HR News

Volume 16                                            No.41                                             July 18, 2014

HR NEWS: JULY 18, 2014

(From July 9  To July 17, 2014)

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. When barriers to disallow dalits into temple were broken 75 years ago (2)

MADURAI: When a group of dalit students from Sevalayam, a children’s home in Madurai run by Harijan Seva Sangh (HSS) founded by Mahatma Gandhi visited the Meenakshi Amman temple and offered prayers, there was more significance to it. Though a simple event, the visit of the dalit students had a great historic significance marking the 75th anniversary of the temple entry movement in Madurai. It was on July 8, 1939 that dalits led by Gandhians A Vaidhyanatha Iyer entered the Meenakshi Amman temple. While the temple entry demolished the unwritten barrier of dalits and oppressed classes in Meenakshi Amman temple, the event also paved way for similar temple entries in other famous temples of south Tamil Nadu like Tiruchendur Subramanya Swamy temple. “But not many of youth in present day are aware of the history. They should learn history and continue the fight against such social inequalities,” said M Chidambara Bharathi, president, Amman Sannithi Gandhi Statue Committee who had made the arrangements for the commemoration event. The students of Sevalayam along with a host of social activists and freedom fighter Mayandi Bharathi and Gandhians entered the temple through the East tower and visited all the shrines to offer prayers. Explaining the significance of the event, Chidambara Bharathi said that dalits and nadars, a backward class, have been denied entry into temples for centuries. Their struggle to gain the right of entering and worshipping in temples including Meenakshi Amman temple were stiffly resisted more often leading to violent attacks on dalits. In Madurai, Vaidhyanatha Iyer and Gandhians like N M Subburaman held a temple entry conference and formed a committee to take forward their objective in June 1939. Finally, on July 8 the same year they managed to take into the temple dalits and a nadar amidst stiff oppression. Since then, the temple entry day is commemorated by dalits and freedom fighters. In a bid to honour Vaidhayanatha Iyer, a life-size statue was also erected in the city. After offering prayers in the temple, the tudents from Sevalayam and Gandhians also visited the statue and garlanded it. (Times of India 9/7/14)

2. Tension Rises as One More Dalit Attacked (2)

CHIDAMBARAM: A Dalit student was attacked at Vadakku Mangudi village near here on Wednesday, further intensifying the  prevailing tension. As people belonging to the intermediate caste and Dalit communities started gathering at the village, a heavy posse of police was deployed. According to sources, Santhosh (15), class X student of a government school, was attacked by four persons with a knife and other weapons on Wednesday. He was admitted to the Chidambaram GH. On hearing this, Human Right Party president L R Vishwanathan went to the village in his car, which was stoned. After this,  the Dalits and people of intermediate-caste started to gather at the village. As tension was running high, a heavy posse of police was deployed. Chidambaram DSP R Rajaram, Sethiathope DSP Suresh Babu were engaged in providing security. Cuddalore SP A Radhika went to the spot and coordinated the security arrangements. The problem between the two communities began on the evening of Parliamentary election day in the State (April 24) when some people from the intermediate-caste entered a Dalit colony and attacked the Dalits. Their properties were also damaged. In the attack, six persons were injured and two of them died later. Registering a case, Annamalai Nagar police arrested 50 persons of Vadakku Mangudi village belonging to the intermediate-caste for their hand in the attack. Following this, enmity between the communities has grown. On Monday night, two Dalit youths, who were travelling on a motorbike, were stopped and attacked by unknown persons. The injured are being treated at the government hospital, Chidambaram. Condemning the attack, VCK, CPM and some Dalits staged a road-blockade in front of the hospital on Tuesday. Police pacified them and the protest was withdrawn. Later, the Collector S Suresh Kumar rushed to the village and spoke to the residents. Meanwhile, L R Vishwanathan demanded an alternative place for the Dalits of this village. He said, “Dalits here are being continuously attacked. They are living an insecure life. So, the government should allocate a separate place for the Dalits of Vadakku Mangudi village. Otherwise, Dalits will surrender their ration cards and hold a protest.” (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

3. Caste Hindu beats up Dalit Boy With Brick (2)

THOOTHUKUDI: A caste Hindu man was booked for allegedly assaulting a 17-year-old Dalit boy with brick over a parking row, at Kayathar near here on Friday. Sources said Ashokaraja, a Dalit resident of Kayathar, had parked his bicycle in front of the house of Ayyannar, a caste Hindu, in South Colony, Indira Nagar, before entering his relative’s house. Ayyannar allegedly picked a quarrel with Ashokaraja and abused him using his caste name. He beat up Ashokaraja with brick. Ashokaraja sustained grievous injuries in the attack and was rushed to the Tirunelveli government hospital. Based on a compliant from Ashokaraja, the Kayathar Police booked a case under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Ordinance, 2014, against Ayyannar and launched an investigation. Sources said Ashokaraja used to regularly park his bicycle at a spot before entering his relative’s house to deliver food. There had been no fight over the issue between the two, sources claimed. Meanwhile, preliminary inquiries revealed that Ayyannar had earlier been booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in 2011 as well. (New Indian Express 3/7/14)

4. Dalit wedding fetes face feudal rage in Rajasthan (2)

Jaipur: It was Jaipal’s wedding at Gugal Kota in Alwar on June 21. His father, Roshan Lal, made him ride a decorated horse, at the head of the wedding party, to the bride’s home. But the Rajputs in the village disliked such a celebration by a Dalit family and they would not allow it to go on. Mr. Jaipal was pulled down from the horse on the road and the guests were attacked. Flying stones hit some of the revellers and some others were beaten up. Mr. Lal had to pay the price because he decided to celebrate his son’s wedding with fanfare that only the Rajputs used to have in the past. In the village, not a long way from the National Capital Region, three bridegrooms had earlier ridden horses under police protection. Only on June 18, another bridegroom, Kamlesh Regar, was pulled down from his horse at Tarnavon ka Kheda in Chittorgarh district. During the wedding season between March and June, nearly a dozen such Ghodi Utaro (pull down from a horse) incidents take place in the State. The upper caste people dislike such celebrations by the Dalits, more so if the bridegroom mounts a horse and goes to the bride’s house with band and music. “This is a typical feudal mentality at work, particularly in the regions with a higher population of Rajputs who believe that Dalits are not entitled to the same privileges as them,” P.L. Mimrothi of the Centre for Dalit Rights here says. While Ghodi Chadhna (riding a horse) is a major function for upper caste bridegrooms, a similar celebration often means trouble for the Dalit families, which have to face the ignominy of Ghodi Utaro. Earlier, when landlords and upper castes ruled these regions, they would celebrate weddings with customs such as sending the groom on an elephant or horse and a band troop would accompany the bride when she came to her husband’s house. While many things changed after Independence, the feudal thinking continues. “The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, is meant precisely for protecting the dignity of Dalits, but even then such incidents are happening,” Mr. Mimrothi says. Though some arrests are made off and on, conviction is almost nil. The Act emphasises the intention of the government to deliver justice to these communities through proactive efforts to enable them to live in society with dignity and self-esteem and without fear or violence or suppression from the dominant class. Earlier, only Rajput communities were known to oppose such celebrations by Dalits, but now Jats and Gujjars are also not behind, Mr. Mimrothi says. (The Hindu 14/7/14)

5. Unrestricted temple entry: agitation planned (2)

Tirupur: Dalit Liberation Movement- Tamil Nadu is planning agitations to get the issue of unrestricted temple entry demanded by Dalit community in the case of Uthamapalayam New Mariamman temple settled expeditiously. The Movement also would pursue the demand for speedy disbursal of the financial compensation to 150 Dalit people who were allegedly attacked by upper caste people when they tried to enter the temple in October 2010. S. Karuppaiah, state joint general secretary of the Movement, said almost a year had gone since the National Commission for Scheduled Castes directed the departments concerned to provide compensation to the victims. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

TRIBALS

6. ‘Economic liberalisation threatening tribal life’ (6)

CHENNAI: Forced land acquisition and unparalleled looting of natural resources on the pretext of development by corporate and big scale industries are threatening the existence of tribals in rural Chhattisgarh, according to Pravin Patel of Tribal Welfare Society, a Chhattisgarh-based NGO. At a conference organised by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Patel claimed that the Chhattisgarh  Government had been involved in such activities and added that economic liberalisation had only worsened the livelihood of tribals in States like Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. “It is a swim against tide for the tribals to reclaim their livelihood rights against the big mining and industrial interests,” he said. “Since liberalisation of our economic policies in 1991, the nation’s invaluable natural wealth has been looted indiscriminately by the corporate sector, without the right price for it,” he added. Elaborating on his statement, he said that as recently as 2012, the State government of Chhattisgarh allowed the coal and mining industry to operate whilst charging ‘insensible’ royalty rates. Recounting the episode of selling a 22-km stretch of Shivnath River, when the undivided Madhya Pradesh government sold it to a private party, Patel said that nowhere else the parties responsible for the ‘crime’ would have been allowed to walk free. “Absolute lawlessness prevails in these States. If you question the government, you will end up dead or silenced,” he said. Central jails in Chhattisgarh, the activist claimed, also hold the record for housing the largest number of undertrial inmates arrested on false charges of having Maoist links. “Tribals would be targeted and arrested on false charges that they have links with Maoist and Naxalite groups. They would then spend the next eight to 10 years in prison while under trial or in some cases that will never be tried,” said Dr V Suresh, national general secretary of PUCL. “The harsh truth is that 10 years later nearly all of them will be declared innocent and released without conviction. Such things help corporates in the land grabbing,” he added. (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

7. Tribal groups protest in Delhi (6)

Kokrajhar, July 11: The tribal organisations of Assam today staged a dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in support of their various demands. More than 100 tribal organisations staged a sit-in with placards, festoons and banners from 11am to 2pm to demand revision of tribal land policy and preparation of a new land policy of Assam and implementation of the Assam SCs and STs (Reservation of Vacancies in Services and Posts) Act, 2012. “The loopholes in the Chapter X of the Assam Land and Revenue (Regulation) Act, 1886, has given a chance to exploit it. Therefore, a major chunk of land from the tribal belt and block have already been grabbed by non-bona fide persons or sometimes by the government itself,” the general secretary of All Assam Tribal Sangha, Aditya Kaklary, said. The organisations are vehemently opposed to the inclusion of some more advanced communities into the list of ST (plains) category. The group members said the Assam government has recently forwarded a proposal to the Centre despite the Registrar General of India and the National Commission for STs turning down such a proposal on the ground that these communities namely the Morans, Muttocks, Koch Rajbongshis, Sooteas, Tai Ahoms and tea tribes, do not fulfil the criteria required to declare them Scheduled Tribes. “There are apprehensions among the tribal people that these six communities might be considered for ST status, which will adversely effected the interest of the existing ST communities,” Kaklary said. “We have no objection to giving any special status, protection and/or privilege to any ethnic group of Assam in any other manner which will in no way hamper the rights and interests of the plains tribal people of Assam,” he said. A memorandum was submitted to the Prime Minister, home minister and tribal welfare minister. In another development, United Tribal Organisation, Assam (UTOA), today sought immunity to their existing constitutional safeguards if the six communities are accorded ST status. (The Telegraph 12/7/14)

8. Tribal sub-plan area to be reduced with transfer of villages (6)

KHAMMAM: The transfer of 324 revenue villages of Khammam, including 545 habitations comprising an estimated 1.89 lakh population to Andhra Pradesh for the purpose of Polavaram project is poised to reduce the tribal sub-plan (TSP) area of the district drastically. Bhadrachalam Agency, with a population of over 5.61 lakh spread across 12,175 sq km in 29 TSP mandals, will undergo extensive changes in geographical area, demographic profile and composition of three ST reserved Assembly constituencies after merger. The merger of seven TSP mandals — VR Puram, Kunavaram, Chintur, Velerupadu, Kukunoor, Bhadrachalam (excluding the revenue village of Bhadrachalam) and Burgumpadu (barring 12 revenue villages) with the AP is set to alter the demographic composition of the Agency. As many as 1,89,654 dwellers predominantly Adivasis, who constitute a major chunk of the total population of 5.61 lakh in the TSP area of Bhadrachalam Agency, will become the residents of AP. The move is likely to affect the composition of Bhadrachalam, Pinapaka and Aswraopet ST reserved Assembly constituencies. The major tourism destinations including Papikondalu wildlife sanctuary, Sriramagiri and Perantalapalli, the Mothugudem-based 460 MW lower Sileru hydro-electric power plant, several historical temples and structures besides 1.40 lakh hectares of forest area are set to become part of AP. Although the famous temple town Bhadrachalam, the abode of Sri Sitaramachandra Swamy, will continue in the district, the vast stretches of the temple lands spread in over 1,000 acres in the division will be transferred to AP. The jurisdiction of the ITDA, Bhadrachalam, will be condensed owing to the merger of four mandals with Rampachodavaram Agency of East Godavari district and the remaining three mandals with Jangareddygudem division of West Godavari district. The total number of TSP mandals will come down from 29 to 22. The unilateral move by the Centre will spell doom for lakhs of Adivasis, the diverse tribal cultural heritage and rich eco-system, warns Sode Murali, secretary, Adivasi Sankshema Parishad. “It amounted to not only breach of the established democratic norms but blatant violation of the constitutional provisions pertaining to Fifth Schedule areas,” he charges. Tribal people of the areas allotted to AP will face a peculiar problem. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

9. ‘BJP will launch stir for entire Bhadrachalam division’ (6)

RAJAHMUNDRY: BJP National Committee member Somu Veerraju on Monday warned Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao to withdraw his statements on Polavaram Bill, which paved the way for merger of seven mandals with Andhra Pradesh. “If KCR and his party leaders did not withdraw their statements and claims on Polavaram submerging villages, the AP BJP unit will launch an agitation, demanding the restoration of status before 1959 where the entire Bhadrachalam Revenue division is part and parcel of the East Godavari district,” Mr. Veerraju said. Addressing media conference on Monday, he said that a team of BJP MPs, Ministers, MLAs from Andhra Pradesh would visit New Delhi and make a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Central Ministers on merging of Venkatapuram, Charla, Vajedu and Dummugudem mandals with East Godavari and also meet Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu on the issue. He said that BJP was demanding the formation of a new tribal district with Rampachodavaram or Rajahmundry as headquarters with seven merged villages —VR Puram, Kunavaram, Chintur, Velerupadu, Kukunoor, Bhadrachalam (excluding the revenue village of Bhadrachalam) and Burgumpadu (barring 12 revenue villages) — with A.P. According to Mr. Veerraju, 1,89,654 dwellers predominantly Adivasis, who constitute a major chunk of the total population of 5.61 lakh in the Tribal Sub-Plan area of Bhadrachalam Agency, will become the residents of A.P. The BJP leader demanded that Mr. Naidu decentralise the development and immediately announce a development road map for the State. He reminded that the BJP government at the Centre had kept its promise by announcing Petroleum University, Tribal University, Horticulture Research Institute Sub-Centre, Hardware Park, Fertilizers production with coconut pith and also land for Agriculture University — all in East Godavari district. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

10. Polavaram Project: Injustice to Tribals Alleged (6)

KHAMMAM: All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) vice president Sunith Chopra has alleged that the Central Government has done injustice to the tribals in the Khammam district with regard to the Polavaram project. Speaking to newsmen here on Tuesday, he said that the Polavaram project issue would be specially discussed at the AIAWU’s national convention to be held in Warangal from July 30. He alleged that the central government had violated tribal laws in the Polavaram issue and added that, as a consequence, lakhs of innocent tribals were going to suffer. He called up the tribals to stiffly resist any move(s) to evict them from their places and assured them of his outfit’s support in all aspects. Speaking about other burning issues, he alleged that due to the governments’ anti-people policies, over three lakh farmers across the country had committed suicides in the last three years. He also said that the sexual harassment of women had increased and no government had taken stringent action against culprits nor measures to curb the menace. He accused the BJP-led NDA government also of taking anti-people decisions, one of which was to impose Rs 7,000 cr taxes on the people as envisaged in the recent Budget. Chopra said that representatives from 14 states would participate in his outfit’s national convention in Warangal. Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar would also participate in the convention, he added. AIAWU state secretary B Venkat demanded that chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao should convene an all-party meeting to discuss the Polavaram issue. He faulted the state BJP for its demand that the Bhadrachalam town should also be merged in the Residuary Andhra Pradesh state. District AIAWU president V Srinivasa Rao and secretary M Venkateswarlu were also present at the news conference. Blamed the successive govts for forcing over three lakh farmers across the country to commit suicide in last three years Flayed the NDA government for demanding merger of Bhadrachalam town with AP (New Indian Express 16/7/14)

WOMEN

11. Urban women registered max complaints at crisis centre (8)

BHOPAL: A large number of women from various parts of Madhya Pradesh have approached One Stop Crisis Centre (Gaurvi) in state capital seeking help. What is alarming is 83.5% of complaints were received from urban areas as compared to 16.95% from rural areas. In three weeks, the centre has witnessed more than 500 calls and 41 walk-ins. The women have complained against their husbands, brothers, parents, and in-laws among others. Their usual complaints include rape, dowry harassment, molestation, trafficking and domestic violence. “Many of these women have faced violence for as long as 37 years and it seems to have become an integral part of their lives. Most women are not economically independent,” said a representative of Action Aid, which is running OSCC in collaboration with health department. “For women with complaints of domestic violence, their families do not co-operate and it takes a lot of time to get both parties to sit across the table to reach a resolution. The women, in the meantime, are left destitute, ” representative said. Some women, because of brutality, develop suicidal tendencies. They need immediate intervention and are being referred to psychiatrists, Action Aid spokesperson added. The focus of the centre is on medication and relief to women rather than just establishing the crime. For younger age groups, it was noticed that sexual harassment, molestation, rape and cybercrime have been reported. (Times of India 9/7/14)

12. Yechury for Parliament to set up gender sensitivity panel (8)

NEW DELHI: A day after the Lok Sabha witnessed ugly scenes with some derogatory remarks, reportedly made against women MPs of TMC, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury on Wednesday pointed out that Parliament, which enacted a law providing for establishment of gender sensitivity committees at all workplaces, itself does not have any such panel. His remark prompted Rajya Sabha deputy chairman P J Kurien to ask the government to “act” on the suggestion as early as possible. Yechury raised the issue in the Upper House during Zero Hour when a mention was made about the persisting crimes against women. “In Parliament we are not implementing laws we passed,” Yechury said while asking why the ‘Gender Sensitive Committee’ provided under the law to protect women at workplaces did not exist in Parliament. He was speaking after the Congress member Rajni Patil voiced concern over incidents of rape and other crimes against women. (Times of India 10/7/14)

13. Budget 2014: Rs. 150 Crore for Women’s Safety Leaves Many Skeptical (8)

New Delhi:  The government today allocated Rs. 150 crore for the safety of women in cities and Rs. 50 crore for their safety on public transport, as well as Rs. 100 crore for the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” scheme for the girl child. The finance minister’s Rs. 200 crore plan to ensure women’s safety may have been cheered inside the Parliament, but out on the streets women seem to be skeptical. A woman using public transport told NDTV, “Every time announcements are made but nothing changes on the ground for us. Have things changed post December 16? (referring to the Delhi gang-rape that left victim dead).” “There are times when drunk boys board the bus and we have no way to protect ourselves, hope they actually apply this time,” said another commuter. Perhaps the skepticism is not misfounded. In last year’s Union Budget, the then UPA government had allocated Rs. 1000 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund, named after the Delhi gang-rape victim. According to then Finance Minister P Chidambaram, the inspiration was the gang-rape of the 23-year-old paramedic student inside a moving bus. However, a year later, the response to an RTI revealed that not a single rupee was spent from that fund. In his reponse to the RTI query Amit Bansal, under secretary at the Economic Affairs Department of the Finance Ministry said, “Parliament approved the setting up of a Rs. 1,000-crore fund titled the Nirbhaya Fund, but the funds have not been used so far as the relevant schemes are yet to be finalised.” The skepticism only increases when the finance minister ends up allocating the same amount for the construction of a statue. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today set aside Rs. 200 crore for a giant statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat. Critics have questioned the Modi government’s priorities at a time India is struggling with an alarming spurt in crimes against women. The Statue of Unity may have ambitions of being the tallest statue in the world, but when it comes to women’s safety and security, are our politicians only interested in making the tallest claims? (NDTV 11/7/14)

14. SIFF hails SC order on automatic arrest of men (8)

HYDERABAD: Members of Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) on Thursday welcomed the Supreme Court order to end automatic arrests of men, their parents and relatives under section 498-A of IPC and anti-dowry law. The SIFF also demanded that the police should follow the Supreme Court directives and bring an end to the automatic arrests. The SIFF said that Courts must not use threat of arrests under Section 498-A of IPC as a tool for negotiating high alimony for wife. “Alimony has to be decided by competent family courts. Some provisions must be made to protect men from domestic violence,” said P. Rukma Chary of SIFF, talking to presspersons. According to SIFF, reports from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2013 have revealed that 64,098 married men have committed suicide as against 29,491 married women who ended their lives. “Family disputes are the main reason of suicide of people in India. In 2013, more than 24 per cent of all suicides were due to family reasons,” Mr. Rukma Chary said. (The Hindu 11/7/14)

15. People urged to fight against female foeticide (8)

Mandya: M.A. Ponnappa, president of the Karnataka Media Academy, has stressed on collective efforts to prevent the horrible practice of female foeticide in the State. Speaking at a seminar on the “Role of media in preventing female foeticide” here on Saturday, Mr. Ponnappa urged the media, doctors, non-governmental organisations, self-help groups and members of all sections of society to join hands to fight against the menace. C.S. Puttaraju, MP, called upon the women to combat female foeticide and growing disparity in sex ratio. In his inaugural speech, Mr. Puttaraju said that both the State and the Union governments had initiated many programmes for the welfare of women and children. Women should take full advantage of such programmes and enhance their quality of life. While P.M. Narendra Swamy, Malavalli MLA, appealed to the society to support government- sponsored programmes on prevention of female foeticide, D.C. Thammanna, Maddur MLA, said that women should raise their voice against female foeticide and for social change. The Karnataka Media Academy and Information Department, in association with the District Union of Working Journalists, had organised the programme to highlight the ill-effects of female foeticide. Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) and anganwadi assistants participated. District Information Officer R. Raju, Mandya Zilla Panchayat president Manjula Paramesh, Academy secretary Shankarappa, DUWJ president Krishna and others were present. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

16. More women come forward to report crime since December 16 case: Bassi (8)

NEW DELHI: Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi on Saturday attributed the five-fold rise in the number of crimes against women since the December 16 gang-rape incident to a renewed emphasis on truthful recording of incidents. He said this at an interactive session — “Face-To-Face with the Government — This time with Delhi Police to Discuss the Burning Issue of Women Safety”, organised by the FICCI Ladies Organisation. During his presentation, Mr. Bassi also provided statistics on the rise in the number of cases of rape, molestation and dowry harassment. The 1,636 rape cases registered in 2013 were more than twice the corresponding number — 706 — in 2012. In the first six months of 2014, 984 cases of rape were reported against 869 in the same period last year, he added. The Police Commissioner said that prior to the December 16, 2012, incident, there was reluctance on the part of the police personnel to register cases as they feared it would indicate a failure to check crimes of such nature. He added that such response from the police, coupled with the a sense of social ostracism faced by the women victims, also deterred them from coming forward and lodging a complaint. Mr. Bassi was of the view that an improvement on both counts was also a factor behind an increased number in registered case. The police chief, however, acknowledged that the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, was also a contributing factor in making the staff more responsive. “Now when a woman comes to a police station and a cognisable offence is made out of her complaint, she is not denied the registration of an FIR,” he added. A similar trend was also witnessed in the overall crime figures. The total number of all cases reported in Delhi till June 30 stands at 71,523, which is more than double of 33,797 cases reported in the same period in 2013. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

17. Women panel backs harsher punishment for juvenile criminals (8)

NEW DELHI: The government found support from the National Commission for Women (NCW) which favoured treating juveniles guilty of heinous crimes on par with adults. Women and child development (WCD) minister Maneka Gandhi is working on amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act and has proposed harsher punishment for juveniles found guilty of gang rape, rape, murder or acid attack. “There are almost 45% cases of rapes in which juveniles above 16 years of age are involved, so just saying that they should not be punished as they are juveniles and sending them to reform homes further strengthens their morale,” NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma said. But then, she said, it should vary from case to case. “There should be a proper investigation, the psychological aspects and even the circumstantial aspects should be looked into while deciding on such cases,” she said. However, supporting the government’s move, Sharma said there was a need to amend the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. Sharma also stressed upon juvenile reforms and said juvenile delinquents, especially those involved in heinous crimes, should be roped in to carry out social activities like tending to rape victims and the elderly. “They should know what a rape victim goes through after she is raped. That is why they should be made to attend interactions with such women violence victims, not the ones they have assaulted, but other victims, so that even they can know about their ordeal,” Sharma said. (Times of India 17/7/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

