HR News

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Volume 18                                       No. 35 & 36                                   Dec. 20 & Dec. 31, 2016

HR NEWS:  Dec. 20 & Dec. 31, 2016

 (From December 11 to December 31, 2016)

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Karnataka government mulls 70% quota for Dalits (2)

HUBBALLI: The Karnataka government is mulling 70% quota for Dalits and backward classes. Addressing the Madigara Maha Samavesh here on Sunday, CM Siddaramaiah said that Tamil Nadu has already provided 69% reservation for SCs and STs, adding that the state will consult legal experts to make amendments to the existing laws and put forth a resolution in the next Assembly session.The move, however, will need a constitutional amendment by Parliament in view of the Supreme Court verdict, capping reservation at 50%.Emphasizing on social equality, Siddaramaiah said the Constitution’s objective to distribute wealth and power had not been fulfilled yet. “It is shameful that social and economic equality dreamt by Basavanna and Sharanas of 12th century still remains a dream. Visionaries like BR Ambedkar and Babu Jagjivan Ram experienced untouchability and tried to elevate the position of such communities in the society. Even after 69 years of Independence, the practice of untouchability still exists,” he said. “Socio-economic development of the region or country will be curbed when a part of the society is segregated from the mainstream. Casteism is still deep rooted. Our Constitution has provided political freedom for the downtrodden, but we have to provide them social and economic freedom,” the CM said. Adequate representation of all the communities is something that’s still to be achieved, he added. Justifying his move for a caste Census, conducted in Karnataka for the first time after Independence, the chief minister said, “We have reserved funds for communities depending on their population. Once the Census report is out, it will be helpful to reserve funds scientifically. According to 2011 Census, Karnataka has 1.04 crore people belonging to the Scheduled Castes. This year, we have spent Rs 19,880 crore for the welfare of SCs,” Siddaramaiah said.Siddaramaiah refused to give an assurance of the implementation Justice AJ Sadashiv Commission recommendations. The CM said that he has asked social welfare minister H Anjaneya to table it in the next cabinet meeting. “I’m personally in favor of its implementation but I cannot announce the same as it has to get the cabinet’s nod,” he said. (Times of India 12/12/2016)

2. First time, Church says: Dalit Christians face untouchability (2)

New Delhi: FOR THE first time in its history, the Indian Catholic Church has officially accepted that Dalit Christians face untouchability and discrimination, and that “their participation in the level of leadership… at the higher levels is almost nil”. These admissions are contained in a policy document prepared and released Monday by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the apex decision-making body of the community, which seeks to abolish all forms of exclusion of the socially backward section and empower them. The 44-page document, titled ‘Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India’, asks the 171 dioceses to submit long and short-term plans within a year to end all kinds of discrimination against Dalit Christians. “If there are dual practices based on caste discrimination, such practices should be stopped forthwith. In case of failure to do so, stringent measures should be taken by the Church authority concerned,” says the document. Baselios Cardinal Cleemis Catholicos, president, CBCI, told The Indian Express: “It’s a revolutionary step. We are admitting that it’s a grave social sin, an issue and a problem. It’s a sin, if you are going by the Christian spirit. This is a step to end the practice of discrimination within the church. It’s a message as well as an introspection.” Incidentally, the Church has been fighting for years for the inclusion of Dalit Christians in the Scheduled Castes list. But its latest policy document admits that although 12 million out of 19 million members of the Catholic Church in India are Dalit Christians, when it comes to “their participation in the level of leadership in the diocesan administration as well as in religious orders is minimum and at the higher levels, it is almost nil”. At present, only 12 out of the more than 5,000 bishops in the Catholic Church in the country are Dalit Christians. “There is wider acceptance that the practice of untouchability and discrimination against Dalits exist in the Church and there is need to address these issues urgently,” says the document. It adds, however, that there have been some positive changes and “more acceptance of the rights and dignity of Dalits at least at the ideological and theoretical level” due to various efforts made by the Church and Dalit outfits. Although various levels of the Church structure have been sensitised, with the younger generation growing with a much higher sense of dignity and self worth, there are newer forms of discrimination. “Since there is inadequate representation in seminaries in appointments to key positions and sharing of common resources in the religious orders and in the Church in general, efforts need to be made to remedy the situation given the importance of good priests… for the mission of the Church,” the document states.It states that Dalits are being deprived of access to courses that are job-oriented or in demand. …  (The Indian Express 15/12/16)

3. Dalit youth beaten for twirling moustache (2)

AHMEDABAD: A dispute over a dalit youth twirling his moustache before members of the darbar community sparked violence in which some darbars assaulted the dalit youth’s family in Memadpur village of Jotana taluka in Mehsana district. Two persons of the family are still hospitalized in Mehsana’s civil hospital. Mahesh Parmar, 24, the dalit youth, was fond of sporting a moustache but he did not know that it would lead to an assault on his family. Mahesh’s elder brother, Naresh (27), said his brother was standing at a roadside eatery on December 12 and twirling his moustache while some members of darbar community were standing in front of him. “They went to my brother and asked him why he was twirling his moustache and to which community he belonged. When my brother told him that he is a Parmar, they started abusing and beating him,” Naresh said. “Later, my brother on the advice of the elders of our village, settled the matter with those darbars. But the very next day, four other darbars came to our house and started abusing us and hurled caste-related insults. When we asked them to refrain from this, they started beating me,” Naresh said. Naresh further said that when his 72-year-old grandmother, Maniben, came to rescue her grandson, she fell down and fractured her leg. “I was beaten mercilessly and my grandmother also got injured in that attack. We were then taken to the civil hospital,” he said. An FIR was lodged with the Santhal police station on December 14 regarding the incident and the four accused — Indrasinh Jhala, Dharmendrasinh Jhala, Mehulsinh Jhala and Hiteshsinh Jhala — were booked. The accused have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for voluntarily causing hurt, intentional insult, criminal intimidation along with the sections of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act-2015. (Times of India 17/12/16)

4. Dalit attack ‘failure’ (2)

New Delhi, Dec. 17: The Supreme Court has said the Centre and state governments have both failed to prevent increasing attacks on Dalits and tribal people, defeating the “laudable” objective of a law that has long been in force to deal with such crimes. The court said people from these segments were often subjected to social indignities although Parliament has enacted the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. “There has been a failure on the part of the concerned authorities in complying with the provisions of the act…. The laudable object with which the act had been made is defeated by the indifferent attitude of the authorities. “It is true that the state governments are responsible for carrying out the provisions of the act as contended by the counsel for the Union of India. At the same time, the central government has an important role to play in ensuring… compliance…,” the three-judge bench said in a recent judgment. “The constitutional goal of equality for all… citizens… can be achieved only when the rights of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are protected,” the bench added. The court was dealing with a petition filed by the NGO National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ). The NGO had complained that authorities in all states and Union territories had failed to enforce the law, resulting in the continuing victimisation of Dalits and tribal people. The top court referred to a report placed before it by the rights body NHRC, which said even in cases of “heinous crimes”, the police machinery in many states “has been deliberately avoiding the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989″.The report also alleged non-registration of cases and other means resorted to by the police to discourage Dalits from filing cases under the act that prohibits granting anticipatory bail to the accused. “The abundant material on record proves that the authorities concerned are guilty of not enforcing the provisions of the act,” Justice L. Nageswara Rao said. “The National Commissions (For Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) are also directed to discharge their duties to protect the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes,” the bench added. (The Telegraph 17/12/16)

5. Haryana Dalit woman killed for intervening in quarrel (2)

A 55-year-old Dalit woman was killed allegedly by a group of upper caste youths, who crushed her under a car for intervening in a quarrel in Haryana on Tuesday night, police said. The woman has been identified as Dani Devi of Charkhi Dadri district’s Kakroli Sardara village. Haryana recorded a sevenfold increase in number of crimes against Dalits and Scheduled Castes in over 15 years, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)’s data released last year. Dalits form roughly 20% of the state’s population of 2.5 crore as per the 2011 census. Giving sequel of the latest crime against a Dalit woman, police quoting family sources said a group of upper-caste youths swooped down on the village in a car on Tuesday night and dragged out from home Devi’s nephew Mahesh who had engaged in a quarrel with them in the morning. When Devi and other members of the family tried to rescue him, the intruders also assaulted them with logs, police said, adding while leaving the village the inebriated youths mowed down by their car an injured Devi. The incident sparked tension in the village, the largest Dalit majority village. To prevent any untoward incident, four police personnel have been posted to guard the village. The village sarpanch said out of 1,100 families, more than 550 were Dalits while rest are Jats, Muslims, Brahmins and others. DSP Loharu Kuldeep Singh said a case against five named and four unnamed men under section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code and the SC and the ST (prevention of atrocities) Act was registered. Among the five named accused four are Jats — Vedvir, Ravi, Ballu, Ashwini— and one Muslim identified as Salim. “All the accused and their family members are on the run since the incident,” the DSP said. The family members said Devi was rushed to a community health centre where she was pronounced dead. Her body was sent to Civil Hospital in Bhiwani for post mortem. The family members of the deceased staged a dharna at the hospital demanding arrests of the accused. After police assured action, they agreed to cremate the body. (Hindustan Times 22/12/16)

6. Siddaramaiah questions old confidant’s secular credence (2)

Mysuru: With former minister V Srinivas Prasad finally announcing his decision to join BJP, Congress leaders have launched an attack on him, questioning his credence on secularism and social justice, which were advocated by Buddha and Dr B R Ambedkar. Chief minister Siddaramaiah, his friend-turned-foe, was the first to take a dig at Prasad’s decision to join BJP, During the Sankalpa Diwas organized by Karnataka Rajya Dalit Sangarsha Samithi on Saturday, Siddaramaiah taunted Prasad, stating that the person (without mentioning Prasad’s name) who claimed to be a follower of Dr B R Ambedkar and Buddha, is now ready to join BJP, which propagates Hindutva. “Ambedkar who was born in a dalit family suffered humiliation due to caste discrimination. He fought throughout his life for social and economic justice of dalits. When he couldn’t succeed, he decided to leave Hinduism and got converted to Buddhism. But the person who claims to be a follower of Ambedkar and Buddha, is joining BJP and RSS,” Siddaramaiah said. “Those who are true followers of Basavanna and Ambedkar will not support BJP and RSS, even in their dreams. The followers of Buddha will not join hands with people who believe in Hindutva. The BJP, Bajrang Dal and RSS doesn’t believe in social justice or equality,” Siddaramaiah stated.Speaking on Ambedkar’s fight for social justice, Siddaramaiah said there are still places in the country where untouchability is practised. “Dalits are not allowed inside temples, nor are they allowed to draw water from wells. In India, caste system is deep-rooted and it is difficult to eradicate it,” he said. “The mindset of people should change. We should think like Ambedkar to bring change to the society. He advocated inter-caste marriages and sahapanthi bojana as means of bringing social justice. The Congress government is providing cash incentives for marriages between dalits and non-dalits. While the dalit bride will get Rs 3 lakh incentive, the dalit groom will get Rs 2 lakh,” he claimed. Siddaramaiah said the Congress government has raised spending on dalit programmes from Rs 6,000 crore to Rs 19,842 crore per year. The officials who failed to deliver the programmes will be booked under criminal charges,” he said (Times of India 25/12/16)

7. Dalits re-enact Mahad Satyagraha (2)

ONGOLE:  Activists of the Dalit Hakkula Parirakshana Samiti (DHPS) re-enacted on Sunday the Mahad Satyagaraha enacted by Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar by burning Manusmriti. The activists shouted slogans against the ruling BJP-TDP combine for pursuing with vigour the neo-liberal economic policies which marginalised the Dalits and curtailed the benefits of reservation. Liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation (LPG) policies meant expansion of the private sector and loss of education and job opportunities in the public sector for Dalits guaranteed by the Constitution, said DHPS Prakasam district president Neelam Nagendra Rao while leading the protest in front of the Ambedkar statue on the arterial Trunk Road here. The State government allotted large tracts of land for industries but denied a piece of land in each village for burial ground for Dalits, he alleged. It was unfortunate that Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had not convened a meeting to review SC/ST atrocities cases in the last 2-1/2 years and not implemented recommendations of the Justice Punniah Commission to ameliorate the living condition of Dalits, he added. (The Hindu 26/12/16)

8. Dalit youth attacked by caste Hindus dies (2)

MADURAI: A Dalit youth, S. Muruganantham (36), who was brutally attacked by three caste Hindus in Kodaikanal in August and admitted to Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH) here in a serious condition, died on Wednesday.Makkal Viduthalai Meetpu Iyakkam has demanded the immediate arrest of the accused – K. Sudhakar (26), R. Balamuruganantham (31) and B. Ulaganathan (31) – and adequate compensation to the family of the deceased under the provisions of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015. Iyakkam general secretary R. Srinivasa Raghavan said the delay by Dingidul district police in registering the case under the correct legal provisions led to undue delay in the victim and his family getting due compensation envisaged in the Act. Muruganantham had bought a mobile phone from Sudhakar and promised to pay the money in due course. However, on August 21, Sudhakar and his friends, who were reportedly under the influence of alcohol, picked a quarrel with Muruganantham and assaulted him. His mother Murugammal was also assaulted by them, he said. Muruganantham was admitted to the GRH after being treated at a local hospital and Dindigul Government Hospital. “Ms. Murugammal made a representation to the Superintendent of Police, Dindigul, and the Inspector General of Police (South Zone), seeking the immediate arrest of the accused and special treatment to Muruganantham as his health condition worsened,” Mr. Raghavan, said. Another representation was made to the Madurai Collector, seeking special medical care to Muruganantham. However, after 120 days in hospital, Muruganantham died. “Still the accused have not been arrested. Had Kodaikanal police registered the case under the right Sections, the poor Arunthathiyar family would have provided a better treatment to the victim,” Mr. Raghavan, said. Kodaikanal Deputy Superintendent of Police P. Chandran said the accused could not be arrested as they had obtained anticipatory bail. “We are taking steps to cancel the advance bail as the victim has died, and they will be arrested soon,” he said. Mr. Raghavan demanded a government job to the wife of the deceased and due compensation to Ms. Murugammal, who was also injured in the attack. (The Hindu 28/12/16)

TRIBALS

9. Tribals in TS to benefit from ‘Vanjeevan’ (6)

New Delhi: The country can look forward to a National Resource Centre for Tribal Livelihood issues. To be located at Bhubaneswar and christened `Vanjeevan’, it will be formally be launched by the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs on December 22.It is a collaborative project of the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs with UNDP and National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation (NSTFDC). On the same day the NRC website and e-knowledge platform on tribal livelihood will also be unveiled. The ceremony will be followed by a workshop on Skill development and entrepreneurship landscape in tribal areas, Livelihood mapping; skill gap analysis – Farm, Non Farm and Forest based and Skill and Enterprise Promotion in Farm and Forest-based Livelihood. Eminent experts and senior officials of Centre and State Governments including Hrusikesh Panda, former Union Tribal Secretary and N.C. Saxena, former Secretary, Planning Commission will attend the workshop. Vanjeevan will be a programme to identify the problems in livelihood issues in select districts of six states having low HDI of tribal people in the first phase. The states are Assam, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha and Telangana. In the second phase the programme will be implemented in Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Meghalaya and Tripura. The programme will focus on the identification of local resources, keeping in view the existing skill level. It will facilitate utilization of funds under various government programmes for the programme. The National Resource Centre will serve as a platform for livelihood mapping, skill gap analysis and knowledge hub where consolidation of best livelihood and entrepreneurship models will be accessible for tribal entrepreneurship development. (The Hindu 14/12/16)

10. MoS home blames Maoists for tribal’s underdevelopment (6)

RANCHI: Union minister of state for home affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir has blamed it on Maoists for underdevelopment of tribals in the country. Addressing media here on Friday after attending the concluding part of three-day workshop on “LWE theatre – Interstate operations and coordination’ hosted by the CRPF, Ahir said that the living standard of tribals in most parts of the country is around 150 years behind that of our modern cities. “The Maoists have not allowed development work to penetrate to the far flung hamlets,” he accused reiterating his government’s commitment to wipe out naxalism of all forms from the country with full might.”We don’t want to use bullets against our own people and its better if they understand our language (Hum chahte hain ki goli nahi boli se baat bane) and get prepared to shun violence,” he said. Ahir expressed disappointment over use of Central Auxiliary Police Forces (CAPF) for controlling left wing extremism in different states. “If we are not compelled to use our forces within the mainland they can be engaged at the borders,” he said. Ahir participated in the concluding section of three day workshop in which police from ten LWE affected states were present along with the top officials of CRPF. He took a stock of the situation prevailing in all ten states which includes Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Bengal, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana and parts of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh considered to be red corridor region of the country. “Our central minister Rajnath Singh has agreed to extend full cooperation in terms of financial support and assistance of the security forces in these states to ensure that the development work is not affected,” he said.Ahir pointed finger to the fact that most of the central welfare schemes like Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, extending loans under Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojna and skill development programmes have failed to reach the tribal hamlets because of Maoist presence. “Construction of schools, health centres, railway, industry, irrigation projects and roads have also suffered because of presence of Maoists which has not just retarded government’s effort for development but has deprived the tribals of facilities that they should enjoy as citizens of an independent nation,” he said underlining the fact that everyone in the country has equal right to life and opportunities. Ahir expressed happiness over the approach of CRPF and state police in Jharkhand and congratulated them for successfully running campaigns of social policing. “I was told that the forces are now living in homogeneity with the tribal population with due regards to their culture and practices,” he said appreciating the surrender policy which has already encouraged many LWE activists to put down their arms in state. (Times of India 16/12/16)

11. Government committed to rehabilitation of tribals in Diddalli: MP (6)

MYSURU:  Member of Parliament Pratap Simha on Monday said tribal families evicted from Diddalli in Devamachi Reserve Forest in Kodagu — which comes under Mysuru Parliamentary constituency — will be suitably rehabilitated. However, he ruled out the possibility of their resettlement in the same place, as is being demanded by activists. Mr. Simha told reporters that the government was aware of the problems plaguing the tribals and was committed to addressing them, but the law of the land does not provide for their resettlement inside the forest. “Even a court will take strong objection to any violation as Devamachi was declared a reserve forest way back in 1891,” he said. “But there is adequate land for the construction of houses and resettlement of the tribes in the region, and the government has identified nearly 253 acres of land in Somwarpet and 53 acres near Dubare where the resettlement plans can be implemented,” Mr. Simha said. Tribal rights will be met under the Tribal Sub-Plan, under which the communities can be provided with housing, other amenities and three acres of land. Even the Scheduled Caste groups living in the vicinity could be rehabilitated under the Ambedkar Abhivrudhi Nigam, the MP said. However, he hinted that not all the protesters at Diddalli were locals and that outsiders from coffee estates as well might have pitched their camps in order to claim three acres of land. Mr. Simha said according to State government statistics, 2,703 applications were received for rehabilitation from Scheduled Tribes under the Forest Rights Act, of which 1,467 had been processed and deeds distributed, and 1,174 rejected. He said the Diddalli issue was not an overnight development and some of the tribes were misled into believing that they were eligible for three acres of land, which had resulted in mass encampment in the reserve forest about six months ago. “Forest Department personnel brought it to the notice of the administration and sought permission to get them evacuated, but it was put off owing to the Cauvery agitation, Tipu Jayanti, etc. Even Forest Minister Ramanath Rai is aware of the problem. The genuine demands of the affected people will be met,” Mr. Simha said. (The Hindu 19/12/16)

12. Rajasthan worst place for SCs/STs, Uttar Pradesh comes a close secnd: Study (6)

JAIPUR/ LUCKNOW: Dalits and the tribals are most vulnerable to atrocities in Rajasthan in comparison to other states in the country. The state tops the list with highest number of cases registered under Prevention of Atrocities Act against SCs and STs between 2013 and 2015. Rajasthan (23,861), Uttar Pradesh (23,556) and Bihar (21,061) registered highest number of cases under the amended Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act in the list of highest number of atrocities against SCs and STs. Rajasthan, UP and Bihar are followed by Madhya Pradesh (14,016), Andhra Pradesh (9,054), Odisha (8,084), Karnataka (7,565), Maharashtra (6,546), Tamil Nadu (5,131) and Gujarat (3,969) in the list of highest number of atrocities against SCs and STs. The figures were tabled in a meeting called by Union Social Justice and Empowerment minister Thaawarchand Gehlot to review the implementation of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.Gehlot asked state governments to ensure faster disposal of cases and improve conviction rate.Jaipur-based Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR) said the majority of cases of atrocities against the Dalits and adivasis in Rajasthan were related to land dispute. “Untouchability, cases of rape and violence against women and children, custodial torture by police, violence during elections, and or assault on Dalit bridegroom are some of the common crimes that the vulnerable section faces in Rajasthan,” CDR patron P L Mimroth said. “The Rajasthan government came up with an amendment in January 2016 and paved way for exclusive courts to hear cases of atrocities against SC/STs. Though all 33 districts in the state have these courts, what is concerning is the low conviction rate,” Mimroth said. While the overall conviction rate is about 10%, it is just about 4% in cases of atrocities against women primarily because the victims and witnesses turn hostile under pressure. “In some cases, the victims leave their villages because of threat to their lives,” he added. (Times of India 20/12/16)

13. 221 residential schools for SCs, STs (6)

HYDERABAD:  The Government has sanctioned 221 residential schools for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities in different parts of Telangana and they will be operational by the next academic year. This is in addition to the 266 schools sanctioned during the current academic year as part of the State Government’s initiatives to ensure that students from lower strata of society compete with their counterparts in private sector, Deputy Chief Minister and Education Minister Kadiam Srihari said. Replying to a query in the Legislative Assembly during the Question Hour on Thursday, the Minister said that the Government had accorded priority to girls’ education and accordingly, 268 schools of the total 487 sanctioned were for girls. This is in addition to 30 degree colleges for girls from the underprivileged communities. Each school building would be provided with all facilities involving an investment of Rs. 23 crore each and the Government would spend around Rs. 11,200 crore over the next few years to improve the educational infrastructure in the State. In addition to sanctioning new schools, the Government had decided to recruit teaching and non-teaching staff for these institutions and accordingly, proposals were submitted to the TS Public Service Commission. The total number of vacancies in the social welfare residential schools was expected to be around 5,315, minority residential schools 2,240 and in tribal welfare residential schools 1,771. In the first phase, it was decided to fill 1,794 posts in social welfare residential schools, 630 posts in minority residential schools and 516 posts in tribal welfare residential schools. In the meantime, arrangements were being made to engage suitable persons on outsourcing basis till regular appointments were made, he added. Several Congress members including D.K. Arnua sought setting up of social welfare residential schools in their respective constituencies. (The Hindu 22/12/16)

14. Over 1.7 lakh pattas distributed among tribals: Centre (6)

Bhubaneswar, Dec 22 (PTI) Affirming its resolve to empower tribals and promote entrepreneurship among them, the Centre today said more than 1.7 lakh land pattas have been distributed to them under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. “The Centre has distributed 1,70,149 pattas among the tribal people by September, 2016 under the Forest Rights Act, 2006,” Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Jasvantsinh Bhabhor said while launching “Vanjeevan”, a national resource centre for tribal livelihood issues here. So far, 12,306 acres of land had been distributed through this measure, he said. Stating that the Centre was also committed to develop entrepreneurship among tribal people, Bhabhor said that around Rs 1,426 crore had been provided as loans to tribal entrepreneurs through the National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation (NSTFDC). Emphasising that the Modi government has taken initiatives to empower the tribals and ensure capacity building among them, he said 4 percent industrial raw materials worth Rs 28,000 crore are to be procured from tribal entrepreneurs in micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector through PSUs. In order to encourage tribal entrepreneurs, Tribal Affairs Ministry is taking steps for providing them linkage with vendors, contractors and suppliers, he said adding that people belonging to scheduled tribes and scheduled castes are also being encouraged by steps for financial inclusion. While special measures are taken to benefit tribal entrepreneurs through start-up India, Make in India, Digital India and Mudra programme, tribal youth are also being imparted training for skill development through Skill India mission, the Union minister said. Noting that there are around 700 tribal communities in the country, Bhabhor said the newly launched Vanjeevan national resource centre (NRC) would play a major role in boosting self-employment and entrepreneurship among tribals. Vanjeevan is a collaborative venture between UNDP and National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation (NSTFDC) under Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs.  (India Today 22/12/16)

15. Cong rasta roko over Govt apathy to tribals (6)

BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) on Sunday announced that a two-hour ‘rasta roko’ agitation at all district headquarters towns will be held on Monday to protest against the indifference of the State Government towards the welfare of dalits and tribals. The rasta roko will start from 10 am and continue till 12 pm, chairperson of the ST Department of OPCC Pradip Majhi said. The OPCC has announced the rasta roko agitation demanding compensation of `12 lakh each to the families of children who have died due to Japanese Encephalitis in Malkangiri district. The other demands include action against police personnel involved in the firing on innocent tribals and dalits at Gumudumaha in Kandhamal district in which six persons died. Alleging that dalits and tribals have been neglected during the 17-year rule of the BJD, the OPCC demanded that vacant post of doctors in tribal-dominated districts including Malkangiri should be filled up by the Government on a priority basis. Criticising the visit of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to Malkangiri on Saturday, the OPCC alleged that compensation of `3 lakh each for families of victims of Japanese Encephalitis was announced keeping in view the ensuing panchayat election. The fast-unto-death, launched by Majhi and Congress MLA Krushna Chandra Sagaria demanding rights for tribals and dalits, entered fifth day on Sunday. (The New Indian Express 26/12/16)

16. CRPF sets up exclusive tribal battalion in Bastar (6)

New Delhi: The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on Tuesday told Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh that for the first time, an exclusive composite tribal battalion was being raised by recruiting male and female tribal youth from Chhattisgarh`s Bastar region. This is also a first recruitment process, where CRPF have implemented 33 per cent reservation at the constable level recruitment for women, said an official statement. “The recruitment process is going on and is likely to be completed by mid- January, 2017. The recruits will be joining during April 2017 for their basic training,” said the release. The CRPF also told Rajnath Singh about the steps being taken to promote the digitisation campaign on cashless transactions and to make the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) personnel i.e CRPF, Border Security Force, the Sashastra Seema Bal, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the Central Industrial Security Force, the National Security Guard and Assam Rifles – aware about the benefits of usage of latest technology in cashless transaction. The Minister advised the heads of CAPFs to organise workshops up to the battalion level in their forces so as to apprise all the force personnel and their families about benefits and different models of cashless transaction, as per the release. (Zee News 28/12/16)

WOMEN

17. Girl mortality high in India: UNICEF (8)

INDORE: India’s fight against gender-based discrimination takes a hit with the fact that unlike most neighbouring countries, child mortality rate among girls in India is higher than boys. “The girl child mortality rate is 17 per cent higher than that of boys as per the latest data compiled by UNICEF,” said Dr Gagan Gupta, team lead for newborn and child health, UNICEF India. Though detailed analysis is needed to ascertain the root cause behind the higher girl child mortality rate, social outlook can be attributed as one of the reasons behind the imbalance in boys and girls infant mortality rate. Dr Gupta praised efforts made by government, NGOs and child care specialists since India witnessed a decline of 25 percent in infant mortality rate between 2009 and 2014. Speaking about the child mortality rate up to 5 years in India, Dr Gupta said that out of 57 per cent infants, 50 per cent die during first month of their birth. “We need to ensure delivery in hospitals under experts’ supervision. Besides, newborn care for first 24 hours is essential” he added.Dr Gupta claimed that breast feeding has helped in bringing down newborn death rate to 27 per cent However, due to many reasons, only 45 percent women are able to breastfeed their child in urban area while in rural area, the percentage goes to 60 per cent. “Time crunch for working women, urbanisation, cesarean delivery effects, and in absence of proper counselling, the newborn fails to get breastfeed” he said. Dr Gupta said that situation can further be improved by adopting some practices like keeping a focus to improve gender imbalance and giving breastfeeding a stronger push. (Times of India 11/12/16)

18. Government plans equal abortion rights for single women (8)

NEW DELHI: In a move that will make it easier for single women to safely and legally terminate unwanted pregnancies, the health ministry has recommended recognising “failure of contraceptive” and “unplanned pregnancy” as lawful reasons for abortion among all women, married or otherwise. At present, the law recognises these two reasons for abortion only in case of “married” women. The relief is part of a series of recommendations made by the health ministry for amendment of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. The proposal is likely to be taken up by the Cabinet soon after the ongoing Parliament session ends, sources said. The existing MTP Act requires a doctor to indicate a reason for abortion. This could be to save the life of the woman, in case of rape or incest, or due to the physical or mental health of the woman. Recognising the growing reality of sexually active single or unmarried women, the government’s recommendations aim to widen the purview of legal abortion. Experts say the move is progressive and will give women safe and legal abortion options. Other amendments to the law dating back to 1971 would allow abortion any time during pregnancy for “selective” foetal abnormality, which cannot be detected during the 20-week gestation period. Currently, the law allows medical abortion only till 20 weeks of pregnancy.It will also help address the social taboo attached to sexual activity of single or unmarried women and instead allow them a right over their body. The ministry has also recommended allowing homoeopaths, nurses and midwives to conduct non-invasive abortions with training. The proposed amendments also include extending the gestation period from 20 weeks to 24 weeks for “special categories”, which is also likely to include single women with unwanted pregnancy, apart from disabled and other vulnerable women. “Once the amendments bill is passed by Parliament, the ministry will elaborate on implementation of the law by notifying rules. That will bring more clarity,” an official said. “The amendments will increase women’s access to safe abortion and we are hoping the government will attempt to pass the bill in Parliament at the earliest,” said Vinoj Manning, executive director of IPAS India, a non-profit organisation working to increase women’s ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, and to reduce maternal mortality. (Times of India 12/12/16)

19. DCW files documents on rape complaints, steps taken in HC (8)

NEW DELHI: Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) on Friday filed in the high court annexures and documents on rape complaints received by it and the steps taken to help survivors. The commission said that its Rape Crisis Cell and Crisis Intervention Centre provides speedy justice and compensation to survivors of sexual abuse, for which it regularly communicates with the police and prosecutors. Citing an example, the women’s panel said that in May 2016, the Rape Crisis Cell had received as many as 124 reports of alleged rape from across Delhi, of which 84 involved minor survivors. DCW also referred to the letters received from chief prosecutors of all district courts in Delhi regarding trials in the cases. The women’s panel had intervened in the HC in the Nirbhaya suo moto matter. Since then a division bench has been tracking progress on a range of issues related to women’s security and safety in the city. DCW also filed copies of its notices and letters sent to senior police officials, seeking their intervention in cases of rape, gang rape, acid attack and sexual assault to prove that the Centre and Delhi Police failed to act on its recommendations to improve women’s safety in the capital. HC has appointed advocate Meera Bhatia an amicus in the case. DCW had moved the HC after the rape of a three-and-a-half-year-old girl at Sarai Rohilla, and the rape and murder of a four-year-old girl in Keshavpuram recently. The court had sought a reply from the Centre, Delhi Police and the AAP government. The commission said a high-level committee on women’s safety should be set up to take decisions and monitor implementation of the same. It said the central government should use the Nirbhaya Fund to install CCTV cameras in DTC buses and at bus stops.It also sought an explanation for the delay in notification of the increased relief under Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme 2015 for rape and acid attack survivors, an issue being monitored by a division bench comprising Justices B D Ahmed and Ashutosh Kumar. The HC fixed a deadline for notification of the scheme and hoped that LG would take steps in this regard at the earliest. The bench had earlier red flagged problems during forensic investigations. It was distressed that “even in rape cases, there has been a noticeable delay of around 120 days in sending samples to the labs. “This results in putrefaction, as a result of which the labs cannot return a definitive finding, which in turn adversely impacts the investigation and the trial.” The court has also goaded the Centre to fill up thousands of posts lying vacant in Delhi Police and appoint more personnel so that the city is better patrolled. HC will now take stock of progress in implementing its directions next week. (Times of India 17/12/16)

20. More married women at work than single: Census (8)

NEW DELHI: How does marriage affect a woman’s job prospects, and later, how does she negotiate issues like the number of children and their gender? Recently released Census 2011 data offers some interesting insights. Among those in the child-bearing age of 15-49 years, married women are more likely to be working than unmarried women. Those with regular jobs are also likely to have fewer children. But there is a downside to this: with fewer children, the preference for a son becomes an overriding factor, causing a fall in the sex ratio. The lot of non-working women, who make up the majority, is no better. Confined to “domestic duties”, they not only have more children than working women, the sex ratio among their children is much worse, indicating a stronger stranglehold of patriarchal values. In the child-bearing age group, just 27% of unmarried women are working compared with 41% among married women. Experts say that most unmarried women are young and families don’t allow them to go out to work. Some are students in higher levels of school or college.The total fertility rate or average number of children born to a woman over her full child-bearing years has dipped to 2.9 for working women from 3.3 a decade ago. On the other hand, the fertility rate is higher at 3.1 among non-workers, only marginally down from 3.2 in 2001. In both cases, the sex ratio of children born in the last year is falling, but more so among working women — from 912 in 2001 to 901 in 2011. Among non-workers, the sex ratio fell from 901 to 894 in this period.Marginal workers — women who have irregular or casual jobs for less than six months in a year — show the tense equation between a desire to limit children and son preference. The fertility rate is still high among them at 3.4 though down from 3.7 a decade ago. But the sex ratio has slightly improved from 911 in 2001 to 914 in 2011. Economic reasons may prevent such women and their families from accessing sex-selective abortions, often forcing more pregnancies in pursuit of sons. Also, underprivileged sections like tribals and Muslims form a larger chunk of marginal workers and sex-selective abortion is not as acceptable in these communities. The wide chasm between urban and rural India is a striking feature of this data. Half of the married women in rural areas work while in urban areas just 22% go out for jobs. In urban areas, fertility rates have dropped drastically with women main workers having just two children on an average compared to 3.1 for their rural counterparts.Side by side, sex ratio too has suffered a chilling decline from 936 to 906 for them, the biggest decline among all economic groups. (Times of India 19/12/16)

21. Men earning more even as women drop out of India’s workforce (8)

Men in India earn Rs.112 more than women on average per day, as per a National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) 2015 report. While men earn Rs. 396 per day on average, women earn only a little over Rs. 284. The report shows the average per day wages earned in rural and urban areas from July 2011 to June in 2012. Combining the data gives the average wage earned by a man or a woman in each state or union territory. Men earn more everywhere in India except for Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The wage gap shows up consistently across various sectors like electricity, agriculture and services and different educational levels among men and women. The mining and quarrying sector throws up the starkest pay gaps. Even among educated workers in this sector, the gap persists. For instance, while an illiterate man living in a rural area will earn fifty rupees more than his female counterpart, an urban male graduate will earn almost a thousand rupees more. The only sector where women are paid more than men is transport and storage even though the gains are almost marginal. Where an illiterate rural woman would earn sixty rupees more than her male counterpart, an urban graduate in the field would earn barely ten rupees more. “Women in India are over-represented in low paying jobs and under-represented in high paying jobs,” says Xavier Estupinan, Wage Specialist at International Labour Organization (ILO). Estupinan believes that such an uneven representation of women in workforce is one of the reasons for the wage gap. In the Employment and Unemployment Survey by the NSSO in 2011, it was found in 2004, one in three rural workers was a woman. By 2009, one in four such workers was a woman. Experts have argued that for India to grow, it will have to bring more women to the workforce. As per ILO data, an urban Indian woman earned Rs. 125 per day in 1993. At the same time, her male counterpart earned almost 160 rupees. By 2012, he was earning 270 rupees while the woman earned more than 200 rupees. While the declining workforce participation of women is still a concern, Estupinan says that the wage gap shrinking now as women are better educated and aware of their rights at workplace. (Hindustan Times 21/12/16)

22. Women commission to look into Baran rape case (8)

JAIPUR: A day after a physical trainer teacher was held by Baran police for raping a minor student, Rajasthan State Commission for Women (RSCW) said that it has sent a team to probe if the trainer had molested other students of the school. SWC chairperson Suman Sharma told TOI that a team has already landed in Baran to take stock of the situation. “We want to check if the accused teacher had molested other girls of this school too. Our team also met with the parents of the child and assured them of all possible help,” she added. Sharma added that teacher has been suspended from his government job “We have been informed that a local sarpanch was trying to pressurize the parents to withdraw their complained, cops have been informed about him too,” she added.The accused teacher identified as Abdul Hanif, who teaches in a government school in a village near Baran district was arrested by the police on Monday following a complained by the parents of the child. “The father of the minor had lodged a complained against the accused on Sunday. He alleged that Hanif sexually abused her daughter multiple times on the pretext of teaching her,” said Ram Singh, SHO, Mahila Thana. “After recording statements of the minor, the teacher was arrested under section 376 (rape) of the IPC and other relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO),” Singh told TOI. The district police booked Hanif under relevant sections of the Prevention of Atrocities act as the victim is a Dalit. In his complained to the police the father has alleged that, on Saturday too, the teacher took her student to a hotel in Baran on the pretext of sports tournament. (Times of India 21/12/16)

23. Make justice system sympathetic to sexual abuse victims, says SC (8)

NEW DELHI:  A Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and A.M. Sapre said the criminal justice system needed significant reforms to institutionalise a more sympathetic approach in which the sexual abuse survivor was the focus. “It would be adding insult to injury to tell a woman that her rape claims will not be believed unless it is corroborated in material particulars,” the court observed in a recent judgment. The court was restoring the conviction of a man found guilty of raping his nine-year old niece in 2009. He was sent to jail for 12 years. The court found, in this case, positive proof and a credible sequence of events linking the man to the crime. The verdict, based on the appeal filed by the Himachal Pradesh government, dismissed the defence’s argument that there was a delay in filing the FIR in the rape case, which they claimed was fabricated. “It is not easy to lodge a complaint of this nature exposing the prosecutrix [victim] to the risk of social stigma which unfortunately still prevails in our society,” the court responded. Moreover, it added that “a decision to lodge FIR becomes more difficult and harder when the accused happens to be a family member.” Justices Sikri and Sapre also observed that in many cases rape by family members was not reported to the police by the victim or her immediate family, fearing social stigma. (The Hindu 26/12/16)

24. State police register 2,084 rape cases till October (8)

KOLLAM:  From January to October this year, the police have registered 2,084 rape cases across the State, which is higher than the annual figures of the past 10 years, statistics released by the State Crime Records Bureau show.Thiruvananthapuram district topped with 172 cases of rape. Since 2010, the highest number of rape cases in the State was being registered in the State capital. Ernakulam stood second with 148 cases and Malappuram followed with 137 cases. The least number of 59 cases was registered in Kannur. In 2007, the number of cases of adults raped in Thiruvananthapuram was 68 and the total for the State was 500. Statistics released by the SCRB show that 765 of the rape victims during the period were minors.Fifteen cases of dowry deaths were registered in the State during the first ten months of the year, with Palakkad reporting three such deaths. Twenty four minors were murdered during the period and one case of infanticide was also registered. Eight cases under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act were also registered in the State. The statistics also show that 126 women and 124 children were kidnapped during the period. Thiruvananthapuram district was on top with 657 cases of molestation registered till October this year. The railway police also registered 27 molestation cases, indicating the crime on trains and railway stations. Across the State, 3,351 molestation cases were registered till October this year. The police also registered 2,822 cases of cruelty to women by husband or his relatives during the period.In all, 11,608 cases of crimes against women and 2,358 cases of crimes against children were registered by the police across the State during the first 10 months of this year. (The Hindu 29/12/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

25. Unicef pushes plan for child-friendly Kerala (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As part of its 70th anniversary celebrations, the Unicef (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund) is pushing an action plan to make Kerala the country’s first ‘child-friendly state’. The UN agency hopes to achieve this goal by implementing programmes based on the indicators to reduce child malnutrition, ensure proper immunisation and to protect children from all forms of abuse. Joining hands with the Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) and Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KeSCPCR), it plans to make all the 1,200 units of local self-government (LSG) bodies child-friendly. “The first pilot phase of the child-friendly indicator-based awareness and training programme was implemented in six LSG bodies. The six local bodies were the Nilambur municipality and Engandiyoor panchayat in Thrissur, Srikrishnapuram in Palakkad, Pulamanthole in Malappuram, Noolpuzha in Wayanad and Tuluperiya in Kasaragod,” said Job Zachariah, Unicef chief for Tamil Nadu and Kerala. “Now it is in the second phase of its implementation in 154 LSG bodies and plans are afoot to extend it to all 1,200 units of LSGs in Kerala,” he added. Unicef, with the state government, aims at ensuring a child-friendly Kerala by implementing the indicators such best baby-friendly feeding practices with breast feeding in the first hour of birth. Immunisation, nutrition, health care, protection against violence and abuse, safe drinking water, sanitation, education and entertainment or space to play is also part of it, he said.”To commemorate Unicef’s completion of its 70 years, working for the rights of the child in 190 countries, Unicef has now changed its tagline to ‘For every child, a fair chance’ to ensure that their rights are protected by giving them a fair chance, a voice, education, safe home, love, clean water, hope, laughter, play and a future to look forward to. Earlier, Unicef had the tagline ‘Unite for Children’,” he said. He, along with Unicef communication specialist Sugata Roy, informed that the genesis of Kudumbashree programme can be attributed to the Urban Basic Services for the Poor (UBSP) models initiated in Alappuzha supported by Unicef in 1990. Unicef declared Kerala as the first lost-and-find centre in the world for initiating baby-friendly hospital initiatives in the state in 2002, yet the officials indicate that now it needs to be boosted up further. (Times of India 12/12/16)

26. Laws on child rights remain on paper (14)

CHENNAI: It has been 24 years since India ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on December 11, 1992. While several comprehensive laws protecting the rights of children were later passed, child rights experts are of the view that ineffective implementation of these laws continues to plague society. “We first need to define who is a child,” said P. Joseph Victor Raj, national convener, Campaign Against Child Labour, pointing out to the Convention which mandates that any human being below the age of 18 should be considered a child. “Though the country agreed to several principles, there were certain reservations on child labour, citing lack of resources, but they did ban work in hazardous industries. However the latest Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 has posed a new challenge to us all,” he said. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 allows children below the age of 18 to work with their families or family enterprises after school or during vacation, except in hazardous occupations which have been slashed down from 83 to three — mining, explosives, and occupations mentioned in the Factory Act. Girija Kumar Babu, general secretary, Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW), pointed out that more children would end up dropping out from schools due to the new Act, which will also violate the Right to Education Act. “If a child spends many hours working, how can he or she study? Further, eight years of schooling is not enough to survive in the 21st century. This needs to be looked at closely,” she said. Experts further pointed out to the flaws in the implementation of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 which mandates setting up of one or more Child Welfare Committees (CWC) in every district across the country and the proposed National Education Policy which differentiates between performing and non-performing students. “ The legal framework needs to be more child friendly,” said R. Vidyasagar, former child protection specialist, UNICEF. “We undoubtedly have progressed after the ratification with UNCRC, but what we need is governance and proper implementation of laws that were made to protect their interests,” A. Narayanan, director, CHANGEindia. (The Hindu 12/12/16)

27. ‘Panels should be proactive in curbing child rights violation’ (14)

GURGAON: With crimes against children rising every year, a senior Supreme Court judge has urged the national and the state commissions for protection of child rights to play a proactive role to deal with the violations. According to Justice Madan B Lokur, even after a decade of constitution of these commissions, there is still not enough awareness about their role and the various areas that they look into. “The national as well as the state commissions are quasi-judicial bodies and they must use these powers for the benefit of the children,” Lokur said, while addressing a national workshop for the protection of child rights, held in Gurgaon on Saturday. He said there is an array of issues that need attention with respect to child protection in the country — health, education and hygiene, apart from safety and security. Quoting the numbers for crime against children in the country, Lokur said 95,000 cases have been registered in 2015, which is more than any other kind of crime in the IPC. “The number of cases registered under POCSO was around 15,000. These numbers are a cause of constant worry for the nation,” said the apex court judge. Discussing the various provisions of the Constitution of India for the children, Lokur said the framers of the constitution gave importance to the children of the country and their development, and “we must ensure that we maintain that spirit”.Lokur also said the problem with child-related issues is that there are not enough people talking about it. He congratulated Bollywood filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh for making a movie, highlighting the issues of child sexual abuse. Ghosh, who was also a speaker at the event, said, “An incident I came to know about while studying in the UK prompted me to make a film on the subject to create awareness among the people as such issues are generally kept secret.” The aim of the workshop was to discuss the problems faced by commissions and the possible solutions towards better implementation of laws for child rights. (Times of India 18/12/16)

28. ‘Why are kids fleeing from juvenile homes?’ (14)

JAIPUR: Taking the incidents of children fleeing from juvenile homes seriously, the Rajasthan High Court asked the government to submit a report by January 9. The court asked why the children were fleeing from juvenile homes and what preventive steps have been taken by the authorities. The court gave the directions during a hearing on vacant posts at Juvenile Justice Board and Child Welfare Committees (CWC). The court observed that the condition of juvenile homes is very bad and asked what the government was doing to rectify it. Recently, 15 children fled from the juvenile home at Sethi colony and officials of the State Legal Service Authority, which is a party to the suo motu petition, visited the place and found many irregularities and mismanagement in its functioning. They noted that there is no full-time caretaker in the homes and even the gates were not properly closed at night. Besides, the unruly children were kept in the same cell along with other children. (Times of India 19/12/2016)

29. Child marriage: Where cure is just as important as prevention (14)

Jaipur: When Laxmi Sargara hit the headlines in April 2012 by becoming the first woman in the country to annul her child marriage, 21-year-old Santa Meghwal was still in Class 12. Like Laxmi, she was a toddler – just 11 months old – when she was married off in a family mass wedding. She cut out the newspaper report on her role model’s marriage annulment and kept it in her bag for two years before finally getting through to Kriti Bharti, the Jodhpur-based child rights activist who had helped Laxmi. In May 2015, Santa filed a petition for annulment of her child marriage at a Jodhpur family court. By October the same year, she had become a free woman. UNICEF defines child marriage as a marital alliance struck before the people involved have attained 18 years of age, and considers it a human rights violation. According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), 35% of the women in the 20-24 years age group get married before 18. Some of the problems arising through such an event are loss of education opportunities, segregation from family and friends, sexual exploitation, early pregnancy, health risks, increased vulnerability to domestic violence, higher infant mortality rate, lightweight babies, and pre-mature birth. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act-2006, which replaced the Child Marriage Restraint Act-1929, had introduced a section for nullifying marriages solemnised in childhood within two years of the partners attaining maturity. Annulling a marriage simply erases it from the records, as if it never took place. Child marriages in Rajasthan enjoy traditional, cultural and religious support. However, when children grow up, they find that the alliance is unmatched – the man is less educated than the woman, he doesn’t want her to continue her studies, the families don’t approve of women working, or the men are found to be medically unfit – and want to call it off. But that takes a hard battle against a feudal society. The caste elders, who have a hand in pushing child marriages, oppose the woman’s decision. When Santa filed the annulment petition, a caste panchayat at Rohicha Kalan village in Luni block, slapped a fine of Rs 16 lakh on the family and ex-communicated it for two years. Bharti, who fought Santa’s case, was threatened with gang rape and mutilation. However, Santa was determined to end the marriage because the ‘husband’ was harassing her as well as her friends. “I wanted to study and get a government job. Keeping that in view, how could I live with an alcoholic who had absolutely no interest in education?” Santa asked. … (Hindustan Times 22/12/16)

