtaining from its sister agency. (Deccan Herald 12/8/14)

 

48. Changes in labour law will affect half of all factories

New Delhi: More than half the factories across the country may be exempt from the restrictive provisions applicable under the current legislative framework, with the Factories Amendment Bill, 2014 proposing to revise the definition of a factory by effectively doubling the threshold of the number of workers employed in such a unit. The move is expected to ease the labour law burden on most of the existing factories by freeing them from complying with the numerous provisions of the Act that relate to safety, working conditions and welfare of the employees, as well as filing lengthy compliance reports to the government. The original Act identifies a factory based on the number of workers employed. At present, units where power is used for manufacturing must employ 10 workers or more in a year to be identified as a factory, while units that do not use power must employ at least 20 workers in a year. Under the amendment, the minimum number of workers in a factory is sought to be doubled to 20 for units with power and 40 for non-power units. State governments will be empowered to prescribe the number of workers up to this limit that a unit must employ to be defined as a factory. Data from the Annual Survey of Industries — the most comprehensive official exercise on the industrial sector — reveals that about 1 lakh, or 58 per cent, of the 1,75,710 factories reported to be operating in the country in 2011-12 employed up to 30 workers. While 63,568 units employed 0-14 workers, another 18,763 factories employed 15-19 workers and 20,541 units had 20-29 workers on their payrolls (see chart). This is backed by the Labour Ministry’s data based on returns submitted by factories under the Factories Act, 1948. The statistics reveals that in 2010, of the 67,508 factories that submitted returns (except from Orissa), 52.5 per cent, or 35,208 units, had employed less than 20 workers. However, the number of workers employed by these units was just 3,78,970 workers, as compared to the total 44.96 lakh workforce in factories. But trade unions as well as experts have opposed the amendment, arguing that it could lead to greater violations by factories. “There have to be more discussions with the Labour Ministry on the proposed amendments to the Factories Act. In effect, these factories will be out of the purview of the government and working conditions will not be regulated,” said A K Padmanabhan, president CITU. Michael Dias, secretary, Employers’ Association of Delhi, and a member of the Council of Indian Employers, concurred with the view, while arguing that there also has to be some modicum of control. “This will bring out smaller units from the purview of the Act, though most violations are done by them. It will also lead to unhealthy competition amongst small manufacturers while not helping out bigger factories,” he said. (Indian Express 14/8/14)

49. Data of staff excluded from PF norms sought

NASHIK: The employees provident fund organisation (EPFO) has asked employers to give detailed information on employees drawing over Rs 6,500 per month as basic salary and DA and who were excluded from the PF privilege. The ambit of provident fund scheme is being increased to cover more employees as the government has said that monthly wage ceiling will be increased to Rs 15,000 from the existing Rs 6,500. As a result of the decision, several workers, who are currently in the unorganised sector, will also be covered. The basic payment of a labour is around Rs 7,000 going by the minimum wages given in the industry. But employers often do not deduct the mandatory 12% contribution in anything over Rs 6,500. For large numbers of people, the EPFO that includes the employees and employers’ contribution, is the source of income in their old age and hence the increase in cover will benefit these people. “Since the government has announced its decision, the office is planning to garner data of employees who may be included in the PF privilege after revision. Hence, we have asked for the photocopies of the salary certificates for the month of June of all the employees of the various establishments and have asked them to fill in the form as well,” said Jagdish Tambe, regional provident fund commissioner, Nashik region. The form asks for the summary of all the employees in the company, the number of employees paid monthly salary of Rs 6,500 per month, those being paid higher than Rs 6,500 per month and those receiving salary up to Rs 15,000 per month, the officer said. The employers have to present the data to the office at the earliest so that it can calculate the possible number of beneficiaries for any new decision of the government. “As of now, we have not received any orders on the issue. But we are trying to keep things ready so that the moment the decision is announced, we would be in position to clear the cases and ensure speedier execution of the norms,” Tambe said. (Times of India 15/8/14)

50. RBI: Hike in MSP up rural wages

Mumbai: Reserve Bank Governor Ragh-uram Rajan has dismissed the notion that the rural employment guarantee programme is behind the massive spurt in wages in rural areas. “On the NREGA, there is clearly a lot of sense that this has increased rural wages tremendously. I would argue that clean, trustworthy studies say that the effect was may be 10 per cent,” said Mr Rajan. There are other factors such as rise in minimum support price of food items, better realisations for food commodities in the international markets, shift of labour to the building industry due to a spurt in construction activity, coupled with a gradual withdrawal of women from the workforce due to a myriad of reasons, have caused the spike in wages, Mr Rajan added. “Women instead of working in fields at the younger end have gone to schools and at the older end moved back into households. That is not an entirely bad development; in fact that reflects the greater wealth in rur-al areas,” he said. (The Asian Age 18/8/14)

51. India ranks poorly in labour-employer relation: Morgan Stanley

MUMBAI: India ranks poorly in employee- employer relations standing at 61st position, which is far behind countries like Mexico, Thailand and the Philippines, according to a report by Morgan Stanley. “On the metric of cooperation in labour-employer relations India ranks at 61, behind Mexico (44), Thailand (37) and the Philippines (34),” according to the report titled ‘What’s Holding Back India’s Labour Market Environment? Part II’ by Morgan Stanley. China is just ranked ahead of India in this regard at the 60th spot, it said. India’s demographic trend is likely to be one of the best among large countries in the world, however, the country’s track record of converting this development into an opportunity is mixed so far, the report said. The country’s track record in terms of creating productive jobs has been slow so far. “One of the key issues stifling productive job growth is labour market regulations in the country apart from other factors such as inadequate physical infrastructure,” it said. The most contentious issue with regard to labour regulation in India is flexibility to lay off workers if a firm employs more than 100 workers, because it needs to notify and take permission from the concerned government administration, it pointed out. Looking at labour laws across countries, most other nations do not have such a stringent requirement of prior approvals and consultations, apart from Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the report said. “Indeed, according to the World Bank’s index on hiring and firing practices, Bangladesh ranks at 25, China at 28, and Pakistan at 35 compared to India’s rank of 52,” it added. In labour market efficiency ranking among 148 countries, India is placed at 99th spot compared to China (34), Brazil (92) and Philippines (99), the Morgan Stanley report said. It said, India needs to amend provisions which allow outsiders to be office bearers. Currently, one-third of the office bearers or five can be outsiders. “India also needs to introduce a strike ballot such that a strike can be called only if it is supported by a qualifying majority,” it said. On contract labour, it said, there is a need to allow free use of contract labour while ensuring that the rights of contract labour are protected. Though countries such as China, Malaysia and Vietnam do not prohibit the use of contract labour for permanent tasks, other Asian countries prohibit the use of fixed-term contract labour for permanent tasks – such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand. (The Economic Time 19/8/14)

RESERVATION

52. OBC quota for Jats not with eye on polls: Govt

New Delhi: Ahead of the Haryana assembly elections, the  BJP-led NDA government on Monday told the Supreme Court that including the Jat community in the central OBC list was not a politically motivated act. In an affidavit, the Centre supported the UPA regime’s decision to provide reservations to Jats. The SC would hear the petition challenging Jat reservation on Tuesday. The apex court had on April 9 rejected a plea to stay the Centre’s poll-eve notification to include Jats in the OBC list. “It is respectfully submitted that the central government has acted bonafide and in public interest,” the 28-page affidavit said. The Centre said it rejected the view of National Commission for Backward Classes and took into account the findings of a report of Expert Committee constituted by Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR) before taking the decision. It added that nine states have already included Jats in their lists of OBCs. “Cabinet was of the view that the Commission has not adequately taken into account the ground realities and therefore…decided to include Jat community in the central list of OBCs for the nine states namely Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan (Bharatpur and Dhaulpur), Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi,” it said. (Hindustan Times 12/8/14)

53. UGC schemes for empowerment of SCs, STs, minorities

New Delhi: The University Grants Commission (UGC) is implementing a number of schemes for educational empowerment of SCs, STs and minorities that include setting up of equal opportunity cells and scholarships. HRD Minister Smriti Irani informed Lok Sabha today that educational empowerment schemes like setting up of residential coaching academies for minorities, SC, ST and women in central universities, deemed to be universities, establishment of equal opportunity cells for SC, ST and minorities are being implemented by the UGC. Other UGC sponsored schemes are post-doctoral fellowships for SC, ST, Rajiv Gandhi national fellowships for SC, ST, setting up of Centre for Studies in Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, remedial coaching schemes for SCs, STs, OBC and minorities, scheme of career oriented courses in universities and colleges, construction of women’s hostels for colleges. Irani said during Question Hour that Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission Act) 2006, which came into force with effect from January 4, 2007, provides for 15 percent, 7.5 percent and 27 percent reservation in admission of students belonging to SCs, STs and OBCs respectively in central educational institutions established, maintained or aided by the central government. The HRD Minister said the gross enrollment ratio in higher education of SCs and STs in 2009-10 were 11.1 percent and 10.3 percent in comparison to 15 percent of all category. In 2010-11, the gross enrollment ratio in higher education of SCs and STs were 13.5 percent and 12.9 percent in comparison to 19.4 percent of general category students and in 2011-12, the gross enrollment ratio in higher education of SCs and STs were 14.5 percent and 10.8 percent in comparison to 20.4 percent of general category students. Irani said in order to expand educational opportunities in 374 educationally backward districts, the central government had in 2009 launched the scheme of setting up of 374 model degree colleges in districts having Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) for higher education less than national average. “The Centre has recently launched Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) which intends to incentivise the states for developing higher education with equity and inclusion. The MDCs scheme has now been subsumed in RUSA. There is a special component of equity in RUSA,” she said. (Zee News 13/8/14)

54. NCP backs reservation for Dhangar community under ST category

Pune: NCP president Sharad Pawar on Saturday announced his party’s support to the demand of Dhangar community for reservation under Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. “The demand of Dhangar community is justified and we support it,” he told reporters here. Stating that there appeared a “misunderstanding” regarding NCP’s stand on the issue, Pawar sought to clarify that the party wanted reservation for Dhangar community without compromising on existing reservation quota meant for the Adivasis. Maharashtra has been witnessing a sustained agitation launched by Dhangar (shepherd) community to press for their demand. A “chakka jam” protest stir was organised this week at various places in the state subsequent to a hunger strike undertaken by their leaders at Baramati recently. Mahadeo Jankar, one of the leaders spearheading the agitation, had alleged that Congress-NCP coalition government in the state was apathetic to their demand for reservation under ST list. In reply to a question, Pawar said, “Decision on giving the Assembly (elections) tickets to the candidates who lost the recent Lok Sabha elections in the state would be taken after fixing a criterion by the party’s Parliamentary Board. This issue is yet to be considered.” (Business Standard 16/8/14)

55. Centre urged to pursue 4.5 p.c. quota for minorities in SC

HYDERABAD: Deputy Leader of the Congress in Legislative Council Md. Ali Shabbir has urged Centre to pursue the 4.5 per cent minorities sub-quota case in the Supreme Court. At a press conference here on Sunday, Mr. Shabbir said he had received a letter from Union Minister for Minority Affairs Najma Heptullah where in she expressed happiness over the successful implementation of Muslim quota in Andhra Pradesh since 2004. He said Ms. Heptullah had assured that the Centre would take a view on the Muslim reservation policy after the judgement of the Supreme Court. Welcoming Centre’s stand on the quota, he urged the Union Minister to direct Attorney General of India to follow up the case in the apex court with regard to 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities announced by Centre in 2013. The Congress MLC said minorities sub-quota by Centre and separate reservation by the States would ensure educational, social and economical development of Muslim community across the country. (The Hindu 17/8/14)

56. All UT Scheduled Castes Entitled for Quota: SC

PUDUCHERRY: The Supreme Court has set aside two orders passed by the Puducherry Government extending benefits of reservation in promotion, employment and professional courses only to Scheduled Castes (origins) of the Union Territory, on the grounds that it was not in conformity and consonance with the Presidential Order, 1964, and cannot be sustained in law. The order was delivered by a three-member bench including Chief Justice R M Lodha and Justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph on August 7. The two government orders passed on Nov 2005 and Dec 2005 are with regard to extension of reservation benefits in promotion and employment to Group C and D posts and in professional courses, to SC families living in Puducherry prior to 1964 and their descendants. Those who had come to Puducherry after 1964 or living here after 1964, and their descendants are denied the benefits of reservation. “It is important to bear in mind that it is by virtue of the notification of the President under Article 341(1) that the Scheduled  Castes came into being. The members of Scheduled Castes are drawn from castes, races or tribes, attain a new status by virtue of Presidential Order. Clause (2) of Article 341 empowers Parliament alone by law to include or exclude from the list of Scheduled Castes specified  in a notification issued under Clause (1) by the President. By no executive power, the amendment, modification, alteration or variance in the Presidential Order is permissible. It is not open to the Executive to do anything directly or indirectly which may lead to any change in the Presidential Order. Once Presidential Order has been issued under Article 341(1) or Article 342(1), any amendment can only be made by Parliament by law as provided in Article 341(2)  or  Article 342(2), as the case may be, and in no other manner. The interpretation  of ‘resident’ in the Presidential Order as ‘of origin’ amounts to altering the Presidential Order,” the Bench observed in its order. “The 15 castes listed in the schedule of the Presidential Order on castes, races or tribes or parts of groups within castes, and races are deemed to be Scheduled Castes for the purposes of the Constitution in relation to the UT of Pondicherry so far as regards members thereof are residents in the UT,” the bench observed. The Puducherry Scheduled Caste People Welfare Association moved the Supreme Court against the UT Government after two writ petitions against the Puducherry Government’s order was dismissed by the Madras High Court  on July 21, 2008. (New Indian Express 20/8/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

57. Kaushal invited to join int’l panel

Dehradun: Dehradun-based human rights activist and chairperson of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK) Avdhash Kaushal has been invited by the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to join the international panel of experts attached to the presidential commission investigating wartime disappearances and charges of war crimes against the Sri Lankan armed forces and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In a statement issued to the media by RLEK on the development, Kaushal stated that the offer had reached him after the consent of the Government of India. He said, “I have conveyed my acceptance to be a member of this prestigious and challenging panel. I have trained a number of Sri Lankans, including Tamils from Jaffna, in human rights. More than 20 Sri Lankans have so far attended the 10-month course in human rights at RLEK in Dehradun.” According to Kaushal, who is also a Padma Shri recipient, “An effective national, regional or sub regional human rights mechanism must satisfy several major criteria including members who have the experience and competence in the field of human rights; mandate to promote human rights and investigate complaints of human rights violations and sufficient resources to perform the tasks. These criteria are also important in ensuring the independence of a national, regional or sub regional human rights mechanism”. It is pertinent to mention here that RLEK is a Dehradun based NGO with special consultative status with Economic and Social Council of United Nations for having special competence in empowering indigenous groups, marginalised population, women and children in claiming their entitlements. The Sri Lankan government has formed the international panel of experts on the advice of the Japanese government with the names of other panel members from Japan and Pakistan expected to be announced soon. Legal expert of RLEK, Mamta Thappa said that Kaushal’s inclusion in the international panel is not only another feather in the cap of RLEK but also an honour for the State of Uttarakhand. (Pioneer 12/8/14)

