HR News

Volume 17                                                                                                        No. 10                                                        April 10, 2015

HR NEWS: April 10, 2015

(From April 1 to 10, 2015)

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Rs. 200-cr. fund for SC/ST entrepreneurs (2)

HYDERABAD: State government will set up a Rs.200 crore fund under Scheduled Caste Sub Plan and Rs.100 crore under Tribal Sub Plan for direct lending to SC and ST entrepreneurs. Social Welfare Minister R. Kishore Babu told reporters here on Thursday that the government would also create another fund of Rs.100 crore under Schedule Caste Sub Plan and Rs.50 crore under Tribal Sub Plan for State level credit guarantee fund trust for micro and small enterprises scheme for SC and ST entrepreneurs. He said the new industrial policy announced by the government would enable more number of SC, ST entrepreneurs to avail the incentives and set up units. He said the Dalit Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) also appreciated the new policy. Mentioning the concessions given in the policy, he said the fixed power cost reimbursement has been increased to Rs.1.50 per unit from Re.1 for five years. Seed capital assistance to first generation entrepreneurs has been enhanced from 10 per cent to 25 per cent of the machinery cost, which would be deducted from eligible investment subsidy. (The Hindu 3/4/15)

2. Dalit manual scavenger’s unbelievable journey (2)

LONDON: As a child, the longest distance Usha had travelled was the two kilometre walk from Hazurigate Harijan Colony in Alwar (Rajasthan) to the houses where her mother worked as a manual scavenger. When she reached seven years of age, she followed her mother’s footsteps and for the next three decades, used her bare hands to manually clean human waste in drains and homes of upper caste people. But on Monday, Usha Chamour’s remarkable journey will see her embark on a plane ride she could never imagine in her wildest dreams – to United Kingdom. Forty-two-year-old Usha, who was married off at the age of 10 and spent most of her years being treated as an “untouchable” will travel nine hours to tell Britain of her incredible story of being a Dalit and call on the eradication of the age old practice of manual scavenging in India. Usha has been invited by the British Association of South Asian Studies at University of Portsmouth to narrate an almost unbelievable story that saw her clean sewage pipes and dirty stinking manholes and drains in India for a paltry Rs 300 a month to working as a motivator for other Dalit women, pushing them into giving up manual scavenging in order to lead a “more honourable life” making jute bags, pickles, Indian sweets and also train them in working in beauty parlours. Usha, who was rescued and rehabilitated by the NGO Sulabh International’s Dr Bindeshwar Pathak will interact with top British academics and policy makers during a special panel discussion on “Sanitation and Women’s Rights in India’ on April 8. Speaking to TOI from India, Usha said “It almost like a dream. I can’t wait for this night to end”.”It was almost a given that we had to follow our mother’s footsteps into becoming a manual scavenger. I worked in 30 houses around Alwar cleaning human waste for just Rs 10 a day. I would eat the leftover food from the previous day’s dinner given to me by the houses where I worked. I pray no one has to ever work as a manual scavenger – the worst job in the world,” Usha told TOI. She lamented, “Most people avoided us like a plague. We were the untouchables”.”I was then helped by Sulabh and now am involved in making jute bags, pickles and am also trained to work in beauty parlours. Today I make almost Rs 3500 as salary. During wedding season, I can earn upto Rs 5000 a day to dress up the bride. The people who once avoided me for being from the low caste today invite me to their homes for meals and attend their functions like weddings. They also don’t mind me eating from the same utensils used by them. The priests of the local Jagannath temple also invite me during festivities,” Usha said. UK recently became the first country outside South Asia to legislate against caste discrimination. A bill that outlawed discrimination on the basis of caste received royal assent from the Queen. In a major victory to 4 lakh dalits here, The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill made history in parliament with the House of Commons voting for the inclusion of caste as an aspect of race. Now, it is illegal to discriminate against Dalits on the basis of their caste. (Times of India 5/4/15)

3. Decision to demote dalit officials a political vendetta, says Maya (2)

LUCKNOW: BSP supremo Mayawati on Sunday slammed the Samajwadi Party for demoting government employees of SC/ST category saying the decision was part of a ‘political vendetta’. She said the state government has treated the MBCs and even the economically weaker section of upper caste in the same way. The BSP chief also took a swipe at UP chief minister Akhilesh saying that he did not have work to do and thus was cycling around. Responding to this, Akhilesh said, “Cycling is good for health, she should know.” He said Mayawati did not have any issue to raise and was, therefore, dabbling in non-issues. Mayawati said the SP government was only harvesting the developmental initiatives which were taken during her previous tenure. “Metro rail in Lucknow, Noida and Ghaziabad was initiated during my tenure,” the BSP chief said and added that the present state government was only focusing on SP strongholds like Saifai. Mayawati said that the SP government has failed to meet the expectations of the people, especially farmers who are committing suicides because of government apathy. Mayawati challenged the Samajwadi Party to dissolve the assembly and hold elections if it has, at all, stood by what it promised to the electorate during the assembly elections of 2012. (Times of India 6/4/15)

4. Dalit family set on fire over land dispute, 1 dies (2)

JAIPUR: An old land dispute has claimed one life in Nagaur district after three members of a Scheduled Caste family were reportedly set on fire inside their hut on the February 18. Two others received burn injuries, one of whom continues to be admitted in a hospital in a serious condition. However, there have been no arrests so far and the Congress is alleging that the accused named in the FIR were politically-connected, rich and being shielded by the police. The deceased Udao, her son Babulal and grandson Harendra, were sleeping inside their hut on the intervening night of February 18 and 19 when they were set on fire allegedly by Amraram, Chhaila Ram, Ardan Ram (all brothers) and an associate Dungar Ram. The accused are from Raika community. While Udao died on way to Jodhpur while she was shifted for treatment, Harendra is still undergoing treatment for severe burns, though Babulal escaped with some burn injuries. According to the police, the two had an old dispute over land. “We have sent out police teams to arrest the accused,” a senior police official told The Hindu . Describing the incident as inhumane, Pradesh Congress president Sachin Pilot said it was unfortunate that more than 45 days had elapsed since the incident took place and no arrests had still been made. “One the one hand we are celebrating 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar and on the other hand atrocities continue to be committed on Dalits. Taking on the State government for not appointing a chairperson for the Scheduled Caste Commission which only showed how serious she was about SC welfare. In Nagaur, the local SC community members are sitting on a dharna outside the Collectorate demanding the arrest of the accused, and a memorandum has been submitted to the Chief Minister’s Office as well but to no avail. (The Hindu 9/4/15)

TRIBALS

5. Mahua Flower Collectors Suffer for Central Apathy (6)

PADAMPUR (BARGARH):Collection of mahua flower and seeds generates about 90 mandays of work involving about 1.5 lakh families across Western Odisha in a year. But the minor forest produce (MFP), which is the lifeline of the landless and marginal peasants of the region, is yet to get the support of the Centre in the form of minimum support price (MSP). Though the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) recently floated a scheme for procurement of MFP to ensure MSP, it excluded mahua flower from the scheme. Due to the exclusion and lack of an organised market, the collectors of mahua flowers continue to be exposed to exploitation by the traders. With the flower much in demand for country liquor brewing industry, mahua tree used to be a revenue grosser for the villagers. Those having a mahua tree on their land leased it out to others, particularly the landless, for a handsome amount. But, with the price of mahua flower yet to be notified, those who venture out to the forest and toil hard to collect it or have taken trees on lease are at the crossroads. Normally, a committee is formed at the block level to fix the price of MFP. The rate is then intimated to the panchayats who in turn inform the collectors. But, with the information failing to trickle down to the grassroots, the collectors have been left at the mercy of middlemen and traders who call the shots. To add to the woes of collectors, none of the panchayats has storage facilities forcing them to go for distress sale. Dahita Majhi of Kuradhipasha village on the foothills of Gandhamardhan under Mithipali panchayat said though she owns about 25 mahua trees, those are not fetching good income any more. In the absence of price controlling authorities, people are not willing to take the trees on lease at high rate. “Traders from Chhattisgarh visit the villages and offer ready cash to lure the villagers to sell their collection at throwaway price,” she said. Dahita is among hundreds of Kondh tribals inhabiting the villages of Paikmal block who are either landless or have marginal land holdings. With irrigation still a far cry in Padampur sub-division, the failure of panchayats to fix the price of mahua flower is set to trigger migration. The story is same in Nuapada, Sonepur and Boudh districts where mahua flower is being sold at `10 a kg. With a month left for the collection of mahua flower to come to an end, it is feared that the price will go down further, burdening the poor collectors further. (New Indian Express 1/4/15)

6. Tribesmen to take protest to Delhi (6)

KALPETTA: The Adivasi Kshema Samithi (AKS), affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), will stage an Adivasi Prathishedha Koottayma (a collective protest of tribesmen) in front of Parliament during its monsoon session in protest against the anti-tribal policies of the Central government. This was announced at a tribal parliament organised by the organisation here on Thursday. The tribal parliament said that the Narendra Modi government had cheated the tribal community in the country by cutting Rs.5,000 crore from the Tribal Special Plan fund in its budget for the 2015-16 fiscal. While the fund for various tribal development projects was cut to the tune of Rs.12,000 crore, the government gave an incentive of Rs.8,315 crore to corporates. The AKS would also launch a Kudil Ketti Samram by erecting huts in front of State and Central government offices in August. The meeting decided to launch a tribal labour bank to undertake tribal housing projects, open a career guidance centre for tribal youths, and start a campaign against alcoholism among tribesmen. It urged the government to make timely amendments to the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and provide at least one acre each to landless tribal families before August 1. Measures to provide land in place of the alienated land; extending the cut-off date of the FRA; job reservation to tribesmen in public sector enterprises; special welfare projects for tribal widows and orphans; a vigilance probe into corruption in tribal housing projects; spot admission for tribal students who pass the SSLC examination; measures to control malnutrition deaths of tribal children; and solatium of Rs.10 lakh to the kin of those who died of monkey fever are among the demands. CPI(M) State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan inaugurated the parliament. Seetha Balan, president, AKS, presided. (The Hindu 4/4/15)

7. ST status for 6 Assam tribes soon, says Oram (6)

Guwahati: Union tribal welfare minister Jual Oram on Sunday announced that six communities of the state would be given ST status within the next four to five months. Making an election statement while campaigning for BJP candidates for the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) polls in Kokrajhar, Oram said, “I cannot give a time frame but six communities — Koch-Rajbongshis, tea tribes, Tai Ahoms, Morans, Motoks and Chutiyas — will be given ST status in four to five months.” “The case of ST status to these six communities is lying with me. The group of ministers has already prepared a note. We are changing the modalities of granting tribal status.” These six communities account for almost 60% of the state’s population. The granting of tribal status to these six communities would make Assam a tribal-dominated state, having wide political ramifications. Almost 80 out of 126 assembly constituencies are likely to be reserved for tribals if the six communities get the ST status. Once the Union Cabinet clears the ST status for these six communities, the execution will be done through a bill, which has to be passed in Parliament. (Times of India 5/4/15)

8. Tribals being Driven Out of Forests: Rights Activists (6)

HYDERABAD: The scheduled tribes today are going through a living hell as they are being driven out of the land they have grown up in and the government chooses to pay a deaf ear to their plight, allege human rights activists. “As per the 2006 Forest Rights Act, as many as 4 lakh forest-dwellers have filed applications for about 12 lakh acres of land that they have been cultivating. Out of this, only 1.76 lakh tribals got the permit,” S Jeevan Kumar, president of the  Human Rights Forum has said. Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, rights activists demanded the government to protect the rights of the tribal community. “The government says that post-bifurcation, most of the lands have been handed to Andhra Pradesh and hence the government has stopped accepting applications from the people here,” Jeevan Kumar said. “As per the Forest Rights Act 2006, the Adivasi communities living in the forests  were hoping to get legal rights over forest land that they have been cultivating and there would be no harassment. But the ground reality is totally opposite,” he added. Forest officials have been continuously attacking Koya tribals in Enukuru, Joolurupadu, Ramachandrapuram, Dummugudem and Pinapaka mandals of Bhadrachalam division to leave the forest, Vasudha, a High Court advocate and a human rights activist, said. “They have nowhere to go. The forest department officials say that the land belongs to trees and animals but not humans. We find it unethical because after all, they are the ones who conserve the forests,” she said, further adding, “They do not even have legal documents for the land and hence, it becomes easier for the government to evacuate them.” When asked if the members are willing to adopt to urbanisation,  Vasudha said it would be difficult for them to adjust. (New Indian Express 9/4/15)

9. Government Taken to Task over Tribal Women’s Unemployment Issue (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday exposed the government’s lack of concern to address the unemployment issues of the tribal  women of Wayanad and   trafficking of children from other states to various orphanages under a particular community. Considering the case  of non-payment of compensation  to the women who were raped  and killed in Karnataka’s ginger fields, the Commission asked the government  why it could not provide them with employment in Wayanad even when there was sufficient fund  to be utilized under MGNREGS and other employment schemes. The Additional Chief Secretary in charge of Home who represented the government tried to depict the situation prevailing in Kerala as complex and argued that it was having 22 lakh migrant labourers from North-East states and  over 2.5 million people from Kerala were working in Gulf countries. The Commission told the Home Secretary that they were concerned about the hapless tribal women who could have been saved from physical and sexual harassment as well as economic exploitation if the government had put in the efforts. “Many women have been raped, some of them have even lost their lives. They are  harassed by the contractors who engage them in the fields,” the Commission pointed out. Asked about the measures taken by the Social Justice Department, there were no senior officer to depose the facts before the  Commission. A deputy secretary who appeared reluctantly could not offer any valid explanation for its failure. The Labour Commissioner of the state said  they had started registering the contractors with the labour department. Asked how many of them have been registered, he said to be able to register one was an ‘achievement’  they made with great effort in nearly 40 years after the  enactment of Migrant Labourers Act of 1979. A visibly irked Commission asked the government to file a detailed report in four weeks. When the Commission took the child trafficking case involving children from Bihar, Karnataka and other states to orphanages in Palakkad and Kozhikode, the police officials misled the Commission by circumventing facts. The Crime Branch DySP in charge of the investigation told the Commission that he was still unaware of the motive behind the trafficking as he had not completed the investigation. Asked whether the children were sexually or physically exploited  at the orphanages, he feigned ignorance about any such happenings. He told the Commission that he had registered  a case under 370(5) of the IPC. The IG administration, however, said that they were brought to top up the shortage of children in the orphanages to prevent loss of government grants and foreign funding. A Social Justice Department official told the Commission that they had issued a circular against the  migration of destitute children. Again the Commission asked him on the strength of what law that the Department issued such a circular. One of the Commission members insisted on asking whether the Government had examined the fate and destination of the children who  complete their studies at the adjacent Madrassas . “Many of them will become ‘Mukri’ in mosques on their return,” the IG, Administration  replied. Asked whether these children are sent to foreign countries after studies, police officials said that they had no idea. The Commission, however, sought a detailed report from the government. (New Indian Express 10/4/15)

WOMEN

10. Odisha Welfare schemes for girls failed: CAG (8)

BHUBANESWAR: The CAG report on the social sector which was tabled in Odisha Assembly on Tuesday says, “Though the child sex ratio declined from 953 in 2001 to 941 in 2011 in the State, enforcement of Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act was not adequate and effective to curb female foeticide due to belated and non-constitution of PNDT cells across all the districts coupled with absence of enforcement measures,” the report says. “It was noticed that 11,552 children including 8,246 girls (71 per cent) were reported missing in Odisha during 2009-2013. The number of missing girls outnumbered the missing boys every year,” the report says. “Against the number of missing 3,306 boys and 8,246 girls, only 2,972 girls (36 per cent) were rescued and 5,274 girls were not traced in 2013,” it maintains. On the education front, girls continued to be neglected. “Out of 17.80 lakh girls enrolled in Class I to IV during 2009-10, only 14.22 lakh girls were pursuing their studies in Class V to Class VII during 2013-14,” the audit agency finds. Similarly, at elementary level, 2,516 primary and upper primary schools did not have own school buildings; 7,497 schools did not have separate toilets for girls and 18,616 schools were not having boundary walls. “Implementation of SABALA scheme under which iron folic acid is supplied to adolescent girls was not fully effective as an amount of Rs. 5.95 crore was surrendered, even though 9.38 lakh adolescent girls remained uncovered under the scheme,” CAG says. (The Hindu 1/4/15)

11. Sexual harassments on train (8)

BHOPAL: A 21-year-old woman was sexually harassed by a drunk soldier on Rajdhani Express on Tuesday night. The woman managed to contact police after which the accused was arrested at Bhopal railway station. In another incident, a minor was sexually harassed in Shridham Express between Bhopal and Vidisha. In both cases, accused were nabbed after complaints were lodged through mobile help app of railway police. This comes barely a fortnight after a 10-year-old girl was sexually harassed by a law graduate on a train between Jabalpur and Bhopal on March 16 and Delhi girl Rati Tripathi was thrown off a speeding Malwa Express in Sagar district, 25 km from Bina railway station on November 19. The woman who was stalked by armyman, Kamlesh Prasad, 25, was travelling from Delhi to Bilaspur in B-4 coach of Rajdhani Express. He consumed liquor in train and began harassing her. The train was speeding through Bina, when Prasad told the woman he wanted to touch her. She called the coach attendant, who informed the TTE after which police were tipped off. She was told action would be taken against the soldier once the train reached Bhopal. The woman also used the Government Railway Police (GRP) help app to contact cops and send picture of accused to police. He was brought down from train at Bhopal railway station and arrested. He told police he was posted in Andhra Pradesh. Police registered a case of assault and criminal use of force against woman with intent to outrage her modesty. Police said the case diary would be transferred to Bina. Accused was later produced in court and taken on judicial remand till April 13. In the second incident, a 17-year-old girl was sexually harassed by 40-year-old man in Shridham Express on Tuesday night. Police said minor was traveling between Bhopal to Bina to meet her friend when the accused, Ghanshyam Panthi of Ganj Basoda, a post office clerk office in Raisen, started sexually harassing her. An eye witness sent his picture on GRP help app after which police arrested him and registered a case under POCSO.  (Times of India 2/4/15)

12. 3 more held in tribal girl’s rape, abortion case (8)

SURAT: The quack, who had carried out illegal abortion on the minor tribal girl, is still on the run even as the Navsari local crime branch (LCB) police on Saturday arrested three more persons in the case. This has taken the total number of arrests to five. Those arrested on Saturday were the girl’s mother and two persons – Jayesh Rathod (30) and Mitesh Vasava (19) – who had helped dispose of the six-month-old foetus on the banks of Mindhola river near Kalakacha village in Navsari district. Police inspector N P Gohil said, “We have found contradiction in the statements of complainant (the girl’s mother) and also that of the others. We also need to interrogate the mother of the rape survivor.” The complainant said abortion took place on March 27 but it had taken place on March 29. Meanwhile, Sohel Saleji, farm-owner of Kalakacha village in Navsari district where the rape survivor and her mother worked and who had contacted Khan of Vijalpore for abortion, was produced in a court on Saturday. He was arrested on Friday. The police had requested the court for his remand but it was rejected. He was sent to judicial custody. Khan is not a qualified doctor, police said. The 17-year-old girl became pregnant after having an affair with Umesh Rathod. The accused is also a tribal and from her village of Kalakacha. He was arrested on Friday and sent to a remand home as he is a minor. The complaint of rape was lodged after the refusal of the boy to marry the girl, police said. (Times of India 5/4/15)

13. Underage marriages low in Chhattisgarh’s Naxal hit areas (8)

RAIPUR: Defying the national trend of 33% of women getting married before the age of 18 years, the hotbeds of Naxalism in Chattissgarh – Bastar, Bijapur and Narayanpur – have less than one-fourth (25%) of women tying the knot before their legal age. Contrary to the general perception that underage marriages are more prevalent in tribal societies, but Naxal affected areas of the state have lesser number of girls marrying before the age of 18 years even when compared to the urban cities of Chhattisgarh like Raipur and Drug. While the latest census report 2011 reveals that across the country almost one-third of women (33%) get married before the age of 18 years, in Chhattisgarh the number of such girls over 38%. Interestingly this figure is much higher in Durg where 44.7% of women tie the knot before the legal age of 18 years. In comparison, Raipur is lower at 36.8% but if compared to the national average, its high. In contrast, the Naxal affected and tribal dominated areas of Bijapur, Bastar and Naryanpur have far less number of women getting married before the age of 18 years. The figure is the lowest in Bijapur where only 12.27% girls married before their legal age. The figures in Bastar and Narayanpur are 22.2% and 17.45% respectively. As far as males are concerned, in Chhattisgarh 9.74% married before the age of 18. This figure is higher than the national average of 6%. The legal age of marriage of for males is 21 years. Here too, the cities surpass the tribal areas with higher percentage of boys getting married before attaining the age of 18 years. While the figures in Raipur and Durg are 8.28% and 12.5% respectively, the Naxal affected areas of Bastar, Bijapur and Naryanpur are much lower at 3.42%, 2.26% and 2.60% respectively. Talking to TOI Shatabdi Pandey, a social activist and former member of the state’s Women Commission, insecurity among women in urban areas is the main the reason for early marriages. She said unlike the urban areas, girls feel more secure in their own communities in tribal populations. She said, “social and sexual danger of single women in urban areas is the main reason for their early marriages”.According to the census report, 34.2% of all married women in the state, tied the knot between the age of 18-19 years. There numbers however get decreasing at the age of 20-21years (14.9%) and 22-23 years (5.17%). The numbers of women getting married above the age of 30 years is extremely low as only y 11,225 (0.15%) tied the knot above the age of 34 years. When compared to the neighbouring states, barring Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh has a higher number of women getting married before the age of 18 years than Odisha (24.7%) and Maharashtra (28%). In MP the figure is however higher at 39.5%.According to the data, about 4.3% of the state’s adult population (above 25 years) remained unmarried.  (Times of India 5/4/15)

