HR News

Volume 16                                       No.56                                       December 18,  2014

HR NEWS: December 18, 2014

(From December 10 To December 18,  2014)

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalit minor girl raped in Warangal (2)

WARANGAL: A 17-year-old dumb Dalit girl was allegedly raped by an unidentified person in Inavolu village in Wardhannapet mandal of Warangal district late on Wednesday night. According to police sources, the minor girl, who resides with her parents in SC colony in the village had ventured out around 11 pm to attend nature’s call, when an unidentified person gagged her mouth and alleged sexually assaulted her. The girl had earlier in the night attended prayers in the colony and returned home. The assailant after raping her fled from the spot. The girl managed to reach the house and informed her father about the incident. Police said they suspect the involvement of local youth as they had information that some persons were seen consuming alcohol. One of them might have seen the girl going out of the house and followed her. Wardhannapet police registered a case and shifted the girl to local hospital for medical examination. Manhunt was launched to nab the culprit, police said. (The Hindu 11/12/14)

2. Manjhi invokes power of Dalits (2)

Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Thursday asserted that Dalits were strong enough to rebuff the forces trying to harass them. ” Hum chuha pakad kar khichna jante hain.. Jo koi garbar karega, hum uska tang bhi khich dengein (We know how to pull out a rat from its hole. We are also capable of pulling the legs of the ones doing something wrong),” Manjhi said, addressing a Dalit convention at Adapur in East Champaran district, 180km northeast of Patna. Manjhi is the face of Musahars – a rat-catching Dalit community. Manjhi’s “leg-pulling” rhetoric reminded his scathing attack on doctors when he had said the hands of the medicos doing their duty improperly should be chopped off. In an obvious bid to keep his mentor Nitish Kumar in good humour, Manjhi appealed to the Dalits to stand behind Nitish and the JDU, which had “honoured” him with the chief minister’s chair. At his eloquent best in the company of his Dalit brethren, Manjhi dwelt at length on the dignity of the Dalit communities. “The Dalits should not be dependent on welfare schemes like Indira Awas Yojana. The houses given under the schemes are like alms thrown before the beggars,” he said. He suggested the Dalits to take inspiration from tribal leaders Birsa Munda and Dalit leader B.R. Ambedkar to attain “intellectual and fighting traits”. “For adopting the ideals of Birsa Munda and Ambedkar, you must bring about change in your way of living. You must shun liquor and send your kids to schools,” Manjhi advised the Dalits. “I shall not live forever. But the Dalits should keep on increasing their intellectual prowess to have the chief minister from among them in the future,” Manjhi said while addressing a felicitation ceremony organised by the Birsa-Ambedkar Kalyan Samiti at Bansi High School grounds: Transport minister Ramai Ram, another Dalit leader who accompanied the chief minister, said: “Nitish will be the chief minister again after the 2015 elections. All the Dalits should stand like a rock behind him, who has done more than anyone else for the Dalits and Mahadalits.” Manjhi, however, emphasised more on the Dalits’ cause than on making Nitish the next chief minister. “As many as 80 per cent Dalits are living below poverty line. A large number of them are still not enrolled as voters. As a result, their real numerical strength are not reflected in the counting of votes,” he said, appealing his Dalit brethren to be aware of their voting right. The chief minister also called for raising the reservation from present 49.5 per cent to 80 per cent for OBCs, SC/STs and other sections of the population. “I had the wish that the Paswan community members should have 100 per cent reservation in the appointment of chowkidars (village guards),” Manjhi said. (The Telegraph 12/12/14)

3. Dalits are now saffron forces’ foot soldiers (2)

Lucknow: After successfully polarizing Dalits against Muslims in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, saffron forces are now using them to lead the charge towards their goal of a grand ‘Hindu Rashtra’, believe social analysts and Dalit thinkers. This would not only harm communal amity but in the long run also hit the Dalit rights movement started by Ambedkar, they say. Nand Kishore Valmiki, leader of Dharm Jagran Manch and Bajrag Dal activists who allegedly led the execution of the `ghar wapasi’ of 50 Muslim families, is on the run after being named in the FIR accusing him of `forced conversion’. A resident of Valmiki Basti in Ved Nagar locality of Agra, 40 years old Nand Kishore hit the headlines after one Ibrahim of the same locality lodged a complaint against him for getting people lured to convert into Hinduism. Police said that they were investigating the case if Valmiki lured people to embrace Hinduism by promising them of getting them a BPL card. Valmiki reportedly managed to convince some Muslims in Ved nagar locality to come to a `Havan’, performed three days ago and get them photographed. He also convinced some of the people to pose as Hindus in front of some leaders from Sangh Parivar, by getting a `tilak’ ticked on the fore head. He, though, told them that they would not be converted and that they may continue to practice Islam. However, the next morning, people came to know that they have been converted into Hindus. Police said that during the investigations it was found that Valmiki told the people that the government wanted to help the poor by issuing them BPL card. In the process he asked people to fill up `some’ forms as well. SSP, Agra, Shalabh Mathur said that a team of police visited the slum in Dev Nagar and talked to the people who are at the centre of the row. “A non bailable warrant has been issued against Valmiki. We are carrying out raids in various parts of the city to nab Valmiki,” Mathur said. While Valmiki is on the run, many in the RSS and its affiliates, including BJP, have come out in his defence. The incident has provided another issue after ‘Love Jihad’ and cow slaughter to polarize the masses on religious grounds, which will politically help the BJP and strengthen Hindutava forces. “The incident shows how Sangh Parivar has been successful in polarizing Dalits, mainly Valmikis and Khatiks, to be part of larger Hindu identity,” said Dalit writer and thinker Kanwal Bharti. It’s a replica of the Gujrat model where saffron forces used tribals and dalits for their agenda, he added. “But what Dalits are not being able to understand here that they are being fooled by reactionary forces and diverted from the path of emancipation showed by Babasaheb Bhirm Rao Ambedkar,” he said. In Agra, he said, a misled Dalit is being chased by the police, while fruits of power due to polarization will be enjoyed by others. Dalits and Muslims have largely voted together in UP polls, expect during Ram Temple movement, till Muzaffarnagar riots which created a rift helping BJP sweep May 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Encouraged by the results, the Saffron brigade launched an aggressive campaign to woo Dalits. In June, BJP made removal of loudspeaker from a Dalit temple in Kanth a big issue. In September, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat supported caste based quota saying “reservation is needed till there is inequality in the society”. Later, RSS said Muslim invasion in medieval period created Dalits and tribals in India. “It’s a known fact that Sangh Parivar wants to bring all castes under Hindutava umbrella to achieve its objective of Hindu Rashtra. What we are seeing now is its dangerous execution,” said political analyst Sudhir Panwar. “The BJP already has big upper caste and OBC leaders. Polarization of Dalits will make it politically stronger,” he added. However, socially, he warned, the repercussions could be devastating. “It would marginalize Muslims and religious identity would overshadow the Dalit identity, derailing the years of struggle for social justice. (Times of India 13/12/140

4. Rescued Dalit women labourers’ horror tales (2)

Chennai: It was thanks to an NGO that rescued two teenaged Dalit girls, S. Violet Mary and M. Shanthi, from a life of unremitting labour that they lived to tell their tale at the 15th state-level Dalit women’s conference in the city on Sunday.The two girls were sent to a cotton mill in Dindigul district to work so they could return in three years with savings of Rs 30,000. It was a nightmare that the girls from Athoor village went through, working continuously for more than 12 hours. “About 15 were put in a small room and our day started as early as 3.30 am. An NGO helped us get out of the cotton mill where we were employed,” said Violet Mary. Dalit women from various districts narrated their stories, speaking of the discrimination they faced and how they fought for their rights. “There are 199 cotton mills in Dindigul district alone that employ more than 1 lakh women, and of them, 30,000 are Dalits. These mills announce various schemes, like Sumangali, Kanmani, Thirumagal and lure adolescent girls from economically backward sections with the promise of a lump sum payment of Rs 30,000 after three years. All these women work for hours together and the mills pay them only if they complete the three-year period,” said G.F. Viswasam, secretary of the Sirumalai Evergreen Multipurpose Community Development Society.The NGO has rehabilitated 93 women from the Sumangali scheme and has been giving them vocational training. Violet Mary and Shanthi discontinued their participation in the scheme within a month of joining it and are now in a tailoring programme. “As our seniors narrated various stories to us, we told our family and they accepted,” they said. The long working hours were not the only troublesome aspect. The mills selected girls only from families that had three or more children. “They are also subject to sexual harassment by supervisors,” said Viswasam. The story of bonded labourers from Maharajapuram, Chittoor district in AP, was even worse as 30 people from 15 families lived as slaves, literally, for 15 long years. Members of the Ambedkar Movement rescued them a few months ago. Kasturi, who still struggles to cope with the atrocities and discrimination she faced at an estate in Maharajapuram, said men and women were beaten up like animals just because “we asked the owner to hike our wages”.“We were given only `110 a day for work we did for 18 hours,” said Jeeva, another worker. (Deccan Chronicles 15/12/14)

5. Crusade for Dalits’ entry into temples (2)

Kolar: Kolar district is set to take a big leap forward to eradicate untouchability. Enthused by the response for ‘Grihapravesha’ — a campaign that made Dalits’ entry into the houses of ‘upper’ caste people possible in several villages in the district in the last five months — the organisers have now devised a programme to ensure entry of Dalits into Muzrai Department temples. Dalits comprise almost one-third the total population in the district. According to the District Social Welfare Department figures, of the 15.4 lakh population, 4,65,867 are Scheduled Castes and 78,875 are Scheduled Tribes in the district. Started by Mulbagal-based Arivu Kendra, led by G. Shivappa, an assistant professor with Government College for Women in Kolar, the ‘Grihapravesha’ has expanded. A number of organisations, such as the Karnataka Dalit Sangharsh Samiti, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, Samata Sainik Dal, and other like-minded people have joined hands in this endeavour. As a result, a wider platform — Dalitara Grihapravesha Rajya Samiti — evolved to take the campaign across the State. The committee has formulated a programme for the entry of Dalits into the temples, with ‘Namma Nade Asprashyate Mukta Bharatadede’ (Our march towards untouchability-free India), as the theme. There are 1,336 temples under the Muzrai and Religious Endowment Department in Kolar district. As a prelude, the committee had appealed to the district administration to create awareness about the provisions of a number of laws, including the Mysore Temples Act 1948 and the Civil Rights Protection Act 1955. The committee had lodged a complaint about Dalits being denied entry into these temples. Following this, Additional Deputy Commissioner R.S. Peddappaiah wrote to all the tahsildars in November to initiate action against those obstructing entry of Dalits into the temples. “This is a big morale booster for us,” Mr. Shivappa told The Hindu. Armed with this and other legal provisions, the committee has decided to launch the campaign on December 21 at Kadenahalli in Mulbagal taluk. “Dalits, accompanied by a number of dignitaries, will be taken into the Chowdeshwari and Someshwaraswamy temples at Kadenahalli to mark the launch of the campaign,” Mr. Shivappa said. Similar programmes will be conducted in all the 1,336 Muzrai temples in the district, he added. “Though Dalits can go to the temples in urban areas, the situation in the rural belt is pathetic. Untouchability is rampant with feudal ideas gaining the upper hand,” said Mr. Shivappa. (The Hindu 17/12/14)

TRIBALS

6. 42 tribal children not in school: SSA (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As many as 42 tribal children in the age group of 6 to 14 years residing in the hamlets of Kattakkada have never entered the portals of a school, preliminary data collected by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) show. The data collected also hint at the capital district having a good number of out-of-the-school category children in the urban and the coastal areas. Based on all these, the SSA is all set to launch a survey to identify children who have never been to school in the district. School enrolment of children in the age group of 6 to 14 years is mandatory, especially after the implementation of the Right to Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009. The Podiamplathi tribal hamlet at Kattakada alone accounts for 32 of the 42 children who are not enrolled in school, and the remaining are from Mangode, Mukkothivail, Pattanipara and Anakal, District Project Officer, SSA, M. Rajesh told The Hindu. There are also a few unconfirmed cases of out-of-the-school students reported from tribal settlements in the Palode and Parassala areas. The data related to the number of children from urban and coastal areas having not enrolled are yet to be ascertained, said an official. “The capital city could be home to a number of children who have never been to school, particularly after the influx of the migrant population. A number of such children have been spotted at Varkala and Kovalam,” the official added. Last month, a meeting was convened by the sub-collector to discuss issues related to out-of-the-school children in the capital district. The meeting decided to conduct a survey involving the Local Self-Government Department, Kudumbasree volunteers, District Literacy Mission, and Anganwadis to find the exact number of such children. As a prelude to the survey, the District Level Vigilance Monitoring Committee will meet on December 13 to finalise the modalities of the survey, Mr Rajesh said. (The Hindu 10/12/14)

7. Students back tribals’ agitation (6)

Kochi: Various organisations took out protest marches in the city on Wednesday, which was observed as World Human Rights Day, in solidarity with the adivasi ‘Nilpu Samaram’ that has been going on in Thiruvananthapuram to protect the rights of the tribals. About 1,000 students and staff of Sacred Heart College took out a ‘nilpu samaram’ of their own in front of the college to express solidarity with the tribals’ protest. Fr. Prasant Palakkapillil, principal of the college, spoke at the protest action. Students held placards demanding protection of the land rights of the adivasi people. The students also sent about 1,000 postcards to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to stress their demand. A campaign to collect funds for those participating in the ‘Nilpu Samaram’ was also started at the protest. Activists of the Adivasi Aikyadardhya Samithi, meanwhile, took out a march from Rajendra Maidan on Wednesday evening demanding speedy action from the government. Various other groups organised protest meetings. (The Hindu 11/12/14)

8. PESA Act Important to Make Villages Self-reliant: Governor (6)

CHANDRAPUR: Hailing the PESA Act, Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao on Saturday said the law helps in implementation of various provisions for self rule for village communities in the scheduled areas. “Implementation of PESA ensures that panchayats and gram sabhas would be benefited by way of ownership of resources and rights in the scheduled areas in true sense and help in realisation of self-reliance in the villages,” he said while inaugurating a workshop on PESA and Forest Rights Act-2006 organised jointly by the district administration and tribal Welfare department. “PESA Act helps in implementation of various provisions for self rule for village communities in scheduled areas. The Act provides solution to many issues such as tribal land alienation, deprivation of rights on minor forest produce, lack of control of the residents over natural resources, lack of control over local plans and so forth,” he said. PESA was enacted to cover the “Scheduled areas”, which are not covered in the 73rd amendment or Panchayati Raj Act of the Indian Constitution. It was enacted on 24 December 1996 to enable Gram Sabhas to self govern their natural resources. The Governor stressed that Forest Rights Act 2006 also has a potential to change the way forests have been traditionally viewed and managed by the forest dwellers. “I firmly believe that those who have been traditionally protecting forests must have stake in livelihood from the forests as well as their sustenance,” he stressed. Rao directed the officials to work as facilitators, recognise the ownership of the communities over resources, train them in learning skills for livelihood and help them become independent. Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Hansraj Ahir, Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and other leaders were present on the occasion. (New Indian Express 13/12/14)

9. Village set to become conversant with Gondi (6)

ADILABAD: The Gunjala Gondi, or Koyatur, Lipi Adhyayana Vedika, Utnoor, will launch a six-month programme in December at Gunjala village in Naronoor mandal of Adilabad district to make the entire village literate in Gondi script. The aim of the programme is to make the Adivasi villagers capable of writing and signing applications in the Gondi script which was discovered in the same village some six years back. In a press release, Dr. G. Manoja of the Vedika said the results of an earlier programme to teach the script to Adivasi school students had fetched encouraging results. Not only young students showed an inclination to learn the script of their own language but made tremendous progress in learning their mother tongue in it. The programme will be inaugurated at Gunjala village and will be attended by Collector M. Jagan Mohan, Integrated Tribal Development Officer, Project Officer Prashant Patil. Also attending the programme will be Professor Jayadhir Tirumal Rao, convenor of the Vedika, and Professor S.R. Sarraju, coordinator of the Centre for Dalit and Adivasi Studies and Translation, University of Hyderabad. (The Hindu 14/12/14)

10. Protest over death of Adivasi youth in firing (6)

KHAMMAM: The death of Karam Narasimha Rao, an Adivasi youth of Dosillapalli in Charla mandal, after being hit by a bullet during an anti-Maoist operation by the police on Saturday night set off protests in his native village in Bhadrachalam division on Monday. Narasimha Rao succumbed to the grievous bullet injury while undergoing treatment at a hospital in Hyderabad late on Sunday night. Tension mounted in Dosillapalli on Monday afternoon when a group of villagers staged protest demanding action against those responsible for the death of Narasimha Rao, a petty trader of the village. According to sources, the protesters shouted slogans dismissing the police version that the youth was injured after being caught in an exchange of fire between a police party and the rebels. When the police officials came to the village to inquire into the incident, the agitated villagers sought an open inquiry in the village to unravel the facts and bring the guilty to book. Meanwhile, the death of the Adivasi youth evoked widespread condemnation and vociferous demand for an impartial probe into the incident. In a statement, CPI (M) district secretary Pothineni Sudarshan Rao alleged that the police fired at Narasimha Rao and another youth suspecting them to be the ultras at Dosillapalli on Saturday night. “The police action amounted to unwarranted and unrestrained firing on tribal youth,” he charged alleging that similar incidents occurred thrice in the same Bhadrachalam division in the last couple of years. (The Hindu 16/12/14)

WOMEN

11. 1st non-Internet app for women in distress soon (8)

New Delhi: To help women in distress in the national capital, the city administration’s 181 helpline is set to launch the country’s first non-Internet based application by “the first week of January 2015”. All that one requires is to press the power button of the phone and the helpline would ensure that caller receives assistance on the spot within two to three minutes. After pressing the power button, an SOS message will be automatically transferred to 181. The new application would be first operational only on the Android phones and later on Windows and other mobile devices. The administration had launched the helpline for women in distress after the Nirbhaya incident about two years ago. Of the 12,11,887 calls made to the 24×7 helpline, it attended as many as 8,51,455 calls till December 8 this year. Civil rights activist and 181 head Khadijah Faruqui said that the helpline had managed to get 6,66,684 cases registered on the basis of the calls it had received so far. The helpline got 4,021 cases of abductions registered, 615 cases of acid attacks, 12,435 cases of sexual abuse of children, 79,782 cases of domestic violence, 1,771 cases of dowry deaths, 4,967 rape cases, 25,083 cases of sexual assaults and 2,216 cases of stalking. Of the total cases lodged at various police stations, the trial proceedings have been reported in as many as 40 per cent of the cases. Confirming that the helpline was soon going to launch its first telephone-based application, Ms Faruqui said this would be the first such App which can be operated without any Internet connection. The application has been developed by the Indraprastha Institute of Technology’s Pushpendra Singh and Shradha Jain. Once the message is transmitted to the helpline, it would automatically display the time and location of the caller. Ms Faruqui said: “Our priority will be to send any possible help to the caller within two to three minutes. We will immediately contact the nearby PCR vans, ambulances or mobile vans of the Delhi Commission for Women so that any of these provides the emergency help to the caller at the earliest.” The helpline head said the application would be launched after getting a static IP address. (Asian Age 10/12/14)

12. 38% of women killed are by partners: WHO (8)

NEW DELHI: Over one-third of murdered women across the world were killed by their male partners, a recent report by World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed, indicating how women face greater threat to their lives from their trusted ones. “When women are killed, it is often their partner who is responsible. In 2013, WHO and others estimated that as many as 38% of female homicides globally were committed by male partners while the corresponding figure for men was 6%,” said the first ever Global Status Report on Violence Prevention released on Thursday. Highlighting how murder (homicide) is a bigger problem across countries, it said world over at least 4.75 lakh murders were reported in 2012. About 60% of these victims were males aged between 15 and 44 years, which is the most productive phase of life. The report says homicide is the third leading cause of death for males in this age group. This status report has been prepared after collecting data from 133 countries, covering 6.1 billion people and representing 88% of the world’s population. The compilation of global data also shows that approximately one in every two homicides is committed with a firearm, and one in four with a sharp instrument such as a knife, although the mechanism of homicide varies markedly across regions. However, it has also found how between 2000 and 2012 homicide rates are estimated to have declined by over 16% globally. It’s higher in the case of high-income countries, but in low and middle income countries the decline is less. (Times of India 12/12/14)

13. Govt drops plan to amend Dowry Act (8)

NEW DELHI: The Dowry Act in its present form is here to stay for now. The government on Friday said it had dropped amendments to the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 proposed by the National Commission for Women (NCW). “The NCW had recommended certain amendments in Dowry Prohibition Act. However, the ministry has taken a considered view on the matter and decided to drop the amendment proposed by NCW in the present form after taking into account the comments of the high level committee on the status of women and the ministry of home affairs,” women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi said in Lok Sabha. The move has been met with some relief by women’s rights activists who feared weakening of the law following a critical Supreme Court order. “I feel it is good that the government has decided not to dilute the law,” Ranjana Kumari from the Centre for Social Research said. Among the amendments that were planned included widening the definition of the word dowry and including penalty provisions for misuse of the act. In a recent order, the Supreme Court had said Section 498A had “dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shield by disgruntled wives”.On November 23, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled if a woman’s complaint accusing her husband and in-laws of cruelty under the dreaded Section 498A of Indian Penal Code turns out to be false, then the man is entitled to divorce. The bench quoted “Crime in India 2012 Statistics” published by National Crime Records Bureau to say that nearly 2 lakh people were arrested in India in 2012 under Section 498A, which was 9.4% more than in 2011. Among the other amendments that were proposed were a provision for separate penalties for giving and taking of dowry and penalties for non-maintenance of lists of gifts received at the time of marriage. There are reports of misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code by women to harass their husband and in-laws. (TOI illustration) There has been significant increase in the number of dowry-related cases in the last decade including Dowry Prohibition Act cases (300% increase), 498A cases (135% increase) and a 30% increase in the number of dowry deaths. All of these three rates are substantially higher than the rate of increase of all cognizable cases on average, which was 21%.Dowry-related cases accounted for nearly half of the increase in crimes against women between 2003 and 2013. (Times of India 13/12/14)

14. Harassed at home, over 79,000 women in Delhi dialled 181 (8)

New Delhi: The Capital has a notorious record on women safety in public places. But an analysis of the distress calls made to a government helpline reveals that they face harassment and violence inside their homes too. The 181 helpline for women— set up and being run by the Delhi government since 2012 after the December 16 gang rape has received as many as 8,51,455 complaints since its inception. An analysis of the calls to the helpline shows that 79,782 women reported matters related to domestic violence —most of them sexual in nature. Khadijah Faruqui, a lawyer and activist who heads the helpline service, said the government is now planning to add new safety features to the helpline including a GPS location tracking facility to ensure they can connect with the callers smoothly. The helpline received a total of 8,51,455 distress calls and 6,66,684 cases have been registered under various heads against these calls. “We need to strengthen the existing facility of 181 which is why we have chalked out a comprehensive plan, including a mobile app facility, which will help women to reach out to us,” said Faruqui. According to officials, though calls related to sexual assault are also substantial in number, the helpline has given a platform to those facing violence inside their homes. Sources said the Delhi government has also decided to allocate more funds for 181 which has been facing a fund crunch. “Matrimonial rape has emerged as a big concern as a number of calls received by us are related to that. Sexual violence inside homes is a cause for worry and we have tried our best to counsel the women and have helped them file complaints,” Faruqui said. Besides managing serious complaints like sexual harassment, attempt to rape, stalking, obscene calls, domestic violence or kidnapping, the helpline educates women about their rights and laws. The team led by Faruqui has 16 members, including four IT experts. “Nearly 12% of the matters are related to obscene calls and 26% are about domestic violence. Other calls that we receive are related to stalking, sexual harassment, acid attack, kidnapping and abduction,” said a senior Delhi government official. (Hindustan Times 15/12/14)

15. 5 Lakh Girl Children Will be ‘Missing’ by 2021: Activists (8)

CHENNAI: Decreasing female sex ratio may result in five lakh girl children ‘missing’ by the year 2021, warned activists, calling for a closer monitoring of the situation. Participating in a protest organised by Campaign Against Sex Selective Abortion (CASSA) on Tuesday to raise awareness on the worsening child sex ratio in the country, activists said that because of the misuse of pre-natal diagnostics techniques for sex determination 53,158 girl children between 0-6 years went missing in 2011. The numbers went up from the previous year, which reveals the lack of monitoring, they alleged. There were about 4,000 scanning centres in Tamil Nadu in 2010 under scrutiny. As many as 28,458 girl foetuses were aborted in 2011. The number of such scan centres went up to 5,000 in the year 2014. The implementation of Pre-consumption and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Act has also been poor, they said. “For the past 10 years, the ratio of men and women  has been 1000:905, which has been declining continuously through the years. If this continues, it will become less than 900 in the year 2021,” said V Vasanthi Devi, former chairperson of Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women. National Family Health Survey reveals that 24 per cent of married women are married before 18 years.  Young mothers, suffering from malnutrition cause infant mortality like what happened in Dharmapuri. Poor implementation of laws by Social Welfare Department and Health Department is also a reason for these deaths, CASSA said.  “Government must take necessary actions to create awareness among the people about this,” said R Senthil, advocate and member of CASSA. (New Indian Express 18/12/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