30. Society must protect underprivileged children, says Archbishop (14)

KOCHI: Heeding to the call by Pope Francis, societally-minded people must accept, and encourage orphaned children, those affected by poverty and civil unrest, to prevent them from being exploited, Archbishop of Varapuzha Archdiocese Joseph Kalathiparambil has said.Addressing the media here on Thursday, the Archbishop, who served as Secretary of Rome-based Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, said that each child had a right to grow up in a good family atmosphere. The church and nations the world over are duty-bound to ensure this. “Members of the society must, in the name of Jesus Christ, accept and help children in distress, to alleviate their suffering. Only then will one’s life becomes meaningful,” he said. “Any reluctance will result in their exploitation by mafia groups who are into drugs and human trafficking. They might also take to crime. Lakhs of children in India and abroad are engaged in child labour. In many countries, they are forced to become soldiers of war lords. Both boys and girls who flee violence and migrate to other regions too are vulnerable in different ways. Children found in streets are prone to be sexually and physically exploited. All this is in violation of international conventions on rights of children,” the Archbishop said.He exhorted people to ensure emotional and physical health of helpless children and their education. “Pope Francis further expressed deep concern over increasing environmental degradation, corruption and poverty,” the Archbishop said. (The Hindu 22/12/16)

31. Cannot contest elections if your child is not enrolled in school: NCPCR (14)

New Delhi: The apex body for child rights has made an appeal to all state governments and asked them to disqualify candidates for local body and panchayati raj elections if they do not send their children to school. According to the recommendation by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), a candidate must produce a certificate from his child’s school to prove that his/her ward is enrolled there and has regular attendance. This is only for those candidates who have children between the ages of 6-14.“We have appealed to state governments to make amendments in electoral rules for local body elections and panchayati raj institutions and say that anyone who wants to fight elections will need to produce a certificate from his child’s school to prove that his/her ward is enrolled there and is attending the school regularly. “If a person fails to do this, then he/she should not be eligible to fight in an election,” said Priyank Kanoongo, Member- RTE and Education, NCPCR. Kanoongo also said that this suggestion draws from the 86th amendment of the Constitution, which inserted Article 21a and made education a fundamental right, as well as the Right To Education Act, 2009. The NCPCR official calls it a “new milestone” in creating awareness as an elected representative will be an example in the society. He also said that this move will help draw a politician’s attention towards the state of schools in his state.This suggestion is also part of recommendations prepared by NCPCR on “re-engagement of out-of-school children and prevention of drop-outs”, which were tabled before a sub-committee of Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. In the recent past, there have been laws passed by Haryana and Rajasthan governments imposing minimum educational requirements for candidates contesting panchayat elections. Many activists have said such a move was against the principle of universal suffrage. According to Kanoongo, there is no such debate about NCPCR’s move. “We are not talking about those who were denied education in the past either because of caste or poverty but about today’s children who have a right to free and compulsory education. If you are opposed to this, right then you are opposed to the Constitution as well,” he said. (The Indian Express 24/12/16)

32. Officials fail to assist court properly, HC quashes order in child labour case (14)

MADURAI: The failure of government officials to assist the court properly has led to the Madras High Court Bench here quashing the proceedings of Virudhunagar district administration in a child labour case. The proceedings had been issued by a Personal Assistant to Virudhunagar Collector on June 29, 2007 directing S. Dhanalakshmi, a convict in a child labour case to deposit Rs.2 lakh, at the rate of Rs.20,000 for every child labourer engaged by her in a match industry in Sivakasi, in Child Labour Rehabilitiation-cum-Welfare Fund as ordered by the Supreme Court in the famous M.C. Mehta’s case in 1996. Allowing a writ petition filed by the convict in 2009, Justice M.V. Muralidaran quashed the proceedings since the officials failed to produce officials records that led to the demand of Rs.2 lakh from the petitioner and explain the basis for having made such a demand. The judge pointed out that the Inspector of Factories in Sivakasi had even failed to mention the correct case number of the apex court judgement in his counter affidavit. “Unfortunately, the proposal dated August 9, 2006 and the memorandum of instructions dated July 24, 2007 were not placed before this court in spite of time granted by this court. So, in the absence of those records, this court is unable to accept the contentions raised by the 4th respondent (Inspector),” the judge said. While defending the case, the officials failed to bring it to the notice of the High Court that the Supreme Court had on December 10, 1996 directed all State governments in the country to create Child Labour Rehabilitation-cum-Welfare Fund district wise or area wise by collecting a compensation of Rs. 20,000 per child labourer from the offending employers. The SC orders were passed on a public interest litigation petition filed by advocate M.C. Mehta in 1986 on the premises that as on December 31, 1985, there were 221 registered match factories in Sivakasi employing 27,338 workmen of whom 2,941 were children. While disposing of that case, the Supreme Court said: “In our country, Sivakasi was one taken as the worst offender in the matter of violating prohibition on employing child labour.” (The Hindu 26/12/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

33. Minority schools cannot be compelled to absorb surplus teachers: HC (7)

Nagpur: The Bombay High Court has said that minority educational institutions cannot be compelled to absorb surplus teachers unless the institutions concur with the same. A division bench of Justices Vasanti Naik and Swapna Naik, while upholding the right of minority institutions, said the state government cannot direct such institutions to absorb surplus employees from other schools. The HC quashed the action of Amravati Education Officer directing a minority school to absorb surplus teachers. While allowing a petition filed by Shri Balmukund Rathi Shikshan Sanstha in Chandur Bazar in Amravati district, the HC made it clear that authorities have no right to compel minority-run educational institutions to absorb teachers declared surplus by the Education Officer. According to petitioner-institution, Education Officer (Secondary), Zilla Parishad, Amravati ordered it on September 14 and 15, 2016 to absorb two assistant teachers in the school run by it. The institution resisted the order claiming it was a minority institution and State Government cannot direct such institutions to absorb surplus employees of other schools unless the minority institution concurs with the absorption.Citing the recent judgement of the High Court in Canossa Society, Mumbai vs Commissioner, Social Welfare, Pune, the petitioner sought quashing of order. Respondent authorities justified the order stating that petitioner-institutions were issued certificate as minority institutions only on September 23, 2016 while the orders were passed before that on September 14 and 15, 2016. Hence the petitioner would be required to absorb the teachers in the school. The High Court also rejected the contention of order-first-minority status later argument forwarded by the respondent authorities. Advocate Prashant Shende appeared for the petitioner while AGP G R Tiwari represented the authorities. (Indian Express 12/12/16)

34. State govt allocates Rs 250 crore for minority development (7)

UDUPI: M A Gafoor, chairperson for Karnataka Minorities Development Corporation, said on Sunday that the state government has allocated Rs 250 crore for the development of the minority community.While addressing the media, Gafoor said, “For minority development and welfare, the state government has allocated Rs 200 crore budget and an additional Rs 50 crore for Christian community. National Minorities Development Corporation also extends assistance by assuring Rs 23 crore for education purpose and it is expected to be released soon. Minority Corporation includes people from different religions like Muslims, Christians, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists and Anglo Indian. It was started in 1986. At present, they have 186 employees working.” The commission will concentrate more on self-reliant projects like marginal loans and beneficial loans. It will have an education loan scheme, micro loan scheme and Ganga Kalyan Scheme (famers who have 2 to 5 acres of land, will be given free borewell upto Rs 2 lakh). For Christ society, loan for housing and renovation work will be given. For farmers, land purchasing scheme will be introduced soon.Under the student’s schemes, Udupi district is developed with 600 beneficiaries a year. However, Dakshin Kannada and Mysuru district lag behind. The corporation aimed at supporting 5,998 people from the Udupi district with Rs 1.56 crore. However, the target reached was 8,716 beneficiaries with Rs 2 crore. Hence, the achievement is 126%, claimed Gafoor. Muslims have been allocated Rs 6.94 crore, Christians – Rs 4.20 crore, Jains – Rs. 1.1 crore and for others Rs 1.16 crore has been allocated. “Udupi has the best loan repay system. We aim to work without any financial hurdle and without waiting for government grants. In 2016 alone, Rs.1.23 crore were repaid. Under Ganga Kalyan Yojana from Udupi, 600 beneficiaries have applied for borewell, which will be given soon,” said Gafoor. (Times of India 12/12/16)

35. Minorities didn’t get honour they deserve because of opponents: CM Akhilesh Yadav (7)

Lucknow : Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Sunday said that minority communities in the state had not received the honour they deserved “because of hurdles created by opponents”, adding that they would now be taken care of as “we are going to form the next government with your support in the next 100 days”. He was addressing a programme organised by the Uttar Pradesh Minority Commission on the Minority Rights Day in the poll-bound state. Recalling that “some people” had moved court against the state government’s decision to give 20 per cent reservation in all its schemes to members of minority communities, Akhilesh said his government had pursued the matter legally to make sure minorities got this facility. “In all our schemes, be it Samajwadi Pension Yojana, Laptop distribution or Kanya Vidya Dhan, minorities get 20 per cent share. It is in the state government’s programmes that we have power. But we need to do more outside of the state,” he said, stressing that his government had worked hard towards the development of minorities. Attacking the BJP government at the Centre, the chief minister once again said that those who had promised “acche din” were making people stand in queues outside banks. He said the situation after demonetisation was unlikely to improve within 50 days as promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and claimed that the nation has been “pushed backwards by one year”. Cabinet Minister Azam Khan chose the occasion to target Governor Ram Naik, saying that the president should have sacked Naik as soon as he said that the Ram Temple should be built in Ayodhya as per the sentiments of Hindus. Naik has “tarnished the reputation of Raj Bhawan”, said Khan, adding that the governor did not give his assent to the government’s bill to confer the rank of Cabinet minister or minister of state upon the chairman of the UP Minority Commission. Addressing an audience comprising mainly of Muslims, Khan said the community should not be “unconcerned” and “inert” before the elections because “they have big plans”. “Jis din BJP ke hath Uttar Pradesh aa gaya, chhathi ka doodh yaad aa jayega (The day Uttar Pradesh comes in the hands of BJP, you will face great hardship),” he said. The SP leader further said that Muslims had remained “inert” even after attempts to snatch their “big institutions”, adding that had Sikhs been in the same situation, “it would have been difficult to count who is dead and who is left alive”. Addressing another programme organised by Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali in the old city, Akhilesh, while referring to suggestions to remove encroachments, said it will be looked into after the elections. “Those who encroach also vote in the elections. I think these people encroach only because the government fails to provide them space to do their business,” he said. Mahali referred to the chief minister as “the heartbeat of India’s Muslims” and said his government had worked towards the development of the community. (Indian Express 19/12/16)

36. Cabinet panel on minority welfare soon (7)

BENGALURU: THE Siddaramaiah government is all set to constitute a cabinet sub-committee to study the  living conditions of minorities in the state and introduce measures for their all-round development. It will also fulfill the long-standing demand of the minority Muslim community to set up a separate body to prevent  misuse of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). At an event to mark Minorities’ Rights Day here on  Sunday, the chief minister said his government is thinking of introducing population-based proportionate  reservation system for the weaker sections.Home Minister G Parameshwara announced that the state government has taken the decision to set up an  authority soon to prevent misuse of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Once constituted, the UAPA  Authority would review all complaints filed under the Act before it is taken up by security agencies. Presently,  ecurity agencies directly take up such cases, which has led to complaints of misuse of the Act. (The New Indian Express 19/12/16)

37. Minorities demand immediate amendments in family laws (7)

PESHAWAR: The minority community on Wednesday demanded the federal government to immediately bring amendments in the minorities divorce and marriage acts aimed at solving the current issues being faced by the community. All Pakistan Hindu Movement Rights (APHMR) Chairman Haroon Sarbdiyal, during a press conference at Peshawar Press Club, said that being citizens of the country minority community demands for the legislation required for to them. “We are Pakistani and being Pakistani it is our right to get legislation for us according to the changing circumstances,” he said, adding that a draft had been prepared and laying in the Upper House (Senate) standing committee regarding the minority’s family laws amendment. He expressed grave concern on the attitude of the committee saying that the committee was least bothered to bring changes in the current minorities laws. Flanked by Radesh Singh Tony, representative of Sikh community, Pastor Amir William, chairman Shaloom Bible College, Silasgill, member of local body district Peshawar of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Munesha Arfa, a member of National Minority Rights Network (NMRN), Sarbdiyal rejected all the reforms committees, units and commissions formed for the minorities rights because there is no minority representatives in that committees and commissions. He urged the government to form a minority committee consist on every minority representative which would prepare recommendation in the light of those issues which are being faced by the minorities living in different parts of Pakistan. He demanded of the federal and KP governments to take an exemplary step and announce three holidays for Christian community on the occasion of upcoming Christmas. He also asked the government to make sure the religious freedom and protection of rights to the minority community. “We are demanding to hand over the minority worship places which are in the custody of government departments. We will build educational institutions including schools, colleges and universities on those places” he claimed. Radesh Singh criticized the Pakistan Tehrek-e-Insaf  (PTI) led  government  that the KP government had failed because the government had totally ignored the minority in the Insaf health cards scheme. He added that Sikh community living in Peshawar faced miseries because they carried their dead bodies to Attack Shamshan ghaat (graveyard) which is very expensive and a difficult task for them. He demanded of the government to provide a piece of land to Sikh community for their Shamshan ghaat and also hand over those public schools which were for the children of Sikh community before the partition of sub-continent. Radesh further demanded of the government to increase the job quota from 3 to 5 percent to minorities with its full implementation. However, Silasgill expressed grave concerns and said that the PTI local government had adopted a step mother attitude with the district members who are elected on reserved. He added that since he is elected as a member of the local government, a single penny was not given to him for developmental works in his respective constituency while the district Nazim bestow on his discretionary funds to those member who are belongs to the ruling party. Munesha Arfa stressed the law makers to take tangible steps in the amendment of the minorities’ laws, saying that the amendment would solve more issues being faced by the minorities’ women. (Daily Times 21/12/16)

38. More quota for Muslims? Minority panel wants 12% (7)

CHARMINAR: The State Minorities Commission (SMC) on Thursday made a representation to the Telangana State Backward Classes Commission (TSBCC) pushing the case for a 12 percent quota for Muslims, an additional 8 percent over the existing 4 percent.. Explaining the rationale behind the demand, SMC chairman Abid Rasool Khan said, “If the government clears the 12 percent reservation, the existing 4 percent will be superseeded and a fresh GO will be issued. If its challenged in court, the existing 4 percent will be in danger. It is important to protect the existing quota. Therefore, we has asked reservations in the 4%+8% format, resulting in an aggregate of 12 percent.” In the petition the minorities panel reiterated that quotas have been challenged in courts of law and it has resulted in them being “set aside”. The commission reiterated that while the existing 4 percent reservations for Muslims cover 14 communities -which include Attar Saibulu, Turaka Kasha, Dhobi, Labbi, Garadi Muslim and Hajam -it excludes backward sections from other Muslim communities. “There are many Khans and Syeds who are socio-economically weak. We have requested the commission to consider their case as well,” Khan said. It was on December 14 that the TSBCC began a hearing on a separate quota for Muslims. It received more that 13,000 petitions from various Muslim social and religious groups. Many of them had requested the commission to tour districts of the state so as to understand the socio-economic conditions of Muslims.Political parties such as the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Congress and the Majlis Bachao Tehreek to made their representations. According to development economist Amirullah Khan, a member of the Post Sachar Evaluation Committee (PSEC), the Sachar Committee Report, released in 2006, does not specifically push the case for reservations for Muslims but implies that it is one of the several forward. “The PSEC pegs the number of Muslim graduates across the country at around 2 percent. It also says that Muslim community has the highest level of drop-outs at the secondary school level,” he opined. Khan is also a member of the G Sudhir Committee. (Times of India 23/12/16)

39. Big relief for minorities living in India’s neighbourhood (7)

New Delhi [India], Dec. 25(ANI): In a bid to aid Hindus and other minority community people from the neighbouring countries including Pakistan, the Home Ministry has reduced the registration fee from Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 100. [NK India] According to the Home Ministry Gazette, new rules will be applicable to minority communities- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians- from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and living in India on long term visa. The minority members form the neighbouring countries will have register themselves and take an oath of allegiance as an Indian citizen in front of Sub-Divisional Magistrate, in case of absence of Collector, Deputy Commissioner or District Magistrate. The rules also say that the minority community people from countries other than Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, will have to pay Rs. 10, 000 as the registration fee. The changes have been made after amending various provisions of the Citizenship Rules 2009.(ANI) (New Kerala 25/12/16)

40. Education, jobs top on Minority Affairs Ministry list in 2017 (7)

New Delhi: Empowering minorities by providing them education and employment opportunities will top the 2017 priority list of Union Minority Affairs Ministry which said bringing socio-economic schemes “out of papers and computers” and taking them to ground were its biggest achievement this year. 2016 saw change of guard in the Ministry with Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi assuming its charge following resignation of Najma Heptulla (now Manipur Governor) while the management of Haj pilgrimage was also transferred to it from Ministry of External Affairs from October 1. Often under attack from Opposition over issues relating to minorities, particularly in the wake of lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri in 2015, the government also sought to combat “Opposition’s propaganda” against it by undertaking outreach programme like ‘Progress Panchayat’ in minority-dominated pockets. “The biggest highlight of our governance has been that we managed to bring the socio-economic schemes out of papers and computers and took them to ground. Progress Panchayat was initiated. “… We also gave international platform to artisans from minority communities through initiatives like Hunar Haat (Skill Haat),” Minister of State for Minority Affairs Naqvi said.Seeking to highlight the difference between governance of previous UPA and present NDA regimes, he said the number of Muslims employed with central government has risen from 6.9 per cent two-and-half years ago to approximately 9 per cent now. Naqvi lauded his ministry for ensuring that scholarships reached deserving students through direct benefit transfer (DBT), eliminating scope of “middlemen siphoning off money”. A total of Rs 6,715 crore have been disbursed thus to three crore students until now, he added. “This measure eliminated role of middlemen and we managed to plug 100 per cent leakage ensuring benefits reach the right students. Going digital helped,” he claimed. Naqvi referred to another information campaign, the ‘Cashless Chaupal’, the Ministry undertook recently to connect minorities with cashless economic system. “… We want a transparent, leakage-free and pro-development economic system. Digital transactions will benefit minorities,” he added. (The Indian Express 27/12/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

41. Basic literacy rate among Telangana Muslims high (7)

HYDERABAD: Muslims in Telangana have higher average of basic literacy rate than the national average, but they fare worse than all other communities in case of graduate and postgraduate education. Their drop out rates are also among the highest.According to the Sudhir Commission that went into the socio-economic and educational conditions of Muslims in Telangana, their literacy rate is better than the State and national average and only Christian and some other religious minority groups have better literacy. The Commission report said that literacy rate among Muslims is 76.89 per cent compared to the State average of 66.46 per cent and national average of 74.04 per cent. Literacy among Muslims is also high compared to Hindus (64.64 p.c.), Scheduled Castes (59 p.c.) and Scheduled Tribes (50 p.c.). The gender gap in literacy rate among Muslims is also low (10.38 p.c.) compared to SCs (18.10 p.c.), STs (20.10 p.c.) and Hindus (18.12 p.c.). Quoting the 2011 Census statistics, the Commission also said that Muslims are better off in the urban-rural gap in terms of literacy as compared to other socio-religious categories. The dropout rate among Muslims in the age group of 0-29 years in 2011-12 was less than Hindus, SCs, STs, but in the 18-20 years age group, it is very high at 61.2 p.c. and 84 p.c. in the 21-29 years age group. The Commission’s survey reveals that enrolment of Muslim students is 11.5 p.c. at school-level, but it’s only around 5 p.c. at the Intermediate level. Similarly, in Bachelor Degree and Masters Degree programmes (2014-15), their percentage is found to be very low with the highest of 10.85 p.c. (10,529/97,039) in Osmania University, 9.83 p.c. in Ambedkar Open University, 6.22 p.c. in Palamuru University, 3.47 p.c. in Telangana University, 3.4 p.c. in Mahatma Gandhi University and 3.13 p.c. in Agricultural University. (The Hindu 11/12/15)

42. ‘Hindus, Muslims must come to terms with history’ (7)

KOCHI: Former regional director of the Archaeological Survey of India K K Muhammed, who was part of the team that discovered the presence of temple ruins at Babri Masjid, was felicitated in Kochi by the Kerala unit of the Indian Society of Authors (INSA). Muhammed, the author of Njanenna Bharatheeyan, received the P S Velayudhan award for his contribution to history and literature. “Muslims should acknowledge the fact that many Masjids were built following the destruction of temples. Hindus should restrain from taking revenge on these acts. Communal harmony will only be possible in such a scenario,” he said. The book written by Muhammed had received wide criticism after it bashed Leftist historians.”No Muslims were staying in a 3km radius of the temple. The location had no connection with the prophet or any particular significance as such. The place, on the other hand was significant to Hindus.It was Leftist historians, led by Irfan Habib, who brainwashed Muslims in the area against handing over the land to Hindus,” he said.A certificate of honour and a cash award was handed over to Muhammad by INSA state president Justice Sukumaran. “The award is being given to the best book on history this year. Njanenna Bharatheeyan has a deep understanding of history,” said Justice Sukumaran. Mohammed had graduated in History from Aligarh Muslim University . He has received five national awards for the conservation of Sanchi Stupa, Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb and Red Fort. He also received the SAARC environment award for conservation of Bateshwar temple complex in 2010. (Times of India 12/12/16)

43. Grave problem torments city Muslims (7)

Although burial in grave yards is free in Andhra Pradesh and parts of Telangana, rampant commercialisation of burial spaces in the city has hit Muslims hard. Unscrupulous custodians collecting `maintenance fees’ charge hapless families upward of Rs 8,000 to allot deceased members space to rest in peace. The rate goes up to as much as Rs 3 lakh if the grave is located on the premises of a dargah. Burial spaces in prime areas and those that have a huge demand due to sentimental reasons also come at a premium. With prices averaging Rs 25,000, relatives of the deceased who cannot afford the `luxury’, are left with no option but to look for burial spots far from the city. That’s not all. They also have to grapple with a localnon-local divide created by mutavallis (graveyard custodians), who give preference to locals; a non-local, despite paying higher, has to settle for a slot at some corner of a graveyard. Community elders complain that there has been a two-fold increase in ‘grave real estate prices’ in just one year. The absence of an elected body to govern the Telangana State Wakf Board has only emboldened mutavallis to levy heavy charges on the families of the dead. Even the intervention of the State Minorities Commission, a statutory body, has failed to curb the ever-growing menace. Over the last three months, the commis sion issued three notices to the chief executive officer of the Wakf Board, calling for a report. Commission chairman Abid Rasool Khan has now decided to recommend to the state government that an exclusive state-level panel be constituted and headed by an IAS officer to take over the reins of all graveyards in Telangana to curb the wide-scale extortion. Khan also suggests that a portion of the unspent budget of the minorities’ welfare department be utilised to provide all funeral-related services gratis. “The proposed panel should be given the powers to regulate, maintain and identify new parcels of land for graveyards,” he says. Secretary of the Muslim Educational, Social and Cultural Organisation (MESCO), Dr Fakhruddin Mohammad, alleges that many mutavallis and committee members have connived with land-grabbers and occupied large chunks of land in several graveyards.”This has reduced burial spaces. Besides reining in the mu tavallis, the government should emulate the Delhi Development Authority that has earmarked places of burial. The state gover nment should identify large parcels of land on the city’s outskirts for burial grounds,” he suggests. Muslim elders put the blame squarely on the state government for failing to rein in unscrupulous mutavallis, sajjadas (hereditary heads of dargahs) and graveyard management committees. Many of them face police cases, including charges of land-grabbing. “It is sad that graveyards have been commercialised. Many mutavallis and committees flout all rules, both religious and Wakf. Burial should be free. Of course, a nominal amount can be collected for the upkeep of graveyards. Even this should not be forced on the poor,” says opposition leader in the Telangana state legislative council, Mohammad Ali Shabbir. … (Times of India 18/12/16)

44. Muslim leaders praise ‘long overdue’ verdict (7)

HYDERABAD: Muslim leaders welcomed the verdict in the Dilsukhnagar blasts case, saying it was long due. Majlis Bachao Tehreek spokesman Amjed Ullah Khan said this sentence should not be looked on religion and regional lines because many of those killed or disabled due to the blasts were Muslims. He, however, raised questions on why there was a delay in the trial and judgments in other blast cases, including Mecca Masjid, Samjhauta Express, Malegaon and Jama Masjid. These took place much before the February 21, 2013 blasts in Dilshukhnagar and workers of the RSS and allied organisations were accused of triggering them, he claimed. Other Muslim leaders who did not want to be quoted recalled how many Muslims had died and suffered injuries in several coordinated blasts across the city. “They deserve to be punished for the heinous crime they committed. The youth today needs to be dissuaded not to get influenced by propaganda videos of jihadis,” said a Muslim religious leader. (Times of India 20/12/16)

45. BJP using UCC to destroy Muslim identity: Karat (7)

KANNUR:  Accusing the BJP of using the issue of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) as a weapon to obliterate the identity of Muslims in the country, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Prakash Karat has said that the fundamentalist position insisting that instant and arbitrary triple ‘talaq’ is ordained by Islam will help communalists create a communal divide in the country. Addressing a seminar on ‘Uniform Civil Code and the Left’ organised by the coordination committee of minority cultural groups loyal to the CPI(M) here on Tuesday, Mr. Karat said the BJP government was trying to conflate and combine the issue of the misuse of the instant and arbitrary use of triple talaq with the enforcement of the UCC. The CPI(M) supports the plea of three Muslim women to the Supreme Court that the instant and arbitrary declaration of triple talaq should be made illegal. “A substantial Muslim opinion is against the exercise of triple talaq in instant and arbitrary manner,” he said. Noting that there are certain inequalities and defects in the personal laws, the CPI(M) leader said they were not particular to any religion. The real issue in his view was whether the country could have equality within and between religious communities. “The way forward is to see that personal laws of all religious communities have reforms which will help to provide for gender justice,” he said. Alleging that the Sangh Parivar had a planned agenda to demonise the Muslim community, he said the attempt was to portray Muslims as alien to the Indian mainstream. Referring to the Law Commission’s ‘unfortunate’ issue of a questionnaire eliciting views of different sections of the people on the UCC, Mr. Karat said its purpose was stated to be to harmonise the cultures of India. Describing India as a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic, multi-ethnic country, he said the CPIM) had sent an effective rebuttal to the questionnaire. “The BJP-led government and the Law Commission should read the Constitution,” he said adding that Article 371 A allows no Act of Parliament in respect of religious or social practices of the Nagas and Naga customary law and procedure because of the distinct social and culture structure of the Nagas.A.N. Shamseer, MLA, presided. CPI(M) district secretary P. Jayarajan, party leaders M. Prakashan and M.V. Jayarajan, writer Khadeeja Mumtaz and academic Hussain Randathani were among those present at the seminar. (The Hindu 21/12/16)

46. Aligarh muslim university students demand Muslim quota promised by Samajwadi party (7)

AGRA: Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) students took out a protest march on Friday to demand implementation of 18% reservation for Muslims as promised by Samajwadi Party in its 2012 poll manifesto. In its election manifesto in 2012, SP had promised that Muslims would be considered most backward and given reservation like Dalits in proportion to their population.Raising slogans against the government and carrying placards saying. “Now is the time to remind the promise and move beyond vote bank politics”, the students also objected to the UP government’s cabinet’s decision to recommend inclusion of 17 OBC castes into the Scheduled Caste category. They also threatened to intensify their agitation and launch a mass movement if the promises made in the manifesto are not fulfilled within two weeks. The students submitted a memorandum to chief minister Akhilesh Yadav through the district magistrate of Aligarh. The memorandum demanded implementation of the Sachhar Committee recommendations on granting special privileges and jobs to Muslims. The memorandum said amendments be made in the Constitution and Dalit Muslims be considered under SC category, 15% job quota for Muslims in state police, opening of more Urdu schools and free coaching centres for higher education. It also demanded that the government should aid innocent Muslims behind bars over “fake terror charges” slapped on them. (Times of India 24/12/16)

47. Muslim youths told to shun kite flying (7)

Nagpur: Little-known Islamic organization Assaqafatur Razaviya of Satranjipura has initiated an anti-kite flying campaign to dissuade Muslim youths from the ‘vice’. As part of the campaign, the organization, that draws its ideology from Barelvi movement, has pasted posters outside several masjids across the city beside spreading the message through discourses. During winter, especially in December and January, kite flying becomes rampant across the city. Every year, activists run campaigns to create awareness about the ill-effects of manja, especially the Chinese or nylon one, used for kite flying. Earlier this month, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had imposed a nationwide interim ban on the use of glass-coated manja for kite flying. But, Assaqafatur Razaviya has added religious dimension to the issue. Though the posters directly target Muslims and cites the works of Barelvi scholar Ahmad Raza, president of the organization Maulana Ateeque-ur-Rehman sought to promote it as a social campaign. In the poster, the organization states “Kite flying is illicit and a sin. Muslims must overcome the vice and take to the road of progress. Spending money on prohibited acts only brings bankruptcy. Islam doesn’t allows acts which create problems for others.” The only social message it gives is the pictures of injuries caused to human and birds along with the caption “patang aur manje ki qatilana tabahi (disasters of kite and manja)”. “We have been doing social work, taking up healthcare initiatives as well as working for the welfare of Muslim community. Anti-kite flying campaign is not limited to the community because it is a social issue. There are already court orders banning the use of manja. Right now, we are publishing posters and discourse. We have received good feedback from parents too,” Rehman said. Rehman added that they were also concerned about the threat to citizens from manja. “If someone gets injured and dies, it would be nothing but murder.”The organization has based its views on Ahkamat-e-Shariat, a book by Ahmad Raza. The campaign has found support from other thinkers and followers of the religion who don’t conform to the Barelvi movement. “This is a good initiative. Kite flying distracts one from worship and is a waste of time,” says an imam who belongs to Deobandi movement. “They may have considered it as laghviyat, meaning acts which have no personal, spiritual and social use. Islam’s base is remembering the lord and serving humanity. Only three sports having specific purposes are allowed in Islam — horse riding as it was means of transport, archery because of defence, and swimming because of health. Even I don’t’ subscribe to the idea of flying kite,” said Ayub Khan, professor of English at Women’s College of Arts and a member of NGO Jamaat-e-Islamic Hind. Quranic scholar Abdul Gafoor Parekh said, “Kite flying is a kind of social custom and shouldn’t be connected with religion. It should be left to personal choice. But, yes, it is wrong if it causes harm to human beings. ” (Times of India 26/12/16)

48. Ten years after Sachar Report (7)

On November 30, 2006, the 403-page report of the Sachar Committee, on the social, economic and educational condition of Muslims in India, was tabled in Parliament. The Committee, headed by former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar, was set up soon after the UPA 1 government took over, and it submitted its findings in less than 2 years. The Report highlighted a range of disabilities faced by the community, and made a slew of recommendations to address the situation. It placed Indian Muslims below Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in backwardness. Among the many issues it highlighted were the huge mismatch between the percentage of Muslims in the population and in decisionmaking positions such as the IAS and IPS, and the general poor representation of the community in the police. Sachar report, Sachar report details, Sachar report progress, muslims, india muslims, muslims in india, indian muslims, muslims india, india news The Report highlighted a range of disabilities faced by the community, and made a slew of recommendations to address the situation. It placed Indian Muslims below Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in backwardness. An analysis of government data show that most indicators have not seen significant improvement in the years since the Report was submitted. In some cases things seem to have, in fact, deteriorated — in 2005, for example, the share of Muslims among India’s police forces was 7.63%; in 2013, it fell to 6.27%. The government subsequently stopped releasing data on police personnel broken down by religion. In the years both preceding and following Sachar, Muslims continued to have the lowest average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) among all communities. The work participation rate for Muslim men increased only slightly to 49.5% in 2011 from 47.5% in 2001; for Muslim women, the increase was even smaller, from 14.1% in 2001 to 14.8% in 2011. Sachar report, Sachar report details, Sachar report progress, muslims, india muslims, muslims in india, indian muslims, muslims india, india news Only 3 out of 100 IAS, IPS are Muslim. Perhaps the most telling figures are in the IAS and IPS, the country’s top officialdom. The Sachar Committee recorded the percentage of Muslims in the IAS and IPS as 3% and 4% respectively. These numbers were 3.32% and 3.19% respectively on January 1, 2016, Home Ministry data show. The fall in Muslim representation in the IPS was due primarily to a steep fall in the share of Muslim promotee officers in the IPS — from 7.1% in the Sachar Report to merely 3.82% at the beginning of 2016. As per the Census of 2001, Muslims were 13.43% of India’s population; in 2011, they were 14.2%. The increase of 24.69% in the population of Muslims between the two Censuses was the smallest ever recorded for the community. The sex ratio among Muslims remained better than that of India overall in both 2001 and 2011, and the percentage of Muslims living in urban centres too remained higher than the national average in both Censuses. (The Indian Express 26/12/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

49. Hundreds protest in front of Cairo’s Cathedral after attack (7)

Cairo, Dec 11 : Several hundred Egyptians, mostly Christians, on Sunday gathered outside Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral to protest an explosion in which at least 25 people were killed. [NK Middle East] Participants chanted slogans calling for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar to step down, reports Efe. Michael Yamini, a 29-year-old protester, said that he was at the scene to understand how a bomb could have exploded at the Cathedral’s complex. According to police, an explosive device had been placed at the door of the small church of St. Peter, next to the Coptic Cathedral. The protest was held amid tight security measures following the attack, for which no group had yet claimed responsibility. At least 25 people were killed and 49 others wounded in the explosion outside Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral in the Abbassia neighbourhood of the Egyptian capital. The attack came two days after the death of six policemen in a bomb attack near the Pyramids of Giza, west of Cairo. (New Kerala 11/12/16)

50. St. Anthony’s statue in church portico vandalised in Udupi (7)

Udupi: A statue of St. Anthony was found vandalised and a statue of St. Lawrence was found displaced, at the portico of Our Lady of Health Church at Shirva village, about 20 km from Udupi, on Sunday. The statute of St. Lawrence was located close to the steps at the church portico. Both the statues are about two ft tall. According to the police, the incident took place between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. As there was Sunday mass, devotees were there in the church till around 12.30 p.m. Fr. Stany Tauro, parish priest told The Hindu that some parishoners saw the vandalised statue and informed him around 3.45 p.m. There are two closed-circuit television cameras on the church premises, but both were not working. The police rushed into service a team of fingerprint experts and a dog squad. They are also examining CCTV footage of the educational institutions around the church. Fr. Tauro said, “I do not suspect any communal element in the incident. The relations between all communities are peaceful in Shirva. We do not know the intention of miscreants. There has been no previous incident of vandalisation in the church here.” A case had been registered at the Shirva police station and investigation is on. The Udupi Pradesh Catholic Sabha has condemned the vandalisation of the statue of St. Anthony and displacement of a statue of St. Lawrence. “The miscreants behind the act should be arrested,” said Valerian Fernandes, president of the sabha, in a press release issued here. (The Hindu 12/12/2016)

51. Man held in church statue vandalisation case (7)

Udupi: The district police on Monday arrested one person in connection with the vandalisation of a statue of St. Anthony and displacement of the statue of St. Lawrnece, at the Our Lady of Health Church at Shirva on Sunday. K.T. Balakrishna, Superintendent of Police, told The Hindu that Benedict D’Souza (56), a driver, was arrested near Bantakal village. Benedict, who was drunk, had a fight with some workers from North India, who were working at a construction site behind the church on Sunday afternoon.He entered the church compound from the rear gate. He then came to the church to pray, but found that the door was locked. He then sat there for a prayer.Benedict then thought that his fate would change if he changed the statues at the church portico. He wanted to put the statue at the left to right and vice-versa. He removed the statue of St. Lawrence and kept it on the floor. But he could not hold the statue of St. Anthony and it fell from his hand and got damaged. Then he panicked and went to his house and slept. The matter came to light after the contractor at the site spoke to his workers from North India. They narrated about the fight to the contractor, who in turn told the police.The police then caught Benedict and questioned him about it. After denying it initially, he then agreed and narrated the events leading to the damage of the statue, Mr. Balakrishna said. Earlier in the day, Oscar Fernandes and Shobha Karandlaje, MPs, Ivan D’Souza, MLC, Vinay Kumar Sorake, MLA, visited the spot. (The Hindu 13/12/16)

52. First time, Church says: Dalit Christians face untouchability (7)

New Delhi: FOR THE first time in its history, the Indian Catholic Church has officially accepted that Dalit Christians face untouchability and discrimination, and that “their participation in the level of leadership… at the higher levels is almost nil”. These admissions are contained in a policy document prepared and released Monday by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the apex decision-making body of the community, which seeks to abolish all forms of exclusion of the socially backward section and empower them. The 44-page document, titled ‘Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India’, asks the 171 dioceses to submit long and short-term plans within a year to end all kinds of discrimination against Dalit Christians. “If there are dual practices based on caste discrimination, such practices should be stopped forthwith. In case of failure to do so, stringent measures should be taken by the Church authority concerned,” says the document. Baselios Cardinal Cleemis Catholicos, president, CBCI, told The Indian Express: “It’s a revolutionary step. We are admitting that it’s a grave social sin, an issue and a problem. It’s a sin, if you are going by the Christian spirit. This is a step to end the practice of discrimination within the church. It’s a message as well as an introspection.” Incidentally, the Church has been fighting for years for the inclusion of Dalit Christians in the Scheduled Castes list. But its latest policy document admits that although 12 million out of 19 million members of the Catholic Church in India are Dalit Christians, when it comes to “their participation in the level of leadership in the diocesan administration as well as in religious orders is minimum and at the higher levels, it is almost nil”. At present, only 12 out of the more than 5,000 bishops in the Catholic Church in the country are Dalit Christians. “There is wider acceptance that the practice of untouchability and discrimination against Dalits exist in the Church and there is need to address these issues urgently,” says the document. It adds, however, that there have been some positive changes and “more acceptance of the rights and dignity of Dalits at least at the ideological and theoretical level” due to various efforts made by the Church and Dalit outfits. Although various levels of the Church structure have been sensitised, with the younger generation growing with a much higher sense of dignity and self worth, there are newer forms of discrimination. “Since there is inadequate representation in seminaries in appointments to key positions and sharing of common resources in the religious orders and in the Church in general, efforts need to be made to remedy the situation given the importance of good priests… for the mission of the Church,” the document states.It states that Dalits are being deprived of access to courses that are job-oriented or in demand. …  (The Indian Express 15/12/16)

53. India: Catholic bishops issue document on Dalits, condemn caste system (7)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) issued a policy document on Dalit empowerment on 13 December, in which it acknowledged that ‘caste discrimination is a grave social sin’ and committed to ensuring that the practise of ‘untouchability’ will not be tolerated within the church. The document, entitled ‘Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India: An Ethical Imperative to Build Inclusive Communities’, includes commitments such as ensuring that Dalits are given equal employment opportunities; more competent and cohesive lay leadership development for Dalit men and women at both regional and diocesan levels in the Church; building an interactive portal and helpline for the community; dedicated funding and scholarship structures to assist marginalised Dalit students to further their education and to facilitate the Dalit community’s access social justice. Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, Major Archbishop-Catholicos and President of the Catholic Bishops’s Conference of India said: “I whole heartedly urge the Bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders to internalize and implement the policy at all levels. We should consider it as our obligation based on Christian faith to empower our children, sisters and brothers of Dalit origin and other marginalized people.” Dr John Dayal, the former National President of the All India Catholic Union, noted: “The CBCI Dalit empowerment document is a powerful commitment to a seminal struggle against birth-based discrimination that corrodes human dignity even as it limits citizenship and other constitutional rights. Succeeding governments have effectively strengthened caste as well as religious discrimination. In appeasing upper castes, a disservice was done to a marginalised group. While other churches had taken a lead, this document brings the three Rites of the Catholic Church including the two Oriental churches into the frontline of the struggle.” Almost 65% of the Indian Catholic community are Dalits, who have endured a long history of discrimination and injustice in India. Christian and Muslims Dalits are legally excluded from ‘Scheduled Castes’ status, which means that they are denied employment opportunities such as holding elected office, which would otherwise be available to Dalits who profess Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Their legal status also means that Muslim and Christian Dalits are denied legal protections in the event of wrongful occupation of land, malicious criminal suits or humiliation. In 2008, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief echoed the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to restore the eligibility for affirmative action to all members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and that membership should not have any link to the individual’s choice of religion. CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW warmly welcomes this landmark policy document. This policy, if put to work effectively, will go a long way to elevate the status of Dalits as a social class who have long been ostracised at every level in society. They deserve to be respected and treated as equal Indian citizens.” (ICN 18/12/16)

54. Curfew in Imphal, mobile internet snapped after violence (7)

Imphal: In the wake of heightened tension and violence, parts of Manipur capital Imphal were on Sinday brought under indefinite curfew and mobile internet services were snapped at various places to prevent spread of rumours over an alleged attack on a church. The curfew was imposed this noon and covers Porompat and Sawombung subdivisions of Imphal East district, said an order issued by the District Magistrate. It will continue till further directions.Earlier in the day, the state Cabinet decided to shut down mobile internet services in Imphal West district with immediate effect, taking serious note on the prevailing situation here, following three blasts on Friday. The Imphal West District Magistrate issued an order directing telecom operators to shut down mobile data service in the district immediately until further orders. The action came in the wake of tensions following Friday’s blasts and an alleged attack on a church. Major areas of the state capital fall in Imphal West district where the three blasts had taken place within an hour on Friday evening. The Cabinet decision came after analysis of the prevailing law and order situation and to halt spreading of rumours through social networking sites, officials said. The move was preceded by a 24-hour bandh called to protest militants’ attacks on Manipur Police in the last few days in different parts of the state that left three policemen dead and 14 others injured. The militants also snatched several weapons from the IRB personnel. All measures were being taken to contain violence by deploying a large number of police personnel at sensitive areas of the state, a police officer said. The capital on Sunday saw violence by protesters who were agitating against the ongoing economic blockade in the state and a series of terrorist attacks. A number of vehicles were set on fire or vandalised.The landlocked state has been experiencing severe hardship in supply of essential items since November 1 after United Naga Council (UNC) imposed an indefinite economic blockade on the two national highways that serve as lifeline for the state. The blockade was imposed following the state government’s announcement of formation of seven new districts, four of which have been formally inaugurated. Tension in the state heightened after suspected militants continued their violent attacks on Manipur Police and other state forces in the last few days that left three policemen dead and 14 others injured last Thursday. The attack was followed by triple bomb blasts at Nagaram area in Imphal West district allegedly by Manipur Naga People’s Front on Friday. In another incident, suspected militants overpowered a small outpost of Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) at Nungkao area yesterday in Tamenglong district and fled with nine service weapons. (The Hindu 18/12/16)

55. Catholic Church in India condemns caste system in new policy document empowering Dalits

The Catholic Church in India has issued a policy document on Dalit empowerment, in which it acknowledges centuries of caste based discrimination as a ‘grave social sin’ and commits to ensuring that the practice of ‘untouchability’ will not be tolerated within the church. “I whole heartedly urge the Bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders to internalise and implement the policy at all levels. We should consider it as our obligation based on Christian faith to empower our children, sisters and brothers of Dalit origin and other marginalised people,” said Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, Major Archbishop-Catholicos and President of the Catholic Bishops’s Conference of India. The document, entitled ‘Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India: An Ethical Imperative to Build Inclusive Communities’, issued on 13 December, includes commitments such as ensuring that Dalits are given equal employment opportunities; more competent and cohesive lay leadership development for Dalit men and women at regional and diocesan levels in the Church; dedicated funding and scholarship structures to assist marginalised Dalit students to further their education and to facilitate the Dalit community’s access to social justice. Dr John Dayal, the former National President of the All India Catholic Union, described the document as “a powerful commitment to a seminal struggle against birth-based discrimination that corrodes human dignity.” Almost 65 per cent of Indian Catholics are Dalits, who have endured a long history of discrimination and injustice in India. Christian and Muslims Dalits are legally excluded from ‘Scheduled Castes’ status, which means that they are denied employment opportunities such as holding elected office, which would otherwise be available to Dalits who profess Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Their legal status also means that Muslim and Christian Dalits are denied legal protections in the event of wrongful occupation of land, malicious criminal suits or humiliation. (The Tablet 21/12/16)

56. Christians protest BMC notice against church (7)

The notice, issued on November 24, 2016 by the BMC’s deputy municipal commissioner for zone 7, is to acquire a part of the church’s land in order to widen the perennially-clogged SV RoadHundreds of Catholics protested outside Our Lady of Remedy Church on SV Road in the Poisar area of Kandivali West on Christmas against a notice served on the church by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. The notice, issued on November 24, 2016 by the BMC’s deputy municipal commissioner for zone 7, is to acquire a part of the church’s land in order to widen the perennially-clogged SV Road.The BMC and the parishioners of the church are already fighting a case in the Bombay High Court after the civic body earlier in the year served a notice to acquire a part of land in the front portion of the church that houses a cemetery and an ancient cross dating back to 1550. The case is still on at the HC. The BMC’s contention is that the SV road narrows down at the spot in front of the church and needs to be widened to 90 feet for free flow of traffic. (DNA 25/12/16)

57. After alert, tight vigil at churches (7)

NEW DELHI: Security has been beefed up at churches in the city after Delhi Police was alerted by intelligence agencies that a terror outfit might attack a church to create communal tension. Last year, one incident after another at churches had put the police in a quandary. Cops had, however, claimed that none of the incidents were communal. The special branch has deployed sources around “hotspots” identified by them.The alert, incidentally, mentions the blast in a church in Cairo. Daish (IS) had claimed responsibility for the attack, which had occurred on December 11 and killed 25 people. On Sunday, security was further tightened due to Christmas. PCR vans were asked to frequently patrol churches. This year, there have been two church-related incidents. One was a fire, which had broken out in Centenary Methodist Church on Lodhi Road in January this year. Church officials didn’t suspect any foul play. The second occurred in October in outer Delhi’s Rohini. Two men were arrested for barging into a church and threatening the priest and the worshippers during mass. The same church had been targeted earlier by miscreants after which it was provided police cover. The cover was lifted after authorities decided that there was no further threat. In January 2015, miscreants had vandalised a church in west Delhi. (Times of India 26/12/16)