14. Women’s empowerment on Smriti lips wins hearts (8)

The RJD-JDU reunion under the Janata parivar umbrella came under attack at a BJP programme organised on Sunday to mobilise womenfolk from the state in support of the party. Union human resource development minister Smriti Irani, who came to the city to address the function, tore into the alliance at SK Memorial Hall, less than a kilometre from a city hotel where RJD chief Lalu Prasad announced that the merger was complete and only a formal announcement had to be made. “The merger is a final call for the Jungle Raj 2 in the state. The same jungle raj in which women were raped, kidnapped and molested. I request the women party workers to escalate and intensify their pace of work for the upcoming elections. Swachchhata Abhiyan is much needed in the politics of Bihar,” Smriti told a gather of around 3,000 women BJP workers.The BJP had been using this term (Jungle Raj 2) against the Nitish Kumar government ever since Nitish parted ways with it in 2013 and proved a majority in the Assembly with support of Lalu’s RJD. The BJP used to term the Lalu-Rabri regime in Bihar from 1990 to 2005 as Jungle Raj. In the 2005 Assembly elections, when the BJP and the JDU were alliance partners in the NDA, the term was used widely during campaigning. After attacking Nitish and Lalu from the dais, the minister donned the role of a teacher and chose to share few points with the participants, who were listening with rapt attention and were applauding every now and then. “The party workers should have three incumbent characteristics – courage, service and respect towards the people. The reservation for women has been questioned in Parliament infinite times. But the Prime Minister of India will soon pass the women’s reservation bill to encourage women to participate in politics,” she told the participants amid thunderous applause. Surrounded by a host of male leaders of the party, which included cabinet colleagues Radha Mohan Singh, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Ram Kripal Yadav apart from senior party leaders Sushil Kumar Modi, Shahnawaz Hussain and Nand Kishore Yadav, Smriti was the most-awaited speaker at the programme and the organisers had accordingly requested her to be the last speaker. As things move in political circles here, the most important speaker is made to be the last speaker to keep the crowd glued to their seats till the last minute of the programme. “Sensing the mood of the participants, we decided that Smriti ji would be requested to be the last speaker and she was okay with the idea,” said a BJP insider. The BJP women’s wing had organised the conference to encourage the participation of women in party work and escalate the pace of work for the Assembly elections. “The number of women members in the party has grown in the past two years. We have organised this meeting to keep our demands before senior party leaders. From reservation for women in Parliament to recognition for their hard work – women need to be empowered,” said BJP Mahila Morcha president Sushma Sahu. With an impressive gathering of women as audience, senior leader Sushil Kumar Modi, considered to be the party face in Bihar, used the occasion to make an announcement. “If our party comes to power in the state, I promise to waive off 1 per cent registration charge on the registration of land for women, Rs 12,000 and Rs 8,000 scholarship for girl students passing the Intermediate examination with first and second class respectively for all categories. The facility was available for students from SC/ST and OBC till now,” said Modi. (The Telegraph 6/4/15)

15. Women 68% of adult illiterates in India (8)

LONDON: The world is now home to 781 million illiterate adults – with 68% of illiterate adults in India being women. India has failed to reduce its adult illiteracy rate by 50% as planned and since 2000 only managed reducing it by 26%, according to a new Unesco global education report to be launched on April 9. Even though there is good news with India expected to become the only country in South and West Asia in 2015 to have an equal ratio of girls to boys in both primary and secondary education, the bad news is that early marriage and adolescent pregnancies are keeping girls out of school in India. In 41 countries, 30% women aged 20 to 24 were married by the age of 18. As many as 36.4 million women in developing countries aged 20 to 24 reported having given birth before age 18 and 2 million before age 15. India has the dismal record of having the highest absolute number of child brides: about 24 million. This represents 40% of the 60 million world’s child marriages. India is also home to 225 million adolescents, consisting nearly one-fifth of the nation’s total population. Around 16% of these girls – aged 15-19 – have already begun child bearing and 12% have had a live birth. The report had some good news for India – rural India saw substantial improvement in nearly all aspects of school facilities and infrastructure. Between 2003 and 2010, 45% of schools had electricity compared to 20% earlier and 78% of roads are paved within one kilometre of schools versus 63% earlier. Since 2000, when countries committed themselves to the global education goals, India has reduced its out of school children by over 90% and Universal Primary Education has been achieved. One of the main reasons behind an improvement in the number of girls visiting schools is the building of bathrooms. The report says “In India after a school latrine construction effort in the early 2000s, girls’ enrolment increased more than that of boys’ in schools with latrines. At younger ages, girls and boys both benefited substantially from latrines but separate latrines were a critical factor in adolescent girls’ enrolment”. Adult illiteracy has been a serious global worry. Only 17 out of 73 countries with a literacy rate below 95% in 2000 halved their illiteracy rate by 2015. “Literacy is fundamental for participating in society. However, the goal of halving global illiteracy rates by 2015 has been missed,” according to the report. In South Asia, the adult female literacy rate increased from 47% in 2000 to 52% in 2010 and is expected to reach 60% by 2015, when the projected gender parity index will be 76 literate women for every 100 literate men. Overall, 64% of illiterate adults will be female in 2015. As of 2012, almost 58 million children of primary school age were out of school. Based on the trends of the past five years, 57 million children would still be out of school in 2015. The report says that the problem of out-of-school children is becoming increasingly concentrated in conflict affected countries, where the proportion increased from 30% in 1999 to 36% in 2012. As many as 100 million children are still not completing primary education, 61 million adolescents remain out of school and one third of adolescents in low income countries will not complete lower secondary school in 2015. Globally, 47% of countries achieved universal pre-primary enrolment and another 8% were close, including India. Around 52% of countries achieved the target of universal enrolment in primary education, including India; 10% are close and the remaining 38% are far or very far from achieving it. The numbers of pupils per teacher decreased in 83% countries between 1990 and 2012 at the primary level, but 4 million more teachers are still needed. (Times of India 9/4/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

16. Call to implement rights of children aged 14-18 (14)

VELLORE: The central and state governments should ensure implementation of rights for children in the age group of 14-18 who are not covered by the existing laws, according to R. Vidyasaagar, Child Protection Specialist of UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). Delivering the keynote address at the inaugural function of the two-day UNICEF-sponsored Workshop on Child Rights Implementation with a Focus on Child Protection Issues organized jointly by the School of Social Sciences and Languages (SSL) and VIT Business School (VITBS) of the VIT University here on Monday, Mr.Vidyasaagar said that while existing laws such as the Right To Education Act and the Child Labour Abolition Act covered children below the age of 14, children in the 14-18 age group also face problems such as child marriage, child labour, sexual abuse, addiction to liquor, drugs and smoking, and suicides caused by the above problems. About 40-50 per cent of the children in the 14-18 age group dropped out despite free education and education aids. Because of this, they went into the informal labour market. “So, protection of the rights of children in the 14-18 age group should be covered through news laws and policies”, he said. The UNICEF specialist said that most of the existing vocational education courses are theoretical, and they are taught vocational skills which are not required by the industry. The demand for vocational skills is increasing in the newly emerging sectors. Noting that the Vision 2020 of the Tamil Nadu government envisaged creation of one crore skilled manpower, he said that this skill creation should be based on the demands. Mr. Vidyasaagar said that India had the unique population advantage wherein 40 % of the children are in the age group of 14-18. Unless measures were taken to address the problems of the children in this age group, it would not be possible for the country to reap the benefits of this demographic dividend. Laws and policies for this age group should be framed after eliciting the views of the children in the above age group on the problems confronted by them, he said. G. Viswanathan, VIT Chancellor who inaugurated the workshop said that it had been organised in association with UNICEF in order to create awareness among the college students about the problems such as beggary among children and the social problems they encountered on account of poverty. The workshop should also deliberate on what the central and state governments and educational institutions could do to prevent and address the problems properly, he said. John Sundar David, Dean, SSL welcomed the august gathering. G. Karunanithi, Professor, SSL introduced the theme of the workshop. Kalyani Rangarajan, Dean, VITBS spoke. Suresh Mariaselvam of VITBS proposed a vote of thanks. About 200 students from VIT and other colleges in and around Vellore participated in the workshop. (The Hindu 1/4/15)

17. Child marriage (14)

Madurai): The act prohibiting child marriages is not against Muslim personal law and will prevail over the latter as it has been passed for the welfare of girl children, Madras High Court has held. The court dismissed a PIL seeking a direction to officials not to interfere in marriages solemnised under the Muslim personal law by invoking the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act of 2006, which bars marriage of girls below 18 years of age. According to the petitioner, the personal law allows marriage of Muslim girls between 15 and 18. “The Prohibition of Child Marriages Act is not against Muslim personal law. The act enacted for the welfare of the girl children prevails over the personal law. The former helps the girls get education, empowerment etc,” a division bench of Justices S. Tamilvanan and V.S. Ravi said in its order yesterday. The PIL filed by Social Democratic Party of India leader Mohammed Abbas had challenged the action of a district social welfare officer stopping the proposed marriage of a 16-year old girl. (The Telegraph 2/4/15)

18. Family, child rights activists decry police insensitivity (14)

NOIDA: Child rights activists joined the family of the three-year-old in raising questions about the style of functioning of the police, after parents filed a complaint suspecting their child had been sexually assaulted. The girl was questioned by male cops, who made her confront the security guard of the kindergarten, one of those suspected of carrying out the assault on Thursday, a family member said. DSP Raj Kumar Mishra said, “I’m not aware of any goof-ups during the probe. We’ll take stringent action against any cop found guilty.” Talking to TOI, a family member of the girl said four cops, three of whom were male, questioned the child for half an hour and made her confront a security guard of the kindergarten. “From the beginning, the cops have been trying to hush up. Of the four who questioned her, the single female was a junior and thus hardly involved in the proceedings. The sight of our child being grilled by the burly men after having undergone mental trauma was heartbreaking,” he said. A family friend said, “Afterwards, they made her face the security guard and asked her if she knew him. Obviously, she could hardly speak.” “With a medical examination already done at a private hospital, there was no need of another test. Even district hospital staff agreed there was no need for a fresh medical examination, yet the cops insisted on it,” he said. Child rights activist Satyaprakash, of NGO FXB India Suraksha Childline, said police should show sensitivity in such cases. “After lodging an FIR, they should have roped in child activists. Police have little understanding of ways to deal with children, whose trauma is of primary importance here.” Neelima Pandey of Plan India questioned the cops’ insistence on a second medical test. “Under POCSO Act, 2012, medical test at a private hospital is admissible. Government hospitals anyway show little sensitivity in cases involving kids, like for example avoiding the two-finger test. With this sort of probe, police ensure the child is traumatized by the time she reaches court,” Pandey said. (Times of India 4/4/15)

19. Govt planning to relax laws to allow children below age 14 to work in select family businesses

New Delhi: The government plans to relax child labour laws and allow children below the age of 14 to work in select family enterprises if it doesn’t hamper their education, saying it wants to encourage learning at home as it leads to entrepreneurship. A draft provision in the Child Labour Prohibition Act says the prohibition on child labour will not apply if they are helping the family in fields, forests and home-based work after school hours or during vacations, or while attending technical institutions. The new norm will also apply to the entertainment industry and sports except the circus, a proposal by the labour ministry says. In addition, children between 14 and 18 years will not be allowed to work in hazardous industries. “We don’t want to redraw the social fabric of Indian society where children learn by participating in work with family elders. We, instead, want to encourage learning work at home as it leads to entrepreneurship,” said a government official. Family businesses have been given a wide definition and cover any job, profession, or business performed primarily by family members. This will especially help poor families where children help in family subsistence, officials said. Child right activists, however, have opposed the move, saying the proposal could be used to deny education to the girl child, whose school drop-out rate is almost double than that of boys, and can hamper the government’s bid to provide elementary education to all children below 14 years. India has seen a sharp drop in the number of child labourers in the last decade, down to 4.3 million from 12.6 million, according to census data. Child rights activists, however, dispute the numbers, saying the decline is due to under-reporting because of fear of prosecution but officials crediting the improvement to increased school enrolment. A large number of child labourers continue to work in several industries such as fireworks, matchboxes, footwear and carpet making, where children are in high demand owing to their nimble fingers, necessary for intricate designs. Activists say children are often preferred because they can be forced to work long hours with poor pay. The original child labour law banned the employment of children below 14 in only 18 hazardous industries but the UPA government in 2012 proposed to extend the ban to all industries. They also introduced a new category of adolescents — 14 to 18 years — who were banned from hazardous industries but allowed to work in other sectors. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Bill, 2012, introduced in the Rajya Sabha, recommended a complete ban on child labour until they finish elementary education, guaranteed under the Right To Education Act. The amendments were welcomed by activists but were seen by many as an “inspector raj” that gave labour department officials a permit to harass small businesses and farmers. The changes were re-examined by the new government due to apprehensions of misuse and fears that they could upset the social fabric of the country. These were also the reasons given by the labour ministry while rejecting a parliamentary committee recommendation that barred children from helping parents in domestic chores, saying the ban could be reframed to prohibit employment in all occupations. The ministry also rejected a proposal to make elementary education a must for employment of adolescents in non-hazardous industries, pointing out that a separate law existed to guarantee education. Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya announced last week the government would be introducing amendments to the Child Labour Prohibition Act in the ongoing winter session. The ministry has prepared to proposal to seek the cabinet’s approval and it is expected to be considered soon. (Hindustan Times 9/4/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

20. Unused sum for minorities welfare hits students hard (7)

HYDERABAD: On account of the low budget releases by the Telangana government, its own Minorities Welfare Department (MWD) has been forced to leave a large amount unspent at the end of the FY 2014-15. While the state government has time and again claimed that it is dedicated to the welfare of minorities, it released less than Rs 500 crore, of the Rs 1,030 crore budgetary allocations. As a result, students suffered the most after eagerly waiting for funds by way of the fee reimbursement scheme. Those who wanted to avail loans offered to minorities under the bankable schemes had to put up with this as well. The scheme hands out loans of upto Rs 1 lakh to beneficiaries. “Of the Rs 84 crore earmarked for the then AP State Minorities Finance Corporation (APSMFC), around Rs 51 crore is yet to be released,” said an official, who did not wish to be identified. There were a lot of applications which the corporation has received, he added. “One of the primary concerns of the APSMFC is to help entrepreneurs from Muslim communities. This will save many from the cycle of debt when they approach the illegal micro-financiers of the Old City. The government had framed guidelines to release the funds very late,” the official added. The APSMFC has “committed” the amount and the last date for submission of forms for availing the scheme is April 15, he added. The Urdu Academy too had a similar fate. Sources from the academy said that of the Rs 22 crore allotted, only Rs 3 crore was released. “The allocation was also for construction of Shaadikhanas, among other things. We have not received the remaining amount,” said an official on the condition of anonymity. Officials said that the government is insisting that the funds, especially for the Shaadi Mubarak scheme, will be utilised by green channel, which means the funds can be used well into the next financial year and would not lapse, they reasoned. While there have been rumours that well over 60% of the funds have been returned to the treasury, officials were quick to deny. When contacted, special secretary, MWD, Syed Omar Jaleel clarified, “When around Rs 500 crore of the Rs 1,030 crore was released there is no question of 60% or more of the budgetary allocation to be returned.” (Times of India 4/4/15)

21. Minorities Commission to probe custodial death in Nizamabad (7)

HYDERABAD: The Andhra Pradesh State Minorities Commission has decided to inquire into the custodial death of Shaik Hyder in One Town police station of Nizamabad with a four member committee headed by Qurratulain Hasan. The decision was taken at a meeting of the commission held by Chairman Abid Rasool Khan here on Saturday. Mr. Khan stated that they had already registered a suo motu case on the incident, made enquiries and obtained a preliminary report from the Superintendent of Police of Nizamabad. The other members of the probe committee would be Sardar Sarjith Singh, Percy Italia and Goutham Jain. A retired judge Ismail and a judicial officer would also accompany the probe team’s visit to Nizamabad. The committee would talk to parents and relatives of the victim, police and revenue officials and file a report within a week. Meanwhile, the commission has recommended to District Collector of Nizamabad to pay ex-gratia to the family of Shaik Hyder. The commission has also considered the request of Jain community, a part of minority communities, for allotment of land for constructing a community hall. The proposal made by the community for allotment of two acres land has been forwarded to the Telangana Government with a recommendation to allot suitable land. (The Hindu 5/4/15)

22. Akalis play minority card to woo Muslims in Dhuri village (7)

DUGNI: At an election rally held here on Monday, Akalis pitched for the party candidate, reminding residents of the lone Muslim dominated village of Dhuri assembly segment of their minority status and how they would benefit from its rule. Accompanying deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Badal at a poll rally at Dugni, MLA F Nesara Khatoon, also known as Farzana Alam, told the residents how the community was being badly treated in the entire India except Punjab. “This village is totally Muslim dominated. Just think, if we assure Akalis of their win from here then we can easily demand money for our masjids, madarasas and graveyards. But if Akalis lose elections, how can we seek grants for development. We need Akalis more than they need us,” said Khatoon. She added, “You must be reading about communal tension in various states in newspapers these days. But here in Punjab, we live in absolute communal peace.” Sukhbir, though, avoided to indulge in the minorities’ issue and restricted his address to stating that Punjab was safe place to live for all. “Sikhs, Muslims and Christians are minorities. In Punjab, Hindus are also among minorities. So all minorities in Punjab know how to live in peace,” he said. Dugni is part of Malerkotla administrative block of Sangrur district and the only Muslim dominated town in Punjab apart from Qadian in Gurdaspur district. The village has over 1,250 voters, of whom around 95% are Muslims. Dugni resident Ishtiaq Khan said the village had recently got a grant of Rs 33 lakh with which panchayat had restructured the graveyard. “Even the Islamia school now has regular teachers. Till recently, such facilities would be listed as demands during elections,” he added. (Times of India 7/4/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

23. By 2050, India to surpass Indonesia, will have largest Muslim population: Study (7)

WASHINGTON: Hindus will become the world’s third largest population by 2050, while India will overtake Indonesia as the country with the largest Muslim population, according to a new study. According to the Pew Research Center’s religious profile predictions assessed data released on Thursday, the Hindu population is projected to rise by 34 per cent worldwide, from a little over 1 billion to nearly 1.4 billion by 2050. By 2050, Hindus will be third, making up 14.9 per cent of the world’s total population, followed by people who do not affiliate with any religion, accounting for 13.2 per cent, the report said. The people with no religious affiliation currently have the third largest share of the world’s total population. Muslims are projected to grow faster than the world’s overall population and that Hindus and Christians are projected to roughly keep pace with worldwide population growth, the report said. “India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia,” it said. “Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion,” according to the report. The report predicted that by 2050 there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8 billion, or 30 per cent of the population) and Christians (2.9 billion, or 31 per cent), possibly for the first time in history. There were 1.6 billion Muslims in 2010, compared to 2.17 billion Christians. “The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world,” it added. If the trend continues, Islam will be the most popular faith in the world after 2070, it said. By 2050, Muslims will make up about 10 per cent of the Europe’s population, up from 5.9 per cent in 2010. Over the same period, the number of Hindus in Europe is expected to roughly double, from a little under 1.4 million (0.2 per cent of Europe’s population) to nearly 2.7 million (0.4 per cent), mainly as a result of immigration, it said. In North America, the Hindu share of the population is expected to nearly double in the decades ahead, from 0.7 per cent in 2010 to 1.3 per cent in 2050, when migration is included in the projection models. Without migration, the Hindu share of the region’s population would remain the same. Buddhism is the only faith that is not expected to increase its followers, due to an ageing population and stable fertility rates in Buddhist countries, such as China, Japan and Thailand. The projections considered fertility rates, trends in youth population growth and religious conversion statistics. (Times of India 3/4/15)

24. PM Modi meets Muslim leaders, vows support (7)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured full support to Muslim community to deal with their grievances particularly related to improving its social condition and educational standing. The PM expressed his views on Monday during a meeting with a delegation of Muslim leaders which discussed various socio-economic and political issues related to the community. “The Prime Minister gave a patient hearing to the delegation and assured them of his full support in meeting grievances of all sections of Muslim society,” a PMO statement said. The Muslim leaders promised to strengthen communal harmony and national unity. The PM emphasised the need for empowering Muslim youth to enable them to play a larger role in the nation building, it added. Mr Modi specifically assured the leaders that he would look into their grievances on shrines, mosques and madrasas. The PM’s assurance came in wake of the community leaders bringing to his notice issues related to properties of Muslim shrines, mosques and madarsas. They also sought the government’s support in providing better facilities to Muslim youth particularly in the field of education. Mr Modi promised his “complete assistance in ameliorating their social conditions and addressing their educational requirements”, the statement said. On their part, the Muslim leaders committed full support of the community to Mr Modi in meeting his objectives of ensuring speedy economic growth, promoting communal harmony and peace, and strengthening national security, the statement added. While expressing apprehensions about the trend of increased radicalisation and emerging threat of terrorism, the leaders underlined the need for greater unity and collective efforts to meet the challenge. Meanwhile, parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu on Monday said there was a lot of misinformation over isolated incidents of attack on some religious places and dismissed the perception that minorities have become insecure under the NDA government. While addressing a conference of business leaders here, Mr Naidu said,”Modi aaya sabko insecurity aaya. Haan kuch political logon ko insecurity aaya. Hum log kya karen? (Since Modi has come, insecurity has come. Yes, insecurity has come for some political people. What can we do about it?)” Mr Naidu said. Referring to a “very condemnable” gangrape of a nun in West Bengal, the minister and said there was a lot of “hue and cry” over it with the incident being linked to “hindutva” froces. “At the end of the day, the police have arrested the accused people. The number one accused is from Bangladesh and belonged to a particular community,” he said, adding, “Since that fact came out, nobody is speaking now”. Even in Delhi, he said, there were five incidents which were wrongly projected. “Even a small incident of pelting a stone on a place of worship, Church or Gurudwara or Mosque or Temple, it should be condemned by one and all,” Mr Naidu said. The delegation of Muslim leaders from across the country — including Syed Sultan-Ul-Hasan Chishti Misbahi (Sajjada Nashin, Ajmer Sharif), Hazrat Ghulam Yasin Sahib (Shahar Kazi, Varanasi), Sheikh Wasim Ashrafi (Imam Tanzeem, Mumbai), Muhammed Hamid (National President, Imam Tanzeem, Nagpur) and Allama Tasleem Raaza Sahib (Dargah Barelvi Sharif, UP), Syed Abdul Rashid Ali (Syed Shahid Dargah Shahdol, Madhya Pradesh), Maulana Abu Bakr Basani (Nagori Sharif Dargah, Rajasthan), Syed Ali Akbar (Taajpura Sharif, Chennai) and Haji Abdul Hafiz Khan (Imam, Tanzeem Balaghat, MP) — were part of the delegation. (Asian Age 7/4/15)