16. Nobel prize to Satyarthi raises hopes: Working children (14)
New Delhi: A federation of street and working children Wednesday said Nobel Peace Prize to activist Kailash Satyarthi has raised hopes for over 40 million children, who live on streets across India. “Satyarthi’s feat seem to have raised hopes for over 40 million children, who dwell on streets across India, but the question of freedom from child labour continues to stares them in the face,” Badthe Kadam said in a statement. Badthe Kadam’s national secretary Chandani said: “We have already conveyed our wishes to Satyarthi uncle through our newspaper Balaknama. But the children of this organisation still await for the day India would give us our dignity back by ensuring protection from child labour.” (Business Standard 10/12/14)

17. Police averse to filing cases, allege child welfare officials (14)

VIJAYAWADA: The spurt in the number of cases of child abuse and violation of provisions under the Right to Education Act notwithstanding, the district police appear to be averse to filing cases against the violators. The issue has become a bone of contention among the police and the Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) officials with the latter lamenting that there was no prompt action in spite of complaints. The police officials, however, maintained that investigations were on into the complaints that had been lodged. The developments assume significance in the light of a host of people-friendly measures launched by city police commissioner A.B. Venkateswara Rao including ‘FIR at your doorstep’. The Child Welfare department officials are complaining that some station house officers are reluctant to register the cases despite receiving complaints. They are citing the alleged sale of a five-day-old baby girl as an illustration of the police indifference. Though an Anganwadi teacher Sujatha lodged a complaint with the Nunna police that a woman Shaik Noorjahan sold the baby, no case has been registered yet. WD&CW officials, who traced the baby, took her back when the mother expressed her inability to take care of the baby. The Nunna police on their part wrote a letter asking the officials concerned to hand over the baby to Ms. Noorjahan. “Inquiries revealed that Ms. Noorjahan had four children and she sold two babies. How can the police ask us to hand over the infant to a woman who has sold her babies?” District Child Protection Officer Ch. Vijay Kumar questioned. In another case, a 14-year-old girl lodged a complaint with Patamata police a month ago alleging that her employer tonsured and subjected her to cruelty. But, the police did not register the case till date. When contacted, Central Zone Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) K. Lavanya Lakshmi said the police are inquiring into the complaints. She evaded a reply when asked why cases were not registered in spite of complaints being filed. State Commission for Protection of Child Rights member Sumitra and Krishna District Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Chairman B. Nagesh Rao asked the police officers to take action against the SHOs who were not responding to child abuse and child rights violation cases. (The Hindu 12/12/14)

18. Child labour should go into pages of history: Satyarthi (14)

New Delhi: Making an emphatic appeal to “globalise compassion” and turn it into a “mass movement”, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi today said that he wants child labour to go into the “pages of history”.Satyarthi, who returned to India today, also pitched for the passage of the pending legislation against child labour, saying that history “won’t forgive” the legislators if the Bill does not get passed. “I want to make an earnest appeal to all the Parliamentarians, and also to other leaders to facilitate the passage of the key legislation failing which history and children of India won’t forgive them,” Satyarthi said. “Gandhiji turned truth, non-violence and peace into a mass movement. My appeal is to turn compassion into a mass movement. Let us globalise compassion,” the Nobel laureate added. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment (CLPRA) Bill which, once passed, will prohibit employment of children below 14 years in any occupation, bringing the law in consistency with the Right to Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009. Earlier, Satyarthi accompanied by his wife Sumedha, visited Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial at Rajghat where they paid homage to the father of the nation. 60-year-old Satyarthi, an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi said that he could “visualise Gandhi walking towards the stage” to receive the award while he was sitting at the podium at the nobel ceremony in Oslo. “When I was sitting at the podium, I was remembering him (Gandhiji) every single moment. I could visualise him walking towards the stage to receive the award,” said an emotional Satyarthi. On being asked how he would spend the prize money, Satyarthi said that he had previously “never seen” that much money in his life, quickly adding that he would spend “every single penny” for the cause of children in India and globally. “I have never seen or touched that amount of money in my life before. But I can assure you that every single penny will go to the cause of children in my country and globally. The money won’t even go to my own NGO,” he said. After landing in India in the wee hours today, Satyarthi tweeted, “Jai Hind. No words to express my feelings” adding “Bharat Mata Ki Jai. Heartfelt welcome home by fellow Indians”.Satyarthi, who jointly received the award along with Pakistani teenage education activist Malala Yousufzai, said that “sustainable peace” between India and Pakistan could only result from more mutual cooperation. “I am not a politician but as far as I understand more people to people contact, mutual cooperation is required for any kind of sustainable peace between the two countries,” he said. Satyarthi’s image of comforting Malala, when she broke down after seeing her blood-splattered clothes she was wearing the day she was attacked by the Taliban, at an exhibition in Oslo, was splashed by the media across the world. Expressing his gratitude to India’s “vibrant democracy and the judiciary”, Satyarthi said that change was “knocking a the door” which needs to be acted upon. “I am grateful to India’s vibrant democracy and the judicial system without which I could not have achieved anything. But at the same time I would like to say that change, hope, progress is knocking at the door. We need to act now,” the crusader against child labour said. Satyarthi said that the award has increased the weight of “moral responsibility” on his shoulders and that his job wouldn’t be complete till the day a “single child is enslaved”.The son of a police officer, hailing from Madhya Pradesh, Satyarthi also spoke about few “emotional moments” and how his friends and family called him “crazy” when he left his job as an engineer to join activism. “There were emotional moments in my family when I left my engineering job and joined activism. My friends said that I am working for a non-issue and they called me crazy,” the father of two said. Satyarthi’s NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save Childhood Movement) prides itself on liberating over 80,000 children from bonded labour in factories and workshops across India. Awarding the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize on Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Committee said that “Satyarthi and Yousafzai are precisely the people whom Alfred Nobel in his will calls ‘champions of peace’”.   (Deccan Herald 14/12/14)

19. Police and NGO rescue 83 minors brought from Bihar (14)

Mumbai: The Mumbai Government Railway Police (GRP), along with Pratham NGO, a child rights organisation on Monday morning rescued 83 minor boys who were brought in from the state of Bihar to be pushed into child labour in the city’s slums. Most of them are from Motihari, Champaran district in Bihar. Acting on a tip-off received by the NGO, a team of police officials and men from the Kurla GRP rescued these children after they got down at the LTT from the Jansadharan Express from Bihar. The boys are said to be in the age group of 10 to 16 years. There were more than 100 minor boys who were detained at LTT, but as their parents accompanied them they were let off. The rest of the 83 boys did not have their parents with them and so they will be sent to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). These boys will be allowed to go if their parents show up at the CWC. The rest of them will be sent to a children’s home at Mankhurd or Dongri. Programme manager for Pratham, Sharmishta Khandagale said, “Most of these children are made to work in small factory units and small hotels in areas like Govandi, Dharavi, Kurla, Madanpura and Byculla.” When asked if the ones who are handed over to parents are sent back by them, Ms Khandagale said, “It may be happening, but we can’t be certain about that. As of now, the parents were cooking up stories like they were brought here for studies.” The Kurla GRP has detained 38 people who were accompanying these children, but they haven’t been booked yet. There were others who had showed up at the LTT, but managed to escape following the raid. An official from the Kurla GRP said, “We have registered a case under Section 32 (production before committee by a police officer) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. We will hand them over to the CWC. We couldn’t register a case of child labour as they were not yet pushed into labour work.” (Asian Age 16/12/14)

20. 19 children rescued at Malpe harbor (14)

UDUPI: Nineteen child labourers, nine of them girls, were rescued from the Malpe fisheries harbour in a joint operation conducted by the Departments of Labour, Women and Child Welfare, Public Instruction, and Social Welfare, here on Tuesday. A release here said the operation was conducted after receiving a complaint that children were employed at the harbour. Gracy Gonsalves, Joint Director of Women and Child Welfare, said all 19 children were produced before the Child Welfare Committee. The girls were shifted to the Children’s (Girls) Home at Nittur here, while the boys were shifted to the Spoorthi Dhama at Koteshwara, she said. (The Hindu 18/12/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

21. Insecurities among minorities (7)

Dominic Emmanuel: Knowing fully well the track record of the Sangh Parivar — be it the RSS, VHP or the Bajrang Dal — the vitriolic statement by Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, a Union minister, about “Ram-zaadon” (Ram’s children) and “Haraamzadon” (illegitimate children) is certainly not the last uttered against the minorities. Though she fired these derogatory remarks during an election rally, one can’t accept that such criminal declarations serve purely as a dish on the election menu. They are to be seen in the larger context of a mindset gone wrong horribly, courtesy the Hindutva ideology. Undoubtedly, the majority vote, which the Bharatiya Janata Party, received in the 2014 general elections, and the hunger to capture more states has emboldened hatemongers to have a go at the minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians. Whether it is the issue of making the Bhagavad Gita India’s “national scripture, the allegation of money from beef exports being pumped into terrorism, promoting Sanskrit as the third official language, preventing distribution of chocolates by Santa Claus in schools, “love jihad”, or rewriting history in a way that only glorifies Hindu culture, in just six months of the BJP coming to power, there seems no end to the ways the minorities in India are being marginalised and intimidated. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence over these issues, who during the election rallies thundered like a lion and told huge crowds at Madison Square Garden and in Sydney about the unity and inclusiveness of India — “Sabkasaath, sabkavikas” — is deafening. Recently, when someone remarked that the BJP is being guided by the RSS in pushing its Hindutva agenda, home minister Rajnath Singh quipped: “RSS is not an external force. I am from the RSS. The Prime Minister himself is a RSS volunteer. We are (RSS members) from childhood and will remain till we are alive. When we ourselves are from the RSS, then what influence will it have to wield?” Someone needs to remind Messrs Modi and Singh that the oath they took in the foreground of Rashtrapati Bhavan was to the Constitution of India and not by the RSS’ book of rules. During his speech in the Central Hall of Parliament, before the swearing-in ceremony, Mr Modi spoke about Parliament as the “temple of democracy”. We keep hearing statements from the likes of Goa minister Deepak Dhavlikar that “Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be able to make India a Hindu rashtra (nation) in the future if he got unstinted and full support and backing from ‘all of us’”. As if the 31 per cent (of the total votes cast in general elections) was not a vote for development but for a Hindu rashtra. Such people seem deaf to what Fali S. Nariman, the noted jurist, said during the seventh annual National Commission for Minorities (NCM) lecture, when he said: “We have been hearing… almost on a daily basis the tirade by one or more individuals or groups against one or another section of citizens who belong to a religious minority. The criticism has been that the majority government at the Centre has done nothing to stop this tirade. I agree”. He further added: “Those who indulge in hate speech must be prevented by court processes initiated at the instance of the commission (NCM) because that is the body that represents minorities in India… they must be proceeded against and the proceeding must be widely publicised… only then the confidence of the minorities in the NCM will get restored”. A criminal case should be initiated against Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti for “wanton vilification” of minorities, under section 153 (A) of the IPC. My concern is not just Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti’s utterances but the mindset of the resurgent Hindutva votaries clamouring for the creation of “Hindu rashtra”. As an idea this was promoted by ideologues like Golwalkar and Savarkar, who allegedly praised Hitler for his “nationalism” and for “creating a purity of race and culture in Germany” (cf. We or Our Nationhood Defined). Such mindset poses a threat to all minorities — women, dalits, and all linguistic, cultural or religious minorities — for their clear agenda is to eliminate all those who are different, even in the slightest way. They believe in “one nation, one people, one culture”. The Christian minority faces the greatest threat as, unlike the Sikhs and Muslims, who are concentrated in certain places, Christians are spread thinly all over. Nuns and pastors working in remote areas fear for their lives and their institutions. The authorities of Christian missionary schools are harassed, among other things, to instal statues of goddess Saraswati or asked not to sing hymns. A number of cases have been reported of pastors being beaten up for holding prayer services, even in places like Delhi (Kalkaji), in Greater Noida last September, leave alone in far-flung areas of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. And now churches are being attacked, the latest being the one on St. Sebastian Church in Dilshad Garden and last Saturday in Jasola, both in Delhi. The whispers within the community are rising, as is the fear. Mr Modi is not just the PM of Hindus. He is the PM of India. (Deccan Chronicle 10/12/14)

22. BJP demonising 15 pc minorities to scare 85 pc Indians, says Nitish Kumar (7)

Slamming BJP for pursuing what he charged was a brand of “communal politics”, former Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said that the saffron party was trying to frighten 85 per cent of the people of India by demonising 15 per cent of the minority population. The JD(U) leader, whose party is being partnered by RJD in Bihar, also said that the tie-up with the Lalu Yadav-led outfit would not change his “principles of good governance”. Speaking on ‘Agenda Aaj Tak’, Kumar alluded to several controversial statements made by BJP leaders and the row over alleged forced conversions in Agra and said that the Narendra Modi government was working on the ground to divide society while talking up its development agenda in public. “They (BJP) talk about their strength. What kind of strength is this that you frighten about 85 per cent of the people (Hindus) by raising the bogey of 15 per cent of minorities? “They talk outwardly of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ but are working on ground to divide society,” he said. Kumar said there is no difference between RSS and BJP in its current “extremist” avatar, adding that the former was “marginalised” during the “moderate” Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s term as prime minister. Kumar had been a Cabinet minister in the Vajpayee government. Kumar, who had resigned as Bihar Chief Minister following his party’s rout in Lok Sabha elections, said that the proposed merger of Janata Parivar offshoots was an attempt to strengthen the opposition. If the new outfit does well, then parties from other states can also join them, he added. Meanwhile, admitting that people had preferred Modi’s agenda over his in the Lok Sabha elections, Kumar, however, said that the “manufactured aura” around the Modi government remains but will fade away in time. The media and others will then think about the massive spending and the advertisement blitzkrieg which had driven BJP’s campaign for Lok Sabha polls. JD(U) had parted ways with BJP over Modi’s elevation as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate. (Indian Express 13/12/14)

23. AP Minorities Commission Favours Fast-track Courts (7)

HYDERABAD: In order to address several issues concerning minorities in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the Andhra Pradesh Minorities Commission has formulated several expert committees and a document of recommendations would be prepared and submitted to both the State governments, announced Abid Rasool Khan, Chairman, State Minorities Commission. The announcement was made following a round-table meet held on Saturday with the representatives of various non-governmental organisations. The commission has listed the need for fast-track courts for dealing with crime ag ainst women and children, the issue of talaq and khula (an instrument of separation between couple), the issue of money lenders, and the much controversial issue of uniform civil code (UCC) as major issues that need to be addressed immediately. Speaking to mediapersons, Rasool Khan said, “When the issue of Uniform Civil Code is being discussed at the national level, we should not stay behind in putting forward our views, express our concerns and safeguard our rights.” As many as 40 cases relating to crime against persons from minority communities were reported with the commission in the last 15 months. It includes 14 incidence of rape, four murders, 10 dowry harassment cases, 18 harassment cases involving in-laws, 2 cases of property rights violation, and two suicides where in victims were from minority communities, said Khan. (New Indian Exprerss 14/12/14)

24. Skill development scheme for 100% jobs for minorities: Govt (7)

New Delhi: A special skill development programme for minorities has been launched by the government with an aim to provide jobs to all of them who undergo it, Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday. Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla said the skill development training programme of Maulana Azad National Academy for Skills (MANAS) was launched on pilot basis on the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. “Five Memorandum of Understanding were signed by MANAS and our aim is to provide 100 percent jobs to those who enroll in it,” she said during Question Hour. Replying to a supplementary, Heptulla said a community is declared minority on the basis of its economic status and there is no other benchmark like a particular percentage of population under which such status is accorded. She said of the 76 recommendations of Sachar Committee, which gave various suggestions for welfare of minority communities, 73 have been accepted by the government. Heptulla said the evaluation committee headed by Amitabh Kundu, which was set up to verify the implementation of the recommendations of the Sachar Committee, has submitted its final report. “We are studying the Kundu Committee report and will see whether there are any short comings in the implementation process,” she said. The Minister said government is also trying to bring parity between scholarships given to minorities and SCs and STs and has requested the Finance Ministry to convert minority related scholarships as “demand driven”. (Zee News 17/12/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

25. Hindu outfits accused of converting Muslims in Agra (7)

LUCKNOW: A major row has erupted over the alleged conversion of over 350 Muslims to Hinduism in Agra by Hindu right wing organisations Bajrang Dal and Dharm Jagran Manch. The two organisations are also being accused of luring people with the promise of monetary benefits. The conversion is said to have taken place on Monday at Madhunagar slum area in Agra where the two Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliates organised a “Purkhon ki ghar vapsi” (homecoming for ancestors) programme where around 60 Muslim families were converted amid chanting of hymns. The organisers now plan to hold a month-long training session for these “converts” on Hindu rituals and culture. Sources say the “converts,” mostly hailing from Bihar and West Bengal, were promised BPL and Aadhaar cards, besides free housing plots. But programme coordinator Ajju Chauhan later claimed the conversion was voluntary. However, a couple of people later told mediapersons that the organisers had promised monetary and other benefits under government-sponsored schemes. “We will look into the entire programme and order a detailed probe if needed,” said Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajender Choudhary. Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati said the incident was the handiwork of communal forces who were trying to vitiate the peace in the State. She demanded strict action against such organisations. On the other hand, BJP MP Vinay Katiyar said there should be no objection to the programme as those who converted were originally Hindus and it was like homecoming for them. (The Hindu 10/12/14)

26. Agra conversion row: Oppn uproar continues in Parliament (7)

New Delhi: Uproar continued in the Lok Sabha on Thursday with almost all opposition parties demanding the suspension of the question hour and a discussion on the Agra “conversions”.As soon as the house met for the day, members of the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and CPI-M trooped near the speaker’s podium, and also raised slogans like “Modi sarkaar hosh mein aao” (Wake up, Modi government) and “Hindu-Muslim bhai-bhai”.Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge asked Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to allow a discussion on the issue. “You have full powers to suspend the question hour. The government has already agreed to a discussion, kindly allow us,” he said. Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav said that the matter should be taken “seriously”.”Otherwise, there might be riots,” he said. Nearly 300 members of some 60 Muslim families living in a slum on Agra’s outskirts reportedly embraced Hinduism on Monday. A day later the families claimed they were tricked into conversion in an event couched as ‘homecoming ceremony’. Opposition members had raised the issue in both houses of Parliament on Wednesday as well, while Islamic organisations took to the streets demanding protection to vulnerable members of the community. (Hindustan Times 11/12/14)

27. ‘Forced’ conversion irks Muslim groups (7)

MUMBAI: Outraged at the alleged forced conversions of over 200 Muslims in Agra to Hinduism and many more ghar vapsi (homecoming) ceremonies of scores of Muslims and Christians lined up by RSS-affiliates, Muslim groups in the city have condemned the move. They have asked the Akhilesh Yadav-led government in Uttar Pradesh to crack down on forces trying to “inflame communal passions in the name of conversions”.A section of senior clerics, after discussing the issue, has decided to depute a delegation to Agra to probe the circumstances in which over 50 poor Bengali Muslim families converted to Hinduism. “This is a serious matter and we don’t want to escalate the crisis but at the same time condemn the forcible conversions. In future, the UP government must take appropriate action to prevent such highly communalized initiatives by hardline Hindutva bodies,” said senior cleric Maulana Khalilur Rahman Noorie, general secretary, Association of Imams. Many saw this as part of the BJP-mandated effort to polarize Indian society. “While PM Narendra Modi says he wants to focus on development and even announced moratorium on communal issues for 10 years in his Independence Day speech, other affiliates of the Sangh Parivar are busy raking up controversial issues. The forcible conversion may further polarize Indian society, and the PM should rein in such forces engaged in weakening social harmony,” said former MLA Bashir Patel. Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi, director of Markazul Maarif, a socio-cultural research organization, has sent a letter to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister. “I have requested him to act firmly against the forces bent upon disrupting peace and harmony. Religion is a matter of choice and the Constitution grants Indian citizens the right to preach and practise their religions peacefully. Forcing someone to convert or luring a person to change his/her religion is a crime and must be dealt with firmly,” said Qasmi. (Times of India 14/12/14)

28. In Bulandshahr, no marriage lawns for Muslims (7)

Lucknow: Marriage lawn owners in Bulandshahr won’t let Muslims hold any functions on their properties because they “refuse to pay” and “leave the venue dirty”. Sandeep Kansal, who heads the marriage lawn union in Bulandshahr, has alleged that Muslims “issue threats” using BSP MLA Mohammad Aleem Khan’s name. “We are filtering the customers. For Muslims, we are avoiding bookings because of hooliganism and the fact that they leave the venue dirty. During their functions, there is over-crowding. Most of them refuse to pay and issue threats using MLA Aleem’s name,” Kansal claimed, adding that at least 5,000 people turn up for the functions, leading to traffic jams. Aleem, however, said he was unaware of any such issue. He added that if Muslims in Bulandshahr are denied bookings, he will get marriage lawns constructed for them. “I am not aware about any such development. No marriage lawn owner has brought this to my notice so far. Over-crowding by Muslims during functions is not fair. But if such thing (Muslims being turned down) happens, I will get 10 marriage lawns built for them,” Aleem told The Indian Express. The issue was first reported from Khurja. “I made six bookings and lost my entire year’s earnings. At least 500 plates were broken and mattresses were burnt. If you ask them for compensation, they threaten us,” R K Lala, president of the marriage lawn owners’ association in Khurja, claimed. Lala, who owns three marriage lawns in the area, said their decision was driven by business and not politics. In Bulandshahr, there are more than 50 marriage lawns. “Recently at one function, taps worth Rs 8,000 were stolen, window panes were broken and greenery was destroyed at my lawn,” Kansal claimed. He also alleged that some people slaughter animals in the lawns. Bulandshahr district magistrate B Chandrakala remained unavailable for comments. (Indian Express 16/12/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

29. Chhattisgarh: Hindutva targeting of Christians over conversions really about land? (7)

Raipur: Away from national glare, a silent religious conquest is taking shape in tribal Chhattisgarh. After the new dispensation took charge at the Centre, the ongoing tussle between the forces of Hindutva and Christians is going decidedly in favour of the former. Here are a few instances of how things have started changing in the state, particularly in its southern region. Since the BJP stormed to power at the Centre, Christians in southern Chhattisgarh are facing AFPSince the BJP stormed to power at the Centre, Christians in southern Chhattisgarh are reportedly facing a tough time. AFP * A priest appeared before the media in Jagdalpur in the company of local Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders a month ago and announced the Church’s decision to display pictures of the Hindu Goddess Saraswati in their schools. He also said the principals and vice-principals would be called acharya and up-acharya henceforth instead of ‘father’. * In the Bastar region, the VHP has objected to the distribution of sweets by Santa Claus among people during Christmas. It has instructed the community to replace sweets with ‘prasad’. * Around the time the BJP government took control at the Centre, five villages in Bastar, through their gram sabhas, passed orders prohibiting non-Hindus from practicing religious activities and prayers in their villages. Members of the Christian community allege that the VHP provoked people to pass the order and the state government is protecting them. * “People are holding mahapanchayats in other parts of the state for the last six months. Some of them are issuing circulars against the missionaries. Around 52 members of the Christian community have been attacked by the VHP activists in recent months,” Arun Pannalal, general secretary of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF), has told the media. The Bastar incident last month was only a symptom of the communal problem affecting the state. …..(Firstpost 10/12/14)

30. 39 Christians re-converted to Hinduism in Bastar: BJP MP (7)

BASTAR: As many as 39 tribal Christians were re-converted to Hinduism in Bastar in October this year, BJP MP Dinesh Kashyap, who claims to have attended the VHP-Bajrang Dal event in Madhota village, said on Saturday. Bastar SP Ajay Yadav said an argument had taken place between the two groups on October 25. “But till now no complaint has been registered by any of the tribals who were re-converted,” he said. Kashyap, who is the Bastar MP, said that none of the conversions had been forced. (Times of India 14/12/14)

