HR News

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Volume 18                                                                     No. 12                                        April 30, 2016

HR NEWS: APRIL 30, 2016

 (From April 21 to 30,  2016)

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Denied justice, west UP Dalits play conversion card (2)

MEERUT: Denied social justice, west UP’s oppressed Dalits are increasingly threatening to opt out of the Hindu fold. But in a shift from tradition, they are talking about embracing Islam rather than Buddhism. For the second time in a month, a Dalit in this region has threatened to convert if police do not bring his tormentors to justice. On Thursday, Lohia Nagar resident Anoop Kumar Jatav alleged he had been attacked twice in the past 10 days and lack of action by police had emboldened his assailants. Ghaziabad district’s Bamheta village has also been tense since the alleged gang rape of a Dalit schoolgirl on March 29. The Class VIII student burnt herself to death on April 6, and the accused, Bablu and Rancho Yadav, allegedly continued pressuring her family to withdraw the case. Matters came to a head when Lila Dhar, a former pradhan, and the accused’s relatives thrashed the girl’s family on April 10 during her chautha ceremony. In protest, 1,000 Dalit families in the village threatened mass conversion to Islam. “We face oppression from other castes. The rape was just the trigger. Even police take bribes and side with the other castes. Nobody listens to us within the Hindu fold. Maybe if we convert to Islam, we will get a fair hearing,” said Pradip, a Dalit resident of Bamheta. Jatav alleged no action was taken in his case. “On April 11, Mohit Gujjar, a resident of Kazipur, forced his way into my house, beat up my wife and me over a minor issue, and abused our caste. Kharkhoda police station registered a case under several sections, including some of the SC/ST Act, and on April 16 we even gave a memorandum of our demands to the district magistrate.” (Times of India 21/4/16)

2. Dalits in Hassan village assaulted for refusing to do traditional chores (2)

Hassan: Seven Dalits, including four women, who were beaten up allegedly by ‘upper’ caste people at T. Thimmanahalli in Alur taluk earlier this week, are undergoing treatment at the taluk hospital in Alur town. They were assaulted because they refused to do traditional chores ( kulavadike ), which include sweeping the streets and clearing the carcasses of animals. Radhika (23), Shashikala (25), Savitha (24), Dyavamma (65), Dinesh (23), Manjunath (28), and Ravi (28) were assaulted on Tuesday night. A group of six to eight people allegedly barged into their houses in the Dalit colony and assaulted the men. As women members of the families came to the rescue, they were also beaten up. The village has 40 families, including four of Dalits. They had been forced to do cleaning in the village for ages. Javaraiah (70), a Dalit, told The Hindu on Thursday, “During festivals, we have to sweep the streets and help the ‘upper’ caste people slaughter animals. On Tuesday, the ‘upper’ caste people (Vokkaligas) wanted us to do preparations for the Thotadamma festival. All our children have different jobs. Moreover, the younger generation is not ready to continue with the traditional chores. Except two people, nobody went for the preparation work, and that’s why they assaulted us,” he said. Mr. Dinesh, Mr. Manjunath and Mr. Ravi, all in their mid-twenties, are working as drivers. “Why should we do the cleaning job? They want us to continue doing the traditional chores because we are Dalits. They too have youth in their families, let them do it,” said Mr. Dinesh. The women, who were assaulted, said they have been putting up with humiliation and insults for years. “We are not allowed to fetch drinking water from the tank located in their locality. Sometimes, they even object to us passing through their agricultural land to reach our land,” said Ms. Dyavamma. Following the complaint filed by Mr. Dinesh, Alur police have registered a case under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and IPC sections. Among the eight accused, six have been arrested. (The Hindu 23/4/16)

3. Dalits finally gain entry to Basaveshwara temple (2)

Hassan: Dalits of Sigaranahalli in Holenarsipur taluk offered prayers at the Basaveshwara Temple on Sunday as around 30 members from the Dalit colony entered the temple, at 10 a.m. However, the “upper castes” stayed away from the temple on Sunday . For the last eight months, the Dalits of the village have been demanding entry into the temple. In September 2015, “upper caste” members of the village imposed a fine on four Dalit women for entering the temple. Since then, the Dalits have held protests, seeking entry into the temple and the village community hall.Following the protests, the district administration, on Saturday, took over the administration of the temple. Holenarsipur tahsildar Renu Kumar conducted the mahajar; they took into custody the valuables in the temple in presence of five persons, including two from the Dalit colony. Later, it was announced that from Sunday the temple would be open between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. and between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. every day. An employee of Hariharpura Gram Panchayat has been given the responsibility of opening the temple at the fixed hours. R.K. Shahapurwad, Superintendent of Police, Hassan and senior officers were present. Somanna, deputy tahsildar of Halekote hobli, told The Hindu: “We have conveyed the arrangements made for temple visits to the villagers. As of now there is no priest; the devotees have to just go there and offer prayers. The process of handing over the temple to the Muzrai Department will be taken up soon,” he said. The community hall, which was known as Vokkaliga Samudaya Bhavan all these years, will now be called Samudaya Bhavan. None from the “upper caste” families visited the temple on Sunday morning. Officials present at the temple confirmed that only Dalits came to the temple. The police had been deployed in the village. Last year in September, the district administration escorted Dalits into the temple, amidst protests from the “upper castes.” Since then the temple was kept locked, as the “upper castes” felt it had become “impure” with the entry of Dalits. Purification rituals were conducted on March 25 before the annual Durga Parameshwari festival. (The Hindu 25/4/16)

4. Dalit Ayyar on mission to abolish caste bias (2)

Though one may mistake V K Ayyar for a brahmin going by his name, this 54-year-old candidate of Puthiya Tamilagam for Krishnarayapuram reserved constituency in Karur is a dalit. His father named him so to protest caste discrimination against dalits. PT is fighting the election as part of the DMK alliance. “My father, an ardent communist, chose this name for me to cross community lines and as a step towards achieving communal equality among the people. Born in the devendra kula velallar community, I have no inhibition in bearing the name of another caste,” said Ayyar.He was born and raised in Mugavoor village near Rajapalayam in Virudhunagar district to A Karuppiah and Velammal. His forefathers were natives of Kulithalai in Karur district and migrated to Mugavooor many years ago. Despite his rural background, he rose to the position of senior engineer in Chennai Petrochemicals in Chennai before quitting the job to join politics in May 2001 and working to bring about equality in society. After completing his diploma in mechanical engineering in a private polytechnic college in Rajapalayam, he joined CPC as a technician. Bearing this name was not an easy task for him for many years. The name became a topic among everyone, including his friends and colleagues. “When we applied for a community certificate for me, they posed several questions about the name. My father argued with them that a citizen has every right to choose his name. Eventually, we won. Several years later, I faced the same situation during my employment and I had a lot of explaining to do to convince them,” said Ayyar. The communist ideals sown by his father from childhood pushed him towards politics. “Don’t eat without work, don’t help from other’s money and don’t live without helping — it’s a mantra of my father. He is the reason I joined politics,” said Ayyar, whose wife M A Kavitha also supports his cause. The couple have a son, K A Stalin, and a daughter, K A Velvizhi. Initially, he was a member of CPM. He joined the Puthiya Tamilagam party led by K Krishnasamy because he felt that it is the right platform for him. The party fielded him in Nilakkottai constituency in 2001. (Times of India 28/4/16)

TRIBALS

5. Fronts ignoring marginalised sections: Janu (6)

KALPETTA: Tribal leader C.K. Janu has said that political power, instead of ideologies, is the need of the hour to improve the wretched living condition of the marginalised sections of people, including tribal people, in the State. Speaking to media persons here on Wednesday on her stance regarding her entry into the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as a Janadhipathya Rashtriya Sabha (JRS) candidate from Sulthan Bathery Assembly constituency in the forth coming election, Ms. Janu said that though the tribal and Dalit communities constituted nearly 14 per cent of the population in the State, both the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) had tried to keep away the poor sections of society from main stream politics. ‘‘I have led many agitations for tribal people for the past 26 years, from Muthanga agitation to Nilpusamaram in front of the Secretariat. These agitations teach me that ideologies and moral support of the public cannot do anything for the betterment of the marginalised section people, instead political power alone can improve the wretched condition of the tribal people,’’ Ms. Janu said. Ms. Janu said that successive governments had offered various promises to her after every agitation for the past many years, but they were yet to realise it. On the condition of the Dalit and tribal people in the NDA ruled northern States, Ms. Janu said that while the leaders of the both fronts were speaking about the poor living conditions and atrocities against the marginalised section of people in those States, why were they keeping silent on the wretched living conditions and various other issues of tribal people in the State. The Dalit and tribal communities in the State were the victims of fascism, Ms. Janu said. While both the fronts had adopted a negative stance towards the marginalised sections of people, the NDA showed the courage to welcome the JRS to their alliance, Ms. Janu said. (The Hindu 21/4/16)

6. Malaya tribals’ struggle for land remains unresolved (6)

Kadappara (Palakkad): Though it completed 100 days on Sunday, the land struggle initiated by members of Moorthikunnu settlement of Malaya tribal people at Kadappara near Mangalam Dam continues unresolved because of the indifferent attitude of the Revenue and Forest authorities. Despite an order from the District Collector to award the occupied land to 75 members of 19 tribal families involved in the struggle, the solution remains distant in the absence of constitution of a sub-divisional committee comprising representatives of Forest, Revenue and SC/ST Departments apart from people’s representatives. Though officials had promised that they would get the nod of the Election Commission to constitute the committee, no action was taken in this regard. The agitating families are living in temporary sheds in the occupied land since January 15.As none of the tribals can go outside for work as the strike requires their presence, they face extreme hardship in sustaining themselves. It is a ‘struggle support committee’ that helps them meet basic expenses by initiating a fund drive among the residents outside the settlement.There were 18 huts and 23 graves on such a small patch and no cultivation was possible over the rocks. As far as the dead were concerned, there was no burial ground. We had no option but to put up graves in the close proximity of houses,” explained Mathu, a tribal woman, while narrating the situation that forced them to go on a land occupation struggle. The tribals are seeking ownership over 22 acres of vested forestland in the locality under the Forest Rights Act. “Though presently classified as forestland, the occupied area was surplus land taken back by the government from a local landlord. The land has no character of a forest and its four boundaries are agricultural lands occupied by settlers from Kottayam and Ernakulam districts,” points out Velayudhan, a tribal man. (The Hindu 25/4/16)

7. Harur: Ghosts of AP Killings Keep Tribals at Home (6)

Long meandering tracks cutting through green pastures, picturesque tribal settlements and desolate rocky hillocks mask the underlying problems of the people, calling this difficult terrain of Harur their home. While the residents here suffer from chronic poverty, lack of access to higher education, medical facilities and employment opportunities – issues plaguing almost all parts of Dharmapuri – it’s the constant struggle to better their lot that makes them susceptible to exploitation and, at times, persecution. The tribals from Sitheri Hills in Harur Assembly constituency were among the 20 woodcutters allegedly killed by special forces inside Seshachalam forests in Andhra Pradesh last year. The tribal population is seemingly caught in a vortex – continuing to want to make their living out of the forests, bearing witness to their ever-changing landscape, all the while desiring to enjoy the fruits of development. In Kalasapadi, a village accessible only by a dirt-road cutting through a hilly forest, the residents lack even basic infrastructure and have to traverse through the unpaved roads and dense woods to reach even the nearest health care centre. Says R Raju, the village headman, “The road that we built only reaches three villages, while the rest can only be accessed by trekking through the thick forests. Those living in the interior villages don’t have access to basic health care and have to be carried through the forests till the hospital.” The Seshachalam killings are still fresh on the minds of the people here. A Kamaraj, a 30-year-old resident, was one of the three men once arrested by the policemen in Andhra Pradesh for allegedly trying to enter the forests in Seshachalam and fell sandalwood trees. He was also implicated in the killings of two forest department officials a couple of years ago. Kamaraj maintains his innocence, but recalls that there were over 350 people, including 75 from Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram and Dharmapuri districts, in the same prison as he in Andhra Pradesh for smuggling. Locals say that the promise of quick and easy money lures many tribals to cross over into Andhra Pradesh and try their luck out with the smuggling rings. However, ever since the killings, the number of people choosing to cross over has decreased, they say. “We saw the bodies of young men killed in Andhra Pradesh. Ever since then, we have chosen to stay put and till our lands. Whatever little we grow, we consume. Sometimes the excess is sold on the markets in Dharmapuri,” says M Padma, another resident. Multiple sociological factors drive the tribal residents into smuggling, believes C R Bijoy, an independent researcher working with the Campaign for Survival and Dignity. “Unlike other tribes in Tamil Nadu, the Malayali tribes of Dharmapuri have a feudal structure underpinned by an exploitative internal economy,” he says. Lack of land protection laws, securing the material base of their livelihood, have contributed to a system of deprivation for a section of the population, he says, adding that such an exploitative system was forcing them into illicit trade. … (New Indian Express 26/4/16)

8. Distressed Tribal Girl Denied Help After Allegedly Being Raped (6)

ROURKELA:  Birmitrapur police in Sundargarh district have come under scanner for being ‘insensitive’ after they allegedly denied help to a tribal girl, who is suspected to have been raped. She was rescued from Jharkhand by a woman. The girl of Lase area under Birmitrapur police limits had left with a youth. On Tuesday, she was found in a distressed condition in Theteitangar area of Simdega district in Jharkhand. A woman took the girl with her and on the next day, she was handed over to Theteitangar police.  The OIC of Anti-Human Trafficking Cell (ATC) of Simdega, Raje Kumari Jojo, took her to Birmitrapur police station, about 45 km from Simdega, but Birmitrapur police refused to take the girl’s responsibility. She was taken to Baunsjor police outpost from where, her parents took the girl. Sundargarh SP R Prakash said as per the statement of her father, she is 18 years old and Birmitrapur Police were instructed to record her statement. (New Indian Express 29/4/16)

WOMEN

9. 3 of 5 domestic violence cases involve marital rape: Activists (8)

Chennai: In 99.5% of rape cases in Tamil Nadu, the offender is known to the victim, according to National Crime Records Bureau statistics of 2014. But while the NCRB lists out the percentage of offences by people close to the victims such as grandfather, father, brother, son, close family member, relative, neighbour, employer, co-worker and other known person, there is no mention of rape by spouse, which according to women’s rights activists in the city, forms one of the largest percentages. “In 3 out of the 5 domestic violence cases that come to us, there is marital rape, but in most cases the women do not even recognise it as such. It is critical that the government criminalises marital rape,” says Prasanna Gettu, CEO of the Chennai-based International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC), an organisation that works towards rehabilitation of battered women. On Tuesday, at an event to launch the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign in 61 additional districts, Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi announced that the government was finally considering criminalising marital rape, and expressed hope that there will be a decision soon on the issue. “In Tamil Nadu, the mindset is such that women don’t even recognise marital rape. Most women assume that rape can only occur outside a marriage and the offenders can only be strangers,” says Gettu.”Fifteen years ago, even domestic violence was an alien term in India, and an issue that was swept under the carpet. Women are finally beginning to speak up against domestic violence and sexual abuse, but most of them do not use the word rape even if it’s happening to them in their marriage simply because their mindset and culture refuses to let them see it as a reality,” says Gettu. BS Ajeetha, an advocate specialising in women and law, believes that marital rape needs to come under the purview of the Indian Penal Code for any serious action to be taken.”The Domestic Violence (DV) Act 2005 is a civil act with criminal procedure, which means that victims can only seek civil remedies. Offenders do not get penalised like in the case of sexual abuse, harassment or rape by a third party. That is why DV needs to be passed as a criminal act,” says Ajeetha. She adds that under the DV Act, which lists out the types of abuse – sexual, verbal and emotional – there is no mention of marital rape. “What is not there in law cannot be addressed by the law. So, as of now, victims or marital rape have no recourse. No one is willing to talk about it or even listen to their complaints, which is why criminalising marital rape is important,” she says. (Times of India 21/4/16)

10. 3 women branded ‘tonhi’, thrashed, dragged by hair in Chhattisgarh (8)

RAIPUR: Three women in Chhattisgarh’s tribal Jashpur district were brutally beaten and dragged by their hair in front of whole village after branding them as ‘tonhi’, those involved in witchcraft and blackmagic practices. Suspecting blackmagic spell on a woman with health ailment since long, her daughter declared three women ‘witches’ before the village holding them responsible for her mother’s illness on Monday. Six persons were arrested on Tuesday. The incident took place at Jashpurnagar’s Bhagalpur area where a woman Chetli Bai’s mother has been suffering from health ailment since long time following which the woman suspected that her mother’s ailment might be the result of ‘jadu-tona’. “Acting like she was under influence of some Goddess, Chetli Bai called all residents of the region at one place including three women and she asked for a sword claiming that she would identify those involved in witchcraft practice against her mother. Suddenly tagging them ‘dayan’ (witch), Chetli bai put the sword under their neck started thrashing them along with other villagers,” police said. According to women’s son’s statement, the women were kicked and dragged by their hair and Chetli bai was almost on the verge of killing them as ‘sacrifice to Goddess’. When they started beating women brutally, other villagers and women’s family intervened to save them. A case was lodged against six persons under Section 294, 506, 34 and 4,5 of Chhattisgarh prevention of blackmagic and witchcraft practices and they were arrested on Tuesday. Those arrested were identified as Chetli Bai, Burju, Mahesh ram, Dayanand, Narayan and Langdu Munda. Locals said that many such cases go unreported as they occur in remote areas but because Bhagalpur is close in vicinity to police station, people reported the matter to police. Similar incident took place at Lachkhera village of Gariyaband district 14 years ago where Bisahin Bai along with two other women was marched naked, tonsured, electrocuted from electric pole, forced to drink urine, their tongue and hands were burnt with flaming ash and were dragged by hair from temple to temple by the village mob. The women were accused of casting spell on a village boy leading to mental disability. All three of them still await justice for last 14 years and haven’t got their jewellery or belongings back, let alone compensation, which was seized as part of prosecution. (Times of India 26/4/16)

11. Pune included in the scheme to save girl child (8)

PUNE: Pune district has been included in the union government’s ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ (BBBP) scheme. “The scheme aims at improving the birth rate of girl child and preventing female foeticide. The programme has the mandate to secure and educate the girls,” said Rajendra Phadake, national coordinator of the programme.He was speaking in the workshop organised to promote the scheme and initiative. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has expanded ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme which was launched on January 22, 2015 at Panipat in Haryana. It is a tri-ministerial effort of ministries of Women and child development, health & family welfare and human resource development. Only 100 districts in the country with low child sex ration (CSR) were selected for the BBBP Scheme in first phase. The aim was to create awareness and conduct advocacy programmes. During the last one year, the BBBP scheme is being implemented under the overall guidance and supervision of concerned district magistrates or deputy commissioners, said the coordinators. “The number of girl students opting out from school is high. A special scheme will be organised in the month of June in Pune. It will aim at increasing the number of girl students in the schools,” said Madhuri Misal, member of legislative assembly (MLA) and western Maharashtra coorindator of this programme. The coordinators said that scheme has been extended to other parts of the state including Pune, Nashik, Parbhani, Latur, Hingoli and Solapur. (Times of India 26/4/16)

12. Domestic Workers Too Need Contracts and Hikes (8)

CHENNAI: The term ‘working women’ is usually associated with offices, contracts, structured salaries and dignity. But for a large section of the unorganised workforce, the domestic workers, the four walls of a house is what is work, with no rules and contracts binding them. They remain one of the most common victims of workplace violence, which very often goes unreported due to fear and lack of awareness — something that needs to be noted on Arpil 28, World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Though domestic workers were included under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act in 2012, the implementation is a lot harder. “Unlike a usual workplace where there is one employer and many employees, here there is one employee who has multiple employers, making regulation extremely tough,” says K R Renuka, director of Centre for Women’s Development and Research (CWDR), an NGO that has been working with domestic workers since 1993. “Ten years back, the domestic workers were not even treated as human beings. Today, it is a little better” she says. Cases of sexual harassment were very common, whether it was staring or deliberately brushing against the worker. But if the women raised the issue, the most common threat was being accused of a theft. “Most women who have faced harassment prefer to quit the place, rather than getting involved in police cases,” she says. In the past three years, she adds, they have not received too many complaints, because employers are now more cautious, with more workers joining trade unions. She estimates that the number of domestic workers in the city is 22 lakh, of which now a small percentage are members of trade unions. But numbers are rising, and Renuka works with a team of group leaders in various slums across the city. The women also help in getting more workers registered with the welfare board and into CWDR’s trade union, called Manushi. Being a part of groups will give them more dignity, Renuka says, and there is safety in a close-knit community. She recalls an incident where a 65-year-old woman was beaten up by her employer for some domestic argument, and was later locked in a kitchen and even threatened by the children in the house with a knife. “Another worker in the apartment overheard the fight and called me, and we got police to act. An FIR was filed against the employer and the police told me it is the first time a domestic worker was the complainant and not the accused.” But even though the police was ready to arrest the employer, the  woman later withdrew the case after the employer asked for forgiveness. But a new trend, she notes, is that many young professionals from IT and other industries realise the value of domestic work, and often treat their employees better than the older generation. “But we want to have a situation where a woman, on joining domestic work can have a written contract with increments, leaves, a notice period  and other rules.” (New Indian Express 28/4/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

13.  ‘Children at Sishu Gruha face physical abuse regularly’ (14)

