HR News

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Volume 18                                                   No. 1, 2 & 3                                       January 31, 2016

HR NEWS: JANUARY 31, 2016

 (From January 1 to 31,  2016)

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalit temple pujari suicide case adjourned (2)

Dindigul: Principal District Judge R. Poornima on Wednesday adjourned the temple pujari suicide case till January 19 on Wednesday as the petitioner’s lawyer informed the court that the petitioner had filed an affidavit in the High Court seeking an advocate instead of public prosecutor to argue the case. The court was expected to examine witnesses in the morning. Ten out of the 19 witnesses appeared before the court. O. Raja, brother of Finance Minister O. Paneerselvam, and other accused too appeared before the court. But the petitioner, Subburaj, father of the deceased, did not appear. The petitioner’s advocate told the court that the petitioner feared that the public prosecutor appointed by the government would support only All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam functionaries. The petitioner had already submitted a petition to Collector T.N. Hariharan demanding change of the public prosecutor. Since his request was turned down, he filed an affidavit in the High Court in this connection, the advocate added. Defence counsel Kannappan said that the petitioner neither appeared before the court nor produced any court order to stay the proceedings. The petitioner, who demanded speedy trial, was now dragging the case. He could have applied for change of prosecutor while seeking High Court direction for change of the court for impartial hearing, Mr. Kannappan said, and sought issue of a warrant against the petitioner to make him appear before the court. The judge advised the petitioner’s advocate to produce the High Court order in this connection during the next hearing, and adjourned the case. She also ordered the defence counsel to give a reply to the petitioner’s plea. The petitioner was advised to appear before the court during the next hearing. Charges in the case were framed against Mr. Raja and the others on December 15. Theni District Court had transferred the case to Dindigul District Court on November 25 on the direction of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. The case pertains to the suicide of S. Nagamuthu (22) of T. Kallupatti village, a Dalit, who worked as pujari in Sri Kailasanathar Hill Temple in Periyakulam, by hanging on December 8, 2012, after he was allegedly subjected to harassment. (The Hindu 7/1/16)

 

2. Pejawar seer proposes ‘bhakti deeksha’ for Dalits (2)

MANGALURU: Vishwesha Tirtha Swami of Pejwar Mutt, who will ascend the Paryaya Peetha this month, said on Thursday that he was keen on administering ‘bhakti deeksha’ to Dalits during his two-year term. The seer claimed that such a practice was also followed by social reformer Basavanna and it would instil religious discipline. Interacting with presspersons here on Thursday, he said that as part of ‘bhakti deeksha’, Dalits would be given ‘naama deeksha’ and ‘mantra deeksha’. “‘Naama deeksha’ will be administered after a person takes a vow not to consume alcohol and eat non-vegetarian food. Those who have quit drinking alcohol and non-vegetarian food for months will be administered ‘mantra deeksha’,” the seer said. He said that this had been the way Basavanna gave ‘linga deeksha’. Under ‘naama deeksha’, Dalits would learn songs on Vishnu and Shiva. As part of ‘mantra deeksha’, they would learn some simple mantras. “These are necessary to infuse religious values and religious discipline. This will prevent religious conversion.” The seer said that social reformer Narayana Guru did the same for Billavas and prevented their conversion. The practice of ‘saha pankti bhojana’ would continue in Udupi where Dalits would consume food along with other Hindus and people from other communities. “I believe in tolerance. There is no scope for intolerance. I believe in taking both minority and majority communities together. There will be no cause for hurting sentiments of any community,” he said. The seer said that he would introduce ‘ede snana’ at the Subramanya temple on the Udupi Krishna Mutt premises. “We cannot take the argument [of a section of activists] that allowing it will be akin to disrespect to the prasadam.” (The Hindu 8/1/16)

 

3. Dalits seek justice for rape survivor (2)

RAJKOT: More than 100 dalits came out on the road in Amreli and blocked roads at Rajkamal Chowk in Amreli town seeking justice for the girl from their community who was allegedly raped. A husband-wife duo from Savarkundla town, Kanti Vala and Kavita Vala, attempted self-immolation but were prevented by the local police due to timely intervention. The couple was detained and later released on bail. Last month, 22 members of the 18-year-old rape survivor’s family had fled their homes in Vadli village of Rajula taluka in Amreli after the girl lodged an FIR of kidnapping and rape against two upper caste youths of the same village. The offence was allegedly committed on December 25, 2015 night. The victim’s family had also lodged complaint against relatives of the accused who had allegedly threatened the family of dire consequence after they lodged the FIR. The girl’s family had fled on January 1 and was now staying outside Amreli collector’s office demanding justice. The family is also demanding compensation from government. “On Monday, Kanti Vala and wife Kavita declared that they would immolate themselves on Tuesday. So, we took preventive measures and detained the couple before they could,” said R B Gojiya, investigating officer at Amreli town police station. He said that traffic was cleared soon after the detention of the couple. Vadli village has a population of 4,000 and is dominated by upper caste kathi darbars. There are nearly 100 dalit families living in the village. (Times of India 13/1/16)

 

4. This temple in Uttarakhand allows entry of Dalits, women after 400 years (2)

Dehradun: With the legal battle seeking entry of women into the Sabarimala temple of Kerala still on, the Parsuram temple in Garhwal’s Jaunsar Bawar region has decided to get rid of its 400-year-old tradition and allow the entry of women and Dalits inside the famous temple. The temple management has now announced that everyone will be allowed inside the temple in future. Quoting the chairman of the temple management committee, a news report in the Times of India said, the decision has been taken “in a bid to move with the times”. “This region is on the path of progress. Our literacy rate has gone up and people want scenarios to change,” said Jawahar Singh Chauhan,  Chairman of the committee. In the past few months, Dalits of the region had held several protests condemning these strictures. The temple management’s this move has been hailed by the Dalit community. We have been fighting for the cause since last 13 years. We welcome the move and we appeal that other temples in the area should also follow the step taken by Parsuram temple management,” said Dalit leader Daulat Kunwar. The Parsuram temple management has also decided to stop the practice of animal scrifice here. (Zee News 16/1/16)

 

5. Unfortunate that Dalit was denied decent funeral: Punia (2)

MAYILADUTHURAI:  “It is unfortunate that an elderly Dalit was denied a decent funeral; the divisive mindset of some sections of society needs to change for holistic development of the people,” Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, P.L. Punia, said here on Saturday. Speaking to The Hindu after getting a first-hand information of the recent incident in which a Dalit’s body was held five days without burial following sustained rivalry between two communities at Thirunal Kondachery near Mayiladuthurai in Nagapattinam district, Mr. Punia observed that it was not proper on the part of the officials to have forcibly arranged for a funeral. Instead, the officials must have enlightened those who obstructed the use of common road that it was illegal to deny the Dalits right of passage and that too for funeral. “A section of the administration was not able to ensure a decent burial for an elderly Dalit and that was unfortunate,” Mr. Punia, also a Rajya Sabha MP, said. It seemed right from the beginning some sections of officials and other communities were bent on bending the law, instead of forcing those who tried to flout that, to deny proper funeral to the Dalit. Comparing the conditions prevalent in the Dalit colony and the localities of other developed communities in the village, Mr. Punia remarked that the difference was marked and it was easy for anyone with an open mid to analyse and conclude on the disparity. “We have directed the district administration to remove the encroachments that prevented a proper and early funeral,” he added. Mr. Punia said that he had asked the administration to file an action taken report immediately. After receiving that, he would add his field study report to be forwarded for action to the State and district officials concerned. He also expressed concern over the reported denial of entry to Dalits in a local Shiva temple and said the district administration must address the issue . Mr. Punia consoled the bereaved family members of Sellamuthu (85) who was hurriedly and forcibly buried by the police and Revenue officials after prolonged parleys between two warring communities failed to break the deadlock over access to the graveyard. Mr. Punia also met those who opposed the body being taken through their street and told them to live in harmony with others. Collector S. Palanisamy, DIG of Police, Thanjavur Range, Senthil Kumar, Superintendent of Police Abhinav Kumar, Assistant Director and Head of Regional Office, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, Chennai, P. Ramasamy, accompanied him. (The Hindu 17/1/16)

 

6. Hyderabad University takes back four suspended Dalit students (2)

Hyderabad: Hyderabad Central University on Thursday terminated the punishment of four student who were suspended on August 5 for allegedly assaulting ABVP leader N Susheel Kumar. Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya had written a letter to the HRD Minister in August urging action and claiming that the “Hyderabad University… has in the recent past, become a den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics”. He cited the attack on the ABVP leader and stated that the university administration had turned into “a mute spectator to such events.” Students of the university alleged that Dattatreya’s letter sought action against research scholars including Vemula. They demanded that the police register a case under SC/ST Atrocity Act against Dattatreya. The suspension being revoked comes after ten professors belonging to SC/ST community resigned from administrative posts in the University of Hyderabad (UoH), in response to the ‘fabricated statements’ by Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani over Rohith Vemula’s suicide. “In response to the Honourable Minister’s (Smriti Irani) fabricated statements, we the Dalit (SC/ST) faculty and officers lay down our administrative positions” said a press statement by UoH SC/ST Teachers and Officers Forum. “We express our solidarity with students who are protesting against the death of Rohith Vemula and demand the immediate revocation of suspension and removal of police cases filed against our students,” it added. The press release further stated, “It (sub-committee of executive council) was headed by an upper caste professor Vipin Srivastava and there are no Dalit faculty member in the sub-committee.” “It was headed by an upper caste professor and there are no Dalit faculties in this subcommittee. Incidentally, the dean of student welfare who happens to be a Dalit was notionally co-opted an ex-officio member of the committee. It is unfortunate that since its inception, no Dalit representation has been given in this council,” it said. On Wednesday, Irani termed the ongoing protest on Vemula’s suicide as ‘malicious’ the attempt to ‘project it as a caste battle’. “This is not a Dalit versus non- Dalit issue as being projected by some to ignite passion,” Irani told a press conference, while rejecting allegations that her Ministry had put pressure on the University to suspend Vemula. (Asian Age 21/1/16)

 

7. 15 Dalit Christians ‘re-converted’ in ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremony (2)

Vellore: Fifteen Dalit Christians belonging to five families were ‘re-converted’ to Hinduism at a ‘ghar wapsi’ (homecoming) ceremony near Latheri, Katpadi on Tuesday evening. The ceremony, organised by Hindu Munnani, Vellore, was conducted at an Amman temple in Chengimottur. The five families were residents of the Adi Dravidar Colony, Chengimottur, Latheri. The families were primarily involved in agriculture. “This is the first ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremony to be organised in Vellore district. These persons had converted to Christianity nearly eight to 10 years ago. They were re-converted to Hinduism during the ceremony,” said K. Magesh, zonal president, Hindu Munnani, Vellore. He disclosed that Hindu Munnani’s branch committee in the area had got in touch with the family members and spoke to them about returning to their “mother” religion. “They also expressed the desire to return to Hinduism. So, we arranged a ritual that was attended by several villagers,” he said. Hindu Munnani’s State organiser K. Bhaktavachalam was present on the occasion. The organisation plans to organise more such events across the district. “We will be going back to the same village as hundreds of them had been converted several years ago. We will organise the rituals in various parts of the district to bring back people to Hinduism,” he added. Mr. Magesh said,“Many are volunteering for re-conversion, while we are also approaching persons who had converted from Hinduism. We had not conducted ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremonies earlier as it caused too much of political controversy,” he said. (The Hindu 21/1/16)

 

8. mHyderabad Scholar Suicide: Dalit Professors Resignation Continue (2)

HYDERABAD: The number of professor resigning from their administrative posts in University of Hyderabad reached 14 on Friday. The professors are members of the University of Hyderabad SC/ST Teachers and Officers Forum, including professors and lecturers, resigned from their administrative positions in a bid to show solidarity with the protesting students over the suicide of a Dalit scholar Rohit Vemula. The executive council of the University had yesterday revoked the suspension of four Dalit scholars who had been expelled, along with Rohith Vemula, in December last year. However the protesting students refused to talk to faculty members. Earlier on Thursday, at least, 13 faculty members – including Professor V. Krishna, controller of exams, Chief Medical Officer Dr Ravendra Kumar, 10 hostel wardens and chief warden Nagaraju – put in their papers from their respective posts. “We are deeply hurt by Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani’s press conference, yesterday (on Wednesday), where we got labelled as Dalits,” said Dr. Ravindra Kumar, adding that it’s like adding salt to our wounds. “We are about 40 people in Hyderabad University’s SC/ST faculty forum, of which 12-13 hold administrative posts,” Kumar said. “We thought that the Government doesn’t require our administrative acumen, so decided to lay down admin posts,” said Kumar said. Vemula and four others were suspended in December, and a month later Vemula hanged himself to death on the university campus. (New Indian Express 22/1/16)

 

9. Dalit student who protested against Modi evicted from guesthouse (2)

LUCKNOW: Ram Karan Nirmal and Amrendra Kumar Arya found themselves surrounded by security personnel soon after raising slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday. Their mouths were forcibly shut as they were dragged away to preventive detention. Shortly after he stepped out of custody, Mr. Nirmal, 31, was dissapointed and shocked to hear that the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University officials cancelled his stay at the University hostel as a punitive measure. Mr. Nirmal finds a glaring similarity between his eviction and the harassment faced by Hyderabad scholar Rohith Vemula. “I voiced my dissent. For that I was evicted from the Siddhartha Boys’ Hostel of the university and my boarding for the night cancelled even though my room was booked for two days. We had deposited Rs. 200 for the boarding,” said Mr. Nirmal, who was left to bear the nippy North Indian winter night without any roof. A copy of the hostel bill is with The Hindu. However, for the young Dalit men who shouted “Modi, go back,” “Modi Murdabad,” “Inquilab zindabad, Phule Ambedkar zindabad,” during the convocation ceremony on Friday, there is no sense of regret. In fact, they are “proud” of their act. “We feel like responsible citizens who have the right to dissent. If given a chance we will do it again,” said Mr. Arya, 24, an LLM graduate.Mr. Nirmal and Mr. Arya were booked under Section 151 (disturbance of public peace) of the Indian Penal Code and sent to preventive custody. After a few hours, the police released them on a personal bond. Dismissing any accusations of a publicity stunt, the two said they decided to stage a protest against Mr. Modi when they could not longer bear his silence around the death of Rohith Vemula. The two claim no political affiliation and say the protest was staged solely on their own will. “PM Modi tweets every minor and random thing — be it a Mayor election or wishing somebody on their birthday. But he has not said anything on issues of grave injustice, like the murders of Akhlaq, Dabolkar and Kalburgi,” said Mr. Arya. The students belong to the Dalit community and hail from humble backgrounds. Mr. Nirmal, a Dhobi, is the son of a farmer from Kaushambi, while Mr. Arya’s father (a Jatav) is a retired gram panchayat secretary hailing from Sant Kabir Nagar. Another student who participated in the sloganeering but was not held by the police was Surendra Nigam, a Pasi, who teaches at a private college in Mirzapur. Mr. Arya and Mr. Nirmal live as roommates in New Delhi where they are both preparing for judicial entrance exams.During his speech, Mr. Modi broke his silence on the death of Rohith Vemula, saying that he could feel the agony of the scholar’s parents. “What delayed him for so many days? Just because we protested he was forced to shed crocodile tears. He was forced to speak up merely for fear of losing Dalit votes in the 2017 elections,” Mr. Nigam said. While the suicide of Vemula was the trigger to their outrageous protest, the Dalit youth say it was borne out of their growing frustration with the ‘saffronisation’ of educational institutes under the NDA government and its indifference towards Dalit students…..  (The Hindu 23/1/16)

 

10. Two held for assaulting three dalit youths outside Coimbatore temple (2)

COIMBATORE: Police have arrested two men for allegedly attacking three dalit youths outside a temple at Karamadai in Coimbatore. Three dalit youths, identified as Ganeshan, C Ranjith Kumar and S Ramasamy of Therampalayam, were leaving Kumaran Kundru Murugan temple after attending a function on Monday night. Ganeshan, who went to the parking area to take his two-wheeler, got into an argument with K Murali and D Jayaraj who belong to the non-dalit okkiliya gowder community. What started as a minor argument soon turned into an ugly fight. Four others from okkiliya gowder community — Boopalan, Surendran, Prabhu and Ranjith — joined Murali and Jayaraj and attacked Ganeshan.Ranjith Kumar and Ramasamy came to the rescue of Ganeshan. However, they were beaten up by Murali and others. Murali and Jayaraj bit Ramasamy, said police officials. Ramasamy and Ranjith Kumar, who suffered injuries, were admitted to Mettupalayam government hospital.The Karamadai police officials booked a case against the six accused men under various sections of the IPC and also under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Act. Murali and Jayaraj were arrested on Tuesday and remanded in judicial custody. A police officer said they were on the lookout for the four other accused. (Times of India 27/1/16)

 

11. Jawaharlal Nehru University: Fellowship of dalit scholar is renewed (2)

New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru University has released the grants to a dalit scholar who had sent letters to its former vice-chancellor threatening to commit suicide if his fellowship was not renewed for another year. Alleging that he has been “discriminated and harassed” by his department which was trying to “block his Ph.D”, the dalit researcher with international organisation division, CIPOD, had written two letters to former V-C S.K. Sopory and demanded resumption of his fellowship in a week’s time threatening he would commit suicide otherwise. In a separate letter, he had said he was absent from the university for a certain period due to death of four members of his family, including his father and brother. He, however, added as he has resumed his studies, he wants his fellowship to continue. “JNU administration has spoken to the students and resolved the issue in view of the financial difficulties faced by the student and the unfortunate deaths in his family. His fellowship has been released after adjusting the amount that he had taken as advance for a field trip to Brussels but spent on his grandmother’s medical treatment,” the varsity said in a press statement. (Asian Age 30/1/16)

 

TRIBALS

12. Minister announces Rs 52-crore package for Siddi tribe (6)

Haliyal (Uttara Kannada dist): Social Welfare Minister H Anjaneya on Friday announced a Rs 52.53-crore package for the development of the Siddi tribe in the district. He was addressing a press conference at Majire Wada in Haliyal taluk, where he celebrated the New Year with residents of the hamlet. A tribal ashram school would be opened here so as to provide education to children in the hamlet. Children in class I to V here would be adopted. They would be given quality education along with affectionate care.  Navodaya model residential schools would be started from the academic year 2017-18 at Haliyal and Yellapur, the minister said. Admissions would be in the ratio of 75 per cent for Siddi children and 25 per cent for children of other communities. A grant of Rs 24 crore had been sanctioned for this purpose, the minister said. The minister announced various other sops for the Siddi community. He went on a walk in the hamlet visiting houses, listening to the grievances of the residents. The minister directed officials to redress them on the spot. The minister had visited the Soliga tribal hamlet in Chamarajanagar district to celebrate the New Year 2015 with them. (Deccan Herald 2/1/16)

 

13. State moving at a snail’s pace to improve lot of tribals (6)

BENGALURU: The end of 2015 should have brought some cheer to forest-dwelling tribals of Karnataka, as December 31 was the deadline to distribute title deeds to eligible tribal people and communities for ownership of land. But, Karnataka has been classified one of the worst performers in achieving this. Seven years after the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Dwellers (Recognition of Forests Rights) Act, 2006, came into force (which was notified in 2008), the State government is still moving at a snail’s pace in extending benefits to tribal families in 27 districts. Consider this: of the 2,88,579 applications received from Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) and community right seekers, a meagre 8,705 have got title deeds by the end of November 2015. While 1,12,072 applications have been rejected, the rest are “pending”. The Tribal Joint Action Forum (TJAF) is demanding a “review of the applications” that have been rejected. The deadline for distribution of title deeds to the tribal community has been extended twice. The Union government had earlier set the deadline of December 31, 2014, for State governments to distribute title deeds to eligible applicants. Considering the slow pace of work, the Centre extended the deadline to December 31, 2015. According to statistics available, the government is yet to dispose, 1,67,802 applications. When contacted, Vasanth Kumar, Director, Directorate of Scheduled Tribe Welfare, attributed the delay in implementation of the Forest Rights Act to elections to the Legislative Council from local bodies. “Though deputy commissioners have expedited the process of disposing of applications by December 31, and they have sought another two months in view of the Council polls. We have appealed to the Centre to extend the deadline,” he said. Jual Oram, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs, in his letter written to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in October 2015, had asked the government to “proactively pursue progress in vesting and recognition of forest rights in a time-bound manner”, and asked to lay stress on training and motivation of all field-level functionaries involved in implementation of the Act. The letter also states that Karnataka is one among nine States where “implementation of the Act has been slow”. The TJAF is hoping to present a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Mysuru on Sunday on the issue. In the memorandum, it is stated that tribal population in most parts of State has been waiting “endlessly” after submitting applications. Some tribals have rejected title deeds as they were allocated land in terms of guntas, while they are eligible for land up to four hectares. (The Hindu 3/1/16)

 

14. 3 minor Adivasi girls rescued (6)

GUWAHATI, Jan 4 – Three minor Adivasi girls were rescued from Dumni area in Baksa district when they were being reportedly trafficked by a group of traffickers this afternoon. The girls aged between 11 to 13 years were being brought to Guwahati when a team of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) intercepted them. Although the traffickers manage to escape from the spot, police said that it was following the movement of the kingpin, who is believed to somewhere in Kokrajhar district. The girls belong to Dumni tea garden in Baksa district. The rescue operation was launched after family members of one of the girls intimated the team of BBA and the police about the developments. “The girls were rescue from Dumni outpost after which a case was also registered,” sources stated. Meanwhile, two more victims of trafficking and sexual abuse from Assam have decided to formally lodge complaint with the Delhi Police. The minor girls complained that before the BBA that they were sexually abused from time to time, said Rakesh Senger, director, BBA while talking to this newspaper. Senger said that BBA is providing all kind of assistance and support to the victims who were brought from Assam to New Delhi recently. He also informed that the BBA, in its effort to raise awareness level in various trafficking affected districts, will launch a mass awareness programme in the State from this month itself. (The Assam Tribune 4/1/16)

 

15. HC seeks govt. views on panel for tribes (6)

KOCHI: A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court has directed the Centre and the State governments to inform the court of their views on its suggestion for constitution of a broad-based committee for effective implementation of various welfare schemes meant for tribespeople in Attappady. The Bench comprising Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Anu Sivaraman suggested that the Social Justice Department, Health and Family Welfare Department and departments relating to child welfare and tribespeople could be brought in to the committee. The court observed that the effective implementation of the poverty alleviation scheme was absolute necessary in tribal areas. The protection of the rights of tribespeople was essential. The Centre and the State governments should work out a modality for identifying the bottlenecks in the implementation of various schemes for the welfare of tribespeople. Meanwhile, in a report, P.B. Nooh, Sub-Collector of Ottapalm, who was the Nodal Officer in Attappady, said that no complaint had been received so far from any of the tribal patients or organisation regarding the indiscriminate use of any drug on patients, pregnant mothers or adolescent girls in Attappady. (The Hindu 8/1/16)

 

16. Nine months into financial year, just 40 pc of SC/ST funds utilised (6)

Bengaluru: Nine months into the current financial year, the State government has utilised only 40 per cent of the allocated Rs 16,352 crore for the welfare of SC/STs under Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) and Tribal Sub Plan (TSP). The government is now left with the mammoth task of utilising Rs 7,100 crore by March this year as provisions of the Karnataka Scheduled Castes sub-plan and Tribal Sub-plan (Planning, Allocation and Utilisation of Financial Resources) Act, 2013, makes it mandatory that the allocation is utilised fully. The social welfare department, which got the highest allocation among departments (Rs 2,470 crore) for SC welfare is below average when it comes to utilisation (38.87 per cent). Revenue department tops the list with 71.12 per cent and Youth Empowerment is in the bottom of the list with 0.12 per cent utilisation. The SC/ST Development Council headed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah reviewed the utilisation of funds by various departments at a meeting in Vidhana Soudha on Wednesday. For the records, the government has so far released 76 per cent of funds earmarked, but utilisation stands at 40 per cent. Speaking to reporters, Siddaramaiah said he had directed officials that the total allocation be utilised by the end of the current financial year. “There is provision as per the SCSP-TSP Act to penalise officials if they are found to have been negligent in utilisation of funds. We will not hesitate to invoke these provisions,” the chief minister said. Sources said some departments like the youth empowerment had fared poorly as they got their programme of action late. Siddaramaiah also chaired a meeting of the State Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee. He said the conviction rate in atrocities cases in the State was low. He had directed officials to look into the poor conviction rate and set right lapses, if any. Investigating officers should take more interest in such cases and while collecting evidence. The State was also contemplating on appointing an additional advocate general to monitor atrocity cases, he said. (Deccan Herald 14/1/16)

 

17. Tribals will be produced in court today, official tells ST panel VC (6)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Tribals, who have been identified as being involved in the killing of former sarpanch of Jerrala Panchayat Sagina Venkata Ramana by CPI (Maoist) cadres, would be produced before the court on Friday morning, Joint Collector J. Nivas told Vice-Chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes Ravi Thakur. Replying to a pointed query by the VC of NCST on when they would be produced before court the Joint Collector assured that the police would present them before the court on Friday morning after the issue of police holding tribals since Saturday last on their suspected involvement in the killing was raised by members of the kin of the tribals. MPTC from Jerrala and wife of one of the persons in illegal custody Adapa Vishnumurthy along with members of the families of others represented to the VC of NCST at an interactive session on issues of tribals organised by the Forum for Social Justice here on Thursday. Paderu MLA G. Eswari, who accompanied the families, raised the issue at the session following which the NCST VC instructed Regional Director of NCST Dwarka Karol called up the Superintendent of Police and the Collector. The SP sent a DSP and the Joint Collector reached the venue to respond to the Commission. The JC said according to the information he had 11 persons had been identified as being involved and they would be produced before the court and all others would be left off. Ms. Eswari told the Commission that neither the SP nor the senior police officers were responding to her phone calls and the local police officials in GK Veedhi feigned ignorance about the whereabouts of the tribals. “I along with YSRC mandal coordinator Adapa Vishnumurthy and Prasad went to the GK Veedhi police station and Vishnmurthy and Prasad were detained by the police and since then have not returned home,” Ms Eswari told the Commission. The Commission received representations from different ST employee associations and the Commission Vice Chairman assured them that they would be followed up with concerned authorities from New Delhi. (The Hindu 15/1/16)

 

18. Tribals put up huts in forest, demand 5 acres (6)

PALAKKAD : Nemmara divisional forest officer (DFO) Vimal Kumar submitted a report to the Palakkad collector on Monday after tribespeople living in the Kadappara Malamarasar colony encroached a couple of acres of forest land last week at Mangalam dam. Nearly, 19 families live in the colony. Forest land had been given to them under the Forest Rights Act, to set up homes. “They do not having proper housing, road or other facilities. They encroached on forest land, cleared small trees and put up huts demanding five acres for each family. They are also demanding the right to collect minor forest produce and sell it through an exclusive cooperative society,” the report said. The officer said their demand for a two-km road to the nearby Thalikkal colony will soon be a reality as the work will start shortly. “Their demand to collect minor forest produce will be considered, but the department won’t allow encroachments. I have requested the collector to provide revenue land to these families. The forest department has already given them 40 cents for their colony under the Forest Rights Act,” he said. (Times of India 19/1/16)

 

19. Inclusion of tribe in ST(H) category opposed (6)

HAFLONG, Jan 19 – Various tribal organisations of Dima Hasao district have strongly opposed the move of the Central government to include Bodos of Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong in the ST(H) category, stating that the move would harm the unity and integrity among the people of the two districts. This was stated in a joint press meet held at the office of the Dimasa Students’ Union (DSU), Haflong on Tuesday by Kailen Daulagupu, president, Jadikhe Naisho Hoshom; Agnes Gorlosa, president, Dimasa Mothers’ Association; Pramith Sengyung, vice-president, Dimasa Students’ Union (DSU), Central Committee, HQ Haflong; Sanjeen Langthasa, reception committee, All Dimasa Students’ Union (ADSU); Neijaylal Khelma, president, Khelma Students’ Association (KSA). They stated that a meagre 5% quota is reserved for ST(H) in Assam which is enjoyed by more than 16 tribes. The Bodo Kacharis, who are the second largest population in Assam, are already categorised as ST(P) and enjoyed a quota of 10% reservation in all spheres. If Bodos, who are economically, politically and educationally advanced are included into the ST(H), they would be enjoying 15% of reservation. As a result, the weak indigenous groups living in these two hill districts would be outnumbered and overshadowed. Therefore, the inclusion of Bodo tribe in the ST(H) category shall be accepted only if the Government of India accepts the long-pending demand of the people of Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong for a separate State. They also mentioned that a memorandum on non-inclusion of Bodo tribe in the ST(H) category was submitted on August 25, 2015 jointly by Dimasa Students’ Union (DSU), All Dimasa Students’ Union (ADSU), Hmar Students’ Association (HQA), Hrangkhol Students’ Association (HkSA), Khelma Students’ Union (KSU) to Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs. (The Assam Tribune 20/1/16)

 

20. Eight tribal women allege gang-rape by security forces (6)

RAIPUR: Eight tribal women from Bijapur district of south Chhattisgarh have accused the security forces of “repeated gang rape and physical torture” between January 11 and 14. Four others have alleged that they were “molested” and their property was “plundered” by the security personnel. The women belong to Nedra village and surrounding Para (surrounding small village localities) under the Basaguda police station limits of Bijapur. According to Isha Khandelwal, the lawyer of the victims, eight women had testified to the police that they were gang-raped by security men. “There are many women in the village who have been raped by the security forces, of whom 12 gave a statement to the police. Eight have said that they have been gang-raped. Some of them have even named the policemen who raped them. The incident took place between January 11 and 14,” Ms. Khandelwal told The Hindu . “The women came to the Bijapur district headquarters on January 18 but the police did not register their complaint. The FIR was lodged only last night [on Thursday night] after avoiding it for four days,” the lawyer said. According to some local sources, the police were forced to file an FIR after tribal activist and Aam Aadmi Party leader Soni Sori addressed a press conference with all the victims on Thursday. “All the victims told a press conference that they were gang-raped by the security men. Most of these women are married and have kids. Each of them has claimed that they were raped by more than three-four security men,” Ms. Sori told this reporter. When asked about the allegations, Bijapur Superintendent of Police K.L. Dhruw admitted that the police force was present in the Nedra area between January 11 and 14. “Some NGOs have raised this issue. But I have not seen the entire matter as I was away from the district headquarters and returned a day ago,” said the SP. (The Hindu 23/1/16)

 

21. Domicile policy: Tribal bodies plan protests in phases (6)

JAMSHEDPUR: Six tribal and communist outfits on Sunday announced a phase-wise agitation programme to build pressure on the government for the implementation of domicile policy in the state. To begin with, Jharkhand Disom Party (JDP) and Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan (ASA) will sit on a two-day fast at Shaeed ground in Chaibasa on February 1 and 2. The CPI (ML), CPI ML (PCC), Janmukti Sangarsh Vahini and Yuva Chatra Sangarsh Vahini have vowed to support the stir. “The agenda of the two-day fast will be to expose JMM (the main opposition party in the state assembly) on the issue of domicile policy,” said JDP president and former MP, Salkhan Murmu. He accused the JMM of cheating the tribal community on two issues. The first being the party led by Shibu Soren formed the short-lived government in 2013 on the pretext of implementing the domicile policy., but failed to implement the same.Secondly, JMM had announced in the 2014 assembly polls that it would ensure the cancellation of the ongoing construction of the Ichha- Kharkhai dam in West Singhbhum, but there’s wasno sincere move on the part of the JMM even after 15 months of the last assembly polls.”Our objective is to put the picture in black and white and tell the people, particularly the tribal community, that JMM is no different from the other parties such as Ajsu, BJP and Congress when it comes to making false promises to the innocent tribals,” said Murmu here on Sunday. He added that the representatives of the aforesaid six organizations will hold a joint convention in the city on February 20 wherein the roadmap for the domicile agitation will be drawn up. “Prominent tribal intellectuals who have been voicing the need for the early implementation of the domicile policy have been invited to the convention,” said Murmu, releasing the joint programmme of the six outfits. (Times of India 25/1/16)

 

22. Tribal panel moots changes in land law (6)

Ranchi, Jan. 28: The Tribal Advisory Council today recommended scrapping of a provision under tenancy acts that provides for compensation against illegal transfer of tribal land, in a move to tighten the noose around land mafia who have been abusing the law to usurp plots of gullible indigenous people. The council, headed by chief minister Raghubar Das, also proposed setting up of two new scheduled area regulation (SAR) courts for speedy disposal of pending cases pertaining to tribal land grab. During the meeting at the main secretariat in Project Building, the council observed that under the Clause 71A of Chotanagpur Tenancy (Amended) Act if concrete structures were built on an illegally transferred tribal plot, the original land owner was to be given Rs 10,000 compensation. The payment of compensation in turn validated the plot transfer and land mafia often took undue advantage of this clause. “The council has recommended that this provision be abolished to ensure return of the illegally transferred tribal plots to their original owners or their legal claimants. The government may, however, acquire tribal land for industries, mining, schools, hospitals, roads, irrigation projects etc under the Section 49 of CNT Act,” said TAC member Ratan Tirkey. The council also proposed that a tribal land donor be given four times the current market price of the plot taken by the state as compensation. The Centre, in its land acquisition bill, has proposed twice the current market value of land as compensation. It has been observed that around 4,120 cases of illegal transfer of tribal land are pending at SAR courts across the state, out of which 3,685 are in Ranchi district. And, most of the SAR courts are virtually defunct in the absence of basic infrastructure and manpower. According to sources, the chief minister has agreed to create two new posts of SAR officers in Ranchi district for one year and if need be, their term will be extended further. Ranchi currently has only one SAR officer, who runs a SAR court. The SAR courts across the state will be given necessary amenities. “The advocate general will be consulted for quick disposal of cases pending in the high court and Supreme Court,” said another council member. The council also advocated use of agriculture land for other purposes without affecting the land ownership rights. It has also been decided that no tax would be charged on agriculture land. However, for plots, being used for other purposes such as building a house, one will have to pay taxes at commercial rates. “The proposals will be sent to the governor for approval soon. The chief minister is committed to work for the welfare of tribals,” said Das’s press adviser Yogesh Kislay. (The Telegraph 29/1/16)

 

23.  ‘NGOs targeting tribal children to attract sponsors’ (6)

VIJAYAWADA: As many as 70 Santhal tribe children, hailing from different hamlets in Jharkhand, were brought to Andhra Pradesh illegally. They were admitted in different homes of NGOs in Krishna district. According to sources, some mediators, who used to visit villages and perform prayers, brought the children, aged between 8 and 15 years, and admitted them in homes. A few children, who were trafficked, were also kept in the homes. Though the children were slogging in homes for the last two years and above, the Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW), Revenue, Police, Education, Social Welfare, Labour Welfare and other Departments were unaware of the illegal stay of the children. As part of ‘Operation Smile’, police teams from Jharkhand and Odisha States visited the homes and identified the Santhal tribe children. They met the district officials and appealed to send the children with them. The Juvenile Welfare Department and the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) should monitor the welfare of the children in voluntary organisations. Interestingly, CWC gave orders of providing shelter to many children in the homes, which were not maintaining standards. “Emotional scenes were witnessed when the police teams visited the shelter homes on Saturday. When parents, police and the officials visited homes, many children hugged their parents and urged to take away from the homes. They allege that the NGOs are not providing quality food, proper shelter and the sanitation was very poor,” said an officer who was in the team. “The CWC which should monitor the welfare of children had referred some Odisha, Jharkhand and other states children to homes, without checking the facilities. Many inmates were anaemic without proper medical care and were deprived of parental care. Taking advantage of the poverty in tribal villages, some NGOs are targeting tribes to attract sponsors,” the officer said preferring anonymity. When contacted, CWC member Fr. Bala Showry feigned ignorance over admitting tribal children of other states into the homes and also on the poor amenities in NGO homes. Officials allege that some NGOs are admitting tribal children on the pretext of providing education and shelter violating norms. The admissions were made just for showing strength in the shelter homes and get funds, said an Education Department officer. Juvenile Welfare Department District Probation Officer (DPO) K. Bhaskar, who visited the homes, said it was a fact that many Santhal tribes from Godda, Khunti districts of Jharkhana and Khorda and Berhampur of Odisha States children were staying in NGOs, and steps were being taken to reunite them with their families. (The Hindu 31/1/16)

 

WOMEN

24. Crime rate down by 4.23% in 2015, says DGP (8)

VIJAYAWADA: The crime rate dipped 4.23 per cent and there was a 7.53 per cent reduction in the number of crimes against women across Andhra Pradesh (up to November) when compared to last year, said director general of police JV Ramudu. Addressing a review meeting here on Thursday, he cited the 95,000 FIRs pertaining to cognizable crimes which were committed in the last 11 months. Pointing out that that at least 4000 more cases were filed in 2014, the DGP hailed the state police for limiting crimes against the weaker sex to just 11,667 this year compared to 12,671 cases in the corresponding period last year. As far as 2016 is concerned, he said that the department has four priorities: greater focus on the capital city area, spread awareness about the need to avoid road accidents, curb atrocities against SCs/STs and prevent economic offences. “As many as 96 Maoists were nabbed from East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts. Another 100 radicals surrendered and two leaders of the banned outfit died in encounters,” the DGP told newspersons. He observed that there has been a decline in dowry harassment by 13.80 per cent dowry deaths by 18.65 per cent, murders by 8.67 per cent, kidnapping and abduction by 15.79 per cent respectively. Though the overall crime rate against women went down, the number of rapes, abetment of suicide and bigamy cases increased. About red sanders smuggling, he said that 2,710 persons have been arrested in this connection. “Of these, 1,367 hail from neighbouring states and 13 are foreigners. As many as 11,475 logs were seized from the smugglers and they were booked under preventive detention (PD) act while 480 vehicles were impounded in all. Notorious red sanders smuggler Kollam Gangi Reddy who fled to Dubai and Madagascar was deported from Mauritius within just eight months,” the DGP stated. AP police successfully investigated number of economic offences such as Agri Gold, Akshaya Gold, Abhaya Gold and cheating cases relating to Keshav Reddy educational institutions. The year witnessed excellent coordination between the police and transport departments with the objective to reduce fatalities on the roads. Guntur, Chittoor and East Godavari districts unfortunately top the list in this regard. However, more road accidents were reported from Krishna, East Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts. (Times of India 1.1.16)

 

25. Chandigarh sees rise in crime against womenm(8)

Chandigarh: If the data of Chandigarh Police is anything to go by, the city is witnessing a rise in crime against women. The annual data reveals that on an average, six women in the city are being raped every month, 10 women are being molested every month, and 10 women are facing harassment on the pretext of dowry every month. As per the data, 77 cases of rape had been lodged last year (2015), as compared to 64 in the previous year (2014). Besides, there were 99 cases of molestation, 126 of harassment by husband, five dowry deaths, 10 cases of sexual harassment, and 156 kidnapping cases.Criminal lawyer Gagan Aggarwal said: “This data available is just the tip of an iceberg, as there are a number of cases of unreported crime against women, and they are also never highlighted in the media due to some reasons. Some women do not want to get involved with police investigations, as they feel ashamed of going to the police station, but they should bear in mind that they are fighting for their own rights, and there is nothing wrong in reporting crime.” Five cases of death due to dowry harassment were registered in 2015, while there were only two in 2014. Not only crime against women, but in other cases in the city like riots, which were only 33 in 2014 had shot up to 48 in 2015, and cases of attempt to murder had also risen from 33 in 2014 to 40 in 2015. Cheating and forgery cases witnessed a six-fold increase – from 248 in 2014 to 325 in 2015. Cruelty by husbands and relatives, cases of gambling, NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act, and accident cases had also seen a sharp rise. SSP Sukhchain Singh Gill said: “We are trying to put a halt on crime, but some of them are inevitable, which can only come to light if the victim comes and reports, otherwise they remain hidden e.g. dowry cases. But here in Chandigarh, women are more aware than in other cities. The city police too is much more resident-friendly. We are trying our best to make the city crime-free.” (Times of India 3/1/16)

 

26. ‘Haryana’s child sex ratio improves to 889 girls per 1,000 boys’ (8)

Panchkula: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Thursday said that with efforts made by the state government and effective implementation of the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ (BBBP) programme, the child sex ratio in the state has improved to 889 girls per 1,000 boys. “Efforts are being made to further take it (child sex ratio) to above 900,” he said, while flagging off the ‘Sashakt Beti Sashakt Bharat’ awareness march organised by the India Media Centre, Haryana. About 150 girl students from 18 districts of Haryana are participating in the awareness march being organised to generate knowledge among the people regarding women’s empowerment. The awareness march would pass through 23 places in twelve districts before culminating at Raj Ghat in New Delhi, on January 14. According to the 2014 census, the child sex ratio of Haryana was 846 girls per 1,000 boys. The Chief Minister said that since 2005, the sex ratio in Haryana had been on the decline, creating a lot of imbalance in the society. Though everybody, including politicians and educationists were aware about the ill-effects of this problem but it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took upon himself the task of eradicating the menace of female foeticide and setting right the skewed sex ratio in the country, Khattar said. Modi had launched the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ (BBBP) Programme from Panipat on January 22 last year. Giving a push to this programme, the state government took it as a mission and reviewed the sex ratio every month. “This, together with the other steps taken by the Haryana government, has helped in increasing the sex ratio to 889 girls per 1,000 boys in November last year, which is a matter of pride,” he said. Besides the government, participation by all sections of the society, including educationists, social and non-government organisations, is necessary to achieve the goal, he added. He said that the state government was committed to eradicating crime from the society. An atmosphere has been created in the state against the heinous act of female foeticide, he said. The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act is being strictly implemented and those found involved in female foeticide have been put behind bars after registering cases against them, he said. With a view to empowering women, separate women’s police stations have been set up in all districts to enable women victims to lodge complaints without any fear, he said. However, much more needs to be done in this direction, he added. (Zee News 7/1/16)

 

27. HC seeks government response on marital rape (8)

New Delhi, Jan 11 : The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the central government to file a response on a PIL seeking to declare a provision in the penal law unconstitutional as it discriminates against married women sexually assaulted by their own husbands. A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath issued notice to the government, seeking a response by March 23. The PIL filed by NGO RIT Foundation challenged Indian Penal Code’s section 375, saying it does not consider sexual intercourse of a man with his wife as rape. The court had last July disposed of a plea on the ground that Supreme Court was already seized with the issue, but on Monday the bench agreed to examine the issue after it was told that the ground raised in this case was different from the plea pending before the apex court. “The law as it stands today amounts to a state-sanctioned license granted to the husband to violate the sexual autonomy of his own lawfully wedded wife and is therefore, a violation of the Right to Privacy guaranteed to the wife under article 21 of the constitution of India,” said the plea. “The exception to section 375 arbitrarily discriminates between women as it keeps the age of consent at 15 years for women who are in a wedlock whereas the same is 18 years in case of any other woman,” it noted. (New Kerala 11/1/16)