25. Ensure Muslim youth keep off terrorism: PM Modi (7)

New Delhi: Following his meeting with prominent leaders of the Muslim community a couple of days ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed national security advisor Ajit Doval to prepare a detailed roadmap to ensure that Muslim youth stay away from radical and terror groups. Sources said even though the NSA was already working closely with intelligence and security agencies to ensure that the Muslim youth were not attracted to terror outfits like ISIS and Al Qaeda, sources said the government will put in place a foolproof mechanism to bring these youth from the minority community into the country’s “political and social” mainstream. Incidentally, the NSA was part of the meeting that PM had with the religious leaders to discuss various socio, economic and political issues related to the community. As part of the plan the government will give greater to emphasis to education for the Muslim youth, with special focus on educating girls.Sources said the focus will not merely be on providing basic education to these youth, but skilled training which will help them in securing proper jobs. We will ensure that such youth get professional training so that they get employment and don’t get lured by radical or terror groups,’’ a senior government official said. Even though the government has already announced its intent to modernise the madrasas, but now the Centre in association with some voluntary groups from the community will closely monitor the working of such educational and cultural centres. Intelligence and security agencies suspect that subversive and radical specifically target the madrasas making them “ideal breeding grounds” for young recruits. As part of the plan the PMO will also focus early disposal of grievances on shrines, mosques and madrasas. A core team within the office of the national security advisor will work in close co-ordination with community leaders to prepare this detailed blueprint. At the meeting the Muslim leaders had also expressed apprehensions about the trend of increased radicalisation and emerging threat of terrorism and underlined the need for greater unity and collective efforts to meet the challenge. (Asian Age 9/4/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

26. Legal fraternity backs Justice’s Joseph call for religious sensitivity (7)

New Delhi: A number of senior Supreme Court lawyers have come in support of Justice Kurian Joseph who protested against holding of a conference of top judges on Good Friday saying it was “insensitive”, and wrong to make it a case of individual versus institutional interest. “There was no individual interest (in what Justice Joseph said). It was a sacred day for the Christians. One has to be sensitive to their feelings and point of view and can’t be insensitive and belligerent about them,” said senior counsel Rupinder Singh Sodhi. Justice Joseph had written to Chief Justice H.L.Dattu protesting against the holding of High Court Chief Justices conference on Good Friday, but Chief Justice Dattu had replied that institutional interests were more important than the individual interests. Not only did Justice Joseph stay away from the conference but also did not attend the dinner hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the participants as he had gone to Kerala for the religious event. Sodhi, a former Delhi High Court judge, said: “It (holding the conference on Good Friday) was in bad taste. What I am most concerned is that none of the brother judges of Supreme Court stood by him. I am sorry that none stood by him. Had I been one of them, I would have protested though I don’t belong to the same faith”If saving a working day was an issue, then “this conference could have been held during the summer vacation when courts are closed,” he said. Agreeing with Justice Joseph, activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan said: “I agree with Justice Kurian Joseph. These sensitivities have to be born in mind before scheduling such conferences.” To Chief Justice H.L.Dattu’s response: “It is not a question of individual interest. It is a question of being sensitive to sentiments of the people belonging to different religion. Good Friday is no different from any other national holidays.” Another former judge of Delhi High Court and now senior counsel Jaspal Singh said: ” I personally feel that it is a very important religious day and the sentiments of the Christian community should be taken note of, more so when such conferences can take place on any other day also.” “It is not personal. It is very much a national holiday. Also Christians are part of Indian society. They are as important as any other community. I do feel that there was nothing personal in it and the reaction of Chief Justice Dattu in that regard was totally uncalled for,” he said. (Business Standard 4/4/15)

27. 51 persons embrace Hinduism on Easter in VHP-organised programme (26)

Kottayam (Kerala): At least 51 persons, most of them belonging to Christian community, embraced Hinduism at nearby Kurichi on Easter on Sunday. Twenty five men and 26 women converted to Hinduism in the reconversion ritual organised by Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP), organisers of the programme said. VHP district secretary PK Gopalakrishnan claimed that it was not a forced conversion and the people belonging to 20 families embraced Hinduism on their own. “We are just facilitators. There is no force,” Gopalakrishnan told PTI. He also justified the decision to organise the event on Easter saying it was a convenient day for all since it is a holiday. Gopalakrishnan said so far 153 persons, mostly belonging to Christian community, have reconverted to Hinduism in the district under the initiatives undertaken by various Hindu organisations since Christmas last year. On Christmas last year, at least 58 persons had converted to Hinduism at two temples as part of the Ghar Wapsi programme organised by the VHP, he said. (DNA 5/4/15)

28. Church attack figures in UPA rule match those under NDA (7)

NEW DELHI: Even as Narendra Modi government faces criticism for the attacks on churches and Christian institutions during its 10-month rule, crime records from the UPA era reveal that not only were there a matching number of such attacks between May 2013 and March 2014 but also 50% of those cases still remain unsolved. According to a secret report accessed by TOI, there were 10 cases of so-called anti-Christian attacks between May 26, 2013 and March 31, 2014, when UPA was in power. While nine were instances of church vandalization, one related to a pastor’s murder. Of these 10 cases reported from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, five remain undetected while in four cases, 16 persons were arrested. An unsound person was found to be responsible in one case. In comparison, between installation of the Modi government on May 26, 2014 and March 31, 2015, 11 cases were reported. Of these, six incidents relate to Delhi and one each to West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Maharasthra, Kerala and Haryana. In two separate cases of fire at a church in East Delhi and Rohini, a short-circuit was found be the cause. The Jasola church attack, in which a windowpane was damaged, has been blamed on an unintentional throwing of a stone by a boy. Four cases (relating to vandalization of churches in Vikaspuri, Hisar, Jabalpur and Navi Mumbai) have been investigated, leading to arrest of 14 persons. Two of three cases have not yet been solved and are suspected to be that of burglary. As for the March 13 rape of a 71-year-old nun at a convent in Nadia, which evoked angry reactions from church leaders, the police have claimed that the case has been solved with the arrest of a Bangladeshi, Mohammad Salim Sheikh, and another accused, Gopal Sarkar. Four others, all Bangladeshi nationals, have since escaped to Bangladesh. (Times of India 7/4/15)

29. Christian association meets state BJP chief over attacks in MP (7)

Bhopal: Alarmed by attacks on the Christian community and its places of worship in Madhya Pradesh in the last one year, a delegation of Rashtriya Isai Mahasangh (RIM) on Wednesday met state BJP chief Nandkumar Singh Chauhan here and sought his help to prevent such incidents. Father Anand Muttungal, a Catholic priest who led the delegation told Chauhan that as many as 19 attacks were reported in the media in the state since June 2014, apart from several other unreported minor attacks. According to Muttungal, RIM state women cell convener Sheela Santiago told Chauhan that many Christians too had joined BJP under the party’s ongoing enrolment drive, but such incidents would alienate the community from it. The delegation handed over a memorandum and list of 19 major incidents since last June to Chauhan, Muttungal told PTI. According to RIM, the latest of these incidents took place on Good Friday this year (April 3) when VHP and Bajrang Dal workers forcibly stopped a prayer meeting in Khargone district. (Zee News 8/4/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

30. Pak to Expel 11,000 Illegal Afghan Refugees in Pok (13)

ISLAMABAD: Authorities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir today said they will expel about 11,000 illegal Afghan refugees living in the disputed region. The decision has been taken after Pakistan launched a crackdown on illegal refugees in the wake of the deadly Taliban attack on an army school in Peshawar that killed 136 students in December. Senior police official Faheem Abbasi said in PoK capital Muzaffarabad that “some 11,000 Afghans would be expelled” from the region. There are about 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan who fled to the country during the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. A majority of them have permission to live under agreement with the UN and Afghan government and are issued special cards. They live in designated camps and are also allowed to work. But about 1.4 million are illegal refugees and they are targeted by security forces and are being asked to leave or register to become legal refugees. Pakistan recently decided to take action against illegal Afghan refugees and about 30,000 have already left after the Peshawar school attack. (New Indian Express 2/4/15)

31. Mass exodus: 100,000 villagers migrate from Chhatisgarh in 3 years (13)

RAIPUR: There’s a deathly silence in many villages across Chhattisgarh these days. The houses are locked as entire families have left for greener pastures for want of work, despite Central government’s rural job scheme and availability of rice at Rs1 per kg. “We (55 labourers and 15 children) are leaving for Faizabad (in Uttar Pradesh) where we will make bricks. The payment is Rs 400 for 1,000 bricks. Two labourers can make 1,000 bricks in a day. We will come back after working for six months there,” Kans Nishad of Baloda Bazaar said at the Raipur railway station.  According to government statistics, 95,324 people have left their homes in last three years. A substantial part of the migration – 29,190 – took place from Janjgir-Champa district. Inquiries revealed that people living below the poverty line are not getting jobs under MGNREGA scheme. Chhattisgarh revenue minister Prem Prakash Pandey accepted the migration issue in state assembly but didn’t have any solutions. Apart from Janjgir-Champa, there are also reports of migration from Bemetara, Balod, Kawardha, Gariaband, Durg and Dhamtari districts, among others. The migrants have moved to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh where they are engaged in construction of houses, roads and canals or they work in brick kilns. Official records in Maoist-hit Sukma district show that no villager has been given employment under MGNREGA in last nine months. This apart, government officials working on the scheme say they have not been paid for the past six to 10 months. Ironically, neighbouring Dantewada district, which is also Maoist-affected, was given a national award earlier this year for its good performance under the scheme. Statistics of Baloda district are stark with some 500 labourers migrating every month. Besides, statistics show that 20,000 labourers have moved out of Lavan area, leaving hundreds of houses in around 15 villages locked. “The labourers have not derived any benefit inspite of state’s small size. That’s why a large number of labourers are migrating to other states,” Rajesh Mishra, general-secretary of NGO Gram Vikas Samiti said. “The statistics of economic development are lying in cold storage, far away from the ground reality. That’s why people of Chhattisgarh are moving away. A major question that arises here is till when would this continue,” Mishra said. (Times of India 6/4/15)

32. Palestinians urge UN to ensure safety of besieged refugees (13)

United Nations: The Palestinian UN ambassador is urging the UN Security Council to take action to ensure safe passage for up to 18,000 Palestinians besieged in a refugee camp in the Syrian capital. The council held an emergency meeting today on the crisis at the Yarmouk camp, which is now mainly controlled by the Islamic State group. The Palestinian ambassador, Riyad Mansour, told reporters that saving the refugees is his government’s top priority. He appealed to all nations to help the refugees relocate to safer areas in Syria or in other countries. Mansour said about 2,000 of the estimated 18,000 refugees in Yarmouk had made it to safety on their own. The Security Council was being briefed behind closed doors by the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Pierre Krahenbuhl. (Zee News 7/4/15)

33. UN warns of “slaughter of innocents” in Syrian refugee camp (13)

London: United Nations officials warn of a potential “slaughter of innocents” unless aid and assistance reached a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria where thousands of civilians are trapped up in a vicious battle. United Nations officials warned on Wednesday of a potential “slaughter of innocents” unless aid and assistance reached a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria where thousands of civilians are trapped up in a vicious battle. Some 18,000 civilians, including 3,500 children, are caught in the camp outside Damascus just a few miles from President Bashar al-Assad’s palace. The camp largely fell under Islamic State (IS) control last week and is surrounded by the Syrian army. The Yarmouk camp, which was home to half a million Palestinians before the conflict began in 2011, has been held by anti-Assad insurgents and besieged by government troops since the early days of the war and many have already fled. But as fighting intensified in and around the camp, the remaining refugees have been left without food, water and medical supplies prompting aid agencies to call for the warring parties to allow access for aid and evacuations.”The level of inhumanity that Yarmouk has descended to is frankly unimaginable,” Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) from Jerusalem. “The situation is absolutely desperate. We need urgently to have humanitarian access, which is why UNRWA is calling for all parties to exercise influence with their clients on the ground so that we can get into the camp.” Gunness said since the fighting escalated a week ago, UNRWA aid convoys have not been able to enter the camp and the already dire situation has become more desperate with people left without water, food or medicine and the growing risk of disease. Gunness said a few Palestinian charities had managed to get some supplies to the camp but otherwise people were cut off with the risk of disease rising daily. “When you have public health system completely shot to pieces, when you have such terrible levels of food insecurity … disease is going to soar,” said Gunness. “We have tragic pictures of children and others scooping up water out of holes in the streets.” Gunness said UNRWA had not been a regular presence in the camp for at least two years so it was impossible to estimate the number of people now ill or the death toll. The war in Syria has killed 220,000 people and displaced millions of Syrians. The United Nations has said it is extremely concerned about the safety and protection of Syrian and Palestinian civilians at the Yarmouk camp. Gunness said an estimated 94 civilians, including 43 women and 20 children, managed to leave the camp on Sunday and were provided with humanitarian support so there was no reason why more could not be helped to safety. “For me it is unconceivable that the so-called civilised world can stand and watch what is going on in Yarmouk,” he said. “We are facing a potential slaughter of the innocents and the world cannot stand by and watch that happen.” (DNA 8/4/15)

34. Kashmiri Pandits Demand “Composite Township” Amid Separatist’s Protests (13)

JAMMU: Various organisations representing people of Kashmiri Pandit community today held protests here against the separatists and political parties opposed to the idea of creation of a “composite township” in Kashmir Valley for the displaced people. Members of the community living in various satellite townships here demanded townships in the Valley where they can live peacefully. “It has been 25 years that we were forced to leave Kashmir valley and now we want to go back to our homeland. At present the situation is not conducive for our return to our native places so we want a Jagti-type township in Kashmir Valley where we can go and live peacefully,” said Kakaji Bhat, a resident of the Jagti satellite township for Kashmiri migrants. He said Kashmiri Pandits want to return to their native places, but the opposition from separatists has shown that situation is not conducive for their return. “There are certain villages in the Valley where only one or two Kashmiri Pandit families used to live. They were forced to leave their houses, how can you expect them to return to their native place where they will have to live under the shadow of militant guns always,” Kakaji said. Raising slogans against separatist leaders, the residents demanded that the state government should not succumb to the pressure of the separatists and should go ahead with the township proposal. “The state and Central governments must not succumb to the dictate of these separatists and must go ahead with the proposal,” Shadi Lal Pandita President of Jagti Tenement Committee said. He said opposition to the proposal was part of a conspiracy to stop the rehabilitation of the community. “The opposition is a well-planned conspiracy hatched so as to stop the rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandit community back in the Valley. Actually they don’t want us to resettle there,” Shadi Lal said. The activists of Youth All India Kashmiri Samaj (YAIKS) also held a protest in Jammu, demanding action against the separatist leaders who have been opposing the creation of the township in Kashmir. Meanwhile, other organisations representing the community have also expressed their resentment over the opposition shown by several mainstream and separatists parties to the proposal. Organisations like All State Kashmiri Pandit conference (ASKPC), Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS), Kashmiri Displaced Lawyers Forum Jammu (KDLFJ), Jammu Kashmir Vichar Manch (JKVM) have demanded that the government must go ahead with the proposal of setting up of the township. (New Indian Express 10/4/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

35. RTI forces AMC’s medical education trust to disclose all (1)

AHMEDABAD: After resisting from giving details of its function and budget the AMC Medical Education Trust finally bowed before Right to Information Act (RTI). The state information commission had ordered AMC-MET a few weeks ago to upload all information regarding its functions, budget and employee status on its website- amcdental.org. The trust established a dental college in 2009 for various academic courses in medicine. These disclosures are mandatory as AMC-MET is a public-funded trust. Despite this, the trust had managed to remain largely underground for many years, till RTI queries started probing into its activities. The information commission while acting on a complaint filed by Pankaj Bhatt, an RTI applicant, had sought reasons for non-disclosure of details under section 4(1)b of the RTI Act. Under this clause a public funded body has to reveal powers and duties of its officers, procedures followed in decision-making process, details of rules and regulations and manuals and discharge of duties by the board councils or committees. Following the RTI query the state information commission directed the state government’s General Administration Department and the Urban Development Department to look into the matter. GAD wrote to the trust in October 2014 and in February this year UDD sought clarification on the matter from the trust. Finally on Wednesday the matter was resolved when the trust uploaded all relevant details on its website, as per directives of the information commission. (Times of India 2/4/15)

36. Parliament has never submitted report on RTI stats since law was enacted (1)

MUMBAI: In the nine years of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Parliament has never submitted statistics on the RTI applications it has received till date. Neither the Lok Sabha (LS) nor the Rajya Sabha (RS) secretariats have ever submitted reports to the Central Information Commission (CIC), which compiles data received from public authorities across the country. “Parliament has the right to get annual reports on the implementation of the RTI Act under section 25 of the Act. It is a contradiction of sorts that the supervisory body itself has never submitted RTI stats to the CIC,” says Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, which has analyzed CIC reports over the last nine years. “I personally know of retired and serving officials in the LS and RS secretariats who have sought information from these bodies. It is clear that both houses of Parliament are receiving a lot of RTI applications. It is their duty to report them to the ministry of parliament affairs,” says Nayak. The study showed a steady decline in the proportion of public authorities submitting data on RTI to the CIC. In 2005-06, the year RTI was passed, there were 938 public authorities, of which 89.23% filed a compliance report. In 2013-14, the number of public authorities was 2,776, of which 73% submitted an RTI report to the CIC, a 17% dip since 2005-06. “The department of personnel and training (DoPT) had initially called for quarterly reports on RTI data from all public authorities. But many have instead chosen to submit only one report at the end of the year. When they miss the deadline, the data is simply not reported,” says Nayak. Ironically, he points out, the DoPT itself did not submit an RTI report this year, despite the fact that RTI falls under its purview. The rejection rate for RTI applications was over 20% for the PMO, nearly three times the average rejection rate for public authorities, which was 7.2%. The rejection rate was higher still for the Supreme Court (23%) and 28.8% for the ministry of corporate affairs—four times the national average. The corporate affairs ministry saw an almost 300% increase in the rejection rate last year, says the CHRI report. Nayak points to a worrying trend—the increase in the ‘others’ column, which signifies rejections on grounds other than those stated in the RTI Act. According to the CIC’s recent annual report, the railways (largest number of RTI queries) has a rejection rate of 0.1%. Nayak says there is a need to independently examine the data submitted by public authorities, pointing to instances where these had cited a rejection rate of zero, while the number of second appeals in those bodies was high, contradicting their claim of no rejections. (Times of India 4/4/15)

37. Post office to auction unclaimed items soon (1)

New Delhi: Over 33,000 unclaimed articles like jewellery, cellphones, cameras and watches are gathering dust since last three years at the Returned Letter Office of the postal department here, awaiting bonafide owners to claim them before these go under the hammer.The department in an RTI response, filed by PTI, revealed that there were 8,070 undelivered mails in the year 2012, 11,938 mails in 2013 and 13,075 mails in 2014, totalling 33,0083 mails that post officials are planning to auction soon as the rightful claimants have so far not come to pick them up. These returned mails/parcels include jewellery, watches, cellphones, cameras, books, imitation jewellery, and stationary items among others. These parcels land in the Returned Letter Office only when the addresses of both the sender and recipient are found to be inconclusive. The department of posts auctioned undelivered mails twice in 2010 and then five times in 2011, fetching Rs 1.11 lakh in all seven attempts. (Asian Age 6/4/15)

38. CBI not filing RTI data with CIC; IB regular with figures (1)

New Delhi: CBI which primarily probes corruption cases has not filed its mandatory report giving statistics of RTI applications received and processed by it since 2012 when it was included in the list of exempted organisations. In contrast, Intelligence Bureau, which holds information pertaining to security and intelligence is regularly filing returns with the Central Information Commission despite being in the list of exempted organisations, an analysis of annual report of the Central Information Commission done by activist Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative reveals. Nayak says CBI, which functions under the Department of Personnel and Training, nodal ministry for RTI implementation, has stopped reporting RTI statistics since 2012 after it was notified under Section 24 of the RTI Act. The provisions of the RTI Act do not apply on the exempted organisations but when it comes to any material in any form held by them pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations provisions of the transparency law have to be abided by. CBI which is like any other state police primarily deals with allegations of corruption has been avoiding to follow mandatory provisions of the law. “By holding such a position… Readers end up disrespecting the security and intelligence organisations which faithfully report RTI stats, like the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) for example,” he said. The IB and the CRPF have no problems with giving such harmless information, he said. “As on date, the Government of India has notified 25 security and intelligence organisations as exempted from the ordinary obligations of transparency under the RTI Act like their parent departments and ministries and other public authorities. However, they are required to provide access to information if it relates to allegations of corruption and human rights violation. Such information must not be withheld under the RTI Act,” Nayak said. He said by logical extension of this statutory requirement, they must also submit their reports to the CIC under Section 25 of the Act about the number of RTI applications received, amount of fees collected and details of cases where access to information was rejected. (Business Standard 8/4/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