31. Catholic Forum miffed at Good Governance Day circular (7)

MANGALURU: The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), an NGO, has expressed shock over Union HRD ministry’s directive to schools to celebrate the birthdays of former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee and Hindu Mahasabha leader MM Malviya by observing December 25 as ‘Good Governance Day’. Joseph Dias, general secretary of CSF said India is a secular country and if no such activities are held on the religious holidays of any other faith, then Christians should not be discriminated against. In a letter written to UNION HRD Minister Smriti Irani, the forum took strong exception to this move and requested the minister’s intervention. He observed that In Pune, an umbrella organization called the National Hindu Movement has targeted the New Year Celebrations, saying it is the first step to converting to Christianity and elsewhere in the country there are reconversion programmes being organized on Christmas day, which has hurt the sentiments of Indian Christians. Such activities, more importantly, will shatter India’s image in the developed world, carefully built by PM Modi and take India down the path that countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, etc are going through,” he warned. Regarding the minister’s clarification that the essay contest was only online and voluntary, Dias said it was only after the furore. The circular was clear,” he said. (Times of India 15/12/14)

32. Christians urge CM to stop Aligarh conversion prog (7)

Lucknow: Leading a strong opposition against the proposed conversion in Aligarh by Hindu outfits on December 25, a delegation of the All India Christian Council (AICC) met chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on Monday and urged him to stop the programme. The CM assured them that no activity stoking communal hatred would be allowed. The AICC, along with Muslim and Hindu leaders, condemned religious conversions in west UP and said the PM should intervene in the matter and uphold the religious freedom of citizens given in the Constitution. “There should be no violence on December 25 or compulsive conversions in any part of the country. This is anti-Constitution and anti-religious freedom,” said AICC president Rev Joseph D’Souza. The AICC also demand a central inquiry into the reasons behind such conversions. “It is important to know who these converted people are and from which strata to where are they being converted? If they are being converted form Dalit and they still remain scheduled castes in the new conversion, what good are these conversions for the poor then,” asked Dalit leader Pankaj Prasoonn. Religious leader Sallahuddin Shibu said, “The poor Muslims and Christians have been lured to convert under the obligation to get ration cards. If the PM talks about one India and one Constitution, then his inaction on the issue tarnishes his image.” When asked about alleged Kushinagar incident where five Hindu families were converted to Christianity, council’s national coordinator Rev Kumar Swamy feigned ignorance. But he said, “Our stand towards any forceful conversion remains the same. It is only when Hindus, especially Dalits, come to us for conversion, then as a help to them we accept the request. Any forced conversion to and fro is against an individual’s religious freedom in India.” UP Masihi Association also flayed the conversion programmes calling them “a real threat to the unity and secular fabric of India, which should be nipped in the bud”. (Times of India 16/12/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

33. Efforts on to ensure night shelters for all: Naidu (13)
New Delhi: The central government is making efforts to ensure night shelters for all homeless people, specially those who have migrated to urban areas in search of work, Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said Wednesday. “The urban development ministry held a meeting in November with all state chief secretaries in the matter,” he informed the Lok Sabha during question hour. Naidu said that though providing shelters is the prerogative of the state governments, the central government stepped in after directions from the Supreme Court for it. “We support the scheme to have night shelters as part of the National Urban Livelihood Mission,” he said. The central government is also funding this scheme, the minister said, adding that efforts have also been made to rope in some NGOs and government land is being leased out for making such shelters. He said that migration from rural to urban areas is taking place in the country on a large scale as health and education facilities are unavailable in villages. Naidu also said that the government has firmed up a new housing plan which will be presented before the cabinet soon. (Business Standard 10/12/14)

34. As number of seafaring migrants surges, UN calls for better global protection efforts (13)

New York, Dec 11 (IBNS) Amid record high numbers of global migrant arrivals by sea, the international community is steadily losing focus on saving lives and intensifying its efforts to deny foreigners access to asylum, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned ahead of a Geneva-based forum devoted to protecting sea-bound migrants. This is a mistake, and precisely the wrong reaction for an era in which record numbers of people are fleeing wars, Antnio Guterres, the UNs High Commissioner for Refugees, said on Wednesdayin a press release. Security and immigration management are concerns for any country, but policies must be designed in a way that human lives do not end up becoming collateral damage. According to estimates from coastal authorities and data points collected by the UN, at least 348,000 people have risked seafaring journeys worldwide since the beginning of 2014 as they flee conflicts and poverty. Europe, facing conflicts to its south in Libya, east in Ukraine, and southeast in Syria and Iraq, is currently seeing the largest number of sea arrivals with 207,000 people crossing the Mediterranean to reach its shores almost three times the previous known high of about 70,000, registered in 2011. However, the UN agency noted, there are at least three other major sea routes in use on Wednesdayboth by migrants seeking better economic opportunities and asylum seekers escaping conflict. In the Horn of Africa, some 82,000 people crossed the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea between1 Januaryand the end of November, leaving Ethiopia and Somalia for countries in the Arabian Peninsula. In Southeast Asia, meanwhile, an estimated 54,000 people have undertaken sea crossings, departing Bangladesh or Myanmar and heading to Thailand, Malaysia, or Indonesia. And, in the Caribbean, 2014 has seen almost 5,000 people take to boats as they escape the clutches of poverty and explore asylum options in the neighbouring countries. In addition to the difficulties of these journeys which often stretch across multiple borders and over thousands of kilometres, many of those migrating along these maritime corridors succumb to trafficking and smuggling networks coordinated by international organized crime. As the flow of migrants continues to swell, the UN said, many governments were finding themselves unable to either stem the flow or stop people dying along the journey. You cant stop a person who is fleeing for their life by deterrence, without escalating the dangers even more, Guterres continued. The real causes have to be addressed, and this means looking at why people are fleeing, what prevents them from seeking asylum by safer means, and what can be done to crack down on the criminal networks who prosper from this, while at the same time protecting their victi It also means having proper systems to deal with arrivals and distinguish real refugees from those who are note, he said. Guterres words come as UN officials from its humanitarian and human rights agencies prepare to gather at UNHCRs 2014 High Commissioners Dialogue in Geneva an informal policy discussion forum whose focus this year is Protection at Sea. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, who was also in attendance at the UNHCR event, similarly cautioned that as wealthy nations continue to guard themselves from migrant arrivals and asylum seekers, they also risk transforming into xenophobic gated communities. Unilateral attempts to close borders are almost certainly futile, and the response cannot just lie in aggressive, and often counterproductive, anti-smuggling plans, affirmed Zeid in a press release. When migrants are left to drift for weeks without access to food and water; when ships deliberately refuse to rescue migrants in distress; when children in search of family reunification are detained indefinitely, denied education and care, or returned to perilous situations these are grave human rights violations. The UN rights chief pointed out that policies that seek to stamp out migration do not decrease the numbers of would-be migrants but, instead, exacerbate the dangers they endure creating zones of lawlessness and impunity. As a result, he continued, nations were encouraged to establish accessible corridors for legal migration and discourage the current siege mentality fanned by a growing number of populist politicians and leaders. Ultimately, unless they can access safe and regular migration channels, desperate people may continue to brave the perils of the sea in search of protection, opportunity and hope. In their place, we would probably do the same. And perhaps only this recognition of our common humanity can guide us to make the right choices in response, he concluded. (Sify News 13/12/14)

35. Refugees from neighbouring countries to be granted a 5 year long term visa (13)

NEW DELHI: Minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh seeking refuge in India will be granted a five-year long term visa (LTV) instead of a one-year visa, based on recommendation of the state government or UT administration. Besides, powers have been delegated to the FRRO/FRO to extend a short-term visa for this category of foreign nationals for a period of six months. A time-line of one month for FRRO and FRO and 21 days for the state government and union territory administration has been fixed for processing LTV applications. The sops promise to bring relief to minority nationals from neighbouring countries, mostly Hindus and Sikhs, seeking refuge in India on grounds of fear of religious persecution back home. Children of minority nationals from neighbouring countries, staying on long-term visa, can now take admission in schools, colleges, universities, technical and professional institutions without any specific permission from the state government or union territory administration, said a statement issued by the home ministry on Tuesday. Only an intimation is to be given in this regard to FRRO or FRO concerned. The state governments and UT have been empowered to grant permission to minority nationals from neighbouring countries staying on long-term visa to engage themselves in private jobs. State governments and UT administrations have now been empowered to grant an additional two places at any given point of time, apart from the place of stay, grant return visa for a maximum period of 90 days at a time and permission for change in mode of travel and port of exit in respect of minority nationals from neighbouring countries having a LTV or who have applied for the same. According to an estimate, about one lakh minority community refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan live in India. (Times of India 16/12/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

36. States Human Rights Commissions lack in transparency: NGO (1)

New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur are among six states which do not have dedicated websites for their Human Rights Commissions (HRCs) and most of the other states have inadequate compliance of suo-motu disclosures mandated under RTI Act, a report released by an NGO has claimed. According to a compilation released by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) on the occasion of Human Rights Day being observed globally today, besides J&K and Manipur, the HRCs in Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand and Sikkim also do not have their websites, making it difficult for people to register their grievances or to reach them. Interestingly, the link to Himachal Pradesh Human Rights Commission website–http://www.Himachal.Nic.In/hphrc– does not open-up, the CHRI said. The websites of Human Rights Commissions in Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Haryana, Kerala and West Bengal lack on suo-motu disclosure as mandated under Section 4 of the RTI Act, it said adding that most of the contents on them are available in English only. Whereas, Bihar Human Rights Commission has bilingual website–English and Hindi–and Maharashtra’s portal is in English and Marathi, the report said. “Most States Human Rights Commissions do not have their websites. The content mentioned on them are not updated regularly. It is difficult for the common man to raise their grievances with them,” said Venkatesh Nayak, who works with the CHRI. The data also shows rise in number of RTI applications pending with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in past five years. There were as many as 865 RTI applications pending with the NHRC in 2008-09 which rose to 2,409 in 2012-13, it said. There were 1,454, 2,034 and 2,455 RTI applications pending with the NHRC in 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively, the compilation said. (Business Standard 11/12/14)

37. Consumer forum can’t act on RTI cases’ (1)

CHENNAI: A consumer forum cannot decide whether there is negligence or deficiency in service on the part of public information officers (PIO) or other authorities under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, said the Tamil Nadu State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. In an order last month, a bench comprising commission president Justice (retd) R Regupathi, judicial member J Jayaram and member P Bakiyavathi said the Supreme Court had said the Consumer Protection Act was in addition to the provisions of other law “unless there was a clear bar.” Whereas, the RTI Act had a provision which specifically said it was beyond the jurisdiction of courts. The matter relates to a petition filed by S Jeyaram who said that under the RTI Act, he had sought some information regarding Apollo Hospitals from the public information officer and deputy/under secretary of the health and family welfare department. As the PIO failed to furnish the details, he moved north Chennai district consumer disputes redressal forum. The forum rejected the petition stating the complaint was not maintainable. Jeyaram then filed an appeal in the state commission. He said that the relevant section of the Consumer Protection Act said: “The provisions of this act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force.” As such, a person seeking information under the RTI Act could approach the consumer forum, he said In 2013, the national commission had said that a person seeking information under the RTI Act could not be considered as a consumer as according to the relevant provision of the RTI Act, he/she had the remedy of approaching the appellate authority. Also, the RTI Act provided PIOs with independent decision making authority to decide whether disclosure of information was in public interest, said the bench. Without being a consumer one could not seek remedy under the Consumer Protection Act, said the bench adding that after exhausting the options under the RTI Act, one could only approach the appellate forum for further reliefs and redressal of grievances. (Times of India 12/12/14)

38. RTI lessons help cops to understand cases better (1)

New Delhi: Lessons in handling Right to Information applications are doing good to Delhi policemen who are discarding frivolous pleas at initial stages itself with the help of a Delhi government consultant. “Many of the officials do not know that they can refuse to entertain a plea which uses more than 500 words,” said S C Agrawal, the RTI consultant who conducts lectures for officers and low-rung cops. Now, police officials have started counting wordage of the RTI pleas they get before getting down to answering them, he said. “Sub-inspectors and SHOs keep calling me on my phone for instant advice on how to go about dealing with applications,” he said. Agrawal, a qualified mechanical engineer, said from his interaction with police officers he came to know that RTI was being used mostly in dowry harassment or maintenance cases between estranged couples. “I have been telling police public information officers that they need not pass all information to the RTI applicants if it could harm the privacy of the ‘third party’,” he said. “My stress has been on educating policemen to invoke Section 11 of the RTI Act and seek the consent of the person about whom the RTI applicant has sought information. The affected party’s approval is needed to give out personal details,” he said. Section 11 for inviting comments of the ‘third party’ must be invoked within five days of receipt of Right to Information petition, and not in 30 days of receipt of RTI petition, as has been usually observed, he said.  Late transfer of a plea or seeking comments from the ‘third party’ can attract penalty-proceedings under Section 20 of RTI Act, he said. Agrawal, 64, who also holds the Guinness World Record for most number of published letters to the editor in newspapers, said while interacting with policemen he also found a tendency to deny information to RTI applicants in cases under investigation. “Due to lack of knowledge of the transparency law, policemen are denying information to even genuine applicants.” “Information can be withheld if its sharing impedes investigation but the policemen tend to block details even if the information is harmless and unlikely to influence the probe,” he said. He is also working on police department’s public information officers to avoid Right to Information communication that do not mention the dates of receipt of Right to Information petition. “Non-providing of date of receipt of RTI petition by the responding officer also results in filing of petitions in the Information Commission for alleged delay, while it may not be the case, thereby harming man-hours and money spent by all concerned including of Information Commissions, public-authorities and petitioners,” he said. (Deccan Herald 15/12/14)

39. Rs 2,000 crore Nirbhaya fund remains unspent (1)

New Delhi: It has been two years since the announcement of symbolic Nirbhaya Fund in wake of the December 16, 2012 gangrape, but apparently the allotted Rs 2,000 crore has not been spent at all, with the Central government seemingly undecided where the money could be utilised. There is ambiguity about any expenditure made by the government ,utilising the fund that was started in 2012 for the empowerment and security of women. Observers assert most of the Nirbhaya Fund has not been utilised, with ambitious plans like installation of GPS on public transportation, alarm buttons on mobiles, women’s helpline and one stop crisis centres staying mostly restricted to paper. The UPA-II government had sanctioned Rs1,000 crore for the fund in 2013 and another Rs 1,000 was added by the new NDA government in May this year. The fund was part of a series of reactionary measures by the government after the incident, in which it announced the fund for the safety and empowerment of women as tribute to the 23-year-old victim. An RTI last year, however, revealed that not a penny from the much-publicised Rs1,000-crore fund had been spent, even after a year. The director of the Centre for Social Research, Dr Ranjana Kumari, however, said that there has been no real clear roadmap of how the funds should be spent and there has been complete “ambiguity” about the projects on which the could be money used, if at all. “It seems the announcements were only for political gains. Women’s security was a political plank for all the major parties in the previous elections and many women perhaps voted for the new government for that reason.” Ms Kumari said that many of proposals by the women and child development ministry under then Nirbhaya Fund were either not approved or didn’t take off, and thus “technically” the money remains unused. “It is very distressing and a disappointment for all, in particular, for those who led the Nirbhaya movement.” The activist said the Union women and child development minister has not kept any communication or dialogue with the NGOs or with the civil society, so there has been no “clarity” on what the ministry has done with the fund. BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, last week, also said that the Nirbhaya Fund hadn’t been utilised fully, and noted the Union government had sanctioned finances under the fund for installing CCTV cameras in important places, but the Delhi administration had failed to use the fund in the absence of an elected government. (Asian Age 17/12/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

40. Sanskrit won’t disqualify any child from taking Class X board: Centre (11)

NEW DELHI: Attempting to bury the controversy over mid-term switch to Sanskrit from German in Kendriya Vidyalayas, the Centre on Monday gave an undertaking to the Supreme Court that performance in Sanskrit would not disqualify any child from taking the optional Class X board examinations. The HRD ministry gave this undertaking after counsel for some parents, Reena Singh, told a bench of Justices A R Dave and Kurian Joseph that students and parents were in utter confusion after the Centre informed the court that there would be no examination for Sanskrit this year because of the mid-term switch. She said those students who had studied German in Class VI and VII and were due to appear for the German exam this year in Class VIII might find themselves disqualified for the Class X board examination, which requires the student to pass the language paper in all three classes. Since Class VIII students were forced to take up Sanskrit, for which there would be no examination, they would not qualify for the Class X board, Singh said. The bench asked attorney general Mukul Rohatgi to take instructions from the HRD ministry on the concerns raised by parents. Rohatgi said Class X board examination was optional now. But he added, “No student will be disqualified because of mid-stream introduction of Sanskrit, for which there will be no examination this year. The marks obtained by the student in Class VI and VII alone would be taken into consideration as far as Class X board is concerned.”  The AG also clarified that the decision to introduce Sanskrit was implemented and there was no going back on it. However, the bench asked Rohatgi to seek clarification on the concerns raised by parents and posted the matter for hearing on December 16.  The court wanted the KV Sangathan to consult the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) on this issue and inform the court about it. (Times of India 10/12/14)

41. 15,367 out-of-school children in Kalaburagi district: Minister (11)

KALABURAGI: There are as many as 15,367 out-of-school children in Kalaburagi district and another 11,142 in Yadgir district, according to Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education Kimmane Ratnakar. In a reply to an unstarred question by Congress MLC Allamprabhu Patil in the Legislative Council, the Minister said several reasons contributed to the high number of out-of-school children in the two districts, which have been identified as educationally most backward districts with high illiteracy rates. The Minister in the same breath claimed that out of the total 15,367 children identified as out of school in Kalaburagi district, 11,014 have been brought back to the mainstream and in Yadgir district out of the total 11,142 out-of-the school children, 5,680 children have been brought back through several initiatives taken by the department. Mr. Ratnakar said that some of the reasons, why children remain away from school, which have been identified, include the distance from their residence to school, involvement of children in the household work by their parents, making the children work in other houses for generating income etc. Early marriage and girl students attaining puberty can also be reasons for them to stay away from school, he said. Other reasons cited by the Minister in the written reply included unattractive school environment, migration of the children to other places, fear of the teacher among the children, severe physical disability and other reasons. The government has initiated several measures to bring back these children by providing three-month and 12-month bridge courses , six-month residential seasonal training programme for migrant children who drop out of schools, school-based special coaching, starting tent schools for the migrant drop out children, home-based coaching for children with disabilities as well as other measures. (The Hindu 13/12/14)

42. No clue yet on RTE admissions as deadline ends (11)

Bengaluru: Lack of communication from officials of the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) with regard to admissions under the Right to Education Act (RTE) has left parents an anxious lot. DPI officials are still in the process of compiling a list of schools in every district, even as they have overshot the deadline. As per the schedule fixed by the  DPI, the Deputy Directors of Public Instruction (DDPIs) were supposed to upload on to the district websites a list of all schools in their districts by December 12. Once the DDPIs upload the list, the Block Education Officers (BEOs) can start preparing a list of seats available in every school. The deadline for the same is January 12, 2015. According to Commissioner for Public Instruction Mohammed Mohsin, a review meeting to discuss the progress in the admission process will be held on December 15 (Monday). “There has been some delay as we had to finish the verification of schools as well. The list will be uploaded on to the district websites in two or three days,” he said, adding that the issue of illegal schools would also be discussed in the meeting. Recently, several schools were found functioning without adequate permission. Hence, the department had promised to compile a list of these schools and upload it on the website. Parents are anxious as they have little or no information about the admission process. RTE Task Force member Nagasimha G Rao said the Task Force was receiving at least 20 calls every day from parents seeking information. “The department should have issued a manual by now about the admission procedure. They have to start help centres to train parents regarding online admissions,” he said. Parents have no clarity on what exactly the online admissions will entail – whether the entire process would be online or whether only the applications were available online. Further, in spite of complaints, the department is yet to upload the addresses of the BEO offices. Meanwhile, DDPIs said they were compiling school lists and it would be ready soon. DDPI (Bengaluru Rural) K  M Gururaj said, “With regard to some schools, the name has figured in the lists of two neighbourhoods. That has to be changed. We will do it in two days.” In Shivamogga, the list was nearly ready and the officials would be uploading it on Monday, said DDPI T Narayana Gowda. “We are cross-checking the number of schools. Except for minor discrepancy in the number of schools, there is no problem,” he said.  (Deccan Herald 15/12/14)

43. Dropout rate remains high among girls in Delhi (11)

NEW DELHI: Government schemes and programmes designed to help girls continue in school aren’t working. At the primary level, the number of girls per 1,000 boys has fallen from 881 in 2010-11 to 867 in 2013-14. At the secondary school level, it has fallen from 859 in 2010-11 to 840 in 2013-14. Only scheduled caste (SC) students have a healthy ratio—in the 900s or even more than 1,000—at middle, secondary and senior-secondary levels. R Govinda, vice-chancellor, National University for Educational Planning and Administration ( NUEPA), however, doesn’t see it as a failure of government schemes and policies, or even a long-term trend. He says enrolment at the primary level increased tremendously after Right to Education Act was implemented in 2010. “It’ll take a few years for that change to show up in the statistics.” Govinda says more girls than boys drop out after finishing primary and middle levels, but those who enter secondary school usually stay on till the end. That isn’t the case with boys, which may explain the increase in sex ratio from secondary to senior-secondary. In 2010-11 the sex ratio was 859 at secondary level and 881 at senior-secondary level; in 2013-14, it declined to 840 at the secondary level but increased to 896 at the senior-secondary level. This is not because of greater participation of girls but because boys have started dropping out by this stage.  ”In Delhi, boys start dropping out when they move from municipal to government schools,” says Saurabh Sharma of Josh, a city NGO that is also part of the Right to Education Forum. “For five feeder municipal schools, there will be one government school. In that crowding, boys find it very difficult to survive. They may get out and start working.” He says the problem is shortage of schools, not resistance from parents. He disagrees with Govinda on the effectiveness of government schemes. “Most parents don’t even know how to apply for Ladli. There’s no one to tell them what to do. People have no faith in schemes,” says Sharma. Why do SC students have a better sex ratio? Sharma can’t explain that one. “Does this mean SC parents are more aware? I don’t think so.” Govinda says it could be because SC boys and SC girls drop out equally. The figures bear this out but only for 2010-11 when 12,747 boys and 13,836 girls transitioned to senior-secondary from 17,188 boys and 17,650 girls who were in Class X, and the sex ratio remained over 1,000. In 2012-13, the number of SC students increased from 77,470 in secondary to 81,853 in senior-secondary. (Times of India 17/12/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

44. Petition Seeks Direction to Centre to Not Implement DBTL (21)

MADURAI: A petition seeking to direct the union government not to implement the Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG subsidy system (DBTL) was filed before the Madras High Court bench on Tuesday. Petitioner S M Ananthamurugan, an advocate, also prayed for a directive to the government not to take steps to implement the “bank account-based” domestic LPG connection. He submitted that the central government should be directed to provide domestic refill LPG cylinders to the public following the earlier system. He alleged DBTL was unwarranted and useless and would affect the poor the most as most of them did not have bank accounts and were not in a position to get the government LPG subsidy. As the Centre could not insist on Adhaar card,they are now using the backdoor method by insisting on DBTL, he said. If the government really wanted to weed out ineligible LPG connection holders, it should conduct a fair assessment and find the persons living Above the Poverty Line and hand over their details with the gas agency and cancel their subsidy, he said. The case will be taken up for hearing on Wednesday. (New Indian Express 10/12/14)

45. UN agency reports record cereal crop as Ebola, conflict threaten food security  (21)

Despite world cereal production likely to reach an all-time record of more than 2.5 billion tonnes in 2014, a total of 38 countries are at risk of food insecurity, including 29 in Africa, with food insecurity worsening in several countries due to civil conflicts, adverse weather and the Ebola outbreak, according to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report released on Thursday. The latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report shows that while bumper crops in Europe and a record maize output in the United States of America pushed cereal output 0.3 per cent higher than last year, agriculture and food sectors in many countries were hit by significant, damaging shocks. In West Africa, the Ebola outbreak, which began when crops were being planted and gathered pace during the farming cycle, led to a reduced harvest. Rice and cassava prices showed notable increases in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, and other cities in September. Harvests were also reduced by bad weather in the Sahel region, with agricultural output in Senegal expected to be 38 per cent below average. Conflict was responsible for serious impacts on food insecurity in several countries, including Syria, where a weak harvest, due to abandoned land, scarce labour, and damaged infrastructure, was exacerbating the effects of worsening civil conflict. An estimated 6.8 million Syrians some refugees in neighbouring countries faced severe food insecurity, with the situation in Iraq, where 2.8 million people were displaced, also acutely serious. In the Central African Republic (CAR), increased violence, coupled with crop production 58 per cent below average, put one third of the population in need of urgent food assistance. Prices of agricultural commodities have shot up by as much as 70 per cent this year and one in four households has resorted to negative coping strategies, including selling productive assets and slaughtering livestock. Pressure on food supplies also came from refugee movements, the report said, especially from Sudans Darfur region, northern Nigeria, the CAR and Mali. More than 6.5 million people need food and livelihood assistance in Chad, South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia. Nevertheless, the report says that the increase in overall cereal output will outpace projected consumption, boosting cereal stocks to their highest level since 2000 and pushing the worldwide stock-to-use ratio, a proxy measure for supply conditions, to rise to 25.2 percent, its highest level in 13 years. (Sify News 13/12/14)