 

28. Enlightening girls about ‘bad touch,’ ‘good touch’ (8)

TIRUCHI: A stall to create awareness of child sexual abuse (CSA) and other forms of violence against children is among the more unusual features of the ongoing government exhibition in the city. Set up by the District Children Protection Unit (DCPU) for the very first time, the stall has been attracting a significant number of visitors daily since the 45-day exhibition was inaugurated on the grounds of the St. John’s Vestry Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School on December 18. “Until the promulgation of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012, child sexual abuse was not really discussed in the legal framework,” Ms. Karthika, Child Protection Officer, DCPU, told The Hindu . “Earlier this usually referred to rape and molestation, but POSCO made it possible to examine the deep-seated psychological effects of sexual abuse on young victims,” she added. At the expo stall, staff volunteers could be seen addressing groups of families and children about the issue with the help of large-print charts indicating the limits of physical contact with the aim of preventing inappropriate behaviour. ‘No’ – with the child speaking up against the potential abuser, ‘Go’ – asking the child to leave the spot immediately, and ‘Tell’ – advising the youngster to inform a parent or trusted adult about the attempt on their modesty, is the slogan being promoted by DCPU. “Most of our studies show that the perpetrator is usually someone known to the child,” said Ms. Karthika. “Parents and teachers visiting our stall have said that they are glad to see this issue discussed in public. They feel it will help us to overcome the culture of silence related to child sexual abuse.” Pencils and balloons printed with the anti-abuse message are being given to children who do well in the show-and-tell contest being held at the stall. A 40-metre cloth bale has been getting filled up with the signatures of visitors who have taken the oath to protect children against abuse and violence. Posters highlighting the challenges facing children in the State such as child marriage, child labour, infanticide and gender-based foeticide and abandoning of infants, are on display at the stall. The exhibition is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. (The Hindu 11/1/16)

 

29. Delhi Mahila Congress launches ‘Ek Koshish’ (8)

New Delhi: Delhi Mahila Congress on Thursday launched ‘Ek Koshish’, an initiative aimed at providing counselling and legal advise to women suffering from domestic violence, sexual harassment and other forms of crime. Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken inaugurated the programme which will be run three days in a week from the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) office at Rajiv Bhawan here. Maken said that ‘Ek Koshish’ is not a parallel organization but purely a social initiative of Delhi Congress to fulfil its social responsibility by providing free counselling and legal advise to vulnerable women in the city. Experts in various fields, including lawyers, will sit at the Mahila Congress office at Rajiv Bhawan three days a week to help the victims, he said. Delhi Mahila Congress president Barkha Shukla Singh expressed hope that the initiative will extend a helping hand to women victims of various crimes and harassment in the city. (Zee News 14/1/16)

 

30. Female sex ratio down by 24% in U’khand as per latest family health survey (8)

DEHRADUN: In somewhat of a disappointment for Uttarakhand health department, in spite of investing funds and manpower to stem female infanticide, the female sex ratio at birth for children born in last five years has gone down by 24% as per the latest NFHS-4 (National Family Health Survey) data. As per the survey, for every 1000 males, 888 girls were born during the last five years as compared to 912 during the earlier survey which was conducted in 2005-06. This, sources say, puts into question the efficacy of the state’s Hamarai Kanya, Hamara Abhiman and several other schemes. NFHS-4 was conducted from January 30 to July 19, 2015 and the survey report was unveiled by the health ministry recently. Interestingly, the ratio of girl births is 817 in urban areas while rural areas have recorded a higher percentage of female births of about 924 per 1000 males. As per the survey, Uttarakhand is in the list of five states which includes Andaman and Nicobar, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Karnatka, where the sex ratio at birth for children born in the last five years has fallen drastically. Of all the five states, Andaman has registered the highest fall from 1, 083 to 859 followed by Madhya Pradesh which registered a 33% decrease in female birth from 960 to 927 and then Uttarakhand. A senior health official when queried about the findings accepted that there was “huge scope of improvement in the health sector of Uttarakhand.” “In spite of modernisation and technical intervention, it has come as an eyeopener for us that the state has failed in improving its female infanticide status,” the official said. Reacting to the survey results, gynecologist Dr Sujata Sanjay, who was recently chosen by ministry of women and child welfare department as one of the 100 successful women of India for actively working towards the beti bachao, beti padhao initiative, told TOI that “the biggest bottleneck remained the mindset of people.” “The birth of a daughter is still a stigma in some parts of our society whether it is among the rich or the poor. This is the biggest stumbling block in curbing female infanticide.” Meanwhile, in some positive news, Uttarakhand has shown an improvement in overall sex ratio of the total population from 996 to 1, 015 in the last one decade. (Times of India 21/1/16)

 

31. South Asian women vulnerable to violence since birth: WB (8)

DEHRADUN: Right from birth to old age, South Asian women are vulnerable to violence as per the latest report published by the World Bank titled ‘Violence against Women and Girls, Lesson from South Asia.’The report has divided female life-cycle into seven stages — infancy, childhood (1-5yr), unmarried and adolescent girls, married girls and women, unmarried women, divorced and widowed women and elderly women – and identified 12 kinds of violence against them. As per the study, unmarried and adolescent girls are vulnerable to the maximum eight kinds of violence. Even elderly women, the report says, are vulnerable to five types of violence of which two are sexual in nature. The report indicated that a woman of South-Asia is maximum vulnerable to trafficking throughout seven stages of her life. The 12 kinds of violence comprised female infanticide, excess female child mortality, child abuse, child marriage, trafficking, honor crimes, non-partner sexual violence, sexual harassment, custodial violence, intimate partner violence, mistreatment of widowed and divorced women and elder abuse. To combat violence against women and girls South Asian Governments have been asked to follow the footprints of Bangladesh which has implemented Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence against Women (MSPVAW), in which successful collaboration across ministries has played significant role in combating violence. The report heavily objected working in silo, it read, “Efforts to address violence against women and girl has been “pigeonholed” into ministries that focus on “women affairs” or reproductive health. However, Violence pervades all realms of women’s lives.” In the legal recommendations made to India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. India has been suggested to: Enact protections against custodial violence, Criminalize marital Rape and correction in imbalances in system of personal law. Meanwhile, the efforts of Tamil Nadu in preventing female infanticide through its Cradle Baby Scheme, Girl Child Protection Scheme, etc. have got special mention in the report for involving all the government department and society for sensitizing against violence. While giving out recommendations to all Governments, the report, read, “Government can more effectively use conditional cash transfers to combat son preference and delay marriage of adolescent girls, as in the case of the Apni Beti, Apna Dhan (Out Daughter, Our Wealth) scheme in India, if known conceptual and implementation problems are corrected.” Of all the ten recommendations for all governments, three recommendations — Improve data collection on all forms of violence in surveys measuring prevalence and crime records systems and increase monitoring and oversight of case registration for police, Integrate violence screening and support in antenatal care, family planning programs, and STI and HIV prevention programs and dedicate funding to programs preventing and responding to violence against women and girls, and establish clear parameters for disbursement of such funds — have been identified to work upon under all three short, medium and long term goals. The report laid focus upon emphasizing human rights above any other factor as a major way to combat the issue of violence against females in South Asia which account for highest 43% physical/sexual abuse in the world. (Times of India 23/1/16)

 

32. Rape and dowry cases on rise in city: Report (8)

Bhubaneswar: The capital city earned the notoriety of having witnessed a rise in rape and dowry torture cases last year, according to the annual crime report, released by the outgoing commissioner of police, R P Sharma, here on Monday. The overall crime rate also soared with the registration of 6,991 cases here in 2015 as against 5,548 in the previous year. Sharma said the overall cases went up as the police laid stress on registration of incidents. Rape cases shot up to 87 in 2015 from 72 in 2014. What is more disturbing is that the rape survivors were mostly minors. Statistics showed 59 minor girls were allegedly raped last year as against 43 in 2014, pointing to the vulnerability of girls of this age. The police said Bhubaneswar did not witness any sensational rape cases last year. In most cases, the crime occurred following breach of trust between couples and false marital claims by accused men. In case of minor girls, the victims either eloped with the accused before their (victims) family members lodged complaints of rape and kidnapping, Sharma said.Last year, two gang rape cases were registered. On June 4, 2015, a 15-year-old girl alleged she was gang-raped by two youths in Badagada here. The complainant alleged the accused, who were known to her, spiked her cold drink and raped her. On February 6, 2015, a woman from Puri district lodged a complaint at the Mahila police station here accusing her husband and his two friends of kidnapping and gang-raping her. She alleged that her husband held her hostage in an unidentified location in Bhubaneswar and raped her along with his friends for several days. Rape incidents, however, plummeted in Cuttack last year. While 66 rape cases were registered in Cuttack in 2014, it came down to 42 last year. (Times of India 26/1/16)

 

33. Number of female births rising in worst-affected Haryana: PM (8)

New Delhi: The number of female births in Haryana is rising fast as the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padao’ campaign has brought about a “real” societal change there, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today hailing the state which is notorious for female foeticide. Modi, while talking about the Republic Day celebrations, said a unique experiment was carried out in Haryana and Gujarat this time. “Haryana and Gujarat gave importance to the ‘daughter’. This year, the most educated girl of a village was invited to unfurl the national tricolor in a government school… Well educated ‘daughter’ was given special importance,” he said in his monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’. The Prime Minister said the two states had tried to send out a great message with regard to the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padao’ (Save the girl, educate the girl) campaign.”I appreciate the imagination of both these states. I congratulate all the girls who got the opportunity to unfurl the national tricolor,” he said. “The families, where girls were born in the past year, were given special invitations at Republic Day functions and seated in the first row as VIPs. This, in itself, is a big moment of pride and I feel happy that I had launched the campaign of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padao’ from Haryana because in that state the sex-ratio had become very bad,” he said. The Prime Minister said when he proposed to launch the scheme from Haryana over a year back, officers had advised him against it, saying it would be a difficult task in that state because of “negative atmosphere” there. “But I did the work and today I appreciate from the bottom of my heart that they owned up this appeal. Today, the number of births of females is rising fast. I really appreciate the societial change there,” he said. Modi had launched the scheme on January 23, last year from Panipat in Haryana, a state which has one of the worst sex ratios in the country. Mahendragarh in the state was the worst with only 775 girls born per 1000 boys. Modi had denounced the practice of female foeticide, saying such discrimination reflects “mental illness” and displays a mindset “worse than people in the 18th century”.He had slammed the social beliefs girls are “someone else’s property” and it is the boys who look after the parents. Turning to this year’s Republic Day, the Prime Minister said the countrymen showed a lot of courage in celebrating it amidst the concerns as to what terrorists would do. (Business Standard 31/1/16)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

34. Child Labour: Shop Owners Denied Bail (14)

BENGALURU:  A Sessions Court in the city declined bail to the owners of a bakery and chicken centre in two separate cases registered against them for engaging child labourers and exploiting them by forcing them to toil for more than 12 hours. “Day-by-day such cases are increasing. These crimes need to be checked. If bail is granted, the accused will tamper with prosecution evidence and flee from justice. Therefore, these are not fit cases to grant bail,” said Shubha Gowdar, Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge, while dismissing the bail petitions of the accused. In the first case, Parappana Agrahara police registered a case against S M Mahesh, owner of Sannith Bakery near the Central Jail Road. Mahesh was booked under the Child Labour (Prohibition Regulation) Act 1986, for engaging a 12-year-old boy in his bakery for the last three months. In his petition, Mahesh claimed that he was the sole bread-earner of his family and supports two aged parents, his wife and two children.  In a similar case, Judge Shubha Gowdar dismissed the bail plea of Mohammed Haneef, owner of Firdos Chicken Centre on Doddanagamangala Road in Parappana Agrahara police station limits.  “Haneef, being the owner of chicken centre was extracting work from the 13-year-old boy from 8 am to 9 pm against his will. Though he was paid `6,000 per month, there is violation of provisions of Section 370 of IPC and also provisions of Child Labour Act,” the judge noted. (Indian Express 3/1/16)

 

35. Child labourers from Bihar, UP rescued from Rajasthan factory (14)

Kota: 27 child labourers, mostly from Bihar, have been rescued from a bread factory in Anantpura here. Police claimed the children, aged between 14 and 17 years, were made to work for over 12 hours a day in hazardous conditions. The raid was carried out yesterday by anti-human trafficking unit following a tip-off. Inspector Kaniz Fatema said 25 of the rescued children were from Bihar and two from Uttar Pradesh. They were brought to work here by a private contractor about two months ago. “The children were found working as bonded labourers in hazardous conditions. They wore old, torn clothes even in the cold conditions. They were being given little food,” Fatema said. A case in this connection has been lodged against the owner of the bread factory and the private contractor in Anantpura police station, she said. The children were later produced before the Child Welfare Committee that sent them to shelters homes. The rescued children’s statement would be recorded before the Sub Division Magistrate tomorrow following which further action as per the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act would be taken, Fatema said. The minors were rescued under Operation Smile campaign launched against child labour from January 1 in Kota. “Awareness generation activities for child labour free nation have been conducted in the first three days of the campaign,” she said, adding the campaign would continue till January 31. (Business Standard 5/1/16)

 

36. 227 children reunited with parents by cops (14)

Thane: As many as 227 children were reunited with their parents in the last six months under a family restoration programme “Muskan” by the Thane Police. Under the programme, parents and family members of children who were found loitering, begging or doing odd jobs, engaged in child labour or lodged at remand homes were traced, a release said. The Child Protection Unit of Thane Police Commissionerate ran the programme. Eight missing children and 35 kidnapped children were traced and reunited with their family. A team of officials located the parents of 58 children lodged in remand homes and about 41 children who were found at public places such as railway stations and bus stands. As many as 35 child labourers and 44 children who were found begging were counselled before being united with their families. Four children have been lodged at a remand home here as the team failed to locate their parents, the release said. The police efforts also brought two special children to their parents, it said. —PTI (The Hindu 8/1/16)

 

37. 79 children rescued from bangle-making units (14)

HYDERABAD: Continuing its drive against child labour in bangle making units of the old city, the police on Saturday arrested seven persons and rescued 79 children, including 56 aged below 12 years. While conducting a cordon and search operation in Amannagar area of old city, the south zone police found children housed in tiny dwellings and made to work for long hours. The employers were bringing children from different districts of Bihar by paying an advance of between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 15,000. A sum of Rs. 10 to Rs. 20 were paid to the children weekly. “The unit owners were selling products to traders in Begum Bazaar and making huge profits, while the children were starved and made to work for 15 hours a day. Their families back home were paid a pittance every month,” DCP (south) V. Satyanarayana said. To a question, he said that the problem is very severe in slum areas of Tallabkatta. “These are very thickly populated, and it is difficult to get information. But our officials are keeping a watch and rescuing the children,” Mr. Satyanarayana said, adding that till date the police rescued around 400 minors and registered cases against 70 persons. The children were handed over to the Women and Child Welfare Department officials, who shifted them to a children’s home. All the children will be produced before the Child Welfare Committee and sent back to their native places. (The Hindu 10/1/16)

 

38. 4 Odisha children saved from cake-making unit (14)

MANGALURU: The District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) and Childline on Wednesday rescued three girls and a boy from an unit in Arya Samaj Road that prepares cakes. The personnel raided the unit following a tip-off about children working in the unit. Shivanand from the DCPU said they found two 17-year-old girls and a 16-year-old boy working in the unit. These children accused the owner of the unit of harassment as he made them work for long hours. The children also accused the unit’s owner of not paying salary. Mr. Shivanand said the personnel then visited the house of the unit’s owner where they found a 12-year-old girl working. All the four children were from Odisha and were here in the city for the last five months. Mr. Shivanand said Labour department officials were looking whether the unit owner had violated provisions of Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986. The Child Welfare Committee said that there will be an inquiry about alleged violation of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act. All four children were produced before the Child Welfare Committee. The committee has rehabilitated these children in fit institutions. (The Hindu 14/1/16)

 

39. 122 kids rescued in leg one of Operation Smile II (14)

Cuttack: As many as 122 missing children have been rescued under the Operation Smile II programme so far. It was launched by state police on January 1 to trace missing children. The search and rescue operations were carried out jointly by police and women and child development department. In the past fortnight, police in all the districts carried out rigorous search operations to rescue and rehabilitate the missing children. “Besides rescuing missing children from Odisha, two missing kids of other states were also traced out during the operation. A missing girl from Jammu and Kashmir was rescued by our team at Delang in Puri district while a boy from Madhya Pradesh was rescued from Sundargarh district,” said Crime Branch ADG B K Sharma, who monitored the entire operation. They were handed over to their respective states, he said. “The rescued children have been handed over either to their legal guardians or sent to childcare homes,” added Sharma. The rescued children include over 40 child labourers, who were employed in hazardous units in Gajapati, Kandhamal and other districts. With this the first phase of the operation has come to an end on Saturday. In the second phase, police will focus on rescuing missing Odia kids from other states. At least 10 teams on Saturday left for states like Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to bring back Odisha’s missing kids. The second phase will continue till January 31. “We have information that majority of the kids from Odisha are either trafficked to these states or are forcibly employed as child labourers. Some factories have been identified and our teams will conduct raids on them,” said a senior official.”Besides, massive search operations will be carried out at railway stations, bus stops and childcare homes to trace the missing children from our state,” the official added. This is the second edition of Operation Smile. Last year, police had managed to rescue over 950 missing children. Officials claimed they have information about 2,500 kids missing. (Times of India 17/1/16)

 

40. 10 child labourers rescued in 3-hour operation (14)

Thane: The Thane Child Protection Unit (CPU) recently rescued 10 children who were forced to work at various tea stalls, food stalls and garment workshops in Ulhasnagar. The teenagers, who hail from lower middle class families were forced into child labour by their parents to fight the financial condition of their families. The CPU had received a tip-off about children doing odd jobs at various stalls in Ulhasnagar. Accordingly two teams were set up who kept a close watch to check if kids were forced to work. Following a confirmation, the area was raided and around 10 children were rescued in a three-hour operation. “Surprisingly, none of the children were orphans, in fact they belonged to lower middle class families. The officers were shocked when they got to know that their parents had asked them to take up such jobs and earn some money to fight poverty,” informed sub-inspector Rajiv More of the Thane, CPU. A complaint has been filed with the Vithalwadi and Hill Line police stations against six people who had employed these children. The children were sent to a children’s rescue home in Ulhasnagar and will later be reunited with their parents. Officials said they would now counsel the parents and ensure that the kids are going to school. The CPU had launched this operation in the first week of January, following the success of its first initiative called Muskaan last year. Till now, the unit has rescued 47 children who were missing, orphans, kidnapped, etc amongst who were 34 boys and 13 girls. This is also the first time in the past few months that so many children have been rescued in a single operation. (Times of India 19/1/16)

 

41. 38 child labourers rescued in Indore (14)

INDORE: As many as 38 child workers, aged 6 to 13 years and employed in a bag manufacturing company, were rescued from five buildings in Pandhrinath area of the city on Wednesday. A team of NGO Childline, along with the officers of district administration, women and child development department, labour department and police carried out the rescue operation. Childline’s local director Wasim Iqbal said, “We received information from our Mumbai-based call centre number 1098 that 38 children were working in a bag company and were forced to sew bags from 8 am till midnight.” He said that on the basis of information, a recce was done in the buildings. “In each of these buildings, there were around 10-12 children who were paid a measly amount for their work. Most of the kids were brought via agents from Bihar and West Bengal while one child was from Nepal,” said Iqbal. He added that the labour department has registered a complaint against the owner of the company. District collector P Narahari said, “The children are being counselled at the district child welfare committee (CWC) where they have been provided with facilities. We are trying to contact the administration of their respective states and cities and putting in efforts to speak to their parents. It’s a shame that parents do not let children study but force them to work.” Iqbal said that at the CWC, special individual care plan like their future studies and career opportunities is being chalked out. (Times of India 21/1/16)

 

42. Muskan 2.0: 200 children rescued in city (14)

Gurgaon: About 200 children have been rescued in Gurgaon in Operation Muskan’s second edition. Statistics show about 66% of the rescued children were from UP and Bihar.In the 45-day drive, which started on January 1, about 200 children, including 17 girls were rescued from Gurgaon. Among them, 67 are from UP while, 65 are from Bihar. Most of them were engaged as child labourers or street beggars. Among the rest, 23 are from Haryana, 11 from West Bengal and 27 from Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Assam. Seven other children are from Nepal. Amit Kumar, welfare inspector, Gurgaon, said going by the figures, it is clear that the migrant population from UP and Bihar were on the rise. “Some parents sent these children to stay with their relatives. While others work in some other parts of NCR and their children work here,” he said. Police have reunited around 160 children with their families while around 40 children have been sent to child care centres in Gurgaon. A dozen children from Delhi and NCR who are below five years, including a two-year-old toddler, were reunited with their families. They got separated as they ventured out on their own. Fortunately, police noticed them and helped them return to their parents with the help of local police. “We informed the local police stations and as soon as somebody complained about their missing child, we verified whether they were actually the parents or not, and then only handed over the parents,” said Kumar. (Times of India 23/1/16)

 

43. 301 children rescued in Op Smile Phase II (14)

NOIDA: Police rescued 301 child labourers in different parts of the district in the second phase of ‘Operation Smile’. The children who were rescued between January 1 and 27 comprised 16 girls and 285 boys, of which nine girls and 233 boys were reunited with their families. Vishwajit Shrivastava, SP (Crime), Noida, said some of the children had fled their homes while the others were made to work by their parents. “We rescued 25 children who were missing from their homes,” police said, adding that 18 of the rescued children were from Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal, while most of the others were from Uttar Pradesh.Shrivastava said an 11-year-old rescued boy had fled his home in Bijnor when his parents asked him to study. “His parents used to scold him over his studies. The boy came to Noida after leaving his home and was employed in a tea stall in Sector 50. We received information about him and rescued him from the stall,” Shrivastava said. Cops have created seven teams for the rescue operation. Three teams concentrate on rescuing children in rural areas while three others focus on urban areas. A special team of women cops is dedicated to rescue girls and women. Police have rescued children from Sector 56, Sector 74, Surajpur, Bhangel, Kasna and other locations. Police officers said they would try to reunite the children with their families. In cases where the families could not be located, the children will be shifted to shelter homes. The operation will come to an end on January 31. (Times of India 28/1/16)

 

44. 123 missing kids reunited with kin this month (14)

MUMBAI: The city police rescued 123 children who had gone missing, under Operation Muskan in January. Deputy commissioner of police (crime) Dhananjay Kulkarni said that out of these 123 children, 66 were girls. “Most of these children had ran away from their homes due to various reasons, including love affairs and study pressure. Some of them had also gone missing after losing their way,” said Kulkarni. The police initiated Operation Muskan to rescue juveniles from child labour, begging or those abandoned on the streets, following a directive from the central government. The children were produced before the Child Welfare Committee and reunited with their parents.  (Times of India 31/1/16)

 

45. 40 child labourers rescued from cotton mills (14)

NALGONDA/MAHABUBNAGAR: Ms. Anjali, native of Seshaiklunta village of Dindi mandal in Nalgonda district, migrated to Amangal three years ago along with her mother, Ramachandramma, who engaged Anjali in Suryalakshmi Cotton mill, Amangal, as contract labourer for a period of three years in 2012. As Ms. Ramachandramma had been searching for a suitable groom for Anjali, she fled from her home and reached Dindi mandal in the district. She also lodged a complaint with the police with the help of her grandfather charging that Suryalatha Cotton Mill employs over 100 children aged below 16 years. Following the information, Mahabubnagar police raided the mill and rescued 17 children who hail from Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar and parts of Andhra Pradesh. Police also raided Suryalatha Cotton Mill located at Kalwakurthy on the same day, following information given by some children working at Amangal Cotton Mill. Speaking to The Hindu , head of Operation Smile Team, Mahabubnagar, Pochaiah, said that they have rehabilitated the children at Balasadan, Mahabubnagar. Anjali, however, alleged that the Suryalatha Cotton Mill engages over 200 child labourer, who were brought to Amnagal from various part of the country with the help of some agents. “They were all given yearly contract paying Rs 6,000 per month, she said. However, Amangal, Sub-Inspector of Police D. Rambabu said that they have verified the documents of all the workers working at Suryalakshmi Cotton Mill, but only 17 of them were aged below 16. Meanwhile, the police are on the look out for the accused who mobilised child labour. (The Hindu 31/1/16)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

46. Muslims in state ahead in child sex ratio: Census (7)

Ahmedabad: Census 2011 data suggests that Muslims in the state have the highest child sex ratio of 927 girls per 1,000 boys, as compared to 917 in Christians, 885 in Hindus and 848 in Sikhs. Not only the sex ratio, but literacy rate among Muslim women in Gujarat is higher than among their Hindu counterparts. The child sex ratio among Gujaratis overall is 890 girls per 1,000 boys. Census officials said that barring Muslims and Christians, no other community has crossed the 900 girl child mark. The census data also revealed that Muslims had higher literacy rates than Hindus in general. However, Jains, Sikhs and Christians had better lite racy rates than Muslims in Gujarat. The data reveals that Muslims, Christians and Jains had higher overall literacy and women’s literacy rates compared to other communities. Officials said that literacy rates of Jain men and women were almost at par to each other. The literacy rate among Jain men was 89.85 while the same among Jain women was 88.86 percent. However, in other communities, the gap in literacy between men and women was over 10 percent. Similarly , Christians in Gujarat have the highest percentage of working women 35%, Hindus 25%, Muslims 10.5% and Jains 9.6%. According to the data, more women were non-workers than men.While the number of women non-workers in Muslims was 89.40%, it was over 90.84% among the Jain women. Even the Sikh community has over 88.71% women non-workers. Officials said the data reflects that the Jain community , which is mainly business-oriented, does not allow its women to go out and work. Sociologist Gaurang Jani said that among Muslims the acceptance of traditional madrassa education is very high, even among the girls, and this influences literacy counts. (Times of India 1/1/16)

 

47. World Bank-funded scheme to help minorities find `Nai Manzil’ (7)

For the first time, India has secured World Bank credit for a scheme me ant exclusively for the minorities.Last week, the Government of India and the World Bank signed a financing agreement for 50 million US dollars credit for “Nai Manzil” education and skills training for minorities project to help young people from minority communities complete their education and gain from marketdriven training programmes with the aim of improving their employment outcomes. The project size is 100 million dollars (Rs 650 crore) out of which 50 million dollars (Rs 325 crore) will be available as IDA credit and the balance funding (Rs 325 crore) will come from the union budget. The project takes an integrated and holistic approach towards education and skill development of the minority youth, to address the high drop-out and unemployment rate among them. Minority BPL youth in the age-group of 17-35 years will be the main beneficiaries of the project. The project will reach out to these disadvantaged youth and support their enrolment in open schooling, as well as provide hands-on vocational training. It will also provide postplacement support to assist them in finding sustainable employment. Nai Manzil scheme is an integrated education and livelihood initiative for minority youth. It was launched on 8th August 2015 by the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA). The MoMA conceived this scheme for madrasa students or school drop-outs by providing them a non-residential basic bridge (formal education) programme (up till Class VIII or X) and trade-based skills training alongwith certification. This will enable them to seek better employment in the organized sector and equipping them with better lives. The scheme will cover 1,228 community development blocks where the minority population is at least 25 percent. Nai Manzil scheme will be complemented by Maulana Azad National Fellowship for Minority Students scheme and Maulana Azad National Scholarships for meritorious girl students programme of MoMA that helps in demand-side financing for educational attainment of minority youth. The scheme will also have linkages with the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation which provides loans to minority youth. The World Bank-assisted project will follow result-based financing modality and project funds will be disbursed on achievement of specific results such as number of students enrolled, number of students successfully completing education and skill components etc. The project will be implemented over a period of five years. The closing date of the project is 31st October 2021.The credit will flow from International Development Association, the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm on concessional terms with a maturity of 25 years, including a 5-year grace period. …  (Times of India 4/1/16)

 

48. 7.5 Lakh Muslims, Christians Re-converted in Last 10 Years: Togadia (7)

SURAT: Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia today claimed that his organisation had re-converted more than five lakh Christians and 2.5 lakh Muslims to Hinduism in the last ten years. Speaking at a function here today, Togadia also called for a mass drive to continue this “Ghar Wapsi” to save the Hinduism in India. “Within last ten years, we did Ghar Wapsi of more than five lakh Christians and 2.5 lakh Muslims. Our rate of Ghar Wapsi used to be around 15,000 each year. But last year, we have crossed the mark of 40,000, which is excluding the figures of RSS,” said Togadia, the international working president of VHP. “If Hindus need to be in majority in India and to save our religion, we have to engage in many more Ghar Wapsi drives to bring crores of others into our religion,” said Togadia, who was here to take part in VHP’s fund raising event. During his brief interaction with media afterwards, the right-wing leader also demanded that all the Hindus of Pakistan should be given Indian citizenship. He also reiterated that Ram temple will definitely be constructed in Ayodhya. “Ram temple will be built in Ayodhya, and there is no doubt about it. To build it, the Parliament must bring a law,” he said. (New Indian Express 8/1/16)

 

49. India has given spiritualism, not communalism to world: PM Narendra Modi (7)

MUMBAI: Against the backdrop of ‘intolerance’ debate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India’s contribution to the world is not communalism but spiritualism which can resolve all problems and invoked former President APJ Abdul Kalam to underline his point. He regretted that the world has failed to understand the people of India properly as he praised the saints and religious leaders for their contribution to the country’s legacy. “India is a country, which has not tried to bind the world in a particular sect … We are the people whom the world has probably not understood in the manner in which we should have been understood,” Modi said while addressing via video conferencing a book release event here. “India has given the world neither community nor communalism. Our saints and sages (Rishis and Munis) and traditions have given the world spiritualism and not communalism,” he said, adding sometimes, sect leads to problems while spiritualism resolves the same. The Prime Minister’s comments assume significance as these come against the backdrop of debate on ‘intolerance’ and allegations of growing communalism in the country. “Saints, hermits and religious leaders have blessed the world with spirituality, a legacy in which our former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam believed and said that the problems of human beings can be neutralised by the spiritualization of mankind,” he said. Tolerance and spiritualism is born with Indian citizens. Only a small section of society is splitting it for personnel gain.rajaram manyam Modi, while addressing the event to mark the release of a book titled ‘Maru Bharat Saru Bharat’ written by Jain Acharya Ratnasundersuriswarji Maharaj, described the monk as a “great social reformer and spiritual leader” who has expressed his views about all concepts and objects of the universe through his various books. “National religion is above all religions and Guruji has lit the candle of national religion through his writings, as it has been the glorious tradition of our country,” he said. The book, ‘My India, Nobel India’, in four languages – English, Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi – was released at the Somaiya Grounds in Sion-Chunabhatti area here during the ‘Sahitya Satkar Samaroh’ programme on the concluding day of the 10-day-long religious and spiritual conclave. (Times of India 10/1/16)

 

50. Muslims in India Have Highest Young Population: Census (7)

NEW DELHI: Forty-seven per cent of Muslims in India are aged below 20 years, the highest among all religious communities, while children and teenagers make up 40 per cent of the Hindu population. As per the Census data of 2011, just 29 per cent population among the Jains are in the age group of 0-19 years while among the Christians, it is 37 per cent, Sikhs 35 per cent and Buddhist 37 per cent. Among India’s total population, around 41 per cent is below 20 years old and nine per cent above 60 years, leaving 50 per cent in the intervening 20-59 age group. The share of the young population has declined in the country since the previous census in 2001 when it was 45 per cent for the whole country. Among the Hindus, 44 per cent were below the age group of 20 years, among Muslims 52 per cent and Jains 35 per cent. Overall, life cycles of different religious communities in the country have shown common trends of declining proportion of children and teenagers and increasing shares of elderly citizens. The proportion of elderly people in the country has risen across all communities as life spans have generally increased. According to the Census data, people of the age of 60 years and above make up about nine per cent of the country’s total population. Interestingly, among the Muslims, just 6.4 per cent of the population is over 60 years, almost 50 per cent lower than the national average. Among Jains and Sikhs, the share of elderly is around 12 per cent each. Age-wise population shares reveal another important aspect of the lives of people – dependency. Both children and the elderly are dependent on the able and adult population. Overall, the young dependency ratio — the number of children aged up to 15 years dependent on every 1,000 members of the working age population — has declined from 621 in 2001 to 510 in 2011. This is a direct consequence of declining number of children. At the other end of life, the old dependency ratio has increased from 131 in 2001 to 142 in 2011, in accord with the growing elderly population. Across religious communities, Muslims have the highest total dependency ratio of 748 compared to the lowest ratio for Jains which is just 498. For Hindus, the ratio is 640. (Indian Express 13/1/16)

 

51. RSS to rejuvenate its minority bodies ahead of Assembly polls (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) State leadership is learnt to have prepared an action plan to step up the activities of the Rashtriya Isai Manch and the Muslim Rashtriya Manch in the State to reach out to the Christian and Muslim communities respectively before the Assembly elections. Sources say the Sangh leadership, which will be spearheading the BJP election campaign, is trying to rope in opinion leaders including historians, legal luminaries, academicians and bureaucrats from both the communities to head the movement. The leadership is understood to have already identified some of them and has held preliminary discussions, in some cases. The idea is to project the manch as a socio-cultural forum of the Sangh to efface the popular notion that the State BJP unit is being headed by hardcore Hindutva proponents, sources say.Though the change of guard in the BJP State leadership was expected to give a fillip to the party’s plans to win over the Nair Service Society (NSS) and different denominations of the Christian community, a dominant section in the party still holds that it did not yield the desired results, maintaining that only estranged sections show an affinity to move closer to the party, the sources said. Launching the activities of the manch for the two communities is being seen as a confidence-building move to open parleys before the elections. Though a dialogue with the Muslim community is not expected to yield any immediate palpable gain, it would at least help to bring down a general perception of hostility and develop camaraderie that could yield benefits in the future, the sources added. The Isai Manch leaders would be given the responsibility to regularly engage community leaders and also work out an understanding in Central and south Kerala – including in Thiruvananthapuram, where the party hopes to put up an impressive performance in the Assembly elections. (The Hindu 15/1/16)

 

52. Panjab University plans study on minorities in state (7)

Chandigarh: To highlight the problems of religious minorities in the country, the Panjab University would conduct a comprehensive comparative study of Christians and Muslims in Punjab. The research project is being done by the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy under the guidance of Emanual Nahar. The study is being funded by the Indian Council of Social Science Research and a grant-in-aid of Rs 18 lakh has been approved for the study. “The objective of the study is to examine the extent of prejudice and discrimination faced by these two communities and to compare their socio-economic profiles. Violation of human rights and denial of constitutional rights of these minority groups need a re-look and protection,” Nahar said. The study will concentrate on the districts of Gurdaspur, Sangrur and Ludhiana, where the numerical strength of Christians and Muslims is relatively higher. Muslims consist of 1.57 per cent of the population mainly in Malerkotla, Sangrur, Chandigarh and Qadian. Christians make up about 1.1 percent of the population, mainly in Gurdaspur. According to studies done about the occupational patterns of Christians in Punjab, it has been observed that 72.41 per cent of the working population is engaged in the agricultural sector. However, only 3.75 per cent possess agricultural land. Nahar said: “Christians do not enjoy state patronage that is given to other Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes. After conversion to Christianity, they have lost the right to reservation in government jobs. They stand at the lowest rung of the society among the Dalit classes, especially in the border areas of Punjab.” Even the Muslims in Punjab have been observed to lag in educational progress owing to economic hardships and discrimination in the field of education. In the proposed study, effects of recent controversies arising out of religious conversions and ghar wapsi will also be analysed. Jagdish Masih, the founding member of the National Christian League based in Chandigarh, said: “In Punjab particularly, neither Christians nor Muslims have been actively involved in the political scenarios. Over the years, the Congress or Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) have done nothing to allow any participation from these groups in the politics of the state. We have been struggling with this and no action has been taken by the Centre either.” He also added that despite the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court regarding allotment of land for graveyards in various towns and villages of Punjab, not much had been done to facilitate the same. Through the research project, the level of political participation of Muslims and Christians will also be observed and their share in the political systems will be analysed. The existing policies of the government for the benefits of these minority groups in urban and rural areas will also be examined. (Indian Express 16/1/16)

 

53. VHP asks political parties to refrain from appeasing minorities (7)

Bengaluru: After uniform code, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Sunday pitched for a uniform population policy in the country for all communities and wanted all political parties to refrain from appeasing the minorities. “The total fertility rate (TFR) and child ratio are uneven across religions and unless uniform measures are adopted it will be difficult to achieve the ideal figure of 2.1 as national fertility rate,” VHP joint general secretary Surendra Kumar Jain told reporters after the two-day Bajrang Dal Akhila Bharata Baitak here. Quoting the Census Report of 2011, he said the Hindu population percentage, which was 84.10 per cent in 1951, came down from to 79.80 per cent. But at the same time, he added that the percentage of Muslim, Sikh and Buddhists has all gone up. “The demon of minorities appeasement policy adopted by certain political parties is badly hurting the country’s growth,” he added. Rajesh Pandey, national convener of Bajrang Dal, said the growing demographic imbalance will become a dangerous threat to India’s very existence. (The Hindu 17/1/16)

 

54. Are Sikhs minority in Punjab? Supreme Court to adjudicate (7)

NEW DELHI: It may sound ridiculous at first blush, but the Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine whether Sikhs were a “minority group in homeland Punjab” — saying it had far reaching importance and consequences. A constitution bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and justices FMI Kalifulla, AK Sikri, S A Bobde and R Banumathi initially countered the plea by senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi for treating Sikhs as a minority in Punjab by asking, “Can Muslims be treated as minority in Jammu and Kashmir? “For that matter, can Christians, who are the majority in the states of Nagaland and Meghalaya, be also treated as a minority community in these two northeastern states? Sikhs may be a minority in other states but can they be treated as a minority group in Punjab?” But Dwivedi pointed out that another constitution bench judgment had erroneously fixed twin criteria — whether the group was numerically minority and whether they were dominated by other groups — for declaring a community as minority while taking the state as the geographical entity for such determination. He said numerical strength of a community within a state should be the criteria and not whether they were dominated by other communities. “A minority community may be affluent and not dominated in a state. This does not mean they can be denied the right to protect and further their cultural and educational rights as a minority group guaranteed under the Constitution,” he said. Dwivedi said Sikhs were those who owed allegiance to Guru Granth Sahib and were enlisted as voters with Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committe. “The sub-sects and followers of Dera Sacha Sauda, Radha Soami and similarly placed persons are not considered Sikhs even though they were born to Sikh parents,” he said. When the bench was deliberating whom to appoint as amicus curiae for assistance in adjudication of this tricky and complex constitutional issue, senior advocate KK Venugopal said it surely presented an issue that had far reaching consequences for many states. “In Kerala, Christians are in minority but own majority of the educational institutions. If Christian-owned educational institutions turn into minority educational institutions, then it will have a telling effect,” he said and agreed with the bench that former solicitor general T R Andhyarujina would be best suited to discharge duties as amicus curiae in this issue. The bench issued notice to the ministry of minority affairs and sought its response within four weeks. It also requested attorney general Mukul Rohatgi and senior advocate Andhyarujina to assist the court in deciding this question. A three-judge bench of the SC on August 8, 2005 had said in Bal Patil case, “It was not in contemplation of the framers of the Constitution to add to the list of religious minorities. The Constitution, through all its organs, is committed to protect religious, cultural and educational rights of all. (Times of India 19/1/16)

 

55. Minorities department on social media soon (7)

HYDERABAD: In its bid to increase its outreach and ensure more transparency in its functioning, the Telangana State Minorities Welfare Department (MWD) will be taking to social media soon. The MWD would increase its presence on the social networking site, Facebook and Twitter. It also plans to create a few WhatsApp groups and add in academicians, politicians, NGO activists and religious leaders. “We aim to reach people at their homes, workplaces, educational institutions and help them know more about our schemes and functioning. At the same time, we expect suggestions and grievances. It will save time and money that we usually spend on publicity,” a senior official of the MWD said. Several agencies like Telangana State Minorities Finance Corporation, Telangana State Christian (Minorities) Finance Corporation, Director – Minorities Welfare, Telangana State Urdu Academy, Centre for Educational Development of Minorities, and Telangana State Haj Committee are a few that come under the purview of the MWD.  (The Hindu 25/1/16)

 

56. India Failed To Address Attacks On Minorities: Human Rights Groups (7)

London:  The Indian government “failed” to address increasing attacks on religious minorities and imposed restrictions on civil society groups critical of it, two leading global human rights groups said on Wednesday. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also slammed the government for blocking foreign funding and targeting non-governmental organisations as well as activists. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government “failed to address increasing attacks on free expression and against religious minorities,” HRW said in its World Report 2016. In the 659-page report, it said authorities blocked foreign funding and increased restrictions on civil society groups critical of the government or large development projects. “The Indian government’s clampdown on dissent this year undermines the country’s long and rich tradition of free expression,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW South Asia director. “Instead of denial and retaliation, the authorities should encourage tolerance and peaceful debate and prosecute those committing or inciting violence,” she said in a statement. It said authorities used sedition, criminal defamation, and hate speech laws to harass and prosecute those expressing dissenting, unpopular, or minority views. The government often allowed a “heckler’s veto” to interest groups claiming to be offended by books, movies, or artwork and pushed for censorship or otherwise harassed authors, the statement added. “In a worrying trend, anti-Muslim rhetoric by some leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stoked insecurities among religious minorities,” it said, citing the killing of four Muslims by mobs over suspicion that they had killed or stolen cows for beef. The HRW said that the government blocked foreign funding for organisations such as Greenpeace India and targeted several others, including the Ford Foundation. It said authorities labeled activists such as Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand “anti-national” when they sought justice for victims of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. “Such tactics had a chilling effect on the work of other groups,” the statement said. Amnesty International accused the Modi government of “targeting” activists and protest groups for “political ends”.The People’s Watch’s “bank accounts have been frozen repeatedly since 2012 with the result that some employees had to be dismissed and many programmes abandoned,” Amnesty said. “The Delhi government in power at the time used the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to justify this kind of harassment,” it said in a release. “This same Act is being used for political ends by the current government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Amnesty added. (NDTV 28/1/16)

 

57. Minorities urged to take benefits of Start-Up India Action Plan, other govt schemes (7)

Mumbai: A business meeting called to discuss the problems faced by the minorities coming under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) sector on Friday endorsed ‘Start-Up India Action Plan’, and simultaneously issued a strong appeal to the minorities to take benefits from the recently launched initiative for economic growth and empowerment. “Minorities in India must take the advantages of the Start-Up India Action Plan’ recently released by Prime Minister Modi for economic empowerment”, Tauseef Malik, Indian American founder of Muslim Spelling Bee said at the summit organized by maeeshat.in. M Afzal Baig, the in-charge of Jamat-e-Islami’s Business Development Cell also made similar appeal and expressed concern over lack of awareness among the Muslims vis-à-vis government schemes. Participating in the debate, Aleem Faizee, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Awaz Multimedia & Publications, shared the key highlights of the ‘Start-up India Action Plan’ with the entrepreneurs present in the summit. Aleem Faizee also briefed the audience about Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna (PMKVY) and various initiatives included under the scheme for training, skill development and placement. Earlier, the summit began with the inaugural address by Danish Riyaz, Managing Director maeeshat.in, who while welcoming the entrepreneurs urged them to use the summit as a platform to share ideas and opportunities which can result in economic empowerment of the weaker sections of the society, especially the minorities. The inaugural address was followed by key-note presentations by Sharique Nisar, Founder of Shariah Compliance Advisory Board TASIS, Ashraf Muhammadi of Rehbar Financial Consultancy and Nasir Mehdi, a training provider for entrepreneurship development. While Sharique Nisar shared the important statistics of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector and highlighted the challenges faced by the entrepreneurs, Ashraf Muhammadi and Nasir Mehdi in their respective presentations highlighted the available opportunities with the help of success stories and case studies. The summit also saw a useful and inspiring speech by Haroon Mozawala, a Mumbai based businessman and member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) who also runs a charitable trust. Mozawala showcased the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who is also known for his entrepreneur skills, and highlighted the importance of transparency, hard work, commitment, honesty, trust as key factors for the success of any business or trade. Dr. Mohammad Ali Patankar, Mohammad Salim Kazi of Bait-un-Nas’r and MQ Syed of Exhicon while participating in panel discussion shared valuable experiences of their respective fields with the audience. On the occasion, maeeshat.in also awarded Syed Zafar Mehmood of Zakat Foundation, businessman VR Sharif and IT professional Syed Manzar to recognize their services. While Syed Zafar Mehmood was conferred with CSR Award for community service, VR Sharif and Syed Manzar were given Best Industrialist Award and Innovation Award respectively. (Ummid.com 30/1/16)

 

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

58. Drive to fight for ‘unfulfilled promises’ to Muslims (7)

LUCKNOW: Jamait Ulema-e-Hind general secretary Maulana Mehmood Madani said on Thursday the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh had failed to fulfill promises it made to Muslims during the state polls. Madani also announced a “massive campaign” in Uttar Pradesh to remind the ruling party of its unfulfilled promises.”Akhilesh Yadav government has completed four years but failed to deliver on electoral promises made to Muslims. This government is useless and incompetent. If they fail in fulfilling them in time left with them, people will teach them a lesson in the Assembly polls,” Madani said. He also said the Samajwadi Party had promised to put pressure on the Centre to implement the Sachchar and Rangnath Misra committee recommendations after it came to power. Nothing, however, was done. The cleric also raised the issue of Muslim reservation. “They promised Muslims would be given separate reservation like Dalits on the basis of their economic, social and educational backwardness and release innocent Muslims arrested on terror charges. But nothing has been done on any of them,” he said. The Jamait Ulema-i-Hind leader, who earlier in the day took part in the state executive committee, said a decision has been taken to start a massive campaign against the “failure”, under which meetings will be held in different parts of the state to remind the Samajwadi Party of its “unfulfilled promises”.”Its beginning will be made on January 17 from Lucknow after which another meeting will be held on February 13 in Meerut,” he said stressing that this drive of the Jamait should not be linked with elections as the SP government still had time to rectify its mistakes. (Times of India 1/1/16)

 

59. Only 33% of Muslims work, lowest among all religions (7)

NEW DELHI: Muslims have the lowest share of working people – about 33% – among all religious communities in India. This is lower than the nationwide average work participation rate of 40%.The figure for Jains and Sikhs stands at 36% each. Buddhists, comprising mostly Dalits who embraced Buddhism in the 20th century, have a high working population share at 43%. For Hindus, the figure is 41%. Drawn from the Census 2011 data, the statistics show a faith-based profile of India’s 482 million strong workforce. The figures haven’t changed much from the 2001 Census, indicating a stasis in the economic status of communities. The key reason behind low work participation rates in some communities seems to be the low work participation of women. Women’s participation is just 15% for Muslims and Sikhs, and even lower at 12% among Jains. Among Hindus, there are 27% working women, while it is 31% for Christians and 33% for Buddhists. Several smaller faiths fall under ‘Other Religions’. These are mostly tribal communities from peninsular India and the northeastern states. Their work participation rates are markedly different from other communities. Nearly 48% of members of this section work, more than any of the country’s six major religious communities. Women’s work participation is also highest in tribal communities, at nearly 44%.Census data also provides a picture of how many are engaged in what kind of work. For the country, 55% of workforce is in agriculture, as cultivators or as agricultural workers. The Census classifies all occupations in industry and services as ‘Other’, a convention since British times. This makes up 41% of all workers.Only 13% of Jains are involved in agriculture, the lowest for any community. While 41% of Muslims and Christians work in agriculture, this goes up to 47% among Sikhs and to 54% for Buddhists. The highest share of workers involved in agriculture is among Hindus, at 57%. The Jain community is predominantly working in industry and services. Muslims too are largely concen trated in these sectors as are Christians. Muslims are also notably more involved in the `Household Industry’ category which is mainly artisanal work like carpentry, black-smithing etc.Among tribal communities classified under ‘Other Religions’, over 80% of their members are working in agriculture, indicating their poor economic status. (Times of India 4/1/16)

 

60. India ‘far better’ place for Muslims, says man once wrongly branded terrorist (7)

Ahmedabad: Mufti Abdul Qayyum Mansuri, sentenced to death in the 2002 Akshardham temple attack case, but later acquitted the Supreme Court in May 2014, on Sunday said India was “far better” for Muslims and any Islamic country, including Pakistan. “No Muslim is feeling ashamed of living in India,” Mansuri said at a function, organised to by a private trust to dedicate a diary to him. Recalling his days in jail, Mansuri said, “When a prisoner is freed from jail, his past always haunt him.” “It was more of Hindu friends and lawyers who defended and supported me more than the Muslims,” he said.