58. “National education policy: Church was not in the loop” (7)

PANAJI: The Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Filipe Neri Ferrao, said on Wednesday that the Union government did not take the Church into confidence before finalising the draft national education policy. He was delivering his Christmas speech at the Archbishop’s Palace, where Governor Mridula Sinha, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Ministers, MLAs, politicians, businessmen, and industrialists were present. “Our charitable works are being viewed with suspicion and an allure for conversion. The Church has been accused of being of foreign origin, although it has gifted the nation with some of the finest high-ranking defence and administrative personnel, who have served the country with exemplary patriotism and dedication,” said the Archbishop. “Our institutions are attacked, robbed, burnt down, and the perpetrators of these crimes often go scot-free. It is almost as if the three per cent population is posing a serious threat to the integration of the nation.” The Archbishop said the Roman Catholic Church will guide its faithful to vote for genuine candidates in the Assembly polls. “The Church takes it upon itself the task of guiding its members in electing the right kind of individuals to the local and the national government.” (The Hindu 29/12/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

59. Martyrs’ families angry, confused (13)

Guwahati: The 59-year-old elder brother of Khagen Bharali, the third martyr of the Assam Movement, said: “The BJP government, which is flouting the Assam Accord by amending the Citizenship Act to pave the way for more Bangladeshi migrants to come here, is also honouring the martyrs who died fighting against illegal migration. I am a bit confused.” Ranju, a resident of Narengi forest gate here, spoke to The Telegraph during the Swahid Divas function organised by the state government to honour the 855 martyrs of the six-year Assam Agitation (1979-1985). The Narendra Modi-led NDA government at the Centre introduced the bill in July to amend the Citizenship Act to allow Hindus, Sikhs and other religious minorities of neighbouring countries to get Indian citizenship. The Centre, after facing protests from several indigenous organisations, referred the bill to a joint parliamentary committee for a review. Khagen, who was a Class X student in 1979 and member of the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad, was protesting at the IOL campus in Narengi and died in police firing. He became the third protester to die after Barpeta’s Khargeswar Talukdar and Nalbari’s Dilip Huzuri. Md Giyasuddin Ahmed, brother of martyr Mukut Ali, also seemed angry. “It is a nice move by the government to honour the martyrs. But they are also going to amend the Citizenship Act. If that happens, I am ready to lead another Assam Agitation and lay down my life like my brother.” Mukut died in 1982 in an explosion during a demonstration at Fatasil Bazar here. Swahid Diwas is celebrated on December 10 every year in the memory of Khargeswar. A resident of Bhabanipur in Barpeta district, he led a blockade to prevent Abida Begum, wife of former President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, from submitting her nomination papers for Barpeta parliamentary constituency and was gunned down by then CRPF commander K.P.S. Gill. The agitation culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord on August 15, 1985, but its key clauses, however, have not been implemented.Talukdar’s brother, Chandra, said, “If the bill is passed, Assam will be overburdened with more migrants. I believe we can negotiate with the Centre and ensure at least Assam is left out of the bill’s purview,” he said. The AGP government had honoured the martyrs’ families by organising the first Swahid Divas and gave them Rs 30,000 each in 1986. The Sarbananda Sonowal-led government revived the occasion after 36 years and gave away Rs 5 lakh to the families. However, the family members felt the sum was equivalent to that given in 1986. “The value of Rs 5 lakh today is similar to Rs 30,000 in 1986. The aid back then was minus the threat of more Bangladeshis coming to Assam,” said 76-year-old Maneshwar Sarma, brother of Thaneswar, who was martyred in Mangaldoi. (The Telegraph 11/12/16)

60. PM fulfilling his promise towards PoK refugees: BJP (13)

Jammu: With the distribution of cheques amounting to Rs 5.5 lakh each among families of the displaced persons of 1947, 1965 and 1971 under ‘Prime Minister’s Development Plan’ for PoK refugees, the BJP state unit today said that the process for providing assistance to these people has officially been kicked off by the coalition government. “The process for providing assistance to displaced persons of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) refugees of 1947, 1965 and 1971 has officially been kicked off by the BJP-PDP coalition government in Jammu & Kashmir,” BJP State Spokesperson Balbir Ram Rattan said in a handout here. It was indeed a historic moment for the PoK displaced persons, whose three generations have perished while agitating for decades after they left their homes and hearths besides losing their family members, he said. He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had during the 2014 general elections promised to consider and fulfill the demands of the PoK displaced persons of 1947, 65 and 71. Within two years of taking over as Prime Minister, he has kept his promise and provided Rs 2000 crore as assistance to be distributed among the affected families residing in the state, he said. He said that it has been most unfortunate that despite ruling the country for maximum period after independence, the Congress did nothing for the welfare and development of the displaced persons from PoK. He said that the long pending issue now stands resolved with the continuous efforts of the BJP as coalition partner in the state government, which had been building pressure and kept reminding the Prime Minister about the genuine demand of the displaced persons from PoK. The BJP spokesperson said that the Modi-led government at the Centre in January 2015, had given its nod to certain concessions for the refugees from West Pakistan residing in Jammu and Kashmir considering the problems faced by them. Equal employment opportunities, special recruitment drives for induction into paramilitary forces, admission for the children of refugees in Kendriya Vidyalayas, to mention a few, were a part of the concessions granted by the union government. Balbir said that party has always fully supported the demands of the displaces persons and West Pakistan refugees living in Jammu and Kashmir, who have faced discrimination for the last six decades. (Zee News 13/12/16)

61. Human Rights Groups Warn Myanmar Over Rohingya Issue (13)

Bangkok:  The actions of Myanmar’s military may constitute crimes against humanity, human rights group Amnesty International has warned, based on accounts of violence against the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority. Myanmar has come under heavy criticism for its army’s forceful treatment of the Rohingya, and international human rights groups such as Amnesty have accused the military of mass murder, looting and rape. “The Myanmar military has targeted Rohingya civilians in a callous and systematic campaign of violence,” said Rafendi Djamin, Southeast Asia director for Amnesty International. “The deplorable actions of the military could be part of a widespread and systematic attack on a civilian population and may amount to crimes against humanity.” Amnesty released a report on Monday outlining its accusations. The report comes as Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is set to meet fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asians Nations at a Monday meeting in Yangon. The military sweeps were sparked by an October 9 attack on police outposts in Rakhine state that killed nine officers. Rakhine, located in Myanmar’s west, has long been home to simmering tensions between the Rohingya and the country’s Buddhist majority population. The last major outbreak of violence in 2012 left hundreds dead and drove 140,000 people into internal displacement camps. Amnesty cautioned that the scale and extent of the violence is unclear, as the military has closed Rakhine to outside observers, including aid workers. But eyewitness accounts detail specific cases of murder, looting and rape. In one incident on November 12, following an alleged skirmish between the army and villagers armed mostly with swords and other simple weapons, helicopter gunships descended on a village and sprayed bullets indiscriminately, killing civilians fleeing in a panic, Amnesty said. This was corroborated to an extent by Myanmar army officials, who said helicopters opening fire that day and killed six people, who officials said were insurgents. Refugees told Amnesty that the military is torching villages. Satellite images Amnesty obtained show 1,200 burned structures, which they say is in line with images released by Human Rights Watch in November that showed 1,500 burned homes. Amnesty’s report follows concerns voiced in an International Crisis Group report released last week that repressive government policies are radicalizing the Rohingya, and sharp criticism from the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. “Myanmar’s handling of northern Rakhine is a lesson in how to make a bad situation worse,” al-Hussein said in Geneva on Friday. “The results have been catastrophic, with mass displacement, the nurturing of violent extremism, and everybody ultimately losing.” The border attacks were coordinated by a new insurgent group calling itself Harakah al-Yaqin, or the Faith Movement, according to the Belgium-based International Crisis Group. Organized by a network of Rohingya in Saudi Arabia and bankrolled by wealthy donors, the militant group is being called a “game changer” for drawing Muslims disillusioned and desperate from years of disenfranchisement by the Myanmar government. Amnesty is urging the government to immediately cease hostilities, open Rakhine for humanitarian aid groups, and allow independent investigations. (NDTV 19/12/2016)

62. Centre approves Rs 2,000 crore package for POJK refugees (13)

New Delhi: A Rs 2,000-crore development package, approved by the central government recently, will be applicable to the displaced people of Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) and not to those from West Pakistan. The central assistance of Rs 2,000 crore would be given to 36,384 displaced families from POJK and Chhamb following an announcement of Prime Minister’s Development Package for Jammu and Kashmir in November, 2015, according to the Union Cabinet decision on November 30. In the aftermath of partition of the country in 1947, thousands of families from Pakistan occupied areas of Jammu and Kashmir migrated to Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequently, during Indo-Pak Wars of 1965 and 1971, a large number of families were displaced from Chhamb Niabat area of Jammu and Kashmir.A series of relief and rehabilitation packages have been extended by the Governments of India and Jammu and Kashmir from time to time to mitigate the hardship of displaced persons from POJK and Chhamb and to rehabilitate them, an official said.PTI had on November 30 inadvertently reported that refugees from West Pakistan, mostly from PoK, settled in different areas of Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts will receive the package. The POJK refugees are bonafide state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir as they originally belonged to Jammu and Kashmir and migrated only from one side of the state to the other. Since POJK refugees are state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir, they are eligible to cast their votes to Lok Sabha, Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and local body elections. (Indian Express 20/12/16)

63. Facing flak, J-K govt clears air on status of west Pakistan refugees (13)

After media reports on issuance of domicile certificates to west Pakistan refugees (WPR) in Jammu and Kashmir created a political storm, the state government on Thursday clarified that they have been issued identity certificates and it didn’t make them state subjects. The government added that a “false and contrived impression was being created regarding the change of status of the West Pakistan Refugees (WPR)” and such reports were deliberately circulated to “destabilise the situation and hit the political and economic interests of the people”. News reports of government issuing domicile certificates to west Pakistan refugees has touched a raw nerve in Jammu and Kashmir and separatists have already announced state-wide protests on Friday. Controversial legislator Engineer Rashid was on Thursday detained by police after he attempted to take out a march on the issue. In a press statement, education minister Naeem Akhtar said, “It seems an orchestrated and misleading campaign has been launched to create an impression that the government is changing the status of the WPR and they are being provided domicile certificates.” Akhtar said the refugees who settled in the state post-partition, include those from PoK and West Pakistan. (Hindustan Times 23/12/16)

64. Fresh protests in Kashmir over West Pakistan refugees (13)

Srinagar:  Protests erupted amid a shutdown call by separatists in the Kashmir Valley on Friday against the alleged move to grant domicile certificate to West Pakistan refugees in J&K. JKLF chief Yasin Malik was detained when he tried to take out a march in Srinagar. “Kashmiris will not shy away from spilling even their blood to safeguard the Muslim majority character of J&K. The Supreme Court orders regarding the quasi-sovereign status of J&K and permitting outside banks to confiscate and hold properties in it is part of the conspiracy to change the demography,” alleged Mr. Malik. Speaking at the Jamia Masjid before the Friday prayers, Hurriyat faction chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said, “Our peaceful programme against the anti-Kashmir policies of granting domicile rights to WP refugees and using the judiciary to subvert the Kashmir dispute was thwarted by the police.” The West Pakistan refugees issue sparked fresh street protests in the Valley. There were clashes in parts of Sopore, Srinagar and Bandipora districts among others.. On Thursday, Government spokesman and State Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar ruled out granting any citizenship to WP refugees in J&K, saying “only identification certificates were issued.” CPI(M) leader Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami warned against “violating and eroding the special status of J&K”. “The State is still passing through a difficult phase. It seems that conspiracies are being hatched to prolong the uncertain atmosphere here,” Mr. Tarigami said. (The Hindu 24/12/16)

65. Brazil seeking 19 migrants lost at sea (13)

Rio de Janeiro: At least 19 Brazilians were among the passengers of a boat believed to have capsized in the Caribbean sometime between November and December, local media reports said. The boat was purportedly carrying illegal migrants attempting to reach US shores, and was last known to be sailing from the Bahamas to Miami, Florida, the report said on Sunday, citing Brazil`s Foreign Affairs Ministry. Since the Brazilian passengers boarded the ship on November 6, their relatives have had no news from them, Xinhua news agency reported. Authorities from Brazil, the Bahamas and the US have been in contact over the incident, the ministry said. The US Coast Guard and its Bahamian counterpart were permanently patrolling the coasts, but have yet to detect signs of a possible shipwreck, the ministry added. (Zee News 26/12/16)

66. It is up to Sri Lankan refugees to return home, says Minister (13)

CHENNAI:  After visiting a camp for the refugees in Gummidipoondi, on the northern outskirts of Chennai, Mr. Radhakrishnan told The Hindu on Monday evening that he favoured voluntary repatriation. “If the refugees want to remain here, suitable arrangements should be in place.” They should also keep in mind that there should be no fall in the population of Tamils in Sri Lanka. He visited the camp which was affected by the recent cyclonic storm “Vardah.” There are about one lakh refugees living in the State including around 36,650 persons living outside the camps. According to information provided by the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs in the Sri Lanka government, 5,266 persons returned to Sri Lanka from 2011 to mid-November. As part of a scheme of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), those who go back on their own are provided free air tickets, reintegration allowance of $75 per person, transport allowance of $19 per person and monetary non-food grant of $75 per family. The Sri Lankan authorities have initiated a livelihood assistance programme of maximum LKR (Sri Lankan currency) 100,000 per refugee returnee family to support the livelihood activities. S.C. Chandrahasan, founder of the Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR), has been pushing for a package of assistance to those who are willing to return. Apart from covering subsistence allowance, the proposed assistance includes provisions for the establishment of homes and livelihood. The assistance programme can be implemented by the Indian and Sri Lankan governments jointly. Mr. Chandrahasan is also for the resumption of ferry services between Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Talaimannar in the Northern Province. According to him, initially the services can be used for the return of refugees. Subsequently, pilgrims on either side of the Palk Bay can use the services. (The Hindu 27/12/16)

67. Domicile for refugees splits J&K along communal lines (13)

JAMMU: The BJP-PDP coalition government’s decision to issue domicile certificates to West Pakistan refugees is snowballing into a major controversy in Jammu & Kashmir, polarising the state communally once again. CM Mehbooba Mufti recently decided to issue domicile certificates to those who migrated to the Jammu region during Partition. There are 19,960 West Pakistan refugee families registered with the state government.Domicile certificates, according to the government, will help them get government jobs and establish them as Indian citizens. Kashmir-centric parties, including National Conference, and separatist groups have opposed the move while Jammu-centric ones -BJP, VHP, Shri Ram Sena and Panthers Party -support the decision. Separatists have called for protests in the Valley. Both separatists and NC have accu sed the government of engi neering demographic change s in the Muslim majority state. BJP state chief Sat Sharma said it was clearly mentioned in the PDP-BJP agenda of alliance that the government would consider providing better livelihood for refugees. “Separatists and opposition parties are out to trigger trouble,” he said. Refugees, who have been living in the state for 70 years… can in no way af fect demography, he said.Labha Ram Gandhi, chairman of West Pakistan Refugee Action Committee lashed out, asking: “No one has a problem with government sup port for Rohingyas but they have an is sue with West Pakis tan refugees. Why?… They (separatists) and anti-national for ces are hell bent on converting Jammu into a Muslim-majo rity region,” he alle ged. As per official re cords, over 13,384 fo reigners, including Rohingya Muslims, `camp’ in the state. Madan Lal Dabgotra, a refugee, said, “For the first time, a government has decided to provide identity cards to us. We are entitled to vote in parliamentary elections and have valid ration cards. We pay proper housing taxes to the J&K government, yet our existence is questioned.” (Times of India 28/12/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

68. NGO launches exhaustive RTI portal (1)

Mumbai: The website seeks to provide regular RTI applicants with answers to any queries they may have, as well as initiate a first-time applicant to ways in which an RTI application can be filed While the state continues to drag its feet on offering a website dedicated to the Right to Information Act, 2005, an NGO has come out with an exhaustive RTI portal. While an official state government RTI portal has been in the pipeline for the past four years, the last update from the government was that it would be launched after the monsoon session. The website developed by the NGO promises to provide exhaustive information pertaining to the filing of RTI applications, RTI rules of various states, orders of the Supreme Court and High Courts, among other related details. The website seeks to provide regular RTI applicants with answers to any queries they may have, as well as initiate a first-time applicant to ways in which an RTI application can be filed. Called mahitiadhikarmanch.ngo – named after the NGO which derives its name in Marathi from the RTI Act, the portal has rules of different states in their respective state languages. The RTI Act itself is available in 10 languages including Marathi,besides English and Hindi, on the website. “A lot of organizations do work on RTI. However, there is no single website that gives the information on all the details about the RTI. On our website, we have put up the RTI Act and even the rules in all languages. There is a link to all information commissions and all organizations that work towards the RTI Act. There are important SC and HC judgments related to RTI Act, motivational songs and talks by various people. Information will also be provided of various workshops on RTI that people can look forward to attend. We are trying to make the website as live as we can make it,” said Bhaskar Prabhu, of Mahiti Adhikar Manch, that has come out with the website. The website will be followed by a RTI vehicle that will educated people on the Act moving from place to place. “In future we will also put up details of all the Acts that relate to or compliment the RTI Act like the Indian Evidence Act, Records Maintenance Act, Services Act and all other Act that co-relate with the RTI,” said Prabhu. (DNA 11/12/16)

69. Least RTI requests rejected in 2015-16 (1)

New Delhi: About 6.62 per cent of the total RTI requests were rejected in 2015-16, the lowest in the past five years, Parliament was informed on Wednesday. Out of 11,65,904 RTI requests received in 2015-16, 64,666 (6.62 percent) were rejected, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh told the Lok Sabha in a written reply. As information given by the Central Information Commission (CIC), in 2014-15, out of 8,45,032 RTI requests received, 63,351 (8.39 per cent) requests were rejected. In 2013-14, out of 9,62,630 RTI requests received, 60,127 (7.21 per cent) were rejected. In 2012-13, out of 8,86,681 RTI requests received, 62,231 (7.70 per cent) were rejected. In 2011-12, out of 7,05,976 RTI requests received, 52,313 (8.30 per cent) requests were rejected. (Business Standard 14/12/16)

70. RBI stonewalling info on key issues, says former RTI chief (1)

MUMBAI: Former Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi has said that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is setting a “dangerous” precedent by putting out a list of issues about which it will not disclose information under the Right to Information Act. Gandhi said this list includes nine issues regarding which the Supreme Court had in 2015 upheld the CIC’s order and directed the RBI to disclose information sought by the petitioner. Gandhi said that the RBI’s Disclosure Policy effectively means that the central bank arrogates to itself the right to lay down exemptions to disclosure of information in line with the objectives of the Act. “This is the sole prerogative of Parliament which has provided exemptions to disclosure in sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act,” said Gandhi. He said that the RTI Act would be “rendered useless” if every government department comes out with such Disclosure Policies.In a complaint to the CIC against the RBI’s Disclosure Policy, Gandhi said the Disclosure Policy only lists information which will not be disclosed in the garb of claiming exemptions under Section 8 (1) of the RTI Act. “This is illegal and is certainly usurpation of the powers of the Commission. RBI has no power under law to declare which information is exempt,” he said, adding that it would be the role of the Commission to do so. Terming the action as as “very dangerous and illegal”, Gandhi said it could cause complete disruption of the working of RTI if other public authorities follow this example. “Public Information Officer’s of public authorities will then be following the illegal proclamation of their organizations instead of the RTI Act,” he said. Gandhi has asked the CIC to declare the action of the RBI illegal and reprimand the apex bank for this illegal act. (Times of India 17/12/16)

71. Rs40 spent on RTI information worth Rs6 (1)

NAGPUR: For supplying information worth Rs6, Pench Tiger Reserve public information officer (PIO) GS Hingne has spent Rs40 towards postal charges. He has asked city RTI activist Avinash Prabhune to deposit Rs46 for giving out the information that was sought under RTI. The information was in 3 pages. On November 10, Prabhune filed an RTI application with PTR regarding information about number of visitors to Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary from October 17, 2015 to November 15, 2015 & from October 1, 2016 to Nov 7, 2016 along with few other queries. He was surprised to receive a letter for which Rs40 was spent. “The PIO should have provided information at the first instance as it would have avoided valuable government resources like manpower, office hours, stationery, postal charges,” said Prabhune.He added that the PIO decision is against a government resolution which states that instead of demanding meagre amounts, economic viability must be logically analysed so that it helps in providing timely information to citizens as well as save government resources. In the same GR, the government has taken reference of department of personnel and training (DoPT), where it had been suggested not to transfer applications to multiple authorities as per Section 6(3) of the RTI Act and had advised the PIOs to inform applicant to file separate RTI applications to other public authority. Prabhune says though there is nothing wrong in the state GR, it appears that government officials adopt DoPT circulars which are suitable to them but ignores circular as regards to postal charges. DoPT had issued notification on July 31, 2012, no postal charges are to be collected as long as postal charges are below Rs50. “In my case, the Pench PIO has asked to deposit Rs46. It is sheer waste of resources and manpower,” added Prabhune. (Times of India 19/12/16)

72. PMO refuses demonetisation info under RTI (1)

JALANDHAR: The Prime Minister’s Office has refused to give information under RTI Act about decisions taken as part of the demonetisation plan. PMO has cited a provision of RTI Act claiming exemption from providing information. Nawanshahr based RTI activist Parvinder Singh Kitna had sought information about the timings of crucial decisions and sent an application to the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of PMO on November 16. On December 2, the PMO forwarded the application to the ministry of home affairs “for action as appropriate”. On December 16, PMO Under Secretary-cum-CPIO Parveen Kumar replied to Kitna’s application and cited provision 8(i)(a) of the RTI Act to refuse the information sought. Kitna’s queries were: on which date was the decision taken to ban currency notes of Rs 500 and 1000; on which date were copies of the letter issued to the authorities/departments concerned and RBI for starting the process in this regard; when was the process of demonetisation of high currency notes started in PMO; at which level/branch was this process initiated. The other points on which the information was sought included: when was the final decision taken on demonetising the currency and copy of orders issued by the PMO on the subject; was the Union cabinet taken into confidence; if yes, provide a copy of the “minister” (minutes) of the cabinet meeting; copies of the legal and financial opinion on the subject given by the respective offices. The RTI application also posed questions about quantum of black money as it asked: how much of black money has been received by the government as on date of providing the required information. Kitna said PMO should make public all the facts related to demonetisation as refusal to give information was leading to apprehensions. He said he would file an appeal with the appellate authority, as provided by the RTI Act, against this refusal to share information. Meanwhile, Punjab and Haryana high court advocate H C Arora said that information should be made public as the RTI Act also provided “that the decisions of council of ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over”. He said that once the demonetisation policy had been implemented, there was no harm in making public the information pertaining to its decisions. (Times of India 23/12/16)

73. Uttrakhand government mulling amending RTI Act, allege activists (1)

DEHRADUN: RTI activists in Uttarakhand are up in arms alleging that the state government is planning to make furnishing of an affidavit “compulsory” by the information seeker at the stage of the appeal. The activists, while addressing a press conference, said that they will challenge the move in the court if it is implemented. They also alleged that the state government has given the proposal to introduce a new clause to the legal department.However, a senior state government official claimed that no changes have been introduced into the RTI manual and no decision has been taken in the matter. As per the procedure of the RTI Act, an applicant first gives his queries to the department. If he is not satisfied, he can again file an appeal to press further for the replies. The “proposal” of making submission of the affidavit has irked the RTI activists, who call it “legally untenable”.Amar Singh Dhunta, an RTI activist, said: “All activists are against this proposed move because it is against the very spirit of the RTI Act. Nowhere does the Act states that the applicant needs to file an affidavit. The state government should not fiddle with the RTI Act.” The activists claimed that the move to bring affidavit at the stage of appeal is aimed at discouraging the RTI applicant. “At present anyone, irrespective of age and profession, can file an RTI for information. At the stage of appeal, he only fills a form (RTI appeal). Now, with this move, the state government is scaring the applicant against pursuing his case,” said Ajay Kumar, another RTI activist. Introducing the affidavit in the RTI will also make the entire exercise expensive, they said. Dunta added: “If it happens, then we will approach the court.” A Bareilly-based RTI activist and advocate Mohd Khalid Jilani said: “No affidavit is required to file an RTI query. If the Uttarakhand government makes affidavit mandatory, it is illegal.” (Times of India 21/12/16)

74. RBI refuses to disclose deliberations of its Board on demonetisation (1)

New Delhi: Responding to an RTI application filed by activist Venkatesh Nayak, the Bankers’ Bank refused to disclose the minutes of the crucial meetings of Central Board of Directors on the issue of demonetisation citing section 8(1)(a) of the transparency law. The Reserve Bank of India has refused to allow access to minutes of meetings held to decide on the issue of demonetisation of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8. Responding to an RTI application filed by activist Venkatesh Nayak, the Bankers’ Bank refused to disclose the minutes of the crucial meetings of Central Board of Directors on the issue of demonetisation citing section 8(1)(a) of the transparency law. The Section exempts disclosure of information which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence. Nayak said he will appeal against the decision, adding, “While confidentiality prior to the making of the demonetisation decision is understandable, continued secrecy after the decision is implemented is difficult to understand when crores of Indians including this author have faced difficulties due to the shortage of cash in the economy”. He said the refusal to disclose the minutes of the Board meeting where the decision was taken to recommend demonetisation of the high value currency notes, is perplexing to say the very least.”Cash-starved people have had problems paying hospital charges when mothers delivered babies and bereaved families faced problems paying fees to cremate or bury their dead at cemeteries or crematoria,” he said. (Deccan Herald 25/12/16)

75. Officials warned against not giving information under RTI Act (1)

RAICHUR: Suchet Kumar, Commissioner, State Information Commission, has warned officials that action will be initiated against them if they failed to provide information against applications seeking information under the Right to Information Act. He was addressing a meeting on Right to Information Act at the zilla panchayat auditorium in Raichur on Monday. Stating that every citizen had the right to get information about government action in a particular work or a project or a programme, Mr. Suchet Kumar asked the officials to ensure that the right to information was not turned down, except for a few reasons mentioned under the law. As many as 66 applications seeking information were inquired into and of them, several were disposed of on the spot. The commissioner warned officials that fine would be imposed on them if they did not furnish information in 15 days, when it was brought to his notice that applications seeking information on computer operators working in the Taluk Panchayat Office in Raichur and the action plan of Chandrabanda Gram Panchayat were still pending. People from various villages and applicants participated in the meeting. (The Hindu 26/12/16)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

76. Fight inequality with education: Prez (11)

New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday that education should be the strongest weapon in the fight against inequality. “Our children will inherit a world that we would devolve them. It is our responsibility to ensure that such a world is a better place than what we are given. Exploitation of resources and degradation of the environment is posing a serious challenge to sustainable development. It is manifested in the ill-effects of climate change,” Mukherjee said inaugurating a two-day event, “Nobel Laureates and Leaders for Children 2016″, at Rashtrapati Bhavan. “Developing economies, which are closely tied to climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture and forestry, are more vulnerable to climate change. Efficient use of natural resources is reflective of a society that is mindful of its responsibilities towards the present and future generations equally,” he added. The summit, organised by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s Children Foundation, will deliberate on the issues of building a platform for protecting children from violence and ensuring a world where children are free to be just children. Nobel laureate and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and other dignitaries also spoke at the event.The President said problems of varying degrees afflict children from the seemingly less severe ones like bullying at school to cases of sexual harassment, child marriage and trafficking. “According to UNICEF, 80% of child deaths occur in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In regions marred by armed conflicts, violence and insurgencies, children are the most affected. There are many children amongst refugees who face an uncertain future,” he added. He asserted that programmes and actions for children have to take centre-stage in national policy-making. “The path towards an equal future will come through prioritising. The disparities in education, health and poverty indicators will have to be eliminated,” Mukherjee said. “Education should be the strongest weapon in our fight against inequality.” (Times of India 11/12/16)

77. CBSE Class 10 exams will be mandatory from 2017-18: Prakash Javadekar (11)

New Delhi: CBSE Board would meet at the end of the month and a resolution is set to be passed to make class X board exams compulsory for all its students from next academic session. The CBSE Board would meet at the end of this month and a resolution is set to be passed to make class X board exams compulsory for all its students from next academic session, HRD minister Prakash Javadekar has said. The minister also said the Human Resource Development Ministry (HRD) is working on an amendment to the Right to Education Act (RTE), and a proposal has been approved by the Law Ministry that would come to the Cabinet in a week or two. “This month there will be a CBSE Board meeting, in which there will be a resolution (for compulsory class X board exams). “So, I am very sure, from academic session 2017-18, Board examination will be mandatory for all students,” Javadekar told PTI. The minister also asserted that it was “unfair” that 23 million students in the country were taking various examinations -state boards and CBSE- and yet two million were not. Under the present norms, CBSE students can choose between the Board exam or a school based examination. On RTE amendment, he said once it is approved by the Cabinet, it will go to Parliament. “Even if it is referred to a Standing Committee, I hope by April, we will have an amendment which will allow states to take a call on whether to have detention or no detention,” Javadekar said. Presently, the ‘No Detention’ provision under the RTE Act does not allow students to be failed or detained till class VIII. The states will be given freedom to choose between having examination for classes V and VIII, Javadekar said. “But we are also simultaneously saying that if you take it and somebody’s detained, he should not lose one year. There should be a supplementary exam two months after and then he again joins the next batch. So that he does not lose a year but there is accountability for the student also,” the HRD minister said. “We don’t want to create exam oriented pressure on students but there has to be a challenge mode,” he said. (DNA 13/12/2016)

78. Muslims rack up numbers, seek education quota (11)

NAGPUR: A day after Maratha muk morcha (silent march), a similar rally but pipping the former in numbers was held by Muslims under the aegis of Jamait-Ulema-e-Hind, on Thursday. Though seeking 5% quota in education, the tone was more against any change in triple talaaq and interference in Shariat laws. Unlike rallies by other communities, women were absent here. Organizers said it could have been difficult to control the crowd if women were included. “Women are being misguided in the name of banning triple talaaq,” said participants of the rally. As against close to 20,000 participants in the Maratha rally, the number of Muslims was up to 40,000. Organizers say this was a show of strength before taking to the streets. Taking a cue from Maratha rallies that began from June this year, Muslims too started holding silent marches in the state since the last two months. Before Nagpur, the Muslim reservation rallies were held in Bhusawal, Parbhani, Akola and Aurangabad. The rally held on Thursday was the biggest, said Javed Ansari of United Students Association (USA) and a participant. The rally began from Indora Square off Kamptee Road and ended at LIC Square. Later, a delegation met the chief minister who assured to look into their demands, said a source among the organizers. Leaders of Congress, NCP and BSP, apart from Asaddudin Owaisi-led AIMIM, took part in the rally. Jamait president Maulana Mehmood Arshad Madni said, “The community will take to the streets if the government tries to impose changes in Shariat laws.”Shakeel Patel of AIMIM said the rally was solely held by the Jamait which is a religious organization and political leaders only followed. Maulana Siraj Ahmed Qasmi, who heads Jamait’s city unit, said, “If the Constitution has given us the right to practice our religion, then no other law interfering with the Shariat can be passed.” (Times of India 17/12/16)

79. 3 months on, 1000 Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan teachers yet to get salaries (11)

CHANDIGARH: With the Centre yet to release UT’s second instalment from the annual budget under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), even after three months, many teachers have been left with no option other than taking loans at higher interest rates. With no salary in hand from last three months, the teachers have been looking for banks and people who will offer short loans. However, many banks too have refused loan since the teachers did not have the salary statement showing last two months’ salary. Many teachers are finding it difficult to cope with financial requirements. This issue is the main subject in Chandigarh’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Teachers Welfare Association (SSATWA). “Teachers have been asking me about personal loans. Surviving without salary, that too for more than two months is very difficult for anyone. Teachers are forced to take loans as it was responsibility of director school education and finance secretary to provide salary. Teachers are not concerned from where the budget comes. They are employees of Chandigarh administration which is depriving the teachers of salary,” said Arvind Rana, president of SSATWA. “And the Central government made mockery of combined SSA and right to education (RTE) by not providing budget for implementation of SSA-RTE norms,” Rana said. As per calculation, average interest amount on Rs 50,000 is 1,100-1,500 for three months period, teachers said. Teachers questioned if the administration will give their salaries with interest. SSATWA has been making various efforts for transfer of budget from ministry of human resource development (MHRD) to Chandigarh but to no avail. On December 13, SSATWA also sent a request to local MP Kirron Kher for speedy transfer of SSA budget from the Government of India to Chandigarh. “After our request to MP Kirron Kher, she intervened in the matter and her adviser called officials of MHRD for speedy transfer of budget,” Rana said. On December 9, Rana sent a letter to MHRD director on WhatsApp for disbursal of salary budget to Chandigarh. They informed her that the Chandigarh administration has sent fresh utilization certificate which was asked for. “We had gone to MHRD and were told the budget was not transferred since the UT was yet to provide utilization certificate for first instalment,” he said. When asked, director school education if there was any confirmation about the transfer of budget, he said, “There has been no confirmation yet.” (Times of India 19/12/16)

80. Boost for tribal education in Odisha (11)

Bhubaneswar: To increase the intake capacity of tribal schools, the state government has decided to upgrade ashram schools to high schools and high schools to higher secondary schools by 2018-19 academic session. “Education is the only medium to bridge the gap of inequality. The upgradation of schools will benefit around 1,200 to 1,500 tribal students in availing higher secondary education,” said chief minister Naveen Patnaik inaugurating the annual children’s festival, Saragi Phul, for students of schools run by ST and SC development department at the adivasi ground here on Tuesday. Naveen said at present 8,000 tribal children from interior districts are studying in different private English-medium schools in various cities and district headquarters under the Anwesha scheme. There are a total 1,760 schools under the department of which 21 ashram schools will be upgraded to high schools and 65 high schools will have Plus III classes.As many as 250 hostels to accommodate children studying in elite schools will be set up under Anwesha scheme. At present, around 1,000 tribal students pursuing higher education are staying in two hostels in Bhubaneswar, three more hostels will be set up in Rourkela, Sambalpur and Berhampur soon, Naveen said. Over 2,000 tribal students from across the state took part in a three-day children’s festival where they showcased their talents and learned different skills. A number of workshops were conducted like ‘best from the waste’, child reporting, terracotta and pottery, magic show, puppet show, storytelling, photography, dance and music. “The department is also planning to introduce vocational training programme for school dropouts to increase their employability. Things are in the planning stage now,” said department secretary Surendra Kumar. (Times of India 21/12/16)

81. Study: States hardly invest in improving education quality (11)

NEW DELHI: For all the talk on education quality and improving learning outcomes, little is actually being done to achieve either. The Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) and Child Rights and You (CRY) studied education budgets in 10 general-category states and found that allocations for measures, even statutory provisions for ensuring quality — teacher training, monitoring, community mobilisation and training — are close to negligible in education budgets. In fact, share of any of these categories rarely rises beyond 1% in the education or Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) budget in any state. “There is much discussion on quality but governments are not investing in the systems responsible for improving quality,” said Subrat Das of CBGA. The share of teacher-training in the education budget doesn’t rise above 1% in any of the 10 states included in the analysis except Bihar, where it was 1.6% in 2015-16 (budget estimate).Inspection and monitoring are similarly neglected with their share crossing 1% in only Tamil Nadu and Odisha, both 1.2%. The study considered all 12 years of schooling. While there is huge variation across states, per-student expenditure is less than that of relatively successful centrally-funded systems — the Kendriya and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (KVs and JNVs) — nearly everywhere. More than 98% schools in the 10 states have formed school management committees (SMCs). Mandated by the RTE Act 2009, these are composed mainly of parents and community-members. In addition to monitoring the functioning of schools, the RTE also requires them to formulate school development plans and clear school budgets. But, again, states have spent very little on training them. The share of training SMCs and Panchayati Raj Institutions in the SSA budget was less than 1% in all 10 states in 2014-15.Teachers’ salaries do claim the largest chunk of the budget in all 10 states, ranging from 51.6% in Bihar to 80.4% in Rajasthan. But, as Protiva Kundu from CBGA said, “The myth that teachers’ salaries take away all the funds for education is not true.” State governments, especially UP and Maharashtra, spend significant amounts on non-government schools — as grants-in-aid and compensation for children enrolled in the 25% quota for Economically Weaker Sections and Disadvantaged Groups. Education as a sector is under-funded, believe the organisations that authored the report. The per-student expenditure in public education in practically every general-category state is below that of KVs and JNVs. (Times of India 23/12/16)

82. Right To Education Act set to cover students up to Class X (11)

AHMEDABAD: The Right To Education (RTE)-2009 Act is likely to be extended up to Class 10. (As of now, it is being implemented only up to class 8.) This idea came up at a meeting held recently of Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) committee which comes under Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). Gujarat education minister, Bhupendrasinh Chudasma, who is also a member in the CABE committee, confirmed this development and said that “mixed response” was received by various states regarding the proposal to extend the implementation of RTE Act to Class 10. “A proposal regarding extension of RTE implementation up to class 10 is under consideration of the CABE committee. Discussion regarding issues between the state and central government will be held in the upcoming meeting of the committee in which some concrete outcome is likely,” Chudasma told ToI.The minister had earlier sought feedback of district education officers (DEOs) and district primary education officers (DPEOs) regarding extension of RTE Act’s ambit. Having received a positive feedback, Chudasma had forwarded the proposal to the Union government. It had come to the notice of the state government that several students had dropped out after Class 8. This made the government push for a proposal to extend the RTE in higher classes too. Speculation regarding political gain from this initiative is also rife as it is believed that as Congress introduced the RTE upto Class 8, if the BJP-ruled government extends it upto class 10, it will gain politically. Sources said the question of what will be the central and state government’s share in the cost of implementation of the RTE Act and the budget allocation for that, will be discussed in the upcoming meeting of CABE committee in January. Earlier in February, ten states including Gujarat had demanded extension of the RTE upto class 10. The RTE act was introduced by the Congress-led Union government in 2009 to give free and compulsory education to children belonging to the downtrodden classes. (Times of India 26/12/16)

83. Create a state advisory council to discuss about RTE: Expert (11)

BENGALURU: Admissions to the 25% Right to Education (RTE) quota has stirred fresh controversies among experts and activists. The ministry of primary and secondary education has been criticized for its apathy towards creating a state advisory council of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) along with parents associations and experts. In a letter addressed to Tanveer Sait, minister, primary and secondary education, Karnataka, the RTE Students and Parents Association along with Niranjan Aradhya VP, Fellow, Centre for Child and the Law, NLSIU urged the government to also appoint an eminent lawyer who would be dedicated towards all RTE related cases.With a number of cases of schools seeking exemption from the act, pending in the court, the association has asked the government to expedite the cases as soon as possible. “Every year, the state government changes its policies on the Right to Education issue. It is not just about 25% quota seats reserved for underprivileged students. The government must look at the other sections of the act and ensure quality of the free education too,” said Aradhya. He further said that there seems to be no rationale in making Aadhaar a compulsion for students to apply for seats through the quota. “A child’s birth certificate and the BPL or voter ID cards are proof enough. Aadhaar cards puts migrant families working as daily wage labourers at a disadvantage. The government ought to clarify its stand on this,” he added. The letter further urged the government to seriously consider mapping schools that have been receiving benefits under the RTE quota and assess the progress every year. “Many schools have stopped offering RTE seats but still receive the reimbursements.” (Times of India 27/12/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

84. Govt trying to subvert attention from NITI Aayog’s failure to cashless transactions: Congress

New Delhi: Slamming the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog’s decision to reward Rs.1 crore for promoting e-payment, Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit on Sunday questioned the government whether cashless exchange was more important to it than poverty eradication, employment generation and providing better life to the people. “What NITI Aayog has done to promote the government’s policy is fair enough. You can give a prize of (Rs) one crore, two crores or whatever you want, but the interesting and amusing part is that the real challenge of the government, which is reducing poverty, bringing fall in infant mortality rate, getting the sex ratio up, reducing malnourishment, out of these, the NITI Aayog has not even given a one-rupia prize to anybody. The problem with NITI Aayog is that in terms of employment, it cannot give prize to anybody, because unemployment is increasing and growth has stagnated, so you cannot reward anybody. Poverty is not reducing, thus, it cannot reward anyone for it; infant mortality rate and health is stagnating, so you can’t reward anybody; there is no initiative in education, so you cannot give prize to anyone,” he said, adding the government is a “complete failure so it is subverting every attention to cashless (exchange)”. “You are rewarding somebody to say that rather than keeping my own money, I will give money to Chinese company like Paytm that charges 2.5% on every transaction. So, to make them rich, the government is ultimately rewarding you,” said the Congress leader. Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Dikshit added, “If my money is deposited in banks like ICICI, HDFC, IDBI, then its CEOs will earn profit by investing my money into short-term deposits and get astronomical salary. If these people living on my money and earning crores per month, then it is advisable for the Prime Minister, but if I will keep my money in cash under my own security, then it would be wrong for the nation.” “The government and NITI Aayog are going to completely sell off all every little assets that I have to the service of the rich, who own and runs the banks, who take service from the banks, who take credits from the banks and for whom Indian banking system works.” he said. The NITI Aayog has planned an incentive scheme, including Rs one crore prize, for those who use digital payment systems the most, as the government steps up measures to push electronic transactions. Guiding India towards being a cashless society, the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) has proposed that all consumers and merchants using digital payments will be eligible for two levels of incentive amounts available under the scheme: weekly lucky draw of the transaction IDs generated in that week, the contours of which are being finalised, and quarterly draw for grand prizes. The detail guideline of the scheme will be unveiled soon, however, it would be ensured that all those who have used digital payment systems after November 8 will be eligible to participate in the scheme, the NITI Aayog stated. (DNA 11/12/16)

85. Delhi government to serve food to those ‘starving due to demonetisation’ (21)

New Delhi: The Delhi government on Monday started langars (common kitchens) at 10 places across the capital to serve food to those who have “lost their livelihood due to demonetisation”, a statement said. “The government has decided to come forward to help those who are on verge of starvation due to demonetisation. So we have started serving food to the poor at 10 centres from today (Monday),” it said. After inaugurating the common kitchen at at Geeta Ghat here, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the Aam Aadmi Party government will do everything in its power to save people from starvation. “No matter if (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi makes such policies which lead people to the brink of death, but Delhi government will not let that happen. Delhi government will do everything in its power to save people from starvation due to demonetisation,” he said. The other centres where these kitchens are opened include Yamuna Pushta, Dandi Park, Jama Masjid, Sarai Kale Khan, Nizamuddin Neela Gumbad, Sarai Pushta, Jhandewalan shelter I, Kotla Mubarakpur and Fatehpuri near Old Delhi Railway Station. “These centres will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner not only for those living in the night shelters but for all poor people living in the vicinity,” the statement said. (Business Standard 12/12/16)

86. 80,000 children will starve to death in Nigeria: UNICEF (21)

Lagos(Nigeria): Nearly a half million children will face starvation in northeastern Nigeria next year and 80,000 will die if they don’t get treatment in the humanitarian crisis created by Boko Haram’s Islamic uprising, the U.N. Children’s Agency warned. “What is already a crisis can become a catastrophe,” UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said yesterday. His statement said the 400,000 children at risk of starvation represent just a fraction of the suffering among some 2.6 million refugees in the seven-year insurgency that has killed more than 20,000 people. “If they do not receive the treatment they need, one in five of these children will die,” Lake said. “Large areas of Borno state are completely inaccessible to any kind of humanitarian assistance. We are extremely concerned about the children trapped in these areas,” he added. He spoke just days after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari accused the U.N. And private international aid agencies of exaggerating the crisis to seek donations. Buhari declared that Boko Haram was “technically defeated” a year ago and appears fixed on maintaining that fiction. While soldiers from a multinational force of Nigeria and neighboring countries have pushed the extremists out of towns and many villages they occupied, attacks on military outposts and suicide bombings of soft targets continue. The Associated Press has reported since September that children already are dying of starvation in Maiduguri, the biggest city in Nigeria’s northeast that is easily accessible. Doctors Without Borders said in November that thousands of kids already have died, including 10 percent to 25 percent of children admitted to its 110-bed Maiduguri emergency treatment center. Nigeria’s Senate is investigating allegations that government agencies are diverting food aid that could help prevent those deaths. Buhari was elected in March 2015 on a platform that pledged to finish off Boko Haram and halt endemic corruption. (Zee News 14/12/16)

87. 14 lakh beneficiaries fail to avail food grains from Public distribution system (21)

JAIPUR: This may come as a big surprise and make you rethink the poverty level in the state. About 14 lakh of the over 90 lakh families, which are beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in Rajasthan, are not availing this state ‘largesse’ for the last three months. Following this rather unusual development, the government is planning to cancel the entitlements of these families and replace them with new categories of beneficiaries. Rajasthan is the first state to implement the Food Security Act on October 2, 2013, initially covering a population of around 4.64 crore. Since September, about 15% ration card holders in the state have not bought their monthly entitlements of the highly subsidised food grains under NFSA. Each beneficiary is entitled to 5 kg each of wheat at Rs 2 per kg, rice at Rs 3 per kg and bajra at Rs 1 per kg every month. Principal secretary, food and civil supplies, Subodh Agarwal said that if beneficiaries do not buy their subsidised provisions by December-end, the government would consider keeping their names in ‘abeyance’ from January next year. “At this point, we are not assuming that these ration card holders are fake. There may be some genuine reasons because of migration or exigencies in the family, etc. to reach fair price shops (FPSs) to buy grains,” he said.He said that those turning up by the end of this month would be able to buy their full quantum of entitlements for the last three months and their names would not be kept in ‘abeyance’ before the final cancellation. The food and civil supplies department has installed electronic point of sale (ePoS) machines to track the purchase of grains by beneficiaries in all the 25,000 fair price shops. The state government believes that the sudden drop in the number of buyers is due to ePoS-induced transparency which curtailed the scope of manipulation of purchase records and diversion of PDS grains to the open market.However, the state government would add new categories of beneficiaries under NFSA after the deletion of those card holders who do not pick up subsidised grains. The new categories of beneficiaries could be AIDS patients, some of the primitive tribes, safai workers, etc., said sources. “We do not want to lose our annual entitlement of around 2.7 million tonnes of wheat for NFSA from the Centre,” a state government official said. (Times of India 18/12/16)

88. BJP removing poor, not poverty: Asaduddin Owaisi (21)

GORAKHPUR: Taking a dig on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the recent demonetisation of currency notes, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi, on Monday, said BJP was removing the poor of the country instead of the poverty. Addressing a public meeting on Monday in Siddharthnagar, Owaisi said, “With demonetization, BJP is not removing poverty but poor people instead. Most Muslims do not have access to banking services. Muslims and Dalits are the worst hit by the move. (Times of India  20/12/16)