18. Number of child labour has reduced by 65 percent: Govt (14)

New Delhi: The total number of child labour in the country has reduced by 65 per cent as per the Census 2011, Rajya Sabha was informed today. The government also said that elimination of child labour was its “priority”. On the other hand, it also said as per the last Census of 2011, more than 26,000 children were working in Delhi in the age group of 5-14 years. Replying to separate questions in Rajya Sabha on Child Labour, Labour and Employment minister Vishnu Deo Sai said around 808 child labourers were rescued from Delhi in 2013 while 709 were rescued in 2012. “The total number of working children in the country has declined from 1.26 crore as per the Census 2001 to 43.53 lakh as per Census 2011 which shows 65 per cent reduction,” Sai said. “Efforts to eliminate child labour especially in hazardous occupations and processes continues to be a priority of the government,” he added. He said that as per the 2001 Census, the child labourers were mostly working in paan (betel), bidi, construction, domestic work, spinning and weaving sector. However sectoral dis-aggregated data on child labour from 2011 Census was not available. “As per Census 2011, there were 26,473 working children in the age group of 5-14 years in Delhi,” Sai said. He said that the government is implementing the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) scheme since 1988 in areas of high concentration of child labour. Under the scheme, children in age group of 9-14 years are rescued from hazardous occupations and enrolled in NCLP special training centres which has provisions for bridge education, vocational training, mid-day meal, stipend, health care and others before being mainstreamed into formal educational system. The minister said that the scheme is approved for 24 districts in Odisha at present. (Zee news 9/7/14)

19. 18 children go missing in Delhi every day: report (14)

NEW DELHI: It has been a year and four months since her 13-year-old daughter Rosie went missing from their home in North-West Delhi and even today when Nasima Khatun recounts the tale her eyes well up. The girl was alone at home while her three siblings were at work and school that day, said Ms. Khatun, who was in her hometown in Bihar at that time. “We are quite certain that a neighbour, who has been missing since that day, is the one who took our daughter,” said Ms. Khatun. What happened to Rosie and thousands of other minors has become a depressing statistic, one which was reinforced by a new report on missing children released on Wednesday. On an average, 18 children go missing in the Capital every day and four of them are never traced, the report by the Alliance for People’s Rights found. A total of 6,494 children, 53 per cent of them girls, disappeared in Delhi from January 1 to December 31, 2013, the report said, citing Right to Information replies from the Delhi Police. The report also found that the number of missing children has increased in the past year from 14 cases a day in 2012. In some districts the number has shot up, with a 54.82 per cent jump in cases reported in West and a 47.24 per cent increase in North-West districts. Only two districts, North-East and New Delhi, saw a decline in the number of missing children in 2013 compared to 2012. The report stated “more than 50 per cent of them [rescued victims] are from the socially deprived sections of society”. The convenor of the alliance, Reena Banerjee, said: “This is just the data we could get from the police through RTI, but there are many cases that never get registered. So the actual number of missing children may be higher.” The parents of missing children allege that the authorities are not doing enough to bring them back and to prevent similar cases happening again. Ms. Khatun said: “We gave the police a photo of the accused and his number. But they didn’t do much. Now, we have filed a habeas corpus plea in the High Court, which has asked the police about what action they have taken so far.” A “blame game” would not work and a holistic approach was the need of the hour, said Ms. Banerjee. The report and its recommendations will be shared with the Lieutenant-Governor, the High Court and the Centre so the problem of missing children can be addressed at different levels. Soha Moitra, the regional director of Child Rights and You, said a single and transparent database should be kept. “Children’s commissions should be proactive,” she added. Ms. Banerjee said: “If we can have bullet trains in the country, we can surely keep our children safe.” (The Hindu 10/7/14)

20. CRY opines poorly on budget for children (14)

BANGALORE: Komal Ganotra, director, policy, research and advocacy, CRY – Child Rights and You said, “The Union Budget 2014-15, has on the overall, not laid much emphasis on social sectors, especially children. Overall, the total allocation earmarked for children as proportion of Union Budget has declined marginally. In 2014-15, child budget stands at 4.52 percent compared to the figure of 4.56 percent in the previous year, with absolute amount increasing slightly from Rs 72496.21 crore in 2013-14 (Revised Estimate) to Rs 81075.26 crore in 2014-15 (Budget Estimate). Total child budget in 2014-15 stands at meagre 0.63 percent of GDP. However, given the child population of 42 percent (up to the age of 18) the allocation is far from encouraging. A few schemes only have referred to children, especially girls, including “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana” with an allocation of Rs 100 crores, the modernization of madarsas, and the announcement on ensuring toilets and drinking water in girls’ schools. The proposed National Programme on Malnutrition is an encouraging sign and acknowledges the need for urgent action to improve the nutritional status of almost 50 percent of our child population.” (Times of India 11/7/14)

21. Child rights takes centre stage in Council (14)

Bangalore: Members of the Legislative Council initiated a discussion on protection of child rights to draw the government’s attention on the status of children, the role of government and community in the implementation of the rights. Chairman D.H. Shankaramurthy, who initiated the discussion on Thursday, termed it a historic initiative. It was also to mark the 25th year of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). India is a signatory to the UNCRC, he said. Although there are a wide range of laws that guarantee children their rights and entitlements as provided in the Constitution and in the UN Convention, cases of child abuse are increasing, he said. Around 30 MLCs, cutting across party lines, including a few Ministers, participated in the discussion. Congress member V.S. Ugrappa said the State and Union governments, non-governmental organisations and the public should collaborate to ensure protection of child rights. Another Congress member R.V. Venkatesh demanded that the State Plan of Action for Children, a draft of which is ready, should be put in place. Veeranna Mathikatti (Congress) wanted the Department of Women and Child Development to organise a children’s parliament to understand their problems and resolve them. Bharatiya Janata Party member Tara said although Karnataka had achieved targets in several areas, a lot of issues in the field of child health, protection and education needed to be addressed. Capt. Ganesh Karnik (BJP) said the Council should take up discussions on juvenile justice, disability rehabilitation, providing quality education to rural children and on hostels run by the Social Welfare Department. Issues pertaining to child health, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths, malnutrition and adolescent health were dealt with statistical information and case studies during the discussion. (The Hindu 12/7/14)

22. Missing kids: SC directs states to file compliance reports (14)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed all states and Union Territories to file their compliance reports of its verdict for registration of FIR and conduct of probe in every case of missing child. A bench headed by Justice H L Dattu asked the states to file the report and supply a copy of them to NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan on whose petition it had passed a slew of directions on January 17 last year. The apex court had directed that a special officer be appointed in every police station across the country to deal with juveniles in view of growing number of minors getting involved in various offences. The court had passed the order on a PIL filed by the NGO alleging that for over 1.7 lakh children have gone missing in the country between January 2008-2010, many of whom were kidnapped for trafficking in flesh trade and child labour. (Zee News 14/7/14)

23. Child Rights Groups Oppose Maneka’s Stand, Activists Seek Debate (14)

NEW DELHI: Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi’s stand that juveniles who commit rape should be tried as adults has evoked mixed reaction, with women’s and political leaders stressing widespread consultations but child rights organisations completely opposed to the suggestion. Speaking in Chennai, Gandhi said: “We are changing the law and I am personally working on it to bring 16-year-olds into the purview. According to police, 50 percent of the crimes are committed by 16-year-olds who know the Juvenile Justice Act.” The parents of the Dec 16, 2012 Delhi gang-rape victim, who died days after her brutal gang rape in a moving bus, welcomed the statement as one of the six rapists was a juvenile. “No criminal should be given special treatment only on the ground of being a juvenile. Every body who rapes, gang-rapes or murders should be given equal punishment. There should be no difference between juvenile and adult criminals,” the father of the 23-year-old victim told IANS. He said if such a law comes in existence, it will be helpful in controlling crime. Agreeing with Gandhi’s statement to a point, National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Mamta Sharma said: “The minister’s statement is fine to some extent, because according to police data, juveniles commit crime and they are let free. This is a debatable issue so experts, psychologists, etc. should hold debates and consultation on the matter.” National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Kushal Singh, however, said that changing the law and punishment was not a solution. “Right from the beginning we have held that lowering the age of the juvenile regardless of the crime committed goes against the basic philosophy of Juvenile Justice Act. “A separate act has been made for the children because there is scientific proof that children are not developed enough mentally and physically so to hold them responsible for the actions taken by them,” he said. Echoing similar feelings, a lawyer with the Juvenile Justice Board told IANS that the age of 18 has been fixed on account of the understanding of experts in child psychology and behavioural patterns that “till such an age the children in conflict with law could still be redeemed and restored to mainstream society, instead of becoming hardened criminals in future”.Officials of Chetna, an NGO working for children, told IANS that they disagree with the minister’s statement. “We do not agree with what the minister has said. We request her to consult children and NGOs in this matter,” said Sanjay Gupta from the NGO. Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury said the issue needs detailed discussion and consideration. “To bring change… I support a nationwide discussion, it is something we need to discuss threadbare, we need to revisit and relook everything and keep it in the matrix of today’s time,” she said. (Neqw Indian Express 15/7/14)

24. Runaway kids fleeing abuse at home on the rise (14)

Ludhiana: Six-year-old Subhash, a resident of Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, ran away from home after accusing his parents of mistreating him. Railway Police Force personnel later found the boy crying in a train at the city’s railway station and handed him over to Childline India, an NGO engaged in helping children in distress, on July 11. A 12-year-old-girl who had been reported missing by her parents in Uttarakhand was found by the police near Payal. At first she tried to mislead the cops by making up fake stories but when Childline volunteers who were called in investigated the matter they learnt she run away from her home because of an abusive stepmother. These are just two of the thousands of cases of runaway children who left their homes, often for seemingly trivial reasons. And the number of such kids is rising by the day. “Railway Protection Force (RPF) cops have caught at least 18 minor children at the city train station so far this year; the figure was 38 last year. Most of these kids fled home because they felt their family members did not treat them well or were too authoritarian”, said RPF inspector Yashwant Singh. “The number of runaway kids has been steadily rising during the past few years. Initially they leave their homes just for pleasure but after a few days find it difficult to survive on the streets. I’ve also come across a few who were ready to work as rag pickers to avoid going back home. Most of these children found at the city’s train station”, Yashwant added. “Childline is engaged in assisting an average of 16 minor children every month in Ludhiana and half of them are those who have run away ran from their homes”, said Arvind Kumar, the NGO’s centre coordinator for the city. “Some of the excuses that they give us for leaving home are insignificant like parents putting pressure on them to study or not giving them mobiles or other things they have demanded. However, with proper counseling we are able to send back 80 percent of the runaways to their homes.” (Hindustan Times 16/7/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

25. Government monitoring PM’s 15-point programme for minorities… (7)

NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister’s 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities is being monitored at different levels to ensure its effective implementation, the Rajya Sabha was told today. Replying to a question, Minority Affairs Minister Najma A Heptulla said it is an overarching programme, covering schemes and initiatives of different ministries and departments by either earmarking 15 per cent of outlays for the minorities or specific monitoring of flow of funds to minorities or areas with a substantial minority population. The schemes and initiatives under the programme are being implemented by concerned ministers and departments. The state-wise details of the targets and achievements for the last three years were made available by the ministries and departments concerned, Heptulla said. Some shortfalls have been noticed in achieving the target by the states and Union Territories in some schemes, she added. (The Economic Times 9/7/14)

26. Jaitley allots Rs 100 cr for modernising madrassas (7)

New Delhi: Lacking big ticket announcements, the NDA’s maiden budget though offered to minority communities an additional amount of Rs 100 crore for modernisation of madarsas and a programme for the upgradation of skills and training in ancestral arts. In his budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the Lower House that a programme for the upgradation of skills and training in ancestral arts for development of the minorities called “Upgradation of Traditional Skills in Arts, Resources and Goods” would be launched to preserve the traditional arts and crafts which have a rich heritage. Besides, he also provided funds for modernisation of madarsas. The BJP, which accuses Congress of indulging in “appeasement politics”, in its 2014 election manifesto had promised providing “equal opportunities” to all while acknowledging that minorities, especially the Muslim community, continued to be caught in poverty. The party had promised upgradation of educational systems and madarsas and augmenting artisanship and entrepreneurial skills, which it did in the budget, besides other programmes such as ensuring that the young and the girl child get education and jobs without discrimination. Earlier, P Chidamabaram, while presenting the Interim Budget in February had given details of the funds spent on projects for minorities. (Deccan Herald 11/7/14)

27. Rs 1 Lakh Interest-free Loans for Minorities: Babu (7)

VIJAYAWADA:  Chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu promised interest-free loans up to one lakh rupees for minorities through the Minority Finance Corporation. The chief minister hosted an Iftaar party for Muslims in Vijayawada Saturday. Speaking on the occasion, Chandrababu Naidu assured that the government will increase the honorarium to Imams to Rs 5,000. As no MLA from the community was elected from the TDP, the party had ensured a ZP chairperson post and a mayor post for Muslims, he said. Minority Welfare minister Palle Raghunatha Reddy said that the TDP is committed to minorities’ welfare and reminded that it was Chandrababu Naidu who had built the Haj House in Hyderabad for the benefit of Muslims going on the annual pilgrimage. Naidu had repaired 7,500 mosques and built 600 shadhikhanas during his tenure as chief minister. The Iftaar party was organised by the AP government in Vijayawada for the first time. Prior to Iftaar, the chief minister participated in  prayers. Assembly speaker Kodela Sivaparasada Rao, ministers Devineni Umamaheswara Rao, Kollu Ravindra, Kamineni Srinivas, Vijayawada MP Kesineni Srinivas, TDP Vijayawada convenor Nagul Meera and the Wynchpet masjid Imam were among those who attended the programme. (New Indian Express 13/7/14)

28. Akali MLAs seek Centre’s intervention (7)

CHANDIGARH: The Shiromani Akali Dal legislative party, through a unanimous resolution on Tuesday, sought immediate intervention of the Union government to check the “unconstitutional and anti-Sikh move” of the Haryana government which had legislated constitution of a separate committee to manage the gurdwaras in the State. The meeting of Punjab’s ruling party MLAs, chaired by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, was convened immediately after the Speaker adjourned the first day’s proceedings of the Budget session of the Assembly following obituary references. The resolution said that the step of the Congress was aimed at creating fissures in the Sikh Panth by weakening its religious and political power. An official release on the occasion said the unwarranted action of the Haryana government had led to a constitutional crisis which necessitated immediate intervention by the Union Government. By passing the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Bill 2014, the Haryana government had breached the Constitution as the matter was under the ambit of Punjab Re-organization Act 1966 and only Parliament was authorised to take any action, it said. The Akali MLAs cautioned that the action of the Haryana government posed a serious challenge to the communal harmony, peace and amity in the region. The release also said the party was also of the opinion that by constituting a separate committee, the Haryana government had disrespected the mandate by the Sikhs during the last elections of Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC). (The Hindu 16/7/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

29. Arcot Nawab Hails SC Ruling on Fatwas (7)

CHENNAI: Prince of Arcot Mohammed Abdul Ali welcomed the Supreme Court judgment which stated that fatwas do not have legal sanctity and cannot be enforced if they infringe on an individual’s fundamental rights. Pointing out that while the Shariat was most certainly supreme in Islam, what was happening right now was that things not justified in the Noble Quran and the authentic Haddith were being propagated and justified in the name of Shariat. The Prince went on to give the example of the triple ‘talaq’ in one sitting and child marriage. Both practices, he said, had been justified by many fatwas but neither was allowed by Islam. “This has to stop because the truth is that neither the triple talaq at one time nor child marriage is allowed in Islam. How then, can these be brought under Shariat?” he asked in his statement. (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

30. Ordinance promulgated for Maratha, Muslim quotas in Maharashtra (7)

MUMBAI: Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayanan on Friday promulgated an ordinance providing for 16 per cent reservation for Marathas and 5 per cent for Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions. Promulgation of the ordinance paves the way for implementation of the state cabinet’s June 26 decision to provide reservation for the influential Maratha community and Muslims in jobs and education. The move by the Congress-NCP government came months ahead of the tough assembly elections due in October after the severe drubbing the alliance, in power in Maharashtra since 1999, received in the Lok Sabha polls. The two parties could together clinch just six of the state’s 48 Lok Sabha seats, in their worst performance ever. With additional 21 per cent quotas for the politically powerful Marathas and the minority community, reservation in government jobs and educational institutions in the state has gone up to 73 per cent, way beyond the 50 per cent limit set by the Supreme Court.  (Times of India 11/7/14)

31. “Quota helped Muslims’ political empowerment” (7)

HYDERABAD: The Congress has observed that the four per cent reservation for minorities introduced by it when in power has ensured political empowerment of Muslims both in AP and Telangana. Muslim candidates got elected to 306 posts in Telangana and 605 in AP in the BC (E) category in the rural and urban local bodies’ elections, Telangana Congress leader K. Jana Reddy and Mohd. Ali Shabbir said. Speaking to newspersons here on Monday, the leaders said “revolutionary policy decision” had benefited thousands of Muslim youth in education and employment apart from political field. But for the implementation of reservation for Muslims, their chances of securing admissions in medical, engineering and other professional courses would have been drastically low, Mr. Shabbir said adding that the quota had also improved their representation in local bodies considerably. In a letter addressed to Union Minister for Minority Affairs Najma A. Heptullah, Mr. Shabbir requested her to take a serious view of the subject instead of trying to please the sections opposing reservation to Muslims. He made it clear that the Congress was not seeking reservation on communal basis, but on the economic backwardness of the community. Understanding the positive aspects of reservation to Muslims, the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra had also announced 5 per cent quota to Muslims. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

32. Goan priest appointed auxiliary bishop of Ranchi (7)

PANAJI: Pope Francis has appointed Goan priest Fr Theodore Mascarenhas, belonging to the Missionary Society of St Francis Xavier (Society of Pilar), as the Auxiliary Bishop of Ranchi (Jharkhand) and Titular Bishop of Lisinia (Turkey). The announcement was made public on Wednesday at the Vatican (Rome) and Ranchi simultaneously, Society of Pilar said in a statement. Hailing from Camurlim in Salcete, the 54-year-old was ordained priest on April 24, 1988. The date of his consecration as auxiliary bishop is to be finalized shortly. Currently based in Rome, Mascarenhas works at the pontifical council for culture as the head of the departments for Asia, Africa and Oceania. He is also chairman of the Vatican cricket team called the Saint Peter’s cricket club and is the procurator-general of the Society of Pilar in Rome. Academically, he is visiting professor for Old Testament studies at Pilar Theological College, Goa; Gregorian University, Rome, and St Thomas D’Aquino University (Angelicum), Rome. His doctoral dissertation is from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, with the theme: ?The Missionary Function of Israel in Psalms 67, 96 and 117′. He was also the principal of English Medium School in Bathinda, Punjab, with 2,100 students on its rolls from 1989 to 1993. In March 2010, Mascarenhas was appointed by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI as member of the pontifical committee for International Eucharistic Congresses. He has served three popes?John Paul, Benedict XVI and now Francis. Known for his flair with languages, Mascarenhas can speak fluent English, Italian, German, French, Hindi, Punjabi and Konkani. He has also mastered Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, Latin and Aramaic as part of Biblical language studies. The Archdiocese of Ranchi, with 1,35,744 Catholics, has embraced St Francis Xavier as its patron and there are presently seven Pilar priests working at the Archdiocese. Mascarenhas becomes only the second bishop the Society of Pilar has offered to the Church in India. The first is Bishop Alex Dias from Calangute who was appointed bishop of Andaman and Nicobar islands in 1984. Mascarenhas has two brothers and a sister. One of his brothers, Sebastiao Mascarenhas, is a priest in the Society of Pilar and presently works as the mission superior of the mission of Daman of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman. The Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Felipe Neri Ferrao, has offered his “heartfelt congratulations” to Fr Theodore Mascarenhas, his family and the Society of Pilar. “The Church in Goa and Daman is deeply grateful to Bishop-Elect Theodore for all the help and solicitude received from him in various ways, particularly during his stay in the Vatican, serving the Holy See in the Pontifical Council for Culture, and offers him prayerful support in his new pastoral ministry,” said a statement from Ferrao. (Times of India 10/7/14)

33. Village councils row: Christian bodies threaten to move court (7)

RAIPUR: Christian organizations have threatened to move court against gram sabhas-village councils-adopting resolution banning entry of all non-Hindu missionaries in tribal Bastar region in Chhattisgarh. Addressing a joint press conference here, representatives of Christian organizations said vested groups were instigating village councils to adopt a controversial resolution under provisions of 129 (G) of Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act, which, they said, was against the spirit of Constitution. Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal, Archbishop’s press secretary Fr Sabastian Poomattom and Evangelic Fellowship of India director Vijesh Lall wanted to know what action the state government was contemplating to nullify resolutions adopted by village councils. “The ban will have disturbing repercussions in the region’s social fabric as non-Hindus were being denied rations from fair price shops and this is against the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion,” he said. Asked about allegation that some missionaries had made derogatory remarks about idol worship by members of majority community, Christian leaders said, “Such instances, if any, should have been dealt legally, instead of bullying and denying them their basic rights.” “We feel that it’s an act at the behest of petty criminals, who perhaps, have vested interest to chase out people and grab their land in village Belar, to extract compensation for the land being acquired by a corporate sector for their proposed steel plant in the mineral rich region,” they added. Christian leaders said they would call on state chief secretary Vivek Dhand to submit a memorandum, demanding appropriate action in the wake of village councils adopting resolutions banning non-Hindus from their respective villages. (Times of India 12/7/14)

34. Christian weekly wants prayer for Modi (7)

Thiruvananthapuram: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday found support from unexpected quarters as a weekly Christian publication in Kerala urged believers to pray for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre. In its editorial titled ‘Narendra Modi, disciple of Jesus Christ’, Sunday Shalom – a weekly publication in Malayalam for Catholic communities — tries to trace the impact of BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections on Christian faith and believers in the country.  “Narendra Modi has won on God’s design and with God’s consent. Anything that has God’s consent also comes with God’s plan,” Chief Editor Bro Benny Punnathara wrote. Meanwhile, some of those who commented on the editorial’s online page have slammed the publication for its stance on Modi and alleged ‘political designs’ of the Church. (Deccan Herald 14/7/14)

35. Priest’s family trying to meet Sushma (7)

DEVAKOTTAI (SIVAGANGA),: With no trace of Rev. Alexis Prem Kumar, the Catholic priest from Sivaganga district, more than a month after he was abducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan, his family is trying to meet Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to seek her intervention. The family has approached the Tamil Nadu government to get an appointment with Ms. Swaraj, his brother A. Albert Manoharan has said. The priest’s father, A.S.M. Anthony, 77, and other family members, living at Ram Nagar near here, are waiting for the appointment, spending anxious moments with prayer, hoping for some good news during the holy month of Ramalan. “We expect the Taliban to show mercy on my brother and free him unharmed during Ramalan,” Mr. Manoharan told The Hindu . The family was anxious to meet Ms. Swaraj to make a personal plea and know the steps being taken by the BJP-led government to secure his release, he said. Mr. Manoharan said Amarjith Singh, Indian Consul-General in Heart, phoned him once in a while, asking the family not to lose hope. On July 8, he called him up and said the priest was safe and asked the family to remain patient. Four days after the abduction, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his intervention to secure the safe and early release of the priest. The Sivaganga Diocese is also taking steps to secure the safe release of the Jesuit at the earliest, Fr S. Michael Raj, spokesman of the Diocese, has said. In response to the pleas made by the Diocese, Tamil Nadu Principal Secretary and Commissioner for Rehabilitation B. Anand informed Rev J. Soosai Manickam, Bishop of the Diocese, that the State was in touch with the officials concerned. In an email to the Bishop on Friday, Mr. Anand said the mail sent by the Diocese was forwarded to the Consul-General of India in Afghanistan, the First Secretary/PPS, Embassy of India in Kabul, and the Consul-General of India in Herat, he said. Mr. Anand quoted the Consul-General of India in Herat as having said in the mail that “all steps are being taken to secure the safe release of Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar at the earliest,” the Spokesman told The Hindu  (The Hindu 16/7/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

36. J-K benefits with Rs 500-cr package for Kashmiri migrants, IIT (13)

A Rs 500-crore package for rebuilding the lives of Kashmiri migrants was among the slew of measures announced in this year’s Union budget for Jammu and Kashmir. Presenting the Budget for 2014-15, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that a fund of Rs 500 crore will be earmarked for providing support to Kashmiri migrants for “rebuilding their lives”.The Narendra Modi government has flagged rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants, who left the Valley after the onset of militancy in 1990, as its priority and, ahead of the budget, a series of meetings was held between officials of the state and the Centre. At present, a total of 60,452 families of Kashmiri migrants are registered in the country, of which 38,119 are in Jammu, 19,338 in Delhi and 1,995 in other states. The Finance Minister also announced the setting up of an Indian Institute of Technology in Jammu. The NDA government allocated Rs 500 crore for the creation of five more IITs and Indian Institutes of Management (IIM). While the new IITs are to come up in Jammu and Kashmir, Chhattisgrah, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, the five new IIMs will be built in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra. Making an observation that J-K had a lot of sporting talent which was not finding expression due to inadequate facilities, the Finance Minister said that a sum of Rs 200 crore is being provided for upgrading indoor and outdoor stadiums to international standards in Jammu and in Kashmir Valley. Jaitley also proposed to launch a Pashmina Promotion Programme and a programme for the development of other crafts of J-K with a sum of Rs 50 crore earmarked for the same in this year’s budget. Also, Ladakh of J-K was included by the Finance Minister in a proposal — which also covers Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu — for taking up Ultra Mega Solar Power projects with Rs 500 crore allocated for the purpose. (Business Standard 10/7/14)