Lauding the work of Sarvoday Youth Welfare Society, which honoured him, he said he would be always ready to offer service to people across religious and community lines. Natubhai Parmar, president of the society, said every year, for 27 years, the group dedicates its diary to a prominent personality. (Indian Express 5/1/15)

 

61. Beware of fake Muslims like Kejriwal, Sakshi Maharaj says (7)

MEERUT: Muslims are not bad, but it’s the fake Muslims like Kejriwal and Nitish Kumar who are real threat to the nation,” said Sakshi Maharaj, Lok Sabha MP from Unnao, who was speaking at the 3rd ‘Sant Samagam’ organized by Mahant Mahender Das ji Maharaj of Shani Dham temple in Meerut. During his address to the congregation, Sakshi Maharaj touched upon almost every controversy that raised political tempers in the recent past. He said, “Uttar Pradesh government is the most communal government so far. Otherwise how can you explain that when Kamlesh Tiwari, a Hindu, leader when speaks against Prophet Muhammad is put behind bars but when a few Muslim leaders at Bijnor announce a reward of Rs 51 lakh to anyone who brings the head of Tiwari, they are not touched at all by the administration?” He further stated, “Kamlesh Tiwari made the statement 45 days ago. If reaction had to happen it would have happened close to that date. Now after 45 days, 2.5 lakh Muslims ransack a police station and destroy public property in Malda. This is clear reflection of the fact that West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee is behind the incident to consolidate her vote bank in the forthcoming assembly elections.” On intolerance, he said, “We who wear saffron are religious leaders but we are labelled as saffron terrorists. We talk about world peace but a few dogs say we are intolerant. Let me ask where have those dogs disappeared soon after the Bihar elections got over?” A large number of sants from Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, participated in the event. Continuing his tirade, Sakshi Maharaj also said, “In every state we are in power, cow slaughter has been effectively banned. In Haryana, a culprit can get life sentence if charges are proved against him. We are determined to get it banned in the entire country sooner or later.” (Times of India 6/1/16)

 

62. Ram naam draws Muslim followers to Magh Mela (7)

ALLAHABAD: A group of city-based Muslims have been following the ritual of writing the name of Lord Ram to deposit during the Magh Mela. As per the ritual, devotees write Ram’s name several times and deposit it in the Ram Naam Bank. “About 10 years ago, I read an article saying that writing Ram naam gives immense satisfaction and so I have been writing it for the past several years and receiving inner strength, energy, concentration and devotion” said Faisal Khan, who has also resolved to observe month-long Kalpwas (seclusion) on the banks of Ganga from Pauash Poornima on January 24 to Maghi Purnima on February 22. It gives him energy for the entire year, he said. His group, Abdul Rab, Mohammad Amin Khan and Mukhtar, all observe every roza during Ramzan and offer namaz five times a day all year. They also know shlokas and mantras of the Bhagvad Gita by heart. Faisal has been writing the name of Lord Ram in Hindi, English and Urdu, even in short-hand for the last eight years. Writing Ram naam with both hands, he said, “I have already written it over a million times.” “We should all think in harmony and hold the Gita in one hand and the Quran in the other,” Faisal said, adding, “every individual should be known not by his religion but as a human. Good karma and salvation can be attained only by good deeds.” He said, there were many Muslims who have been attending Ram Navmi celebrations for the past several years. President, Ram Naam Bank, Ashutosh Varshney, said, “Writing Ram naam links everyone with their inner self and with the divine. Thousands of devotees including Muslims have been writing it for the past 10 years and depositing it in the bank for peace and positivity, clarity of mind, tolerance and power to withstand obstacles in life.” (Times of India 11/1/16)

 

63. Muslims have largest share of young, but also die early (7)

Muslims in India have the highest share of children and teenagers (0-19 age group) among all religions, at 47%, compared to 40% for Hindus and just 29% among Jains, according to new Census 2011 data released on Tuesday. If all communities are taken together, around 41% of the country’s population is below 20 years old and nine percent above 60 years, leaving 50% in the intervening 20-59 age group. Overall, life cycles of different religious communities in India have shown common trends of declining proportion of children and increasing shares of elderly while also showing marked differences in average life span. The share of the young population has declined since the previous census in 2001 when it was 45% for the whole country, 44% for Hindus, 52% for Muslims and 35% for Jains. This is a reflection of across-the-board declines in fertility rates – number of children born – leading to a slowing down of the respective population growth rates. The decline is the least for Hindus and highest for Buddhists and Christians, at seven percentage points, followed by Sikhs and Jains at six percentage points. At the other end of the life cycle, the proportion of elderly has risen across all communities as life spans have generally increased. The elderly, 60 years and above, make up about nine percent of the country’s population. Across religious communities, there is considerable variation in the share of the elderly population, which can be directly linked to economic status and access to healthcare. In the Muslim community, just 6.4% of the population is over 60 years, almost 50% lower than the national average. In 2001, this share was 5.8%, indicating only a marginal increase. Among Jains, and Sikhs, the share of elderly is 12%, over 30% more than the national average. These shares are more also because the younger generation’s numbers are less. The Hindu community is close to all national averages because they make up nearly 80% of the country’s population. Age-wise population shares reveal another important aspect of the lives of people – dependency. Both children and the elderly are dependent on the able and adult population. Overall, the young dependency ratio – number of children aged up to 15 dependent on every 1,000 members of the working age population – has declined from 621 in 2001 to 510 in 2011. This is a direct consequence of declining number of children.Every Hindu should take as a mission it to advise the youngsters to marry at correct time and have the at least two chil… Read MorePrabhu SingarajuAt the other end of life, the old dependency ratio has increased from 131 in 2001 to 142 in 2011, in accord with the growing elderly population. If we add up both young and old, in 2001, 752 people were dependent on every 1,000 persons in the working age population of 15 to 59 years. Compared to that, in 2011, this ratio has come down to 652. Across religious communities, Muslims have the highest total dependency ratio of 748 compared to the lowest ratio for Jains which is just 498. For Hindus, the ratio is 640. All these ratios have declined since 2001. (Times of India 13/1/16)

 

64. Madrassas should be barred from teaching in Urdu, Arabic: Shiv Sena (7)

Mumbai: Asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take a cue from UK government’s warning that migrants on spousal visas who fail to speak English may face deportation, Shiv Sena on Wednesday said madrassas in India should be barred from using Urdu and Arabic as medium of instruction and they should be replaced with English and Hindi. The ruling ally also took a swipe at PM and his ministerial colleagues, saying while they might succeed in getting investments into the country by touring other nations, from where would the courage come to fight enemies within the country. The party also said that the government should show courage and bring in the Uniform Civil Code and start the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya. “The British government is not wrong in thinking that Islamic State militants use uneducated Muslim women to propagate their ideas. Prime Minister Narendra Modi should take cues from the British government…,” the Sena said in an editorial in its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’. “India will benefit if the government can show courage like British Prime Minister David Cameron and bar madrassas from teaching in Urdu and Arabic and instead impart education in English and Hindi languages,” it opined. Notably, the UK government had recently warned that migrants on spousal visas who fail to speak English may face deportation, as it announced a new 20 million pound fund to improve the language skills among migrant Muslim women. “Not only our PM, but other ministers and politicians keep visiting foreign nations and talk of bringing industries, trade, talent, culture to India. We will eventually succeed in it, but from where we will get the courage to fight the enemies within the country,” the Sena asked. Cameron on Tuesday unveiled plans for tougher new English language requirements to prevent segregation of members of the Muslim community. New rules will mean that from October this year migrants coming to the UK on a five-year spousal visa with poor or no English skills will have to take a test after two and a half years to show they are making efforts to improve their English. (Indian Express 20/1/16)

 

65. Indignant Muslims of Mumbai suburb protest against IS (7)

MUMBAI: A day after a Mumbra techie was arrested for his alleged involvement with ISIS, residents on Saturday expressed concern at the inroads terror has made into this bustling suburb on the fringes of Thane. Several organizations and schools protested against IS and its web of terror, upset that their suburb is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Sameena Khan (12), a student, shouted anti-IS slogans as she held placards outside Mumbra station on Saturday evening, along with over a dozen of her schoolmates who were protesting against the terror outfit. Khan was upset, saying it was unfair to tag Mumbra as a breeding ground for terror activities just because one person living there was linked with a terror organization.”They (ISIS) are not saviors of the world and their actions seem to be an attempt to divide society and glorify inhuman acts in the name of religion. My parents, teachers and elders have clearly instructed us to not fall prey to any false propaganda of ‘bad people’ like IS, which are defaming the entire community,” said Rukhsana Sayed, another protestor. Clerics and members of the Muslim community in Mumbra also chose to distance themselves from the arrest on Friday and condemned the terror outfit. A few religious heads from the suburb held a meeting and decided to collectively counter any possible IS influence on youngsters from the community.”Sermons will soon be held at various mosques following Friday prayers, where religious heads will counsel youngsters to refrain from supporting any terror activities or outfits. We will also counsel parents who shall be told to keep close vigil on their wards and check any sudden change in behavior,” said Sharif Hashmi, a cleric. Meanwhile, the family of suspected IS operative Mudabbir Shaikh has moved out of its residence in Reshma Park, Amrut Nagar, and temporarily sought refuge with a close relative to avoid the intense media glare. When contacted, Ahmed Miyan, father-in-law of Shaikh, said he had no clue about Shaikh’s link to any terror activities. “He was an IT programmer and quit his job 18 months back and was since freelancing from home,” he said. A neighbor told TOI that Shaikh appeared disturbed in the last few months. “In the few short conversations I had with him recently, Shaikh seemed disturbed about something but was reluctant to speak,” said the neigbour requesting anonymity. (Times of India 24/1/16)

 

66. Indian-American Muslims flay Government move against AMU, Jamia (7)

Washington: Indian-American Muslims have appealed to President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to maintain the minority character of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Milia Islamia, saying the move to question the status of the institutions is “discriminatory”. “In the post-independence India where the educational backwardness of Muslims has increased substantially as documented by the Sachar Committee report, AMU and Jamia have made huge contribution in shoring up higher education in the Muslim community,” said Kaleem Kawaja, executive director of the Washington DC based Association of Indian Muslims of America (AIM). He said that the recent actions of the government’s Law ministry and Human Resources ministry “to oppose AMU’s appeal in the Supreme Court by reversing the same central government’s 2006 support to the AMU appeal is a very discriminatory and prejudiced anti-Muslim action.” “Indian-American Muslims object strongly to this action of the BJP-led government,” the statement said, adding that it will end up pushing back the minority Muslims into severe educational backwardness at a time when they are already backward. “We appeal to the President and Prime Minister of India to take quick steps to stop these discriminatory actions of the Law and HRD ministries against AMU and Jamia, reverse the said actions, and provide support to both Muslim community universities in their quest for justice,” the association said in the statement. The issue of restoration of minority character of AMU is at present pending with the Supreme Court. On January 11, Attorney General Mukul Rohatagi, during the hearing of this case, had told the court that the NDA government did not support the idea of a state-funded minority institution in a secular state, sparking off a controversy. The Attorney General has told the government that Jamia Milia Islamia is not a minority institution as it was created by an Act of Parliament, days after he told the Supreme Court that the legislature never intended the Aligarh Muslim University to be a minority institution. (Indian Express 28/1/16)

 

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

67. Christians record the highest sex ratio in State (7)

KALABURAGIL: Christians continued to record the highest sex ratio with the figure increasing from 1,030 in the 2001 Census to 1,049 in the 2011 Census. Although the child sex ratio was also high among Christians in the State, the growth was very marginal and it rose from 961 in 2001 census to 962 in 2011. Economist Sangeeta Kattimani, who compiled these data from the two Census reports and the Religion Data of the Census 2011 released now, told The Hindu here that the lowest sex ratio of 739 was reported among Buddhists. In fact, the sex ratio among Buddhists had seen a steep fall from 907 in the 2001 Census to 739 in the 2011 Census. The child sex ratio among Buddhists decreased from 953 in 2001 to 949 in 2011. Prof. Kattimani said that the sex ratio of other major religious groups, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Jains, showed a marginal improvement when compared to the 2001 and 2011 census and same was the case under the child sex ratio head. While the sex ratio of Hindus rose from 966 in 2001 to 972 in 2011, the sex ratio of Muslims rose from 957 in 2001 to 969 in 2011. There was a marked improvement in the sex ratio of Sikhs — from 739 in 2001 to 803 in 2011 census. The sex ratio of Jains rose from 926 in 2001 to 951 in 2011. The child sex ratio of Hindus saw a marginal increase from 945 in 2001 to 947 in 2011. Among Muslims, it was 945 in 2001 and 947 in 2011. The child sex ratio of Sikhs saw an increase from 882 in 2001 to 913 in 2011. Similarly, the child sex ratio of Jains rose from 882 in 2001 to 913 in 2011. Prof. Kattimani said that the latest figures released by the Registrar General of Census provided some interesting data of literacy levels of different religious groups. While the literacy rate of Christians and Jains, who always placed education as a priority in their life, was high, the literacy level of Muslims was higher than Hindus in the State. As much as 90.80 per cent of Christians were literate and it was 88.32 per cent among Jains in the State. Surprisingly, a higher number of Muslims were literate when compared to Hindus in the State. The literacy percentage of Hindus was 74.36 per cent as per the 2011 census figures while it was 78.89 per cent among Muslims in the State. Prof. Kattimani said that the literacy rate of Buddhists saw a record increase from 53.16 per cent in 2001 census to 76.11 per cent. (The Hindu 4/1/16)

 

68. 7.5 Lakh Muslims, Christians Re-converted in Last 10 Years: Togadia (7)

SURAT: Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia today claimed that his organisation had re-converted more than five lakh Christians and 2.5 lakh Muslims to Hinduism in the last ten years. Speaking at a function here today, Togadia also called for a mass drive to continue this “Ghar Wapsi” to save the Hinduism in India. “Within last ten years, we did Ghar Wapsi of more than five lakh Christians and 2.5 lakh Muslims. Our rate of Ghar Wapsi used to be around 15,000 each year. But last year, we have crossed the mark of 40,000, which is excluding the figures of RSS,” said Togadia, the international working president of VHP. “If Hindus need to be in majority in India and to save our religion, we have to engage in many more Ghar Wapsi drives to bring crores of others into our religion,” said Togadia, who was here to take part in VHP’s fund raising event. During his brief interaction with media afterwards, the right-wing leader also demanded that all the Hindus of Pakistan should be given Indian citizenship. He also reiterated that Ram temple will definitely be constructed in Ayodhya. “Ram temple will be built in Ayodhya, and there is no doubt about it. To build it, the Parliament must bring a law,” he said. (New Indian Expres 8/1/16)

 

69. ‘RSS coming up with Christian wing’ (7)

Thiruvananthapuram: “We will wait and see what they have to offer,” the head of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church said on Thursday on the RSS decision to start a Christian wing. “Its acceptance will depend on what it proposes and what it has to offer. So we will wait and see what they have to offer,” Moran Mar Baselios Cleemis Catholicos told the media. “I am still not clear, so the best what we can do is we will wait, till they express what they wish to do,” he added. In an apparent reference to rightwing Hindu groups, the Cardinal said from what one has seen so far, “one thing is said and something different happens and so let them be clear what they have in their mind”. (Zee News 14/1/16)

 

70. Kerala RSS Unaware of Move to Float Christian Outfit (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Amidst reports of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) planning to float a  new Christian outfit, ‘Rashtriya Isai Manch (RIM), on the lines of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch it constituted over a decade ago, the state RSS leadership is giving hints that it is not aware of any such move. There were media reports that the RSS leadership in New Delhi had convened a meeting of the Church leaders on December 17, which was attended by four archbishops and over 40 bishops to explore the possibility of   constituting a new Christian outfit, working in tandem with the RSS. It had also been reported that Home Minister Rajnath Singh had attended a get-together organised by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, the supreme body of the Catholic Church in the country, in connection with the Christmas celebrations and the minister had promised to solve all the issues concerning conversion and attack on churches. But the local RSS leadership in Kerala is giving hints that it has no idea about such a move. An important RSS functionary, on condition of anonymity, told ‘Express’ that there had been no discussions on the formation of such an outfit in the state. “It is a fact that the Sangh had formed the Muslim Rashtriya Manch more than a decade ago. It is actively functioning in North India. In the Muslim community, they straightaway express their opinion about where they stand. We know who are extremists and who want to identify with the national forces. But the Christian Churches follow a strategy of  hidden agenda even when they engage themselves in discussions,” the RSS functionary said.  However, he said that Churches were giving top priory to maintaining good relations with the BJP and RSS and had made overtures in that direction. The other day, when Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, who is also the president of the CBCI, was asked about the move, his response was not that enthusiastic. “I don’t believe that the RSS has changed. However, I am not of the opinion that any organisation cannot change positively in future. The change has to be evident in their acts, not just in statements,” Cardinal Cleemis said on the sidelines of a press conference. When contacted, BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan, who has been busy bridging the gap between the Christian Churches and the BJP, said that he also had no information about the RSS floating a Christian outfit called RIM. “We don’t view the church leaders as custodians of a vote bank. We believe in maintaining good relations with all religious leaders. So far no bishop has said that the BJP is against Churches. The other day, Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church, Joseph Marthoma, while attending a reception accorded to me at Aranmula, had described me as a harbinger of harmony. But a certain political leader, who had even described a bishop as a despicable person, says that the BJP is against Christians,” Kummanam said. (New Indian Express 17/1/16)

 

71. Christian women outnumber men: study (7)

HYDERABAD: Ducking the trend for religion, the female Christian population in the city outnumbers the male population across nearly all age groups. Though small compared to the total Christian population of 87,552 in Hyderabad, the gender gap of nearly 1,000 is representative of a difference seen across the State and the country. According to 2011 census data recently released, the difference is relatively larger in the working age-group of people with the most prominent gap visible in the population aged 20 years to 29 years. The census states the male Christian population is 43,291 and the female population is 44,231 in the city. Lawyer Bhasker Benny opines that some of the difference can be partly explained by disparity in self-identification. “The scheduled castes and tribes among the Christians do not identify themselves as Christians fearing loss of reservation benefits. Due to low literacy levels among women and low awareness about reservation, they are more likely to reveal their religious identity,” he said. The demand for SC status for Dalit Christians and Muslims has been long-pending. However, the data shows that the male Muslim population is higher than the female population. The census data shows there are 20.46 lakh Hindus and 17.13 lakh Muslims in Hyderabad. While the number of Hindus is higher than the Muslim population in most age groups, between birth and 19 years the Muslim population is higher; the difference in this age group is nearly 67,000. However the gender gap among the religions is the highest among Hindus. The situation is not different in urban Ranga Reddy, which largely comprises greater Hyderabad. There are 30.3 lakh Hindus, 4.9 lakh Muslims and 1.3 lakh Christians with the female population exceeding the male population. (The Hindu 18/1/16)

 

72. 85 major anti-Christian incidents in 2015, claims NGO (7)

NEW DELHI: Citing 85 major incidents of alleged persecution of Christians across 20 states last year, a report by a minority and human rights NGO says 2015 saw an unprecedented spike in “intolerance” against the community. The report says on an average India saw one such incident of hate crime against Christians a day last year. While the report terms Madhya Pradesh as the worst state, followed by Telengana and Uttar Pradesh for such attacks, it calls Maharashtra the ‘Hindutva capital’. Delhi too, the report says, is among the top 10 states that saw such incidents, with five Catholic churches vandalised and assaults on priests and community members. The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) in its report claims that at least seven pastors were killed and 8,000 Christians (including 6,000 women and children) targeted in 2015. The report cites incidents from across the country — from Arunachal Pradesh, where suspected Hindutva fundamentalists attempted to attack Christians and whip up mass hysteria by quoting the Census 2011 data, and Chhatisgarh, where there is an alleged ban on religious activities other than of Hinduism, to Himachal Pradesh where the CPWD wrote off the Shimla CNI Church as a government property, and Tamil Nadu, where Bibles were thrown on the road to incite community members and create tension.Hundreds of protesters Nuns, priests and archbishops chanted Hail Mary on the streets of Bengaluru in Feb 2015 as Christians took out a procession in the city against the recent attacks on churches in Delhi. “There is at least a 20% increase in the incidents in terms of the number of people victimized as against 2014. The real numbers are much higher as many don’t want to report such incidents as the police force is communal. Then we have incidents from areas where RSS is very dominant and victims are threatened to not report the attacks. In some cases the media is also biased. Being less in number, Christians can’t fight back,” says CSF general secretary Joseph Dias. Claiming a significant rise in Hindutva ideology in 2015, the report claims that RSS and its 38 ideological affiliates have consolidated in almost every sphere of activity, and are “preparing to strengthen their hold on the country’s polity”. “With the BJP government in the Centre, there is huge increase in RSS shakhas. Even though there is no BJP government in Kerala, the state has the highest number of shakhas. West Bengal, whic has long been under communist rule and is now governed by liberal forces, BJP has a strong hold over five districts where reconversions are picking up. There is saffronisation of secular institution and in every sphere secular activities have been saffronised — be it in the northeast, Tamil Nadu, Kerala or Goa,” claims Dias”Earlier Gujarat was the Hindutva capital but now it is Maharashtra. The biggest ever rally of RSS was held in Pune where 1.50 lakh people participated. Rationalist like Narendra Dabholkar and others are being threatened. And the anti-conversion bill has been admitted in the Maharashtra Assembly. There is one Narendra Maharaj who claimed to have reconveretd 2,000 Christians to Hinduism in 2015 and his headquarter is also in Maharashtra. Saffron terror attacks somehow have their roots in Maharashtra,” says Dias. (Times of India 18/1/16)

 

73. MP Freedom of Religion Act being misused, says Archbishop (7)

BHOPAL: Bhopal Archbishop Dr Leo Cornelio on Saturday said the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam (Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act) was being misused. The statement comes two days after a report of Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) said that Madhya Pradesh was the worst state when it comes to attacks on Christians. Dr Cornelio said the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan wanted harmony and peace and he was very particular about it, but some fringe groups were responsible for the attacks. Asked if these incidents increased after BJP came to power in the state in 2003, and particularly after Chouhan took over the reins ten years ago, the Archbishop said fringe groups were responsible for the attacks and Chouhan could not be present everywhere (to prevent such incidents). It was the duty of the law enforcing agencies to prevent the violence against Christians. These agencies should not buckle under pressure while probing such incidents, he said.All these Arch Bihops are propagating conversions all over the country in the name of education and equality. Unlike Mus… Read MoreRavishankar Bhujanga Saying that fundamentalists are present in every religion, Dr Cornelio said violence is unleashed in many parts of the world in the name of Islam, though that religion believes in brotherhood, peace and love. The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act prohibits religious conversion through force, allurement and fraudulent means. It also makes it punishable to change the religion without informing the authorities. (Times of India 24/1/16)

 

74.  ‘M.P. govt. yet to hand over schools to church’ (7)

BHOPAL: Archbishop of Bhopal, Leo Cornelio, on Saturday said the Madhya Pradesh government was yet to respond to its request regarding handing over some of the state-run schools in backward districts to the Catholic church to improve their educational standards. “A year ago, I personally asked Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to hand over a couple of government schools in backward districts to us, so that we improve the educational standards in such institutes,” Cornelio told reporters here. He said this while providing details of the concluding ceremony of ‘Year of Consecrated life’ scheduled to be held here on Sunday. “After my meeting, one of our principals wrote to the government for adoption of government schools. But we have not received any response from it. We are not worried at all over the issue,” he said. According to the Archbishop, the education system in government schools needs to be improved urgently. “Students get free mid-day meal and books and other facilities, except education in government schools,” he claimed. “I visit villages and I am of strong view that education system needs to be improved in government schools in Madhya Pradesh,” he added. The Church is observing Year of Consecrated Life as Pope Francis dedicated the period November 30, 2014 to February 2, 2016 for it. The objectives of this year is to look to the past with gratitude; live the present with passion and embrace the future with hope, he said. “We have been asked to work for spiritual upliftment and to set new trends in education, health care, social work, rehabilitation and work for the uplift and welfare of poor and oppressed classes with more strength and devotion,” the Archbishop added. (The Hindu 24/1/16)

 

75. After National Commission for Minorities’ intervention, Christian graveyard freed of encroachment after 12 years (7)

MEERUT: A Christian graveyard at Ganga Nagar area was freed from encroachment that had over the past 12 years become a bone of contention between the locals and the community members. Out of 1,000 sq meters, almost half had been encroached upon and all the graves, some of which belonged to British soldiers, had been razed. The issue had been dragging for over a decade but eventually after the intervention of National Commission of Minorities, the graveyard was cleared. The civic authorities, on Friday, began demolition amid protests and presence of heavy police force. According to state president of Isai Mahasabha, Robin Nath, “We are running out of space in our existing burial grounds and at the same time, we cannot have more lands as the locals around the proposed areas object, it has become imperative for us to stake the claim over the ones which have been encroached upon. It had been a long fight to get back this one, though, many old graves were destroyed by the encroachers over a period of time.” While the demolition was going on, a few residents of the area tried to stop the act but the presence of heavy police force thwarted the attempt. According to one of the residents who did not wish to be named, “The land is unnecessarily being labelled as a graveyard despite the fact that there is no grave here. And even it is a burial ground then why no one has been buried here for so many years. This is just a way of grabbing the land by mafia.”The incident first came to light in 2004 when few influential residents of Kaseru Buxar area of Ganganagar, where the graveyard is located, allegedly encroached the site. According to a local Christian, Lalit Stephen, “Few graves that included some of British soldiers were destroyed. When Christians protested at that time, they were threatened with dire consequences, if they ever returned to the place.” As per the official records at DM office, the 1,000 square meters of land is registered as a graveyard. On July 26, 2013, district Minority Welfare Officer, SN Panday, had sent his report in the matter to the municipal commissioner that confirmed that the land was a graveyard and local residents had encroached upon the land. He had directed the municipal commissioner to launch an anti-encroachment drive to clear the land and maintain the sanctity of the area. However, the commissioner had declined stating that the area did not fall under his jurisdiction. When TOI contacted SN Pandey, district minority welfare officer, he said, “It is true that the graveyard had been encroached. We had erected a boundary wall around the land in 2014 but encroachment could not be removed at that point of time.” While speaking to TOI, Nath said, “In the first week of January, 2016, we visited National Commission for Minorities (NCM) as things were moving at a snail’s pace. Eventually, NCM took a strong step and directed the DM of Meerut to take immediate action in the matter.” On January 6, 2016, NCM issued a letter reprimanded DM Pankaj Yadav in the matter and stated ‘Despite a court order and intervention of district minority welfare officer, the illegal encroachments have not been removed.’ The district administration was asked to examine the case and submit the report within 21 days. (Times of India 29/1/16)

 

76. Church Divided Over RSS’s Move to Launch Christian Body (7)

NEW DELHI: The creation of a proposed Christian wing of the RSS is splitting the Indian church wide open. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has refused to participate in a meeting being organised by the John Dayal-led United Christian Forum (UCF) here on February 13 to discuss the move. The RSS has been holding a series of meetings with Christian leaders to reach out to the community by setting up the Rashtriya Isai Manch on the lines of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch, established over a decade ago. CBCI spokesperson Father Gyanprakah Topno said,  “We are yet to get any official invite from the RSS. Then why should we discuss it prematurely?’’ However, many independent Christian bodies, priests and Bishops, mostly from the Northern church, have said yes. “It is up to the CBCI to decide on attending our function, which will have representation of over 150 representatives from all denominations, ’’ said A C Michael, one of the organisers. Sources said the elitist Catholics are not keen on the initiative. “But many priests and bishops from the northern belt in the country have agreed to attend. The church in North India may be poor in resources but are high in Christian spirit,’’ he said. Justifying this claim, Father Savari Muthu of Delhi Arch Diocese told The Sunday Standard that he would be attending though he is aware of the CBCI position. According to a radical insider within the CBCI, the difference over approach to RSS is nothing but a “class war’’ within the church. “The majority of Christians in India are poor and insecure. The northern church, which represents them is more concerned about this political development. The CBCI is under the control of the Brahminical Christians from Kerala. They do not want to be seen with Dalits and adivasis who will discuss political issues,’’ he said. Organisers confided that the CBCI is abstaining as the cardinals will have to face some unconfortable questions about their recent bonhomie with the RSS. The topics of discussion for the meeting include ‘Should there be a dialogue with non-state actors like RSS’ and ‘Who is the margdarshak for Church and Indian Christians?’ Christian activists name the current divide as a tussle between the elitist Kerala church versus the rest of the Indian churches. “The Kandhamal incident may not mean anything to upper caste Kerala Christians but is very much fresh in the memory of every northern Christian. We can’t think of joining hands with RSS,’’ an activist said. This criticism against Kerala church comes amidst news of a meeting lined up between BJP president Amit Shah and Kerala Congress leader K M Mani next week. Mani, whose Keralka Congress is a  Catholic party will not make any moves without the approval of the Catholic Church. Sources speculate that Mani’s son, Jose K Mani MP is likely to be inducted into the Union ministry. (The Sunday Standard 31/1/16)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

77. Pak refugees dream of Adnan’s luck (13)

AHMEDABAD: January 1 was a major day for Pakistani singer and music director Adnan Sami as his application got accepted and he became an Indian citizen. This development has found resonance in Pakistani nationals in the city who have been living in India on longterm visa for several decades and hope that it will set precedence of sorts.    Mahadev Lohana, 42, a doctor by education, had come a month later than Adnan -in April 2001-fleeing extremists in Sindh of Pakistan. As he does not have permission for practising medicine here, he is associated with a city hospital as administrator. “We have a stigma attached to us even as we fled the country with a hope of better life in India. We find it difficult to get jobs or even places to stay even as many of us have our spouses from India and children,” he says. While the efforts by Lohana to get the Indian citizenship are still on, for Sanjay Thakkar, 37, it’s a lesson in patience as he has lost his father with his last wish to die as an Indian citizen. “It is a painful experience for any human being to get uprooted from motherland. However, living in Pakistan for Hindu and Sindhi communities is becoming increasingly difficult and thus, most of us come with a hope to get accepted in the fold. My wife is an Indian and it is her documents that ensure future for my children,” he says. (Times of India 4/1/16)

 

78. Over 1 lakh Tamil refugees in India (13)

CHENNAI: More than six-and-a-half years after the civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended, over 1.22 lakh people from the neighbouring island continue to live as refugees in other countries, while another 50,000 people are internally-displaced, according to the latest figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A total of 1,22,533 persons from Sri Lanka are living as refugees in other countries and 15,504 persons (pending cases) have sought asylum there. A total of 50,268 have been internally displaced within the country, the Mid-Year Trends 2015 released by UNHCR recently stated. While 231 refugees returned to the island in the first half of last year, none of those who had been internally-displaced went back to their original home during that period. Though there are conflicting versions about the number of persons killed in the war, according to an estimate of the United Nations about 40,000 persons have been killed. S.C. Chandrahasan, Treasurer of Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR) said, “The government of India should come with a generous package to supplement the efforts of the Sri Lankan government in facilitating the return of the refugees.” Referring to the recent developments in the island, including the release of over 700 acres of civil land so far under the control of the Army to the civilian authorities, Mr. Chandrahasan said this was the right time to encourage more refugees to return as most of the land owners are living in camps in India. OfERR has organised Skype meetings between refugees living in India and the returnees who went back to the island on how the situation has improved. “To make things easy for their return, ferry services must be recommenced, as that would also ease the financial burden on the aiding agencies in helping the return of refugees.” The government of Tamil Nadu, where over a lakh Lankan refugees are living in camps, has been sceptical of their return to Sri Lanka. In January last year, the then Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam said that the conditions in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka were “still not conducive” for the refugees to return. (The Hindu 4/1/16)

 

79. 12,000 Syrian refugees amass at Jordan border (13)

AMMAN: Jordan has acknowledged that more than 12,000 Syrian refugees have amassed at its border, awaiting entry. The confirmation by government spokesman Mohammed Momani comes after Jordan initially dismissed a similar estimate provided by the UN refugee agency as exaggerated.The refugees are stranded in a remote desert area on the Syrian-Jordanian border, often spending weeks or months there in what aid agencies say are deteriorating humanitarian conditions. In December, the UN refugee agency urged Jordan to allow the refugees to enter. Momani says about 50 to 100 refugees are permitted entry each day, with priority given to women, children, the elderly and sick people. He says mass entry is unlikely because of security concerns. (Times of India 6/1/16)

 

80. UN chief names adviser for UN summit on refugees, migrants (13)

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced the appointment of Karen AbuZayd as special adviser on the summit on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants, which will be held at the UN General Assembly in September. The special adviser will work with UN entities and undertake consultations with Member States and other relevant stakeholders in the lead up to the summit, Xinhua cited Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the secretary-general, as saying on Tuesday. “This will include overseeing the secretary-general`s report on large movements of refugees and migrants, to be submitted to the General Assembly in May 2016,” said Dujarric. AbuZayd has extensive UN experience in humanitarian and human rights work in numerous countries. She was appointed commissioner-general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in 2005 and served in that position till 2010. Since 2011, she has served as a commissioner on the Independent Inquiry Commission on Syria. (Zee News 6/1/16)

 

81. Thousands at far-right rally against Merkel migrant policy (13)

Leipzig (Germany): Thousands of far-right protesters have rallied in the eastern German city of Leipzig against the record refugee influx they blamed for sexual violence against women at New Year’s Eve festivities. The crowd loudly vented its anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday, whom they accuse of destroying their homeland by allowing in 1.1 million asylum seekers last year. “We are the people”, “Resistance!” and “Deport them!”, chanted the followers of LEGIDA, the local chapter of xenophobic group PEGIDA, the “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident”.A heavy police presence, with water canon at the ready, kept watch over the crowd of several thousand, and separated them from thousands of counter-demonstrators, as rain poured down. While the rally stayed peaceful, police said some 250 far-right hooligans had thrown rocks and smashed shop windows in a traditionally left-wing student district of the city, before police dispersed them. The key theme of the LEGIDA protest was the New Year’s Eve attacks in the western city of Cologne, where hundreds of women reported being groped and robbed by men described as Arabs and North Africans, in scenes that have shocked the country. Justice Minister Heiko Maas earlier warned yesterday that “those who now hound refugees — on the Internet or on the streets — have obviously just been waiting for the events of Cologne” and were now “shamelessly exploiting” the attacks. “Refugees not welcome!” read one sign, showing a silhouette of three men armed with knives pursuing a woman, while another declared “Islam = terror”. “Since New Year’s Eve, nothing is like it was,” said one speaker, PEGIDA activist Tatjana Festerling, who decried the night’s “sex jihad against women”.”Asylum-Mummy Merkel had barely delivered her New Year’s address to the people when in Cologne the first fireworks hit the cathedral and police,” she said. “Then these Muslim refugees started their wholesale terror attack against German women, against blonde, white women,” she said to loud boos from the crowd. Waving a sign declaring “State of injustice”, 44-year-old demonstrator Lukas Richter said “Merkel is breaching the constitution and must go,” and that “the government must close the borders and return all illegal migrants”.He charged that the New Year’s Eve attacks highlighted “the violence of foreigners in Germany that has existed for years”. One sign mocked Merkel’s “We can do it” motto on the refugee influx, saying “You can’t even secure a train station”. (Zee News 12/1/16)

 

82. India has largest diaspora population in world: UN report (13)

United Nations: India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world with 16 million people from India living outside their country in 2015, according to a latest UN survey on international migrant trends. The survey conducted by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) said the number of international migrants – persons living in a country other than where they were born – reached 244 million in 2015 for the world as a whole, a 41 per cent increase compared to 2000. The 2015 Revision, nearly two thirds of international migrants live in Europe (76 million) or Asia (75 million), according to the Trends in International Migrant Stock. “The rise in the number of international migrants reflects the increasing importance of international migration, which has become an integral part of our economies and societies,” said Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. “Well-managed migration brings important benefits to countries of origin and destination, as well as to migrants and their families,” Hongbo added. India has the largest diaspora in the world, followed by Mexico and Russia. In 2015, 16 million people from India were living outside of their country, a growth from 6.7 million in 1990, the survey stated. Mexico’s diaspora population stood at 12 million.Other countries with large diasporas included Russia, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Ukraine. Of the twenty countries with the largest number of international migrants living abroad, 11 were in Asia, 6 in Europe, and one each in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Northern America, the survey said. This figure includes almost 20 million refugees. The survey further said that in 2015, two thirds of all international migrants were living in only 20 countries, starting with the US, which hosted 19 per cent of all migrants at 46.6 million, followed by Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. India ranked 12th out of these 20 countries, hosting 5.2 million migrants in 2015, a drop from 7.5 million in 1990. The UN data shows that the number of international migrants has grown faster than the world’s population. As a result, the share of migrants in the global population reached 3.3 per cent in 2015, up from 2.8 per cent in 2000. Two out of three international migrants in 2015 lived in Europe or Asia, the survey said, adding that nearly half of all international migrants worldwide were born in Asia. Among major regions of the world, Northern America hosts the third largest number of international migrants, followed by Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Oceania. Between 2000 and 2015, Asia added more international migrants than any other major region, or a total of 26 million additional migrants. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by world leaders last September at the United Nations, stresses the multidimensional reality of migration. .. (Deccan Herald 14/1/16)