KARIMNAGAR: Children at Sishu Gruha in the town were subjected to various forms of abuse, including branding with hot spoon and thrashing by ayahs (caretakers). These revelations were made by outsourced employees before Women and Child Welfare Secretary Vijayendira, who made a surprise visit to the Sishu Gruha on Thursday, in the presence of ICDS Project Director Mohan Reddy, TPCC Mahila Congress president Nerella Sharada, BJP senior leader Bandi Sanjay Kumar and others. Ms. Vijayendira interacted with the orphans who were branded with a hot spoon. Later she interacted with social worker Srilatha and District Child Protection Officer (DCPO), Parveen, and inquired about the incident. Ms. Srilatha complained that children were being ill-treated by some caretakers since long, especially during nights. When children cry at night, ayahs usually thrash them to make them sleep. “Following complaints from children, I started sleeping with them at night. But the DCPO opposed my decision and neglected the plight of the orphans. I also informed the same to ICDS Project Director Mohan Reddy, but nothing came of it,” she said. The Project Director accepted that he didn’t look into the issue when it was brought to his notice. Expressing concern over the ill-treatment of orphans, Ms. Vijayendira instructed the ICDS Project Director to immediately provide video footages of all the CCTV cameras and attendance details of all the employees collected through bio-metric machine. She also interacted with the children of Balasadan and inquired about the ill-treatment of orphans at Sishu Gruha. BJP leader Bandi Sanjay Kumar said the differences among the employees had cost dearly for children and demanded criminal action against the culprits.  (The Hindu 22/4/16)

14. Declare ”parental alienation” a crime: Child Rights activist (14)

Bengaluru: The central government should declare “parental alienation” a crime and make shared parenting mandatory in order to protect the rights of the children, an activist said on Sunday. “Parental alienation” refers primarily to the manipulation and brainwashing of a child that a parent resorts to in order to exclude the other parent from the life of the child. It happens in unhappy marriages. A petition signed by the members from across India has been submitted to the Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi to demand that parental alienation be made a criminal offence, child rights activist Kumar V. Jahgirdar, who is based here, told IANS. Child rights groups in many countries, particularly in the West, observe April 25 as the Parental Alienation Awareness Day. Jahgirdar asked the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights to accept and probe complaints of parental alienation and take appropriate action. He said there should be speedy trial in all cases of dowry, domestic violence, child custody and maintenance. “We urge all the stakeholders like the law commission, the women and child development ministry and the judiciary to take steps to save children from mental cruelty,” he said. Jahgirdar is the president of the Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP), which promotes the right of a child to receive the love and care of both mother and father even in cases of marital conflict, separation and divorce. More than 20,000 divorce cases are pending in family courts in Bengaluru alone, according to data gathered by  (Zee News 24/4/16)

15. Programme in all 30 districts to bring back dropouts to school: Alva (14)

Mangaluru: The Karnataka State Children’s Rights Protection Commission has launched a special drive in all the 30 districts to bring dropouts back to school, said Kripa Amar Alva, chairperson of the Commission. “During my three-year term, I want to ensure that no child remains out of the portals of a school,” she said, speaking at the launch of ‘Shaale kade nanna nade’ and valedictory of summer camp Ranga Dhwani. “There are more than 100 dropouts in Dakshina Kannada – especially children of migrant workers from Bagalkot district. Children who should have been studying have dropped out due to poverty and other problems. The Department of Public Instruction, Women and Child Welfare Department, Labour Department, Social Welfare Department, Magu Mathu Kanoonu Kendra and voluntary organisations will be involved in the campaign,” she informed. Expressing her concern over prevalence of child marriage in spite of a legislation banning it, Alva said that lack of awareness was the reason for the prevalence and that education could bring about changes in society. District In-charge Minister B Ramanath Rai said that he will give Rs 1 lakh from MLALAD for the construction of anganwadi buildings anywhere in the district. “Education will help in building an exploitation-free society. Cases of atrocity on girl children are on the rise due to lack of education. When a girl is educated and stands on her feet and is empowered, then it will bring in an end to atrocity in society,” said the minister. The children took out a procession from AB Shetty Circle to Town Hall, to create awareness on children’s rights. Ranga Dhwani, a summer camp for children concluded here. The camp, which had commenced on April 11, was held under the aegis of four theatre directors – Murahari Kasargod, Maunesh Vishwakarma, Viddu Ucchil and Jagan Pawar. All the 199 participating children presented four plays on the occasion. (Deccan Herald 27/4/16)

16.  ‘Vote for Child Rights’ gathers momentum (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Political parties never pay heed to the views and voices of children though they constitute 30 per cent of the population. As they have no voting rights, their voices and needs are hardly heard. The UNICEF Chennai in association with the Rajagiri Educational Alternatives and Community Health (outREACH) Service Society of Rajagiri College of Social Sciences, Kalamassery, is coming up with a Children’s Manifesto/Charter for the May 16 Assembly election. The 30-page ‘Kuttikalude Avakasapathrika’ was charted by those selected from bala-panchayats promoted under Kudumbasree; general category; differently-abled; children living in institutions; street children; adopted, sponsored, and foster children. The 30 children selected from across the State attended the three-day workshop from April 11 and the charter was vetted by representatives of civil society organisations, working group of men and women at local bodies, and socially responsible citizens. The manifesto — divided into four sections named survival, development, protection, and participation — has already been submitted to the major political parties by the children to get their views listed. The manifesto highlights the imperative need for creating a safe and secure environment for the children. They have demanded setting apart 30 per cent of the State budget for their welfare, protection of rights, and education. The manifesto also addresses issues of inequality, segregation of tribal kids, malnutrition, child labour, and child abuse. Children’s grama sabha in all local bodies and converting all anganwadis into model ones for catering to the needs of children have been suggested. Equal opportunity to transgender children, regular inspection in schools and stores located in the vicinity of schools, immediate steps to solve sanitation, and playgrounds and parks in all wards have been listed. A movement among the community to highlight the slogan “Vote for Child Rights” will be initiated during the election on the basis of the manifesto, says Anupama A.B. and Manishmol A.B. who were part of the drafting team. (The Hindu 29/4/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

17. Minorities panel’s move to curb police harassment (7)

HYDERABAD: The State Minorities Commission has started a drive to make policing sensitive when it comes to arrests of youth from marginalised sections, including Muslims. As two cases of alleged police harassment had lead to the deaths of two youth in Guntur and Vikarabad, and since more complaints are piling up with the Commission regarding police harassment, officials of the Commission will now engage in dialogue with Superintendents of Polices and Commissioners in districts and cities in the twin States. In two separate incidents in Gatkesar and LB Nagar, two youth who were arrested for petty offences had earlier harmed themselves in the past one month, the Commission observed. “There are several such cases which are coming to the notice of the Commission and we with our limited resources are taking up each matter seriously. In each of the district visits, we are in touch with Superintendents of Polices and asked them to create awareness among their police personnel to show sensitivity where it is required,” said Abid Rasool Khan, Chairman, Minorities Commission. The Minorities Commission got other cases, mainly from Hyderabad where Muslim youth filed complaints against police for harassing them. In some cases which have come to the notice of the Commission, youth have accused constable-level officers of using abusive language, assault and intimidation during questioning and investigation.“In a recent case, we had served notices to Pahadisharif police for harassing wives of two accused. The Commission had sought an explanation from the Commissioner of Police,” Mr. Khan said. The Chairman added that with an increase in the number of such cases, police would only lose trust and confidence of people.“Muslim community in itself will feel threatened by law-makers, who are supposed to protect them. The police need to build confidence among people from marginalised sections,” Mr. Khan said. As per the Commission, in public hearings conducted during the past two years, several youth had given testimonies against the police. “Both the State governments should allocate funds to the State Minorities Commission for conducting this drive at a larger scale,” the Chairman said. (The Hindu 21/4/16)

18. Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah backs Giriraj Singh’s ‘population’ remark (7)

New Delhi: Union Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah on Sunday supported BJP’s firebrand leader Giriraj Singh’s remark in which he had proposed a law in the country that same number of children should be allowed for families across religions whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian. Speaking to ANI, Heptullah said, “Giriraj ji has said it now. But I have been a votary of small family with two children for long.” “I have three children myself, and I am also a culprit. Had there been two-child limit back then, I too would have stuck to it,” revealed Heptullah, who is a Muslim herself. Muslims must not be allowed to have more than two kids, only then our daughters will be safe: Giriraj Singh Giriraj drew a massive flak when he had said, “Hindus should have two sons, Muslims, too, should have two sons. Our population is coming down. Bihar has seven such districts where our population has gone down. Population rules have to be changed, only then will our daughters be safe. Otherwise, like Pakistan, we too will have to keep our daughters under the veil.” “There should be such a law in the country that same number of children should be allowed for families across religions whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian. The population policy should be the same for all. And if you want our country to be a developed nation, population control is necessary,” he added. The Opposition had condemned his remarks, stating his basic purpose is to create a “divide” between the Hindus and the Muslims for “short term political gains” (Zee News 24/4/16)

19. India’s composite culture is a model for countries: Hamid Ansari (7)

NEW DELHI: A large Muslim minority being part of a secular polity like in India could be a model for others to emulate and the community need not be trapped in a defensive posture that hinders its well-being, Vice President Hamid Ansari said at a book release function on Tuesday. Ansari suggested thinking minds look beyond questions of identity and dignity and explore how both can be furthered in a changing India and world. “I feel there is a crying need to look at the unexplored or inadequately explored requirements of all segments of the community particularly women, youth, and non-elite sections who together constitute the overwhelming majority who remain trapped in a vicious circle of a culturally defensive posture that hinders self advancement,” he said. Addressing a gathering at the release of a book titled ‘Fikr’, brought out by National Institute of Faith Leadership led by Islamic scholar and politician Maulana Mahmood Madani, the Vice President said the publication is an effort to remove the prejudiced impressions about Islam. Author and BJP MP M J Akbar said ‘Fikr’ or worry is an introspection. “One in ten Muslims of the world live in India and what makes India safe for the Muslims is not just its secularism but what I see as faith equality,” he said. (Times of India 27/4/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

20. Muslims must not be allowed to have more than two kids,… (7)

New Delhi: Union Minister Giriraj Singh has advocated a change in population policy and stressed that the two-child norm should be mandated for all religions.If India fails to do that, “daughters will not be safe and might have to be kept under the veil, like in Pakistan”, the minister said, as per a report in The Indian Express. Singh, the MP from Nawada on BJP ticket, made the remarks at a cultural event in Bagaha, West Champaran, Bihar. In the audience were many sadhus and RSS workers.“Hindu ka do beta ho aur Musalmaan ko bhi do hi beta hona chahiye. Hamaari aabadi ghat rahi hai. Bihar mein saat zila aisa hai jahan hamaari jansankhya ghat rahi hai. Jansankhya niyantran ke niyam ko badalna hoga, tabhi hamaari betiyaan surakshit rahengi. Nahi toh hamein bhi Pakistan ki tarah apni betiyon ko parde mein band karna hoga,” Giriraj, Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, said. He was talking about several districts in Bihar where population of Muslims has recorded an increase faster than that of Hindus. (Zee News 21/4/16)

21. Include educationally backward Muslims in OBCs: Mani Shankar Aiyar (7)

New Delhi: Calling for change in the “system of affirmative action”, former Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar on Thursday said educationally backward Muslims should be included in OBCs and Christian dalits in Scheduled Castes for giving reservation in education and jobs. “You need affirmative action to deal with social problems. But if we have a model of economic growth, a more equitable than the present one is, then we will be able to address the problem,” he said at a seminar in New Delhi. Noting that he sees no reason why the present system of affirmative action should not undergone change, the former Petroleum Minister said while Muslim dalits cannot be included in Scheduled Caste list as they don’t have any dalits, Christan dalits should certainly be included.“If you have to make changes in the system and one of first changes that I want to see is that Christian dalits should be included in the reservation for Scheduled Castes,” Aiyar said. But the same cannot be said about Muslim dalits as “the Muslim community says that they don’t have dalits.” “But in the Christian community, they have been saying so and I think that it is shameful that we have not included them,” he said. However, when it comes to other backward classes (OBCs), “I see no reason at all why Muslims who are at least educationally backward (cannot be included in OBCs)… they fall within the definition of Article 15 and 16 of the Constitution. I see no reason at all why Muslims should not be included in the OBCs,” he said. Aiyar said, “In effect, if you are Scheduled Caste, you are very lucky not to be poor and if you are poor, you are very lucky not to be Scheduled Caste.” (Indian Express 23/4/16)

 

22. Malegaon case: Charges on 8 Muslim youth dropped (7)

Mumbai: A special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court on Monday discharged eight Muslim accused from the decade-old Malegaon bomb blast case — in which 31 persons had lost their lives — due to lack of evidence. Hearing the 2006 case, the judge said he was accepting the discharge application filed by the eight accused as there was no evidence to prove their guilt. There were a total of nine accused in this case and the court has discharged all of them. The judgment, however, came too late for Shabbir Ahmed Masiullah as he died pending trial. Two other accused, Mohammed Ali Shaikh and Asif Khan, despite being discharged from the case, will remain in prison because they were convicted in the 2006 Mumbai local serial train blasts case. Noorul Huda Shamsudduha, Raees Ahmed Mansuri, Mohammed Zahid Ansari, Abrar Ahmed Gulam Ahmed, Dr Farog Iqbal Ahmed Magdumi and Dr Salman Farsi were the other accused discharged by special MCOCA judge V.V. Patil. The ATS and accused persons belonging to a right-wing group arrested by the NIA in this case had opposed the discharge application filed by the eight accused, saying that the court should take into consideration material put on record by the ATS and CBI that was against these nine accused. The contention of the defence was that Section 6 of the NIA Act gives overriding effect to the NIA over other agencies, like ATS and CBI, and hence the court should take into account the investigation carried out by the NIA and not other agencies. The defence had also argued that the motive contended by the ATS for carrying out the blast by nine Muslim accused is illogical, as it has claimed that the accused wanted communal riots in Malegaon. “Had it been their intention, then being a Muslim why would they carry out blasts in a masjid… They would have done this in a temple,” said advocate Sharif Shaikh, adding that the court would have considered this. Interestingly, Dr Salman Farsi had not filed for discharge. “My view was that I am innocent and whatever material the NIA has put before the court proves my innocence, and hence the court itself should discharge me from the case. And hence I had not filed a discharge application,” Dr Farsi told this newspaper. He added, “The ATS falsely implicated us, and when the government announced that the investigation would be handed over to the CBI, the ATS filed a chargesheet against us on day 59. Though it had 180 more days on its hands to complete its investigation, they filed it in a hurry so that the CBI could not change their line of investigation and their lie is not uncovered. But now the court has discharged us.” (Asian Age 26/4/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

23. CM keen on assisting Christians: MLA (7)

KURNOOL: Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is keen on ensuring the welfare of Christian minorities in the State, Anglo-Indian MLA Phillip C. Tocher said here on Thursday. On the Chief Minister’s directive, he was touring the districts to gauge the needs of Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians, and would submit a report to the government soon, Mr. Phillip Tocher told the media. He was ascertaining their needs such as repairs to churches, land for cemeteries, loans and welfare measures, the nominated MLA said. The A.P. Christian Minority Finance Corporation would organise workshops in June to propagate their schemes, Mr. Tocher said. Stating that he was meeting District Collectors during his tour of districts, the MLA said they were sympathetic to the needs of Christians. Telugu Desam Party MLC Silpa Chakrapani Reddy said the government was extending financial assistance to Christians going on pilgrimage to Jeruselum, on the line of Muslims going on Haj. The government was sanctioning funds for construction of churches and compound walls for them, Rs. 30,000 for repairs to each church and allotting land for cemeteries. (The Hindu 22/4/16)

24. Bharat Mukti Morcha writes to Pope over ‘Church injustice’ (7)

Panaji: Bharat Mukti Morcha (BMM) faxed a letter to Pope Francis on Friday afternoon, asking for his intervention in the alleged injustice meted out to Vanxim Islanders by Church authorities that sold, and through deed of transfer, transferred rights over paddy fields, water bodies and horticulture land including land that has dwelling houses without consulting Vanxim Islanders. BMM in their letter stated that they had faxed a letter to the Apostolic Nuncio in India, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio in New Delhi but after receiving no reply and finding the situation on the ground deteriorating, decided to write directly to the Vatican. ” The broker has signed a joint development agreement on August 11, 2009 with corporate bodies and the agreement has plans laid out to use the island for a golf course, five star hotel, luxury villas, resorts and private marinas. “Then in 2010 began the times of bullying and pressurizing, bribing and co-opting of the Vanxim islanders to surrender our rights to cultivate paddy,” states the letter signed by Maggie Silveira, president, Goa unit, BMM.  (Times of India 24/4/16)

25. India: Church vandalised and pastor and wife doused in petrol (7)

A pastor and his wife have been doused in petrol during an attack on their church in India, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports. Two men posing as Christians in need of prayer turned up at Pastor Deenanath’s Berseba Church in Karanji Village in the central Chattisgarh State and forced him to let them in. He was made to chant “jai sri ram”, or “hail Lord Ram”, before he and his wife were doused with petrol in an attempt to force them to convert to Hinduism. Lord Ram is a Hindu deity. The church was also badly vandalised. Bibles, furniture, the public address system, the pulpit and church offerings of fruits were among the damged items. Although local police have been informed, it is believed the two men belonged to a Hindu fundamentalist group from outside the village. Christians in Chhattisgarh State, especially in Bastar district where Karanji Village is located, often face physical violence and social discrimination. According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India, Chhattisgarh ranked second among Indian states for recorded incidences of attacks against Christians in 2015. Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: “CSW condemns this and all other incidences of targeted violence against religious minorities, which have outraged civil society in India. CSW joins with the people of India in calling for justice and for the fulfilment of the Prime Minister’s promise to put a stop to the harassment of religious minorities in India. “We are deeply concerned at the trend of increasing attacks on religious minorities in the country, and especially in Chhattisgarh State, which betray India’s pluralistic heritage. The Indian government must follow through on its promises with concrete actions to stem these attacks.” (Christian Today 25/4/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

26. ‘Allow all collectors to give citizenship to Pak Hindus’ (13)

Jaipur: Advocacy groups working for the cause of Pakistani refugees in India have asked the Union government to empower district collectors of all districts in Rajasthan for awarding citizenship to refugees. The demand came after Indian government’s proposal for granting citizenship to Pakistani Hindus and other religious minorities living in 18 districts in the country including Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. Seemant Lok Sangathan, a body based in Jodhpur, has shot a letter to the ministry of external affairs requesting that at least in Rajasthan, which has the highest number of Pakistani refugees, estimated to be between 20,000 and 25,000 spread across districts, powers should be given to all the collectors. Else many refugees will suffer. They contended that a new proposal can end the sufferings of the persecuted Pakistani Hindus living as refugees in their ancestral land to an extent. However, they cannot integrate properly till institutional changes are made in the Citizenship Act 1955, and a robust policy put in place for their rehabilitation. It requires joint effort by both the state and the Union government. “The Citizenship Act 1955 says that a citizenship should be granted to a refugee staying minimum of seven years here. It should be made least possible stay. It is seen that in a period of seven years they get subjected to inhuman treatment with no jobs, education, access to medical care and harassment at the hand of the police,” said Hindu Singh Soda of Lok Sangathan. Another major demand the body is pressing for is a small change in the Citizenship Act 1955, which can bring more Hindus or minorities into the fold of their ancestral land. The Act guarantees to register Pakistani Hindus who are either born in undivided India or are wards of such parents.”This section becomes outdated for the present generation of Pakistani Hindus as they are third generation. It denies the present Pakistani Hindus the right of easy citizenship in India. Our demand is to allow every citizen whose ancestors were from India,” said Singh. Thus many such Pak Hindu migrants acquire citizenship after spending 7-14 years of stay in India.  (Times of India 21/4/16)

27. 91 year old Partition refugee struggles for visa to see birthplace in Pak (13)

Meerut: In 1947, Krishna Khanna, then a young man, left his ancestral village near Gujranwala (now in Pakistan) and opted for India. He built a life for himself in Meerut, where he set up a small sports goods manufacturing business. Now 91 years old, the Gandhian environmental activist wants to visit the place of his childhood one last time to relive the bygone moments of his life. The process to get a visa for Pakistan, however, has been a harrowing ordeal for the nonagenarian. One of the rules that Khanna finds most difficult to fulfill is finding a sponsor from that country. “I first visited the Pakistan High Commission in August 2015 but the clerks there did not entertain my application because I did not have a sponsor. I tried at least twice after that but was rejected for the same reason,” Khanna told TOI. Though it has been 69 years since he left Gujranwala, Khanna vividly remembers his roots. “I was born in Udhoke village in 1925 and studied at Government High School in Sheikhupura district. We used to deal in wholesale rice at the biggest market in Gujranwala.” He also remembers the violence during Partition. His family hid with others at a gurdwara from where they were rescued and brought to Amritsar. On Monday, Khanna with the help of Ganga Biradari, an NGO that is pursuing his case, met Gen (retd) VK Singh, minister of state for external affairs, who assured him of all possible help from his ministry. “We will certainly touch base with the Pakistan High Commission and will try to find a way out, considering all provisions of bilateral treaties between the two nations,” Singh said. On Monday, Khanna also re-visited the Pakistan High Commission and submitted a memorandum in this regard. Khanna’s experience made him realise that there were several others who did not have the means to travel to their birthplaces. He is now campaigning for easier visa regulations for senior citizens on both sides of the border who were refugees and want to revisit their childhood homes. His supporters in Meerut have set up a citizens’ committee that will campaign for visa reforms for Partition refugees. “He has an undying desire to visit his birthplace. When he left with his family during Partition, he had no idea that a day would come when returning there would be such a difficult exercise,” said Maj (retd) Himanshu Kumar, director, Ganga Biradari. The Pakistan High Commission responded warmly when TOI contacted it regarding the matter. “I came to know of the delegation’s visit today. I have spoken to the visa officer about the case. Khanna is our elder and we will be honoured to help him with his visa within the framework of the rules. I will personally receive him when he comes here the next time,” said Manzoor Ali Mamon, press minister, Pakistan High Commission. (Times of India 25/4/16)

28. Mixed reaction to dual citizenship promise (13)

COLOMBO: Stakeholders point out the complex nature of the Sri Lankan refugee issue and call for a multi-pronged approach The announcement by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa that her party would press the Centre to provide dual citizenship to Sri Lankan Tamils in the State has evoked mixed reactions from different quarters. Says Arulappu Rameshkumar, a refugee-returnee living in Keerimalai of Jaffna, “Many of the camp refugees were born and brought up there. They have also got married there. As they are not Indian citizens, they are finding it extremely difficult to get ahead in their career. Ms. Jayalalithaa’s promise, if implemented, will make a huge difference.” Ms. Rameshkumar chose to leave Tamil Nadu’s Mandapam camp for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees six months ago as she did not want to lead that kind of life any longer. She is running a small shop to eke out a living for herself and her two sons.