39. Education neglected in state’s tribal areas: CAG (11)

GANDHINAGAR: The implementation of Right to Education (RTE) and other educational schemes in the tribal areas of the state has been poor, says the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in its latest social sector audit of the Gujarat government. The CAG audited different schemes of the education department in Dahod, Dangs, Panchmahal, Tapi and Valsad districts. It has observed that though funds from centre and the state were released after bifurcation into general and tribal sub-plan (TSP) grants, no separate account of expenditure incurred under the two heads — general and TSP grants (except for mid-day meal scheme) — were maintained at the state or the district level. The auditor has further noted that expenditure against available funds was only 12.67% in 2011-12; 14.09% in 2012-13; and 22.42 % in 2013-14. It further says that the district project coordinators (DPCs) of Dang and Tapi districts had diverted (in 2011-14) Rs 24.46 lakh of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan funds (SSA) to Ashramshalas and Eklavya Model Residential schools of tribal development department. (The SSA is a central scheme while the latter two are state-sponsored schemes.) This was against the provisions of the grant release order, the CAG says. Rs 89.55 crore allotted to the implementing agency under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) as advance were shown as expenditure and incorrect expenditure figures were reported to the central government, says CAG in its report. “According to the norms of SSA and RTE Act, there should be at least two teachers in a primary school with a pupil-teacher ratio of 40:1. Upper Primary Schools should have at least one teacher per class so that there shall be at least one teacher each for (i) science and mathematics, (ii) social studies and (iii) language with pupil-teacher ratio of 35:1. The correct pupil-teacher ratio was not maintained in 156 primary schools and 2,535 upper primary schools, the highest being 156:1 as against 40:1 in primary schools and 363:1 as against 35:1 in Upper Primary Schools. Further, 64 schools with a total strength of 5,698 students had no teachers while 874 schools had only one teacher each. Three schools of Valsad district with 156 students belonging to the Scheduled Tribes had no teachers and 111 out of 6,163 schools had only one teacher,” the CAG says in its report. The CAG noted: “11,888 computers were provided to 1,368 schools during the period 2005-06 to 2011-12. However, computer teachers/co-ordinators were not appointed in these schools to impart computer-aided learning. Joint field visits to 14 Upper Primary Schools revealed that the computers were lying idle.” It further notes that Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) was found running from a private rented building and did not have infrastructural facilities, viz., separate library room, computers, toilets, compound wall, playground, separate room for teaching and living, etc. “Separate hostel buildings were not available in two KGBVs; three halls were used as hostel and also for teaching. In one KGBV, only one bathroom and toilet was available for 51 students and teachers,” the CAG report states. (Times of India 1/4/15)

40. Rise in dropout rate, thanks to flawed school education (11)

INDORE: Faulty school education system, which stress rote learning more than developing knowledge and understanding among children, is one of the major reasons behind increasing drop-out rates, admits union human resource development ministry in a reply to an RTI query over increasing weight of school bags and its adverse effect on children’s health. Ministry, in its reply, mentioned that students who drop out of school due to wrong teaching methods being practiced can do well, provided they get proper guidance. “Yashpal Committee report on ‘Education without Burden’ mentioned that school curriculum cannot be the only parameter for checking ability and intelligence of a student,” reads reply. It went on to say that learning can become engaging and entertaining only when schools start encouraging students to understand concepts and develop new thoughts and ideas. RTI activist Rajendra K Gupta had filed an RTI with union human resource ministry highlighting adverse effect of heavy school bags on children’s health, quoting findings of committee ministry said schools underestimate the intelligence of children and stress only rote learning. “Every year syllabus to be covered is increasing as schools are always under pressure to enhance their curriculum. All these steps have bombarded children with lots of information but downgraded their analytical ability,” reads reply. It mentioned that efforts should be made to connect learning with practical experiences, which will help in all-round development of children. Gupta said going against suggestions of committee, private schools continue to increase number of books, forcing students to rely on rote learning. “Schools have not changed their mindset, school education does not encourage innovation and ideas,” said Gupta adding that heavy schoolbags badly affect the physical and mental growth of children. (Times of India 3/4/15)

41. State not doing much in education sector: CAG report (11)

JAIPUR: Enrolment in government schools have registered a sharp decline of 12 lakh students from 2008-09 to 2013-14, the CAG recently published in its report. It has slammed the state for either, not improving or making slight improvement in most education parameters during 2008-09 to 2013-14 even after spending crores in the sector. The enrolment in government schools reduced from 77 lakh in 2008-09 to 65 lakh in 2013-14. On the contrary, the enrolment in private schools jumped from 45 lakh in 2008-09 to 57 lakh in 2013-14, said the report. It said even after implementing the national programme for education of girls at elementary level for 10 years between 2003 and 13, the female literacy rate in the state remained at 52.1% which was below the national average of 64.6%.”Rajasthan stood lowest in female literacy rate among all the states and Union Territories,” says report. The report pointed out the alarming decline in the enrolment rate in government schools. It said 141 schools did not find a single student in the present session and 12, 782 schools have a single teacher. It also highlighted the deficiencies in policy of government. The clause (2) of section 3 of RTE Act envisaged that no child be liable to pay any kind of fee or charge or expenses which may prevent him or her form pursuing and completing his elementary education. The report highlighted that state did not include provision for school uniform in the notification under RTE rules. This means that beneficiaries of this act which are from economically weaker sections have to bear the cost of uniforms. The report highlights the main role of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and RTE Act which guarantees education to all children in the age group of 6-14 years of age. Even the guidelines say that 100% enrolment of Out of School category was to be achieved by 2013. The government started enrolling this category through special enrolment programme starting from 2011-12 but made no significant improvement. (Times of India 4/4/15)

42. India made big gains in child education: UN (11)

NEW DELHI: India has made significant strides in the past 15 years, but remains far from reducing adult illiteracy. A Unesco global education report that human resource development minister Smriti Irani would release on Thursday has revealed this. The report said gross enrolment ratio in pre-primary education touched 58% in 2012, compared to 19% in 1999. Primary education net enrolment ratio reached 99% in 2012. India has reduced its out-of-school children by over 90%. Globally 52% of countries including India achieved universal enrolment in primary education. India is predicted to be the only country in South and West Asia to have an equal ratio of girls to boys in both primary and secondary education this year. Unesco’s Global Monitoring Report (GMR) director Aaron Benavot praised India for making exemplary progress in helping children gain access to pre-primary and primary education since the global education goals were set in 2000. “India’s example clearly shows that with sufficient political will and resources the world can step up to meet the new education targets by 2030,” said Benavot. “To achieve global change in promoting a more sustainable future, all governments, including India, must mobilize new resources for education. International partners must ensure that aid is distributed to those most in need.” Globally, just one-third of countries have achieved all of the measurable Education for All (EFA) goals set in 2000. Only half of all countries have achieved the most prominent goal of universal primary education. Now, new education targets are being set for 2030. An extra $22 billion a year is needed apart from ambitious government contributions to ensure goals are achieved. These are the key findings of Unesco’s 2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report ‘Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges’ which has tracked progress on these goals for the past 15 years. The report would be released one month before the World Education Forum in Incheon (Republic of Korea). It said 20% of countries were very far from the goal of expanding early childhood care and education. While, for the goal towards universal primary education, 38% are far or very far from achieving it, leaving almost 100 million children without primary education. A lack of focus on the marginalized has left the poorest five times less likely to complete primary education than the richest. Over a third of out-of-school children are living in conflict zones. (Times of India 9/4/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

43. Fight against poverty: Telangana, J&K, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are the worst performing states (21)

NEW DELHI: Telangana, J&K, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are the worst performing states in providing for the poorest of the poor, show latest data on the performance of states under a key poverty-eradication initiative of the Central government. The top performers are Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, West Bengal and Karnataka. The April-Dec 2014 data on the Twenty Point Programme show that the four worst performers could not perform well in over half the schemes targeted at people below the poverty line. The performance is rated on three parameters: very good (where at least 90% of the target is achieved), good (80-90%) and poor (under 80%). Telangana could achieve “very good” rating in just three schemes, J&K for four and MP and Maharashtra, five each, according to a report of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The states were scored on target-oriented parameters, which include assistance to the urban poor under the Seven Point Charter (land tenure, housing at affordable cost, water, sanitation, education, health and social security), construction of rural roads and houses for the economically weaker and low-income groups, planting of seedlings, food security and electrification of villages. Rajasthan pipped PM Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat to the top slot with better achievement record on the initiative envisaged by former PM Indira Gandhi. Both states had “very good” rating for 14 schemes each, but Rajasthan performed well on the other programmes, where it scored better than national average in two more. Gujarat reported zero performance on three counts. Karnataka is the only Congress-ruled state among the top five. The ministry used to rank states on their performance under the Twenty Point Programme, before the practice was discontinued by the previous Congress-led government. (Times of India 1/4/15)

44. City has just 14 beds for 36,000 severely malnourished kids (21)

MUMBAI: Mahim toddler Mohammed Habib has missed most developmental milestones listed by the World Health Organisation for young children. At nine months, he cannot sit on his own, stand up with support or call out coherently for his mother. Worse, his weight when he was rushed to Sion Hospital’s Dharavi outpost in a dehydrated state on a November morning was 3.47 kg—the birth weight of many infants born in the city’s posh addresses. NGO Fight Hunger Foundation estimates that Habib is only one of the 36,000 children with SAM or severe acute malnutrition in Mumbai. The city, though, has only one 14-bed nutrition rehabilitation centre in Sion Hospital’s Dharavi outpost to nurse SAM kids to health. Experts say this inequality is the result of poor awareness about malnutrition in urban areas. Consider Habib, the third child of a driver, who doctors say was given formula feeds that were too diluted to be nutritious. He got diarrhoea in early November that rapidly spiralled into SAM. “Malnutrition is probably more prevalent in urban than in rural areas. In Mumbai, mothers have to get back to work at the earliest after delivery and the cost of living is so high that nutrition gets short shrift,” said Sion Hospital’s Dr Alka Jadhav, who is in charge of NRC. Fight Hunger Foundation director Dr Wasundhara Joshi said it’s high time the government recognized that urban poor are as badly off as their rural counterparts. “They have nine times the risk of dying as a normal kid.” Maharashtra’s fight against childhood malnutrition is seen as an example of public health success in recent times; a study commissioned by UNICEF showed 7% to 16% drop in malnutrition rates in the past eight years. The success was credited, in part, to the government’s nutrition rehabilitation centres. “NRCs operate out of district hospitals and provide food and care to severely malnourished infants for 14 days or more,” said state director general of health services Dr Satish Pawar. In Mumbai, the only NRC is run by BMC and supported by UNICEF and Fight Hunger Foundation. “Mumbai’s NRC is located in Sion Hospital and doing a great job.” The centre was set up in 2009. “We have helped around 400 children so far with over 95% success,” said the centre’s nutritionist. Children like Habib are fed on a special peanut butter meal recommended by WHO and treated for 14 days. Habib, for instance, gained 1.2kg in a fortnight. “But his growth is still stunted compared with to others his age. His poor cognition skills could take years to improve,” said a doctor. Meanwhile, Sion Hospital NRC will reopen its new-look ward soon. Fight Hunger Foundation plans to take the Sion Hospital-made therapeutic food to slums in Kandivli, Dharavi and Govandi. (Times of India 5/4/15)

45. New approach soon to estimate number of poor (21)

New Delhi: A task-force headed by NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya will soon come up with a new methodology to estimate the number of poor in the country. The task force held its first meeting on Tuesday. “It was a brain-storming session today on how to go about it. The report is to be submitted within three months and thus, a road map for the purpose will be designed soon,” said Chairman of National Statistical Commission Pronab Sen, who attended the meeting as special invitee. The other member of the task force include Bibek Debroy, who is a permanent member of the NITI Aayog, noted economist Surjit Bhalla and Chief Statistician T C A Anant. The secretaries of 5 central ministries, director-general of the Unique Identification Authority of India and two advisers from the Aayog too are part of the panel. The 14-member task-force will develop a working definition of poverty and prepare a roadmap for its elimination. Besides the panel will also suggest strategies and anti-poverty programmes, including reforms of the existing ones. Earlier, the UPA government had set up C Rangarajan committee to rework the poverty line, which was based on the methodology provided by Suresh Tendulkar panel. However the new government has not officially accepted its recommendations.The expert group headed by Rangarajan had dismissed the Suresh Tendulkar Committee methodology on estimating poverty and projected that the number of poor in India was much higher in 2011-12 at 29.5 per cent of the population. Estimates based on Tendulkar committee methodology, had pegged the poverty ratio at 21.9 per cent in 2011-12. In absolute terms, the number of poor in India stood at 36.3 crore in 2011-12, down from 45.4 crore in 2009-10, as per the Rangarajan panel. Tendulkar Committee, however, had suggested that the number of poor was 35.4 crore in 2009-10 and 26.9 crore in 2011-12. (Business Standard 8/4/15)

46. Poverty Forces Tamil Labourers to Fall Prey to Sanders Smugglers (21)

HYDERABAD:Poverty is forcing people from backward areas in Tamil Nadu, especially Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram and Vellore districts, to fall prey to dreaded red sanders smugglers and risk their lives. Many touts, working for these smugglers in the past few years, have been targeting drought-affected areas in Tamil Nadu such as Kootu Muthal, Sonapadi, Arangam, Koothamedu and Vaazhavand for getting labourers for cutting and transporting red sanders trees. According to official sources, smugglers pay woodcutters anything between Rs 3,000 and Rs 5,000 per day depending on the risk and urgency of the order. There are more than 2,300 Tamils languishing in Andhra Pradesh prisons on charges of smuggling red sanders. “They are from the lower strata of the society who are trapped by the smugglers to chop down trees. But, once they are caught while cutting trees or during transportation, the smugglers just wash their hands off and leave them to their own fate,” said a senior forest official. Most of them have no clue about the value of red sanders and only look for the money they get on daily basis, the official added. Red sandalwood is both rare and valued at exorbitantly high rates in the international market, making it a hot commodity for smugglers. Seshachalam Abounds in Sanders In AP, red sanders grows mainly in the Seshachalam hill ranges spread across Kadapa, Chittoor and Kurnool districts in the Rayalaseema region and parts of Nellore district. The area under red sanders is estimated to be 4.67 lakh hectares. There are more than 2,300 Tamils languishing in Andhra Pradesh prisons on charges of smuggling red sanders. These are from the lower strata of society who are lured by the smugglers to chop down the trees. (New Indian Express 9/4/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

47. Minimum wages for workers rise to Rs 9,048 (14)

NEW DELHI: Delhi government has hiked the minimum wages to Rs 9,048 per month for unskilled labourers with effect from April 1. In the order passed on Tuesday, the government has asked licensed contractors to pay additional dearness allowances of Rs 416 to labourers in the unskilled category. In the semiskilled category, the new minimum wage has been fixed at Rs 10,010 per month, which includes dearness allowance of Rs 468. The skilled workers, after additional dearness allowance of Rs 520, will be ensured minimum wages of Rs 10,998 per month. Labour Minister Gopal Rai said the government will organise a public hearing on April 24 to hear the grievances of contractual labourers and ensure that minimum wages is guaranteed to them. “Details of licensed agencies are being collected so as to monitor their performance and ensure benefits to the contractual labourers,” he said. The Department of Labour will also organise camps for registration of construction labourers from April 20 onwards at all Labour Chowks in Delhi.  After registration, the construction labourers will get various benefits from the construction workers welfare fund, which has a corpus of Rs 1,640 crore. Unorganised workers in the age group of 18-60 years are eligible under this scheme. The city government is also contributing for the welfare of un-organised sector workers for ensuring them pensioner benefits under National Pension Scheme, called ‘Dilli Swavalamban Yojana’.  As a contribution of Delhi Government, the first instalment of Rs 56 lakh was handed over to the representatives of Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority. This will give social security to domestic workers, auto and taxi drivers, Anganwadi and ASHA workers, BPL families, rickshaw pullers, hawkers, rag pickers, and Mid Day Meal workers. For the pension scheme, the city government contributes Rs 1,000 per beneficiary per annum for 25 years, whereas the Centre contributes Rs 1,000 per beneficiary for four years only. (Deccan Herald 2/4/15)

48. Bills to Amend Child Labour and EPF Acts after April 20 (14)

HYDERABAD:The Centre will introduce Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 and Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 (EPF Act) Amendment Bill in the second phase of the budget session of Parliament which will begin on April 20. Disclosing this at a media conference here on Sunday, Union minister of state for labour and employment Bandaru Dattatreya said there was a need to amend the Child Labour Act since it did not prohibit child labour in all occupations and was not in conformity with the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions. He said the proposed amendments would completely prohibit employment of children aged below 14 years and adolescents (14 to 18 years) in hazardous occupations. The penalty for employing a child will be increased from Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 and the imprisonment term from six months to two years. He said the Centre also proposed creation of child and adolescent labour rehabilitation fund in every district or for two or more districts. Currently, the EPF & MP Act, 1952 applies if an establishment has 20 employees. It is now proposed to amend the Act to make the Act applicable even if a firm has 10 employees. Bringing down the threshold limit to 10 would bring in 50 lakh more workers under the social security net of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). According to Dattatreya, the bill also proposed to do away with the ‘Schedule of Industries’ and come up with a ‘Negative List’. “The government is also working to extend social security benefits to the workers of unorganised sector, bringing into its fold a large number of workers under social security ambit.” He added that the Universal Account Number(UAN) for Provident Fund subscribers would enable one to link his PF account to this number. This would allow easier portability as well as ease of transfer directly to employees bank accounts, he said. According to the Union minister, already over 4.35 crore UANs had been generated and employers had been asked to provide the Aadhaar numbers, bank account numbers and permanent account numbers of employees. “By March 2016 every worker will get UAN cards,” Dattatreya said. (New Indian Express 6/4/15)

49. MNREGA wages hiked by Rs. 13 a day (14)

BENGALURU: There’s some good news for beneficiaries of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), as the wage rate per day has been revised with effect from April 1. Daily wages have gone up from Rs. 191 in 2014–15 to Rs. 204 in 2015–16, an increase by Rs. 13 a day. However, the expenditure incurred per person per day is Rs. 360.4, which includes equipment cost (Rs. 136) and administration cost (Rs. 20.4). With this, the wage rates have been revised nine times since the launch of the job scheme in 2006–07 by the previous UPA government. The revision in the wage rate indexed to the Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labour. The State government spent just 51 per cent of the allocated funds during 2014–15 [Rs. 1,683.65 crore as against Rs. 3,151.76 crore]. The State is expected to get Rs. 2,587.35 crore during 2015–16 for taking up various works under the scheme. In the current fiscal year, the State will spend more than 60 per cent of the allocated amount in the most backward 69 taluks. More funds will be spent on labour budget in these taluks. The labour budget has been depressed due to poor capacity. It was proposed to generate 4.56 crore man-days work in the most backward taluks and 2.61 crore man-days work in rest of the taluks in the State in the current financial year. The Centre has directed the State to identify gram panchayats for the ‘open defecation free’ campaign under the scheme as a part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The planning and identification of works should be started before August to ensure completion by March 2016. The Centre said in 11 districts, the expenditure on agriculture-related works is below the statutory limit and efforts should be made to spend more money on farm works. (The Hindu 9/4/15)

50. Daily wage workers’ strike in hospital enters fifth day (14)

Mumbai: Over 4,000 daily wage workers from the seven BMC hospitals will enter the fifth day of their strike on Friday, following the debarment of workers who were employed since 2009 in the health sector. The demand for reappointing the same staff and giving them a similar position has remained unacknowledged by the authorities, leading to the strike. As the strike was underway on Thursday, the condition of BMC hospitals was deplorable. “Toilets are not being cleaned, the floors — which were wiped once a week — are soiled, and dustbins are not being emptied. The strike has worsened hygiene conditions for patients,” said a resident doctor from Sion Hospital. Pradeep Narkar, secretary of the Maharashtra Mazdoor Union, said the authorities are failing to understand the plight of informal sector labourers. “Just because their jobs are not permanent does not mean that they can be uprooted whenever it is so desired. They also have a family to look after,” he said. The temporary staff of these hospitals are scared that they will be left with no guaranteed income. “I have two sons who go to school. I earn Rs 100 here everyday as a sweeper. After they make me leave, how am I to take care of my kids? It’s been five years since when I have been here,” said a temporary class worker from Sion Hospital. The union members are to meet additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh to address their request on Friday. (Asian Age 10/4/15)

RESERVATION

51. Disabled quota: CabSec to meet secretaries today (25)

New Delhi: In what could be a major relief for persons living with disabilities, the Cabinet secretary on Wednesday has called upon a committee of secretaries with an aim to implement three per cent quota in jobs for the disabled.In a meeting on Wednesday, secretaries of 16 crucial ministries, including Union health ministry, ministry of social justice and empowerment, women and child development, department of personnel and training etc, along with chairman of the Railway Board will discuss the modalities for implementation of the reservation policy. “Headed by the Cabinet secretary, secretaries of different ministries will take part in the meeting which is scheduled for tomorrow morning. We hope to come out with suggestions for implementation of reservation for the persons living with disabilities,” a senior official said. Earlier, even the SC had sought Centre’s response on an NGO’s plea seeking initiation of contempt proceedings for not complying with an earlier order of three per cent in jobs to persons with disabilities. (Asian Age 1/4/15)