37. Conversion of refugee colonies gets Centre’s nod (13)

New Delhi: Union urban development ministry has started the process to convert the refugee colonies from leasehold to freehold, after a gap of 60 years, civic officials said on Thursday. A delegation, comprising officials from all three municipal corporations led by Leader of the House in South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) Subhash Arya met the Union Urban development minister M. Venkaiah Naidu to press for people’s demands from such colonies to sanction building plans in those flats. Land and Development Office (L&DO) under the urban development ministry had allotted flats on lease in these refugees colonies after Independence, from year 1955 to 1965. The flats are built in 107 to 120 yards area and single-storeyed. L&DO has started the procedure to freehold these flats, Mr Arya said. Under this policy property owners can construct five floors (including parking) in these colonies, he said. Representatives from all three corporations had taken up this demand to the minister and with his (Naidu’s) approval we are implementing this policy, Mr Arya said in a statement. The erstwhile unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi, established in 1958 and it was trifurcated into North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) in 2012. While the North and East corporations so far have not made any announcements in this regard for areas under their jurisdiction, but officials said, the policy change would just have to be notified in the respective municipal houses to implement it for them. The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board on Thursday said that it will organise a two-day camp for conversion of plots on lease to freehold in Kalyanpuri JJ colony. “The camp will be organised on July 12 and 13, 2014 to facilitate the allottees of plots in Kalyanpuri Resettlement JJ Colony for conversion of leasehold plots to freehold in its Zonal Office at Community Hall, Block 11-12, Kalyanpuri,” CEO DUSIB, Amar Nath said. He added that the Board has tied up with Deputy Commissioner (East) to ease the process of registration of those documents and to minimize the time requirement for registration. “One representative of the Collector of Stamps will also be available to issue challans for depositing stamp duties to the beneficiaries. The process will ease the hardship faced by the people in sale/purchase and will give them ownership rights within the shortest possible time with least delay in a single window,” he said. (Asian Age 11/7/14)

38. HC orders release of Lankan refugees held under NSA (13)

CHENNAI: The preventive detention of two Sri Lankan refugees, held under the National Security Act ( NSA) after botched attempts to take 18 Tamil refugees to Australia by boat, has been quashed by the Madras high court. Setting aside the detention of T Sathishkumar alias Mandapam Sathish, detained in September 2013, and B Sivashankar alias Shankar, held in October 2013, a division bench of Justice V Dhanapalan and Justice G Chockalingam recently said: “The detaining authority (commissioner of police, Coimbatore city) has merely stated that there is a real possibility of the detenu coming out on bail and as such the detention order is vitiated and the same is liable to be set aside on the ground of absence of cogent materials for arriving at the subjective satisfaction.” The human trafficking allegedly done by the duo was brought to the knowledge of police by another Sri Lankan refugee, G Vivekanandan. In his complaint to Coimbatore police, he said Sathish and Shankar had promised to take him and 17 others to Australia in May 2013. They collected sums ranging from 1 lakh to 2 lakh from each aspirant, besides taking away their jewellery. In mid-May, they even asked the potential illegal immigrants to assemble in Ooty ‘for proceeding to Australia’. After making them stay in Ooty for three days, they said the programme did not materialise and that the immigrants should go home. After his repeated attempts to get refund of his money failed, Vivekanandan filed the complaint. State public prosecutor Shanmugavelayutham, justifying the detention, told the bench that the offences committed by them were not the regular offences involving body or property. They have indulged in clandestine human trafficking to a foreign country without any valid visa, he said. The judges, however, ordered their release saying there was an unexplained delay in considering and disposing of the representation of the duo. “However, considering the gravity of the offences, it is open to the prosecution to effectively contest the matter before the regular court, uninfluenced by the above order,” the judges said, adding: “It is also made clear that this order shall not confer any right or advantage whatsoever to the detenu to claim anything before the regular court”. (Times of India 13/7/14)

39. Thousands flee from Gaza after Israel issues warning (13)

Gaza City: Israel briefly deployed troops inside the Gaza Strip for the first time early Sunday as some 4,000 people fled southward from the northern part of the territory in the face of Israeli threats to step up attacks there.  Neither Israel nor Palestinian militants show signs of agreeing to a cease-fire to end their weeklong conflict, despite calls by the United Nations Security Council and others that they lay down their arms. With Israel massing tanks and soldiers at Gaza’s borders, some fear the latest Israeli threats could signal a wider ground offensive that would bring even heavier casualties than the 166 Palestinian deaths already registered. “All our ground forces are ready,” a senior Israeli military official said Sunday. “We have been training for this. We will exploit our ability the moment a decision is made to do so.” Early Sunday, Israeli naval commandos launched a brief raid into northern Gaza to destroy what the military described as a rocket-launching site, an operation it said left four of its soldiers slightly wounded. The Israeli air force later dropped leaflets warning residents to evacuate their homes ahead of what Israel’s military spokesman described as a “short and temporary” campaign against northern Gaza to begin sometime after 12 p.m. (0900 GMT). The area is home to at least 100,000 people. It was not clear whether the possible attack would be confined to stepped-up airstrikes or whether it might include a sizeable ground offensive _ something that Israel has so far been reluctant to undertake. As the ultimatum drew near, hundreds fled Beit Lahiya, one of the communities the Israeli announcement affected. Some raced by in pickup trucks, waving white flags. “They are sending warning messages,” resident Mohammad Abu Halemah said. “Once we received the message, we felt scared to stay in our homes. We want to leave.” Adnan Abu Hassna, a spokesman for the U.N. agency in charge of aiding Palestinian refugees, said eight schools were opened as temporary shelters, and about 4,000 people had moved in. He said more schools would be opened if needed. Essam Al Sultan, 46, a farmer from Beit Lahiya said he had taken the decision to flee the area because the youngest of his eight children had been terrorized by the constant sound of explosions in and around their community. `For me I don’t fear death because we are dying every single moment of this war but I left because I want to protect my family,” he said… (Indian Express 14/7/14)

40. Assam for citizenship of refugees (13)

Guwahati: In a major political move, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi here on Wednesday forwarded a Cabinet resolution to the central government to grant citizenship to such foreigners who fled their respective countries because of religious persecution and harassment and now taking shelter in Assam. Informing that Assam government had sent a similar proposal to the central government on April 20,2012, Assam forest minister Rockybul Hussain, who is also the spokesperson of the state government said, “We have forwarded the Cabinet resolution to the central government today asking to grant citizenship to foreigners who were driven out of their respective countries because of harassment and religious persecution. We have referred the precedence followed in Gujarat and Rajasthan.” Referring the quotes from proposal he said, “Those who were Indian citizens at the time of partisan and chose to be settled in different country but subsequently compelled to leave their respective countries because of harassments and religious persecution deserve humanitarian consideration. Under the existing law and system, such persons in India and particularly in Assam are liable to face trial in the court, expulsion and deportation.” Mr Hussain said, “The Cabinet resolution has pleaded to the central government that such persons taking shelter in India should not be treated as foreigners. They should be accorded basic human rights.” (Asian Age 17/7/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

41. Aruna Roy Advocates Safety of Whistle-blowers (1)

BHUBANESWAR: Eight million citizens have used the Right to Information (RTI) Act so far. But accessing information through this Act has also taken a heavy toll with 40 rights activist losing their lives and more than 200 being brutally attacked ever since RTI was enacted in 2005. The Whistle-blower’s Protection Act is therefore an essential tool to safeguard the life and property of rights activists and their families, said social activist Aruna Roy. The use of RTI Act should not be limited for retrieving information only, it must also act as a tool for grievance redressal, expression of dissent and accountability, she added. Roy was addressing a workshop on the Whistle Blower’s Protection (WBP) Act, here on Tuesday. She stressed on forming pre-legislative discussion forums which would enable the common man to participate and voice their views on a bill, before it is enacted as law. “The SEZ Act of 2005, was not even sent to a Select Committee and passed within two days. Such a law which acquires land from the poor and uses it for industrialisation, required an intensive debate?, remarked Roy. Speaking at the workshop, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) Convener, Nikhil Dey said though the WBP Act has certain important safeguards for whistle-blowers, many provisions which the NCPRI had suggested were omitted from it. “Setting a time limit for investigation and allowing anonymous complaints should be allowed under ambit of the bill,” suggested Dey. Introduction of multiple exemptions into RTI Act was an attempt by the Government to weaken it, opined both of them. They added that the WBP Act was passed hurriedly through an ordinance by the previous government and was not equipped enough to protect the whistle-blowers. Representatives of more than a dozen social rights organisations and RTI activists from across the State participated. Among others, Congress MLA Prafulla Majhi, BJP Legislative Party Leader Basanta Panda, BJD MLA Amar Satpathy, senior journalist Rabi Das and State Convenor of NCPRI  Pradeep Pradhan were present. (New Indian Express 9/7/14)

42. RTI activist, family take refuge in Chennai (1)

CHENNAI: D Selvendran’s fight against corruption in his native Chittilabakkam near Kalpakkam has proved costly. His children have been unable to go to school and the family of four, facing a threat from local politicians, has taken refuge at a relative’s house at Siruthavoor near Thiruporur. At an event organised by Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, an NGO, in the city on Wednesday, the 34-year-old RTI activist said everything in his village, from ration cards to widow pensions, had to be bought. While he fought against this and some politicians drove his family away, police took no action on his complaints, he said. “I erected a banner with a message against corruption in front of my house. I also spread word on the RTI Act and asked villagers not to pay bribe for any government services” said Selvendran, a driver. In his complaint to police, he said AIADMK’s Thirukazhukundram taluk joint secretary Selvaraj, advocate Dinesh Kumar, village assistant Swami Das and Arumugam, who works at Kalpakkam atomic power station, came to his house at night on June 19 and asked the family to leave. “They were upset about my anti-corruption messages as they were collecting 2,000-3,000 as bribe for government services,” he said. He said water supply to his house was cut. “We didn’t have any other alternative other than leaving the place,” he said. His wife Reeta, a dalit, said: “My husband is unable to go to work. Our children have not gone to school for more than ten days. We returned home on Tuesday after we lodged complaints with the CM’s cell, DGP office and collector’s office hoping they will protect us.” However, the local AIADMK leader and a few others threatened them with dire consequences. “They hurled stones and tried to set our house afire. The villagers are also helpless. But where will we go with these children?” she wept. She said they would have to commit suicide if threats continued. “They will be responsible if something happens to our lives.” When contacted, Selvaraj said, “I didn’t threaten anyone or ask them to vacate the place.” Dinesh Kumar, too, denied the allegations. Sub-inspector of Sadras police station S Vijakumar was unavailable to commentSatta Panchayat Iyakkam president Siva Elango said some politicians were running a ?khap panchayat’ (kangaroo court) in the village. “It’s unfortunate that a family is being excommunicated for creating awareness against corruptionThe government is responsible for protecting the family.” (Times of India 10/7/14)

43. RTI pleas seeking similar information will be rejected: CIC (1)

NEW DELHI: Repeated RTI applications seeking similar information could be grounds for rejecting it, the Central Information Commission has said. “The citizens have no right to repeat the same or similar or slightly altered information request under the RTI Act, 2005, for which he already got a response,” the Commission said. Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu said once an RTI application is answered the appellants shall refrain themselves from filing another RTI application against the public authority “…as once information is received and held by them or posted in public domain, because such information is deemed to have ceased to be ‘held’ by the public authority,” he said basing his arguments on the observations given by previous information commissioners and objectives of the RTI Act. Dismissing the appeals of an RTI applicant Nitesh Tripathi who was repeatedly seeking “information which are highly voluminous,” Acharyulu said the first appellate authority (within the department) and Commission may be right and reasonable to consider this as a ground for rejecting the first or second appeal, respectively among other reasons. “An applicant or appellant repeating the RTI application or appeal either once or multiple times, suppressing the fact of earlier application and receipt of the answer, the CPIO of the public authority may reject it forthwith after intimating it along with reasons,” he said. Tripathi had filed a number of RTI applications to various authorities in the health department and hospitals seeking details on several issues. The data submitted by these authorities showed Tripathi had filed at least 12 applications every year at directorate of health services, 17 at department of health and family welfare, 62 to Hedgyan Arogya Sansthan, 200 applications at the rate of 30-31 applications per day at Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, 100 at Acharya Bhikshu Hospital of which CIC decided in 16 cases on the same issue among others. The information commissioner said applications filed by Tripathi are “wide-ranging requiring lot of effort by authorities to collect the voluminous information which is difficult to be answered in one go”. “The Commission considers this case as the case of repetitive use of RTI assuming the proportion of harassment to the public authority and reckless abuse of RTI,” Acharyulu said in his order. (Times of India 12/7/14)

44. Most Information commissions fail transparency test (1)

NEW DELHI: Information commissions — watchdogs for the transparency regime under the RTI Act — are some of the most opaque organizations according to an independent report. Of the 29 commissions in the country, only 17% have the facility of online filing of appeals and complaints, 42% do not display information on the cases that will be heard that day or that week, 58% do not display the updated status of pending appeals and complaints while 35% do not have a system of making their orders public within a reasonable timeframe. The report prepared by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) also revealed that there was a steady increase in the number of RTI queries in 2012 as compared to the previous year. While Gujarat and Odisha saw a 46% increase in applications, Karnataka witnessed 29% increase. There was a 19% increase in RTI appeals with the Central Information Commission (CIC). More than three-fourths of the commissions do not have a website in the local language. The CIC and state information commissions of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have local language websites. Only 17% of information commissions provide online facilities for submitting appeals or complaints or both. While the CIC, Gujarat and Tripura commissions accept online filing of both appeals and complaints, their counterpart in Bihar provides this facility for filing second appeals only. About 42% of information commissions do not display cause lists on their websites that will help the public know what cases are likely to be heard by the commission. These include commissions in Assam, Bihar, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim that continue to resist the idea of displaying cause lists on their websites, the report said. About 58% of commissions including Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal do not provide data on disposal of cases and pendency of appeals and complaints. Nineteen of the 29 commissions have made their orders public but the commissions of Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh do not have updated information for the last 2-4 years. Incidentally, this comes at a time when there has been a sharp increase in RTI applications. Gujarat and Odisha have seen a 46% increase in applications while Karnataka has recorded 29% increase. At 26%, Chhattisgarh witnessed the third highest increase in the number of RTI applications received in 2012 followed by Mizoram at 20%. (Times of India 14/7/14)

45. Corporation Official Gets it for Failing to Send RTI Reply on Dump Yard (1)

COIMBATORE: The State Information Commission has ordered the Coimbatore Corporation Commissioner to take disciplinary action against the Deputy Commissioner for failing to provide information regarding Vellalore dump yard under the Right to information (RTI) Act to an applicant. According to the order copy available with Express, City Corporation commissioner G Latha can take disciplinary action against Deputy Commissioner S Sivarasu, who has failed to provide few details regarding the Vellalore dump yard. RTI applicant K S Mohan who is the secretary of the Kurichi Vellalore Pollution Prevention Action Committee has sought answers to 14 questions related to the dump yard from the city Corporation. Mohan and his committee members are fighting for about a decade to shift the dump yard from the present locality.  The DC had failed to provide details about the total amount spent for the Vellalore dump yard so far, besides the total amount handed over to the private company which is maintaining the dump yard. However, Sivarasu provided answers to the other queries sought by Mohan such as inspection report carried out at the scientific closure site. The State Information Commission Christopher Nelson has also ordered the Public Information Officer Natarajan to pay `25,000 as fine for failing to provide details to few questions sought in the RTI. (New Indian Express 15/7/14)

46. Disclose info sought by ‘murdered’ RTI activists: Aruna Roy (1)

BANGALORE: A group of campaigners has urged the government to make public all information sought by ‘murdered’ RTI activists. Claiming that more than 40 such activists have been killed in India, political and social activist Aruna Roy told TOI on Wednesday: “We are pushing the government to reveal the information wanted by such applicants so that citizens don’t have to risk seeking the same again.” Stating that it won’t be possible to amend the law and allow people to seek information anonymously, she said: “We must show that we can act collectively. Let 100 people demand the same information, we’ll see if all of us can be murdered”.Roy was conducting a workshop on public policy at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), along with her colleagues Nikhil Dey and Shankar. Even with all its advantages, RTI is still not a magic wand, remarked Nikhil. “…It’s time for us to further our campaigns and put in place legislation that enhances our rights. We need literate India to understand and participate in the campaign for the need for pre-legislative consultation policy (PLCP)”, he said. Roy said: “…the rulers we send to Parliament for five years are sent on a social contract. They cannot make laws arbitrarily on our behalf.” NLSIU professor and Aam Aadmi Party member Babu Mathew said it is essential that certain elements of the proposed law must stand the scrutiny of people before being introduced in the house. “This has been mandated by the constitution in South Africa, why is Indian bureaucracy scared?” he asked. The activists also urged people to join the campaign for introducing and passing the Grievances Redressal Bill, which, Nikhil said: “…has somehow not been passed despite all parties having arrived at some consensus.” As part of the workshop, students participated in debates on the Lokpal Bill, Grievances Redressal Bill and pre-legislative consultation policy (PLCP). They offered suggestions on how to take them forward. and what these bills should include to the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), which will take it up with the government, eventually. At the end of the three-day session, students presented their views on RTI in innovative ways. While one group performed a skit, others conveyed the message through song and poetry. “I am thoroughly impressed. I’m taking the material with me and will use it in our future campaigns,” Aruna said. (Times of India 17/7/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

47. Goa school shuts down over HIV-positive students (11)

Panaji: A deadlock between the parent teachers association (PTA) and management over granting of admission to 13 HIV-positive students has forced the school authorities to temporarily close down the educational institution. The closure has now been followed by Green Goa Foundation, a local NGO, issuing notice to state education director Anil Powar, asking him to ensure that the HIV-positive students are not denied their right to education. An official of the Fatima High School in Rivona, a mining town located 50 km from here, told IANS that the school had been closed temporarily in view of the deadlock between the institution management and the PTA. “The parents have been demanding that the students be removed from the school, which is clearly not only unreasonable but also not legal… the school has been shut until the matter is resolved,” the official said wishing anonymity. The parents-teachers association of the Fatima High School has threatened a boycott if the institution’s management admits 13 HIV-positive students. The stand-off even forced the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights to Monday direct both Goa Police and the South Goa district administration to ensure that the HIV-positive students are not denied their right to education. The 13 students belong to a children’s home called Nitya Seva Niketan located in the mining belt of Rivona in Quepem sub-district (45 km from here) and had been enrolled in an open school, before the nuns – who run the home – decided to admit them to a regular school this year. Attempts made in June to admit the students to the Don Bosco-run school in Sulcorna village, located 50 km from here, also failed due to opposition from parents of students already studying there.Raison Almeida of the Green Goa Foundation claimed that non-admission of the students was a clear violation of their right to education. “I have issued a notice to the education director to uphold the right of the students to education,” Almeida told IANS. In his notice, Almeida said he would be forced to petition the Bombay High Court bench in Goa if the education department doesn’t ensure admissions to the HIV-positive students. (Zee News 9/7/14)

48. Budget 2014: No major changes in education sector in Budget (11)

NEW DELHI: The NDA government’s maiden Budget doesn’t stray too far from past practice when it comes to the education sector. The allocation for school education is up by nearly 10% from the interim 2014-15 Budget, while that for higher education is 13% up. The total budget of the human resources development ministry has seen an increase of 12.3% from last year to Rs 83,771 crore. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which is the programme for the implementation of the Right to Education Act, got an allocation of Rs 28,635 crore, an increase of Rs 1,000 crore, while the Mid-Day Meal Programme has been allocated Rs 13,215 crore. Another Rs 4,966 crore has been budgeted for the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan. Quality interventions appear to be the top priority of the government when it comes to school education. The efforts announced in the Budget, if designed and implemented properly, could lead to improved learning in schools. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has increased the allocation for teacher training and education. A new effort, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya New Teacher Training Programme, has been launched with an initial allocation of Rs 500 crore. This programme will focus on training students, who aspire to become teachers, in professional colleges. Details of the programme are not available, but the indication is that the government is going to focus on teachers, reiterating its recognition that they remain the weakest link in the government’s school education efforts. The programme is envisaged to benefit nearly 20,000 teacher trainees studying in Teacher Education Institutions. Another new initiative is a school assessment programme — this is another attempt to address the issue of quality. The assessment will take into account parameters such as levels of student learning outcomes. “The public display of such school performance would enable parents to make a more informed choice about schools. This will ultimately benefit all children, parents and stakeholders,” said Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani. “I am sure the education fraternity will also welcome the newly launched Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya Teacher’s Training Programme. This move shall go a long way in improving the quality of teaching and thus improving learning outcomes,” said Ranjan Kaul, managing director of OxfordBSE -1.82 % University Press India. Though the finance minister has not made any monetary allocations for addressing gaps in school infrastructure, the government has made it clear that provisions of toilets and drinking water will be a priority. (The Economic Times 10/7/14)

49. Drastic rise in school dropouts in Udupi (11)

Udupi: According to the information provided by the Department of Public Instruction here, the number of school dropouts in the district was 86 in 2011-12, 123 in 2012-13 and 372 in 2013-14. As per the Right to Education (RTE) Act, children between the ages of 6 to 14 have to be compulsorily admitted to schools. The drive to admit out-of-school children in schools is taken up under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). But a survey of schools conducted in November 2013 showed that 997 students had dropped out. As many as 435 students had left their schools mid-way without even taking their Transfer Certificates, while 190 children had crossed 14 years and were deleted from the dropouts list. Finally, as many as 101 children remained in the list of dropouts for 2013-14 and were yet to be traced and re-enrolled. Hence the target of the SSA for re-enrolment for 2014-15 is 372. The Range Education Coordinators have managed to re-enrol 271 dropouts for the present academic year 2014-15. Under the RTE norms, if a child is absent for seven days continuously except for medical conditions, he/she was treated as a dropout. P. Nagaraj, Deputy Project Coordinator of SSA, said the change in the method of survey was one of the reasons for a rise in the number of dropouts. “Earlier, we used to do household survey of dropouts. But now we do a school-wise survey, which gives us more details of the dropouts,” he said. Usually the children of migrant workers from districts of North Karnataka dropped out as their parents returned to their home districts. The department was using a software which helped in checking if the students who had dropped out here had joined schools in other places in the State. The names of students who had dropped out of schools and those joining schools were entered in the software. The software had five parameters such as name of student, father’s name, date of birth, class and religion/caste, which helped in tracing the students. Mr. Nagaraj said very few students dropped out till they were 10 years old. The dropouts normally increased once the children were 12 to 14 years old. The reasons were lack of awareness on the importance of education among parents and their desire to get additional hands to financially support the family. (The Hindu 12/7/14)

50. Implementation of Right To Education Not Tardy: Govt to RS (1)

NEW DELHI: The Right To Education (RTE), initiated during the UPA regime, today got a thumbs-up from the NDA government which said its implementation had not been tardy as 19.88 crore children have been enrolled at the elementary level.  “No, the progress under RTE Act 2009 indicates that 19.88 crore children have been enrolled in elementary school, with a gross enrolment ratio of 96.5 per cent as per district information system for education 2013-14,” HRD Minister Smriti Irani said in Rajya Sabha today.            She said this in a written reply to a question by D Raja and M P Achuthan as to whether it was a fact that the implementation of RTE has been tardy. The minister said that the average drop out rate has come down from 6.8 per cent in 2009-10 to 4.7 per cent in 2013-14 at the primary level. The RTE Act 2009 provided for free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6 to 14. To a related question, the Minister said availability of teacher in elementary education has improved with additional recruitment of 15.06 lakh teachers funded under the Sarva Sikshya Abhiyan programme, an important the RTE programme. Talking about the Rashtriya Uchchattar Sikshya Abhiyan Programme, which seeks to universalise secondary education, she said while 23 states are participating in the programme, state higher education plans have been received from 13 states and Rs 310.40 crore has been released to different states till June this year. (New Indian Express 14/7/14)

51. Telangana to Have Higher Education Institutes: Irani (11)

NEW DELHI: The government shall take steps to establish various institutes of higher education both in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani said Wednesday. In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Irani said that as per the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, the government shall take steps to establish one institute each of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), National Institute of Technology (NIT), a central university and a tribal university, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in the successor state of Andhra Pradesh. The other institutes proposed in the state include a petroleum university, an agriculture university, one National Institute of Disaster Management and an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)-like institute. “In Telangana, one horticulture university and one tribal university are proposed to be established as per the Act. Details of locations and budgetary provisions for these institutions are yet to be finalised,” she added. (New Indian Express 17/7/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