46. ‘State Govt maligning BJP by false information’ (21)

JORHAT, Dec 13 – At a press conference here on Friday, the BJP’s Tea Morcha alleged that the State Government has resorted to unfair politics to malign the image of the NDA Government in the State by misleading tea garden workers on the issue of withdrawing the subsidised foodgrains scheme. After the State Industry Minister Pradyut Bordoloi said a few days ago that the Centre had decided to stop providing subsidised rations to the State tea gardens from the beginning of the new year, various organisations of workers staged protests against the Government’s decision across the State and demanded of the Central Government to continue the supply of foodgrains according to the earlier subsidy scheme. “But the irony is that the Central Government does not have any such subsidy scheme for garden workers to withdraw in the first place. Only the State Government provides subsidised foodgrains to the workers to help the owners of tea gardens economically. The State Government has itself decided to withdraw such special subsidy for gardens and is blaming the BJP Government by providing false information,” said Dulen Nayak, State executive member of the BJP’s Tea Morcha. According to him, Industry Minister Bordoloi and former Union minister Paban Singh Ghatowar tried to incite the tea garden workers by politicising the issue which has “no authenticity.” As both the Congress leaders are owners of tea gardens in upper Assam, they work only for the interests of owners, Nayak alleged. “Tea garden owners must provide foodgrains to the workers according to the existing order of rates. Bordoloi and Ghatowar are owners of tea gardens. It is the responsibility of tea garden owners to provide foodgrains as per the Plantation Labour Act ,1951,” said Nayak. Criticising the pro-Congress role of the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS), he said that the welfare of workers should be the priority of such an organisation which has remained silent on several issues like the delayed disbursement of provident fund deposits even in the Government-run tea gardens under the Assam Tea Corporation Limited. “They know the truth, but have remained a mute spectator with regard to these issues of workers who have been deprived of proper healthcare facilities, provident fund deposits, housing facilities, education, etc.,” said Nripen Tasa, district president of the Chah Morcha. BJP’s State general secretary Santanu Pujari also said that Congress ministers should refrain from inciting common people against the BJP by giving misleading information. “Please stop such dirty politics by providing misleading information to the common people. The Congress must also stop favouring only owners instead of implementing welfare schemes for tea garden workers,” said Pujari. (The Assam Tribune 14/12/14)

47. Tea tribe kids drop out of school due to poverty (21)

Guwahati: The tea plantation may be one of the largest economies of Assam but the poverty of tea plantation workers is forcing more than 23 out of every 100 tea-tribe children to drop out of school at lower and upper primary levels every year in Assam. However, overall combined dropout rate in lower and upper primary level in 2013-14 in Assam was a little over six per cent while the state’s overall literacy was 73.2 per cent. In a reply to a written question, Assam education minister Pradyut Borodoloi quoted data of district information system for education of 2012-13 and 2013-14, which said, “In the tea and ex-tea garden areas, 17.3 per cent children dropped out at lower primary level and 29.5 per cent left schooling at primary level.” The minister in his reply stated that poverty of parents, poor infrastructure of schools run by tea garden administrations, lack of trained teachers in these schools and non-cooperation from people involved with school management bodies have also contributed to this school dropout rates of children in tea garden areas. It is significant that majority of the schools, 450, are run by tea garden administrations while only a paltry 29 have been provincialised and funded by the state government. The minister stated that the government has taken up proposal to provincialise 157 more such schools. “We have asked those schools which have been left out to send proposals to us for provincialisation,” the minister said. The minister could not reply to a question about the literacy rate among tea tribes. (Asian Age 18/12/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

48. HC: Corpns delaying vendor law for hafta (14)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Wednesday was in agreement with an NGO’s statement that municipal corporations are not implementing the Street Vendors Act as they want the vendors to be at their mercy “to extract hafta from them”. “Absolutely. We completely agree with you,” a bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Siddharth Mridul said in response to advocate Prashant Bhushan’s submission, on behalf of the NGO, that the Act is not being implemented as the civic bodies “wants street vendors at their mercy to extract hafta from them”.The bench also pulled up the municipal corporations of Delhi for violating its order not to evict street vendors till a survey is completed regarding the number of such roadside businesses in the national capital and as stipulated under the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act 2014. It also termed corporations’ conduct as “contempt of court”.”We had said that till survey is completed no street vendors are to be removed. There is complete embargo on evicting street vendors till survey is completed as per Street Vendors Act and a vending certificate is issued. This is contempt of court,” the court said. It also said “even today survey has not been completed” and added “consequently no street vendors can be evicted”.The court was a hearing a PIL filed by NGO National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) which alleged street vendors at Jama Masjid, Nahar Patti and Meena Bazaar areas here were evicted in August 2014 in view of Independence Day celebrations. The court sought a joint status report within three weeks from MCDs indicating whether any street vendors have been evicted from the aforesaid three areas. If they were evicted, then they are permitted to come back, the court said and listed the matter for further hearing on January 15, 2015. (Times of India 11/12/14)

49. Job scheme to focus on asset development (14)

Kozhikode: Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said that the State government will give more priority to asset development projects under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). He was speaking after inaugurating the newly constructed Bharat Nirman Rajiv Gandhi Seva Kendra at Kunnamangalam on Saturday. Explaining the scope of the project in the agriculture sector, Mr. Chandy said the existing production could be largely increased with the expansion of the MGNREGS. “In the dairy sector too, we would be able to achieve self-sufficiency,” he said. The Chief Minister also laid the foundation stones for two asset development projects worth Rs.1.15 crore under the control of the Kunnamangalam block panchayat. P.T.A. Rahim, MLA, presided over the function. (The Hindu 14/12/14)

50. Labour department resolves 103 complaints (14)

NewDelhi: A total of 103 grievances, received from workers between December 2001 and December 2005, were redressed by the city’s labour department. Labour commissioner Jitendra Narain said the department has redressed 103 disputes and complaints of workers and public received from December 2001 till December 2005. “Besides enforcing the labour laws, the department has undertaken welfare activities for the benefit of the industrial workers and their families in the capital.” Mr Narain said the department has disbursed an amount of Rs 49,01,182 that has benefited 98 workers under various labour laws, including Employees Compensation Act 1923, Delhi Shops and Establishment Act 1954; Minimum Wages Act 1948; Payment of Gratuity Act 1972; Conciliation cases under I.D. Act 1947; Recovery of money under Award of Labour Court Section 33(C)(1) of ID Act 1947; Payment of Bonus Act 1965; Contract Labour Act 1970 and Minimum Wages Act 1948. He said that department was organising regular workshops on occupational safety and health in association with the Industrial Association. “Experiences and best practices in Industrial safety and health shall be discussed.” (Asian Age 15/12/14)

51. Proposal to reduce limit for EPF coverage (14)

New Delhi: A proposal to cover all companies having more than 10 employees under the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) scheme is under consideration of the government. “A proposal to reduce threshold limit for coverage under the Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 from 20 to 10 employees is included in the proposed comprehensive amendment to the Act,” Minister for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya informed Lok Sabha. Replying to another question, the minister said there was no proposal to provide any minimum wage pension to all workers of the unorganised sector. In his written reply, Dattatreya said the government had proposed to merge three schemes – Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana (AABY) and Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) being run for workers of the unorganised sector and to provide the benefit of the scheme through a single smart card to workers.”This pilot project will be implemented in the 20 selected districts,” he said. The minister said the objective of these pilots is to ensure unorganised workers should have easy access to social security schemes, including registration, support for services, claiming benefits and grievance redressal through a single point of contact set up at a center near their place of residence. “The data for these schemes will be entered in the single smart card, which will be proof of eligibility for the schemes,” Dattatreya said. (Business Standard 16/12/14)

52. Informal Workers in Organized Sector (14)

The Minister of State (IC) for Labour and Employment, Shri Bandaru Dattatreya has said that no centralized data in this regard is maintained. Under the Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970, Central Government is the “Appropriate Government” in respect of the establishments falling in Central Sphere.  The private companies, non-Government sector and unorganized sector come in State sphere. However, in the year 2013-14 the estimated number of contract labourers engaged by licenced contractors in Central Sphere was around 21.12 lakhs.  In a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today, Shri Bandaru Dattatreya said that the Ministry of Labour and Employment has launched a special drive to include contract and construction workers under EPFO pursuant to the initiative to provide Universal Account Number (UAN) to the EPF subscribers. The UAN will help them track their PF benefits across contractors. Hon’ble Prime Minister had launched Shramev Jayate Karyakram on 16th October, 2014 wherein a Shram Suvidha Portal was launched. This Shram Suvidha Portal currently applies to 4 major organisations under the Ministry viz. Office of Chief Labour Commissioner (Central), Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) and Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS). This Portal, besides allotting a Unique Labour Identification Number to each establishment, will also comprise all details of both regular and contract workers. Till now, Unique Identification Number has been issed to 7,13,624 units. The Government has introduced transparent Labour Inspection Scheme in Central Sphere which will also lead to effective implementation of all the Acts including the Contract Labour Act. Further, Universal Account Number has been allotted to 4,21,000 EPF Subscribers to provide portability.  The Minister said that the interest of labourers in terms of wages and other service conditions are safeguarded under various social welfare legislations. Some of the prominent social welfare legislations are as follows: -  Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 , -Employees’ Provident Fund & Misc. Provisions Act, 1952, Employees’ Pension Scheme, 1995, Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948, – Minimum Wages Act, 1948, -Payment of Wages Act, 1936, Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, Equal Remuneration Act, 1976  , Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, Workmen Compensation Act, 1923, Mines Act, 1952, Factories Act, 1948, Industrial Dispute Act, 1947, Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970. He said that as far as the security  in term of  wages to contract labourers is concerned,  under  Rule 25(2)(v)(a) of the  Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Central Rules, 1971, the wages of the contract labour shall not be less than the rates prescribed under  Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and in cases where  the contract workers perform  the same or similar kind of work as the workmen directly employed  by the principal employer of the establishment, the wage rates, holidays, hours of work and other conditions of service  shall be the same as applicable to the workmen directly employed by the principal employer doing the same or similar kind of work. The liability to ensure payment of wages and other benefits is primarily that of the contractor and, in case of default, that of the principal employer. (Govt./ of India PIB 17/12/14)

RESERVATION

53. OBCs to get 27% of govt petrol pumps (25)

NEW DELHI: The oil ministry has for the first time implemented a 27% quota for OBCs (other backward castes) in allotment of petrol pumps, even as it has decided to auction outlets on ‘premium sites’ and distribute others through lottery with a view to ensuring transparency. The latest round of reforms by the ministry, under the watch of Dharmendra Pradhan, displays a fine blend of welfare politics and sound commercial sense. The reservation will impact power equations in rural areas, while the auction will help maximize revenue and attract serious players. The OBC quota will also apply in the allotment of cooking gas dealerships. Over the last 2-3 months, state-run fuel retailers have advertised 35,668 locations for setting up petrol pumps and 7,000 cooking gas dealerships, both under regular and low-cost rural categories. The allotment policy also provides for 22.5% reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. After the OBC quota, the general category will come down to 49.5%. Reservation for other groups such as sportsmen, former defence personnel and family of martyrs will be accommodated under these three categories. The UPA had decided on the quota in July 2012 but it remained unimplemented. There are more than 40,000 petrol pumps in the country. The ministry has now asked fuel retailers to auction outlets on what it calls ‘A Sites’. These are pumps where the retailers spend a minimum of Rs 50-60 lakh for setting up all infrastructure and facilities, even purchase or lease the land. The dealer is then chosen to operate the pumps. Sources said the suggestion for introducing the auction method came from Pradhan during one of his marketing review meetings with oil company executives. “Why should companies spend money for dealers? Let those who mean business bid for a pump,” an executive from one of the companies quoted the minister as saying. Scrapping of interview of candidates from the dealer selection process removes one of the major sources of allegations of favouritism and nepotism. The ‘A Sites’ will have a reserve price of Rs 30-35 lakh, depending upon the location. Those interested in becoming operators will have to bid above this price as per their understanding of the business prospects of a location. In case there is tie with more than one bidder quoting similar price, the selection of the winner will be through lottery. All remaining sites will be allotted through lottery, which has so far been the practice for awarding cooking gas dealerships. (Times of India 10/12/14)

54. VHP to Oppose Telangana Government’s Move to Give 12 Per Cent Reservations to Muslims

SANGAREDDY: Senior VHP leader Praveen Togadia today said his organisation will oppose any move by the K Chandrasekhar Rao-led Telangana government in providing 12 per cent reservations to Muslims. Addressing a ‘Virat Hindu Sammelan’ here on the eve of the golden jubilee celebrations of VHP, Togadia, who is international president of the organisation, said the party will take legal recourse if the state government comes up with any such move. “VHP will oppose any move by the state government for providing 12 per cent reservations to Muslims and will take legal recourse if needed,” Togadia said. Providing of reservations to Muslims was one of the promises made by Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in its poll manifesto in April. Togadia also appealed to Hindus to eradicate untouchability and maintain unity “to save the religion”.”Each and every Hindu should maintain cordial relations with SC/ST’s and upper and lower castes should share common kitchens,” he said. Raking up the issue of “love jihad’, Togadia said VHP was not against “pure love”.”Love jihad is not pure because Hindu girls are converted to Islam after their marriage but in no case any Muslim boy gets converted to Hinduism.. This is clearly the ‘love jihad’ and we are against it,” Togadia said. He said that construction of the temple of Lord Ram in Ayodhya is the matter of “self respect” to Hindus. VHP national president G Raghava Reddy and regional president Rama Raju also spoke on the occasion. (New Indian Express 11/12/14)

55. ST quota sparks row among tribal communities in WG (25)

ELURU: The notification for recruitment of 40 teacher posts in Agency school has sparked a row among the tribal community in West Godavari district, with the Koyas and Kondreddies at odds with their ST brethren of Banjaras (Lambadas) over the ST status. Reservations in government jobs in the Agency mandals of Buttayagudem, Polavaram and Jeelugumilli for STs have been pitting these ST sub-castes against each other for a long time. The issue of government’s notification for recruitment of school teachers through District Selection Committee (DSC), scheduled to take place in February next year, has set off a fresh row within the STs. The DSC-2015 is set to recruit 40 teachers in the Agency schools. During DSC-213, nearly 70 teacher posts found no takers from the STs for want of TET (Teacher Eligibility Test) qualification. Against this backdrop, a massive demonstration was held at the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) office at Kota Ramachandrapuram in Buttayagudem mandal under the aegis of the Adivasi Sankshema Parishad, Adivasi Sena and the Adivasi Teachers Federation on Wednesday, opposing recruitment of Lambadas in government jobs in the Agency under the ST quota. The STs , with their family history of residing in the Agency since 1950s, are only eligible for jobs, admissions in educational institutions and the other government entitlements under the ST quota as per the GO No. 3. The Revenue Department has been flooded with applications from ST candidates, seeking nativity certificates in a bid to conform to the GO 3. Meanwhile, Joint Collector T. Baburao Naidu, a tribal himself, was caught in the crossfire after he negated the claims of two Lambada candidates whose nativity was challenged by Koyas after their selection for the VRO posts in Buttayagudem mandal. Later, Bhanjara Hakkula Sangham protested in the city, seeking transfer of the Joint Collector for his alleged bias in favour of non-Banjara sub-groups. The Banjaras, a tribe inhabiting in the plains, were accorded ST status during Jalagam Vengal Rao’s government in 1976. Mudiyam Gangaraju, a Koya, of the Adivasi Teachers Federation, said Banjaras with a population around 20,000 had migrated from the neighbouring Telangana districts after 1950s. .(The Hindu 12/12/14)

56. Uttarakhand wants quota in employment, education for its people (25)

NEW DELHI: Uttarakhand wants Centre to treat people of the state as a special category like scheduled tribes and give them reservation in employment and education. It will also ask the Centre to provide “green bonus” to the state for preserving forests in the country. At the same time, cognizant of its status as political rival to BJP, Congress is using Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s priority to rejuvenate Ganga and “clean India” to seek clearance for pending projects recommended by Uttarakhand. The state argues that its financial status has dwindled after the Kedarnath floods and the Centre should help it tide over the trouble by financing key projects. Threatening to flex its muscles on these tricky demands, the state Congress will hold a big day-long demonstration in the capital on Thursday, to be led by state chief Kishore Upadhyaya, civil society groups and concerned citizens.  In what may put another polarizing issue on the table like the statehood demand of the 1990s, Upadhyaya said the state has specific cultural features and social practices like the northeastern states whose people are considered tribal. “The people of Uttarakhand should have been considered for the same affirmative action long back. It was also one of the demands of the statehood movement,” he argued. The state wants that its green efforts as the “lungs of the country” be rewarded with a ‘green bonus”, a cash reward that should be linked to development projects. The demand is seen as important in view of rising debate on climate change and mitigation efforts. Sources said the state will also press the Centre for a metro project from Dehradun to Haridwar, railway projects in the hill regions and renewal of the ‘industrial package”. Upadhyaya said while the PM has expressed his sentiments for “Holy Ganga”, he should also give special treatment to the land of the river’s origin. “We appeal that the proposal sent by the state government for conservation and cleaning of Ganga be cleared,” he added, also seeking Rs 10 crore to make “clean India” a success. (Times of India 18/12/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

57. Human rights not an outside concept: Lok Sabha speaker (1)

New Delhi: Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan Wednesday said human rights was not an “outside” concept as Indian culture talks not only of rights of human beings but also gives respect to plants and trees. Addressing a function organised to mark Human Rights Day here, she said it was sad to see girls, who are in their early 20s, being married off. “Whenever, I go to my constituency and to other areas of the country, I often see girls being married off at very early stage of their lives,” Mahajan said. “Why this is being done? It’s about her rights, her right to education, her right to choose life partner,” she said. The speaker said the concept of human rights and even the rights of non-living things has been imbibed in Indian culture for a long time. “Why it seems that the concept of human rights has come from outside… it’s been there in our country for a long time. Here we not only talk about human rights but the rights of trees and even non-living things,” she said. Mahajan said every person’s rights were equally important and must be protected at all costs. “Women are also humans as they too have similar feelings like men, so they should also be treated as humans when it comes to protecting humans rights,” she said. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s message was read out on the occasion. The function was attended by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairman K.G. Balakrishnan. Mahajan also released six publications of the NHRC on the occasion. (New Kerala 10/12/14)

58. NHRC vows to strengthen human rights defenders (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), on the eve of Human Rights Day on Wednesday, appealed to state governments to come forward on the occasion to endorse publicly the importance of this special day through various forums in order to help usher in a culture of human rights in the country. It has also pledged to stand up for human rights defenders (HRDs) whether in India or globally. The NHRC will on Wednesday organize a programme where Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan will release some NHRC publications for spreading awareness against rights abuses. The slogan of this year’s Human Rights Day – ‘Human Rights 365′, encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day. In a statement issued by the commission, its chairperson Justice K G Balakrishnan said “Today, on 9th December, the day when the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) was adopted in 1998 by the UN General Assembly, the NHRC, India reiterates its resolve to strengthen the human rights defenders (HRDs) as an integral part in its strategy to strengthen the human rights culture in India and across the globe”. “The work of HRDs in partnership with other state and non-state actors will have a far reaching impact in improving and strengthening the human rights situation throughout the country and also globally,” the chairman said. “HRDs have always been instrumental in fighting for the cause of human rights. However, their efforts were provided impetus through the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders which was adopted by UN General Assembly on 9th December,” Balakrishnan pointed out. “NHRC, India too right since its inception in 1993, has played a very important role in promoting and protecting the rights of HRDs. Justice Ranganath Mishra, the first chairperson of National Human Rights Commission always gave due opportunity and voice to the people who fought for promotion and protection of human rights,” he said. This work has not only been carried forward by the commission but there has been substantial expansion in its activities for promotion and protection of rights of HRDs, he said. (Times of India 10/12/14)

59. SC ruling on Sec 377 violation of human rights: LGBT community (1)

New Delhi: Members of the LGBT community and civil society activists on Thursday held a protest here against the Supreme Court verdict of 2013 criminalising gay sex, saying it represented a violation of human rights. At a public hearing organised by India HIV/AIDS Alliance, members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community claimed that discrimination against sexual minorities had become more severe since the verdict last year. “The Dec. 11 (2013) verdict has made our already vulnerable community even more vulnerable to harassment by police,” said an activist at the protest where LGBT community members called for access to healthcare services and increased efforts for the safeguarding of their rights. Sushant Divgikar, actor and a recent participant on TV reality show ‘Big Boss’, said, “I am deeply troubled by the daily injustice faced by my LGBT brothers and sisters. We need to fight the internalised homophobia and transphobia in our communities and transform our fear into courage to celebrate who we are.” James Robertson, Executive Director, Alliance India, said that even though sexual minorities are full citizens of the country, they are denied opportunities to earn a living, study and access health services. “Many families reject them and push them further to society’s margins, increasing their vulnerability to a range of harms, including HIV. We must join together to fight the insidious impact of homophobia and transphobia,” he said. Supreme Court had last year set aside a Delhi High Court judgement decriminalising gay sex and thrown the ball into Parliament’s court for amending the law. The judgement revived the penal provision making gay sex an offence punishable with life imprisonment in a setback to people fighting a battle for recognition of their sexual preferences. Later, the court had also dismissed a bunch of petitions filed by the Centre and gay rights activists against the 2013 verdict.   (Zee News 11/12/14)

60. Bharti moves HC against NHRC order (1)

NEW DELHI: Somnath Bharti on Tuesday moved the Delhi high court challenging the NHRC order holding him guilty of “racial prejudice and unlawful acts” against the 12 African women during his controversial midnight raid early this year. Justice Manmohan before whom the case was listed, however, recused himself and sent the matter to another court. The plea filed through advocate Deepak Khosla, claimed that Bharti was not given any notice of certain proceedings initiated by the NHRC ‘suo motu’ in January 2014. (Times of India 17/12/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

61. PIL in Madras high court challenges Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG scheme
MADURAI: A public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the Madurai bench of the Madras high court challenging the central government’s move to link Aadhaar and bank account details with domestic gas cylinder connection as part of the Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG (DBTL) scheme. Sivakasi-based advocate S M Anantha Murugan filed the PIL contending that the Supreme Court had restrained the oil companies from demanding Aadhaar card number to provide gas cylinders. “While so, the central government has introduced a new system, Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG (DBTL), by which it demands details of Aadhaar/bank account of the customer. Hence, the government’s action should be restrained,” the petitioner said. When the matter came up for hearing, the division bench of Justices V Dhanapalan and V M Velumani ordered notices to the cabinet secretary, home affairs, petroleum and natural gas secretaries, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India’s chairman, Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organization’s chief controller of explosives and state’s chief secretary. (Times of India 10/12/14)

62. Enact law to stop women from being branded ‘witch’: Rajasthan HC (19)

JODHPUR: The Rajasthan High Court on Thursday asked the state government to enact a law to prevent social evils like ‘dayan’ (where women are branded as witch) and the system of ‘mautana’ (death money), prevalent mostly in tribal areas of the state. The court warned that either the government enact a law by February 11, 2015 or the court would declare Rajasthan a backward state. A division bench headed by acting Chief Justice Sunil Ambawani, while hearing a suo motu petition, considered the two traditions as malice to civilized society and stated that it can’t be allowed to exist in a progressive state. According to amicus curie Baljinder Singh Sandhu, the court had sought data on the issue and having taken into account growing incidents of the practice, it asked the government to enact a law in this regard by February 11, 2015. “If the state government did not take satisfactory steps by February 11, 2015, the court would think of declaring the state a backward one and insensitive towards human rights,” the court said. The ‘mautana’ tradition has created law and order problems. The ‘mautana’ tradition, literally the ‘death money’, prevalent predominantly in Mewar region covering Pratapgarh, Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Rajsamand and Udaipur districts, has created serious law and order problems recently. Mautana, or monetary compensation for death, started with the noble intention of providing relief to the victim’s family. But now, middlemen, even sarpanchs and panchs, vie for a cut of the compensation when the families or communities of the victims and the suspects reach a deal. Similarly, many women, regardless of their age, had been treated inhumanly by fellow villagers branding them ‘dayan’. Two weeks back, a woman was held responsible for the death of a horse in a village and was beaten up and made to sit on a donkey with her face blackened. (Times of India 12/12/14)