52. Centre moves SC seeking review of Jat quota verdict (25)

NEW DELHI: The Centre moved the Supreme Court seeking review of a March 17 judgment quashing a UPA government notification including Jats in the Central list of Other Backward Classes (OBC) in nine States to grant them community reservation benefits. Countering the Supreme Court’s findings that the government should have complied with the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), which had advised against the inclusion of Jats in the OBC category, the NDA government said it could exercise its own independent view on quota. “The Centre’s power to make available quota for a community is not dependent on the advice of the National Commission for Backward Classes,” the petition filed on Wednesday said. The judgment held the government both judicially and statutorily bound to comply with the NCBC decision. (The Hindu 3/4/15)

53. Jats put in OBC as per Constitutional mandate: Centre to SC (25)

New Delhi: Government has said it has the powers under the Constitution to include Jats in the central list of Other Backward Classes (OBC) and sought a review of Supreme Court’s decision to scrap quota for the community. In its review petition, the NDA government, which strongly supported the erstwhile UPA regime on the issue, also submitted that the apex court “committed an error” in holding that the National Commission for Backward Classes’ (NCBC) opinion would be binding on it. “The power to make provisions for reservation flows from Article 16(4) of the Constitution of India. This power is not dependent upon the advice of NCBC. “The Union of India, notwithstanding the provisions of the NCBC Act, possesses/retains this power to add or subtract from the central list of other backward classes,” the review plea, settled by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, said. The Centre had moved the court days after a Jat delegation met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who assured the community leaders that his regime would try to find a solution within the legal framework. Earlier, a bench of justices Ranjan Gogoi and R F Nariman, in its verdict, had referred to various constitutional schemes and the NCBC report and said that the finding of the OBC panel that Jats do not deserve to be given quota benefits was “supported by good and acceptable reasons”.The court had also said the NCBC had considered reports of state backward classes panels and other literature on the subject before recommending that Jats should not be included in the list of OBCs. Seeking a review of the apex court’s March 17 verdict setting aside a 2014 notification to include Jats in OBC list in nine states, the Centre said that its constitutional power can neither be “dependent” nor be curtailed on the advice of NCBC. (Zee News 5/4/15)

54. Implement 25 pc Quota to Poor in Private Schools (25)

HYDERABAD: The Joint Action Committee for Implementation of Model RTE Rules In Telangana state has urged the government to adopt the Model Rules immediately and undertake immediate implementation to ensure that all private schools in Telangana starts admitting 25 per cent poor students from the academic year 2015-16. The committee adopted a resolution to this effect at a meeting organised at dharna chowk near Indira Park here on Tuesday. They requested the state government to bring about the required amendments in rules framed by erstwhile Andhra Pradesh government for free admission to poor students in private schools. And the revised rules should be notified by or before May, the resolution said. Representatives of various political parties expressed support to the demand. Implementation of RTE Act in Telangana is zero. The rules have to be amended to implement the Act, claimed Mazher Hussain, executive director of COVA. The demand for allotting 25 per cent of seats in private schools holds significance because of exorbitant fee structure in private schools, and lack of space for government schools in the city, said professor M Kodandaram, chairman of Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC), who was present at the meeting.  Telangana State convenor for RTE Forum, Ch Murali dismissed opinions expressed by some  that the strength in government schools will dwindle if the provision of 25 per cent admission is implemented. The committee stated that they would meet chief minister, education minister and  other officials concerned to submit a memorandum on the issue. The meeting was attended by Tammineni Veerabadhram, CPI(M) Telangana unit secretary, representatives from Lok Satta Party and BJP Mazdoor Morcha. APSA, COVA, Dalit Bahujan Shramik Union, Divya Disha, MV Foundation, RTE Forum for Telangana State and others were part of the committee. (New Indian Express 8/4/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

55. National rights panel to hold camp in city (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPUARAM: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will hold a three-day open camp here from April 8. On the first day, the NHRC team will hear complaints pertaining to atrocities committed by public servants or negligence by a public servant in prevention an atrocity against Scheduled Caste community. In the afternoon, the Commission will hold a meeting with NGOs of the State on human rights. On April 9, the commission will take up 24 cases on issues such as endosulfan-related illnesses, deaths in judicial custody/police action, vandalisation of churches, trafficking of children from other States to Kerala, harassment of physically challenged candidates in examination, rehabilitation of landless Dalits, death of devotees in Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala, infants death in Attappady, child labour, pension non-payment etc. On the last day, the commission will hold discussions with the Chief Secretary, Director General of Police, and senior civil, police and jail officers of the State. — ANI (The Hindu 2/4/15)

56. NHRC Seeks ATR from Government on Sexual Abuse in Schools (1)

BALASORE:The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Wednesday sought an Action Taken Report (ATR) from the State Government over sexual abuse of minor girl students in Government-run hostels. Acting on a petition filed by human rights activist and Supreme Court lawyer Radhakanta Tripathy, the apex human rights body has asked Principal Secretary of School and Mass Education Department to submit the ATR within four weeks from the date the notice was issued. A Class VII student of Bhimei village under Oupada block of Balasore district had become pregnant and the matter came to light in the second week of February. Tripathy alleged that such incidents reflect lack of awareness among the caretakers of the hostels to deal with the teenaged students. At least three cases of minor girl boarders of school hostels getting pregnant have come to the fore from across the State in past few months. The petitioner said failure of Government officials of Social Justice and Empowerment Department of the Centre and Mass Education Department in ensuring basic rights of the minor schoolchildren amounts to torture, harassment and denial of basic human rights. Tripathy requested NHRC to direct the State Government to rehabilitate the minor girls and ensure them proper medical care and compensation besides ensuring full protection of basic human rights in the SC/ST residential schools. (New Indian Express 3/4/15)

57. Amend Mines Act to contain silicosis: State Human Rights Commission (1)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has asked the government to take a fresh look at the Mines Act, 1952 to contain the alarming spread of occupational diseases and effectively deal with violators. The Commission has also suggested the need for an independent agency with adequate powers to deal with all issues relating to occupational diseases and another panel to conduct studies and research. In a special report on silicosis submitted to the government, the SHRC has said it should be made compulsory for the mine owners to use modern technology for the extraction of sandstone and other dimensional stones from mines. Silicosis is an incurable respiratory disease which is caused due to inhalation of silica dust, and is more prevalent among miners. “Problem will be prevalent among the workers engaged in several other occupations also like stone crushers, quartz mining and processing, foundries, sand blasting, ceramic industries, gem cutting and polishing, slate and pencil industries, glass manufacturing, and construction workers,” the report said. Taking on the government for failing to launch a state-wide study on silicosis as recommended in the Commission’s first special report on silicosis, the panel has said not even the terms of reference for the study have been framed even after 15 months. “The departments concerned also have not displayed any urgency or sensitivity in implementing the other important decisions taken.”Majority of stone mines are in the unorganized and small-scale sector and almost all of them are operating providing employment to lakhs of people living around the mines. Reliable data about these workers are not available since details of employment are not maintained, though rough estimates suggest that 25 lakh workers are engaged in mining operations Rajasthan. Roughly 57 silicosis deaths have been reported from Rajasthan since 2009-10 and over 891 cases detected. These workers are among the poorest of poor. Working conditions in the stone quarries are far from satisfactory. Most of the small mine operators are reluctant to adopt safety and health measures for their workers and do not comply with the provisions of the Mines Act, 1952. “There is need to give identity cards to mineworkers. In view of the endemic nature of silicosis in the State and widespread violation of provisions relating to record of employment and daily attendance, the identity card should be a biometric one that contains the record of employment and medical history of the holder.” The Commission is of the view the employment of workers, whether they are regular ones or contract/casual workers exposed to occupational diseases, without identity cards should be prohibited. Medical examination at the time of employment and periodic medical examination prescribed under the Mines Act and the Factories Act should be made mandatory for the contract and casual labour in hazardous occupations. Importantly, the Commission has pointed out that the requirement of certification of silicosis by the Pneumoconiosis Board for claiming compensation in the case of death and disability is a futile exercise as far as most of the mineworkers are concerned since even the Board members do not have any expertise on the disease. To overcome this, the panel has said the doctors in the districts with adequate training in pneumoconiosis may be appointed as Certifying Physicians or a Pneumoconiosis Medical Board consisting of a group of doctors posted in the district may be authorized to issue such certificates. Further, it has also recommended setting up a Rajasthan State Institute of Occupational Health for developing implementing strategies to prevent detect and treat occupational diseases, and a special State Pneumoconiosis Control Programme. The doctors posted in the Pneumoconiosis Boards, and public health facilities in the sandstone mining areas and other areas having industries whose workers are prone to silicosis should be trained in the prevention, detection and treatment of silicosis and other occupational diseases, the report has said. (The Hindu 5/4/15)

58. SHRC orders restoration of Bal Bhavan premises to NGO (1)

BENGALURU: The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has ordered that the Parents’ Association of Persons with Cerebral Palsy (PAPCP) be restored the structure at Jeevan Bima Nagar that Bal Bhavan took over recently. The Bal Bhavan Society had on March 14 taken over possession of the property. The building houses a school for children with cerebral palsy. At present, the school has 32 students. The SHRC has sought a report from the Department of Women and Child Development. Till the matter is sorted out, the NGO will be restored possession of the building. Meanwhile, members of the PAPCP denied allegations made by chairperson Bhavana Ramanna that they threatened her. (The Hindu 7/4/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

59. Madras HC says anti-child marriage act prevails over Muslim Personal Law (19)

Chennai: The Madras High Court has held that the act prohibiting child marriages was not against the Muslim Personal Law and would prevail over the latter as it had been enacted for the welfare of girl children. The court was dismissing a public interest litigation which sought a direction to government officials not to interfere with marriages solemnised as per the Muslim Personal Law by invoking provisions of Prohibition of Child Marriages Act (POCMA) of 2006, which bars marriage of girls below 18 years. According to the petitioner, the personal law allows marriage of Muslim girls between the age of 15 and 18. “The Prohibition of Child Marriages Act is not against the Muslim Personal Law. The Act enacted for the welfare of the girl children prevails over the personal law. The former helps the girls to get education, empowerment etc.,” a division bench here comprising justices S Tamilvanan and VS Ravi said in their order yesterday. The PIL filed by Social Democratic Party of India functionary Mohammed Abbas challenged the action of District Social Welfare Officer, who had stopped the proposed marriage of a 16-year old girl, daughter of one Syed Abuthakir or Maharajapuram village in Virudhunagar, and handing her over to the custody of Child Welfare Committee. This is the second time that the high court has delivered a similar order on the issue of marriage of minor Muslim girls. On March 5, Justice CT Selvam, dimissing an appeal against a lower court order, had ruled POCMA was secular in nature and Muslims could not rely on their personal law to claim the right to give minor girls in marriage even at the age of 15 presuming that the girl had attained puberty. He had further said such a right would run counter to the POCMA aimed at preventing the “evil practice” of child marriage besides safeguarding the health of girl children and elevating the status of women. The PIL was filed against the Social Welfare officer’s action contending that the officials were in no way competent to prohibit Muslim marriages under POCMA. The petitioner submitted the Muslim Personal Law allows the marriage of girls aged between 15 and 18 and hence, the PIL “is filed for the overall welfare of the Islam community.” He also sought the court’s direction to the government to pay Rs.10 lakh compensation to the family. Earlier, the court had directed to produce the girl before it and later handed her over to her parents after obtaining an undertaking that the girl shall not be given in marriage till the judgement was given. (DNA 1/4/15)

60. ‘Absence of independent witness can’t negate victim’s testimony’ (19)

NEW DELHI: Observing that absence of an independent witness in the case “is not sufficient to negate the victim’s testimony”, a sessions court has refused to set aside the three-month jail term awarded to two persons for molesting a woman. “It is common knowledge that people are ordinarily reluctant to become witnesses in such cases for fear of harassment due to their pressing engagement, for fear of harassment or for fear of going to courts time and again for evidence. Even otherwise it is well-settled that the evidence has to be weighed and not to be counted,” additional sessions judge Ashutosh Kumar said. The court’s order came while dismissing the appeal of the convicts against a magisterial court’s order on their conviction and sentence. The convicts, Ajay and Arun Dubey, residents of west Delhi, were sentenced by a magisterial court for the offences under sections 354 (molestation), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the IPC. In their appeal, the duo contended that there was no independent witness to support the prosecution’s case and that there were discrepancies in the victim’s testimony with regard to time of the incident and tearing of her clothes. They had contended the woman had falsely implicated them. “No plausible explanation has been given by appellants as to why the complainant would incriminate them in her testimony or as to what was the cause of injury suffered by her,” the court said, while rejecting the contentions of the convicts. The sessions court upheld the order of the magisterial court, saying “…There is no infirmity, illegality, proprietary or perversity in the judgement of conviction of the trial court and the same is upheld.” In January, a magisterial court had jailed Ajay and Arun to three month imprisonment for molesting a married woman by abusing her and tearing her clothes and had also imposed a fine of Rs 2,000 on each of them. (Times of India 4/4/15)

61. HC to Maharashtra: Why ban meat of only cows, bulls? Why not goats too? (19)

Mumbai, Apr 6 (Agencies) The Bombay High Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government to explain why it had banned the slaughter and consumption of the meat of only cows, bulls and bullocks, and not other animals such as goats. And the state replied that this is just the start, and the state may consider including other animals as well. A division bench of justices V.M. Kanade and A.R. Joshi was hearing a bunch of petitions challenging a provision under section 5 (d) of the recently amended Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, which bans possession and consumption of the meat of animals such as the cow, bull and bullock. According to the petitions, the flesh of cows, bulls and bullocks slaughtered outside Maharashtra should be allowed inside the state.”Why has the state banned only cows, bulls and bullocks? What about other animals like goat?” the bench asked. To this, Advocate General Sunil Manohar said the government was considering it.”This is just the start (banning of cows, bulls and bullocks). We may consider banning slaughter of other animals too. As of now the state felt it was necessary to protect cows, bulls and bullocks,” he said. The court also suggested the government should have a licence policy by which import of meat of cattle slaughtered outside the state can be permitted.”Section 5 (d) of the Act which is under challenge does not prohibit slaughter of cattle outside the state. Why should a person be prevented to eat or possess beef that has been slaughtered outside? Indirectly you (government) are prohibiting slaughter of animals outside the state too,” Justice Kanade said. Senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, appearing for one of the petitioners, argued that section 5 (d) of the Act was arbitrary and against the fundamental right of a citizen and that if the object of the Act was to preserve cattle in Maharashtra, then import of meat should be allowed. Advocate General Manohar, however, objected and said, ”How can the state say slaughter of cattle in Maharashtra amounts to cruelty but one can slaughter outside the state. That would also amount to cruelty. The Act incidentally prohibits import also.” The bench directed the government to file its affidavit in reply to the petitions and posted the hearing on April 20. (The Telegraph 6/4/15)

62. NCW could soon get powers of civil court (19)

NEW DELHI: The National Commission for Women (NCW) could soon be granted powers of a civil court with a group of ministers (GoM) headed by Arun Jaitley approving the draft bill. The seven-member group, headed by the finance minister, has approved amendments to the NCW Act, 1990. The draft bill will now be placed before the Union Cabinet for consideration. The GoMs, formed last month to look into the matter, approved the amendments in a meeting on Tuesday. The bill has been moved by the ministry of women and child development (WCD). “This is a long-standing demand of the WCD ministry and will be placed before the Cabinet,” said an official. According to the bill, the commission can investigate, summon and penalize to enforce attendance in order to provide rights for disenfranchised women. The ministry’s earlier proposal to provide the commission with punitive powers to arrest people guilty of harassing women and ignoring its summons has been struck down. The original draft had also suggested that the commission be headed by a retired judge. This has been opened up to include a non-judicial member as well. “The commission to have all powers of a civil court trying a suit while investigating any matter, and in particular in respect of matters like summoning and enforcing the attendance and examining on oath, discovery and production of any document, receiving evidence on affidavits, requisitioning any record from any court or office. Every proceeding before the commission shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of Sections 193 and 228 and for the purpose of Section 196 of the IPC,” the amendments say. The commission can also utilize services of any officer or investigation agency of the Centre or state governments for the purpose of investigation. Its main functions will be to investigate and examine all matters relating to the safeguards provided to women under the Constitution and other laws and review existing laws and suggest amendments or remedial legislative measures. As per the proposed amendments, the commission will be vested with the power to impose a fine of Rs 100 per day subject to a maximum of Rs 5,000 on a person who fails to produce any document or appear before it without sufficient reason. (Times of India 9/4/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

63. Two women beaten up in police station, 5 suspended (1)

New Delhi: Five police personnel including four women officers, were on Saturday suspended for beating up two women accused of theft by their employer, police said. Sub-Inspector Rajbir Singh, of the South Rohini police station, picked up the women from their house and took them to the police station. There, he along with four women constables – Sarita, Mamta, Lakshmi and Shagun – beat them up in a bid to make them confess to the crime, police said. The victims, both in their mid-20s, worked in a computer centre in sector 3 of Rohini in north Delhi. Their employer had accused them of stealing golden ornaments from his house recently and filed a case against them. The women made a call to the PCR van and approached senior police officers on Saturday morning after being let off from the police station, following which action was taken against the police personnel responsible. The women were sent for medical examination at Bhimrao Ambedkar Hospital. (Business Standard 4/4/15)

64. 1,400 complaints against policemen in just two months (1)

New Delhi: About 1,400 complaints have been filed against Delhi Police personnel in the first two months of this year. The complaints have been substantiated in 59 cases after which action was taken against 62 personnel. About 500 of the complaints were not substantiated and 837 complaints are pending. The most number of complaints were received against police personnel posted with north-east district. Data reveals that 310 complaints were received followed by 251 complaints against staff of south district and 216 against staff of east district. The least number of complaints were made against staff of outer district. Only 12 complaints were filed. However, on Saturday, four police personnel, including three women constables, were suspended on allegations of brutality on two Dalit women at outer Delhi’s Rohini South police station. In their complaint, the women had stated that the police personnel abused them and made offensive and derogatory remarks. Remarkably, no complaint was received against Railways, Metro and Crime Branch. Police substantiated 36 complaints against staff of north-east district and action was taken against 38 personnel. In January, a constable was also suspended for allegedly denying to pay for food at an eatery and roughing up its owner. Last year, police had suspended 563 personnel in 727 departmental enquiries and 538 Vigilance enquiries. Cases under Prevention of Corruption Act were also registered against 44 personnel and two Delhi Home Guards. Allegations were proved in 53 of the Vigilance enquiries. Those found guilty were three assistant commissioners of police, including a retired officer, 18 inspectors, 24 sub-inspectors, seven assistant sub-inspectors, 17 head constables and 30 head constables. Police have been using modern technology to enable people to complain against corruption or harassment by police on toll free number 1064. Public has also been given the facility to send audio or video clips at a well publicised number 9910641064. Every call or message that is received on these numbers is attended and cases under Prevention of Corruption Act are registered after due assessment of the evidence furnished. (Deccan Herald 5/4/15)

65. Man beaten to death in road rage in the Capital (1)

NEW DELHI: In a case of road rage reported from the Capital, a 37-year-old man was beaten to death allegedly by five men, while his two sons watched in horror, after his bike collided with their car at Central Delhi’s Turkman Gate late on Sunday night. The incident took place around 11-30 p.m. on Sunday. According to the police, the victim identified as Shehnewaz was travelling on his bike along with his two children when his bike came in front of an i-20 car being driven by two of the accused. The other three were following them on a bike. “After the collision, the occupants of the car got down and an argument ensued between them and Shehnewaz. After a while, they were joined by the other three and five of them started beating Shehnewaz,” a police officer said. “He was later taken to a nearby hospital but was declared dead upon arrival,” he added.A case was later registered and investigation taken up after which the police arrested one accused on Monday. “We have arrested the main accused in the case identified as Wasim. The other three accused have been identified and will be arrested soon,” a senior police officer said. The victim’s son, who was with him at the time of the incident, later alleged that he went to ask for help from the police post nearby but the cops present there refused. It was only after the locals heard the boy screaming for help that the man was taken to hospital. Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi has taken note of the allegation and said that he will look into it and will take an action against the policemen if found guilty of misconduct of duty. Following the incident, the area residents held a protest rally in the Turkman Gate area on Monday to express their anger towards the police and local politicians. There was a massive traffic jam around ITO and Turkman Gate. (The Hindu 7/4/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

66. Content creators leave cluttered media (1)

Washington: The ease of communicating with lots of people via social networks does not result in more and more users sharing their thoughts and political views, scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have found. Researchers at University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business said the flood of tweets and posts washing across cyberspace has created a huge imbalance in the number of people creating content and the number of people who receive it. The new study was conducted by Associate Professor Zsolt Katona and Ganesh Iyer, Edgar F. Kaiser chair in business administration at Berkeley-Haas. The study found that the cheaper and easier it becomes to reach large numbers of people via social media, the fewer “content creators” choose to participate and the more cluttered the networks become. If it were as difficult to post messages to large numbers of people as it was just a few years ago — before the rise of mobile messaging apps — more users would create content, researchers found. Although more and more people are participating in social networking, a smaller percentage of users are actively creating and sharing content. Industry reports estimate that just 10 per cent of Twitter users broadcast 90 per cent of the network’s tweets, while only a tiny fraction of the 55 million users who blog post daily, said Mr Katona. The new research suggests that social networking is a bit like a market: People who create and send content are investing effort to win customers — in this case the “receivers” who will view their content. (Asian Age 6/4/15)