 

83. ‘Migration a natural phenomenon, cannot be stopped’ (13)

New Delhi: Migration is a ‘natural phenomenon’ and the restrictions that came in place at the beginning of the 20th century will not last in the 21st century, political expert Sanjaya Baru said on Monday. Baru, who is currently the director for geo-economics and strategy at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, was speaking at the launch of a book “Politics of Migration: Indian Emigration in a Globalized World” written by A. Didar Singh, Secretary General of Ficci and S. Irudaya Rajan. The book was launched on Monday by Minister of State for External Affairs General V.K. Singh (retd). “Migration is a natural phenomenon since the beginning of humans. The curtailing started only in the inter-war period. Till the beginning of World War I, majority of countries did not have control on the movement of people,” Baru said. “It cannot last in the 21st century, because of demographic transition,” he said. Baru explained that the ageing population in developed countries will face the problem of a work force while the young population in the developing countries need work. This, he said, will lead to inevitable migration. “We need to reduce the fear of migration, it is an unnatural human reaction,” he said. The book, meanwhile, dispelled several “myths” about migration, the first being that migrations take place due to economic compulsions. “People generally do not leave their countries of origin because of lack of economic development. Rather, they often emigrate owing to the onset of development itself,” it said. The book also argued against the misnomer that migration hurts the economy of the country of origin, or that migrants take away jobs from locals. “Migrants generally travel to where there are jobs available, often filling vacancies where there are skill shortages,” it said. (Business Standard 18/1/16)

 

84. Another 41 Sri Lankan refugees return home  (13)

CHENNAI: Forty-one Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Chennai and Madurai returned home on Tuesday under a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugeesfacilitated repatriation programme. Of the 41 refugees, 15 are male and 26 female, said diplomatic sources. They are to be resettled in Trincomalee, Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi, and Mullaitivu. According to diplomats of the Lankan deputy high commission in the city , there are nearly 1,00,000 Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu. Last November, 42 refugees had returned. This was in addition to the 429 that re turned during the course of last year. Of more than 100,000 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in the state, 5,600 have returned home since 2011. There are 64,000 Lankan Tamils in refugee camps now. Most Lankan Tamil families live in KK Nagar, Neelankarai and Valasaravakkam in Chennai, Thuvakudi in Tri chy , Nagercoil in Kanyaku mari, and RS Puram and Val parai in Coimbatore. Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation fo under S C Chandrahasan sa id the two governments sho uld sign a pact on the return of refugees. (Times of India 20/1/16)

 

85. 21 dead as boats sink off Greek islands (13)

ATHENS: At least 21 people, including eight children, died in two separate incidents of boats smuggling migrants or refugees sinking off two Greek islands overnight into Friday. Dozens survived, and a search and rescue operation was underway for more potential survivors. In the first incident, a wooden boat carrying 48 people sank in the early hours off the small islet of Farmakonissi in the eastern Aegean. Forty of the passengers managed to make it to shore, while authorities rescued one girl and recovered seven bodies from the sea those of six children and one woman, the coast guard said. A few hours later, a wooden sailboat carrying an undetermined number of people sank off the islet of Kalolimnos, to the south of Farmakonissi. The coast guard rescued 26 people and recovered 14 bodies nine women, three men and two children while coast guard vessels, a helicopter and private boats were searching for survivors. Authorities said the survivors’ estimates of how many people had originally been on board varied from about 40 to 70, so it was unclear how many people were missing. Greece has become the main gateway for people fleeing war and poverty trying to reach the European Union. More than 800,000 entered Greece last year, mostly using unseaworthy boats to reach Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast. Hundreds have died in the attempt. (The Hindu 22/1/16)

 

86. At 15.6m, India tops list in migrants living in other countries (13)

CHENNAI: In the five-year period from 2010 to 2015, India displaced Russia as the country with the largest diaspora in the world, as per UN data on migrants for 2015. While the UAE, with its job opportunities for all sections of people, tops as the preferred destination for India-born migrants, the US that lets in only highly qualified professional Indians, is today home to nearly 20 lakh people born in India. Australia, which is on the other corner of the globe, comes high up on the list with 4 lakh Indians. Even tiny Bermuda hasn’t escaped the attention of emigrating Indians. Some 500 Indians live there. Between 1990 and 2010, Russia was topping the list of migrants but its diaspora was concentrated in a few countries like Israel. Paradoxically enough, the spike in Indian migration happened after the country’s economy moved into a high-growth path. In 2000, India equalled Russia in migrant outflow with 10.8 million each. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of migrants from India dipped by 0.3% but after 2005, the number has been increasing steadily. Today, a total of 15.6 million people born in India are living across all continents. The rate of migration to foreign countries has increased by half compared to 10 years ago. Observers see Indian migration as helping world economies. “Indian migrants to the US have been a great asset for the world. Their contribution to development of information technology has been useful to various sections. Similarly in Gulf countries, many Indians are in the managerial cadre and their contribution has been immensely appreciated,” former diplomat G Parthasarathi told TOI. Indians working as construction labourers are also most sought after by companies in the Gulf. “Indian labourers are highly disciplined and they are ready to jobs which Europeans or people from developed countries may find it tough to do,” said Parthasarathi. In 2005, 10.5 million migrated from India and the number went up to 13.3 million at the end of 2010, an increase of 26%.Between 2010 and 2015, the numbers increased by 17.5%, says the UN report. The number of Indians who migrated rose 18% in 2015 from 8.5 million in 2010. The number of women rose 15% from 4.8 million in 2010 to 5.5 million in 2015. Congress has corroded the fabric of our nation due to corruption, reservation, nepotism and crime. “Migrants from South Asia totalled 37.1 million, of whom 20.6% were living in Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and nearly 43% were in high-income non-OECD countries (such as the GCC). The largest source countries of migrants were India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal. The region hosted 12.4 million migrants, the majority of whom were from within the region,” says Migration and Remittances Factbook 2016 of the World Bank. The factbook says south-south migration is larger than south-north migration. Over 38% of the international migrants in 2013 migrated from developing countries to other developing countries, compared to 34% that moved from developing countries to advanced countries. The top 10 migrant destination countries were the US, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Russia, UAE, UK, France, Canada, Spain and Australia. (Times of India 25/1/16)

 

87. Refugee camps to Adarsh Gram: Tales from an East Bengal trail (13)

The years following August 1947 were difficult times for Hindus in East Pakistan, present day Bangladesh. It was under circumstances on increasing attacks and life threats that the protagonists of the Bengali tales in Raichur left their homes. The journey was a long one with a lot of formalities at every stopover. They had to mandatorily get Relief Eligibility Certificates (see image), reasons for migration in which also tell the tales of discrimination and fear of life. These were among the last set of families that left East Pakistan, some crossed the border between 1969-71, while a few others a couple of years after Bangladesh was formed in 1971. They still don’t call it Bangladesh with their hearts, the idea of East Pakistan is also something they believe mainland India forced upon them, almost without any consent. “Indian independence was purchased at the cost of our land and we are called refugees in our own country,” say Prasen Raptan, 39, whose father migrated here as a refugee. “…What if we had said no to division, it would have meant no Pakistan, or India. We would still be in East Bengal,” Prasen, a Ph.D holder, adds. The mood is similar across the four Rehabilitation (RH) Camps that the Bengalis occupy, located nearly 100-km away from Raichur Town, and 380-km from Bengaluru. From just 4,000 people from 932 families in 1971, there are nearly 15,000 people and the number of families have gone up to 3,768. While the fight for citizenship had began instantaneously, the government began considering only post 1980s (see image). With increasing numbers their voice became stronger, but not strong enough. “It was difficult to digest that we, whose ancestors were the sons of the same soil had to fight for citizenship,’ says Swapan Baidya, 39, a headmaster of a high school in RH Camp 4. Their existence continued as refugees: Apathy here, no place in Bangladesh. And being divided in four RH Camps, although there are no physical barriers put in place, meant there was a lack of one, united formidable voice. (Timews of India 30/1/16)

 

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

88. Access to files eludes RTI activist (1)

CHENNAI: The Revenue Department and the Tamil Nadu Archives have been passing the buck for over 14 months now over granting access to certain files and documents dealing with transfer of about 122-acre government land to a private hospital at Porur in 1995. V. Gopalakrishnan, a Chennai-based activist, approached the Revenue Department and sought copies of files under the Right To Information (RTI) Act in October 2014. The department, however, directed him to approach the Archives Department saying files that were more than five years old would be maintained there. However, officials at the Archives informed Mr. Gopalakrishnan that two of the files were sent to the Revenue Department for reference in 2005 and they were never returned. “The Revenue Department, on its part, claimed that the ‘RDC’ Section under it which was supposed to have received the files never existed and hence it would not be able to provide copies of the files,” says the activist. Not satisfied with the answers, the applicant had filed two appeals in the Tamil Nadu Information Commission. The Commission said the PIO, the Assistant Commissioner of the Tamil Nadu Archives and the PIO of the Revenue Department should together look for the files and hand over a copy of them to the RTI applicant. “I had sought the GOs and note files dealing with the issue. Any transfer of government land to private parties has to be kept carefully by the government. The 122-acre land spread across five villages are said to have been transferred to a private trust and when I seek the documents, the officials are not able to locate the documents except for one letter from Commissioner of Land Administration to Revenue Department,” said Mr. Gopalakrishnan. Incidentally, in this letter sent in December 2014 the Commissioner had recommended that the purchase of a piece of land by a private trust in 1985 (in Porur) has to be considered “bogus” and “improper transactions in poromboke (tank bed) lands.” “Naturally, therefore, the Trust will have to pay the costs of this poromboke land to the government. I recommend that the government may take a decision to fix this amount in relation to the local competitive market value of the land in question and also to determine the number of times of this value (two or four) to be levied and collected from the trust,” the Commissioner had added. In this backdrop it is crucial for the Revenue Department to furnish the other related files, feels Mr. Gopalakrishnan adding that “any GO is a public document that should made accessible to the people.” (The Hindu 2/1/16)

 

89. 160 mn Currency Notes of Re 1 Issued in Last Two Years: RTI (1)

MUMBAI: The Finance Ministry issued as many as 160 million currency notes of one rupee denomination in the last two years, nearly two decades after they were taken off print, according to queries made under the RTI Act. Delhi-based RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal and Mumbai-based RTI activist Manoranjay Roy had, in separate RTI queries, sought the number of one rupee currency notes issued by the government in the last 20 years. “In 1994-95, total 40 million currency notes of one rupee denomination were issued. Thereafter, there was no issuance of one rupee notes from fiscal year 1995-96 till fiscal year 2013-14,” the reply furnished by Deputy Manager (HR) and Public Information Officer of Currency Note Press, G Krishna Mohan, said. However, in the fiscal year 2014-15, a total five million notes and in the current fiscal year, a total of 155 million notes of one rupee denomination, were again introduced in the market, the reply said. It further said that in fiscal year 1994-95, the production cost of 40 million currency notes of one rupee denomination was Rs 59,40,059, implying that the production cost stood at Rs 1.48 per note. Agrawal claimed, “I possess the file notings and the correspondence which indicate that the process of reissuing new one rupee notes at a high printing cost was a bureaucratic exercise carried out by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government, and it was done despite stiff resistance from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).” “Besides, one rupee note is being sold openly through websites at a premium price of Rs 50, which the apex bank needs to put a check on,” he said. Questioning the move to reissue the notes, Roy said, “Considering the high printing cost of a one rupee note, and its very short life, this decision was absolutely avoidable.” Abhay Pethe, a professor in the Economics department of Mumbai University, said there was no need for the RBI to print more one rupee notes unless it was mandated by the government. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the numismatic value also. The issuance of one rupee notes is not going to increase their circulation either,” he said. Explaining the nuances, RBI spokesperson Alpana Killawala said, “One rupee note is actually a coin. And unlike the notes, which are a liability of the RBI, coins are a liability of the Government of India. Hence, the decision to reissue one rupee notes was taken by the finance ministry.” She added, “Selling of one rupee notes at high premium is a mutual bartering act between two or more individuals and it does not amount to criminality.” “The present stock of one rupee notes should be sold only as souvenir in attractive plastic packing at a premium price, just as the silver-alloy commemorative coins are sold in plastic packing, rather than putting them (one rupee notes) into circulation in the market,” Agrawal demanded. The limited number of one rupee notes would not stay in circulation anyway, as anyone getting them is likely to keep it as a collector’s item, he said. (New Indian Express 3/1/16)

 

90. Haryana spends Rs 11.80 cr on ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’: RTI (1)

JIND: The state government has spent almost Rs 12 crore on the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme since it was launched at Panipat in January last year, according to official reply to an RTI query. Replying to an RTI query filed by INLD MLA Naina Chautala the state government said a sum of Rs 11,79,09,288 has been spent by the Centre and the state on government and private events related to ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme till now in Haryana. The government report said that Centre had released a sum of Rs 2 crore for the two-day inaugural workshop on ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme in Panipat on Janury 21 and 22 last year. The inaugural function and the two-ay workshop was attended by representatives of 27 states. Later in the year the Centre released Rs 2.23 crore to the state for the implementation of the scheme, the report said. The government has chosen the Ministry of Women and Child Development as the nodal ministry for the implementation of the scheme with the Health and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry assisting it. According to the report the Ministry of Women and Child Development spent Rs 3.55 Crore in the first phase of the inaugural programme. In the same programme the department of education spent Rs 44.25 lakh whereas Rs 2.74 crore were spent on the publicity of the scheme by the department concerned. The department of health spent nearly Rs 15 lakh, the report said. Also in ‘call for action’ programme held on July 21, 2015 to popularise the scheme, by Population Services International with the help of the government, different government departments spent nearly Rs 66.5 lakh, the report said. Bollywood actor Parineeti Chopra was also invited for the ‘call for action’ programme at Gurgaon. (Times of India 6/1/16)

 

91. RTI reveals delay doubled cost of court complex (1)

Kolhapur: An RTI application has revealed that the cost of the court complex on Kasba Bawada road doubled from Rs 28 crore to Rs 55.08 crore due to the delay in completing the project. Civic activist Dilip Desai, who filed the application, said that as per the work order, the construction was supposed to be completed by August 2011. The project was approved in 2007 and the public works department issued the work order to the private contractor in August 2009. The PWD had granted the construction tender to a private company based on the terms that it (the company) will finish the work in 24 months. The complex has been awaiting inauguration for the last four months. PWD officials confirmed on at least two occasions that the budget was extended from the original provision of Rs 28 crore. “The PWD failed to clarify why the project was delayed which resulted in cost escalations. In the end, the taxpayers’ money is wasted and PWD has taken no action against the contractor,” he said. The activist wrote a letter this week to the principal accountant general of Maharashtra to conduct a thorough inquiry into the cost escalation and sought the attention of the auditor to the multiple extensions granted to the contractor. “Even though a three-year extension expired on August 2014, the project was declared complete in September 2015. There was no report of action taken against the contractor,” Desai wrote to the auditor. Desai had also written a memorandum on January 5 to the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation and other government agencies attracting their attention to the case. He asked the officers whether the inquiry into building permission has been completed. He had earlier alleged that the PWD had constructed the building without taking permission from town planning department and had not obtained environmental clearance. The PWD officials have declined to comment on the issue. (Times of India 8/1/16)

 

92. Govt unlikely to suggest bringing judges appointment under RTI (1)

New Delhi: The government is unlikely to suggest bringing under the ambit of RTI the process of appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the high courts amid feeling that it would not be a practical idea. There is feeling within the government, sources said, that bringing the process of appointment and elevation of judges to the Supreme Court and the 24 High Courts under the transparency law would not be practical as the collegium will be flooded by RTI applications from candidates and other “interested parties” seeking details of files notings and other details. But at the same time, amid calls to make the system of appointment of members to the higher judiciary more transparent, government is likely to include a clause that any dissent note to a recommendation of the collegium to appoint or elevate a judge should be mandatorily shared with the Executive. When the Supreme Court was hearing ways to improve the collegium system, government had pressed for bringing the system of appointment under the ambit of RTI to usher in greater transparency. The Chief Justice of India (CJI) and members of the collegium will take a final call on the draft memorandum of procedure which the government will hand over to the CJI in the coming days. The MoP is a roadmap on how a judge will be appointed. As of now, there are two MoPs — one dealing with appointment of Chief Justice of India and other judges of the Supreme Court and the other dealing with appointment of chief justices and other judges of high courts. The draft MoP for appointment of members to the higher judiciary is being prepared after the Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act on appointment of judges to the apex court and high courts. While deciding on ways to improve the collegium system, the Supreme Court had recently left it to the law ministry to draft the MoP in consultation with CMs and chief justices of the 24 high courts. The four issues highlighted by the draft MoP are transparency in the appointment process, eligibility criteria, a permanent secretariat for the collegium and a process to evaluate and deal with complaints against candidates. Government and judiciary are learnt to be on the same page on the issue of creating a permanent secretariat. (Business Standard 11//16)

 

93. Toor dal: RTI reveals only 50 FIRs in 5,592 raids (1)

MUMBAI: Only 50 first information reports (FIRs) were registered against alleged hoarders in the 5,592 raids carried out State-wide on godowns by the government after the price of pulses, especially toor dal, skyrocketed in November last year. The raids led to seizure of over 1.36 lakh metric tonnes of illegally stocked pulses, oil and oil seeds. This was revealed in the reply by the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department to an RTI application by activist Anil Galgali seeking information on cases registered in these raids. According to the reply, the seized commodities are worth Rs 539.5 crore. Of the seized commodities, around 1.33 lakh metric tonne is pulses while 491.185 metric tonne of oil and 2451.433 metric tonne of oil seeds were seized. As per data, maximum seizures were made in Mumbai and Thane divisions – 67,065 metric tonnes worth Rs 458.54 crore. “It is really interesting that despite over 5,500 raids, the department has filed FIRs in 50 cases only. I have written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis requesting him to make public the names of those named in the cases,” said Mr. Galgali. According to officials, the FIRs have been filed under the Essential Commodities Act, and it will be very difficult for the accused to go free. Even though cases have not been registered, an official said, hoarders who were raided will not be spared. “The hoarder has to present himself before a quasi-judicial body comprising the district’s Collector and food price controller. A detailed process will follow,” the officer added. Following a sudden rise in the prices of tur dal, the government began raiding godowns to seize pulses and other essential commodities. As per data with the State department, fall in production of toor dal had led to the rise in prices. While Maharashtra produces an average 9-10 lakh metric tonnes of toor dal every year, 2014-15 witnessed drop of over 55 per cent in production volume. The situation is unlikely to improve in the coming year as the estimated volume of toor dal production is around 5.10 lakh metric tonne for 2015-16. (The Hindu 12/1/16)

 

94. Law needs more bite to protect corporate whistleblowers (1)

The Whistleblower Protection Act, 2011, must be amended to include protection to private enterprises, say lawyers in the light of the recent murder of V Venkateswarlu in the city. The police department is working on a theory that Venkateswarlu had been killed because he was threatening to expose corruption within the publicly-listed `3,911-crore Kalpataru Power Transmission.But given the current legal situation in India, lawyers theorise that Venkateswarlu could not have sought official help or intervention in this regard as the Whistleblower Act provides protection only to public servants or those working for NGOs who have a “public interest disclosure” to make. “Private entities or corruption in private entities would not fall under the perview of the Whistleblowers’ Act,” said lawyer K Krishnaswamy . In recent years, there have been a few murders that caught the limelight like that of Indian Oil Corp officer Shanmugham Manjunath, who was murdered for sealing a petrol pump that was selling adulterated fuel. His life was turned into the 2014 movie Manjunath.Another famous case is that of engineer Satyendra Dubey , who exposed graft in NHAI’s Golden Quadrilateral project. “Unless there is an element of public interest say someone is willfully misusing their power orand causing a loss to the government or there is a wrongful gain to a public servant it will not fall under the Act,” lawyer V Rangachari said. RTI activists, who file peti tions that are legitimately in the interests of the larger public, also don’t qualify for protection under the Act. Many of the murders of activists seeking to expose corruption in the National Rural Employment Guarantee (MNREGA) scam, for example, happened because both the Whistleblowers Act and the Right to Information Act, 2005 provide inadequate protection to those outside the bureaucracy , said lawyers. As a publicly-listed company on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange, Kalpataru falls under the SEBI scanner (Securities and Exchange Board of India) and must disclose all its activities to the Registrar of Companies. “He could have asked for protection outside of the Act. He is perfectly entitled to legal help and protection from the government and police irrespective of whether he is a public servant or not,” said former additional solicitor general of India P Wilson. (Times of India 15/1/16)

 

95. CIC to varsities: Provide answer sheets at Rs 2 per page (1)

New Delhi: Universities and examining bodies cannot charge more than `2 per page for providing copies of evaluated ans-wer scripts to students, the Central Information Commission has ruled as it struck down the Rs750 per answer sheet fee imposed by the Delhi University. In a stern order, information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said the Delhi University, by imposing a high fee of Rs 750 for providing acc-ess to answer sheets under the RTI Act, has created two classes of students — those who can afford to have a copy by paying `750 and those who cannot, which is a clear breach of right to equality guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution. Citing the RTI rules of the Delhi University, information commissioner said it has not applied these for copies of answer sheets sought under the transparency law and that it cannot discriminate by asking higher cost for copies of answer sheets from a student and Rs 2 per page for other documents. “Even if we accept co-ntention that the respondent authority (DU) was autonomous and competent enough to make its own rules and regulations, that authority has no power to re-strict the access to information which was guaranteed by the RTI Act,” he said. He was hearing the complaint of DU student Abne Ingty who approached the transparency panel challenging the cost of `750 per question paper imposed for accessing answer sheets under the RTI Act. Ingty was asked to deposit `3,750 for getting copies of answer sheets for five papers. Mr Acharyulu said he found merit in Ingty’s contention that prescribing unreasonable cost and time constraint will amount to complete denial of information to the students on grounds of their economic status. He said a university or any other authority cannot use its authority to make subordinate legislation to infringe the legal and constitutional rights of the students or citizens. The CIC held that DU or any other university or public authority cannot ignore or bypass the mandate of Parliament given in RTI Act. Acc-ording to the information commissioner, charging of Rs 750 amounts to breach of Sections 3, 6 and 7 of the RTI Act. (Asian Age 18/1/16)

 

96. Over Rs 28 lakh unrecovered from repatriates: RTI (1)

Mumbai: A total of Rs 28.86 lakh is lying unrecovered from Indians who were repatriated, an RTI reply has revealed. Pune-based activist Vihar Durve had filed an RTI query with the Mumbai Regional Passport Office in September last, seeking status of repatriation charges recovered from cases filed from 1980 to 2011. The reply that from 1979-80 to 2010-11, Rs 74.45 lakh was given to repatriates who did not have enough means to return. Their homecoming was facilitated with a promise that they would return the money after their arrived. However, only Rs 45.59 lakh was recovered and Rs 28.86 lakh is still lying unrecovered. The audit scrutiny into repatriation registrations made with the Mumbai RPO was conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. The reply revealed that out of 414 repatriation cases, charges were recovered only in 126 cases. A senior Mumbai RPO officer said, “The money was spent to help countrymen who lost everything. It was a small gesture to serve our people by our embassies and missions abroad. But as and when, we trace the defaulter while he/she applies for fresh issuance of passport, we recover the money,” he added. He said to deal with such cases, a new system, Prior Approval Category, was introduced in 1993, which feeds the name of a repatriated person in the database. — PTI (The Hindu 21/1/16)

 

97. CIC pulls up NCERT for chopping out content on Vivekananda, Bose (1)

New Delhi: The CIC has pulled up NCERT for chopping out content on national leaders like Subhas Chandra Bose and revolutionaries from its text books and directed it to suo-moto disclose the reasons behind such decisions. In a terse order, the Commission asked NCERT to disclose why content on Swami Vivekananda was reduced from 1250 to 37 words in Class XII history books and completely removed from Class VIII books. The case reached Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu through a plea of Jaipur-based Suryapratap Singh Rajawat, who criticised non-inclusion of history of eminent personalities and revolutionaries in the NCERT books. Through a series of RTI applications and public grievance application, Rajawat claimed content on 36 national leaders and revolutionaries like Chandra Shekhar Azad, Ashfaqullah Khan, Batukeshwar Dutt, Ram Prasad Bismil among others was completely missing from history text books of NCERT. Not getting satisfactory reply, he approached the transparency panel. During the hearing before the CIC, Rajawat asserted that it was not appropriate to give 37 pages to cricket and history of cloth but nothing on the lives of freedom fighters. Rajawat submitted a table in which the photos of these great persons was inserted with a tag ‘not found’ in NCERT text books. The official representing the NCERT said all the suggestions made by the appellant will be placed before the Syllabus Revision Committee and would implement the committee’s recommendations as given by them. Professor Neeraj Rashmi, representing NCERT, said they could not interfere with the independent committee which decides the content of lessons and textbooks…..  (Business Standard 24/1/16)

 

98. Do not disclose details of minors without parents’ consent: CIC (1)

New Delhi: In a stern order, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has said schools and Education Department should not disclose information about children under the RTI Act without consulting their parents. The commission admonished the principal of RD Public School and the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Directorate of Education (DoE) of the Delhi government for disclosing information about a student to his relatives who had a dispute with the student’s family. Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said the principal of the school himself had told the DoE that his school did not come under the RTI Act and the applicant was involved in a dispute with the student’s family. “There are several incidents reported that rivals of the parents or quarrelling spouses take the child from the school. Revealing the details of the child might lead to kidnap or murder etc. During the stay of the child in school, the principal and teachers have a duty of guardian and any negligence on their part might harm the student,” Mr. Acharyulu said. The principal feared disclosure would cause damage to the boy but still gave documents related to the student, he noted. “The school should not have furnished the copies of the CBSE certificate of the child. Another letter from the CBSE given to the school granting direct admission to 10 students including the boy was also furnished to the appellant,” Mr. Achayulu said. The Information Commissioner said the Central Public Information Officer of the DoE gave all this information to the RTI applicant Lalit Kapur without applying his mind, and not thinking about the security issues that might arise for the boy. “The commission directs the CPIO and the principal not to disclose personal information of the students to any person, much less to his so-called relatives, without following the procedures under Section 11 of the RTI Act,” he said. He said it was revealed that the CPIO did not follow the mandatory process in Section 11 of the RTI Act to seek the opinion of the parents of the child, the third party. “The request for information is certainly personal in nature and third party information of a minor student and its disclosure may not enhance the welfare of the child. “It is interrogative in nature and he is fishing to find a basis to embarrass the child or his family not with a good motive and for some unspecified purpose, which is certainly not ‘public purpose’,” Mr.Acharyulu said. The commissioner said that irrespective of the opinion given by a third party, the CPIO would have to decide based on his discretion to fulfil the objectives of the RTI Act.Issuing a show cause notice to the principal and the CPIO, Mr.Acharyulu asked why maximum penalty should not be imposed on both of them and disciplinary action initiated for not complying with the provisions of Section 11 of the RTI Act and causing breach of the privacy of the child and his parents. In a warning to the RTI applicant, Mr.Acharyulu said, “The Commission records its admonition against the appellant for misuse of the RTI against the school child and warns him against such misuse in future. His second appeal is an extension of abuse and hence rejected. The commission records its contempt against him and imposes a penalty of Rs10 to be paid to the principal of the school.” — PTI (The Hindu 27/1/16)

 

99. No rules flouted for Hema Malini, says State (1)

MUMBAI: The BJP-led State government on Friday claimed that the land allotted to party MP and actor Hema Malini for her dance school was as per prescribed norms and that no rules had been flouted. However, the government failed to explain the reasons behind allocating the land even before Ms Malini surrendered the plot that was earlier allotted to her in Versova to the Mumbai suburban collector. It has also not explained as to why the condition of securing 25% amount of total project cost with the government was not followed in this case, as mandated while allotting land. On Thursday, activist Anil Galgali had released information obtained under Right to Information (RTI) Act from the Mumbai suburban collector, which stated that a plot admeasuring 2,000 sq m at Ambivli in Andheri was given to the actor’s dance school at Rs 70,000. The market value of the same plot is estimated to be around Rs 50 crore. The government clarified that the plot had been allotted to the actor according to the decisions and existing norms and that no decision had been taken outside the purview of this policy. Neither Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse nor senior officials could explain the reason for the delay in Ms Malini surrendering the Versova plot. Ms Malini’s trust had initially demanded 1,741.89 sq m plot at Versova. The Revenue Department, through its letter dated January 3, 1997, had issued orders to Mumbai Suburban Collector to hand over the plot with a written undertaking from the trust that it will pay the total cost of the land. The possession was given to the trust in April 4, 1997. The trust even paid Rs 10 lakh on January 2, 2002. However, the trust sought another plot as the Versova land fell in Coastal Zone Regulation area and no construction was possible. Following that, the trust sought 5,000 sq m plot at Ambivli in Andheri. State Congress President Ashok Chavan accused the BJP on Friday of violating rules. “The government is indulging in double standards in the plot’s allocation. It had earlier said they will formulate a fresh policy on granting government land, which directly affects the State exchequer but in the case of the BJP MP, no such procedure was followed,” said Mr Chavan. (The Hindu 30/1/16)

 

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

100. 18 States agree to revoke ‘no detention policy’ in RTE (11)

With the consent of 18 States for “required amendments” in the ‘no detention policy’ under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, a committee headed by Rajasthan Education Minister Vasudev Devnani on Wednesday sent recommendations to the Central government, stating that the policy should be revoked. Under the policy, no student can be failed or expelled till Class VIII. However, States, including Rajasthan, have already done away with the policy. The committee, formed by the Central government, in its recommendations decided upon in New Delhi, stated that a ‘learning level’ must be fixed for each class to check whether a student is eligible for the class that he or she is in. “Students must not be detained in Classes VI and VII. However, they must meet the required ‘learning levels’. A month’s time would be given to students to retake tests and attain the required learning levels, failing which the students would have to be detained,” the recommendations stated. (The Hindu 1/1/16)

 

101. Central Panel to Assess Right to Education of Preschoolers (11)

NEW DELHI: The government has reconstituted a panel headed by the Gujarat Education Minister B M Chudasama to examine the feasibility of bringing pre-school education and secondary education under the Right to Education (RTE). The move assumes significance as it comes in the midst of the drafting of the new education policy. Various sections of the society have also demanded extending the scope of Right to Education to ensure continuity of children’s educational development and to ensure that every child has the right to 10 years of formal schooling. The six-member committee under the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) will also propose a draft legislation incorporating pre-school and secondary education component in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. It is also mandated to prepare a detailed financial estimates for implementing for extension of the Right to Education. The committee will comprise members such as Minister of School Education of Tamil Nadu K C Veeramani; Maharashtra, Vinod Tiwde; Tripura,  Tapan Chakraborty; Uttarakhand, Indira Hradyesh and a joint secretary from the Human Resource Development Ministry. The RTE Act currently applies to children between ages six to 14 years studying in classes from I to VIII. A Central Advisory Board of Education sub-committee, which had examined the issue during the United Progressive Alliance regime, had broadly agreed to the proposal and had identified issues such as entry-age at the pre-school, qualification and capacity building of teachers at the pre-primary level and the duration of secondary education for further deliberation. Then Human Resource Minister M M Pallam Raju had suggested further deliberations on the matter. The reconstituted committee under the present dispensation has been asked to submit its report within one year, during which period it will hold consultations with the state governments, parents, teachers associations, school management, local bodies and several other stakeholders. (New Indian Express 2/1/16)

 

102. Supreme Court moved for uniform curriculum (11)

New Delhi: Stating that a uniform school curriculum for children in the age group of six to 14 will remove educational inequality, a petition has been filed in the SC. Petitioner advocate Ashwini Upadhyaya said the prevailing education system is discriminatory in nature and depends upon a child’s social, economic, religious and cultural background. It is against our fundamental right and inconsistent with our declaration: “To constitute India into socialist, secular, democratic, republic as the present system does not promote Socialism and Secularism in its true form and spirit. He said Article 21A of the Constitution — Right to Education — one of the important fundamental rights, cannot be made available on the basis of a child’s social, economic and cultural background. The PIL said that the Right to Education envisages not only free and compulsory but also uniform education, having common syllabus and curriculum for all children from the age of six to 14 years. It said a uniform education system is necessary to secure social, economic and political justice, which would develop equality in all forms. Further value-based uniform education having common syllabus and curriculum is essential for eradication of corruption, crime, terrorism, casteism, communalism and radicalism and would be a major step in achieving gender justice. The petitioner pointed out that the top 10 honest countries of the world — Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Singapore, Australia, Germany, Britain and Japan — and other countries implemented value-based uniform education for all children. He sought a direction to the Centre and all states to bring about a change in the national school curriculum in the interest of children. (Asian Age 3/1/16)

 

103. Delhi HC takes up plea against upper age for nursery admissions (11)

New Delhi, Jan 6 : The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the city government, directorate of education and the Lt. Governor to respond to a petition that has challenged the cap on upper age for admission to schools for entry level education. A bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher issued a notice on the plea that has sought quashing of the notification dated December 18, 2015, by which the Delhi government fixed the upper age limit for Pre-School (Nursery), Pre-Primary (KG) and First Class. The court has slated the next hearing for February 1. The plea was filed by Uday Pratap Singh Kapoor, a child two years and ten months old, through his mother Simran Brar against the Delhi government circular. According to the circular, the government fixed the upper age limit for admission to pre-School at “less than four years as on March 31, 2015″.Advocate Akhil Sachar, counsel of the petitioner, said his client cannot seek admission to a pre-School class in 2017 as he will be four years and one month old. In his petition, he requested the court to allow the child to take admission in pre-School for the academic year 2017-2018. Justice Shakdher has directed the state government to file the counter affidavit within 10 days. There can be no age for education and capping the upper age for admission is highly discriminatory and seeks to prejudice the rights of children and society. It violates the fundamental Right to Education, the plea said. “The petitioner who has not even turned three years of age is being constrained to seek admission in the current academic year 2016-17 due to the circulars issued by the government on December 18, 2015,” the plea said. “For that by making a provision for an upper age limit for admission to school, the impugned Order violates the Right to Education which is a fundamental right enshrined under the Constitution of India.” The notification neither has any legislative sanction nor prima facie the approval of the administrator, that is Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung in the present case, the plea noted. Stating that the circular was arbitrary and issued without any application of mind, the petition said fixing an upper age limit for pre-school, pre-primary and Class-1 was a sheer breach of the constitution. The new circular was even an absolute contradiction of the guidelines issued by the central government, the plea said. (New Kerala 6/1/16)

 

104. Govt. to decide on nursery admissions under EWS category (11)

New Delhi: In a bid to make the nursery admission process more transparent this year, especially for applicants from economically weaker sections (EWS), Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday said his government will henceforth decide on all school admissions made under the category. As per the Right to Education Act, 25 per cent of the total number of seats at private schools must be reserved for EWS applicants. Referring to the online mode of application under the EWS quota, where parents can list schools in descending order of preference, Mr. Kejriwal said: “All online applications for admissions under the EWS quota will henceforth be reviewed by the government’s Education Department and private schools will no longer have a say in such matters.” The Chief Minister and his deputy Manish Sisodia were addressing parents at the NDMC convention centre over the issue of his government’s decision to scrap management quota across private schools and making the admission process more streamlined from this year onwards. Mr. Kejriwal lamented the fact that people often come to his office with “school admission” related-requests. “It’s really unfortunate that a natural right like school admission has to be taken up with a Chief Minister,” he noted. He said the scrapping of management quota for nursery admissions in private schools has thrown open 50 per cent extra seats for the common man, and added that his government had no intention of “interfering” with the daily affairs of the school. The Chief Minister also said the Delhi government will “think” about online admissions for the 75 per cent open seats next year. “The Delhi government has made school admissions totally transparent. Scrapping management quota, which were used to oblige recommendations of politicians, government functionaries and powerful people, has opened nearly 50 per cent extra seats for the common man,” Mr. Kejriwal said, while interacting with parents seeking admissions for their wards. Mr. Sisodia said his government will no longer allow schools to run like “teaching shops”. In a stern message against commercialisation of education, the Deputy Chief Minister asked private schools to strictly follow the guidelines for admissions under the standalone EWS quota. However, Mr. Kejriwal sounded rather mindful of the ground reality in Delhi’s government-run schools. Although hopeful that his government will add activities that were previously the exclusive domain of private schools, he said it will take nearly two years for his government to improve the existing system. “Major changes in government schools may take some time. But I’m sure that two years down the line, most parents will prefer to admit their wards in government schools,” he added. Further, Mr. Kejriwal touched upon an array of healthcare-related works that his government intends to deliver by 2016. “This year, we have planned to improve health services across all State hospitals, where certain medicines and other consumables will be provided free of cost to patients.” (The Hindu 11/1/16)

 

105. RTE Act still a far cry in Telangana (11)

Hyderabad: Even as the Telangana Rasthra Samithi (TRS) government’s KG to PG scheme will need an estimate of over Rs 40,000 crore to take off, educationalists raise questions on its reluctance on spending Rs 150 crore every year towards implementation of the Right to Education Act. The Telangana government has ignored 25% reservation for economically poor students in private unaided schools under the RTE Act since past six years. For years now, the erstwhile governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana said that the reservation will put an additional burden of Rs 10 crore on the exchequer. The government also feared that it may lead to collapse of public school system as most of the government school students would migrate to private unaided schools. However, activists opine that while the government is spending enormously on the KG to PG scheme, its ignorance towards the quota for economically poor students under the RTE Act contradicts its own outlook towards the issue. “When government can spend over Rs 40,000 crore towards implementation of the KG to PG scheme, Rs 1,500 for next 10 years towards 25% quota shouldn’t be a big deal,” said Mazzhar Hussain, executive director of Confederation of Voluntary Associations. As per RTE Act, the state government has to reimburse the fee to the private schools for all children admitted under the 25% reservation quota. Incidentally, the government is already reeling under Rs 212 crore of pending dues under the fee reimbursement scheme for higher education. For implementation of the RTE Act, the COVA had filed a PIL in the High Court a few months back. On January 6, the HC directed the government to issue notices to all private unaided schools to implement the Act. “The government has to submit the circular along with other documents related to implementation of the Act in the HC by January 20. If it fails to do so, it will be clear contempt of court,” said Hussain. (Times of India 18/1/16)

 

106. Edu system in state needs complete overhaul: Report (11)

DEHRADUN: The standard of education in the Himalayan state needs an urgent boost, a report by the Uttarakhand RTE Forum 2015-16 suggests. The report, which was released earlier this week after surveying 400 schools in 11 districts, highlights that not even 10% of the total institutes fulfilled the norms laid down under RTE.”Like in past years, even this time education and health were the primary reasons behind migration in the state. The report indicates at important points such as 6,000 vacant teachers’ posts, which need to be addressed on priority basis so that degrading education standards can be overhauled,” Raghu Tiwari, state convenor of the forum, told TOI. As per the report, a copy of which is with TOI, only 2.17% of institutes have toilets in working condition for differently abled kids and a majority of such children are not enrolled in schools. Although, the necessary equipment for aiding differently abled students has been distributed, an NCERT report suggests that there is a huge lack of special educators. In their absence, differently abled children have not been able to use the equipment provided to them. Also, braille books have not been properly distributed in the state despite fund allocation for the same under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). The report also suggest that 35.86% of the schools don’t have a separate section for preparing mid-day meals. “There are many other issues and all we want is complete implementation of RTE provisions. This will only happen if the findings of the report are taken seriously. In fact, the need of the hour is quality teacher training to raise the level of teaching in the state,” added Tiwari. The other members of the forum also highlighted the need for Uttarakhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) to become proactive to effectively monitor that RTE norms are being properly implemented in the schools across the state. (Times of India 24/1/16)

 

107. State govt deprived middle class kids of education: Ahmed Patel (11)

Gandhinagar: Ahmed Patel, Rajya Sabha MP and political secretary to All-India Congress party president, Sonia Gandhi, while inaugurating a new school building in Sarkhej, Ahmedabad, on Sunday alleged that the state BJP government has deprived the poor and middle-class children from education. Patel said that, “Poor and middle class families are struggling to provide education to their children. Government schools are in pathetic condition, plagued by insufficient number of teachers. In colleges where there are teachers, there is lack of enough rooms. The Gujarat government has failed to effectively implement Right to Education (RTE) in the state. RTE was initialed by the Congress all over India. In this situation it’s heartening to see that social institutions are coming forward for education.” (Times of India 25/1/16)

 

108. Probe ordered into ‘fake’ admissions in pvt schools (11)

JAIPUR: The education department has ordered a high-level inquiry into the alleged irregularities by over 3,000 private schools in Rajasthan in admitting Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) students under the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Under the Act, it is mandatory for all private schools to fill 25% of their seats with students from the EWS. The education department’s order dated January 19 has directed all district education officers to scrutinise the admission papers of these schools. It is suspected that these schools inflated the number of students admitted under the RTE quota in order to claim greater reimbursements from the government. As per the RTE provisions, the state government pays the fees of EWS students studying in private schools. Taking advantage of the rules that say that the RTE quota should be 25% of the school’s total capacity of seats, many of these private institutions showed higher number of seats on paper than they actually had on ground. It was done to admit more number of RTE quota students and, thereby, claim more reimbursement from the state. In 2015-16, the state was paying a reimbursement of Rs 17,500 per student. The schools under scanner include those also that raised their fees by more than 20% to push the state government into paying more reimbursements. The RTE rule said that the per student reimbursement to the private school should be equal to the fees charged by that school, but should be less/equal to the expenditure incurred per child by the state. Many of these schools raised their annual fees from Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 in a year to take advantage of our reimbursement limit of Rs 17,500. So far, our probe has found many schools guilty of malpractices. Role of our employees in helping the errant schools cannot be ruled out. The probe committee has been asked to submit a final report by February 5. It will be followed by FIRs against the errant schools,” said Kunjilal Meena, principal secretary, education department. The state has already released this year’s first installment of reimbursements to these schools. Following the investigations, the state has stopped the second installment of reimbursements to all schools. The matter came to light after Meena was tipped of a school in Dholpur that had less number of schools admitted under RTE quota attending classes than it showed in the government documents. “I sent my team to probe the allegations, which were found true. I suspect it to be a state wide phenomenon, so have ordered crosscheck of 130 schools in each district. To my surprise, nearly 100 schools were found to be involved in one or other form of irregularity,” said Meena. The probe has come as an embarrassment for the state government that was boasting of having highest number of admissions done under the RTE in the country. As per records, since 201, Rajasthan has admitted 6.20 lakh students under the RTE. (Times of India 28/1/16)