V. Jayakumar, consultant to Catholic Relief Services (CRS), says if dual citizenship is provided, the refugees will no longer be monitored by the police. To buy land, they will no longer have to get the approval of the Reserve Bank of India. Some refugees, having been in Tamil Nadu for over 20 years, are resourceful enough to acquire immovable assets. V. Niranjan, founder of the Jaffna Managers’ Forum, says dual citizenship would make it easier for the refugee community to pursue education in Tamil Nadu, an educational hub, or anywhere else in India. Besides, the Tamil diaspora, living in the West, could easily enter into matrimonial alliances with the refugee community. There are other views too. Harim Peiris, chairman of the Resettlement Authority, feels that a refugee boy, marrying a local Indian girl, struggles hard to acquire citizenship. Such cases can be handled initially. For providing Indian citizenship to refugee-local couples, Mr. Jayakumar points out that the Union government has to remove one of the stipulations in the Citizenship Act that either of the parents of the applicant should not be an illegal migrant at the time of his or her birth. This holds relevance as all refugees are now considered illegal migrants. While underscoring that the refugees should return to Sri Lanka on a permanent basis, M.A. Sumanthiran, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) spokesperson, however, says the decision to come back should be left to them. K. Vigneswaran, chairman of the Akhila Ilankai Tamil Mahasabha, cites the declining number of Members of Parliament from Jaffna due to the demographic changes and argues that if the refugees return to the North, the number of Members of Parliament will go up. S.C. Chandrahasan, founder, OfFER (Organisation for Eelam Refugees’ Rehabilitation), is keen that stateless refugees in Tamil Nadu should get Sri Lankan citizenship first. “Let the Tamil Nadu government revive, at the earliest, the practice of holding mobile camps to issue consular birth certificates to such persons. About 14,000 boys and girls are in need of the documents.” Calling Ms. Jayalalithaa’s statement “an election stunt,” S. Sandarasegaram, former professor of education, sees no reason for the Indian government to offer dual citizenship to Sri Lankan citizens or those whose roots are in Sri Lanka. (The Hindu 27/4/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

29. Contradictory orders on RTI disclosure irk activists (1)

Aurangabad: The difference of opinion within two key departments of the state government on updating mandatory disclosure under Section 4 of the RTI Act has left activists red-faced. The urban development department, in its latest circular, has asked government offices to update information to be divulged suo-motu under the transparency legislation on yearly basis. The directive, according to RTI activists, has been clearly contravening the order issued by the general administration department (GAD) on January 28. The GAD order says public authorities should update their websites and general compliance with the Section 4 of the RTI Act twice a year — on January 1 and July 1 every year. RTI activist Vivek Velankar said it was an irony that two key departments come out with contradictory orders on an important legislation such as the RTI Act. Ideally, GAD is the competent authority for dealing with the implementation aspects of the RTI Act. While the UDD was expected to abide by what the GAD had said, it has issued conflicting order, he said. Section 4(1) (b) of the RTI Act 2005 deals with the proactive disclosure. It is basically a 17-point declaration by public authorities for the benefit of citizens. The procedure followed in decision-making process, including channels of supervision and accountability, forms one of the key revelations under the disclosure. In October last year, the state information commission (SIC) had asked the state government to ensure its different departments and public authorities update the information related to Section 4(1) (b) of the RTI Act twice a year and upgrade websites accordingly.In January, the GAD had issued an order asking for updating the websites on January 1 and July 1 every year, besides carrying out regular updates of information on a regular basis. The GAD had also asked the state directorate of information technology to shoulder the responsibility for ensuring that the websites of government departments are updated. While seeking compliance with the SIC order, it had also brought attention of government authorities towards its notification issued in May 2014 pertaining to upgradation of websites. Amidst the confusion, RTI activists have sought intervention by the state Chief Information Commissioner to resolve the issue. The Maharashtra Chief Information Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad could not be reached for his comments on corrective measure sought by the activist to do away with the contradiction. (Times of India 22/4/16)

30. Hema Malini paid only Rs 1.75 lakh for land worth Rs 70 crore: RTI activist (1)

Mumbai: RTI activist Anil Galgali says the government allotted a 2,000 square metre prime plot to the actress for Rs 1.75 lakh at a rate of Rs 87.50 per square metre for the construction of a dance academy. Bollywood actress and lawmaker Hema Malini has been allotted a land worth Rs 70 crore for just Rs 1.75 lakh for a dance academy in upmarket Oshiwara in Mumbai under a revised policy of Maharashtra government, an RTI query has revealed. Documents accessed by RTI activist Anil Galgali from the Suburban Collector’s office shows the government has allotted a 2,000 square metre prime plot to the BJP Lok Sabha MP for Rs 1.75 lakh at a rate of Rs 87.50 per square metre for the construction of a dance academy. RTI activist Anil Galgali from the Suburban Collector’s office shows the government has allotted a 2,000 square metre prime plot to the BJP Lok Sabha MP for Rs 1.75 lakh at a rate of Rs 87.50 per square metre for the construction of a dance academy.An RTI plea filed earlier by Galgali had revealed the actress was allotted the land at a rate of Rs 35 per square metre (costing Rs 70,000). After the issue generated a controversy in February this year, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered a revision of the policy of allotting land to private trusts and artists. Since Malini, a trained Bharatnatyam dancer, has already paid Rs 10 lakh as an advance, the government would have to refund her the outstanding Rs 8.25 lakh, said Galgali. “This would be a major embarrassment for the government,” he said. When contacted, Mumbai Suburban Collector Shekhar Channe said, “Yes, we would have to return money to her. However, the money would be returned only if the government orders us to do so.” “The land having a market value of Rs 70 crore has been given to Hema Maliniji for a paltry Rs 1.75 lakh. The state government would have to return Rs 8.75 lakh to her as she gave Rs 10 lakh as an advance in 1997,” he said. Galgali had sought information from the Collector’s office regarding the rate at which the land has been given to the actress-politician for the institute. According to the documents, the land in question is reserved for a garden, and allotment has been done on the basis of valuation prevailing as on February 1, 1976, which was Rs 350 per square metre. “Since a government resolution stipulates that the land allotment in such cases would be done at 25 per cent of the valuation, Hema Malini has got the prime piece of land at the one-fourth of Rs 350 per square metre – that is Rs 87.50 per square metre,” said Galgali. Malini in the past has refuted allegations of favouritism and land grabbing, saying she had struggled for 20 years to get the plot. “I am getting 2,000 square metres of land for a dance institute to be built by Natyavihar Kalakendra Charity Trust (headed by her). I will have to develop a garden (on a piece of land which is not part of the academy) and give it to the BMC,” she had earlier said. (DNA 24/4/16)

31. Rs. 33.51 crore spent by CM, Ministers on travel (1)

BELAGAVI: Travel costs of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his Council of Ministers has cost the State exchequer Rs. 33.51 crore since he took charge 32 months ago, according to a disclosure under the RTI Act. RTI activist Bheemappa Gundappa Gadad of Belagavi, who obtained the travel details under the Act, said that air travel charges of the Chief Minister alone amounted to Rs. 20,11,34,971, from May 13, 2013 to January 31, 2016. Among the members of the Cabinet, the heaviest bill was by Minister for Large- and Medium-Scale Industries R.V. Deshpande at Rs. 45.04 lakh and lowest of Rs. 2.26 lakh was of Horticulture Minister Shamanur Shivashankarappa. (The Hindu 25/4/16)

32. RTI Act helped in unearthing the G.O. (1)

CHENNAI: It was in the quest for this 1978 G.O. that the 1994 G.O., mandating group-based reservation, was discovered, says Devaneyan A. of Thozhamai, an NGO. “It was a struggle to even get hold of the order. No one in the school department was able to help me, and finally, after years of hunting for it, I managed to get it through an RTI petition.” He is hoping that now that the G.O. is unearthed, it would be implemented post haste. D. Ravikumar, ex-MLA and the VCK’s nominee for the Vanur constitunecy, also recollects raising the issue in the Assembly in 2006, and giving the then Education Minister a memorandum. “I wanted it to be implemented so that poor, rural students are not continually pushed to vocational streams and humanities subjects. Not all these students go only to government colleges. In many instances, parents struggle to put them into private schools for a ‘better education’. The good thing is that the G.O. asked for group-wise reservation in private institutions also, giving those students a true chance.” As much as educationists concurred that the G.O.s were progressive and “ahead of their time”, they remained perplexed that they were never implemented in a State that claimed to look at social equity seriously. “This is a social protection scheme that was multi-dimensional and covered several vulnerabilities. Also, it came way before the Right to Education (RTE) and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, remember,” points out Aruna Rathnam of UNICEF. Some educationists claim that there is not even a semblance of representation of Dalits in the science streams of many private schools. The focus should shift from a board exam result-oriented approach to being truly inclusive, they add.  (The Hindu 28/4/16)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

33.  ‘Rising expenses behind RTE rule tweak’ (11)

Jaipur: The real reasons for the state government to change the definition of ‘disadvantaged group’ and ‘weaker sections’ under the RTE Act is the galloping expenditure on this count which it estimates to be around Rs 2,000 crore under the original RTE rules and its alleged misuse by the unaided schools.The state government through a notification has reduced the income of families eligible for admission under RTE for free and compulsory education to only BPL families from Rs 2.5 lakh per annum and admission in unaided schools only when either government school is not available in the neighbourhood or its capacity is saturated. The government in its reply to the PIL by Abhyutthanam Society challenging the new amendment to the RTE Act said, “Considering the new admission and liability of providing free education to already admitted students up to Class VIII, the number of children to be admitted would be 15 lakhs and going by increasing per child expenditure the state government may have to pay Rs 2,000 crore or even more.”It further said misuse of the scheme by unaided schools. It says despite establishing state schools in the neighbourhood , children were admitted or shown to be admitted in unaided schools putting liability of reimbursement on the government. The reply further pointed out that although the state government is spending Rs 17,7 32 per child expenditure in the state school, the state government has reimbursed even to those unaided schools which are certainly below par state school but have enhanced their fees for the purpose of seeking reimbursement and exploiting the finances of the state. The government said in the last three years the number of BPL student s benefited under the scheme was just 2705 as against total admission of 5, 16,699 students. (Times of India 21/4/16)

34. Smriti announces child tracking system (11)

New Delhi: The HRD ministry is bringing in a child tracking system for over 200 million children across the country. The system will be used to monitor their progress from one class to another and also identify dropouts. “Introducing a child tracking system for over 200 million children all across the country to track movement class to class, identify drop outs,” HRD Minister Smriti Irani said in a series of tweets on Saturday on the initiatives taken by her ministry in the field of school education. In another tweet, Irani said that due to Right to Education, the concept of bridge schools was discontinued “which disabilitated entrance of out of school children into the school system (sic).” Moving to other initiatives of the HRD ministry, Irani said that rather than monitoring the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the programme for achievement of universalisation of elementary education, annually as was done during the UPA, her ministry would track it online daily. “We did midterm review online. This year we shall track SSA daily online. Real-time data will help engage productively with states,” she said. The SSA under the UPA regime was monitored once a year and was not facilitating solutions real-time, she added. Irani also announced that her ministry is developing an expenditure portal that centralises various sources of school education data in India. She also mentioned a first of its kind portal for Teacher Education Institutions which will ensure transparency and grading. The HRD minister said her ministry is supporting states to help build composite schools by rationalising stand alone schools with low enrolment and one teacher.“Smaller schools are either mentored by larger schools in same geographical area or are merged in the interest of students,” she tweeted. (Deccan Herald 24/4/16)

35. No takers for 1,353 RTE seats this year (11)

Bengaluru: The applications for the quota have not been received in 300 schools. According to a list provided by the Department of Public Instruction, 21 schools in Bengaluru (North, South and Rural)  have not received any application. In Kalaburagi, 46 schools received no application and in Bidar, the number was 30. Out of 2.74 lakh applications that were received by the department, close to 1.3 lakh were rejected for reasons such as providing fake caste certificate and improper documents. Parents who have applied for seats for their children under the RTE quota have been thronging the office of the commissioner of public instruction, complaining of technical glitches in uploading documents online. One of the major concerns is that of the application being rejected even after entering the right pin code. Ravi G, a parent who had applied for a seat in a private school in Jakkasandra was unaware of why the application was rejected. However, the officials who verified the documents on Monday found them to be right. Same is the case with another parent from Gandhinagar who had applied for an RTE seat for his child. His application was rejected despite entering right pin code. The department of public instruction had tied up with agencies such as the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to ensure that the process was conducted online without glitches. Requests of parents to effect changes in their addresses after applying for seats were also turned down. N C Yogananda, general secretary, RTE Students and Parents Association, said that with several such genuine cases coming to light, the department should extend the deadline and consider applications of those who have made corrections. (Deccan Herald 26/4/16)

36. Expert: Instruction in mother tongue leads to RTE success (11)

Gaya: Language continues to play an important role in shaping society and creating a harmonious environment, said Aligarh Muslim University professor and socio linguist Syed Imtiaz Hasnain while delivering a special lecture on ‘Mother Tongue and Right to Education’ at M D College in Naubatpur on Monday. The Right to Education Act (RTE) shifted the onus of education of children from parents to the state. “Instruction in the mother tongue in the initial stages of learning and proper comprehension lead to the successful execution of the RTE. It is at this stage that the foundation for cognitive development and proper personality building is laid,” the socio linguist said, adding second language acquisition was based on cognitive development.Hasnian, who had an interactive session with the faculty members and the students on different aspects of the RTE, said, “Skills and concepts, that children learn in their mother tongue, get easily transferred to their second language.” College principal Kanhaiya Prasad Sinha explained the philosophy behind the RTE and the challenges being faced in its effective execution. (Times of India 27/4/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

37. India to become $10 trillion economy with 10% growth: Kant (21)

New Delhi: India will become $10 trillion economy and achieve growth rate of 10 per cent by 2032, Niti Aayog Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant said on Thursday. The country’s growth rate was 7.6 per cent in 2015—16 and its economy worth $1.7 trillion. In a presentation made during Civil Services Day function attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and large number of civil servants, he projected creation of 175 millions jobs and zero per cent of Below Poverty Line (BPL) population by 2032. “Growing at 10 per cent will transform India. India will be a $10 trillion economy with no poverty in 2032,” his presentation reads. The presentation was made on the status of implementation of reports of ‘Group of Secretaries’ formed by the Modi government. A total of eight Group of Secretaries were formed in December last year on focus areas. “These eight groups had officers from different ministries. Further, there were 16 groups of Joint Secretaries who simultaneously worked on their focus areas. We cut across silos so that we can act on the eight themes and act as agent of change,” Mr. Kant said. The groups has decided on sub-themes, Some of its recommendation have been acted on whereas a road map has been suggested for the rest to achieve intended target. Under the sub—theme “accelerated growth”, Mr. Kant said there will be Rs two lakh crore worth investment in roads and railways in Financial Year 2017. It intends to complete 10,000 km of road project during the same period. LPG connections to below poverty line women through Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana and promotion of medical tourism are other action points suggested by the group under “health and pharma” category. (The Hindu 21/4/16)

38. Five crore to get gas connections: Pradhan (21)

Lucknow:   Five crore Indians would be provided gas connections under the ‘Ujjwala’ scheme over the next three years, including 1.5 crore poor women who will get it free, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Saturday. Addressing a press conference at Ballia, he said that the scheme was being launched from the eastern Uttar Pradesh town on May 1 because Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will flag off the initiative, had directed his ministry to ensure that places where reach of cooking gas cylinders was less should be assimilated on priority. Pradhan said that while the national average of households with gas connections stood at 61 percent, the figure for Uttar Pradesh was 53 percent. Under the scheme, 1.5 crore women from the below poverty line (BPL) category would be given gas connections free of cost and Rs.2,000 crore has already been allocated for the purpose, he added. (Business Standard 23/4/16)

39. CM launches National Food Security Act, 2013 (21)

IMPHAL, April 25: The much awaited National Food SecurityAct, (NFSA) 2013 was officially launch today in the State by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh at the office premises of the Directorate of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (CAF&PD), at Sangaiprou, Imphal. Marking the launch of the NFSA, the Chief Minister along with deputy Chief Minister, Gaikhangam, CAF&PD Minister, L Biren, jointly flagged off rice loaded vehicles from the campus to be distributed to Fair Price Shop (FPS) opened in different areas of Imphal. The launch function held at Sangaiprou was also attended by IFC minister, Ngamthang Haokip, Commerce and Industries ministers, Govindas Konthoujam, Tengnoupal MLA, DK Korungthang, Agriculture minister, Md Abdul Nasir, Chief Secretary, O Nabakishore, MLAs and officials of the CAF&PD department. Speaking on the occassion, the Chief Minister stated that the NSFA although was passed by the parliament on September 2013, the Act could not be implemented in maximum of the States in the country including Manipur due to extra financial involvment in implementing the Act. Taking into serious consideration the benefit once the Act is implemented, his government made several attempts to implement the Act but remained futile, he said adding that it was due to non completion of processing of BPL cards for the beneficiaries. He said 84 percent of total population is eligible for the Act as per 2011 census of which so far 75 percent will be availed with the benefit initially. He continued the remaining other will also be provided the benefits of the Act soon. The Chief Minister further appealed to everyone including the politicians to jointly work together to ensure that the deserving citizens get their rights. Maintaining that there is high chance for misusing the Act considering the profit margin, he further urged all the stake holders to closely monitor the operation adding that anyone found guilty should be dealt with befittingly irrespective of his background or influences. The Chief Minister also stressed upon the need of the department to carry out mass campaign with regards to the Act. Deputy Chief Minister, Gaikhangam said that no country or State can be called a developed one unless it has security of food for its people. …  (Manipur E-Pao 26/4/16)

40. Making food grain available to needy point of concern: NHRC chief (21)

New Delhi: Indicating the urgent need of strengthening country’s food policies, Natiional Human Rights Commission chairman Justice (retired) H.L. Dattu on Thursday said there was an improvement in food grain production but making it available to the needy remains a point of concern. Justice Dattu, former Chief Justice of India, stressed it was painful to know that 15 percent of food worth Rs.92,000 crore per year is wasted during production, harvesting, transportation and storage. “Food security has to be read and studied with agricultural practices and the challenges facing them in the wake of falling ground water levels at a rapid speed is causing an alarming situation of drought in several districts,” said Justice Dattu. He was speaking at the inauguration of the national conference on Right To Food organised by the National Human Rights Commission. The conference aimed to make a state-wise assessment of the action taken on the National Food Security Act, 2013. Special reference was to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people and the functioning of the targeted public distribution system for the priority households and under the Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY). Justice Dattu said it was always useful and pragmatic to hold comprehensive discussions on regular intervals with all the stake holders to evaluate the progress and impediments towards ensuring food and nutritional security to the people of the country. The Right to Food and its variations is a human right protecting the right of people to feed themselves in dignity, implying that sufficient food is available, that people have the means to access it, and that it adequately meets the individual’s dietary needs. The former justice, who took over as the NHRC chairperson a month ago, urged the government to expand the scope of discussions on various aspects of the National Food Security Act, 2013. “There are several food schemes such as the Antodaya Yojna, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), mid-day meal scheme and many others. There has been no dearth in the number of policies and programmes in food issues. However, the question can be raised on the effectiveness of the programmes,” said Justice Dattu. He said the Supreme Court emphasised on the appointment of commissioners and other officials to look after the food issues in the country, which has improved the situation and proper implementation of the rights to food in many of the states. “The Supreme Court issued a series of interim orders recognising the constitutional Right to Food as flowing from the right to life and providing directives on proper implementation of various programmes like the ICDS and PDS. The apex court also ordered the creation of a new accountability mechanism, like commissioners for monitoring and reporting on compliance with court orders,” Justice Dattu said. The event was attended by representatives of all the state human rights commissions. (Business Standard 28/4/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

41. Use MGNREGA money for water harvesting: Modi (14)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said money allocated for MGNREGA should be used for “water harvesting” to battle drought. Speaking at the 10th Civil Services Day awards ceremony, Modi also called for a “spirit of healthy competition” among district administrations to foster an atmosphere conducive for positive change. “Everyone wants to change life in the villages. So much of money is being spent on MGNREGA,” the prime minister said, referring to the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act. “I know about the drought situation in the country. There is a shortage of water. But it is also true that a good monsoon is predicted. “Why can’t we use the MGNREGA money to run a campaign for harvesting water in the months of April, May and June? “Why can’t we do desilting, dig new ponds and clean canals and use these for water harvesting? This will help in making ends meet even if there is no rain,” Modi said. “Initiatives have succeeded when ‘Jan Bhagidari’ is embraced. Engaging with civil society is very important,” he added. The government on Tuesday conceded in the Supreme Court that 256 districts with a population of about 33 crore spread over 12 states were affected by drought. Modi also said: “There should be healthy competition among the district administrations in the country in the discharge of duties. “If their districts lag behind and don’t get noticed for good work, then those heading them must ask themselves why.” The prime minister said the district administrations must try to win the trust of the people and be proactive. “Only being an administrator and controller is not enough. Everybody at every level has to become an agent of change. Let us create an atmosphere where everyone can contribute. The energy of 125 crore Indians will take the nation ahead,” he said. The prime minister urged people to view every hurdle as an opportunity. “Only those people will be able to prosper in life who don’t get worn out and take every hurdle as an opportunity,” said Modi. (Business Standard 21/4/16)