63. Second wife can file dowry harassment charges: HC (19)

HYDERABAD: Justice U Durga Prasad Rao of the Hyderabad high court has held that a person’s second wife has the right to lodge a dowry harassment case against him. The judge, while dismissing a petition filed by one Nalla Thirupathi Reddy, who wanted the court to quash a dowry harassment case lodged by his second wife, directed police to probe the incident. Reddy challenged his second wife’s locus standi on the ground that she is not the legally wedded wife but only a second wife. According to the respondent, the petitioner married her with the consent of his first wife as the latter was critically injured in a fire accident. Reddy took Rs 2 lakh in cash and a piece of land worth Rs one lakh as dowry from his second wife’s parents at the time of their marriage. Relying upon a Supreme Court judgment in the case pertaining to A Subash Babu versus the State of Andhra Pradesh, the judge said that a husband cannot ask for quashing of proceedings only on the ground that the complainant is his second wife. The apex court ruled that the absence of a definition of ‘husband’ to specifically include such persons who contract marriages ostensibly and cohabit with such women in the purported exercise of their role and status as ‘husband’, is no ground to exclude them from the purview of Section 304B or 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). (Times of India 14/12/14)

64. Centre Can’t appoint Vigilance Chief Without Our approval, Says Supreme Court (19)

NEW DELHI:  The Supreme Court today said the Centre cannot appoint a Central Vigilance Commissioner and the Vigilance Commissioner without its approval, but the selection process for both posts can progress. “Before sending the appointments to the President, come to us. We are not concerned with who is being appointed, but we will see whether the due procedure is followed or not,” said Chief Justice of India HL Dattu while hearing the case. The court has been pushing for transparency in the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner. In an earlier hearing, former Chief Justice RM Lodha had said only talented people should be chosen for the post. The case is being heard following complaints that the Centre’s method of making the appointments are in violation of rules and a petition seeking more transparency in the matter. The Centre had sought the court’s permission to proceed with the appointment in both posts, which are currently vacant. Questioning the validity of the petition, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who was representing the Centre, told the court that anyone could challenge once an appointment has been done, but not before that. But the court rejected the argument and directed the Centre to submit the shortlisted names before they were sent to the President for approval. The Centre told court that advertisements have been published across the country and applicants are being shortlisted. The Centre is to submit the list of appointees on January 14, the next date of hearing. The Attorney General told the court he would submit the names in a sealed cover. (NDTV 17/12/14)

65. Cabinet approves GST Constitutional Amendment Bill (19)

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Constitutional Amendment Bill on Goods & Services Tax (GST), inching closer to the rollout of an ambitious indirect tax reform expected to raise revenues and boost growth The government aims to implement GST by April 1, 2016 and has been working overtime to get states on board. The tax reform is a centrepiece of the Narendra Modi government’s economic agenda. Sources said the government hopes to introduce the bill in the current session of Parliament. It may be introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. The tax reform measure has missed several rollout dates in the past due to lack of consensus between the Centre and states on a host of issues and the government is keen to get the bill approved in the current session. On Monday night, the Centre managed a breakthrough after finance minister Arun Jaitley assured the states of a fair deal. Sources said initially, petroleum will be kept out of GST but will be included in the new tax set up once states come on board. It may take two years but the government hopes to include it in the years ahead. Alcohol too is expected to be kept out of the comprehensive levy. Additionally, the Centre has devised a levy of 1% above the GST rate on select items and is assuring the states full compensation for revenue loss for three years, followed by 75% in fourth year and 50% in the fifth. The Centre does not see a significant amount of compensation to be paid as it expects collections through GST to be better due to fewer exemptions and a gain from service tax. Cabinet clearance assumes greater importance as there were few doubts after the recent empowered committee meeting wherein it seemed that consensus between Centre and states still eluded on few critical points,” said Pratik Jain, partner, indirect tax at consultancy firm KPMG , India. “Now with the bill all set to be presented in the current session of Parliament, it would be seen as enormously positive towards GST implementation from April 1, 2016. However, it would be important for all stakeholders to ensure that GST covers all transactions including petroleum, real estate and electricity in due course, if not immediately,” he said. The finance ministry had swung into action after state finance ministers rejected the draft GST Constitutional Amendment Bill last Thursday saying the provisions did not take into account their concerns and staunchly opposed the move to include petroleum under the GST ambit. The states also said the bill does not address their concern on the issue of entry tax. In a bid to bridge the trust deficit between the states and the Centre, Jaitley had approved the release of Rs 11,000 crore as compensation for loss on account of central sales tax which had been pending since 2010. He had also vowed to pay the pending amount as he moved to ensure that the states come on board for rolling out the tax reform measure which has the potential to add significantly to government revenues and overall economic growth. (Times of India 18/12/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

66. Rights bodies renew cry for AFSPA repeal (1)

IMPHAL: On the occasion of International Human Rights Day on Wednesday, various rights bodies in insurgency-hit Manipur have categorically called for scrapping the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The day also marked the sixth anniversary of Sharmila Kanba Lup (Sakal) or Save Sharmila group, a body of women activists and emas (mothers), who began a relay hunger strike on this day in 2008 to express solidarity with Irom Sharmila Chanu. Sakal members staged the relay-hunger-fast at a make-shift camp close to Jawaharal Nehru Institute of Medical Science (JNIMS) at Porompat in Imphal East where the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur’ is currently being forced-fed through her nose by the government. AFSPA gives unbridled powers to the armed forces even to the extent of shooting people on mere suspension. Human rights lawyer and president of All Manipur Bar Association (AMBA) Khaidem Mani said AFSPA has no place in India, the largest democracy in the world. Stating that AFSPA is clamped in selective regions and states like the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir, Mani termed it as a racial law. He demanded immediate repeal of the Act. Human Rights Initiative (HRI) executive director Wahangbam Joykumar said the imposition of AFSPA for over three decades in Manipur given rise to fear psychosis among people, especially the youth. Speaking at another observance at HRI office here, Joykumar demanded immediate repeal of the act in no time. Expressing strong opposition to the growing trend of triggering mob justice across the state, Joykumar urged the government, particularly the law enforcing agencies, to stop it before Manipur turns into a total lawless state. (Times of India 11/12/14)

67. Amnesty for Sharmila’s unconditional release (1)

  IMPHAL, Dec 16 – Authorities in India must build on the central government’s decision to decriminalize suicide by dropping all charges of attempted suicide against Prisoner of Conscience Irom Sharmila and releasing her immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International India said today. Irom Sharmila has been held in detention in Manipur for over 14 years on repeated charges of attempted suicide. She has been on a hunger strike since November 2000 demanding the repeal of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). On 10 December, India’s Minister of State for Home Affairs stated in the upper house of Parliament that the central government had decided to repeal Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, which makes attempting to commit suicide punishable with imprisonment for up to one year. “The Indian government’s decision to decriminalize suicide is in line with an increasing global trend. This move should lead to the immediate release of Irom Sharmila, who has been held in detention merely for exercising her freedom of expression in a peaceful manner,” said Shailesh Rai, Programme Director at Amnesty International India. Irom Sharmila has never been convicted of attempting to commit suicide. She has been regularly released after completing a year in judicial custody, only to be re-arrested shortly after as she continues her fast. In August 2014, a Manipur court had ruled that there were no grounds to charge Irom Sharmila with attempted suicide and instead described her protest as a ‘political demand through lawful means’, a belief thousands of her supporters have long held. Irom Sharmila was released after the verdict but she was re-arrested in farcical circumstances just two days later on the same charges. “Irom Sharmila should not have been arrested in the first place. Now that authorities have acknowledged that attempting to commit suicide should not be considered a crime, authorities in Manipur and Delhi should drop all charges against her, and start to engage with the issues this remarkable activist is raising,” said Shailesh Rai. (Assam Tribune 17/12/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

68. ISIS demands $1 mn to release beheaded journalist’s remains (1)

Antakya (Turkey): The Sunni jehadi organisation Islamic State wants $1 million for releasing the remains of the slain US journalist James Foley, media reported Thursday. Sources in contact with the ISIS said that the militant group was willing to provide a DNA sample from Foley’s remains to facilitate the deal, Buzzfeed News reported. If true, the attempted sale would highlight the ruthlessness behind IS’s hostage-taking enterprise that has provided the militant group with deep reservoirs of funds and publicity. Abducted in Syria in November 2012, Foley was beheaded Aug 10 this year by the ISIS as shown in a video released online by the militant group. At one point early this year, the ISIS held 23 Western hostages in Syria. Fifteen Europeans were freed as governments reportedly paid millions of dollars in ransom, but the British and US hostages were left behind. (Pioneer 12/12/14)

69. Media attacked by PTI protestors (1)

Islamabad, Dec 15 (IANS) Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) protestors Monday targeted the media, manhandling journalists as they covered their protest live from the Punjab’s provincial capital Lahore, media reported. The PTI workers hurled bottles towards a Geo News team and chanted hostile slogans, as the media team was trying to cover the PTI’s protest. Defying clear instructions from PTI chief Imran Khan to desist from misbehaving with mediapersons, the party’s activists relentlessly harassed the media, Geo News reported. The PTI workers’ resorting to such misdemeanour against the media is something that has become a matter of routine as a similar situation was witnessed in Faisalabad which was later repeated in Karachi and now in Lahore. As the last reports came in, the PTI workers continued to besiege the DSNG van of Geo News while hurling stones, bottles and whatever they could lay their hands on. (Sify News 15/12/14)

70. Journalists under attack, 66 reporters killed in 2014 (1)

Paris: Attacks on journalists have grown more barbaric and kidnappings have soared, Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday, after a year when violence against the media took centre stage and 66 reporters were killed. India has been ranked 141 in the World Press Freedom Index among 180 countries by the press freedom organisation which said freedom of press is often sacrificed in the name of national security. The beheading of James Foley and Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State group highlighted the extreme danger journalists face in covering modern conflicts. “Rarely have reporters been murdered with such a barbaric sense of propaganda, shocking the entire world,” said Reporters Without Borders in their annual report released on Tuesday. There was a slight drop in the number of murdered journalists – down from 71 last year – thanks largely to fewer deaths in countries “at peace”. A total of 720 reporters have been killed since 2005. But kidnappings soared to 119 – up 37% on last year – thanks to the tactics of separatists in eastern Ukraine and militants operating in the Middle East and North Africa. Of those kidnapped, 33 were in Ukraine, 29 in Libya and 27 in Syria. Forty are still being held. “Local journalists pay the highest price, representing 90% of those abducted,” the report emphasised. “Of the 22 journalists currently being held by armed groups in Syria, 16 are Syrians. All of the eight journalists currently held hostage in Iraq are Iraqis.” The index mentions India as one of the countries where freedom of information is sacrificed to national security and surveillance and talks about Kashmir where “the work of journalists is handicapped by draconian news control policies”.”Criminal organisations, security forces, demonstrators and armed groups all pose a threat to India’s journalists. The violence and the resulting self-censorship is encouraged by the lack of effective investigations by local authorities, who are often quick to abandon them, and inaction on the part of the federal authorities,” it said. “In Kashmir, the authorities impose curfews and often block the internet and mobile phone networks.” Reporters Without Borders highlighted several cases of journalists punished by their governments, including that of Raef Badawi, a Saudi citizen-journalist who won the charity’s Press Freedom Prize this year and was sentenced in September to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” with his views on the Liberal Saudi Network. It also highlighted the case of Khadija Ismailova in Azerbaijan – “now Europe’s biggest prison for media personnel”. Her work on government corruption has made her a target of smear campaigns, blackmail and spurious legal charges. “Now she is being held on the absurd charge of ‘pushing’ a former colleague to attempt suicide, a charge that carries a possible sentence of three to seven years in jail,” the report said. Worldwide, a total of 178 professional journalists were in prison as of December 8, the same number as last year. … (Hindustan Times 17/12/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

71. Bengali slum dwellers caught in crossfire (7)

Agra: Domestic scrap dealer Mumtaz Begum dodges the television cameras in her slum. A member of the 350-odd Bengali Muslim community in Ved Nagar, Agra, Ms. Begum was allegedly converted to Hinduism on Monday by activists of Hindutva organisations. She said she took part in a ritual organised by several persons who held saffron flags, as she was promised a ‘Below Povety Line’ ration card and the government’s Unique Identification Number — entitlements her family has not received after migrating from Rampurhat near Kolkata around three years ago. “These people (with flags) filled out several forms for us on Monday before make us sit near the fire while they chanted prayers. They said that we will get all benefits from government and also get proper houses to live in. When they started photographing us after the ritual, I got scared and ran away,” she told The Hindu. Ms. Begum added that the police questioned her later that day and since then journalists and Muslim clerics have been making repeated visits. Based on a complaint from community leader Ismail, the police filed a case of disturbing public tranquility and cheating against one Kishore Valmiki. On Wednesday, Muslims from both Deobandi and Barelvi schools visited the slum, which has open sewers and no toilets. “This misfortune has come upon you and Agra because you strayed away from Allah. Stop dressing like unbelievers and grow beards. Make your women read the Quran and cover their faces,” shoe-trader Haji Ikram told a gathering of the slum’s residents. Ismail, who migrated from Tulia in West Bengal’s 24 Parganas to Agra 17 years ago, admits that they were attracted by the entitlements offered, but denies converting. “They said we would get all this if we pose for pictures with idols of goddess Kali. I didn’t know I was being converted. I still believe in Allah. We have never had any differences with Hindus and we don’t see ourselves as different from Hindu scrap collectors,” he said. Bajrang Dal’s Uttar Pradesh co-convenor Avneendra Pratap Singh alias Ajju Chauhan says that he was instrumental in ‘converting’ the Bengalis and that Mr. Valmiki is an associate of Rajeshwar Singh, Kshetra Pramukh of the Dharma Jagran Samanwaya Vibhag, who was also present at the ceremony. Mr. Singh claimed that the scrap dealers, who are on rented premises, worship Kali during Navratri. “Their ancestors are Hindus and they approached us to bring them home. Ration cards are too small an allurement to convert and they are saying this under pressure from Muslim leaders and the government,” he said. He claimed that 350 Bengalis were “purified”. A glance at a diary of the police Local Intelligence Unit revealed 57 names of Bengalis who participated in the Monday ritual. A police officer said that they appear to be Indian nationals and more names would be added. Local youth said that the Bengalis had brought disrepute to the area. “They are Hindus and if they reconvert to Islam we will expel them from this area,” local resident Shubham Shrivastava told this paper. Local elder RC Bhaskar, Founder of the Panchsheel Degree College here, explained that conversion is a new phenomenon in the Cantonment Area which has a BSP MLA. “Ambedkarite ideology has been the mainstream political discourse here in the last three decades. Of late, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has gained followers in Ved Nagar mainly from the upper castes from other districts who have built houses here. There is still no communal tension here, but incidents like this have created mistrust among people in Agra,” he said. (The Hindu 11/12/14)

72. Workshop by minorities commission to spread communal harmony (7)

MANGALURU: Chairperson of Karnataka State Minorities Commission, Balkhees Banu, on Friday said the Commission has planned to hold workshops across the state to inculcate among people the values of communal harmony, love among human beings and other issues. Speaking to presspersons here during her visit to the district, Ms. Banu said no religion preaches hatred and violence. Referring to recent communal violence in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada, the Chairperson said she has urged people belonging to minority communities to walk a mile forward in extending friendly gesture towards others and live harmoniously. The workshops, Ms. Banu said would either be held at district headquarters or at taluk headquarters if people belonging to minority communities live in such places in large numbers. This is one of the several steps being envisaged by the Commission to ensure peace in society, she said. At Gangolli in Udupi, she prevailed upon the victims belonging to minority communities whose shops had been gutted allegedly by miscreants, to accept compensation of Rs. 25,000 each provided by the district administration, though the actual loss was more. She told the people from minority community in Ulaibettu area in Dakshina Kannada not to agitate over the issue and concentrate on harmonious living. Meanwhile, the Commission would get a formal report on Ulaibettu clashes from the district administration in about a week and would submit the same with suitable recommendations to the government, Ms. Banu said. She said during her meeting with the district administration on Friday, she raised several issues concerning the minority communities, including housing, ration, infrastructure etc., which she got to know from people who met her before the meeting. The administration has responded positively and promised to address the issues, Ms. Banu added. It is high time that people belonging to minority communities — Muslim, Christian, Jain, Sikh and Parsi —make use of several welfare schemes being offered by the State government. The Karnataka State Minorities Commission has urged the Dakshina Kannada district administration to withdraw petty cases filed against innocent people belonging to all the communities in connection with the recent Ulaibettu communal clashes. Commission Chairperson, Balkhees Banu told presspersons here, “The local people had no issues; it is the outsiders who make speeches and provoke people. While the rich would remain unaffected, it is the poor who suffer the impact.” (The Hindu 12/12/14)

73. Prohibitory orders imposed in Aligarh (7)

Lucknow, Dec. 14: Orders banning large congregations were imposed in Aligarh today ahead of conversions planned by the RSS on Christmas Day as the son of a key leader behind one such event in Agra last week was arrested. “I have instructed all districts under this (Aligarh) division to enforce prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC. We are not going to allow the conversion camp proposed on December 25. All steps are being taken to stop this,” Aligarh range DIG Mohit Agarwal said today. The order, which bars gatherings of more than four persons, will also cover the neighbouring Hathras, Etah and Kashganj districts. The areas, like Aligarh town, have an overwhelming minority population. The Dharma Jagran Samanway Vibhag, a Sangh offshoot, has announced plans to “reconvert” 5,000 Christians and Muslims. Uttar Pradesh BJP MPs, Yogi Adityanath of Gorakhpur and Satish Gautam of Aligarh, have said they will preside over the programme. Adityanath has accused the Aligarh administration and media of presenting a “distorted perception” of the plans. “People are willing to reconvert in our programme we call ghar wapsi (homecoming). The event will happen as scheduled and I will be there.” Vidyaram Pandey, an Aligarh RSS leader, slammed the curbs clamped today. “This is a programme for forging unity among Hindus. How can the police ban it? We will go ahead and hold it.” The showdown signals came even as the hunt for Kishore Valmiki, the leader alleged to be behind the Agra conversions and associated with the Jagran Vibhag, continued. Valmiki’s son Rahul and an RSS activist, Krishna Kumar, were arrested last night from Etah on charges of trying to organise more conversion camps, the police said. (The Telegraph 15/12/14)

COMMUNALISM

74. Oppn targets govt over conversion in Agra: ‘Bid to impose Hindutva agenda’ (26)

New Delhi: The opposition parties on Wednesday targeted the BJP and RSS in both Houses of Parliament over alleged forced conversion of 57 Muslim families in Agra and accused the government of following the Hindutva agenda, a charge rejected by BJP ministers. Soon after Rajya Sabha met in the morning, BSP chief Mayawati raised the issue, saying the Bajrang Dal — an offshoot of RSS —indulged in forced conversions in Agra earlier this week. “Secularism is part of the Constitution… they are violating the basic tenets. BJP has a hand in it,” she said. The BSP chief found immediate support from members of Congress, JD(U), Trinamool Congress and other opposition parties. Minister of State for Parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said no party has a “monopoly” over secularism, and according to information available with the government, an FIR has been registered in connection with the matter. Expressing shock over the issue, CPI’s D Raja said attempts were being made to impose the Hindutva agenda on everybody. “It’s a conscious attempt to impose the Hindutva agenda on everybody… The state government should take serious note and the (Union) Home Ministry must take serious note of this and they must act accordingly to uphold the basic values of the Constitution,” he said. CPM’s Sitaram Yechury said the re-conversions were a ploy to vitiate the environment before Christmas. “The RSS chief has gone on record to say that for the first time they have got control of the central government (and) so, will pursue their agenda of transforming the secular, democratic Indian republic into their version of a rabidly intolerant fascist nation. That is what you see in practice,” Yechury said. Congress’s Anand Sharma said government should be directed to give a response. “This is a diabolic agenda of BJP and RSS,” he said. In the Lok Sabha, Trinamool Congress MP Sultan Ahmed and SP members raised the issue, as they sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention. At least 200 people from 57 families, mostly slum dwellers, were reportedly re-converted to Hinduism at a ceremony organised by Dharma Jagran cell of RSS and Bajrang Dal in the cantonment area of Agra on December 8. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu later said “conversion and reconversion, if forced, is wrong”. He said, “There should be no conversion either through force or inducement.” He said the controversy was “an attempt to malign the government (at the Centre). It is an old card (of BJP’s opponents), which has failed in the past.” Law and order, he said, “is a state subject”, implying that the onus for taking any action, if needed, was on the Samajwadi Party government in UP. … (Indian Express 11/12/14)

75. ‘Love jihad’ is conversion ploy: VHP (26)

SANGAREDDY: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) opposes religious conversions and “love jihad” is only meant to convert people to Islam, its international working president Praveen Togadia said on Thursday. Addressing a ‘Virat Hindu Sammelan’ here on the occasion of the VHP completing 50 years of its existence, Dr. Togadia expressed the fear that Hindus could become ‘minorities’ in the next 100 years if they did not stop religious conversions. He called upon people to eradicate the caste system and urged them to dine with SCs and STs so that the latter would not feel alienated. He accused Telangana CM K. Chandrasekhar Rao of following in the footsteps of the erstwhile Hyderabad ruler, the Nizam, and found fault with him for promising quota for minorities.  (The Hindu 12/12/14)

76. VHP reconverted 6,000 people to Hinduism in 5 years (26)

Mumbai: While reconversion drives organised by Sangh Parivar offshoots for Muslims and Christians had fueled much controversy and caused an uproar in Parliament, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) claims to have organised such ghar vapasi (homecoming) rites for around 6,000 converts in Maharashtra in the last five years. A senior VHP leader told dna that most of the people who had been reconverted to Hinduism were Christians as Muslims were comparatively “tougher nuts to crack”.”We have managed to reconvert around 6,000 people to Hinduism. At the national level, around 7 lakh people have been brought back into the fold in 20 years,” he said, while denying claims that threats and inducements were used to do this. He added that areas which have a high concentration of tribals, including those who have been proselytised to Christianity, see such activity. “Reconversions happen wherever we have sampark programmes. This is not a one-day process. At times, it may even take up to 10 years to reconvert a Muslim to Hinduism,” the VHP leader said, adding that this consisted of telling Muslims about their Hindu roots and about their ancestors being Hindus. “We convince them that their traditions and culture are rooted in Hinduism,” he said, adding that in case the family or individual is convinced, a shuddhikaran (purification) process is undertaken through priests. “After the purification rites, their names are changed and the priests and other people are witnesses to the ceremony. This is published in the gazette and they are given a legal certificate,” the leader added. However, the organisation’s leaders refuse to admit that many of these conversions of middle and lower castes from Hinduism to other faiths have historically been a fallout of the rigid caste system.The VHP leader said that after the reconversion, they took care to ensure that the converts gradually assimilate into Hindu society and were accepted there. The VHP leader said that they were however not planning to hold large programmes where such reconversions would take place. “This happens at the local level. We avoid publicity as this will lead to pressure on prospective converts from their co-religionists. So, we have to consider the security of the family even after they are brought back into Hinduism,” he added. “These people are like a daughter-in-law who has come into a new household. She will take time to adjust with new family members. Though they were originally Hindus, they were converted to other denominations hundreds of years ago. So, we organise various programmes where they are invited to Satyanarayan mahapuja and haldi kumkum for women. At times, they are asked to organise these rites,” he claimed, adding, “This helped them feel at home. Otherwise, they will feel abandoned once they became Hindus.” “Since many Muslim girls also marry Hindu boys, these women are also converted to Hinduism,” the VHP leader said. (DNA 14/12/14)

77. Vishwa Hindu Parishad for anti-conversion law (26)

Mumbai: Adding more fuel to ongoing controversy over religious conversions, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Praveen Togadia on Sunday pitched for an anti-conversion law to prevent Hindus from being converted to other religions. However, defending conversion to Hinduism, he said that the forefathers of Christians and Muslims in India were Hindus. Mr Togadia was speaking at the Virat Hindu Sammelan organised by the VHP. Held at Bandra-Kurla Complex, the meeting was also attended by religious leaders and gurus from the Jain and Buddhist faiths. BJP leaders Vidya Thakur, MLAs Mangalprabhat Lodha and Ashish Shelar and MP Gopal Shetty were also present for the programme. Questioning what was wrong in recent controversial conversion at Agra, Mr Togadia asked why there was no support for an anti-conversion law, specially referring to Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. “They said the conversion at Agra was wrong. But what was wrong in that, Mulayamji? If it were wrong, then come forward and support the anti-conversion law. We will not allow any Hindu to be converted,” Mr Togadia said. Reiterating the VHP’s stand on the Ram temple issue, Mr Togadia said, “We will build the Ram temple. The Hindus will not get their honour back until it is built.” All the Hindu leaders present including the Shankaracharya laid stress on the issue and expressed expectation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would initiate it. Mr Togadia, however, softened his stand on backward castes and Dalits. “We do not believe in untouchability. We should eat together,” Mr Togadia said, indicating that the Hindu religion is acknowledging sections that have been deprived of their rights due to casteism. The programme managed to pull huge crowds. Sadhvi Saraswati grabbed attention by terming AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi a “barking dog”. (Asian Age 15/12/14)