58. Respect for human rights crucial for true independence: Amnesty International India

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government must keep its human rights promises and reiterate its commitment to protecting and upholding basic freedoms, Amnesty International India said on the eve of India’s 67th Independence Day. “Real freedom can come only with respect for human rights. India’s Prime Minister has repeatedly said that his government will uphold the Constitution of India. The government must honour this pledge and defend the constitutional values of justice, liberty, equality and dignity,” said Shashikumar Velath, deputy chief executive, Amnesty International India. “As an emerging power that hopes to shape global politics, India needs to show its commitment to human rights at home and abroad. The government must now deliver on the promises it has made on various issues,” added Velath. In a press statement issued by Amnesty International India, it stated that violence against women remains widespread and pervasive in India. Modi, in his first speech in Parliament in June 2014, said: “Respect and security for women should be a priority for all people”. Amnesty International India urges the Prime Minister to implement the far-reaching institutional reforms needed to end violence against women. “After the 2012 gang-rape case, some positive legal reforms were undertaken but there has been little done since. There are still gaps in the law. The government must accept the Justice Verma Committee’s recommendations to criminalize marital rape and remove the effective immunity that security forces have for crimes against women,” said Velath. “Police and judicial reforms are necessary to ensure that all complaints of violence against women are effectively investigated and prosecuted. The death penalty should not be used as a ‘quick-fix’ solution.” The organization stated that Modi has stated that his vision for India involves development for all people. However, changes to some environmental and forest policies around approvals for development projects have weakened mechanisms for consultation with affected communities, including Adivasis, and could undermine their rights. “Statements made by the Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram that decisions on the use of Adivasi land must be taken with the concurrence of Adivasi communities recognize the right of indigenous communities to free, prior and informed consent in decisions that affect them,” said Velath. “Land acquisition and environmental safeguards set up under Indian law are vital to upholding the rights of people affected by development projects, and must not be weakened. Development must be development for all people, and not just for a few at the cost of the rights of vulnerable groups.” Recent events in Iraq have highlighted the risks of serious human rights abuses faced by Indian migrant workers in West Asia. Exploitation of migrant workers can originate in India when workers are cheated by visa brokers and rogue recruiting agents about jobs, wages and work conditions. Amnesty International India urges the government to protect migrant workers’ rights by regulating recruiting agents and ensuring access to remedy…. (Times of India 14/8/14)

59. NHRC, Chavan must stop eviction: Activist

MUMBAI: An activist from Varanasi has taken up the cause of mentally challenged inmates of a workshop in Bandra. He has written to the National Human Rights Commission and CM Prithviraj Chavan seeking intervention. The managing committee of Ben Mar Society near Mehboob Studio had written to the BMC seeking the closure of the Happy Hours workshop located in the compound. The centre imparts vocational training to around 50 adults with varying mental disabilities. Residents complain that the inmates’ cars speed into the compound and one of them broke the windscreen of a new car. The centre denies most allegations. A social worker who lives in Ben Mar brought the matter to the attention of Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi of the Varanasi-based NGO People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights. Raghuvanshi is a member of the NGOs Core Committee of the NHRC. “Lenin has visited our building and is aware of the issue,” said the social worker. (Times of India 15/8/14)

60. Activists seek end to two-child norm before local polls

JAIPUR: With panchayat and municipal elections drawing nearer, the demand for removal of the two-child norm has intensified. Civil rights activists claim that the two-child norm has given rise to female feticide and violates various other human rights. The norm was analyzed by a large number of civil rights activists from within the state and outside during a strategy meeting held at the Indira Gandhi Panchayati Raj Sansthan in Jaipur on Sunday. During the recent budget session of the assembly, senior BJP legislator Mohan Lal Gupta had raised the issue demanding that the government should do away with the two-child norm. He went on to claim that the two-child policy was one of the reasons for female infanticide in the state. Though Gupta found several supporters in the state, the government, however, ruled out any amendment saying such statements were their personal opinions. The activists claimed that the two-child norm is a target-oriented family planning and population control policy. It advocates “penalizing” couples who have more than two children as it disqualifies men and women from contesting in panchayat level elections or get a job in government departments and ineligible for promotions. According to a government circular, a candidate having more than two children on or after June 2002 is ineligible for appointment in government services. Moreover, the circular also states that a person shall not be considered for promotion for five recruitment years from the date on which promotion becomes due, if he/she has more than two children. The Centre for Health and Social Justice and the National Coordination Against Two-Child Norm programme officer Nibedita Phukan, who came from Delhi, said, “We held a strategy level meeting to develop a shared understanding of the two-child norm and coercive population control policies, to brainstorm on ways to work on an advocacy strategy in Rajasthan to remove the norm from government policies, to shortlist intervention towards the removal of two-child norm and to draw up a possible time line for advocacy.” Pointing out the ill-effects of the policy, Rajasthan Bal Adhikar Samrakshan Sajha Abhiyan representative Vijay Goyal said, “In a gender discriminatory society, the two-child norm gives rise to female feticide.” He demanded withdrawal of the norm saying that it violates human rights. Other participants presenting evidences from Himachal Pradesh said districts with the highest juvenile sex ratio have had highest disqualifications compared to districts with lowest sex ratio in terms of getting jobs or fighting for civic body elections. There are studies showing that there is adverse impact of the policy on the health and security of families, appointment and promotion of teachers and government employees and an increased likelihood by fathers to abandon their families as a means to be left undocumented in their career documents and to hide their children. The activists further pointed out that protests from women’s movement, people’s health movement and civil society organizations resulted in withdrawal of the norm from Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh but Rajasthan still has the two-child norm. Incidentally, Rajasthan was also the first state to implement the policy. Members of the Women Association for Multifarious Activities (WAMA) also demanded that the norm should be deleted. (Times of India 18/8/14)

61. Amnesty International Hails Indian Rights Activist Irom Sharmila

NEW DELHI: The release of Indian rights activist Irom Sharmila is a legal and moral victory following her 13 year-long hunger strike, Amnesty International India said Tuesday. Earlier in the day, a Manipur court asked the state government to release Irom Sharmila Chanu, who has been on indefinite fast for 13 years demanding revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in the northeastern state. The court ruled that the authorities had failed to establish that Irom Sharmila had intended to commit suicide, and stated that her protest was a “political demand through a lawful means”.”This welcome but long overdue judgement recognises that Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike is a powerful protest for human rights and a peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression,” Shailesh Rai, programme director at Amnesty International India, said in a statement. The human rights watchdog quoted India’s National Human Rights Commission where it noted that Sharmila was a “Prisoner of Conscience” who was being detained solely for the peaceful expression of her beliefs. Last year, Amnesty International India garnered the support of over 18,000 people from across the country calling for the unconditional release of Irom Sharmila. Rai is of the view that all other charges against Sharmila must be dropped and instead the authorities must pay attention to the issues the activist is raising. Sharmila, 42, better known as the “Iron Lady”, has been on an indefinite fast since Nov 4, 2000, demanding repeal of the AFSPA after the killing of 10 civilians allegedly by the para-military Assam Rifles near Imphal airport Nov 1, 2000. “A hunger strike is a form of protest which has been accepted, both historically and legally in our constitutional jurisprudence’,” Amnesty International’s statement quoted the Indian Supreme Court as observing in its landmark ruling on the New Delhi incident in February 2012 in which she was charged with attempting to commit suicide. Under this charge, she can be kept in custody for a year at a stretch. In view of her ill health, Sharmila is currently lodged in a special ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal where the one room where she is confined has been declared a sub-jail. Sharmila is released and re-arrested every year (as the law allows detention only for 364 days) and force-fed a diet of a mixture of liquefied carbohydrates and proteins through the nose thrice a day. (New Indian Express 20/8/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

62. Tamil Nadu assembly passes bill to end restriction on dhoti

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu assembly on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill making enforcing dress code and banning entry of persons wearing ‘dhoti’ in public places a cognisable offence punishable with jail term. The House adopted the Tamil Nadu Entry into Public Places (Removal of Restriction on Dress) Act 2014 after chief minister J Jayalalithaa moved it for consideration and passing. It empowers the state to cancel the licences of such clubs, recreation associations, trusts and company or society denying entry to any person wearing a ‘vesthi’ (dhoti), traditional attire of men in the state. The legislation, enacted against the backdrop of denial of entry to a Madras high court judge and two advocates recently by a prominent cricket club here, also seeks to declare any regulation or by-law made by any organization imposing a dress code as “null and void”. The violators of the act will attract penal action, including cancellation of licence after notice, besides punishment with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and with a fine upto Rs 25,000. No dress code restrictions can be imposed for entry into public places like recreation clubs, hotels, theatres, malls, halls, auditoriums, stadiums and such other places as may be notified by the government, where people including members congregate in connection with any function, event, entertainment, sports or other activity. The imposition of restriction on persons for entry into public places on the ground that their dress does not conform to western culture would amount to continuation of the Colonial imperialistic attitude, one of the provisio of the bill stated. At the height of the controversy over denial of entry to the Judge last month, Jayalalithaa had asserted that a bill banning such dress code would be introduced and passed in the current budget session of the assembly itself. (Times of India 12/8/14)

63. Parliament passes bill ending 20-year-old collegium system of judges

NEW DELHI: Parliament on Thursday cleared a Constitution amendment bill that will facilitate setting up of a commission for appointment of judges, replacing the 20-year-old collegium system which has been under severe criticism. A day after passage in the Lok Sabha, the Constitution Amendment Bill was cleared by the Rajya Sabha with 179 votes in favour and one abstention of noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani. The bill will make way for the setting up of National Judicial Appointments Commission which will appoint and transfer judges to the Supreme Courts and the 24 high courts. The bill will come into force after ratification by 50 per cent of the state legislatures. The process could take up to eight months. After ratification, the government will send it to the President for his assent. With the passage of the bill, the collegium system of judges choosing judges is set to be changed in the coming months. The Constitution amendment bill will grant constitutional status to the NJAC and its composition. Under the statute amendment bill, Chief Justice of India will head the NJAC. Besides the CJI, the judiciary would be represented by two senior judges of the Supreme Court. Two eminent personalities and the law minister will be the other members of the proposed body. The prominent people, one of whom will belong to either of SC/ST, OBC, minorities or a woman, will be selected by a panel of Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha or the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lower House… (Times of India 14/8/14)

64. Judicial Appointments Panel Bill Runs into Legal Challenge in SC

NEW DELHI: Two days after the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill was passed by both houses of Parliament, a public interest litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging it. In their petition, advocates R  Krishnamurthy and N Rajaraman assailed the Constitution Amendment Bill that would confer constitutional status on the proposed NJAC. They argued that the Bill passed in Parliament in its present form violated the independence of judiciary, basic structure and concept of separation of powers. The petitioners stated that the Bill was withdrawn and new bills introduced in haste without any effective consultation with the judiciary and the State governments. The entire manner of legislative initiation was violative of the concept of federalism in S R Bommai’s case and defeated the concept of independence of judiciary, a basic structure of the Constitution, they claimed. The petitioners also expressed concern that the rules and regulations regarding the shortlisting of candidates and the recommendation of candidates had not been provided in the Bill. The PIL demanded a declaration that the two bills were unconstitutional and a direction that the appointment of judges be done only on the basis of consultation with the Collegium of judges. (New Indian Express 17/8/14)

65. Motor Vehicles Bill in Next Session of Parliament: Gadkari

NEW DELHI: The government will introduce Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill in the next session of Parliament and once enacted it will end malpractices in regional transport offices (RTOs) across the nation, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari today said. “The Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, being prepared in sync with practises in six advanced nations – USA, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Germany and the UK – will be introduced in the next session of Parliament. This will overhaul the sector bringing to an end the corrupt practises in RTOs,” Gadkari said on the sidelines of a meeting of Indian Roads Congress. The Act has become obsolete in the present context and needs overhaul, he said, adding the new law is designed in a way that will provide permits online besides slapping fines on violators of traffic rules on the basis of recordings in camera. “The new law will provide a corruption free and transparent system with a proper record of driving licenses. Data would be utilised in e-governance. International norms are there for vehicle design, pollution control on the basis of prevalent laws in six advanced nations – US, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Germany and UK,” he said. “I have firm faith that the new law will end corrupt practises in RTOs through e-governance,” he said. Earlier, addressing the Indian Road Congress meeting, the Minister said he had committed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Transport and Shipping sectors would contribute at least 2 per cent to the GDP of the country in next two years. Admitting that the Highways sector was passing through a rough patch and 21 out of 51 road widening projects had to be dropped in absence of any bidder, Gadkari said developers dropped projects worth about Rs 50,000 crore in the absence of lack of land acquisition and delays in green nods. “Not a single kilometre of highway network could be added in July which is not good but the Ministry has resolved to build 30 kms of highways a day in the next two years,” he said Gadkari said all efforts were on to bring the highways sector back on track and hurdles related to land acquisition were likely to be removed in a month’s span as he was heading an inter-ministerial group in this regard as per the directions of the PM. “Seventy-five to eighty per cent of the projects stuck for green nods have been cleared and land acquisition process and clearances from Railways and Defence are being expedited,” he said urging officials to fast-track decision making process as delays amount to Rs 15 crore loss a day. He said detailed project reports (DPRs) were being prepared in such a fashion that they overlooked vital security aspects like provisions of overbridges and underpasses in the name of economic viability, leading to higher number of road fatalities. “Gone are the days when Planning Commission used to do planning for our roads and now the Ministry will prepare its own DPRs,” he said. India amounted to a high 1.31 lakh death per annum, he said adding that he has asked officials to fix responsibility and accountability on builders and contractors. He said his Ministry was also exploring ways to generate additional revenue through laying of optical fiber, power transmission, gas and iron ore slurry pipelines across the length of about one lakh km of National Highways. Also it is proposed to set up road side amenities like restaurants, clubs, hotels, shops and parks on every 50 km stretch for commuters and drivers. He said trees would now be transplanted in case of road construction. The Minister also urged the Indian Roads Congress to lay emphasis on research and development for international standard road specifications and stressed the need for setting up an institute for the road sector for skill development. (New Indian Express 19/8/14)