52. India has a strong urge to grow and free itself from poverty: Arun Jaitley (21)

New Delhi: While delivering his maiden budget speech in Parliament today, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that India has a strong urge to grow and free itself from the curse of poverty. “The people are in no mood to suffer unemployment, inadequate basic amenities, lack of infrastructure and apathetic governance. The Indian economy will have to maneuver its way through a sluggish global recovery,” said Jaitley. Jaitley said that the government intends to usher in a policy regime that would bring the desired growth, lower inflation, sustained level of external sector balance and prudent policy stance. The Finance Minister pointed out that the present economic situation presents a challenge of slow growth in manufacturing, in infrastructure and also the need to introduce fiscal prudence. The tax to GDP ratio must be improved and non-tax revenues increased. He has set a target of fiscal deficit of 3.6% for 2015-16 and 3% for 2016-17. Jaitley said that the government will constitute an Expenditure Management Commission to look into every aspect of expenditure reform. The government also intends to overhaul the subsidy regime while providing full protection to the marginalized. The Finance Minister also said that the government would like to introduce Goods and Services Tax (GST) to streamline the tax administration, avoid harassment of business and ensure higher revenue collection. Jaitley further said that the Indian Government will promote FDI selectively in sectors. FDI in Defence and Insurance sector is being raised to 49% with full Indian management and control. FDI is also being encouraged in the development of `Smart Cities’. To infuse Rs. 2,40,000 crore in the Indian Banking system, citizens of India will be allowed direct share holding in these banks. The government will also provide tax incentives for real estate investment trusts. A similar incentive will also be announced for Infrastructure Investment Trusts. A national multi-skill programme called Skill India is proposed to be launched. This will provide training in traditional professions like welding and carpentry etc. A sum of Rupees 1,000 crore will be provided to Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana to provide assured irrigation in rain fed areas. Earlier today, Jaitley presented his maiden General Budget for the year 2014-15 with the permission of Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan at 11 am. (DNA 10/7/14)

53. Food security act from September (21)

Guwahati, July 14: The Assam government will implement National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, from September 1 this year. This was announced in a meeting convened by chief minister Tarun Gogoi at his office here today. During the meeting, senior officials of the state food and civil supplies and consumer affairs department, the nodal department for implementing the act, apprised Gogoi of the slew of measures that have been taken for implementation of a particular scheme. Minister for food and civil supplies and consumer affairs, Nazrul Islam, chief secretary Jitesh Khosla, additional chief secretary of finance, H.S. Das, principal secretary of food and civil supplies and consumer affairs, S.L. Mewara, principal secretary to chief minister, Jishnu Barua and other senior officials were present at the meeting. Gogoi urged the officials to ensure that the scheme is implemented efficiently in the state and actually benefits those for whom it is meant. He also directed them to ensure that sufficient quantity of commodities are available in Amar Dukan, the state’s fair price shops, take concrete and effective steps to prevent hoarding and black-marketing of necessary commodities and maintain a steady supply line to create a balance between their demand and supply. “Adequate arrangements have to be made to check the prescribed stock limit of essential commodities from time to time so that no criminal element can indulge in artificial shortage by way of hoarding of necessary articles, leading to black-marketing,” Gogoi said. The government also plans to bring onions and potatoes in the list of essential commodities to curb hoarding. “The step will help undertake de-hoarding operations and control the prices of onions and potatoes. All officials concerned should send a list of regular stocks and prices of essential items, including onions and potatoes, to the media on a daily basis so that the consumers are made aware of it,” Gogoi said. Officials of the legal meteorology department were also asked to carry out inspections of weighing scales and weight equipment in the grocery and in vegetable, fuel and other retail outlets so that they cannot dupe unsuspecting consumers. Gogoi also suggested opening up of a farmers’ market to ensure that farmers are able to sell their produce to the consumers directly so that they earn the right price without the middlemen milking the profits. (The Telegraph 14/7/14)

54. People protest against Bihar Govt. for its reluctance to pay pension to widows (21)

Patna: People in Bihar on Monday launched a protest against the state government for not providing widows their due under a social security scheme. The Laxmibai Social Security Widow Pension Scheme, introduced in 2007, is aimed at the welfare of widows in Bihar. Under the scheme, widows living under the poverty line are provided with an amount of Rs.300 per month. However, the widows are not getting the amount from the state government. The protesters said that the state government had promised an amount of rupees 11 lakh in September last year but the amount is yet to be distributed among the aggrieved parties. “The priorities of the Bihar government have changed. They used to say that they would help the poor, the helpless and the widows. Today the pension to widows which is given 75 percent by the central government and 25 percent by the state is not being distributed, and this reflects the negligence on government’s part,” said a legislator of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Nitin Navin. The protesters blamed the corrupt system that is responsible for the distribution under the scheme, saying the money goes through long channels and is often eaten up by the very people who are accountable for distribution. In addition, the remuneration is lent after a period of three to four months at the local council instead at the woman’s own village. This is a cumbersome process especially for old women, who have to traverse faraway places. “We demand that the money that comes in from the state government should be given to the widows. Each month, there should be camps set up in the concerned woman’s village instead of her coming to the local council for which she has to bear additional expenses. Money should then be distributed to the widows after a verification process,” said another legislator of BJP, Usha Vidyarthi. (New Kerala 14/7/14)

55. One-third of World’s Extreme Poor Live in India, Says UN Report Card (21)

NEW DELHI: One-third of the global extreme poor lived in India as of 2010, the largest share for a country, the latest UN Millennium Development Goals report has said. In South Asia, poverty rates fell by an average of one percentage point annually — from 51 per cent in 1990 to 30 per cent two decades later. In South Asia, the proportion of the extreme poor increased from 23 per cent to 42 per cent. The trend, if it continues, will be insufficient to meet the target of halving the proportion of population without access to basic sanitation by 2015. Close to 60 per cent of the 1 billion who defecate in the open live in India, the report added. As per the data, India also had the highest child mortality rate in 2012 with 1.4 million children dying before the age of five. In terms of child nutrition, despite steady progress, 30 per cent of children below age five were underweight in South Asia. The report was released here by Union Minister of Minority Affairs Dr Najma Heptullah on Wednesday. She said several problem areas had been identified by the government before the report’s release. (New Indian Express 17/7/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

56. Tamil Nadu tops in NREGS with 59 person days, Kerala follows (14)

CHENNAI: The previous UPA regime’s flagship scheme, NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), set to undergo changes under the new NDA government, no doubt, has many takers in Tamil Nadu. The Economic Survey presented in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday confirms this, certifying that the state ranks number one with 59 person days (the average number of days that workers in the state have been employed) during 2013-14, followed by Kerala with 57 person days. The two states also have the highest percentage of women being employed under the scheme. While this is a point to boast, the moot question remains whether Tamil Nadu really benefitted in terms of creation of assets or improvement in living standards of the poor. Experts involved in the scheme have expressed reservations about the efficacy of the scheme in the state. “Though Tamil Nadu may lead in terms of providing employment to rural people, not many assets have been created,” said director of Centre for Environment Concerns, KS Gopal, who is an expert in rural development. Also the scheme is most needed in states where infrastructure and other basic amenities are lacking. Tamil Nadu and Kerala are better in these areas,” said Gopal. “If the NDA government revamps the scheme, it should be linked to productivity like creation of assets to improve infrastructure in villages and providing drinking water, which is scarce,” said Gopal. The scheme being implemented in the state is beset with many bottlenecks with regard to payment of wages and choice of project, said Tamil Nadu Farmers Association chief K Balakrishnan. “At present many people in villages prefer to work as construction labourerers rather than enroll themselves as NREGS workers,” said Balakrishnan. He claimed there was delay in disbursement of wages under the scheme due to issues with banks and other procedures of the rural development department. Tamil Nadu’s wage rate of Rs 148 per worker is the lowest in south India after Andhra Pradesh which pays Rs 137. While Kerala pays Rs 164 and Karnataka Rs 155. The share of women employed under the scheme is the highest in Kerala (93.4%) followed by Tamil Nadu (84.1%), said the survey. (Times of India 10/7/14)

57. Modi govt’s rural push: MGNREGA to be revamped, fund for start-ups (14)

NEW DELHI: Committing itself to create more jobs in rural India, the Modi government has decided to continue with MGNREGA- the previous UPA’s government’s flagship rural employment programme- but the scheme will be revamped to make it ‘development-oriented’. The programme, assuring 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household, has been subject to allegations of misuse and corruption. “The government is committed to providing wage and self-employment opportunities in rural areas. However, wage employment would be provided under MGNREGA through works that are more productive, asset creating and substantially linked to agriculture and allied activities,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is his budget speech. The BJP government has allocated Rs 34,000 crore for the rural job scheme, allaying the fear that new dispensation may scuttle the programme. The outlay for 2013-14 was Rs 33,000 crore. Calling for an urgent revamp of the programme, the Economic Survey had found MNREGA responsible for labour shortages in SMEs and price hike in the food sector among other things. The government has also promised safe drinking water in around 20,000 habitations, affected with arsenic, fluoride, heavy/ toxic elements and pesticides, through community water purification plants over the next three years. The budget allocated Rs 3,600 crore under ‘National Rural Drinking Water Programme’ for the purpose. For encouraging rural youth, the government announced a “Start-Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme” with an initial corpus of Rs 100 crore. The corpus of Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF), operated by NABARD, has been raised to Rs 25000 crore to create infrastructure in agriculture and rural sectors. The road connectivity in rural areas too gets enhanced attention with the government allocating Rs 14,389 crore under Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana, initiated during the NDA-I regime under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Centre would also restructure Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF), currently implemented in 272 backward districts in 27 States, to fill up critical gaps in development of basic infrastructure facilities and for capacity-building of panchayats and gram sabhas. The restructuring would focus on addressing intra-district inequalities. The provision of bank loan for women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) at 4% under Ajeevika scheme will be extended to another 100 districts. (Times of India 11/7/14)

58. Minimum wage for unskilled workers increased by Rs 42 in tier III cities (14)

New Delhi: The minimum wage for central government works for unskilled farm workers was revised upward to Rs 193 per day on April 1, 2014 from Rs 151 three years ago for tier III cities, Parliament was informed today. In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, Minister for State for Labour Vishnu Deo Sai said that for tier II cities, the per day minimum wage was increased to Rs 195 from Rs 153 in 2011 in unskilled category for farm sector. Similarly, for metros or tier I cities, it was raised to Rs 215 from Rs 169 in 2011. In construction sector, the minimum wage was revised from Rs 165 to Rs 220 in 2014 for the tier III or C-category areas across the country. In construction sector, for tier II cities, the minimum wage is Rs 273, up from Rs 205 in 2011. In metros or Class-A areas, it is now Rs 329 compared to Rs 247 in 2011, Sai said. The minister said that in order to protect minimum wages against inflation, the government mooted the idea of Variable Dearness Allowance (VDA) as one of the recommendations of Labour Ministers conference held in 1988. As per practice, the central government revises the minimum wage for works coming under its purview periodically as per the provisions of the Minimum Wage Act 1948, taking into account the rise in Consumer Price Indices (Retail Inflation). The minister was replying to a question whether the government has made any mechanism to link minimum wages with price rise. Price rise has been an issue for quite sometime and rocked Parliament also. The price situation has not been good in the past years and the previous government had discussed the issue in Parliament and also passed the resolutions to contain inflation. (Indian Express 14/7/14)

59. Govt mulls amending host of labour laws (14)

NEW DELHI: The government is considering amending a host of labour laws. Though it has not got any formal proposal, the move is aimed at simplifying archaic laws so that they don’t create problems in expanding facilities. Minister of state for labour and employment Vishnu Deo Sai told Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that the amendments to a host of labour laws, including Minimum Wages Act,1 948, Labour Laws,1988, Factories Act, 1948 and Child Labour Act, 1986, are under active consideration. Industry representatives have been long demanding changes in labour laws which they have often termed “archaic” and a hindrance in raising and expanding their facilities. In his written response to a question, the minister, insisted that “at present there is no proposal to formulate new labour laws”. Sai informed the Upper House that India has a total workforce of 47.41 crore as per the last survey of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) conducted in 2011-12. “The total workforce is estimated at 47.41 crore, out of which 33.69 crore were rural workers and 13.72 crore urban workers,” Sai said, adding 35.3% of the workers are employed as casual labourers in rural areas. Sai said as per the NSSO survey of 2009-10, the total employment in the unorganised sector is 43.7 crore. He also said there were 11.25 lakh permanent workmen and 2.63 lakh contract labourers in 234 Central public sector enterprises (PSEs) during 2011-12. (Times of India 17/7/14)

RESERVATION

60. Govt revises format of OBC caste certificate (25)

New Delhi: The format of caste certificate for Other Backward Class (OBC) has been revised to make it easier for them to get the benefit of the reservation, the Government said on Wednesday. Representations were being received from candidates belonging to OBC citing difficulty in getting the benefit of reservation, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh told Lok Sabha in a written reply. Difficulties were being faced as in the caste certificate there was space for mentioning the name of the caste or community but no space was provided for indicating the specific resolution by which the said caste or community has been included in the central list of OBC, he said. “The issue was examined in consultation with National Commission for Backward Classes and the format of OBC certificate has since been revised,” the Minister said. (Zee News 9/7/14)

61. Governor approves ordinance for Maratha, Muslim reservation (25)

MUMBAI: Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayan on Wednesday approved the ordinance granting reservation to Maratha and Muslim communities in Maharashtra. Marathas will get a 16 per cent quota and Muslims five per cent in government jobs and educational institutions. Sources in Mr. Sankaranarayanan’s office said the file had been approved and returned to the government. Once promulgated, the ordinance will raise quota in the State to 73 per cent. The Supreme Court had earlier capped quota at 50 per cent. The reservation was cleared by the government a fortnight ago. The decision has already been challenged in the Bombay High Court, with petitioners arguing that it is unconstitutional and has crossed the quota limit. Reservation for the Maratha community had triggered opposition from Other Backward Class (OBC) groups which pointed out that the Marathas were dominant and politically influential and could not been classified as backward. (The Hindu 10/7/14)

62. Women’s Reservation can be Potential Game Changer: UN Official (25)

NEW DELHI: Thirty-three per cent reservation to women in Parliament has the potential to be a “game changer” as not only will such a step change patriarchal mindsets but also boost pro-women legislation, feels senior UN official Lakshmi Puri. “The perception of the girl child will change. When you have empowered women out there in Parliament, and in such great numbers, you are representative of the people more and more. You change that whole mindset about women being a burden… the way Union minister Smriti Irani said that such comments were made when she was born,” the Deputy Executive Director of UN Women said . More women in Parliament will help change that “patriarchal mindset”, she said, adding that the experience in several other countries which have reservation for women has been very positive. Speaking to PTI here, Puri, who is also Assistant Secretary General with the UN, said that if there are 33 per cent women in Parliament, they will move aggressively across party lines to advance the interests and needs of women. “It’s not only symbolic but effectively it has the potential to really change the game. It can be a game changer for gender responsive legislation and a change in prioritisation of women and girls issues, in the planning and budgeting process,” she said. Puri, who is a former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, however, added 33 per cent is just the critical mass and the real objective should be parity. Speaking further, she emphasised that there is a need to push towards making the whole system more gender responsive and gender sensitive and all public institutions and not just the Parliament. She hoped that the Women’s Reservation Bill is passed. The BJP, which is the leading party in the ruling NDA, had in its pre-election manifesto said that it is committed to 33 per cent reservation in parliamentary and state assemblies. (New Indian Express 13/7/14)

63. Transgenders voice fears (25)

Transgenders on Tuesday voiced concern over the Supreme Court verdict labelling them as “third gender” and the proposal to club them with OBCs. About 30 representatives of the transgender community expressed their opinion on the issues at an interactive session hosted by the state government to find ways to implement the apex court’s recommendations on transgenders. Social welfare minister Shashi Panja and officials of her department interacted with the transgenders at the session held at a Salt Lake hotel. The Supreme Court, in a landmark verdict in April, recognised “the third gender” and ruled that they were entitled to all fundamental rights, reservation in jobs and education, and separate public toilets. The state government is mulling options to form a transgender welfare board to implement the court’s order. “Even after the verdict we have faced rude behaviour from police. A transgender couple went to a city police station on May 15 after they were harassed by local youths. What they faced at the police station amounted to a second round of torture,” said Anindita Dutta, a transgender. The couple approached the Association for Transgender/Hijra, an NGO working for transgenders, that persuaded the officers to lodge a complaint. “When we approach the protector of law, this is the behaviour we get. The Supreme Court order is three months old but nothing has changed,” said another transgender. Panja as well as police officers present admitted to the problem. Members of the transgender community urged the minister to ensure the government did not use the term “third gender” as it was “humiliating”. “We are proud to be transgender and the government should use that term,” said Aparna Banerjee, after Panja said she was unsure of the correct word to use. The community members also expressed apprehension about being clubbed with OBCs for reservations. “If the government is serious, they must create a separate quota for us,” said Dutta. Creating public toilets, separate wards in hospitals and facilities were also discussed but government officials said it would take time to tackle the sensitive issues. The transgenders said they should be represented in all committees formed to implement the Supreme Court order. (The Telegraph 16/7/14)

64. Quota norm must for pvt units getting govt aid (25)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Wednesday clarified that it won’t be mandatory for the private sector as a whole to reserve 16 per cent seats for Maratha and five per cent for Muslim communities in education and employment. However, the new quota plan will be applicable in those private sector units and educational institutes receiving the state government’s aid in the form of concessions on land prices or grants. The state government’s quota plan will be applicable to all government undertakings and semi-government organisations. The government has already promulgated an ordinance and issued directives in this regard. With the additional 21 per cent quota for Marathas and Muslims, reservation in government jobs and educational institutions in the state has gone up to 73 per cent — way beyond the 50 per cent limit set by the Supreme Court. At present, the Bombay High Court is currently hearing a public interest litigation, challenging the government’s decision. Minister for Minority Welfare Naseem Khan told Business Standard: “The government decision will not be applicable for all private sector units. However, government-aided private educational institutes will have to provide quota for members of the Maratha and Muslim communities. Besides, it will also be applicable to those private sector units which have received government aid.” Khan reiterated that all government and semi-government organisations will have to strictly implement the quota decision. An NCP minister, who did not want to be named, said there has been a demand from various organisations representing Maratha and Muslim communities for quota in all private sector undertakings. The Indian Merchants’ Chamber said it is concerned about the manner in which the reservation issue is being handled and promoted. IMC President Prabodh Thakker said the new mechanism seems more political rather than having socio, economic content. ”IMC is not appreciative of the current announcement of reservation in Maharashtra, we support the stance that weaker section should be given a helping hand in skill development. IMC will lead from the front as an enabler,” he added. (Business Standard 17/7/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

65. Pass Women’s Reservation Bill: NHRC (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Right Commission (NHRC) Tuesday called for the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill to give them one-third seats in parliament and state legislatures. It also called for the successful implementation of women related policies. Addressing the 58th Session of the National Human Rights Institution’s (NHRI) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in Geneva, Switzerland, NHRC chairperson Justice K.G Balakrishnan said: “For the successful implementation of women related policies, it is of critical importance that the 16th Lok Sabha urgently passes the Women’s Reservation Bill to give them one-third seats in parliament and legislative assemblies”.He said that conviction in crimes against women is low and the criminal justice system needs to be overhauled as it has not been able to respond to the needs of widespread gender-based violence. “The twelfth Plan document, on the basis of NCRB data, indicates total number of crimes against women have increased by 29.6 percent between 2006 and 2010. These included dowry deaths, early marriages, domestic violence, abductions, acid attacks, sexual assault as well as female foeticide”, Balakrishnan said, referring to the National Crime Record Bureau data. In all India Gross Enrolment Ratio, there is a gender gap both in the general and the reserved categories of boys and girls and the same is the case with the overall literacy rate, even though it has increased for women from 53.67 percent in 2001 to 65.4 percent in 2011 Census. Balakrishnan said the police should be more accountable as the they seem to be insensitive to the women related cases due to traditional and patriarchal mind-sets. They should be made more accountable. The Armed Forces Special Power Act in Jammu & Kashmir and northeastern states confers an impunity on the armed forces personnel which often leads to the violation of human rights. “Most often, in cases of sexual assault, many a time, the victims are discouraged by the community and even by the police for resorting to legal remedy. Despite long drawn out legal process, the low conviction rate is also resulting in the harassment of the victims,” he said. He said that during 2013, the NHRC registered a total of 288 cases of sexual harassment of women at various places and 59 cases of sexual harassment in government offices though the Supreme Court had laid the guidelines ensuring women’s safety at workplace in the famous case of Vishakha vs State of Rajasthan in 1997. “Trafficking of women and girls still continues both for sexual exploitation as well as for illegal labour in spite of the government initiatives like Ujjwala Scheme. They face different kinds of harassment, including false implication and unlawful detention,” Balakrishnan said. “Open defecation, especially in rural areas, also increases vulnerability of girls to rape as seen in the recent case of rape of girls in Badayun in Uttar Pradesh,” he said. (Business Standard 9/7/14)

66. Civil society condemns attack on student leader (1)

Itanagar: The Idu Mishmi Cultural and Literary Society has appealed to the state government to ensure safety of all in the state capital. This comes in the wake of attack on Unti Umbrey, a student leader from the community. At a meeting at Roing on Sunday, the society condemned the attack and described the incident as ‘unfortunate and shocking’. “We understand that differences within a students’ union might have led to the attack. But attack on any individual is never justifiable,” said a leader of the society demanding arrest of the culprits and necessary action. It further appealed to people not to post inflammatory comments on the social media over the incident that might affect the peace and harmony in the state. The Cultural and Literary Society of Mishmi also termed the attack barbaric and cowardly. “We are deeply hurt by the unfortunate incident and pledge support through democratic means for justice to Unti Umbrey,” said a member of the society. The All Tai Khampti Singpho Students’ Union of Arunachal Pradesh also joined the chorus. (Times of India 15/7/14)

67. Pay Palghar girls Rs. 50,000 each: NHRC (1)

MUMBAI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday asked the Maharashtra government to pay Rs. 50,000 each to the two Palghar girls who were detained by the police in November 2012 for making comments on Facebook after the death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray. Their arrest, the Commission observed, was a serious violation of human rights. “The Commission has also observed that every citizen can interpret these comments as per his/her thoughts. However, these did not have any contents to attract provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000. As per Article 19 of the Constitution of India, every individual has a right to freedom of expression, which is a Fundamental Right and therefore, their arrest was a serious violation of human rights.” The Commission also expressed displeasure at the Maharashtra government’s lacklustre attitude. Having received no response to its notice and reminders to show cause why monetary relief should not be paid to the victims of human rights violation, the Commission, in its latest direction, asked the Chief Secretary of the State to submit the compliance report along with the proof of payment within four weeks failing which, it may be constrained to take recourse to coercive process under Section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. Shaheen Dhada, 23, and 22-year-old Renu Srinivasan from Palghar in the neighbouring Thane district, were detained by the police after Shiv Sena activists in Palghar objected to their posts on the social media site criticising bandhs called after Mr Thackeray’s demise. After being illegally detained for nearly 10 days, they were formally arrested and immediately released on bail of Rs. 15,000. “The Commission has held that their detention was in violation of freedom of speech and expression of views guaranteed in the Constitution of India,” the press release stated. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

68. NHRC Takes Note of Minor’s Pregnancy (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed Chief Secretary JK Mohapatra to institute a mechanism for comprehensive monitoring of health, including reproductive health, of girls residing in Government-run hostels while ensuring their overall security. The Commission has taken a serious note of a complaint regarding a 14-year-old girl giving birth inside the Bhogpara Primary Sevashram hostel in Kutra block of Sundargarh district on August 5 last year with authorities and Superintendent of the hostel having no knowledge of her pregnancy. Directing the Chief Secretary to submit his response within four weeks, the Commission also instructed the Secretary of ST and SC Department to submit the outcome of proceedings against Kutra Welfare Extension Officer within six weeks. While Sundargarh Collector has been asked to submit details on the proceedings against the ashram authorities, the SP has been asked to apprise whether any official of the hostel was involved in the incident. The complaint would be taken up for hearing during the Bhubaneswar sitting of the Commission next month. A complaint in this regard was filed by executive director of Global Human Rights Communications Subash Mohapatra. (New Indian Express 16/7/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

69. Abide by educational loan policy, court tells banks (19)

CHENNAI: Rejecting a nationalised bank’s contention that only candidates with 60 per cent marks in the qualifying examination are eligible for educational loans, the Madras High Court has directed it to extend financial assistance to an engineering student. Nationalised banks and other financial institutions should abide by the Union government’s policy for lending educational loans to the weaker sections, a Division Bench of Justices N. Paul Vasanthakumar and M. Sathyanarayanan has said. While sanctioning loans, the banks should cover the genuine, reasonable and justified educational expenses of applicants and help students and their parents out of the pressing financial crisis, the Bench said. In 2012, the Indian Overseas Bank branch at Sandaikadaithottam in Tirupur rejected the application by A. Ravi, a parent, for financial assistance. Challenging it, he prayed for a directive to the bank to lend his son Rs.1.88 lakh in educational loan. The bank argued that only those who scored 60 per cent marks and above were eligible. A single judge allowed the petition because the appellant’s son secured 59 per cent marks and got admission to B.E. Hence, the bank branch manager’s appeal. The Bench said the Union Finance Minister had announced that students admitted under the management quota were eligible for loans, and all banks were directed to adopt the policy. After a review meeting held by the Finance Minister with the chief executives of the public sector banks on September 27, 2012, new guidelines were framed. “Nowhere has it been stated in the guidelines that educational loans could be sanctioned only to those who secured 60 per cent and more,” it said. In light of the revised policy, the Bench dismissed the appeal. (The Hindu 10/7/14)