78.  ‘Hindutva’ in focus as BJP faces protests (26)

NEW DELHI: This is an apprehension that many BJP leaders discretely expressed at informal party deliberations when Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) general secretary Vaiko stormed out of the National Democratic Alliance earlier this month. After a lull, Tamil parties seem to be taking up the issue of ‘Hindutva’ once again, probably as a reaction to the growing concern that the BJP is trying to gain a foothold in Tamil Nadu. While Mr. Vaiko listed the attempted imposition of ‘Hindutva’ ideology in the Dravidian heartland of Tamil Nadu as one of the primary reasons for leaving the alliance, the anti-BJP campaign gained traction on Wednesday with VCK leader and former MP, Thol. Thirumavalavan announcing a protest on December 23 against the alleged fascist Hindutva policies of the BJP government at the Centre. The protest date has been fixed in proximity to the visit of BJP national president Amit Shah to Chennai on December 20 and 21. Mr. Thirumavalavan listed a number of instances where the Centre was trying to impose a culture driven by ‘Hindutva’ on the rest of the country, including the recent controversy over announcing December 25 as ‘Good Governance Day.’ These were essentially anti-minority and anti-Dalit actions, he argued in a statement. A senior Tamil Nadu BJP leader said some in the alliance the party had put together for the Lok Sabha elections, including some Dravidian and Tamil nationalists groups, had kept in cold storage for a while usual accusations of ‘Hindutva’ against the party. “Since the alliance is changing shape and some have left, we were anticipating such a campaign,” the leader said. The party functionary also acknowledged need to articulate a strong reply to any such campaign. “We have a strong Union government focussing on development. We will focus on this,” the leader added. (The Hindu 18/12/14)

TERRORISM

79. No inputs to suggest Al-Qaeda, ISIS planning to target India- Government (12)

New Delhi: There are no intelligence inputs to suggest that Al-Qaeda and ISIS terror groups are working together to target Indian cities, Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday. Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary, however, said a video was uploaded on September 3, 2014 containing the speech of Sheikh Ayman Al-Zawahiri of Al-Qaeda, in which he announced the establishment of a new Wing of Al-Qaeda, namely ‘Al-Qaeda in Indian Sub-Continent’ (AQIS). It is learnt that Asim Umar and Usama Mehmood have been appointed as the ‘Amir’ (chief) and ‘spokesperson’ respectively of AQIS, he said. Chaudhary also said Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi of ISIS in a video, uploaded on June 29, 2014 on internet, highlighted the alleged plight of Muslims in various countries including India and stated that rights of Muslims are forcibly being seized in these countries. “However, there are no intelligence inputs about specific threat to Bengaluru city by these two outfits,” he said. The Minister said there is a very close and effective coordination amongst intelligence agencies at the Centre and the state levels on intelligence sharing. The intelligence inputs about possible designs and threats are shared with the state governments concerned on a regular basis, he said. “The Multi Agency Centre has been strengthened and re-organised to enable it to function on 24×7 basis for real time collation and sharing of intelligence with other intelligence agencies and states, which ensures seamless flow of information between the state and the Central agencies. “This has resulted in busting of many terror modules, thus neutralising major terror attack plans. In addition, the Government continues to take all necessary steps to safeguard India’s territorial integrity and safety/security of its people,” Chaudhary said. (DNA 10/12/14)

80. ‘Mehdi Masroor Biswas extremely radicalised, believes beheading correct’ (12)

New Delhi: Mehdi Masroor Biswas, who is alleged to have been operating a pro-ISIS twitter account, has been dubbed by his interrogators as an extremely radicalised youth who believes that beheading of the “enemy” and making abducted women sex slaves was nothing wrong. The 24-year-old, who was arrested on December 13 in Bengaluru, told interrogators that he believed in the extreme form of Islam and that one day the so-called caliphate or Islamic State will come into existence in the world. “Mehdi described Indian Muslims as ‘sarkari Muslims’ who were incapable of fighting against government forces. He believes deeply that beheading of enemy and making abducted women sex slaves is nothing wrong,” official sources quoted the statement of the West Bengal-born youth. The electrical engineer-turned-jihadi propagandist, who was running the twitter handle ‘ShamiWitness’, told interrogators that since 2009, he has been following the political developments in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and became a ISIS sympathiser running a propaganda campaign for it. Mehdi said he was not aware of anybody joining ISIS and nor has he ever spoken to any fighter of the Islamic State with agencies now verifying those claims. He said that one of the three Mumbai youths who are still in Iraq-Syria is handling a pro-ISIS twitter handle and posting sympathetic tweets, sources said. Mehdi was apparently very hassled 4-5 days prior to his arrest and reportedly spoke to his mother, telling her that he was not sure about his future. Britain’s Channel 4 News had first aired the report regarding Mehdi’s link with the twitter account that is followed by foreign jihadis. Mehdi has been arrested under Sec 125 of IPC (whoever wages war against the government of any Asiatic power in alliance or at peace with the Government of India or attempts to wage such war, or abets the waging of such war), different sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Information Technology Act. (Zee News 15/12/14)

81. 132 children massacred in attack on school (12)

PESHAWAR: On a chilly winter day in Peshawar, parents rushed to prepare their children for their last journey before sunset. School uniforms with green blazers and grey flannel trousers soaked in blood were cut off from young bodies brought home, before they were bathed and wrapped in white burial shrouds and put into coffins, which then headed for the local graveyards. Tuesday was examination day at the Army Public School in Peshawar when six militants of the Tehreek-e-Taliban stormed the premises and shot dead about 141 people, 132 of them students, going from classroom to classroom seeking their prey. Children who escaped saw their teacher being set on fire tied to her chair. As many as 250 lay wounded in a crime so heinous and horrific that within a few hours, most world capitals reached out to Islamabad. Clad in the steel grey shalwar kameez uniforms of the Frontier Corps, the militants entered the school around 10 a.m. via a graveyard at the back. Blowing up their vehicle, they sent a message that they were not returning. Survivors said the militants told them to recite prayers as they were going to be killed. (The Hindu 17/12/14)

82. Peshawar school attack among most inhuman acts (12)

New Delhi: The cold-blooded killing of more than one hundred school children by Pakistani Taliban gunmen in Peshawar on Tuesday must rank as one of the most inhuman acts of our times. If this is what jehad is supposed to mean, it is hard to tell how much support will remain for this Islamic notion at the people level in Pakistan after grisly Tuesday. Regrettably though, it is difficult to be sanguine that the Pakistani security establishment will at last learn a lesson and make an authentic and verifiable effort to cut at the sources of religious extremism and terrorism it has spawned over a period of decades- a richly documented fact. The track record holds out little expectation. Tears have been shed over the human toll taken by very serious incidents of terrorist violence inside Pakistan, but in a strategic sense the Pakistan military and its sinister departments have stayed with the idea of using extremism and terrorism as an instrument of state policy. India, and later Afghanistan, were made special targets under this policy. Although terrorists raised under the auspices of Pakistan’s military spooks were meant to do India-hunting to begin with, the natural dynamics inherent in that game turned that blighted country into the epicentre of world terrorism. There is hardly a major international incident that does not have some jehadi link with that country. While many in Pakistan have always been seriously concerned about extremism and terrorism that springs from it which was engulfing their society, they were numerically and politically not strong enough to challenge the Pakistani state, which is effectively controlled by the men in olive green. Some were co-opted. Not a few turned a blind eye, so long as Pakistan-trained terrorists hit India. Eventually, when the birds came home to roost, there was not much left to say, and the genie is now fully uncorked. In order to attract chiefly US funds to fill its military’s coffers, Pakistan from time to time advertises a bid to tame terrorists. An example of this is the zarb-e-azb campaign against the terrorists in Northern Waziristan, begun last June. It is to be seen if this will outlast the US military pullout from Afghanistan next door. Even Washington is likely to stop caring after that. The statement of the Pakistan foreign office on the hair-raising Peshawar attack spoke of the country’s resolve to root out terrorism “from the soil of Pakistan”. This can mean Pakistan’s terrorists may ply their trade elsewhere. In contrast, President Pranab Mukherjee spoke of the need for the world community to unite and coordinate efforts to root out terrorism from every country. This conspicuous difference underlines, above all, the mindset of the Pakistani establishment. (Asian Age 17/12/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

83. Two Maoists shot dead in Jharkhand jail, 10 escape (12)

Ranchi: Two hardcore Maoists were gunned down and three others suffered injuries when they tried to escape from Chaibasa jail while getting down from the prisoners’ van on Tuesday evening. Ten others, however, managed to flee. The incident took place in Chaibasa district, nearly 200 km from Ranchi. According to Jharkhand police sources, 54 prisoners were taken to a local court on Tuesday for their appearance before the judge. After returning to jail premises, the inmates were getting down from the police van when 15 prisoners tried to escape by throwing chilli powder in the eyes of the police. In the scuffle that followed, the jail guards fired on the escaping prisoners which led to the instant death of two Maoists. Three other prisoners, who sustained injuries, have been shifted to Sadar hospital where they are recuperating. The two killed have been identified as Tipa Das and Ram Vilas Tanti, both members of the CPI (Maoists). Meanwhile, as the news of the escape of 10 prisoners spread, the border of Chaibasa was sealed and a manhunt was launched. Since the incident took place at about 4:30 pm, police had very little time to look for the ultras in the dusk. Secondly, most of the Maoists lodged in Chaibasa jail have been apprehended from Saranda forest (the main hideout of  the ultras in Jharkhand), they are familiar with the difficult terrain and could make an easy escape.  “We have confirmed reports that two Maoists have been killed and three injured while trying to escape from Chaibasa jail. Ten others have managed to flee. The incident took place as the main gate of the jail was open after the prisoners’ van entered the jail premises. Prima facie, there appears to be a huge lapse on the part of the prison staff who left the gate open, thereby giving ample opportunity to the hardcore prisoners to flee,” said Jharkhand DGP Rajiv Kumar. (Deccan Herald 10/12/14)

84. Maoist attack: With officers killed, troops were in shock (12)

New Delhi: During the attack in Chhattisgarh on December 1, after the Maoists opened fire, the CRPF personnel tried to take cover wherever they could. The deputy commandant of the 223 Battalion B.S. Verma was badly injured in the first round of fire. Eyewitnesses say despite receiving a burst of fire on the right foot, he stood behind a tree on the other foot and kept firing at the Maoists. But he collapsed soon afterwards, probably due to excessive blood loss. Assistant commandant Rajesh Kapooria was also killed very early in the attack. With nobody in command, the troops, according to CRPF sources, became hysterical and began firing indiscriminately in all directions. It was so indiscriminate that the men are believed to have fired about 7,000 rounds of bullets in response to a few hundred rounds fired by the Maoists. With their ammunition exhausted, and several of their colleagues having died, many troops just stood motionless in a daze, revealed eyewitnesses. They were ultimately saved by CoBRA commandos who pulled them out and offered first aid to the injured. (The Hindu 13/12/14)

85. Jharkhand police arrest Maoist commander from Latehar district (12)

Latehar: The Jharkhand police along with the help of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on Saturday nabbed a Sub Zonal Commander of the Naxal organization BKP (Maoist) from Kurund village of the Manika region in Jharkhand. “He (Maoist commander) was sub-zonal commander & an active member, his arrest is big achievement for this area,” Latehar Superintendent of Police Michael S Raj told ANI. The SP further said, “He was wanted for his involvement in 8 cases, he has confessed that Maoism is weakening over the time.” He added that the operation to arrest Santosh Khervar was carried out based on the intelligence input from security agencies. “We have arrested Santosh Khervar, who was a sub zonal commander and an active member of the Maoists. He was arrested from the residence of his friend,” Raj said. “Khervar was arrested with 25 rounds of SLR bullets, six mobile phones, 13 sim cards, around Rs. 27,000 cash and some Maoist receipts. He was an active member [of the BKP] and was wanted by the police in eight cases,” he added. Police made the arrest amidst voting was under way in the state. Fourth phase of the Assembly Elections took place in Jharkhand today at 5,482 booths, including 36 auxiliary ones. The state police on Thursday had arrested Naxal leader and alleged mastermind of Jharkhand jailbreak Sanjay Ganju, who carried a reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head. As per reports, Jharkhand fared as the state with the highest incidence of Naxal violence in the first quarter of this year. (Zee News 14/12/14)

86.  ‘Cheyutha’ to wean away youth from naxals (12)

TADVAI (WARANGAL DT.): With a view to wean away youth from naxals, the district police organised a mass contact programme in Medaram forest area where the DIG and SP reached out to hundreds of tribals here on Sunday. At a special programme termed as ‘Cheyutha’ the DIG, B Malla Reddy and SP, AK Jha distributed woollen blankets to over 300 Gothi Koya tribals and volleyball kits and dresses to more than 100 youths besides rice and other essentials to the parents of underground cadre. They also organised a mega health camp involving 13 doctors and about 50 para medical staff. The parents of present top cadre of Maoist party – Bathukamma, mother of Bade Chokka Rao alias Damodar of Kaluvapalli village; Dhanlaxmi wife of Eruva Siva Reddy alias Kiran; Yakamma sister-in-law of Kummarikuntla Saraiah; Sammaiah father of Koyyada Sambahaiah alias Gopanna and Satyam, father of Kadari Sadavali attended the programme. They expressed their desire to their relatives to surrender and come home. Wailing relentlessly, Satyam appealed to his son Kadari Sadavali who has gone underground since 16 years. “Your mother is about to die. You come home before she dies,” he said crying inconsolably. DIG Malla Reddy said the tribals need not worry about their safety as the police were always with them. He said the present State government was bent on developing all the tribal hamlets and improve their standard of living. “If your hamlet is free from violence, more development will come. If you entertain anti-social elements, development will not come. You cooperate with the police and they will ensure peace and law and order,” he told the hundreds of Gothi Koya tribals who came from over 30 habitations in forest belt. Mulug DSP R Mahendra Naik , SB Inspetor Jani Narasimhulu were present. (The Hindu 15/12/14)

87. Are the police losing ground in Warangal? (12)

WARANGAL: Is Warangal police losing their ground that they had built up working over a decade against the Moaist party naxals? The police say they had information that there was some movement of armed naxals in Eturunagaram and Tadvai forest areas of late. Nearly 400 greyhounds police fan the entire forest tracts extending from the hamlets abutting forest and extending upto villages in Karimnagar district and those of neighbouring Chhattisgarh State. According to the top police officials, hundreds of Gothi Koya tribals who migrated from Chhattisgarh state due to ongoing naxal activity there have raised settlements in deep forests of Eturunagaram and Tadvai and other agency mandals in Warangal district. In the recent past, some naxal squads moved into the forest here trying to establish contact with these Gothi Koya. “The naxals are in desperation to recruit new cadre. These Gothi Koya youth are easy targets to them. The naxals try to exploit their innocence and raise their own shelters here,” said a police officer. From the height of a blast here and an encounter there a decade ago, the Warangal police and the naxals lost their cadre to gain ground. It was the police who gained upper hand and succeeded in driving away the naxal groups from district. Though the police maintained that they were on vigil despite migration of naxal groups from district into other parts of the country, particularly to Chattisgarh on the other side of river Godavari, the latest information about the movement of armed squads is giving the police sleepless nights. Superintendent of Police Mr AK Jha said they got information that some naxals were moving in the forest in district and were trying to establish contacts with the migrant Gothi Koya population. We have new outposts all along the river Godavari keeping a watch on Maoists trying to cross into district. We have made many sacrifices to gain the ground and we are fully prepared to retain it,” Mr Jha asserted. (The Hindu 17/12/14)

TRAFFICKING

88. Minor Girl’s Kidnap Bid Foiled, Auto Driver Held (1)

BHUBANESWAR: A 28-year-old auto-rickshaw driver was arrested by the Commissionerate Police on charges of kidnapping a minor girl on Wednesday. The accused was identified as Sushant Palei of Fatehgarh in Nayagarh district. Sources said the girl, who had come to enroll in a private college here, boarded Sushant’s auto and asked him to drop her at Baramunda bus stand. Instead of taking her to the destination, Sushant diverted the vehicle towards Mendhasal area midway. Realising that the driver was treading an unfamiliar path, the girl jumped out of the vehicle and raised an alarm. Few locals spotted the girl and rescued her. They also caught Sushant who was trying to flee from the spot and handed him over to the police. Jatni police registered a case on the basis of the statements of the victim and eye-witnesses. Sushant was booked under Sections 323, 363 and 364 and Section 8 of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. He was later produced in a local court which remanded him to judicial custody. (New Indian Express 11/12/14)

89. Made-in-Bihar bride shocker – Predators find new ways to lure girls into trafficking (1)

Katihar: Draupadi, one of the panchakanyas (group of five iconic heroines from Hindu epics), lived a life of dignity. But The Telegraph found a Draupadi whose life was exactly the opposite. The only time this avatar of Draupadi, Sadia (name changed), saw happiness was when she was leading a peaceful life with her six sisters and younger brother in Devipur, a village in Kursela block of Katihar district, 320km north of Patna. Her father worked at a factory in Gujarat to make ends meet. And then, in 2011, she got married. Her mother’s sister approached them with what looked like a handsome proposal, from a 33-year-old man in Panipat, Haryana. He looked just like the man who would complete her happy childhood. Sadia, then 17, was married off. She led a happy life as a newlywed for a couple of months. Then, one night, she found her husband’s younger brother in her bedroom. She was forced to share her bed with him, then another brother-in-law, gradually each of her four brothers-in-law, then her father-in-law. Soon, it was a new face everyday. Under the respectable garb of marriage, Sadia’s aunt had sold her off into sex trade. Sadia managed to escape but by then her life was shattered. Earlier this year, a remark by a BJP leader from Haryana about bringing brides from Bihar had led to a ruckus in the Bihar Assembly. JDU legislators had blocked House proceedings for three days, alleging that the BJP was out to malign women and girls from Bihar. But a visit to the Seemanchal area near the porous border with Nepal would open one’s eyes to the life of ignominy that most girls are condemned to because of rampant trafficking of girls for marriage and sex. Girls from Purnea, Katihar, Araria and Kishanganj, among others in northeastern Bihar, are soft targets. Bhoomika Vihar’s latest survey – of which a report has been submitted to the state government – says over 550 girls were trafficked in the past 36 months. There has been an 8-10 per cent increase in trafficking of girls for sex in northeastern Bihar. Of 564 trafficked girls, 438 were unmarried and 126 married. A total of 288 girls were trafficked from Kishanganj, 85 from Purnea, 72 from Araria and 74 from Katihar. Around 140 girls are yet to be traced. While the figures are alarming, they still do not reveal the shock that lies in the trend. Human trafficking has now taken the shape of pseudo love affairs and marriages, of which Sadia was a victim. Pseudo marriages take place to camouflage the ultimate goal of trafficking for cheap labour, prostitution and organs. Narrating her ordeal, a teary-eyed Sadia said: “My husband told me that my mother’s sister accepted a bundle of notes for my marriage. I was sold. He used to give me electric shocks if I resisted. I was attacked with a sharp object on my right leg (she shows the stitch mark). I overheard that my in-laws were planning to sell me off to a rich man in the adjoining village. I managed to escape and returned to my village.” Then, there’s Sonam (name changed), one of five daughters and a son in a family at Salempur village of Sameli block of Katihar district. From a poor family, Sonam’s mother worried how to arrange dowry and marry off her daughters. So, it looked like a godsend when someone approached her with a proposal for a dowry-free marriage with a good-looking boy. Sonam, then 12, married a 30-year-old man from Shripur. Her honeymoon did not even begin. Just the day after her wedding she raised her voice against domestic violence. She, too, had been trafficked for sex slavery. ….  (The Telegraph 12/12/14)

90. 26 trafficked girls brought home to Ranchi (1)

RANCHI: Two days after Kailash Stayarthi received the Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions in the field of child trafficking, as many as 26 girls from different districts of Jharkhand who were trafficked to New Delhi returned to their families here on Friday. Rescued in a joint effort by New Delhi Police and Bharatiya Kisaan Sangh, the girls were brought back to Ranchi on Friday and reunited with their families. Hailing from Gumla, Simdega, Bokaro, Chaibasa, East and West Singbum, Sahibganj, Khunti districts, the girls, mostly in their early teens, were rescued last month from torture and oppression by their employers who had employed them as their domestic help. Once rescued, the girls were placed in a week-long transit camp before being brought back to their homes. Pramod Kumar Sharma, the state in charge of Bharatiya Kisaan Sangh (BKS) said most of the rescued girls were habitually beaten up by their employers. “Most of them were not paid and were subjected to torture,” he added. BKS members claimed to have helped four girls procure rupees four lakh as their outstanding wages and cases were lodged against the employers. Rescuers said the girls will be put through a counselling session before they will be inducted into government schools for higher education. (Times of India 13/12/14)

91. Global human trafficking racket busted in Hyderabad (1)

HYDERABAD: Police, on Sunday, busted an international human trafficking racket and rescued two women from Barkas in Old City. Two persons were arrested. The two victims rescued by Chandrayangutta police, were reportedly sexually exploited by their employers from Abu Dhabi, who also made them clean toilets with bare hands and cut tons of onions as a form of soft punishment. The arrested have been identified as Imtiyaz, 35, and his mother Fatima, while the victims were a 29-year-old housewife from Barkas and her 32-year-old cousin from Rakshapuram Colony. Both the women have two children each and the income earned by their alcoholic husbands was not sufficient to run the family, South Zone DCP V Satyanarayana said. As the women were looking for means to support their families, Fatima approached them with a job offer in Abu Dhabi. She told them that through her son Imtiyaz, who had provided employment to scores of people from Old city in Gulf countries, she could find them lucrative jobs as domestic helps in Abu Dhabi for a paltry down payment and a monthly commission in the earnings. “The victims who believed Fatima borrowed money at a high interest and paid her Rs 1 lakh each to go to Abu Dhabhi. Fatima told them that they will be able to send home Rs 30,000 per month,” Chandrayangutta additional inspector S Raghavendra said. On November 11, the two women boarded a flight at RGIA and reached Abu Dhabi, where they were received by their employer. After they started working, within no time the two women realised that they had to do a lot more than performing the traditional duties of a domestic help. “The women were sexually exploited not just by their employer, but even by his guests in a brutal manner. The victims were beaten up when they resisted,” Raghavendra added. Apart from this abuse, the employer used to make the victims clean toilets, including commodes, with bare hands. “Unable to bear the humiliation, when we finally mustered courage and protested saying that we came to Abu Dhabhi to do household work, the employer made us cut sacks of onions continuously as punishment,” one of the victims told police. Unable to bear the torture, the 32-year-old woman fell ill and had to be hospitalised. She was then sent back to Hyderabad by the employer on December 1. After reaching the city, she approached police and narrated the horrid tale. Cops immediately swung into action and picked up Imtiyaz. Through him, they managed to convince the employer in Abu Dhabhi to send the second victim to Hyderabad on Sunday. “We have recorded the statements of both victims on Sunday and arrested the brokers under Sections 420, 384 of IPC and relevant sections of PITA,” the DCP said. (Times of India 15/12/14)

CORRUPTION

92. Bar pay-off case: VACB for probe (5)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) on Wednesday received fresh legal advice that a criminal inquiry might be necessary to establish the truth in what has come to be known as the ‘bar hotel licence renewal pay-off case.’ The VACB legal adviser attached to the special court in Thiruvananthapuram is learnt to have communicated the recommendation to the agency’s investigating officer. VACB director Vinson M. Paul is likely to take a call on the matter in a few days, possibly after further consultations with legal experts and the government. The agency is conducting a verification of the contentious and politically explosive allegation that Finance Minister K.M. Mani had sought and accepted a secret pay-off from businessmen to renew the permits of bar hotels closed in April this year on the ground that they were substandard and barely met licence conditions. It has recorded the statements of several persons, including Kerala Bar Hotels’ Association (KBHA) working president Biju Ramesh who claimed that he was privy to the alleged pay-off purportedly made to the Minister at his private residence. Some hoteliers who Mr. Biju claimed were present at the time have not yet heeded the agency’s summons. (The Hindu 11/12/14)