89. Remote villages without PDS ration for 6 months (21)

Pithoragarh: Villagers residing in remote areas, after facing the burnt of demonetisation and a dru season, are now facing hunger as they have not got ration for the past six months that they get through Public Distribution System (PDS) shops. Deb Singh, a poor villager from Chaupata village of Devalthal subdivision of the district, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Harish Rawat, stating that his family was on the verge of starvation as the state food programme had cut the ration allocated to his family for the past some months. “The quota of both wheat and rice has been cut under the state food programme allocation to my family, and I am getting ration from national food programme allocation, which is not sufficient as we are totally dependent on PDS ration for survival,” said Deb Singh in the letter. Besides the unnoticed cut in poor man’s ration by the state quota, another jolt the poor in the district are receiving is non-allocation of PDS ration to the card holders who have not been able to link their ration cards with Aadhar cards. This is a big blow to the PDS-dependent families of the district as only 20 per cent ration cards have been linked with Aadhar card so far. “We have orders from the state Food Secretary not to allocate ration to those who have failed to link their ration cards with Aadhar card,” said PS Thapa, a District Supply Official in Pithoragarh. Sources said the ration being allocated to BPL, Antyodaya and Annapurna category of card holders had been stopped by the government without any prior information to the beneficiaries of these categories while those without Aadhar cards have already been stripped of PDS ration from the past some months. “People of these categories consist nearly 40 per cent of the total ration card holders and fall into the poorest of poor category who are in no position to purchase ration from general shops,” said a PDS shop owner. Asked why the ration of poor card holders in villagers had been stopped on basis of non-linking with Aadhar cards when there was no facility being provided to facilitate linking with Aadhar cards in remote villages, spokesperson of the district administration said the administration had now ordered to hold a camp in remote villages to speed up the process. “When the administration has no means to reach poor villages residing in remote villages to facilitate linking of the ration card with Aadhar number even on Wednesday, then why are the poor being stripped of ration for the past six months,” asked Jagdish Kumar, a Zila Panchayat member from Muwani area of the district. (The Tribune 21/12/16)

90. All ration shops to go cashless by March-end, says Paswan (21)

NEW DELHI: The government announced on Friday that it will equip ration shops across the country for cashless transactions by March-end. At present, cashless payments can be made only in 38,000 outlets of the total 5.27 lakh ration shops.”There is a plan to meet this target and it has been prepared in consultation with state governments. You can imagine how cashless movement will get a big boost when most of the 80 crore beneficiaries under the food security law start adopting cashless transactions,” food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan said. He said the government has enough stock of foodgrain to cater to the requirement under the food security scheme. There is no proposal to import wheat, Paswan said, adding that the government will procure any quantity of pulses from farmers at the minimum support price as fixed by the government.Paswan avoided responding to whether there is a genuine concern within the government about the likelihood of less wheat production than what the agriculture ministry has projected. However, consumer affairs secretary Hem Pande said an inter-ministerial committee had considered both the agriculture ministry’s projection and estimates of private players while suggesting for doing away with import duty on wheat. Recently, the central government had scrapped import duty on wheat. (Times of India 24/12/16)

91. India Must Grow Higher To Eradiate Poverty By 2032: Amitabh Kant (21)

New Delhi:  Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant today said that India must aim at a higher growth rate of 9-10 per cent to eradicate poverty by 2032. “Our per capita income is $1,652. If we continue to grow at 7 per cent, by 2032. per capita income will be $4,000. If we grow by 10 per cent, per capita income will be $6,800 and India will have no poverty by 2032,” Kant said at the annual general meeting of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi. “Unless we don’t penetrate the global markets it will be very difficult for India to grow at 9-10 per cent. Indians must use the domestic market as a spring board and penetrate the global market. India’s contribution of exports to global market is very minimal, it is just 1.7 per cent,” he added. While India is growing at 7.5-7.6 per cent, it must be hungry and ambitious to grow at 9-10 per cent, he said. “We also need factor market reforms. Unless labour laws, land laws are reformed, it will be difficult for India to grow at a high rate. You can’t be in a situation where 79 per cent of your job creation is done by the micro-small and medium enterprise sector,” he said. Mr Kant said that gender equality will play a very critical role. In India, women contribute only 17 per cent to the GDP while the world average is about 40 per cent. (NDTV 26/12/16)

92. Urban infrastructure spending likely to increase: Venkaiah Naidu (21)

CHENNAI: Urban infrastructure spending will be increasing in the next five months.”The government will be announcing a lot of welfare measures for poverty alleviation and urban development,” said Union Minister of Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Information & Broadcasting Venkaiah Naidu in the city on Tuesday. Union Minister of Urban Development said, ” Mahatma Gandhi gave two pieces of pertinent advice, which India has ignored. One was India should go back to the villages. Instead of which we have turned our back on villages. With lack of opportunities everyone has migrated to cities. Why even I have gone from rural development minister under A B Vajpayee to urban development minister under Narendra Modi”"The second piece of advice Mahatma Gandhi gave was disband the Congress, soon after we got freedom. A very relevant piece of advice today for our Opposition,” said the Union Minister. The Minister launched a postal stamp in memory of the late KCP chairman V Ramakrishna at the event marking 75 years of KCP Ltd. “I am very critical about dynasty in politics. It is nasty. But dynasty in business is to be applauded as evinced by groups like KCP, which today celebrate 75 years of business cohesiveness, ethics and family values,” said the Minister. On demonetisation, the Minister observed, “Everyone is asking “Where are the results? It’s 40 days! 50 days of demonetisation! I don’t blame them for asking. But the effects will be felt 5 months and even 5 years from now,” said the Minister. Demonetisation he said has helped cleanse India, “created a parallel digital economy, completely eradicated terror attacks and Pakistan’s inflow of counterfeit currencies in the borders, stopped drug and women trafficking and corruption at certain political parties.” On questioned about demonetisation deaths and inconveniences faced by the common man, the Minister said, “Demonetisation a bitter pill. People must swallow it for short-term pain, which will result in long-term gain. Why talk of 50 days? Talk of 69 years of misrule. The Congress looted, cheated and plundered. They talk of unity. But no Opposition party in its senses will join hands with Congress. On the cancellation of FCRA licenses of 20,000 NGOs, the Minister choose not to comment. On former Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Ram Mohan Rao’s comment that he would have been protected under former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, the Minister said that there has been “no political interference.” “This is a matter for the IT department. And from the Centre’s end there has been absolutely no political interference.” (Times of India 28/12/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

93. Demonetisation impact: Migrant workers head back home (14)

Ahmedabad: Demonetisation brings payments in Surat’s diamond industry to grinding halt Demonetisation pulls down jewellery stocks by a fourth Demonetisation: Surat, the world’s diamond polishing hub, faces a big cut Demonetisation: 30% of unorganised jewellery market could perish Job cuts loom in jewellery industry Safirul Shaikh, a migrant from West Bengal, has been living in Ahmedabad and working in the jewellery industry since he was nine years. The 30-something, winner of various awards, including a national one, has had little work since the demonetisation drive by the central government. Shaikh runs a small shop in Sheth ni Pol, in the neighbourhood of Manek Chowk in Ahmedabad’s old city. It bears a deserted look; his workers have gone home, in the absence of work. Sitting alone in his cramped workshop, covered in thick jute carpets to make any gold dust stick to it, Shaikh cuts a forlorn figure.  He is not the only one facing this crisis. The crowded bylanes of Ratanpol, where one could hardly manoeuvre a motorbike, bears a deserted look. Harshvardhan Chokshi, former president of the Manek Chowk Chokshi Mahajan, says bullion trade worth Rs 10-12 crore used to take place each day at this 350-year-old gold market here. Now, business is down to a trickle.  A few meters away at Manek Chowk, 400 jewellers who employ around 3,000 gold and silver artisans, a majority from Bengal, have seen 60 per cent of their employees leave for their villages. Earlier this year, there was some reverse migration due to slack business. However, that was nothing compared to the hit from the demonetisation announcement on November 8, which has crippled the industry. In fact, those on Diwali vacation did not return — there is almost no work.  On an average, an artisan earns Rs 8,000-12,000 a month. Most of them keep their salaries with their employer, who deducts their monthly cost of living and pays out the money in cash when they return home during Diwali or on other vacations. Shaikh says some workers do have bank accounts but their employers insist on paying in cash. … (Business Standrd 11/12/16)

94. MGNREGA hires plummet by 23 per cent in notebandi November (14)

NEW DELHI: The Modi government’s demonetisation move seems to have taken the wind out of the sails of an already faltering job guarantee scheme. The number of households getting work in November dropped by 23% compared to the previous month and those being turned back empty-handed jumped to a staggering 23.4 lakh, almost twice the number in October. Compared to the same month last year, work given this November is down by over 55%, indicating this is not a seasonal decline peculiar to November. With the overall employment last year, work given this November is down by over 55%, indicating this is not a seasonal decline peculiar to November. With the overall employment situation grim, this dip in jobs is expected to increase distress in rural areas.If there was work available (in MGNREGA), we would have got some relief at least. Now we get casual labour work at just Rs 50 per day, sometimes. Mostly we are just sitting, waiting,” says Suniya Laguri, a 20-year old woman in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district. Suniya is voicing a concern that finds echoes across India in greater or lesser measure. Rural wages have crashed due to non-availability of cash as well as the desperation of the poorest — agricultural labourers and small or marginal farmers — to try and earn something in order to survive. Mangoo Ram of Hardoi district in UP says his family survived the first few weeks by getting basic food items on credit and cutting down on an already minimal consumption. But now, in the fifth week of demonetisation, the situation is dire. Most of the wages earned for work under the job guarantee scheme are deposited in banks or post offices. So, why has work itself suffered so much? The answer is not clear, with people citing different reasons. Shankar Singh of advocacy NGO Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan says everybody — MGNREGA employees as well as people seeking work — were too preoccupied with standing at banks or post office lines for the first few weeks. This directly affected the whole system. “Already, there was a squeeze on expenditure, with government not releasing adequate funds and gram panchayats overstretched. Notebandi has come on top of that, that is why this problem,” Singh said. Till December 12, gram panchayats were in the red to the tune of an incredible Rs 37,000 crore, according to the latest financial summary available with the rural development ministry. … (Times of India 13/12/16)

95. MGNREGA funds ‘sanctioned’ for works that do not exist (14)

CHANDIGARH: Despite several complaints at Haryana government’s much pushed grievance redressal system, chief minister’s window, seeking action against those responsible for misappropriating the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) fund in Nekpur village of Faridabad district, no action has been taken by the state government. Hinting at a big scam, an inquiry conducted by the then additional deputy commissioner Faridabad in May this year had found that money under MGNREGA was misappropriated by showing fake beneficiaries. Data Ram, a resident of Nekpur village and whistleblower of the scam, had given three complaints (registration number CMOFF/N/2015/83799, CMOFF/N/2015/104741, CMOFF/N/2015/102170) to CM window since October 2015. In his complaint, he urged the chief minister to take action against those who misappropriated villagers’ money. According to Data Ram, the Faridabad additional deputy commissioner’s May report had found that fake muster rolls were prepared for disposing money under MGNREGA and recommended action against those responsible for that. In his complaint, along with the inquiry report, he had also submitted affidavits of around 38 villagers who have deposed that they never applied for cards to get job under MGNREGA in the village. While most of them were living in penury, their names were entered in the muster roll of MGNREGA to withdraw money fraudulently. According to the complainant, in several cases one photograph was used with different names to prepare fake MGNREGA cards. “After making complaints, I was threatened by the village sarpanch for exposing the scam of Rs five-six crore but no action on my complaint has been taken. On papers, around 145 streets were constructed but a visit to the village would reveal that there are only four-five streets in the village. Pond claimed to have constructed in the village, is nowhere in existence. The scam is going for a several years with the connivance of local panchayat and officials of panchayat department,” Data Ram added.In his fourth complaint, sent on June 8, 2016, to chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Data Ram has submitted that an investigation by the vigilance, CID or accountant general would reveal how entire public money has been misappropriated. A copy along with all the documents has also been sent to the central vigilance commission. Faridabad additional deputy commissioner Jitender Singh said the inquiry was conducted by his predecessor and he has not received any reference from the state government regarding further action. “However, I will have to check it in the record pertaining to MGNREGA cases in my office”, he added. (Times of India 14/12/2016)

96. Changes in labour laws can raise formal employment to 40 per cent (14)

New Delhi: Revamp of labour laws can help in raising participation in the formal sector and increase the share of formal employment from current 11 per cent to nearly 40 per cent besides improving India’s ranking in ease of doing business, says a report by staffing services firm TeamLease. “A revamp of the regulatory eco-system can improve India’s ranking with regard to the ease of doing business and raise the labour force participation in formal sector. Regulatory changes can raise the share of formal employment from the current 11% to nearly 40%”, said the report. According to TeamLease, the current labour regulations not only make things difficult for job creators, it does little in protecting employees. “Labour law reforms are always equated with tackling the infamous Chapter VB of the Industrial Disputes Act (hire-and-fire). While it needs to be revamped, the larger agenda would be to make compliance transparent, seamless and hassle free,” said Sonal Arora, VP TeamLease Services. Arora further noted, “the critical aspect will be to create a conducive environment that stimulates the growth of enterprises as well as formal jobs”. TeamLease recommended 11 top regulatory changes that are needed in 2017 to accelerate formal job creation including consolidation of 44 central labour laws into four labour codes, Unique Enterprise Number (UEN). The report noted that employees should be offered a choice in receiving salaries in their preferred mode — CTC or take home. The report added that amendments in Contract Labour and Regulation Act 1970, Industrial Disputes Act 1947 and Trade Union Act 1926, among others, would help in creating more formal jobs (The Indian Express 19/12/2016)

97. 40% contractual staff jobless in Noida (14)

NOIDA: More than 40% of contractual workers have been laid off from Noida’s garment industry in the past 40 days after demonetisation was announced. Gautam Budh Nagar district labour department and workers’ associations confirmed that while many garment export and manufacturing units have started pulling down shutters, many people who work on a contractual basis have been rendered jobless. Noida has 1,800 garment manufacturing and export units. Of the people employed in the garment industry, a large number get paid on the basis of the work they get each day. Such employees include tailors, people who fix buttons, zippers, labels and add finishing touches to the apparels. These workers, who are daily wagers, do not have bank accounts. According to the district labour department, most of such contract workers from states like Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal have gone back to their states over the past month as a direct result of the cash crunch triggered by demonetisation. Ritesh Kumar Jha, secretary, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, an association working for labour rights in Noida, told TOI that two garment manufacturing units have shut down in sectors 4 and 5 over the past two days, having rendered more than 300 workers jobless overnight. “This morning a unit closed down in Sector 4 with a notice that work would resume after normalcy returns to the market. About 150 workers came and stood outside the factory in the morning. We are getting to hear of shutdowns from all over Noida, at least 40% of contractual workers in various units have become unempolyed in the past one month,” Jha said. He added that even demands and protests were of no use because workers are simply packing their bags. B K Rai, Gautam Budh Nagar deputy labour commissioner, endorsed Jha’s assertion that 40% workers had lost their jobs and said that the problem with contractual workers was that salaries could be paid to them only in cash as most of them did not have bank accounts. “Employers are not opening bank accounts for them because they fear they may start demanding permanent jobs,” Rai said. (Times of India 21/12/2016)

98. Labour settlements under scanner (14)

Kozhikode: Aimed at ensuring quality accommodation for migrant workers, the Labour Department, following a direction from the Ministry of Labour, has decided to conduct regular inspections at labourer settlements in the district. For this, special squads under the leadership of the Regional Joint Labour Commissioner will be formed within two days. The settlements in Feroke municipality will be checked thoroughly as the municipality has a large non-Keralite population working in the unorganised sector. As per the Labour Department figures, around 25,000 migrant workers are settled in Feroke, where the rules and regulations regarding quality and hygienic accommodation are frequently violated.Feroke municipal chairperson Zuhrabi says she is aware of the issues and a detailed action plan will be formulated to address them in the next fiscal. “The State government has some specific plans for the migrant workers and the municipality’s action plan will be formulated in consultation with the government,” she adds. Labour Department officials point out that the main issue in Feroke is the practice of hiring labourers from the wayside on a regular basis and dropping them back at the same spot after the work. “Such employers are not bothered about providing good accommodation to the workers,” says District Labour Officer P. Mohanan. The situation is forcing many workers live in squalor.Noticing the trend, the Labour Department has directed the local bodies to make it mandatory for the employers to ensure quality accommodation for their workers. The local bodies have the legal responsibility to ensure it at the time of registering the migrant worker’s details for official requirements. “As per the plans, all major migrant workers’ settlements will be inspected twice a week. The employers who are found violating the rules will be prosecuted under the labour laws,” says Mr. Mohanan. The large construction sites will be closely monitored by the Health Inspectors and the Labour Department squads. There are over three lakh migrants labourers in Kozhikode district and providing them quality accommodation is definitely a priority for the department. These workers are prone to various communicable diseases in the absence of hygienic living conditions, he says. (The Hindu 22/12/16)

99. Centre tells Maharashtra government to resolve all pending work under MNREGA (14)

Mumbai: Pointing out the Maharashtra government’s failure to complete various work targets under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) scheme till December this year, the Union Ministry of Rural Development has asked government officials to “expeditiously” resolve the issues. According to the performance analysis done by the Centre, some works under MGNREGA in Maharashtra have slowed down leading to backlog for the next financial year. The review of work done by the Union Joint Secretary of MGNREGA found that at least 1,45,499 works that started in 2014-15 or before are still incomplete in Maharashtra. The rural development department also slammed the state for slow verification of job cards of workers in Maharashtra. As per the statistics, of the total 78,96,275 job cards in the state, only 13,55,395 (17.2 per cent) were verified till December 2016. Carrying out the Prime Minister’s commitment to provide access to sanitation facilities, the Maharashtra government had a target of constructing 64,015 Individual Household Latrines (IHHL). The state has however managed to construct only 17,723 IHHLs since 2014, which is just 28 per cent of its target. While Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde was unavailable for comment, a government official said, “We are reviewing the implementation and work progress as directed by the union department and the department is working towards achieving the targets.” Aiming at effective implementation of the MGNREGA scheme, union joint secretary (MGNREGA) Aparajita Sarangi has directed state officials to hold a review of projects to point out reasons for the slow progress of the work. Meanwhile, the state government has failed to construct even a single anganwadi for the children of MGNREGA workers. The state was supposed to build 289 Anganwadis this year. (The Indian xpress 26/12/16)

100. Rajasthan: Villagers complain of no work under MGNREGA (14)

JAIPUR: Jagdishpura village in Kishanganj block of Baran district was removed from Rampur Todia gram panchayat and included within Khakra gram panchayat. The change was not updated online on the government website. Villagers feel this might be the reason that they have not been getting work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. There are about 80 families of the backward Sahariya community in this village. All of them would earlier benefit from employment in MGNREGA projects, but that scope of employment has now dried up, they say. Villagers Ranvir, Sona and Balram told social activist Firoz Khan that even work that they had done under NREGA in April has to be paid for. They had dug for a small pond for water recharge during the monsoon, but authorities have still to pay them for it. And fresh work under NREGA appears not forthcoming anymore, they said. A handpump in the village has not been functional for some months. These days, villagers have to tread to another village to get drinking water. Villagers said they had approached government officials seeking work under MGNREGA. There are several families in the village with not even a proper house to live in. At Bilasgarh Ohdi basti nearby, at least 140 people who have worked on MGNREGA projects have still to be paid since the monsoon. Firoz Khan met Gorishwar, Kanya, Kanti, Bharosi and other villagers who complained that in March this year, they had laid a gravel road from Jamunia Khal to Bhadka – about three km; that too has not been paid for yet. “We have approached the local village leaders, but no one has a satisfactory answer for why work that is already done is not getting paid for,” Pannalal, one of the villagers, said. Some villagers said they had been engaged on construction of houses under the Indira Awas Yojna – even that has still to be paid for. In Khapdikheda too villagers complained that MGNREGA had become terribly unreliable as a source of livelihood. … (Times of India 27/12/16)

RESERVATION

101. Sadashiva Commission: CM says decision on implementing recommendations soon (25)

HUBBALLI:  Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said here on Sunday that he was sympathetic to the demands for implementing the recommendations of Justice Sadashiva Commission report on providing internal reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and said that his government would take a decision in this regard at the earliest. Inaugurating a mammoth convention of the Madiga community that has been pressing for providing internal reservation for the SC/ST communities here, Mr. Siddaramaiah said pressure was being mounted on him from different quarters to implement those recommendations and he too was in favour of providing reservation in proportion to the population of respective communities. The caste-based census, whose report would be out in January 2018, has pegged the SC/ST communities in number one position with 24.1 per cent share in the State’s total population. Therefore, they need to be given reservation in proportion to their population, he said. However, when the audience demanded a formal announcement regarding implementing the recommendations of the Sadashiva Commission report, Mr. Siddaramaiah refused to do so saying that it was not possible to make any announcement in this regard without obtaining the approval of the Cabinet. He said this issue need to be discussed in the Cabinet and opinion of all required to be taken. This is how the government functions in a democracy. Earlier, the issue had come before the Cabinet but no decision was possible for certain reasons. “I have told (Social Welfare Minister) Anjaneya to bring the issue before the Cabinet once again and we will take a decision,” he said. But the Madiga community members in the audience began pressing for a formal announcement by the Chief Minister at the convention. When they resorted to sloganeering, the Chief Minister said he was sympathetic to their demand. Even the Constitution supports providing reservation in proportion to the population of the backward communities, he added. Leader of Opposition Jagadish Shettar said BJP was in favour of implementing those recommendations and it would support the government if it implements the recommendations, he said. Earlier, the former Union Minister H. Muniyappa, who presided over the meeting, urged Mr. Siddaramaiah and Mr. Shettar to articulate their stand at the convention. The venue Nehru Maidan was fully occupied by the participants. Gathering of large crowd in the city also affected the smooth movement of the traffic and jams were caused at several spots as the participating members went on in procession. The traffic was diverted in a few locations. Leaders of all political parties participated in the conference and pledged their support for the demands of the community. (The Hindu 11/12/16)

102. Karnataka government mulls 70% quota for Dalits (25)

HUBBALLI: The Karnataka government is mulling 70% quota for Dalits and backward classes. Addressing the Madigara Maha Samavesh here on Sunday, CM Siddaramaiah said that Tamil Nadu has already provided 69% reservation for SCs and STs, adding that the state will consult legal experts to make amendments to the existing laws and put forth a resolution in the next Assembly session.The move, however, will need a constitutional amendment by Parliament in view of the Supreme Court verdict, capping reservation at 50%.Emphasizing on social equality, Siddaramaiah said the Constitution’s objective to distribute wealth and power had not been fulfilled yet. “It is shameful that social and economic equality dreamt by Basavanna and Sharanas of 12th century still remains a dream. Visionaries like BR Ambedkar and Babu Jagjivan Ram experienced untouchability and tried to elevate the position of such communities in the society. Even after 69 years of Independence, the practice of untouchability still exists,” he said. “Socio-economic development of the region or country will be curbed when a part of the society is segregated from the mainstream. Casteism is still deep rooted. Our Constitution has provided political freedom for the downtrodden, but we have to provide them social and economic freedom,” the CM said. Adequate representation of all the communities is something that’s still to be achieved, he added. Justifying his move for a caste Census, conducted in Karnataka for the first time after Independence, the chief minister said, “We have reserved funds for communities depending on their population. Once the Census report is out, it will be helpful to reserve funds scientifically. According to 2011 Census, Karnataka has 1.04 crore people belonging to the Scheduled Castes. This year, we have spent Rs 19,880 crore for the welfare of SCs,” Siddaramaiah said.Siddaramaiah refused to give an assurance of the implementation Justice AJ Sadashiv Commission recommendations. The CM said that he has asked social welfare minister H Anjaneya to table it in the next cabinet meeting. “I’m personally in favor of its implementation but I cannot announce the same as it has to get the cabinet’s nod,” he said. (Times of India 12/12/2016)

103. Gujjar community members stage protest in Ajmer (25)

AJMER: A group of Gujjars on Tuesday staged a protest at the district headquarters demanding the state government to issue notification for Gujjar reservation in government jobs. They also threatened a massive agitation. Gujjars have once again taken up the reservation issue after the Rajasthan High Court declined special OBC reservation to them. On Tuesday, the community members led a rally to the Ajmer district headquarters and handed over a memorandum addressed to the chief minister, to the district magistrate. “We want that government should act on this issue and bring notification for reservation to Gujjars,” said Hari Singh Gujjar, leader of the community. He said that we are demanding our rights as the community is really backward. Sources said that Gujjars are still undecided on the issue of agitation as the state government has already announced to appeal in the Supreme Court in the matter. Last time too, Gujjars had chosen Pushkar for the massive agitation. (Times of India 14/12/16)

104. Patel quota, Una incident took toll on Anandiben in Gujarat in 2016 (25)

Ahmedabad: The Patel quota agitation and Dalit uprising after the Una flogging incident took the toll on Gujarat’s first woman chief minister Anandiben Patel in 2016, setting the stage for a cliffhanger elections in 2017. Sensing it could inch closer to power in Gujarat after 25 years as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party seems to lack a strong state leader to fill the void after Narendra Modi’s exit from Gujarat, opposition Congress stepped up protests and rallies against new Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal, hoping to make inroads, visited the state thrice and during one such visit described Rupani as “rubber stamp” of BJP President Amit Shah. Modi himself visited the state five times in the past as many months as the party believes that winning the elections will be crucial for it to retain power at the Centre in 2019. Trips of Shah also increased. Cow vigilantes mercilessly thrashing Dalit youths in Una town when they were skinning a dead cow led to violent agitation by the community in the state and created outrage in the country. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi visited Gujarat after the Una incident so did Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, Left leaders Brinda Karat and D Raja and Janata Dal United leader Sharad Yadav. The Dalit agitation continues under young leader Jignesh Mevani, as the community has decided to boycott their traditional work of disposing of dead animals carcasses and are instead demanding land and jobs from the government. Simmering Patel quota agitation led by Hardik Patel continued to be a big concern for the BJP government and its declaration of 10 per cent quota for economically backward among upper caste, was also struck down by Gujarat High Court. Hardik, who was behind bars till June in sedition cases, was granted bail by the high court with a condition that he will have to remain outside Gujarat for next six months. At present he is leading the agitation from Udaipur of Rajasthan and is expected to return to the state in January. The Patel community, which had been a staunch supporter of the BJP, continued to remain up in arms against the state government on its demand of reservation. To pacify the community, the state government declared 10 per cent quota for economically backward among upper caste on April 29. However, the move was struck down by the high court soon, after which the state government approached the Supreme Court. The state government sensing trouble after return of Hardik in January had in November invited agitating Patel community members for fresh round of talks on their demand, but these have remained inconclusive so far. Analysts say mishandling of Patel quota agitation and late action after the Dalit flogging case of Una led to the ouster of Anandiben, who also faced charges of corruption against her family members. She resigned in August after being at the helm for over two years. (Business Standard 20/12/16)

105. Include Gujjars in original OBC quota’ (25)

JAIPUR: The Loktantra Raksha Manch Rajasthan has come out in favour of classifying reservation based on backwardness and including Gujjars within the OBC quota. The Gujjars, whose 5% special backward classes reservation (SBC) was struck down by the high court, has demanded being classified under the OBC quota with 5% reservation within the 50% cap. Addressing the media, Daulatram Pensia , state president of raksha manch, alleged that the inclusion of Jats in the OBC category in October 19, 1999, was illegal and unconstitutional and led to the Gujjar agitation. He said that despite Gujjars having lost 72 lives in the agitation, they were back to square one after the high court ruling. He said the demand of Gujjars for being classified under the OBC quota was an old one. (Times of India 22/12/16)

106. Jat body plans protests for quota from January 29 (25)

CHANDIGARH: All India Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJSS), an umbrella organization of Jat bodies demanding quota for the community, on Friday announced to resume its protest for reservation on January 29. A decision in this regard was taken by the organization at a rally held at Garhi-Sampla village in Rohtak district. The rally was organized to commemorate the 114th birth anniversary of former prime minister and Jat leader Chaudhary Charan Singh. AIJASS president Yashpal Malik said from January 29, 2017, peaceful protests would be launched in all districts of Haryana till the demands of Jat community were fulfilled.The demands include inclusion of Jat community in other backward classes (OBC) list for the purpose of government jobs and admissions in educational institutes, and withdrawal of criminal cases registered against some Jat youths in the aftermath of the February violence. Malik said from Friday, a ‘Jat Nyay Yatra’ was launched, which would travel across the state to make people aware of the legitimacy of the community’s demand for reservation. The main grievance of the Jat leaders was that after the Supreme Court quashed the other backward class (OBC) quota for Jats in nine states on March 17, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah had invited them and assured to restore the quota after removing the discrepancies left by previous regime while giving OBC status to Jats. On December 16, AIJSS had also submitted a memorandum to Amit Shah in this regarad. AIJASS has already announced to campaign against BJP in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. The Jat stir for reservation, held in February, had turned ugly with more than 30 people losing their lives. (Times of India 24/12/16)

107. ‘11 lakh students from minority communitybenefited from scholarships this year’ (25)

KALABURAGI:  Even 10 years after the Rajinder Sachar Committee submitted its report on educational backwardness of Muslims and its resultant impact on their employment status, it is regrettable that nothing has changed much to empower the community, said Razak Ustad, Academic Council member of Gulbarga University, Kalaburagi. He was addressing a seminar on “Justice Rajinder Sachar Report and Post Sachar: Challenges and Possibilities”, jointly organised by Rehnuma Law Centre and Sahara Hind Forum here on Monday. Mr. Ustad said that out of the 76 recommendations of the committee, three — setting up an equal opportunity commission, quota for Muslims in admission in universities, creation of a new all India officers cadre to manage the Wakf boards and council — were not accepted, and one that recommended giving Arzal Muslims the status of Scheduled Castes had been deferred by the government. The report, which is considered as being a true picture of the social, economic and education conditions of the Muslim community, noted that only 3 per cent of Muslims enrolled for higher education. It said that increased awareness had made them avail of various scholarships and government schemes. Around 38 per cent of the Muslims in urban area were living below poverty line, and it was 27 per cent in rural areas. Mr. Ustad said that the report also recommended steps to raise the employment and education status and economic conditions by providing financial assistance through welfare programmes. Due to lack of desire, community people did not benefit from schemes introduced exclusively for their welfare through Multi Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP), Karnataka Minority Development Corporation (KMDC) in the past. However, awareness about minority welfare schemes has increased over the last four years, which reflected in the increasing number of applicants for scholarships. Around 11 lakh students benefited from scholarship this year, while in 2012, it was only 4.5 lakh students who applied for scholarships, he added. Programmes such as Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT) introduced by the Ministry of Urban development were mainly to facilitate infrastructure development in towns and cities, having a substantial concentration of minority population. Around ₹ 6,000 crore had been allocated under 12th Five Year Plan for infrastructure development in 1,710 blocks and 88 towns with minority population, Mr. Ustad said. Mr. Ustad called upon the leaders of the minority communities and non-government organisations to take steps to ensure that benefits of government schemes reached the needy among the minority communities. (The Hindu 26/12/16)

108. East Bengal may recruit Moghrabi in Asian quota (25)

Kolkata:  East Bengal likely to sign Hong Kong footballer Akande in Asian quota East Bengal’s new recruit Bukenya to arrive for medical on Thursday Sebi initiates process to recruit new executive directors Asian Hotels (East) provides update on scheme of amalgamation Asian Hotels (East) fixes record date for scheme of amalgamation In a desperate bid to rope in a foreign player under the Asian quota, city football giants East Bengal have reportedly shown interest in signing Lebanese striker Akram Moghrabi. East Bengal have discarded their South Korean striker Do Dong-hyun as coach Trevor Morgan did not approve of him. Since then, the red and gold brigade have been on the lookout for a player in this bracket. A source close to the development told IANS on Wednesday that East Bengal are in talks with Moghrabi in order to fill up their Asian quota. Mogharabi has played 26 matches for his country, scoring four times. The 31-year old forward also scored 16 goals in 26 appearances for his present club Nejmeh SC. Mogharabi was a part of the Churchill Brothers team that won the I-League in the 2012-13 season. Churchill have returned to the I-league after a two-year hiatus. He had scored 10 goals for Churchill, including a hattrick against Delhi-based side ONGC. Trinidad & Tobago marksman Willis Plaza, Ivan Bukenya of Uganda and Haiti’s Wedson Anselme are the other three foreigners to join East Bengal so far. (Business Standard 28/12/16)

109. Bihar government approves 50% quota in judicial services (25)

Patna: The state government has reserved 50% seats in subordinate and superior judicial services. The decision has been taken following the Supreme Court order on September 29 in the case of Bihar government versus Dayanand Singh. Briefing reporters after the state cabinet meeting on Tuesday, principal secretary (general administration department) Dharmendra Singh Gangwar said, “The Extremely Backward Class (EBC) candidates will get 21%, Scheduled Caste (SC) 16%, Other Backward Class (OBC) 12% and Scheduled Tribe 1% reservation.” The posts under subordinate judicial services include that of judicial magistrates and munsif magistrates for which examinations are conducted by Bihar Public Services Commission (BPSC) and monitored by the Patna high court. The high court appoints additional district judges and district judges under the superior judicial services.Gangwar said 35% horizontal reservation for women and 1% for orthopaedically-disabled persons would be applicable in all categories. “The decision has been taken in consultation with the BPSC and the Patna HC,” he said. Officials said 27% reservation was already allowed in subordinate judicial services, but there was no quota in superior judicial services.In another decision, the state cabinet approved the State Industrial Investment Promotional Rules, 2016, which envisages the formation of state industrial investment board and a framework for approval of different kinds of investment proposals. Sharing the details of the rules, principal secretary (cabinet secretariat) Brajesh Mehrotra said, “The rules set timeline and empower the authorities concerned to approve the investment proposals of different kinds. For instance, proposals up to Rs2.2.5 crore will be approved by the principal secretary of industries department while those between Rs2.5 crore and Rs10 crore are to be cleared by the minister of industries department. The proposals for investments between Rs10 crore and Rs20 crore have to be approved jointly by the minister of industries and finance department while those above Rs20 crore will require the state cabinet nod.” The cabinet cleared total 14 proposals, including the one from energy department for allocating funds to the tune of Rs228.35 crore to North Bihar Power Distribution Company and South Bihar Power Distribution Company for replacement of defunct electricity meters and installation of smart meters. (Times of India 28/12/16)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

110. NHRC prompts Govt to act on sexual abuse in schools (1)

BHUBANESWAR: A spate of cases involving sexual assault on students at the hands of school authorities has prompted the School and Mass Education Department to seek corrective measures to prevent such crime from being perpetrated in educational institutions of the State. The department has written to all its wings, including Directorates of Secondary Education and Elementary Education, Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority (OPEPA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyaan (RMSA), to chalk out plans to be taken to prevent such crimes by teachers, headmasters and staff of schools. In fact, the department action came after the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took serious view of such offences in the State. The rights panel has asked the Chief Secretary to intimate corrective steps being initiated in this regard. In fact, the NHRC had taken cognisance of a case – after a petition was filed by rights activist Subash Mohapatra – over sexual harassment of a 10-year-old girl student of a Government school in Saipriya Nagar of Rayagada by the headmaster in 2013. Following the NHRC’s notice, the SP had submitted a report stating that the headmaster, Panchanan Palak, was arrested. Later, a detailed report of the School and Mass Education Department showed that Palak was chargesheeted and subsequently, convicted for the crime. He was handed out a three-year imprisonment. The victim and her father, however, had shifted from the area to an unknown destination by that time. However, the petitioner submitted a letter earlier this year stating that though the headmaster was convicted, the department had not removed him from service. Similarly, no monetary relief was given to the girl. Mohapatra also alleged that a large number of similar cases has been reported from the State where both boys and girls are subjected to such crimes but no corrective measure is taken by the Government. Expressing concern that custodians of the schools have resorted to such crimes which not only discourage the children but also their parents from sending them to school, the NHRC ordered `1 lakh compensation to the victim and asked the Chief Secretary to intimate what steps have been taken to prevent such crimes in schools. (New Indian Express 13/12/16)

111. NHRC panel notice to Chief Secretary, Collectors on displaced villagers (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to Chief Secretary and four district Collectors over the delay in rehabilitation and resettlement of villagers displaced due to Indravati Hydro-Electric project. Rights campaigner Radhakanta Tripathy, who brought the plight of landless ST villagers before the NHRC, had requested the rights panel to ensure their proper rehabilitation and adequate compensation. In the petition, he highlighted the displacement of more than 15,000 families, which included Scheduled Tribes, dalits and poor farmers, from over 100 villages in Kalahandi, Koraput, Nabarangpur and Rayagada districts, thereby forcing them to suffer helplessly with deprivation of basic necessities of life. ‘’Unknown disease has claimed 18 people during July-November in villages surrounded by waters of Indravati water reservoir project in Kalahandi. Panic spread in 22 villages under two-gram panchayats (GPs) due to the deaths. The deceased belonged to Bhurubhuri, Temera and Barabadi villages under Talanagi GP,’’ he stated. As the villages are surrounded by rivers and there is only one boat ferrying people to the mainland, it has become difficult for the villagers to access primary healthcare, ration and pension. While the villagers are imprisoned by water throughout the year, Tripathy said the State administration remained a mute spectator to the plight of the people. Denial and deprivation of bare necessities of life violate the right to food and right to be rehabilitated and resettled with compensation as per law, he alleged. The petitioner requested the NHRC to depute its Special Rapporteur to study the situation and formulate appropriate recommendations for both the Centre as well as State Government to follow. Considering the petition, the Commission, in its order, asked the Chief Secretary and Collectors of Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Kalahandi and Koraput to submit the report within 15 days. The case will be placed before NHRC at an open hearing at Bhubaneswar scheduled to be held between January 9 and 11. (The New Indian Express 15/12/16)

112. Teach human rights and remedies for violation at school level: NHRC (1)

Puduchery: The National Human Rights Commission Friday said that school children should be educated on human rights and also the remedies available if there are violations, right from their formative stage. “Human rights education should be provided to children right from school level. They should know from their formative stage about human rights and also remedies available in the event of the violation of the rights,” NHRC member Justice D Murugesan said. He was speaking to reporters at the end of an open hearing and sitting here Friday held by the entire NHRC Commission, including its chairman Justice H L Dattu, to listen to grievances of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.Justice Murugesan said the meeting with Scheduled Castes and Tribes in their respective states by visiting their places was in keeping with the method evolved by NHRC to save time. “We take cognisance of the complaints and deal with them in their respective places in the presence of officers and call for reports to redress the grievances,” he said. He said 19 complaints were received from the downtrodden, mostly related to non llocation of land and also ‘failure’ of police to register complaints filed by SC/ST people or non availability of community certificates. “NHRC has called for reports and after perusing them we will come to conclusion whether there is violation”, he said. On the demand that Union Territory of Puducherry, which now has only a Human Rights Committee, have a commission on par with states, he said NHRC felt that UTs should also have separate Commissions as there could be no disparity between them and states in having the commissions. He also said that defenders of human rights should face no trouble as “they are the eyes of human rights”.Justice Murugesan said that whenever there were reports of human right activists facing trouble, “NHRC has never hesitated to take cognisance and will call for reports from the authorities”. The commission also interacted with various NGOs and officials of the Puducherry government. A release said NGO delegates shared their concerns, particularly on certain important aspects of human rights like care and treatment of the mentally ill, bonded labour, child labour, structural discrimination and ‘excesses’ by the authorities. (The Indian Express 17/12/16)

113. Dalit rights NGO’s foreign funding blocked (1)

AHMEDABAD: The Union home ministry has cancelled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration of one of the oldest Dalit rights organization in Gujarat — the Navsarjan Trust — for activities the government has deemed “C”. The trust had actively participated in protests against the Una atrocity.After granting FCRA renewal on August 3, the Centre has cancelled the order on the grounds that the association “has come to adverse notice for its undesirable activities aimed to affect prejudicially the harmony between religious, racial, social, linguistic, and regional groups, castes or communities”. Now the NGO will not be able to receive foreign funds. The Centre had renewed Navsarjan’s FCRA registration on the basis of its application made on February 27. The Una atrocity occurred in July, and like many other NGOs fighting for the rights of Dalits and suppressed classes, Navsarjan Trust had joined the movement and participated in the march from Ahmedabad to Una organized by activists in August. On Thursday, the Centre took a decision to cancel the NGO’s FCRA registration certificate. In its order, it said that when it came to know that the NGO’s activities violated Section 8 of the FCRA, 2010, a need was felt to revise the order in the public interest. “This is a fit case for revision,” the order reads with a comment, “Though the renewal ought to have been refused…the registration was renewed inadvertently by the concerned officer of FCRA Wing of the Foreigners Division.” The NGO’s founder-member Martin Macwan said, “We have not received the copy of the order. We need to study what is the specific charge against us.” He said the decision had been taken without giving any notice or opportunity to explain things. “This is not proper,” he said. (Times of India 17/12/16)

114. Justice Girish Chandra Gupta takes charge at WBHRC (1)

KOLKATA: Justice Girish Chandra Gupta, after taking charge of West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) on Wednesday, said that his main priority will be to set up human rights court in the districts. Gupta, former chief justice of Calcutta high court, said, “We will soon frame rules for the functioning of the district human rights courts and consult National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for the same.” The Bengal government had earlier notified about setting up the district human rights courts in 2012, but they are yet to start functioning. “We will create awareness in districts too. A notification has already been issued so that people lodge their complaints with the DM offices, which will forward the cases to WBHRC’s office in Salt Lake.”He also added that there are plans to forward complaints to NHRC if the violation of rights involve personnel of central forces. Gupta mentioned that he wanted to give relief to a rights victim and make sure the violators get departmental proceedings so that they get a chance of self defence.”I need to be unbiased while providing justice to the rights victims. I will oversee whether there is any false complaint of rights violation.” Gupta also plans to be vigilant on the functioning of doctors in government hospitals. (Times of India 22/12/16)

115. Information on drug source: Rights body seeks directions to Punjab police to interview inmates (1)

Chandigarh: Chandigarh-based human rights organisation, Lawyers for Human Rights International, has moved an application before the Punjab and Haryana High Court to take cognisance of the news item published in the Chandigarh Newsline on December 6, and issue directions to the police heads of Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali to conduct interviews of inmates in drug de-addiction centres to know source of drugs.Organisation’s counsel Navkiran Singh has attached the news item published in Chandigarh Newsline on December 6, “Drugs sold openly in Manimajra, Joluwal, Pinjore border villages, say de-addiction centre patients”. The news report had mentioned that during the inspection by the Panchkula Chief Judicial Magistrate to the de-addiction centre of Panchkula General Hospital, a patient had told that heroin is being supplied openly in Manimajra and payment is made through Paytm, mobile networking etc. Another patient had informed that drugs were being sold openly at villages like Jalowal, Pinjore, Kalka and border villages of Pinjore.The petitioner organisation has submitted that along with the SSP/DCP of Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula, there is also a need to issue directions to the Punjab and Haryana governments to take appropriate steps in the case. It has also been suggested that the police of tri-city should form a joint team to close on the network of drugs being operated by the traffickers in the tri-city and the nearby villages. The petitioner organisation has further suggested that it would also be essential that NGOs who are interested and are making efforts to contain the menace of drugs be associated along with the District Legal Service Authorities so that best efforts can be made in this regard. Hence the information which can be obtained from de-addiction centres as well as the inmates of the jails where NDPS crime related accused are being housed can be passed on to the police for breaking the network of the drug mafia.It has been submitted that petitioner organisation’s counsel Navkiran Singh had earlier vitisted the de-addiction centre being run by Red Cross Society at Patiala and on interviewing addicts, they had revealed the sources from where the drugs were obtained by them. The application has been moved by the petitioner organisation in an already pending case wherein the High Court had taken suo motu notice of the drug racket in Punjab and had been monitoring the case. The case would come up for hearing on December 23. (The Indian Express 23/12/16)

116. FCRA cancellation forces NGO to lay off its 80-odd staff (1)

AHMEDABAD: Facing cash crunch after the cancellation of FCRA licence, Gujarat-based NGO Navsarjan Trust, which was working for Dalit rights for the last 27 years, has sought the resignation of its 80-odd employees and said that the three schools run by it shall be closed. Managing Trustee of Navsarjan Trust, Martin Macwan said the NGO was unable to pay for the salaries of its staff after the Centre revoked its licence to get foreign funds under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). “It is impossible for us to pay salaries of our employees after the Centre cancelled our FCRA licence. We are facing acute cash crunch due to that move. Thus, we have asked all our 80-odd employees to tender their resignations,” Macwan told PTI. Macwan founded this NGO in 1989 to fight for the rights of Dalits and to take up issues concerning them, such as manual scavenging and social boycott. According to him, the NGO needs around Rs 2.75 crore annually to meet various expenses. “We are largely dependent on the funds from foreign sources to meet our expenses, which runs into Rs 2.75 crore per annum. About 85 percent of that comes from foreign countries. Now, as our FCRA licence has been cancelled, it is impossible to run our operations or to pay salaries from what we get from local sources,” said Macwan. Apart from running various awareness programs for the upliftment of Dalits across the state, the NGO also runs three schools, one each in Ahmedabad, Surendranagar and Patan district. Now, these schools, where 102 students of 5th standard to 9th standard, are enrolled, are on the verge of closure, said Macwan. “These three schools, which impart education to 102 students of extremely poor Dalit and tribal communities, are having 12 teachers. Now, we have to shut these schools too, as we are unable to pay their salaries and meet other operational expenses. These teachers will be asked to leave only after the completion of this academic session,” said Macwan. A week back, seven NGOs, including Navsarjan Trust, were barred by the Centre government from receiving foreign funds after their FCRA licences were cancelled following alleged adverse intelligence reports against them. The decision has been taken after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) conducted an inquiry into the functioning of the NGOs whose FCRA licences were renewed in the recent past Official sources had claimed that there were adverse intelligence inputs against these NGOs, ranging from allegedly working against public interest by using foreign funds, painting the government as “anti- Dalit” abroad, besides others. According to Macwan, Centre targeted his organization because it highlighted the recent incident at Una town in Gir-Somnath district, where four Dalit youths were thrashed by cow vigilantes. “It is evident that Centre was unhappy with us after we raised that issue on various platforms. We only tried to highlight the plight of Dalits. That is what we are doing since last 27 years. But, it seems that government wants us to propagate that everything is alright in their rule” said Macwan, who has planned to challenge the order in the court. “We have decided to challenge the Centre’s order against us in the Gujarat High Court soon,” he added. (The New Indian Express 24/12/16)