70. Kerala Mulling Law to Provide Welfare Scheme for Migrant Workers (19)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala Government is considering a legislation to provide welfare schemes for migrant workers, who have become a major work force in the state. Announcing this in the Assembly today, Labour Minister Shibu Baby John, however, said a consensus needed to be reached on the issue, as there were differences of opinion about extending such facilities to migrant workers. “A section in the society is skeptical whether it is good to provide welfare measures and keep them in the state always,” he said, adding government was even planning to call an all-party meeting to arrive at a consensus on the matter.  John ruled out a suggestion to issue identity cards for all migrant labourers “Every Indian citizen has the right to work anywhere in the country, so providing them with identity cards to work in the state was violative of fundamental rights”, he said. John, while narrating the difficulties in dealing with them, said language was the main blockade. Now itself government has provided certain welfare schemes to these workers, but they were ignorant about it, he said.As a first step to communicate with them, government plans to set up kiosks at four major railway stations-Ernakulam, Aluva, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode- with help desk managed by people who speak Hindi language, he said. He said so far about 42,000 workers from other states have registered with the Labour Board. Moving the calling attention, K Suresh Kurup said as per a study of Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation, the number of migrant labourer stood at 25 lakh and their number would become 50 lakh in another ten years. He wanted government to ensure protection and wages as per law to them. (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

71. SC rejects PIL to quash Article 370 which gives special status to J&K (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking quashing of Article 370 which gives special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The petition had said that the Constitution does not allow the benefits of Article 370 for a long term but it has been imposed in the state since a long time. There had been a raging debate over Article 370 soon after the Narendra Modi government had taken charge. Union Minister Jitendra Singh had sparked off a controversy by saying that the Central government had started speaking to stakeholders to repeal the Act. SC rejects PIL to quash Article 370 which gives special status to J&K The plea had said that the Constitution does not allow benefit of Article 370 for a long term but it has been imposed in the state since a long time. “The process of repealing Article 370 has started. We are speaking to the stakeholders,” Jitendra Singh had said. Clarifying the statement, the government said that it will come up with a “structured” response to the issue of Article 370. “At the appropriate time, the Government of India, led by Narendra Modi, will come with a response on the issue of Article 370,” Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. (IBN Live 13/7/14)

72. Nirbhaya gang-rape case: Supreme Court stays hanging of 2 convicts (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed till further orders the execution of death penalty of two of the four convicts in the December 16 gang rape-and-murder case. A bench of justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and NV Ramana said since the death sentence of other convicts have already been suspended by this court, the same order has to be passed. It stayed the execution of Vinay Sharma (21) and Akshay Thakur (29), who were convicted along with other two — Mukesh (27) and Pawan Gupta (20) — whose death sentence has already been stayed. Vinay and Akshay had moved the apex court seeking a stay on their execution and reversal of the Delhi high court verdict upholding their conviction and the punishment. The court proceedings also witnessed some confusion as the bench queried whether it could hear the plea in the light of observation made by Chief Justice RM Lodha that the cases of death convicts be heard by not less than a three-judge bench. The bench called for Supreme Court registrar who said no such notification has been issued so far in this regard. The bench then went ahead with the hearing and passed the stay order. The Delhi high court had on March 13 this year upheld their conviction and award of death penalty by terming the offence as “extremely fiendish” and “unparallelled in the history of criminal jurisprudence” and said the “exemplary punishment” was the need of the hour. The two convicts — ​Akshay Thakur (left) and Vinay Sharma. It had also said if this case was not “the rarest of rare cases” then “there is likely to be none”. Besides seeking setting aside of the high court verdict, Vinay and Akshay, in their appeal, have sought a stay on their execution as an interim relief. The petition has said the judgment be set aside as there was no “substance or material piece of evidence” and there were contradictions in the depositions of the victim and her friend, who had accompanied her in the bus, about the offence and the offenders. The petition has said the testimony of the SDM cannot be relied on as she had deposed that the victim was “comfortable, happy and willing to record her statement.” The juvenile involved in the Nirbhaya case (face covered) was sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reformation home by the juvenile justice board. “Whether a patient who is on ventillator … can be happy and comfortable?,” it has said. Disputing the veracity of the dying declaration of the victim, it has said she was not fit enough to record her statement and hence, the statement made through gestures cannot be relied upon. “The high court failed to appreciate before awarding death sentence to appellant Vinay Sharma that he was juvenile at the time of the incident …” it has said. The 23-year-old paramedic, on the night of December 16, 2012, was brutally assaulted and gangraped by six persons in a moving bus in south Delhi and thrown out of the vehicle with her male friend. She later died in a Singapore hospital on December 29. Prime accused in the case Ram Singh was found dead in Tihar Jail in March last year and the trial against him was abated. The sixth accused, the juvenile, was on August 31, 2013 convicted and sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reformation home by the juvenile justice board. (Times of India 14/7/14)

73. NGOs seek proper deliberations on new Juvenile Justice Bill (19)

New Delhi: A group of 58 NGOs and individuals working for children’s rights in the country on Wednesday urged the Centre to carry out proper deliberations before deciding to repeal and re-enact the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. The coalition – ProChild Network – has offered to help the government find a solution to the problems of crimes like sexual violence by juveniles, by giving professional suggestions based on evidence and research. The group comprises 58 NGOs including the Aangan Trust, Centre for Child and the Law, NLSIU-Bangalore, CRY, HAQ:Centre for Child Rights, Leher and Save the Children. “We strongly condemn all sexual violence, be it by adults or juveniles… But we also condemn pitching human rights of women against human rights of children since that will not provide an answer to creating a healthy society. All we want is a dialogue with the government before a final decision in this regard is taken,” said Bharti Ali, Co-Director of HAQ:Centre for Child Rights. On June 18, the Ministry of Women and Child Development stated their intent to repeal and re-enact the Juvenile Justice Act and invited feedback from stakeholders and civil society groups on the draft Juvenile Justice Bill, 2014. According to the ministry’s proposal, while trying the juvenile, in the age group of 16-18 years, involved in heinous crimes such as rape and murder, the Juvenile Justice Board will decide whether the juvenile should be sent to observation home or required a trial under a regular court. “We firmly believe all human beings, especially growing children, need to be taught that there are consequences of their action and that they need to be accountable for their behaviour,” a statement issued by the group said. “However, we assert that the means for ensuring such accountability should be grounded in child and adolescent psychology, the rights of children and a deeper understanding of the circumstances that lead to such behaviour or action, be it indiscipline, anti-social or criminal behaviour,” it adds. The government move comes over a year after the role of a juvenile in the December 16 gang rape case sparked off a debate over lowering the age limit for juveniles involved in heinous crimes. As per the National Crime Records Bureau statistics, in 2013, as many as 33,707 rape cases were registered in the country as against 24,923 cases in 2012. As many as 1,884 juveniles were involved in rape cases in 2013.  (DNA 16/7/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

74. Jail inmate’s body found in water tank (1)

NASHIK: The dead body of an inmate at Central Jail here was found in the water tank inside the jail on Wednesday morning. This is the second such incident in the last three months. According to police sources, Nana Namdeo Patil (49), a resident of Surat, was being tried in several cases of cheating registered against him in Panchavati (Nashik), Surat and other towns. He had been brought by the Panchavati police to Nashik in connection with one such case and had been remanded to magisterial custody for the past one month. On Tuesday evening, the prison staff realized Patil was missing when he failed to answer his roll call. Around 9 am on Wednesday, Patil was found in the water tank in barrack 1 in yard number 5. The medical officers declared him dead and the case was reported to the Nashik Road Police Station. The cause of death is yet to be ascertained. The police are awaiting the post mortem results. A case of accidental death has been registered. On April 30 another convict, 32-year-old Meva Zavre, was found dead hanging by a nylon rope in a prison bathroom. The incident brings to the fore the rising unrest among the jail inmates – be they convicts or undertrails. (Times of India 10/7/14)

75. Iraq forces executed 250 Sunni prisoners (1)

Baghdad. Iraq’s security forces and allied Shiite militias executed at least 255 Sunni prisoners as they fled a lightning jihadist-led advance last month, Human Rights Watch said today. “Iraqi security forces and militias affiliated with the government appear to have unlawfully executed at least 255 prisoners… since June 9,” the watchdog said in a statement. “The mass extrajudicial killings may be evidence of war crimes or crimes against humanity,” the New York-based HRW said. It said the killings appeared to have been carried out in revenge for the onslaught led by what was still known last month as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The group, which has since rebranded itself as the Islamic State (IS), is a Sunni extremist organisation which last month overran large swathes of Iraq, including second city Mosul, and has since declared a “caliphate” straddling the border with Syria. “Gunning down prisoners is an outrageous violation of international law,” said HRW’s deputy Middle East director, Joe Stork. “While the world rightly denounces the atrocious acts of (ISIL), it should not turn a blind eye to sectarian killing sprees by government and pro-government forces.” The rights group said it had documented massacres of prisoners last month in Mosul, as well as in the towns and villages of Tal Afar, Baquba, Jumarkhe and Rawa. “In one case the killers also set dozens of prisoners on fire, and in two cases they threw grenades into cells,” HRW said. It demanded an international investigation into the killings. (Deccan Herald 11/7/14)

76. Respect Human Rights: Army Chief (1)

SRI NAGAR: Army Chief General Bikram Singh, who arrived here on Saturday, asked soldiers and officers to respect human rights and avoid collateral damage during anti-militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir. The Army Chief arrived here for a farewell visit to the strategically important 15 Corps, named Chinar Corps.  “For the Army Chief, this is like homecoming to the Valley as he has commanded the 15 Corps for a year from November 25, 2008, to November 30, 2009,” a defence spokesman said. Singh will be retiring on July 31 and Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag will take over reigns of the Army. During his day-long visit to the state, the Army Chief paid homage at the War Memorial at Badamibagh Cantonment in Srinagar, headquarters of the 15 Corps. He interacted with top army officials and discussed the prevailing security situation in the state with them.  He was briefed about the measures being taken to stop infiltration and ensure peace in the Valley. Later, while addressing the men and officers, the Army Chief complimented 15 Corps for ensuring a secure environment in Jammu and Kashmir, which is battling militancy. The soldiers should uphold the law of land and respect human rights of the people, he said. “The men and officers should ensure that no collateral damage takes place during anti-militancy operations,” Singh said and stressed on the need for people-friendly operations. He also highlighted the initiatives being undertaken for capability augmentation of the armed forces and welfare measures. The Army Chief along with Northern Command chief Lt Gen D S Hooda and GoC 15 Corps Lt Gen Subrata Saha called on Chief Minister Omar Abdullah here and discussed the matters relating to the prevailing security situation in the state. (New Indian Express 13/7/14)

77. Government told to pay Rs 5 lkh to kin of biker shot by cops (1)

NEW DELHI: Police firing at bikers on Ashoka Road last July that led to the death of teenager Karan Pandey was disproportionate to the threat, and showed negligence and error of judgment, National Human Rights Commission has observed relying on a magisterial inquiry report. It has recommended that the Delhi government pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation to Karan’s next-of-kin. Karan, 19, was riding pillion on a bike at Windsor Place when inspector Rajneesh Parmar fired at its rear tyre. NHRC has asked the chief secretary, Delhi to submit the proof of payment along with the report on departmental proceedings initiated against the delinquent cops within six weeks. Karan’s mother, a widow, told TOI that she does not want any compensation but strict action against the erring cop. “Now, even the magistrate’s report has indicted the cops who took away my only son. I have also requested the police commissioner to book the inspector for murder but nobody has paid heed to my pleas. What will I do with the money? My only son is gone now. I want the killer to be punished,” she said. National Human Rights Commission had taken cognizance of the incident on the basis of complaints and intimation received from the deputy commissioner of police, New Delhi. It observed that the inquiry magistrate found negligence and error of judgment on the part of Parmar. The magistrate also observed that the force used was disproportionate to the threat perceived by the PCR officials, and police’s version of heavy stone pelting was “highly doubtful” in the light of CCTV footage and statements of witnesses. The report found serious inconsistencies in the evidence, versions and sequence of events narrated by cops. The magistrate has written to the lieutenant governor and the home department recommending action against Parmar. Two other policemen accompanying Parmar have been indicted. “The number of bikers, claimed by Parmar and the two other policemen ranges from 30-40 to 150-200,” it said. (Times of India 15/7/14)

78. Govt Rules Out Changes in AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir (1)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government is understood to have ruled out changes in the controversial AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir and favoured its continuation in the present form in the state. The decision in this regard is understood to have been taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the Prime Minister recently, sources said here. The CCS discussed changes suggested by the Administrative Reforms Commission, they said. The Army had also given its opinion in the matter and had opposed the repealing or dilution of the law in any form and stated that it was required for it to operate in the state, sources said. Even though Jammu and Kashmir has been relatively peaceful in the recent past except for the ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC), the Army feels that it is more of “absence of violence” rather than establishment of peace there. Several groups and political parties in Jammu and Kashmir and north eastern region have been demanding either repeal or amendment to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)which has been in force in some of the disturbed regions in the country. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley had also visited Jammu and Kashmir to analyse the situation in the state and had visited the forward locations there. He had stated that any decision on revoking AFSPA will depend on the progress in the situation in the state over a period of time. On the need for AFSPA, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh had stated that it was “an enabling” act as it “gives Army additional powers to operate in an environment which is marked by very high degree of uncertainty and complexity and an asymmetric environment where you cannot differentiate between a friend and a foe as the terrorist merges with the backdrop and hides amongst the locals.” (New Indian Express 15/7/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

79. Sri Lanka orders NGOs not to talk to media (1)

Washington: Expressing concern over Sri Lankan government’s recent order on non-governmental organisations, the US has said the move undermines freedom of speech and assembly. “The United States is concerned by reports that the Sri Lankan ministry of defence has ordered registered NGOs and civil society groups to cease their media engagements and activities,” state department spokesperson Jen Psaki said. “This order undermines Sri Lanka’s long-standing and proud democratic traditions, including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly,” she said. The national NGO secretariat of Sri Lanka, under the ministry of defence and urban development had on July 1 issued a new regulation which stated, it has been found that certain non-governmental organisations conduct press conferences, workshops, training for journalists, and dissemination of press releases which is beyond their mandate. (Asian Age 10/7/14)

80. EC notice raises question on media responsibility (1)

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission notice, asking former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to show cause as to why he should not be disqualified in the “paid news” case is aimed as much at the senior Congress leader as a section of the media. The crux of the case relates to a series of articles and news items in sections of the media in Maharashtra in praise of Mr. Chavan as well as publication of 25 advertisements on his election campaign. The issue of paid news has been a serious concern for the Commission as well as several institutions related to the media. The Press Council of India (PCI) had come out with a detailed report on the “paid news” in the latter half of 2009 and the Election Commission initiated its first considered steps against it in 2010. The Commission accepted the PCI definition of “paid news” as any news or analysis appearing in any media (print and electronic) for a price in cash or kind and went on to appoint Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC) at district and State-levels for certification of advertisements and keeping a check on violations. In Mr. Chavan’s case, after several hearings, including appeals in the High Court as well as Supreme Court, the Commission was convinced that during the Maharashtra Assembly election in 2009, a large number of news items, articles, analysis and items marked “advertisements” and “advertorials” appeared in various newspapers, newspaper supplements, pamphlets and magazines eulogising Mr. Chavan, which were in fact paid news published for consideration in kind or cash. This spending, however, did not reflect in Mr. Chavan’s poll campaign expenses. The Commission had sought comments of four newspapers – Lokmat, Pudhari, Maharashtra Times and Deshonnati – in which this material appeared. The newspapers denied the allegation of any payment contending that the impugned “paid news” were, in fact, news or editorials or supplements published by them gratuitously as they had either links with, or leanings towards, the Congress and Mr. Chavan. On the contention of the Lokmat newspaper that it strongly believed that the Congress was the only party which offered a secular option to the electorate, the Commission said it was no excuse to pass off paid news as news. “While every newspaper/media house is entitled to its own philosophy (which could be akin to a political party’s philosophy), what is sought to be published as news should be untinged by such philosophy as different from editorial. The minimum that is expected of ethical journalism is that the reader is cautioned by suitable disclaimers while such articles are published so that the unwary reader can make suitable allowance in his mind while forming his judgement. This matter assumes greater significance in the election period when the media needs to show greater responsibility,” it said. (The Hindu 14/7/14)

81. Women in media facing problems: Kalpana Sharma (1)

Thiruvnanthapuram: Well-known columnist Kalpana Sharma today said many women journalists were scared to reveal the harassments faced by them within their organisations due to the fear of losing their jobs. Speaking at a two-day national workshop on ‘Women in Media’ organised by Kerala Press Academy and Network of Women in Media, she said many media houses were yet to set up committees to deal with sexual harassment complaints. “Many women journalists are still not coming up and speaking out. Because, they want to save their jobs. Many media groups are not setting up anti-sexual harassment cells,” Sharma said. “Earlier we had a belief that we were safe as we were journalists and women. But, many women journalists do not feel so today,” she said. Sharma also noted that the number of women journalists giving up their jobs were on the rise these days. Film editor Bina Paul Venugopal, journalist BRP Bhaskar and activist Ajitha also spoke during the interaction. “Samghaditha”, a Kozhikode-base publication, received this year’s media award instituted by Network of Women in Media. The award comprised a cash prize of Rs 25,000 and citation. (Business standard 14/7/14)

82. Compensate Two Women Over Facebook Post: NHRC to Maharashtra (1)

MUMBAI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Tuesday sent a reminder to the Maharashtra government to pay Rs.50,000 each as compensation to two women who were illegally detained for 10 days by police following a Facebook post after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray two years ago. In a communication to the Maharashtra chief secretary, the NHRC reiterated that “their detention was in violation of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed in the Constitution”. It ordered compliance of its order within four weeks along with proof of payment, failing which the NHRC would resort to a coercive process. The reminder came in the Nov 19, 2012 case in which the NHRC took suo motu cognizance after the two 21-year-old women from Palghar town in Thane were arrested. The women – Shaheen Dhada and Renu Shrinivasan – had lamented in a Facebook post the virtual paralysis in the state Nov 18 when Thackeray’s funeral was held in Mumbai. While Shaheen had posted the comment, her friend Renu had ‘liked’ it, angering Shiv Sena leaders who vandalized a hospital run by Shaheen’s uncle. Police arrested both the women Nov 19 though they had already removed the post and even apologized for it the same day. After an inquiry, the NHRC observed that it found no malicious intention in the comments to hurt the feelings of any class or religion. “The comment only indicated that the bandh was not necessary as a mark of respect to the departed leader and that the city was shut down due to fear and not due to respect,” the NHRC said. From the facts in the case, the NHRC said police had no reasonable ground to invoke Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code that charges people with issuing statements amounting to public mischief, with intent to cause fear or alarm. “Because of the over-reaction of the police, these two young women had to be in jail for more than 10 days for which the state is prima facie responsible,” it said. The NHRC said every citizen can interpret these comments as per his/her thoughts. However, these did not have any content to attract provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000. As per Article 19 of the Constitution, every individual has the right to freedom of expression, which is a Fundamental Right and therefore, their arrest was a serious violation of human rights, it concluded. (New Indian Express 15/7/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

83. Gulberg society massacre: Court asks SIT to submit papers  (7)

Ahmedabad: A special designated court on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team to submit all the documents related to the 2002 Gulberg society massacre case within 15 days. Special judge K K Bhatt passed the order in response to an application by the witnesses of the massacre, their lawyer SM Vora said. The SIT investigation into the charges of conspiracy against former Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and others gave a clean chit to the current Prime Minister in its closure report on February 8, 2012. “Since documents related to their investigation are also related to the Gulbarg case, the special court had ruled two years ago that they be produced before it. The SIT sought a revision of this order, but withdrew its revision petition last month. Therefore I approached the court and said the agency must now comply with the order of the special court and submit the documents. The court has given 15 days time,” Mr. Vora told The Hindu. A total of 69 people were killed in the Gulberg massacre, including former Congress Ehsan Jafri. When the SIT gave a clean chit to Mr. Modi in 2012, Mr. Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri filed a protest petition against their report before the metropolitan magistrate B J Ganatra in 2013. However, her petition was turned down. She then approached the Gujarat High Court this March challenging the lower court’s order upholding SIT’s clean chit to Mr. Modi. The Gulbarg society case is among the nine riots cases probed by the SIT. (The Hindu 9/7/14)

84. Bihar: 2 killed after row over WhatsApp message (7)

Sasaram: Two youth were killed and seven injured at Akbarpur village in Rohtas on Tuesday in an incident sparked off by a message exchanged between friends from two different communities on WhatsApp. The message allegedly had communal undertones and the offended community went on a rampage, attacking several shops, which set off panic in the area. Soon after the offensive message’s sender was identified, Rohtas police station in-charge Mithilesh Kumar Jaiswal detained and relocated him away from the mob. However, rumours spread that the boy had been killed in police custody and the body been disposed of secretly. His family, not finding him at the local police station, started accusing the police. Soon, a large crowd gathered and attacked a police party and torched its vehicle. Immediately thereafter, the police station came under heavy brick batting and isolated gunfire from country-made weapons. Several officials, policemen and CRPF jawans sustained injuries.  An SLR rifle of a SAP jawan was also snatched. The police opened fire in which two persons are said to have died, while the condition of CRPF jawans Chetan Desai and KK Yadav, who sustained injuries, is said to be critical. Sasaram BJP MP Chhedi Paswan told the HT on phone from Delhi that the SHO of Rohtas police station was responsible for the entire episode and demanded strict action against him. The situation is under control and top police officials are camping at the site. Main towns of Sasaram, Dehri, Dinara, Bikramganj and other sensitive places in Rohtas district have been put on high alert. (Hindustan Times 10/7/14)

85. Marad riots case: SC grants bail to 22 accused (7)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday granted bail to 22 accused, sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court and confirmed by the Kerala High Court, in the second Marad riots case despite objections raised by the Kerala government that the riot area was still “communally sensitive.” A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and P.K. Ghose refused to impose any restrictive conditions on the accused before enlarging them on bail, asking the Kerala government to approach the trial court if they want to. The Bench said the accused had already spent 11 years in jail since their arrest in 2003 and there was no point in them continuing behind bars as their criminal appeals against the High Court verdict were pending before the apex court and would take time to be decided on. Nine persons were killed and many others injured in violence between two communities on the Marad beach at Beypore constituency in Kozhikode district of Kerala on May 2, 2003. The Court had earlier allowed bail to 23 other accused, including P.P. Moideen Koya, former president of the IUML Beypore constituency, in the same case. Even then, the reason for bail was the extended period of incarceration of the accused. In the earlier order, the court drew attention to the social circumstances of the accused. It had pointed to the long period that the accused – “daily wage labourers eking out a living as coolies and fishermen” – had spent in jail without bail and the “irrevocable financial difficulties” that their families had to suffer. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

86. Now 5 attacks in 9 days on BJP leaders in UP; 1 more dead (7)

Lucknow: Rakesh Kumar Rastogi, who was found strangulated to death Saturday morning in Baheri area of Bareilly district, was the latest BJP leader to come under attack in Uttar Pradesh over less than 10 days. In that time, two other BJP leaders have been killed, a BJP MP has been attacked and the mother of another senior BJP leader has been shot at. In all the incidents, the BJP has accused leaders of the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP). On June 12, a BJP delegation met Governor B L Joshi seeking action against the state government, accusing that party workers were being attacked at the behest of SP leaders. The BJP has formed a panel of state leaders to look into such attacks and to hold protests. Party spokesperson Chandra Mohan said the attacks were “an attempt to discourage BJP workers in UP”, given the party’s unprecedented performance in the state in the recent polls. Denying the BJP charge, SP spokesperson and Cabinet Minister Rajendra Chaudhary said, “These allegations are baseless and politically motivated.” (Indian Express 16/7/14)

COMMUNALISM

87. VHP to celebrate 50 years of its inception, says Togadia (26)

Vadodara: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is planning to organise programmes at the taluka and village level to celebrate 50 years of its inception in August, its international working president Pravin Togadia said here today. Addressing VHP workers at Godhra about 60 km from here, Togadia said, “The Vishwa Hindu Parishad will launch a new movement called ‘Hindu Ahead, for Hindu Security and Prosperity’, which aims to reach out to Hindus in villages, towns, cities and tribal areas”.The event will be organised by invoking the issue of the “insecure Hindu,” Togadia said. “To protect and prosper, Hindus themselves have to gear up, by becoming true practicing Hindus, aware Hindus and active Hindus, while state governments and central governments must protect Hindu interests,” he said. (Business Standard 10/7/14)

88. VHP Leader Giriraj Kishore Passes Away (26)

NEW DELHI: Senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Giriraj Kishore, who actively participated in the Ram Janambhoomi agitation, died here on Sunday evening following prolonged illness. He was 96. Giriraj had joined the RSS at an early age and was one of its seniormost ‘pracharaks’. The Sangh had sent him to the VHP, where he actively campaigned for the Hindutva issues. “He was ailing for some time now. He died peacefully at the VHP headquarters in R K Puram at 9.15 pm,” VHP Delhi unit spokesperson Vinod Bansal said. A bachelor, Giriraj, was wheelchair-bound for several years. He had recently pledged to donate his body for a social cause. (New Indian Express 14/7/14)