67. Barred Praveen Togadia cries for ‘freedom of speech’ (1)

Chandigarh: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) international working president, Praveen Togadia, Sunday termed the West Bengal government’s move to stop him from addressing a rally in North Dinajpur district as “undemocratic” and “a dictatorial act”, saying the move “muzzles (his) freedom of speech” at a time when the Supreme Court has struck down the Section 66A of the IT Act. “I have addressed thousands of public rallies and not one law and order situation occurred anywhere after my rally,” he said. The Mamata Banerjee government had issued prohibitory orders, restricting Togadia’s entry into the state fearing “communal tension and disruption in public tranquility”. Addressing the Sunday’s press conference, Togadia also called upon the Union government to enact a law to establish two-child norm in the country and deprive those who do not adhere to it of their citizenship. He blamed “love jihad” and “higher rates of religious conversion” as the major factors behind the increase in Muslim population in India. “Growing Muslim population is a threat to Hindus and all Hindus should take note of this,” he said. He also cited “a survey conducted by an organisation in the USA”, which, he claimed, “revealed that by 2070 Muslim population will be more than that of Christians in the world and that by 2050 India will have the largest population of Muslims in the world”. Togadia also demanded that the “illegal Bangladeshis” staying in the country be deported and asked the Bengal and central governments to formulate a plan in this regard. Togadia added that all criminal cases against him have been discharged. He said VHP will make use of social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp to get across its message across the country in form of videos. (Indian Express 7/4/15)

68. VK Singh in new row, calls media ‘presstitutes’ (1)

NEW DELHI: Union minister General V K Singh ran into a fresh row on Tuesday as he was criticized by several political parties for describing the media as ‘presstitutes’. While the Congress said his comments were “deplorable” and showed his “insensitivity”, the Left said they reflected the minister’s mindset. The remark, made in a tweet, followed a press briefing in Djibouti in which the former Army chief raised eyebrows for saying that visiting the Pakistani high commission was more exciting than conducting rescue operations in Yemen. Singh is camping in Djibouti to oversee evacuation of Indians from Yemen. Apparently, he was taking a dig at a section of the media which had criticized him for attending Pakistan Day celebrations. As social media began commenting about the remark, Singh tweeted, “Friends what do you expect from presstitutes.” Last month, Singh had raked up a controversy by tweeting with the hashtag ‘DISGUST’ after attending the Pakistan Day celebrations in New Delhi. Shortly after representing the government at the national day reception at Pakistan High Commission, Singh had issued a series of intriguing tweets defining “disgust” and “duty”. (Times of India 8/4/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

69. Curfew continues for third day in MP town (7)

Neemuch (Madhya Pradesh): Curfew, imposed in a town in Madhya Pradesh’s Neemuch district following communal violence, continued for the third day on Sunday. Some miscreants on Friday threw stones at a procession taken out on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti in Jawad town and at least 20 people were injured in the resulting melee. Violence then flared up with a mob setting fire to residential buildings, vehicles and shops which left a number of people, including police personnel, injured. “Women and children were exempted from the curfew between 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Sunday to let them buy things for their basic needs,” Indrajit Singh, sub-divisional police officer of Jawad town, said. – IANS (The Hindu 6/4/15)

70. Naroda Patiya riot victims object HC preference to Kodnani’s appeal (7)

NEW DELHI: Riot victims of Naroda Patiya on Tuesday complained to the Supreme Court against Gujarat high court for hearing former minister Maya Kodnani’s appeal out of turn. The victims in their joint petition said they have filed appeals against trial court’s decision to acquit some accused and also pleaded for enhancement of sentence of the convicts. They said their appeals are not being heard along with Kodnani’s appeal though all these appeals pertained to the same incident – communal riots in Naroda Patiya area of Ahmedabad in 2002. The Supreme Court appointed SIT headed by R K Raghavan also informed the court through senior advocate Harish Salve that the HC judge was not deciding the SIT’s application for hearing all the appeals together. The riot victims through advocate Aparna Bhat told the SC that the victims had sought recusal of the HC judge but he continues to hear Kodnani’s appeal in haste prior to his retirement. A bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu said the appeals will be heard soon by the apex court. (Times of India 7/4/15)

71. In Gujarat, Muslim forced to sell house in Hindu locality: Report (7)

New Delhi: Hindu right-wing groups forced a Muslim businessman to sell off his property and move out of a posh locality in Bhavnagar in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, media reports said on Wednesday.The Indian Express said the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) brokered the deal between a real estate firm and scrap dealer Aliasgar Zaveri for the sale of his bungalow on December 30, 2014. The paper said he had bought the house in the Sanatorium locality of Bhavnagar, around 200km from state capital Gandhinagar, in January last year, when Modi was the chief minister of the state. Gujarat was rocked by widespread communal riots in 2002 which had left over a thousand people dead across the state. Modi’s government was accused of doing little to stop the violence though he was later given a clean chit by the Supreme Court. Modi became the Prime Minister in May last year after leading the BJP to a comprehensive victory in the Lok Sabha elections. Rights activists say that after the BJP government came to power at the Centre, right-wing Hindu groups have been targeting minority communities and their institutions, pointing to attacks on missionary schools and churches besides programmes like ‘ghar wapsi’ which aims to re-convert people of other faiths to Hinduism. The Indian Express report said, a couple of months after Zaveri bought the bungalow, “Hindu residents of the area started protesting, saying the food habits of Muslims may offend them and that it could open the floodgates for the entry of other Muslims into the area.” Pravin Togadia, a firebrand VHP leader, asked residents of the locality in April last year to attack Zaveri’s office “if he did not give up the bungalow within 48 hours,” the report said. “Following the alleged hate speech, Togadia was booked for inciting communal passions and police were deployed at the bungalow. Zaveri, who lives in a Muslim-dominated area, could never move in,” the report added. Zaveri, according to the report, refused to comment on the issue. The paper quoted SD Jani, president of VHP’s Bhavnagar city unit, as saying: “Due to our agitation, the vidharmi (one from another faith, Zaveri) realised he would not be able to settle in and eventually gave in.” One of partners in the real estate firm was quoted as saying that the sale of the house was not “distress selling” by Zaveri. (Hindustan Times 8/4/15)

COMMUNALISM

72. BJP MP Yogi Adityanath wants cow declared Rashtra Maata (26)

NEW DELHI: Star Bharatiya Janata Party campaigner and lawmaker Yogi Adityanath, whose impeccable Hindutva credentials include support for Ghar Wapsi and the desire to install idols of Gauri-Ganesh in every Indian mosque, now has the cow in his sights. He’s embarked on a drive to raise Bos taurus indicus to new heights of veneration. The Hindu Yuva Vahini led by Adityanath wants the cow declared Rashtra Maata or Mother of the Nation. Inspired by the success of the BJP’s missed-call membership drive that has apparently made it the world’s biggest political party, the Vahini has adopted a similar tactic. It has launched a missed-call subscription number, 07533007511, on a pilot basis in Aligarh to canvass support for the cause. “Gai sanaatan dharma ki pehchaan hai,” Adityanath told ET, referring to the cow as being a symbol of orthodox Hinduism. “There is no doubt that it is the link between India’s spiritual and economic cosmology. Gauvansh (cow genealogy) and gausampada( the animal’s variety) bridge the temporal and religious worlds in India.” The Narendra Modi-led BJP’s resounding victory in the general election last year followed by the party doing well in some state polls strengthened the cow preservation movement. Maharashtra’s BJP led government enforced a law banning the slaughter of bulls and bullocks in March. Anyone who sells beef or has it in their possession is liable to face five years in jail and fines. Police in the state’s Malegaon town have asked people who own cows to provide them with photographs of each animal, presumably to help keep track of the bovines. Haryana, another state with a new BJP government, recently banned cow slaughter. Those breaking the law could face jail time of 10 years and fines. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, on a recent visit to a Border Security Force station on the India-Bangladesh border, called for the prevention of “cows crossing over” in order to discourage beef eating in the neighbouring country… (Times of India 3/4/15)

73. 51 persons embrace Hinduism on Easter in VHP-organised programme (26)

Kottayam (Kerala): At least 51 persons, most of them belonging to Christian community, embraced Hinduism at nearby Kurichi on Easter on Sunday. Twenty five men and 26 women converted to Hinduism in the reconversion ritual organised by Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP), organisers of the programme said. VHP district secretary PK Gopalakrishnan claimed that it was not a forced conversion and the people belonging to 20 families embraced Hinduism on their own. “We are just facilitators. There is no force,” Gopalakrishnan told PTI. He also justified the decision to organise the event on Easter saying it was a convenient day for all since it is a holiday. Gopalakrishnan said so far 153 persons, mostly belonging to Christian community, have reconverted to Hinduism in the district under the initiatives undertaken by various Hindu organisations since Christmas last year. On Christmas last year, at least 58 persons had converted to Hinduism at two temples as part of the Ghar Wapsi programme organised by the VHP, he said. (DNA 5/4/15)

74. VHP, RSS force Muslim to sell home in Hindu locality (26)

Bhavnagar: Barely a year after he bought a bungalow in a predominantly Hindu neighbourhood of Bhavnagar, prompting Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia to ask neighbours not to allow him to move in, a Muslim businessman was forced to sell it off with functionaries of Hindu Right-wing groups brokering the deal. Scrap dealer Aliasgar Zaveri had bought the bungalow in Bhavnagar’s posh Sanatorium area on January 10, 2014. But under pressure from Hindu neighbours, VHP and RSS, Zaveri, a Bohra Muslim, sold his bungalow to real-state firm Bhumiti Associates on December 30, 2014. “Zaveri tried many things to gain a toehold in the area. He suggested renting the bungalow out to Hindus but we rejected it. He also tried to give it to a firm for shooting a film, but we did not allow that. Meanwhile, we were in touch with real-estate developers. Having realised that neighbours would not relent, he agreed to sell it,” a senior RSS functionary who lives nearby and was among those leading the protests, said. Sanatorium near Meghani Circle is a Hindu-dominated locality. Out of around 150 bungalows, only four have Muslim owners. Out of the four, two migrated to the Shishoo Vihar area after the 2002 riots. Two months after Zaveri bought the bungalow from hotelier Kishoresinh Gohil for Rs 49 lakh, Hindu residents of the area started protesting, saying the food habits of Muslims may offend them and that it could open the floodgates for the entry of other Muslims into the area. They started holding Ram Darbars, gatherings at which they would play Hanuman Chalisa and bhajans on a music system, outside the bungalow every evening. They invited Togadia to their darbar on April 19, 2014. Togadia reportedly asked residents to attack Zaveri’s office in Bhadevadi Street if he did not give up the bungalow within 48 hours. Following the alleged hate speech, Togadia was booked for inciting communal passions and police were deployed at the bungalow. Zaveri, who lives in a Muslim-dominated area, could never move in.  Zaveri refused to comment on the development. “He (Zaveri) wanted to get rid of it. We got the plot at market rates. I can assure you, it was not distress selling on his part,” said Chetan Kamdar, one of the partners of Bhumiti Associates. While Bhumiti Associates said the deal did not involve any political or religious group, RSS and VHP leaders said they had facilitated it. S D Jani, president of VHP’s Bhavnagar city unit, said: “Due to our agitation, the vidharmi (one from another faith, Zaveri) realised he would not be able to settle in and eventually gave in.” (Indian Express 8/4/15)

TERRORISM

75. India condemns barbaric terror attack in Kenya (12)

New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Friday condemned the barbaric terror attack in a Kenyan university campus, adding that the country stands in solidarity with the bereaved families. “The Government of India strongly condemns this barbaric attack on Kenyan university campus. We stand in solidarity with bereaved families and injured,” said MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin. Earlier in the day, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condemned the terror attack by the al-Shabab Islamist group which left nearly 150 students dead. The militants burst inside the university campus before dawn and singled out the Christian students and shot them. The university was set up in 2011 and is the only public university in the region. (New Kerala 3/4/15)

76. Three Bodo militants held from Navi Mumbai (12)

MUMBAI: The state anti-terrorism squad (ATS), questioning the three National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) militants, said that the accused were planning to bring some more associates to Maharashtra to avoid police arrest or encounters. One of the accused, Bisho alias Ansai Songa Basumatary (22), had led the December 2014 massacre in Assam killing around 74 tribals. “Masumatary is a history sheeter. He along with his associates had kidnapped a businessman in Assam for extortion. He is one of the platoon commanders of the Sounjit faction. He seems to be fully trained in militant activities. The Assam police has reached Mumbai and they are interrogating the accused. The ATS had got information about these suspects, taking shelter in Navi Mumbai, and worked five days continuously in verification of information and then arrested them,” the officer added. The Assam police was looking for Basumatary since the massacare but could not get iformation about his whereabouts. “His arrest will help us to detect the other platoon commanders hiding in various parts of the country,” said an officer. The trio was wanted in a case of kidnapping, criminal conspiracy and waging war against the nation in Chariduar police station, Sonitpur district, Assam. Those arrested are suspected to be commanders of the outfit, said an officer. Those arrested include Basumatary (22), Swamkhwr Basumatary (20) and Purno Narzary (19). They will be produced before a court on Saturday. After the Assam massacare when the NDFB militants gunned down over 74 villagers, the Assam police began cracking down the NDFB. Many of the NDFB commandos fled Assam and were hiding in various part of the country. (Times of India 4/4/15)

77. Activists say anti-terrorism bill undemocratic (12)

AHMEDABAD: Various city-based organizations on Friday denounced the anti-terrorism bill – Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organized Crime Bill (GUJCTOC), which was recently been passed by the assembly, as the state government’s bid to suppress minorities and agitating activists. They spoke to newspersons after holding a discussion as they were denied permission to protest at Sardar Baug by Karanj police, who cited traffic congestion. Gathered under the umbrella organization of ‘Gujarat Jan Andolan’, the activists said that this law was thrice returned by the President when the state government sought it to be ratified under the name of Gujarat Control of Organized Crime Bill (GUJCOC). They said that they will continue protesting until the President rejects this bill. Advocate Rajesh Mankad of Jan Sangharsh Manch said, “This law aims to suppress people with highhandedness, especially the minorities. This is a black law because confessions are admissible evidence under this law. This will give unabated powers to police and their political masters will use it for their personal gain.” Jamaat-e-Islami-e-Hind’s Akram Baig Mirza said that while police refuse to improve despite various reform commissions, handing them with such a draconian law will lead to further complications. “Like earlier special laws like TADA and Pota, this too is aimed at harassing minorities,” said Mirza. Mufti Rizwan Tarapuri of All India Milli Council said, “Gujarat has always been the RSS laboratory. This law is being introduced at the RSS’s behest. Gujarat is obviously the testing ground for this law because all anti-minority activities began in Gujarat.” Activist Hiren Gandhi and Dwarikanath Rath also opposed the bill and said that it aims to curtail democratic space and alienate those who oppose the government’s policies. (Times of India 5.4.15)

78. Uproar in J&K Assembly over terrorist attack in Shopian (12)

Proceedings in the State Legislative Assembly on Tuesday began with uproarious scenes with BJP legislators on the treasury benches raising slogans like “Pakistan murdabad” and (Indian) “security forces zindabad”. Trouble erupted soon after the House assembled in the morning and Speaker Kavinder Gupta called the first question. The BJP MLAs including Ravinder Raina and R S Pathania came into the well raising slogans against Pakistan for aiding and abetting terrorism on the Indian soil. One if them was even carrying a playcard saying “Big No (to revocation of) AFSPA”. The BJP legislators were protesting over recent terrorist attacks in Jammu Kashmir including the one in which three policemen had been killed in Shopian on Monday. The disruptions by BJP legislators during question hour drew angry protests from opposition benches, with members from National Conference and Congress standing on their feet. Independent legislator Engineer Rashid also came into the well

This was second militant attack on policemen within hours in Kashmir Valley. (Express photo by Shuaib Masoodi) This was second militant attack on policemen within hours in Kashmir Valley. (Express photo by Shuaib Masoodi) Nothing was audible in the din, with G M Saroori of Congress asking the chair as to what had been going on in the House. Ali Mohammad Sagar of NC was seen having heated exchanges with some BJP legislators. After nearly ten minutes when the order got restored in the house, Nawang Rigzin Jora of Congress took a jive on BJP legislators for their opposition to revocation of AFSPA when Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed says that it will be revoked. Also drawing their attention to continued incursions by Chinese troops into Ladak region, he asked “as to where is the person with 56 inch chest” in apparent reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Indian Express 7/4/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

79. Villagers lynch top Maoist leader in Jharkhand (12)

Ranchi: Villagers lynched a top Maoist leader on Thursday night in Jharkhand’s West Singhbum district, police said on Friday. They said that the lynching could be a sign of growing public anger against the alleged excesses by extremist outfits in the state. Johnson Ganju, an area commander of the CPI-Maoists, was said to have been involved in several attacks on security forces besides two jailbreaks in the state, where Maoist violence has left hundreds dead in the past two decades. Around 18 extremist outfits are active in Jharkhand but police say that most of them are bands of thugs involved in extortion and abduction besides gun-running. There are also allegations of rape on cadres of these outfits including the CPI-Maoist, the biggest Left-wing group in the country. In January last year, a Maoist cadre was lynched by villagers in Ranchi district. The same year, a leader of the AJSU Party was lynched after villagers mistook him for a Maoist commander, which police say are manifestation of the people’s anger against militant outfits.  A police official said villagers of Rongo under Manoharpur police station, around 180 km from the state capital, lynched Ganju after he terrorised them for several days. “The villagers were furious. He (Ganju) abused them and also scared them off by firing in the air. On Thursday night, things went out of hand and he was killed,” said Surender Ravidas, the Manoharpur police station-in-charge. Police have lodged an FIR against “unknown persons”. The police official described the rebel leader’s face as “beyond recognition” and said his identity was confirmed from “documents” found on him. His body was recovered on Friday morning after some villagers alerted the police. Ravidas said the rebel was shot with an arrow — a traditional weapon of the state’s hunter-gatherer tribes — before he was beaten to death. Police, quoting villagers, said that the Maoist commander took shelter in the village a week ago. He was waiting for the return of his ‘companion’ Helen Charwa, a Maoist sympathiser who acted as a conduit in the outfit’s extortion network. Helen, who was once arrested in 2011, was scheduled to return home on Saturday from an undisclosed location. Police sources said that in December last year, Ganju had helped 13 prisoners including eight hardcore Maoists to escape from the Chaibasa jail. In 2012, he had escaped from the Mander jail with four of other rebels. (Hindustan Times 4/4/15)

80. Maoists Encouraging Farmers to Grow Cannabis in Odisha (12)

BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Government may have successfully contained the Maoist mlitants in some pockets of the state but the government is yet to plug the cannabis cultivation which, police believe, is a major source of funding for the ultras. “Whenever we get information about ganja (ganja) cultivation, we destroy the crops and take action against the culprits,” Director General of Odisha Police Sanjeev Marik told IANS. He admitted that the Maoists are directly and indirectly involved in the cannabis cultivation and are encouraging the farmers to do so. The state government has decided to take a multi-disciplinary approach to destroying cannabis cultivation in the state, involving the police, the excise department and the narcotics control bureau to chalk out and implement an action plan on this. Cannabis cultivation is happening in the state’s interior pockets, particularly in tribal-dominated districts where Maoists have unleashed terror among the village communities, another officer said. Clandestine cultivation of cannabis is rampant in eight districts – Angul, Deogarh, Sambalpur, Boudh, Kandhamal, Rayagara, Gajapati and Malkangiri, an official said. In fact, Excise Minister Damodar Rout has admitted that there are large tracts under cannabis cultivation in some districts. The excise department, with the assistance of police, forest and revenue officials, has destroyed cannabis worth Rs.2,500 crore in the last four years, an official said. “The government is taking steps to destroy the ganja cultivation in the state. It has engaged local people to inform about such cultivation and action is being takan against the violators under the law,” Rout told the assembly. He said 6.6 million illegal plants have been destroyed in eight districts by Jan 31. In the 2013-14 financial year, 9.05 million plants were destroyed, 4.57 millionin 2012-13 and 2.16 million in 2011-12, Rout said. Even though the police and excise department have been destroying the illegal cultivation from time to time, this is yet to be wiped out. Now, cannabis is being grown in dense hilly areas, where police face difficulties in destroying the crops. Sources said traders from neighbouring states like Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh are encouraging farmers to cultivate cannabis, which provides better returns than paddy. (New Indian Express 4/4/15)

81. Underage marriages low in Chhattisgarh’s Naxal hit areas (12)

RAIPUR: Defying the national trend of 33% of women getting married before the age of 18 years, the hotbeds of Naxalism in Chattissgarh – Bastar, Bijapur and Narayanpur – have less than one-fourth (25%) of women tying the knot before their legal age. Contrary to the general perception that underage marriages are more prevalent in tribal societies, but Naxal affected areas of the state have lesser number of girls marrying before the age of 18 years even when compared to the urban cities of Chhattisgarh like Raipur and Drug. While the latest census report 2011 reveals that across the country almost one-third of women (33%) get married before the age of 18 years, in Chhattisgarh the number of such girls over 38%. Interestingly this figure is much higher in Durg where 44.7% of women tie the knot before the legal age of 18 years. In comparison, Raipur is lower at 36.8% but if compared to the national average, its high. In contrast, the Naxal affected and tribal dominated areas of Bijapur, Bastar and Naryanpur have far less number of women getting married before the age of 18 years. The figure is the lowest in Bijapur where only 12.27% girls married before their legal age. The figures in Bastar and Narayanpur are 22.2% and 17.45% respectively. As far as males are concerned, in Chhattisgarh 9.74% married before the age of 18. This figure is higher than the national average of 6%. The legal age of marriage of for males is 21 years. Here too, the cities surpass the tribal areas with higher percentage of boys getting married before attaining the age of 18 years. While the figures in Raipur and Durg are 8.28% and 12.5% respectively, the Naxal affected areas of Bastar, Bijapur and Naryanpur are much lower at 3.42%, 2.26% and 2.60% respectively. Talking to TOI Shatabdi Pandey, a social activist and former member of the state’s Women Commission, insecurity among women in urban areas is the main the reason for early marriages. She said unlike the urban areas, girls feel more secure in their own communities in tribal populations. She said, “social and sexual danger of single women in urban areas is the main reason for their early marriages”.According to the census report, 34.2% of all married women in the state, tied the knot between the age of 18-19 years. There numbers however get decreasing at the age of 20-21years (14.9%) and 22-23 years (5.17%). The numbers of women getting married above the age of 30 years is extremely low as only y 11,225 (0.15%) tied the knot above the age of 34 years. When compared to the neighbouring states, barring Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh has a higher number of women getting married before the age of 18 years than Odisha (24.7%) and Maharashtra (28%). In MP the figure is however higher at 39.5%.According to the data, about 4.3% of the state’s adult population (above 25 years) remained unmarried.  (Times of India 5/4/15)