117. Bastar: Rights advocate writes to NHRC, says ‘threat tactics’ being used (1)

New Delhi: AN ADVOCATE of Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group, which fights cases of human rights violations in Bastar, has written to the National Human Rights Commission, alleging that “intimidatory and threatening tactics” were being used against her. She also expressed apprehension that false cases may be charged against her. Shalini Gera wrote that she recently got a call from a person claiming to be the Superintendent of Police of Bastar. According to her, the caller said that the police have received a complaint that accuses her of meeting a Maoist commander and exchanging demonetised currency notes. The allegations, she maintained, were made “simply to malign and harass” her. Refusing to give details, a police official confirmed they have received “such a complaint and are looking at it.” In February 2016, Gera and other lawyers of JAGLAGS left Jagdalpur in Bastar alleging harassment by Chhattisgarh Police. In her letter to Srinivas Kamath, national focal point for human rights defenders and joint registrar of NHRC, Gera stated that she is part of the legal team of Kumma Pottam, who has approached the High Court alleging that his 13-year-old son was killed in fake encounter. Gera wrote that they reached Jagdalpur on December 26, after the High Court ordered that the teen’s body should be exhumed and a second postmortem conducted under Bastar Commissioner’s supervision.She alleged that a police team entered the premises and made the accusation that they had been “caught under suspicious” circumstances. A day later, Gera alleged that she received a call from an “unknown number” – from a person who identified himself as Bastar SP R N Dash. Dash could not be contacted for a comment. Gera wrote, “This person wanted to know whether I had been to Palnar Samudayik Bhavan where I had incited villagers against Aadhaar card…. Then, he wanted to know what I had been doing in Matenar…. He then claimed…we were spreading false stories of police atrocities in front of children, and that he has photographs…. This other person then asked me whether any JNU students were present at the meeting…”Gera wrote, “…He said he had received a written complaint against me that I was in Goel Dharamshala [in Jagdalpur] yesterday, exchanging ‘old notes’ for Naxalites. I again denied this and told him that I was in Goel Dharamshala yesterday, duly authorized by the Commissioner of Bastar Division, to follow up on orders of Hon’ble High Court.” Earlier this week, Chhattisgarh Police had charged seven activists, purportedly on way to look into allegations of human rights violations of tribal villagers in the state, with Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act. In November, the state police had filed an FIR against a fact-finding team comprising Delhi University and JNU professors Nandini Sundar, Archanay Vijay and other political activists that had visited Bastar in May. (The Indian Express 29/12/16)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

118. Tamil Nadu govt sanctions 1,344 judiciary posts (19)

CHENNAI: After many months of delay, the Tamil Nadu government has sanctioned 1,344 additional posts for the state judiciary. The number was proposed by the high court in view of the increase in the number of judges in the higher judiciary in recent times. In an affidavit filed before the first bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sundar, home secretary Apurva Varma said the government had issued orders on December 5 creating the additional posts. The file had been sent to the competent authority for approval, he said. Necessary sanction would be obtained this calendar year, he said. The issue of additional posts came up before the bench as a PIL filed by the Tamil Nadu Judicial Ministerial Officers Association, represented by its general secretary S P Rajendran of Chidambaram. saying that the State government should pay compensatory allowance to staff attending Lok Adalats on holidays. The home secretary told the court that the sanctioning of additional staff would bring about an additional burden of 30.18 crore. He said the proposal was not in line with the recommendations of the Justice Shetty Commission for Judicial Officers. As for the allotment of government tenements for judicial staff, the housing and urban development department filed an affidavit stating that the scheme was meant for government servants. This would imply that it would also include judicial staff and thus 15% of it would be reserved for them. After reiterating that priority should be given to judicial staff in allotment, the court posted the matter to January 6, 2017 for further hearing. (imes of India 11/12/16)

119. SC refuses to interfere with Centre’s policy on demonetisation at this stage (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday, in its interim order on demonetisation, refused to interfere with the Centre’s decision firmly underlining that “these are matters of fiscal policies”. The court further restrained all high courts from examining the issue, stayed proceedings there and transferred them to itself. Stressing that the government is the best judge, the court also refused to extend dates for exemption of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes for certain services. After referring questions related to the policy to a five-judge constitution bench, the court said the government should try its best to honour commitment on weekly withdrawal of Rs 24,000 per person. On Thursday, the court had asked the government how people were getting huge amounts of money in new currency referring to the seizures being made across the country. The Centre had submitted an affidavit last week on demonetisation in the Supreme Court, saying it was an attempt to unearth black money stashed over the last seven decades. The Centre in its affidavit told the apex court that demonetisation is a step to reduce ratio of cash transactions, adding the objective is to unearth illegal parallel economy. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had earlier filed a transfer petition before the Supreme Court seeking a stay on all pending pleas against demonetisation. (The Indian Express 16/12/16)

120. High Court bans Shariat court in Chennai mosque (19)

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Monday declared that a Shariat court cannot function from the Makkah Masjid a mosque here, said a senior advocate. The court also ordered the state government to ensure that such a court does not function and file a status report. The court passed the order after hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a Non-Resident Indian (NRI), Abdur Rahman, senior advocate A. Sirajudeen told IANS. The Makkah Masjid is located on Anna Salai, Chennai’s main arterial street. According to the petitioner, the Shariat Council was functioning like a court. The High Court made it clear that religious places are meant to be used only for religious purposes. The petitioner approached the Shariat Council first so that he can live again with his wife. But he was forced to give a divorce and hence he decided to approach the High Court, Sirajudeen said. (Business Standard 19/12/16)

121. PIL on manual scavenging: Notice to Centre, State (19)

MADURAI: A Division Bench of Justices A. Selvam and P. Kalaiyarasan sought the response of the officials authorities on the PIL petition preferred by A. Nagarajan, general secretary of Aadi Tamilar Peravai. The petitioner claimed that the committees were yet to be constituted despite the 2013 legislation containing specific provisions for their constitution in order to end the despicable practice of employing people to clean human waste. ( The Hindu 19/12/16)

122. Advocate can’t enrol temporarily: Gujarat high court (19)

AHMEDABAD: A division bench of Gujarat high court on Thursday quashed a single-judge bench’s order to the Bar Council of Gujarat (BCG) ordering the body to grant temporary enrolment number to an advocate thus entitling her to practice law in courts. This is a case involving a young woman holding a law degree from the MS University, who is seeking licence to practice by enrolling herself with the BCG. The trouble arose when the Bar did not take any decision on her application on the ground that she was technically employed with the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC). However, Desai has been denying that she is an employee with the GIDC. She maintains that she has been engaged as a legal consultant/ legal expert. And hence the provisions of Advocates Act and BCG and the Bar Council of India (BCI) rules cannot prevent her from getting enrolled as an advocate. When the bar council did not take any decision, she moved the high court for direction. With the bar council taking more time to decide her case, a single-judge bench directed BCG on November 18 to provide a temporary enrolment number to Desai. However, on an appeal filed by the BCG and its enrolment committee, the division bench stayed this order on November 18 and it has now quashed the order on the ground that there is no provision to enrol an advocate on a temporary basis. Besides, the bench of Chief Justice RS Reddy and Justice VM Pancholi came to a conclusion that since Desai’s contract mentions that she has to remain present in office full time and she is getting monthly remuneration in form of salary of Rs 25,000, she is to be considered engaged in full-time employment. And the Advocates Act and Rule 49 of the BCI prohibit enrolment of such a person as an advocate for practice before courts. As the petition for permanent enrolment is pending before the single-judge bench, the division bench has asked it to hear the case expeditiously. (Times of India 23/12/16)

123. Lawyers helping poor to  get edge in judgeship (19)

NEW DELHI: To boost legal aid in country, the Ministry of Law and Justice is proposing a mechanism wherein if an advocate voluntarily helps poor litigants, extra incentive will be given to them when they apply for judgeship. The ministry is planning to create a talent pool of willing advocates for pro bono help to the poor, which will be a proposed criterion under consideration for a judge. Under the proposal, if an advocate gets elevated to a High Court or Supreme Court and if he/she has worked for the legal aid too, some extra points would be given to the advocate while zeroing down his selection.The step will also help legal aid services shed the tag of not having a team of best lawyers to pursue the case for poor litigants. Last year too, National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) increased the existing fees paid to lawyers for appearing for the poor and marginalised people so that young lawyers willingly appear for them. Legal aid’s main aim is to ensure delivery of justice aid to the poor with minimum possible cost. (New Indian Express 25/12/16)

124. Law against benami properties to be operationalised soon: PM Modi (19)

Vowing to carry forward the war against corruption and black money post-demonetization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the government will soon operationalise a strong law to effectively deal with ‘benami’ properties and this was just the beginning. Making his last monthly address this year in his “Mann ki Baat” programme, he defended the frequent changes in the rules of demonetization, saying these have been done to reduce the people’s problems and defeat such forces who are out to thwart his government’s fight against black money and corruption. Modi sought the cooperation of public in making the “war on corruption” a success and said the wrong-doings of some are being caught only with the support of common people who are coming forward with concrete information about hoarders. “I assure you that this is not the end. This is just the beginning in our fight against corruption. We have to win this war against corruption and black money. There is no question of stopping or going back in this fight,” he said. The Prime Minister also lamented the logjam in Parliament that evoked displeasure from the President and the Vice President besides all-round public indignation and ire, saying he wanted a good discussion on this campaign as well as on political funding, had both Houses run properly. He said some people who are spreading rumours that political parties enjoy all concessions and exemptions “are wrong and all are equal before law” and they have to abide by it. “It was my earnest wish that the ongoing campaign against corruption and black money, including the realm of political parties and political funding, be discussed extensively in the Parliament. Had the House functioned properly, there would have been comprehensive deliberation. “Some people are spreading rumours that political parties enjoy all kinds of concessions. These people are absolutely in the wrong. The law applies equally to all. Whether it is an individual, an organisation or a political party, everyone has to abide by law and one will have to,” he said, adding that people who cannot endorse corruption and black money openly resort to searching for faults of the government relentlessly. Giving a push to his plea for cashless economy, Modi also launched two new schemes for traders and customers that will dole out 15,000 prizes every day to those making digital transactions. ….. (DNA 26/12/16)

125. PIL in Delhi HC on applicability of Constitutional amendments to J&K (19)

New Delhi: The Non-applicability of any constitution amendment in Jammu and Kashmir without a Presidential order under Article 370 of the Constitution, has been challenged in the Delhi High Court, which has decided to hear a PIL in this regard next month. The petition, which challenges the Constitution Order 1954 that adds a proviso to Article 368 of the Constitution, was listed for hearing before a bench comprising Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal. The bench said it will take up the matter on January 2 after the winter vacation. The Constitution Order 1954 by the President had added a proviso to Article 368 (power of Parliament to amend the Constitution and procedure therefor), saying “no such amendment shall have effect in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir unless applied by order of the President under clause (1) of Article 370“.Article 370 grants special autonomous status to the State and makes it clear that any law, including Constitution amendments, will not be applicable to the State unless applied by an order of the President under this article. The PIL by advocate Surjeet Singh contends that the Constitution Order was an “encroachment” on the powers of the Parliament to amend the Constitution and apply it to Jammu and Kashmir. “The impugned proviso added by ‘the Constitution Order 1954’ to the Article 368 is an unconstitutional encroachment on the constituent powers of Parliament to amend the Constitution and apply the same to the state of Jammu and Kashmir as well,” the petition says. It also says that the powers conferred on Parliament under Article 368 “in its very nature is one that cannot be delegated and the exclusive conferment of amending power on Parliament is one of the basic features of Constitution and cannot be violated directly or indirectly“.The petitioner has sought quashing of the Constitution Order 1954 to the extent that it adds the proviso to Article 368. (The Hindu 27/12/16)

126. Woman accused in domestic violence case can’t be evicted from house: Court (19)

MUMBAI: A woman accused in a domestic violence case cannot be removed from her house as a relief to the alleged victim, a sessions court has ruled. The observation came in a domestic violence case filed by 63-year-old woman from Parel against her 34-year-old daughter-in-law, alleging torture by starvation and physical abuse. The court refused to evict the younger woman from the flat though the complainant sought her ouster. The court accepted that the Supreme Court has widened the definition of “respondent” under the Domestic Violence Act by striking down the words “adult male” and included women, but pointed out that this definition did not extend to section 19 (1) (b) (directing the respondent to remove himself from the shared household) of the Act. It added that this section says no order under the clause shall be passed against a woman. The complainant had moved the sessions court after a lower court, hearing the complaint, had rejected her plea for interim orders. She claimed that after the death of her husband, she and her son got the Parel flat. After her son’s second marriage, the couple began to stay with her. Soon, her relationship with her daughter-in-law soured. She accused her daughter-in-law of abusing her and at times depriving her of food and medicines and even hitting her. On one occasion, she said the daughter-in-law tried to kill her granddaughter – by her son’s first marriage – by keeping the gas on and asking the child to ignite the stove.Her son left as he was unable to “control” his wife’s behaviour. Despite his request, her daughter-in-law refused to join him and stayed on in the Parel flat with the intention of grabbing it, she claimed. Last October, she went to the cops, who took down a non-cognizable complaint. At this point she filed the domestic violence complaint. The daughter-in-law denied the allegations and claimed that the complaint was filed in a bid to harass her and get her out of the flat.Refusing interim relief as well as compensation to the complainant, the court said it cannot be said that prima facie there is any case in her favour. If the incidents had occurred, she would have narrated them to her son or lodged reports with the police, the court said. It added that she also could not mention the probable dates on which the incidents narrated by her had occurred. The son, also an accused, has agreed to pay a monthly maintenance of Rs 5,000 to his mother. The court said that it was to be paid until the lower court pronounces the final decision. (Times of India 28/12/16)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

127. Burhan Wani’s slain brother on relief list (1)

Srinagar: The name of the brother of slain Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani has figured on the compensation list of the Jammu and Kashmir government. Khalid Wani, 25, was killed on April 13, 2015, in a forest area of the Tral region in Pulwama. The Army then said Khalid was a militant who was killed in a firefight. The youth’s family rubbished the Army report, and alleged that it was a case of custodial death. Speaking to The Hindu, Deputy Commissioner, Pulwama, Muneer-ul-Islam, said his department had issued a public notice last week of 130-140 pending cases of victims of subversive activities, especially those militancy-related. “The notice is aimed at inviting individual or institutional response in case of any objections. The process is required because many times the cases turn out to be fabricated or false. In this particular case [of Khalid], we are yet to receive any objection from any side. The office is open to objections and the required follow-ups,” said Mr. Islam. The list of deserving cases for compensation was worked out by the Revenue Department on the basis of the first information reports lodged in the district. “A section of the Revenue Department is supposed to prepare the list of the victims who may have died in a crossfire or in militancy-related activity. The government also looks into the cases of damaged houses during encounters,” said Mr. Islam. The name of Khalid has figured at No. 9 on the list. “We have not distributed any compensation. We still await the objections in the listed cases,” said Mr. Islam.If the case is clarified by the government, Burhan’s family may get an ex gratia of up to Rs. 4 lakh or the next of Khalid’s kin may be given a job.Speaking to a Web portal, Burhan’s father, Muzaffar Wani, said he might not take the money, but might consider a government job for his youngest son, who is a Class 12 student. “It seems just a due administrative process. I don’t think any compensation has been issued. It’s no political issue but an administrative one,” Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s media adviser Suhail Bukhari said. (The Hindu 13/12/16)

128. CBI to check if Sec 377 can be applied in custody death case (1)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Wednesday told the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to check if Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code could be invoked in a 2014 custodial death case. “Prima facie, there seems to be material to book the officers on other charges,” a division bench headed by Justice Ranjit More said. The CBI filed a charge-sheet under the IPC against 10 Wadala railway police personnel, including a lady officer, for the alleged custodial death of Agnello Valdaris, 25. Agnello and three others, including a 15-year-old, were picked up by the railway police on the night of April 15, 2014, from Reay Road for allegedly stealing a gold chain worth Rs60,000. The complaint alleged that the four, including the minor, were forced to perform sexual acts on each other, and they were sexually assaulted and tortured while in custody. Agnello died on April 18. Police claimed he was run over by a train when he tried to escape. The HC ordered the transfer of investigations to the CBI. The CBI recently booked three railway police personnel under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSOA). Advocate Yug Chaudhary, counsel for the Valdaris family, said that based on witnesses’ statements, the police officers should also be charged under Section 377 for unnatural offences. CBI counsel, advocate Hiten Venegaonkar, said the agency had charged the police officers under POCSOA; since the police personnel themselves had not indulged in the sexual assault, it was doubtful if Section 377 could be applied in the case. The HC told the CBI to examine if the officers can be prosecuted for the offences, which carries a prison term of 10 years. (Times of India 15/12/16)

129. Protests set us back, can we even talk of AFSPA now, asks J-K CM Mehbooba Mufti (1)

Jammu: THE protests that rocked the Valley since the killing of Burhan Wani in July have set back the process of reconciliation, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has said. Underlining that she is “cent per cent convinced” that her party PDP’s alliance with “BJP is full of possibilities to get Kashmir out of this turmoil with honour and dignity for our people”, Mufti has said that the solution to Kashmir lies in making borders “irrelevant” and increasing connectivity to and from PoK, China and Central Asia. In her first interview after taking over as Chief Minister — details will be published in The Sunday Express — Mufti told The Indian Express at her Jammu home that the “basic reason” for her to be Chief Minister with BJP’s support is to achieve “reconciliation so that the (Kashmir) issue is resolved amicably”. “The day I feel that I have failed in this purpose, I will not take even a second to give up,” she said. “I will instead leave politics and prefer to stay at home.’’ Calling the current quiet in the Valley a “fragile calm,” she said: “We have a lot of work to build bridges and mend fences.” About 100 civilians were killed and 1000 blinded in the security crackdown that followed Wani’s killing. Mufti said her government would evolve a “mechanism” to probe the cases of killings, injuries and blindings of people by police and security forces. “I am myself convinced that we need to do something about it (the deaths). It won’t be put under carpet…”Asked why she hadn’t moved on the key elements of the PDP agenda, she said the protests over “five six months have taken us back on many things”. “We stand for each and every word that is in our Agenda for Alliance,” she said. “But there is also time factor, which is important. Can you talk about revocation of AFSPA at this point of time? That is why I am saying that whatever happened during the last five six months hasn’t helped. It has rather had a very adverse effect on everything including the government because we would have been at somewhere else at this time”. Asked what was her response to the massive Azadi groundswell after Wani’s killing, Mufti said that she wasn’t “denying that there is an issue” which needs to be resolved. However, for any reconciliation, “you need to create a conducive atmosphere…(and) there wasn’t enough time given to me so that we could create a conducive atmosphere.’’…  (The Indian Express 17/12/16)

130. Security guard shoots students for clicking selfies in Jaipur (1)

Jaipur: Three engineering students were allegedly shot and seriously injured by a security guard following an argument over taking selfies outside a farmhouse in the Kho Nagoriyan area.The incident took place late on Saturday night. Rohit, Shailendra and Devendra were returning to their hostel after having dinner at a roadside eatery. They stopped outside the farmhouse of a private university owner and started taking selfies, police said. The security guard, Zor Singh, tried to stop them and an altercation ensued. Flying into a rage, Singh opened fire at them with his 12-bore gun. They suffered bullet injuries in their brain, eye and chest and are undergoing treatment at a hospital. Rohit’s condition is critical, police said. A case has been registered against Singh under Section 307 (attempt to murder) of IPC. (The Hindu 19/12/16)

131. HC on Valdaris case: Prima facie material to book cops for murder (1)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Monday directed the CBI to carry out further investigations in the 2014 custodial death of Agnello Valdaris at Wadala saying prima facie there was material to book the police officers under Indian Penal Code sections 302 for murder and 377 for unnatural offences. A division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Anant Badar remarked that the CBI had not “applied its mind” and in its chargesheet did not appear to have invoked correct charges against the police officers. The high court pointed to Valdaris’ post-mortem report and said it could not accept the claim that it was a case of accidental death. The court has asked the agency to carry out further investigations and file a supplementary chargesheet in the case. Twenty-five-year-old Agnello and three others, including a 15-year-old, were picked up by Wadala railway police on the night of April 15, 2014, from Reay Road for allegedly stealing a gold chain worth Rs 60,000. The complaint alleged that the four, including the minor, were made to perform sexual acts on each other. They were sexually assaulted and tortured while in custody. Agnello died on April 18. Police claimed he was run over by a train while trying to escape. The high court ordered the transfer of investigations to the CBI. The CBI filed a chargesheet under the Indian Penal Code against 10 Wadala railway police personnel, including a woman officer, for the alleged custodial death. The charges applied, though, were minor, including voluntarily causing hurt and criminal conspiracy. The CBI also recently charged three of the officers under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The high court did not agree and said the CBI should have booked the police officers for the offence of murder, culpable homicide and unnatural sex. The court has also asked the Maharashtra government to implement its 2014 order to install CCTV cameras at police stations so that the entire premises are covered. The high court has directed the joint secretary of the home department to reinspect the 25 police stations where CCTV cameras have been installed on a pilot basis. (Times of India 20/12/16)

132. Incharge Gujarat DGP Pandey files discharge plea in Ishrat case (1)

Ahmedabad: Gujarat’s incharge DGP P P Pandey, an accused in the Ishrat Jahan alleged fake encounter case, has filed a discharge application, which is likely to come up for hearing at the special CBI court on January 12. Pandey, an accused in the case and currently out on bail, has cited his reinstatement and promotion as incharge DGP as one of the grounds, besides claiming that none of the 105 witnesses examined by the court have named him in the case. The officer moved the application that he be discharged from the case when the matter was being heard in the court of special CBI judge S J Raje. The matter could not come up for hearing after judge Raje recused himself around two months ago and is pending. “Two days ago, the Ishrat Jahan case was transferred to the court of special CBI judge J K Pandya who is likely to hear Pandey’s pending discharge application on January 12,” Pandey’s lawyer Paresh Nayak said. In his application, Pandey has said that he should be discharged as he does not have any “direct or indirect involvement in the case.” Pandey has said that since his involvement has not been established, he should not be considered as an accused. He has also argued that he was reinstated in state police and was even promoted by the state government to the post of in-charge DGP after he was let out on bail in connection with the same case. He has pleaded before the court to consider this as one of the grounds to discharge him. Pandey has also pointed out that a supplementary chargesheet filed by the CBI in which IB officials including retired special IB director Rajinder Kumar have been named as accused, has not yet been taken on record by the court. In the first chargesheet filed by CBI in 2013, seven Gujarat police officers were named as accused including IPS officers P P Pandey, D G Vanzara and G L Singhal who are facing charges for kidnapping, murder and conspiracy. The case pertains to a 19-year-old college girl Ishrat Jahan, her friend Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh along with two others being gunned down by the city crime branch officials in an alleged encounter on June 15, 2004 in the outskirts of the city. (Zee News 24/12/16)

133. Pakistan releases 220 Indian fishermen (1)

Karachi: Pakistan on Sunday released 220 Indian fishermen, a goodwill gesture which comes amid strain in ties after the recent cross border terror incidents. The 220 fishermen released from Malir jail here were arrested for allegedly entering Pakistan’s territorial waters illegally and fishing, jail superintendent Hassan Sehto told PTI. The fishermen boarded a train to Lahore, from where they will be handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border. “The interior ministry ordered the release of the 220 fishermen while 219 are still in our custody,” Sehto said. The goodwill gesture comes amid strain in ties between the two countries after Pakistan-based terrorists attacked an Indian army base in Uri in September. Last week, the Pakistan fishermen forum claimed that Indian maritime authorities had picked up dozens of Pakistani fishermen from inside Pakistan’s territorial waters near the Gujarat coastline and taken them away, though the government has not responded to the claim so far. (The Hindu 25/12/16)

134. Ever prepared to deal with any situation: Assam Rifles DG on Manipur violence (1)

Laitkor: Manipur crisis, Manipur violence, Manipur economic blockade, United Naga Council, Manipur-Nagaland, Manipur civil society, India news, Indian Express Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang had sought the intervention of both the Centre and Manipur governments in securing the lives and property of Naga people in the Imphal valley. (PTI) In the wake of the violence in Manipuar and paramilitary personnel being rushed to the state, the Assam Rifles chief today said the force is “prepared at all times” to deal with any situation. “We are prepared at all times to deal with any situation at any time,” Assam Rifles Director General Lt Gen Shokin Chauhan told reporters at the sideline of National Integration and Youth Leadership Camp here.“The mere fact that Assam Rifles is in Manipur, it means we are assisting them (state government),” he said. Reacting to a query on the present situation in Manipur and the internal security in that state, he said, “Every situation is dynamic and once that situation comes up, we will deal with it…”.Violence erupted Sunday last in Manipur following an economic blockade imposed by the United Naga Council since November 1 on NH-2 (Imphal-Dimapur) and NH 37 (Imphal-Jiribam) — that serve as lifelines for the landlocked Manipur. The Centre has rushed over 15,000 paramilitary personnel. The blockade was imposed to protest against the creation of seven new districts in areas inhabited by the tribal Nagas. Indefinite curfew was clamped last Sunday in Imphal East district after a mob torched and vandalised 22 passenger vehicles on the Imphal-Ukhrul road, while an evening-to-dawn curfew was imposed the same day in Imphal West district. Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang had sought the intervention of both the Centre and Manipur governments in securing the lives and property of Naga people in the Imphal valley. (Indian Express 26/12/16)

135. Kashmir: Encounter breaks out between security forces and terrorists in Bandipora (1)

New Delhi: An encounter broke out between security forces and terrorists at Shahgund Hajin in Bandipora District of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday morning,  ANI reported. Recently, top Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operative and an engineering student from the Valley, who recently joined militancy, were killed in two separate encounters in J&K by joint teams of the police and Army. According to Times Now, the militants attacked forces search party in Bandipora leaving 2 army men injured. The search operations on to track down the militants is udnerway. (Zee News 29/12/16)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

136. J&K: Lecturer held for ‘sedition’ after making ‘anti-India’ remarks (1)

Jammu: A lecturer has been arrested for sedition after a section of students alleged that he had made anti-India comments at a college in Jammu and Kashmir’s Bani. Shah Nawaz, the lecturer from Dogripora in Kashmir’s Awantipura, has been sacked. Kathua’s Principal Sessions Judge Vinod Chatterji Koul rejected Nawaz’s bail application on Saturday saying that there were grounds to believe that he had committed the offence. Sources said that Nawaz had made the comments on November 30 following the killing of seven soldiers in an attack on an army camp in Nagrota. Nawaz had allegedly intervened during a discussion among students and commented on gunfights between militants and armed forces. Four students, Manoj Kumar, Tilak Raj, Ganesh Kumar and Subash, filed a police complaint against Nawaz quoting him as allegedly saying: “Pakistani sheron ki tarah aate hein, Hindustaniyo ko marte hein aur wapas chale jatey hein (Pakistanis come here as lions, kill Indians and then go back across the border). There are 150 militants armed with AK 47 rifles in Kashmir for whom I can even give my life and provide all sorts of assistance.’’ The complainants blamed Nawaz’s “anti-national lecturers’’ for “disturbing peace on the campus with Muslim students coming to their classes in Afghan dresses’’. .. (Indian Express 11/12/16)

137. 3 Chennai youths who sat during national anthem bashed up in theatre (1)

CHENNAI: Panic gripped movie buffs in a city theatre on Sunday afternoon when a group roughed up a youth and two students who did not stand up when the national anthem was played before the screening of ‘Chennai 28-II’. Theatres began playing the national anthem following the Supreme Court’s order on November 30 that all the cinema halls in India shall play the national anthem before the film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the anthem as a part of their “sacred obligation”.At 11.30 am, a group of movie buffs was in Kasi theatre, Ashok Nagar, when the national anthem was played. Whi le the audience stood up, nine people remained seated. During the interval, one Vijayakumar grabbed Viji, a freelancing movie reviewer, by the collar and demanded why he did not stand up for the national anthem. In an argument that en sued, 20 people ganged up and rained blows on Viji and two women Sabaritha and Shreela. “We were harassed and manhandled by the men.They issued life threats and assaulted us,” Shreela, a law student, told TOI. “We did not have any intention to show disrespect,” she said. Vijayakumar, a civil service aspirant, claimed that they did not have any personal enmity towards the group.”We felt that they showed disrespect to the national anthem. They were taking selfies and applauding when national anthem was being played, which was not welcome by many of us.” None from the audience came to the rescue of the students. By the time a security guard stepped in, the victims had texted their friends explaining the issue and asked them to come to the theatre. .. (Times of India 13/12/16)

138. Get on social media: Government to educational institutes (1)

AHMEDABAD: The government has asked the colleges and institutes to have a responsible person, who can operate these accounts, as in-charge. The institutes have been asked to identify the person who will be responsible for all the posts through these accounts. The move is a part of the digital India project of the central government. The education department already has an account www.facebook.com/GujEduDept. The department has asked the institutes to ensure that the students follow the page in order to keep themselves updated. The government has stated that the new circular and all other notifications will be posted there. (Times of India 13/12/16)

139. Kerala Governor laments continuing stand-off between lawyers, media (1)

Kochi: Kerala Governor P Sathasivam on Friday lamented that the continuing stand-off between media and lawyers in courts in Kerala was not good for democracy. The former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court appealed to both the media and lawyers to arrive at a peaceful agreement considering the fact that the two sections have significant duties in a democracy.“I had appealed for a peaceful agreement but sadly the issue still continues. The result is the people are not being informed about what happens in various courts. Even verdicts with wider implications remain unknown.This is not good for democracy,” he said. He was addressing a gathering of journalists after inaugurating the Golden Jubilee Annual Day celebrations of the foundation stone laying ceremony of Ernakulam Press Club here. Batting for free access for journalists in courts, he urged media persons to “maintain dignity and decorum” in courts while carrying out their professional duty. “Whether in a high court or subordinate courts journalists must have a free access.They must have freedom to note down what is happening in Court hall,” the governor said. Describing media persons and lawyers as “two eyes” of the democratic system, Sathasivam said media is the way to take the decisions of the courts to the public. “How many persons will read our law journals? Only lawyers and judges–not others.Or maybe one or two litigants.” “…You are free to visit court hall.When a judge passes an order, you are free to enter his chamber and note down.You have to maintain dignity and decorum in the courts.You should not have any quarrel with anyone including our lawyer friends,” he said. Recalling the steps he had taken to provide basic facilities for media persons, both accredited and non-accredited, covering Supreme Court proceedings, the governor said media persons should be provided a restroom and minimum facilities like washroom to address nature’s call. He said pendency of a case in apex court on the stand-off was not a bar for solving the issue in High Court tself.    The governor said he would try his best to solve the issue by talking to lawyers, judges and media persons.Earlier, Ernakulam MP K V Thomas sought the governor’s intervention to “protect the Freedom of the Press” in judicial houses. Some High Court lawyers had clashed with journalists in Kochi on July 14 on reports about the arrest of a government pleader who allegedly tried to molest a woman. This incident resulted in a stand-off between the media and lawyers in courts in Kerala. (The Indian Express 16/12/16)

140. For a school tale, Kerala writer held for ‘disrespecting’ national anthem (1)

Thiruvananthapuram: MALAYALAM writer and theatre activist Kamal C Chavara alias Kamalsy Prana was arrested by the Kerala Police on Sunday on charges of insulting the national anthem in a Facebook comment. He has been charged with sedition under Section 124A of the IPC. Police said Prana was arrested from Kozhikode on the basis of an FIR registered at Karunagappally police station in Kollam district, following a complaint by a worker of the BJP’s Yuva Morcha. The case was registered two days ago. Inspector M Anil Kumar of Karunagappally police said prima facie there was ground for charging Prana with sedition. “But whether the charges would stay, we can say only after investigation.” They have sent a team to Kozhikode to question Prana, said the inspector.Prana had taken a few sentences from his recent Malayalam novel Smamashanangalude Notepusthakam, and posted them on Facebook. The excerpt talks about a situation at a school where teachers do not allow students to go to the toilet during class. At 4 pm, when class is over, the students recite the national anthem. The novel says that for the children, the national anthem meant they could now go to the toilet. There had been no controversy regarding the novel till Prana’s Facebook post. The writer’s arrest comes close on the heels of police booking a dozen delegates of the International Film Festival of Kerala for not standing up while the anthem was being played before film shows. Slamming the registration of a case against him two days ago, Prana had said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should not become a “Kerala Modi”. “Police are depicting me as a terrorist,” he said. On Sunday, after his arrest, he repeated that the case against him was “illegal”. “I had mentioned in my novel what schoolchildren do when the national anthem is being sung. Dubbing comments in the novel disrespect to the national anthem, police have slapped the sedition charge against me.” CPM Politburo member and former minister M A Baby said the arrest and sedition charge look like a kneejerk reaction from police. “I hope the government will look into the issue in detail and make necessary corrections. Police acted in a hasty manner without applying its mind and proper examination of the details,” said Baby. (The Indian Express 19/12/16)

141. 19 trade unions march against ban on media (1)

KOCHI: “The justices should take initiative to discipline the advocates who do not act in accordance with the instructions of the superiors. It is a disgrace for the country in itself if media is restrained from entering the court. Law and justice is the right of the citizens and the media plays a vital role in the prevailing of the same,” said former MP K Chandranpillai, who was inaugurating the high court protest march by 19 trade unions along with the media fraternity on Wednesday. The protest march that started from Taj Junction saw participation of trade union members and media persons from across the state. The march, which was blocked by the police near the IG office, proceeded to sloganeering on the main road. MLA S Shar ma, AITUC state secretary K N Gopi, BMS state vice-president Unnikrishnan Unnithan, AITUC state secretary P Raju, STU national secretary T Raghunath Panaveli were among those who addressed the meeting. (Times of India 22/12/16)

142. How Modi is trying to rework idea of India I1)

Narendra Modi’s government can no longer be criticised or evaluated in a knee-jerk fashion. He is no longer head of a party desperate to outwit the Congress. Failures of the Congress no longer become plus points of the Modi era. As a party that has been transformed into a regime and as a regime that threatens to stay for another era, one has to evaluate it in terms of a mere fundamental set of trends and possibilities. The Modi government has to be seen beyond struggles of left and right or as a populist chorus against the Congress. It is altering the meaning of Indian society in deep and fundamental ways. Most critically, it is an attempt to “panopticonise” Indian society, combining strategies of culture and governance in pursuit of the idea of a great nation-state. The idea of panopticon, coined by Jeremy Bentham, is one the great concepts of a social science understanding of everyday authoritarianism in an industrialising society. Bentham took the panopticon as an artifact and turned it into an instrument of policy. During the early years of industrialism, when the enclosure movements had destroyed the commons and agriculture as a way of life, there were great migrations of orphans, vagrants, prostitutes, beggars and homeless to the city. They were a threat to law and order and the panopticon was invented as an institution of surveillance and control. The panopticon was a huge room where a sundry assortment of lumpenised citizens worked under the surveillance of an all seeing eye. It embodied one of the beginnings of a techno-managerial control of society. Today, it is part of the everyday mentality of industrialism where the architecture and the architectonic of the asylum, factory, school, prison, and plantation is based on. While the word as a concept remains esoteric, its basic ideas are part of the theories of governance in any modern society. Basically, Mr Modi is attempting to panopticonise India, using the ideas of discipline and punishment to create what he claims would be a more effective society. The panopticon becomes a shortcut to a decisive, successful and competent world. … (Asian Age 23/12/16)

143. Laws in India fail to protect media sources (1)

Mumbai: The law in India is in a precarious state on a vital aspect of freedom of the press: the lack of statutory protection of a journalist’s sources. The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression includes press freedom. This covers an entire process from news gathering, editorial judgement, publication and distribution of printed matter. Press freedom covers all four stages. Curb any of them and press freedom is curbed in its entirety. Of them all, the least understood is the scope of the first stage — the collection of news. It is a reporter’s need and duty to protect the identity of the source of his information. Else, vital information of concern to the people in a democracy would be suppressed. The US Supreme Court noted that “without some protection of seeking out the news, freedom of the press could be eviscerated”. Journalists regard the protection of sources as a matter of professional honour. In 1963, Lord Cyril Radcliffe inquired into a spy ring in the Admiralty. Two journalists refused to answer questions germane to the inquiry because they entailed disclosure of their sources. Their claim to protection of sources was rejected, and they went to prison. On July 6, 2005, Judith Miller, an investigating reporter for the New York Times, refused to divulge the name of a source. She told the judge: “If journalists cannot be trusted to guarantee confidentiality then journalists cannot function and there cannot be a free press.” She spent 85 days in prison and secured her release only after her informant (I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby) gave her permission to reveal his identity. Three bills were introduced in Congress to provide protection for sources. They were far narrower than the privileges provided by state laws, called “shield laws”. The US Supreme Court had failed dismally. In a leading case, Branzburg vs Hayes, the court was badly split (5-4). Justice Powell’s concurring opinion with the four became the law. It did not suffer from excess of clarity. He let “the balance” of vital interests to be decided in the future “on a case by case” basis. British case law has had its zigzags, but amidst some splendid dissents. In 1981, Lord Salmon said: “The immunity of the press to reveal its sources of information save in exceptional circumstances is in the public interest, and has been so accepted by the courts for so long that I consider it is wrong now to sweep this immunity away… The freedom of the press depends on this immunity. Were it to disappear so would the sources from which its information is obtained; and the public would be deprived of much of the information to which the public of a free nation is entitled.” He relied on a passage from the judgement of Lord Denning, who was in the majority in the same case: “The newspapers are the agents… of the public to collect that information and to tell the public of it. In support of this right of access, the newspapers should not in general be compelled to disclose their sources of information.… Their sources would dry up. Wrongdoing would not be disclosed. Charlatans could not be exposed. Unfairness would go unremedied. Misdeeds in the corridors of power, in companies or in government departments, would never be known.” Section 10 of the Contempt of Courts Act 1981, enacted in the UK, reads: “No court may require a person to disclose, nor is any person guilty of contempt of court from refusing to disclose, the source of information contained in a publication for which he is responsible unless it is established to the satisfaction of the court that it is necessary in the interests of justice or national security or for the prevention of disorder or crime.” Some judges relaxed the word “necessary”. A journalist who had lost in the courts in the UK took his case to the European Court of Human Rights. It ruled in his favour: “Having regard to the importance of the protection of journalistic sources for press freedom in a democratic society and the potentially chilling effect an order of source disclosure has on the exercise of that freedom, such a measure cannot be compatible with Article 10 of the (European) Convention (on Human Rights) unless it is justified by an overriding requirement in the public interest.” Since Article 10 of the Convention is of the same tenor as Article 19 of the Indian constitution — and presumably of similar provisions in other constitutions — the ruling is a highly persuasive authority. It does not, however, dispense with the need for legislation that explicitly protects journalists’ sources while giving the courts power to order disclosure on specified grounds in compelling circumstances. (Asian Age 26/12/16)

144. Now, surveillance on social media in Haryana (1)

GURUGRAM: In a first of its kind, a high-tech monitoring system will keep an eye on social media activities in Haryana. A social media monitoring has been set up in Gurugram with a joint effort of National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and state’s Crime Branch Crime Investigation Department (CBCID). Though the authorities are extremely tight-lipped about the new surveillance system, sources told TOI that the Digital Investigation Training and Analysis Centre (DITAC) has been set up at the third floor of the Traffic Tower in Gurugram’s Sushant Lok. The centre will be inaugurated on Wednesday by chief minister Manohar Lal. DITAC is equipped with highly advanced technology and sensitive equipment that will track the social media activities including widely used Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter. DITAC will be a state level monitoring system that monitor any illegal or inflammatory messages or posts that can lead to agitation. The entire project costs a whopping Rs 22 crores, most of this funding has come from the central government. It will have three touchscreens of 100 inches each and a fleet of 22 officials will keep a round the clock watch on what goes on social media all over the state. The centre will track down the origin of any inflammatory message and observe its impact in the law and order situation. The officials will not make the arrests in such cases. Their duties include only the monitoring, identifying the instigators and reporting the matter to the authorities.Notably, this is the first of its kind state-level social media monitoring center collaboration with NTRO in the country. Though Delhi police too has a surveillance system but this is being done by a special cell under crime branch. They do not register any cases and pass on the report to the investigators. Sources reveal that the decision to set up a surveillance center was made after Jat Protests in February this year. It is believed that the posts and messages on Social media played a key role inciting the youth at that time, both Jats and Anti-Jats. The center is expected to play a vital role in controlling such activities this time as next call for the Jat Protests has been announced for January 29. “At that time the government shut down the internet services in many districts during and after the agitation. But that’s not the solution especially now when we are trying to digitize the economy. So a center like this is a viable solution to such problem,” a senior police official told TOI. The center will be supervised by IG (CID) Anil Kumar Rao and the Gurgaon wing will be monitored by IG (Security) Sanjay Kumar. Notably the authorities wants to keep the matter under wraps till it is inaugurated on Wednesday. However, when contacted IG (security) Sanjay Kumar told TOI that “in today’s time social media is a very important tool of communication and we need to know about what is happening on Social media. The youth even in rural areas is involved in social media and there are a lot of societies influencing them”. (Times of India 27/12/16)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

145. Curfew in Gangavati after communal clash (7)

The police had to resort to lathi-charge to quell clashing groups belonging to two communities at Gangavati town in Koppal district on Sunday. A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed in the town. The situation is said to be tense, but under control. “Depending on the situation, a decision will be taken on whether to relax the curfew or continue it,” Superintendent of Police, Tyagarajan, told The Hindu. Earlier in the day, tension gripped the town over putting up religious banners and flags for Id Milad and Hanuma Jayanti. The police intervened and asked both the communities to disperse. Later, a large number of members of a community gathered at a place to offer prayers, while members of another community gathered at their place of worship. Trouble began when one group attacked another that led to pelting of stones. At least 50 persons sustained injuries. Mr. Tyagarajan and other senior officers are camping in the town. S. Murugan, IGP, (Ballari range), said additional police have been deployed at sensitive areas. (The Hindu 11/12/16)

146. Communal tension erupts in Malkapur, curfew imposed (7)

NAGPUR: Communal tension erupted in Malkapur town of Buldhana district when police tried to stop an illegaltembeing taken out through a locality dominated by members of a community. Malkapur is about 356 kms from Nagpur and lies on the Mumbai-Howrah railway line. The community had the required permission for their religious procession. The rallyists, however, took out a motorcycle rally. Moreover, the approved procession route did not include Baradari and Salipura, localities dominated by one community. In spite of this, the rally took the unapproved route. When the rallyists raised some objectionable slogans, the police personnel posted on the route tried to stop the rally. The rallyists pelted stones on them. Then local residents retaliated by pelting stones on the rallyists. The route of the religious procession had been a point of contention between the two communities since last few days. Last year too, the Eid rally passing through some localities had created tension. This time a new route was allowed and the main procession passed through this route without any incident. It was the illegal rally that created trouble. As soon as senior police officials received information about the incident, it sent more cops to the spot. However, they too had to face stone pelting. Eight police personnel including the deputy superintendent of police Rajesh Salunkhe were injured. Malkapur MLA Chainsukh Sancheti, municipal council President Harish Rawal and their six to seven supporters were injured when they tried to break peace between the two communities. Around 10 other citizens were also injured in the incident. The situation went out of hand when some of the miscreants set fire to nearby shops and stalls and vehicles parked in the area. About five to six establishments and some vehicles including autorickshaws were damaged to varying extents. The police had to lob tear gas shells and resort to firing in the air to disperse the two mobs. It then imposed a curfew in sensitive parts of the town. District collector Dr Vijay Zade sent the riot control squad and additional police force from Buldhana to Malkapur. Superintendent of police Sanjay Baviskar said in the evening that normalcy had been restored and police were arresting the rioters. The police had rounded up around 25 people till the filing of the report but had not booked anybody. Collector Zade said that the situation had been brought under control by 12 noon. “The curfew has been imposed only in some parts. There is complete normalcy in other areas,” he added. MLA Sancheti, whose right leg sustained a fracture, blamed SP Baviskar for the communal disturbance. “In view of last year’s tension, I had appealed to the SP not to grant permission to the Eid procession or at least limit the areas from where it would pass. Unfortunately, some politicians told the SP that they would take responsibility of maintaining peace during the procession and look what happened,” he said. (Times of India 13/12/16)

147. Curfew in Imphal, mobile internet snapped after violence (7)

Imphal: In the wake of heightened tension and violence, parts of Manipur capital Imphal were on Sinday brought under indefinite curfew and mobile internet services were snapped at various places to prevent spread of rumours over an alleged attack on a church. The curfew was imposed this noon and covers Porompat and Sawombung subdivisions of Imphal East district, said an order issued by the District Magistrate. It will continue till further directions.Earlier in the day, the state Cabinet decided to shut down mobile internet services in Imphal West district with immediate effect, taking serious note on the prevailing situation here, following three blasts on Friday. The Imphal West District Magistrate issued an order directing telecom operators to shut down mobile data service in the district immediately until further orders. The action came in the wake of tensions following Friday’s blasts and an alleged attack on a church. Major areas of the state capital fall in Imphal West district where the three blasts had taken place within an hour on Friday evening. The Cabinet decision came after analysis of the prevailing law and order situation and to halt spreading of rumours through social networking sites, officials said. The move was preceded by a 24-hour bandh called to protest militants’ attacks on Manipur Police in the last few days in different parts of the state that left three policemen dead and 14 others injured. The militants also snatched several weapons from the IRB personnel. All measures were being taken to contain violence by deploying a large number of police personnel at sensitive areas of the state, a police officer said. The capital on Sunday saw violence by protesters who were agitating against the ongoing economic blockade in the state and a series of terrorist attacks. A number of vehicles were set on fire or vandalised.The landlocked state has been experiencing severe hardship in supply of essential items since November 1 after United Naga Council (UNC) imposed an indefinite economic blockade on the two national highways that serve as lifeline for the state. The blockade was imposed following the state government’s announcement of formation of seven new districts, four of which have been formally inaugurated. Tension in the state heightened after suspected militants continued their violent attacks on Manipur Police and other state forces in the last few days that left three policemen dead and 14 others injured last Thursday. The attack was followed by triple bomb blasts at Nagaram area in Imphal West district allegedly by Manipur Naga People’s Front on Friday. In another incident, suspected militants overpowered a small outpost of Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) at Nungkao area yesterday in Tamenglong district and fled with nine service weapons. (The Hindu 18/12/16)