 

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

109. Food Wasted is Food Denied to Millions (21)

Autumn months are among the busiest ones in restaurants. Irrespective of any other social or economic changes, the Christmas crowd has never changed. A last table talk of the year started at table 10 with a unique lady with no bags or fatigue of Oxford Street shopping crowd. Vidya looked rather chilled in her appearance and mannerism as we talked about the food waste catastrophe. When it comes to a Christmas spree, food is as important as clothes and other things. People have the habit of buying extra food during holidays, especially in the past when shops were shut during the break while homes were full of family. Holding a book called Global Food Waste Scandal by Tristram Stuart, Vidya talked about the practice of wasting food in the West while millions live in hunger around the world. “Why do you need new clothes every season and more food than you could eat?” she asked. Indeed, that was food for thought, and we walked around some supermarket bins early next morning. We saw fresh food being thrown away, sometimes just on its expiry date while it was still edible. It was only the tip of the iceberg. Industrial farmers discard chunks of their harvest when they don’t match the strict cosmetic standards imposed by supermarkets. This fascinating study helped us to understand the gravity of food wastage and urged us not to buy more than we needed. It’s so common to see people fill up their fridge with too much food. Our system has got so used to excess produce and nobody cares about wasted stuff. With tempting deals like ‘buy two packets and get the third one free’, super markets tempt you to buy more. Supermarket culture has expanded across the world. So we could well imagine the importance of this task of controlling food waste so that it could be better distributed to the poor and needy. There are some food chains that donate their leftover meals to shelter homes and to the homeless. But that’s still only a small percentage of the food world. Awareness has to reach everyone as we get closer to the demand to produce 50 per cent extra food by 2050 to feed the global population of around 9 billion. Thousands of bread slices are rejected from bakeries around our cities. In the US, almost 60 per cent of fish is thrown away as waste in the sea. Tristram Stuart revealed an alarming statistics—approximately 40 million tonnes of food is wasted by US households, retailers and food services, that could easily feed one billion malnourished people of the world. The US and Europe have nearly twice as much as they require by the nutritional standards of their population. As the West is learning faster to control waste (17.5 per cent reduction from 20 per cent in the UK), this phenomenon gets infected to developing countries with thriving economies and faster lifestyle to match western culture. Though technology has new answers to turn waste into renewable energy, it has becomes a new business model in many European countries. But controlling waste could save a third of the entire food supply in the world. It was a sublime conversation with Vidya around a simple meal, there’s so much we could do to make this world a better place and facilitate everyone to eat healthy and fresh food. “Please don’t waste food,” Tristram Stuart appeals to the world. The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain of restaurants (New Indian Express 2/1/16)

 

110. Survey shocker: Half of rural India touched by poverty (21)

NEW DELHI: India has a problem at hand and its magnitude is much higher than what was imagined or reported. That is the short and succinct message of the socio-economic caste census (SECC) released on Friday. According to the census, 49% of rural households show signs of poverty. And 51% of households have ‘manual casual labour’ as the source of income. Whichever way the figures are sliced and diced, the poverty data leaves no scope for assurance or optimism. Till now, every survey had been showing poverty as receding. The survey has used seven indicators of deprivation: All definite pointers to subsistence-level existence and serious handicaps like ‘kuccha houses’, landless households engaged in manual labour, female-headed households with no adult working male member, households without a working adult, and all SC/ ST households. While there can be room for correction, experts are unanimous that this would not change the bleak picture significantly. For instance, they are unanimous that all those dependent on ‘manual casual labour’ for livelihood — 51.14% of households — are bound to be poor. The dismal scenario is illustrated by another set of dire figures: 2.37 crore households live in one-room kuccha houses, constituting 13.25% of the 17.91 crore rural households. At the same time, 30% of rural households own no land and are engaged in manual labour. The overall poverty figures for the country will also take into account the urban household survey that is yet to be released. But they, whenever they are out, are unlikely to change the overall picture. The degree of deprivation as evidenced by the rural survey poses an intractable challenge for the Modi government if it wants to draw up a consolidated list of the poor, known as ‘Below Poverty Line’. If the government goes by the new evidence, the BPL category would balloon beyond its fiscal capacity. Conversely, if it seeks to put a ceiling and depress the figures, it would attract the kind of controversy that had hit the UPA. (Times of India 4//1/16)

 

111. Abu Dhabi forum to discuss initiatives to fight global hunger (21)

Dubai: A global forum on innovations in agriculture sector will be held in Abu Dhabi next month to harness global efforts and sharing new ideas and developing initiatives aimed at feeding the world. The third edition of the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) will be held from February 16-18. The exhibition and conference at GFIA forum is aimed at harnessing global efforts to provide enough safe, nutritious food to an expanding population, and will feature more than 300 next-generation agricultural solutions that could shape the future of sustainable farming around the world. For the second year running, Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) has set out to assemble some of the world’s best scientific minds for a unique Hosted Scientist Programme at GFIA, at a time when official statistics put the number of hungry people in the world at around 795 million, two thirds of them living in Asia. The program supported by ADFCA is designed as a scientific platform for discussion, sharing of new ideas and development of initiatives aimed at feeding the world as population growth continues against a backdrop of dwindling resources and climate change. “We’re seeking applications from scientists from around the world and from across the entire spectrum of agricultural research. Our priority is to attract those currently involved in ground-breaking research, as the principle aim here is to drive efforts to counter global hunger through pioneering developments in sustainable agriculture,” said Ali Yousef Al Saad, Acting Director of Communication and Community Service at ADFCA. Scientists can apply online via the official GFIA website before January 15. In its third year, GFIA will run alongside VIV MEA, a new version of livestock production events held in Europe and Asia helping to bring about a rethinking on global food security. Together, GFIA and the accompanying VIV MEA are expected to host more than 500 exhibitors of innovative technology, making Abu Dhabi home to the largest agricultural event in the region. (Business Standard 7/1/16)

 

112. Poverty forces Malda teen to plead for mercy death (21)

Malda: An 18-year-old porter from Malda has pleaded for euthanasia as he is apparently unable to bear the expense of his treatment for a surgery in his legs that have been paralyzed following a fracture in his spinal cord. His mother has also asked for her own mercy death as she believes that there is no reason for her to live if her son dies. The pleas triggered much debate within the district administration but nothing has reportedly been done for the family so far. Suman Das (18), from Kanchantar under the English Bazar police station, took up the responsibility of his mother and younger brother a year ago, after his father’s death. In order to support his family, Das took up the job of a porter. While unloading a truck at Harishchandrapur on October 10, a heavy bag fell on his back breaking his spinal cord. Das was taken to Malda Medical College and Hospital where he was advised a complex and expensive operation, which could not be carried out there. The doctors suggested that he should visit Bangalore. For the poor family, it was a bolt from the blue as the expense for the surgery was beyond their capacity. To fund the surgery, his neighbours collected some money and a huge sum was also borrowed. Finally, the operation was carried out for which Rs 1.5 lakh was spent. Though the operation fixed Das’s spinal cord, he lost his ability to walk. He became completely bed-ridden, unable to walk. Doctors have suggested another operation to bring back the functions of his legs, which will cost the family further more. Unable to bear the economic pressure, Saraswati Das, Suman’s mother, was forced to send her 14-year old minor son to Jharkhand to work as a labourer. On January 4, Das wrote a letter to the district magistrate, Sharad Dwibedi, asking him to allow him to end his life. His mother also followed suit. Saraswati wrote, “What will he do? We have no means to treat him. He is only 19 now. If I die, who will look after him? I, too, support his wish to die and will end my life as well.”…. (Times of India 10/1/16)

 

113. Poor prefer to stay on in flood areas: study (21)

MUMBAI: Strong social networks formed over 40 years of residence at a particular place, lack of comfort level with new locations and financial resources are some of the key reasons why larges swathes of below-poverty line (BPL) and poor families continue to stay in flood-prone areas, a study recent study shows. According to a paper by researcher and World Bank consultant Archana Patankar titled ‘The Exposure, Vulnerability and Ability to respond of poor households to recurrent floods in Mumbai’, a large percentage of populations in chronic flood zones of the city are among the poorest with low levels of adaptive capacity. Yet, a majority of them do not want to relocate from their current residence. The November 2015 paper was part of a World Bank Group’s report ‘Shock Waves – Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty’ released ahead of the Paris Climate Summit 2015. “In a background paper prepared for this report, households in flooded areas in Mumbai, India, report that they are aware of the flood risks but accept them because of the opportunities offered by the area (such as access to jobs, schools, health care facilities, and social networks),” the WB report notes. Ms Patankar’s study examines flood exposure and demographics of nine flood-prone wards. Surveys of 1,168 households focusing on the losses due to the extreme weather event of July 2005 and 200 more households focusing on the impacts of recurrent floods and ability to respond were conducted respectively in 2012 and 2014. As per the survey of 200 households, half of the BPL families (monthly income less than Rs 5,000) said they had considered moving out of their flood-prone area, whereas the other half did not consider relocation as an option. However, 75 per cent of poor households (monthly income Rs. 5,001-10,000) said they had not considered moving out and a near equal majority of non-poor households (monthly income above Rs. 10,000) has the same view. Among the nine wards – F South, F North, K East, K West, H East, H West, L, M West and P North – the low lying M West ward comprising areas of Chembur, has the highest percentage of population exposed to floods. About 47 per cent of M West is exposed to floods and about 35 per cent of this vulnerable population are in slums. Nearly 60 per cent of the population in the low lying areas of F North, comprising King Circle and Wadala, lives in slums. “Across the flood-prone wards, more than 20 per cent residents are exposed to recurrent floods as they reside in chronic or localized flooding spots,” the survey states. The survey of households in wards affected by the 2005 floods found that expenditure on repairs and rebuilding of houses exceeded average monthly incomes of the households. BPL houses suffered losses of Rs. 37,000 on average, which is more than six times their monthly income. But for low income group (Rs 5,000-15,000/month) families, losses were four to five times their monthly income and reduced gradually with higher income groups. (The Hindu 12/1/16)

 

114. Centre to give shelter, healthcare to beggars (21)

New Delhi: Govt is aiming at providing a whole range of basic services like food, shelter, health care, counselling and rehabilitation to destitutes. New Delhi: The Centre is considering a scheme to provide shelter, health care and skill development training to the homeless and destitutes to address the problem of beggary. Through the scheme prepared by the ministry of social justice and empowerment, the government is aiming at providing a whole range of basic services like food, shelter, health care, counselling and rehabilitation to destitutes. “Under the scheme, skill development training will be provided to the able-bodied destitutes so as to facilitate their reintegration into the mainstream society so that they may live a life with dignity. “It will also encourage innovative interventions to strengthen the community-based approach towards rehabilitation of destitutes with sensitisation programmes etc,” said a senior government official. The problem of destitution and beggary is becoming a major concern warranting urgent attention and intervention in view of the increasing numbers, especially of children and women, the official said. In order to enhance transparency and accountability in the implementation of the scheme, the details of every beneficiary would be maintained in a computerised database and linked with their Aadhaar number in due course of time. According to a poverty estimation study by Oxford University, UK, India is home to over 340 million destitute people and is the second poorest country in South Asia after strife-torn Afghanistan. According to the 2011 Census, population of beggars is about 4.13 lakh which includes 3.72 lakh persons under non-workers category and about 41,400 under marginal workers category. (Asian Age 18/1/16)

 

115. Richest 62 people own same as half world’s population: Oxfam (21)

London: The wealthiest 62 people now own as much as half the world’s population, some 3.5 billion people, as the super-rich have grown richer and the poor poorer, an international charity said on Monday. The wealth of the richest 62 people has risen by 44 percent since 2010, while the wealth of the poorest 3.5 billion fell 41 percent, Oxfam said in a report released ahead of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Almost half the super-rich individuals are from the United States, 17 from Europe, and the rest from countries including China, Brazil, Mexico, Japan and Saudi Arabia. “World leaders’ concern about the escalating inequality crisis has so far not translated into concrete action – the world has become a much more unequal place and the trend is accelerating,” Oxfam International’s executive director, Winnie Byanima, said in a statement accompanying the report. “We cannot continue to allow hundreds of millions of people to go hungry while resources that could be used to help them are sucked up by those at the top,” Byanima added. About $7.6 trillion of individuals’ wealth sits in offshore tax havens, and if tax were paid on the income that this wealth generates, an extra $190 billion would be available to governments every year, Gabriel Zucman, assistant professor at University of California, Berkeley, has estimated. As much as 30 percent of all African financial wealth is held offshore, costing about $14 billion in lost tax revenues every year, Oxfam said, referring to Zucman’s work. This is enough money to pay for healthcare that could save 4 million children’s lives a year, and employ enough teachers to get every African child into school, Oxfam said in its report. “Multinational companies and wealthy elites are playing by different rules to everyone else, refusing to pay the taxes that society needs to function. The fact that 188 of 201 leading companies have a presence in at least one tax haven shows it is time to act,” Byanima said. Ensuring governments collect the taxes they are owed by companies and rich individuals will be vital if world leaders are to meet their goal to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030, one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals set in September, Oxfam said.The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen by 650 million since 1981, even though the global population grew by 2 billion in that time, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Much of this change has been because of the rise of China, which alone accounted for half a billion people moving out of extreme poverty. Most of the world’s poorest no longer live in the poorest countries, but in middle-income countries like India, the OECD said in a recent report. The inequalities are partly to do with differences in income, especially between urban and rural areas, but also differences in access to healthcare, education and jobs, the OECD said. “The figures suggest that the biggest causes of poverty are … political, economic and social marginalisation of particular groups in countries that are otherwise doing quite well,” development economist Owen Barder is quoted as saying in the OECD report. … (Asian Age 19/1/16)

 

116. Half the population of Central African Republic faces hunger, UN warns (21)

New York, Jan 21 : An emergency food security assessment by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners has revealed that half the population of the Central African Republic (CAR) – nearly 2.5 million people – faces hunger. This marks a doubling in the number of hungry people in a one-year period, as conflict and insecurity have led to limited access to and availability of food. Three years of crisis have taken a huge toll on the people of CAR, said Guy Adoua, WFP Deputy Country Director in the country, in a press release. Families have been forced so often to sell what they own, pull their kids out of school, even resort to begging, that they have reached the end of their rope. This is not the usual run-of-the-mill emergency. People are left with nothing, he added. According to the assessment, one in six women, men and children struggles with severe or extreme food insecurity, while more than one in three is moderately food insecure, not knowing where their next meal is coming from. WFP is extremely concerned by this alarming level of hunger. People not only lack enough food but are also forced to consume low-cost, low-nutrient food that does not meet their nutritional needs, added Mr. Adoua. The report shows that the 2014-2015 harvest was poor and that food prices remain high as farmers have not tended their fields due to insecurity, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes and abandon their land and livelihoods. Further clashes erupted in late September as much of the food security data for the assessment was being collected. That violence fuelled more displacement as people were slowly returning home. Nearly 1 million people are still displaced inside CAR or seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. The report recommends continued emergency food assistance to displaced families and returnees; food and technical assistance to farmers to recover; creating safety nets through programmes such as the school meals programme; and providing support to rehabilitate the infrastructure through food-for-assets activities. Meanwhile, WFP is providing emergency food and nutritional support to those most vulnerable and plays a crucial role in supporting recovery efforts. The agencys programmes focused on cash-based transfers and local food purchases going into school meals for thousands of children boost the local economy and peoples livelihoods. We must help the most vulnerable, who need emergency food assistance to survive, yet we also need to focus on people across CAR so they can recover and rebuild, stressed Adoua. In December 2015, WFP provided food for nearly 400,000 people through general food distributions, cash-based transfers, nutrition support and school meals, as well as food-for-assets activities, but $41 million is required so that it can respond to urgent needs through to the end of June. To date, WFPs operation is only 45 per cent funded. (New Kerala 21/1/16)

 

117. 3.75 crore bogus ration card holders in India (21)

NEW DELHI: Nearly 3.75 crore bogus ration cards have been taken out of the public distribution system (PDS) because of digitization of ration cards.This will reduce leakage and diversion of highly subsidized food grains. Highlighting how such IT-based system can be helpful in improving the food grain management and bring transparency, food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Thursday said that about 97% of the ration cards have already been digitized and the rest would be done soon. Paswan also said that the food security scheme will cover the entire country except Tamil Nadu by April. (Times of India 22/1/16)

 

118. Poverty forced Dalit IIT-BHU student to sell kidney, his caste kept the buyers away (21)

AGRA: At the time Rohith Vemula was perhaps plotting his suicide, unable to deal with the pressures that come from being a Dalit in a premier institute, Mahesh Balmiki, an IIT- BHU (Banaras Hindu University) student may just have escaped a similar fate. Mahesh, doing his BTech in mining, unable to repay Rs 2.70 lakh he had taken for his studies, compounded by the fact that he often fell ill, was even looking for someone to buy one of his kidneys. But that didn’t happen. In the black market for the organ, he told some of his friends, people first ask the caste of the donor. The boy, who some teachers said was “very bright”, had to the leave his studies in the middle and opt for a sweeper’s job back in his village, for just Rs 4,000 a month. Tired and frustrated, he often spoke with his friends about ending his life. Sensing trouble, a few of his friends told Sandeep Pandey, a social activist and Magsaysay award winner, about it. Pandey collected money from BHU alumni and just a few days ago paid off Mahesh’s loan. But Mahesh still works as a cleaner to survive. Talking to TOI, Mahesh said, “I visited around five hospitals in Varanasi and Alwar. The doctors there informed me that no one would take my kidney as I am a Dalit.”The 19-year-old boy is second among three brothers and comes from Gootasapura village in Alwar. His father, Sadhu Ram Balmiki, is paralyzed and the family is run by the elder son. Mahesh’s mother, too, works at various houses as a maid. The brightest in the family, Mahesh got 85% marks in his class X, managing 70% in class XII as he fell ill after working as a cleaner at a tent house during his exams. But he still secured top ranks in the IIT entrance test and got a seat in IIT-BHU.”I am second-year student of BTech (mining). But have no option other than that to clean and sweep,” he said. “There is a lot of pressure. Due to my prolonged illness, I had to incur expenses for my treatment and never could give back the loan I took for my studies. As I was unable to repay it, I worked as a sweeper in my village but got just Rs 4,000 per month.” For the boy, Pandey, a former contractual teacher at BHU, literally came as godsend. “Sandeep sir helped me get rid of the loan which he collected from former IIT-BHU students. I have paid everything back. I believe there are hundreds of Rohit Vemulas studying in prestigious institutions in our country. Some are forced to end their lives. A few lucky ones get people like Sandeep sir,” he said. (Times of Inia 23/1/16)

 

119. Entire country to be covered under Food Security Act by April: (21)

Allahabad: Almost the entire country is likely to be covered under the National Food Security Act by April this year, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan today said and asserted that rapid strides for its implementation have been made under the Narendra Modi government. Paswan also said a move is afoot to amend the Consumer Protection Act so the district and state forums are strengthenedfurther, while a number of provisions that caused inconvenience to consumers, too, are being done away with. “The NFSA came into force in 2013. The Congress-led UPA, which was then in power, had stated that by 2014, most states in the country will be covered under the Act. “However, when the BJP-led NDA came to power in May, 2014, only 11 states had been covered. Now, after less than two years, we have 25 states covered. We are confident that all states, except Tamil Nadu, will be covered by April this year,” the Food and Civil Supplies minister told reporters. The minister said in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state, the Act is likely to benefit “64 per cent of the urban population and 80 per cent of the rural population”.He added while at present only 28 districts in the state are covered under NFSA, the remaining 47 are likely to be brought under it by April. Paswan, who also holds the Consumer Affairs portfolio, said the proposed amendments to the Consumer Protection Act would empower district consumer forums to arbitrate in disputes involving a sum of up to Rs one crore as against the existing ceiling of Rs 20 lakh. Similarly, state forums, which can at present adjudicate in matters involving not more than Rs one crore, would be authorised to arbitrate in disputes involving a sum of up to Rs 10 crore. Moreover, in order to reduce inconvenience to aggrieved consumers, they will be “allowed to fight their cases without hiring a lawyer, if they choose to do so”, the minister said. Further, he said, “It will no longer be necessary to file a claim in the very city where a defective item has been purchased. A person from Allahabad will be allowed to file his claim in the city here even if he happens to make a purchase in Delhi. “We are also going to introduce facilities like filing of claims through mobile phones and internet so that there is no need to be physically present at every stage,” Paswan said. The minister said the government is going to crack down on “misleading advertisements, splashed across newspapers day in and day out, wherein unbelievable cures for baldness, obesity and similar afflictions are claimed”.He also hoped the Indian Standards Bill will be passed soon by Parliament to pave the way for “a uniform country-wide standardisation, devoid of any loopholes”. (Business Standard 25/1/16)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

120. MGNREGA workers start year by wearing black badges (14)

Bathinda: Employees recruited under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) began their new year by wearing black badges and raising slogans against the SAD-BJP state government during their stir held at the Children’s Park here today. The MGNREGA workers have been protesting in favour of their long-pending demand pertaining to regularisation of their jobs. Addressing the protesters, union leaders said around 1,200 MGNREGA workers had been working on different posts in various departments in the state for the past seven years. They said every year their contract was extended till March 31 only despite the fact that they were recruited through a proper procedure of advertisement and then interviews for the posts. The leaders said while they had been working in the Rural Development and Panchayat Department for the past several years, the department was now, advertising for recruitment to fill posts lying vacant in the department instead of regularising their jobs. They demanded that the department first regularise jobs of the employees who were recruited under the MGNREGA and then advertise for fresh recruitment to fill the posts that fall vacant after that. The union members alleged that the state government was not keen on regularising their jobs since it was exploiting the employees by paying them meagre salaries but making them shoulder many responsibilities. They threatened that in case the state government and the Rural Development and Panchayat Department continued to ignore their demands, they would intensify their stir, adding that other employee unions had also extended their support to the stir. Sukhdeep Singh, Kuldeep Singh, Gursewak Singh and Buta Singh were among those others present. (The Tribune 1/1/16)

 

121. Retrenched contract workers stage protest seeking reinstatement (14)

KALABURAGI: Workers serving on contract basis with the District Science Centre in Kalaburagi, and were removed from service by the authority, staged a protest in front of the science centre here on Friday demanding their reinstatement. The deprived workers along with district president of the All India Trade Union Congress Prabhudev Yelsangi and district secretary of the Communist Party of India Bheemashankar Madyal, in a complaint filed with the Brahmpur police station, said that 22 workers, including security guards and a gardener, were working on contract basis for more than six years at the District Science Centre. Siddram M. Magi, a contract worker in the District Science Centre, said that a petition has been filed in the Kalaburagi Bench of the High Court of Karnataka demanding regularisation of contract workers. (The Hindu 2/1/16)

 

122. UPA flagship scheme MGNREGA back on track, job numbers hit five-year-high (14)

New Delhi: The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the flagship welfare programme of the previous UPA government, appears to be staging a revival of sorts. And this turnaround is being attributed mainly to better monitoring by the Centre and timely release of funds. The July-September quarter witnessed 45.82 crore person-days of employment generated under MGNREGA. This was the highest for the quarter in the last five years. “It was more than even the 42.40 crore person-days during July-September 2012, which also happened to be a not-so-good monsoon year,” Rural Development Ministry officials told The Indian Express. According to officials, the last quarter (October-December), too, posted a similar trend. “In October alone, we provided 14.09 crore person-days employment, a record for the month. The data for the entire quarter is still being uploaded in our MIS (management information system) portal, but our expectation of the total person-days of work during October-December is 47 crore. That will again be a five-year-high for the quarter,” they said. The seeming revival over the last two quarters reverses the trend of declining employment under MGNREGA seen during the first year of the Modi government. In 2014-15, the programme — which provides 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work — generated only 166.32 crore person-days employment, compared to 221.15 crore and 230.33 crore in the preceding two fiscals and the peak 283.59 crore achieved in 2009-10 (a drought year). ngAlso, the average days of employment provided per household dropped to 40.17 in 2014-15, from 45.98 in 2013-14, 46.19 in 2012-13 and 53.19 days in the best performance year of 2009-10. “This year, we have already done 37.5 days, which should cross 50 by March-end,” the officials claimed. They attributed the better numbers this year mainly to better monitoring by the Centre and timely release of funds. “In 2014-15, most states, including those implementing the programme well, ran out of funds by October. When supply of funds dried up, leading to delayed payment of wages, there was less demand from the gram panchayats as well to take up works even in a drought year,” the officials admitted. That has changed this year, with the proportion of delayed payments — i.e. beyond 15 days after the closure of muster rolls — falling to 53 per cent from 72 per cent in 2014-15. Development economists pointed out that MGNREGA’s apparent turnaround in the last two quarters was a result of political and civil society pressure, forcing the government to release funds. “The increased person-days employment numbers dispels the myth of low demand for work. The truth is that MGNREGA had increasingly become supply-driven, though it is in spirit and letter demand-driven. This was even more so after this government took over, with everybody from Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje to Nitin Gadkari (the then Rural Development Minister) and Modi himself sending out signals of downsizing MGNREGA”, said Reetika Khera, associate professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. Incidentally, of the 137 crore person-days MGNREGA employment generated so far in 2015-16 (based on latest uploaded data), more than half has been accounted for by five states: Tamil Nadu (24.9 crore), Andhra Pradesh (14.6 crore), Rajasthan (14.3 crore), West Bengal (13.6 crore) and Uttar Pradesh (10.9 crore). On the other hand, the states worst affected by drought — Maharashtra (4.5 crore), Karnataka (2.5 crore) or even Madhya Pradesh (6.6 crore) and Chhattisgarh (3.7 crore) — haven’t registered any significant uptake in MGNREGA works. “We have now moved to linking fund releases to performance, measured in terms of both person-days generation and quality of asset creation. The states doing well on these counts will get MGNREGA money, which will otherwise simply be parked for earning interest,” officials said. (Indian Express 5/1/16)

 

123. Centre to issue U-WIN cards for unorganised sector workers (14)

Jamshedpur: The union government is working on issuing a unique identification number for the workforce engaged in unorganised sector to facilitate them to access social schemes and benefits. “We are working to issue a smart card ‘Unorganised Workers Identification Number’ (U-WIN card) for the workforce engaged in unorganised sector soon in the country,” P P Mitra, Principal Labour and Employment Adviser, Union Ministry of Labour and Employment, told reporters here today. Mitra, who was in the steel city to take part in a function, said 93 per cent of the workforce (approx 40 crore) were engaged in the unorganised sector in the country. The software in this regard had been developed and it would be sent to the state governments for its implementation soon, Mitra said. The benefits of the Union government schemes such as pension scheme, old age scheme would be linked with the U-WIN cards, he said. (Times of India 9/1/16)

 

124. Employment guarantee scheme (14)

Thiruvananthapuram: Rural Development Minister K.C. Joseph said here on Tuesday that wages under the employment guarantee scheme would be issued only through the National Electronic Fund Management System. The Centre has allocated Rs.365 crore to Kerala for the purpose, a press note quoting him said. The amount will be utilised to clear the arrears, and efforts were made to ensure prompt payment to the beneficiaries. Under the new system, the wages will be electronically credited to the account of beneficiaries. (The Hindu 13/1/16)

 

125. No Policy to Control 450,000 Street Vendors (14)

NEW DELHI:  If one takes a look at the city streets and roads, especially during peak hours, chaos reigns supreme. While vendors do their best to sell their products, pedestrians scurry past them with a straight face. The Delhi High Court recently summoned the Chief Secretary of Delhi Government K K Sharma to warn the government over its lax attitude towards formalising a clear policy for street vendors in the national capital. The reason behind congestion in the streets of Old Delhi and footpaths of the national capital is that there is no government policy to control hawkers. “The footpaths are for pedestrians,” said Sanjay Bhargav, General Secretary of the Chandni Chowk Sarv Vypar Mandal. As per the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Delhi has 450,000 street vendors. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), which is the government body to manage the number of hawkers, has only 12,000 registered vendors with them. The rest are illegal and have encroached the footpath of Delhi much to the discomfort of the commuters. Guided by the terms of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act passed by the parliament in May 2014, the authorities have decided to constitute Town Vending Committees (TVC). “We are committed to make TVC, which are going to be autonomous bodies, a reality,” said MA Rehman, Additional Deputy Commissioner, North MCD. (New Indian Express 17/1/16)

 

126. Over 100 migrant workers sent back to Odisha (14)

KARIMNAGAR: Migrant Odisha labourers along with their family members working in a brick kiln in Rangapur village of Peddapalli mandal created a mild commotion in Karimnagar district by organising a protest walk from the kiln to the Karimnagar district headquarters on the early hours of Friday. A small tussle which erupted between Odisha tractor driver Sahadev and the brick kiln owner Venkateshwara Rao over driving the vehicle in an inebriated condition created commotion in the kiln. The migrant labourers alleged that Mr. Rao thrashed the driver, Sahadev, black and blue causing serious injuries and that they too were scared of facing the same wrath. Expressing concern over the alleged harassment of the brick owner, the migrant labourers along with their family members launched the protest walk from the kiln site to Karimnagar town, traversing a distance of 42 kilometres. They started their protest walk on Thursday night and reached Karimnagar on Friday morning. All along the route, the brick kiln owners and the police tried to pacify the agitators, but in vain. Braving chilly weather, they came to the town and met Collector Neetu Prasad and poured out their woes and urged her to send them back to their villages in Odisha. Promising them to send them back, the Collector told them not to collect advance before coming to the kiln to work. Later, the Labour Department, Revenue and Police officials provided them food and purchased train tickets and shifted all the 146 migrant labourers, including their family members and children, to Odisha, from the Ramagundam railway station. Deputy Labour Commissioner A. Gandhi said that they had recently inspected the brick kiln and found all basic amenities for the labourers at the site – including toilets, drinking water, proper accommodation etc. The official quoted the brick kiln owner as saying that the labourers, who had collected advance, were making false allegations to avoid work. Mr. Gandhi said that the labourers usually come to work after collecting advance through ‘sardars’ (middlemen) and later try to avoid work. He said that the administration was planning to take measures to ensure that the labourers come to work site armed with proper documents without collecting advance from the owners. “We will ensure that they get minimum wages and their salaries are credited in the bank accounts regularly by helping them open bank accounts,” he said. (The Hindu 17/1/16)

 

127.  “Ensure minimum wages of Rs. 15,000” (14)

NAGERCOIL: The Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam and All India Farm Workers’ Association affiliated to Communist Party of India (Marxist) staged a demonstration here on Monday, demanding the government to ensure minimum wages of Rs. 15,000 to all workers. Representatives of the forums said that the government must eradicate contract system of employment in production and services sectors, increase working days to 250 days from 100 days and raise wages to Rs. 300 per day for beneficiaries of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The government must fix remunerative prices for agricultural produce in accordance with recommendations of Swaminathan Commission, stop land acquisition for industrialisation and give free house site pattas to workers in the unorganised sector and farm labourers, they said. The demonstration was staged in remembrance of those who lost their lives in police firing during a nationwide general strike in 1982. K. Chellappan, State vice-president, CITU, R. Chellaswamy, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, and Malaivilai Pasi, district secretary, All India Farm Workers Association, took part in the demonstration. (The Hindu 19/1/16)

 

128. Dalit student suicide overshadows crucial labour reform bills (14)

New Delhi: The NDA government’s plan to push through crucial labour reforms legislations in the budget session of Parliament is likely to hit a roadblock with daggers drawn between the ruling alliance and opposition parties over the suicide of a Dalit scholar. With the ambitious land reforms and GST bills also struck in Parliament due to continued stonewalling by the Congress-led opposition, the fresh crisis could seriously dent the NDA government’s efforts to cut red tape and introduce more industry-friendly rules for ease of doing business. Union labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya is at the centre of the storm with opposition parties demanding his sacking for his alleged interference in the University of Hyderabad affairs, which they say drove Rohith Vemalu to suicide. Some of the proposed legislations the BJP is hopeful of passing in the budget session include the small factories bill, code on industrial relations and child labour (prohibition and regulation) amendment bill, 2012. While the small factories bill proposes to keep units employing less than 40 workers out of the purview of 14 labour laws, including the Employees Provident Fund Act, the Employees State Insurance Act and the Industrial Dispute Act, the code on industrial relations will make it easier for companies to sack up to 300 employees without the government’s permission. The child labour bill, on the other hand, proposes that children below fourteen years may only be allowed to work in enterprises owned by their own families. These initiatives are, however, unlikely to see light of the day in the budget session in the face of opposition fire. Congress leaders have already said that the party will not let up the pressure until Dattatreya is sacked over the suicide by the 26-year-old research scholar. With the government mounting a fierce defence of Dattatreya, it was unlikely that the axe will fall on Dattatreya on this issue. And this stalemate could prove fatal for the government’s ambitious Make in India programme, the foundations of which is expected to be built on the successful passage of the labour reforms bills. The small factories bill aims to free the small scale manufacturing sector from the cumbersome provisions of different labour laws, seen as major step towards easing the way of doing business. It will also obviate the need for small units to keep cumbersome records and submit to the regulators by allowing for online registration. Similarly, the code on industrial relations, which seeks to combine three laws into a single code, will enable companies to fire its staff without any official sanction if their staff strength is up to 300 and will also make it slightly tougher to form workers’ unions. (Hindustan Times 21/1/16)

 

129. Wage seekers swell under MGNREGS this month (14)

HYDERABAD: An average of 9.5 lakh wage seekers worked under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) during the current month in Telangana. According to an official press release, the average number of daily wage seekers has not crossed even 1.5 lakh during the last nine years. A total of 967 crore person days were created during the current financial year so far. Besides, a total of 1.77 lakh families had already availed over 100 days wage work under the scheme. A total of Rs. 1,300 crore was paid to 40.7 lakh wage seekers from 23.25 lakh families who had availed the wage work so far. (The Hindu 24/1`/16)

 

130. Labour Min asks EPFO, ESIC not to inspect startups for 3 yrs (14)

New Delhi: The Labour Ministry has directed retirement fund body EPFO and health insurance provider ESIC to exempt startups from inspection and filing returns for 3 years. In line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to nurture startups, the ministry said in a set of directions last week that the new age ventures should be allowed to self-certify their compliance with 9 labour laws. Labour Secretary Shankar Aggarwal in a letter said startups should not be inspected or asked to file returns for 3 years under 9 laws including Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act and the Employees State Insurance Act. “Promoting startups would need special hand holding and nurturing. Thus, such ventures may be allowed to self-certify compliance with the Labour Laws,” he added. They will be exempted from inspection under the Building and other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, Payment of Gratuity Act and Contract Labour Act. Startups will also be exempted from filing returns under the Industrial Disputes Act, Building and other Construction Workers Act, Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, Contract Labour Act, EPF Act and ESI Act. There will be a blanket exemption from inspection and filing returns for the first year and would be asked to file an online self declaration form. They will also not be asked to file return or inspected for the next two years, but will be inspected in case a “very credible and verifiable” complaint of violation is filed in writing and the approval has been obtained from the Central Analysis and Intelligence Unit (CAIU), Aggarwal said. Except the EPF and Miscellaneous Provisions Act and the ESI Act, the implementation of other seven laws lies in both central and state government’s sphere. Labour Ministry had directed its officials as well as the EPFO and ESIC to regulate inspection of startups, under laws which lie in the centre’s sphere. (Deccan Herald 25/1/16)

 

131. Soon, annual and quarterly reports to replace once-in-5-year job surveys (14)

New Delhi: The government could soon launch a first of its kind annual employment survey, with the ability to generate quarterly reports on job market trends in certain segments like urban India. The plan is to release such employment data soon after the surveys, unlike other official data, by using modern technology so as to enable policymakers to react faster to labour market movements and track job creation goals. An estimated million people are joining India’s workforce every month, thanks to its demographic dividend of a high number of youth in the population. As of now, the only employment data in India is available through quinquennial (once every five years) surveys by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), a limited ad-hoc survey of employment in a few sectors that was initiated by the Labour Bureau after the global financial crisis in 2008 and the Annual Survey of Industries (which only captures the employees of the registered factories). By contrast, developed markets have quarterly official data on employment, if not monthly reports, that help them assess the state of the economy better. The NSSO has readied the design, modalities and mechanisms for conducting the survey and could start as soon as the nod comes for the formal proposal of the Statistics Ministry. “We are planning to move to a more regular survey, conducted annually, with some reports coming out on a quarterly basis,” said TCA Anant, Secretary, Ministry of Statistics. “A survey requires resources – both finance and people. We have worked out many things… there are procedures to be followed before we can commit when we can start and in what form, as they interact with each other. A proposal has been finalised for competent approval,” Mr. Anant told The Hindu, stressing that though the Ministry is hopeful of starting the survey, it is still under ‘administrative examination.’ While NSSO surveys are usually spread over a whole financial year, the design plan for the employment survey includes a regular annual survey with certain systems for urban areas that will enable generation of quarterly estimates, he explained. “For the employment survey, we want to shift to a modern technology platform so that we can speed up the process of capture of data from the field,” he said, pointing to similar, recent deployments of technology to improve data collection for the consumer price index (CPI) and the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI). “The ASI work is now done through a web portal. Our CPI collection is much more robust as all the data is gathered through an IT network developed by the Department of Posts, which we are piggybacking on to get data transmitted,” Mr. Anant said, adding a similar approach will be used for capturing employment numbers. The National Statistics Commission had first called for a periodic labour force survey in 2009 and a pilot survey was undertaken in 2012-13. The design of the new annual employment survey has been finalised on the basis of a peer and stakeholder review of the pilot survey’s outcomes. Asked about the segregation of employment between the formal and informal sectors, Mr. Anant said, “Formal, informal or organised and disorganised sector definitions have a certain measure of confusion in their understanding. You can, in principle, be in formal employment in an unorganised sector, and in informal employment in the organised sector.” (The Hindu 27/1/16)

 

RESERVATION

132. Jats threaten to block roads in Haryana from Feb 15

Jind, Jan 3: Haryana’s Sarva Khap Jat Panchayat, which has been at the forefront of demanding reservations for Jats in government jobs, on Jan 2 threatened that they would intensify their movement by blocking roads at about 40 places in the state on February 15. “The Jat community is united and ready to make the agitation successful. The protesters will block roads at about 40 points in the state to press our demands,” Sube Singh Samain, spokesperson of the Sarva Khap Jat Panchayat, told reporters. Haryana Samain said the Jat body will also later deliberate on blocking rail traffic and make efforts to intensify the movement after Panchayat elections on January 10. Jats are demanding reservation in central services and in states of Punjab, Haryana and Jammu under the Other Backward Class category. They have held various protests in past three years.(One India 3/1/16)

 

133. No quota for SC/STs in public bank promotions (25)

New Delhi: In a huge setback to SC/ST employees in public sector banks, the Supreme Court has held that they are not entitled to reservation in promotion to officer posts from Scale-1 to Scale-6. A bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and A.K. Sikri, which had allowed reservation for SC/STs last year, reversed its order while entertaining review petitions from the Union of India and public sector banks. On a batch of writ petitions from the SC/ST Employees’ Associations, a single judge of the Madras high court held that these employees were not entitled for reservation in promotion. However, on appeal, a division bench held that they were entitled to reservation in promotion and directed the banks to make such a provision. The apex court set aside the Madras HC judgment which provided for SC/ST quota in promotions. Though the Centre did not file an appeal against the HC judgment, it preferred a review petition when the apex court endorsed the HC ruling. Allowing the review, the bench held that in the matter of promotions in officer grades, there shall be no reservation for the officers belonging to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories working in these banks. The bench rejected the argument of public policy pressed by SC/ST employees associations holding that such an argument is of no avail. “We are conscious of the fervent plea raised by the respondent employees that employees belonging to the SC/ST category should be made eligible for promotion by providing the reservation in the promotional posts as well, as their representation is abysmally minimal. However, once we find an error apparent on the face of the record and to correct the said error, we have to necessarily allow these review petitions.” Though the bench rejected quota for SC/STs, it said: “It is for the state to take stock of the ground realities and take a decision as to whether it is necessary to make a provision for reservation in promotions from Scale I to Scale II and upward, and if so, up to which post. The grievance of the employees belonging to SC/ST category is that there is negligible representation of employees belonging to their community in the officers’ category at all levels. Keeping in view the statistical figures which have been placed on record showing their representation in officers’ scales, it would be open to the concerned authority, namely the state and the banks, to consider whether their demand is justified and it is feasible to provide reservation to the SC/ST category. (Asian Age 9/1/16)

 

134. Patel leader seeks meeting between community and Gujarat govt on quota issue (25)

Ahmedabad: Hardik Patel and his close aides are in jail at present under sedition charges. Patel community has been demanding their inclusion in the OBC category to make them eligible for quotas in education and jobs. A prominent leader of Patel community, which has been demanding OBC reservation, on Friday sought a meeting between the community members and Gujarat government to sort out the issue through talks. The leader, Jayrambhai Patel, of Sidsar Temple Trust said he and other members of the community met Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convener Hardik Patel in jail on the reservation issue and also conveyed their demands to the government. “I and other members of Patel community met Hardik in jail two-three times and also met BJP leaders. We have conveyed all the demands of the PAAS and Patel community to the government,” Patel told reporters. “It is desirable that a meeting is held between state government representatives and PAAS leaders along with prominent members of Patel community to bring a solution to the problem,” Patel said. Hardik Patel and his close aides are in jail at present under sedition charges. Patel community has been demanding their inclusion in the OBC category to make them eligible for quotas in education and jobs. The state government has recently withdrawn non-serious cases against Patel youths, who were involved in violence during the agitation. However, cases against Hardik Patel and his aides have not been taken back yet. BJP also suffered a defeat in rural areas of the state in the recently-held local bodies polls, which took place close on the heels of the Patel quota agitation. (DNA 15/1/16)

 