66. PILs filed in Supreme Court over judges bill

New Delhi: Three PILs have been filed in the Supreme Court for declaring the National Judicial Appointments Commi-ssion Bill unconstitutional, days after Parliament passed two bills to scrap the collegium system for appointment in higher judiciary and to provide a new mechanism in its place. The PILs have been filed by former additional solicitor general Bishwajit Bhattacharya, advocates R.K. Kapoor and Manohar Lal Sharma. The lawyers in their pleas submitted that the 121st Constitutional Amendment Bill and the National Judicial Appointments Comm-ission Bill 2014 passed by Parliament is unconstitutional as it violates the basic structure of the Constitution. “The Constitution recognises a demarcation separating the judiciary from the executive under Article 50 of the Constitution which is the underlying strength for a sound judicial system… It would be relevant to point out here that Article 50 of the directive principles of state policy under the Constitution is not only applicable to the lower judiciary but is also applicable to the higher judiciary as the doctrine of separation of power was an immutable feature of the Constitution,” R.K. Kapoor had said in his plea. (Asian Age 20/8/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

67. Special unit for northeast people got 416 complaints, Delhi HC told

New Delhi: A special unit set up to register complaints from northeast people residing in Delhi submitted a status report in the Delhi High Court Monday where it said 416 complaints have been received by it from these people on Whatsapp, email and a helpline number. A total of 330 complaints were received on the helpline number 1093, that was started by Delhi Police after continued attacks on people from the northeastern states residing in Delhi. On Whatsapp, 33 complaints were received from Feb 2, the date the special unit was set up, till Aug 6. A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice R.S Endlaw took note of the status report of the special unit and posted the matter for Aug 20. The special unit filed the report in a case where the court took suo motu cognizance of media reports about the death of Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Tania, and monitoring the issue of safety and security of northeast citizens. The status report submitted by the deputy commissioner of police, special unit for north east people, said it has received 25 complaints through email, 18 complaints by SMS and five complaints by post. On the basis of these 416 complaints, Delhi Police registered 84 cases, said the report. “In view of the importance regarding safety and security of the people from the northeast, a nodal officer of the rank of joint commissioner of police Robin Hibu, posted as chief coordinator for northeast people, will be available on email and Whatsapp number 9810083486 for receiving complaints,” it stated.  A Facebook page “Delhi Police For North East Folks” was launched May 5, said the report. The helpline number 1093 has been functioning to receive complaints, and is being monitored by the deputy commissioner of police. It, however, added that the unit was neither authorised to register any case on crimes against northeast people nor prosecute the culprits. “The staff posted there is only monitoring the complaints made by northeast people received from the helpline number 1093, Whatsapp, emails etc. And coordinate the same with the authorities concerned… rest of the action like registration of cases and investigation thereupon is being taken by concerned district police.” In a separate status report, Delhi Police told the court that there was sufficient evidence against two lawyers who allegedly abused and assaulted people from the northeast inside the Tis Hazari court premises in May. The report filed by the SHO of Subzi Mandi police station said the lawyers were thoroughly interrogated and were released on bail after their arrest. (Business Standard 12/8/14)

68. India lost 340 defence personnel in 3 years: Govt

NEW DELHI: India, without going to war, has lost over 340 military personnel in the last three years. Counter-insurgency operations and cross-border firings, road accidents and warship mishaps, have all contributed to the numbers. Defence minister Arun Jaitley, in a written reply to Rajya Sabha on Tuesday said the Army had lost 217 soldiers inside the country and 14 outside (in UN peace-keeping operations) from 2011 to 2013. The Navy suffered 90 casualties and IAF 19 in the same time period. In a separate answer, Jaitley said 27 soldiers had been killed along the Line of Control with Pakistan from 2004 to 2013. “The government is fully seized of the safety of the Indian soldiers and requisite measures are taken on an ongoing basis for their safety as per the threat envisaged,” he said. (Times of India 13/8/14)

69. Omar hopes those opposing revocation of AFSPA will see reason

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Friday those opposing the revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the state will come around as the situation has improved significantly over the past six years. “Those who oppose revocation of the AFSPA will see reason as the situation has improved in the state,” he said in his Independence Day speech at Bakshi Stadium here. The Chief Minister said he has been questioned about raising the AFSPA issue time and again when he has not been able to convince the Centre on its revocation. “Failure should not stop us from trying. We might fail once and twice but when we keep trying, we will succeed,” he said. Omar made a special reference to the improvement security situation in the state during the last more than five and a half years, saying that there has been 80 per cent reduction in militancy-related incidents. He said all schools and hospitals have been vacated from occupation of security forces. Omar said 1000 private buildings, 300 government buildings, 40 hotels and 30 industrial units have also been cleared from the occupation of security forces. On the rehabilitation policy for those youth who had gone to Pakistan or PoK for arms training but renounced violence, he said 350 youth have returned under this policy so far. “Although there are designated routes for return, once they reached home we have helped them in rehabilitation,” he said. The Chief Minister said the passport policy has been made people-friendly and no objection certificates have been issued to three lakh applications. Omar said 1850 youth have been benefited under the Amnesty Policy for those involved in law and order cases. He said warrants under Public Safety Act have been brought down by 40 percent in the last about six years from 2500 in 2008 to 1420 by now. (Zee News 15/8/14)

70. Manipur court orders Irom Sharmila’s release

IMPHAL: An Imphal sessions court on Tuesday ordered human rights activist IromSharmila’s release, accepting her plea that she did not attempt suicide by fasting unto death. Sharmila has been on a fast for 13 years, demanding the repeal of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which gives sweeping powers to armed forces in disturbed areas. She had moved the sessions court (Manipur East), challenging an earlier order on June 4 which had pronounced her guilty under Section 309 of the IPC (attempt to commit suicide). Sharmila is currently being forced-fed through her nose in the security ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences here. Noted rights lawyer Khaidem Mani, who appeared on her behalf, said she did not attempt suicide, but was protesting against the AFSPA in a democratic manner. Judge A Guneshwar Sharma said no evidence pointed to Sharmila trying to fast unto death. He added such allegations have found place in the FIR and chargesheet against her and in uncorroborated news reports. “Since the petitioner is not refusing force-feeding, it cannot be said she is fasting unto death,” said the judge, while dismissing the earlier order. He said the state government may take appropriate measures to ensure her health and safety, such as force-feeding, in case she decides to continue with her fast. Amnesty International chief executive G Ananthapadmanabhan said Sharmila should not be punished for exercising her constitutional rights and be released immediately. He said over 16,000 people have so far supported their campaign for her. Nov 2, 2000: Assam Rifles soldiers allegedly kill 10 civilians in Imphal West after a rebel attack, prompting Sharmila to fight against AFSPA Nov 5: Sharmila begins her hunger strike demanding removal of AFSPA from Manipur. Few days later, police arrest her on the charges of attempt to commit suicide Nov 2004: The centre constitutes five-member committee to review AFSPA as it agrees to consider idea of replacing it with a more humane law June 2005: The committee recommends AFSPA repeal (Times of India 20/8/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

71. Trai on media ownership: Restrict political parties, corporate

NEW DELHI: In a bid to check influence on news and views, Trai on Tuesday suggested barring political parties from entering into broadcasting space, while it recommended several restrictions on the corporate houses in this regard. “Ownership is a huge concern… how do you know that a TV channel operated out of Bhopal owned by a local MLA or MP is conveying the truth rather than tinted version of the truth. This is one problem with political ownership,” said Trai chairman Rahul Khullar while releasing recommendations on ‘Issues Relating to Media Ownership’. About corporate ownership, the regulator said, it has to be seen as to how much independence is enjoyed by the editorial team in a media house owned by them. “…to what extent the editorial is actually independent and how thin is the line between the newsroom and the boardroom. Second problem with media corporate ownership is this business of advertorials, private treaties… I am sorry to say it has reached scandalous position… You cannot carry on by passing out advertisements as news,” Khullar added. Trai also recommended that in case of “advertorials”, a clear disclaimer should be mandated, to be printed in bold letters, stating that the succeeding content has been paid for. Commenting on corporates entering media, Trai said: “On grounds of the inherent conflict of interest, the Authority recommends that ownership restrictions on corporates entering the media should be seriously considered by the government and the regulator.” Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) suggested that entities including ‘political bodies, religious bodies, central and state government ministries and government funded entities be barred from entry into broadcasting and TV channel distribution sectors’. The regulator even suggested that even surrogates of such entities “should be barred from entering into the sector”.Trai has suggested enactment of a new legislation through a executive decision for it. It has also suggested that an exit route option should be provided in case permission to any such organizations have already been granted. In the recommendations, Trai relies heavily on media articles and TV documentaries to illustrate how political parties own channels in various states and how they and newspapers black out news that are adverse to their interests. (Times of India 12/8/14)

72. Markandey Katju asks media to take leadership against feudalism, poverty

BHUBANESWAR: Press Council of India (PCI) chairman Justice (retd) Markandey Katju on Monday said that the country had been passing through a very painful and agonizing phase and exhorted the media to take leadership to combat feudal mindset and superstition in the society. “India is now neither feudal nor modern industrial society. It is passing through a very painful and agonizing phase which is likely to continue for another 20 years. The media needs to combat all these social evils,” Katju told the National Council meeting of All India Small and Medium Newspapers Federation. “Besides giving information to the people, the media needs to give leadership to people in realm of ideas based on scientific and modern thinking,” he said. Stating that the country is facing massive problems like poverty, unemployment, and superstition, the PCI chairman said though feudal powers in the form of kings and aristocrats had become weak, these elements still existed in the country and people would have to create new organ devoid of feudal authority. Media has to give leadership to the people in creating such a body to fight feudal authority and superstition, he said, citing examples of Europe where thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau played a major role in transforming the then feudal society into modern society. Katju said people were still reluctant to allow inter-caste marriage and there is a need to bring about a change. (Times of India 18/8/14)

73. MNS chief lashes out at social media

Mumbai: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Saturday criticised social media for not being responsible about information sharing. The comment came after a section of media reported that industrialists Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani would release the party’s much-hyped blueprints for the Assembly polls. Irked by the news, Mr Thackeray said, “I did not know if Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani were coming for the blue print release. Be aware of social media. It has no responsibility about its information.” Raj was speaking at a function in Thane. He also said that the medium itself is not bad, but information goes viral without users knowing the originator of the news. Party sources said that the issue of the blueprints is very close to Mr Thackeray and he was very upset about the stories and information that was circulated through social media. After announcing that he would contest the Assembly polls for the first time, Mr Thackeray remained tightlipped. Party leaders have been saying that the MNS chief was busy making blue prints for the state, but, the party has yet to release them. Asked about his silence, he replied, “It’s not true, we are working on a few things.” There is curiosity among party workers as to the seat from where Mr Thackeray is going to contest. However, Mr Thackeray said, “I will let you know at the right time.” (Asian Age 18/8/14)

74. 20,000 rally in Bangladesh against media crackdown

Dhaka: At least 20,000 opposition supporters rallied in the Bangladeshi capital on Tuesday to demand the abolition of a new government policy that critics say would muzzle independent television and radio stations. The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its 19 allies staged the rally as they launched a string of fresh protests aimed at forcing early elections. The protests come just months after the ruling Awami League party won parliamentary elections that were boycotted by the opposition. Between 20,000 and 25,000 people, defying driving monsoon rains, attended the rally in the capital’s historic Suhrawardy Uddyan garden, police inspector Sirajul Islam told AFP. Senior opposition leader Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the new broadcast policy was “anti-people”, “anti-democracy” and aimed at allowing the government to stay in power forever. “Mass media comes under attack whenever Awami League comes to power,” Alamgir said, charging that the broadcast policy was designed to silence dissent and conceal government misdeeds. The government approved the new policy early this month following a string of media reports alleging government corruption. The Bangladesh chapter of anti-graft group Transparency International has said the policy clashes with the country’s constitution as it bans the broadcast of any programme that undermines or ridicules the armed forces, law enforcement agencies or officers. “The policy conflicts with the country’s constitution, democratic norms and values, human rights and Right to Information Act,” its chief, Sultana Kamal, said last week. The government has rejected charges that the policy goes against the constitution. Tuesday’s rally was the first major protest by BNP-led opposition parties since they boycotted the January 5 polls, alleging they would be rigged.  (Pioneer 20/8/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

75. Communal violence bill: Sonia Gandhi vows to fight BJP’s divisive politics

New Delhi: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday held Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) meet over the communal violence bill that is going to be debated in Parliament later in the day. During the meet, Sonia Gandhi said: “It is a challenging time. Our numbers have reduced in Lok Sabha but not in Rajya Sabha.” She reiterated that there has been an increase in sectarian violence since the new government took over. Hitting out at the NDA, Gandhi said that Narendra Modi-led government hasn’t broken new grounds. “It imitated our schemes,” added the Congress chief. Noting that “narrow political considerations cannot take predominance”, Gandhi told the CPC members to forget internal differences, be together, and work hard to get party back to power. She also warned that the moment the BJP behaves in a dictatorial way, “we will stand up and fight”. “We’ll fight divisive and authoritative politics of BJP and bounce back.” Meanwhile, the party has given notice of adjournment motion in Lok Sabha to discuss the issue. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, earlier in the day, hit out at the Centre, saying his party wanted a discussion in Lok Sabha on rising communal violence in the country, but the government was not responding. On Tuesday, Sonia Gandhi attacked the Narendra Modi government, saying the communal violence in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra were “created deliberately to divide our society”. The government rubbished the charges, and called them “baseless”.Her attack on the Modi government came after her son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi slammed the Centre on the issue. He held an unprecedented noisy protest and also trooped to the Lok Sabha Speaker’s podium on August 06, demanding a debate on rising communal violence in Uttar Pradesh. In the meantime, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee targeted the BJP without naming it, saying some political parties were trying to cause a communal divide in the state and warned that her party will take strong action against those fomenting riots. (Zee News 13/8/14)

76. BJP not taking communal violence seriously: Congress

NEW DELHI: The issue of “communal violence” was taken up for discussion in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday after the Congress protested in the morning over the delay in slotting it despite being listed in the business for three days running. Even after the Speaker agreed to discuss it soon after the passage of the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, the issue forced an adjournment as neither the Home Minister nor the Minister of State for Home were in the House when Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge was called to initiate the discussion. Their absence was cited by the Congress as testimony to the fact that the government was not taking the issue seriously. BJP MP Yogi Adityanath attacked the Congress saying tears were shed by the party and those who call themselves secular over the attacks on minorities but not when Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their native place. Communist Party of India (Marxist) member Mohd. Salim said an attempt was being made to impose majoritarian opinion on the country. Nationalist Congress Party leader Tariq Anwar said given the apprehension that the minorities have about the BJP, it was important that the government set them at rest by dealing with all people with an even hand. AIMIM member Asaduddin Owaisi wanted to know if the government would keep as much of an eye on Hindu fundamentalist organisations as it did on Muslim organisations with extremist ideologies. He also wanted to know whether the government thought all citizens of India were Hindus. “If so, then change the Constitution,” he said, while PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti sought to remind Mr. Adityanath that both Hindus and Muslims were killed in the violence in Kashmir. (The Hindu 14/8/14)