82. Nine states share intel on controlling Maoist-related probs (12)

Bhubaneswar: Senior police officers of nine Left Wing Extremism (LEW) hit states on Wednesday gathered to discuss ways to tackle Maoist-related problems. The workshop, organised by the Home Ministry, was chaired by Odisha DGP Sanjeev Marik and attended by intelligence heads Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Bihar. “There were discussions on successful models being used by the Odisha government in tackling the LWEs,” DGP Marik told reporters adding the officers of other states were told on the steps taken by Odisha in successfully controlling the Maoist menace in the past three years. The meeting was attended by senior officers of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Odisha DGP Sanjiv Marik, additional DGP A K Sarangi, Intelligence ADG Sunil Roy and other top IPS officers. The MHA had directed the Maoist-affected states to replicate the strategy used by the Odisha Police to deal with the Red rebels, Marik told reporters after the meeting. “The focus of the meeting was on Intelligence sharing among the Naxal affected states,” he said. Senior officers of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana shared their views through video presentation of their respective strategies, which have helped them combat Maoist menace successfully in their states. Among others, senior officers of CRPF, BSF and the Intelligence Bureau were present in the meeting. (Zee News 9/4/15)

TRAFFICKING

83. Cry for law to curb human trafficking (1)

Ranchi, April 2: Anti-trafficking activists are pitching for a legislation to regulate placement agencies in Assam, given the rise in trafficking of children from the state to work as domestic helps in the metros. According to NGOs working against child trafficking, the need for such a law is now being felt more than ever as Assam has become an important source area in the country for trafficking children for domestic labour in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Digambar Narzary, chairperson of Nedan Foundation, a Kokrajhar-based anti-trafficking NGO, said such a law was very much required in Assam, and Dispur should take a cue from Chhattisgarh, which was the first state in the country to enact a legislation last year to rein in private placement agencies involved in the trafficking of women and children to metros. Speaking to The Telegraph on the sidelines of the Fourth Anti-Trafficking in Persons Conclave held here recently, Narzary said many districts in Assam, such as Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Sonitpur, had become the hotbed of trafficking. Echoing Narzary, Ravi Kant, president of the NGO Shakti Vahini, said a Chhattisgarh-like legislation was required in Assam to make it mandatory for placement agencies and their agents operating in the state to get registered with the government to ensure better monitoring of these agencies. Kant said Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das had announced during the conclave that his government would promulgate a law to regulate placement agencies to check human trafficking. “The Assam government should also bring such an act as soon as possible,” he added. Kant, who has been behind the rescue of several children who were forced to work as domestic helps in Delhi in subhuman conditions, said the absence of such an act in Assam made it difficult to ascertain the exact number of placement agencies and their agents operating in the state. Over the years, Assam has become a source area for trafficking of children who are forced to work as domestic helps, are often exploited, abused, even pushed into the flesh trade or simply remain untraced. Nobel laureate and child rights crusader Kailash Satyarthi, during his visit to Assam in December 2012, had acknowledge the fact that the state had emerged as one of the biggest source areas, transit route and destination for trafficking of children. “It is the choicest place for child traffickers to thrive on account of frequent natural calamities, insurgency, acute poverty, illiteracy, ignorance of the masses and extremely weak law enforcement,” the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan had said. Satyarthi had also expressed concern over the low conviction rate in human trafficking cases in Assam and had underscored the need to clamp down on dubious placement agencies, which source children from the state to employ them as domestic helps. These kids often end up being physically abused and sexually exploited. NGOs involved in rescuing trafficked children said the owners of placement agencies keep the children in confinement in unhygienic conditions for days and prevent them from communicating with relatives back home. There is a vicious network of human traffickers who bring children mostly belonging to poverty-stricken and remote regions of Assam, Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar to the metros, they added. (The Telegraph 3/4/15)

84. 200 railway stations to have anti-child trafficking measures by year-end: Maneka (1)

MANGALURU: Union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi said that the ministry is planning to bring 200 railway stations across the country under its radar by the end of this year in a move to curb child trafficking. “About 90% of the child trafficking cases take place through railway network and there are 12,000 railway stations in the country and we have started the programme in 20 stations,” she said here on Sunday. The ministry will put up posters in all bogies and ask passengers to call 1098 in case they see a child travelling alone or in an uncomfortable situation with adults . “As soon as the train reaches the next station, somebody will come to investigate the matter. Passengers can also inform railway police,” she added. The ministry will also set up telephone booths in railway stations where a child can come and call for help. “We hope these measures will help stop child trafficking,” she said. She said that priority will be given to set up more phone booths in railway stations so that children can dial the Childline’s number quickly. “Officials will arrive at the address and do the needful. We will also create awareness among railway officials so that they can identify children in distress and inform NGOs who will rehabilitate them,” she added. Childline director Rene D’Souza said the system has been made centralized through a central communication centre and all calls are routed through Chennai and hence it is difficult to know how many cases are reported from railway stations in Mangaluru. Last year the Childline received 3,555 calls and of them 13 were from railway stations. The centre gets about 350-400 calls pertaining to child abuse and trafficking every month. (Times of India 6/1/15)

CORRUPTION

85. Promises steps to curb flight of black money (5)

BENGALURU: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday indicated that his government would not only work towards bringing back the black money stashed away in foreign banks, but also take measures to prevent further flow of black money to other countries. “We need to not only bring back whatever has gone away, but also make arrangements to ensure that no one dares to take away fresh black money abroad. I want to assure the people of the country that we will initiate the necessary measures,” Mr. Modi said, while addressing a public meeting here. He said that his government would fulfil the aspirations of people who wanted tough measures against corruption. He said the Opposition carried out a false propaganda against his government and questioned its commitment to the pre-poll promise of bringing back black money. But they could not suppress the truth, he said while pointing out that a Special Investigation Team had been formed to look into the issue and that the team had been regularly filing reports before the Supreme Court. He said those ridiculing the government had to keep quiet after the Finance Minister introduced a Bill in Parliament to curb black money, he said. (The Hindu 4/4/15)

86. Delhi anti-corruption helpline gets over 12K calls in 24 hrs (5)

New Delhi:  AAP government’s anti-corruption helpline, re-launched yesterday in Delhi, has received 12,731 calls in 24 hours, with most of them wanting to know about the process of registering a graft case. “Most of the calls received at helpline were made to inquire about how to register corruption case with the Anti Corruption Branch (ACB). The calls received so far are being analyzed to segregate between frivolous and real calls,” a senior official said today. Yesterday Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had launched the 24×7 helpline, which can answer over 10,000 calls a day. The made-over re-launch comes after the service, during AAP’s previous stint, could respond to only 1,000 calls a day due to shortage of lines, the official said. He also said genuine calls, after segregation, would be forwarded to Anti-Corruption Branch for further investigation. “Some of the calls which have been segregated have already been sent to the ACB for further probe. Cases being forwarded to the ACB include complaints against Delhi Police, Municipal Corporation, Education Department, Transport Department, Jal Board, Delhi Fire etc,” he said. The data of calls received will be made public on a regular basis for the convenience and information of the public, official said. In order to strengthen the Anti Corruption Branch, government has increased its strength from 30 to 40 inspectors who work with 40 teams to investigate cases of corruption at any point of time. Besides increasing its staff strength, Delhi Government has directed to increase the budget allocation to the anti-graft wing to Rs 15 crore from Rs 8 crore. The official also said the Delhi Dialogue Commission (DDC), an advisory body of the AAP government, will study global practices and define a vision for ACB. The anti-corruption helpline was first launched during Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) 49-day stint in power after the 2013 Assembly elections, but was later discontinued. Reviving the helpline was one of the poll promises made by the party this year. Last time around 1.2 lakh calls were made on the helpline, during 49 days of AAP’s rule.  (Deccan Herald 6/4/15)

87. Punjab PSC ex-chairman gets 7 years (5)

Chandigrh: The court of additional sessions judge in Patiala on Tuesday sentenced former chairman of Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) Ravi Sidhu to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment along with Rs 1 crore fine, holding him along with three others guilty in the infamous cash-for-job scam that was unearthed by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau in 2002. The court sentenced the then PPSC secretary Pritpal Singh and Paramjit Singh Pammi to four-year rigorous imprisonment along with Rs 5,000 fine while another accused P.S. Sodhi got two years imprisonment with bail. The case was registered at the VB police station, Patiala, under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471-A, 409 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 7, 13(1) (d) (i) of the Prevention of Corruption Act against Ravi Sidhu, his mother Pritpal Kaur, brother Reetinder Singh, sister-in-law Ajinder Kaur, Pritpal Singh and others. The first case was registered against Sidhu on March 25, 2002, after he was nabbed red-handed accepting a bribe of Rs 5 lakh from Bhupjit Singh, excise and taxation inspector. He was also booked for possessing assets disproportionate to his income. As the recruitment scam assumed bigger proportions and a large number of appointments recommended by the commission appeared tainted, the Vigilance Bureau decided to file a separate case. (Asian Age 8/4/15)

88. 59 complaints transferred to ACB (5)

NEW DELHI: Within 72 hours of the anti-corruption helpline being launched by the Delhi Government, the facilitators working with the helpline have found 59 complaints of serious nature, which have been forwarded to the Anti Corruption Branch (ACB) for further probe and necessary action. Officials said the helpline team has so far referred 150 calls to the facilitators for further action and of these 59 have been found to be fit for further probe by the ACB. “The complaints that have been referred for further probe include those against the Delhi Police, MCD, DDA and even against departments of the Delhi Government. Only those cases where evidence have been provided by the complainant, and prima facie the complaints were found to have any merit have been recommended for further probe,” an official said. Till now, the anti corruption helpline of Delhi government answered a total of 26,712 telephone calls till 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The re-launched helpline is functioning on a 24×7 basis. (The Hindu 9/4/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

89. Delhi’s waste-to-energy plants ‘toxic, costly, inefficient’ (9)

NEW DELHI: Waste-to-energy incineration plants may not help Delhi deal with its massive trash problem. They may instead end up adding to its air pollution and cost the government a substantial sum. When two such plants in Narela and Ghazipur are about to start operations, experts at a conference organized by Toxics Link, an environmental NGO, said incineration plants are expensive, yet unviable. There is a consensus that mixed trash is unsuitable for incineration, as it’s not only polluting but extremely inefficient due to its low calorific value. Shyamala Mani, professor at National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), that assists the ministry of urban development in formulating policies, highlighted concerns with the quality of waste in cities. She quoted a recent study by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that measured the emissions from a landfill site called Dhapa near Kolkata and found very high levels of non-methane volatile organic compounds including several carcinogens. Since the composition of waste in cities is similar, the findings apply to Delhi’s poorly managed landfill sites and mixed waste as well. The study concluded that the cumulative cancer risk was found to be 2,792 per million population. Workers at landfill sites are at major risk. NIUA has made formal representations to the ministry of environment, forests and climate change and CPCB requesting a policy to be drafted for handling of hazardous waste from homes and small industries. “Mercury in Indian waste is 10 to 15 times the prescribed standard. Unless MoEFCC supports us with a detailed description of how these can be handled, we are skeptical,” she said referring to plans for more waste-to-energy plants. She also highlighted that the calorific value of mixed waste is about 50% lower than what’s required for incineration. This leads to less energy being generated. Pollution control measures for these plants are also expensive. (Times of India 1/4/15)

90. Environmentalists warn against concretisation in cities, towns (9)

NEW DELHI:  “There is an urgent need to stop encroachment on drains and prevent them from being used as dumping grounds,” noted Professor A.K. Gosain, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi. Professor Gosain was speaking at a seminar on ‘Ground Concretisation — inducing Climate Change, Water Scarcity and Loss of Lives’ on Saturday at Zakir Husain College. Meanwhile, environmentalists, under the umbrella of non-government organisation Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity, have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They have warned against the critical threat to the nation’s environment from increasing soil and ground concretisation in cities and towns; direct augmentation of climate change, posing gloom to country’s groundwater resources, and seeking urgent intervention and strong action. Vice-president and Society conservation head Aruna Vashishtha said: “Civic, development and construction agencies across the country are mindlessly turning permeable soil ground surfaces into impervious covers that nearly eliminate the possibility of natural groundwater recharge while critically upsetting the entire ecology.” Increasing concretisation of soil with concrete and cemented slabs in our towns and cities augment climate change, as soil is the biggest carbon sink after forests and oceans, noted the letter. “There are several ecological hazards that our cities and towns face due to this seemingly petty but gravely hazardous practice adopted by the agencies, the ill-consequences of which will be borne by the future generations,” said the letter. Environmentalists have warned that the situation has turned so critical that there are virtually no soil areas left in cities and towns for rainwater to percolate and recharge the groundwater aquifers. (The Hindu 5/4/15)

91. Gulf storm haze triggers pollution fears in Maharashtra (9)

Pune: Parts of Maharashtra continue to suffer low visibility due to the after-effects of last week’s major sandstorm in the Gulf region. The effects of the ‘haboob’ (Arabic for intense dust storm) will be felt in the State for the next 48 hours, say meteorologists. “The haze seen over Mumbai, Pune and Nashik is the residual element of the Gulf sandstorm which has now crossed the Arabian Sea,” said Dr. Gufran Beig, senior scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM). Dr. Beig, project director of the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), said that the particulate matter in the air was likely to increase in the next two days. Air quality is monitored by measuring the presence of particulate matter (PM) in air. PM10 refers to particles that are 10 micrometres (less than the width of a human hair) in diameter or less. It is feared that the PM10 levels in the air over Maharashtra may shoot up to 200 micrograms per cubic metre of air in the next two days. PM10 levels in Mumbai and Pune were about 70 micrograms per cubic metre of air on Sunday. The phenomenon has alarmed physicians who are worried that the pollution may trigger asthma attacks and cause respiratory ailments. (The Hindu 6/4/15)

92. Centres Proposed Environmental Steps Draw Flak From Activists (9)

BENGALURU:The wide-ranging environmental measures proposed by the NDA government, based on the recommendations of the TSR Subramanian Committee, have drawn flak from conservationists. The committee has suggested sweeping changes to environmental, forest and biodiversity protection laws of the country. The Centre is in the process of eliciting the support of various state governments, state pollution control boards and other organisations on the proposals, which seek to hasten clearances for various infrastructure and industrial projects. Calling the proposed steps as highly regressive, Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group said it would result in irreversible damage to environment and human rights and will compromise the ecological security of present and future generations. “The proposed reforms are oriented towards promoting unprecedented access to land, water and other natural resources to large corporate bodies and pave the way for mega infrastructure, industrial and urban projects,” he said. He said the committee has proposed new laws to manage old laws, and “promotes the establishment of a slew of new bureaucracies and the dismantling of decades-old regulatory institutions such as the pollution control boards”. Terming the recommendations as flawed, Praveen Bhargava of Wildlife First said, “Several recommendations of the committee are not going to help and strengthen conservation. It is hoped that the Parliamentary Standing Committee to which the TSR report has been referred to evaluates the proposals carefully to ensure that no further dilution of forest and wildlife clearances takes place.” Even the existing forest laws are not being implemented properly, and the Centre’s move to go in for wide-ranging changes will be a disaster, said noted wildlife conservationist D V Girish. “Following the China-model for development will be a total disaster for conservation in this country and all the state governments should give serious thought before agreeing to the proposals. Any dilution or process to dismantle the existing forest laws will sound the death knell for conservation efforts,” he added. Another shocking proposal of the committee is that industries should be allowed to self-regulate on a self-certification model based on utmost good faith, he said. This completely ignores India’s disastrous experience, most painfully by the people of Bhopal, he said. “The very pillars on which India’s environmental jurisprudence stands today will be shaken,” said Saldanha. “We appeal to all the state governments to reject the environmental reforms proposed by the Centre,” he added. (New Indian Express 8/4/15)

93. Greenpeace protests helped other nations: MHA (9)

New Delhi: The Union Home Ministry believes that Greenpeace India was helping foreign policy “interests” of United Kingdom government by protesting against Mahan coal block and damaging India’s energy security needs. A government document, prepared by the ministry’s Foreigners Division after six months of investigation into Greenpeace activities, says so though it does not take the name of the UK directly. The government had mentioned about “foreign policy interest of other nations” in last year’s Intelligence Bureau report and during arguments in Delhi High Court early this year on activist Priya Pillai’s offloading case from plane but it never mentioned a particular country then. In the recent dossier prepared after its investigations, the ministry referred to Greenpeace UK’s “very keen interest” in promoting Greenpeace India’s “ground level protest-creation” activities by sending 13 foreign activists (nine British, three American and an Australian)  to “train, equip and guide” Indian activists. The document claimed that after government blocked foreign donations from Greenpeace International and Climate Works Foundation in June last year, Greenpeace UK decided to coordinate seven Indian activists’ testimony before All Party Parliamentary Group of UK, with all expenses borne by Greenpeace UK. The Indian activists were “tasked to testify on the alleged poor state of tribal people in India and the manner in which the government had allegedly increased efforts to rob the tribal people of their rights, which are absolutely false allegation,” the dossier said. The ministry goes on to say that, “the testimony would have been paid for by foreign funds, to testify or depose before foreign MPs of a foreign government, for a purpose which would advance the foreign policy interests of only the foreign government”. “Such an act, apart from helping a foreign government’s foreign policy, had the potential to damage India’s energy security and economic interests substantially,” it added. It said Greenpeace India prepared seven activists to testify before the UK panel but only Pillai could get visa. However, India did not allow Pillai to go as she was offloaded from a London-bound plane in January. The dossier said Pillai was posted by the NGO in Mahan, Madhya Pradesh, since 2011 to “initiate dissension” amongst villagers and to create protests to prevent coal mining by Mahan Coal Ltd’s 1200 MW thermal power plant. It also alleged that Greenpeace India employed a fultime PR and Political Affairs Advisor at a monthly salary of Rs 1, 04,850, in violation of its terms and conditions that it will not participate or intervene in any political campaign. (Deccan Herald 10/4/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

94. Modi asks RBI to prepare 20-yr road map for financial inclusion (20)

Mumbai : Prime Minister Narendra Modi today asked the Reserve Bank to prepare a 20-year road map for financial inclusion and nudged banks to be considerate in giving loans to the poor as also while making recoveries from them, especially farmers. “RBI will be completing 100 years in 2035…It will be appropriate for the central bank to work on the theme of financial inclusion and prepare a road map for achieving it,” he said while addressing a function to mark the 80th anniversary of the Reserve Bank of India. The other milestones for achieving financial inclusion could be 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019, 75th year of Independence in 2022, 90th anniversary of RBI in 2025 and 100 years of RBI in 2035, the Prime Minister said. “These are four important dates…We can create a road map for financial inclusion,” he said, adding that the financial inclusion should not remain a government programme but should become “an article of faith”.Expressing concern of farmers’ suicides and the plight of the poor people in the country, Modi asked the bankers to be considerate in providing financial assistance to poor. Farmers’ plight should, he added, shake up the conscience of the banking sector. “Our farmers commit suicide. The pain of this should not only be restricted to newspapers and TV screens. When farmer dies, does it shake the heart of banking sector? Because of taking loan from money lender, he has to face death,” Modi said. The Prime Minister also called upon the bankers to extend credit to resource-rich eastern states. (Business Standard 2.4.15)

95. 200 farmers committed suicide in Marathwada, says official (20)

AURANGABAD: The total number of farmers who committed suicide during the last three months in the eight districts of Marathwada region has crossed 200, official sources said here today. The main reason behind taking the extreme step is bankruptcy due to loans which cannot be repayed due to crops destroyed by natural calamities. Notably, last year, 510 farmers ended their lives. As of 2015, families of 105 farmers who ended their lives, received government assistance, whereas 29 farmers were not eligible. When asked about rejection of aid to families of 29 farmers, a district administration official said, “The criterion for government compensation states that farmers who had committed suicide should have taken loans in his name and he should not be an alcoholic”.About 39,77,000 farmers from the Marathwada region are eligible for compensation since crops including cotton, maize and soyabean were entirely destroyed, though the total number of farmers committing suicide in Marathwada is 206, official sources said.It may be noted that a drought-like situation has prevailed in the region since 2011 and ground water level went down by about one feet. (Times of India 8/4/15)