42. Rapport with locals helped quell PF violence in some places: Report (14)

Bengaluru: The city police top brass has identified factors that led to violence on April 18 in Peenya, Jalahalli and Yeshwantpur and submitted their findings to Home Minister G Parameshwara on Thursday. The minister directed the police to deal sternly with anti-social elements and ensure basic policing in these areas. It was basically lack of a proper rapport between the local police and the residents in these Northern parts of the city, lack of action against anti-social elements and failure in identifying a large number of slum dwellers and workers in the unorganised sector that triggered the violence. For the last few years, there were hardly any efforts to keep track of the movements of anti-social elements and slum-dwellers. A large number of unskilled workers who were not related with the garment factory workers and their demands joined the protest and created violence. The police had no clues as they never had a data of such groups. The situation was peaceful in Bommanahalli, Singasandra, Mangammanapalya, Electronics City and surrounding areas, when Peenya, Jalahalli and Yeshwantpur were boiling. This is because the South East, North East and East Division police conducted area domination operations over the last few months and kept track of slum dwellers and anti-social elements.  They even had ensured better rapport with them, which helped them completely control the situation on April 19, when violence broke out in Hebbagodi and Jalahalli. The locals and slum-dwellers did not join the garment factory workers, a majority of them from the City outskirts, when the protest was staged on April 18. Hence, no major violence broke out, except stone-throwing, the cops informed Parameshwara. Additional Commissioner of Police (East) P Harishekharan, DCP (Southeast) Dr Boralingaiah and DCP (East) N Satish Kumar rushed to Hebbagodi in Bengaluru Rural and controlled the situation within a couple of hours. The angry mob would have burnt alive a few cops, including senior officers, had the City police not arrived in time, the cops said. Parameshwara has directed the Bengaluru Rural police to keep a watch on anti-social elements and take action against those spreading violence. He suggested the Bengaluru City and Bengaluru Rural police to conduct area domination operations and rowdy parades regularly, develop a database of such groups and control their activities. DG&IGP Omprakash, ADGP (Law and Order) Alok Mohan, Bengaluru City Police Commissioner N S Megharik, Additional Commissioners Charan Reddy and P Harishekharan attended the meeting.   (Deccan Herald 22/4/16)

43. Tiruvallur: Haunted by Shadow of Bonded Labour (14)

CHENNAI: The same Cooum River that flows through Chennai snakes into Tiruvallur too along its 72-km journey. But unlike in Chennai, where Cooum is filthy, in Tiruvallur, it’s what outside the river that’s filthier – the shadow of bonded labour. The blight obliterates generations with back-breaking labour at rice mills or unending toil in the searing heat of brick kilns. Before bureaucracy spread its tentacles here, there was a time when Tiruvallur was a theatre of war – a part of the Carnatic war was fought here. Now, a battle still wages on here, a rather humanitarian one. According to a State government reply to an RTI filed by International Justice Mission, this is the district from where the most number of bonded labourers were rescued – 1,250 (from 2005-2014). In 2013-14, 24 per cent of those rescued belonged to Tiruvallur, a district known for its industry, and ironically, its educational institutions. Though the district boasts of 23 engineering colleges, the literacy rate among the most vulnerable section – the Scheduled Tribes – stands at a paltry 46 per cent, according to the 2011 census. However, things have picked up a tad, with the rescued labourers realising that education is one of the ways in which the community can break free of the shackles of bonded labour. “My father was born in a brick kiln. So was I, and so were my wife and kids. Now, I’m educating all my children. My daughter has finished her diploma in computer science,” says Raman, a rice mill labourer from the district who was rescued in 2004. Spending the first 35 years of his life breaking his back and working 16 hours a day for a measly daily wage of `5, Raman now knows his life equations perfectly, but he has learnt  it the hard way. “What every vulnerable member of the community needs is at least one acre of land, so that they can grow something – spinach, tomatoes, anything. This way, people wouldn’t borrow money and get bonded for generations,” he adds. The power of education is not lost on Kasthuri, a rehabilitated rice mill worker, who says, “Education is our ticket out of misery and the rice mill owners know this. My former owner used to push a broom into my son’s hand as soon as he came from school. They wanted to keep our children illiterate, they weren’t allowed to study.” Malliga, another rice mill worker rescued in 2005, complains that some of them are yet to receive their community certificates and pattas. “We are the most easily evicted, and keeping our land is difficult even when we have all our papers. ….. ( New Indian Express 28/4/16)

44. As jobs dry up, migration on the rise in Marathwada (14)

Mumbai: Even while reports of migration from drought-hit areas of Maharashtra continue to pour in, the latest data of preparatory works under the rural job guarantee scheme shows that, on paper, the government has many jobs to offer to its distressed population. Labour activists have rebuked the numbers put out by the government at the end of March as ‘fake’, claiming that lakhs of people are migrating from the State in the absence of farm jobs. The Maharashtra government claims it has 4,14,624 ‘shelf’ jobs, as of now, to be handed out in distressed areas, with drought-hit Marathwada alone accounting for 1,10,634 available jobs — the highest — under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). While those on the ground claim no work is reaching them in the villages, officials say jobs under the employment guarantee scheme is demand driven, and people are possibly not coming forward to claim work. Activists, however, say gram sevaks are not able to reach priority areas, while tehsildars are delaying sanctioning of work. Under the EGS, the gram sabha is assigned the task of recommending works with priorities to the gram panchayat to prepare an annual shelf of works. It makes agencies responsible for approving work in a time-bound manner. “The statistics are clearly fake, these (shelf works) are just useless works that do not serve any purpose and have been kept aside by marking just the survey numbers. This past year alone, nearly 50,00,000 people have migrated from the State but this government has not reached out to provide any jobs,” said Rajan Kshirsagar of the Bhartiya Khet Majdoor Union. According to the data available, of the 4,14,624 works available, the highest are in Marathwada, and the lowest (53,249) in the Konkan region. While senior officials admitted that the government’s outreach programme may be falling short, there was no way to record migration. Local activists blame the tehsildars who are refusing to sanction work. “Villagers are desperate for work. But the tehsildar is just not sanctioning it,” said Jayaji Suryawanshi, activist from Aurangabad. (The Hindu 28/4/16)

45. Declare 36 labourers were forced to work in 2014: NHRC (14)

BAREILLY: After receiving a complaint in 2014 relating to bonded labourers engaged in brick kiln of Bareilly, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed Bareilly district magistrate (DM) to declare them bonded labourers and release certificates in their favour. The commission has also asked Bareilly DM to inform his counterpart in Aligarh district from where the labourers hail from as it is necessary as per the provisions of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. Bareilly DM has been asked to submit a report on the action taken in this connection within six weeks. A Lucknow-based human rights worker, Rashmi Gupta, had filed a complaint with NHRC in December 2014. She said, “As NHRC has asked DM to issue release certificate, it will make each labourer eligible to receive Rs 20,000 under Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. Under this Act, the labourers having a release certificate are entitled to Rs 20,000 for rehabilitation with both Centre and state government giving Rs 10,000 each. Besides, these labourers will get priority in getting work in their home district under various government schemes.” In December 2014, Gupta had lodged a complaint with NHRC on the basis of a local newspaper report that owners of certain brick kiln in Faridpur tehsil were forcing these labourers work without pay. “The news report indicated that local police, with the help of labour department officials, had settled the issue of unpaid wages. Police authorities, thereafter, also stated that there were no cases of bonded labour. I sought the intervention of NHRC after this,” said Gupta. However, the inquiry report conducted by district authorities, denied allegations of bonded labour. In his report, the deputy labour commissioner stated that 36 labourers, including 23 men and 13 women, were paid wages on a weekly basis in conformity with the minimum wages fixed by the government. The report claimed that no outstanding wages of any labourer was pending with the owner. However, the report also stated that all the labourers were present at the local police station where the owner of the brick kiln and his cashier prepared the required records relating to the payment of wages and the unpaid wages were disbursed among the labourers at the police station itself. However, the NHRC observed a discrepancy in the report submitted by district authorities in this connection. “If the labourers had been paid their wages weekly in conformity with the Minimum Wages Act and the labourers had already been paid all their wages without any outstanding against the owner then why and how the labourers gathered at the local police station where the required records of the wages were prepared and the labourers were paid their unpaid wages. It shows that the labourers were being subjected to forced labour,” the NHRC observed and ordered the DM to declare that labourers in the complaint were bonded labourers. (Times of India 28/4/16)

RESERVATION

46. Reservation for SCs and STs in govt. contracts sought (25)

VIJAYAWADA: The Andhra Pradesh government should give reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government contracts, Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) vice-president S. Sailajanath demanded here on Thursday. Addressing a press conference, Mr. Sailajanath said the government of Karnataka had announced reservation for the SCs and STs in government contracts, and the Andhra Pradesh government should follow suit. Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu was blaming the Congress for the bifurcation, but the present condition of the State was owing to his letter saying that the distribution of assets and other things should be equitable after bifurcation. Having demanded that in a letter, Mr Naidu did not make any effort to come out with some sort of a blue print for asset sharing, Mr. Sailajanth said. The policies to govern liquor and sand were discussed every day. The scrapping of belt shops was also announced by the Chief Minister, but two persons died after consuming spurious liquor purchased at a belt shop in Amaravati village early on Thursday. This clearly shows how much commitment the State Government had towards these matters, he said. No effort whatsoever was being made for the sanction of special category status to Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Sailajanath said. (The Hindu 22/4/16)

47. ‘Implement 12 p.c. reservation for Muslim youth’ (25)

NIZAMABAD: Muslim minorities under the banner of the District Congress Minority Department took out a rally here on Thursday, demanding the government to immediately implement 12 per cent reservation for minority youths in education and employment. Addressing the rally, the department chairman, Sumeer Ahmed, said that TRS during electioneering assured that it would fulfil its promise within four months of it coming to power. However, two years have passed since it assumed power, but it has remained silent till today, he said. Mr. Ahmed said that scores of educated youth were looking forward to the fulfilment of the promise as they would benefit once it was came into effect. “Therefore, there is an urgent need to constitute a BC Commission to look into the demand,” he said. District Congress Committee president Taher bin Hamdan, Congress minority leaders M. Quddus and Nazeeb Ali, and party town president Kesa Venu participated in the rally.  (The Hindu 22/4/16)

48. Bihar govt makes pitch for OBC reservation in lower judiciary (25)

New Delhi, Apr 24 () Bihar government today made a strong pitch for reservation to OBCs in lower judiciary saying a “different yardstick” should not be applied to it in the issue as a number of states already have provisions for quota for the backward classes in lower courts and government services. “The state government has taken positive steps to provide reservation to backward classes in lower judiciary but the honourable High Court (Patna) has not given its consent to the proposal.It is significant to note that reservation is being provided to backward classes in lower judiciary and government services in other states. “There is no proper reason for applying a different yardstick to Bihar. Hence the proposal to provide quota to backward classes in lower judiciary should also be accepted,” Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said in his written speech at the ‘Joint Conference of Chief Ministers of States and Chief Justices of the High Courts’ held here. In the speech, which was delivered on his behalf by Bihar Law Minister Krishannandan Prasad Verma, the Chief Minister said there is need for sufficient fund to increase the number of non-gazetted employees and judicial officers to enlarge the fundamental structure of the judiciary which a state like Bihar is finding difficult to carry out due to paucity of resources. “Hence increasing financial help should be considered under the centrally sponsored scheme to increase infrastructure under 14th Finance Commission,” Kumar said. Kumar rued that while earlier the central-state fund ratio to improve the infrastructure of the judiciary was fixed at 75: 25, it has now been changed to 60:40 which is “not appropriate”.Kumar also noted that the Centre has not released its fund in this head so far for the financial year 2015-16. Noting that there is “huge crunch” of resources in Bihar, Kumar said the state needs financial assistance from the Centre to strengthen the judicial system in the state and sought funding from the central government to implement a state government’s scheme to provide facilities to lawyers. The Chief Minister also chose the occasion to highlight a number of measures taken by his government to facilitate speedy disposal of justice and upgrade the judicial infrastructure. (Times of India 24/4/16)

49. 33% constable level posts in CRPF, CISF to be filled by women (25)

New Delhi, Apr 27 () With a view to enhance women’s representation in central paramilitary forces, government has decided to reserve 33 per cent posts at constable level in CRPF and CISF to be filled by them, Rajya Sabha was informed today. Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said the government has also decided to fill 14-15 per cent posts at constable level in border-guarding forces like BSF, SSB and ITBP. Replying to supplementaries, the Minister said the process of raising 29 additional battalions of BSF has been completed while the process of raising the strength of CRPF by adding another 38 battalions in a phased manner is underway. “All BSF battalions have been raised. For CRPF, 22 Battalions have been raised so far. The remaining 16 battalions of CRPF are to be raised and these will be completed by the year 2018-19,” he said. Rijiju said the target being set has been maintained each year and “we have decided to curtail the period which takes to recruit. From 16 to 18 months as of now for recruitment, we want to reduce it within one year.” In reply to another question, the Minister also said that BSF has sent 21 proposals for raising additional battalions and the Government is looking into them. To a question on whether the provisions of reservation have been fulfilled in such recruitments,he said, “Reservation for SC/ST/OBC is applicable as per extant instructions of the Government. No reservation is prescribed for minorities.” He also said that reservation was important for the government and “as of now in all central paramilitary force, the number of recruitments on reservation is more than what it should be.” SKC ARC (Times of India 27/4/16)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

50. Odisha rights panel seeks action plan for improving condition of residential schools (1)

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha Human Rights Commission on Thursday directed the State government to inform the commission about infrastructural shortcomings that are hampering working of residential schools for tribals and dalits and time-bound action plan for their rectification. Taking exception to chronic mismanagement afflicting the functioning of residential schools, the Commission asked Secretary of State ST and SC Development, Minorities and Backward Classes Welfare Department to make a detail presentation about residential schools in May first week. Human rights activists Biswapriya Kanungo and Bijay Kumar Panda had moved OHRC seeking its intervention in smooth operation of hostels under ST and SC Development Department. In response to the petition, the department had submitted that Standard Operating Procedure and guidelines for hostel management and safety and security of students had been issued. “To keep pace with the increasing enrolment of ST and SC students in various residential schools, the State government has taken up an ambitious step for construction of 2200 new hostels. Of which 1100 will be completed in 2016,” it pointed out. “Detail guidelines for regular monitoring of schools and hostels have been issued by the State government from time to time. State government attaches utmost importance for ensuring health and safety of students in residential schools. Besides, to undertake regular health check up, ANMs have been posted to a cluster of five to six schools. District collectors have been authorised to deploy 3000 matrons for girls’ hostel,” mentioned the department in its reply. Mr. Kanungo said the Commission had given specific direction to strengthen the administration and supervision of the school by creating suitable institutional arrangement and identification of infrastructural deficiencies in hostel and their rectification. “But it seemed the State government issued guidelines without making proper assessment in ground level. When we highlighted the issue before commission, the government was directed to come up with action plan,” the activist said. Mr. Panda said despite issuance of different guidelines, inmates of residential schools continued to live dangerously. “Students go to nearby sanctuary area as there is no toilets in a residential school in Banki in Cuttack district. In Nayagarh, incident of food infection was also reported,” he said (The Hindu 22/4/16)

51. NHRC asks state to remove welfare schemes’ lacunae (1)

Patna: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Saturday directed Bihar government officials to eliminate all lacunae in implementation of government welfare schemes in the state and put special emphasis on proper implementation of Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976, and expediting compensation payment to the victims under the Act. An NHRC team led by Justice (retd) H L Dattu was on a three-day visit to Bihar to dispose of rights violation cases specific to the state. More than 40 cases, mainly pertaining to problems facing SC/ST people and payment of scholarship etc, were disposed of by the commission. Compensation of lakhs of rupees were awarded in several cases. In a few cases, the commission was not happy with the official response and sought further details in the matter. “The problem of bonded labour, especially those who have migrated to other states, is prevalent in Bihar. In 2005-06, about 247 child/bonded workers from Bihar were rescued in Delhi. The Delhi government paid Rs61.5 lakh to Bihar government for their rehabilitation. Since the amount remains unutilized, the commission has recommended for the formation of a policy as to how this amount can be best utilized for the benefit of child workers,” Dattu said while addressing media persons on the concluding day of the team’s visit on Saturday. H L Dattu also said the commission had written to all states to include human rights modules in their school and college curriculums.”Many states have done it. In fact, Dumka-based Sido-Kanhu Murmu University (of undivided Bihar and now in Jharkhand) was the first to introduce a course on human rights as early as 1994,” he said, adding that the commission’s visit to Bihar was a step for creating awareness among people about the forum. When asked about the state of human rights and its violations in Bihar, the NHRC officials said, “While Bihar definitely isn’t on top in rights violation, it is not even at the bottom. However, it is difficult to make such comments as many cases of rights violation are never even reported.” The commission, which was visiting Bihar after almost nine years since 2007, also raised issues relating to Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan, health services, public distribution system, non-payment of MGNREGA wages etc with state government officials. “The officials have assured us they’ll do everything possible for facilitation of public welfare schemes in the state and also look into rights violation issues,” Dattu said. NHRC officials also agreed that with the number of cases coming to the commission increasing day by day, the government should increase the number of members at the central as well as state level rights panel. (Times of India 23/4/16)

52. Respect dissent, scrap law on sedition, says Amnesty (1)

NEW DELHI: Amnesty International has said healthy democracies such as India have no place for draconian laws like one on sedition that is slapped on people merely for questioning the government.Amid reports of intolerance and scribes and activists being targeted and jailed in a few places, it has sought steps by Chhattisgarh government to ensure free speech and right to dissent. In a report, ‘Blackout in Bastar’, the London-based group has sought repeal of Unlawful Activities Act and the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act. “The right to free expression is important both in and of itself, and also because it enables other rights to be exercised. India needs to protect this right with legal reforms,” Amensty secretary general Salil Shetty told TOI. (Times of India 27/4/16)

53. Amnesty International honours India’s Henri Tiphagne with Human Rights Award (1)

The 8th Human Rights Award by human rights body, Amnesty International Germany was presented to Indian Lawyer Henri Tiphagne at an official ceremony on Monday (April 25) at the Maxim Gorki Theatre, in Berlin. It’s a recognition of his exceptional commitment to human rights. “For many decades now, Henri Tiphagne has been tirelessly and bravely standing up for human rights. His organisation’s invaluable work includes campaigning against discrimination and the use of torture in India,” Amnesty International had earlier said in a statement.”Henri Tiphagne and his organisation People’s Watch, while fighting to ensure the rights of others, are themselves being harassed and hampered in their work by the authorities. And there are other civil society organisations in India that are in a similar position. The award is therefore meant to send a strong signal of support to the whole of the Indian human rights movement,” said Selmin Calkan, Director of Amnesty International Germany, in January this year. Henri is the founder of the organisation People’s Watch, one of the most notable human rights organisations. People’s Watch has been researching and documenting human rights violations, as well as providing legal representation to those affected, for over 20 years. The organisation also actively supports human rights education: In 1997, Henri founded an institute offering training for teachers as well as mentoring around school human rights education programmes. So far, they have managed to reach out to around 500,000 children in 18 Indian states.(Merinews 28/4/16)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

54. MP: Order reserved on PIL challenging gag order on Urdu literature (19)

Indore: The Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh high court reserved its order on a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the decision of National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) that asks writers to declare that their books will not be against India and nation. The division bench comprising justices PK Jaiswal and Vivek Rusia heard the petition on Thursday. The PIL alleged that the decision by NCPUL, run under the human resources development ministry, is violation of basic features of the Constitution of India. City-based social activist Tapan Bhattacharya challenged the decision holding it as violation of fundamental rights under Article 19 (Freedom of speech and expression) and Article 351 of the Constitution. Petitioner’s counsel senior advocate Anand Mohan Mathur said, “The Government of India has selected Urdu because it is a language of Muslim minority. This is clear discrimination violating Article 14 because no such conditions have been imposed on literature published in 21 other languages enshrined under the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.” Article 351 says that the forms, style and expression of Hindustani and other languages of India specified in Eighth Schedule shall not be interfered. Hindustani is a mixture of Urdu, Hindi and other languages. The counsel said, “The decision violates Article 15 which says that the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.” He said the BJP-led central government had gagged the freedom of writing in Urdu. “This has not happened even during the British Raj. This is nothing but saffronising and politicisation against Urdu literature and language,” he said. The form introduced by the NCPUL requires Urdu authors to provide signatures of two witnesses. The council provides monetary assistance to books and magazines, which are approved for bulk purchase. “The circular is nothing but a carrot-stick approach to suppress the freedom of speech and expression of Urdu writers, which is condemnable and deserves to be quashed,” said Mathur. (Hindustan Times 22/4/16)

55. How can 18,000 judges tackle 3 crore cases, CJI TS Thakur asks PM Modi (19)

NEW DELHI: Chief Justice of India T S Thakur almost broke down on Sunday as he lamented that the judiciary had been made the scapegoat for the mounting pendency of cases, leading PM Narendra Modi to offer a closed-door meeting with the judiciary to sort out the problem. “It is not only in the name of a litigant or people languishing in jails but also in the name of development of the country, its progress, that I beseech you to rise to the occasion and realise that it is not enough to criticise. You cannot shift the entire burden on the judiciary,” an emotional CJI said at the conference of chief ministers and chief justices, his voice choking.The CJI said the Law Commission had recommended in 1987 that the judge-population ratio be increased to at least 50 judges per million population. However, three decades later, the ratio remained an abysmal 15 judges per million people in a country which had added 25 crore in population since then, he added, looking towards the prime minister. If in 1987, the Law Commission had recommended the judge strength to be 40,000 (at 50 judges per million population), how do you think the judiciary’s present strength of 18,000 can dispose of case pendency of three crore?” the CJI asked, looking towards Modi. His outburst caught the Prime Minister’s attention. Modi, who was not scheduled to speak at the event, said, “Jab jaago tab savera (better late than never). I can understand his pain as a lot of time has lapsed since 1987. Whatever has been the compulsions… We will do better in the future. Let us see how to move forward by reducing the burden of the past.”The Prime Minister invited the CJI and his senior colleagues for a closed-door meeting with him and his top Cabinet ministers to discuss all issues pertaining to judicial reforms and manpower constraints. On a lighter note, Modi recalled that as Gujarat CM, during one such CMs and CJs conference, he had suggested reducing the vacation period of courts and increasing the daily working hours. He said during the lunch break, he was in trouble as some judges questioned the idea. He added that he remained in awe of the judiciary ever since.Though the CJI suggested that the problem had historical roots, this comes in the backdrop of the confrontation between the government and the judiciary over who should have primacy in the appointment of judges to the SC and the high courts – a dispute which has delayed filling up of vacancies. ……  (Times of India 25/4/16)