77. UP report claims BJP MP incited Saharanpur riots

Lucknow: A war of words erupted between the BJP, Samajwadi Party and others after a report commissioned by the Akhilesh Yadav government into the recent Saharanpur riots on Sunday pointed the finger of blame at a BJP MP, besides noting “administrative lapses” by local officials. The BJP dismissed the report as “politically motivated” and an attempt by UP’s Samajwadi government to hide its “failures”. The five-member committee headed by senior SP leader Shivpal Singh Yadav, who is Akhilesh Yadav’s uncle, submitted its report to the CM on Sunday, in which it questioned the BJP’s role in the clashes. It accused the party’s local MP, Raghav Lakhanpal, of inciting clashes and provoking rioters who torched shops and damaged public property, highly-placed sources said. It also pointed to some laxity by the administration, and recommended stern action against the officials responsible for allowing clashes to take place in order to send out a clear signal to the bureaucracy. “The administration became active only after the violence began and could have taken prompt steps to prevent this,” the report says. “The administration should not have allowed any construction at the disputed site or members of opposite community to assemble. The holy month of Ramzan was on, and adequate preventive steps should have been taken,” the report says. Trashing the allegations, Mr Lakhanpal said the report reflected the “low-level politics” of the SP, that was trying to “appease” one community ahead of Assembly bypolls in Uttar Pradesh. “It is politically motivated. I have been praised for my efforts to end to the violence and restore peace. The government should have thanked me instead of levelling false allegations,” the MP said in Saharanpur. The five-member committee also included Shivakant Ojha (minister for technical education), Arvind Singh Gope (minister for rural development) and SP leaders Ashu Malik and Haji Ikram Qureshi, who is also its district president in Saharanpur. Dismissing the report, UP BJP spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak said while one hand it blamed administrative failure, on the other it pointed to an individual (BJP MP). “When there is an administrative failure, how come the BJP is held responsible? What else do you expect from the SP, which has been blaming the BJP repeatedly to conceal its own failures,” he said. Union home minister Rajnath Singh said he would not comment as it was a “report of a political party” and he had not seen it. BSP supremo Mayawati, meanwhile, targeted both the SP and BJP, alleging the two parties were “hand in glove” in fanning communal violence in the state. She said the “actual facts” were buried and the report had little meaning. “The BJP and SP are hand in glove. The report has not put forth the actual facts. It has little meaning. We do not accept the report,” Ms Mayawati said. Violence had erupted in Saharanpur’s Kutubshahr area on July 26 when members of two communities clashed for several hours over a land dispute. The violence had claimed three lives and left over 35 people injured. (Asian Age 18/8/14)

COMMUNALISM

78. Cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat says

CUTTACK: If inhabitants of England are English, Germany are Germans and USA are Americans then why all inhabitants of Hindustan are not known as Hindus, came a poser from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Sunday. “The cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva and the present inhabitants of the country are descendants of this great culture,” Bhagwat said while speaking at the ‘Golden Jubilee’ function of an Odia weekly here. The RSS chief further went on to say that Hindutva is a way of life and Hindus could be of any religion worshipping any God or not worshipping at all. Referring to Vivekananda, Bhagwat said not worshipping any God is not necessarily an atheist rather the one who doesn’t have faith in self is sure an atheist. He said the world has now realised that Hindutva has been the only basis to keep India united since ancient days despite having plenty of diversities. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat says that Hindutva is a way of life. He, however, expressed concern saying that some in India are not realising it and whenever a discussion on it takes place, the protagonist are wrongly branded as communal. Speaking on the current world scenario, the RSS leader said there is darkness everywhere and the world at large is looking at India for solace because India still marches on the path of righteousness. “As long as dharma exists in India, the world will continue to respect this country. But once dharma is gone, no force on earth can stop the country from crumbling,” the RSS leader warned. (Times of India 11/8/14)

79. VHP to reach out to public in golden jubilee year

NEW DELHI: In an effort to expand its base and increase its connect with the community, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad is planning a host of programmes as a part of its golden jubilee celebrations over the next 12 months. While the year-long celebrations will begin with shobha yatras across the country including the national Capital on upcoming Krishna Janmashtmi, VHP’s Delhi unit will host a Virat Hindu Sammelan early next year, the office-bearers said. “The celebrations are being organised to reach out to the people with our achievements over the last 50 years. We will also reveal programmes which we plan to execute in future for community welfare. We have set a target to induct 25,000 dedicated members in the golden jubilee year to strengthen the Hindu community,” said regional VHP president Rikhab Chand Jain. The saffron unit will also organise blood donations camp with a target of getting 10,000 blood units and will also undertake tree plantation. It will also distribute tulsi plants in all the households. On whether other wings of the Sangh Parivar including the Bharatiya Janata Party would be participating in these celebrations, Delhi VHP secretary Ramkrishna Srivastava said: “This is the Golden Jubilee celebration of the VHP. So it would be held solely by us.” (The Hindu 13/8/14)

80. VHP to focus on preventing conversions

MUMBAI: In the next 25 years, the VHP will work to spread its base to “every village” and “corner of the cities,” said senior VHP leader Pravin Togadia, speaking at a ceremony to celebrate 50 years of the right-wing organisation. Apart from the awareness campaigns, ‘Hindu Sammelans’ will be organised in each district, including a major one in Mumbai in December. The VHP also gave hints that the issue of conversions would rank high on its agenda. Pointing out that the VHP had ensured the return into Hinduism of seven lakh Christians and Muslims and prevented 40,000 Hindus from converting, Mr. Togadia said the organisation would now work to ensure that no Hindu was was converted. Sharing the stage with the VHP and RSS leaders was the former Indian Space Research Organisation chairman Madhavan Nair, who drew parallels between spirituality and science. (The Hindu 18/8/14)

81. Hindutva is the identity of our nation, RSS chief says

MUMBAI: Stoking yet another controversy, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat today said India is a Hindu nation and Hindutva is its identity.”Hindustan is a Hindu nation…Hindutva is the identity of our nation and it (Hinduism) can incorporate others (religions) in itself,” he said. Last week, Bhagwat had said in Cuttack, “The cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva and the present inhabitants of the country are descendants of this great culture.” If inhabitants of England are English, Germany are Germans and USA are Americans then why all inhabitants of Hindustan are not known as Hindus, he had posed. Bhagwat was in Mumbai today on the occasion of Krishna Janamashtami to attend the inauguration programme of the golden jubilee celebrations of the VHP, that was founded in Mumbai on August 29-30, 1964. He said the goal of VHP in the coming five years would be to ensure equality among the Hindus of the nation. “For the next 5 years we have to work with the aim of bringing equality among all the Hindus in the country. All Hindus should be drinking water at one place, should be praying at one place and after their death, their bodies should be burnt at the same place,” he said. (Times of India 18/8/14)

82. Mohan Bhagwat statements under attack

Mumbai: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement terming India as ‘Hindu nation’ has sparked a controversy in the political circle on Sunday as Congress, CPI-M and Samajwadi Party launched a scathing attack on him. “Hindutva is the real identity of our country and Hindustan is a Hindu nation,” Bhagwat had said on Saturday while attending a golden jubilee function of the VHP in Mumbai. The comment has attracted lot of flak from the Congress leader Anand Sharma calling Bhagwat as ‘Hitler’. Sharma said equating Hindu and Hindutva is “belittling” the philosophy and richness of Hinduism. Congress general secretary leader Digvijay Singh tweeted “I thought we had one Hitler in making but it seems now we have Two! God save India!” Observing that various statements made by Bhagwat on the issue militated against the secularism, the CPI-M Politburo said, “Hindutva is a majoritarian concept which is part of the narrow and divisive agenda of the RSS.” “These provocative statements are designed to impose a majoritarian Hindu concept of the nation. The RSS and its various outfits are making a plethora of such objectionable statements ever since the BJP formed the government,” the CPI(M) said. Coming down heavily on Bhagwat, Samajwadi Party accused the Sangh of practising politics of “hatred and separatism.” “They use such words and language to fan social tension,” SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said. Maharshtra unit of Aam Admi Party has termed the statement by Bhagwat as dangerous. “Statement made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat that India is a Hindu nation and Hindutva can assimilate other religions into it, is a dangerous indication of things to come. It is sad that the BJP and the RSS are dividing the society on communal lines to get political mileage in upcoming assembly elections, but the damage that they are inflicting to the secular fabric of Indian society will remain forever,” it said. The VHP programme was attended by VHP leader Praveen Togadia, Jagtguru Madhavacharya Swami Shri Vishweshwar Tirthani Maharaj, Mahamandaleshwa Swami Shri Vishwashwar Nandgiri Maharaj, ISRO’s former chief Madhavan Nair. A new symbol was the VHP unveiled in the programme. (Asian Age 19/8/14)

TERRORISM

83. Arya Samaj Market blast case: All 4 accused acquitted

PATIALA: All four accused, whom the prosecution had termed as members of the terror outfit Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), were on Monday acquitted by a local court in the Arya Samaj Market blast case. The accused were arrested by Patiala police around a month after the blast at Arya Samaj Market – a busy market area in the interior Patiala city – near popular Satyanarayan temple in April 2010. During the trial, the cause of blast remained a mystery and police failed to prove that the accused had planted any bomb near the temple. The explosion took place on April 20, 2010 and police suspected that the accused had planted an explosive substance under a water cooler installed outside the religious place. Seven persons, including two policemen, were injured in the blast. All four accused – Jaswinder Singh, Manjinder Singh and Gurjant Singh, residents of Patiala district, and Harminder Singh of Ludhiana – arrested under Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and sections 4 and 5 of the Explosives Substances Act, were acquitted after the defense picked several lacunae in the prosecution theory. “Interestingly, it took the police eight days to register an FIR in the case. Police recorded statements of the eyewitness after 15 days who alleged that he had seen the accused wandering in the locality days before the incident. Statement of another eyewitness was recorded after four months on August 11, 2010. Prosecution failed to convince the court why eyewitnesses took so long to record their statement,” said defense counsel Brijinder Singh Sodhi. Sodhi said another loophole in the prosecution theory was that police didn’t conduct any identification parade of accused to testify their presence in the area from independent witnesses. (Times of India 12/8/14)

84. UN Security Council blacklists Islamist militants in Iraq, Syria

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council took aim at Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria on Friday, blacklisting six people including the Islamic State spokesman and threatening sanctions against those who finance, recruit or supply weapons to the insurgents. The 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution that aims to weaken the Islamic State — an al-Qaida splinter group that has seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate — and al-Qaida’s Syrian wing Nusra Front. Islamic State has long been blacklisted by the Security Council, while Nusra Front was added earlier this year. Both groups are designated under the UN al-Qaida sanctions regime. Friday’s resolution named six people who will be subject to an international travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo, including Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, an Iraqi described by UN experts as one of the group’s “most influential emirs” and close to its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. The Islamic State’s swift and brutal push to the borders of Iraq’s autonomous ethnic Kurdish region and toward Baghdad has sparked the first US air strikes in Iraq since the withdrawal of American troops in 2011. The Security Council resolution “deplores and condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist acts of ISIL (Islamic State) and its violent extremist ideology, and its continued gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law.” It also blacklisted Said Arif, a former Algerian army officer who escaped house arrest in France in 2013 and joined Nusra Front in Syria, and Abdul Mohsen Abdallah Ibrahim al-Charekh of Saudi Arabia, dubbed “a leading terrorist internet propagandist” who heads Nusra Front in Syria’s Latakia district. Hamid Hamad Hamid al-Ali and Hajjaj bin Fahd al-Ajmi, both from Kuwait, were sanctioned for allegedly providing financial support to Nusra Front – Ajmi’s fundraising includes at least one Twitter campaign, according UN experts – while Abdelrahman Mouhamad Zafir al Dabidi al Jahani of Saudi Arabia was named because he runs Nusra Front’s foreign fighter networks. Britain initially aimed to adopt the text by the end of August, but accelerated its plan after a surge by Islamic State, which poses the biggest threat to Iraq since Saddam Hussein was toppled by a US-led invasion in 2003. The resolution condemns the recruitment of foreign fighters and expresses readiness to blacklist people financing or facilitating travel of foreign fighters. It expresses concern that revenue generated from oilfields captured by both groups is being used to organize attacks. Islamic State militants are selling oil from oilfields in Iraq and refineries they control to local communities and smugglers, augmenting their existing ample finances, US intelligence officials said on Thursday. The resolution condemns any direct or indirect trade with Islamic State or Nusra Front and warns such moves could lead to sanctions. It asks UN experts – charged with monitoring violations of the council’s al-Qaida sanctions regime – to report in 90 days on the threat posed by Islamic State and Nusra Front, and on details of their recruitment and funding. The resolution is under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which makes it legally binding for UN member states and gives the council authority to enforce decisions with economic sanctions or force. However, it does not mandate military force to tackle the insurgents. (Times of India 16/8/14)

85. RBI bars 6 ISIS men from holding accounts

New Delhi: Taking a cue from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) imposing a global travel ban and asset freeze against six leaders in the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) and its allied organisations for recruiting or financing foreign fighters, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has promptly followed suit. An RBI notification dated August 14 says: “…it should be ensured that the name/s of the proposed customer does not appear in the list. Further, banks should scan all existing accounts to ensure that no account is held by or linked to any of the entities or individuals included in the list.” “As far as freezing of funds, financial assets or economic resources or related services held in the form of bank accounts of the designated individuals/entities are concerned, action should be taken as detailed…”The six additions to the list of terrorists who either recruited foreigners or helped raise finance to perpetrate acts supporting ISIS’s terror activities include Al-Adnani, the group’s spokesperson. The group’s chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi already has a $10 million US bounty on his head. RBI’s list already includes Dawood Ibrahim, India’s most wanted terror mastermind. Another interesting name that figured in the list is that of Bahaziq who was born in undivided Indian and led the Lashkar-e-Taiba ranks in Saudi Arabia. The five latest additions to the list are Al Jahani, Said Arif, Hajjaj Bin Fahd Al Ajmi, Al Charekh and Hamid Hamad Hamid al-Ali. The first four recruited foreigners for ISIS or helped raise finances for Jabhat al-Nusra. While al Adnani, ISIS spokesperson, has been blacklisted for financing and perpetrating acts supporting ISIS, Hamid Hamad Hamid al-Ali has been blacklisted for helping finance both al-Nusra and ISIS. ISIS’ ranks is said to have an estimated 14,000 foreign fighters hailing from south-east Asia to Europe to Canada. Indian intelligence reports speak of at least 22 Indians in ISIS ranks. “The main problem is the havoc these fighters are capable of creating after their return to their own countries,” said Ajai Sahni, a counter terrorism expert. (Hindustan Times 17/8/14)