89. RSS’ social engineering is caste-based division: CPI(M) (26)

KOLKATA: Accusing the Rashtriya Swaymsevak Sangh (RSS) of creating communal as well as social discrimination in society, Communist Party of India (Marxist) Politburo member Surjya Kanta Mishra said here on Sunday that the “social engineering” of RSS is nothing but the caste-based division of society. Addressing a gathering at the Pramod Dasgupta Memorial Lecture, Dr. Mishra accused the RSS of “double standards” by alleging that its tactics were based on caste division, derived from the writings of Manu, a mythical sage of ancient India. “The RSS never mentions Manuvaad (the religious doctrine of Manu) in public, but its actions are based on it,” said Dr. Mishra, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly. With regard to the importance of protecting secularism for the Left parties, Dr. Mishra said the “attack on democracy” in the State was going on ever since the Trinamool Congress came to power, adding that “such attacks cannot suppress the Communist movement in Bengal.” Sounding a note of caution about the BJP coming to power at the Centre, he said that if secularism came under attack in the State, the “the unity among the working class [members] that is the primary support base of the Left parties will be in jeopardy.” Dr. Mishra said, “The BJP wants to bifurcate the States that were formed on the basis of linguistic unity, as then controlling them will be easier.” Taking a veiled dig at the saffron party’s support for the creation of smaller States, he said, “If State’s can be divided like this then their linguistic unity will be weakened and it would be easier for the Centre to act as per its whims.” Dr. Mishra also said that by bifurcating States, the BJP wanted to establish “cooperative federalism where without cooperation (with the Centre) there will be no federalism.” With regard to the BJP getting single party majority in the Lok Sabha, Dr. Mishra said the “politics in the country has definitely taken a right turn.” Questioning the unity of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Dr. Mishra said such “coalitions are based on power and not on common minimum programme.” With regard to the recovery of the Left Parties that received a severe drubbing in the general elections, Dr.. Mishra said “responsibility has to be given to the younger generation. (The Hindu 14/7/14)

90. ‘Hindutva-corporate Combine Helped Modi’ (26)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: CPI state assistant secretary K Prakash Babu has opined that the crumbling of the much-touted ‘Bengal Model’ and the mindless actions of certain people which they had implemented under the influence of the neo-liberal policies during the Left Front Government paved the way for Narendra Modi-led Hindutva forces to make their triumphant run across the country. Delivering a lecture on ‘Modi Government and Corporates’ at the N E Balaram remembrance meet held on his 20th death anniversary, under the aegis of the N E Balaram Institute of Social Sciences (NEBISS), he, however, pointed out that the shifting of the Nano car factory to Gujarat had become a major boost to Modi at a time when he was facing a tough time politically in Gujarat and isolation not only in India but outside as well by being denied visa by countries such as the US and the European nations. Prakash Babu said the BJP and the Sangh Parivar could effectively contain caste politics and replace it with the Hindutva aided by the corporates such as Ambanis and Adani. “Modi and Sangh Parivar mesmerized the people with their ‘Hindutva mantra’ and inflated stories of development. Corporates such as Ambanis and Adani were calling for making Modi the CEO of India,” he said. He said that there was no difference between Manmohan and Modi Governments’ approach towards the corporates. “Modi is extending the red carpet rolled out by Manmohan Singh since 2005.  Since then the Indian corporates had been given Rs 36.5 lakh crore subsidies while the agri, fuel and fertilizer sectors together got Rs 2 lakh crore,” he said. Delivering the remembrance lecture, veteran socialist leader and Ex-MP P Viswambharan said   Balaram had always been a model to the politicians. “Since the days of ‘Haripura Congress’ Balaram had been active in politics. He was there in the first meeting of the Communist party held at Parappuram in  Pinarayi village. Till the end of his life, he did not leave it and its ideology,” he said. A scholar in Sanskrit and Indian culture and author of many books, Balaram could touch upon subjects like Marxian aesthetics and  spirituality with the ease of a master mind,’’ he said. K Ashokan presided over the function. CPI district secretary Venjarammoodu Sasi also spoke. (New Indian Express 17/7/14)

91. BJP win blow to Muslim politics: Singhal (26)

New Delhi: The recent Lok Sabha polls had shown that an election could be won “without Muslim support” and it was time the minority community learnt to respect Hindu sentiments, VHP chief patron and senior RSS leader Ashok Singhal has said. Narendra Modi — an “ideal swayamsevak” — would deliver on the Hindutva agenda unlike the first NDA government, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad supremo and one of the longest serving senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders told HT in an exclusive interview. The right-wing Hindu leader, who had a front-row seat at Modi’s swearing-in, said “tables had turned”. The polls were a “setback to Muslim politics” used by “foreign and divisive forces to destroy our identity,” he said. It was time for them to learn their lessons. “Muslims will be treated as common citizens — nothing more, nothing less. And, they must learn to respect Hindu sentiments. If they keep opposing Hindus, how long can they survive?” said the 88-year-old who has been a lifelong pracharak of the RSS, the ideological parent of the BJP. Asked to elaborate, Singhal said Muslims should give up claims over Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura and also accept a uniform civil code. The VHP is understood to have asked interlocutors to convey this message to Muslim organisations. “We’ll then give them love, and not claim any other mosque sites even though there are thousands built on the ruins of temples. But if they don’t accept it, they should be prepared for further Hindu consolidation. It has happened at the Centre, it will happen in other states,” said Singhal, who set up the VHP and spearheaded the stir for the Ram Temple. The temple issue, civil code and abrogation of Article 370, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, had strained the VHP’s ties with the Vajpayee government. The Hindu outfit felt that the NDA did not come good on “core issues”. But no such apprehensions this time, Singhal said in clearest indication, so far, of the RSS’ assessment of what the Modi government can deliver. “The government will not and does not need to backtrack because it has the numbers in the House, and whatever we want to do, we want to do it through constitutional means,” the VHP leader said. The Ram Temple and Godhra had made the BJP win possible. “These were the undercurrents and then issues of development and governance appealed to the young.” For the RSS veteran, elections and religion are never too far. “Religion is the rock on which this country rests.” In Modi, he sees an “ideal swayamsevak. “During the campaign, he conducted himself like a swayamsevak. He also showed to the world the discipline and hard work that a Sangh pracharak puts in.” The PM started his political journey as an RSS pracharak. Singhal admitted that there was “an unprecedented mobilisation” by the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella term for various Hindu outfits, during the elections. Did Sangh expect rewards? “The governors being appointed — be it Ram Naik or Kesari Nath Tripathi — are all from the Sangh but this is not necessary. We worked because it was our duty,” he said. “The important thing is the agenda must be fulfilled.” Despite the Sangh’s tough anti-Pakistan stance, he sees Modi’s invitation to PM Nawaz Sharif as diplomacy. “You also have to resort to deceit at times, and there are segments in Pakistan who want good ties. The problem lies with the jihadi elements, and till they are there, relations can’t be good.” There were some more suggestions on foreign policy. India should take the lead in building a “cultural commonwealth” of South and Southeast Asia, with Hindu and Buddhist population. “China cannot lead such a grouping, it has no cultural backbone and, like the USSR, China will collapse one day.” (Hindustan Times 17/7/14)

TERRORISM

92. Minor gets three-year jail term in Delhi High Court blast case (12)

NEW DELHI: The Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) here on Wednesday awarded the maximum punishment of three years under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, to the sole minor accused in the 2011 Delhi High Court bomb blast case. As many as 15 people were killed and 79 injured in the blast outside Gate No. 5 of the Court. The minor convict would serve the sentence in a reformatory centre. The Board also gave him the set-off benefit for the period he had already spent at the centre before the award of punishment to him. The Board had on July 7 held him guilty under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Explosive Substances Act and waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against the Government of India, collecting arms with the intention of waging war, criminal conspiracy, mischief committed after preparation made for causing death or hurt, murder, attempt to murder, causing hurt and voluntarily causing grievous hurt under the Indian Penal Code. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which probed the case, had charged the minor convict with sending an e-mail claiming responsibility for the blast and also threatening to cause more blasts at other courts, including at the Supreme Court of India, if Afzal Guru, the prime accused of the Parliament attack case, was hanged. Guru was later hanged. According to the NIA, the convict had sent the email from Kishtwar in Jammu and Kashmir. An adult accused in the case is facing trial in a court here. Initially, the Delhi Police had registered the case. The investigation was later transferred to the NIA. (The Hindu 10/7/14)

93. Pune blasts: ATS to question Indian Mujahideen terrorists in custody (12)

Pune: The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) will be questioning the Indian Mujahiddin terrorists in connection with Thursday’s Pune blast, as per reports on Sunday. The list of IM terrorists, whom the ATS team will question, includes Yasin Bhatkal, Haider Ali and Asadullah Akhtar. Bhatkal and Asadullah are presently in the custody after they were arrested from India-Nepal border for carrying out Pune German Bakery and Hyderabad Dilkushnagar blasts. Yesterday, ATS had reportedly spotted a suspect in a CCTV footage recovered from the Pune blast site. The footage showed the suspect parking a bike near Faraskhana police station’s parking lot before the blast occurred. The ATS also monitored some emails which revealed that online messages were exchanged among Indian Mujahideen’s terrorists in Karachi before carrying out blasts, as per reports. The blast caused by an IED planted in a motorcycle at Faraskhana police station’s parking lot had left five injured, including a police constable. The motorbike was stolen from a policeman posted in Satara some time back. A case has been registered under Sections 307 (attempt to murder), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), besides various sections of the Explosives Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. (Zee News 13/7/14)

94. Terror export to Iraq matter of concern: Shiv Sena (12)

Mumbai: The Shiv Sena Tuesday expressed concern over what it described as “home-grown terror being exported” to Iraq, which could pose serious ramifications for India. In an editorial in its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’, the party said that the incident of four missing youths from Kalyan town in Thane, who have reportedly joined the ISIS jihad in Iraq, is a warning bell which India must heed. The Shiv Sena feels that “until now terror was being imported into India by organisations like Al-Qaeda, Indian Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba and HuJI. But, this is a new trend in which home-grown terror is being exported,” said the editorial. “Does India have any action plan to deal with such jihadi forces? Unless we control Islamic extremism, this jihadi explosive could soon prove to be suicidal,” the editorial warned. Noting how highly educated youths from middle-class families are being attracted to organisations like Indian Mujahiddeen or ISIS, the Shiv Sena said this trend itself needs to be studied carefully. “Until now, terror was being imported into India from different countries, but now we are witnessing this new development — The Indian intelligence agencies believe that internet medium could have been used to indoctrinate these youth,” the editorial noted. The editorial comes in the wake of the Maharashtra government taking help from the central government to trace out four youths from Kalyan, who were reported ‘missing’ by their families late May and are believed to have joined a jihadi group in Iraq. Additional Commissioner of Police Sharad Shelar, Kalyan, said Monday that the complaints were registered May 25, 26 and 27, and the probe is on. However, despite all efforts, there has been no breakthrough so far, and it is also not clear whether the four were known to one another, police said. The missing youths are Arif Fayyaz Majeed, Aman Naik Tandel, Shaheed Farooqui Tanki and Fahad Tanvir Sheikh. The police and intelligence agencies suspect that the youths may have been indoctrinated online, through some chatrooms where lot of propaganda material has been uploaded on the recent developments in Iraq. (Business Standard 15/7/14)

95. Missing Kalyan youths probe: 43 suspects, eight former SIMI men questioned (12)

KALYAN: Investigation agencies probing the disappearance of four Kalyan youths in Iraq, have grilled more than 51 persons, including eight former SIMI activists, to find out if they had indoctrinated the youths to become jihadis. Aarif Majid, Aman Tandel, Fahad Shaikh and Saleem Tanki, all in the 20s, had travelled to Iraq in late May, and reportedly joined the insurgents of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The investigators are also keeping tabs on four local organizations after learning that the four youths were in regular touch with them. In a related development, Aadil Dolare, a volunteer with the Islamic Guidance Centre in Kalyan, has rubbished media allegations that he had brainwashed the four youths and funded their trip to Iraq. Dolare told TOI that the four youths would come to the centre, which helps poor people, to work as volunteers and they “do not have any further relation”.At least three of the youths are from affluent families. Two were studying engineering and one is a mechanical engineering graduate. Aarif, son of a doctor, was in the midst of his third-year civil engineering diploma examinations, when he left for Iraq. When Aarif did not return home, his father, a doctor, filed a missing person’s complaint with the Bazarpeth police and produced a note saying he would meet his parents in heaven. Later, the families of the other three youths also filed missing complaints. The local police shared the information with the higher authorities, who then alerted the security agencies and a probe was initiated into the disappearances. The agencies suspected that the four youths had joined the jihadis after the Intelligence Bureau found that their last location was in Mosul in Iraq, which is under the control of ISIS. However, Aman’s father refuses to believe media reports that his son has joined the ISIS. He told TOI that his son might have “got stuck” in Iraq and could be in trouble. He said he has faith that the investigation agencies and the government will bring his son back. (Times of India 16/7/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

96. Home Ministry to state governments: Submit proof of funds used for tackling Maoism or Naxalism

NEW DELHI: State governments will have to send photographs to the home ministry by the end of this month as proof that they have executed projects aimed at countering Left-wing extremism. Only then will the states be able to claim further funds under the Centre’s Rs 500-crore Special Infrastructure Scheme (SIS), a senior official told ET. As part of its efforts to step up the offensive against Maoism or Naxalism, the home ministry has also asked the telecom department to stop inter-ministerial consultations on a mobile tower project for the affected areas and bring it directly before the Cabinet, the official added on condition of anonymity. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has asked all state governments to submit photographs of projects executed by them with central funds under the SIS within 30 days along with physical and financial project reports, the official said. Funds under the SIS are meant to be spent by states on projects that increase mobility of security forces in Maoist-affected areas by way of upgrading roads, providing secure camps and helipads, strengthening police stations and upgrading weaponry. “The utilisation of funds in this regard will now be closely monitored-…future release of such funds will depend on the success of implementation of projects,” the official said. Under the Integrated Action Plan (IAP), which caters to development schemes, states have to upload photographs of the completed projects on a portal managed by Planning Commission. A similar monitoring mechanism has been replicated for the home ministry’s security schemes. Bihar is struggling to complete projects under both schemes. The home minister has also directed the telecom department to “not waste further time” in inter-ministerial consultations on the proposal of installation of mobile towers in Maoist-affected states, the official said. “The minister has asked the telecom department to bring the proposal of installing towers with an increased cost directly before the Cabinet for consideration and approval. The minister feels that the project has already been delayed badly and the installation of towers at least around security force establishments should be done immediately,” the official said. (The Economic Times 9/7/14)

97. 6 suspected Maoist trainees detained under NSA in Dharmapuri (12)

DHARMAPURI: Six persons of Natham Colony in Naikankottai village here, who were arrested by the Dharmapuri police on June 28 for their alleged participation in arms training given by the associates of elusive Maoist leader Kalidass, were detained under the National Security Act (NSA) on Friday, police sources said. Based on the recommendations of Superintendent of Police Asra Garg, Collector K. Vivekanandan issued the order. The persons detained are S. Sakthi, 38, M. Durai, 46, C. Santhosh, 22, S. Adhiyaman, 22, G. Ashokan, 27, and G. Shankar, 36. The order was served on the accused at the Salem Central Prison on Friday afternoon, the sources said. The police said two country-made guns and some explosives were recovered from the accused, and they were arrested to foil an armed assault on leaders of a particular community. The prohibitory orders promulgated across the Dharmapuri district late last month have been extended for two weeks from July 10. The orders were in force in view of the July 4 death anniversary of Dalit youth I. Ilavarasan of Natham Colony, who committed suicide after his caste-Hindu wife left him to live with her mother. The arrests were made in the run-up to the anniversary. (The Hindu 12/7/14)

98. Naxalites demand Rs 50 lakh from construction officials (12)

BHOPAL: Naxalites have allegedly demanded Rs 50 lakh extortion money from officials of Dilip Buildcon – a construction company owned by Dilip Suryavanshi, who is considered close to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Dilip Buildcon is constructing a 65km road from Balaghat to Baihar where construction is nearing completion. Balaghat SP Gaurav Tiwari said, “Manager of Dilip Buildcon filed a complaint against Naxalites on July 11. He said four people came to their makeshift office at Parastola, 12 km from Baihar, and demanded money. All four claimed to be Naxalites and threatened to blow up the project, if they failed to pay up. They also said wage of labourers employed by the company should be raised.” But police are not convinced the extortionists are Naxalites. “In pamphlets dropped by the miscreants, the extortion amount mentioned was Rs 5 lakh and not Rs 50 lakh as claimed by company officials. Also, there was no mention of their ‘dalam’ or group as is their usual practice,” said Tiwari. “We have registered a case and have begun investigation. Security has been tightened in the area,” Tiwari said. (Times of India 14/7/14)

99. Four wanted Naxals held in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: Security forces on Wednesday apprehended four suspected Naxalites, carrying rewards on their heads, from Maoist-affected Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh. The suspected Naxals were held by a patrol squad led by paramilitary CRPF from the Korenda-Benur axis of the district. The apprehended Naxals have been identified as Rajman (35), Somnath (35), Rejju alias Rai Singh and Kachru Salam. All were wanted by the police and while the former two carried a reward of Rs 5,000, the other two had a bounty of Rs 10,000 on them, a senior official said. All the suspects are residents of Korenda and have been handed over to local police, the official said. (Zee News 16/7/14)

100. Naxal camp destroyed; arms, explosives seized (12)

Raipur: A joint team of District Police and Special Task Force (STF) destroyed a temporary Naxal camp in a forested patch under Mardapal police station, Superintendent of Police (SP) Kondagaon, Abhishek Meena informed here on Wednesday. “We had specific intelligence inputs that a group of left wing insurgents were camping in a jungle near Kelam village under Mardapal police station. Based on the information, a joint police party consisting of District Police and STF jawans was mobilised to move from Mardapal towards the spot,” SP said. Around 10 am on July 15, the police party had face-off with armed insurgents in jungle near Kelam village who were about 30 to 40 in numbers and both the sides engaged in gun battle. The gunfire lasted more than an hour and Naxals finding themselves surrounded by police personnel ran away in the deep forest while taking advantage of dense vegetation and continuous rain, the SP maintained adding that the Naxals were members of Maoist military platoon number-6 active in the region. Later on, during the searching of area police recovered Walkie-talkies, tiffin bombs, live bullets hand grenades detonator wire, flash, watches, tent, radio, ration in huge quantity and other items of daily use from the spot Meena said that Naxals had gathered for organising ‘Jan Adalat’. Notably, Naxals had killed a villager in Usri on July 13 in a ‘Jan Adalat’ branding him as a police informer. However, police had later on denied of having any link with the deceased person. (Pioneer 17/7/14)

TRAFFICKING

101. Bihar police order survey of girls from Bihar married in Haryana (1)

Patna: Following widespread protests by the JD-U, RJD and Congress leaders over the alleged derogatory remark of Haryana BJP leader OP Dhankar concerning Bihar girls, the state government has ordered a survey in 14 districts to trace how many girls were actually married off to Haryana boys. Inspector general of police, weaker section, Arvind Pandey, on Tuesday wrote a letter to SPs of Begusarai, Purnea, Saharsa, Sitamarhi, Munger, Bettiah, Motihari, Kishaganj, Araria, Madhubani and Katihar to compile a list of girls sent for marriage and their present condition. He has ordered to make district anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs) fully functional to track such cases. Pandey said the SPs have been asked to submit a report to the district magistrates concerned detailing their names, village etc, for further verification of their present status in Haryana. Pandey said in the letter that a few such instances had been reported in the past from Katihar and some other districts. “The girls had been taken to Haryana on the pretext of marriage,” he said, adding one such instance had been reported from Darbhanga also when he was posted there as IG. “The girls were being taken to Haryana on the pretext of marriage in a suspicious manner. Some people suspected something wrong in the entire process and lodged a case,” he recalled. The state government had launched the human trafficking prevention programme in 2007-08 to check illegal trafficking of women and child labourers and ensured a comprehensive rehabilitation package. District-level anti-trafficking cells have been constituted in 26 districts under the supervision of the district magistrates. (Hindustan Times 9/7/14)

102. ‘Children trafficked to Kerala being furnished with fake IDs’ (1)

Kochi: Children from other States who are being trafficked to Kerala are being given fake Aadhaar cards that show them as residents of Kerala, DIG S. Sreejith, chief investigation officer of the State Human Rights Commission, has said. He said children were taken from their homes and brought here to be exploited in various ways. Fake documents made the children vulnerable to further exploitation, he added. He was speaking on ‘Human trafficking and child rights’ at a workshop on human trafficking organised by the Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association and National Human Rights Commission in Kochi on Saturday. P.M. Nair, chair professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences and former Director General of the National Disaster Response Force, said that as of 2011, over one lakh children had been reported missing in the country. About 33,000 of missing children remained untraced, he said, highlighting the scale of human trafficking operations in the country. Mr. Nair said video conferencing facility should be made available for victims who have been trafficked over long distances to give statements in court. Focus should be on rehabilitating the victims and taking them back home if they wanted to as soon as possible. It would be easier for them to give their statements through videoconferencing rather than come back to the place where they were taken forcibly. The inaugural day of the two-day workshop also featured a discussion on ‘human trafficking and women’s rights’ by Meena Kuruvilla, member of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.  Justice Ashok Bhushan, judge of the High Court of Kerala, inaugurated the workshop. He called upon all citizens to work together to combat human trafficking. Minister for Law and Finance K.M. Mani delivered the presidential address. He said the government would study the recommendations that would come out of the workshop and take necessary action. Justice Cyriac Joseph, member of the National Human Rights Commission, said people held many misconceptions regarding trafficking. “Trafficking can be curbed only with the combined work of law enforcement agencies, lawyers, and judges,” he said. Advocates, law students, and professors of law attended the workshop on the first day. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

103. National Federation for Indian Women delegation meets Rajnath Singh, raises women trafficking issue (1)

A delegation of National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), the women’s wing of the Communist Party of India (CPI), on Sunday met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and raised the issue of women trafficking in the country. “There was a news report in the newspaper which says that a large number of children, especially girls, were trafficked from Jharkhand to different states,” said women activist and NFIW general secretary Annie Raja. Annie further said that the NFIW had sent a fact finding team to Gumla district of Jharkhand and interacted with families of the missing children. “We understood that from each family at least one girl is missing. Even the parents are clueless about their kids’ whereabouts. So we met the Home Minister today and raised this issue,” she added. The delegation has appealed for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in this issue. “We have also requested for formulation and passage of legislation to prevent trafficking. We need a standalone act on this issue,” Annie said. (DNA 14/7/14)

104. Anti-trafficking clubs in colleges (1)

Kochi: Four law colleges in the district have resolved to start anti-human trafficking clubs in their institutions to combat trafficking in all its forms. The colleges made the decision at the end of a two-day workshop on human trafficking organised by the Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association (KHCAA) and the National Human Rights Commission. The clubs will be opened at S.N. Law College, Poothotta; Government Law College, Ernakulam; National University of Advanced Legal Studies; and the School of Legal Studies at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) with the support of the KHCAA. “We will try to synergise the functioning of the various agencies, including the corporate sector, to provide appropriate and timely rehabilitation of victims of trafficking,” a resolution drafted by the students and others read. The workshop was attended by advocates, rights activists, law students and teachers. Legal professionals who attended the workshop also resolved to provide free legal services to trafficked persons and those vulnerable to trafficking. The participants also plan to hold campaigns to increase awareness about human trafficking. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission and former Chief Justice of India, was the chief guest at the concluding session of the workshop on Sunday. He explained the laws concerning human trafficking to the participants of the workshop and examined the theme of the workshop, ‘Human trafficking – myth or reality’. Justice Cyriac Joseph, member of the National Human Rights Commission was also present at the workshop and interacted with the students and other participants. The morning session focused on the role of different agencies in combating human trafficking. Experts from various agencies that deal with traffickers and victims of trafficking shared their experiences and suggested ways to improve the system. Home Department Additional Chief Secretary Nivedita P. Haran, former Chief Justice of the High Court of Kerala Justice K.K. Usha, Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan of the High Court of Kerala, Deputy Commissioner of Police R. Nishanthini, former MP Sebastian Paul, Additional Director General of Prosecution Tom Jose Padinjarekkara, and advocates Kaleeswaram Raj and V.P. Seemandini were among those who spoke. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