148. Bhilwara remains peaceful after communal clash (7)

AJMER: Bhilwara remained peaceful though tense on Monday after a communal clash in Gayatri Nagar of the city day before. Internet services were barred to stop spreading of rumours and police battalion from Ajmer range was deployed to handle any worse situation. According to police, pebbles were pelted on a religious rally on Sunday which culminated in a clash between two communities that led to communal riots.”Bhilwara is a major communal sensitive district in the state and therefore, we use our specialist team to control such situation,” said senior police officials. The tension turned so ugly that arsons were reported at many places in the city. Looking to the tension, three Rajasthan Armed Core battalions were called from Ajmer range to take control of the situation. “The whole day was peaceful and we deputed heavy police force in sensitive and extra sensitive areas of the city,” said a police official. SP Mohan Sharma also went to the areas to take stock of the situation. “Tension still prevails in some regions,” added a source. Three incidents of burning vehicles in different localities have been reported last night. “We have detained about 80 people in this regard and also investigating the main conspirators of this incident,” said police. (Times of India 20/12/16)

149. BJP urges Didi to break her silence on ‘communal violence’ in Bengal (7)

NEW DELHI: Seeking to up the ante against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the BJP on Tuesday charged the minority cell of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) with spearheading communal riots in certain regions of the State. The BJP will also reach out to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), while a Parliamentary party delegation will go to Howrah for an on-the-spot assessment of communal violence. BJP national secretary Sidharth Nath Singh asked Banerjee to break her “silence” on communal violence at Dhulagarh area in the State. “The minority wing leaders of TMC led by Lok Sabha MP Idris Ali are targeting Hindus. The TMC is unleashing violence especially in six districts where the BJP graph has shown growth in the recent times,” said Singh, while adding that the State unit of the party has also been asked to move the human rights panel. The BJP leader claimed that “Hindus are being targeted by the minority wing of the TMC for over six days in Dhulagarh in Howrah district. You (Mamata) have not said anything. She must break her silence,” while adding that 100 such communal incidents have happened since the Trinamool came back to power this year. The BJP leader alleged that a fatwa was issued by Shahi Imam of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan Masjid Syed Mohammad Nurur Rahman Barkati against State BJP chief Dilip Ghosh. “TMC’s minority wing head Idris Ali was with the Imam. The Imam moves around in the State in an unauthorised beacon car. This is a glowing example of her minority appeasement politics,” added Singh. The BJP leader also stated that while Banerjee addresses meetings in Delhi, Patna and Lucknow against demonetisation, she has kept quiet on the communal violence in her State. Referring to incidents of artists and writers returning their awards over the “intolerance” issue, the BJP leader asked intellectuals to speak up against communal violence in Bengal. (New Indian Express 21/12/16)

150. Communal tension grips Bihar’s Vaishali after alleged honour killing of youth (7)

Patna: Communal tension gripped a village in Bihar’s Vaishali district on Thursday after an alleged honour killing of a 20-year-old youth. The youth, Veerchand, was found dead in Sarma village early on Thursday morning, police said, adding that the preliminary investigation suggests the youth was killed over an affair with a girl from a different community. His body was recovered from behind the girl’s house. The girl and her father have been arrested, police said. “We have begun investigation into the case and deployed additional security forces from neighbouring police stations in the village to maintain peace,” superintendent of police Rakesh Kumar said. According to reports, a mob pelted stones at police and the girl’s house, creating panic in the village. In view of the tension, district magistrate Rachna Patil and SP Rakesh Kumar have been camping in the village. Heavy police deployment has been made in and around the village to avoid any untoward incident. “Tension prevails between two communities in the village but the situation is under control,” a local police official said. According to villagers, the victim was seen in the village on Wednesday evening. (Hindustan Times 22/12/16)

151. Centre rushes 4,000 paramilitary personnel to Manipur (7)

New Delhi: The Centre has rushed around 4,000 paramilitary personnel to Manipur in the wake of violence following economic blockade on National Highways connecting the state. While around 1,500 paramilitary personnel were rushed in to Manipur in last two days, around 2,500 paramilitary were dispatched to the state last week, a senior Home Ministry official said on Tuesday. The security personnel were sent to the Northeastern state keeping in view the security situation in the state in the wake of violence following the economic blockade imposed by the Union Naga Council on two National Highways since November 1. The UNC has imposed the economic blockade on NH-2 (Imphal-Dimapur) and NH 37 (Imphal-Jiribam) that serve as lifelines for the landlocked Manipur. Curfew in Imphal East district was clamped indefinitely on Sunday last after a mob torched and vandalised 22 passenger vehicles on the Imphal-Ukhrul road, while curfew in Imphal West district was imposed from evening to dawn. Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang has sought the intervention of both the Centre and Manipur government in securing the lives and property of Naga people in the Imphal valley of Manipur. Zeliang in separate letters to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Manipur Chief Minister Ibobi Singh yesterday drew their attention to the plight of hundreds of Nagas who are stranded in the Imphal valley and claimed that they were prevented from proceeding to their respective villages in the hills after threats to their lives by some valley based organisations. (Deccan Chonicle 26/12/16)

152. Jharkhand: Facebook post leads to communal tension, 5 arrested (7)

Medininagar (Jharkhand) , PTI: The objectionable material, posted on Facebook on Tuesday night, triggered communal tension in Medininagar town. Five persons were on Wednesday arrested by the police here in Palamau district for allegedly attacking people and ransacking shops following a write-up on the social media on animal sacrifice. The objectionable material, posted on Facebook on Tuesday night, triggered communal tension in this town, prompting the police to act swiftly and arrest five persons, including Mohammad Taz who wrote the post, Palamau SP Indrajeet Mahatha said. Mahatha and Sub-Divisional Magistrate Nancy Sahay have gone to the area with an adequate force to restore law-and-order. A police contingent has been posted in the locality. The SP said the situation was now under control. (DNA 28/12/16)

153. WB: Its economy crippled by clashes, Dhulagarh picks up the pieces (7)

 Dhulagarh (howrah): A fortnight after violence and arson brought nondescript Dhulagarh, at the heart of Howrah’s micro small and medium enterprises (MSME) growth story, to national discourse, locked doors, shuttered windows and burnt walls unite the neighbouring localities of Pollepara and Munshipara. They are dominated by Hindus and Muslims, respectively. Of many families that fled after the clashes on December 13 and 14, some Hindus returned this week. Most Muslim neighbourhoods still remain deserted. District officials said more than 100 houses and shops were attacked over those two days. “More Hindu homes and shops were attacked, but the financial damage done to Muslim-owned factories is far more,” an administration official said. Superintendent of Police, Rural (Howrah), Sumit Kumar said, “There have been 56 arrests. Violence took place on December 14 and since then it’s been peaceful. Investigations are on.” About 30 km from Kolkata, Dhulagarh’s MSMEs focus on embroidery and garment-manufacturing. Already dealt a big blow by demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, many units in the area have now downed shutters following the violence. According to local officials and unit owners, equipment averaging around Rs 5 lakh per unit has been destroyed, raw material burnt, and workers left unemployed. dhulagarh, dhulagarh violence, west bengal violence, communal violence west bengal, dhulagarh west bengal, india news, bengal news, indian express news Police posted in riot affected Dhulagarh Purano chowrasta Howrah on Wednesday. The economy of Dhulagarh has been crippled. State government statistics say there are 350 functional units in the Howrah clusters, of which locals estimate about 100 are in Dhulagarh. The Howrah units employ more than 9,000 people, and the average investment in each plant and machinery is calculated at Rs 5 lakh. “I have seen at least 10 factories gutted in the last few days,” said Zakir Sardar. “Most units were owned by Muslims, and were in areas where people from both communities lived in equal numbers. These have been targeted.” Zakir’s factory, which employed 40 people, was destroyed, along with parts of his house. Sheikh Allaudin claimed his factory, surrounded by homes of Hindu families, was targeted on December 14. “We had got new machinery from abroad with loan amounting to Rs 18 lakh per unit. We were hoping to start exports from next year. We have now taken a loss that could touch Rs 1 crore. That essentially puts us out of business.” … (Indian Express 29/12/16)

COMMUNALISM

154. Hindutva outfits want ban on Sunburn festival in Pune (26)

Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad protested at Lokmanya Tilak statue in Mahatma Phule Mandai against the festival. Trouble could be brewing for the Sunburn electronic dance music festival as Hindutva outfits in Pune have come together to protest against it claiming that it is against Indian culture, reports The Indian Express. The festival will be held at Kesnand on Pune-Ahmednagar highway this year. It used to be held in Goa for the past nine years. The outfits have claimed that the festival promoted obscene activities and abuse of narcotic substances. The members from women’s wing of the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad sloganeered at Lokmanya Tilak statue in Mahatma Phule Mandai and sent out pamphlets. They also started a signature campaign against the festival. “In 2009, a girl died at Sunburn in Goa due to drug overdose… Such events mislead the youth,” said Pratiksha Korgaonkar, state organiser of Ranragini.Sunburn CEO Karan Singh said, “We do nothing illegal…. We work very closely with all government authorities to ensure a safe event.” (DNA 13/12/16)

155. RSS leaders invoke Narendra Modi in call for UP polls (26)

LUCKNOW: Claiming that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has worked a lot for Hindutva, RSS leaders called upon saffron outfits to gear up for the 2017 Assembly elections in the state. “UP elections are important for the RSS and we should be prepared for the litmus test,” RSS leaders said at a coordination meet held in Varanasi on Tuesday to review preparedness for the upcoming elections.”Come what may, the UP assembly election has to be won at all cost,” a senior RSS leader said, adding “the Modi government at the Centre is a government of achievements.” The main RSS speakers included its joint general secretary and third in the hierarchy Dattatreya Hosabale, RSS-BJP key linkman Dr Krishna Gopal, national organisation secretary Ramlal and co-national organisation secretary Shiv Prakash. The BJP was represented by its UP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya and state organisation secretary Sunil Bansal, regional presidents of Gorakhpur and Kashi and its organisation secretaries. About 250 representatives of Goraksh prant that includes BJP’s Gorakhpur and Kashi regions, and Sangh’s offshoots like the VHP and ABVP, were also present. Interestingly, Hosabale shifting base to Lucknow from Patna earlier this year has been seen as Sangh pariwar’s focus on UP assembly elections. Hosabale is believed to have been instrumental in mobilising voters during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Similarly, Krishna Gopal, who has been appointed as RSS-BJP linkman, is believed to have been instrumental in ticket distribution in UP during 2014 Lok Sabha elections. At no point of time, however, the RSS coordination meet discussed tickets or probable candidates, a leader privy to the meet in Varanasi told TOI. The meet was held in four sessions. The RSS big guns would have another coordination meeting later, this time with the representatives of the Awadh prant of the RSS administrative structure. (Times of India 14/12/16)

156. Sunburn: Hindutva outfits ask Maharashtra govt to ban fest within 48 hours (26)

Pune: HINDUTVA OUTFITS have demanded that the government should ban the Sunburn Festival within 48 hours. Hindutva activists have also planned a rally on Saturday against the festival, which is proposed to be held on a privately-owned 90 acre land at Kesnand on the Pune-Ahmednagar Highway. In a press conference on Friday, Parag Gokhale of Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, an outfit associated with the Sanatan Sanstha, advocate Mohan Dongre of Samast Hindu Aghadi, Anand Dave of Shiv Sena and others said they would launch a severe agitation if the event is not cancelled.“BJP-Shiv Sena government in the state came to power because it assured to work for the cause of Hindutva. It is sad that despite this, Sunburn festival is taking place in Pune,” said Dongre. Gokhale said although the organisers of the festival claim that they are against consumption of drugs, police in Goa have recovered banned narcotic substances from the venue of this festival in the past. “Also, the Goa government banned the festival this year because its organisers did not pay the taxes to the tune of Rs 3 crores. The Maharashtra government should not allow such an event to happen in Pune. Hindtuva activists are taking out a rally from Kasba Ganpati to District Collectorate against this event on Saturday morning,” he said. Chandrakant Warghade of Mahiti Seva Samiti said, “I have filed an application under the RTI Act to know whether organisers of Sunburn festival have taken the necessary permissions from the government offices. It has been 20 days now, and I am yet to get any reply. Local persons have observed that organisers have cut trees illegally. I have filed a criminal and civil suit today against the Sunburn festival organisers. We want to bring a stay on it legally.” Activists said they have given letters to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Guardian minister Girish Bapat, local BJP MLA and also police authorities against the Sunburn festival. Sunburn CEO Karan Singh said, “We do nothing illegal. Sunburn has always practised zero tolerance to narcotics. Our festival policy doesn’t entertain any sort of drug consumption. We believe the youth needs to engage offline too. With the social media, face-to-face interaction has diminished. Sunburn has brought engagement among the youth. We work very closely with all government authorities to ensure a safe event.” (The Indian Express 17/12/2016)

157. No ‘remote control’, RSS wants to build strong nation with Hindutva at its core: Mohan Bhagwat (26)

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said the organisation was not a “remote control” and its aim was to build a strong nation with ‘Hindutva’ at its core. “The Sangh’s aim is to build a strong India with the right leader and with Hindutva at its core,” Bhagwat said, addressing the concluding function of a four-day-long meeting of RSS pracharaks from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa here. “There is a need to bring the right kind of change in the society based on the ideology of Hindutva,” he said. RSS will strive to bring about right changes in the society to make the nation strong in the hands of a “right leader”, he said without naming anyone. “RSS is not a remote control,” he said in an apparent reference to the allegation of opposition parties that it dictates terms to the BJP-led NDA Government. “Many misgivings about the Sangh are prevailing in the society for various reasons and people talk about the Sangh without knowing about it or the essence of its activities. “RSS is for peace and solution to all kinds of problems faced by the world and India, and Hindutva is the core of Hindustan, it is its identity,” RSS supremo said. “It is wrong to look at Hindutva as an ideology of a particular religion or community. Sangh does not ask anybody his caste or creed when he joins us after believing in our ideology,” he said. Bhagwat also said RSS does not take any help from the government. “RSS does not beg for financial assistance from anybody,” he said. “RSS is not for those who want to make money…only those whose integrity is not doubtful can become its members,” he said. The world has now begun to recognise the importance of Hinduism, he said. (DNA 20/12/2016)

158. Cabinet likely to restore allotted land to RSS affiliated bodies (26)

NEW DELHI: The Cabinet is likely to approve restoring allotment of land to nearly two dozen organisations affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on Wednesday. Though the allotments had taken place between 1998 and 2004, these were cancelled by the UPA government soon after it came to power. Some of the organisations that were allotted land included Samarth Shiksha Samiti, Akhil Bhartiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Bhartiya Kisan sangh, Sewa Bharti and Swadeshi Jagran Foundation. As per the Cabinet proposal, the cancellation orders will be withdrawn provided the organisations withdraw their plea against the cancellation in the Delhi High Court. Sources said, the organisations have already informed the urban development ministry to withdraw their cases. The government has decided to restore the plots after a two-member team found the reason for cancellation as unjustified. The UPA government had cancelled the allotment based on the report of a one-man inquiry committee by Yogesh Chandra, who had found violation of norms in allotment of land during the NDA regime. (Times of India 20/12/16)

159. VHP, Bajrang Dal activists vandalise Bengal vehicles (26)

PATNA: Police are on the lookout for Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal activists who on Monday allegedly stopped vehicles with West Bengal registration numbers and painted them with slogans shaming CM Mamata Banerjee for her government’s failure to check “atrocities” against a particular community. Sources said the protesters also smeared the drivers’ faces with black paints at Faringola on NH-31 under the Town police station area in Kishanganj. In an act of retribution, workers of Mamata’s Trinamool Congress set afire a private bus with Bihar registration number at Panjipara in North Dinajpur district of Bengal. The Kishanganj police have registered an FIR against 44 people. “Slogans were written on 13 vehicles bearing Bengal registration numbers,” Kishaganj SP Rajeev Mishra told TOI over phone on Tuesday, adding the VHP and Bajrang Dal activists had taken permission to stage only a road blockade against alleged violence in the neighbouring state. VHP’s Kishanganj district president Arun Tripathy, however, claimed they had informed the administration that slogans would be written on the North Bengal State Transport Corporation buses. “The FIR has been lodged under pressure from Congress’s Kishanganj MP Maulana Ashfarul Haq and MLA Mohammad Javed,” he said. (Times of India 21/12/16)

160. Ahmedabad: Mohan Bhagwat meets Gujarat CM, doctors & industrialists (26)

Ahmedabad: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat Wednesday met CM, two prominent industrialists and four leading doctors Wednesday. Besides meeting Sanjay Lalbhai, chairman and MD of Arvind Group, and founder of Nirma Limited Karsanbhai Patel on the last day of his four-day visit to Gujarat, Bhagwat interacted with Dr Vikram Shah of Shalby Hospital, Dr Tejas Patel (cardiologist), Dr Kaustubh Patel (cancer surgeon) and Dr Anil Jain (cardiologist). RSS office bearers said that during the meetings Bhagwat “only talked about the works of RSS” and it was part of a routine exercise. A doctor who met Bhagwat said that “it was just a courtesy meeting without any particular agenda. I am an apolitical person and have nothing to do with RSS.” Despite repeated attempts other doctors and the industrialists couldn’t be contacted. A source who was present in these meetings said: “Bhagwatji talked about RSS, its ideology and the work that it has been doing across the country. It was like introducing RSS and its work to someone.” RSS spokesperson Vijay Thaker said, “It was only a courtesy meeting and it is routinely done wherever he visits.” He also met CM Vijay Rupani at RSS office in Maninagar. (The Hindu 22/12/16)

161. ‘BJP is no more a Hindutva party, it has changed its outlook’ (26)

BENGALURU: Former Congress minister V Srinivas Prasad, who came to power riding the wave of an anti-BJP sentiments, on Saturday confirmed his joining the saffron party on Saturday. He is scheduled to officially join the BJP, along with his supporters, on January 2 2017. However, the dalit leader, former Congress cabinet minister and five time MP, Prasad justified his re-entry into BJP by saying the party is no more a Hindutva outfit. “What would have once been their sole agenda, Hindutva, is no more the case. Their outlook has changed. The overwhelming majority it received across the nation by winning 283 seats in the Parliament is proof of this larger acceptance of the party,” justified Prasad. Prasad further went on to add that even the BJP leaders have realised that Hindutva’s hidden agenda cannot appeal to the masses in the country. “As far as I am concerned, I have been in politics for 45 years based on three broad agendas which is eradication of inequality, untouchability and illiteracy. Wherever I am, I have always made it clear that these three will be my credentials,” he said. Prasad told that the same was conveyed to the BJP, to ensure that his self respect is not hurt. He said 2018 elections were not on his mind as of now. “For now, the by-elections are more personal. It is a fight between me and Siddaramaiah. Once this is over, I will concentrate on building the BJP cadre strength in the constituency and the state,” he said. Prasad ruled out any proxy candidate for the by-elections and said he will be the official BJP candidate at the hustings.Earlier, on Saturday morning, BJP sources said both Prasad and the party state president B S Yeddyurappa had a breakfast meeting to cement the re-entry of the former into the party. Prasad was with the BJP in 1999, and was a central minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee led NDA government.During the course of the meeting, Prasad was told by Yeddyurappa that the BJP will back him to the hilt in the upcoming Nanjangud by-elections where he will be the official party candidate. It is said Yeddyurappa has made it clear to the party workers that apart from Prasad, the BJP is ensuring his personal victory which will be a pre-cursor to the 2018 assembly elections. (Times of India 24/12/2016)

162. Appeal to save Hindus, Indian cow and have 10 children (26)

NAGPUR: The three-day Dharma Sanstrukti Mahakumbh, a congregation of seers backed by RSS, ended up with a ‘Save Hindu’ cry. Calls were made to increase the community’s numbers with Hindus producing 10 children. At the same time, demand for a national population policy was also raised. Firebrand VHP leader Pravin Togadia lamented that a central law on banning cow slaughter still remained elusive — an indirect hint to the Narendra Modi government. Sharing the dais, the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat endorsed his views. Vasudevanand Saraswati, the Shankracharya of Jyotir Mutt, said Hindus should have 10 children each. He also called for Modi to take a quick decision on cow slaughter ban, like he did on demonetisation. Sidelined by Prime Minister Modi, Togadia, who was lying low, has been frequently raising Hindutva issues. For the first time in recent past, both Togadia and Bhagwat have come on the same platform. Togadia’s another public meet is planned December 30. The meet was also attended by state chief minister Devendra Fadvnavis, Assam governor Banwarlilal Purohit, and city mayor Pravin Datke, all of who left early. Later, a nearly 4,000 strong procession was taken out from the Reshimbagh grounds till Mahal. “Hindus are asked to switch off loudspeakers by 10pm but they (Muslims) can call aloud at 5 in the morning. If temples are governed by government why not mosques,’ said Togadia in his patent style. He also lamented that the Ram Temple in Ayodhya remains a dream, also reminding of the central law on prohibiting cow slaughter. “Hindus are fast becoming a minority in their own country. Apart from Kashmir, they are also migrating from places like Meerut, Moradabad, and Kerala. The population of Hindus is going down even as that of others going up. The government must have population policy in place,” said Togadia. In a reference to reconversions, Bhagwat said, “Anyone who imbibes the Indian culture is a Hindu. There may be some who have been cut off from the Hindu society. My goal is to bring them back.”The RSS chief also called to work towards resurrecting the cultural icons like birth places of Ram, Krishna and the abode of Lord Shiva. “Discard the two-children norm. Have 10 instead, don’t worry about who will fend for them, god will take care of your kids,” said the Shankracharya. He said there is a need to have more Hindus. “Unless there are more children, how will the country get soldiers, traders and even journalists,” he said. This is not the first time he has spoken about Hindus having more children. The seer urged the Prime Minister to enact a law banning cow slaughter, raising a pitch for the Indian breed of cow. “It’s not the Jersey or other mixed breed of bovine which we are talking about but the Indian breeds like Gir, which should be reared,” he said. (Times of India 26/12/16)

TERRORISM

163. UN condemns suicide car bombing in Somalia (12)

Mogadishu: The UN top envoy in Somalia on Sunday condemned a suicide car bombing at the Mogadishu seaport, which left at least 16 people dead and several others injured. Michael Keating, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, expressed shock at the numerous civilian deaths caused by the bombing, of which the Al-Shabaab terror group has claimed responsibility, Xinhua reported. “This latest atrocity by Al-Shabaab terrorists, taking place on a religious holiday, provides fresh evidence of their disregard for the lives and hopes of Somali citizens,” Keating said in a statement issued in Mogadishu. “The bombing may be intended to signal Al-Shabaab’s rejection of the 2016 electoral process,” he said, pledging not to let terrorism stop the momentum. A spokesman for the terrorist group told media that Al-Shabaab had targeted security personnel assigned to the seaport facility as they “had been trained to provide security for so-called elections.” The group said the attack, carried out by a bomber in a minibus packed with explosives, killed 30 Somali police officers. Most of the victims, however, turned out to be truck drivers and port workers who were having tea in tea kiosks when the bomb went off on Sunday morning. Keating praised the essential role Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) security forces have played in protecting electoral sites around the country while recognising that security in Mogadishu remains the greatest challenge. Most of the voting for the House of the People has now been completed, with 226 of the 275 seats occupied and nearly all remaining seats expected to be filled in the coming week. Somalia’s National Leadership Forum has decided to hold the presidential election by the end of December. (Business Standard 12/12/16)

164. NIA convicts Yasin Bhatkal, four others in Hyderabad twin blast case (12)

Hyderabad(Andhra Pradesh) [India], Dec. 13 : The National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Tuesday convicted five terrorists of Indian Mujahideen (IM), including its founder leader, Yasin Bhatkal for their involvement in the twin blasts in Hyderabad’s Dilsukhnagar area in 2013.At least 17 people, including a pregnant woman, were killed and 131 were injured in the twin blasts in Hyderabad’s Dilsukhnagar area on February 21, 2013. Bhatkal was listed on the NIA Most Wanted until his arrest on the India-Nepal border in Bihar on August 28, 2013. Earlier in November, the NIA has conducted the probe and named six persons as accused. Of the six accused, main accused Riyaz Bhatkal alias Shah Riyaz Ahmad Mohammed Ismail Shahbandari is absconding. The agency has split the case and charges were framed against the five other accused Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, Yasin Bhatkal alias Mohammed Ahmed Siddibappa, Tahseen Akhtar alias Monu, Zia ur Rehman alias Waqas, a Pakistan national, and Ajaz Shaikh under under sections 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 r/w 10, 16, 17, 19, 20 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, Section 120-B of the IPC r/w sections 302, 307, 324, 326, 316, 121, 121A, 122, 474 and 466 of the IPC. The NIA had also conducted raids at various places in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra, looking for alleged terror modules. (New Kerala 13/12/16)

165. Azhar trained, motivated Pathankot terrorists for war against India: NIA (12)

New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday filed a charge sheet in the terror attack case against four accused persons, namely Maulana Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Mufti Abdul Rauf Asghar, Shahid Latif, and Kashif Jan, the main handler of the Pathankot attackers. All four are residents of Pakistan. The four have been charged for commission of offences under sections 120B, 121, 121A, 302, 307, 364, 365, 367, 368, 397 of the Indian Penal Code, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, section 25, 27 of the Arms Act, the Explosive Substances Act and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, in the chargesheet. The chargesheet states that the offences as noted above were also established against one Nasir Hussain, Abu Bakar, Umar Farooq and Abdul Qayum (who was the main attacker). Prosecution against these attackers was recommended to be abated since they are dead. A Red Corner Notice (RCN) has been issued by the Interpol for the arrest of Azhar, Asghar and Latif. It was established during investigation that the terrorists entered into a criminal conspiracy to infiltrate into the territory of India and to commit terrorist attack and wage war against the Government of India, said a press release. In pursuance of the conspiracy, the accused persons, their leaders, handlers and co-conspirators including Maulana Masood Azhar, Mufti Abdul Rauf Asghar, Kashif Jan and Shahid Latif, set up training camps in Pakistan and the PoK area, for recruitment and training of terrorists, in order to carry out terror attacks on the Indian soil. During the training, these terrorists were made to undergo extensive motivational, physical, military and tactical training regimen, to radicalise them and to prepare them for jihad. JeM sent four terrorists, now all deceased, from across Pakistan on December 30, 2015. They illegally crossed the Indo-Pak international border through the forest area near the Simbal Border Outpost. Empty food packets manufactured in Pakistan and other food articles from Pakistan were recovered from the forest area near the Simbal Border Outpost, during investigation. During investigation, NIA investigators collected evidence in terms of statements of the witnesses to establish that the terrorists had been trained, motivated and radicalised by Maulana Masood Azhar and Mufti Abdul Rauf. The NIA also has legal intercepts and statements of witnesses, which show that Kashif Jan and Shahid Latif had guided, equipped and launched the four terrorists, who carried out the terrorist attack at the Air Force Station. … (Deccan Herald 19/12/16)

166. Hyderabad blasts: 5 IM operatives including Yasin Bhatkal sentenced to death (12)

Hyderabad: On December 13, the court convicted the five members, including IM co-founder Mohd Ahmed Sidibapa alias Yasin Bhatkal, Pakistani national Zia-ur-Rahman alias Waqas, Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, Tahaseen Akhtar alias Monu and Ajaz Shaikh, who are at present in judicial custody and lodged in the Cherlapally Central Prison here. Eighteen people were killed and 131 injured in two deadly explosions in Dilsukhnagar, a crowded shopping area in the city, on February 21, 2013. On November 7, the final arguments had concluded in the case before the NIA special court. Since IM founder Riyaz Bhatkal, the prime accused in the case, is absconding, the trial was split up against him. The court convicted Yasin Bhatkal and others under various sections of Indian Penal Code, Arms Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The NIA special court, after hearing the defence and prosecution’s arguments, pronounced the quantum of sentence. According to NIA, Riyaz Bhatkal arranged for explosive substances and directed Asadullah Akhtar and Zia-ur-Rahman at Mangalore to receive the same. After receiving the explosive materials and the money sent by Riyaz through hawala and money transfer channels, Asadullah Akhtar and Waqas reached Hyderabad and joined Tahseen Akhtar, who was already hiding there, it had said. Together they prepared two IEDs after procuring the other required materials as well as two cycles for mounting the IEDs from Hyderabad, the agency had said. After preparation of the IEDs on February 21, 2013, the accused mounted two bombs on two bicycles. They had planted them in two separate places in Dilsukhnagar which resulted in powerful explosions, it had said. NIA Special Public Prosecutor K Surender said the court, after going through their record, found the case is based on facts and falls in the category of the “rarest of rare case” (thus inviting death penalty). “As per as investigation…evidence that is placed on record clearly reflects that the five IM members planned and executed the bomb blasts. We sought capital punishment (for convicts) and accordingly the court gave death penalty to them,” he said. The prosecutor described the verdict as a “victory” for NIA’s investigation and the witnesses. The five IM convicts said they will go for an appeal, according to the NIA counsel. All relevant records will be submitted in the high court for confirmation of the death sentence, Surender said. Meanwhile, the counsel for the IM operatives said he will file an appeal before the high court against the conviction of his clients after obtaining a certified copy of the judgement.”I have received instruction to file (an appeal) from them (the convicts) and their relatives,” defence counsel Mahadevan said. (Deccan Herald 19/12/16)

167. India, Kyrgyzstan seek a global pact against terror (12)

NEW DELHI: India and Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday finalised plans for joint military exercises in the New Year, and reiterated the need for a global convention against terrorism. Visiting President Almazbek Atambaev highlighted the common historical heritage, and sought cooperation to deal with current global challenges like terrorism. “Kyrgyzstan is home to the great Mughals of India and Emperor Babur came from the city Osh and even in his memoir, Baburnama, he refers to his place of origin in the mountains near Osh,” Mr. Atambaev said referring to the shared heritage and values of his country and India and laying out a common plan to deal with emerging and contemporary challenges.Following a bilateral summit at Hyderabad House, the delegations finalised plans to hold the annual joint military exercises named “Khanjar-IV” in February-March. The “Khanjar-II” exercises were held in March 2015 in Kyrgyzstan and “Khanjar-III” in March-April 2016 in Gwalior. A joint statement which marked the end of the visit took note of the IT support that India had provided to the Kyrgyz military institutions, including building three IT centres in the past two years. It also noted the high-altitude Kyrgyz-Indian Mountain Training Centre being built in the city of Balykchi, which will be used to train Indian military personnel. The visiting delegation also welcomed India’s proposal for training Kyrgyz forces for U.N. peacekeeping assignments. Addressing the media, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “The understandings concluded today [Tuesday] will support our thrust in these directions. In a first with the Central Asian region, we had initiated telemedicine links with Kyrgyz Republic last year. We are taking steps to expand this project to other regions of the Kyrgyz Republic.” Both sides reiterated the demand for global counter-terror norms to fight terrorism in Asia, and called for the adoption by the United Nations of the draft Comprehensive Convention on Combating International Terrorism. Mr. Atambaev appreciated India’s support to building the transport network in Iran and Afghanistan and said, “This will increase regional connectivity and help connect Kyrgyztan with Iran, Afghanistan and beyond.” Mr. Atambaev who completed a four-day visit to India also sealed agreements on foreign office consultations, sports, broadcast cooperation and bilateral investment. (The Hindu 21/12/16)

168. NIA names eight in IS module case (12)

New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency named eight persons on Thursday in a charge sheet for allegedly attempting to carry out a terror strike by using explosive devices similar to those used by Islamic State (IS) cadres during last year’s Paris attacks. The charge sheet was filed before a special NIA court in Hyderabad under various Sections of the IPC, the Explosive Substances Act, the Arms Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The eight have been charged with entering into a criminal conspiracy to wage war against the country by collecting weapons and explosive materials to target public places. Those named in the charge sheet are Abdullah Bin Ahmed Al Amoodi alias Fahad, Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani alias Abu Abdurrahman, Habeeb Mohammed alias Abu Shaibah, Mohammed Ilyas Yazdani alias Abu Mansoor, Muzaffar Hussain Rizwan alias Abulhasan, Yasir Naimathullah alias Naimath Ullah Hussaini, Mohd Ataullah Rahman alias Ghouse and Abdul Raoof alias Mohammed Almashrifi. The NIA said that during raids at various premises on June 29, many electronic gadgets, mobile phones, hard discs, semi-automatic pistols, air rifles, pellets, target boards, and explosive precursor chemicals were recovered. These can be used for the preparation of triacetone triperoxide, an explosive material used in the Paris attacks. (The Hindu 23/12/16)

169. Indian priest held by ISIS seeks help (12)

New Delhi: After a video started doing the rounds showing abducted Indian Christian priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil — who was earlier kidnapped in Yemen by suspected ISIS militants — purportedly blaming the Indian government and the Vatican for alleged lack of action in securing his release, India on Monday said it was in regular touch with the Yemeni authorities and Saudi Arabia regarding the safe release of Father Tom Uzhunnalil. The priest hails from Kerala and was abducted nearly nine months ago from war-torn Yemen. The video of him showed him pleading for help and it became viral. You are aware of the circumstances currently prevailing in Yemen where fighting is going on with no central authority in that country. With regard to the safe release of Father Tom, who was abducted some months ago, we have been in regular touch with countries in the region, especially Saudi Arabia as also the local Yemeni authorities. Efforts continue in this regard,” ministry of external affairs (MEA) spokesperson Vikas Swarup said. The priest purportedly said in the video that “several months have gone by and my captors have made many contacts with the government of India to get me released. Honourable President and Prime Minister of India, I am very sad that nothing has been done seriously in my regard. Reports have been in news that everything is being done to get me released quickly but in reality nothing seems to have happened.” He added had he been “a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously by authorities. I am from India and therefore, I, perhaps, am not considered as of much value”. He also referred to a kidnapped French journalist, who was released and said this had happened because the journalist was from France. Mr Uzhunnalil was abducted from the port city of Aden in March 4 by militant group ISIS. (The Asian Age 27/12/16)

170. Nagrota terrorist attack: Intel shows 3 Jaish fidayeen crossed over LoC (12)

A month after the terrorist attack near the 16 Corps headquarters in Nagrota near Jammu, intelligence agencies have indicated that the three Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) fidayeen had infiltrated the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector the night before and carried out the November 29 strike with local help. Seven Indian Army personnel, including two officers, died in the attack. Investigators have not been able to identify the terrorists as they were neither carrying mobile phones nor global positioning system (GPS) devices. They have an eyewitness account, however, of three persons in police uniforms crossing over the LoC in Poonch the night before. Intelligence agencies suspect that the attackers were taken to their target by local supporters of the Pakistan-based terror group in a vehicle. Efforts are on to identify local JeM supporters. “There is no link-up between the tunnel found by BSF near International Border in Samba sector the day after attack and the Nagrota attackers….The attackers have been identified belonging to JeM on the basis of pamphlets recovered from the bodies,” said a senior official. Even though the LoC infiltration has gone down with the onset of winter, 2016 recorded a three- fold increase in Pakistani intruders in Jammu and Kashmir as compared to the past years. There has been no firing on the LoC or the border after new Pakistani chief General Qamar Jawed Bajwa took over from Raheel Sharif on November 29. “Even though there is less snow on high mountain passes astride the LoC, not many terrorists are waiting to infiltrate due to severe cold,” said a senior official. Although Indian security forces are maintaining an alert posture on the LoC, New Delhi is diplomatically playing a patient game, waiting for Pakistan to cease terrorism from across the border as a precursor to any bilateral dialogue. While the new Russia-China-Pakistan group on Afghanistan is a matter of concern to India, it is also worried over the beginning of Chinese construction activity in Occupied Kashmir as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). (The Hindustan Times 29/12/16)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

171. Four Naxals, three sympathisers arrested in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Four Naxals, carrying a cash reward and three Maoist supporters were arrested from separate places in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bijapur district, police said on Saturday. While the Naxals were nabbed from Bedre police station area on Friday evening, three sympathisers were held from Gangaloor police station limits on Saturday. Based on specific inputs that four Naxals had arrived at Karkeli weekly market in Bedre area to conduct reconnaissance of a police camp, local police swung into action, said Kutru sub divisional officer of police (SDOP) Prashant Shukla. Of them, Waale Pallo, 35, head of Chetna Natya Manch (CNM-a cultural wing of Maoists) was a prominent cadre and carried a reward of Rs 3 lakh on his head, he said. Besides, three others – head of Dandakaranya Adivasi Kisan Majdoor Sangthan (DAKMS) of Maoists Doli Majji, 45, militia commander Somdu Tati, 28, another head of DAKMS Karve Majji, the SDOP said, adding, that they all were carrying reward of Rs 1 lakh each. All four were allegedly involved in the incidents of attempt to murder, kidnapping, damaging roads, torching vehicles and attacks on police party. In a separate incident, a joint team of CRPF’s 85th battalion and district force rounded up three Maoist supporters while carrying out an area domination operation to the interiors of Gangaloor police station limits. The arrested were identified as Hemla Budhu, 35, Aytu Kudiam ,30, and Ursa Budhram, 35, he said. (Times of India 11/12/16)

172. Sashastra Seema Bal sends 20 girls from naxal areas on expedition across cities (12)

Gaya: In an effort to introduce Naxalites back into mainstream society, the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) recently sent 20 girls from Naxal areas in Gaya on an expedition to Ahmedabad, Dwarka, Jamnagar and New Delhi. “The place from where the girls come from, that is affected by Naxalism. A strong message will go out to these areas and the villagers will get a chance to directly contact the government,” said Gaya District Magistrate Kumar Ravi. “This is the first time people of this place have got such opportunity. This will surely have a great experience and will help to develop our Naxal-hit places,” said Shani Das, the brother of one of the girls selected for the trip. Families of these girls and residents of Gaya are delighted by the step and are looking forward to many more such efforts by the government in the future. (Indian Express 13/12/16)

173. State govt to induct youths in naxal-affected areas as auxiliary police: Jharkhand CM (12)

Ranchi: Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das on Wednesday said that the state government was planning to start a programme of inducting youngsters in the naxal-affected areas as auxiliary police, who will be later absorbed as regular police. He also said that demonetisation has hit the naxals and other extremist elements hard. Speaking at the inaugural three-day workshop of police officials from 10 Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) affected states conducted by the CRPF here, Das said that development and peace were complementary to each other. The programme, said Das, envisaged inducting the youngsters from these areas as auxiliary and absorbing them as regular police after three years of training. Das also stressed on the need for better coordination and sharing of intelligence between the states. Top officials from security forces – CRPF, SSB, BSF, ITBP and special commando forces – are also attending the workshop. Das also said that demonetisation has hit the naxals hard, as they were not able to implement their nefarious designs against the security forces. He also referred to peace in Jammu and Kashmir after demonetisation, saying the extremists were finding it difficult to operate. K Vijay Kumar, special security advisor to the Ministry of Home Affairs who also attended the conference, advised the officials to ensure that the forces merged well with the local populace in order to gain their support. Lauding Jharkhand’s efforts in anti-naxal operations, Kumar said that the personnel should respect the local traditions and take initiatives for bringing development in those places. During the workshop, the officials from 10 states – Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal – discussed ways to share intelligence and make coordinated efforts in curbing naxal movements. They also discussed use of media and social media, besides technology in dealing with naxals. Various other issues, including case studies of successful operations by security forces, will also be discussed over the next two days. (Indian Express 14/12/16)

174. In Gadchiroli: Tribals at crossfire between cops and Naxals (12)

Naxalism set its foot in this area soon after Gadchiroli district was formed carving out Chandrapur district in 1982. “They have opposing all developmental works since decades. A few roads which are laid down in this area have been constructed under police protection.” A number of left wing extremist outfits have been operating in remote and poorly connected pockets under the banner of CPI (Maoist) party. “The CPI (Maoist) is the major outfit responsible for majority of incidents of violence, killing of civilians and security forces,” says a cop.The party has been included in the Schedule of Terrorists Organizations under the Unlawful activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. However, it continues to operate in the entire red-corridor of the country which spans several states.”The Maoist insurgency doctrine glorifies violence as the primary means to overwhelm the existing socio-economic and political structures. The Peoples Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA), the armed wing of CPI (Maoist), has been created with this purpose in mind,” says a top police official. The absence of development and governance in the entire district offers hot-bed to naxalites since the delivery systems have been extinguished through violence, killings and intimidation. The southern east district of Maharashtra- Gadchiroli-is spread across 14,000 sq km and has over 1,600 villages including some in far flung hilly-forest areas. Only 1,400 villages are electrified, says the statistics of collectorate office. Less than 7% of the district is classified as urban and over 76% is covered by forests. Only, 18.5 kilometers railway route passes through the district. Most of the population relies on farming and forest produce like tendu leaves, bamboo, Mahua etc. Apart from lack of livelihood resources, the district lags behind rest of Maharashtra in almost all developmental and socio-economic parameters. “This is despite the fact that the area has iron, gold and diamond in abundance,” says Ashok Nete, Member of Parliament, Gadchiroli-Shimur. He adds that tough living conditions, poverty, lack of education, missing administration helped naxals to pursue their propaganda wooing/coercing dzoens of youngsters to join naxalism over the years….. (DNA 20/12/16)

175. ‘Time has come to expose Maoists’ (12)

VIJAYAWADA:  AP Intelligence chief A.B. Venkateswara Rao here on Tuesday said that lack of counter argument to the stand taken by the Left Wing Extremists (LWE) among intellectuals of the country, educational institutions and think tanks was a major threat to national security. Mr. Rao was speaking at the national conference on ‘Mapping India’s National Security Challenges-Today and Tomorrow,’ organised by the Andhra Pradesh police and the Centre for Human Security Studies. “Maoists oppose mining citing various reasons which are rhetoric. Communists and Opposition parties do the same and it has become dominant rhetoric in the whole country where people like Arundhati Roy, Prasanth Bhushan, Medha Patkar, Sai Baba and others too say the same. We don’t find the other side of the argument from any of the educational institutions or think tanks. This is a bigger threat to national security that we should consider first,” Mr. Rao said. “Not their sacrifices but what good has been done to society should be seen. This is not being debated and all sections of society, including journalists, educational institutions, IAS officers, think tanks, politicians and others should express their views,” he said. However, one need not worry about the existence of Maoists as the Central and State forces are capable of handling them without hurting any innocent person, he added.“But does the Indian state has the capacity to fight them ideologically? That is the question to which the Indian state has to answer itself. The real victory is when we expose them (Maoists) ideologically and call them by their actual name. The bureaucracy and the criminal justice system should understand that this is more of an ideological war than a military war,” he said calling upon people of all sections of the government and society to work together.Research Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, PV Ramana said that every political party including TDP, BJP, and RJD, used Maoists for narrow political gain. Mr. Ramana presented a detailed picture of how the Maoists operate and sustain and said that demonetisation had dealt a death blow to them. Vijayawada DCP Koya Praveen underlined the need for understanding tribal economy and markets in order to eradicate extremism (Times of India 21/12/16)

176. Maoists torch 35 trucks in Maharashtra, traders lose crores (12)

NAGPUR: After lying low for a while, Maoists struck again on Friday, torching 30-35 trucks at Surjagarh, in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. No casualties were reported at the time of going to press though some of the truckers were injured. Losses to transporters ran into a few crore rupees. Though security forces claimed not more than 35 trucks were damaged, transporters said the number was around 80. Senior cops said that some security personnel managed to visit the arson site, but no intensive efforts were made for fear that the incident might be a Maoist trap to lure them into a minefield. Santosh Agrawal, a contractor, claimed 11 of his trucks were torched. “Another 11and 58 trucks belonging to two other contractors, too, were damaged,” he said. The trucks transport iron ore from the mines. The Maoists have been opposing mining activities in Surjagarh since the project’s inception. Three representatives of Lloyds Metals and Energy Ltd, executing the project, have been shot dead at the site in the past. Around 350 locals are engaged in mining work, but the Maoists claim the mining project will drain the area of its natural resources and pave the way for massive displacement. The Maoists have also called a bandh in the district from December 25 to January 3 to highlight several issues, including their opposition to mining. While police claimed around 20-25 armed Maoists, along with some supporters, had stormed the site where the trucks had been, local sources said they may have numbered about 200. After urging the truckers to abandon their vehicles, the Maoists thrashed some of them, triggering rumours that many had died. Sources also said three supervisors of Lloyds Metals, which owns the mining lease at Surjagarh, were left unharmed. State director general of police Satish Mathur said detailed reports of the incident were awaited. “We are undertaking required strategic precautions,” he said.Gadchiroli superintendent of police Abhinav Deshmukh said the Maoists had compelled the labourers to join the action. “Our forces have already visited the site but the formalities will be completed in daylight,” he said. “Some of the truckers have sustained injuries in the incident as the Naxalites thrashed them with sticks and lathis,” Deshmukh said. The security forces, however, have not yet confirmed which local Maoist outfit carried out the attack. A section of the security forces presumes the Maoists might have approached the site from the northern and north-eastern sides after sneaking into Maharashtra from Narayanpur district of Chhattishgarh. The state government has as yet opened a few police posts in Etapalli taluka to surround the mining site, but the vulnerable north and north-eastern sides remain mostly unguarded. (Times of India 24/12/16)

177. Activists who visited Maoist-hit Chhattisgarh arrested under security act (12)

Raipur/Bastar: The Bastar police on Monday arrested seven people from Andhra Pradesh inside the Chhattisgarh border in Sukma district and claimed that they belonged to intellectual wings of Maoists outfits. Police said they seized four motorcycles they were riding, demonetized currency with face value of Rs 1 lakh, mobile phones and Maoist literature from their possession. All the arrested people were presented before a court after registering an FIR at Konta police station of Sukma district. The court sent them to judicial custody. “The accused were found with old currency notes and some important Naxal-related documents. They were arrested and booked and were produced in court,” said Indira Kalyan Elesela, SP of Sukma said. Elsela said those arrested included social activist Durga Prasad (36) of Hydrabad, R. Laxmaiyya (45), secretary of Adiwasi Tudem Dubba, Khammam, journalists B. Prabhakar Rao (52) and Rajendra Prasad (28) from Hyderabad, high court advocates Ch Prabhakar Rao (48) and B. Ravindra Nath (42) Hyderabad and Mohammad Nazim (27), research scholar Osmania University. One of the arrested people – Ch. Prabhakar said the police action was unwarranted because they were only civilians. Police claimed that the both the journalists used to instigate the people while the advocates had enlarged support to the Maoists in encounters and the research scholar was propagating Maoist line of thinking. The seven men were booked under the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act (CSPA). The accused claimed they were rights activists on a fact-finding mission related to encounters and atrocities in Maoist-affected areas of Telangana and Chhattisgarh. “They left Hyderabad on December 24 and were detained on December 25 in Telangana. Later, Telangana police handed over the team members to Chhattisgarh police. They were human right activists and the citizen of India and the charges framed against them are unconstitutional,” said N Narayandeo, general secretary of Civil Liberties Committee, Telangana. He said the committee has called for a massive protest on Tuesday in Hyderabad. (Hindustan Times 26/12/16)