93. Cabinet clears amendments to Lokpal Act (5)

New Delhi: The union cabinet Wednesday gave its approval for amending the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 to provide for inclusion of leader of largest opposition party in Lok Sabha in the selection panel in case there was no recognised leader of opposition in the house. The cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also approved amendments to Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 for providing qualifications for appointment of director of prosecution in the Central Bureau of Investigation and for his functional independence. The cabinet also gave its approval for introducing a bill in parliament for amending the Lokpal Act. An official release said the proposed amendments will address some crucial deficiencies noticed in both the Acts. “As regards the composition of the selection committee for selection of the chairperson and members of Lokpal, by providing that when there is no leader of opposition in the house of the people, recognized as such, the expression ‘leader of opposition; shall include the leader of the largest party in opposition of the government in the Lok Sabha,” it said. “The amendments seek to synchronise the provisions of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act with the existing regulating acts, rules and regulations in respect of declaration of assets and liabilities by various categories of public servants. The proposed amendments will, also ensure functional independence to the director of prosecution under the DSPE Act,” it said. (New Kerala 11/12/14)

94. To fight corruption, we have to fight our greed: CBI chief (5)

New Delhi: Gullible investors get trapped in ponzi schemes because of their own “greed”, CBI chief Anil Sinha said on Saturday on the scam in which an estimated 25 lakh people have lost deposits in West Bengal and Odisha alone. “They (investors in ponzi schemes) are not suffering because CBI is not investigating these cases. They are suffering because of other reasons,” he said. The CBI chief was asked whether he would like a policy where the agency is allowed to take up probe cases of ponzi scam in which majority of investors come from poor and lower middle class sections rather than wait for state governments. “If we have to fight corruption in this country, there is a fundamental requirement that we have to fight our greed. When gullible people get trapped in such schemes, they are trapped because of their own greed…If we have to fight corruption, we have to have control on ourselves,” he said at the Aaj Tak Agenda. The 1979-batch IPS officer, who took charge of the agency on December 3, said he would not like to interfere in the work of other agencies who are mandated to probe such cases. Mr. Sinha said all the steps taken in the case are based on the available “facts and evidence”. “…We have to work as per mandate given to us. There should be not interference,” the CBI chief said. The apex court had observed that more than 25 lakh claims have been received in Odisha and West Bengal which is indicative of the magnitude of scam in terms of number of citizens that were “defrauded by the ponzi companies”. He said he has directed his officers to work without fear and total impartiality without thinking about consequences and also ensuring that “unnecessary harassment” should be avoided. Indicating that information on investigations will not come out easily in the open, Mr. Sinha said, “I strongly believe that very little information about investigations should come in public domain. Things which should not be in public domain, should not be in public domain at all. I can understand the curiosity of people but I cannot help that. There are very few things which we can put in public domain”. (The Hindu 13/12/14)

95. Kerala Finance Minister faces fresh corruption charges (5)

CPI (M)-led Opposition on Tuesday raised fresh corruption charges against Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani, who is already facing Vigilance probe into the allegation that he had taken bribe to renew bar license. Opposition legislator V Shivankutty alleged that Mani, chairman of Congress ally Kerala Congress (M), had taken bribe of Rs 27.43 crore from various business verticals to reduce their tax. Placing materials to substantiate his charges, Shivankutty said an Assembly panel should probe into the issue. He said Mani used to raise the tax in the budget and then bargain with businessmen to reduce the tax proposals. The minister has taken Rs 5 crore from builders and another Rs 2 crore from stone quarrying units. Besides, he had taken Rs 6.40 crore from various business sectors promising to give stay on revenue recovery. He also took money from bakery owners and petroleum dealers to help them enjoy the benefits of lower tax regime, said the CPI (M ) legislator. The Opposition boycotted the assembly proceedings on Tuesday also after the Speaker denied permission to move adjournment motion on bar bribery issue, which has repeatedly disrupted the current assembly session. (Indian Express 17/12/14)

96. Rs 7 crore fake loot case: Woman inspector, two others caught for graft in Junagadh (5)

RAJKOT: The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrested three persons including a woman police sub-inspector of Junagadh for allegedly taking bribe in the sensational Rs 7 crore fake loot case. The ACB team from Rajkot nabbed Shahnavaz Bloch red-handed taking Rs 2.50 lakh from complainant Nathubha Jadeja, a resident of Nani Marad village in Dhoraji taluka of Rajkot district. Bloch allegedly took the bribe on behalf of woman police sub-inspector B M Bagda posted at the Junagadh taluka police station and constable Jignesh Vyas. Bloch, the middle-man was caught at the taluka police station compound in Junagadh. Jadeja had lodged a complaint with ACB that Bagda had demanded Rs 7 lakh from him in lieu of “not harassing him” in the ongoing investigation in the fake loot case of October this year. “Bagda used to repeatedly call Jadeja for investigation citing discrepancies in land documents that he had submitted,” said an official. In October, Junagadh police cracked the Rs 7 crore loot case which turned out to be fake and arrested the accused involved in the crime. Jadeja had sold his 56 bigha land in Nani Marad to one Sanjay Dhorajiya at the price of Rs 11 lakh per bigha. The deal was struck through two persons – Dhorajiya’s associate Bhura Hingroja and another person named Jamal. Dhorajiya had purchased 56 bigha land from Nathubha Jadeja in January this year at the price of Rs 11 lakh per bigha through Jamal and Hingroja. He had paid Rs 1.65 crore to Jadeja as initial money (baana) before the deal was sealed. Jamal and Hingroja also got land broking fees from it. Jamal and Hingroja had decided to extract more money from Dhorajiya and created a fake person named Ada Sheth. They told Dhorajiya that Sheth was from Mumbai and is willing to purchase this same land at Rs 17 lakh per bigha. On October 8, four persons intercepted the car in which Jadeja was travelling with Hingroja, Jamal and Karim to seal the deal. They pushed away Dhorajiya and Hingroja and kidnapped Jamal and Karim. Karim, who was acting as Rao, had even prepared a bag stacked with bundles of paper beneath and notes on the top. Jamal and Hingroja had hired the four men to intercept the car when it would pass near Ambaliya village to create a loot story. Moreover, they also left behind Hingroja and Dhorajiya to show the loot as genuine. (Times of India 17/12/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

97. Swachh Bharat: Just 20% of urban waste gets treated properly (9)

New Delhi: India’s pollution watchdog the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has woken up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat call and has asked states to ensure that all waste generated in cities is properly disposed off. The move comes after the National Green Tribunal pulled up the board for failing to enforce the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 that provides for proper segregation and disposal of the waste generated in cities.  This will prove a challenge for over 5,000 municipal bodies in India as only 27,000 tonnes of 1.44 lakh tonnes of garbage generated daily gets properly treated. Only about 40% of the garbage generated every day is picked up. “Many of the urban local bodies do not have capacity to treat so much waste,” a senior pollution board official said, adding that funding for the waste treatment projects was minuscule. A CPCB report submitted to the green tribunal pointed out that many of the state pollution control boards have failed to submit status reports on implementation of the rules since 2000 when it was notified – resulting in a limited amount of the information required by the CPCB to enforce the rules brought by the previous NDA government to ensure cleanliness in cities through a house-to-house collection mechanism. The report shows that even after 15 years, many state governments have failed to introduce the house-to-house collection system – which is implemented by Gujarat, Goa and Himachal Pradesh. Following the NGT rap, the CPCB issued a notification under the Water Act and Air Act making municipal bodies responsible for implementing the rule and made state pollution control nodal offices for monitoring the implementation of a roadmap for implementation of the rules. The road map will then be submitted to the green tribunal for further directions, CPCB officials said. (Hindustan Times 10/12/14)

98. Himalayan states discuss climate change (9)

New Delhi: Climate change and the bulging population are reasons for the rising temperature in Himalayan states, BJP leader Anurag Thakur said Thursday as nine Himalayan states discussed the issue. “If apple orchards have moved upwards in height and there is an increase of 4-5 degrees in temperature, the reason must be seen in population increase and climate change,” he said at the conclave of Himalayan states here. The regional consultation organised by GLOBE-India in association with Indian Environment Law Offices and Integrated Mountain Initiative focused on the effects of climate change in the region and explored ways to mitigate it. The representatives of the nine Himalayan states also demanded a special ministry for Himalayan affairs, said a statement. (Zee News 12/12/14)

99. Activists hail NGT intervention in loss of Sunderbans forest (9)

Kolkata: Environmental activists and experts have welcomed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order issued earlier this week directing submission of satellite remote sensing data on the loss of mangrove forest in the Indian Sunderbans. “Leave is granted to respondent no’s 3, 4 and 6 to file additional affidavit disclosing the loss of forest area with regard to felling of mangrove vegetation during the last decade, if any, based on the satellite remote sensing data,” the order of tribunal said. The respondent 3, 4 in the case refer to secretaries of Department of Environment and Forests, Government of West Bengal respectively, while respondent number 6 is Sunderbans Local Development Authority. In its order the tribunal has directed National Remote Sensing Agency at Hyderabad to “submit aerial and satellite remote sensing data with its analysis on loss of mangrove forest during last decade in the Indian Sunderbans on the next date of hearing”. Welcoming the tribunal’s intervention in the matter Ajanta Dey, joint secretary and project director of Nature Environment and Wildlife Society, said that large parts of the forest cover of the Sunderbans outside the tiger reserve is being cleared for making fisheries encroachment. Ms. Dey said that the felling of forest is a handiwork of few locals who are doing so under political patronage. Commenting on the tribunal’s order Tuhin Ghosh, faculty member of the school of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University said that large parts of Sunderban forest is being cleared for farming, fisheries and other activities. Mr. Ghosh also pointed that forest are cut also for fire woods as almost all the schools in the Sunderbans delta use fire wood for cooking mid-day meal. Meanwhile, speaking to The Hindu environmental activists Subhas Datta, who has been appointed Amicus Curie in the matter, said that he also brought it to the attention of the tribunal that environmental impact assessment (EIA) should be made necessary before giving clearance to any major investment proposal in the ecologically vulnerable region. “The tribunal directed me to file an application in this regard,” Mr. Datta added. The development comes at time when the West Bengal Government is trying to rope in industrialists for taking up several projects in the ecologically fragile Sunderbans archipelago. (The Hindu 12/12/14)

100. ‘Lima held no hope for an India facing extreme weather patterns’ (9)

New Delhi: The recently-concluded climate change talks in Lima failed to catalyze any optimism for the next round at Paris 2015, signalling little hope for India that is already reeling under extreme weather patterns, experts said. Time is of essence for India that ranked among top 20 in the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) about countries most at risk from extreme weather events, the experts told IANS. Effects of climate change are already evident in India, environmentalist Rajendra Shende told IANS. Increased intensity, increased number, and increased frequency of erratic weather patterns are crucial indicators, he said. Eight out of the ten warmest years in India were between 2001 and 2010, making it the warmest decade on record, said Arjuna Srinidhi who is managing the climate change programme at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). “Here is a higher frequency of warm years in the recent past which is why we are saying there is global warming, the biggest contributor to climate change,” he added. Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as soot and methane that emanate from the large-scale crop burning in north India are cooking the Himalayas along with global warming that is causing the glacial retreat and a rapid surge in the Himalayan river systems. A skewed water table in the Himalayan region could potentially affect about four billion people in India, China, Bangladesh, and other neighbouring countries, said Shende who heads the Terre Policy Centre. Even a one-metre surge in the sea level due to a three-degree Celsius rise in the global temperature would be enough to cause significant climate-induced changes in the coastal regions of India and the neighbouring countries. ‘Climate refugee’ is a potential threat that India must account for, said environment activist Raghunandan. Countries like Bangladesh will be worst-hit by a surge in the sea level, resulting in large-scale displacement of people in the coastal region. And those displaced will take refuge in India, affecting as many as 10 million people in South Asia, he said. The arrival of the monsoon in northern and eastern India has also been affected by climate change. Raghunandan said he was worried at the drop in number of cold days and summers that have unusually long spells nowadays. “This is a trend that will only intensify,” he said. According to a study by the CSE, India experienced the entire spectrum of extreme weather conditions in the recent past. Frequent flash floods in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Assam, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar; successive cyclones like Hudhud in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha; and intense episodes of rainfall in typically dry/arid regions are sharp indicators of the presence of climate change in India. The heat waves in 2014 were above normal in parts of Rajasthan, Odisha and northeastern states the study said, adding that it claimed more than 500 lives in Andhra Pradesh with 169 people dying of intense heat wave in Hyderabad alone. As many as 73 reportedly died of sweltering summer heat in just seven days during June in Delhi this year, the study said. Terming global warming as an “atmospheric chaos”, Shende said it must be addressed to ward off the irreversible dangers that people may face in the future. (Business Standard 17/12/14)

101. ‘Clean India, Green India’ – NDA govt’s calendar for 2015 launched (9)

Delhi: Union Minister for Finance Arun Jaitley on Wednesday launched the Government of India’s calendar for 2015. Launching the calender Jaitley said that it “provided a platform for converging the two key flagship schemes of the government – Swachh Bharat and Digital India”. As per the official blog of Prime Minister Narendra Modi “the calendar combines the conventional and technological modes of communicating the initiatives of the government and while the theme of ‘Swachh Bharat’ was portrayed visually in the conventional mode, the mobile application of the calendar reiterated the government’s vision of taking the idea of ‘Digital India’ forward,” as per the Finance Minister. Jaitley said that the “digital version of calendar 2015 also reflected the vision of the government in taking forward the benefit of technology in information dissemination as no one could defy the growth and movement of technology.” He added that “Important information related to Government communication was embedded in the digital version thereby providing critical information to the people at large.” The Directorate of Advertisement and Visual Publicity, DAVP, has developed the digital version of the calendar with “socially relevant messages which would be accessible on real time basis through mobile phones”. Also, the “mobile app of the calendar would provide access to the latest tweets from the PMO, the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and the Press Releases on PIB website.” Plus, “in addition to being a window for all websites of Government of India, this informative application would serve as a planner to the users bringing news updates from AIR and DD News. The mobile app was developed for Android platforms initially which would be made available on other mobile platforms also in due course of time.” The blog said that the “calendar had been developed on the theme of “Clean India Green India” with focus on “Swachhta” and environment issues and the January page of the calendar displayed the launch of the “Swachh Bharat Mission by PM Modi.” Other pages are as follows – “The February page carried the message of ‘Swachh Vidyalaya’ and ‘Bal Swachhta Abhiyan’, the March page was designed on the theme, ‘Rejuvenating Rivers.’ The April Page of the Calendar portrayed “Clean Hospitals: A Healthy India,” May depicted the cleanliness drive of Railways, June focussed on Rejuvenation of the River Ganges, ‘Namami Gange’, and July on people’s participation in Swachh Bharat Movement. The August page was on the theme of Clean Villages; September month highlighted Solar Energy as clean and renewable source of energy; October depicted Wind Power as pollution free source of energy and November emphasized the need to preserve Himalayan Ranges. Wildlife conservation was the theme for the December month.” (Zee News 18/12/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

102. Farmers’ suicides: NCP targets Fadnavis govt. (20)
NAGPUR: The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) launched a scathing attack on the Fadnavis government on Wednesday over the spate of farmers’ suicides and the drought situation in the State. The NCP fielded senior party leaders in both the Houses of the State legislature to speak on the drought situation when the government relented on the Opposition’s demand for an immediate discussion. “Devendra Fadnavis’ small tenure as the Chief Minister has witnessed more farmers’ suicides than any other CM’s tenure before him. Over 400 farmers have committed suicide in the last two months in the State. You [BJP] are ruling at the Centre and in the State. What has stopped you from providing relief to the farmers?” asked NCP leader Ajit Pawar while demanding “waiver of debts” and “immediate relief package” to the drought-affected farmers. Taking a dig at BJP MLA Chinsukh Sancheti who opened the debate and blamed the previous “Congress-NCP government’s mismanagement” for farmers’ suicides, Mr. Pawar said: “Stop blaming us. We are sitting in the Opposition because we might have made some mistakes. We accept that. Do you want to commit the same mistakes? You won’t be able to rule if the farmers of this State take to the streets against you.” Senior NCP leader and former minister Chhagan Bhujbal claimed that the previous Congress-NCP government spent Rs. 14,000 crore to deal with the drought situation and provide relief to the farmers. “Not a single agriculture product is getting proper market price under the BJP-Shiv Sena government. What will the farmers do? Take steps and make sure the spate of suicides stops. Give confidence to the farmers,” said Mr. Bhujbal. Calling Mr. Fadnavis “a clever CM and a good planner,” he asked him to deliver on his poll promises. Citing Union Agriculture Minister’s statement in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that the State had not declared drought, Mr. Bhujbal asked the government to come clear on the issue. In the upper House, NCP State president Sunil Tatkare and Dhanajay Munde slammed the government for “delay” in announcing help to the farmers. NCP leaders dominated the debate in both the Houses as senior Congress leaders, including former Chief Minister Prithivraj Chavan, did not take part in the proceedings. State Finance Minister Sudhir Manguntiwar said that the government would reply to the debate on Thursday. (The Hindu 11/12/14)

103. Rs 7000cr for farmer relief (20)

Nagpur, Dec. 11: The Maharashtra government today announced a Rs 7,000-crore package to provide short- and long-term relief to peasants across large parts of the state, particularly in the Vidarbha and Marathwada regions that have been reeling under drought-like conditions. “My government is firmly behind the farmers in distress in parts of Maharashtra and a total of Rs 7,000 crore would be spent to tackle it,” chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced in the Assembly, replying to a debate on the biting scarcity in many of the state’s 48,000 villages. By the state’s estimates, over 19,000 villages have recorded crop losses of 50 per cent or more. Fadnavis said this year’s yields had been the lowest in a decade, an indication that farmers were facing an unprecedented cash crunch. Farm suicides across Vidarbha and Marathwada have been on the rise, according to reports, and the state’s new BJP chief minister said the situation needed to be tackled immediately. “But we also need to fix the problems over the long term by improving our agriculture infrastructure and productivity, which is what I intend to do,” Fadnavis said. The package includes an immediate relief of Rs 3,925 crore, of which a part would be funded through central assistance as and when it is received. Maharashtra has demanded an aid of about Rs 4,000 crore from the Centre to tide itself over the scarcity this year and the central aid would be announced once the Union government sends its own team to assess the final kharif (monsoon) and rabi (winter) yield. As immediate measures, the government would waive farmers’ electricity bills for September, October and November and repay Rs 373 crore worth of loans they have taken from nearly 4,500 licensed private moneylenders. Nearly five lakh farmers from the affected areas have taken such loans, Fadnavis said. The immediate relief component also includes Rs 884 crore for the horticulture sector spread across 2.45 lakh hectares, Rs 215 crore for payment of electricity bills, Rs 425 crore for water supply and Rs 163 crore for wells and private water bodies, he said. The state government has already initiated steps to check illegal moneylending, the chief minister said, and asked farmers to lodge complaints with police to curb such practices. Fadnavis said Rs 400 crore would be spent on tackling water shortage. Around 3,000 tankers will be deployed to supply water in drought-hit villages till the situation improves. The package lays thrust on local-sector irrigation, such as community ponds and check dams. Together, the state intends to spend more than Rs 6,000 crore over the next five years to achieve the ambitious target of bringing roughly six million hectares under protected irrigation. In the last five years, the state government had spent Rs 8,377 crore on giving compensation to farmers who had suffered because of natural calamities, such as drought-like conditions or incessant rain, but spent only Rs 2,692 crore on agriculture development programmes. The government will spend Rs 34,500 crore over the next five years on creating basic agriculture infrastructure, including finishing incomplete irrigation projects. “Instead of providing aid, we intend to end the drought,” Fadnavis said. The government estimates that farm loans worth over Rs 8,000 crore would remain unpaid by the end of this financial year. It will bear the interest burden on unpaid loans to the tune of Rs 450 crore. (The Telegraph 12/12/14)

104. ‘Short-duration crop varieties can help fight agriculture stress’ (20)

HYDERABAD: Farm scientists need to direct their research towards challenges like water scarcity, soil degradation and bio-diversity loss, say experts. Development of short-duration varieties which are resistant to both biotic and abiotic stress, without sacrificing on yield, will solve the problem, said J S Sandhu, Agricultural Commissioner, Union Ministry of Agriculture here yesterday. He was speaking at the national seminar on ‘Emerging challenges and opportunities in biotic and abiotic stresses in agriculture’ at the Directorate of Rice Research (DRR). Technologies like micro-irrigation, nano-technology and geographic information systems will help address the biotic and abiotic stress in agriculture, Sandhu said. Climate change is making Agriculture complex, he said. He recalled that ‘Bengal Famine’ due to brown spot disease in rice and more recently, destruction of cotton crop due to boll worm had resulted in destruction of farm economy. The decline in monsoon last year by 29 per cent resulted in short supply of foodgrains by 16 million tonnes which was colossal, he said. S K Patil, Vice-Chancellor of IGKV, Raipur, said stress in agriculture arises due to population growth, climate change and declining land holding size. He emphasised on the need to design and develop farmer-oriented natural resource management strategies to solve abiotic stress in agriculture, particularly in fragile ecosystems. A Padmaraju, Vice Chancellor of ANGRAU, Hyderabad, said abiotic stress is more prevalent in rainfed ecosystem, whereas biotic stress is more in irrigated ecosystem. If both the stresses are addressed, production of crops can be increased. In the US, there are only four million farmers whereas in states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana there are 13 million farmers altogether. This excessive number puts pressure on land and other natural resources, he said. DRR’s Director V Ravindra Babu said the Directorate is working out strategies to overcome the problems related to both biotic and abiotic stresses pertaining to rice. The research is prioritised to address problems arising out of water scarcity, climate change, shrinking land and other natural resources, he added. (The Economic Times 14/12/14)

105. Farmers protest, demand MSP for crop (20)

RAICHUR:  Around 400 farmers, led by the Janata Dal (Secular), protested in Manvi, about 50 km from here, on Monday demanding scientific minimum support prices for their agricultural produce. They raised slogans against the Union and the State governments for their “anti-farmer” policies and blocked State Highway 23, that connects Raichur with Sindhanur, Koppal, Gangavathi and other towns. “Both the Union and the State governments are playing with the lives of farmers who have been hit hard by natural calamities and the price crash. Almost half of the cotton has already been sold out at reduced prices and the governments are not sready to open procurement centres to purchase the crop at scientific minimum prices,” Raja Venkatappa Naik, a JDS leader said. It is because of these anti-farmer policies of the governments that farmers are committing suicides, he added. He demanded the minimum selling price of Rs. 2,000 for a quintal of paddy and Rs. 6,500 for a quintal of cotton. Their other demands included shifting the regional headquarter of Cotton Corporation of India from Hubballi to Raichur and compensating those farmers whose standing crop were destroyed in the unseasonal rain, those who lost their crop in the floods in July and August. (The Hindu 16/12/14)

106. Protest held over denial of monetary aid to farmers who committed suicide (20)

WARANGAL: Scores of farmers and relatives of those who committed suicides staged a protest demonstration at the district collectorate here on Wednesday under the aegis of Human Rights Forum. HRF state president S Jeevan Kumar, district general secretary Badavath Raju and OPDR state president M V Krishnaiah said as per the district crime records, a total of 140 farmers committed suicides this year alone. But only 15 cases were identified as eligible to receive monetary assistance as per the GM 421. They said if the State government wanted to achieve ‘Bangaru Telangana’ it should extend financial assistance to all the families of farmers who committed suicide. It should also initiate steps to prevent such occurrences in future, they opined. The HRF leaders alleged that the three-member committee constituted at divisional level has not visited all the families. Despite several representations, the district administration did not focus on identifying the genuine cases. (The Hindu 18/12/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