56. Government asked to reply on PIL against Shiv Vadapav (19)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Tuesday directed the BMC and the government of Maharashtra to file a reply on the public interest litigation seeking removal of all illegal ‘Shiv Vadapav’ stalls and carts from roads of Mumbai. The petition has also sought investigation into the launch of the Shiv Vadapav scheme alleging politicians were providing protection to such stalls after taking money from the stall owners. Janseva Mandal, an NGO, had filed this petition last year and it came up for hearing before the division bench of Justice V.M. Kanade and Justice Makrand Subhash Karnik which asked the respondents to file their reply and posted the matter for hearing after summer vacation. According advocate Umesh Mohite, the petitioner had seen a news report based on details received by municipal corporator Dhananjay Pisal which said that there were more than 250 Shiv Vadapav stalls across the city, however, the none of the licensing authorities have issued any licence to run them. The petitioner then collected these documents from the corporator and filed the petition. The petitioner also alleged that Shiv Vadapav is nothing but re-introduction of ‘Zunka Bhakar Centre’, which was scrapped on the court’s order. “Zunka Bhakar Centres had BMC and state licence but still the high court and later Supreme Court directed that they be shut down,” said Mr Mohite adding that BMC’s health and licensing departments have clearly stated in their replies to the RTI that they did not issue any licence to Shiv Vadapav scheme. It is alleged in the petition that as per information gathered by petitioner permission to run Shiv Vadapav business is given at the local level by the ward office on the recommendation of local politicians. The petitioner has claimed that the permission mean the civic body does not take action against these stalls but to get this permission to run the business one has to shell out one-time amount of around Rs 80,000 and monthly share of Rs 5,000. “However, who collects the money and who keeps the same, what happens to the money collected is not accounted for and thus it is seen that the entire scheme is illegal and a big scam,” read the petition. (Asian Age 27/4/16)

57. Supreme Court extends central rule in Uttarakhand; no floor test on Friday (19)

NEW DELHI: There will be no floor test for the dismissed Harish Rawat government on April 29 as the Supreme Court on Wednesday continued the central rule in Uttarakhand and promised a swift verdict on the constitutional validity of the Centre’s recourse to Article 356. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh said it was a matter of immense constitutional importance and would be decided expeditiously, thus ruling out the traditional reference of such petitions to a five-judge constitution bench, which normally take months to pass an order. Importantly, the court got the Centre to commit afresh that it would not lift central rule till pronouncement of the verdict, something which should calm the opposition’s fears that the BJP will manage a majority in the state assembly and approach the governor to revoke central rule and invite it to form the government. Before adjourning the hearing, the bench asked attorney general Mukul Rohatgi to take instructions on whether it was acceptable for the Centre to allow trust vote in the House and submit its result in a sealed cover to the SC. The AG said it was not acceptable and the government would prefer a final verdict. Still, the SC asked the AG to take instructions and inform it on Tuesday. It fixed a three-day schedule for the completion of the hearing and gave itself a week to pen the judgment. The Supreme Court asked Rohatgi to commence arguments on May 3 and conclude by May 4 afternoon. Counsel for Rawat and the assembly Speaker, senior advocates A M Singhvi and Kapil Sibal, were told to complete their submissions by May 5. “We will give the judgment before the court closes for summer vacation on May 13,” the bench said. If it actually happens, then this case will go down in judicial history as the swiftest decision in a case involving scrutiny of constitutional validity of use of Article 356. Terming the issues raised in the Centre’s appeal and Rawat’s petition before the HC as matters of immense constitutional importance, the bench put forward seven questions outlining the parameter for testing the validity of the imposition of central rule. The HC had quashed the central rule on April 21 as unconstitutional and restored the Rawat government. Rohatgi, assisted by additional solicitors general Maninder Singh and Tushar Mehta, justified the central rule on three grounds-Rawat government’s failure to pass the appropriation bill on March 18, the Speaker’s “unconstitutional” action in declaring the bill passed when it had failed, and the sting operation which showed Rawat purportedly indulging in horse-trading. Singhvi and Sibal said if horse-trading was a ground, then central rule should have been imposed when BJP lured away nine Congress MLAs. “The Union government cannot indulge in selective morality. And, if corruption is a ground for imposition of central rule, then not a single government in the states can survive for five minutes,” they said, admitting the deep roots corruption has struck in the country. … (Times of India 28/4/16)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

58. Justice delayed: Over 5,000 prisoners await trial in Assam (1)

Guwahati: The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) prison report, which was published in September 2015, shed light on the gruesome reality of the prison system in Assam. Over 5,000 inmates languish in Assam’s overcrowded jails, waiting for trial. The report takes into account data till the end of 2014. Of the 5,193 under-trials identified till December 31, 2014, 186 were women and 20 were foreigners. “There was one Nigerian, one Nepalese and 18 Bangladeshi under-trial prisoners in Assam jails till 2014-end,” the report said. One of the worst cases of delayed justice was reported a decade back in the state. Machang Lalung, then 77, was released from incarceration in 2005 after spending more than 50 years behind bars, awaiting trial. A jail official said, “Some of the inmates are incarcerated for a long time for false allegations too. Case diaries of many cases are yet to be prepared.” The report highlighted the plight of waiting for inordinate durations. “At least 23 under-trial prisoners have been in Assam jails for more than five years…There were 96 others who have been languishing in similar condition for periods between three to five years. Some 3,450 other prisoners were in jails for more than one year waiting for their trials to end in the same time frame,” said an official, citing the report. And it is not just the duration of the wait. The prison conditions are inhuman, compounding the gravity of the situation. In a scenario where prisons are overcrowded, the numbers are all the more telling. There are 31 prisons in the state. However, against the total capacity of 8,192 inmates, there were 8,346 inmates in state prisons in the period the report covers. Added to this is the burden that the central jails of Jorhat, Dibrugarh and Tezpur bear of acting as detention centres for sheltering ‘declared foreigners’ following a notification by the state government. The practice will continue till the creation of separate detention camps. In the same period, there were 3,141 convicts in Assam’s jails. Most of them were convicted on murder charges. The convicts included 23 foreigners – one Nigerian, one Pakistani, four from Myanmar and 17 Bangladeshis. They were serving sentences after being found guilty of smuggling contraband, human trafficking, miltancy or entering India illegally. (Times of India 20/4/16)

59. JK legislator calls for demilitarization, AFSPA revocation (1)

Jammu: National Conference legislator Devender Singh Rana on Wednesday favoured complete demilitarization in J&K and revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from state’s “peaceful areas.” “There is no need of military establishments in civilian areas. Army should decrease its footprints in peaceful areas of the state,” Rana, who is NC’s Provincial President, told reporters on the sidelines of a function here. He said army should go back to barracks “so that people breathe easy and not feel caged.” On removal of bunkers in Handwara, he said “it is not any achievement.”  “This won’t be seen as an achievement unless footprints of forces don’t disappear from peaceful areas,” he said. “Many bunkers were removed during the tenure of Omar Abdullah-led government, but it doesn’t serve propose till AFSPA is there.” Earlier, Rana, who is legislator from Nagrota constituency of Jammu district, announced that Bharti Foundation has adopted 15 government schools of Nagrota to implement quality support programme. Bharti Foundation has signed MoU with Deputy Commissioner, Jammu and Chief Education Officer, Jammu to implement the Quality Support Program in Nagrota,” he said. (Greater Kashmir 21/4/16)

60. Home dept receives report on Aguada jail food poisoning (1)

Panaji: A one-man commission who investigated the food poisoning case at the Aguada central jail and Mapusa judicial lock-up three years ago submitted his report to the home department recently. One inmate had died in the incident. Additional secretary (home) Sanjiv Gadkar told TOI that the report will be put before the government for acceptance of the report and to take necessary action. Two years after the incident in July 2013, the cabinet had decided to appoint a one-man commission comprising the principal district judge (North Goa). The commission was asked to submit the inquiry report within two months. On May 31, 2013, prisoner Mahadev Gaonkar died and 128 others suffered from diarrhoea and vomiting at Aguada jail and nine other prisoners fell ill at the Mapusa judicial lock-up after complaining of food poisoning. Gaonkar’s complaint came after dinner.Gaonkar, who was undergoing a six-year imprisonment term at central jail, Aguada, succumbed while undergoing treatment at Candolim primary health centre (PHC). During the incident, doctors suspected a case of water contamination rather than food poisoning. Aguada jail gets its water from the PWD water supply pipeline. Earlier jail authorities used water from a spring in the jail’s vicinity. The dinner had included fish curry, rice, chappati and fried fish. The food was cooked in the jail mess and then served to the prisoners and some of it transported to Mapusa for the under trial prisoners. The food was cooked by 13 cooks under the supervision of a mess commandant. The cooked food was tasted by the jail superintendent before being served to the prisoners.Jail authorities had also lodged a complaint with Calangute police station seeking an investigation. The Bardez sub-divisional magistrate is inquiring into the death of the inmate. (Times of India 22/4/16)

61. Handwara girl remains in ‘police detention’, lawyers allege intimidation (1)

Srinagar:Jammu & Kashmir State Commission for Women (SCW) chairperson Nayeema Mehjoor will on Wednesday meet a girl who was allegedly assaulted in Handwara earlier this month, giving rise to violent protests that took five lives. The girl had reportedly written a letter alleging “intimidation by police” to Mehjoor on Monday. Though protesters alleged that the girl was molested by an Army soldier, she told the chief judicial magistrate that two boys from the area were responsible. Her kin and well-wishers dismissed the statement, claiming that it had come under pressure from the police. The girl’s lawyers have said she will “continue to remain in police custody for the time being”. Earlier on Tuesday, a division bench of the Jammu and Kashmir high court heard a petition by the girl’s mother, seeking her immediate release. The plea was clubbed with a PIL filed on the same lines by the Bar Association. Alleging that the girl was being kept under “detention” and her “personal space was being violated”, the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) – which is providing legal aid to the girl and her family – said in a statement, “Beyond the important legal issues, the main thrust of arguments to be advanced today was that the minor girl be set free and out of oppressive police custody immediately. It was to be argued that other issues could be dealt with subsequently.”JKCCS spokesperson Khurram Parvez said that though Parvez Imroz – the girl’s lawyer – tried submitting the letter written by her to Mehjoor, he was directed to formally file it with the registry. The court will next hear the matter on May 2. Mehjoor told HT that she would look into the circumstances surrounding the girl’s detention when she meets her on Wednesday. The SCW chairperson also said she was waiting for the police to reveal who had shot the video that showed her blaming “some local boys”. The girl’s face was shown in the video. “She told me last week that the video was shot by a policeman, who told her it would not be made public. But later, the same video was released by the Army,” Mehjoor said. Last week, the high court had directed the Handwara superintendent of police to let the girl meet her mother and lawyers. The JKCCS has also alleged that police stopped the girl from leaving Zachaldara to present herself before the high court in Srinagar. The Handwara police, however, countered the allegation. A senior officer told HT that the police were simply protecting the girl, and not restricting her from going anywhere. “We don’t even enter the house where she stays,” he said. The girl has been put up at an undisclosed location near Zachaldara. While the JKCCS has termed it as “unlawful detention”, the state continues to claim that she was staying at a relative’s house “without any restrictions”. (Hindustan Times 27/4/16)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

62. India ranks 133 in Press Freedom Index (1)

Washington: India ranks abysmally low at 133 among 180 countries in the latest annual World Press Freedom Index, which says Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems “indifferent” to the threats against journalists. The 2016 ‘World Press Freedom Index’ released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is led by Finland, which retained its top spot for the sixth consecutive year, followed by Netherlands and Norway. India jumped three spots from the 136th position it had in 2015. “Journalists and bloggers are attacked and anathematised by various religious groups that are quick to take offense,” the report said. At the same time, it is hard for journalists to cover regions such as Kashmir that are regarded as sensitive by the government, it said. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems indifferent to these threats and problems, and there is no mechanism for protecting journalists,” the report said. “Instead, in a desire to increase control of media coverage, Modi envisages opening a journalism university run by former propaganda ministry officials,” it alleged, without substantiating what it refers to. Among India’s neighbouring countries, Pakistan ranks 147, Sri Lanka (141), Afghanistan (120), Bangladesh (144), Nepal (105) and Bhutan (94). China is ranked 176. The United States is ranked 44th and Russia is placed at the 148th place. The report shows that there has been a deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels. (The Hindu 21/4/16)

63. Journalist community demands release of Nepali editor; calls arrest attack on free speech (1)

Kathmandu, April 24: The arrest of the Himal editor and prominent Nepali journalist Kanak Mani Dixit recently has been widely condemned by the members of journalist fraternity belonging to various parts of the world. Several prominent editors, journalists and scholars from countries like India, Nepal, Bangladesh, US, UK, Australia and Sri Lanka have asked the government of Nepal to release the senior scribe, who has been arrested on April 22 (Friday) on charges of corruption. journo On April 23 (Saturday), the veteran journalist, who was arrested by an anti-graft body for allegedly misappropriating a huge amount of money by misusing his public post, was admitted to the ICU of a hospital in the Himalayan country after he complained of high blood pressure. “It is with deep concern that we have learned of the arrest of Kanak Mani Dixit, the widely respected founder-editor of Himal Media and a courageous voice for transparency, freedom of expression and democratic rights in Nepal and across South Asia [Senior journalist held for graft in Nepal] The charges are related to alleged corruption but Kanak Dixit says it is part of a vendetta pursued against him by people in Government,” said a statement jointly issued by the journalists, activists and scholars from across the world. The journalist community hailed Dixit as a true professional and human rights defender. “We have known Kanak Dixit as a true professional, human rights defender and energetic journalist whose credentials are built on robust research and tremendous courage. Himal Media, a pioneer in South Asia journalism, has published Himal South Asia, Nepali Times and Himal Khabar Patrika (in the Nepali language). He has written extensively for international media including leading newspapers in India and is chairman of Sajha Yatayat, a state run transportation company, which he has been turning around from a loss-making entity,” said the statement. “Kanak Dixit’s detention comes at a time of increased pressure on free media across South Asia. We call upon all national and international media organisations, individual journalists and editors, defenders of media under pressure, on those who believe in the freedom of expression, to seek Kanak Dixit’s immediate release and a fair and transparent trial, free of bias,” added the statement. The statement condemned all forms of pressure tactics used by the governments of various countries on journalists. “We call upon the Government of Nepal to issue a transparent and unequivocal statement on his detention for we are deeply concerned about his safety and rights. We condemn all forms of pressure tactics on editors like him and other courageous media figures such as Mahfuz Anam of the Daily Star in Dhaka, who is facing over 80 cases of sedition and libel in Bangladeshi courts, and other media persons who are committed to the rule of law and justice,” said the statement. (Oneindia 24/4/16)

64. Media’s role in bolstering democracy vital, says SP (1)

Mangaluru: Media has to play a pivotal role in ensuring that India emerges as the strongest democratic power in the world. Media has played the role of a watchdog and ensured that India’s experiment with democratic form of government has belied expectations that its detractors had in the country’s ability to adopt to this system given its sheer geographical size and diversity, said S D Sharanappa, superintendent of police, Dakshina Kannada district. Conferring the Pa Go rural reporting award constituted by Dakshina Kannada Working Journalists’ Association on Chandrahas Charmadi, sub-editor, Niranthara Pragathi, here on Tuesday, the SP said the media in Dakshina Kannada has always shown its inclination to highlight social causes without fear or favour. “The media here has by and large been the true mirror of social development,” he said, adding that they have taken due care to reflect the sufferings of the people. The move by the association to present an award for rural reporting that highlights such causes is a meaningful venture of being sensitive to concerns of society on social issues. Noting that he has seen the passion and conviction of media in Dakshina Kannada over his tenure as SP in the district, Sharanappa said the media here is far ahead compared to their counterparts in other districts. He exhorted the media to play its role of being social watchdogs to the fullest. Accepting the award, Chandrahas thanked his publication for giving him the personal freedom to highlight the social issues faced by the tribals in Gorurhaadi in H D Kote of Mysuru in a state-level daily. It is satisfying that article has drawn the attention of various NGOs who have since stepped up assistance to these tribals by providing amenities to them, he said, adding he will use the cash prize received with the award for the welfare of Gorurhaadi. Senior journalist Manohar Prasad felicitated the DK district journalists’ team that bagged the first place in a cricket tournament organized by Karnataka Union of Working Journalists at Mysuru on this occasion. The association gave a send off to Suresh Belagaje, senior journalist, who has been transferred to Bengaluru. Jagannath Shetty Bala, president, DKWJA; Srinivas Nayak Indaje, secretary, office-bearers of Mangaluru Press Club, Patrika Bhavan Trust were present. (Times of India 27/4/16)

65. Mumbai campus buzz: Students protest over JNU issue, against caste bias (1)

Mumbai: Students affiliated to various left-oriented students’ unions such as All India Students’ Association, All India Democratic Students’ Organisation, All India Students’ Federation, Students’ Federation of India and University Community for Democracy and Equality held a demonstration outside Mumbai University’s Kalina Campus carrying banners and posters with slogans such as “JNU ko Nyaya Milna Chahiye” and “There will be no more Rohiths”. The students were from various Mumbai colleges as well as some from Pune University. The unions said they hope to hold more protests in colleges and initiate discussion among students on freedom of speech, caste discrimination and other issues. “JNU students were targeted by the administration. Most students punished belong to Dalit or Muslim communities or backward castes,” said Abhilasha Srivastava, Maharashtra State Secretary of All India Students Association. The demonstrations comprising speeches by youth leaders of various student organizations will focus on issues ranging from Kanhaiya Kumar, the rustication of other JNU students, etc. “The attack on Kumar on his Jet Airways flight was definitely pre-planned. We will continue to protest against this and the rustication of Umar and Anirban,” commented Shambuk Uday, State Vice President of All India Students Federation. “Students fear the same thing will happen at their colleges,” Uday added. Among protests lined up in the coming days is one in South Mumbai’s Madanpura area next week. Abhilasha of AISA said, “We will keep organizing these meetings repeatedly in support of JNU until the authorities revoke the punishments.” While the exam season may mar plans for immediate demonstrations, the students’ organisations said they would restart their series of initiatives once the colleges reopen. (Indian Express 28/4/16)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

66. Greater Noida tense over cow slaughter (7)

NOIDA: Jewar (Greater Noida) Tension erupted in Jewar area on late night on Friday after the carcass of a cow were noticed in the area. The dogs were eating the carcass when the locals noticed it. Following the incident, locals protested seeking immediate arrest of the cow slaughterers. The protestors jammed the road for about four hours.Half a dozen policemen reached the scene. After taking samples, an FIR was lodged into the matter. According to sources, locals noticed the carcass of the cow after offering prayers at the Badbaba temple at around 8 pm. The locals near Kanigadhi village noticed the dogs eating the carcass. This ignited protests. The news spread in and around the villages within minutes. Hundred of locals gathered and raised anti-police and anti-administration slogans. The police and administration reacted late and protests went out of control. When the situation aggravated, nearby police stations were also alerted. The protesters demanded arrest of the culprits and autopsy of the cow. The enraged locals did not allow the force to take the carcass in their possession. Hours later, sub devisional magistrate Suresh Mishra and deputy superintendent of police Dilip Singh reached the scene along with government the veterinary doctors’ team. After picking up the samples, the carcass was buried. Based on the complaint of the cow’s owner Vishnu Sharma, an FIR of cow theft and slaughter was lodged with the Jewar police station. According to senior police officers, following the FIR, a manhunt has been launched to nab the culprits. TOI on March 17 had exclusively reported that tension had erupted in Tugalpur village in Greater Noida over the preparing and serving of pork. The owner of a property had thrashed his Dalit tenant for allegedly preparing pork. This incident was reminiscent of the killing of Akhlaq in Bisada village of Greater Noida – Akhlaq was lynched for allegedly eating and storing beef last year. (Times of India 20/4/16)

67. HC pardons govt’s 674-day delay in Godhra case appeal (7)

Ahmedabad: The state government failed to file an appeal in the Gujarat high court for nearly two years, against an accused in the Godhra train burning case who was acquitted in this very serious case. The case pertains to Ismail Chhunga, who was wanted in the Godhra carnage case, in which 59 passengers including karsevaks returning from Ayodhya were charred to death on February 27, 2002. He was arrested on March 3, 2011, after absconding for nine years. A special SIT court acquitted him of conspiracy, murder and rioting charges on November 30, 2013. The state government had 90 days to challenge the acquittal before the HC, but it could file the appeal only on January 5, 2016 – some 674 days after the limitation period ended. The reason for the delay was that opinions from the advocate general and law minister were obtained in this case. The state government urged the HC to pardon the delay on the grounds that this is a very serious offence and the magnitude and gravity demands a fair opportunity to present the case on merit. It would be in the public interest if the court pardoned the delay. On the other hand, the defence lawyer argued that the basic necessity in this case was not fulfilled and there was no opinion from the special public prosecutor. Instead, the file was sent to the advocate general and the law minister, which is not appreciable. It was also argued that an expert opinion is required for filing of an appeal against the trial court’s order. At most, it is the law secretary who takes a decision on such issues after approval from the minister. After hearing the arguments, the high court pardoned the delay last week on the grounds that the state government should be given another opportunity to present its case on merit in the public interest, looking at the seriousness, magnitude and gravity of the offence. The HC admitted the state’s appeal. (Times of India 21/4/16)