135. Promotions of SCs, STs be done cadre-wise: Gauhati HC (25)

GUWAHATI: In a landmark judgment, the Gauhati high court has ruled that people representing SCs and STs would no longer be promoted in the Assam government services just because they belong to the backward classes as promotions should be done cadre-wise maintaining overall efficiency in the administration. Justice Ujjal Bhuyan, giving the verdict in a writ petition filed by Equality Forum challenging reservation in promotion for STs and SCs in government services in the state, held that “What the one-man commission has done is that it has made a general statement about backwardness of SCs and STs and has not provided quantifiable data either on backwardness or on inadequacy of representation having regard to the promotional posts.” The one-man commission was appointed by the state government to study the whole process of promotion in the state government services. The court, however, made it clear that “the factum of SCs and STs being appointed/promoted against open/unreserved post in the state services is also a relevant factor to be considered while ascertaining both backwardness and inadequacy of representation”.Justice Bhuyan further observed that “whether there is adequate representation or not has to be decided cadre-wise having regard to the service where the cadre is placed. Once it is found that in a particular cadre there is adequate representation of SCs and STs providing for representation to such communities in promotion too such cadre would not be justified.” The court also held that “the concept of creamy layer is not acceptable to SCs and STs. However, having said that the court is of the considered opinion that the above factor would be relevant only at the time of initial recruitment”.According to the court, “at the time of promotion, in the event, reservation is sought to be introduced, then an assessment of backwardness of the said communities having regard to their representation in the promotional cadre(s) would have to be carried out”.The court observed that “the adverse impact on administrative efficiency due to the presence of reserve category candidate in the cadre because of accelerated promotion on account of reservation in promotion due to reservation is required to be assessed by applying objective measurable standard”.”No doubt, it is a difficult task but nonetheless it has to be carried out if the State desires to provide for reservation in promotion,” the judge said. (Times of India 18/1/16)

 

136. Cabinet OKs 35% women quota in state govt jobs (25)

Patna: Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday fulfilled his pre-poll promise of 35% reservation to women of all categories in government jobs. The state cabinet also approved hike in VAT rates on petrol, diesel and India-made foreign liquor besides entry tax on electronics, electrical equipment, footwear, ready-made garments, except hosiery. Briefing media after the cabinet meeting, principal secretary, cabinet secretariat, Brajesh Mehrotra said the existing 3% reservation for extremely backward castes women in government jobs would continue. Giving details, he said scheduled caste women will get 5.6% quota (35%) in the existing 16% reservation for SCs in government jobs. Similarly, scheduled tribe women will get .35% of the 1% seats reserved for STs. Out of the total 18% reservation for EBCs, their women will get 6.3% seats. The backward caste women will get 4.2% of the 12% seats reserved for that category. Earlier, government had reserved 35% seats for women only in police jobs. Women will get 17.5% reservation in the 50% unreserved seats, Mehrotra clarified. In case of the non-availability of women in all such categories, the posts would be filled up with male candidates in respective categories. In another major decision, the state cabinet gave its green signal to raise entry tax on footwear, ready-made garments, bidi products, medical equipment, devises and implants besides electronics items to enhance its tax revenue. The entry tax on electrical items would be raised from existing 8% to 12% while 8% entry tax would be introduced on electronic items. The government will also implement 5% entry tax on costly footwear/shoes barring plastic chappals and sandals. Bow an tie will also ge5t costlier with 5% entry tax on these items. Bidi leaves and its products would also be levied 5% entry tax. The recent 13.5% VAT hike on essential items would be further increased by additional one per cent. The commercial taxes department proposal to increase VAT in the range of 20%-30% on petrol, diesel, costly foreign liquor and tobacco products (cigarette, bidi) also got the cabinet nod. With the new VAT rates, Rs400 crore would be added to the state exchequer per annum. The government has decided to amend the Bihar Public Grievances Redressal Act 2015. Anyone can lodge his/her grievance either on a plain paper or on a prescribed format free of cost with any government department. Public grievance redressal officer would be posted in each department. Anyone can go for first appeal after 30 days in case his/her grievances were not redressed, Mehrotra said, adding that one can also lodge grievances online. All the grievances would be acknowledged to the complainant within a week. The proposal to create a post of adviser to CM for helping him on policy issues and its implementation for the year 2015-20 was also approved. A sum of Rs205.18 crore subsidy was sanctioned for the investors under the Bihar Industrial Promotion Policy in FY2015-16. The cabinet also sanctioned Rs12.07 crore to the Bihar State Aids Control Society. The proposal of the excise and prohibition department was cleared for the compulsory retirement of Arvind Kumar Khan, sub-registrar at Barh in Patna district for his dereliction of duty at various places of his posting. (Times of India 19/1/16)

 

137. Call for reservation in jobs for Dalits in private sector (25)

KAKINADA: The second State-level conference of the Dalitha Hakkula Porata Samithi (DHPS) held here on Tuesday stated that implementing reservation policy in the private sector was the only way to bring Dalits to the mainstream. The conference, which was attended by more than 1,000 people, discussed at length the challenges facing Dalits. Inaugurating the meet, former Vice-Chancellor of Srikrishnadevaraya University Kolakaluri Enoch said even as the United Nations and the Indian Constitution accorded equal rights to all human beings, Dalits were constantly being deprived of their rights. “The plight of Dalit women needs special mention here, as they are a crucial part of the Dalit workforce,” he said, adding that awareness among Dalits about their rights was the need of the hour. “There is also a need for a campaign at the grassroots level, highlighting the rights of Dalit women,” he said. Speaking on the occasion, Communist Party of India (CPI) State secretary K. Ramakrishna asked as to why the government had failed to take a decision on extending reservation in jobs to Dalits in the private sector. “Both the Central and State governments are leaving no stone unturned to acquire lands belonging to the poor and Dalits and handing them over to industrial units. That being the case, why can’t they insist that private organisations implement reservation rules in recruitments?” he asked. He said a massive movement would soon be launched demanding reservations in the private sector. Former MLC Jalli Wilson and CPI district unit secretary Tatipaka Madhu also spoke. (The Hindu 20/1/16)

 

138. Rohith Vemula’s suicide: A missing conversation (25)

New Delhi: Rohith Vemula’s suicide has sent our politics into convulsion and has once again brought to fore the deep social fault-lines that criss-cross our society. Often masked, these divisions have always existed deep under. Through constitutionally mandated means — aided by political participation — the Indian Republic has sought to paper over the rumbling of these tectonic plates. Whether it has succeeded or failed depends on how you look at it. The government’s response has been to brush aside the casteist underpinnings of this issue. HRD minister, Smriti Irani, was at pains to deflect attention by suggesting that it was not a Dalits versus non-Dalits issue. A report in the Indian Express today highlights, how her deputies in the ministry — one of whom is a Dalit — have gone silent on the matter. This has only highlighted how important conversations around Dalit issues are ignored in attempts to tide over a crisis. The old debates of merit versus reservations, upper caste versus lower caste, privilege versus social justice have once again surfaced. What is at the heart of such breakdowns in our society, especially in our schools, colleges and universities? Why is our youth taking such pitched positions on these matters? What causes these conflagrations in educational institutes and among the youth now? At the heart of it, these disputes among our youth in our educational institutions represent a questioning of the status-quo. It represents how Dalit or Tribal youth question the status-quo they have inherited in the form of a rigid, discriminatory social order. It represents a pushing of existing boundaries by every new generation. It represents an assertion of their equality and a consciousness of their rights. This in itself represents a success of the republic that in 1950 decided to enshrine equality in the constitution in its attempt to fix centuries of oppression. To remove social stigma, to ensure equitable growth, to ensure the new Republic’s sustenance and to reform the society, reservations for Scheduled Castes and Tribes were introduced. This important feature continues till this day as Indian society has not reformed at the pace at which it was expected to, as Rohith Vemula’s suicide clearly demonstrates. On the other hand, we have a questioning of the status-quo by those from privileged castes. It represents a curious mix of casteism and entitlement but it also represents a questioning of the social order that has been bequeathed to them by the republic’s founders. It partly represents a lack of awareness and therefore understanding of the reasons this order was created in 1950. This questioning of the status-quo should also be welcomed. This mutual resistance coupled with entrenched power equations that are clearly tilted against the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes leads to social flare-ups. The fuse that leads to these flare-ups is made up of multiple layers, each different from the other and each requiring careful parsing The challenge here is to understand that broad-brushing all questioning as assertion of caste superiority or entitlement is useless and lazy while the broad-brushing of assertion of rights by Dalits as usurpation of merit is disingenuous and lacks comprehension of dalit or tribal victimisation. … (Business Standard 22/1/16)

 

139. Caste-based reservations row: Congress brands Govt. ‘anti-Dalit’ (25)

New Delhi, Jan. 24 : The Congress Party on Sunday criticised the BJP-led NDA Government after Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan advocated a “rethink” on caste-based reservations in the country and alleged that it reflected the anti-Dalit mindset of the ruling dispensation. Congress leader Kapil Sibal branded the government as ‘anti-Dalit’ while asserting that they have always voiced their support for the people of upper caste. “Actually, the RSS has been from day one, 1947 and before, anti-Dalit. It was anti-Dalit, it is anti-Dalit and it will be anti-Dalit,” Sibal told the media here. “It’s not in their DNA to be pro-Dalit because they are people of ‘Savarna Jati’ and cannot be in favour of Dalits,” he added. Another Congress leader Manish Tewari cited the article mentioned in the Constitution of India to prove his point. “The Constitution talks about reservation for socially and educationally backward classes, if you read the article 15 or 16 of Constitution of India. So, fundamentally what requires the revisit is the question whether a class which is what the Constitution mandated is equivalent to caste,” Tewari told ANI. The Lok Sabha Speaker had yesterday advocated a ‘rethink’ on caste-based reservations in the country while asserting that even Father of the Indian Constitution Babasaheb Ambedkar had supported the same. “Ambedkarji had said, ‘Give reservations for 10 years and after 10 years, do a rethink. Bring them to that stage’. We have done nothing. Even I am guilty of this… We have not thought about it. We do not contemplate why this (a rethink) has not happened,” she said while addressing officials and representatives of local bodies at an event on smart cities in Ahmedabad. (New Kerala 24/1/16)

 

140. OBC, SC, ST People Will Decide Next Gujarat CM: Thakor (25)

AHMEDABAD: An arch rival of Patel quota agitation spearhead Hardik Patel and OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, today urged OBC, SC and ST communities to unite ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections and asserted that the next Gujarat Chief Minister would be decided by them. Thakor was addressing ‘Vyasan-Mukti Mahakumbh’, a de-addiction conclave organised by Kshatriya Thakor Sena, a non-political body led by him. The event is being seen as a show of strength of OBC, SC and ST communities vis-a-vis the Patel community’s ongoing stir seeking reservation under OBC quota. “As leaders of OBC, SC and ST communities are here, I want to tell you that these communities will decide the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2017. It will be us, who will decide what will happen in 2017,” Thakor said at the programme held at GMDC ground here. Hardik Patel had earlier claimed that Patel community holds the key to make or break any government here and warned the state to face the wrath of Patel voters in 2017 if their demand for reservation was not met. However, Thakor, who had formed OBC-SC-ST (OSS) Ekta Manch after the Patel quota agitation gained momentum in August last year, had opposed Patels’ demand. The conclave was claimed to be attended by around two lakh people, mostly from Thakor community of north Gujarat region. OBC, SC and ST community leaders had also been invited to share the stage at GMDC ground. Incidentally, the programme was organised at the same venue, where Hardik had held a massive gathering of Patel community on August 25. Although during his address, Thakor repeatedly claimed that it was a “non-political” event aimed only at eradicating social evils and addiction, he asked them to choose the CM wisely. “I want to assure you that I do not have any political ambitions and I will not fight election. Me and my cause is totally non-political. However, we have to also ensure that we don’t choose a ruler (CM), who can’t even understand our problems. Thus, start preparing for 2017 from today,” he said to the cheering crowd. (New Indian Express 27/1/16)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

141.  ‘Strike balance between rights and duties, activists urged (1)

CHENNAI: A section of activists, who talk about human rights, have stopped thinking about the duties of each of the persons concerned, said Madras High Court Judge N. Kirubakaran. Delivering the presidential lecture at the presentation ceremony of Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer Award on Saturday, Justice Kirubakaran said just five to ten percent of human-rights activists legitimately work towards realising their goals, and strike a balance between rights and duties. “A large number of people misused the statutory provisions pertaining to human rights. So, an order preventing misuse of such statutory provisions was passed. This reduced the misuse, but also inadvertently affected some genuine crusaders for human rights and social justice. I feel sorry for those affected activists,” said Justice Kirubakaran. “Many government employees have also stopped thinking about duties, failing to offer services to citizens. This has severely affected the nation. As a result, taxpayers’ money is getting wasted,” said Justice Kirubakaran. Stressing on the need for more awareness on all aspects of human rights in Tamil Nadu, National Human Rights Commission member Justice D. Murugesan said that of the one lakh human rights cases, only 4,000 were from Tamil Nadu. As many as 37 awardees including former Supreme Court Justice S. Rathinavel Pandian, former Madras High Court Judge K. P. Sivasubramaniam, senior advocate R. Vaigai, Frontline Editor R. Vijaya Sankar, member secretary of Transplant Authority of Tamil Nadu J. Amalorpavanathan, former Additional Chief Secretary R. Christodos Gandhi, advocate Ravi Paul, The Hindu Tamil Editor K. Asokan and PUCL National Secretary V. Suresh received the Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer Award for their role in the promotion of human rights and social justice. (The Hindu 3/1/16)

 

142.  ‘Govt. taking steps to ensure human rights and freedom’ (1)

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government, which has joined hands with international community in the last one year, is taking initial steps towards “ensuring human rights and freedom” for all Sri Lankans, according to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Taking stock of developments in the last one year since Maithripala Sirisena became President in the 2015 presidential elections, Mr. Wickremesinghe, on his return from a private visit to the United Kingdom, told a gathering at his official residence on Monday that “we have commenced the process of giving land back to civilians of the North. While resettling them, we will ensure the rights of people living in other areas as well.” Recalling how the country’s two principal parties, United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, came together in August to form a “ntional gvernment,” Mr. Wickremesinghe, who became the Prime Minister a year ago, said the parties had, by coming together, “successfully” overcome “the challenges posed by accusations of human rights violations.” Pointing out that the government would have in place a mechanism that would guarantee economic and social development in three years, he said “this journey seeks prosperity for all Sri Lankans and assures every Sri Lankan of a better tomorrow,” adding that there would be prosperity as much for Trincomalee or Hambantota or Jaffna as for Colombo. (The Hindu 4/1/16)

 

143. Reach out to us with a postcard, says State human rights chief (1)

Mumbai:  “People can reach out to us by writing a letter or by sending in a postcard, no lawyer or stamp duty is required”, said the current chairperson of the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission, Justice S R Bannurmath, former Chief Justice of Kerala High Court. Justice Bannurmath retired in 2010 and became chairperson of the Commission in 2013. He said people come to us and not approach the courts, because everything is free of cost here and does not take time. The courts, he added are costly and time consuming therefore it is the easiest and simplest to come to us. He said a letter written to us is a being taken up as a complaint and after it is scrutinized the report is sent to the complainant is free of cost. Explaining powers of the commission, Mr Bannurmath said, “we are a statutory and autonomous body and it does not hold proceedings but holds summary inquires into the complaints.” He said the most common complaints are on non-availability of basic facilities like water and abuse of basic procedures by collectors and tehsildars. He added that the commission also takes up suo motu (on its own) cases based on newspaper reports that highlights government employees being deprived of pensions, teachers not given salaries and cases of medical negligence. Commenting on the programmes undertaken by the commission the chairperson said, they hold programmes to sensitize public servants and organise camps to hear and dispose off complaints on violations of human rights. His team visits, custodial homes, lock ups, prisons, juvenile homes and senior citizens home. He added surprise checks are conducted at police stations to check illegal detention and torture. In 2014, three camps were conducted at Kolhapur, Buldanana and Amravati where they disposed off matters in the same day, he said. In 2015, Rs 26 lakh was disbursed as compensation and the highest was Rs 10 lakhs that was paid to an activist who sought police protection. He was receiving life threats but was not provided the same. He was shot, got paralyzed and sought compensation. Justice Bannurmath said it is primary responsibility of the commission to make people aware about their rights and what can be done when they are violated. (The Hindu 6/1/16)

 

144. NHRC issues notice to Bihar government over poor state prisons (1)

NEW DELHI: National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to Bihar government over the reported deplorable conditions prevailing in the prisons of the state. Taking suo motu cognizance of a media report highlighting an exhaustive report titled ‘Prisons of Bihar:- Status Report 2015′ prepared by activist and researcher, Smita Chakraburty, the Commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Prisons, Government of Bihar and asked for a response within four weeks. Smita Chakraburty was assigned the project by Justice VN Sinha, Judge of Patna High Court and Executive Chairman, Bihar State Legal Services Authority and asked to visit all the 58 prisons of Bihar to study the living conditions and submit a report. “Although it is not oblivious of the ills plaguing the prison system in the country as a whole, the present cover story discloses gross violation of human rights of the prisoners who are under the care and custody of the state,” observed the Commission. Reportedly, Chakraburty interviewed as many as 30,070 inmates during the course of her study. The final report was released on November, 15, 2015. The report is stated to be an eye opener and throws light on the denial of basic human rights of prisoners in Bihar and points to the urgent need for prison reforms across the country. It highlights absence of medical facilities in prisons, particularly for women, bias against terror accused and under trials by denying them even the copies of charge sheets of the cases against them. Instances of forced labour by under trials which is punishable under IPC and need of medical and psychiatric help to the inmates were also underlined in the report. The exhaustive study also brought to the fore issues of punishment of prisoners under the discretionary powers provided by the Prison Manual Rules without supervision by an appellate body. Denial of free legal aid counsel to under trials was also talked about, as it pointed out that very few advocates meet the under trials in the court and they go unrepresented when produced before the Magistrate. (Times of India 6/1/16)

 

145. NHRC ask Odisha government to eliminate bonded labour (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) expressed concern over high incidents of bonded labour in Odisha and asked the state government for strict implementation of laws. “There are certainly some gaps in implementing the laws, which prohibit bonded labour in the state. We receive maximum number of complaints of bonded labour from Odisha after Uttar Pradesh,” said justice D Murugeshan, member of NHRC here on Tuesday. He was speaking on a national level workshop on elimination of bonded labour organized by NHRC. He said, most of eth complaints received in Odisha are in Bartan system in which upper caste employs lower caste families for a pittance like 15 kg rice a year. “Bartan system is major violation of human rights of a person. The government officers must be sensitive enough while identifying and rescuing bonded labourers. Rehabilitation of the rescued with alternative employment is most important so that they will not migrate again,” he added. According to the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011, Odisha has a total 6353 bonded labourers of whom 5413 have been legally freed. Since 2011, a total 1747 bonded labourers have been identified. The state government has so far rehabilitated 493 bonded labourers and has sought permission from the centre for rehabilitation of 891. The state and central government gives Rs 10,000 each to a bonded labourer under the rehabilitation. Senior officers of the state government, representatives of State Human Rights Commission, voluntary organizations, and representatives of brick kilns, stone crushing and other related industries participated in the day-long workshop.”The objective of the workshop is to familiarize and sensitize the district magistrates, sub-divisional magistrates, state labour officers and members of vigilance committees, brick kilns, stone crushing and other related industries involved in the process of identification, release and rehabilitation of bonded labourers and with the provisions of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and other related legislations,” said chief secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi. A large number of people from washer-man and barber community are still working as bonded labourers in Puri and Cuttack districts. While many rescued bonded labourers in Nuapada and Balangir districts are again migrating due to delay in payment of the assistance money of Rs 20,000 each, alleged organizations working for bonded labourers. “The NHRC should ask the state government to increase the assistance amount from Rs 20,000 to Rs two lakh,” said Suresh Chandra Swain, convener of Odisha Goti Mukti Andolan, an organization working for bonded labour. (Times of India 12/1/16)

 

146. Delhi gets human rights panel (1)

New Delhi: The Delhi government constituted the State Human Rights Commission on Saturday. The commission will be headed by Meghalaya Chief Justice (retd.) Umanath Singh. A committee comprising the Delhi Chief Minister, Speaker of the Delhi Assembly, Leader of Opposition and the Home Minister unanimously agreed on Justice Singh as the chairperson and social activist Raj Mangal Prasad as the member. The Chief Justice of India had criticised the Delhi government on December 10 last year for not having a State Human Rights Commission. (The Hindu 17/1/16)

 

147. HRW demands strengthening of Transgender Rights Bill (1)

PANAJI: The Indian government should strengthen its groundbreaking Bill providing legal protections for the country’s transgender population, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a letter to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, on Tuesday. Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2015 should be improved through broad consultations throughout the country with transgender people and groups, said HRW. “Transgender Persons Bill will help protect and empower India’s transgender population, but the government needs also to address the bill’s shortcomings,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW and added, “With the input of the transgender community, the government should ensure that a new law lays out a strong legal framework in line with the constitution and international law, and provides effective enforcement.” The Transgender Persons Bill resulted from the 2014 Supreme Court judgment NALSA v. India, which ruled that transgender people should be recognised as a third gender, enjoy all fundamental rights and receive special benefits in education and employment. The HRW has opined that the Bill should be amended to ensure that self-identification is the sole criterion for legal gender recognition without psychological, medical, or other “expert” intervention. This self-declared identity should form the basis for access to all social security measures, benefits and entitlements. The bill should also be expanded to include protections to address the specific concerns of intersex persons. Instead of criminalizing self-harm, the government should take action to combat the legal and structural causes that contribute to such marginalisation and poor mental health outcomes. “The Transgender Persons Bill offers the promise of both changing archaic laws and thinking about transgender people in India,” Ms. Ganguly said. (The Hindu 19/1/16)

 

148. NHRC seeks report on custodial deaths of two convicts, both senior citizens (1)

MEERUT: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked district authorities to submit a report on the custodial deaths of two convicts, one aged 68 years and the other 74. District authorities have been given a month to complete inquiries and submit the report. In a letter issued to the district magistrates of Meerut and Saharanpur where these two custodial deaths occurred in November and July, NHRC deputy SP Umed Singh said the matter could not be placed before the panel due to non-receipt of reports of the incidents. He asked the DMs to send the inquest report (ordinarily prepared after the first examination of the body), post-mortem report along with the final opinion on cause of death, video-recording of the post-mortem, complete medical treatment record, health screening report at the time of admission in the jail and magisterial inquiry report.An inquiry by a judicial magistrate is mandatory in only those cases of custodial death where there is reasonable suspicion of foul play or well-founded allegation of commission of an offence. The commission also said, “In case no response is received from your office, the commission may issue summons under section 13(1)(a) of the Protection of Human Rights Act to produce the requisite records in person.” According to Meerut’s senior jail superintendent SHM Rizvi, the 74-year-old convict had been suffering from septicemia and asthma when he was taken to the district hospital first and then admitted to a medical college. “He was facing life imprisonment in a murder case and was lodged here since February 2013. He was a patient of asthma ever since. We started his treatment on May 12, 2015, after he was diagnosed suffering from septicemia too. On October 10, he was admitted to the medical college where he passed away on November 4,” Rizvi added. When contacted, the Saharanpur jail superintendent refused to comment, saying that he did not have records of the convict with him. (Times of India 23/1/16)

 

149. NHRC intervenes as relief eludes endosulfan victims (1)

Palakkad: Taking cognizance of a report carried by The Hindu on January 18, ‘Relief eludes Kerala endosulfan victims,’ the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to the Chief Secretary of Kerala and the District Collectors of Palakkad and Kasaragod asking why the relief ordered by the commission six years ago has not reached those affected. In an official release in New Delhi recently, the commission observed that the report raises ‘a serious issue of violation of right to the health of the victims.’ It sought detailed reports within two weeks. Observing that the Kerala government was bound to compensate and rehabilitate the victims, the commission recalled that the State government, in its order dated May 26, 2012, had notified that the recommendations of the NHRC were to be implemented and laid down the method by which the compensation was to be paid to various categories of the victims. “If the victims of endosulfan are not being compensated in terms of the order, it amounts to violation of their human rights. An unofficial survey has found that 613 children below the age of 14 continue to suffer from the illness caused by the aerial spraying of the pesticide in mango plantations of Muthalamada in Palakkad district. The newspaper report cites the case of a girl named Hemalatha, who, despite having born after two years of a global ban on the pesticide, suffers from physical illness because of the residuary effect of the pesticide,’’ the release said. The commission stressed the need for an expert study on the impact of endosulfan at Muthalamada, Velanthavalam, Vadakarapathi, Eruthempathy, Nenmara, and Nelliampathy panchayats of Palakkad. As per the earlier order of the commission, the State government was directed to pay at least Rs.5 lakh to the relatives of those who died because of the aerial spraying of the pesticide. An equal amount was promised to those who permanently bedridden and suffered from severe deformities. The NHRC ordered to pay at least Rs.3 lakh to all those who became living victims of the killer pesticide. (Thwe Hindu 24/1/16)

 

150. Girls’ death: plea for SHRC intervention (1)

MADURAI: Madurai-based non-governmental organisation, People’s Watch, has demanded the immediate intervention of the Chairperson of State Human Rights Commission in the recent death of three girls who were studying second year in SVS College of Naturopathy and Yoga Science at Bangaram in Villupuram. The organisation had urged that SHRC should ensure that all the students of the college were transferred to other medical colleges in the State free of cost. Alleging that the death was the result of wilful negligence by officials who failed to take action against the college for various violations, People’s Watch had also demanded the immediate suspension of all those authorities who were approached by students highlighting the issues plaguing the college. It had also urged the Tamil Nadu government to fill up all the vacancies in colleges at least now. The organisation called for the government, particularly officials from police and higher education departments, to treat students’ unions with dignity as they were the ones who brought out issues and fought for democratisation of educational institutions. (The Hindu 26/1/16)

 

151.  “Onus on activists and media to highlight rights violations” (1)

MADURAI: Human rights had assumed several dimensions in recent times and it was the responsibility of activists and the media to highlight violations in any form, especially violation of rights of women and children, said D. Murugesan, Member, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday. Addressing the centenary celebrations of former Supreme Court Judge V. R. Krishna Iyer organised by the Society for Community Organisation (SOCO) Trust here, Mr. Murugesan elaborated how human rights had assumed new dimensions in the fields of health and education. Right to proper treatment was an inalienable human right and wasteful and unwanted expenditure was a violation. Human rights activists should take up the issue of strict implementation of the Right to Education Act from the Kindergarten level in all schools. Similarly, they should not rest with the rescue of bonded labour but ensure that the liberated workers were properly rehabilitated and enjoyed all their rights. He urged non-governmental organisations to create awareness of human rights among people and make the fight against violations participatory even while assuring human rights defenders that the NHRC would always stand by them. The former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court recalled that it was Krishna Iyer who gave a definition for human rights. Mr. Murugesan also presented the Justice V. R. Krishna Krishna Iyer Award for Social Justice and Human Rights Crusade to 32 persons on the occasion. The awardees included former Additional Chief Secretary Qudsia Gandhi, Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director, People’s Watch; C. Ramasubramaniam, State Nodal Officer, District Mental Health Programme; N. Markandan, former Vice-Chancellor, Gandhigram Rural Institute; S. P. Udayakumar, Convener, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy; Gabriele Dietrich of the National Alliance for People’s Movement and B. Thirumalai, writer. Ms. Qudsia Gandhi dedicated her award to the unsung, unseen and fearless heroes who helped people during the recent Chennai floods. Mr. Henri appealed to the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court to intervene in the issue of suspension of Madurai advocates and said that there should be talks to revive the good relationship between the Bench and the Bar. A. Mahaboob Batcha, Managing Trustee, SOCO Trust, said that 100 people from all over the country had been chosen for the award. It was presented to 32 awardees in Chennai and the Madurai function would be followed by similar functions in Ernakulam and Delhi. M. Salihu, former Vice-Chancellor, Madurai Kamaraj University, proposed a vote of thanks. (The Hindu 27/1/16)

 

152. India Failed To Address Attacks On Minorities: Human Rights Groups (7)

London:  The Indian government “failed” to address increasing attacks on religious minorities and imposed restrictions on civil society groups critical of it, two leading global human rights groups said on Wednesday. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also slammed the government for blocking foreign funding and targeting non-governmental organisations as well as activists. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government “failed to address increasing attacks on free expression and against religious minorities,” HRW said in its World Report 2016. In the 659-page report, it said authorities blocked foreign funding and increased restrictions on civil society groups critical of the government or large development projects. “The Indian government’s clampdown on dissent this year undermines the country’s long and rich tradition of free expression,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW South Asia director. “Instead of denial and retaliation, the authorities should encourage tolerance and peaceful debate and prosecute those committing or inciting violence,” she said in a statement. It said authorities used sedition, criminal defamation, and hate speech laws to harass and prosecute those expressing dissenting, unpopular, or minority views. The government often allowed a “heckler’s veto” to interest groups claiming to be offended by books, movies, or artwork and pushed for censorship or otherwise harassed authors, the statement added. “In a worrying trend, anti-Muslim rhetoric by some leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stoked insecurities among religious minorities,” it said, citing the killing of four Muslims by mobs over suspicion that they had killed or stolen cows for beef. The HRW said that the government blocked foreign funding for organisations such as Greenpeace India and targeted several others, including the Ford Foundation. It said authorities labeled activists such as Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand “anti-national” when they sought justice for victims of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. “Such tactics had a chilling effect on the work of other groups,” the statement said. Amnesty International accused the Modi government of “targeting” activists and protest groups for “political ends”.The People’s Watch’s “bank accounts have been frozen repeatedly since 2012 with the result that some employees had to be dismissed and many programmes abandoned,” Amnesty said. “The Delhi government in power at the time used the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to justify this kind of harassment,” it said in a release. “This same Act is being used for political ends by the current government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Amnesty added. (NDTV 28/1/16)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

153. Can’t challenge order after entering into settlement: HC (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi high court forced a woman to withdraw her plea challenging a divorce decree as she had already received Rs 5 crore as settlement. Justice Manmohan in a recent order took a grim view of the fact that despite getting the settlement amount the woman again turned up in court claiming that the decree had been passed in a fraudulent manner. She challenged the divorce decree granted by a matrimonial court on the ground that the husband initially promised to pay her more than double the amount. The woman also sought to restrain him from marrying a second time in her plea.

HC agreed to hear the matter but asked the woman to first cough up the Rs 5 crore she had been paid and deposit it with court registry. The court opined that if the woman claims the decree was obtained by fraud both parties must start on a fresh note. At the next hearing however the wife promptly withdrew her case admitting it was not “maintenable.” The high court’s order came on a contempt petition filed by the estranged husband who complained that even after a court endorsed settlement and payment of a huge alimony his ex-wife wants to revive the dispute a year later on the eve of his second marriage. Appearing for the husband advocate Prabhjit Jauhar informed the court his client and former wife entered into a settlement approved by a matrimonial court where the wife surrendered all claims and maintenance for a lump sum of Rs 5 crores. Accusing her of contempt the husband urged HC to begin proceedings since the woman had breached the terms of the settlement terms and her own undertaking before court. Justice Manmohan upheld the principle that no person after entering into a settlement before a court can back-track and challenge it on the ground of fraud. (Times of India 2/1/16)

 

154. 43% of high court judges posts vacant, backlog of cases may hit 1-crore mark by year-end

NEW DELHI: Despite the best efforts to speed up disposal of cases, pendency in the high courts may spiral to a monstrous one crore cases by the end of this year from the present 45 lakh cases as 24 HCs are functioning at present with 43% vacancies with only 599 judges as against a sanctioned strength of 1044. The disposal of cases suffered as the process for appointment of judges came to a standstill for almost a year because of the Constitutional tug-of-war between the Legislature and Judiciary over the validity of National Judicial Appointments Commission, which was scrapped by the Supreme Court. The SC too has five vacancies and last one to be appointed was Justice Amitava Thakur on February 27 last year. The SC has a pendency of around 60,000 cases, HCs have 45 lakh cases and trial courts around 2.75 crore cases making it a total of around 3.25 crore cases. Judges fear that it might touch 4 crore cases by the end of this year because of large number of vacancies. The SC had revived the collegium system, in which a CJI-headed group of judges chooses persons for appointment as judges on recommendation of a similar collegium in the HCs. But it is expected to resume functioning only by the beginning of February after the Centre finalizes the memorandum of procedure in consultation with Chief Justice T S Thakur. Even if the collegium gets on with the task of selecting persons for appointment as judges, filling 445 vacancies would take a long time, may be more than a year. By that time more judges would retire throwing the judiciary into a complex web of pendency caused by the huge number of vacancies. But this is just the beginning of the problem for judiciary and its newly appointed captain in CJI Thakur. The Centre is finalizing the memorandum of procedure (MoP) for selecting HCs and SC Judges and it could change many rules that had been entrenched into the system since 1998, when the Judiciary had decided to make itself the sole selector of judges erasing Constitutionally prescribed Executive’s role. For years, judges for the Supreme Court have been selected from among the Chief Justices of the high courts mainly on the basis of their seniority. Except a few, the senior-most among them have all been appointed as judges of the SC. But, the Centre wants this to change. It feels that merit should get as much consideration as seniority among the Chief Justices of the HCs. It also wants to insert in the MoP a clause that a high court judge with outstanding merit and ability to do justice should be appointed as a SC judge ahead of the CJs of HCs. This departure from tradition could cause severe heart-burns and disappointment among many CJs aspiring to become a judge of the apex court. .. (Times of India 7/1/16)

 

155. UP lower courts show the way in disposing of cases (19)

NEW DELHI: The performance of subordinate judiciary in UP, surprisingly, has improved considerably compared to other states. Last month they had disposed of 1,04,425 cases as against 76,479 new ones registered. The rate at which pendency has been reduced in the last three years has been impressive too. The disposal of cases by the subordinate and district courts in UP has gone up by almost 2 lakh a year in the last three years — from 27.98 lakh cases disposed of in 2012 to 31.82 lakh in 2014. Among other states, Karnataka and Kerala have also shown better performance during this period where disposals have gone up from 10.35 lakh to 13.67 lakh cases and 11 lakh to 13.55 lakh cases, respectively. Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are among those which need to further strengthen their court procedure, to avoid being tagged laggards. The subordinate courts in Maharashtra had disposed of 20.48 lakh cases in 2012, which has come down to 15.36 lakh cases in 2014. Similar is the trend in MP and Tamil Nadu. The statistics released by the law ministry recently indicate the performance of subordinate judiciary has overall improved in the last few years. In comparison, the trend in 24 High Courts together show a dismal performance. More than 3 crore cases are pending in HCs and subordinate courts together — 41.50 lakh in HCs and 2.64 crore in subordinate and district courts across the country. UP still remains at the top with highest number of pendency at 48 lakh cases, followed by Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal and Bihar. (Times of India 8/1/16)

 

156. Beef ban: High Court reserves judgement (19)

MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Friday reserved its verdict on the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the law imposing an extensive ban on beef in Maharashtra. A division bench of Justices AS Oka and SC Gupte had started the final hearing last month. The President granted assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act last February. While the original Act of 1976 banned cow slaughter, the amendment prohibits slaughter of bulls and even possession and consumption of beef. Slaughter attracts a five-year jail term and a Rs 10,000 fine while possession of meat attracts one year. —PTI (The Hindu 9/1/16)

 

157. Unhappy kids and the politics of divorce (19)

Kochi: Unlike in the West -where the husband and wife usually maintain cordial relationship after their divorce -couples here go in opposite directions, often scarring their children’s lives. Children are caught between warring parents as they fight a bitter battle for divorce fuelled by vengeance. One such instance came up in the high court after a nine-month old girl’s father complained that the child was denied treatment by his estranged wife. After verifying the veracity of his complaint, the court ordered immediate medical treatment for the child battling liver cirrhosis. In another instance, Devika (name changed) and her brother chose to live with their mother, who left her husband because of the `other woman’ in his life. When Devika applied for PG admission, she needed her father’s signature on a document. When sought the same, he refused saying: “Why should I sign? You are staying with your mother and not with me.” She could not apply for the course because of the steep fee and non-submission of the certificate. Despite the ‘alarming’ increase in divorce cases, most couples are not looking at amicable settlement, said family counsellors involved in such cases. They said that the judiciary tries to avoid a situation where the child (above eight years) has to take a decision on staying with a particular parent. “We are seeing cases where one parent files for custody just to wreak vengeance on the other. They sometimes agree to file a joint petition but suddenly one would file for custody . Then it gets bitter,” said Shiela Maria Oommen, a counsellor attached to the Ernakulam family court. Women usually file for maintenance, return of gold and money and men seek child custody .”In most cases, fathers are given visiting rights, sometimes overnight stay and in case of others, a few hours of visiting time each week,” said advocate Thomstine Augustine, adding that most cases involved nurses and IT industry professionals. “We are seeing a trend where young couples with small children end up in courts. At that age, children need both parents and even parents want to keep the child. Then grandparents and relatives also add to the issue,” said Augustine. Women activists say that the earlier trend was joint property holdings by a couple. Now it is better if properties are registered under a single person’s name. “In most cases, we found that often all joint properties are near the man’s hometown or his circle. After divorce, if there is a contest, then it becomes difficult for the woman to travel all the way from her place to contest the case. I had a few cases where women struggled and finally gave up,” said Moly Kuruvilla, head, Centre for women’s studies, Calicut University . (Times of India 12/1/16)

 

158. Centre may take judiciary on board for accountability bill (19)

NEW DELHI: Bringing accountability in the working of the higher judiciary is next on the government’s agenda. But to avoid any confrontation with top judges, the government may consult judges of the apex court and high courts along with other stakeholders before finalizing the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill. The accountability bill proposes a five-member inquiry panel called the National Judicial Oversight Committee (NJOC) to deal with complaints against judges. As of now, there is no formal mechanism to deal with complaints against judges. All complaints are referred to the Chief Justice of India who decides how they are to be dealt with. The accountability bill was passed by Lok Sabha in 2012 but it lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Parliament. Consultations with bar associations, jurists and political parties is likely to begin in the next 15 days and may be completed for tabling in the budget session of Parliament, a source said. The five-member panel is proposed to be headed by a former CJI and will comprise a sitting judge of the SC, a high court chief justice, the attorney general and an eminent person. The NDA government wanted to initiate the accountability bill soon after it came to power in May 2014 but deferred it till the constitution of the National Judicial Appointments Commission which the SC struck down as unconstitutional in October last year. While striking down the NJAC Act, the SC had observed that the Act impinged on the independence of the judiciary and all appointments to higher judiciary should be left to the SC collegium. The government was, however, asked to prepare a revised memorandum of procedure (MoP) in consultation with the CJI, which would guide the collegium on all appointments. This time, the government is treading with caution and would prefer to evolve a consensus with the higher judiciary before engaging with political parties for their views on the accountability bill. Though the original bill drafted during the UPA government talked about setting up an inquiry committee with the executive having primacy, this may be tweaked after the NJAC Act experience. The higher judiciary had earlier expressed concern when the UPA government proposed a clause in the bill barring judges from making comments on constitutional authorities in open court. This gag clause was part of the accountability bill.Former chief justice of Delhi High Court A P Shah had opposed the accountability bill saying this would have a “debilitating effect on judicial independence” and was against the constitutional safeguards to the higher judiciary which “doesn’t allow Parliament to create another forum that results in impeachment proceedings resulting from a complaint filed by one person”.The proposed bill allows complaints from the public alleging misbehaviour on the part of a sitting SC or HC judge which can ultimately result in impeachment. (Times of India 14/1/16)

 

159. PIL plea seeks closure of unrecognised schools (19)

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has ordered notice on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking direction to the State government to ensure that all the unrecognised schools in the State are shut down by the end of this academic year. The PIL wanted the government to transfer the students of such schools to other government, government aided or unaided recognised schools in the neighbourhood. The petitioner activist A. Narayanan also sought the court to quash two Government Orders (GO) and to restrain the government from granting recognition to the schools, which have not fulfilled the norms specified in GO dated July 21, 2004. Mr. Narayanan submitted that based on the report of Justice Sampath Commission, which was appointed to probe the Kumbakonam school fire accident, and the recommendations made by Prof. Chittibabu Committee relating to infrastructural facilities for matriculation schools, the government issued an order on July 21, 2004. The order stated that as a condition for recognition, all the matriculation schools should fulfil the minimum land area and other infrastructural facilities prescribed in the GO. Subsequently, two more GOs were passed granting seven years time to fulfil the norms, which ended in 2011. Thereafter, the School Education Department constituted a seven member committee in 2013 to prescribe the minimum land area for giving recognition to those schools not fulfilling the norms. “However, the said report has not seen the light of the day. While so, the school education department has now proceeded to give temporary continual recognition till May 31, 2016 to as many as 746 matriculation schools, which have not fulfilled the conditions,” the petitioner said. Admitting the PIL, the First Bench of Chief Justice S.K Kaul and Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana ordered notice to the State government returnable in two weeks and posted the matter March 7 for further hearing.  (The Hindu 15/1/16)

 

160. Sabarimala Entry: Sorry, You Cannot Withdraw the PIL, SC Tells Litigant (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday said it will hear on Monday a lawyer’s plea that he was getting threats for filing a PIL seeking entry of women in the Sabarimala temple. “Let people know this that once a public interest litigation (PIL) is filed and entertained, you cannot withdraw it,” a Bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice N V Ramana said. The observation came when Naushad Ahmed Khan, president of Indian Young Lawyers Association (IYLA) which filed the PIL on the Sabarimala issue, sought urgent hearing of the matter saying he has received 500 threatening phone calls and wanted to take back the PIL. For now, Khan has been given security by a guard in the Delhi Police and on Monday it will decide as to which type of security will be given in future. The Bench said it may think of appointing an amicus curiae to assist the court in the case. The question of the right of women would be decided constitutionally. The PIL has sought entry for all women and girls in the temple. The apex court, on January 11, had questioned the age-old tradition of banning entry of women of menstrual age group in the temple saying this cannot be done under the Constitution. “The temple cannot prohibit entry of women except on the basis of religion. Unless you have a constitutional right, you cannot prohibit entry. Anyway, we will examine it on February 8,” the Bench had said. It had asked the government whether it was sure that women have not entered the temple premises in the last 1,500 years. On this, the Devaswom Board said the prohibition was based on custom followed for the past half century. The Bench also observed that it was a public temple and everyone needed to have “the right to access”. There can be religious restrictions and not a general restriction, it said. Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for the Kerala Government, had said women, who have not attained menopause, cannot preserve the purity during the religious journey to the temple. .. (New Indian Express 16/1/16)

 

161. Supreme Court Refuses To Re-Examine Its Judgement On Jallikattu (19)

New Delhi:  The Supreme Court today refused to re-examine its 2014 judgement banning use of bulls for Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races across the country. A bench of Justices Gopala Gowda and PC Ghose, during in-chamber proceedings, dismissed the review petitions filed by some residents of Tamil Nadu seeking reconsideration of the ban order on the controversial bull-taming sport. The review petition filed by Tamil Nadu government is still pending in the court. On January 8, the Centre had issued a notification lifting ban on Jallikattu in poll-bound Tamil Nadu with certain restrictions, which was challenged in the apex court by Animal Welfare Board of India, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, a Bangalore-based NGO and others. The top court had stayed the notification. Jallikattu, also known Eruthazhuvuthal, is a bull-taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of the Pongal harvest festival. The court in its 2014 judgement had said that bulls cannot be used as performing animals, either for Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races in the states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country and banned their use across the country. The top court had declared Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009 as constitutionally void, being violative or Article 254(1) of the Constitution. (NDTV 21/1/16)