86. Munger arms link to terror outfit

Hizbul Mujahideen, a dreaded terrorist outfit, has got route to Bihar’s infamous Munger-made illegal arms trade. The startling fact came to the fore during preliminary interrogation of alleged arms suppliers — Arun Kumar Singh, Jamshed Alam and Surendra Paswan — arrested from Munger’s Mirzapur Bardaha village last week. Four pistols, six mobiles and Rs 45,000 were found on them. The three alleged gunrunners revealed to the anti-terrorism squad and the officials of the intelligence agencies that they used to provide Munger-made weapons to the operatives of Hizbul Mujahideen and other terrorist outfits. The consignments were mostly sent by trains through Punjab. Both Munger superintendent of police Varun Kumar Sinha and additional superintendent of police Sanjay Kumar Singh refused to share information on the pretext of the case being highly sensitive in nature. “The entire operation was carried out by the sleuths of the state’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS). We only cooperated with them,” Singh said. A senior officer with the intelligence agency said Jamshed Alam, a native of Mirzapur Bardaha village in Munger, was in the illegal trade for long. Arun, a resident of Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh, was arrested when he had come to receive the consignments from Jamshed in Munger on August 12. The officer said Arun alias Vikku, was associated with the Azamgarh module of the Indian Mujahideen, the outfit purportedly responsible for both Patna and Bodhgaya serial bomb blasts. “We have come to know that Arun was earlier arrested by the UP police,” the officer said. Arun was arrested after the ATS intercepted his telephonic conversation with the Munger-based arms dealer, Jamshed. Jamshed (22) is learnt to have admitted links with terrorist outfits, including Hizbul and other gangs operating outside Bihar. “The militant outfits prefer to purchase weapon from Munger for its low cost and better quality,” the intelligence officer quoted Jamshed as saying. (The Telegraph 18/8/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

87. Gadchiroli special forces kill two Naxalites in gun battle on hill (12)

Mumbai: C60 commandos and Special Action Group of the Maharashtra police gunned down two Maoists in the Naxal-affected Gadchiroli district on Tuesday morning. The Gadchiroli police said that both the men were actively involved in violence and two weapons have been seized from them. According to the police, the incident took place around 8 am at Devgad hill in Khobramendha village in Kurkheda tehsil. Acting on a tip off, 40-odd men from the two special forces of the police department went in search of Naxals in the hills when they got caught in the crosshairs of around seven to eight extremists. In the ensuing gun battle, most of the Naxals fled but the forces shot down two of them who succumbed to their injuries. They were armed with a self-loading rifle and a .303 rifle (a gun used during the British Raj). Both weapons have been recovered and the police suspect they might have been stolen from their armory. The dead have been identified as Sonu and Krishna. Their bodies have been sent for an autopsy. A few men from the force have suffered minor injuries in the incident. The forces have intensified their long distance patrolling. The Maharashtra police has been aggressively taking on Naxalism. Its anti-Naxal operation in 2013 saw the killing of 26 Naxals in police encounters. According to government records, this is the highest figure since 1980. Incidentally, the number of Naxals being arrested has come down in the last year. (Asian Age 13/8/14)

88. Naxals trigger IED explosion, one CRPF jawan injured

RAIPUR:A CRPF jawan was on Friday injured in an IED explosion triggered by naxals in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, police said. The incident occurred in the restive Tadmetla forests under Chintalnar police outpost limits when the paramilitary personnel were on an operation to cordon off the region, Sukma Superintendent of Police D Shrawan told PTI. A squad of Central Reserve Police Force was on an area domination exercise in Chintagufa forests, located around 500 kms away from Raipur, early this morning. When they reached near Tademtla, naxals triggered a land mine blast and opened indiscriminate firing on security forces leaving one of them injured, the SP said. However, when security forces launched retaliatory attack Maoists fled to the core forests, he added. Soon after being informed, reinforcement was rushed to the spot and the injured jawan was admitted to a local hospital, he said. A search operation has been launched to nab the attackers, he added. (Times of India 15/8/14)

89. Four Maoists killed in Bastar encounter

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh police on Saturday claimed to have killed “at least three to four Maoists” in Narayanpur district of South Chhattisgarh. “A police team carrying out area domination exercise near Horna village came under fire from the Maoists. When police returned the fire, the Maoists managed to escape into the forest. But at least three to four of them must have been killed in the encounter because our Jawans saw them (Maoists) dragging wounded bodies into the forest,” Narayanpur District Superintendent of Police (SP) Amit Kamble told The Hindu. “We have recovered a country made gun, some detonators and secret Maoist literature from the spot of the encounter. From the blood stains on the spot and the secret documents which they (Maoists) usually never leave behind, we can claim that many of them were fatally wounded in the encounter,” added the SP. However, the police couldn’t recover dead bodies of the Maoists. (The Hindu 16/8/14)

90. Naidu Commission Asks Maoist Leader to Depose

BHUBANESWAR: Justice AS Naidu Commission has issued notice on Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda to record his statement before it by September 5 in connection with the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and the communal riots that ensued in Kandhamal district in 2008. The notice has been served on Sabyasachi through the Home Department. He has been given the choice of recording his statement before the Commission in person or through his lawyer. Only after the statement is recorded the panel will take a call on cross-examination process, Justice Naidu told mediapersons. Sabyasachi is currently in the custody of Berhampur SDJM after the completion of remand by the Crime Branch of State Police in connection with the attacks on Nayagarh district police armoury in 2008. The Crime Branch, which is also probing the Laxmananada Saraswati murder, has submitted petition for Sabyasachi’s remand. The remand petition has been filed before Baliguda SDJM Court. On August 11, Baliguda SDJM Court had directed Kandhamal SP to produce Sabyasachi on August 13 but in view of Independence Day arrangements, the District Police had expressed its inability to provide necessary security to the Maoist leader’s production process. There are over 20 cases pending against Sabyasachi in different police stations of Kandhamal. He is stated to be the brain behind Saraswati’s murder that unleashed communal violence in the district six years back. (New Indian Express 18/8/14)

91. Three Cobra jawans injured in encounter with Naxals

Raipur: Three Cobra jawans were on Tuesday injured in a gun-battle between paramilitary forces and Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Dantewada district. The encounter took place in the forests of Kodanar under Aranpur Police Station limits when security forces were returning after an anti-Naxal operation in the region early this morning, Dantewada Superintendent of Police, Kamlochan Kashyap told PTI. A squad of Cobra’s (Compact Battalion for Resolute Action), a specialised unit of CRPF, 201 battalion was mobilised from Jagargunda (Sukma) for anti-Naxal operations since Monday. On their way back to their camp when security forces reached Kodanar forests, a group of armed Naxals opened indiscriminate firing on them leaving three jawans injured. However rebels fled to the core forest, when the jawans retaliated, the SP said. Soon after being informed, reinforcement was rushed to the spot, he said, adding the injured personnel are being retrieved from the forests. (The Hindu 19/8/14)

TRAFFICKING

92. Girl’s rescue in Delhi exposes trafficking racket in Bengal

Kolkata: The rescue of the 16-year-old girl, haling from Haroa in North 24 Parganas, from a red light area in Delhi last week, seems to have busted a trafficking racket. North 24 Parganas police have arrested Sk Sabir alias Rohit, the main accused, who kidnapped and trafficked the girl. “The investigation has revealed that the accused is a habitual offender and we are probing whether he has trafficked other girls out of the State,” Bhaskar Mukherjee, Additional Superintendent of Police, North 24 Parganas, told The Hindu on Monday. Mr. Mukherjee said that another woman Tanjina Khatum, an accomplice of the main accused, who used to befriend young girls, has also been detained. The police said they have rescued another minor from the custody of Khatum. Meanwhile, the police have learnt that Sabir was in touch with two more young girls and was trying to lay a trap for them. It has also been learnt that the main accused is a resident of Purba Medinipur and operated in North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts. Sabir was arrested on August 9. During a joint raid by representatives of a non-government organisation Shakti Vahini, West Bengal police, and the Delhi police, a 16-year-old student of class X was rescued earlier this month. The girl was abducted in June and her brother and other relatives went to Delhi to rescue her. A trafficker identified as Roshni, and hailing from the State was arrested in Delhi and brought to the State. Rishi Kanta, an activist with Shakti Vahini, said the development points to a trafficking racket operating out of the State. “Since the source trafficker has been arrested he believed that he is involved in other cases of trafficking and it requires attention of a special agency,” he said, adding that the organisation will be writing to the State Criminal Investigation Department to take over the case. The activist added that there is a need to expand the ambit of investigation and bring those operating in Delhi in the purview of investigation. (The Hindu 12/8/14)

93. App tries to combat child trafficking (1)

New Delhi: It an ongoing dilemma for Delhiites how to help children begging at red lights and on streets? Now, there is a solution to deal with this tricky situation. Two techies have created a mobile application that uses technology to help combat child trafficking and kidnapping. Called Helping Faceless, the new app has been developed by Shashank Singh and Amol Gupta, computer engineers based in Delhi and Mumbai respectively. The mobile app is available on the Android platform. The idea is simple Click a picture of the child you see and upload it on the app. With the help of these pictures, a search process is initiated in order to match them with the previous records. All of this is handled by the app itself. If a match is found, the app forwards this information to non-profit organisations who then help connect these children with their respective families. While there are several legislations and enactments in place to fight child trafficking, it is an evil that fails to die. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 1986 (amended in 2006), Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1986, Sections 361, 363-A, 367, 369 of the Indian Penal Code (deal with kidnapping of minors) are present to provide relief to such children and their families. However, the menace of child labour and begging have not been curbed as yet. This app tries to address the woes of the families that lose their children and lack any aid from the authorities. Shashank Singh, the app creator, told this newspaper that he and his partner have received quite a few offers from national and foreign organisations to help them locate the missing children. “It is fairly recent work, we are still working to tieup with NGOs to take up our initiative at a national level. The project is only a few months old, but the results have been fairly impressive. The app has been able to locate three children. It is the idea behind the cause that drives us to work for it,” Mr Singh said. Explaining the details of the project, Mr Singh said that it is not an easy task to locate and match the missing children. “How long does it take to match the children varies from one situation to other. The time ranges from 10 minutes to a few days. We have some unmatched photos that are waiting for counter-photos from our volunteers. So there is a chance that one of you will upload a photo of a child who needs help and we will get a match in these un-matched photos, effectively getting us into action.” (Asian Age 16/8/14)

94. Trafficking kingpin reveals nexus with politicians, PLFI

Ranchi: Trafficking kingpin Baba Bamdev alias Baba Ramji Maharaj, who was arrested on Saturday night, has told police that traffickers have links with Maoist splinter group People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) and also with top politicians of the state, sources said. During interrogation, Bamdev also named two members of the PLFI who were in touch with him and also had the address and contact numbers of these two rebels. Interrogating officer Aradhna Singh, who is the coordinator of Khunti police’s anti-human trafficking unit, said, “Bamdev confessed to having links with Panna Lal and Keenu Munda, members of PLFI, who were well known traffickers before joining the outlawed outfit. He said he used to move around in the state with Panna Lal and also gave us his address.” Singh said Bamdev had admitted to giving shelter to PLFI members when they used to flee to Delhi during search operations in Jharkhand and also supplied girls to them. He also confessed that these PLFI members also used to provide him shelter in Jharkhand and help him with his “business”.Bamdev ran several NGOs in Delhi and organized fairs and gatherings on behalf of his NGO ‘Native Adivasi Development Seva Sansthan’, in which tribal girls from Jharkhand who worked as domestic helps in Delhi participated. Baidynath Kumar, member of Diya Seva Sansthan, which played an important role in the arrest of the trafficker said, “The fair is organized by Bamdev every year with girls from all placement agencies that runs under his aegis are brought together. A team of Jharkhand CID had raided the fair at Punjabi Bagh area of Delhi, where his NGO is also situated, on December 25, 2012, and rescued 84 girls who were drugged or locked up in various rooms on the fair premises.” As per Bamdev’a statement, there are 4,000 placement agencies in Punjabi Bagh and 10,000 across Delhi. During interrogation Bamdev also reportedly confessed to having links with various top political leaders of Jharkhand. Bamdev had also used a photograph of another former chief minister in the banners of the fair he used to organize in Delhi. Singh said, “He said a former chief minister of Jharkhand had once participated in his fair. He also claimed to have good relations with an MLA and had also visited the Vidhan Sabha with him in his car.” However, on being contacted, the MLA denied knowing any person named Bamdev and said, “I do not know him, nobody sits in my car with me other than the driver and a guard.” Meanwhile, secretary of Diya Seva Sansthan, Sita Swansi, has received three threat calls since the arrest of Bamdev. Baidynath said, “The caller said ‘you are behind his capture, so be prepared to face the consequences’. We will be writing to CID and DGP about these threat calls,” Baidyanath said. Bamdev is in Latehar jail and a special team of Delhi police will soon be arriving to take him to Delhi, where four cases of trafficking and rape are registered against him. (Times of India 18/8/14)

95. Mysorean booked for trafficking in human

MYSORE: A Mysorean was arrested for trafficking in human and a teenage girl was rescued from his custody by city cops recently. The girl is from Brahmavara in Udupi district. Vijayanagara cops said Sunil, a Mysorean, was arrested after his neighbour tip-off cops about his unlawful business on Sunday. He had allegedly paid Rs 8000 to Sameer, also from Udupi, and had taken the girl into his custody few days ago. Cops say quoting the girl that Sameer had abused her for few weeks in Bangalore and Chennai before handing her over to Sunil. Police say we have taken up a case of trafficking against Sunil and search is underway for Sameer. (Times of India 19/8/14)