68. Jharkhand seeks NIA help to probe Hazaribag communal violence (7)

RANCHI: Jharkhand police have sought the help of National Investigation Agency (NIA) to trace the origin and movement of possibly lethal explosives found in Hazaribag during recent communal riots in which two persons were killed, dozens injured and many shops set on fire. A NIA team with explosive experts is likely to visit Habibinagar in Hazaribag, ADG operations and police spokesperson S N Pradhan said, where the explosives were found. On Thursday former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha’s (who lives in Hazaribag) remarks that cross border terrorists were possibly behind Hazaribag’s communal violence highlighted the magnitude of the situation. Police have recovered altogether 15 petrol bombs containing possibly lethal explosives hidden in a house at Habibi Nagar during clashes. The recovered bombs carried complex mechanism and appeared strange to state investigation agencies when they compared the bombs with bombs and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) usually recovered from different parts of the state from criminals, Maoists or IM operatives. “Various explosives (including potassium) were used in the petrol bombs. The exact names and nature of the explosives are not known now. It is also not known what explosive mechanism the bombs employed and the explosive intensity they carried. NIA will be able to investigate and establish these characters,” Pradhan said. Since the recovery of the bombs, Jharkhand’s fledgling Anti-Terror Squad is camping in Hazaribag where it is examining the bombs trail and interrogating people allegedly behind the storage and assembly of the bombs. The 15 petrol bombs were exposed when a one of the bombs exploded while being assembled by a group of seven persons. In the explosions two died and one was injured. The police are conducting raids to nab four others. Unconfirmed reports say that the other four persons involved in bomb making were also killed in the explosions and locals secretly buried the bodies to evade police. Hazaribag DIG Upendra Kumar told TOI the district police are trying to verify information (of four more deaths in explosion and subsequent burial) and would also go ahead to exhume the bodies if the burial of the criminals is confirmed. The police have lodged 10 FIRs against around 170 accused and arrested several of them. A curfew was imposed on Sunday in Hazaribag town. The curfew continued till Friday with relaxation intervals. “Nine hours of relaxation was given in the curfew on Friday,” DIG Kumar said. (Times of India 22/4/16)

69. Week after violence in Hazaribagh, five bodies exhumed (7)

Ranchi: A week after violence followed stone-pelting on a Ram Navami procession in Hazaribagh town of Jharkhand on April 17, the administration lifted curfew on Sunday morning. On Monday, Hazaribagh police exhumed five bodies, apparently buried in a hurry, following their death in an explosion while allegedly making crude bombs. The explosion had occurred within hours of the communal violence in the town — at a house owned by one Mumtaj in Habibi Nagar area, about a kilometre from where the violence had begun. In all, six people had died and two were injured, according to the police. With the Hazaribagh district hospital not equipped with infrastructure for forensic examination, the decomposed bodies were brought to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi. Four bodies were buried in Khirgaon graveyard — apparently in the dead of night, as the burials were not entered in official records — and a fifth buried in the forests of Dhengura, about 1.5 km from Habibi Nagar. The police, however, learnt about the deaths only when one of the two injured persons — identified as Ifteshar — reached a local hospital. He was later shifted to RIMS. The police raided the site at night and found some crude bombs, but there was no trace of the victims. Two days later, they recovered one of the six bodies from a septic tank in the area. “Relatives of those who had died were traced and they were asked for formal permission to exhume the bodies,” Hazaribagh Superintendent of Police (SP) Akhilesh Jha said. “We then approached the court, which permitted us to exhume the bodies.” The four bodies exhumed from Khirgaon graveyard were identified as that of Shah Nawaz, Muzaffar, Mintu and Sonu. The body exhumed from Dhengura was identified as that of Mujahid. “The deceased were all residents of Habibi Nagar,” Jha said. The SP said that the owner, Mumtaj, has two houses. “He lived in one and let acquaintances use the other when they came to Hazaribagh. In this case also, Mumtaj knew the deceased (persons).” The police, he said, are investigating why they were assembling bombs. (Indian Express 26/4/16)

COMMUNALISM

70. Minister’s remark kicks up a storm (26)

Patna: Union minister Giriraj Singh kicked up a controversy with his remark that if the country’s population policy is not changed to mandate a two-child norm across religions, “our daughters” will not be “safe” and might have to be kept “under the veil” like in Pakistan. Opposition parties slammed Singh, a senior BJP leader and a party MP, for his remark made on Wednesday, saying his basic purpose is to create a “divide” between the Hindus and the Muslims for “short-term political gains” and virtually demanded that he be sacked from the government. “Hindus should have two sons, Muslims, too, should have two sons. Our population is coming down. Bihar has seven such districts where our population has gone down. Population rules have to be changed, only then will our daughters be safe. Otherwise, like Pakistan, we too will have to keep our daughters under the veil,” he had said while addressing a cultural event at Bagaha in West Champaran. “There should be such a law in the country that same number of children should be allowed for families across religions whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian,” he said, adding, “The population policy should be the same for all. And if you want our country to be a developed nation, population control is necessary.” Under attack, Singh on Thursday sought to defend his remark, saying it was said in the interest of the country. “I said this in the interest of the nation like how China brought the population control law in 1979 … Today, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh have brought this law. There should be strong law in India also that should apply to all families across religions whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian,” he said.”I said in many districts and states the Hindu population is declining which is a matter of worry because we need to maintain social harmony. So, there should be strong law like if Hindus can have two children then Muslims, Sikhs or Christians should also have two each.” JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav said Singh’s remark was in bad taste and that he should first ask his government what it thought about the population control issue.Another JD(U) leader Pavan Varma said Giriraj’s devotion to Hindutva is an “inverse proportion” to his knowledge of demography. “His basic purpose is to create a divide between the Hindus and the Muslims on the basis of cooked up facts,” Pavan Varma added. RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha said Giriraj does not have any understanding of the demography of the country. “If hate speech has any kind of award then it should go to Giriraj Singh,” Jha said. PTI (Times of India 21/4/16)

71. Shiv Sena’s alliance with BJP for Hindutva, not power: Uddhav Thackeray (26)

NASHIK: Shiv Sena’s alliance with BJP has been forged on the issue of “Hindutva” and not for sharing power, party president Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday said. “Shiv Sena has made alliance with them (BJP) on the Hindutva issue and not for power,” he said here.Uddhav was speaking at a gathering of office-bearers, people’s representatives and workers of the Sena from Nashik division. Sena is part of the BJP-led ruling alliances at the Centre and in Maharashtra.”You (BJP) may be taking advice from NCP chief Sharad Pawar but we don’t take advice from him,” Uddhav said, claiming that some BJP and NCP leaders share close ties. Speaking on current drought in large parts of Maharashtra, the Sena leader said nobody should play “politics” on the issue. (Times of India 24/4/16)

72. Pepper spray in self-defence for Hindu women (26)

KOCHI: Hindu women of Kerala are being armed with pepper sprays by Durga Vahini, the women’s organisation of the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP), for “self-defence.” The organisation has provided the canned sprays to its 23 district ‘samyojikas’ (coordinators), who are affiliated to the VHP.The distribution was limited to the ‘samyojikas’ in the first phase so as to check its possible misuse, C. Bindu, the State coordinator of the organisation, told The Hindu . These women coordinators are in the age group between 18 and 20 and include college students. The coordinators, in turn, will train other women. “The distribution of the self-defence sprays will be widened as Hindu women and mothers are coming under increased attack in the State. More women will have to be trained in using the gadget,” Ms. Bindu said. The VHP website says it is for “kindling a sense of security, sanskar, and dynamism and also to solve various problems facing women that the VHP founded the independent organisation of Hindu Yuwatis in the name of Durga Vahini” on Durga Ashtami. “Sisters between 15 to 35 years can join Durga Vahini,” the website said. “Durga Vahini will limit the distribution of the gadget to Hindu women as it is an organisation dedicated to Hindu women. In Kerala, Durga Vahini is not active as in other parts of the country. However, of late, the organisation has hit a growth path as society and parents of Hindu girls have realised the need for such an organisation,” said Ms. Bindu. The organisation had been holding self-defence training programmes, including karate sessions, for Hindu women in Kerala, she said. When asked whether the distribution, training and use of such devices exclusively among any one community would lead to social and communal conflicts, the woman leader affirmed that there would not be any such fallout.Pepper sprays, mostly used by law enforcement agencies, including police and riot control units, to disperse crowds, are also advised for self-defence. The spray could cause tears, pain, and temporary blindness. One of the firms selling the unit online claimed that the spray “impacts instantly and effect remains for minimum 30 to 45 minutes and is ideal for working women, housewives, college girls, shopkeepers, businessmen, senior citizens etc.” (The Hindu 25/4/16)

73. VHP’s Sadhvi Prachi refuses to apologise to panel for ‘terrorists in Parliament’ remark (26)

New Delhi: VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi on Wednesday remained defiant and stuck to her controversial terrorists in Parliament remarks after she appeared before Rajya Sabha Committee of Privileges, where opposition members asked her to tender an “unconditional” apology. The committee headed by PJ Kurien is examining a complaint of Opposition MPs against Prachi about her remarks made during the Monsoon Session. The panel had summoned Prachi to appear before it. Emerging after the meeting, Prachi told reporters, “I am a daughter of the country. I won’t backtrack. I am being pressurised to apologise. They (the committee members) shouted me down. I said I also have the right to speak.” Sources said that in the meeting, the panel chairman asked her to tender an apology multiple times but she kept on talking of some kind of “conditional apology” while members wanted her to tender an unconditional apology. Sources said that Prachi, who appeared before the panel along with her lawyer, said that she was “not insulting Parliament as a institution” but stuck to her remarks that there are some terrorists in Parliament. The matter was referred to the Committee in October last year under Rule 203 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Rajya Sabha for examination, investigation and report. Opposition leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Azad, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury and TRS member K. Keshav Rao were among 20 members, who gave the privilege notice against the VHP leader, saying her remarks had violated the dignity of Parliament and the privilege of MPs. Speaking at a public meeting in Roorkee, Prachi had earlier slammed those who had opposed the hanging of Yakub Memon, the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict. “It is a big misfortune that in the Indian Parliament, we have one to two terrorists sitting there. I do not think there can be a bigger misfortune for India than this as they are disobeying the judgment of a court, because the court has proved that he (Yakub Memon) is a terrorist” she had said indirectly referring to the MPs who had opposed the hanging of Memon. A bulletin of the Upper House had then said,” Members are informed that Chairman, Rajya Sabha has referred a question of breach of privilege arising out of the complaint of Naresh Agrawal and other Members of Rajya Sabha pertaining to alleged derogatory remarks against Members of Parliament by Sadhvi Prachi, a leader of a religious organisation, to the Committee of Privileges.” (DNA 27/4/16)

TERRORISM

74. NIA wants more time to file Malegaon case charge sheet (12)

NEW DELHI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday sought more time from a Mumbai court to file a charge sheet in the 2008 Malegaon blast case involving members of Abhinav Bharat, even as Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi refused to decide whether the agency should retain the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act in the case. Though the case was transferred to the NIA in 2011, it has still not filed a charge sheet owing to the delay in the probe and multiple petitions filed by the main accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit, who have questioned the applicability of the MCOCA. It is learnt that Mr. Rohatgi has only given a “verbal suggestion” to the agency and has not given any written reply. The NIA, through the Home Ministry, had written to Mr. Rohatgi, seeking its reply on dropping MCOCA charges against the 14 accused, including Lt. Col. Purohit and Thakur. An NIA official said that even if MCOCA charges were dropped, the Sections under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act were enough to prosecute the accused. (The Hindu 21/4/16)

75. Pakistani Taliban Claim Killing of Sikh Politician (12)

PESHAWAR: The Pakistani Taliban today claimed responsibility for the assasination of a prominent Sikh politician who was shot dead by motorcycle-borne gunmen near his home in Pakistan’s restive northwest. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in a statement said that sharp shooter of Special Task Force of TTP “successfully” targeted Sardar Sooran Singh in his home district Buner. The TTP also threatened its “Mujahideen would continue to target the people creating hurdles in its mission.” “Such activities would continue till the enforcement of Islamic system in the country,” the terror outfit said. Singh, the Special Assistant to Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) on Minority Affairs, was assassinated in Pir Baba area of Buner district in the province when he was going back to his home after a routine walk yesterday. Meanwhile, the last rites of Singh were held in Buner district. A large number of people from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and other political parties’ activists attended the funeral. Singh’s murder was widely condemned by fellow politicians and rights activists. Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, whose Pakistan- Tehreek Insaf (PTI) party rules the restive northwestern province, asked his government to set up an inquiry commission to probe the assassination. “Shocked at murder of PTI’s KP MPA & Minorities Minister Sooran Singh. KP govt must immed set up inquiry. A great loss for all of us,” Khan tweeted. Singh was a doctor, TV anchor and politician. Before joining Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in 2011, Singh was a member of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan for nine years. He was also member of Tehsil council, Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee and Evacuee Trust Property Board. (New Indian Express 23/4/16)

76. You can’t be in denial about terrorism, India tells Pakistan (12)

NEW DELHI: India’s foreign secretary S Jaishankar flatly told Pakistan on Tuesday that it can’t be in denial about terrorism and terrorist groups in Pakistan targeting India. He also said Pakistan can’t be in denial about the impact of terrorism on relations between the two countries. “Terrorist groups based in Pakistan targeting India must not be allowed to operate with impunity,” Jaishankar said. Jaishankar also told Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry in a 90-minute meeting that India wants early and visible progress in the Pathankot terror attack investigation. The two met on the sidelines of the annual Heart of Asia conference. Pakistan didn’t mention the Pathankot terror attack once, but Chaudhry managed to tell India about his concern over Indian intelligence agency RAW’s alleged involvement in Balochistan and also about Kashmir remaining the core issue for his country, according to a Pakistan High Commission statement. The Pakistan High Commission’s statement was released even as the two officials were meeting and before the meeting ended. Chaudhry also expressed concern about RAW’s alleged involvement in ”subversive activities” in Karachi and the matter of the capture of alleged RAW officer, Kulbushan Jadev, the Pakistan High Commission’s statement said. He reportedly said such involvement undermines efforts to normalize relations between the two countries. Sources told TOI that Jaishankar told Chaudhry that no spy agency will put their agent in the field with their own passport and without a visa. Even as Chaudhry underscored his country’s commitment to friendly ties with India, he reportedly insisted in the meeting that Kashmir required “a just solution in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions. Pakistan has sought to provide fresh thrust to the J&K issue in the recent past and it was made obvious further with the manner in which Islamabad declared that Kashmir was its main topic of discussion even before the meeting between the foreign secretaries was over. “The meeting provided a useful opportunity to exchange views on recent developments in a bilateral context,” Chaudhry said. India is expected to react shortly to what transpired in the meeting Pakistan had been keen on a meeting between the two top diplomats to ensure that its Kashmir agenda did not appear as diluted, as India continued to underline the significance of terrorism in bilateral ties. It is well known that Pakistan army had not taken kindly to the meeting last year in Ufa between PM Narendra Modi and his counterpart Nawaz Sharif because of Sharif’s alleged failure to mention Kashmir upfront. The joint statement after that meeting had no specific mention of J&K, which was said to have upset Pakistan’s army chief Raheel Sharif. “Another important bilateral (meeting) for Foreign Secretary as he meets with his Pakistan counterpart Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry,” MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.Foreign Secretary Chaudhary was earlier received by Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit upon his arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here Tuesday morning. Before meeting Chaudhary, Jaishankar met Afghanistan’s Deputy Finance Minister Hekmat Karzai.”Beginning with the bilaterals. Before Heart of Asia Meeting, FS meets Afghan Dy FM Hekmat Karzai for first meeting,” Swarup tweeted. The Foreign Ministers of both nations met in November last year during the SAARC summit in Nepal. The talks between the two sides suffered a setback after the terror attack on Pathankot’s air base. (Times of India 26/4/16)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

77. Dantewada attack was revenge: Maoists (12)

NAGPUR: The outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) has claimed responsibility for the killing of seven Central Reserve Police Force personnel in an IED explosion in the Dantewada district of Bastar last month. “The Malewara attack on the CRPF was a fitting reply to the exploitative Modi-Raman Singh regime and revenge for our party’s martyrs. The attack was a part of our PLGA’s (People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army) response to the government of Chhattisgarh’s mission 2016 against us,” said a statement issued by the south sub zonal bureau of the CPI (Maoist). “The Chhattisgarh government has been running a campaign called ‘Mission 2016’ to flush out Maoists from Bastar. In the name of this mission, the security forces are indulging in attacks on the villages of Bastar. Local civilians are being harassed and are being branded as ‘warrantee Maoists’. “People of Bastar are being stashed in jails under fraud cases. In the name of encounter killings, local tribals are being killed in cold blood. Since January this year, more than 50 local civilians of Bastar and our party cadres have been killed in fake encounters,” alleged the banned outfit. (The Hindu 22/4/16)

78. Chhattisgarh: Wanted Maoist commander gunned down in encounter (12)

RAIPUR: A Maoist carrying a cash reward of Rs 1 lakh on his head was gunned down in a fierce encounter with security forces in the forests of Kistaram in insurgency-hit Sukma district of Bastar division on Saturday. The rebel was identified as militia commander Sodi Pandu of Kumudtong village, wanted in many blasts and attacks on security forces. According to Sukma additional superintendent of police, Santosh Singh, acting on a tip off by a surrendered cadre at Dornapal, about presence of Maoists in the region, a joint team of Special Task Force and District Reserve Guard were on an operation in forests of Kistaram in Sukma when a fierce gun-battle broke out between the rebels and forces which went on till one hour.Sensing the pressure, Maoists fled in dense forest and the troops while searching the region recovered a uniformed body of a Maoist. Security personnel also recovered a country-made weapon, electric wire, few rounds and Maoist literature. Police suspect more rebels may have been killed and injured as the blood stains were found all around the place and there were marks of bodies being dragged. Pandu, was a member of Jantana sarkar and Kumudtong militia commander. He was wanted in many cases like IED blast at Dharampenta last year that killed a CAF jawan, attacks on camp at Velkaguda, digging up roads and planting IEDs at many places. His crime record was being verified. In another incident, an assistant constable of District Reserve Guard committed suicide by consuming poison at Jagdalpur, he was rushed to hospital when he started vomiting, but he died during treatment. (Times of India 23/4/16)

79. Naxals burn machines, construction equipment (12)

Nagpur: The ongoing construction work of an interstate bridge on Pranhita river on Maharashtra-Telangana border was thwarted by the Naxalites who set an excavator on fire and also damaged other equipment at the construction site at Gudem in Aheri taluka on Tuesday. Property and material worth Rs 1 crore was damaged in the attack. Naxal violence erupted a day after substantial strength of paramilitary forces was shifted to south Gadchiroli. The rebels had been targeting the sites of various developmental and infrastructure projects in the district. Security too has been beefed up at these sites. In the latest action, Naxals are learnt to have targeted the site at Gudem where security was not present. (Times of India 28/4/16)

80. Jawan injured in face-off with Maoists in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: A CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) jawan was on Tuesday injured in an exchange of fire with Maoists in the dense forests of Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bijapur district, police said. The skirmish took place early Tuesday morning when a team of CRPF’s elite unit – CoBRA 204th battalion was conducting an anti-naxal operation in the interiors of Basaguda police station limits – a naxal hotbed, Bijapur Additional Superintendent of Police Indira Kalyan Elesela told PTI. While cordoning off the region, located around 450 km away from the state capital, when security forces reached Puvarti village forests, the Maoists began firing at them leaving a constable Deepu Das injured, he said. However, Maoists soon fled from the spot as jawans launched retaliatory attack on them, he said. “Das, a constable belonging to CoBRA 204th battalion sustained bullet injuries on his back,” Elesela said. Reinforcement was rushed to the spot and the injured jawan was evacuated from the forests, he said adding that he has been airlifted to Raipur for treatment. (Hindustan Times 26/4/16)

TRAFFICKING

81. Nepalese Arrested Over Trafficking of Girls to India (1)

KATHMANDU: Five Nepalese nationals have been arrested from southern Nepal on charges of trafficking girls to India, police said today. Sher Bahadur Chepang and his wife were arrested from Madi Municipality in Chitawan district yesterday after the couple handed over a 12-year-old girl to a man to traffic her to Delhi on the pretext of marrying her, they said. However, the girl was rescued with the help of the police and Maiti Nepal, a non-governmental organisation working against girls trafficking, from Kanchanpur district in far- west Nepal. In a separate incident, three other traffickers including Govinda Mahato were arrested on Tuesday from Kaule village of the same district on charges of trafficking a 16-year-old girl to Mumbai. The three had tried to sell the teenage girl to a Mumbai brothel, according to police. (New Indian Express 21/4/16)

82. Five held for trafficking tribal girls (6)

Berhampur (Odisha): Five persons were arrested for allegedly trafficking four tribal girls, including two minors, from Belaghara in Odisha’s Kandhamal district to Tamil Nadu, a police officer said on Saturday. “The girls were rescued from the traffickers on Friday while they were waiting for a bus at Belaghara bus stand. The girls belong to Belaghara and have been sent back home,” said Sub-Divisional Police Officer (Baliguda) S. N. Murmu. Ranjan Bag, Kesab Sahu, Bhujaraj Majhi, Sudam Nag and Minaketan Beruk of Kalahandi district were arrested acting on a tip-off from one Babula Patra of Belaghara, the SDPO said. The traffickers allegedly lured the girls by promising them employment in a spinning mill. They were assured of good remuneration and accommodation during their stay in Tamil Nadu, sources said. “Since traffickers are targeting people in remote villages, the administration should keep a strict vigil on such activities. They approach the villagers when schools are closed for vacation,” Childline (Berhampur) director Sudhir Sabat said. In the past one month, 34 minors, including 26 girls, have been rescued from the railway station here while they were being trafficked to different States. The rescued children belong to Ganjam, Gajapati and Kandhamal districts. Three traffickers were arrested by the Government Railway Police, Berhampur, during this period, sources said. “While the traffickers promise good compensation and accommodation facilities, innocent children are forced to work in hazardous conditions,” Mr. Sabat added. – PTI (The Hindu 24/4/16)