107. National Highways may get exemption from resettlement and rehabilitation policy (4)

NEW DELHI: The Indian government may exempt national highways from the resettlement and rehabilitation provisions of the much-criticised land acquisition law as it looks to revive road construction as part of its overall plan to reboot infrastructure development in the country. A senior government official said that highway development, which has come to a grinding halt because of various reasons, including the virtual impossibility of acquiring land to build roads on, is being considered for exemption from various procedural requirements of the Act. While the government is considering a general relaxation in some provisions of the Act, a special exemption is being considered for national highways. That’s because, unlike industries, road developers can’t promise rehabilitation in terms of providing jobs to land holders among other things.”We are ready to compensate even more than what the land acquisition Act asks for but it involves a very complex process which we can do away with since infrastructure is a priority,” the official told ET. Compensation for land would be based on the highways ministry’s own norms, with R&R not feasible in such projects. Besides roads, similar so-called linear projects in sectors such as railways could also be given such treatment. The Narendra Modi government, elected on a mandate to step up development, wants to upgrade and expand India’s creaking, congested infrastructure that’s seen as a hindrance to growth and speed up projects by removing procedural hurdles. It’s considering legal changes to facilitate this. The Land Acquisition Act introduced by the previous Congress led United Progressive Alliance government has drawn flak from multiple quarters including industry and state governments besides central ministries and departments. Congress-ruled states have also raised concerns over the cumbersome procedures prescribed by law that have halted land acquisition for infrastructure projects. In 2013-14, a total of 4,260 km of national highways were developed, down from 5,732 km the year before. As of October, only 1,984 km has been developed in the current fiscal year. The department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) has also criticised the land acquisition law as an obstruction to development. Inter-ministerial consultations have already been initiated on the changes required, another official said. The government will also discuss the matter with political parties before amending the law.The new Act, which replaced the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, requires developers to get the consent of 80 per cent of land owners in the case of private projects and 70 per cent in case of public-private partnership projects. In order to fast track infrastructure development, roads minister Nitin Gadkari had said that bids would be called for highway projects only after 80 per cent of the land required had been acquired.”It will be helpful wherever there is a greenfield project because the land requirement will be significant,” said Vinayak Chatterjee, chairman, Feedback Infrastructure. (Times of India 10/12/14)

108. Supreme Court social justice bench hears PILs (4)

New Delhi: The newly-constituted special “Social Justice Bench” of the Supreme Court Friday had its first hearings and took up matters of Narmada dam project, shelters for homeless persons, welfare of construction workers and exploitation of children in circuses, among others. The special bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and U.U. Lalit first took up the 2002 plea of Narmada Bachao Aandolan and asked parties, including NBA activist Medha Patkar, to file short synopsis by December 24 as it did not want to waste time going through records running into thousands of pages. “So all of you should have your brief ready on or before December 24. The time shall not be extended… We want the matter to be pushed…,” it said and fixed it for hearing on January 9. The court then heard a 2005 petition filed by Akhil Bhartiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram seeking welfare of tribals and asked the Centre to file a comprehensive affidavit on the issues arising out of the public interest litigation. This matter was followed by the hearing of a PIL on exploitation of children in circuses in which the Supreme court had banned their participation three years ago. After briefly hearing the issues arising in matters like child labour, child trafficking and child bondage, the bench directed the ministry of women and child welfare to act as a nodal agency and convene a meeting of secretaries concerned of states and Union Territories to ensure compliance of its directions. It also directed the secretary of Union ministry of women and child welfare to hold meetings with other Central ministries concerned like MHA and labour. The first meeting involving all the stakeholders should be convened before January 12, it said. (Asian Age 14/12/14)

109. Medha Supports ‘Nilpu Samaram’(4)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Activist Medha Patkar was in the city on Sunday to offer support to the lengthy ‘Nilpu Samaram’. “158 days of the standing satyagraha has been completed. It is shameful for the government of Kerala not to have resolved the issues in spite of there being a dialogue with the Tribal Development, Forest and Social Justice Ministers and the Chief Minister as well as KPCC chief V M Sudheeran and leaders of ruling parties,” she said. Medha said that she would be meeting Chief Minister Oommen Chandy later in the night with members of the National Alliance of People Movement and other activists to discuss the issue. “They are ‘Adivasis’, the original inhabitants and everyone else has come to encroach upon their land,” she said. “A K Antony, in dialogue with the then Central government led by A B Vajpayee, had committed to the Adivasis to give 5 acres of land per family, including to those who were displaced unjustly, unconstitutionally and undemocratically. But that did not come true after one or two years of implementing. Whatever enactment the UPA government brought out, whether the New Land Acquisition Act, Forest Rights Act 2006 or PESA, none has been fully implemented,” she said. She added, “While Sudheeran and his colleagues are fighting the anti-liquor battle, which we are all for, they say they have almost reached a total consensus (on the Adivasi issue). Why is the outcome not visible?” She said that areas like Aralam, where the number of Adivasis is more than 8,000, should be grated the status of a scheduled area, and thereby ensure good governance. She compared the satyagraha, to the agitation for Narmada.  “We are used to standing on the waters of Narmada. The Modi government has decided that the water level be increased from 122 m to 139 m. Billions of trees, temples, mosques, schools, dispensaries, houses, townships and 245 villages are going to be drowned, if the Modi government goes its own way, considering only the interests of the corporates of Gujarat,” said Medha. (New Indian Express 15/12/14)

110. Slum dwellers in Bhubaneswar’s Ward 51 demand houses before eviction (4)

BHUBANESWAR: Residents of Farm Gate near Siripur Sabar Sahi in Ward 51 have demanded that they be relocated first and then evicted. About 150 families in the locality are faced with being displaced so that Biju Patnaik Airport can extend its boundary wall. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) decided last year to extend boundary wall towards the south-west side and asked for more land from the state government. The general administration department conducted a survey and found that around 150 families have to vacate the land to make way for the construction of the boundary wall. “We are not opposing the construction of the boundary wall or the displacement of people, but the families to be displaced must be given alternative accommodation before being evicted. The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) has conducted a survey for construction of Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) houses for the residents but no progress has been made,” said Nihar Mallik, president of Trinath Mazdoor Basti Sangha, a private body working for the welfare of slum dwellers. He said that since the residents have been enlisted as RAY beneficiaries, the government shouldn’t renege on its promise of providing RAY houses elsewhere after the residents are displaced. Airport director Sharada Kumar said they needed more space as the airport runway starts from that direction. “The matter is pending with the state government, which will take a final call. The land will be transferred in the name of AAI,” said Kumar. The present length of the airport boundary is 13 km, he added. Local corporator Binayani Jena said slum dwellers had been living in Sabar Sahi and Farm Gate localities for more than four decades. “About 90 per cent of those facing displacement are poor. They have set up their small businesses for earning their livelihood. I think the airport, which is going to be benefitted by extending boundary walls, should also announce some compensation packages for the displaced,” said Jena. The ward is also grappling with illicit sale of country liquor. “Alcoholics create a lot of problems here. I have requested the police to intensify patrolling and stop sale of liquor,” she said. (Times of India 15/12/14)

111. Brinda Karat Threatens Stir Over Polavaram (4)

HYDERABAD: With the Andhra Pradesh government planning to complete the Polavaram project in three years, tribal rights’ organisation, Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Mancha has decided to take the government head-on, particularly on the issue of rehabilitation of tribals. CPM politburo member and AARM vice-president Brinda Karat, who was here to attend a two-day meet of the organisation, said Sunday that Polavaram was a key issue and they would not compromise on the rights of the tribals. “The Centre is completely ignoring the interests of tribals living in villages which will be submerged by the Polavaram project in the agency areas. This is an indication of criminal negligence,” she said. Stating that the Centre’s move amounted to denial of basic democratic rights of the tribals and violation of the Forest Rights Act, she alleged the Ministry of Environment was clearing a number of projects without regard to the tribals’ rights. “Ever since the NDA government came to power, the attack on tribal rights has increased,” she alleged and warned that her party would not keep quiet. (New Indian Express 16/12/14)

112. Jindals to return farmers’ land, says Mamata (4)

KOLKATA: Opening a new chapter in industry-government ‘bonhomie’, the Sajjan Jindal group has agreed to return to farmers the land acquired from them for the integrated steel project it had proposed to set up at Salboni in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipore district. Announcing this, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said the Jindals were doing it as a “token of respect to the farmers who had given their land.” The development is sure to be contrasted with Singur where there is a deadlock over return of 400 acres of land to farmers. “I will not be able to sleep easy till I get back the land,” she had said about Singur, making the return of land from the Tatas a top agenda of her government since she came to power in May 2011. Ms Banerjee said return of land at Salboni was the first step. In the second step, they will decide on what to do with the balance land vested with the government. She further stated that the company has not been able to keep its promise of giving shares to land-losers as the project did not fructify. The Jindals have announced that they were putting the project on hold as it was not a feasible one. They said they had neither the iron ore linkage nor the coal blocks (whose allocations were cancelled following the apex court order). The foundation stone for the Rs 35,000-crore project was laid on November 2, 2008 in the presence of former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Apart from the nearly 4000 acres given to the Jindals from vested land, the group also directly acquired 294 acres from farmers at Rs 3 lakh per acre. The land would be returned free and a committee has been set up under the District Magistrate. An official at Jindal Steel Ltd said there was no timeline on returning the land. (The Hindu 16/12/14)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

113. Infant mortality rate record of AP, Telangana worst in south India (3)

HYDERABAD: Newborns are not in the pink of their health in the two states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Both are jointly ranked worse than underdeveloped states such as Jharkhand and Uttarakhand in terms of infant mortality rate (IMR), with 41 out of every 1,000 newborns dying before they reach the age of one year. While IMR in Jharkhand and Uttarakhand stood at 38 and 34 infant deaths per every 1,000 live births respectively, the IMR for undivided AP state was much higher, which local officials largely attribute to the Telangana statehood agitation. What is worse is that it in terms of IMR, undivided AP figured at the bottom of south Indian states comprising Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, according to the just released ‘State of India’s Newborns-2014′, a nationwide survey report on neonatal health indicators. The report was prepared by international NGO Save the Children, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Union ministry of health and family welfare. The comprehensive survey, also supported by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, placed Kerala on top with an IMR of 12 deaths per 1,000 live births, followed by Tamil Nadu’s IMR of 21, Karnataka’s 32 and AP/Telangana’s IMR of 41 deaths. Something that is hard to believe was the undivided AP lagging behind remaining south Indian states even in other five key neonatal parameters as well, including neonatal mortality rate (death from birth to 28 days, per 1,000 live births), early neonatal mortality rate (death from birth to seven days), late neonatal mortality rate (death from eighth day to 28 days), post neonatal mortality rate (death from 28 days of birth to 364 days), and under five mortality rate (number of children dying before the age of five/ 1,000 live births in a year). But, the million dollar question on what’s ailing the neonatal care in government hospitals in AP and Telangana has not been addressed. “The damning report points to our failure in implementing centrally-funded schemes like Janani Sishu Suraksha Karyakram in AP and Telangana. The other main problem is lack of convergence among officials, primary health centres, medium-sized government hospitals and teaching hospitals respectively,” said Dr B Balram, vice-president, Telangana Government Doctors’ Association. However, both the commissioners representing Vaidya Vidhana Parishad (VVP) in AP and Telangana, P Kanakadurga and K Veena Kumari respectively, had a different take on the poor performance on neonatal indicators. “The bifurcation blues and prolonged statehood agitation had an adverse impact on the health delivery system. Besides there were health cadre strength issues,” said P Kanakadurga, commissioner, AP, VVP. Whereas her Telangana counterpart, K Veena Kumari, put the blame on the severe shortage of pediatricians in all the 44 state-run special newborn facilities in the undivided AP, out of which 18 are in Telangana and the remaining 26 in AP. “Though four pediatricians are needed to man a single special newborn care unit, we are doing with just MBBS doctors as they (pediatricians) are not willing to work for Rs 45,000 a month,” she said. (Times of India 10/12/14)

114. Medical body wary of new abortion bill (3)

New Delhi: Brushing aside opposition to its proposed legislation of allowing midwives to perform abortions, the health ministry has decided to take the draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill to the Cabinet. The FOGSI, an umbrella body of gynaecologists, and the Indian Medical Association have vehemently opposed ministry’s decision of allowing homeopaths and midwives to terminate pregnancy saying that “abortions performed by them could pose a grave threat to women and will give rise to sex-selective abortions”. While the ministry officials say that FOGSI members were the part of the consultations and supported the amendments earlier, however in their recent comments sent to the ministry on the proposed draft they have opposed the proposal. The IMA has been opposing it right from the beginning and have even written to the Prime Minister asking for withdrawal of the new amendments. The ministry on the other hand has decided to take the draft bill forward. “Let the Cabinet take a decision. In a country where there is a scarcity of MBBS doctors, how do we ensure safe abortions? The FOGSI has reversed its stand by joining hands with the IMA, but we don’t plan to make changes according to their wishes,” a senior health ministry official said. Dr Nozer Sheriar, from FOGSI, said that wider discussion on the issue made them change their mind. “We supported the amendments initially. However, there were lot of internal discussions and the position that we have taken now is that abortions should only be done by a gynaecologists or at least an MBBS doctor. As far as scarcity of doctors at the PHC level is concerned, I believe periphery needs to be strengthened,” he said. Significantly, the women and child development ministry, national commission for women and other women’s groups have supported the draft bill. “Approximately 64 per cent of the responses received by the ministry are in favour of the draft…. Service providers will be given appropriate training so that safe abortions can be conducted and women are saved. The draft says that ANMs will only provide medical abortion within seven weeks-then why this opposition we do not understand,” added the official. A proposed amendment also enhances the period of abortion till 24 weeks. (Asian Age 15/12/14)

115. Mothers, newborns being killed by poor sanitation (3)

London: Lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene in birth settings is killing mothers and newborns in the developing world, a new study has warned. In a flagship paper, 16 researchers from various organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), call to protect the lives of new mothers and their babies by improving access to safe water, basic sanitation and hygiene in health-care facilities and homes. The paper, published in PLOS Medicine, argues that despite improvements in health care, new mothers and newborns are still dying because a reliable supply of safe water, good hygiene practice and adequate toilets are often not present. A companion paper in PLOS ONE illustrates the situation in Tanzania, where less than a third (30.5 per cent) of births occur in places with safe water and basic sanitation. In 2013, one in 44 women in the country faced dying in childbirth in their lifetime. Globally, an estimated 289,000 women died from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth in 2013, a number which researchers say can be more rapidly reduced through better provision and monitoring of safe water, basic sanitation and hygiene to prevent infection and improve care. (Asian Age 15/12/14)

116. More infants died within month of birth last year (3)

NEW DELHI: The number of children dying in Delhi within 29 days of their birth has gone up in the past one year — from 876 in 2012-13 to 1,015 in 2013-14. Latest statistics released by Delhi government show maternal mortality, an indicator of public health system, has witnessed a sharp increase during the same period. According to government data, total 2,30,961 deliveries (1,96,109 at public hospitals and 34,852 at private hospitals) were conducted in 2013-14. Data on neonatal deaths only includes 17,458 newborns admitted to the Sick Neonatal Care Unit (SNCU) at 14 government hospitals. Experts say many neonatal deaths are still not reported. “The increase in number of such deaths should be seen in correlation with the total number of births. Also, we still have hundreds of newborn deaths being categorized under the still birth category,” said T Sunderaraman, a public health expert. He added that poor infrastructure and human resources at SNCUs is also to blame. “Neonatal ICU is a highly specialized service. It requires state-of-the-art infrastructure, which is completely missing from facilities run by Delhi government and municipal corporations,” said Sunderaraman. Experts say premature births contribute the highest to neonatal deaths. Infection is the second leading cause, followed by asphyxia (shortness of breath) and diarrhoea. Data also shows an increase in the number of children between 1-3 years being detected with protein energy malnutrition and low weight. There is bad news for the government on family planning front too. Except for Insertion of Intrauterine Contraceptive Device (IUCD), the usage of all other contraceptive methods has witnessed a significant decline in the last one year. This includes condoms, oral pills and sterilization of both men and women. (Times of India 17/12/14)

117. Heart diseases, lung diseases, stroke are India’s top killers (3)

New Delhi: The leading killers in India were ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and stroke, accounting for 30% of all deaths in 2013. Tuberculosis and ischemic heart disease were the top two causes of death for people between the ages of 15 and 49, resulting in 408,114 lives lost in 2013. Among people 70 and older, ischemic heart disease claimed the most lives that year. The top cause of child mortality was neonatal encephalopathy in 2013, killing 212,686 children under the age of 5. In India, hypertensive heart disease and suicide took more lives in 2013 than in 1990, with deaths increasing 138% and 129%, respectively. Mortality from road injuries also increased 88% between 1990 and 2013. This largest-ever global health surveillance tracked 240 causes of deaths across 188 countries between 1990 and 2013. The data was sourced from registration of death, cancer registries, sibling history, police record, verbal autopsy, surveillance and survey, census, hospital and burial records. “The disease and death trends are more or less the same for India, where non-communicable diseases are now killing more people than infections such as tuberculosis and pneumonia,” says Prof AA Mahdi, head of the department of Biochemistry, King George’s Medical University, Lucknow. He was among the team that validated data from India. Globally, both men and women were living longer in 2013, with global life expectancy for both sexes increasing from 65·3 years in 1990, to 71·5 years in 2013. In 2013, women were living 6·6 years more than they were in 1990 and men by 5·8 years. If the median rate of change of the last 23 years continues, on average, women will live to be 85·3 years and men 78·1 years by 2030. “India has had remarkable progress in reducing both child and adult deaths over the past 23 years. Average yearly rates of decline were 1·3% per year for adults and 3·7% for children, which pushed up life expectancy for India from around 59 years for women and 58 for men in 1990 to 69 years and 68.5 years respectively in 2013,” said Dr Jeemon Panniyammakal, Centre for Chronic Disease Control . Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). Diarrhoeal diseases, lower respiratory infections, neonatal causes, and malaria are still in the top five causes of death in children younger than five years. The most deadly infective agents are rotavirus for diarrhoea and pneumococcus for lower respiratory infections. “The bad news for India is that non-communicable diseases are rising and affecting people at a younger age than in most other parts of the world. In western societies, heart disease typically occurs after 70 years, but in India, more than half the heart attacks occur before the age of 70,” Dr Dorairaj Prabhakaran, director, centre for chronic conditions and injuries, PHFI. Increased life expectancy is mainly caused by a fall in death from lower respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases (contributing 2·2 years), cardiovascular and circulatory diseases (contributing 1·1 years), neonatal conditions (contributing 0·7 years), cancers (contributing 0·4 years), and chronic respiratory diseases (contributing 0·5 years). These gains were offset by increased death from diabetes and chronic kidney diseases, as well as musculoskeletal disorders. Globally, the five main causes that lowered life expectancy were deaths from HIV/AIDS in Africa; diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and other endocrine disorders in Oceania and central Latin America; mental disorders in high-income north America; intentional injuries in south Asia, high-income Asia Pacific, and southern sub-Saharan Africa; and cirrhosis in eastern Europe and central Asia. (Hindustan Times 18/12/14)

HIV/AIDS

118. Cops escort HIV+ widow home (3)

KOLKATA: A 34-year-old HIV-positive widow and her two children, who were rendered homeless for the last two weeks after being socially ostracized, were escorted back to their Dakshineswar home by the administrative officials on Tuesday afternoon — two days after the report on their ordeal was published in the Times of India on Sunday. After the TOI report revealed the trauma she had to undergo with the local police choosing to look the other way, the state transport minister and MLA from Kamarhati Madan Mitra, district magistrate of North 24-Parganas Sanjay Bansal and Kamarhati municipality chairman Gopal Saha took action to escort them back home. The activists of South 24-Parganas Network for People Living with HIV+, a non-government organization, including its president Khitish Mondal and coordinator Sebika Chowdhury, first took up the matter and brought it to media glare on Saturday. They also accompanied the widow and her sons on Tuesday to their house. The widow lived in a house on Abbas Ali Lane in Dakshineswar with her two sons. While her elder son is 14-year-old and studies in Class IX, the younger one is six-year-old and a student of Class II. Her husband, who was a grocer, had committed suicide in May after being hounded by neighbours following the HIV Positive diagnosis during tests prior to a brain tumour operation. The woman was thereafter asked to undergo a check and she too tested positive. The widow’s ordeal had taken a turn for the worse after a group of local landsharks allegedly conspired to evict the woman by instigating her neighbours. On November 23, she and her children were dragged out of their house and the door was locked from outside by some locals. The trio had been spending the nights on railway platforms since then. The woman was running from the pillar to post in search of help from the administration, only to be refused everywhere. She, accompanied by the NGO activists, then knocked on the doors of the local police station seeking their help. But, nobody took the matter seriously, till the TOI report brought to light the plight of the widow on Sunday. After returning to her residence on Tuesday, the woman heaved a sigh of relief and expressed her gratitude to TOI, the NGO activists, the minister and others who took helped her. “I suffered a lot along with my sons. I almost lost hope to return to my home. On Tuesday, the officials not only made arrangement for my safe return, they also asked my neighbours not to bother me anymore,” the woman told TOI. Gopal Saha said, “After I came to know about her plight, I sent the concerned officials of the civic body to look into the matter. We also tried to spread awareness against the social ostracism of a HIV+ while talking to the locals on Tuesday. Minister Madan Mitra also instructed me to take an immediate action for her safe return,” Saha told TOI. (Times of India 10/12/14)

119. Himachal has 7,629 HIV/AIDS cases (3)

Dharamsala : There are 7,629 HIV/AIDS cases in Himachal Pradesh, Health Minister Kaul Singh informed the state assembly here Thursday. In a written reply, he said the state government is providing to-and-fro bus fare to the HIV/AIDS patients and one attendant to reach the ART (anti-retroviral therapy) centre. The minister said the state government is also giving financial aid from Rs.300 to Rs.800 per month to the children living with HIV/AIDS, and to the children who have one of the parents living with HIV/AIDS. He said the government has been providing milk powder free of cost for one year for the newly born children of HIV/AIDS patients. (Business Standard 11/12/14)

120. Stigma still haunts HIV patients (3)

MANGALURU: Minister for Health and Family Welfare U.T. Khader participating in an interaction with HIV-infected persons at Prajna Counselling Centre in Mangaluru on Saturday.— Photo by Special Arrangement Minister for Health and Family Welfare U.T. Khader participating in an interaction with HIV-infected persons at Prajna Counselling Centre in Mangaluru on Saturday.— Photo by Special ArrangementA 35-year-old HIV positive woman from Munnuru village, who lost her husband 10 years ago, said her application for the allotment of a land site had been turned down by the local municipality after she revealed her health condition. “The official bluntly said that I am not entitled to any allotment,” the woman said, with tears rolling down her cheeks. She got the same response at the office of the Deputy Commissioner.  “As soon as we reveal our condition, we are discriminated against,” said a 28-year-old woman, who added she had experienced this at hospitals. “I have stopped going to the hospital when I am ill. There have been several occasions when I have forced my husband to get me discharged early,” she said. HIV-infected patients revealed their experiences of discrimination before the Minister for Health and Family Welfare U.T. Khader during an interaction held at the Prajna Counselling Centre on Saturday. A 35-year-old woman, who has lost her husband, said eight days back Mangalore City Corporation officials bluntly refused a licence to construct a house saying that she has come from another part of the State. A 50-year-old man spoke about his plight over the delay by MCC to release funds to build a house. Another HIV-infected woman said that the rice given to them at the ration shop was not fit for consumption and that HIV-positive patients have not been told about their diet. Another woman expressed the need for monthly pension. Mr. Khader said from next month the government will be providing a single-window agency for HIV-infected persons to avail benefits — ration cards, housing and education. The AIDS Prevention and Control Unit in each district will receive applications and correspond with the respective departments. The Minister said the Department was finalising a healthy diet plan and added that disciplinary action will be taken against officials who discriminate against HIV-infected persons. He would also organise a meeting of HIV-infected persons with the Deputy Commissioner and other district officials in January. (The Hindu 14/12/14)

121. Only 24% of parents with HIV disclose health status to kids (3)

CHENNAI: For years, Ramani* did not know how to tell her two teenage daughters that their father had died of AIDS and that she had contracted the HIV infection from him. She even evaded questions on the cause of their father’s death until the day her 15-year-old daughter found a hospital file and asked her mother about the medicines she was taking. “I was surprised that my daughter did not get angry. She has learnt about HIV at school. In fact, she was supportive and said she would take good care of me. She suddenly sounded all grown up when she told me not to reveal about my health status to her sister,” Ramani said. Not many parents with HIV reveal their health status to their children. A study by National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis found that only 24% of people with HIV disclosed their status to their children. The study involved interviews with 115 parents with HIV. Those who disclosed it did so only to protect their children from risky behaviour or in the hope that they would be taken care of when they fall ill. While the rest did not reveal their status to their children because they were afraid of losing respect or being treated with indifference, the study highlighted the need to teach healthcare providers to help patients with full disclosure. Only 39% were able to disclose their status by themselves; in the rest of the cases, children came to know of their parents’ health condition on their own during hospital visits, reading case files or overhearing conversations between the parent and the health provider. The study said the trend was worrying as improper disclosure without clear explanations could frighten a child . Most of the disclosures were by those widowed, separated or divorced where the child would already be going through a trauma of a broken family. Disclosure was also more likely where both parents were positive. Not all children were accepting and understanding of their parents’ health status. At least half of those who disclosed, witnessed angry or mixed reactions from children. One-tenth of the parents who did not disclose had children who were HIV positive, leaving them with more burden of keeping even their child’s status under wraps that can be detrimental to the psychosocial well being of parents and their children (Times of India 17/12/14)