CORRUPTION

96. Jaipur Municipal Corporation CEO removed following corruption case filed against him

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan government on Tuesday removed IAS officer Lalchand Aswal from the post of Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC) CEO, a day after the Anti Corruption Bureau registered an FIR against him. Aswal who was to retire from the service next month has been accused of running a corruption racket in the civic body. The ACB had earlier arrested executive engineer Purushottam Jeshwani with Rs 15 lakh unaccounted money. During interrogation Jeshwani allegedly implicated Aswal and said that he was taking the money to the CEO. ACB officials said that they are moving ahead in their investigation against Aswal. “We on Tuesday quizzed over 15 employees and officers of the JMC’s accounting and records section. They are being quizzed to ascertain as to how the payment was released to contractors and the CEO’s intervention in these matters,” said an ACB officer. The officer said that the agency is also studying the 46 files seized from Jeshwani in front of Aswal’s house on Sunday. “If the files were to be handed over to CEO for release of payment to few contractors who would pay the commission for awarding the work, we are trying to find these favours in the files,” said the officer. The CEO’s post has been taken over by Gyan Chand, an RAS officer previously posted as joint secretary in PHED in Jaipur. The officer added that after corroborating the evidences with what came up during preliminary investigation they would send a notice to Aswal. Purushottam Jeshwani arrested with unaccounted money in front of Lalchand Aswal’s house on SundayFIR lodged against Aswal under Prevention of Corruption Act and 120B of IPC on Monday. Aswal is accused of taking commission from contractors to issue work orders and payments Aswal removed from post on Tuesday. ACB quizzes JMC employees and seizes record suggesting Aswal allegedly used to issue orders verbally for release of payments. (Times of India 13/8/14)

97. CBI gets custody of two accused in censor board bribe case

NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday obtained a five-day custody of the two accused who have been arrested for allegedly receiving a bribe of Rs. 70,000 on behalf of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chief executive officer Rakesh Kumar. Although Mr. Kumar has not been arrested yet, CBI spokesperson Kanchan Prasad said, investigations against him are under way. The agency’s anti-corruption unit on Thursday conducted searches on the Mumbai premises of Mr. Kumar following allegations that he had demanded and received bribes for issuing certificate to a Chhattisgarhi film. The CBI initially received a complaint from an authorised agent alleging that Shripati Mishra, another authorised agent for censor certification, had demanded Rs. 70,000 on behalf of the CBFC CEO for urgently issuing a certificate for regional language Chhattisgarhi Mor Dauki Ke Bihav. The film was scheduled to be released on August 15, 2014. Based on the complaint, the agency laid a trap and arrested Shripati Mishra and Sarvesh Jaiswal, Advisory Panel member, CBFC-Mumbai, for allegedly accepting the bribe amount. Both the accused were produced before a court that remanded them to police custody of the CBI till August 20. (The Hindu 15/8/14)

98. Mumbai: ACB to upload photos of corrupt on FB

Mumbai: In a bid to check corruption and embarrass the offenders, the Maharashtra Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) is planning to launch a page on a popular social networking site where it would upload the pictures of those caught for taking bribes. “In a bid to intensify our action against corrupt and reach out to people, we are planning to use the popular platform of Facebook in a week time,” said director general of police (ACB) Pravin Dixit. The Facebook page, if started, will have the pictures of the accused, besides the details of the bribe amount the accused took, valuables and other documents recovered from him/her during searches at office and home, police said. The ACB, which has laid as many as 744 traps so far this year, a 114% jump from the same period last year, has been for the past two months publishing pictures of those caught in the act on its own website. During the 744 traps till August 16, it has arrested 1009 government employees and their associates, who are private individuals. In the same period last year, 348 traps were laid in which 452 were arrested. “The reason why we are considering this idea is that it will damage the image of the arrested accused and it will deter others from accepting bribe,” said another official. If the pictures and other details are uploaded on the social networking site, the accused would be embarrassed in front of their family and friends and they may not indulge in such acts in future, if reinstated in their service, police said. (Hindustan Time 17/8/14)

99. Antony panel blames inflation, corruption for Congress debacle in Lok Sabha poll

NEW DELHI: Putting the blame for Congress’s defeat on the Manmohan Singh government, an in-house inquiry is learnt to have found inflation as the reason for the party’s worst-ever performance in Lok Sabha elections. The AK Antony panel is also learnt to have listed indiscipline, corruption and media as the factors that contributed to the Congress collapse. Price rise, which dogged the entire tenure of UPA-2, drove voters away from Congress, the panel is learnt to have said. Almost every leader from states that the probe panel interacted with is learnt to have told the Antony panel that persistently high food prices neutralized the effect that Congress campaign was supposed to have on its supporters and the middle class. The picking on inflation, a direct indictment of the government, comes alongside the panel calling the defeat a collective failure and absolving key party campaigners of responsibility. According to sources, there is also stress on how the perception of corruption against the UPA killed its chances with voters. The three-year-long NDA campaign over various scams, especially 2G, dented the credibility of the Congress regime beyond repair. While inflation and corruption are known reasons for the rout that blew away the ruling party, sources said the Antony panel has also pointed out that indiscipline cost the Congress dearly. The split between chief ministers and party presidents and general factionalism in state units prevented the party from pulling in one direction. Infighting was a feature of UPA government in the form of turf wars among central ministers that virtually jammed policy-making and presented UPA-2 as a divided house… (Times of India 19/8/14)

100. CBFC CEO received Rs. 30 lakh for out-of-turn certification, says CBI

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation has said that Rakesh Kumar, Chief Executive Officer of the Central Board of Film Certification, has made over Rs. 30 lakh by issuing film certification out of turn during the seven-and-a-half months he had been in office. The Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry suspended Mr. Kumar. The Chief Executive Officer of the Children’s Film Society of India has been given additional charge as CBFC head. Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar ordered that steps be taken to make the film certification process transparent. Seeking permission for his custodial interrogation, the CBI told a special court here on Tuesday that Kumar used to demand up to Rs. 25,000 for screening of a feature film within seven or eight days and up to Rs. 1.5 lakh for screening within three or four days instead of the routine 15 days. The rate was Rs. 15,000 for screening of a short film within a day and early certification. The certification was done within three days for a short film, promo, trailer or ad film if Kumar was paid Rs. 2,000, though three days were normally required. The rate was Rs. 10,000 for certification on the same day of application, the agency said. The court remanded Kumar, arrested on Monday on cheating and corruption charges, in CBI custody until Friday. A senior officer privy to the investigation said all movies, short films and ad films cleared during Kumar’s tenure were under the scanner. They included two big-banner Bollywood movies released recently. The case came to light after an agent approached the CBI saying he was asked to pay a bribe of Rs. 70,000 for getting certification for the release of his regional movie, Mor Dauki Ke Bihav, on August 15. The CBI said that of the 15 to 20 authorised agents associated with the CBFC, Kumar had a coterie of four or five and used to clear only those movies routed through them. “If any producer or director approached Kumar through agents outside his coterie, he used to deny certification. He then used to contact the producers and directors and ask them to get in touch with his set of agents,” a senior CBI official told The Hindu. “Another accused, Sarvesh Jaiswal, used to demand the bribe on Kumar’s behalf. The bribe was then delivered at his South Mumbai home. (The Hindu 20/8/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

101. World Bank to fund ecologically safe power projects

KOLKATA: A World Bank economist has said that the lender will fund only those hydropower projects where safeguards are in place to prevent any adverse impact on the environment. “We are prepared to support only those good hydro-power projects in India which make economic sense as well as take socio-environment safeguards very seriously,” Michael Toman, lead economist on climate change in World Bank told PTI here during a visit to the city. “The impact in terms of environment, relocation of people, and availability of water to farmers should be minimum. We want all these environment and social factors to be taken care of,” he said when asked to comment on protests against power projects in states like Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. World Bank lends money to a number of development projects in India, including power projects. Speaking on the sidelines of a seminar on energy security organised by research body CUTS International, he said large grid-connected power projects have the advantage of being cheaper through the economies of scale. “You also have the benefit of large storage capacity so that electricity is made available throughout the year,” Toman, who is also the manager of the Energy and Environment Team of World Bank, said. Various environmental groups in India have raised concerns over safety of large power projects. Last year’s catastrophic flood in Uttarakhand was also blamed on hydro projects for intensifying the magnitude. Hydropower projects are generally made to generate electricity by making dams and reservoirs to provide hydraulic head and release water through turbines on a schedule that matches energy demands. It is estimated that there are 79 million households in India that have no access to electricity and the country imports 28 per cent of its net energy consumption. Toman said off-grid clean energy projects at a home scale level are important to improve energy access. Praising the government’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission which aims to create 10,000 MW of clean energy by grid-connected solar power plants during the 12th plan, he said the country going is in the right direction. “India is making a lot of progress steadily to generate electricity,” Toman said. (Business Line 11/8/14)

102. Tibet’s glaciers at their warmest in 2,000 years: Report

BEIJING: The Tibetan plateau, whose glaciers supply water to hundreds of millions of people in Asia, were warmer over the past 50 years than at any stage in the past two millennia, a Chinese newspaper said, citing an academic report. Temperatures and humidity are likely to continue to rise throughout this century, causing glaciers to retreat and desertification to spread, according to the report published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research. “Over the past 50 years, the rate of temperature rise has been double the average global level,” it said, according to the report on the website of Science and Technology Daily, a state-run newspaper. Glacier retreat could disrupt water supply to several of Asia’s main rivers that originate from the plateau, including China’s Yellow and Yangtze, India’s Brahmaputra, and the Mekong and Salween in Southeast Asia. In May, Chinese scientists said Tibetan glaciers had shrunk 15 percent – around 8,000 square km (3,100 square miles) – over the past 30 years. The new report said a combination of climate change and human activity on the plateau was likely to cause an increase in floods and landslides there. However, rising temperatures had also improved the local ecosystem, it said. The scientists urged the government to work to reduce human impact on the region’s fragile environment. But Beijing is building a series of large hydropower projects there, with construction of several mega-dams expected to start by 2020. China has built thousands of dams in the past few decades in a bid to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels. India, too, is planning a number of hydro plants along the Brahmaputra river – more than 100 proposals are under consideration – as the country strives to boost electricity generation. (Times of India 14/8/14)

103. At least 53 killed in Nepal floods and mudslides

Kathmandu: Flash floods and mudslides following heavy rains have killed at least 53 people in Nepal over the past three days and cut off remote communities in the mountains, the government said on Saturday. The landslides and flooding were triggered by annual monsoon rains since Wednesday, causing rain-soaked earth and rocks to crash down on homes while rivers swelled and washed away low-lying villages. Nepal’s Home Ministry said 75 people were unaccounted for and 36 others were in hospitals and medical centres. It was not immediately clear if the missing people were trapped in their damaged homes, washed away by floods or out of contact due to snapped communication links, officials said. Video clips on television showed people wading through waist-deep water carrying belongings as well as submerged houses. Officials said more than 25 percent of Nepal’s 75 administrative districts were hit by landslides or floods. “More than 200 houses are destroyed while hundreds of other homes are completely under water,” the government said. About 3,500 people have been rescued and housed in school and community buildings, official Punnya Dhakal said. In 2010, British climate consultancy Maplecroft rated mostly mountainous Nepal along with Bangladesh, India, Madagascar and Mozambique as among most vulnerable to climate change impact over the next 30 years. Experts say climate change was causing excessive or scant rains, droughts, floods and landslides. Rains are crucial for impoverished Nepal, which depends on farming. But heavy downpours cause death and destruction every year. Early this month, a massive landslide near Kathmandu buried a village and killed 156 people. It blocked the Sunkoshi River forming a dangerous build up of water prompting authorities in Bihar in east India to evacuate thousands on flood fears. Last year, heavy rains flooded towns and villages, killing thousands in Uttarakhand in neighbouring India while dozens died in Kanchenpur and Darchula districts in west Nepal. (Hindustan Times 16/8/14)

104. People’s Climate March in Delhi Sep 20 to seek action

New Delhi: Ahead of the Summit on Climate Change in New York next month, a “People’s Climate March” will be held in the national capital Sep 20, to show political leaders that there is a strong force of concerned citizens demanding action on climate change. The Summit is scheduled for Sep 23. “September 20th will prove to be a critical moment in the coming few months. It is an immense opportunity to show our political leaders that there is a strong force of concerned citizens demanding action on climate change. The government has so far only given us mixed signals on its commitment to tackling this issue,” said 350.org India in a tweet. 350.org is a part of a global organisation that is building a grassroot movement to address the challenge of climate change. “Giant models of windmills and solar panels, inflatables of power plants, masks, banners, placards and thousands of people will adorn the streets of the capital city,” added the tweet from 350.org India. The march is a global movement with participation of college students, kids, other civil society allies, young professionals, rights groups, resident welfare associations and farming communities. The group is using the social media to create awareness about the march and to increase people’s participation. (Business Standard 18/8/14)

105. Panjab University professor to work on climate change effects on crops

CHANDIGARH: Plant biologist and Panjab University (PU) professor Harsh Nayyar has entered into formal scientific collaboration with Morocco-based International Centre for Agriculture Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) to work on effects of climate change on crops in dry areas. Nayyar specializes in environmental stresses and has been working in the department of botany at PU. Nayyar has earlier entered into scientific collaboration with international organizations like University of Western Australia, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia, International Crops Research Institute for Semiarid Tropics, Hyderabad and World Vegetable Centre to work on effects of climate change on agricultural crops. As part of the collaborations, Nayyar and his team will work to identify new sources of stress resistance and development of varieties of pulses with higher resilience for changing climatic conditions in the near future that will be beneficial for the collaborating countries. Nayyar’s focus of work for the past several years has been to develop cold, heat, drought and salt-tolerance on leguminous crops (pulses), so that they are able to withstand the adverse environmental conditions due to rapidly changing climate. He has brought joint research projects with these organizations, some of which are also funded and monitored by them. He also has research programmes with agricultural universities of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Nayyar’s work has been jointly published with scientists from these organizations in high-rated journals. Nayyar has given the credit to team of his hard working and dedicated students as well as the university for efficient handling of his projects. His team’s work has been highly appreciated at various national and international forums. (Times of India 19/8/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

106. High Court directs Agriculture Secretary to act on former MLA’s plea (20)

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Monday directed the State Agriculture Secretary to consider former MLA M. Appavu’s representation that crop insurance benefits should be extended to individual agriculturists in case of crop loss. A decision should be taken within two months. Mr. Appavu said there should be no condition to assess crop damages at firka or taluk level while sanctioning insurance claims to farmers. The First Bench, comprising Chief Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice M.Sathyanarayanan, said the decision taken should be duly communicated to the petitioner within a week. A three-time MLA, representing Radhapuram constituency in Tirunelveli district from 1996, Mr. Appavu claimed in view of the losses in cultivation and enforcement of recovery of agricultural loans by banks, nearly 86.50 per cent of suicides by famers occurred. However, the governments did not take any action to protect farmers. A mere waiver of agricultural loans alone would not be a permanent solution and a multi-pronged strategy was needed. The former MLA said the Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme was disappointing. It was only a formal scheme and there was no real benefit to farmers. As per the scheme, the Tamil Nadu government paid 50 per cent of the premium and remaining was paid by agriculturists. Insurance reimbursement was being shared equally by the State and the Centre. The petitioner’s grievance was that agriculturists would get the benefit only if the crop loss was total in a revenue firka (five villages.) There was no insurance cover for the loss sustained by individual agriculturists. The number of farmers benefitted under the Agricultural Insurance Scheme in Tamil Nadu from 2008-09 to 2011-12 and the sum distributed during the period clearly showed that the insurance scheme did not actually reach the poor families. While in 2008-09 the number of farmers who registered themselves under the insurance scheme was 9.98 lakh, only 5.51 lakh got the benefit. In 2011-12, 8.48 lakh insured themselves and only 97,000 were benefited. (The Hindu 12/8/14)