178. Maoist movement suffered a body blow (12)

VISAKHAPATNAM:  Ever since the Left wing extremism was initiated by CPI (ML) leader Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal in 1967 through the Naxalbari movement in West Bengal and subsequently spearheaded by the leaders like Vempatapu Satyanarayana (Satyam) and Adibhatla Kailasam in Srikakulam and later by Kondapalli Seetharamaiah in the Telangana region, the Naxalites, now called the CPI (Maoist), suffered the worst blow this year. At one go, 30 of their cadres, including a huge number of leaders were killed in an exchange of fire with the anti-Naxal force of Andhra Pradesh Greyhounds at Ramgarh or Ramaguda in the cut-off area of Andhra-Odisha-Border (AOB) region. Between October 24 and 27, the Greyhounds silenced 30 of the Maoists, who included two State zonal committee members (SZCM) such as Bakuri Venkata Ramana alias Ganesh and Kistayya alias Daya, in Ramgarh. In total, two SZCMs, five divisional committee members (DCM) and eight area committee members (ACM) were killed in the exchange of fire. This was the biggest single strike since the Maoist movement began and most importantly the exchange of fire took place in the Maoist heartland in the cut-off area. According to the Superintendent of Police, Visakhapatnam, Rahul Dev Sharma, the area was considered to be impregnable and the police forces breached it. “The entire Maoist command on the Odisha side of the cut-off area was wiped out and sources say that the morale of the Maoists is badly down and they are still to recover,” he said. It is learnt that Central Committee Member (CCM) Akkiraju Haragopal alias Ramakrishna alias RK was hit by a bullet on the leg in the exchange of fire and is still to recover and the Maoist think-tank is reluctant to send Chalapathi another CCM to the area to set things right, as the Tribal cadres are not keen on working under him for his ‘high-handedness’. This has put the entire AOB region in a state of confusion. After the death of Bakuri and Kudumula Venkata Ramana alias Ravi who died of jaundice in April this year, there are no Tribal leaders in the region and the Maoists are exploring different combinations to fill the vacuum. “Different names such as Kakarla Madhavi, Kiran who is the DCM of Pedabayalu area and Boda Anjayya alias Naveen of Korukonda area, are doing the rounds, but so far there is no confirmation,” said Mr. Rahul Dev. Ramaguda was not the only incident that caused a setback to the Maoist movement in the Agency areas in Visakhapatnam district. The killing of Galikonda area committee secretary Gopal alias Azad and his trusted lieutenants Anand and Kamala in Marripakalu-Palasamudram area in Koyyuru mandal on May 4 also weakened the Maoists, especially the Galikonda area committee, which was once a prominent strike force. “The killing of CCM Kuppu Devaraj and a woman Maoist in Nilambur forests in north Kerala suggest their desperation for newer areas,” said Mr. Rahul Dev. (The Hindu 29/12/16)

TRAFFICKING

179. Middleman identified in child trafficking racket (1)

Mumbai: Investigators have identified a Maharashtra-based middleman in the child trafficking racket that was busted on Monday.The lid was blown off the racket with the arrest of Govandi resident Yogita Saale (21), who allegedly kidnapped her relative’s one-and-a-half-year-old son and sold him to a child trafficking ring in Goa. The police went on to arrest Asha Thakur (36), Noorjehan Mulla (40) and Prabhavati Naik (48) from Phonda in Goa, who allegedly bought the boy for Rs. 2.5 lakh. Deputy Commissioner of Police Shahaji Umap, Zone VI, said, “We are on the lookout for a man identified only as Rajiv till now, who is based either in Pune or in Ahmednagar. It was this man who introduced Asha, who is from Titwala in the Thane district, to the other two accused. Further inquiries into this aspect are under way.” Investigations have also revealed that it was Asha who offered to arrange the exchange for Yogita. An officer with the Mankhurd police said, “Asha was aware that Yogita was in serious need of money and told her that she could get a handsome amount if she kidnapped a child and brought him to Goa. She then put Yogita in touch with the other two women, after which a deal was finalised. Yogita was to kidnap a child at her own risk and deliver him to Goa, where someone would be waiting to receive her.” The police suspect that the Goa-based gang intended to sell the victim, Ahmed Khan, into a begging racket either in Goa or some other city. As Asha hails from Maharashtra, Noorjehan from Goa and Prabhavati from Karnataka, the police have not disregarded the possibility of the racket reaching into other States in the country. Officials said there could be more people involved in the racket. The accused are being interrogated to find out the finer details about the gang’s modus operandi. Mr. Umap added, “All the four arrested accused were produced in court on Tuesday and have been remanded to our custody for four days.” The police on Tuesday evening made two more arrests in the case. Mr. Umap said Yogita’s husband Ganesh (27) had been arrested along with a lady from Ulhasnagar identified as Mala Wankhede (40). Mr. Umap said, “Ganesh was in touch with Yogita and Asha when they were taking the victim to Goa. Mala was found to have been in touch with Asha. We have formed multiple teams to ensure speedy investigation.” (The Hindu 13/12/16)

180. 36 minors rescued from human traffickers in China (1)

Beijing: Police in China has busted a child trafficking racket, rescued 36 children and arrested 157 suspects, reports said on Wednesday. The network, led by two suspects — Xiong and Hou, had allegedly abducted dozens of children since 2014 and were operating in several regions in China, Xinhua news reported. In May, police found the first clues to the racket during an investigation of Tan, alleged to be one of the main mediators. The illegal practice continues in China, especially in rural areas, where some families were ready to pay large sums of money to “adopt” a boy. The ministry of public security said in a statement that it would continue to crack down on these networks and promised zero tolerance for child and women trafficking. (Business Standard 14/12/16)

181. Woman using her daughters to run sex racket arrested (1)

Kolkata: A woman has been arrested for running a flying brothel using children, including three of her own. The kids — between 8 and 14 years, were groomed and used in the sex racket that operated out of flats in residential localities in the city and the suburbs. The CID has arrested the mother along with her companion, and two others (one of them a notorious trafficker) from a Sonarpur flat. The gang has been running the brothels in old residential neighbourhoods of Tollygunge and Behala, where they rented flats and feigned to be regular families living with children. The six children, including two 8-year-olds, were rescued by CID’s anti-human trafficking unit (AHTU) and NGO International Justice Mission (IJM). They have been sent to a home run by Sanlaap and will be produced before the Child Welfare Committee. The 35-year-old woman has been accused of running the sex racket, which catches the girls very young. Her daughters — aged 8, 9 and 14 — were also used for prostitution, police said. They also arrested her companion Abhishek Saha, Anil Bhowmik who is known to be trafficker and was arrested in three other similar cases earlier, and Mumbai-based Santosh Lanchekar, who is allegedly involved in the racket.arbari Bhattacharya, officer-in-charge, AHTU, CID, told TOI on Tuesday, “This is a rare case where a mother herself has used her kids for prostitution.” Officials revealed the rates of the younger children were higher. The woman and her accomplices have been charged with letting a string of customers sexually abuse the children and exposing them to men who had complete and unfettered access to the flats. Multiple charges have been slapped on the four arrested. Saji Philip, director of operation, IJM, which is a global human rights organization working for victims of violence, said, “This incident shows that children can’t be safe with even their mothers.”The rescue operation was conducted till late last Wednesday. Madhusudhan Nath, deputy superintendent (special), AHTU, CID, said, “We closed in on the location around 4pm on Wednesday in an operation spanning several hours and rescued five girls at first.” While gathering evidence and interrogating the mother and her companion, the team got word that another young girl was on way to the apartment. CID then mobilized to intercept the sixth victim and her escort. The escort accompanying this girl tuned out to be Bhowmik. The sixth victim is 13 years old; police say she has been abused for a month and taken to several places in India., even as far as Jaipur, under the “tutelage of some madam.” (Times of India 14/12/16)

182. Documenting trail of victim of trafficking (1)

CHENNAI: The US Consulate with the Madras Christian Council for Social Services (MCCSS) on Friday released a short documentary on anti-human trafficking called ` Akhalya’ inspired by the true story of a trafficked child. The 20-minute documentary , funded by the Union ministry for women and child, captures the story of a teen girl aspiring to be a cine star.She was lured by traffickers under the pretext of offering her film opportunities. “The girl hailed from a rural background and it was very easy for others to trap her as she did not have parental or family care either. This was one of the stories that truly touched us and we wanted to share it to raise awareness, especially among young women who are attracted to the glamour world and shouldn’t be conned in their journey ,” said Isabelle Richardson, executive secretary of MCCSS. Akhalya is the second part of the film Kadathal (Trafficked). The council decided to tell the story through the film medium as it felt that films always catch the attention of students. As part of their student awareness programmes, the council will screen the film and distribute CDs in schools and colleges to raise awareness. (Times of India 17/12/16)

183. ‘NGOs wary of taking up scheme for rehabilitation of trafficking victims’ (1)

Chennai: The scheme aims at the prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of trafficked women and children with their families within the country or across borders. Officials also add that of the organisations that do come forward, most leave the project midway. The scheme funded by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development can be implemented by Social Welfare or Women and Child Welfare departments of a State or voluntary organisations. In the case of the latter, adequate experience in dealing with issues related to trafficking, as well as women and children in need of care and protection is a must. “There are many challenges and risks involved in implementing the scheme, and many do not take it up to avoid conflicts. This affects the vulnerable women and children,” says an official from the department. Isabelle Richardson, executive secretary, Madras Christian Council for Social Services (MCCSS), reportedly the only organisation in Chennai implementing the project, adds: “Every year, we rescue and rehabilitate around 100 women and children. But it’s a big challenge. What is needed is political will. The issue of trafficking must be the top priority for not only the State but society at large.” As per the scheme, the organisations willing to take up the project must first submit a proposal to the State department concerned. The inspecting officer will sanction funds if she is satisfied with the proposal. As much as 60 per cent of the funding is provided by the Centre, 30 per cent by the State and 10 per cent by the implementing agencies.Activists call for greater cooperation between the State and the NGOs, especially when it comes to the matter of security for the women rescued. P. Manorama, founder director, CHES, a collaboration partner of Childline India Foundation, recalls an incident where a young trafficked girl was rescued and rehabilitated, but ended up going back to sex work. “Most of these women are poor or are dealing with substance abuse. They need quality rehabilitation measures. This is currently lacking,” she says. “They are trained in mat weaving, candle making and such. How can they support their families by selling candles or mats? They need something solid which will guarantee them a decent pay once they go out. Else, the chances are high they will return to sex work,” she adds. (The Hindu 19/12/16)

184. Indian authorities rescue 70 trafficking victims (1)

NEW DELHI: Police have rescued 70 victims of human trafficking, including 33 children, in a restive and impoverished region of central India, an official said Thursday. The victims, who had been sold to factories and brick kilns, were being transported on a bus when police intercepted the vehicle following a tip-off from anti-trafficking campaigners in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state on Wednesday. “We have rescued 20 minor boys and 13 girls. Rest of them are adults and were sold as bonded labourers,” Bastar child protection officer Vijay Shankar Sharma told AFP. They were sold for thousands of rupees (tens of dollars) each to factory owners in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Sharma said. Police also arrested a five-member gang on trafficking charges. The children were at a rehabilitation centre and would be sent back to their homes. All the victims are from tribes in resource-rich Bastar and adjoining districts. The area is the epicentre of a decades old insurgency by armed Maoist rebels fighting for land, jobs and other rights for poor ethnic groups. Traffickers lure thousands of vulnerable children from rural areas on false promises of jobs before selling them off to factories, prostitution, forced labour or begging. More than 14 million adults and children are trapped in modern slavery in India, the most of any country, according to the Walk Free Foundation’s 2014 Global Slavery Index. India’s official statistics grossly underestimate the crime with only 5,466 cases of human trafficking reported in 2014. (The New Indian Express 22/12/16)

185. Child trafficking gang busted, 5 babies found (1)

MUMBAI: City police recently busted a major child trafficking racket with the arrest of a gang of six and the rescue of five children who were kidnapped from Mumbai and sold in various other states. Among the five rescued babies, four are boys and one girl, all aged between four months and one year. This is the first time that the city police have managed to bust the racket run by five women and a man. While the police have arrested all six of them, they suspect that at least three to four more women in Goa and Andhra Pradesh may be involved in the racket that is spread across the country. In the past, the police had caught a few people who sold children in other states for begging but had not been able to get to the bottom of the case. Cops are also investigating whether this gang was involved in a few child kidnapping cases in city government hospitals. Those arrested have been identified as Yogita Saale and her husband Ganesh Saale from Mankhurd, Asha Thakur from Ulhasnagar, Prabhav Naik from Andhra Pradesh, and Noorjahan Mulla and Mala Wankhede from Goa. Cops have booked them under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 363 and 370 for kidnapping and buying or disposing of any person as a slave, respectively.”The modus operandi of the gang involved kidnapping babies and toddlers from the city and looking for needy couples in other states. They would sell the babies after lying that their parents were impoverished and charge between Rs 2 and Rs 4 lakh,” said Manoj Lohiya, additional commissioner of police (East region). A couple from Goa that had “adopted” such a child said they were told the boy’s father was dead and mother wanted to remarry. The accused made false documents and sold the boy to the couple for Rs 2.5 lakh. The five rescued children have been sent to a rescue centre and will be handed over to their parents post legal procedures, said the police. The racket came to light after Arif Khan, a driver, lodged a complaint that his one-and-half-year-old child had gone missing from the Sathe Nagar slum in Mankhurd. Cops learned that at the same time, a woman from the locality, Yogita Saale, had gone missing too. “Her cellphone location showed she was in Goa. We detained her,” said Sahaji Umap, deputy commissioner of police (Zone VI). She soon spilled the beans on the racket. Police said they are verifying whether the couples to whom the kids were sold had any knowledge about the crime. They are probing whether the Goa couple checked authenticity of the claims during the adoption process. (Times of India 22/12/16)

186. ‘30% of child trafficking in state from Gaya’ (1)

GAYA: In a shocking revelation, an NGO engaged in the prevention of human trafficking, said Gaya district alone accounted for nearly 30% of the child trafficking from the state, mostly to Rajasthan, Telangana, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka.Making a presentation at a programme on human trafficking specially designed for field officials of the police department, at the Circuit House on Saturday, NGO ‘Ek Kiran-Aroh’ convener Manoj Kumar said though detailed statistics were not available, it can be said on the basis of rescue operations conducted in several states that child trafficking from Gaya was as high as 30% of the total from Bihar. Manoj attributed it to the demographic profile of the district, which has a very high population of Mushars, the most downtrodden among the Mahadalits, and most of the trafficked children were from that community. In many cases, child trafficking was done with the consent of the parents, who wilfully allowed their small children to be taken outside the state on account of sheer poverty.”Awareness creation was the most potent weapon in the war against human trafficking,” he said. Subdivisional and police station level officials shared their experience in relation to human traffic prevention. They said in many cases, rescued children and women went back to work as child/sex workers. The officials complained there was near total lack of sufficiently attractive rehabilitation package to retain rescued women/children. (Times of India 25/12/16)

187. Trafficked minors sacrificed at age altar; POCSO eludes culprits (1)

Pune: Minors are being increasingly smuggled into brothels and, when rescued, several of them are being declared as adults, sparing the POCSO rod for immoral traffickers and further spoiling the future of the traumatised children. This came to light recently after Rescue Foundation, an NGO working with sex workers, was able to trace the families of three minors and obtain their age proofs. But, by then, the forensic department at Sassoon General Hospital had declared them as adults, resulting in the handlers getting booked only for immoral trafficking — and promptly securing bail for themselves — as opposed to being charged under the stringent Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which is non-bailable. “The age of the rescued girl makes a lot of difference. If a victim is a minor, then the pimp and those involved in trafficking are to be booked under the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act (ITPA) and the stringent POCSO Act, in which bail is difficult. Moreover, at rescue homes, the rehabilitation for minors and adults is different,” shared Shiny Padiyara, superintendent of the Rescue Foundation’s Pune shelter. The foundation has informed the police and also written to the Sassoon authorities about the incident, after which an inquiry has been ordered at the hospital. Anita Wipat, chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), said, “I have written to the Sassoon authorities, informing them about repeated incidents of this kind happening at the hospital, and recommending some alternative arrangement for age verification of victims of sexual abuse. We have forwarded these three cases to Aundh General Hospital for a second opinion. But in such cases where there is an ambiguity, we usually wait for documents and get them verified from more than one hospital.” Padiyara explained that in case of adults, repatriation with families happens much faster and, often, the girl lands up in the flesh trade within days of being let off. In case of minors, however, cases are referred to special authorities and victims are kept under supervision or at shelter homes till they come of age. “Most importantly, the case is tried in special courts and the trail gets over faster,” added Padiyara. Rescue Foundation stated that there have been dozens of such cases in the past. The three cases pertain to minors named Swati, Meera and Kajal (names changed to protect their identity), who were rescued from brothels under the jurisdiction of Faraskhana police station this year. Swati was rescued in July, while Meera and Kajal were picked up in September and December respectively. In keeping with the standard procedure after rescue, they were taken to Sassoon hospital, where tests were carried out to ascertain their ages. In every case, the forensic department was quick to conclude that they were above 18 years of age, but below 20 years. … (Times of India 28/12/16)

CORRUPTION

188. 3 corrupt ministers will be forced to resign soon: BSY (5)

BENGALURU: BJP state president and former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa has said three ministers in the Siddaramaiah government would be forced to submit their resignations on the charges of corruption in the next 15 days. Yeddyurappa’s statement comes in the backdrop of the recent raids conducted on two government officials and the detection of unaccounted wealth to the tune of Rs 152 crore, including Rs 5.7 crore in the new Rs 2,000 currency notes. Speculations are rife in political circles about a nexus between the duo and a couple of ministers in the Siddaramaiah cabinet. Speaking to reporters in Shivamogga, Yeddyurappa alleged Siddaramaiah had failed to provide a graft-free government and the most corrupt ministers were from his inner circle. Investigations against a few ministers have intensified and they would face action in the coming days, he said. Yeddyurappa said S C Jayachandra, chief project officer of Karnataka State Highway Development Project, had revealed the names of a few ministers after he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act- 2002. Yeddyurappa dared Siddaramaiah to explain why a minister close to him was getting ready to seek anticipatory bail following demonetization-related raids, asked him who received bribe in the controversial steel flyover project and told him to name the people who got kickbacks in the purchase of pipes for the Rs 14,000 crore Yettinahole project.Saying his efforts had failed to bring about transparency in administration, revenue minister Kagodu Thimmappa on Monday said he’s ready to retire after this term. “I was better off as speaker; I could get things done inside the house. But now, as a minister, I feel helpless. Bureaucrats do not respond even after I seek the CM’s intervention. I would like to stay away from politics after this term. I will be happier if I die before that. But I don’t want to return to politics,” Thimmappa said. (Times of India 13/12/16)

189. Rijiju refutes corruption charges (5)

Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who is in the eye of a corruption scam, refuted the Congress’ charges involving him and a contractor in a hydro-electric project in Arunachal PradeshDenying that he had written to Power Minister Piyush Goyal last November to help his “brother”, he said he had intervened after the local people told him their payments had been held up for two months. Rijiju said he did not have a brother and “anybody can be bhaiyya”. And “those who are planting this news, if they come to where we are, they will get hit with shoes. Is it corruption to try and help your people?” He maintained that the Prime Minister’s Office had not sought any explanation from him. The Congress charged that Rijiju did not disclose in the letter to Goyal that a cousin, Goboi Rijiju, was a sub-contractor attached to the project. Rijiju said Goboi “is not a blood relative”, adding that in tribal communities and villages, “everyone is related to each other in some way”. Rijiju also said that the contracts for the hydro-electric project were decided by the Congress when it governed Arunachal Pradesh and that “most of the payments were also made during the Congress’ time”. Rijiju said his intervention was solely to assist the small-time daily contractors and workers in his constituency. “When I became an MP in 2014, some villagers approached me requesting to get some pending payments cleared as they were small sub-contractors. I forwarded their letter to Piyush Goyal,” he said. “They were small bills pending since 2012, before we came to power, the contracts were awarded when we were not in the government, the payments were made when we were not in the government,” Rijiju said. Asked about reports that claimed the corruption was worth Rs 450 crore, Rijiju said, “The entire project would not be (worth) that much.” “I was not even an MP then,” the Union minister said asking the Congress to apologise to him for its baseless charges. “The Congress had government in the state and at the Centre during that period. They should explain if there was any corruption in the deals or if there were false or inflated bills,” Rijiju said. (Deccan Herald 14/12/16)

190. AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam: Ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi’s CBI remand extended (5)

New Delhi: Ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi’s will undergo further custodial questioning for three more days as CBI on Wednesday told a court that AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam was a “very serious” case requiring his interrogation to unearth the larger conspiracy as the “interest of the nation was compromised”.Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar his custody till December 17 along with that of his cousin Sanjeev alias Julie and advocate Gautam Khaitan, also accused in Rs 450 crore chopper deal bribery case. CBI, however, had sought an extension of their custody by seven days, saying, “It`s a very wide and serious case and some accused and firms from abroad were also involved in the conspiracy. Right now we are handicapped due to want of material. “It is a very high-profile case and we need proper material. One part of the crime was committed in India while various other angles are in foreign land,” CBI said, noting that it has received help from various countries including Italy, Mauritius, Switzerland and the UK. The agency said that their further custodial interrogation was required to reach the bottom of the conspiracy. However, the counsel appearing for SP Tyagi opposed CBI’s plea, saying that he was “a decorated war hero of the nation” and “CBI, which was termed as ‘a caged parrot’ by the Supreme Court, is trying to tarnish his image”.”The FIR only says that the ex-ACM ‘also’ received some amount of cash. It is just a vague allegation,” Tyagi’s counsel said. The counsel submitted that SP Tyagi has already been confronted with his cousin and enough confrontation had taken place much before his arrest. “This arrest was made only for humiliation and not for confrontation,” the counsel said. The court had on December 10 sent the three accused to four days’ CBI custody, which expired today, in the case related to procurement of 12 VVIP choppers from UK-based firm during the UPA-2 regime. ….  (Zee News 14/12/16)

191. Gujarat: 3 service tax dept officials suspended for ‘corruption’ (5)

Surat: A senior superintendent and two inspectors of the preventive department of Central Excise and Service Tax, Surat were suspended late Friday night for alleged corrupt practices during a raid conducted on the premises of a city-based real estate firm on October 5. Three suspended officials are identified as Pukhraj Singh, senior superintendent), and Manoj Singh and Rajesh Kumar Meena – both inspectors – under the preventive department of Commissionerate of Central Excise and Service tax, Surat 1. Acting on a tip-off, the three-member team led by superintendent of service tax department had raided the office of the real estate firm on October 5. The team allegedly found over 100 brokers were present in Arihant group office with cash for booking of residential and commercial project on Dumas road. However, the team reported to their higher authorities that during their raids they had found some papers related to tax evasion and also seized Rs 1 crore cash from the realtor. The three had allegedly concealed the presence of brokers during the raid. (Indian Express 20/12/16)

192. Sharp fall in corruption complaints in Gurgaon post demonetisation (5)

Gurgaon: Complaints by people of corruption in government departments have fallen more than 60% since demonetisation, according to data available with the state vigilance bureau in Gurgaon. The data shows that these complaints fell sharply in November and December. The bureau’s range office in Gurgaon looks after Gurgaon and Rohtak ranges. The bureau receives an average of 18 complaints per month in each range. In October, the Gurgaon range received 22 complaints, which fell to eight in November and two by mid-December. The Rohtak range received 24 complaints of corruption in October that fell to seven in November and two by the first half of December. Most of the complaints pertained to seeking bribe for clearing files and releasing funds to contractors for completed government works. In contrast, last year the bureau received 16 complaints in October, 19 in November and 18 in December from the Gurgaon range. The bureau entertains complaints against government officials and employees. Investigations, however, often also cover private persons if they are found to have played a role in a matter. “A sharp decline has been noticed in complaints after the demonetisation decision. Since a majority of complaints are related to bribery, shortage of cash seems to have affected corruption also,” said Sheel Madhur, director general of police, state vigilance bureau, Gurgaon. He added that there has not been much impact on raids as they are carried out on the basis of internal information and sometimes on specific complaints. The bureau has been receiving most complaints about the police department, followed by the municipal corporation, revenue department, district administration office, and food and supply department. Complaints are also received about various other departments including education, roadways, housing, public health, and home guards. Complaints are received online, through post, and personal meetings with officials. Many complaints are also received through police headquarters and the chief minister’s window facility. Madhur said the bureau released a new email ID – infosvb@gmail.com – early this month to receive complaints and suggestions from the public. “Being in touch with the public is necessary for the system’s improvement,” he said. (Hindustan Times 22/12/16)

193. Demonetisation not last action against corruption: NITI Ayog chief hints at more schemes (5)

BHUBANESWAR: Terming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation+ scheme as a “frontal attack” on black money, NITI Ayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya+ on Thursday said more such actions are in store to curb corruption. “If you are asking that demonetisation is the last step to curb corruption, then I will say no. I think more actions will be taken+ , but in terms of taking action against the existing black money and also in changing the roles, and the policy regime in such a way that future accumulation of black money is also discouraged … So we need to do both,” Panagariya told a local news channel during his visit to the state to attend a function. Stating that he should not speculate on the actions to be taken, the NITI Ayog vice-chairman said the Prime Minister has to decide about this in consultation with his advisors. “We will wait and see…,” he said adding, discussion were on and hopefully some action would be seen in the budget. He said the Union finance minister had already had a commitment to streamline the corporate income tax and hopefully some progress would be made. “Some progress was made last year. Let’s hope more progress in the coming year. So simplification of taxes and reduction in the tax rates should discourage accumulation of black money,” Panagariya said. Replying to a question on the changing scenario in wake of demonetisation scheme, Panagariya said, “There will be some impact in the 2016-17 fiscal+ because of demonetisation. We have only the five months left…. (Times of India 22/12/16)

194. War on corruption: Narendra Modi vows to fix benami properties next (5)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed on Sunday that the government would soon put in place a strong law to effectively deal with benami properties, saying the move would bolster his “extraordinary war” on corruption and black money. “A benami property law came into being in 1988, but its rules were never framed. It remained dormant for years. We have retrieved it and turned it into an incisive law. We will soon make it operational,” he said. Benami properties are those held in the name of other people and not those who actually finance them. “I assure you that this is not the end. This is just the beginning in our fight against corruption. We have to win this war. There is no question of stopping or going back in this fight,” he said. In his monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat, the PM also unveiled two reward schemes — Lucky Grahak Yojana for customers and Digi Dhan Vyapaar Yojana for traders — to push cashless transactions. He said 1,500 people would get daily rewards of Rs 1,000 each. Lakhs of rupees would be up for grabs during weekly draws. A bumper draw on April 14 will have rewards in crores. This will be for those who go for cashless transactions and make a purchase worth more than Rs 50 but less than Rs 3,000 to keep special focus on the poor and the lower middle-class segments.Mr Modi’s announcement to a stunned nation on November 8 that he would scrap 86 per cent of the cash in circulation immediately led to a crippling cash crunch. He had then promised to restore normalcy by the end of the year, but long queues have stayed outside low-on-cash banks and ATM kiosks. Mr Modi defended frequent changes in currency rules after the Centre recalled high-value bills, and said this was done to reduce people’s problems and defeat corrupt. He said that those involved in “this murky enterprise of perfidy and corruption” had to be defeated as they were devising “newer wily ways and means” to thwart the government’s efforts every day. “To counter these new offensives, we too have to devise appropriate new responses and antidotes. When the opponents keep trying out new tactics, we have to counteract decisively,” he said. The Prime Minister said he was happy that awareness towards online payments was increasing, claiming there had been a 200 per cent to 300 per cent jump in cashless transactions in recent days. He said that businessmen who adopt digital transactions and develop online payment processes in their trade activities would also get income tax rebate. … (Deccan Chronicle 26/12/16)

195. AgustaWestland case: Court questions CBI case against SP Tyagi, gives him bail (5)

NEW DELHI: Granting bail to former IAF chief Shashindra Pal Tyagi, accused of receiving kickbacks illegally in the AgustaWestland case, a special court on Monday observed that the CBI had failed to show when and how much of the alleged bribe was paid to him though the investigation had gone on for almost four years. Special Judge Arvind Kumar also pointed out that the allegation that Tyagi’s properties were linked to the alleged illegal gratification was not investigated in over three-and-a-half years. “During arguments, CBI failed to state as to how much cash was paid to the accused and when it was paid. Admittedly, the CBI has seized the documents regarding properties in the year 2013 and more than 3 years and 9 months have passed, but could not conduct investigation in this regard..” the special court observed. CBI counsel and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had opposed Tyagi’s bail plea, arguing that they had found “new” evidence to build its case against Tyagi. Opposing the bail plea of Tyagi, Mehta has said that the accused could “influence or prewarning” witnesses and “destroy evidence”. The investigation was a “multi-lawyered” one, involving multiple jurisdictions abroad, Mehta had reasoned. Crucially for Tyagi, the court noted that the air chief had retired in 2007 and the CBI’s apprehension of him influencing witnesses does not hold water. “Hence, to my mind, the apprehension of the CBI that he would be influencing the witnesses who has been subordinate to him during the tenure of his service appears unfounded,” the court said. … (Times of India 27/12/16)

196. Fine for holding old notes post March 31, jail likely (5)

New Delhi: Holding “a large number” of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes beyond March 31 will attract a fine of Rs 10,000 or five times the cash held, whichever is higher, as the Union Cabinet approved on Wednesday the promulgation of an Ordinance to make the same a penal offence. Sources said the proposal put to the Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also included a four-year jail term for offenders, but it was not immediately clear if it was approved. While there was no immediate clarity on the number of old notes that can be legally held, a news agency report said that their possession would only be permitted for research and numismatics. The notes withdrawn from circulation on November 8 to fight black money and corruption are being deposited at banks till December 30. After that there will be a window till March 31 to deposit them at Reserve Bank of India (RBI) branches. As per the Ordinance, furnishing wrong information while depositing the old currency between January 1 and March 31 will attract a fine of Rs 5,000 or five times the amount. The Specified Bank Notes Cessation of Liabilities Ordinance will be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for his assent. It is expected to be replaced by a law in the Budget session of Parliament, likely to begin by the end of January. The Ordinance would also amend the RBI Act to extinguish the government’s and the RBI’s liability — to pay the bearer of the scrapped notes the value promised. Similar laws were enacted in the past after the demonetisation of Rs 1,000, Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 notes in 1978. PM Modi’s announcement of his radical monetary reform to a stunned nation scrapped Rs 15.44 lakh crore overnight. Of this, about Rs 14 lakh crore has been either exchanged or deposited at banks. Some of the remaining scrapped cash in circulation has also been destroyed to escape scrutiny.   While the high-denomination currency ceased to be a legal tender, a mere notification was thought to be not enough to avoid future litigations. The RBI’s pledge on the scrapped currency can be nullified only by legislation after giving due opportunity to everyone to return old notes. …  (The Asian Age 29/12/16)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

197. Research shows effect of toxic pollution on fishes (9)

Washington D.C. [US], Dec.11 : A recent research identifies the genetic mechanism responsible for evolutionary adaptation to toxic pollution observed in wild Atlantic killifish populations.The Atlantic killifish is renowned for its ability to tolerate large fluctuations in temperature, salinity and oxygen levels. However, its rapid adaptation to the normally lethal levels of toxic pollution found in some urban estuaries in the US is unusual, even for such a hardy species. A report by a collaborative team of research institutions including the University of Birmingham, found that some populations of killifish are up to 8,000 times more resistant than others to highly toxic industrial pollutants such as dioxins, heavy metals and hydrocarbons. The team analysed the genomes of four wild populations of pollution-tolerant killifish compared with four non-tolerant populations, to identify the mechanism behind this adaptation. They found that the genes responsible for the trait were those involved in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) signalling pathway, which combined with observations of desensitisation of this pathway in tolerant populations, led them to conclude that the AHR pathway is a key target of natural selection. The team also showed that the potentially negative effects of desensitisation of the AHR pathway were ameliorated through compensatory adaptations in terms of cell cycle regulation and immune system function. This, combined with the diversity of pollutants present in estuaries, results in a relatively complex adaptive genotype in wild populations compared to that of laboratory models. John Colbourne, who oversaw the sequencing of the genomes, said: “This report highlights the complexity of the processes involved in the adaptation of wild fish to lethal levels of environmental pollution. It also demonstrates how the DNA of populations that differ in their susceptibility to pollutants can reveal signatures of the adverse effects of chemicals in the environment.” “The Atlantic killifish seem particularly well-positioned to evolve the necessary adaptations to survive in radically altered habitats, because of their large population sizes and the relatively high level of DNA diversity seen in their populations,” he added. The researchers warn that these findings should not be used to justify the harm caused by human pollution of the natural environment. (New Kerala 11/12/16)

198. 5,844 wells ready to store rainwater as part of Haritha Keralam project (9)

KOCHI: Giving a major fillip to the State Government’s Haritha Keralam project which aims at the expansion of agricultural land, water conservation and cleanliness, the district is ready to store rainwater in 5,844 wells. District Collector K Mohammed Y Safirulla, in a statement here on Tuesday, said that 622 projects have been mooted aimed at water conservation alone. “As a part of the Haritha Keralam project, 284 ponds have been cleaned so far and are ready to store water. In addition, a 23.65 km-long bund has also been constructed and canals also cleared in 99.6 km in several parts of the district,” he said. As per the official data, the district administration has received 1,338 projects from the grama panchayats for implementation under the Haritha Keralam project. “Of which, 353 projects are for kick-starting cultivation in barren land. 550 projects are mainly for waste management. In addition, there are 419 and 33 projects in municipalities and Corporation respectively,” the Collector added. It was on December 8 that the district-level inauguration of Haritha Keralam was done by Education Minister C Raveendranath. The project took off with vegetable cultivation on 50 cents close to the district panchayat building. (The New Indian Express 14/12/16)

199. Majuli to be India’s first ever carbon neutral district (9)

GUWAHATI: Assam government has initiated a project to make river island Majuli the country’s first ever Carbon Neutral district by 2020. The project titled ‘Sustainable Action for Climate Resilient Development in Majuli’ (SACReD, Majuli) has been initiated by Assam’s department of Environment and Forest and was launched by Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Biodiversity and Climate) A K Johari at Majuli on Wednesday. The project, SACReD, Majuli has been initiated to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Majuli Deputy Commissioner Pallav Gopal Jha said on Thursday. Jha introduced the importance of climate-based decision making and highlighted the need for low emission development strategy for Majuli to ensure sustainable development. Mitigation through forestry activities and biodiversity conservation will be the starting points for the carbon neutral agenda followed by other interventions over the next three years, Johari said. The project will be designed and implemented in partnership with other departments of the district for which a district level committee under the chairmanship of Deputy Commissioner has been constituted. (Times of India 15/12/16)

200. Air pollution: Beijing fights, Delhi sleeps under toxic sky (9)

NEW DELHI: The capital cities of world’s two most populous countries have similar skylines. On ground though, the scenes are contrasting as Beijing pulls out all stops in its bid to bring down pollution levels. In stark contrast, Delhi’s air remains defiantly toxic with no effective measure to challenge it. On Monday morning, Delhi’s air quality was almost twice as toxic as that over Beijing. Around noon, the US Embassy monitoring station showed PM 2.5 levels at 375 micrograms per cubic metre. Around the same time, Beijing’s PM 2.5 level was at 199 micrograms per cubic metre. The safe level for PM 2.5 as prescribed by World Health Organisation (WHO) is 60 micrograms per cubic metre, and while residents in both citizens are choking, Beijing has gone ahead and enforced drastic measures. A red alert was issued on Friday and odd-even traffic management rule was enforced for five days. Additional public transportation has been deployed on the roads while city’s education department ordered all kindergartens, primary schools and private training centres to suspend classes. The safe level for PM 2.5 as prescribed by World Health Organisation (WHO) is 60 micrograms per cubic metre.Pollution levels in the city have remained alarmingly high for well over two months. While PM 2.5 levels may have come down from apocalyptic-like levels post Diwali, it continues to be several times over what is considered safe globally. No odds. No evens. No offs. “Alarm bells only ring if pollution is visible,” a Centre for Science and Environment official told reporters recently. “What people and authorities in Delhi do not understand is that invisible pollution is equally dangerous and a grim reality of the city’s winter.” … (Times of India 19/12/16)

201. Science meet puts onus on children to fight air pollution (9)

New Delhi: : To mitigate air pollution and come up with scientific models to make a change in the future, the United Nations Information Centre for India and Bhutan organised a competition for school children to tap into their creativity to find a solution. The winner of the ‘Innovation Award’ was a project by Class XI students of Amity International School, Pushp Vihar will now be referred to students at IIT Delhi, who will be given the opportunity to come up with a working prototype of the model. The model was of a ‘self—sustainable’ car that runs using electromagnetic induction. Addressing students at the event, the chief guest JNU Rector Chintamani Mohapatra said that there was a war going on at present to battle a silent killer — pollution. “The war is between those polluting the evironment and those fighting pollution. In this war, students are the best foot soldiers and leaders as it is their future that is at stake.” He felt that the air and water were considered free goods not so long ago but access to clean air and water has now become scarce and it is for children to spread the word and stress on the importance of mitigating air pollution as their voice is stronger than any policy, article or research paper on the issue.Rajiv Chandran from the UNIC said that the competition was a part of efforts to reach civil society and in particular young people to act on achieving the sustainable development goals. He felt that what the students had come up with was more than just a science project and could be implemented in the real world. Apart from the working science model competition, awards were given out for a slogan writing and poster making competition as well as a painting and sculpture competition. The event was jointly organised by United Nations Information Centre for India and Bhutan, Sonalika Group of Companies, National Progressive Schools’ Conference and Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation. (The Hindu 22/12/16)

202. NGT asks Delhi govt to shut hazardous industries in East Delhi (9)

New Delhi: Noting that functioning of industrial units in residential areas is harmful, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Delhi government and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee to take action against all such units operating without consent. A bench headed by Justice U D Salvi pulled up BSES Yamuna for supplying electricity to industrial units located in the Vishwas Nagar area here and directed it to immediately snap electricity connections to them. “As of today, it is evident that several industrial units are being run unauthorisedly without consent to operate being obtained from the competent authority in accordance with the law in Vishwas Nagar, Delhi. Obviously, their operations are deleterious to the environment generally and in particular to the area of Vishwas Nagar,” the bench, also comprising Expert Member Ranjan Chatterjee, said, adding, “We direct the Delhi government and authorities concerned to take action against all the industrial units operating without consent to operate granted by DPCC in accordance with law.” Advocate Balendu Shekhar, appearing for the East Delhi Municipal Corporation, told the bench that several industrial units in Vishwas Nagar were being run without authorisation in gross violation of the provisions of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act and directions of the Supreme Court. However, the association of Vishwas Nagar Small Scale Manufacturing and Traders told the NGT that Vishwas Nagar has more than 70 per cent plots under manufacturing activity and according to the physical surveys carried out by the Delhi government, the area deserves to be declared as an industrial area. The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by local resident S N Rohatgi, who had approached the green panel against industrial units operating in the area and had sought their immediate closure on the ground that these industries were causing air and noise pollution. Rohatgi claimed that Vishwas Nagar was a residential area where 70,000 residents reside and there were 13 schools, besides Chartered Accountants Institute and several private coaching institutes. (Business Standard 25/12/16)

203. Delhi: ​Pollution crosses emergency limit, govt sits on action plan (9)

A month after Central Pollution Control Board submits plan, govt sits on it despite pollution level crossing emergency markWhile the air pollution level crossed the emergency mark — 300 mg per cubic meter of PM 2.5 — over the weekend, the Centre’s ambitious Graded Response Action plan was nowhere in sight. The plan is expected to fix responsibility of neighbouring states in reducing emissions that affect Delhi’s air quality. Although a number of agencies are involved in tackling the issue, the lack of detailing as per the said plan is taking a toll on Delhi’s air quality. Almost a month after the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) submitted the plan in the Supreme Court, the government is yet to notify other states and agencies involved. The plan involving three neighbouring states, Delhi government agencies, and municipal bodies is stuck in bureaucratic quagmire, sources said. A senior Delhi government official said: “The file is still with the secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). They are finalising the details. While all stakeholders are aware of their role in the plan, still the gazette notification has to come for them to start acting on it.” According to an analysis conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), pollution levels on December 23 and 24 were seven times higher than the prescribed standards. “This spike was seen due to the decrease in temperature, and the wind speed to 1.8km/hour, which does not allow pollutants to disperse,” the report stated. The pollution level at Anand Vihar went beyond 500 mg per cubic meter while in residential areas such as Punjabi Bagh and Mandir Marg, the levels crossed 400 mg per cubic meter and 300 mg per cubic meter, respectively. While there will be some reprieve from the dense fog in the coming days, the air quality is not likely to improve much as nights will remain cold, trapping the pollutants in the air. Vivek Chattopadhyaya, Senior Scientist at CSE, said: “While combustion level has not come down in Delhi-NCR areas, including Ghaziabad and Faridabad, the weather conditions are making additional difference to pollution level. The city cannot depend on weather alone to make the air quality better. There is no reason why the CPCB should delay the notification process now. The air quality in the Capital will only start improving once the emissions in the NCR industrial units come down.” .. (DNA 27/12/16)

204. More than 10,000 hectare forest land diverted in 2016 (9)

New Delhi: The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) on Monday approved proposals to divert over 4,300 hectares of forest land — mostly for mining purposes. With this the total area of forest land approved for diversion in 2016 is 10,000 hectare. Till August, the FAC had recommended diversion of 4,108 hectare; in November it considered proposals to divert 7,419 hectare; while in the latest meeting it approved diversion of 4,377 hectare. The actual diversion of forests, however, is a much larger figure, as these are the projects involving more than 40 hectare of land. Environmentalists, however, are contesting not just the diversion of forests, but also the cat and mouse game involved in doing so. They also point towards lack of transparency in functioning of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. The government, according to the non-governmental organisation EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC), which monitors and assesses environmental impact assessment processes, the agenda for FAC meetings, which were earlier announced more than a week in advance, are now announced closer to the dates, making it difficult for environmentalists to review the proposals and present the issues, if any. Pushp Jain, Director of ERC, said, “The FAC is trying to be mischievous. Previously they used to put up the agenda 10-15 days before the meetings. Now they put up the agenda on the public platform 3-4 days before the meetings. Further, some major projects are added to the agenda at the last minute without intimation. For example, in November the Ken-Betwa project was added to the agenda at the last minute.” The agendas, when published, also lack information such as document links for the proposals, Jain said. “There were several problems with this agenda (published on December 19). There were 25 proposals but documents links were given for four proposals only. The title of proposals were incomplete (no mention whether it is a renewal of lease or stage I /II clearance already granted or a new proposal),” ERC said in a statement. In its meeting on Monday, 90 per cent of the forest land diversion has been recommended for mining sector, while about eight per cent has been approved for wind power sector. Of the mining projects, the FAC has recommended diversion of 75 hectare forest land for the Mahan-II open cast coal mine in Chhattisgarh. “The question is why is this forest being diverted at all. The government’s own report says there is no need for further coal capacity addition,” Jain added. Environmentalists have also been contesting the Mahan-II mine, which, they say is located in a biodiversity rich area home to several protected species, such as leopards, sloth bears and elephants. (Business Line 28/12/16)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

205. Farmer commits suicide in Garo Hills, family blames demonetization (20)

TURA, Dec 12 – A well-to-do farmer, who had recently deposited his entire life’s savings into a new bank account, committed suicide last Thursday, after being unable to pay back an amount of Rs 10,000 he owed a neighbour. A distraught family of the farmer has now sought to move the State Government seeking compensation for the death and even threatening to go to Court if the State Government did not heed their appeal. Wajning G Momin (50), a resident of Sindilgre in South West Garo Hills (SWGH) district, was by profession a farmer, with yearly earnings from his farming running into lakhs of rupees. He, like many in the Garo Hills region had never kept money in banks but preferred to keep the money with him. However, the recent demonetisation forced him, after he was cajoled to do so by his family, to open an account and put his entire life savings of over Rs 50 lakhs into the bank. Momin had just prior to the demonetiation announcement started the construction of a new house. His plans, however, met with a cash crunch road block as labour payments became overdue. “He borrowed an amount of Rs 10,000 from his neighbour with the promise to pay it back in three days. When he went to Ampati town, 19 km away to withdraw Rs 20,000 from his account, lack of cash in the bank led to him being given only Rs 6,000,” said a family member. Unable to bear the shame of not being able to live up to his word, a desperate Momin hanged himself that same evening.“He had never borrowed money from anyone and not being able to repay it drove him into a desperate spot,” said a family member. A visibly angry family of Momin has blamed demonetisation for the farmer’s death. Reacting to the suicide, Local MLA of Salmanpara, Winnerson D Sangma felt there was a need to review the withdrawal limits for the North Eastern State given that the States were Christian dominated and Christmas was around the corner. “While we understand demonetisation, the fact that this is the biggest festival for us (Christians), the Central Government needs to relook and relax the current prohibitions of withdrawal of money,” he said. “We fear there will be repeat of such cases if these restrictions are not relaxed. Families can break up due to the lack of cash as young children will not listen to their families given that it is the festival of celebration,” felt Winnerson. Meanwhile, Meghalaya Pradesh Youth Congress (MPYC) president, Richard Marak has sought for counseling from bank officials as well as State Government to ensure no further loss of life due to demonetisation. (The Assam Tribune 12/12/16)

206. Four suicides a day in terrible 13 months (20)

BENGALURU: An endemic problem, farmers’ suicides have become an everyday affair in Karnataka, and are considered a socio-economic concern of India. In the past two years, though, the spate of suicides has rattled the nation, with crop failure and increasing debt traps driving the ordinary farmer to end his life. In Karnataka, which has faced two back-to-back drought years, the numbers are appalling. The agriculture department has, in the year between June 2015 and July 2016, recorded a whopping four suicides every day, on an average. The revelation comes in the backdrop of a nationwide study conducted by the Union ministry of agriculture across 15 states, by 11 independent agro-economic research centres.In the state, the Agriculture Development and Rural Transformation Centre (ADRTC) has taken the lead role in conducting the study for the agriculture ministry and is also the nodal agency for the nationwide study. “Most of the farmers decided to take the extreme measure between July 2015 and October 2015,” said Dr AV Manjunatha, project director for the study. Statistics on suicides during this period also show that 80% of those who ended their own lives were small and marginal farmers. The four major districts of Belagavi, Mysuru, Mandya and Haveri, which were hit relentlessly by this trend, recorded no less than 468 suicides during the same period.The study shows the primary contributing factors were failure of cash crops like sugarcane, tobacco, debt traps by private moneylenders and half the borrowings going towards non-farming purposes. (imes of India 12/12/16)