 

162. Maharashtra government moves Supreme Court, challenges Salman Khan’s acquittal by Bombay High Court (19)

NEW DELHI: Maharashtra government moved the Supreme Court on Friday challenging the Bombay High Court’s verdict acquitting Bollywood superstar Salman Khan in the 2002 hit-and-run case in which one person was killed and four others were injured. The petition was filed in the apex court against the high court’s judgement acquitting Salman of “all charges”, overturning trial court’s order sentencing him for five years. “The Bombay High Court has erred in not appreciating the prosecution evidence. The trial court’s order convicting Salman Khan was correct and should be upheld,” Sandeep Shinde, the public prosecutor who has been associated with the case, said about the contents of the Special Leave Petition (SLP). The high court, in its verdict passed on December 10 last year, had held that prosecution had failed to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that the actor was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident and was drunk. The judgement by the high court had come on an appeal filed by the superstar, seven months after he was pronounced guilty by trial court of running over five people sleeping on a pavement outside a laundry in suburban Bandra, with his Toyota Land Cruiser on October 28, 2002. The high court had rejected as “wholly unreliable” the statement of eyewitness Ravindra Patil, former police bodyguard of Salman, recorded by a magistrate in which he had accused the actor of driving under the influence of liquor.The judge had said that Patil was a “wholly unreliable” witness because he had subsequently made “improvements” in his statement to the magistrate. Patil, the first informant in the case, in the FIR filed soon after the accident had not accused Salman of having consumed liquor but only said he was “speeding” against his advice.The prosecution’s case during the trial had firmly rested on the statement of Patil, who died in 2007, much before the case was tried afresh under more serious charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The magistrate’s court had conducted the trial for a much lesser offence of causing death by rash and negligent driving. On May 6 last year, a sessions court had convicted Salman in the case. (Times of India 22/1/16)

 

163. Muslim Personal Law cannot override IPC in cases of rape and POSC O Act, court (19)

Bareilly: Muslim Personal Law cannot override Indian Penal Code(IPC)in cases of Rape and POCSO Act, ruled the court of Special Judge, POCSO Act, as it turned down the bail application of a man charged with illegally confining and raping a minor girl whom he claimed to be his legally wedded wife. The counsel of the accused pleaded in court that as per MuslimPersonal Law, a girl has the right to go with the person of her choice after completing her first menstrual cycle. But the court observed that since she is a minor the case would be dealt as per the provisions of IPC and establishing physical relations with her amounts to rape. Father of the minor girl and resident, Bhoorey Khan Ki Gautiya locality had lodged a complaint at Faridpur police station on Oct 8, 2015 alleging that his daughter was kidnapped by some persons including Nanhey, Munti, Salim, Bundan Beg, Afsana and sold her to a man named Jabbar for a heavy sum. He also expressed apprehension that his daughter might have been killed. Acting swiftly, cops recovered the girl within few days and arrested the main accused Jabbar. The statement of the girl was recorded before the magistrate under Section 164 of Indian Penal Code(IPC).In her statement the girl had said that she married Jabbar with her own consent and wants to stay with him. On Thursday, the bail application of the accused Jabbar was filed in the court of Special Judge, POCSO Act. His counsel argued that as per Muslim Persal Law a Muslim girl is entitled to marry a person of her choice without seeking the permission of her parents after completing the first menstrual cycle. Right Now she is staying with her husband as his legally wedded wife and her husband Jabbar should be released on bail. This was opposed by the government counsel, Rajpal Singh who pleaded that as per records date of birth of the girl is Aug 18, 2001 which means that she is a minor. After hearing the arguments from both the sides, Special Judge, POCSO Act, Syed Sarwar Hussain Rizvi while turning down the bail application of the accused Jabbar observed that “In cases coming under the purview of Indian Penal Code(IPC) and POCSO Act, Muslim Personal Law has no relevance. It cannot override IPC and POCSO Act. Establishing physical relations with a minor amounts to committing an offence coming under the category of rape”. (Times of India 22/1/16)

 

164. HC to hear fresh contempt plea against Roy later (19)

Nagpur: A fresh intervention was filed against author Arundhati Roy by five lawyers on Monday alleging that she had taken assistance from elite personalities to create hatred towards higher echelons of judiciary. Quoting a press meet held at Delhi Press Club on December 24, the lawyers — Kishor Lambat, Shailendra Harode, Pankaj Tidke, Badal Lonare, and Tejas Patil — contended that Justice Arun Chaudhari’s orders of rejecting bail of alleged Maoist supporter GN Saibaba on December 23 last year was termed as “smacks of vendetta and vengeance” that “lacked knowledge in criminal law”, and “tainted with complete insensitivity towards human rights” by her supporters. The speakers in the meeting included senior counsel Prashant Bhushan, Prof Manoranjan Mohanti, Sanjay Kak, Manish Sethi, and Moushami Basu among others. A division bench comprising Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Pradeep Deshmukh, however, refused to allow their intervention in the suo motu contempt plea against the author, making it clear it would be considered during next hearing scheduled after four weeks. After the hearing, Lambat and other lawyers presented a bouquet to Roy. They termed it as “Gandhigiri” against her defence in the Supreme Court that she should be granted exemption from personal appearance in the Nagpur bench citing burning of her effigy, according to interveners’ counsel Shrirang Bhandarkar. Earlier, Bhandarkar claimed that Bhushan and others during the meet organized by ‘Committee for Defence and Release of Saibaba’had referred to the judge who passed orders against Saibaba as a “so-called judge” who was “trying to prove his patriotism”.”Various participants in the meet made scandalous and scurrilous allegations against the judge. Such demeaning and insulting remarks not only amounted to an aggravated contempt, but also appeared to be a conspiracy to impose public pressure on the judicial proceedings,” the interveners contended. Citing an audio clip of the press meet, they argued that such unwanted comments made on the judiciary were not only vitriolic and intemperate, but also deplorable. They pointed out that the author was earlier convicted for contempt by the Supreme Court in March 2002. “It appears that the respondent is habituated with confronting the judiciary for no valid cause or justifiable reason. The court should deal sternly with such cudgels against the judiciary who wanted to show the respondent as the torchbearer of human rights,” they said. (Times of India 26/1/16)

 

165. Odd-even: HC asks govt to treat PIL as representation (19)

New Delhi: Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the AAP government to treat a plea seeking re-introduction of odd-even vehicular scheme through proper awareness campaign as a representation, saying it had very good suggestions. “The present petition has some good suggestions, look into it,” a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jaynat Nath said while disposing of the petition. “Treat this petition as a representation,” the court told the Delhi government. The court’s direction came on a public interest litigation filed by a Uttar Pradesh resident, Jeetender Gupta, who sought direction to the Delhi Government to “perform their legal and statutory obligations”.The petitioner said the scheme, which was done on trial basis from January 1 to 15, needed to be “re-introduced through awareness campaigns and with different tariff for parking lots, toll barriers, so as to reduce the air pollution and traffic congestion”.The unprecedented restrictive measures, aimed at curbing pollution, was rolled out in the national capital and led to a major cut in the number of cars on city roads. While highlighting the poor quality of air which improved during the odd-even scheme, the petitioner said, “the Delhi government has failed to ensure good quality of air in the city, which is threatening the health, well being of those residing, working or visiting the national capital”.It said the additional revenue, generated through differential parking and toll charges can be utilised for funding the awareness campaigns. (The Statesman 28/1/15)

 

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

166. Man alleges torture by police officer (1)

KOCHI: A person from Kanjiramattom was on Sunday hospitalised after alleged torture by a grade sub-inspector at the Udayamperoor Police station. Official sources said the complainant, identified as M.A.Nasser, was allegedly manhandled by the officer when the former was riding pillion on his friend’s two wheeler . As per the complaint, the officer punched him on the left side of the chest, following which he was admitted to the Tripunithura Taluk hospital. The police, however, denied the allegations. (The Hindu 4/1/16)

 

167. Calcutta HC stays trial in Sattor woman torture case (1)

KOLKATA: Calcutta high court, on Tuesday, stayed trial in the case of alleged torture of a woman from Sattor village in Parui, Birbhum, by the police and Trinamool Congress workers on January 17, 2015. Trial was scheduled to start in the court of the chief judicial magistrate of Birbhum at Suri on Wednesday. The woman’s husband had, however, moved a revisional application in the high court seeking probe by an independent agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). On Tuesday, Justice Tapas Mukherjee stayed the trial after the petitioner’s counsel Phiroze Edulji submitted that the revisional application would become infructuous if trial is allowed to proceed. It has been alleged in the revisional application that the victim Hayatunninsh Bibi is the aunt-in-law of Sk Mithun alias Masum who was a Trinamool Congress worker before shifting allegiance to the BJP. According to the petitioner, the torture of his wife is connected to the murder of independent panchayat candidate Sagar Ghosh by suspected Trinamool workers. Sk Mithun’s shift from the Trinamool to the BJP apparently enraged Sk Mustafa and Sk Asgar, accused in Ghosh’s murder. The two allegedly influenced the police to frame Sk Mithun for a crime. “On January 17, 2015, when Hayatunninsh Bibi was at her maternal home in the Budbud police station area of Burdwan, Sk Mustafa, his son Sk Akbar and other Trinamool workers arrived with a large posse of policemen there and wanted to know of the whereabouts of Sk Mustafa. When she failed to come up with a satisfactory answer, they allegedly took her to a forested area, tied her to a tree and tortured her. They allegedly slashed the palm of the woman and rubbed stinging nestles (Bichuti pata) on her body, including private parts. Among the accused are Kartick Mohan Ghosh, then OC of Parui police station and two constables. All three were subsequently suspended. The investigation against the policemen is being carried out by police officers of the district itself. Such investigation can’t be expected to be unbiased. Hence the prayer for an independent agency,” Edulji submitted in court. (Times of India 5/1/16)

 

168. Police torture: Scribe to move rights panel (1)

Kozhikode: Aneeb P A, the reporter of the Malayalam daily Thejas who was arrested for allegedly assaulting policeman during Kiss Street Protest, is planning to move Kerala State Human Rights Commission alleging that he was tortured by police while in custody. Aneeb has been admitted the General Hospital here after he was released on bail in Wednesday.”I was beaten up by the police in jeep on the way to the police station. I was again assaulted after reaching station,” Aneeb told TOI. Aneeb said he intervened when he saw the Hanuman Sena activists attacking Ajith M Pachanadan, Dalit writer and activist. “Ajith, who is differently-abled, was lifted and thrown to the ground. Police in mufti were standing as mute witnesses. They turned against me when I intervened,” he said. Aneeb said he didn’t know that men in civil dress were policemen. “They resembled the Hanuman Sena workers and were actually promoting the attack on the cultural activists,” he said. Kiss Street Protest was organised by the Njattuvela Samaskarika Pravarthaka Sangham, a cultural outfit, on January 1 against the ‘increasing intolerance in society and fascist violence.’Hanuman Sena, an extreme right wing group, had declared that their activist will physically disrupt the programme. Police had arrested 32 Njattuvela and Hanuman Sena activists after clashes erupted at the venue. All except Aneeb were released on bail on January 1 itself. (Times of India 7/1/16)

 

169. SC: Is AFSPA in Manipur eternal? (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Manipur government how long the Army should be deployed in the state and enjoy unaccountable power under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and whether 35 years of the Army’s presence had improved the law and order situation. The court had appointed a high-level inquiry committee headed by an ex-judge of the SC to inquire into allegations that the armed forces had carried out over 1,500 extra-judicial killings in the last 30 years and police were refusing to file FIRs because of AFSPA. AFSPA was imposed in Manipur on September 8, 1980 to tackle the lawlessness created by four main insurgent groups through dacoity, ransom and killings. Petitions by an NGO ‘Extra-judicial Execution Victims Families Association of Manipur’ and former director of Manipur Health Services Th Suresh Singh had sought withdrawal of AFSPA. After getting the report and hearing the petitions, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit told the state government, “AFSPA was supposed to be a temporary measure. But it has been there for the last 35 years. Two generations have grown up under the presence of Army. It was supposed to only aid the democratic government in tackling law and order situation created by insurgent groups.” Appearing for the Congress-led Ibobi Singh government in Manipur, senior advocate V Giri told the court that AFSPA was still needed to maintain law and order as insurgency continued to thrive in the state given its porous international border. When AFSPA was imposed, there were four prominent insurgent groups, after 35 years, there were more than a dozen prominent insurgent groups in Manipur, he added. The bench said, “AFSPA was imposed after declaring the state a disturbed area. You mean to say that in 35 years of Army presence in the state, the situation has not improved to remove the disturbed area tag from the state? Has nothing changed on the law and order front for the last three decades?” Giri attempted to convince the court that democracy had deep roots in the state, which saw very high percentage of voting in the last several assembly elections. “The test is whether the general public is fed up with AFSPA? The answer is, it is not so. Democracy is alive and kicking in the state. Should the elected representatives not take a decision whether AFSPA should be withdrawn or not? People are not disgusted with Army presence in the state. The Army is not in conflict with the people,” Giri said. (Times of India 15/1/16)

 

170. Woman officer suspended for custody torture (1)

SAMBALPUR: The inspector in-charge of Hirakud police station, Sabitiri Bala, was suspended for her complicity in the alleged torture of a minor in the police station. Superintendent of police (Sambalpur) Akhilesvar Singh confirmed the suspension. Earlier, Singh suspended two constables, Jeet Narayana Podh and Ambuja Sahu, and dismissed a home guard, Siba Gauda, for their involvement in the incident. The incident, which took place on September 19, 2015, came to the fore after a TV channel aired the visual of police torturing a minor on Wednesday evening. According to reports, the minor allegedly had a dispute with a person and snatched his cellphone on September 19. Police was also informed about the incident, subsequently. Police brought the minor to the police station and allegedly tortured the 15-year-old boy, who hails from Hirakud. In the video footage, police personnel were seen allegedly beating up the boy in the police station. The incident created uproar in the state and led to demand of exemplary action against them. Subsequently, Singh ordered the sub-divisional police officer, Burla, Abakash Routray, to conduct an inquiry and submit a report within 12 hours. And based on the report, the SP suspended the two constables and dismissed the home guard. “The report was sent to senior officials. And based on the report, the IIC was also suspended,” said Singh. A meeting of the child welfare committee (CWC) was also organised over the incident on Thursday. “The Childline has also been directed to produce the victim before the CWC. The statement of the minor will be recorded,” said member of CWC (Sambalpur) Surya Panigrahi. (Times of India 15/1/16)

 

171. Dalit scholar’s suicide sparks protests (1)

The suicide of Rohith Vemula, a second year PhD student at University of Hyderabad (UoH), saw protests by students of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) on Monday. The incident comes in the wake of the suspension of five Dalit PhD scholars of the Amnbedkar Students’ Association (ASA) at UoH, including Vemula, in August 2015. The suspensions followed scuffle between Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and ASA. As soon as the news of the suicide reached TISS, students gathered to condemn the incident on Sunday night. On Monday morning, they sat in protest, raised slogans and banners against the UoH administration. “This is not a suicide; it is institutional murder,” MPhil student Yashwant Zagade told The Hindu . “This is a new kind of atrocity and casteism against Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi students. These students are democratising university spaces, but Brahminical hegemonistic forces cannot tolerate it. Caste is the only reason behind this incident.” Students at TISS boycotted classes, fieldwork and other academic engagements for the day. In the evening, around 300 of them marched from the campus gate to Ambedkar Garden in Chembur, shouting slogans against what they termed as “Brahminical government and its structures”. They condemned the role of BJP leaders and ABVP at UoH for their role in initiating the expulsion of the Dalit Scholars, which allegedly led to the suicide. A Joint Action Committee of students’ groups at TISS demanded that the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act be invoked in the case, and students who were detained by the police for protesting at UoH be released and the expulsion of the Dalit scholars be revoked. Following Vemula’s suicide, the Hyderabad Police have registered a case of abetment to suicide under the Atrocities Act. A statement issued by TISS students said: “The tragic death is yet another reminder that the marginalised in this country will be hunted down and killed until there is none left. The incident shocks, grieves and angers us. It brings to the fore the malicious and casteist role played by the Hindutva brigade led by the ABVP and BJP MLC Ramchandra Rao, who termed Dalits as ‘anti-national’, as well as the complicity of UoH administration through their inept handling of the situation.” Nilesh Kumar, a PhD scholar at TISS, said, “This suicide is a consciously done act. It was chosen as a form of protest. From my observations of cases of marginalised students, suicide is always the last means of protest. It is not an act of weakness or failure. It is the strongest form of protest. The only difference in this case is that external elements [reference to BJP’s Union minister of state Bandaru Dattatreya] were involved, whereas usually issues crop up between students and university administration.” He voiced concerns over the shrinking of space for democratic dissent. Though Vemula’s suicide invoked swift reactions from the student community, many said the incident was one among a series of suicides among Dalit and Advasi students, and a sign of a larger malaise in higher education. (The Hindu 19/1/16)

 

172. Father of Dalit teen who killed self after custodial torture awaits justice (1)

Meerut: At a time when Rohit Vemula’s suicide has rocked the entire nation, a beleaguered Dalit father at Meerut continues his routine of sitting in protest against the inaction of administration. It’s his 570th day on strike in the premises of the collectorate. Ashok Kumar, 52, demands justice on behalf of his 15 year old son who was allegedly picked up by police from his school on charges of theft of Rs 4,000. The boy was allegedly tortured in the police station. When they could not extract anything from him, the policemen threatened his father with dire consequences if he did not come back with the money within 15 minutes. On reaching home, while his father was trying to arrange for money, the teen felt so humiliated by the entire episode that he poured kerosene over himself and set himself on fire. For nine days he suffered in the hospital before succumbing to his burns. Police filed an FIR against two unknown constables and two car-borne persons. Ten months have passed ever since. The father continues to sit at the collectorate and keeps meeting officials but the only response he gets is that investigations are going on. Kumar is a beedi vendor and his son used to assist him after school hours. On June 30, 2014, two car-borne youths purchased cigarettes from Kumar and left after smoking them. Kumar alleges that the next day police picked up his son and took him to Kankerkhera police station where the two youths were present. “They had made a false allegation that my son had stolen a purse from them the previous day when they had come to us for cigarettes. Two constables, Ratan Singh and Pushpender Kumar, took him inside a room where he was beaten up and was showered with verbal abuses. Once they were convinced that he did not have the money, they threatened me with dire consequences if I did not bring the money within 15 minutes. Soon after, we left for home. I was busy arranging for money while in the other room, my son poured kerosene and set himself on,” the father said. Kumar further stated that even during his stay in the hospital police did not come to register his statement. They filed an FIR which was too weak. The two constables were not named in the FIR but were shown as unknown policemen. “Till date police has not been able to trace the two youths. My repeated requests to the SSP only resulted in two things – a magisterial enquiry was set up and the case was transferred to crime branch,” Kumar added. Meanwhile, Ratan Singh has been transferred to the same department which is conducting the enquiry into the matter – crime branch. When TOI contacted SP (crime) Tej Swarup Singh, he said, “The case is a bit old and I am not aware of the details as I recently joined the current office. I will certainly look into the matter.” Meanwhile, Kumar is determined to get justice. “I am resolved to get justice, no matter how long it takes. My son is a victim of the system and I am fighting against the system.” (Times of India 22/1/16)

 

173. Eight tribal women allege gang-rape by security forces in Bijapur (1)

RAIPUR: Eight tribal women from restive Bijapur district of south Chhattisgarh have accused the security forces of “repeated gang-rape and physical torture” between January 11 to 14 and four others have alleged that they were “molested” and their property was “plundered” by the security men. The women belong to Nedra village and surrounding Para (surrounding small village localities) under Basaguda police station limits of Bijapur. According to advocate Isha Khandelwal, the lawyer of the victims, eight women have testified to the police that they were gang-raped by security men. “There are many women in the village who have been raped by the security forces, out of which 12 came and gave a statement to the police. Out of 12, eight have said that they have been gang-raped. Some of them have even named the policemen who raped them. The incident took place between January 11 and 14,” Ms.Khandelwal told The Hindu. “The women came to Bijapur district headquarters on January 18 but the police did not register their complaint. The FIR was lodged only last night (on Thursday night) after avoiding it for four days,” she added. According to some local sources, the police were forced to file an FIR in the case after tribal activist and Aam Adami Party (AAP) leader Soni Sori addressed a press conference with all the victims on Thursday. “All the victim women told a press conference that they were gang-raped by the security men. Most of these women are married and have kids. Each of them has claimed that they were raped by more than three to four security men,” Soni Sori told this reporter. When asked about the allegations levelled by the tribal women against his men, Bijapur district Superintendent of Police (SP) Mr.K.L.Dhruw admitted that the police force was present in Nedra area between January 11 and 14. “Some NGOs have raised this issue. But I have not seen the entire matter as I was away from the district headquarters and returned a day ago. But I ordered that an FIR is registered in the case immediately and it has been filed. We will go to this village and inquire into the women’s complaints,” said the SP. (The Hindu 22/1/16)

 

174. NHRC seeks report on custodial deaths of two convicts, both senior citizens (1)

MEERUT: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked district authorities to submit a report on the custodial deaths of two convicts, one aged 68 years and the other 74. District authorities have been given a month to complete inquiries and submit the report. In a letter issued to the district magistrates of Meerut and Saharanpur where these two custodial deaths occurred in November and July, NHRC deputy SP Umed Singh said the matter could not be placed before the panel due to non-receipt of reports of the incidents. He asked the DMs to send the inquest report (ordinarily prepared after the first examination of the body), post-mortem report along with the final opinion on cause of death, video-recording of the post-mortem, complete medical treatment record, health screening report at the time of admission in the jail and magisterial inquiry report.An inquiry by a judicial magistrate is mandatory in only those cases of custodial death where there is reasonable suspicion of foul play or well-founded allegation of commission of an offence. The commission also said, “In case no response is received from your office, the commission may issue summons under section 13(1)(a) of the Protection of Human Rights Act to produce the requisite records in person.” According to Meerut’s senior jail superintendent SHM Rizvi, the 74-year-old convict had been suffering from septicemia and asthma when he was taken to the district hospital first and then admitted to a medical college. “He was facing life imprisonment in a murder case and was lodged here since February 2013. He was a patient of asthma ever since. We started his treatment on May 12, 2015, after he was diagnosed suffering from septicemia too. On October 10, he was admitted to the medical college where he passed away on November 4,” Rizvi added. When contacted, the Saharanpur jail superintendent refused to comment, saying that he did not have records of the convict with him. (Times of India 23/1/16)

 

175. BJP cold to PDP feelers on Afspa, will wait for Mehbooba’s Sunday meet (1)

New Delhi: The BJP seems unwilling to expand the ambit of the agenda of alliance with the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP in Jammu and Kashmir and will not cede any more ground than what was agreed upon before forming a government under Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, whose death this month led to a political uncertainty in the state. The Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party had sounded out to the BJP that it wants the Centre to agree to lift the controversial Afspa from at least two districts of the state and deliver its commitment to vacate buildings occupied by security forces before she takes oath as the chief minister. The state was placed under governor’s rule earlier this month after the PDP put off Mehbooba’s swearing-in after her father Sayeed’s death to nudge its alliance partner to give her party a better deal. “There are issues (such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act) on which we have historically held different views. After a detailed discussion, we reached a common ground in the agenda of alliance. Now, it would be difficult to broaden the scope of the alliance… Like her, we also have certain constituencies to address,” a BJP leader in New Delhi told HT. He went on to point that the Bharatiya Janata Party was ready to give her sufficient time to make up her mind on forming a government. “We are not putting any pressure on her but we won’t buckle under pressure either,” he said. Another party leader said he expected the fresh concessions being sought by the PDP to be a starting point for any negotiations – rather than the ending – that might take place at a later date. So far, there have been no formal talks between the two sides. BJP leaders indicate that they would have a clearer idea of the situation when Mehbooba meets her party’s leaders on January 31 and could hear from her side soon after. A meeting between Mehbooba and BJP chief Amit Shah is also expected once there is a broad agreement on the terms of forming the government. The BJP does not expect Mehbooba to pull out of the alliance that was stitched together by her father in the immediate future. But there is some recognition that the PDP chief – who does not want to leave a political vacuum that separatist groups such as the Hurriyat occupy – may not be as flexible as her father……..  (Hindustan Times 27/1/16)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

176. Govt curbing media freedom: AAP MP Bhagwant Singh Mann (1)

Chandigarh: There has been a “media emergency” in Punjab for long, AAP MP Bhagwant Singh Mann said on Thursday. Addressing a press conference, Mann alleged that after some sections of the mainstream media, the “noose around social media was also being tightened by the SAD-BJP government” and freedom to speak and write was being “curbed”. “Recent examples of such cases are of (journalists) Kanwar Sandhu and Baltej Pannu,” Mann said. Accusing ruling government of indulging in “high-handedness to curb the freedom of media”, Mann said Pannu was “arrested in a hurry as if he was a dacoit.” “Why was a similar urgency not shown in Behbal Kalan (police firing in which two persons were killed), Channu and Abohar (in two incidents, two girls were mowed down by buses owned by an Akali leader),” Mann said. Asked what solution the AAP party had to restore media freedom, Mann said, “The solution is February 2017,” referring to the year in which Punjab goes to polls. Responding to the same query, Shergill said, “We are preparing a red book. We will act against all those involved in such criminal acts.” (Indian Express 1/1/16)

 

177. Freedom of speech critical for growth, say experts (1)

A seminar on ‘Expression: Challenge and Opportunities’ stressed the imperatives of freedom of speech as a precursor to stimulate growth and creativity in society, while airing concerns over this liberty being held hostage by fundamentalist forces. The seminar was held as part of the national theatre festival Bahuroopi here on Saturday and the theme was identified on the basis of recent developments in the country, which saw a debate on intolerance and freedom of expression. Political analyst Yogendra Yadav said power equations and social hierarchy influenced media articulations on issues, most of which has no relevance to at least 50 per cent of the population. He cited the treatment of drought in the media to highlight this aspect and pointed out that though more than 50 crore people of this country have been affected by drought, the media has distanced itself from it. Retired judge of High Court of Karnataka Nagamohan Das said freedom of expression in society was dovetailed with progress and cautioned that gains made by the country in the last 68 years was on the verge of being frittered away due to recent episodes of intolerance. Nataraj Huliyar, columnist, delivered the keynote address and stressed the importance of independent intellectuals in public life to highlight the follies of policy makers. “But the academicians who were singing paeans to Manmohan Singh and describing his policies as Manmohanomics, are today paying accolades to Narendra Modi by describing his policies as Modinomics,” he remarked. Rangayana director H. Janardhan was present. (The Hindu 17/1/16)

 

178. Naga dailies carry blank editorials after AR rap (1)

Guwahati: Three major English dailies in Nagaland — Eastern Mirror, Nagaland Page and The Morung Express — carried blank editorials on National Press Day on Monday in protest against a recent notification by Assam Rifles accusing five major Naga media houses of offering intentional or unintentional support to banned militant outfit National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang). The five media houses which received the Assam Rifles notification included the abovementioned papers, as well as Nagaland Post and Capi.The move to carry blank editorials was the first of its kind since the inception of dailies in Nagaland. Editors and journalists said they observed National Press Day but refrained from celebrations. “We resorted to such a move to protest against this action (by Assam Rifles) that seeks to stifle our voice and freedom of expression. We are waiting to see what happens next,” said Monalisa Changkija, editor of Nagaland Page. “We have carried blank editorials earlier when only weekly newspapers were available in Nagaland. We as journalists are committed to ensuring freedom of expression and fair journalism,” she added. On October 25, the paramilitary force sent a notification to the five media houses expressing concern over how they, through their reporting of press statements issued by NSCN-K, were supporting the unlawful association intentionally or unintentionally. The notification accused the editors of violating the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. By publishing statements of the banned organization, the media houses were complicit in its illegal activities, the notification said. (Times of India 17/1/16)

 

179. At JNU, students exercise freedom of expression: VC (1)

New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru University vice chancellor S K Sopory has called the suicide of Hyderabad Central University research scholar Rohith Vemula “unfortunate”. At a press interaction ahead of his retirement, he was asked about JNU students holding several movements during his term and the current protest against the Dalit scholar’s suicide.Sopory said, “Students here (at JNU) are aware of the freedom of expression and they exercise it.”  About the Hyderabad incident, he told The Indian Express, “I hadn’t followed this before the incident… It’s unfortunate and I wish this could have been resolved at the university level before a student had to commit suicide.” He refused to comment on Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya and HCU vice chancellor Appa Rao being booked. (Indian Express 20/1/16)

 

180. Karan Johar: Freedom of expression, democracy biggest jokes in the world (1)

JAIPUR: Filmmaker Karan Johar’s controversial remarks on intolerance on Friday kicked up a storm with the Congress hitting out against the Modi government accusing it of stifling freedom of expression and BJP dismissing the criticism saying India is the most tolerant country. Wading into the intolerance debate, Johar said, “The talk about freedom of expression is the biggest joke I believe in the world. Democracy is the second biggest joke I think.” “I really wonder how are we really democratic? How is there freedom of expression? As a filmmaker, I feel bound at every level be it what I put out on celluloid or what I say in print,” he said at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival. Attacking the NDA government, Congress leader Manish Tewari said, “This goverment of Modi is against intellectuals. They are against liberal voices. The tension is increasing from everywhere. Other than Anupam Kher, who is a pawn for the government, all other artists, painters, filmmakers are saying that this government is against intellectuals.” Union minister Mahesh Sharma retaliated saying, “The whole world is seeing that India is the most tolerant country.” Also hitting back at Congress, his ministerial colleague Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, “Those who are raising questions on India’s tolerance have no knowledge about the country’s culture and traditions. They are illiterate. It is true that issues of intolerance crop up the moment elections are announced.” In his conversation with Poonam Saxena who has penned his biography ‘An Unsuitable Boy’ and author-columnist Shobaa De, Johar said he felt he was living in a “tough country” where speaking about one’s personal life can land people behind the bars. Recently Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan found themselves in a controversy for speaking up against the “growing intolerance” in the country. Johar who has made films on contentious issues such as homosexuality (“Dostana”) and relationships outside wedlock (“Kabhi Alvida Na Kehana”), said, “I feel like there is always some kind of a legal notice awaiting me everywhere I go.” “I’ve become some kind of an FIR king,” Johar said referring to the controversy over the AIB roast, staged in Mumbai last year which involved the western concept of insult comedy. The Bombay high court recently asked Mumbai police not to file charge sheet against the filmmaker and others facing a criminal case for allegedly using obscene language on the show. Johar said he did not want to fight the “governance” by speaking out on “intolerance” like his colleagues in Bollywood industry did last year…. (Times of India 22/1/16)

 

181. Intolerance row: Indians ‘oversensitive’ on certain issues, says Kajol (1)

Jaipur: On certain issues Indians are “over-sensitive”, actor Kajol said on Saturday at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2016. Speaking at a press conference to release best-seller author Ashwin Sanghi’s latest book The Sialkot Saga, Kajol responded to a question on what she thought about the “intolerance debate”. “There is a certain sensitivity in the country today,” she said. “Yes, we are over-sensitive but at the same time I think that as public personality, it is credit to our intelligence, we speak well and speak correctly,” she added. Kajol responded to questions on “intolerance” after reporters kept on asking for her comments repeatedly. At first, she evaded the questions saying that in a literary festival the focus should be on books and their authors. The Jaipur Literature Festival 2016 has witnessed a range of comments on “intolerance in the country”, in the last two days. Film director Karan Johar had said on Thursday that “the talk about freedom of expression is the biggest joke I believe in the world”, adding that democracy was the “second biggest joke”. “I really wonder how are we really democratic? How is there freedom of expression? As a filmmaker, I feel bound at every level be it what I put out on celluloid or what I say in print,” he added. In his conversation with Poonam Saxena who has penned his biography An Unsuitable Boy and author-columnist Shobhaa De, Johar said he felt he was living in a “tough country” where speaking about one’s personal life can land people behind the bars. Recently Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan found themselves in a controversy for speaking up against the “growing intolerance” in the country. Johar who has made films on issues such as homosexuality (Dostana) and relationships outside wedlock (Kabhi Alvida Na Kehana), said, “I feel like there is always some kind of a legal notice awaiting me everywhere I go.”“I’ve become some kind of an FIR king,” Johar said referring to the controversy over the AIB roast, staged in Mumbai in 2015 which involved the western concept of insult comedy. On Friday, senior journalist Barkha Dutt said that murder of Mohammad Ikhlaq and the suicide of a Dalit student in Hyderabad were “inflection points” in the contemporary history of India. (Hindustan Times 24/1/16)

 

182. Nayantara Sahgal denies taking back award (1)

Kolkata: Eminent writer Nayantara Sahgal, who spearheaded the ‘Award Wapasi’ campaign, on Saturday clarified that she was not taking back the award and questioned the timing of the Sahitya Akademi’s announcement of a policy not to take back awards. “I don’t know why this nonsense is being spread that I have taken it back. The Sahitya Akademi rang me today that it is not their policy to keep returned awards and so they are sending back the cheque I sent them,” Ms. Sahgal said on the sidelines of the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet here. The Akademi had on Friday said there was no provision in its constitution to accept any honour once conferred upon a writer. It had also said that some authors had accepted the award back. Ms. Sahgal said the cheque, which was sent in October by her, had anyway become invalid now as the Akademi had not encashed it. The award, given to her in 1986, comprised a small copper plaque-like memento and a cheque of Rs.21,000. “The Akademi attacked me saying I am returning the money but not the interest. That made me very upset, and therefore, I sent them a cheque of Rs. 1 lakh but that has been lying with them ever since. And now suddenly, they are saying that it is not our policy. It is their problem, not mine,” she said. She said they were fighting for freedom of speech and expression but after the Dadri lynching incident, the issue became bigger. “It worsened when (Mohammad) Akhlaq was lynched. That made it a much wider debate. We were fighting for freedom of speech and expression but that became a country-wide issue of the freedom to live and worship as you choose. Later on, historians and scientists also joined,” the niece of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, said.— PTI (The Hindu 24/1/16)

 

183. No threat to freedom of expression: Advani (1)

NEW DELHI: BJP leader L.K. Advani on Tuesday said that there was “no question mark on the freedom of expression in the country” and wondered “who are the people saying so”, in what is being considered as a rare instance of support for the Modi government. “I do not know who are the people saying that there is no freedom of expression in India. This right (freedom of expression) has always been there. Such a question does not arise today,” said Mr. Advani at a function at his residence to unfurl the national flag on Republic Day. “People had fought against attempts to stifle freedom of expression during the British rule and during the Emergency, even our, Indian government had tried to do so, but people fought back.” The remarks appear a little different from those made by him last year, when on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Emergency, he had said, “such a situation could exist today as well.” At the time, that was taken as a criticism of the government. “On Republic Day, it is natural for a feeling of nationalism to be present all around, but efforts should be made to keep it alive all the time…,” he said. (The Hindu 27/1/16)

 

184. It is impossible to ban media: Arun Jaitley (1)

New Delhi: Saying that it was “literally impossible” to impose a ban on the media, finance minister Arun Jaitley declared on Monday that the “age of bans” was over and the State shouldn’t try and take such steps. “Many believe, and I am one of those who do believe, that the age of bans is now over. It is literally impossible, if not very difficult, to implement them. Should the state step in? As far as possible, no,” Mr Jaitley, who is also information and broadcasting minister, said. Mr Jaitley noted while the print media, and to some extent the electronic media, adopt discretion in their content, the social media completely lacked such a mechanism. The minister, delivering the Sardar Patel Lecture organised by All India Radio here, said while the right to freedom of expression has expanded in India through successive judicial verdicts and technological advances, its misuse still continued. He pointed out the framers of the Constitution had rightly held that freedom of speech and expression was not absolute, and subject to reasonable restrictions that were specifically defined. Mr Jaitley said that in a changing media landscape, with the arrival of the electronic media, news had become more sensational. “News was what television cameras could capture. What cameras can’t capture won’t be news. A major Africa summit will be some news, but a young girl returning home from Pakistan would be big news because television captures it differently,” he added. Mr Jaitley said, “In a society where because of multi-religious, multi-cultural reasons there are sensitivities, what do we do if somebody crosses the lakshman rekha itself? What would Indian society have done if instead of a Danish cartoonist, it would have been an Indian cartoonist? And therefore, we have criminal laws… but in extreme cases, very reluctantly so, some power of restraint in the larger interest so that it doesn’t disturb public order, and that is where those 1950s’ restrictions imposed in Article 19(2) itself will have an important role to play.” Referring to the social media, he said while citizens have got a voice, it was an unregulated medium and there was also a large amount of false, defamatory and damaging content being made available online. In such a climate, Mr Jaitley said, we have to rely on a sense of fairness of those who participated on the social media. (Deccan Cronicle 28/1/16)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

185. Communal tension in Sherkot after eve-teasing incident (7)

Bijnor: Communal tension erupted in Sherkot, Bijnor on Monday, when members of one community staged a protest outside the police station demanding an FIR against a young man from another community for allegedly attempting to rape a minor girl and beating her up. Ramesh Kumar, a resident of Samna Sarai, said, “My 14-year-old daughter had gone to worship at the nearby temple a young man, Vajid Ahmad attempted to rape her and beat her up. Her uncle, Harish Chand rushed to the spot when she started shouting but the accused fled from the spot.”BJP local leader, Kameshwar Rajput and former chairman, Sherkot Nagar Palia, Sansar Singh were also present supporting the protest. Station officer, Sherkot police station, Dharmendera Singh, said, “Prima-facie, the case seems forged. A case will be registered after the investigation. The situation is in control in the area.” (Times of India 5/1/16)

 

186. Muslim rally turns violent, mob burns police station over Kamlesh Tiwari’s remarks on Prophet Muhammad (7)

Malda: Tension gripped West Bengal’s Malda district after a mob torched the entire police station and several vehicles over Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari’s remarks on Prophet Muhammad. A massive Muslim protest rally against Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha was organised on Sunday against Kamlesh Tiwari . Kamlesh Tiwari is facing the wrath of scores of Muslims for allegedly making derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad. (Zee News 5/1/16)

 

187. Malda riots: What actually led to communal violence – 10 things to know (7)

Malda: West Bengal’s Malda district continued to remain tense on Thursday after a mob reportedly set fire to Kaliachak police station and over a dozen vehicles. Here’s what actually led to the communal violence:- – Tension gripped West Bengal’s Malda district on Sunday after a mob torched the entire police station and several vehicles during a protest rally against Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari- The protest rally was organised by a Muslim organisation – Anjuman Ahle Sunnatul Jamaat (AJS) – Kamlesh Tiwari had allegedly called Prophet Muhammad the first homosexual in the world. Tiwari’s statement came a day after UP Cabinet minister and senior Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan called RSS members homosexuals. – BJP is accusing Mamata Banerjee’s government of shielding the accused as only 9 out of 130 accused were arrested till Wednesday. Also, 6 of 9 were let off with bail hours after the arrest took place. -  Shamik Bhattacharya, the lone BJP MLA in West Bengal, was detained on Wednesday. He was not allowed to visit Kaliachak village, which had witnessed violence on Sunday. – The Centre has now sought a report from West Bengal government on the Malda communal violence. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is likely to visit West Bengal’s Malda district on Jan 18- A huge amount of public properties were due to mob attack – Malda district continued to witness violence for the third day- Section 144 is still imposed in the area since Sunday night- Additional security forces including RAF jawan have been deployed to control the situation and face any untoward incidentMalda’s Kaliachak police station falls in the Muslim-dominated Sujapur area in the district. Also, West Bengal will go to polls this year. Earlier, around one lakh Muslims on had gathered in UP’s Muzaffarnagar, demanding death penalty for Kamlesh Tiwari. Tiwari is currently behind bars on charges of hate speech. (Zee News7//1/16)

 

188. Attempts to create communal tension in Goa in recent past: CM Parsekar (7)

Panaji: Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar on Saturday said there have been attempts to disrupt the communal harmony in the state in the recent past. “Goa has had communal harmony since the liberation (from Portuguese rule) but in the recent past there have been attempts to disrupt it,” Parsekar told a gathering on the occasion of Goa Legislators Day on Saturday. The chief minister, however, didn’t specify who was making “such attempts”. “I appeal to my fellow colleagues, former ministers, legislators to guide the government on its policies, and also help in tackling the forces attempting to create communal discord,” he said. Parsekar said his government will take along the former legislators in the matters of governance.The former legislators being experienced should intervene in the issues which have the potential to create communal discord, he said. The Legislators Day is held to mark the commencement of first Assembly session of Goa on January 9, 1964. (DNA 9/1/16)

 

189. Communal riots in Uttar Pradesh: 4 dead in Jehanabad as Mankar Sankranti procession targeted (7)

Lucknow, Jan 14: Incident of communal violence is reported from Uttar Pradesh as four people have been reportedly killed inter-community clashes. According to local media reports, a procession related to Makar Sankranti was being taken from Kanpur to Fatehpur. However, as they reached Jehanabad, two groups began clashing against each other resulting into the death of four individuals.     Tension between two groups in UP’s Jahanabad area. Reports of stone pelting, firing and local shops set on fire. At least six shops of local traders and 3 vehicles have been burnt by the rioters. The security forces have rushed to the spot to take control of the situation. Uttar Pradesh government has imposed section 144 between Fatehpur to Jehanabad in order to control the situation. Police have been alerted across the state to prevent the communal fire from spreading. (ALSO READ: Azam Khan attacks BJP for creating ‘communal tensions’ in Uttar Pradesh) Social tensions in Uttar Pradesh is at an all-time high. Fringe elements within both major communities have left no stone unturned to polarize people. Ever since the remarks of one right-wing leader Kamlesh Tiwari against Prophet Muhammad, Muslims in the state have staged protest in several districts. The relaunching of Ram Janmbhoomi movement, along with the reports of hooliganism by the minority community in West Bengal’s Malda has escalated inter-community bitterness. (India.com 14/1/16)

 