107. Over 300 Vidarbha region farmers protest over long pending demands (20)

Nagpur: More than 300 farmers of the draught-affected areas of Vidarbha region staged a protest in Yavatmal district demanding the state government to take steps to provide relief to farmers. The farmers gathered at the Pandharkawada tehsil office of Yavatmal district, around 150 kms from here, yesterday, and raised their various demand like to waive off loan, fresh allotment of crop loan, loans for tribals etc. Vidarbha Jan Andolan Conveyor Kishor Tiwari said that they have also submitted a letter to Maharashtra chief minister, through tehsildar, stating if their demands are not met by September 5, farmers in their respective villages in the Vidarbha region will go on hunger strike. He said more than one lakh farmers have signed the letter. “Government is not taking care of farmers in the draught affected areas. We have already raised our long pending demands like loan waiver, fresh allotment of crop loan but government is not paying heed,” he said. (Zee news 16/8/14)

108. Organic farming in State by 2016

Kozhikode: Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said organic farming will cover the entire State by the end of 2016. He was inaugurating the State-level Farmers Day celebrations at the Marine Grounds here on Saturday. The government also planned to organise a global agro meet on November 6 and 7 in connection with this for tapping the opportunities of national and international agriculture sector, Mr. Chandy said. He exuded confidence that through the proposed agro meet, the State would be able to utilise the technology and technical know-how of foreign nations. Besides, steps would be taken to put into practice the results of the agriculture research centres in the country. The Chief Minister said the government procured paddy at Rs.19 per kg. The Centre had fixed the price at Rs.13.20 per kg but the State government provided an additional amount of Rs.5.80. The government had requested the Centre to hike the price to Rs.20, he said. Mr. Chandy said the government had already issued orders giving sanction to farmers for producing neera from coconut. More steps would be taken for protecting the interests of coconut farmers, he added. Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Minister K.P. Mohanan presided over the inaugural session. Actor Manju Warrier was the chief guest on the occasion. Minister for Panchayats and Social Welfare M.K. Muneer and Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes and Youths P.K. Jayalekshmi, M.K. Raghavan and M.I. Shanavas, MPs; C.K. Nanu, K. Kunahamed, K.K. Lathika, C. Moinkutty, Purushan Kadalundi, P.T.A. Rahim, A. K. Saseendran and V.M. Ummer, MLAs; district panchayat president Kannathil Jameela, District Collector P.T.A. Rahim, Animal Husbandry Department Director N. N. Sasi, and Agriculture Department Director R. Ajithkumar participated. (The Hindu 17/8/14)

109. FAO official lauds T.N. model of managing irrigation tanks

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu model of providing primacy to the views of farmers in the management of irrigation tanks has been lauded by an official of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), who is heading a team to review tank projects in India. Conventionally, the tank management has been governed by the water engineering-centric approach. But, in Tamil Nadu, “the focus is on farmers, their needs. And, that’s the way it should move,” says Jim Hancock, Natural Resources and Livelihoods Officer at the Investment Centre, Asia Pacific Service of the FAO. After observing the execution of the World Bank-funded Irrigated Agriculture Modernisation and Water-Bodies Restoration and Management Project (IAMWARM) in Kancheepuram and Villupuram districts last week, Mr. Hancock told The Hindu that another feature that impressed him and his team was the way the existing institutions were working together, from the State down to the village, to address water issues. In this context, he referred to the creation of single window information and knowledge centres at the community level, which were functioning as platforms for officials and farmers to discuss issues and find solutions. He called the facility a “very interesting innovation.” As for the role of tanks in the southern States of the country, he said: “The cultural, rural, dry southern India is centred on tanks.” Pointing out that tanks had a wider purpose, he said they served not only the requirements of agriculture but also those of drinking water, sanitation, livestock, horticulture and fisheries. This was why they were important to the development of the States. Asked to list the areas of improvements in tank management, Mr. Hancock said sustainability of water management, operation and maintenance of tanks was a matter of concern to many States of the country. As for tanks, there were several questions that needed answers. “What is the water balance? Where is water going? Who needs water? Eventually, you have to ask yourselves: should we have to allocate water for the urban sector and to the poorer and better-off users? To what degree, the community together with the government should fund the maintenance of a tank system?” He said one had to get the facts first before taking any decision on the approach to be adopted to the management, operation and maintenance of tanks. (The Hindu 18/8/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

110. Displaced tribals landless and poor: panel

Bangalore: Majority of the displaced tribal families of the Rajiv Gandhi (Nagarahole) National Park area in three taluks of Mysore and Kodagu districts have become landless agricultural labourers and pushed to poverty, a three-member Karnataka High Court committee has said. The committee, headed by Muzaffar Assadi, professor at University of Mysore, noted that only 24.54 per cent (838) of the displaced tribal families owned land. The small size of landholding had failed to alleviate them from poverty. A majority of the tribals were left in the lurch,” the committee report said. The Nagarahole National Park was renamed Rajiv Gandhi National Park in 1992 and was declared Nagarahole Tiger Reserves in 2001. Following this, many tribals had to leave the core park area. The committee was asked “to look into the actual number of families and persons displaced or forced to leave their original habitat on account of establishment of the park”. The committee said that tribals such as Jenu Kurubas, Soligas, Yeravas, Betta Kurubas and Paniyara Yeravas were most affected by the displacement. The panel in its 130-page report titled ‘On the tribal issues of Rajiv Gandhi (Nagarahole) National Park Area’ (July 2014), which was submitted to the High Court and the State government, revealed that families cultivating land have not been able to obtain formal credit owing to allotment of bagair hukum and gomal land. Many families had been denied ownership of land as it lies with the government. Denial of formal credit has forced the tribals to “fall back on private lenders for loans in the form of seeds and fertilizers. This might lead to perpetual indebtedness,” the report said. Under project tiger, the State had spent only 70.37 per cent of the Rs. 24.39 crore sanctioned by the Centre during 2007-08 to 2013-14. Under the tribal sub-plan and special component plan of the State, only 53.56 per cent of the Rs. 32.69 crore was utilised. The panel recommended granting of fertile lands for displaced tribals, construction of quality houses and inclusion of the families into the below poverty line list. It suggested that the government provide basic facilities such as hospitals, drinking water and electricity in relocated villages. (The Hindu 11/8/14)

111. Odisha plans 50,000 acre land bank for industries

BHUBANESWAR: With land acquisition posing a major hurdle in rapid industrialization, plans are afoot to develop a land bank of at least 50,000 acres as a key initiative for development of industrial infrastructure in Odisha. The Industries department along with the Industrial Development Corporation Limited (IDCO) and Industrial Promotion and Investment Corporation of Odisha Limited (IPICOL) has been directed to carry forward the initiatives in a time bound manner, an official said on Tuesday. Meanwhile, according to an official release, chief secretary G C Pati, while reviewing the activities of Industry Department at a high level meeting on Monday, directed the officials to develop a land bank of at least 50,000 acres for public and industrial purposes. The department has also been asked to work out definite work strategy for land acquisition in the light of the new Land Acquisition Act, it said. Stressing on streamlining of single window mechanism, Pati directed that IPICOL single window meetings be held more frequently to address the pending issues of cleared proposals. The chief secretary has sought focus on development of downstream and value addition industries in clusters. He indicated that all the steel plants should be asked to promote downstream industries and at least 25 per cent of the steel produced in Odisha should be put to value addition in downstream industries. The department has been asked to deploy dedicated teams for each industrial cluster with firm date lines for milestones to be accomplished. Odisha has been one of the top three states which attracted investment in the last decade. Capacity addition in various key sectors in the last decade has ranged from 3 to 12 times, it said. At present IDCO is facilitating around 226 industrial projects in the state. Around 106 industrial estates/parks have been initiated. The industrial parks like Infovalley-IT & ESDM Park Bhubaneswar, Electronic Hardware Manufacturing Park Bhubaneswar, INFO park, Bio-Tech Park Bhubaneswar, Aluminum Park Angul, Mega Food park at Rayagada, Plastic Cluster at Balasore and Paradeep, Sea Food Cluster at Deras, Kalinganagar Steel Hub, PCPIR, Paradeep and Special Investment Region at Dhamara have been launched, it said. (Times of India 12/8/14)

112. 900 crore disbursed to DMIC beneficiaries

AURANGABAD: The district administration has so far disbursed altogether Rs 900 crore of the Rs 1,314 crore as compensation to the beneficiaries under the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project. The administration has acquired 2,263 hectares of land at Bidkin in the second phase of land acquisition process. District land acquisition officer, Ravindra Pawar, said,”The second phase of land acquisition process in five villages at Bidkin for DMIC project had begun two months back. Of the total 2263.39 hectares notified for acquisition, 1558.99 hectares has been acquired and Rs 900 crore has been disbursed to the beneficiaries.” He said, “The administration is expecting an additional Rs 100 crore from the government by Thursday. The fund distribution and land acquisition process will move parallel.” “The administration would receive Rs 1,314 from the state government which would be disbursed to around 666 beneficiaries under the Land Acquisition Act. The state government had approved Rs 23 lakh per acre as land rate,” said Pawar. In the first phase 555 hectares of land at Karmad was acquired in October 2012, in which the beneficiaries were offered Rs 23 lakh per acre. After completing the first phase of land acquisition under the DMIC project, the district administration started the process for the second phase. Land acquisition in the second phase was carried out in five villages ? Bidkin, Banni Tanda, Bangal Tanda, Nilajgaon and Nandalgaon. In Phase-I, the DMIC project — which is rated as the largest infra project — will see development of seven new industrial cities namely Dadri-Noida-Ghaziabad Investment Region in Uttar Pradesh, Manesar-Bawal Investment Region in Haryana, Khushkhera-Bhiwadi-Neemrana Investment Region in Rajasthan, Pithampur-Dhar-Mhow Investment Region in Madhya Pradesh, Ahmedabad-Dholera Investment Region in Gujarat and Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Park city and Dighi Port Industrial Area, both in Maharashtra. Plans for all these cities have been finalized and work on the Dholera and Shendra-Bidkin investment regions is likely to begin this year. The deadline for the first phase is 2019. Once the state government completes land acquisition for a city project, DMICDC will incorporate SPVs to set up base infrastructure or trunk infrastructure ? such as water, power connections, drainage system, broadband network, roads and so on. Later, industry will be invited to invest in projects. The DMIC in Maharashtra covers Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Nashik, Aurangabad, Ahmednagar, Pune, Dhule & Nandurbar Districts and influences 18% of the total area of the state. Of all these cities covered, Aurangabad is part of the DMIC Early Bird project which includes Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Park and International Convention centre and has been proposed over an area of 8,340 hectares. The project, to be completed in three phases, will see the opening of many industries with players from national and international market joining the league. But with the process getting delayed it is feared that the deadline for the project will get extended. (Times of India 14/8/14)

113. Tough reforms needed to make India a manufacturing hub: CEOs

Mumbai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to launch a new manufacturing policy could transform India into an international manufacturing hub, giving tough competition to China. However, to realise this goal, reforms in labour laws, special economic zone policy, foreign direct investment rules, taxation policy, and land acquisition policy are very crucial, say CEOs. Though India has missed the bus, the country can still make an impact on the global manufacturing sector through innovation and reducing costs, they say. A M Naik, chairman, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), says India has virtually killed the manufacturing sector and to revive it is a multi-year task. “Modi has given his wish and vision and we hope he will simplify procedures. The government has been there for two months; give him at least a year. The whole sector has gone down badly, as today our manufacturing is less than 17 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product), while in China, it is 50 per cent, and in Malaysia, it is 40 per cent.” Sunil Sikka, president of Havells India, says the labour arbitrage between India and China is gone. Chinese labourers are 50 to 60 per cent more productive than Indians but the wages are also higher by almost 70 per cent. “You cannot replace China as manufacturing hub, but India can certainly be an alternative in industries where application of skill is higher than assembling competencies.” CEOs say the Chinese and Indian economy were almost similar during the 1980s. But China took a giant step forward by making its manufacturing sector the main engine of its economy. M S Unnikrishnan, MD and CEO, Thermax, says Modi’s intention is very good but there should be action now. “Indian companies have inherent advantages against the rest of the world. We will have one of the largest workforces by 2025 and also the biggest market after China. With the consumption base for market place, it has the advantage of becoming an export hub for exports as well,” he adds. Harshpati Singhania, director, JK Organisation and MD of JK Paper, was all praise for the prime minister’s Independence Day speech. He says “An inspiring speech. Encouraging to see that the prime minister wants to involve all citizens, including the corporate sector in nation building. We promise to do our best.” The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) says issues related to taxation, including introduction of a goods and services tax, easy land acquisition, faster approvals and trade policy need to be addressed to boost the manufacturing sector. “CII is happy to see high importance attached to manufacturing and investment. As PM said manufacturing is necessary for employment and for trade expansion,” says Chandrajit Banerjee, director-general, CII. Sidharth Birla, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), says, “He (PM) gave importance to job-creation and tried to bring attention to all topics, such as cleanliness, women’s security.” (Business Standard 16/8/14)