105. Girl missing for five years rescued from Howrah (1)

NEW DELHI: A girl trafficked from a West Bengal village five years ago has been rescued by a joint team of the Delhi police, the Kolkata police and the members of NGO Shakti Vahini. The girl was a minor when she was brought to Delhi in the name of employment and had been missing for the past five years. She was rescued from Howrah, West Bengal, late on Sunday night. The officers who rescued the girl said that she was not physically or sexually assaulted in Delhi. However, she was not allowed to keep in touch with her family. “She has so far not complained against her employers in Delhi. But it could be because she has been brainwashed by her trafficker who promised to marry her after bringing her to Delhi. She is not even naming the man who brought her to Delhi,” said an officer close to the investigation. The rescue came after the girl’s father filed a writ petition in the Calcutta High Court last year saying that his daughter who went out of West Bengal for job has been missing for five years. Responding to the petition, the Court had instructed the CID Kolkata to trace the girl. The CID team came to know that the girl had been brought to Delhi and they got in touch with the Delhi police and Shakti Vahini members. “In Delhi, we conducted raids for three days along with a team of the Delhi Police and the NGO and finally zeroed down upon a suspect identified as Tapan Sardar in Tughlakabad Extension. After taking him in custody we came to know that he had received prior information about the raid and had communicated the same to another accused named Akash alias Raj who managed to escape with the victim,” said Inspector Sarbari Bhattacharjee from the CID Kolkata. “Another team that traced the victim’s employer’s address at Krishna Garden in West Delhi reached there and found that the victim had already left the place with Akash. The AHTU team then shared her photograph with the AHTU staff in Kolkata through WhatsApp. The team there kept a close vigil on the railway stations in Howrah and nearby. When the train reached Burdwan, a CID team boarded the train and managed to trace the girl. However, the alleged trafficker Akash managed to ran away by jumping from the train,” she added. The accused Tapan was produced in a local Delhi court that granted his transit custody to the CID, West Bengal for four days. The investigation has revealed that the girl was brought to Delhi from her village Sandeshkhali in West Bengal about five years ago by a family friend. According to the girl’s father the man who brought her to Delhi had promised a good job to his daughter but once she came to Delhi she became untraceable. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

CORRUPTION

106. Governor can’t be tried in criminal case: Sheila to HC (5)

NEW DELHI: Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit on Wednesday sought quashing of the trial court order to lodge FIR against her in a graft case, contending in the Delhi high court that such proceedings cannot be continued against a governor. Advocate M Pracha, appearing for Dikshit, said as per Article 361(2) of the Constitution there is a bar on criminal proceedings against a governor. Dikshit is currently the governor of Kerala and as per Article 361 (2) of the Constitution “no criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President, or the governor of a state, in any court during his term of office”.A bench of Justice Sunil Gaur, however, adjourned the matter to July 23 as the advocate for the complainant, BJP leader Vijender Gupta, was not present owing to some illness. Gupta had filed a complaint alleging that Dikshit’s administration misused public funds to the tune of Rs 22.56 crore in an advertisement campaign ahead of the 2008 assembly polls and the trial court had ordered lodging of an FIR against her. Thereafter, the then Delhi government had moved the high court against the trial court order which was stayed. AAP government had said Dikshit will have to defend herself as she is no more the CM and the government lacked the “locus standi” to fight for her.  Then in February 2014, the Arvind Kejriwal government had moved the high court seeking to take back the appeal filed by then Congress government headed by Dikshit. Dikshit had then moved the high court opposing the plea of the Kejriwal government and had also sought her impleadment in the matter. Thereafter, on February 26, the high court had said that Dikshit will have to defend herself in the graft case. A special judge had on August 31, last year, ordered registration of FIR against Dikshit and others for offences including criminal breach of trust (section 409 IPC), criminal misappropriation of public funds and criminal misconduct under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The order had come on separate complaints filed by Gupta and RTI activist Vivek Garg against her. Both of them had in their complaints alleged that Dikshit misused government funds in an advertisement campaign ahead of the 2008 assembly polls. (Times of India 9/7/14)

107. NREGA scam in Kalahandi: Wages paid for planting of trees that do not exist (5)

Mumbai: The NDA government has leased a new life into the flagship programme of the last UPA government, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) which provides 100 days of work to rural workers who wish to claim it. It is difficult to oppose the Act in principle. In a country where right to life is an inviolable fundamental right for the people, many would argue that right to food and work would also be inviolable. But there has been much protests against the Act as well. While some including Rajastha chief minister Vasundhara Raje want it to be made into a scheme and not a law, there are few who complain the wages have been spiraling due to the Act. However, the biggest issue in the implementation of the Act has been the corruption charges, the latest added to that list being Kalahandi district in Orissa. Zee News reported that recently the funds to plant trees under the NREGA scheme in Kalahandi were siphoned by few officials as the the trees were never planted. Though on papers, money has been paid to workers under the scheme for planting trees, in reality, physically no trees exist. This is also not the first instance of such scam in Orissa. In 2007, a group of researchers led by well known economists Jean Dreze and Ritika Khera found muster rolls that had fake finger prints of fake labourers. The survey was being carried out in the districts of Kalahandi, Bolangir and Boudh. The panchayat executive officer was suspended and enquiry ordered. The Supreme Court while hearing a civil writ petition had even asked why it should not call for SBI probe in a scam that was pegged at Rs 500 crore. A second survey in 2011 showed that in Orissa and UP, 67 percent of the poorest Dalit and tribal households did not get even a day’s work in the past one year. SImilarly, more than a third of them did not even have access to the public distribution system.  The latest Economic Survey by the finance ministry also called for an overhaul of the system. It says, “Though the act is panchayat-centric and demand based, on the ground there is lack of principal role in planning, execution and monitoring by the panchayati raj institutions (PRI’s) especially the gram sabha”. Also the wages are in some places lower than market wages, which means mainly women come to take up jobs. The corruption in implementing a social sector scheme is its biggest evil. On the one hand, if people who need it the most are not getting access to the government schemes, the argument of the rise in rural wages because of the scheme can be challenged. On the other hand, any modification of the scheme to make it more targeted and remove pilferage will be difficult. Those who need to implement the change are the ones who benefit the most from the current system. NREGA is not just a subsidy scheme from the government unlike say, the mid-day meal scheme, because the state does not assume just a patronising role here. People are actually working to earn their wages. The government must work towards making the scheme efficient because both the state and the rural poor need it. The state sets a minimum wage and gets workers to work towards asset creating, while the poor have access to jobs with humane wages during the lean season or otherwise. The new government has followed the UPA path in terms of allocation of funds. But it must take a completely different route to make this work. (DNA 11/7/14)

108. Lokayukta police get govt nod to prosecute BDA secretary (5)

Bangalore: Days after the Chief Minister assured swift sanction for prosecution and suspension of officials facing charges of corruption, Lokayukta police received permission to prosecute Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) secretary A Rajamma Chowdareddy. Rajamma was arrested while allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs seven lakh at her office on April 25. The official had allegedly demanded bribe to process the files pertaining to allotment of four sites as compensation to Parvathamma and Nagendra, both residents of Vadagerahalli near Sahakaranagar. Rajamma allegedly demanded a bribe of Rs 10 lakh and later scaled it down to Rs seven lakh. The Lokayukta police had completed the investigation pertaining to the trap and sent the request for Prosecution Sanction Order (PSO) in last week of June. During the search after the trap, the Lokayukta police had seized Rs 2.3 lakh in cash from Rajamma’s office cupboard. The next day, Rs 44 lakh in cash and jewellery worth Rs 35 lakh were seized from her house in Koramangala. The police had registered a case of disproportionate assets against Rajamma. “The sanction to prosecute Rajamma was given on Friday and the charge sheet will be filed by Monday or Tuesday. The investigation pertaining to the disproportionate assets case is on,” an official said. Prompted by the chief minister’s statement in the Assembly, the Lokayukta police have decided to forward a fresh list of cases seeking sanction for prosecution. “In eight cases respective department heads have not suspended officials raided for disproportionate assets. This apart, PSOs are also pending with various departments in connection with 90 officials. The communication will be sent to the government soon,” the official said. Meanwhile, the government also placed BDA Additional Land Acquisition Officer G R Harishilpa under suspension. During a surprise check on June 20, Lokayukta officials had found Rs 1.69 lakh cash in possession of Harishilpa. The surprise check was conducted after Lokayukta police had received several complaints about touts demanding money on behalf of the officials. Lokayukta police had arrested seven persons, including agents. Surveyor M M Gangadhar, JE Hirannaiah and record room in-charge Srinivas were among those arrested during the raid. (Deccan Herald 12/7/14)

109. CBI files charge sheet against Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh in Tatra case (5)

New Delhi: The CBI on Tuesday filed its charge sheet against Lt. Gen. (retd.) Tejinder Singh for allegedly offering a bribe of Rs. 14 crore to the then Army Chief V.K. Singh, who is now a Union Minister, in connection with the Tatra truck deal. The charge sheet filed under section 12 of Prevention of Corruption Act named the retired Lieutenant General for having allegedly offered the bribe on behalf of Tatra trucks suppliers who provided the all terrain vehicles to the Indian Army. The section 12 of the Act deals with the offence of offering bribe to a public servant. CBI sources said the charge sheet was based purely on circumstantial evidence which includes Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh’s meeting with the then Army Chief and putting on hold the order for supply of trucks from Tatra. Expressing surprise over the move, Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh said in 2013 there were dozens of media reports which stated that no evidence was found in the case and that it was heading for a closure. These media reports were obviously based from information from the CBI, he claimed. “My interaction with the agency clearly indicated that there was no credible evidence found. “Now with the change of government, there seems to be a change of heart in the probe agency and therefore the filing of charge sheet is abuse of power by the people concerned and politically motivated,” Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh told PTI in his reaction to the CBI charge sheet. A case was registered against Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh on October 19, 2012 following a complaint by Gen. V.K. Singh, who is at present Minister of State of External Affairs and Minister of State in charge of the Department of Northeast Region. The then Army Chief had alleged that Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh had offered him a bribe of Rs. 14 crore on September 22, 2010 on behalf of Tatra truck supplier for clearing file for procurement of 1,676 Tatra HMVs (High Mobility Vehicles) for the Indian Army. The CBI during its probe also recorded the statement of the then Defence Minister A.K. Antony who corroborated that the Army Chief had come to his office and informed him that Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh had made a bribe offer. As a corroborative evidence in its charge sheet, the CBI has mentioned the orders of the then Army Chief to his staff that Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh should not be given any appointment in future, the sources said. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

110. Declare drought, opposition tells government (9)

New Delhi: The opposition Wednesday urged the government to declare drought and take steps to contain a looming crisis caused by deficient rainfall. Initiating a short duration discussion in the Rajya Sabha, Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav described the situation in northern India as “bad”.”The situation is bad in northern India due to drought, specially in regions where paddy is grown. This will affect not just the present but the next crop as well,” Yadav said. Janata Dal-United’s KC Tyagi said sowing was already less than average. “Why is drought not being declared?” Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Brajesh Pathak urged the government to announce a financial package for farmers. Congress member and former environment minister Jairam Ramesh urged the government to make a contingency plan to mitigate the effects of a possible drought. He underlined the importance of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in this context. “In all drought-notified (areas), guaranteed employment in public work for 150, not 100, days should be given,” he said. “The cost of the additional 50 days should be borne by the central government.” Jairam Ramesh also urged the government to study the climate change vis-a-vis agriculture. “Indian monsoon is changing. Today the monsoon is not what it was 10-20 years back. Overall rainfall has not changed but the pattern and distribution have changed,” he said. “We must realise the reality of climate change and we need to embrace new techniques to fight (this).” Rainfall deficit is maximum in central India at 63 percent, with severe shortfall in Gujarat region (91 percent) followed by Marathwada (80 percent), Saurashtra and Kutch (78 percent) and western Madhya Pradesh (76 percent), according to the India Meteorological Department. Sowing area of kharif crops across the country this year is down by 43 percent at 182.4 lakh hectares, the agriculture ministry has said. (Zee News 9/7/14)

111. Assam leads in urban green cover (9)

Guwahati, July 9: Assam has 128 square km of urban tree cover, way ahead of other states of the Northeast, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) has revealed in the state of forest report released yesterday. This is the first time that the FSI has done a study on urban tree cover in the country as greening of urban landscape is one of the important measures to mitigate some of the problems of urbanisation. Trees grown in urban areas have contributed significantly in cleaning the environment but also in fulfilling the timber and fuel wood requirement of poor people living in cities. “Urban trees and forests can contribute immensely to the quality of life in towns and cities. Urban forest is one of the resources of an urban area, it is part of its infrastructure and is integral to the quality of life of its residents,” the report stated. Environmental services of urban forests are climate and air quality improvement, energy saving, reduction of global warming and carbon dioxide, noise abatement, soil conservation and others. In this survey, all trees recorded in urban area and outside the forest area have been considered. Trees with more than 10cm diameter have been included in the survey. Among states, Tamil Nadu has the maximum green cover of 1,509 square km followed by Maharashtra (1,373 square km), Karnataka (1,276 square km) and Kerala (1,241 square km). A senior forest official said the issue needs a detailed study as it would be difficult to tell how Assam has done in planting trees in its urban surroundings as compared to other cities. “Enough importance has been given to planting trees in urban areas of the state to protect the environment,” another official said. Encroachment of reserve forests and hills in Guwahati has forced the department to go for massive planting of trees, using younger children as agents of change. During Environment Day celebrations in the Northeast, many initiatives are taken to encourage people to plant fruit-bearing trees. Welcoming the emphasis on urban tree cover by the FSI, Simanta Kalita, programme co-ordinator of the Centre for Environment Education, Guwahati, said as urban forestry is important there has to be a planned programme on planting trees in urban areas. “We can identify some old trees in Guwahati and conserve them,” he said, adding that certain areas can be earmarked so that these can be made into “green lungs” of the city. Meghalaya principal chief conservator of forests Sunil Kumar said the department has been trying to increase the green cover in urban centres, particularly in the state capital. However, he lamented that in view of the increased built-up area in the state capital, space for planting more trees has become scarce. In contrast, a semblance of greenery is conspicuous in places like Tura and Jowai, although these urban centres are also expanding both in terms of human population and infrastructure. Kumar said the department would soon carry out a survey to identify pockets, which could be converted into “green lungs” in the urban areas. “We will first start with Shillong, and then move on to other places,” he added. (The Telegraph 10/7/14)

112. Environmentalists unimpressed by ‘pro-corporate’ Budget (9)

New Delhi: The Budget shows no real commitment towards the environment and is not transformational because it does not allocate enough funds towards promoting renewable energy or public transport and appears to favour corporates over people, environmentalists said on Friday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which swept to power in May, said on Thursday that it would invest in very large solar power projects and establish a fund to help farmers adapt to changing weather patterns as a result of climate change. But some environmental groups said that while they welcomed plans to boost clean energy such as solar and wind, the budget proposals left much to be desired. “The steps on renewable energy and energy efficiency are not transformational and the attempt to force fit coal production to clear the irrational power proposals, is a signal that the reality of climate change has far from been recognised by this government,” said Vinuta Gopal, head of climate and energy at Greenpeace India. “It’s good that the government is talking of investments in renewable but it is largely focused on large scale renewables and not on decentralised renewable energy for meeting the electrification needs of rural India,” Gopal added. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told parliament that renewable energy was “a very high priority” and announced around $100 million to build four “ultra mega solar power projects” in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Jammu and Kashmir. Jaitley said his coalition government, which is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, also planned to launch scheme for solar power-driven agricultural water pumping stations, develop solar parks on canal banks and give tax breaks on imported solar components. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a leading Delhi-based environmental think-tank, agreed with Greenpeace saying the biggest potential for solar energy will come from decentralised and off-grid solutions. CSE’s director Sunita Narain said it was important to invest in smaller power plants that provide clean energy to millions across India’s grid and remote villages that have electricity lines but no power. Instead, she said, budget 2014/15 falls back on the “big” solar plants. (Buiness Standard 12/7/14)

113. Lokayukta for amending law to stem illegal mining (9)

BANGALORE: Lokayukta Y. Bhaskar Rao showed concern over large-scale illegal mining which continues in Karnataka despite the State government’s claim of containing the menace. The government has issued statements on the Floor of both Houses that all steps have been taken to curb illegal mining. In his recent letter to heads of departments of Home, Commerce and Industries, Forests, Ecology and Environment, Mr. Rao observed that the Lokayukta had found a number of violations by mining lessees.“Actions taken by concerned departments are not in parity with the gravity of the violations,” he noted. Explosives were being used illegally by most of the granite mining lessees. Mining activities were being carried out without paying royalty, resulting in heavy monetary loss to the department, he observed. Taking a dig at the authorities, he said in none of the instances had provisions of the Explosive Substances Act been invoked for initiating criminal prosecution against erring lessees. “Only their licences have been cancelled,” he said. To tackle this, Mr. Rao favoured amendment to existing laws to accord more powers to authorities concerned for confiscation, forfeiture of properties and imprisonment with hefty fines. The Lokayukta had met heads of various departments — that have powers to regulate mining of ore, sand and granite — recently and discussed the ongoing illegal mining activity. According to Mr. Rao, the meeting was the result of complaints from people across the State as also reports in the media. Mr. Rao observed continued illegal mining was denuding natural resources, upsetting the ecological balance, and causing a huge loss to the exchequer. The violations were on the rise as the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation Act), 1957 (MMDR), did not prescribe minimum punishment. (The Hindu 15/7/14)

114. Govt has identified over 3,200 polluting industries: Javadekar (9)

NEW DELHI: The government on Wednesday informed Parliament that it had identified 3,266 highly polluting industries and 150 polluted stretches along various rivers across the country in the past couple of years and had taken measures to deal with it. “The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has identified 3,266 highly polluting industries including power plants, of which 2,328 industries are complying with prescribed standards, 571 are non-complying and 367 have been closed,” environment minister Prakash Javadekar said in response to a Parliament question in Lok Sabha. Javadekar said the government has notified 102 industry-specific (effluent 45, emissions 57) environmental standards. All the industries are required to comply with these standards and take pollution control measures under Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. During the last five years (2010 to June 2014), CPCB issued 601 directions under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which included 497 directions for compliance of standards and 104 directions for closure of defaulting industries. In response to another question relating to river pollution, the minister said, “CPCB has identified 150 polluting stretches along various rivers in the country based on bio-chemical oxygen demand (BOD) levels, a key indicator of organic pollution.” The polluting river stretches are located in 27 states.He also said the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) and National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) covered 42 rivers in 199 towns spread over 21 states at a sanctioned cost of Rs 10,716.45 crore. The government has released Rs 5,097.50 crore to state governments for implementation of various pollution abatement schemes till March, he added. (Times of India 17/7/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

115. Farmers’ forum expresses concern over continuing suicides (20)

HYDERABAD: A group of agricultural and social scientists under the banner of a farmers’ forum ‘Rythu Swarajya Vedika’ expressed concern over the rising number of suicides, with as many as 2,014 ryots ending their lives in 2013 alone in united Andhra Pradesh. Of the 2,014 farmers from erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, 1,800 were from Telangana State unable to bear the burden of debt. “In the past 19 years from 1995, NCRB says a total of 2,96,466 farmers took their lives across the country, of which the figure is 37,912 in erstwhile AP alone and this indicates a deepening crisis in the agriculture sector. Sadly, successive governments have not come up with solutions that were permanent in any way,” Mr. Ramanjaneyulu, from Sustainable Agriculture, a care initiative for farmers said. He regretted that while there were about 1,800 deaths of farmers in Telangana alone, according to police records, revenue officials placed it at a mere 22. “This is an indicator of the callous nature of Revenue officials who are apparently not keen on identifying the problem. It is a classic case of denial syndrome,” he regretted. Others present were Usha Seethalakshmi, an independent researcher working on gender, land and rural livelihood issues; S. Ashalatha, representing the Forum; K. Sajaya of Caring Citizens Collective; P. Shankar from the Dalit Bahujan Front and Ravi Kannegandi, a journalist and activist. Ms. Usha underscored the need for the government to have an efficient system of identifying who were farmers living off the land and who were not. She pointed out that in Hyderabad district alone people had taken loans by pledging their land and gold to the tune of a whopping Rs. 4,000 crore. “While all these have been categorised as farm loans by banks one wonders how they can be called so. When almost all of the loanees have addresses in the city and have jobs, they have shown as security land that is all over the 23 districts of erstwhile AP,” she said. (The Hindu 9/7/14)

116. ‘Budget silent on crucial farmer suicide issue’ (20)

AMRITSAR: The first budget presented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has deflated the expectations of farmers who were looking for ‘achhe din’ ahead. With a major chunk of farmers reeling under debt, famers and their leaders were disappointed on finding that the finance minister’s speech was silent on measures to address the crucial issue of farmer suicides. “In Punjab, the state government’s official figures put the farmers’ suicides between 2000 and 2011 at 6,926. But our sample survey found the number to be between 40,000 and 45,000. I wonder what the central government is waiting for? The budget indicates no succor for farmers to enable them to pay off their debts and make farming a profitable profession, ” said Bharatiya Kissan Union (Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan while talking to TOI on Thursday. ‘We were expecting implementation of Land Reforms Act, recommendations of Swaminathan Commission on remunerative prices, debt waiver, but there was nothing in the Jaitely’s budget to bring a smile on our faces,” he said. State president of Jamhauri Kissan Sabha Dr. Satnam Singh Ajnala said that 12 Punjab farmers had committed suicide between April 10 and May 11 this year. And the only thing that the state government has done is to form a committee to come up with a comprehensive policy on the issue. “This is not a logical solution to the problem. If the state government couldn’t do anything , then Chief Minister PS Badal could have prevailed upon Modi to announce some facilities for farmers in his budget,” he said. He said no doubt the budget had provisions for developing farmers markets, post harvest lending to farmers, upliftment of marginal farmers , but it has skipped the crucial issue of farmer suicides completely. A farmer Kundan Singh said the budget should have made spelled out provisions to help farmers come out of the vicious debt cycle by providing interest-free crop loans. (Times of India 11/7/14)

117. 1000 aid-starved, drought-hit farmers protest in Vidarbha (20)

Nagpur: Nearly 1,000 farmers, including many women, staged a day’s hunger strike and sit-in protest demanding minimum support price for cotton and waiver of farm loans in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, an NGO leader said here Saturday. The protest at Yavatmal came in the wake of rains eluding the Vidarbha region where farmers had sowed cotton and soyabean twice and many were now resorting to a third sowing, incurring heavy debts. According to NGO Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) chief Kishore Tiwari, over 800,000 farmers in the region have become victims of little or no rain as the cotton sowing season is in full swing. “They sowed seeds bought from loans early June. But after the crop rotted without rains, many again availed loans for a second sowing late June, which met the same fate. Some are now going for a third sowing, hoping rains will revive in July, but so far the sky is clear,” Tiwari told IANS. Lack of rainfall has destroyed the cotton and soyabean seeds sown in over two million hectares in farmlands across Vidarbha, even as the spectre of drought looms large, he said. Seeking fresh credit facilities, food, health and education security, and a halt to the ongoing import of cheap cotton into the country, the farmers’ meeting Saturday warned of a sustained agitation and indefinite hunger strike outside the collectorate from Aug 1 if their demands were not met. A drought-like situation, lack of credit facilities, failure of the monsoon and other factors are forcing farmers in the state, especially Vidarbha, to commit suicide, Tiwari said. Last year, Maharashtra topped the list of farmland suicides with a whopping 3,146 deaths. There have been 60,768 farmers’ suicides in the state since 1995, as per the latest National Crime Records Bureau report. (Deccan Herald 12/7/14)

118. Low interest rate can check farmers’ suicides: Expert panel (20)

PATIALA: To arrest the menace of farmer suicide, Punjab government’s expert committee has suggested slashing of interest rates on loans to half at 2% per annum as a key solution. Over 6,000 farmers and farm labourers ended their lives in the state between 2001 and 2010. Admitting that Punjab agriculture is facing “crisis both in terms of economic and environmental viability”, it is for the first time that any government constituted expert panel has sought loan facility to farmers at such a low rate of interest. TOI is in possession of the committee’s draft report. However, rate of interest charged by private moneylenders is as high as 12-18% per annum. Due to easy availability and various economical compulsions, most farmers prefer to take loan from private moneylenders. As per existing norms, total rate of interest on farm loan is 7% per annum, of which farmers pay 4% and rest is paid by the government of India in the form of subsidy. The condition is that maximum cap of loan amount should be Rs 3 lakh and should be paid within specified time. The committee is demanding that the Centre should increase its subsidy from existing 3% to 5%.Not only agriculture loan, the committee has also recommended reduction of interest rate on investment loan for farmers up to 6%. The investment loan is otherwise available at around 12%.Apart from chairman of Punjab Farmers’ Commission GS Kalkat, financial commissioner (Development) Suresh Kumar; financial commissioner (Revenue) NS Kang; head of the department of economics, PAU, Ludhiana, Sukhpal Singh and professor of sociology, PAU, Sukhdev Singh were on board of the committee. Commissioner, agriculture, Punjab, BS Sidhu is convenor of the committee. The committee was constituted by Punjab government to propose framework to state government for is agriculture policy, which state government has to submit to Punjab and Haryana High Court next month. A survey conducted by the three state universities — Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; Punjabi University, Patiala and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar – on behalf of Punjab government revealed that 6,128 suicides were committed by farmers and farm labourers during 2000-2010 in the state, out of which, 4,686 suicides (2,943 farmers and 1,743 agricultural labourers) were committed due to debt. The committee observed that the debt burden of Punjab peasantry was estimated as Rs 35,000 crore in 2010-11 out of which Rs 13,300 crore was non-institutional debt. The methods of recovery of non-institutional sources are considered coercive in nature causing severe psychological and social distress. (Times of India 14/7/14)