207. Rahul meets Modi, demands loan waiver for farmers (20)

New Delhi: A Rahul Gandhi-led Congress delegation on Friday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to highlight the plight of farmers in the country and demanded a loan waiver for them. During the meeting, which came in the backdrop of Gandhi’s fierce attack on the prime minister over demonetisation, top Congress leaders presented a memorandum to Modi on demands of farmers including loan waiver, reducing power bills to half and remunerative MSP for farm produce. The delegation included Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, deputy leaders in both Houses Anand Sharma and Jyotiraditya Scindia, Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh and UP Congress chief Raj Babbar. After the meeting, the Congress vice-president said that Modi heard them patiently, but did not commit anything. “We, Congress party delegation, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the plight of farmers of this country. Every single day, a farmer is committing suicide in Punjab. Farmers are committing suicide all over the country. “The government has removed the import duty on wheat. This is a devastating blow. So we went to the Prime Minister to request him on behalf of farmers of this country to waive their loans,” he told reporters. He said the prime minister accepted that the situation of farmers is serious but did not say anything on loan waiver. Sources said the prime minister gave the delegation a patient hearing and told Rahul Gandhi to “keep meeting him”.Gandhi has been targeting the prime minister often, with his latest offensive being on demonetisation. He claimed on Wednesday that he had information about alleged “personal corruption” of the prime minister, but the BJP dismissed it as a “joke”.Gandhi had raised the farmers’ issue during his recent Deoria to Delhi yatra in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. The Congress has collected over 2 crore “Kisan maang patras” from across Uttar Pradesh and over 34 lakh from Punjab which also goes to polls early next year. (Business Standard 16/12/16)

208. Sangrur farmer takes poison at protest near Punjab FM’s house (20)

BATHINDA: A farmer on Monday consumed a poisonous substance during a farmers’ protest near the residence of Punjab finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa at Sangrur. The farmer, Darshan Singh, 55, of Saddopur village in Sangrur district was referred to Government Rajindra Hospital, Patiala, and his condition is stated to be critical. Activists of 13 farm and farm labourer organisations had given a call for staging protests at the residences of ministers against the state government for not conceding their long-pending demands of debt waiver, Rs 5 lakh compensation to suicide-hit farm families and writing off their debts and 5-marla plots to the homeless. Just before he lost conscio usness, the farmer told the media and farmers at the protest site that he was forced to take this step as he was unable to repay the Rs 20 lakh he owed to a bank and money lenders. Farmers held protests at 12 places across the state, including near Nandgarh village on the road to Badal, where they were stopped. They also held a sit-in near agriculture minister Tota Singh’s residence at Moga.Farm organisation BKU Ekta Ugrahan state president Joginder Singh Ugrahan told TOI that after Darshan Singh consumed a poisonous substance at the protest site he was shifted to a Patiala hospital where his condition is stated to be serious. He said by not conceding their demands, the Badal government was pushing farmers to the brink of suicide. This is the fourth case in less than two years when farmers or farm labourers committed suicide at protest sites. Sangrur SSP Pritpal Singh Thind said police was looking into what prompted him to take the step. BKU Ekta Ugrahan general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri slammed the SAD-BJP government for not paying heed to their debt waiver demand. BKU Dakonda president Buta Singh Burjgill said, “All the parties are promising us the moon, but we know they will forget all this once they gain power. We have decided to achieve our aim through our own might.” (imes of India 20/12/16)

209. Centre launches e-hub for farming sector (20)

NEW DELHI: The agriculture ministry on Wednesday launched an ICAR data centre -connecting 274 specialised institutions and universities -which will act as an information hub for the farm sector and eventually link the rural population with high speed internet network . The centre will cater to research institutions by providing consultancy , project management, training and other value-added services.”This data centre of ICAR will play an important role in promoting the `Digital India Campaign’ in the agriculture sector. The campaign aims at providing electronic services while reducing the requirements of paper,” said agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh.He said, “Many have expressed doubts about our production data.The new ICAR data centre will provide transparent and accurate data”. His remarks came in the backdrop of doubt over the government’s production data in certain quarters. Traders of farm produce have recently questioned the wheat production estimate of 93.55 million tonnes for 2015-16 crop year, saying the actual output was around 86 million tonnes. (Times of India 22/12/16)

210. Police fear debt-ridden farmer jumped into canal with 3 children (20)

BATHINDA: Believed to be under depression, a farmer is feared to have committed suicide along with his three children by jumping into the canal at Machaki Mal Singh village in Faridkot district. The motorcycle of the farmer Jagjeet Singh (42) has been found from near the canal bank. The district administration have pressed divers into service suspecting that the farmer Jagjeet along with his daughters Harmanvir Kaur (10), Jashandeep Kaur (8) and son Jagsir Singh (7) to have jumped in the canal. No body could be found till the evening. It is learnt that he owed Rs 7 lakh to the bank but it could not be confirmed. Jagjeet’s wife Sukhjeet Kaur had left him nearly four years ago and was living separately. Jagjeet Singh’s old mother Gumail Kaur (70) at her home in village Machaki Mal Singh said, “He was under depression for few days but had not said anything to me about it. Today, he stopped the children from going to school, who were studying in Class V, IV and III. In the morning, he took the three on motorcycle and left home without telling me anything.” She added, “I do know about any debt on him but people say he owes money to the bank.” Faridkot SSP Darshan Singh Mann when contacted said, “Jagjeet owned five acres of land but no record of his owing money has come to light. He was under depression and might have taken the extreme step. The divers have been pressed into service and statement of his mother is being recorded.” Farmer organization BKU Ekta Ugrahan general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri said state government needs to check how much money he owed and whether he has committed suicide with children due to debt and must compensate the family. Earlier, four members of Faridkot family had committed suicide on September 20 over some clash with neighbours. (Times of India 23/12/16)

211. Farm sector, jobs to top agenda of PM Modi’s Niti Aayog meet (20_

NEW DELHI: Agriculture and jobs will form the focus of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s discussions on Tuesday with top economists and experts from India and abroad at a time the government has been criticised for the country’s ‘jobless growth’. The theme of the Niti Aayog meeting is ‘Economic policy: The road ahead’, but the PM has asked the premier government thinktank to concentrate on two areas: agriculture and education, skills and jobs. The high-level meeting, to be attended by finance minister Arun Jaitley, Niti Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya, secretary-level officials and noted outside experts, comes at a time critics of the government’s demonetisation move have argued that the decision has slowed down the economy. Before the meeting with PM Modi in the evening, the economist and experts will have a brainstorming session on the two subjects with secretaries handling ministries like commerce, economic affairs, revenue, rural development and agriculture. With just over a month remaining for the Modi government’s third budget, the PM will also seek experts’ opinion on what it should focus on. “This is part of the annual exercise Niti Aayog has been doing and the purpose is to look ahead at the policy roadmap for the remainder of the present term of the government,” Panagariya told TOI.Among those likely to attend the meeting are Vivek Dehejia, economics professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada; Pravin Krishna, economics professor at Johns Hopkins University, USA; former director of NIPFP (National Institute of Public Finance and Policy) Govind Rao; Credit Suisse managing director Neelkant Mishra; Madhav Chavan of Pratham and former finance secretary Sumit Bose. Agriculture experts Vijay Paul Sharma, chairman of commission for agricultural costs and prices (CACP), and Prof Sukhpal Singh, both from IIM-Ahmedabad, will also be present in the meeting along with NK Singh, Surjit Bhalla, Niti Aayog members Ramesh Chand, Bibek Debroy and VK Saraswat and its CEO Amitabh Kant. A senior official said that the discussion is on overall economic policy and there is no specific focus on demonetisation, but the banning of high-value notes, cash crunch and its impact on economy is likely to come up during deliberations. “Demonetisation is likely to be discussed as the budget will be the first policy document to be presented after the government’s note ban move,” said an official. (Times of India 27/12/16)

212. 488 farmers court arrest in Tirunelveli (20)

Thoothukudi: As many as 488 farmers, including 271 women, affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), courted arrest while attempting to lay siege to Tirunelveli Collectorate on Wednesday, urging the State Government to declare Tirunelveli a ‘drought-hit’ district.The agitation was led by P. Velumayil, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association. Owing to failure of North-east monsoon, the farmers suffered severe crop loss, and hence, the district should be declared ‘drought-hit’, the agitators said. Until November end, the district had received only 369 mm of rainfall against the average rainfall of 703 mm. Due to poor rainfall, the area under paddy cultivation in the district had shrunk to 5,685 hectares this year from 28,283 ha recorded last year. Paddy crop on a chunk of the area withered due to lack of water, they said. Rainfed crops such as black gram, green gram, maize and long-term crops like coconut too withered in many areas. Water level in dams came down to unprecedented levels, and wells had no water. This situation had brought agricultural activity to a halt. There was a serious threat to livestock, which did not have grazing land and adequate water to drink. The farmers had also been facing a scarcity of cattle feed, they added. Recently, Dhaveedhu, a farmer from Madathupatti near Seevalaperi, committed suicide due to drought, the agitators said, and demanded a compensation of Rs. 25,000 per acre of damaged paddy crop, Rs. 50,000 for an acre of damaged sugarcane crop and Rs. 15,000 for an acre of rainfed crops. Besides, a compensation of Rs. 10,000 should be given to each farmer, whose land turned fallow, and an equal amount should be extended to the families of each farm labour, they stressed. They also urged the government to waive crop loans taken by the farmers. Cattle feed should be given to them at subsidised rate. Mr. Velumayil said wages for those engaged under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme should be increased to Rs. 400 and the 100-day programme should be extended to 200 days. K.G. Baskaran, district secretary, CPI (M), participated. In Thoothukudi, the farmers, led by K.P. Perumal, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association, staged a wait-in protest at the Collectorate, pressing for the same demands. (The Hindu 28/12/16)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

213. Rs 22,000 cr road development package announced for Manipur (4)

IMPHAL, Dec 11 – In a move to improve connectivity in the land-locked State of Manipur, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari announced a special package of Rs 22,000 crore for road development in the State over a period of three-four years, here today. The package of 19 road projects include two-laning with paved shoulder of both Imphal-Jiribam Road (220 km) and Churachandpur-Tuima-Tuiva (162 km), the busy Imphal-Moreh road (156 km) and 4/2 laning of Imphal-Kohima Road (126 km) besides two-laning with paved shoulder of Ukhrul-Tolloi-Tadubi Road (115 km). Gadkari made the announcement while laying the foundation stone for 17 other road projects in the State at a function here on Sunday. Appealing to the State Government to expedite the land acquisition proceedings and forest clearance, the Union Minister assured that local contractors will be engaged for the construction works. “We are committed about it and I hope Manipur will be changing its infrastructure within a short span of time,” he said. Later, briefing media, he said that his Ministry is taking up steps to utilise the waterways in the NE region as a means of transportation of goods so that the cost of the logistics could be minimised. Earlier, Gadkari laid the foundation stone for the construction of ‘super steel structure’ bridges at Barak and Makru rivers at Imphal-Jiribam Highway at Jiribam bordering Cachar (Assam). In his speech, State Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh highlighted the achievement of the State in health, power and road construction sectors. Expressing unhappiness over the inadequate fund allocation by Centre for road projects in the State, Ibobi requested the Union Minister to convey to the Union Home Minister and Prime Minister that National Highways which are the property of the nation, should not be allowed to be used as a tool for certain demands. (The Assam Tribune 12/12/16)

214. Land acquisition to begin in 29 villages in capital region soon (4)

GUNTUR: Speaking at a review meeting with CRDA personnel here on Tuesday, Dr. Shukla said that a notification for land acquisition would be issued soon after taking into consideration the average land registration values over the last three years. The process however, would take more time as many issues have been left unattended. The CRDA personnel have complained that tech marking has not been done in many villages, while landowners in some villages insist that they should be paid similar compensation as of farmers in ‘jareebu’ lands. Landowners have also not been cooperating with the revenue officials in survey of their lands coming in the way of laying roads, some CRDA personnel said. The JC said that the district administration would deploy more number of surveyors and complete the process of land acquisition by January next year. Legal advisor, CRDA, Mohan Rao and advisor Muralidhar were also present. (The Hindu 14/12/16)

215. JPC on land acquisition Bill gets eighth extension (4)

New Delhi, Dec 14:  ​The contentious Land Acquisition Bill, 2015, which aims to alter the 2013 Act brought in by the previous UPA regime, seems headed for the back-burner with the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) examining the Bill being given an eighth extension on Wednesday. A resolution seeking fresh extension till the last day of the Budget Session 2017 was passed by a voice vote in the Lok Sabha amid noisy protests over the note ban issue after Ganesh Singh, BJP, the panel head, moved a resolution. Congress members including K. C. Venugopal, were heard demanding that the Bill be withdrawn and the committee be scrapped. The JPC to examine the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015, was set up in May 2015 after it was opposed by several political parties, including allies of the ruling BJP. The Bill seeks, among other things, to remove the consent clause for acquiring land for five purposes — industrial corridors, public-private projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence. Incidentally, the 2013 law had become applicable for national highway projects from January 2015, leading to a number of disputes cropping up as affected land owners were seeking higher compensation. The Bill has been on a roller coaster ride with the Centre thrice issuing an Ordinance. However, after the third ordinance lapsed on August 31, 2015, the government decided against issuing it for the fourth time. Instead, on August 28, it issued a ‘statutory order’ to include 13 Central Acts, such as the National Highway and Railways Acts, to extend benefits to those whose land was acquired under the land law. (Business Line 15/12/16)

216. Locals demand halt to ongoing highway work (4)

MARGAO: Irked by ‘massive destruction and displacement due to the ongoing national highway works,’ affected citizens who have united under the banner of “villagers against destruction due to highways” on Saturday demanded that ‘all ongoing works be halted immediately and that no further works be attempted till detailed studies of their impact upon the villages, environment and communities are carried out with people consulted and permitted in decision making.’Stating that their group has no political affiliations, Navelim-based social activist Harold Pinto expressed deep resentment against ‘the blatant violations in every section of the ongoing construction and the government’s refusal to be factual or transparent indicating that this project is not in public interest’. (Times of India 18/12/2016)

217. Kodandaram to meet leaders of Opposition parties today (4)

KARIMNAGAR: Telangana JAC chairman M. Kodandaram said that he would meet leaders of all political parties on Monday and prevail upon them not to support the proposed Land Acquisition Amendment Bill and also the Private Universities Bill in the State Assembly as they are detrimental to the interests of people. The JAC chairman, who was in town to participate in Telangana Vidyavanthula Vedika district general body meeting on Sunday, told newsmen that the JAC leaders would be meeting leaders of all the political parties and explain their opposition to the two bills. Farmers should not lose their rights through the proposed land acquisition bill. The bill should protect land oustees as per the Land Acquisition Act of 2103, he maintained. With regard to the private universities bills, he said already several universities in the State are plagued with several problems without infrastructure, faculty etc. “At this juncture, is it necessary to start private universities in the State,” he questioned. He also reminded that the State tops with 31 per cent gross enrolment ratio in the higher education. Finding fault with the State Government for not taking any action against the contractor who was responsible for the breach of Mid-Manair Dam and causing extensive loss to farmers and the State exchequer, the JAC chairman flayed the government for appointing new contractor for the execution of MMD works at a higher cost than the earlier contractor. Expressing concern over exploitation of natural resources through granite quarry operations in the region, he demanded that the government should stop export of granite and protect the environment for the future generations. He also expressed concern over the sand mafia making several crores of rupees by illegally transporting sand. Demanding the government to implement the Sudheer Commission report, he said that the civil organisations have a responsible role to ensure people’s aspirations in Telangana are fulfilled. He also said that the government should open more underground mines in the Singareni to provide local employment instead of going for open cast projects (OCP). (The Hindu 19/12/16)

218. HC denies relief to farmers who want acquired land back (4)

NEW DELHI:  The farmers of northwest’s Delhi Kanjhawala village were on Tuesday denied relief by the High Court, which dismissed 100 petitions demanding that the land acquired by the Delhi government for a ‘new Industrial area’ be returned to them, A Bench of Justices Badar Durez Ahmed and Jayant Nath dismissed the petitions stating that the farmers had expressly given away all right or title to the land in lieu of compensation.Though the farmers were paid compensation, they have been agitating for their land to be returned saying the acquisition was forced and that their land, contrary to the government’s claim, is not barren. They also said that since the government had failed to take possession of the land five years after acquisition, the Land Acquisition Act calls for the land to be returned.“The key point in this batch of matters is whether the petitioners had any right left to the land… in the undertakings given by the petitioners in 2011, while opting for the Special Rehabilitation Package and receiving additional payments thereunder, they clearly divested themselves of all their rights to the land,” the Bench noted. “Thus, at the time of commencement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 on January 1, 2014, the petitioners had no right, title or interest left in the subject lands. Therefore, they cannot claim any benefit under section 24(2) of the 2013 Act. On this ground alone, the writ petitions are liable to be dismissed,” the court ordered. As per section 24(2) of the Act, if compensation has been awarded five years or more prior to the commencement of the Act but the physical possession of the land has not been taken, the acquisition proceedings shall be deemed to have lapsed and the land deemed to be belonging to the farmers. The government then needs to start all acquisition proceedings afresh. The Delhi government had rebutted the claim of the farmers that the government had not taken over the possession as it submitted that the actual physical possession of the lands in question had been taken by the Land Acquisition Collector. (The Hindu 22/12/16)

219. HC terms land acquisition at Noida village as ‘bad’ (4)

Allahabad: The Allahabad high court on Thursday declared the land acquisition proceedings initiated by the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) in Niloli Sahpur village of Gautam Budh Nagar (Noida) as “bad and not done in accordance with law”. However, the court directed that if YEIDA officials wanted to retain the said land, they must pay at the present market rate to the land owners and also provide them all the benefits of the land under the new Land Acquisition Act-2013, which came into force on January 1, 2014.Allowing a writ petition filed by one Harpal Singh, a division bench comprising Justice Arun Tandon and Justice Sangeeta Chandra observed, “No reasoning and satisfaction was recorded by the state government for the invitation of urgency clause for acquiring the said land and they relied only on the report of the authorities concerned.” Under the urgency clause, the opportunity of hearing provided to the land owners before acquisition of land is dispensed with. Counsel for the petitioner Pankaj Dubey challenged the acquisition, saying that as the plan was for residential purpose, the urgency clause cannot be invoked. YEIDA had acquired 347 hectares of land for Residential Plot Scheme-2009 at the village. The petitioner had challenged it before the court, saying that he was not given an opportunity of hearing before the acquisition of his land as provided under the Land Acquisition Act. (Times of India 23/12/16)

220. Kathputli colony residents allege coercion for relocation (4)

New Delhi: A section of residents of Kathputli colony on Monday demanded the removal of “heavy police force” deployed for the ongoing relocation drive while alleging that they were being “coerced” into giving demolition clearance.A group of residents, assisted by NGOs like NAPM, placed their demands and shared grievances at a press conference here which also saw a few tense moments as DDA started demolishing a wall, claimed organisers. “The wall belongs to DMRC. DDA started demolishing it as soon as the presser started claiming it had the necessary clearance from metro authorities. But DMRC did not take the consent of local people while giving the go ahead. They had to retreat under public pressure,” Amit Kumar of NAPM’s Delhi unit said.Residents said the process through which consent for demolition and redevelopment, was being taken was “opaque” and that laid down norms were being violated. They demanded that police personnel be moved out of the area and the DDA camp moved out of the colony. “Each eviction slip has to be signed by the jhuggi dweller concerned, that person’s neighbour and the pradhan. But in many cases, the neighbours and the pradhan are being kept in the dark,” Mr. Kumar said. PTI (The Hindu 27/12/16)

221. Polavaram evacuees stage rasta roko, traffic disrupted (4)

DEVIPATNAM (East Godavari): The Polavaram project evacuees’ association on Wednesday staged a rasta roko in the submerged mandals of the Agency area, demanding package for the displaced as per the new Land Acquisition Act. The affected blocked the roads in Devipatnam, Chintur, V.R Puram, Yetapaka and Koonavaram mandals in the East Godavari district. They shouted slogans demanding the construction of the project only after paying full compensation according to the 2013 Act. Scores of people had to wait for hours before they could resume their journey.In Anguluru colony of Devipatnam mandal, evacuees blocked the road stopping all the vehicular traffic including jeeps, tourist buses and private vehicles. They warned of agitation in various forms until their demands were met. CPI(M) district secretary T. Arun criticised that the State government had no intention of giving water to farmers though the project had been taken up only to benefit them. He called upon the evacuees to stage rasta roko when the Chief Minister comes to the district to lay foundation stone to the Purushottapatnam Lift Irrigation Schemes on 5 January, 2017. Saying the State government had washed its hands off paying low compensation for the tribals and non-tribals in the past, he demanded the compensation for those affected also as per the new Act. In V.R. Puram mandal, the road blockade under the aegis of MPP Karem Siramayya was peaceful. In Koonavaram, traffic was blocked under the aegis of president of the project evacuees’ association Komaram Pentaiah. In Chintur also, the national highway was blocked under the aegis of sarpanch Madivi Gouramma. Students formed human chain and staged protest on the national highway. The evacuees blocked roads in Tetapaka also. (The Hindu 29/12/16)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

222. India needs to invest more in public healthcare: WHO (3)

Kolkata: India needs to invest more in public healthcare and build a robust health delivery system in all aspects, including infrastructure and human resources, with special focus on rural areas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Sunday. “We know that nations need a healthy population to prosper. Stepping up investment in public healthcare is pivotal to sustaining India’s economic growth. Investing in health is investing in India’s growth story,” Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India, said. “We, therefore, need to and swiftly advance and accelerate progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the Sustainable Development Goals, especially the health goal,” he suggested. According to Bekedam, though India has made enormous progress in the healthcare sector in recent past, still “60 million people are in poverty through paying healthcare bills, mainly because of the country’s low investment in health, inadequate financial protection and high out-of-pocket expenditure”.He said many more abstain from health services or delay seeking health care due to financial difficulties. In this context, the WHO proposed a few steps for working with the government to position health higher on the agenda, both at the national and state levels. Besides investment, strengthening the systems to detect and respond to outbreaks and new emerging diseases, accelerating effective financial protection to ensure no one goes into poverty as a result of using health services and finally, ensuring that there is a strong monitoring and evaluation system in place are also required, Bekedam said. He also praised India for combating HIV, TB and malaria as well as the avertable maternal and child mortality, saying the country’s major challenge is “safeguarding the population from slipping into poverty due to health care bills”.”All these require increased investments, as has been demonstrated from global experiences with SARS, pandemic A/H1N1, H5N1, Nepal earthquake and Ebola. Strengthening the surveillance capacity is a key step forward. We still have a high burden of communicable diseases. “Adding to this is increased noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and we need to invest more in creating awareness about prevention of NCDs,” Bekedam said. On whether India is ready to face the emerging threat of lifestyle diseases, he said, “The NCD agenda is complex, requires a call for a coordinated multi-sectoral response through a ‘whole of government’ and ‘whole of society’ approach. (Business Standard 11/12/16)

223. Rights’ groups rally to pass disability bill in Rajya Sabha (3)

NEW DELHI: Disabled rights groups organised a rally from Jantar Mantar to Parliament Street on Monday evening to appeal to parliamentarians and leader of the opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad, to pass the Rights for Persons with Disability (RPwD) bill in Rajya Sabha. The disability bill is yet to be passed by both the houses of the Parliament. It recognises 21 disabilities as opposed to the existing seven. With only three days to go until the winter session ends, the disabled people at the rally tried to keep their hopes alive. Children suffering from learning disorders also stand to benefit from the new bill. “The bill will benefit over 70 million people and we are asking for 4% reservation in government jobs as opposed to the existing 3%,” said Javed Abidi, the director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People (NCPEDP).Shanti Aulakh, a psychologist working with acid attack victims at NGO Muskaan, said that acid attack victims face social exclusion. “Permanent disfigurement ostracises acid attack victims completely. They face similar problems as people with physical disabilities and should also entitled to similar rights for equal representation at the workplace,” said Aulakh. “We are simply advocating for equal rights. Neglect and delay in passing the bill points to the fact that we are not counted as fellow beings,” said Pankaj Kapoor, who is confined to his wheelchair. (Times of India 14/12/16)

224. Maharashtra reports 31,548 child and infant deaths in 17 months (3)

NAGPUR: The state witnessed 31,548 child and infant deaths in the 17 months since April 2015 to August 2016. Woman and child development minister Pankaja Munde in her written reply to a calling attention motion in legislative assembly revealed the data. At the same time, minister defended her department saying that every child death should not be connected to malnutrition issue. “It is a sensitive and important issue. However, it would not be fair to connect every child or infant death to malnutrition. Both issues are different. The reason could be different such as physiological disorder, Pneumonia or other diseases. The state has taken major steps to reduce malnutrition cases and compared to the national infant mortality rate, the state infant mortality rate is low and on third rank, below Kerala and Tamil Nadu,” said Munde. According to her written reply, total 9,563 children died of which 7,868 were infant and 1,695 were children in the five months, from April to August 2017 while in the year of 2015-16, total 21,985 deaths, 17,944 were infant and 4041 were children. Minister also pointed out that the state infant mortality rate in the year 2013 was 24 for every 1,000 births against national infant mortality rate which was 40. While in 2014, the state infant mortality rate was 22 against national infant mortality rate 39. Munde added that the government has formed a Task Force under health minister to tackle the issue and also malnutrition policy has been cleared by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar raised the issue through calling attention motion asking the government to take integrated approach. Another BJP MLA Devayani Faradne demanded that malnutrition issues should be handled by a single bureaucrat instead of three different like public health, woman and child development department and Tribal development. The Minister however refuted the demand and said that concerned department official also has other work to do apart from malnutrition. (Times of India 15/12/16)

225. Health authorities intensify drive against hepatitis A (3)

KOCHI:  Health authorities have now embarked on a door-to-door campaign in the panchayat in Kothamangalam taluk and have covered about 50 per cent of the houses in an awareness campaign which involves handwashing, super chlorination and other personal hygiene issues that need to be taken care of by every household member. District Surveillance Officer (DSO) Dr. Balagangadharan said the number of health inspectors deployed in the panchayat would be doubled on Monday from 21 to 42 to complete the campaign by Wednesday. The Health advice in the panchayat includes not serving ‘welcome drinks’ at wedding parties, using only boiled water for drinking and hand washing using liquid soap.The medical camp conducted on Sunday was attended by 254 people. Blood test results are awaited. Medical camps were held for the past three days in different parts of the panchayat. There was no addition to the existing 314 cases so far, said the DSO. The total number of affected persons, which included people from the nearby panchayats, were 413. Other affected panchayats are: Payipra (22 cases), Kottapady (23), Pindimana (11), Asamannoor (5), Pallarimangalam (7), Kavalangadu (10), Varapetty (14), Kuttampuzha (4), Kadayiruppu (4 ) and Pothanikkad (7). Antony John, MLA, and District Collector Mohammed Y. Safirulla on Sunday reviewed the work done by Health authorities in a meeting held at Kothamangalam. Instructions were given to intensify the campaign to contain the spread of jaundice. An expert team from Manipal had reached here to study the virus that takes an oral-fecal route. Though the infection is generally not fatal, three young people had reportedly died of the infection that spread to more than 300 people within a month. (The Hindu 19/12/16)

226. Over 18000 patients in Punjab receive free treatment for Hepatitis C (3)

New Delhi [India], Dec 22 : Punjab government’s novel initiative to provide free treatment to patients suffering from Hepatitis C has so far benefitted more than 18,000 patients in state within months of launch. [NK Punjab] Punjab government had created a special fund with an initial corpus of Rs. 20 crore called the ‘MukhMantri Punjab Hepatitis C Relief Fund’ for this purpose. Under this scheme medical specialists have been trained by the experts of PGIMER Chandigarh to offer free treatment of Hepatitis C. More than 18,000 patients of Hepatitis C have been initiated on the treatment and close to 10,000 cases have already completed the treatment. Punjab is the first state in the country to provide free treatment to confirmed cases of Hepatitis C. The treatment of Hepatitis-C is now available at 25 centers (three govt. medical colleges and 22 district hospitals) in the State. Talking about state government’s initiatives on healthcare, Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal said, “We firmly believe that access to quality healthcare is every citizen’s right. The state government is fully committed to provide the best health care services to the people at affordable costs. We hope that this initiative will go a long way to alleviate the woes of people suffering from Hepatitis C.” With a prevalence rate that could be as high as three percent, there might be up to 10 lakh cases of suspected Hepatitis C. The treatment for Hepatitis C consists of injectable peg-interferon, which is very expensive. This unique initiative has especially come as a blessing for people from economically weaker strata of society. It is noteworthy that Punjab is also the only state in the country, which is providing free treatment to the cancer patients. Excellent infrastructure to combat the menace of cancer has already been put in place by setting up Advanced Cancer Treatment Centers in the Government Medical Colleges in Amritsar, Patiala and Faridkot. Besides, hi-tech cancer institute at Bathinda and PGI Satellite Hospital at Sangrur are providing the best treatment to the patients inflicted with deadly disease. Punjab also launched Bhagat Puran Singh Health Insurance scheme covering nearly half of state’s population. It provides cashless treatment covering a cross section of the society including blue cardholders, farmers, traders and construction workers up to Rs.50,000 besides insurance cover of Rs. five lakh in case of death or incapacitation of head of the family. Also, in a major step towards ensuring social security, the Punjab Government has set up 2000 free medicine centers to provide free-of-cost medicines. Out of which 660 centers also provide free medical testing facilities to all patients. (New Kerala 22/12/16)

227. Kolkata tops list of cities with young Indians suffering from lifestyle diseases, finds study (3)

Kolkata: Young Indians in the age group of 20 to 45 are worried about lifestyle diseases and consult doctors, seeking their advice on how to prevent these ailments. About 45% young people in this category are vulnerable to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, depression and so on, a study has revealed.Kolkata tops the list compared with other cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Ahmedabad so far as its young people seeking consultations on mental and sexual health and lifestyle issues is concerned. About 29% people in Kolkata have sought medical advice on their mental health while 27% have sought the same for sexual ailments. In fact, 4.2 million people from this metropolis have used this online platform, Lybrate Healthscape India, one of the largest online doctors consultation platform. The portal revealed this in its latest annual study since January following interactions with around 70 million people of all age groups through queries and consultations with medical practitioners associated with this platform. The data reflected that overall awareness about sexual and mental health has increased among those in the age bracket of 18-24 years across big cities and towns in the country. “India’s youth has become wary of diseases that are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, pushing them to reach out to doctors for help in their prevention and early diagnosis. About 45% young people, in the age group of 20-45 years, actively consult doctors for prevention of diseases that arise out of lifestyle problems while majority of the others reach out to healthcare experts for issues related to either sexual or mental health, said the report. A few of the top lifestyle diseases, the report points out, that young Indians want to avoid are diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and hypertension. Interactions about diabetes witnessed a staggering growth of 250% in 2015, followed by cardiovascular diseases (210%), cancer (195%), hypertension (190%), obesity (150%), vitamin/mineral deficiency (150%) and COPD (140%).Majority of the interactions revolved around prevention but there has also been a remarkable rise in interactions on the treatment of these diseases with those who are suffering from them taking part. “The inclination of young people when it comes to preventive health assumes greater significance given the pressure it builds on the country’s healthcare infrastructure. The awareness will bring a huge change in people’s attitude when it comes to health and greatly reduce the cost burden on households and healthcare delivery in the country,” said Saurabh Arora, the founder and chief executive officer of Lybrate, in a press statement on Thursday. He added that their platform has proved how accessibility to trusted doctors and availability of authenticated medical information can help change the mindset of people and immensely improve healthcare delivery in India. The interactions on stress and depression have remarkably increased from these cities in the last one year, showing the stigma attached to these subjects is fading even in small towns and cities of the country. The interactions are defined by the cumulative sum of searches for doctors, lab tests booked, health queries sought, patient-doctor communication and appointments booked. (Hindustan Times 23/12/16)

228. Bridge the huge health gaps between rural & urban india (3)

Despite outpacing its South Asian neighbours in economic development, India lags behind most of them in major health indicators. We have the second lowest life expectancy in the region. Our infant mortality rate is higher than in Bangladesh and Nepal, and thrice as high as in Sri Lanka. Child immunisation rates in India are far lower than those of many sub-Saharan countries. While we need to improve the national health indicators as a whole, we cannot do so without bridging the huge health gaps between rural and urban India. On every measure of health, rural populations in all states compare poorly with their urban counterparts. This reflects causes that undermine health, deny access to needed health care and disempower people from protecting their health. From rural poverty to inadequate supply of potable water and poor sanitation, the social determinants of health are adversely conditioned. Essential health care is not readily available, due to poorly accessible or poorly staffed government health facilities and a marked urban concentration of all categories of formally qualified health care providers. The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), launched in 2005, somewhat improved rural health care infrastructure, introduced village-level social mobilisers in the form of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and placed a strong emphasis on maternal and child health services. While institutional deliveries increased markedly, thanks to schemes like Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), there was no demonstrable association with reductions in maternal or neonatal mortality rates. This raises questions on the quality of care available in the institutions which women reach. If the facility does not have trained health care providers who can provide both routine and emergency obstetric care or revive a newborn in distress, merely shifting delivery from home to an institution will not help. If the health care facility lacks 24-hour supply of running water and electricity, the problem gets compounded. Furthermore, the mandate of rural health care has expanded beyond maternal and child health and infectious diseases. Heart diseases and stroke, variety of cancers, diabetes, lung and kidney diseases and mental illness are rapidly rising even in rural areas and warrant attention. This places even greater pressure on the rural health care system which is already constrained for human and financial resources. We need innovative solutions for these issues. Some of these will involve new categories and skill sets among health care providers and others will involve greater use of appropriate technologies. As a solution to the shortage of doctors in rural areas, governments talk of compulsory rural posting for fresh medical graduates. Since majority of medical colleges in India are concentrated in the four southern states and Maharashtra, how will this scheme supply doctors to other states?  To overcome this mismatch, the Central government has to employ fresh graduates in a special cadre under NRHM and post them where needs are high. Even then, fresh graduates who were trained in well-equipped urban hospitals will be like fish out of water when posted in a poorly resourced rural health care facility. Only when medical education is reconfigured to provide a substantial part of training in district and sub-district health systems, will the fresh graduate be attuned to the demands of rural service. (New Indian Express 25/12/16)

229. Japanese Encephalitis to be notifiable (3)

KOLKATA: Bengal health department has decided to handle cases of Japanese Encephalitis (JE), a disease spread through mosquito bites, on an emergency war footing. Thus, the disease would be declared a notifiable disease from January 1. This step was taken to counter morbidity and mortality due to JE. It is now mandatory to report early outbreak of the disease. Hospitals or laboratories spotting JE virus from cerebrospinal fluid or serum should instantly report the matter to the health authorities, else they would be penalised. (Times of India 26/12/16)

HIV/AIDS

230. West Bengal initiates fight against HIV/AIDS (3)

Darjeeling (West Bengal) [India], Dec.10 : The West Bengal State Aids Prevention Camp Control Society (WBSAPCS) under the guidance of the Department of Health and Family Welfare is planning to involve hoteliers of Darjeeling to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. [NK India] The society’s joint secretary, Dr. Dipendra Narayan Goswami, told ANI, “Targeted intervention programme is basically target towards the high risk group, meaning female sex workers (FSW), truckers, injectable drug users and man having sex with man (MSM) and transgender populations who are basically spreading the virus to the general population.” “Awareness is the only solution to fight it, so, we are trying to involve some intervention with the hotelier association, involving them for general awareness to the tourists and the availability of protective devices,” he added. Echoing similar sentiments, Roshni Chettri, Councillor, Federation of Society for Environmental Protection (FOSEP), Darjeeling, said, “Darjeeling is a tourist spot, many migrants are coming every day, some of them may unprotected or may not be, but to control the HIV its need to aware Female Sex Workers (FSW) about the protective devices.” The struggle against HIV/AIDS is a monumental task. In India, the disease is on a growth path. (AIDS) (New Kerala 11/12/16)

231. 15 percent of people with HIV remain unaware (3)

Washington D.C [US], Dec.12 : In a recent study published in Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, researchers have estimated that some 15 percent of people living with HIV remain unaware of their infection. [NK Health] Despite evidence that HIV incidence rates in the United States are decreasing modestly in recent years, at least 44,000 people are still infected with HIV each year. However, the socioeconomically disadvantaged African American/Black and Hispanic persons are disproportionately affected by HIV and thus over-represented in the HIV epidemic in comparison to their numbers in the general population.”Undiagnosed HIV is a serious public health issue,” said Marya Viorst Gwadz, the study’s Principal Investigator. “At least a third of new HIV transmission events are linked to those with undiagnosed HIV, yet finding people with undiagnosed HIV is very challenging,” she added. Nationally, heterosexual sex is the second most common route of HIV transmission after male-to-male sexual contact, accounting for an estimated 24 percent of newly reported infections annually and is the main route of transmission among women. “Compared with other risk groups, heterosexuals are less likely to be tested for HIV over their lifetimes, and less likely to be tested annually, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends,” noted Charles M. Cleland, the Co-researcher. Adding, “As many as 25% of HIV-infected heterosexuals are undiagnosed – a substantially higher rate of undiagnosed HIV than among other risk groups.” “We are interested mainly in heterosexuals considered at high-risk for HIV because they live in urban geographical areas with high rates of poverty, a primary risk factor for HIV infection, and high rates of prevalent HIV,” said Noelle R. Leonard, another Co-Investigator. Adding, “These ‘heterosexuals at high-risk’ for HIV, who are mainly African American/Black and Hispanic, have serious barriers to regular HIV testing. Many of the barriers are related to race/ethnicity and lower social status, including: fear of HIV stigma; distrust of medical settings; substance use problems; and the sense that heterosexuals are not at risk for HIV compared to other risk groups–such as men who have sex with men or persons who inject drugs.” …..  New Kerala 12/12/16)

232. HIV treatment may take a toll on the brain: Study (3)

Newyork: Antiretroviral drugs have been life-changing therapies for HIV patients, but they can have significant side effects including neuronal degeneration, which can be manifested as forgetfulness, confusion and behavioural and motor changes, says a study. Certain protease inhibitors, among the most effective HIV drugs, lead to the production of the peptide beta amyloid, often associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the study found. “Protease inhibitors are very effective antiviral therapies, but they do have inherent toxicities,” said senior author on the study Kelly Jordan-Sciutto, Professor at University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in the US. The drugs prompt an increase in levels of the enzyme that cleaves the amyloid precursor protein, APP, to produce beta amyloid, which is responsible for the damage to neurons. Notably, inhibiting that enzyme, called BACE1, protected human and rodent brain cells from harm, suggesting that targetting this mechanism with a new drug could minimise damage to neurons in patients on antiretroviral therapies. “Our findings may cause us to rethink how we’re using these drugs and even consider developing an adjunctive therapy to reduce some of these negative effects,” Jordan-Sciutto noted. To determine whether and how neuronal damage arises from drug treatment and to ascertain the enzyme BACE1′s role, the team investigated the effects of protease inhibitors in two animal models, then probed the mechanism of action in cells in culture. The findings appeared in the American Journal of Pathology. (Business Standard 17/12/16)

233. Diabetes could increase the risk of HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria (3)

KOLKATA: Based on a report, published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2013, Metabolic Medicine’s professor Rebecca Reynolds said that India has the highest number of diabetic patients in the World. During MEDICON International 2016, an international conference on advanced clinical medicine in Kolkata, Rebecca Reynolds, Metabolic Medicine’s professor of UK’s University of Edinburgh, said, “Diabetes becomes a global problem, when the number of people with diabetes in the world is 415 million (Reported in 2015) and it could go up to 642 million by 2040.” “There are 78.3 million (Reported in 2015) diabetic patients in South-East Asia and it’s increasing very fast,” Rebecca added. The professor also said that diabetes, which is of two types, could increase the risks of HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria. “Though we found more diabetic patients in urban zones than rural areas, but poor diet due to poverty is a leading reason of Type 2 diabetes,” the senior professor said. Basing on a health report, Reynolds said that 1/4th population of India was under poverty line, when 1/3rd babies were born in the country with very low weight. “There are three types of diabetes prevention- primary, secondary and tertiary, which are exciting but a challenging job,” the professor said on prevention. “The Indian government has overtaken several strategies to fight it. Two pilot projects- NPDCS (National Programme for Prevention and Control of Diabetes, Cardiovascular and Diseases) in 2008 and NCPDCS (National Programme for Prevention of Cancer and NCDs) in 2010- were conducted in 10 and 21states respectively,” she said.Rebecca said that there was also an expansion of programme with additional diabetes screening and treatment in 2013. However, the UK-based professor said that the NCPDCS project did not achieve much in India in diabetes prevention.”Due to the lack of diabetes specialists across the country and poor awareness about the disease among the people of rural areas, the project could not achieve a huge success,” she added. The two day third edition of MEDICON International conference, jointly hosted by Peerless Hospital, B. K. Roy Foundation and Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, concluded on Sunday. (Times of India 19/12/16)

234. Noida: Man tests positive for HIV, son sent to shelter home (3)

Noida: A six-year-old boy was sent to a shelter home after his father was diagnosed HIV positive. The victim, a mason who hails from Kolkata, West Bengal, had come to Noida to get treated for multiple ailments. However, his relatives in West Bengal allegedly refused to take care of his son as soon as they heard about his condition, thereby forcing the father to send his kid to a shelter home. A local resident, who had gone to meet a patient at the district hospital on Thursday, spotted the boy sitting near his father who was lying on a bed. When he inquired, he found that the man is HIV positive and there is no one to take care of the child. He then informed the police and Childline, a helpline for children. “We received the information from the police team. Our workers went to the hospital and shifted the child to a Noida shelter home. His father was shifted to LNJP Hospital in Delhi where the India HIV Aids Alliance is taking care of him,” said Satya Prakash, programme manager, FXB India Suraksha NGO. The district hospital authorities said that the victim was referred to LNJP Hospital in Delhi after he was diagnosed HIV positive. “The victim had approached the hospital with multiple ailments. After we found out that he was HIV positive, we referred him to LNJP hospital. It is a routine procedure that is followed with all such patients,” said Nagendra Mathur, chief medical superintendent, district hospital. Earlier, the victim was staying at a Noida resident’s place after he was found waiting in the district hospital 15 days ago at the district hospital. “I went to the district hospital to meet a relative who was admitted there. I found this man lying on a bed while his son sat next to him. He told me that he has nowhere to go. I took him to my place,” said Kallu, a resident of Noida. The Good Samaritan of Noida also got him tested at the district hospital. However, he could not keep the child due to the fear that he might run away. “We admitted him at the hospital and got all the tests done. On Tuesday, his reports came and it was found that he was HIV positive. The man is still with us and on Friday he will be shifted to the LNJP hospital. We could have kept the child but we did not want to take any risk,” said Kallu. (Hindustan Tim,es 22/12/16)

235. Prices of 50 essential drugs slashed by up to 44% (3)

NEW DELHI: Prices of over 50 essential drugs including those used for treatment of HIV infection, diabetes, anxiety disorders, bacterial infections, angina and acid reflux have been capped by the government, leading to a price cut in the range of 5 per cent to 44 per cent. The National Drug Pricing Regulator has also fixed the retail prices of 29 formulations. “NPPA has fixed/revised ceiling prices of 55 scheduled formulations of Schedule-I under Drugs (Price Control) Amendment Order,2016 and retail price of 29 formulations under DPCO, 2013 in related Notification /order dated 23.12.2016,” National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) said in a statement. On being contacted about the price reduction, NPPA Chairman Bhupendra Singh told PTI: “The prices have been reduced in the range of 5 to 44 per cent, with the average being about 25 per cent”. As stipulated under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order (DPCO) 2013, NPPA fixes ceiling price of essential medicines of Schedule I.In respect of medicines not under price control, manufacturers are allowed to increase the maximum retail price by 10 per cent annually. The calculation for essential drugs is based on the simple average of all medicines in a particular therapeutic segment with sales of more than 1 per cent.The government had notified the DPCO 2013, which covers 680 formulations, with effect from May 15, 2014, replacing the 1995 order that regulated prices of only 74 bulk drugs. Set up in 1997, NPPA has been entrusted with the task of fixation/revision of prices of pharma products, enforcement of provisions of DPCO and monitoring of prices of controlled and decontrolled drugs. (Times of India 23/12/16)

 

236. 3,500 HIV patients in Mumbai have stopped treatment (3)

Mumbai: Around 3,500 HIV-infected patients in Mumbai have abandoned treatment between 2013 and 2016 and nearly 90% have not been traced, says data from the Mumbai District Aids Control Society (MDACS). Experts said the trend of HIV patients abandoning treatment — referred to as ‘loss-to-follow-up patients’ — not only results in increased HIV-related deaths, but is also a major public health concern because they can spread the disease in the community. The fact that a majority of these patients are not traceable means the transmission of the virus could be active, said an official from the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO). When patients drop out, they are no longer monitored by the anti-retro-viral treatment (ART) centres, which distribute the medicines for free. Experts said they will be more likely to transmit the infection in the community. “When an HIV patient stops the treatment, the virus multiplies in their body. This patient will knowingly or unknowingly spread the infection in the community either by unsafe sex or use of common syringes,” he said. Another concern is that if treatment is abandoned mid-way, they could develope drug resistance, making it harder for drugs to work if the patient decides to start medication again. “Stopping the treatment means you are allowing the virus to acquire drug-resistant forms. Treatment options for advanced forms of the infection are largely limited,” said a doctor from Sir JJ Hospital, Byculla. In Mumbai, of the average 30,000 HIV patients taking (ART) — a cocktail of drugs that, while not killing the virus, slows its growth, reducing mortality — 453 had stopped coming for their monthly medicines between 2013 and 2014, according to MDACS. When the government intensified its efforts to find out patients who abandoned treatment, 3,091 cases were reported between 2014 and 2016. Doctors said there were several reasons why patients abandoned medication. “They usually do not disclose their condition to their relatives. Many discontinue the treatment out of the fear that others will find out about their condition,” said Dr Srikala Acharya, additional project director, MDACS. “Sometimes patients also stop coming because they face severe side effects from the medicines or they find it to too burdensome to travel to an ART centre each month.” While tracing patients is a challenge, members of VIHAAN, a consortium led by HIV/AIDS Alliance that traces patients who have stopped treatment said the numbers are usually higher in big cities such as Mumbai and Delhi. “These centres usually have a high migratory population. People start the treatment, but go back to their home towns half way through,” said Mona Balani, programme officer, VIHAAN. “They would have given their temporary address and phone number, so it becomes tough to trace them back,” she said. Officials from NACO said they are trying to appoint more people at regional levels to have better coordination with the patients. “Patients dropping out of treatment is a setback to the goal of eliminating HIV from India. We are going to appoint 13 people across India, who will work to bring down the dropout rates,” said the official. (Hindustan Times 24/12/16)