114. Madras HC dismisses PIL against Cheyyur Ultra Mega Power Project

Chennai: The Madras High Court has dismissed a public interest litigation challenging the land acquisition process for the proposed 4,000 MW Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) in Cheyyur, stating that the plea of the petitioner to stay the process as the environmental issues related to the project are pending before the National Green Tribunal, is not permissible. The Rs 24,200-crore Cheyyur ultra mega power project in Tamil Nadu is reportedly India’s first coastal power plant to be bid out with an attached captive port. The High Court bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan observed that the acquisition proceedings for the project started in May, 2010, and the land owners have been called upon to appear and collect the compensation in September, 2013 and 31 persons have already received compensation. The Court said, “In view of the aforesaid position, the plea of the petitioner that in larger public interest, the acquisition proceedings cannot go (which are substantially complete) on the ground that the issue of location of the Power Project inter alia is before the National Green Tribunal could not be permissible, nor in our view, a Public Interest Litigation in this form be entertained by a person who does not even have any interest in the land in question sought to be acquired.” The dispute related to the environmental issues of project is pending with the the National Green Tribunal. The Court observed that the petitioner, K Saravanan, is not the land owner but claims to be an activist in the area. The acquisition of land in the present case is governed by a Special Act being the Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act, 1997, where Chapter-II contains the Scheme for Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes. Notice of acquisition is to be given to a person interested in such land in terms of sub-section 2 of Section 3 of the said Act. Section 18 ousts the jurisdiction of a Civil Court to pass injunctive orders against the acquisition proceedings, said the Bench. The petition was to declare all the proceedings for identification of land, land acquisition commenced, notified and proceeded with by the respondents for the 4000 MW Ultra Mega Power Project in regard to the villages Cheyyur, Vedal, Chittarkadu, Gangadevankuppam, Vilangadu and Kokkaranthangal, Panaiyur in Cheyyur Taluk for the establishment of the Plant and Ash dyke and also the captive port are grossly illegal and invalid, ultra vires and void…. (Business Standard 19/8/14)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

115. Rotavirus can reduce 26,985 deaths in India

Kolkata: The central government’s decision to introduce rotavirus vaccine in India’s Universal Immunization Programme can reduce as many as 26,985 deaths annually due to rotaviral diarrhoea, a study said. It also said the vaccine can also lead to 2,91,756 fewer hospitalizations. Rotaviral diarrhoea is the common cause of severe diarrhoea among infants and young children. The study by Vaccine journal “estimates 11.37 million episodes in India annually”, according to a statement. “Introduction of rotavirus vaccine in the Universal Immunization Programme in India at current coverage would result in 26,985 fewer deaths, 291,756 fewer hospitalizations and 686,277 fewer outpatient visits annually in India assuming no indirect effects for the vaccine,” the statement said. The supplement released on Aug 11 and has 33 papers on rotaviral diarrhoea. The paper ‘Rotavirus Gastroenteritis in India, 2011-2013’ pointed out the latest disease burden. It said: “There are over 78,000 rotavirus-associated deaths annually, as well as more than 8,72,000 hospitalizations and over 3.2 million outpatient visits each year.” The authors noted: “Beyond such deaths, there are an additional 8,72,000 hospitalizations and 3.2 million outpatient visits each year, collectively resulting in an economic burden of Rs.4.9 billion and Rs.5.38 billion, respectively. “Each of these numbers individually is less than the estimated Rs. 4.47 billion it would cost to fund a rotavirus immunization programme.” To prevent one rotavirus-related death, 743 children need to be vaccinated while vaccinating 69 children would prevent one rotavirus hospitalization, the report said. (The Hindu 12/8/14)

116. Organ donation makes destitute immortal

LUCKNOW: Abandoned by parents because of her mental illness, Uma was exploited sexually till a policeman rescued her and admitted her to a hospital. She was adopted by an orphanage but had to be hospitalized again for treatment of tuberculosis, to which she ultimately succumbed. But, through donation of her anatomy to King George’s Medical University, she became immortal. Her eyes were donated by the NGO which took her responsibility. In the past two years, the body and cornea of 12 destitute persons have been received by KGMU. “The trend and system facilitating it is an inspiration for many,” said AK Srivastava, head of anatomy department, KGMU. On Tuesday, the body of a 16-year-old mentally challenged Puja alias Lovely living at a shelter home run by the Drishti Samajik Sansthan was donated to KGMU. Retired head Ashok Sahai, who is behind the initiative, said, “Very few body and eye donations take place because of superstitions and myths in the society. We need to make people aware that organ donation is actually a noble and pious act.” KGMU has been facing acute shortage of bodies for academic purpose since 1995. Against the requirement of 45 bodies per year, the number available was in single digit til 2009. Following awareness, numbers have improved but are still less than required. SS Dhapola who runs one such NGO stated that he started donating the body of destitute persons because he found some of them healthy enough to help someone in need. (Times of India 13/8/14)

117. Low risk of Ebola transmission in air travel: WHO

Geneva: The World Health Organisation (WHO) reiterated Thursday that the risk of transmission of Ebola virus during air travel remains low. “Unlike infections such as influenza or tuberculosis, Ebola is not airborne,” Xinhua quoted Isabelle Nuttall, Director of WHO Global Capacity Alert and Response, as saying. Nuttall noted the deadly viruses can only be transmitted by direct contact with the body fluids of a person who is sick with the disease. She said while there is just a small chance that someone on the plane is sick with Ebola, the likelihood of other passengers and crew having contact with their body fluids is even smaller. “Because the risk of Ebola transmission on airplanes is so low, WHO does not consider air transport hubs at high risk for further spread of Ebola,” Nuttall said. On Aug 8, WHO declared that the Ebola outbreak raging in West Africa constitutes an international public health emergency and provided advice to countries to help contain the current Ebola outbreak. As Aug 11, the cumulative number of cases attributed to Ebola virus disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone stands at 1,975, including 1,069 deaths. (Business Standard 15/8/14)

118. Silicosis swallows mine workers in Rajasthan

Karauli (Rajasthan) : For 10 years, Ghanshyam underwent treatment for tuberculosis (TB) as his persistent coughing and chest pain refused to go away. But in 2011, the stone quarry worker was told that he is in the last stages of silicosis – an insidious and incurable lung disease that has claimed the lives of many mine workers across Rajasthan. Twenty-five years of working in the sandstone mines of Karauli district in Rajasthan and inhaling the silica dust have reduced Ghanshyam, 50, to a skeleton. On a liquid diet for the past many months, the father of two cannot stand and always moans in pain. “There is no hope for us now. We are in debt as around Rs.4 lakh has been spent on his treatment. Had he been diagnosed with silicosin (silicosis) on time, life wouldn’t have come to this,” Dayabai, Ghanshyam’s wife, told a visiting IANS correspondent. Karauli is one of the 19 districts in Rajasthan where thousands of mine workers are battling with silicosis caused by inhaling dust containing crystalline silica. Ghanshyam is not the only botched-up case of misdiagnosis in Aarampur village of Karauli in the eastern belt of Rajasthan where sandstone is found in abundance and has been used in building the historical Red Fort and the palatial Rashtrapati Bhavan. “Many silicosis-affected patients in this village, in fact in several adjoining districts, have died mistakenly thinking they had TB,” Vikas Bhardwaj, secretary at Dang Vikas Sansthan – a non-government organization – told IANS. Legal mining of stones in this backward district dates back to 1920, but the first official case of this deadly disease was detected only in 2011, said Bhardwaj. “It was only as late as November 2011 that we realised that the people were in the grip of silicosis,” said Bhardwaj. Sribai, 50, a gaunt-looking silicosis patient, said she lost her husband to the disease a few years ago. According to locals, Balram, 60, is the eldest male of this village of 3,000 people. The disease has sapped away the lives of several men, mostly in their middle age, leaving behind their widows. “No one survives here till 60. Despite having silicosis, Balram is still alive,” remarked Prabhu Dayal, a silicosis patient himself. Rajasthan has no accurate data on silicosis, thanks to the poor health infrastructure to diagnose the disease and unchecked mining and quarrying in the state. Rajasthan has 32,000 mines where over two million labourers work and only seven Pneumoconiosis Board centres to diagnose silicosis. Located in seven state-run medical colleges, each centre has a team of three doctors who examine the cases only on weekends. At present there are 244 registered silicosis patients in Karauli, but Bhardwaj says their numbers run into thousands. “At least 13,000 mine workers have got themselves registered with the Dang Vikas Sansthan. All have pain in their chests and want to be diagnosed for silicosis,” Bhardwaj said. The nearest Pneumoconiosis Board centre for patients in Karauli is located in Jaipur, around 200 km away. The other six are situated in far-flung areas of Rajasthan. For patients like Mishra Lal, whose name figures last in the list of 13,000 suspected patients, their wait to get diagnosed at the Jaipur centre means that they will possibly have to wait for 27 years, according to Varun Sharma, programme coordinator at the Association for Rural Advancement through Voluntary Action and Local Involvement (ARAVALI). “And by that time he would have died. The Pneumoconiosis board centre in Jaipur can see only 40 people in a week which works out to 480 cases in a year,” Sharma told IANS. Established by the Rajasthan government, ARAVALI is working in collaboration with the Dang Vikas Sansthan in the livelihood sector… (Business Standard 17/8/14)

119. No standard treatment for Ebola, says expert

MYSORE: People will have to be careful and protect themselves from diseases like Ebola as there’s no standard treatment for it and patients receive only supportive therapy, M S Basavaraj, deputy chief health officer of University of Mysore (UoM), said here on Monday. Delivering the keynote address on ‘Emerging viral diseases: a new threat to mankind’ organized by Mysore chapter of the Association of Microbiologists of India (AMI) at the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) here, Basavaraj said usually viruses cannot survive outside a host body for long time; but Ebola virus has been found to have survived for weeks even on dead bodies. It is also difficult to handle the Ebola-hit dead bodies, he said. (Times of India 19/8/14)

HIV/AIDS

120. All villages in Goa have HIV cases: Minister

PANAJI:  “Goa does not have a single village unaffected by HIV,” Minister for Health Services Laxmikant Parsekar stated in the Assembly on Monday. Replying to a question on the number of HIV cases in the State, tabled by Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Nilesh Cabral during the question hour, Mr. Parsekar disclosed that there were nearly 15,000 people living with HIV, which was one per cent of the State’s population. He went on to say that there was not a single village in the State without HIV cases. The coastal tourist State has a population of over 14 lakh and more than 300 villages. Replying to a supplementary question, the Minister said the number of people with HIV had gone down in recent years. Annually, the number had gone down by almost half since 2009. Between 2003 and 2008, the State recorded around 1,000 cases annually. But since 2009, the number had gone down to about 550 cases annually. He attributed the decline to awareness measures taken up by the State government in association with NGOs. In 2013, Goa reported 532 new cases. In the current year so far, 246 fresh HIV cases were reported. “We are aiming at taking this trend to zero in the next five years,” the Minister said. (The Hindu 12/8/14)

121. More than 9,100 HIV positive patients in Assam: Govt

GUWAHATI: Over 9,100 people in Assam have been detected with HIV positive virus at present, the state Assembly was informed on Wednesday. Replying to a query by AIUDF MLA Swapan Kar, state parliamentary affairs minister Nilamani Sen Deka said the state has 9,110 people with HIV positive cases as on March 31, 2014. Deka, who replied on behalf of health and family welfare minister Nazrul Islam, said Kamrup Metro district, which mostly comprise the Guwahati city, tops the list with 3,570 affected persons. It is followed by Cachar district with 1,866 victims, he said. Some other districts with high numbers of affected people are Dibrugarh (630), Nagaon (418), Golaghat (304), Karimganj (272), Sonitpur (252), Bongaigaon (228), Karbi Anglong (207) and Jorhat (207). Deka said Chirang district does not have a single case of HIV case so far. The districts with comparatively lower number of HIV patients are Baksa (11), Udalguri (22), Hailakandi (23), Dhemaji (39), Morigaon (50), Lakhimpur (57), Dima Hasao (59), Nalbari (65), Darrang (66), Sivasagar (70), Kamrup Rural (86) and Goalpara (93). Kokrajhar, Barpeta, Tinsukia and Dhubri districts currently have 150, 127, 124 and 114 HIV positive patients respectively. The minister informed the House that Assam State AIDS Control Society is implementing the National AIDS Control Programme as per the Department of AIDS Control’s strategic plan to prevent spread of the disease. Talking about Japanese Encephalitis, Deka said 122 people have lost their lives till August 6 this year across the state. “Also six persons have died this year in Malaria,” he added. (Times of India 13/8/14)

122. No separate floor yet for HIV patients at Nair Hospital

Mumbai: Many HIV patients complained they had to huddle outside a small room allotted to them and were constant victims of snide remarks from the public. The authorities have, however, turned a blind eye, they said. Earlier, the two-floor ART building which was the centre for HIV patients was closed after being declared a dangerous structure by the civic body. It’s been a year and a half since then and no arrangement for at least a suitably big room or floor has been made for the HIV patients who do want their identities to be revealed to the general public. “When the department was shifted, we were promised relocation to a new floor within a month. But it has been more than a year now,” said an employee at the HIV department. After The Asian Age reported the case last month, an assurance was given by the authorities that the department would soon be reallocated to a new place, but so far no step has been taken. “We have written letters to the authorities but they have not replied to it,” said the employee. The patients meanwhile continue to be mortified by the arrangement. “People think the virus floats in the air. They treat us as outcastes. I cannot even change my hospital now as it is a long procedure and I will have to travel far,” said a patient. Dr Ramesh Bharmal, dean of Nair Hospital, said that a ward would be allocated for patients after the renovation. However, some hospital staff said there were many areas in the hospital that were vacant and could easily be used. (Asian Age 18/8/14)

123. Andhra Pradesh has highest No. of pregnant HIV women

HYDERABAD: Undivided Andhra Pradesh reported the highest number of pregnant mothers testing positive for HIV in 2013. According to recent data from the Union ministry of health and family welfare, 1,330 pregnant women of the nearly seven lakh carrying mothers screened in AP last year, tested HIV positive. The ministry data shows that in neighbouring states like Maharashtra and Karnataka, where a larger number of women were screened, the percentage of women testing positive was significantly lower. It has been estimated that a mother has 30 per cent chance of transmitting the virus to her baby during pregnancy. The mortality rate among children with HIV is much higher compared to adults owing to their under-developed immune systems. However AP fared better or equally well in treating mothers to prevent transmission to children, as evinced by the data which shows that 1,142 HIV positive pregnant women were put on treatment. To reduce the numbers of baby transmissions, AP government in a first launched a new regimen of medication and treatment modality in 2012. The new treatment modality requires mothers to start treatment 14 weeks into pregnancy as against earlier practice of taking medication at the time of delivery. The medication now comprises a combination of three drugs as against one compound that was given earlier. Babies now are also given the same medication after birth. Additionally, under the new treatment practice, babies are screened every six months after birth until 18 months of age, when a concluding diagnosis is made about their infection. According to P L Jayachandra Reddy, additional project director of AP State Aids Control Society, more than 90 per cent of the first batch of pregnant women in undivided AP, who were put on the new treatment modality in 2012, delivered babies without infecting them. “The transmission rate has come down to about five per cent. It has not been eliminated completely owing to drug resistance some of the women developed during treatment or due to delay in starting the treatment,” Reddy said. A team comprising members of World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) established this during a study of AP’s implementation of the new treatment modality in March this year, 18 months after the first batch of women mentioned by Reddy, gave birth. Buoyed by AP’s success, the WHO-NACO team has recommended that the new treatment modality be taken up in other states. (Times of India 19/8/14)