96. Maharashtra cities corner more farm loans than villages: Study (20)

MUMBAI: At the RBI’s 80th anniversary recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invoked farmers’ suicides to urge banks to lend more to cultivators. “When a farmer dies, does it shake the conscience of the banking sector? He faces death because he has taken loans from a moneylender,” Mr Modi said. Credit to the farm sector has in fact risen across the country over the last decade. Yet, in Maharashtra, which reports the highest farmer’s suicides in the country, the bulk of farm loans ironically do not go to farmers, says a new study based on RBI data. Although the majority of farmers live in rural areas, a larger portion of agricultural loans are supplied by urban and metropolitan branches of scheduled commercial banks, the study says. Urban and metropolitan branches of these banks accounted for nearly 44% of agricultural credit, the study said. By contrast, rural branches supplied almost 30%. The study by economists R Ramakumar and Pallavi Chavan is based on data from the RBI’s report “Basic Statistical Returns of Scheduled Commercial Banks in India” for 2013. So loans to farmers are not driving the rise in agricultural credit. Instead the major beneficiaries in the revival of farm credit in this decade are agri-businesses and corporates involved in agriculture, the authors say. This is because the definition of agricultural credit has been expanded to include these businesses. “The definition now includes loans to corporate and agri-business institutions as well as storage equipment in cities. It also includes loans for commercial and export-oriented agriculture,” says Ramakumar, an economist with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. The growth in agricultural credit has also been fuelled by a rise in indirect loans, the study says. Direct loans are given to farmers while indirect loans are given to institutions indirectly involved in agricultural production. Significantly, the share of credit to small and marginal farmers has dropped dramatically across the country, the study shows. Instead, loans of Rs 1 crore and above are driving the revival of agricultural credit, the study says. The share of direct agricultural loans worth less than Rs 25,000 from scheduled commercial banks has fallen sharply, the study shows. It reduced from a share of almost 23% % in 2005 to just 4.3% in 2013. On the other hand, the share of direct agricultural loans worth over Rs 1 crore rose from 7.5 % in 2005 to 10% in 2013. This means mega-loans worth over Rs 1 crore account for a higher share of banks loan to agriculture at 10% of the loan share than small loans for marginal farmers which stand at 4.3%. “The 1990s were the lost decade in rural banking. There was large-scale closure of commercial banks in rural areas,” says Ramakumar. Since 2000, there has been a growth of agricultural credit, but a major part of this growth is illusory, he says. “It is driven by the expansion of funding to corporate and agri-business institutions involved in agriculture, high-value loans and credit from urban and metropolitan branches,” he says. (Times of India 9/4/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

97. Govt against consent of tribals for displacement (4)

New Delhi: India has told the World Bank that it is not ‘comfortable’ with mandatory need for free, informed and prior consent of tribals who are displaced for projects funded by the Bank. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s submission to the Bank comes at a time when it is working to do away with the need for consent from tribals, while handing over their traditional forests to industry. India’s position was stated to the World Bank during consultations held on the latter’s Safeguard Policies & Proposed Environmental and Social Framework. This document, once finalised, would become the policy the Bank follows while lending to countries for specific projects. The NDA government told the World Bank that India has domestic laws and rules that protect tribal rights, including the powers of consent “in some cases” and the Bank should rely on such domestic regulations instead of imposing its own conditions. But, domestically, the NDA government is on the verge of passing executive orders that would do away with the veto powers of tribals that protect their forestlands in most cases. At present, the Forest Rights Act requires governments to seek the prior informed consent of gram sabhas (village councils) of tribals when their traditional forestlands are to be given over to industry or other development projects. Since June 2014, the government has been working to dilute these provisions though it’s been opposed by the tribal affairs ministry tooth and nail. The need for consent while using tribal people’s non-forest lands is available only in the limited Schedule V and VI areas under the land ordinance and does not extend to all tribal lands in the country. The Indian submission to the World Bank says the proposed Bank policy “prohibits forced evictions of indigenous peoples. This standard mandates that in three specific circumstances free, informed and prior consent is needed before proceeding with a project affecting indigenous people. We are not comfortable with this provision.” The NDA government justified this saying, “Domestic laws of acquisition and protection of such communities already provide for adequate safeguards, including consent before acquisition can take place in certain cases. The Bank thus needs to rely on such domestic laws/guidelines where the domestic laws rules etc. take care of such issues.” It added, “The proposed clauses like free, prior and informed consent (replacing consultation process) can lead to legal complications, delays, increase in costs and delay in project execution.” Consultations are non-binding in nature but prior informed consent gives tribals veto powers over the use of their lands. Reacting to this submission, Aruna Chandrashekhar, Amnesty India’s Business and Human Rights Researcher, said, “This further contributes to a disturbing trend of the government’s unwillingness to even listen to its citizens’ concerns on decisions affecting their lands and resources. Along with recent attempts to bypass the Forest Rights Act for a variety of different projects, its current position on respecting the free, prior, informed consent of adivasi communities is a distinct reversal from its decision on the Niyamgiri mine in 2013.” Amnesty has been tracking the debate on the World Bank safeguards and environmental policy. India has demanded that the Bank’s lending policy should not be intrusive setting up long-term inspections and environmental supervision of projects that go beyond and are more onerous than the requirements of domestic law. “The engagement of the WorldBank should be in the spirit of partnership, and should be non-intrusive,” it has said. “Besides the creating an intrusive regime, such conditionalities imposed on loans from the Bank create an imbalance in the way environmental and sustainability norms are imposed globally. Most of the Bank’s borrowers are developing countries, we must remember,” said a senior government official, who was part of the consultations for preparing India’s reply. “The policy should not become a backdoor route to impose additional and more onerous targets on developing countries. The lending must be in adherence to domestic laws of each country,” he added. India has also opposed strict standards and monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption of projects for which the country borrows from the Bank. (Business Standard 1/4/15)

98. Amendments in land acquisition bill is for development: LS Speaker (4)

INDORE: Terming the amendments made in the land acquisition bill as being in the interest of the nation, Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Sunday said that the changes are being made keeping in mind the changing economic scenario along with the overall development of the nation. She added that important aspects of the bill such as compensation to farmers and getting their consent before acquiring their land have been retained. Amendments are only made to speed up the work. “Every government has the right to make new law and make amendments in the existing law,” said Mahajan adding that laws, passed by the government, do not belong to any particular party, law is passed and amended by the parliament. Referring to her recent Vietnam visit, she said small countries like Vietnam, which have come out of devastating wars just few decades back, have made progress because of the people of the region. “After seeing wide roads and all round development, when I tried to understand how they acquire land for it, I was informed that people readily give their land and provide all kind of support for development works,” said Mahajan adding that though Vietnam government give compensation for land but people themselves come forward in support of development projects. “This kind of thinking and support of people have helped in the progress of Vietnam,” said Mahajan adding that similar kind of thinking and support is needed in India for the development of the country. (Times of India 5/4/15)

99. Gadkari asks industry to pay adequate relief to farmers (4)

NEW DELHI: Transport minister Nitin Gadkari, the government pointsperson on the controversial land bill, on Tuesday asked industry to stop cutting corners when it comes to paying compensation to farmers for land acquisition. Addressing a conference organized by industry body, CII, Gadkari said he was surprised how companies do not say anything when bank interests go up, but try hard instead to get land deals at cheaper rates. “Even if the project is of Rs 10,000 crore and the cost of land is just Rs 25 crore, the companies try their level best to get that land for Rs 10 crore or Rs 15 crore,” said the minister who is leading the firefight in the face of a combined opposition threatening to stonewall the land bill in Rajya Sabha. Gadkari said paying a little more to farmers will save the amount incurred due to cost escalation for delay in land acquisition. He said highway developers have been lining up to get out of projects since he took over. Gadkari said that developers approached him since he took over to terminate contracts after charging penalty. NHAI has terminated 39 projects totaling about 4,700 km and four more are likely to be terminated or cancelled. “After terminating the contracts we bring them back for awarding. In the past months, environment clearances have been sanctioned for 70-80 projects and approvals for about 80 railway bridges have been accorded. We will have no outstanding issues by end of April,” Gadkari said. Referring to the state of Indian developers in the highway sector he put the blame on several reasons including the rolling out of projects during UPA despite having little land and high interest rate on bank loans for such works. The minister claimed that he is hopeful of achieving the target of constructing 30 km highway per day in the next one year. Since NDA government came to power, outstanding issues have been sorted out in 28 projects and there is a plan to complete 16 other projects who are stalled for want of funds. Gadkari said that from now onwards no project will be awarded until there is 80% land availability. (Times of India 8/4/15)

100. We are not averse to more amendments to Land Acquisition Bill, says Gadkari (4)

NEW DELHI: Hopeful of bringing the opposition on-board to get the much-debated land legislation passed, Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday said the government is not averse to more changes to the bill. “We are not averse to more amendments to the Land Acquisition Bill provided they are good and substantial in nature. There is no restriction on fresh changes,” road transport and highways minister Gadkari said.  But at the same time, he cautioned that amendments aimed at delaying the measure and scoring political points against the government would certainly not be considered. “We accepted nine amendments to the bill after discussion in the Lok Sabha. We are obviously open to new changes,” he said. Asked about NDA government’s lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha, the union minister said that he is hopeful of getting support from the Upper House. (Times of India 9/4/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

101. Malnutrition behind 55% of TB cases in India, not HIV (3)

NEW DELHI: The search for a tuberculosis vaccine has proved elusive despite decades of research. However, there is one vaccine that has been found to cut TB disease incidence in India by half — food. Chronic lack of adequate food is the reason for more than half of the TB infections here progressing to become a fullblown disease, says a study. In an international publication ‘Eradicating TB – Challenges, Perspectives, Solutions’, of the Observer Research Foundation, experts from across the world and India stressed on the need for India’s TB control programme to take into account the role of social conditions such as rising inequity, malnutrition, poverty and over-crowding in the spread of TB. Even though 40% of the Indian population or 480 million people carry the TB bug within their body, TB cases annually is estimated to be 2.3 million, a fraction of those who carry the infection. “Over 90% of those carrying the TB bug are able to prevent the infection from becoming TB disease with the help of the body’s immune system. Anything that reduces the strength of one’s immunity, like lack of good nutritious food, increases the risk of contracting TB,” explained Dr Anurag Bhargava of the Himalayan Institute of Medicine and an expert on TB treatment. Instead of Direct Observed Treatment Short course (DOTS), a World Health Organisation (WHO) concept, Dr Bhargava felt that it might be more effective to have a programme more suited to Indian needs called DOST—Directly Observed and Supported Treatment – which would offer TB patients and their families nutritional support and counselling through behavorial change of healthcare providers along with treatment. He added that several studies have shown that unlike many African countries, where HIV is the biggest risk factor for TB, in India, 55% of TB is attributable to under nutrition. An annual estimated mortality of 2, 70,000 deaths means that TB claims one life in India every two minutes. According to R S Gupta, former deputy director general of the Central TB Division in India, malnutrition is one of the primary reasons for the high incidence of TB. “TB patients suffers from loss of appetite, nutrient malabsorption, micronutrient malabsorption and altered metabolism, which leads to wasting. Deficiency in proteins and micronutrients increases the risk of TB. It has been found that malnourished TB patients have delayed recovery and higher mortality rates than well-nourished patients,” said Gupta. “It cannot be stressed enough that without ensuring better nutrition and environmental conditions, mere medication, no matter how good and effectively administered, is unlikely to solve the problem,” said Harsh Sethi of the Observer Research Foundation. He added that, an underfed citizenry forced to live in unsanitary surroundings is unlikely to respond favourably to medical care. (Times of India 4/4/15)

102. Over 59,000 children to be covered under Indradhanush Mission (3)

BENGALURU: As many as 59,878 children, aged below two, who have missed their routine immunisation in the five Hyderabad-Karnataka districts of Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Raichur, Koppal, Ballari, Bengaluru (Urban) and in the jurisdiction of Bengaluru Bruhat Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) will be covered under the Centre’s ‘Mission Indradhanush’ that will be launched in the city on April 7. Health Minister U.T. Khader told presspersons on Tuesday that the programme was aimed at covering all those children who have either missed vaccination or are partially vaccinated against seven vaccine-preventable diseases, which include diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B. Expecting mothers will also be immunised for tetanus, he said. To ensure complete coverage, immunisation will be taken up for one week from the 7th of April, May, June and July. In the first phase, the programme will be taken up in five Hyderabad Karnataka districts as they have a low record of immunisation. It would be taken up in BBMP jurisdiction and in Bengalurue (Urban) due to high concentration of migration workers or labourers. (The Hindu 1/4/15)

103. SAARC health ministers’ meet to discuss major issues (3)

New Delhi: Health issues like prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases and disease surveillance network will be up for discussion at the 5th SAARC health ministers’ meet here on Wednesday. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) ministers’ meet will be presided over by union Minister for Health and Family Welfare J.P. Nadda, an official statement said here on Sunday. It will deliberate and provide guidance and a roadmap for strengthening collaboration among SAARC countries on a number of issues and challenges faced by them. Other health issues to be discussed at the meet will include health infrastructure, human resources for health, immunization for vaccine-preventable diseases, HIV/AIDS, mental health, improving access to medicines and anti-microbial resistance. The health ministers will also discuss for adoption ‘Delhi Declaration’, affirming their commitment to work together in identified areas and further strengthen health collaboration with agreed roadmap and timeliness. Prior to the meet, the 7th meeting of the SAARC expert group on HIV/AIDS, 5th meeting of the SAARC technical committee on health and population and the 5th meeting of the SAARC senior officials (health secretaries) will be held on Monday and Tuesday, the statement added. The meetings are being organised in pursuance of decisions taken by the SAARC summit of heads of states or governments held at Kathmandu in November, 2014. Fifty delegates from all SAARC countries, including India, comprising officials and experts will participate in the technical and official level meetings. The SAARC countries comprising India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, account for nearly a quarter of the world population. (Business Standard 5/4/15)

104. Vizianagaram tops in mother, child tracking (3)

VIZIANAGARAM: Vizianagaram has gained the first position in the State for uploading data pertaining to pregnant women under the mother and child tracking system, according to District Collector M.M. Naik. The system enables health officials to monitor the health chart of women and address problems like malnutrition and anaemia. “The achievement was possible owing to interaction with mandal and cluster-level officials on a regular basis,” the Collector said. Expressing happiness over the fall in maternal mortality rate in the district, Mr. Naik directed medical officers to update immunisation data online. (The Hindu 6/4/15)

HIV/AIDS

105. Pay HIV patient compensation for wrong incarceration: HC (3)

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has directed the State government to pay an interim compensation of Rs.1.5 lakh to a HIV patient, who was wrongly implicated in a criminal case by Dindigul police in 2005, leading to his conviction and incarceration for seven years. Justice M. Sathyanarayanan ordered the Home Secretary to disburse the compensation amount in four weeks, from the date of receipt of the order copy, since the patient was reported to be in a serious condition and was in need of money for medical as well as incidental expenses. The judge also directed the Director-General of Police to submit a report by June 8 explaining the reasons for having promoted a Sub-Inspector of Police and allowing an Inspector to retire from service though they were allegedly responsible for having implicated the patient wrongly. According to the patient’s counsel, R. Alagumani, his client Sambandan (name changed) was initially convicted by a Sessions Court in Periyakulam in Theni district on May 24, 2005, on charges of assaulting his wife with dangerous weapons and lodged in Madurai Central Prison. He challenged the conviction before the High Court in 2006 and got the sentence suspended. Meanwhile, the Dindigul Town West police booked him in another case, mistaking him to be the accused wanted in that case and got him sentenced to seven years of imprisonment. Disposing of a case filed by him against the two police officers, Murugan and R.M. Madhavan, for malicious prosecution, a Sessions Court in Dindigul on April 30, 2013 recommended initiation of criminal action against the officers and directed the petitioner to approach a civil court. Thereafter, the duo filed individual revision petitions in the High Court and obtained an interim stay on the Sessions Court order which paved the way for their promotion and retirement. On coming to know of it, the HIV patient too filed a revision petition this year seeking compensation. (The Hindu 1/4/15)

106. Depressed HIV patient lets dog eat into his wound (3)

HYDERABAD: In a heart-rending incident, an HIV patient who on Thursday allegedly attempted to end his life and in the process got his right leg crushed by a truck, looked on helplessly as a stray dog tried to consume his flesh, which was writhing with blood fresh from his wounds. The graphic scene unfolded right in front of the casualty wing of Gandhi Hospital on Friday morning. The patient, Gopi, who doctors said was depressed due to his health condition, did not even try to parry the dog. It was up to the onlookers to raise an alarm, as the gory scene unfolded. After a while, health care workers, who claimed they had no idea how the patient ended up outside the casualty after he was brought to the hospital on Thursday, brought him back to be sedated. Gopi was admitted to the hospital on Thursday between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. with his right leg run over by a truck and damaged from the thigh down. While onlookers and relatives of other patients in the emergency claimed Gopi was thrown out of the casualty because of being HIV positive, doctors said he went out on his own. However, it is yet not clear how a heavily sedated patient with his right leg crushed and plastered ended up at the portico of the emergency ward. “He was lying on a stretcher outside. He did not shout for help when the dog attacked his wound. Bystanders shouted at the dog, but by that time, the dog had managed to get its pound of flesh,” onlookers at the Gandhi Hospital said. Hospital doctors said Gopi had kept saying that he wanted to die. “He kept insisting that he wanted to get out and die. We learnt that he had no family ties because of his health condition. The casualty is a very busy place and there is a chance that he might have tried to get out on his own when doctors and nurses where busy handling other victims,” explained Resident Medical Officer S. Pramila. Gopi is now back in the casualty and being treated for dog attack and leg injury. “We are taking care of him, but he needs some psychological support too for depression,” doctors said. (The Hindu 3/4/15)

107. HIV+ woman gets a taste of civil hospital’s discrimination (3)

LUDHIANA: A gynaecologist at Lord Mahavira Civil Hospital here refused to perform a caesarean on a woman after he found out that she was HIV positive. In his defence, Dr Manjeet Bajwa alleged that the equipment provided for surgeries at the civil hospital was of poor quality and he did want to risk getting infected. The doctor’s refusal made the woman’s family shift her to a private hospital in Sunet, where the baby was delivered. Taking note of the incident, Dr Inderjeet Dhingra, the project director of Prevention of Parents to Child Transmission Project which is being implemented by Punjab State AIDS Control Society, has written a complaint to higher-ups regarding the incident. The HIV-positive patient was admitted to the civil hospital’s Mother Child Hospital on Monday. As soon as he came to know of the woman’s condition, Dr Bajwa refused to perform the delivery. However, following pressure from Ludhiana civil surgeon Dr Renu Chattwal and Punjab State Aids Control Society project director Dr US Sooch, he agreed to operate on the woman, only to go back to his earlier position on the day of the scheduled c-section. On Friday, Dr Manjeet Bajwa told the media: “I can’t put my life on stake as there are chances of getting infection from the patient. Moreover, the government provides us with low-quality kits, which are not reliable.” He also claimed that he did not get incentives for c-sections, so he could not risk his life. Dr Chattwal could not be contacted for comment on the allegations levelled by Dr Bajwa. Meanwhile, Dr Inderjeet Dhingra said, “I have written a complaint about this discriminatory behaviour by the doctor and sent it to the addition project director of Punjab State Aids Control Society. I have sought an inquiry against him.” Dr Bajwa had reportedly performed a c-section on another HIV-positive patient on Wednesday, but that procedure was performed without any prior tests.  (Times of India 4/4/15)

108. Therapy centres to aid HIV+ patients to find mates (3)

BAREILLY: For those fighting a lone battle against HIV, here is some hope. Many among the registered patients can now hope to find a life partner among other registered patients to lead a near normal life. The move is also expected to encourage patients who fear social taboo to come forward and register themselves with the Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) centres in the district in the days to come. According to sources, ART centers will collect biodatas of HIV patients who are willing to tie the nuptial knot with other HIV patients and bring them together, providing them with a ray of hope to lead a normal life. Sunil (name changed), a 27-year-old who tested HIV positive a few years ago, is looking forward to get married with another HIV positive patient. He is undergoing treatment and taking medicines at the ART centre in the district. Excited about the scheme, Sunil says, “It was not easy for me after I was diagnosed with HIV. Most of my friends and relatives started keeping a distance from me, which was a big blow for me. However, I refused to give up hope.” He said he had all but given up hope of finding a life partner. “However, after learning about my desire, ART centre officials began to collect biodata of patients willing to marry. I have approached them with my biodata and I’m hopeful that soon I too will lead a normal married life.” He is not alone in his quest for a mate. There are several HIV positive patients who are registered at ART centre in the district hospital here who wish to get married. For many HIV patients, ART centre’s initiative of finding a life partner for them is a dream come true. As part of the initiative, ART officials will distribute special marriage application forms among registered patients and will collect information and choice of life partner by individual patients. An ART official, Manoj Verma, said, “Distribution of marriage application forms will commence soon. There are a few patients who have expressed their desire to enter into matrimony. We had collected some biodata while several others who are not aware about the scheme will be informed about it.” Talking to TOI, Verma said, “Recently, directions in this regard were issued by senior officials at a three-day national conference on ‘early warning indicators’ held from March 24 to 26 in Lucknow. Officials gave their approval to work in this direction, which is likely to be connected with the national data-sharing application in the coming days.” Uttar Pradesh State Aids Control Society (UPSACS) in association with Uttar Pradesh Welfare for People Living with HIV/AIDS (UPNP Plus) will collect data of interested candidates across the state. As per reports, there are 1,142 HIV registered patients in Bareilly division. Out of these, 723 adult patients are male and 365 female. Among children, 22 are boys and 27 girls. They are all registered with ART centre in the district hospital along with five transgenders. Out of 1,142 registered patients, 875 patients are between 20 and 40 years old. According to officials, the step will not only encourage HIV positive patients to lead a normal life but will also motivate “hidden” patients who fear social boycott to register themselves with ART centres in the district. Talking to TOI, in-charge of the ART centre Dr Sanjeev Mishra said, “After directions from the head office, we are all set to prepare biodatas of HIV positive patients who are willing to get married with another HIV positive patient. Once a couple agrees, all such cases will be sent to the head office for final nod.” (Times of India 8/4/15)

109. Government aid to 75 HIV-affected orphans (3)

COIMBATORE: The Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society has sanctioned financial assistance of Rs. 2.98 lakh to 75 orphan and vulnerable children affected with HIV in Coimbatore. According to officials, the sum would be divided among the children. While some of them are in Children’s Homes, others are living with relatives. Further, the district administration has sanctioned free rice to 82 families with an HIV-affected person under a Central Government scheme. Launched on December 25, 2000, the Antyodaya Anna Yojana is a Central Government scheme aimed at providing food grains to the poor. Under the scheme, 35 families will have ‘AAY’ stamped on the ration cards. (The Hindu 10/4/15)