83. Assam child rights panel seeks CID probe into ‘trafficking’ case (1)

Guwahati: The Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) on Monday asked the CID to initiate an inquiry and take necessary action in a suspected human trafficking case involving the newborn baby of a rape victim. The body, in its letter to the ADGP (CID), mentioned that it has received a letter from Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Nagaon, saying that the rape victim, who was also a minor, had given birth to the boy child in 2013 as per her statement. However, the birth certificate that was issued said it was a girl child. The letter said, “At the time of her delivery, she was under the care of an NGO called 7 Sisters. The mother was shifted to the psychiatry department after the delivery and the child was left in the care of Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Kamrup (Metro), which sent the child to the Missionaries of Charity (MOC). As per the statement of the MOC, they were handed over a girl child by the NGO.” The child rights commission’s letter mentioned a response from the registrar of births and deaths, asking for a clarification about the birth certificate. The ‘shocking’ reply from the registrar’s office said, “On scrutiny, it has been found that as per records, the sex of the child is ‘male’. It was erroneously said in the birth certificate that the child was ‘female’ due to oversight of the concerned official.” The letter added, “It’s a suspected case of trafficking, where the boy child was replaced by a girl child and those involved in it are still moving scot-free. Therefore, you (ADGP, CID) are requested to initiate an inquiry into the episode and send the action taken report to the commission at the earliest.” Sources said the investigation is likely to look into the role of authorities of the hospital where the baby was given birth, the NGO which handed over the baby to the MOC, and the state health department. (Times of India 26/6/16)

84. Over 8,000 People Trafficked Annually in Nepal: NHRC (1)

KATHMANDU: More than 8,000 people are trafficked annually in Nepal, the latest report by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has revealed. Unveiling its national report on Monday, NHRC claimed that over 16,000 citizens, mostly women and children, were trafficked in the past two fiscals 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, Xinhua news agency reported. However, it has been found that quite a lower number of trafficking cases were reported to Nepal Police. Only 185 cases were registered in 2013-2014 while only 181 cases were registered in 2014-2015. “The key reason is under-reporting and under-registration of human trafficking cases, including an overlap in measures of Foreign Employment Act and the Human Trafficking and Transportation Control Act,” the report said. It said the number of interception of vulnerable persons has increased after the April 2015 earthquake, an increase by at least 15 percent before and after three months of the quake. More than 1,200 women and children went missing in the first three months of the quake. Despite the fact that the Nepal government has introduced various acts including the Foreign Employment Act 2007, Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act 2007, and the National Plan of Action on Controlling Human Trafficking 2011-2021, the victims do not have access to justice for the prevention and control of trafficking, according to NHRC. The study showed that in terms of destination of trafficking, the majority of victims were being trafficked to India, but there are also cases of internal trafficking and trafficking to the Gulf states. The trafficking route is reported to be the main official border points with India and China. Trafficking of girls to South Korea and China for marriage is also growing in Nepal. “Data reveals that trafficking takes place for multiple purposes, especially for sexual exploitation, labour exploitation and other purposes such as marriage and illegal organ extraction,” the report says. Records showed that most of the trafficking cases were from eastern districts Jhapa and Morang with most of the victims belonging to indigenous nationalities. (New Indian Express 26/4/16)

CORRUPTION

85. CBI establishes graft in VIP chopper deal (5)

NEW DELHI: In what could be bad news for former Indian Air Force chief S P Tyagi, the Central Bureau of Investigation has ‘more or less’ established the ‘corruption’ link in the Rs 3,600-crore VIP chopper deal scandal. Earlier this month, an Italian court sentenced chief of AgustaWestland and Finmeccanica’s former chiefs – Bruno Spagnolini and Giuseppe Orsi – for “bribing Indian officials”.While analysing some 1,65,000 documents, which Italy shared with India for the first time last year in the form of a CD, the CBI has got crucial evidence which proves that AgustaWestland used corrupt practices to influence Indian officials, who favoured the company in lieu of huge cash bribes transferred to India through middlemen and also through a web of companies, sources said. The same documents of Italian prosecutors, a senior officer said, have been taken into account by a Milan court while sentencing Orsi for 4.5 years and Spagnolini for four years respectively in corruption charge. “They both are accused in CBI case as well and same evidence would be used by us now to soon file a final report in the case,” said the officer. The cache of documents, which were in Italian, has almost been translated by CBI and subsequently analysed by investigators. “These are the same documents which Italian prosecutors have used in the Milan court to press charges there. It makes our case very strong and shows the complete trail,” said a top official. The agency will also study the sentencing judgment of the Milan court. It is alleged that Indian officials were paid Rs 362 crore in bribes to swing the deal in favour of the Anglo-Italian firm. The Central Bureau of Investigation had named 13 persons and companies linked with the payments in its FIR. (Times of India 21/4/16)

86. Chief economic advisor calls for change in corruption law (5)

Chennai: If public servants are allowed more discretion on bad investments, instances like the Vijay Mallya case will be fewer, chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian has said. “We ought to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act. Under the current law, public servants, in particular investment bankers at PSUs, are being penalised even for a bad decision. All are human and prone to err. And people shouldn’t be treated as criminals for a bad investment decision. We ought to amend the law, so that public sector employees have the freedom to write down loans,” he said, delivering the fourth T Narasimhan memorial lecture on “Governance for Economic Development” organised by Chennai chapter of the Institute of Public Auditors of India. It is common sense that Mallya’s assets are a quarter of the value they once had, he said. “And yet why do they hesitate to write down loans? You will not find a single banker at PSU willing to write down a loan even by 1% because he fears the wrath of referee organisations. We must then ask if referee organisations are over-stretching themselves? While it is commendable that we have a strong public auditing and accounting system in India we should also make provisions so that public servants can exercise discretion on their investments without repercussions,” said Subramanian. The underprivileged sections are the worst affected by bad governance, he said. “As educated elite we have the option of exiting the public system. Corporation schools aren’t good enough? We put our children in private schools. And it’s the same with public hospitals or colleges. We choose to exit. But the poor can’t. And they are the worst affected by bad governance,” said the economist. (Times of India 24/4/16)

87. VVIP chopper scam: UPA did not blacklist AgustaWestland, says govt (5)

New Delhi: Amid the raging row over VVIP chopper scam, the government today said it will seek a report from the CBI on the deal and initiate the move to blacklist AgustaWestland and its parent company Finmeccanica. It also claimed that the previous UPA dispensation had not put any embargo on the scandal-tainted company. Top Modi government sources claimed the UPA government had not blacklisted AgustaWestland despite allegations of bribery and that it was only when the NDA came to power in 2014 all acquisition proposals with the firm were put on hold. CBI had in 2013 registered a case in connection with alleged bribes paid by the firm to Indians to clinch the deal for 12 helicopters to ferry VVIPs including the President and Prime Minister. Congress had yesterday claimed AgustaWestland was blacklisted under UPA rule but “removed” from the blacklist by the Modi government. Congress leader and former Union Minister Anand Sharma had said, “The chopper deal was scrapped. Action was taken by the UPA government. A K Antony, the then Defence Minister, had made a statement in Parliament and AgustaWestland was blacklisted.” However, the government sources said, “The only punitive action taken by the Congress was in January 2014, just before the Lok Sabha elections, when the UPA govermment encashed the bank guarantee. They never blacklisted the company as claimed by them”.Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had earlier in the day challenged the Congress to show the order by the UPA government confirming the blacklisting. It was on July 3, 2014 when Arun Jaitley was Defence Minister that an order was issued which put on hold all procurement and acquisition cases in the pipeline with six companies involved in the scam including AgustaWestland and Finmeccanica, the sources said. They said it was also decided that in cases where the tender process had not started, there shall be no dealing with those companies and entities till conclusion of the CBI probe and that Request for Intent/Request for Proposal shall be issued to any of them. The sources said the question was not about being banned or not but about who the politicians, bureaucrats and IAF officials were who took the bribes as reported by the Italian Court. (Business Standard 28/4/16)

88. Lokayukta didn’t work to its potential, says HC (5)

Bengaluru: The High Court on Thursday lamented that the anti-corruption watchdog Lokayukta had not performed to its potential, registering just thousands of cases of graft though it had the powers to turn the number into lakhs. Justice A N Venugopala Gowda, quoting the details submitted by a counsel for the Lokayukta, said that Bengaluru city had the most number of cases (182) that were pending with the watchdog, followed by Davangere (104 cases) and Kalaburagi. Raichur district had the least number of pending cases. As many as 120 cases await Prosecution Sanction Order (PSO) from government departments, interim orders were given in 34 cases by the High Court and the Supreme Court, final reports have been prepared in 17 cases, but the courts are yet to accept them, and 38 cases await special case numbers. A total of 538 cases with the Lokayukta are under investigation. The court remarked that corruption cases investigated by the Lokayukta were just the proverbial tip of the iceberg, as “unseen hands” are protecting the corrupt. It ordered the Lokayukta to dispose of all cases that are one-year-old as of March 14, 2016, by the end of June and adjourned the hearing until the first week of August. (Deccan Herald 29/4/16)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

89. CNG more harmful for environment than diesel: govt to Guj HC (9)

Ahmedabad, Apr 22 () Citing an expert committee report on fuels, the state government today told the Gujarat High Court that CNG will prove more harmful to the environment than diesel “as CNG engines emit more greenhouse gases than diesel”. In its affidavit filed before the High Court, the state government also expressed apprehensions about converting all commercial as well as public transport vehicles running on diesel into CNG-run, stating that it will have major financial implications. The affidavit came as government’s reply to the court, which is hearing a PIL seeking conversion of all such diesel vehicles into CNG-run vehicles to reduce air pollution in the state. The affidavit was submitted to the high court bench comprising chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and justice Anant Dave. Since the Chief Justice was out of the town, the bench was not available today. In the affidavit, the state government cited the 2002 Mashelkar expert committee report to argue that CNG is not a solution. “As observed in Mashelkar Expert Committee report on Auto Fuel Policy in India, CNG vehicles for one mile emits 20 per cent more greenhouse gases than a diesel vehicle for one mile. From the perspective of global warming, the decision to switch to CNG from diesel is a harmful one,” the affidavit quoted the report. “CNG vehicle emits 80 per cent particulate matter and 35 per cent less hydrocarbons. However, the output of carbon monoxide is over five times more than diesel,” stated the affidavit quoting the report. “If CNG is used, there will be a reduction in particulate matter. But other pollutants show a considerable increase. In fact, there is an increase in the emission of greenhouse gases with the increase in the age of CNG engine,” argued the government quoting the report. According to government, conversion of diesel vehicles into CNG “would not serve the purpose of prevention of air pollution caused by vehicles”. (Times of India 22/4/16)

90. India has made strides in tackling climate change: TERI chief (9)

New Delhi, Apr 23 () India has made strides towards providing “real solutions” to tackle climate change, TERI Director General Ajay Mathur said today, a day after the country signed the Paris accord along with more than 170 nations. “Since the finalisation of the Paris Accord, India has already made strides towards providing real solutions to the very real problems of climate change. As a developing nation, we have found that growth has presented us with a great opportunity to set in motion our strategies for addressing climate change,” said Mathur, who is also a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change. He said in its journey towards sustainable growth which ensures protection of the planet against climate change, India has learnt that real-time data and human and institutional capacity are absolutely necessary for proper implementation of any plan. “These can be further strengthened when nations are able to learn from each other, share and build on each other’s experiences and lend support, whether financial or in terms of expertise. Going forward, India believes these will be instrumental towards the success of our common goal of ensuring just climate action,” he said. India had yesterday signed the historic Paris climate agreement along with more than 170 nations, marking a significant step that has brought together developing and developed countries for beginning work on cutting down greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar signed the agreement in the UN General Assembly hall at a high-level ceremony hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Elaborating India’s initiatives, Mathur said one of the country’s first efforts to be rolled out has been the market-based LED lighting initiative. Since initiation of the programme, India has completed the replacement of 100 million incandescent bulbs with LEDs which has led to a “major” reduction in carbon footprint by cutting nearly 25 million tons of carbon dioxide. (Times of India 23/4/16)

91. 30 Per cent Reduction in Stubble Burning in NCR: Javadekar (9)

NEW DELHI: There has been a 30 per cent reduction in stubble burning in the National Capital Region, a major cause for air pollution, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said today. “Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has set up a control room to enable people to register complaints against cases of biomass burning. 84 such complaints had been received in the last three months and necessary action has been taken on them,” he said. The minister, who chaired the fifth meeting of the Environment Ministers of National Capital Region (NCR) on mitigation of air pollution here, reiterated the importance of holding awareness and training camps for 7,000 sweepers so that biomass burning can be reduced. Javadekar also urged the Environment Ministers of NCR to strictly follow the directions issued by CPCB under Section 18 (1) of Air Act, 1981. He suggested quick implementation of the revamped Waste Management Rules, including the newly formulated Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules to reduce air pollution. The Minister said that there has been a 30 per cent reduction in stubble burning and that the states of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have banned stubble burning. “Pollution due to dust, emissions from industries, burning of biomass and vehicular pollution are among the major causes of air pollution. Pollution from unauthorised brick kilns must be reduced as well,” he said. The Union Minister said the government has decided to implement Bharat-6 compliance for vehicles by 2020, which will significantly reduce vehicular pollution. The need to install vapour recovery equipment at petrol pumps was also emphasized at the meeting. The ministers and representatives from state governments outlined the steps that have been taken to mitigate air pollution in their respective regions. Delhi Environment Minister Imran Hussain said that since last year, 480 polluting vehicles have been fined while the number of PUC centres increased from 702 to 828 in the national capital. The time of entry of commercial vehicles into Delhi has been rescheduled from 9.30 pm to 11pm and efforts are being made to strictly enforce the new timing, he said. Delhi government has also started online monitoring of power plants and waste-to-energy plants along with setting up compost units in 346 parks in the city, he added. Uttar Pradesh Environment Minister Abhishek Mishra said the construction of underpasses has been started and two elevated roads were being constructed while work on widening of NH-24 is underway. Rajasthan Minister Raj Kumar Rinwa said that the state government has taken strict action against polluting vehicles. A representative from Haryana said the state has issued directions to all local bodies on strict compliance of directives issues by Environment Ministry. (New Indian Express 27/4/16)

92. Can’t control Delhi pollution without NCR: study (9)

NEW DELHI: : Delhi’s pollution levels may not come under control even if all the measures recommended by a report commissioned by the State government are implemented across the National Capital Region. This comes at a time when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has rolled out round two of the odd-even road-rationing scheme.The report by the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, titled ‘Comprehensive Study on Air Pollution and Green House Gases (GHGs) in Delhi’, was commissioned by the Delhi government in 2013 and submitted in January this year. After months of delay, the Environment Department has recently made the report public. The study found that levels of pollutants – particulate matter, sulphates and nitrates – in Delhi and in the NCR were “similar and comparable”. On an average, Delhi sees a PM2.5 level of 335 micrograms per cubic metre, which is almost six times the standard of 60. If Delhi enacted all the control measures suggested by the report, the PM2.5 level would reduce by 65 per cent, which would still make it around double the permissible level. So, the report makes the case for implementing similar measures across the NCR. While this would reduce the PM2.5 level by 78 per cent, it would still be slightly higher than the permitted level. Experts have been recommending a regional action plan for the NCR for years. In China, the government implemented national as well as regional-level action plans in September 2013. Reports have found that this approach has started showing results. For Delhi, the IIT-Kanpur report has suggested various air pollution control options and evaluated their effectiveness in improving air quality. Several sources contribute to the dominant pollutants – PM2.5, PM10 and NO2 – in ambient air. Measures have been suggested for 12 major sources. Around 9,000 hotels or restaurants in Delhi use coal, mostly in tandoors. A shift to electric or gas-based appliances has been suggested. For construction and demolition, which is a consistent source throughout the year, among the steps proposed are proper disposal of waste, appropriate handling and storage of raw material, and covering the site with a fine screen. For road dust, which is the largest source of particulate matter in the summer, mechanical and vacuum assisted sweeping has been suggested at a frequency of four times a month. Drastic reduction in PM10 has been estimated with sweeping alone. Diesel vehicles have a significant contribution towards all pollutants. The report recommends that sulphur content in diesel should be brought down to 10 parts per million or less by end of 2018, electric and hybrid vehicles be introduced and diesel vehicles be equipped with Diesel Particulate Filter (which have PM emission reduction efficiency of 60-90 per cent). If implemented as scheduled, these three measures alone will cut down vehicular emissions by half. Secondary particles, the major and consistent source of PM in Delhi, originate from sulphate (SO2) and nitrate (NOx) gases. Controlling these gaseous pollutants from the 13 major thermal power plants lying within the radius of 300 km from Delhi will have a huge impact on air quality. Sulphate removal technologies like wet flue gas desulfurisation have been suggested among other measures. (The Hindu 29/4/16)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

93. Cabinet sub-committee surveys drought-hit areas in Mandya (20)

Mandya: A Cabinet sub-committee on drought, comprising four ministries, visited several villages in the district on Thursday evening to get a first-hand account of the prevailing situation. All seven taluks in the district had been declared drought-hit and over 100 farmers allegedly committed suicide owing to crop loss.Subsequently, the State government had constituted four teams to study the situation. Of them, a team, headed by Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs T.B. Jayachandra, visited some villages in Maddur, K.R. Pet, Nagamangala and Srirangapatna district besides visiting the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) reservoir at 6.55 p.m. Mr. Jayachandra, along with H.C. Mahadevappa, Minister for Public Works, Ports, Inland and Water Transport, H.S. Mahadevaprasad, Minister for Cooperation and Sugar, and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao inspected lakes, canals and farmlands at Chinnana Doddi, Thoreshetty Halli, Kestur, Athagur, Dodda Nakanahalli and Koppa in Maddur taluk. Mr. Mahadevappa, while interacting with the villagers, said that the State government will fill water in 20 lakes at a cost of Rs. 50 crore. Later, the team visited the KRS reservoir after visiting Nagamangala and K.R. Pet. Housing Minister M.H. Ambareesh, Deputy Commissioner M.N. Ajay Nagabhushan, Mandya Zilla Panchayat Chief Executive Officer B. Sharath, Superintendent of Police C.H. Sudheer Kumar Reddy and others were present. (The Hindu 22/4/16)

94. Loan waiver benefited over 13,000 farmers in division (20)

Nagpur: Over 13,000 farmers from Nagpur division have been benefited under Maharashtra government’s scheme to waive off moneylenders’ loans to farmers. The division comprises Wardha, Gondia, Bhandara, Chandrapur, Gadchiroli and Nagpur where 3,061 villages were identified by the government for implementing the scheme. The announcement in this regard was made by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis while replying to a debate over drought in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions during winter session in city in December 2014. Revenue minister Eknath Khadse made similar announcement in the council declaring that farmers would be given 100% loan waiver if they had availed loan from licensed moneylenders. The debate in both house was initiated by the opposition parties after a large number of farmers committed suicides due to mounting debts, and a majority of them had availed loans from the moneylenders. As per reply by office of divisional joint registrar’s for cooperative Societies in Nagpur to RTI activist Abhay Kolarkar, 27,541 farmers were identified in the division as eligible under the scheme. These were finalized by district level scrutiny committee. This panel consisted of collector, police superintendent, divisional registrar and auditor of the respective districts. They had taken loans from 743 moneylenders and their total outstanding was Rs2,798.28 crore. The public information officer (PIO) at joint registrar’s office informed that so far, the government had released about Rs 19 crore towards the scheme benefiting 13,233 farmers who had secured loans from 571 licensed moneylenders. The government freed the properties and articles of 14,647 farmers who had mortgaged them to the moneylenders. It also distributed ‘Debt Relief Certificates’ to 12,116 farmers so far. The waiver was announced as a part of a relief package for farmers and the moneylenders were asked to provide a list of borrowers. Interestingly, the moneylenders knocked the doors of Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court challenging the waiver saying they had been granted insufficient time to provide details. According to PIO, after getting approval from the scrutiny committee, the moneylenders were told to return the mortgaged property of the farmer. The debt amount was transferred to the moneylenders’ account through NEFT/RTGS. Later, the certificate of actual amount was handed over to the farmer by the committee. In case any dispute over the debt amount, the farmers have liberty to move court with further claims under Section 36 of Maharashtra Moneylending Act, 2014. (Times of India 25/4/16)

95. 116 farmer suicides in first 3 months of 2016 (20)

NEW DELHI: Days after attributing the record number of farmer suicides in 2015 to poor disbursement of credit, which left them at the mercy of usurious money lenders, the Centre on Tuesday shared with Parliament grim statistics highlighting how the situation remains unchanged in 2016, with as many as 116 suicides during the first three months. Maharashtra continues to be the dark spot, recording the highest number of farmer suicides . Punjab, which recorded only three farmer sucides in 2014, was second in the list in 2015 as also so far this year. In farmer suicide capital, a 12-year-old poetess makes history However, MP, which has consistently been recording farmer suicides in varying numbers till 2014, managed to escape this tragic cycle. The state did not report any suicide in 2015 and during the first three months of this year. Officials credit MP’s better agricultural growth, backed by creation of irrigation infrastructure in water-stressed areas, for the turnaround. Water-starved Maharashtra faces the brunt for its failure to adapt to suitable cropping patterns, particularly Marathwada. In response to a Parliament question, the government informed the Lok Sabha that of the 2,115 farmers who committed suicide in 2014, 1,163 were driven by debt, and the remaining by crop loss.In Maharashtra, 857 of 1,207 farmers who committed suicide did so due to debt burden, which lays bare their dependence on local money-lenders due to a non-functional farm credit system in the state and also in other parts of the country. The figures for farmers’ suicide were shared on a day Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh alleged that dams were constructed in Maharashtra to serve interests of the sugar industry and not farmers. “I demand a discussion on Maharashtra drought so that facts can come to light,” he said in Lok Sabha, blaming the previous Congress-led government in the state for the mess. His allegation triggered a war of words with the opposition blaming the Centre for not doing enough to provide relief to the drought-affected states. (Times of India 27/4/16)