119. Farmers ask for increase in FRP for sugarcane (20)

BELGAUM: Sugarcane farmers want the Centre to increase the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) of Rs. 220 per quintal for 2014-15. They said that the government should consider factors like cost of cultivation and reasonable margin for the farmers. The FRP was recommended by the Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices appointed by the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation under the Union Ministry of Agriculture. National Farmers Association president and advocate B.P. Sheri said that the commission did not take the price input costs, such as prices of seeds, fertilizers, labour wages and maintenance, into consideration while recommending Rs.220. This amount is just Rs. 10 more than the FRP fixed for the year 2013-14. He added that the timing of the announcement of FRP was itself unscientific and untimely. These prices should be announced before December for the next ensuing season and not in February and March as is currently done. An early notice will give farmers a fair idea and help him decide on feasibility of cultivating sugarcane. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

120. Raigad farmers to protest forceful land acquisition (4)

NAVI MUMBAI: Farmers from 78 villages of Mangaon, Roha and Tala tehsil in Raigad district will be protesting on Wednesday against the alleged forceful land acquisition for Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project. The farmers, who are organized under the banner of Anti-Corridor Struggle Action Committee, will protest the acquisition of 67,500 acres for the Dighi Port Industrial area in Raigad district. They claim that the agitation is to save their agricultural land and livelihoods. They will march to the Sub Divisional Office of the land acquisition authority located at Mangoan in the morning. A member of the committee, Ulka Mahajan said, “The project will render farmers from 78 villages landless and also snatch away their allied livelihood. All the panchayats have unanimously resolved not to give away their land. They have been agitating for 18 months.” She added that the Central government and the then-CEO of the DMIC asked the state government to drop Dighi Port from DMIC project. Despite this move, the state government is acquiring the land, ‘without the consent of the land owners’. Mahajan added, “The authorities are threatening to amend the clause under the new Land Acquisition Act (Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013). It states that unless 70% of the farmers from the area give consent for the land acquisition, no land can be acquired. The farmers have no choice but to agitate. Local MLAs and activists will also be joining the protest.” Another farmer, S Bhoir from Vichumbe village said that the compensation package should include job opportunities for the Project Affected Persons or family members. (Times of India 9/7/14)

121. Goverment to focus on SEZ revival (4)

Finance minister Arun Jaitley expressed the government’s commitment to revive special economic zones (SEZs) as he said it would take “effective steps” to make them instruments of industrial production, economic growth, export promotion and employment generation. At the same time, he also informed that he was assured the public sector units (PSUs) would invest through capital investment “a total sum of Rs 2,47,941 crore”. “For achieving this, effective steps would be undertaken to operationalise the SEZs to revive the investors’ interest to develop better infrastructure and to effectively and efficiently use the available unutilised land,” the finance minister said. Of the total 47,803 hectares of SEZ land notified, only 17,689 have been put to use so far, according to ministry of commerce and industry data. Once major export and manufacturing hubs, SEZs started losing sheen after the imposition of minimum alternate tax (MAT) and dividend distribution tax (DDT) in 2011 on them. Meanwhile, insisting to give a thrust to investment in the economy, Mr Jaitley said, “PSUs will also play their part constructively. I am assured that PSUs will invest through capital investment a total sum of Rs 2,47,941 crores in current financial year to create a virtuous investment cycle.” Proposing to provide greater autonomy to public sector banks, the minister said these lenders would require Rs 2.40 lakh crore capital by 2018 to meet global Basel III norms. “To be in line with the Basel III norms, there is requirement to infuse Rs 2.40 lakh crore as equity by 2018 in our banks (public sector banks). To meet this huge capital requirement, we need to raise additional resources to fill this obligation,” he said. A large part of this fund would be raised through public offers made to retail customers, Mr Jaitley said. (Asian Age 11/7/14)

122. Neglected, Patana Families Await Govt Help (4)

PARADIP: It has not been a smooth sailing for the 34 families who returned to their village, Patana, last month after staying in exile for almost seven years. Banished from their village by anti-Posco activists for supporting the South Korean Steel major’s proposed steel plant, they had been staying in the company’s transit colony from 2007. As the situation normalised, they decided to return to Patana a month back. The villagers were excited ahead of their return as they had been assured by the anti-Posco members that no harm would be done to them. But with no roof over their head and devoid of basic facilities, their homecoming has not been a happy affair. With their houses damaged by activists of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) during the peak of anti-Posco stir, their only shelter now are polythene tents. Housing assistance by the State Government either under Indira Awas Yojana or Mo Kudia scheme continues to elude them. A month back, all they had got from the local administration was a sustenance allowance of `2,400 and a polythene sheet for each family to take care of emergency operations during the transition. “We had supported Posco in 2007 for which we were thrown out of our village. And now when we returned, the administration has rewarded us with a meagre cash amount and a polythene sheet,” said former village chief, Suresh Muduli. Another villager, Pradip Mohanty, said they committed a mistake by supporting the decision for a steel plant. “Those who had opposed the project are living peacefully now, but we have been left to fend for ourselves both by the Government and Posco company,” he said. Mohanty’s betel vines and house were set afire by anti-Posco activists in 2007. “We have to begin from scratch to earn a living because all our properties have been destroyed by PPSS members. Now, we neither have roof over our head nor money to rebuild our houses,” said Manguli Rout, another villager. Surprisingly, even the PPSS members have now come out in support of these families. Woman leader of PPSS, Manorama Khatua, said it is a matter of regret that neither the district administration nor Posco has come forward to help these families in rebuilding their lives. Erasama Block Development Officer, Subodh Acharya, said administration had taken steps to provide housing assistance to the 34 families under Indira Awas Yojana. “The financial aid has already been sanctioned by the Government and it will be disbursed to them very soon,” he informed. (New Indian Express 12/7/14)

123. Rural Ministry suggests industry-friendly changes in Land Act (4)

New Delhi: The Rural Development Ministry has suggested a number of amendments to the Land Acquisition Act which would water down pro-farmer provisions like mandatory consent of at least 70% locals for acquiring land for PPP projects and 80% for acquiring land for private projects. The Land Acquisition Act enacted during the UPA government is likely to go undergo drastic changes if Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives nod for Rural Development Ministry’s proposals which also include dilution of a key clause of Social Impact Assessment study criticised by states as time consuming for industrialisation process. “The Consent Clause (Section 2(2)) should be re-examined as ownership of land vests with the Government in PPP projects. The consent clause should be removed from PPP projects. Alternatively, consent requirement may be brought down to 50%,” says the Ministry in its note sent to the PMO. It says that “mandatory Social Impact Assessment study should be done away with. SIA should be confined to large projects/PPP Projects as it may delay acquisition process.” It has also suggested amendment to another key provision on acquisition of “multi-cropped irrigated land”.”The provision to safeguard food security (Section 10) by development of culturable wastelands in lieu of acquisition of multi-cropped irrigated land needs to be amended as States like Delhi, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand do not have any wasteland for the purpose,” it says. The Ministry’s suggestions for drastic changes in the Act came after most of the states recently came out openly against the new Act, complaining that it had hurt the process of acquiring land for infrastructure projects. They have demanded “drastic changes” in certain provisions of the law. At a meeting of State Revenue Ministers here chaired by Union Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari, the states including Congress-ruled Haryana objected to provisions for mandatory consent and Social Impact Assessment study, which are made mandatory in all land acquisitions. (Business Standard 15/7/14)

124. Opposition demands white paper on Polavaram project (4)

BHUBANESWAR: The Biju Janata Dal Government was blamed by opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party in the State Assembly on Tuesday with both parties alleging that it lacked adequate data on the controversial Polavaram multi-purpose irrigation project. Senior legislators of Congress and BJP demanded that the government should place a white paper on the possible impact the irrigation project will have on the State. The BJD had on Monday observed a hartal in four districts in south Odisha apprehending that a large number of tribal people will be displaced and vast tracts of land will be submerged in Malkangiri district when the project comes up in Andhra Pradesh. The BJD legislators had also disrupted the Assembly proceedings on Monday and submitted a memorandum to the Governor over the Polavaram issue. Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra told the House during zero hour that the government should place facts stating how the project would affect the State and how many tribal villages would be affected. The senior Congress legislator also demanded that the issue should be discussed threadbare in the Assembly after the government placed a white paper. Senior BJP legislator and party’s State unit president K. V. Singh Deo also made a similar demand and said that his party will stand by the State government if Polavaram project would actually have any adverse impact on the tribal peole in Malkangiri district. (The Hindu 16/7/14)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

125. Jaitley Announces New Schemes for Disabled (3)

NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Thursday announced some new schemes for disabled people. Tabling the union budget 2014-15 in parliament, Jaitley said: “Fifteen new Braille presses will be established and 10 existing ones will be revived.” Jaitley said the scheme to assist the disabled to purchase aids and appliances will be extended. “I propose to extend the scheme for assistance to disabled persons for purchase of aids and appliances (ADIP) to include contemporary aids and assistive devices,” he said. “A national level institute for Universal Inclusive Design and Mental Health Rehabilitation and a Centre for Disability Sport has also been proposed for the welfare of the disabled people in the country,” Jaitley said. (New Indian Express 10/7/14)

126. State lags in reducing infant, maternal mortality rates (3)

Bangalore: Among the South Indian states, Karnataka fares poorer in reducing infant and maternal mortality rates, while, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have performed much better, said Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Addressing Asha workers on the occasion of ‘World Population Day’ here on Friday, Siddaramaiah said that when compared to the national average, the State had reduced both the mortality rates substantially. The chief minister, on the occasion, called upon the Asha workers to strive to bring down the infant and maternal mortality rates in the State. Promising additional funds to achieve the target, Siddaramaiah said Karnataka was the only State which provided matching grants sanctioned by the Centre to the states, under the National Rural Health Mission. As a result, Asha workers in Karnataka were paid well under the scheme compared to their counterparts in other states. He said: “We are paying between Rs 2,150 and Rs 6,155 to Asha workers, whereas states like West Bengal, etc, pay around Rs 900.” Citing insecurity among parents on their children’s longevity as the reason behind population explosion, the chief minister said: “People should have one or two children. It was the duty of the government to ensure that the younger generation was healthy. In order to achieve this, there was a need to strengthen the public health system.” Warning a bleak future if citizens failed to realise the dangers of population explosion, he said: “This was the day to warn people on the dangers of population explosion. India’s population was just 36 crore in 1951, which had presently increased to 125 crore. The pace at which our population is increasing, we will turn 240 crore in the next 40 years. Do not forget that the geographical position, natural resources and our crop production may not increase any more. Population growth leads to over-exploitation of natural resources and takes away all the vitals of the nation,” he added. He reminded the impending dangers of acute shortage of water, food, housing and clothing, if people do not realise perils of overpopulation. Minister for Health and Family Welfare U T Khader said that the State would formulate a policy to provide health insurance to Asha workers. A few Asha workers were honoured with incentives for their services. (Deccan Herald 12/7/14)

127. Tamil Nadu a trendsetter in health schemes in country, says Health Minister (3)

COIMBATORE: Tamil Nadu has the distinction of being a trendsetter in health schemes in the country as it had among the best health indicators. The State had an Infant Mortality Rate of 21 per 1,000 live births, which was half the national rate of 42 per 1,000 live births, said Health Minister C. Vijaya Baskar here on Saturday. He was addressing the inaugural function of ‘Nalam 2014,’ a medical exhibition being held here from Saturday to Tuesday by the PSG Hospitals as part of its silver jubilee celebrations. Maternal mortality rate of Tamil Nadu stood at 73 per 1,00,000 births, which was less than half the national figure of 150 per 1,00,000 births. This was achieved through the round-the-clock service provided by neonatal intensive care units and Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) centres set up across the State. Tamil Nadu also accounted for the highest number of cadaver transplants in the country with 450 performed so far and as many as 2,800 organs having been transplanted. Further, the Minister said that present All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) regime headed by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had allotted more than Rs. 7,000 crore for health, which was among the highest budgetary allocations for health sector, and next only to education. Private hospitals also play a vital role in achieving such figures through schemes such as the Chief Minister’s Health Insurance Scheme (CMHIS). Around 96,000 persons had benefited from this scheme over the past two years in Coimbatore alone with Rs. 265 crore disbursed under CMHIS, Dr. Vijaya Baskar said. Earlier, L. Gopalakrishnan, managing trustee of PSG Institutions, said that the 900-bed multi-speciality hospital had made rapid strides in recent years. It was among the first institutions in the city to obtain National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) certification. It also had a simulator to train medical students at a cost of Rs. 7 crore. The trust managed around 30 educational institutions that provided from primary education to higher education besides specialised institutions for children with special needs, he added. Vimal Kumar Govindan, hospital medical director, said that the exhibition focussed on health promotion and creation of awareness on disease prevention among the public. S.P. Velumani, Minister for Municipal Administration and Rural Development, R. Chinnasamy, Singanallur MLA and O.K. Chinnaraj, Mettupalayam MLA, among others took part in the function. (The Hindu 13/7/14)

128. RTI reveals TB accounted for 8.1% of 87,027 deaths in city in 2013-14 (3)

Mumbai: In 2013-14, tuberculosis (TB) accounted for 8.1 per cent of the 87,027 deaths reported in the city — a glaring health concern highlighted by a report released by NGO Praja on Tuesday. While TB deaths stood at 7,075, there were 255 diarrhoea deaths, followed by 195 malaria and 108 dengue deaths in 2013-2014. The report is based on death certificates collected from the civic body through the Right to Information applications, said Praja officials. There are, however, significant discrepancies in the data accumulated by Praja and figures provided by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The BMC reported only 1,393 deaths due to TB and 30 deaths due to malaria in 2013. Dr Minnie Khetarpal, TB control officer at BMC, said, “The death figures in our records are based on Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP). On several occasions, even para-medics issue death certificates without filling the form properly. This leads to inaccurate data. I feel the difference in Praja and BMC figures is due to that.” Nitai Mehta, managing trustee of Praja, said under-reported cases of TB can affect the planning and control mechanism of the disease. “Cases of malaria have been reducing every year, but Mumbai might now become the metropolitan city with the highest TB deaths in the world,” Mehta said. As per the data released by Praja, there were 10 deaths due to typhoid and seven due to cholera in 2013-14. HIV-AIDS accounted for 439 deaths and hypertension was responsible for 4,525 deaths in the city. According to Praja’s data, for the past six years, K-East ward, comprising Andheri (east) and parts of Jogeshwari and Vile Parle, had the highest cumulative count of diseases among all 24 wards in the city. In 2013-14, 10,167 cases of malaria, dengue, tuberculosis, diabetes and diarrhoea were reported from the ward. “Since 2008, K East ward has constantly reported a high number of malaria, tuberculosis, diabetes and diarrheoa cases, with the ward also slowly becoming a den for dengue (16 cases reported in 2012-2013 and 29 cases in 2013-2014),” Praja report stated. A BMC official said the biggest challenge in the ward were the enormous slums where health and hygiene conditions were poor. There are over eight slum pockets in the ward with Mograpada and Bandrekar Wadi being two major slums. “The slum dwellers do not co-operate with fogging exercises and on several occasions they have turned a deaf ear towards the instructions given by health workers,” a former medical officer from the ward said. Rajan Naringrekar, insecticide officer at BMC, said, “K-East ward is huge. So, the cases reported from there will be higher than A, B and C wards, which are much smaller.” The ward covers 23.5 sq kms. Four wards in the city – K East (Andheri East), L (Kurla), G South (Elphinstone) and E (Byculla and Chinchpokli) – have been notified as high risk areas since 2010, where presence of slums, massive construction activities and demographic conditions have led to high ailments count. (Indian Express 16/7/14)

129. Encephalitis claims 29 lives in State (3)

GUWAHATI: The Japanese encephalitis (JE)-related death toll in the State has shot up to 29. The number of persons affected by this mosquito-borne disease, which is yet to have a curative treatment, has also shot up to 224 in the State. Sources in the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) unit of the State Health Directorate told this newspaper that this time the lower Assam districts of Barpeta, Kamrup, Kamrup (Metro), Nalbari and Darrang are mainly affected by the disease unlike in the previous years, when the upper Assam districts of Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Jorhat and Golaghat were mainly affected by it. Though the number of confirmed cases of JE is growing at present, it is expected that the number of such cases will decline by mid-August. Last year, there were 193 confirmed JE cases till July 15. Of them, 41 died. But this year, 29 persons were killed by the disease till July 15, sources said, adding, the percentage of death this time is 40 per cent less compared to that last year. Preventive vaccination has resulted in significant reduction in the cases of JE in the upper Assam districts. The Health Department will undertake vaccination programmes in nine lower Assam districts by September next and in a phased manner the entire State would be covered under the vaccination programme within the current year, sources said. Meanwhile, fogging operations are undertaken regularly in the affected areas, besides public awareness programmes, sources said. (Assam Tribune 17//7/14)

HIV/AIDS

130. Goa govt., NGOs rally around HIV+ students (3)

PANAJI: As a row over admission of HIV-positive children to a school in Rivona in south Goa escalates, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has warned that stringent provisions of the Goa Children’s Act will be invoked to tackle any discrimination against the children. The Goa government, he said, will step in to provide justice to the 13 students from a community-run centre who are facing opposition from parents of other students at St. Fatima High School at Rivona. The parents have threatened to boycott the school ignoring the intervention of the Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The controversy began last week when some 50 parents opposed the decision of the management to admit the students, and demanded the cancellation of the admissions. The parents extended their agitation till Friday. The school management is in no way responsible for the situation, the Chief Minister said on Tuesday and promised to intervene personally to solve the controversy. Efforts are on to defuse the pressure built up by the parents. The Naz Foundation (India) Trust, an organisation which runs a care home for orphaned and vulnerable children, says children living with HIV face multiple forms of discrimination in schools. Consequently, on March 3, the Supreme Court issued notices to all States based on a public interest litigation petition to declare HIV-positive children as a disadvantaged group under the Right to Education Act to ensure their education without discrimination. Deputy Director of Education Anil Powar admitted on Wednesday that the department was conscious that it would have to face contempt charges from the court, and as such in no way it would allow the cancellation of admissions. Moreover, the government is all set to invoke the stringent provisions of the Goa Children’s Act and Rules. No child can be denied admission to any school on any ground, whether living with HIV/AIDS or differently-abled. Contravention of the provisions is punishable with a fine, which may extend to Rs. 50,000. Mr. Powar said on Wednesday that the government was in the process of convincing the parents, and hoped for an amicable settlement within two or three days. Groups working with HIV-positive children such as Positive People have reacted with shock and anger at the way the children have been identified, stigmatised and victimised. Children’s Rights in Goa (CRG), a children’s rights group, lauded the steps taken by the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights to ensure that the HIV-positive students were not denied their right to education, and appreciated the statement by the government that their right to admission to a regular school would be upheld. Expressing anguish with the response of the parent-teacher association, CRG director Nishtha Desai recalled that prior to this, the same children were denied admission in another school at Sulcorna because of opposition from parents of children studying in the school. (The Hindu 10/7/14)

131. HIV evidence found in child said to be cured (3)

July 11: A child in Mississippi who was thought to have been cured of HIV with aggressive drug treatment immediately after birth is now showing signs of infection with the virus, federal health officials announced yesterday — a serious setback to hopes for a cure for AIDS. The report in March 2013 that the child had apparently been cured raised the possibility that aggressive early treatment might be able to reverse infections in newborns — and perhaps even in newly infected adults. About 2.3 million people around the world were newly infected with HIV in 2012, the last year for which figures were available; 260,000 were infants infected at birth or immediately afterward. So yesterday’s announcement was especially deflating. During a telephone news conference held by the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Hannah B. Gay, the pediatrician at the University of Mississippi Medical Centre in Jackson who first put the child on large doses of antiretroviral drugs, said it was “like a punch in the gut”. With hopes raised by the Mississippi case, doctors had made plans for a worldwide clinical trial in which about 450 babies — chosen because their infected mothers had no testing or treatment before the births — would be put on the three-drug regimen called triple therapy. If those who were infected with HIV showed no virus after 48 weeks of treatment, the plan was to stop their drugs and see if they had been cured before the virus had a chance to establish a reservoir of infected cells. But not a single baby has yet been enrolled in the trial, and in light of the failure to cure the Mississippi baby, “We’ve got to go back and look at the trial’s design,” said Dr Anthony S. Fauci, a leading AIDS expert who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Asked how he felt about yesterday’s announcement, he said: “It’s obviously disappointing, but I was not surprised. I’ve been chasing these reservoirs for the last 25 years, and I know this virus has a really uncanny way of hiding itself.” Before the Mississippi baby, only one other person had been considered cured of HIV. That was an adult, Timothy Brown, previously known as the anonymous “Berlin patient”, who had a transplant of blood stem cells to treat his leukemia after his bone marrow was wiped out with drugs and radiation. (The Telegraph 11/7/14)

132. Parents now target 23 non-HIV students in Goa (3)

Panaji: The 13 HIV-positive students whose admission to a Goa school has triggered protests from a parents teachers association (PTA) last week, have been accommodated in another school. AP photo for representation purpose The 13 HIV-positive students whose admission to a Goa school has triggered protests from a parents teachers association (PTA) last week, have been accommodated in another school. The PTA now wants 23 non-HIV students, who live in the same Church-run children’s home along with the 13 HIV-positive students, to be dropped from the school. Several members of the PTA were demanding that the Fatima High School in Rivona, 50 km south of Panaji, should not allow 23 non HIV students to continue in school, Father Maverick Fernandes, a Church official who was involved in negotiations with the parents in a meeting held Friday told IANS. “We tried to allay the fears of the parents about HIV. Some seemed to be convinced. We also informed them about the Supreme Court judgement which says that there cannot be discrimination against these students,” Fernandes said. Fernandes said the 13 HIV students had been admitted to another school. The identity of the school has been kept secret, perhaps fearing another set of protests at the school where the 13 children have found admission. The Friday meeting was attended by the state education department officials, chairperson of state commission for protection of child rights, school management and the PTA, but failed to resolve the deadlock, with as many as 40 parents resolving to withdraw their children from the school. By evening 25 parents have already applied for a school leaving certificate, so that they could transfer them to other schools nearby. “We tried our best to convince the parents. But we insisted that the students cannot be removed from school,” said Ramkrisnhna Samant, deputy director (education) South Goa. BJP MLA Subhash Phaldesai, who also tried to convince the parents to let the 23 non HIV students to continue in school, said the 150 odd parents at the meeting seemed to be convinced until the last minute, when they consolidated and stuck to their demand.”They wanted us to give in writing that the non HIV students will not be affected by HIV in the future. It is an unreasonable demand. It is extremely unfair. I feel for the children,” Phaldesai said. The school management was forced to shutdown for a couple of days after the stand-off between the PTA and the school authorities. (Deccan Herald 12/7/14)

133. More demands over HIV ‘threat’ in Goa school (3)

Panaji: Even the transfer of the 13-HIV positive students to another school proved to be insufficient to quell protests from the parents and teachers association (PTA) in Goa / DH Photo only for representationEven the transfer of the 13-HIV positive students to another school proved to be insufficient to quell protests from the parents and teachers association (PTA) in Goa. The PTA has now demanded that 23 other students, who lived in the same church-run children’s home as the HIV-positive students, be dropped from the school. The Fatima High School in Rivona had last week been forced to transfer the 13 HIV-positive students after protests from the association. Father Maverick Fernandes, a church official, was on Friday negotiating with the PTA over its demands for the removal of wards who came in contact with the HIV-positive students. “We tried to allay the fears of parents about HIV. Some seemed to be convinced. We also informed them about the Supreme Court judgement which says that there cannot be discrimination against these students,” Fernandes said. However, the meeting failed to break the deadlock with as many as 40 parents vowing to transfer their children from the school. By Friday evening, parents of 25 children applied for transfer certificates. (Deccan Herald 13/7/14)

134. Four of every 10 Asians living with HIV are Indian: Report (3)

India has the third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world, with 2.1 million Indians accounting for four of every 10 people infected in Asia, the United Nations said in a report on Wednesday. The epidemic has killed about 39 million of the 78 million people it has affected worldwide since it began in the 1980s, the UN AIDS programme said, adding that the number of people infected with HIV was stabilising around 35 million. Here are some facts and figures on India from the report: India accounted for 51% of AIDS-related deaths in Asia in 2013 and 8% of deaths worldwide. At the end of 2013, more than 700,000 people in India were on antiretroviral therapy, the second-largest number of people on the treatment in any country. However, 64% of those affected do not have access to antiretroviral treatment. In India, the number of new HIV infections declined by 19% between 2005 and 2013, yet it accounted for 38% of all new HIV infections in Asia. The country recorded a 38% decline in AIDS-related deaths in the same period. HIV prevalence among gay men and other men who have sex with men is between 4-9% in India. In Chhattisgarh, HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is 15%, three times the national figure. Data indicates that more than 75% of women in India who tested positive for HIV have husbands who travel far for work, such as truck drivers migrant labourers. In certain states, nearly 90% of newly diagnosed HIV infections were among wives with a migrant husband. In Mumbai, almost a quarter (22.9%) of female prostitutes who were victims of trafficking are HIV-positive. Data collected from interviews in India indicates that women forced into prostitution are nearly three times as likely to be HIV-positive. Around 2.8% of sex workers in the country are estimated to be HIV-positive. (Times of India 17/7/14)