96. Marathwada drought: 65 farmer suicides reported in April, highest in Beed (20)

As many as 65 farmers in Marathwada have committed suicide in April, reported The Times Of India. It further said that the highest number of suicides was reported from Beed – 60, followed by Aurangabad and Nanded. Latur reported 44 farmer suicides. Burdened with crippling debt and three years of drought, over 300 farmers have ended their lives this year. Farmer suicides were also reported from Osmanabad, Jalna, Parbhani and Hingoli districts. District administration officials have instructed health care workers and doctors to extend help to distressed farmers and “boost the morale of farmers.” Officials told The Times Of India that 146 cases are eligible for compensation, 117 cases are pending and around 75 claims have been rejected so far. Meanwhile, central teams will study drought-affected areas in the country till June this year and prepare a long-term plan of possible actions to tackle the calamity. The Central Water Commission (CWC) and Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) teams have been asked to analyse the causes leading to drought in these areas and identify water resources management challenges. The teams will also figure out gaps in water information and plans to recharge, long-run solutions and suggest measures for protection, management and restoration of water bodies, the statement said. According to a DNA report, two new water rakes would be deployed on a shorter route to Latur. Water from Dudhana river will be sent to Latur via Partur instead of Miraj. The Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court on Tuesday ordered 50 percent water cuts for breweries in Marathwada from 10 May. A bench of Justices SS Shinde and Santeetrao Patil said that it was inhuman that breweries were enjoying a lavish supply of water, when people had not seen water for days. Apart from breweries and distilleries, the court has also increased the water cut for other industrial units by 5 percent from the initial 20 percent starting 20 May. (Frstpost 28/4/16)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

97. Singur land acquired for public purposes, not for Nano project, SC told (4)

New Delhi, April 19 (IANS) The acquisition of Singur land for public purpose and then handing it over to Tata Motors for its Nano small car project was illegal and in breach of land acquisition law, the Supreme Court was told on Tuesday. The Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights, which is seeking the restoration of Singur lands to the farmers from whom it was acquired, told the bench of Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice Arun Mishra that the land acquired for the public purposes could not be given to Tata Motors for the Nano small car project. Telling the court that there was a separate procedure under the land acquisition law for acquiring land for a project of a private company, counsel Prashant Bhushan said that the land acquired by the government for public purposes could be given to a private company only for constructing dwelling units of the workers employed with it and no other purposes. “In case of private company, the land can be acquired for building houses for workers but for government companies it can be for any other purposes also,” he said, citing a 2011 apex court verdict backing his position. At the outset of the hearing which lasted for about 20 minutes, the West Bengal government told the court that 997.11 acres of land was acquired in Singur in 2006, and though the then Left Front government acquired the land for public purposes but its stated object was Nano small car project of Tata Motors. Telling the court that Tatas eventually abandoned the project and moved to Gujarat, the court was told that after acquiring the Singur land, the state government transferred it to West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation which in turn gave it to Tata Motors. The court had commenced hearing on Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress West Bengal government’s plea challenging the Calcutta High Court June 22, 2012 order holding unconstitutional its Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act to reclaim 400 acres given to Tata Motors for Nano car project. The Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act was enacted by the Trinamool government to reclaim the land so that it could be returned to the farmers who had resisted the takeover of their lands and had not even accepted the compensation in lieu of that. The hearing of the matter will continue on Thursday. (Times of India 20/4/16)

98. NHAI seeks land from Haryana govt for Gurgaon’s pod taxi project (4)

Gurgaon: The much-hyped pod taxi project, which has been in the pipeline for almost a decade, is taking concrete shape with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) seeking land from Haryana to set up the personal rapid transport system. Recently, the highways authority had invited bids for setting up the pod taxi project on a design, build, finance, operate and transfer basis (DBFOT). The project was envisaged by the erstwhile Bhupinder Singh Hooda government and is yet to be implemented. The personal rapid transit (PRT), also referred to as pod cars, are small battery-operated, driverless and laser-guided vehicles running on elevated tracks. With a passenger carrying capacity of 4-6 persons, a pod car can speed up to 40kmph. Weighing about 850 kg, the car is best suited for a burgeoning city like Gurgaon. The right of way would be the entire carriageway of the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway and will be 12.3 km long. It will start from Delhi-Gurgaon border on the Expressway and extend till Badshahpur on Sohna Road via Rajiv Chowk. The indicative cost of the project is Rs 835.62 crore and the last date for submitting qualification bids is April 11. To ensure that work on the project is not dogged by land acquisition issues, NHAI in a letter to Haryana government has sought 15 acres to set up stations. The land the NHAI seeks falls in the green belts controlled by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (Huda) and Haryana State Industrial & Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (HSIIDC). This will have to be transferred free of cost by the agencies as per the initial agreement between the NHAI and the Haryana government. The sites include Ambience Mall, Cyber city, Jwala mill chowk to Atlas chowk, Atlas chowk, near Heritage city, iffco chowk, Iffco Chowk near Crown plaza, near Signature Tower , Jharsa road , Jharsa road towards Ch Bakhtawar Singh road , Near Rajiv Chowk, near Tau Devi Lal Stadium, near Islampur village , near Sadar police station , near central park , near Casabella Garde, near Dr Amebdkar Bhawan at Badshahpur chowk . The land is being sought to set up pod stations from Ambience Mall to Rajiv Chowk and from there to Badshahpur Chowk on Sohna road. “We are keen to complete this project in a time-bound manner as it will resolve commuting issues in Gurgaon to a great extent,” Ashok Sharma, project director, NHAI, said. (Hindustan Times 21/4/16)

99. Displaced villagers threaten to block SECL coal dispatch (4)

Raipur: Threatening a massive movement against South Eastern Coalfield Limited (SECL) in Chhattisgarh’s Korba district, thousands of villagers and farmers of at least 40 villages announced they would block coal dispatch from the country’s biggest coal mine at Gevra project on May 2, unless their demands are met under amended Land Acquisition Act. Affected with three projects of SECL at Gevra, Kusmunda and Dipka, farmers and locals have decided to unite to fight for rights, demanding justice for land acquired by SECL and get employment, rehabilitation and compensation. Talking to TOI, social activist Laxmi Chouhan said the movement will be intensified as people are joining hands. “While there’s no compliance with promises made while SECL acquired land from thousands of people, we decided to block dispatch and stage aggressive protests,” Chouhan said. Farmers said they have become orphaned on their own land. “We have nothing else than land and SECL has either acquired them promising compensation, rehabilitation and employment and given nothing, while saying that it is under process. There’s no time limit with SECL projects and there are many loopholes.”Chouhan said process of land acquisition doesn’t end till their three promises are fulfilled as per amended Land Acquisition Act 2015. “We will protest keeping few vital demands before SECL that includes employment to at least one member of affected family, compensation at four-time higher rate than the existing market price, rehabilitation before displacing villagers,” a farmer said. Lands at Pandripani, Bhilaibazaar, Barbhata Kesla, Salora and other villages have been partially acquired, which calls for overall acquisition and leftover land is of no use to farmers. Chouhan said, “We also demand that land acquired over last 20 years and are lying useless should be landscaped and returned to farmers.” There is an urgent need for a mining college in the region that will make youths excel at mining projects. (Times of India 22/4/16)

100. Anti-land acquisition leader arrested (4)

Kendrapada: Tension prevailed in Paradip and its nearby areas on Wednesday after police arrested Abhaya Sahoo, the adviser to Jamihara Chasi Sangh, a body fighting for rights of land losers, and other leaders on Tuesday night. Abhaya is also the president of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), which spearheaded a movement against establishment of Posco steel mill in Jagatsinghpur district. The project is on hold. The sangh launched an indefinite dharna in front of the main gate of the oil refinery of the IOCL at Paradip on Monday demanding permanent jobs to the land losers. “We have arrested Abhaya Sahoo, Sarada Jena and Bipin Moharana. All were produced in the court of the judicial magistrate first class at Kujang. The court rejected their bail applications and remanded them in jail custody,” said Madhaba Chandra Sahoo, additional superintendent of police (Paradip).Displaced persons on Wednesday blocked the main road at Paradip and sat in dharna in front of the main gate of the oil refinery to protest against the arrest of Abhaya and other leaders. Some agitators gheraoed Abhayachandapur police station and demanded the release of the leaders. Around 3,300 acres of 1,752 families had been acquired by the government for the Rs 35,000-crore oil refinery project, said Prahallad Biswal of Trolochanapur village. Senior manager (public relations) of the IOCL project Manjushree Singh said, “State government run Idco had acquired land for the oil refinery project 14 years back by paying proper compensation to the land losers. There was no condition to provide jobs to the persons who gave their agricultural land in lieu of compensation.” Singh added, “The oil refinery is committed to provide employment to only 143 displaced families who lost their homestead lands and houses for the project. We will provide engagements to 49 displaced persons in the first phase within a reasonable time. During the second phase, we will provide jobs to the rest 94 displaced persons.” (Times of India 28/4/16)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

101. Health disasters waiting to happen (3)

Mumbai: A white paper on the lackadaisical attitude towards citizen grievances and civic issues by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) administration as well as elected councillors released on Tuesday by the Praja Foundation, has pointed out the civic wards that are close to tipping point on aspects related to health. Projections indicate K west (northern Andheri suburb), G south (western region of south Mumbai) and D (central Mumbai region in Grant Road) wards as mostly likely to be the worst-affected due to water contamination and, therefore, diarrhoea deaths by 2018. Similarly, the S (Bhandup), N (Ghatkopar) and B (eastern regions of south Mumbai) wards would are projected to suffer the most due to less than effective pest control measures causing increased deaths due to malaria and dengue. “Between 2008 to 2015 maximum citizen complaints were received regarding water contamination in the aforementioned wards and an assessment of diarrhoea deaths reported in the city lead us to conclude that these are health disasters waiting to happen. Similarly, the wards where dengue and malaria deaths are more prevalent have been identified on the basis of complaints for pest control and actual deaths due to the two diseases,” founder trustee of the foundation Nitai Mehta told mediapersons on Tuesday. He pointed out that while the BMC administration was focussed upon infrastructure projects, distribution of tablet computers and construction of mega hospitals, data unearthed from the civic administration through the Right to Information Act (RTI) revealed the real priority areas of health that need to be taken up on a war footing. “There have been 45,000 deaths due to Tuberculosis alone in Mumbai city over the last five years. Today sadly, things come into focus only when they go out of hand. Take the example of the Deonar dumping ground. NSA satellites have picked up the huge fire that was reported in the dumping ground earlier this year. Other nations are proud when satellite images pick up the great China Wall, but Mumbai has left a satellite footprint of the raging fire at Deonar that has cause immense air pollution and health hazards for citizens,” Mr Mehta said. He also cited the example of six corporators-turned MPs and MLAs who found no time for their civic responsibilities after getting elected to higher bodies of governance. “Only Mumbai city has this peculiar situation where corporators can continue in their posts after being elected to the state legislature or Parliament. New Delhi does not have such a scenario and we must change this aberration in our civic system.” While the dumping ground has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, Mr Mehta added that the 17 ward committees in Mumbai city witnessed only nine questions related to them in the last five years.“Deonar is the symbol of what is going wrong in BMC. Despite the Bomay High Court order to the state government to set up a common complaint number, they are still playing with the idea,” he said. (The Hindu 21/4/16)

102.  234 open-defecation spots in city, finds survey (3)

New Delhi: At least 234 spots in Delhi are used by the poor as open defecation grounds, a first ever citywide survey on the practice has revealed. Most of these spots are open fields next to slums or spaces along railways tracks. The survey was carried out by Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board engineers to provide real time data on the problem of open defecation. “All engineers of DUSIB were asked to visit slums and its surroundings to identify common open defecation spots between 5am to 8am on two non-working days—Ram Navami and Mahavir Jayanti. They were asked to record not just the sites but also capture details about existing individual and community toilets,” DUSIB CEO V K Jain said. “A database of images from the field has also been created for reference for planners,” Jain said. According to an estimate, there are 17,000 community toilets across the 700-odd slums in the city, where 3.14 lakh jhuggis are home to almost 15 lakh residents. Another 21,000 community toilets will be required to make Delhi open defecation free. DUSIB estimates show there are about 79,000 individual toilets attached to jhuggis. That means only 25% jhuggis have access to individual toilets. The Aam Aadmi Party government, which is drawing up an open defecation-free plan for the capital, has set out a steep target of building 10,000 toilets in the current fiscal and meet the remaining requirement of 11,000 toilets by March 2018. However, the linkage of individual and private household toilets with sewer systems remains a huge challenge. Most of these toilets in slums either use septic tanks or open out into storm-water drains, aggravating the sanitation disaster in these places. Aam Aadmi Party in its manifesto had promised to build two lakh new public toilets over five years. In its first year in power, DUSIB says it has been able to build just 4,500 new toilets. The two-lakh target is clearly appearing hard to achieve, so the focus is shifting to making Delhi open defecation-free. The government has assigned about Rs 100 crore under the Delhi budget for building the 10,000 toilets in the current financial year….  (Times of India 25/4/16)

103. Over 1 million children under 5 die in India every year: Govt (3)

NEW DELHI: Around 1.26 million children under five years of age die in India every year with prematurity and neonatal infections being the major causes accounting for almost 57% of the total deaths, the government informed the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. “57 percent of under-five deaths occur in neonatal period, which is within the first 28 days of life, the major causes being prematurity and low birth-weight, neonatal infections, birth asphyxia and birth trauma,” health minister J P Nadda said in a written reply to the House. In the post-neonatal period, pneumonia and diarrhoea are found to be the major reasons for under five mortality. Over 3.8 lakh new cases of pneumonia among children annually, India tops the list of 15 countries in terms of total under-five deaths due to the disease, Nadda said in response to another question. Besides India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Angola, China, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Kenya, Sudan, Bangladesh, Niger, Chad, and Uganda comprised the 15-nation list. Highlighting the need for vaccinations and institutional deliveries to reduce the neonatal as well as infant mortality, Nadda said the government has taken a decision to provide free vaccination of pneumococcal conjugate (PCV) to children. “The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has recommended introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in Universal Immunisation Programme in three doses at six weeks, 14 weeks and booster at nine months,” he said. The proposal to introduce the vaccine in a phased manner has been approved by the ‘mission steering group’ under the health ministry’s flagship National Health Mission. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) has agreed to support PCV introduction by providing PCV for 20% cohort for three years, Nadda said.For a focused approach, the government has also identified 184 high priority districts for implementation of Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child Health+ Adolescent (RMNCH+A) interventions for achieving improved maternal and child health outcomes.The government has also initiated an SMS based electronic vaccine intelligence network (e-VIN) to enable real time monitoring of vaccine stocks at 4,476 cold chain storage points across all 160 districts of three states – Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The infant mortality rate (IMR) in India is pegged at 40 per 1000 live births while the Neonatal Mortality Rate is 28 per 1000 live births. (Times of India 26/4/16)

HIV/AIDS

104. AIDS fund plummets (3)

The National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) has curtailed funds meant for the Bihar State AIDS Control Society (BSACS), a move that officials said would affect programmes for the AIDS and HIV affected. Last, year, Naco had allocated Rs 42 crore for the state of which “we received only Rs 21 crore,” a senior BSACS official told The Telegraph under cover of anonymity. This year, the allocation has plummeted to Rs 28 crore. “With the slashing of funds, it would be difficult for us to run the programmes meant for the AIDS- and HIV-infected population,” the BSACS official said, adding that the state agency had asked for Rs 68 crore. “Given the geographical conditions and increased incidents of HIV and AIDS, we require more funds,” the official added. “The estimated population of HIV-infected people in the state is around 1.5 lakh out of which 80,000 have been identified while the number of AIDS patients is around 30,000.” BSACS officials said the fund crunch would mainly affect the AIDS awareness campaigns. The BSACS utilises Naco funds mainly to provide salaries to the people employed at the integrated testing and counselling centres (ICTC) and other centres with AIDS-testing facility, and for awareness campaigns. Last year when it was struggling to pay salaries of officials, for the first time the BSACS asked the state government for funds. The state government sanctioned Rs 19 crore, which was recently credited to the BSACS account. “Now that Naco has again curtailed funds, it would be difficult for us to provide salaries to our officials,” the BSACS official said. “The fund which would be left after providing salary would be used in the awareness campaigns, which would be very less.” S.L. Akela, additional project director at BSACS, said: “”Interventions that would be hit because of the dwindling of funds include the targeted interventions made by 38 non-government organisations that are working with the BSACS on AIDS prevention programmes in the high-risk areas. Districts such as Purnea, Kishanganj, Araria, Begusarai, East and West Champaran fall in the high-risk areas. The NGOs have employed doctors, staff whom they provide salary with the assistance of Naco funds. We spend one part of the Naco fund on these NGOs. The role of these NGOs is to motivate people to come forward for testing.”… (The Telegraph 22/4/16)

105. HIV may reduce patients longevity by 5 years (3)

Washington:    University of California stabbing suspect had no terror motive: Officials 5 stabbed, suspect killed at California college University of California, Irvine returns $3-m grant for Hindu, India studies MEA issues advisory for students travelling to US Not blacklisted by US, say two California universitiesHIV infection may prematurely age its sufferers by an average of five years, a new study has found. Thanks to combination antiretroviral therapy, many people with HIV can be expected to live decades after being infected. Yet doctors have observed that these patients often show signs of premature ageing, researchers said. The new study has applied a highly accurate biomarker to measure just how much HIV infection ages people at the biological level — an average of almost five years. “The medical issues in treating people with HIV have changed,” said Howard Fox, Professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre in the US. “We’re no longer as worried about infections that come from being immunocompromised. Now, we worry about diseases related to ageing, like cardiovascular disease, neurocognitive impairment, and liver problems,” said Fox. The tool used in the new study looks at epigenetic changes in people’s cells. Epigenetic changes affect the DNA, but not the DNA sequence. Once they occur, they are passed down from one generation of cell to the next, influencing how genes are expressed. The particular epigenetic change used as a biomarker in this research was methylation, the process by which small chemical groups are attached to DNA. Methylation of DNA can impact how genes get translated into proteins. “What we’ve seen in previous studies is that as we age, methylation across the entire genome changes,” said Trey Ideker, Professor at the University of California San Diego. “Some people call it entropy or genetic drift. Although we’re not sure of the exact mechanism by which these epigenetic changes lead to symptoms of ageing, it’s a trend that we can measure inside people’s cells,” said Ideker. The 137 patients included in the analysis were enrolled in a long-term study aimed at monitoring HIV-infected individuals who are being treated with combination antiretroviral therapy. Subjects who were chosen did not have other health conditions that could skew the results. 44 HIV-negative control subjects were also included in the initial analysis. An independent group of 48 subjects, both HIV positive and negative, was used to confirm the findings. In addition to the discovery that HIV infection led to an average advance in biological ageing of 4.9 years, the researchers note that such a change correlates with an increased risk of mortality of 19 per cent. “We set out to look at the effects of HIV infection on methylation, and I was surprised that we found such a strong ageing effect,” Ideker said. “Another thing that was surprising was that there was no difference between the methylation patterns in those people who were recently infected (less than five years) and those with chronic infection (more than 12 years),” Fox added. The study was published in the journal Molecular Cell. (Business Standard 23/4/16)

106. ‘Controlling AIDS in tribal areas still a challenge for docs’ (3)

Vadodara: Every morning Radha (name changed) says a prayer thanking God that she is still breathing and might live through another day. The 35-year-old terminally ill Naswadi resident from Chhota Udepur district is an AIDS patient and developed abdominal tuberculosis along with a number of viral infections. She is among those many victims who never found a chance to live normally through anti-retroviral treatment (ART). Radha was diagnosed with AIDS after her skin started erupting into lesions due to a viral infection. While her husband and son subsequently tested HIV positive, she became a victim of social stigmatization because of the very visible effects of her multiple disorders. The prevalence of HIV-AIDS patients in the tribal region poses a great hurdle in controlling the transmission of the virus and registration of new cases, doctors at the SSG Hospital claim.According to records of patients coming to SSG for ART and their follow-ups, many families with multiple HIV positive members exist in the tribal areas, most of whom are not diagnosed early. This is leading them to perpetuate the ongoing HIV epidemic. “Radha’s 42-year-old husband left her to fend for herself and their son and she gradually stopped her treatment. Unfortunately, cases like hers are common in the tribal belts. There is a majority of patients who discontinue their treatments posing a threat of spreading the virus,” said Dr Y S Marfatia, head of department of skin and venereal diseases at SSG Hospital,”Adolescent health programmes are yet to make an impact on the population that is largely illiterate. Most HIV carriers are unaware of their condition and spread the disease to their spouses and then children. We devote in a lot of time to convince patients to take the test. HIV virus can stay in the human body without causing any trouble for years, but the infection can be transmitted to another person,” said Dr Mohammed Hussain, who handles HIV patients at SSG Hospital. The department is working towards ‘Getting to Zero: zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS related deaths’ – in an attempt to bring down the cases of failure to follow-up and last stage detections. (Times of India 25/4/16)

107. State witnesses decline in HIV cases, but rise in women victims (3)

Panaji: Since 2008, HIV infection cases have been on the decline in the state, but infection in women is on the rise. Presently out of every three cases detected, one is a female compared to one in eight or 10, a few years ago. Recent data released by Goa State AIDS Control Society (GSACS), nearly 31.2 % of the infected females belong to the age group of 15-34 as compared to about 36.7 % infected males who belonged to this age group in 2015. While infection through blood and blood products and infected syringes and needles is negligible, sexual route is the predominant mode of transmission and it ranged between 83 to 95% followed by mother-to-child transmission at 4 to 8 %.Dr Vanda Viegas, senior physician posted at Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centre at Goa medical college (GMC) and hospital, Bambolim, attributes the relative rise in HIV infection among females to a pattern, which she says is obvious. While earlier the rate of infection was predominantly high among men who have sex with men (MSM), the focus now is on women. And this is hardly surprising with sexual route being the main route of transmission in the state, she says. Viegas, who is exposed to a varied number of HIV/AIDS cases, said of late, she has observed HIV infection among some widows as well. Most of these women got the infection from their husbands. Inquiries revealed that husbands of these women died around seven-ten years ago of tuberculosis, which is an opportunistic infection that persons having HIV/AIDS virus get. “These women never got tested for HIV infection after the death of their husband,” says Viegas. They are now coming for testing, when the virus has become dominant in their body. The GSACS data reveal that in 2013, proportion of females among the sero-positive cases was 42.1% whereas in 2015, proportion of females among the sero-positive cases was 45.5 %.HIV is prevalent in all parts of the state, and the majority of the cases are reported from the four coastal talukas, Mormugao, and Salcete in South Goa, and Bardez and Tiswadi in North Goa. (Times of India 26/4/16)