190. District administration launches crackdown on rioters in Fatehpur during Sankranti procession (7)

KANPUR: The administration on Friday cracked down on rioters in Fatehpur, a day after communal violence broke out in the district over display of a model of the proposed Ayodhya temple at a Sankranti procession. Police claimed more than two dozen people were arrested and patrolling was intensified in the violence hit areas. “The situation in the district is peaceful. Altogether 27 persons out of the 37 named in the FIR have been arrested for Thursday’s violence. Nearly 250 other unidentified persons have been booked and are now trying to zero in on the offenders with the help of video-footage,” police chief Rajiv Malhotra told TOI on Friday. He added the district authorities have clamped section 144 in trouble hit areas to check any untoward incident. District magistrate Rajiv Rautela told TOI that members of peace committees have been roped in to restore normalcy in the affected areas. “QRT, RAF and Provincial Armed Constabulary staged a flag march to instill confidence among the people,” Rautela added. IG zone Brij Bhushan along with other senior officers on Friday again visited the trouble-prone areas. He said that an alert has been sounded in adjoining districts of Hamirpur, Kanpur and Kaushambi. He informed that prohibitory orders were in force to keep unruly elements under check. “Section 144 has been imposed and strict vigil is being maintained in the area,” he added. The Friday namaz passed off peacefully at all mosques in the district as police kept an eye outside mosques. No untoward incident has been reported Jahanabad, the epicentre of Thursday’s violence, or anywhere else in the district. Mot of the business establishments in Jahanabad area, however, remained closed on Friday. At many junctions, the district officials were witnessed urging shopkeepers to open their establishment, reports said. Tension had gripped Jahanabad town in Fatehpur district after members of two communities clashed during a procession on Makar Sankranti on Thursday. About a dozen persons were injured. A strong contingent of RAF and PAC were rushed to the spot to bring the situation under control. Incidentally, VHP leader Pravin Togadia and minister of state (MoS) for food processing industries Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti were in the Jahanabad area to attend a programme at the Ram Talai temple during the time of the incident. As the clash unfolded, Togadia was addressing a gathering at the temple where the Sankranti procession was to culminate. Later, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, who is also the BJP MP from Fatehpur constituency, told reporters at the PWD Guest House, that she had spoken to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the state government officials about the incident. “I have spoken to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and demanded from him a high level probe into the Thursday’s violence, besides also had a talk with senior government officials of the state,” she told reporters on Friday. She added that Shobha Yatra on the occasion of Sankranti was an annual affair, which is taking place in Jahanabad town since the last 35 years. For the last few years, people from adjoining districts also used to throng the place and take part in it. Thursday incident was a complete failure on the part of the district police and the administration for not being able to provide proper security measures to the Shobha Yatra, despite being aware that it passes few sensitive areas en route.”.. (Times of India 16/1/16)

 

191. 85 major anti-Christian incidents in 2015, claims NGO (7)

NEW DELHI: Citing 85 major incidents of alleged persecution of Christians across 20 states last year, a report by a minority and human rights NGO says 2015 saw an unprecedented spike in “intolerance” against the community. The report says on an average India saw one such incident of hate crime against Christians a day last year. While the report terms Madhya Pradesh as the worst state, followed by Telengana and Uttar Pradesh for such attacks, it calls Maharashtra the ‘Hindutva capital’. Delhi too, the report says, is among the top 10 states that saw such incidents, with five Catholic churches vandalised and assaults on priests and community members. The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) in its report claims that at least seven pastors were killed and 8,000 Christians (including 6,000 women and children) targeted in 2015. The report cites incidents from across the country — from Arunachal Pradesh, where suspected Hindutva fundamentalists attempted to attack Christians and whip up mass hysteria by quoting the Census 2011 data, and Chhatisgarh, where there is an alleged ban on religious activities other than of Hinduism, to Himachal Pradesh where the CPWD wrote off the Shimla CNI Church as a government property, and Tamil Nadu, where Bibles were thrown on the road to incite community members and create tension.Hundreds of protesters Nuns, priests and archbishops chanted Hail Mary on the streets of Bengaluru in Feb 2015 as Christians took out a procession in the city against the recent attacks on churches in Delhi. “There is at least a 20% increase in the incidents in terms of the number of people victimized as against 2014. The real numbers are much higher as many don’t want to report such incidents as the police force is communal. Then we have incidents from areas where RSS is very dominant and victims are threatened to not report the attacks. In some cases the media is also biased. Being less in number, Christians can’t fight back,” says CSF general secretary Joseph Dias. Claiming a significant rise in Hindutva ideology in 2015, the report claims that RSS and its 38 ideological affiliates have consolidated in almost every sphere of activity, and are “preparing to strengthen their hold on the country’s polity”. “With the BJP government in the Centre, there is huge increase in RSS shakhas. Even though there is no BJP government in Kerala, the state has the highest number of shakhas. West Bengal, whic has long been under communist rule and is now governed by liberal forces, BJP has a strong hold over five districts where reconversions are picking up. There is saffronisation of secular institution and in every sphere secular activities have been saffronised — be it in the northeast, Tamil Nadu, Kerala or Goa,” claims Dias”Earlier Gujarat was the Hindutva capital but now it is Maharashtra. The biggest ever rally of RSS was held in Pune where 1.50 lakh people participated. Rationalist like Narendra Dabholkar and others are being threatened. And the anti-conversion bill has been admitted in the Maharashtra Assembly. There is one Narendra Maharaj who claimed to have reconveretd 2,000 Christians to Hinduism in 2015 and his headquarter is also in Maharashtra. Saffron terror attacks somehow have their roots in Maharashtra,” says Dias. (Times of India 18/1/16)

 

192. Gujarat riots convict arrested for allegedly attacking journalist Revati Laul (7)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat riots convict Suresh Chhara, who was out on parole, was arrested in Ahmedabad on Thursday for allegedly attacking journalist Revati Laul. Laul, who is writing a book on the convicts in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case, said she was attacked by Chhara when she visited his house in Naroda area of Ahmedabad late on Wednesday evening. Laul said Chhara slapped her when she asked him to share information about his past. “I visited him at his house and I politely asked him if he wanted to share information about himself, his past and family. Without provocation, he started slapping me,” she said. “I kept meeting his family members regarding my book. Last year in July, his wife telephoned me saying Chhara raped her while he was released on parole and asked for my help, I helped her to get a lawyer and lodge a complaint,” she added. Chhara has been convicted to 31 years in prison for his involvement in the Naroda Patiya massacre, in which 97 people were killed during the 2002 communal riots. He was out on parole. “My question is how the court could give him parole despite knowing the fact that he attacked his wife last time when he came out,” Laul told reporters. “How can the country feel secure if the courts are unable to save the common people from these convicts?” she asked. (Times of India 21/1/16)

 

193. 1984 anti-Sikh riots: 400 victims await compensation in Madhya Pradesh (7)

JABALPUR: Madhya Pradesh high court (MPHC) on Friday issued notice to state’s home department seeking explanation over undue delay in awarding compensation to victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Riots were triggered across India following the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards on October 31, 1984. Sikh families residing in several cities of MP were attacked. However, MP government does not have exact record of such families, said sources. Petitioner Manjeet Singh Saluja said that there are around 400 riot victims living in Indore, Shivpuri and Damoh districts awaiting compensation for the last 32 years. Many of them are ailing and battling for life amidst extreme financial crisis. Double bench (Jabalpur) comprising Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice Alok Aradhe has sought explanation from the home secretary for the delay. Saluja claims that collectors in these three districts had sent a proposal for compensation to the state home department in 2013 followed by reminders in 2014 and 2015, but to no avail. In August 2015, Rashtriya Sikh Sangat — an affiliate of Rashtirya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) — had also demanded that 1984 anti-Sikh riots’ victim families in Madhya Pradesh be identified and given compensation announced by the Centre. Rashtriya Sikh Sangat had requested the Madhya Pradesh CM that he should immediately identify the victim families and disburse Rs 5 lakh compensation to each, as announced by the Union government. Cities like Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur and Bilaspur were worst affected by the riots. Sangat is also preparing a list of Sikh families that were victims of the riots. A delegation of this organisation had also met MPCM requesting that those who led the attack on Sikh families be charged under relevant sections. In 2006, the UPA government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced a package of Rs 717 crore, including a monetary compensation of Rs 3.5 lakh to each killed in the riots. Financial assistance was also announced for injured and lose of property. Nearly 3325 people were killed in the communal riots, of which 2,733 were killed in Delhi alone while rest of the victims were from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and other states. (Times of India 22/1/16)

 

194. Cong, BJP slam Ajmal’s ‘communal’ remarks (7)

Guwahati: The BJP and Congress on Friday launched a scathing attack on AIUDF chief and MP Badruddin Ajmal for his statement asking minorities of the state to unite before the assembly election.At a public rally at Baghbor in Barpeta district on Thursday, Ajmal said all Hindus of the state had united after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Assam and it was time for Muslims to unite as well. The BJP demanded that Ajmal be arrested immediately. The saffron party took out a protest march in the city and burned the perfume baron’s effigy. The party’s national vice-president and MP Bijoya Chakravarty accused Ajmal of preparing a blueprint to incite communal tension before the election.President of BJP’s minority wing Mominul Awal said Hindus and Muslims in Assam had been living peacefully for decades but Ajmal had resorted to emotionally blackmailing poor Muslims for votes. Congress vice-president Ripun Bora also criticized Ajmal for his statement. (Times of India 24/1/16)

 

195. Communal clashes in Moradabad (7)

Moradabad: Communal clashes broke out in Lalbaagh locality under Mughalpura police station here on Monday evening. There was heavy brick-batting from both sides and one policeman was injured. Several vehicles, including a police patrolling jeep, were damaged during the clash that took place on the road which connects to the Mughalpura area. Heavy police force has been deployed in the area and hunt for the rioters is on. Section 144 of CrPc has been imposed in the city ahead of the Republic Day celebrations. According to police, clashes broke out between two communities over the issue of milk purchasing from a local shop in the Lalbaagh area. Speaking to TOI, senior superintendent of police, Moradabad, Nitin Tiwari, said, “The violence has been controlled and heavy police force has been deployed in the area. The search for rioters is on and they will be arrested soon.” Police has also order cyber cell sleuths to monitor social networking sites and takes action against those found spreading rumours online. (Times of India 25/1/16)

 

COMMUNALISM

196. VHP will give deadline to govt for Ram temple

SANGAM(Allahabad): Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Sunday said it would set a ‘deadline’ for the Centre to take a decision on the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya in the ‘Sant Sammelan’ conference which would be held here during the Magh Mela on February 4 and 5. VHP international general secretary Champat Rai said the VHP has obtained signatures of MPs on the temple construction issue. He added that VHP’s decision making body, the Margdarshak Mandal, would decide on the future course of action if the Modi government failed to fulfill their demands. On the second day of Sant Sammelan, the proposal would be placed before the seers and mahants for their views. Top VHP leaders like Praveen Togadia, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das and Rai, along with the sants, are expected to take part in the conference. “The central government is moving away from the temple issue despite being backed by hundreds of MPs who have supported the cause. So we have decided to give a deadline to the central government to take decision on whether it will be making a Constitutional amendment or not,” said Rai. He added, “If the government fails to take any action then we along with the sant community can resort to a number of movements, including gherao of Parliament and countrywide agitation. However, these decisions can only be reached after the meeting of the Margdarshak Mandal.” Rai said VHP feels that a special bench should be set up to hear the Ram temple case as it is moving at a slow pace in the Supreme Court. He added that the VHP would make a request to the appropriate authority so that the case is heard on a daily basis. It may be recalled that it was in the Dharm Sansad-2013 during the Maha Kumbh that the seers had rooted for projecting Narendra Modi, who was then chief minister of Gujarat, for the prime minister’s post. (Times of India 4/1/16)

 

197. Raj Thackeray at it again, stirs debate on Hindutva (26)

MUMBAI: MNS president Raj Thackeray has revived the Hindutva debate by stating that his idea of Hindutva was not applicable to members of the minority community. Thackeray’s reply came after a student asked the MNS leader to clarify his party’s stance on the issue. “I have not undergone conversion. I am a Hindu and my party has unshakeable faith in Hindutva. However, our idea of Hindutva is compatible not with Muslims from Beherampada and Bhiwandi, but with the likes of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Ustad Zakir Hussain, both musicians of international acclaim,” Thackeray said on Thursday. Thackeray was speaking at a special lecture for BMM students of the Podar college. The college had invited Thackeray to exchange his views with the students on the prevailing trends in the media. Stating that he didn’t believe in taking a partisan view on the issue, Thackeray said spreading communal hatred was not MNS agenda. “But we can prove our strength if needed,” he said. (Times of India 8/1/16)

 

198. BJP to fight Kerala polls on Hindutva: State chief Kummanam Rajasekharan (26)

NEW DELHI: The BJP will fight the 2016 Kerala assembly election “to reinstate the position of Hindus” in a state where they have been “massively exploited” for over half a century by governments led by the Congress and Communists, the party’s new state president, Kummanam Rajasekharan, said. “In all these years, just once, and that too for a very short period, did Kerala have a Hindu education minister. Hindus of Kerala are the most marginalised. They get no social justice from the country. The state doesn’t feel responsible towards them as they are not a political force,” Rajasekharan told ET in an interview. Rajasekharan, a RSS pracharak for more than 35 years, has often been referred to as the ‘Togadia of South’ for his hardline Hindutva stand and firebrand style. He was handpicked by BJP national chief Amit Shah last month to lead the party in the state where it has never won any assembly or Lok Sabha seat. The appointment was considered strange, as Rajasekharan has never been a functionary within the BJP, and it was seen by many as aimed at tackling factionalism within the party. Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Rajasekharan during his Kerala visit last month to convince him to take up the responsibility, sources said. “I am just an RSS missionary trying to rescue the state from antinational elements,” he said. “Hindus in Kerala have never been a political force. They have no bargaining capacity. They are disintegrated. They have to be united.” Political patronage given to minorities by the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the Left Front has resulted in much resentment among Hindus, Rajasekharan said. “Hindus make up around 52% of the population in the state, but the land they occupy in Kerala is only around 40%. When it comes to building businesses, there are no opportunities for the Hindus. They are all leaving the state.” The party’s campaign for 2016 will be called “Samshuddha Kerala”, which means “Clean Kerala,” he said. “The leadership of both Communists and Congress is tainted. Only the BJP can bring in clean governances and positivity in the State now.” The BJP will promote research and development in the state and open as many closed factories as possible, and also give boost to Ayurveda and investments, Rajasekharan said. “Kerala is gifted with a lot of ancient knowledge but whatever material, agricultural, spiritual progress we made in the past is getting ruined now, because the Communists and the Congress are destroying traditions for politics.” Actively involved in agitations to “protect” temples, Rajasekharan said the need of the hour is to have dedicated squads across Kerala to enlighten Hindus against conversion. “Hindu ideals mean welfare of people, society and nature. Being committed to Hindutva is being committed to country’s welfare.” Though the BJP is not a strong player in Kerala politics, it emerged as the single largest party in the prestigious Thiruvananthapuram Corporation in recent civic polls, and is hoping to do better than in the past in the state assembly election. (The Economic Times 8/1/16)

 

199. India has given spiritualism, not communalism to world: PM Narendra Modi (26)

MUMBAI: Against the backdrop of ‘intolerance’ debate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India’s contribution to the world is not communalism but spiritualism which can resolve all problems and invoked former President APJ Abdul Kalam to underline his point. He regretted that the world has failed to understand the people of India properly as he praised the saints and religious leaders for their contribution to the country’s legacy. “India is a country, which has not tried to bind the world in a particular sect … We are the people whom the world has probably not understood in the manner in which we should have been understood,” Modi said while addressing via video conferencing a book release event here. “India has given the world neither community nor communalism. Our saints and sages (Rishis and Munis) and traditions have given the world spiritualism and not communalism,” he said, adding sometimes, sect leads to problems while spiritualism resolves the same.The Prime Minister’s comments assume significance as these come against the backdrop of debate on ‘intolerance’ and allegations of growing communalism in the country. “Saints, hermits and religious leaders have blessed the world with spirituality, a legacy in which our former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam believed and said that the problems of human beings can be neutralised by the spiritualization of mankind,” he said.Modi, while addressing the event to mark the release of a book titled ‘Maru Bharat Saru Bharat’ written by Jain Acharya Ratnasundersuriswarji Maharaj, described the monk as a “great social reformer and spiritual leader” who has expressed his views about all concepts and objects of the universe through his various books. “National religion is above all religions and Guruji has lit the candle of national religion through his writings, as it has been the glorious tradition of our country,” he said. The book, ‘My India, Nobel India’, in four languages – English, Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi – was released at the Somaiya Grounds in Sion-Chunabhatti area here during the ‘Sahitya Satkar Samaroh’ programme on the concluding day of the 10-day-long religious and spiritual conclave. (Times of India 10/1/16)

 

200. Ram temple will be built when Hindus come together: VHP (26)

Meerut: “We cannot give a set date for the construction of Ram Mandir, but the day Hindus come together, construction of the temple can be completed. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is committed towards the cause of Ram Mandir, and members of the organization are even prepared to sacrifice their lives to ensure that the construction of the temple is complete,” said Devesh Upadhyay, national spokesperson, VHP. He was addressing the regional get-together of VHP members at Keshav Bhawan in Meerut. The meeting is after every three months to plan the organization’s strategy. “When Hindus can come together to demolish Babri Masjid, all of us can even come together to construct the Ram Mandir. Now, not only the Hindus but also Muslims want the Ram temple constructed. The recent statement of Bukkal Nawab, a Samajwadi Party (SP) MLC that he would donate Rs 10 lakh and a gold crown strengthens our resolve to construct the temple,” said Balraj Doongar, state convener, Bajrang Dal. Almost six months after VHP announced a nationwide drive to collect stones for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, two trucks of stones have already arrived in the temple city, on December 21, 2015. “The stones have already arrived in Ayodhya and these will be used to construct the temple very soon. It should be noted that the construction will not be carried out illegally. We will win the legal battle and then construct the temple with the stones that are already there in Ayodhya. More stones will reach the spot soon,” said Upadhyay. VHP also asked its members to demand a common national population policy. (Times of India 10/1/16)

 

201. 8 lakh Hindus converted every year: VHP leader Mohanlal Agarwal (26)

GUWAHATI: At a time when religious conversion has emerged as one of the controversial topics, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) national general secretary, Y Raghavulu, has once again stirred the hornet’s nest with his claims that every year over 8 lakh Hindus are being converted to other religions. On the sidelines of a function organized to felicitate veteran VHP leader Mohanlal Agarwal here on Sunday, Raghavulu said 8 lakh Hindus were converted to either Christianity or Islam. VHP international president G Raghava Reddy was also present there, but he refused to speak to the media. Religious conversion of Hindus is taking place in great numbers and this is a threat to India’s integrity, Raghavulu alleged. The VHP leader has also alleged that Christians and Muslims are encouraging religious conversions in the country as one of the five strategies to dominate India. Encouraging infiltration, grabbing the land of Hindus, creating divisions among Indian communities are some of their other techniques to dominate the country. “We all know very well about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu and Kashmir and the burning of Bodo villages by Bangladeshis in Assam recently,” Raghavulu alleged.Raghavulu claimed that in Assam religious conversions and infiltration from neighbouring Bangladesh were taking place at an alarming pace. Like many other parts of the country, in Assam, too, many districts have seen a significant rise in Muslim population, while the number of Hindus are declining. This is indeed a threat to the Hindu samaj. It is high time we wake up to the threat from religious conversion,” the VHP leader said. “Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh were once part of Akhand Bharat. Today, these have become separate countries. We cannot allow further disintegration of our country,” he added. Issues of religious conversion has become a controversial topic in the country last year, especially after constituents of the Sangh Parivar spearheaded the Ghar Wapsi initiative for reconversion of non-Hindus into Hinduism. (Times of India 11/1/16)

 

202. VHP asks political parties to refrain from appeasing minorities (26)

Bengaluru: After uniform code, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Sunday pitched for a uniform population policy in the country for all communities and wanted all political parties to refrain from appeasing the minorities. “The total fertility rate (TFR) and child ratio are uneven across religions and unless uniform measures are adopted it will be difficult to achieve the ideal figure of 2.1 as national fertility rate,” VHP joint general secretary Surendra Kumar Jain told reporters after the two-day Bajrang Dal Akhila Bharata Baitak here. Quoting the Census Report of 2011, he said the Hindu population percentage, which was 84.10 per cent in 1951, came down from to 79.80 per cent. But at the same time, he added that the percentage of Muslim, Sikh and Buddhists has all gone up. “The demon of minorities appeasement policy adopted by certain political parties is badly hurting the country’s growth,” he added. Rajesh Pandey, national convener of Bajrang Dal, said the growing demographic imbalance will become a dangerous threat to India’s very existence. (Times of India 17/1/16)

 

203. Madrasas must teach about Muslim patriots: RSS leader (26)

New Delhi: In the wake of criticism and the growing impression that the BJP is being run by the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo and the party’s central team lacks “credible” faces, the RSS asked the saffron party to ensure the new BJP president’s team should have “credible” and “effective” leaders. The RSS, it is learnt, feels that the criticism and the allegation that decision-making in the BJP has been concentrated in the Modi-Shah duo could create problems for the party, given that key states are going to the polls. While Mr Amit Shah is likely to get his first full term as BJP president, the RSS has advised its affiliate that the party president’s new team should be seen as a step to strengthening the central organisation. Mr Shah is currently completing former party chief Rajnath Singh’s term, after he was inducted in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet in the middle of 2014. It may be recalled that in a strongly-worded letter after the party’s Bihar election debacle, BJP veterans including L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Shanta Kumar and Yashwant Sinha had attacked the party leadership for destroying the “consensual character” of the party and alleged that BJP leaders were now “forced to kowtow to a handful”. Speculation is rife that RSS loyalist and BJP general secretary (organisation) Ramlal could be replaced. The names of V. Satish, Shivprakash and B.L. Santosh are doing the rounds as his replacement in the incoming BJP president’s team. With key non-NDA-ruled states like West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh set to go to the polls soon, the new team may see larger representation from these states. But the RSS’s advice is that the new team should also send out a message that the leadership has taken a concerted step in strengthening the organisation and not favouritism. The RSS also feels that instead of Union ministers being asked to brief the media on various issues, unless it directly concerns their respective ministry, the BJP should have “heavyweight” and “proficient” leaders in the central party team. (Asian Age 18/1/16)

 

204. RSS calling the shots in State BJP (26)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The change of guard in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State unit and the dissensions thrown up by the organisational reshuffle are likely to weigh heavily on the Vimochana Yatra being undertaken by party State president Kummanam Rajasekharan from Kasaragod on Wednesday. Sources said that more than opening the party’s account in the Assembly, Mr. Rajasekharan’s self-imposed brief was to consolidate power. He had been emboldened with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) support, its plan to cash in on the discontent against the rival fronts in the State and the performance in the local body elections. But they maintained that it was not an easy road ahead. The BJP national leadership leaving little scope for democratic dissent within the organisation is learnt to have sowed resentment in the State unit. The Sangh leadership’s claim of having stifled dissent could come unstuck soon after the elections, the sources said. Though the party claims to be riding the crest of a popularity wave across the State, the machinery is focussed in Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad and is reportedly planning to field an array of leaders in the capital. The alliance with the Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), it is feared, may estrange the Nair Service Society (NSS), Brahmana Sabha and such others who had always been arrayed behind the party. Moreover, the BJDS is not a force to reckon with in the segments where the party has pinned high hopes, mainly Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad. Sources said the credit for the BJP’s faring well in the recent local body elections went to the RSS, and its machinery was equipped to take up even more greater challenges. It has started work at the grassroots-level too. But this is likely to pave the way for a minority consolidation and its impact needs to be watched again. As party sources said the yatra would be focussing on the lapses of the rival fronts and projecting itself as a third alternative. But like the State government, the Centre too had been unable to effectively intervene in a host of issues such as the Western Ghats, rubber, and farm sector crisis. Above all, the Central decision to do away with the separate NRI Department is likely to be a major campaign plank for the rival fronts. The party has also not been able to clear the air over the Aranmula greenfield airport project and also on declaring Sabarimala as a national pilgrimage centre. But the leadership exuded confidence to tackle such issues and was bullish about the party’s Assembly poll prospects, sources said. (The Hindu 19/1/16)

 

205. PM Modi to address principals of 1,100 RSS-run schools on Feb 12 (26)

New Delhi: PM Narendra Modi is set to address principals of nearly 1,100 RSS-run senior secondary schools at Vigyan Bhawan on the “role of principals in present academic and social scenario.” The three-day conference will be inaugurated by Modi on February 12 and will also be addressed by HRD Minister Smriti Irani, RSS’s BJP incharge Krishna Gopal, NCERT director Hrushikesh Senapaty and CBSE Chairman Y S K Seshu Kumar. RSS sources said February 12 was chosen for the PM’s address as the day will be observed as Vasant Panchami and Saraswati Puja this year. RSS sources said the programme was confirmed only on Thursday. This is first time since 1991 that Vidya Bharati, the Sangh’s frontal organisation working in education sector, is organising such a conference for principals of senior secondary schools. A senior RSS pracharak told The Indian Express, “We got confirmation from the PMO only on Thursday. The PM will spend around 70 minutes with us. He will address principals and will also have an informal chat with our senior functionaries.” Vidya Bharati is a prominent frontal organisation of the RSS. As many as 56 pracharaks work for it. This is the largest number of pracharaks working for any frontal organisation. Sources in the RSS said that while Atal Bihari Vajpayee had addressed two programmes of Vidya Bharati during his tenure as PM, this will the first time any PM will directly address school principals. (Indian Express 23/1/16)

 

206. Hindu group observes Republic Day as ‘black day’ (26)

New Delhi: Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha observed January 26, Republic Day, as “black day” and took oath to make India a “Hindu Rashtra.” Over hundreds of activists of the Hindutva group waved black flags on the streets of Meerut on Tuesday. Pandit Ashok Sharma, national Vice President of the Hindutva body, has been organising a protest against the Constitution of India since last five decades quite religiously. Tuesday, when entire country celebrated Republic Day, was no different for him. Mr. Sharma, who was quite categorical in declaring that he didn’t believe in Constitution of India, told The Hindu: “The purpose of my life and that of millions of people like me who are present in this country, is to make this country a Hindu Rashtra. Nobody can stop this country from becoming a Hindu Rashtra”.”This is the 51st year I, as an obedient solider of Hindu Mahasabha, have shown black flag to the idea of secular India and the Constitution which declares this nation to be secular,” Mr. Sharma, a man in his late seventies who sports white beard told this correspondent. Mr. Sharma got international limelight last year for coming up with the idea of temple for Nathuram Godse who had killed Mahatma Gandhi. On the occasion of mourning the Constitution of India, Mr. Sharma paid generous homage to Godse the “martyr” who “wanted to save India from Gandhi and his proposal of partition.” “Though the Indian State prevented us from installing Godse’s statue in a temple but we are going to do that one day,” he said. Like Mr. Sharma, Bharat Rajput is also an old Hindu Mahasabha hand who has been actively taking up Hindutva causes. Mr. Rajput, the district president of the Hindutva body, posed a question to this correspondent. “When the partition of India happened, Pakistan became ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan.’ So, why was India not declared to be a ‘Hindu Rashtra?” “The anti-Hindu leaders like Gandhi and Nehru declared this country to be secular. We want to correct the historical mistakes which these people forced on us,” Mr. Rajput declared. After the protest, the Hindu Mahasbha volunteers sent a memorandum to the President of India, like they have been doing since last fifty years, demanding India to be declared a Hindu state. Keywords: Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, Republic Day, Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi assasination, Hindu Rashtra, Hindutva group (The Hindu 26/1/16)

 

TERRORISM

207. India won’t buckle under dastardly attacks: Minister Naqvi (12)

Lucknow: The government will not buckle under terrorist acts, union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Saturday, in the wake of the attack at the Indian Air Force base in Punjab’s Pathankot town. The minister of state for parliamentary affairs, while on a visit to Rampur, said the recent stopover by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Lahore to wish his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his birthday was a goodwill gesture. “We have always wanted cordial and friendly relations with all our neighbours but there can be no compromise on national security and issues like terrorism,” he said. Claiming that the Pathankot attack was a “sign of frustration and despondency” on part of terror groups, the minister said the day was not far when Pakistan will have to hand over fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Sayeed to India. Naqvi praised Indian Muslims, saying they had not accepted the ideology of the Islamic State militant group, because of which the dreaded organisation has not found base in India. He also said the union government has given Rs.330 crore to the state for the welfare of Muslims. (Business Standard 2/1/16)

 

208. UN chief condemns attack on Indian Consulate in Afghanistan (12)

United Nations: UN Secretary General BanKi-moon has condemned the terror attack on the Indian Consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif and underlined the need to protect diplomatic posts, his spokesperson said. “On the attack on Mazar-e-Sharif, obviously, it is an attack we condemn. Especially in light of what we’ve said, an attack on a diplomatic outpost, that needs to be protected,” Ban’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric told PTI when asked to comment on the terror attack on the Indian Consulate and the assault on the Pathankot Air Force base. On the terror attack on the Pathankot air base, Dujarric said he did not have any comment as the operation there was ongoing. “Yes, on the attack at the air base, the operation is still ongoing. I don’t have anything in particular to say on that. I don’t have enough details to speak to it,” he said. In response to a question on the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Dujarric told reporters here yesterday that under the Vienna Convention, the responsibility to protect diplomatic missions and to protect diplomats lies with the countries where these diplomats work and where these missions work. “We have seen in the past years, recently in various places, attacks on diplomatic missions, which the Secretary-General has spoken out against and which he did again this time. But it is clearly the responsibility of the host country to protect diplomatic premises and to protect the lives of diplomats,” he said. An intense 25-hour gun-battle between security forces and terrorists outside the Indian Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif came to end last night with the killing of all the attackers who attempted to storm the Mission building. While three of the attackers were killed in the gunfight earlier, the remaining were neutralised by the night. A group of terrorists had attacked the Consulate at around 9.15 pm (local time) on Sunday with an aim of storming the building but their plan was thwarted by the security forces. (Asian Age 5/1/16)

 

209. India names JeM, its chief for Pathankot terror attack (12)

New Delhi: India has named Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of the banned terror organisation Jaish-e-Muhammad, as well as the organisation itself and others as being responsible for the Pathankot attack in evidence shared by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval with his Pakistani counterpart Nasir Janjua, according to sources here. JeM goes by two other names in Pakistan, after it was banned in 2002. However, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup refrained from naming any group, while confirming that “actionable intelligence” had been provided to Pakistan. “We have given some information to Pakistan. They have to act on that information. All individuals and groups will be included in that,” the spokesperson said. Asked about the evidence, Swarup said he “cannot make the intelligence public”.On a question whether JeM was named by India in interactions between the NSAs, the spokesperson refrained from giving a direct reply. “This is a matter for investigation by Pakistani authorities on the basis of the evidence that we have provided them. Once they have investigated, we will know the exact identity of who is behind it,” Swarup said. Seven security personnel were killed in the attack early on Saturday morning on the Pathankot Indian Air Force Station by six terrorists who, according to officials, crossed over from Pakistan. All the six terrorists were killed by security forces later. (Business Standard 7/1/16)

 

210. Tribunal to hear NSCN(K) case on January 14 (12)

KOHIMA, Jan 10 – The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal set up by Centre will hear the case of NSCN(K) having been declared an unlawful association later this month at Delhi High Court, the State Government has said. The Registrar of the Tribunal has asked NSCN(K) to appear before it through a duly-authorised person on January 14 at 3 pm in Delhi High Court for further proceedings, the release said. The Centre had set up the Tribunal – comprising Justice Najmi Waziri, a judge of Delhi High Court, for adjudicating whether or not there is sufficient cause for declaring NSCN(K) an unlawful association under sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The Centre on September 16 last had declared the outfit as an unlawful organisation for a period of five years under Unlawful Activities (Prevention), Act, 1967. NSCN(K) had abrogated the 14-year-old ceasefire with the Centre on March 27 last year and carried out several attacks on security forces within Nagaland and outside, leading to the death of more than 25 personnel since May, 2015. A split took place within NSCN(K) after the faction led by SS Khaplang abrogated the 14-year-old truce. That led to the creation of a new faction, NSCN-Reformation, by expelled senior NSCN(K) leaders P Tikhak and Wangtin Naga. The signing of a peace accord in 2015 between the Centre and the NSCN-IM brought a ray of hope for an early resolution to the decades-old Naga political issue. – PTI (The Assam Tribune 11/1/16)

 

211. ‘Pathankot squad was more lethal than 26/11 attackers’ (12)

New Delhi: The modus operandi adopted by the terrorists speaks volumes about the precision training they received, says an Intelligence official. After initially refraining from blaming the country, a top government official said on Monday that the terrorists behind the Pathankot airbase attack appeared to have received training from a “professional armed force in Pakistan.” The fidayeen (suicide) squad was more lethal and better trained than the 26/11 Mumbai attackers. They had enough arms and ammunition, including under barrel grenade launchers, for a sustained operation of more than 60 hours against a professional army. An Intelligence official told The Hindu that establishing the identity of the terrorists would be a challenge because Pakistan would certainly not own them up. Security forces inside the air base have found bodies of five terrorists. A sixth one was blown to pieces when the building he had taken refuge in was brought down with explosives on Monday. DNA samples would be preserved, he said.After the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Pakistan had refused to accept the bodies of nine Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists killed by the security forces. The tenth terrorist, Ajmal Kasab, the only one to have been captured alive, was hanged in a Pune prison in 2013 and his body was buried on the premises. “We are yet to ascertain the identity of the terrorists as no recoveries have been made. No terrorist group has so far claimed responsibility. The statement by the United Jihad Council (UJC) is only an attempt to give it a Kashmir colour,” said the Intelligence official. The UJC, an alliance of more than a dozen pro-Pakistan militant groups based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, had claimed responsibility for the air base attack. “The attack is a message by Mujahideen [militants] that no sensitive installation of India is out of our reach,” UJC spokesman Syed Sadaqat Hussain said in a statement.Security agencies believe there were six terrorists and they were divided into two groups — one of 4 and the other with 2 members. The modus operandi adopted by the terrorists speaks volumes about the precision training they have received, said the official. “They opened fire at a patrol team at 3.30 a.m., an unusual hour to engage with the enemy. They were clearly aware that the level of alertness would be low at that hour. They did not all come out together, but took on the security forces from different directions. It is suspected that two terrorists might have entered the Pathankot air base before the Superintendent of Punjab Police Salwinder Singh, his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma and cook Madan Gopal were abducted by the other four, and much before an alert was sounded about their presence in the area. Mr. Verma, who survived a slit throat, told his interrogators that he heard the four terrorists who hijacked their vehicle talking to their handlers, presumably in Pakistan. The handler apparently ticked them off, asking why they had not been able to enter the air base when two other terrorists had already reached the target. The four explained that they were on their way. They had not been able to reach the base because there were several police pickets on the way. It is possible that the four terrorists entered the Pathankot air base in the morning of January 1, much before an alarm was sounded to secure all vital installations, the official said. (The Hindu 15/1/16)

 

212. Delhi Police Special Cell arrests suspected al-Qaeda terrorist from Haryana (12)

New Delhi; A 32-year-old man from Haryana’s Mewat district has been arrested by Delhi Police for suspected links with al-Qaeda, fifth arrest in its ongoing operation against the terror outfit, police said on Monday. Abdul Sami, was arrested by Delhi Police’s Special Cell from Nuh town in Mewat. He was brought here and produced before a court which remanded him in police custody till February 1, Special Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Arvind Deep said. Sami, a native of Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, is alleged to be a key operative of al Qaeda’s module in the Indian sub-continent (AQIS), police said. On January 6, the Special Cell had arrested Maulana Anzar Shah, a cleric from Bangalore, for alleged links with AQIS. In December, they had arrested three suspected AQIS operatives. While Mohammed Asif (41), the first one to be arrested from Seelampur in Delhi, is believed to be one of the founding members and the head (amir) of AQIS’s motivation, recruitment and training wing, another operative Abdul Rahman (37) was arrested from Jagatpur area of Cuttack in Odisha. The third suspected AQIS terrorist to be arrested was Zafar Masood, who allegedly acted as a financier for the module. He was arrested from mohalla Deepa Sarai in UP’s Sambhal district. Shah, the fourth to be arrested, had allegedly met Mohammed Asif at a religious congregation in Bangalore, following which he was introduced to Abdul Rahman and Zafar Masood. He was asked provide logistical support whenever the need arose, said an official privy to the investigation. They were all booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The police have yet not disclosed Sami’s role in the module. (Asian Age 18/1/16)

 

213. Five Bangladesh militants jailed for 10 years for bombings (12)

Dhaka: A court in Bangladesh on Monday jailed five militants of a banned Islamist group for 10 years over bombings in 2005 that formed part of a series of blasts across the Muslim-majority nation. The Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen group set off nearly 500 bombs almost simultaneously on a single day in 2005, including the capital Dhaka. Subsequent suicide attacks on courthouses by its militants killed 25 people and injured hundreds. Five members of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen group were convicted and sentenced for the explosions in the southeastern district of Rangamati, court inspector Mominul Islam said. “Six militants were charged with the bombings,” he said. “And five of them were convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail, while one was acquitted.” The group, thought to have been lying low since six of its top leaders were hanged in 2007, is blamed for a spate of recent attacks, including the bombings of a Shi’ite shrine and the shooting of three foreigners, two of whom died. In 2015, four bloggers and a publisher were killed in Bangladesh, amid a rise in Islamist violence in which liberal activists, members of minority Muslim sects and other religious groups have been targeted. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, but the government has denied that the militant group has a presence in Bangladesh. At least five militants of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen have been killed in shootouts since November, as security forces stepped up a crackdown on Islamist militants seeking to make the moderate Muslim nation of 160 million a sharia-based state. (Asian Age 18/1/16)

 

214. ISIS cell busted in Uttarakhand, 4 in plot nabbed (12)

New Delhi: Dreaded global terror outfit ISIS appears to have made its debut in India, with its first major terror attack plot foiled by the security agencies. A group of four self-radicalised Islamic State operatives in Uttarakhand had planned to carry out a series of low-intensity blasts in the Ardh Kumbh mela in Uttarakhand and at some strategic places in New Delhi. The four operatives were allegedly directly in touch with ISIS bosses Shafi Armar, who handles recruitment for Ansar-ut Tawhid fi Bilad al-Hind (AuT), the Indian offshoot of ISIS. A former Indian Mujahideen operative, Shafi is the brother of Sultan, who gained notoriety by becoming the first Indian to die fighting for ISIS in Syria last year. The four suspects, identified as Akhlaq ur-Rehman, Mohammed Osama, Mohammed Azim Shah and Mehroz, were arrested from Manglour town in Uttarakhand’s Hardwar district on Tuesday night and produced in a court here on Wednesday, which sent them to 15 days’ police custody, special commissioner of police (special cell) Arvind Deep said. Their design was to create panic and mayhem with the blasts, that could have led to the death of a large number of devotees in a stampede at the large religious gathering. The plotters also hoped to spark a communal outbreak given the heavy religious symbolism of the event, top sources said. Mr Deep refused to give any more details, including the specific outfit the suspects belonged to, and said: “The national capital faces a threat until the entire module is busted.” The Union home ministry is on its toes and has decided to rework its counter-radicalisation strategy as its policy to tackle the growing ISIS threat had roped in only 13 states, that did not include Uttarakhand. The four suspected ISIS operatives were using social media platforms to remain in touch with ISIS bosses. One suspect, Akhlaq, is also being questioned over the attacks in Pathankot. Sources said Akhlaq was studying for a diploma in engineering and was weaned towards Islamic State by reading inflammatory ISIS posts on Facebook and its online magazine Dabiq. Later, he is learnt to have got in touch with Shafi Amrar, who radicalised him and three others. A large number of incriminating material has been recovered, with sources saying these men were making bombs by collecting explosives from matchsticks, among other things. Also, their involvement in all possible ISIS networks is being verified. The investigators are also looking into whether any of the arrested ISIS operatives had travelled overseas. “The four suspects were tracked down with inputs from a Central intelligence agency. They had planned to carry out terror attacks at the Ardh Kumbh mela, on trains heading towards Hardwar passing through Roorkee and at some strategic locations in New Delhi,” Mr Deep said. The suspects have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The Armar brothers joined the Indian Mujahideen in 2004 and later fled to Pakistan after the Batla House encounter. Shafi’s brother Sultan is reported to have fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2011-12, and then went to Syria where he was anointed “emir” of AuT by Baghdadi. In 2015, Sultan became the first Indian to die fighting for the ISIS. Shafi was then made AuT chief. Earlier this month, Delhi was put on high alert and the city’s security was stepped up after the special cell got inputs on the presence of some key Jaish-e-Mohammed members two days after the Pathankot attack. On Monday, two persons with suspected Al Qaeda links were detained from Mewat in Haryana. However, the special cell has so far claimed to have arrested only one. Senior officials also reviewed Delhi’s security Wednesday in view of the coming Republic Day celebrations. (Asian Age 21/1/16)

 

215. 12 terror suspects sent to NIA custody (12)

New Delhi: A court here on Monday remanded 12 suspected members of the Islamic State (IS) in National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) custody till February 5. During in-camera proceedings, the NIA told District Judge Amar Nath that the accused were involved in recruiting and financing those willing to join the global terror outfit and that their custodial interrogation will help unearth the larger conspiracy. The agency said the accused were also encouraging Indian youths to join the IS. Earlier, the accused, their faces covered, were presented in the court amid tight security. They were brought from different places on trasit remand. The accused are Asif Ali alias Arman Saani, 21, Sayed Mujahid, 33, and Nazmal Huda, all from Karnataka; Suhail Ahmed, 23, Muhammed Abdul Ahad, 46, Mohammed Afzal, all from Bengaluru; A. Mohammad Aleem, 20, from Lucknow; Mohammed Obedullah Khan, 33, and Mohammad Shareef Mounuddin Khan from Hyderabad; Mohammad Hussain Khan, 36, Mudabbir Mushtaq Shaikh from Mumbai and Imran Khan Pathan from Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Mohammad Nafees Khan and Abu Anas, 24, Hyderabad are also among the 14 people arrested by the NIA. On Saturday, official sources said all 14 suspects picked up by the NIA in cooperation with state police during raids at 12 locations in six cities on January 22 had been formally arrested. Till Friday, only five of the total 14 were formally arrested. All of them have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. (Business Standard 25/1/16)

 

216. Terror hits unite Delhi, Paris in counter-attack (12)

NEW DELHI: India and France have decided to intensify counter-terror cooperation and asked for decisive action against terror groups like LeT, JeM, Hizbul Mujahideen and al-Qaida. A joint statement, issued after visiting French President Francois Hollande held wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said the two countries would work together to disrupt recruitment, prevent terrorists from moving across borders to join groups like the Islamic State, stop sources of terrorist financing, dismantle terrorist infrastructure and prevent supply of arms to terrorists. “To this end, they committed to further develop exchanges in the fields of intelligence, finance, justice and police. They welcomed the strengthening of the cooperation between Indian and French counter terrorism authorities and units, in particular between their cybersecurity experts,” it said. A joint working group on counter-terrorism will meet and exchange intelligence, information and find other ways to counter radicalisation. The JWG would function under the annual strategic dialogues. There would also be operational exercises between the French GIGN and India’s National Security Guard. “Condemning the recent terror attacks in Pathankot and Gurdaspur in India, the two countries reiterated their call for Pakistan to bring to justice their perpetrators and the perpetrators of the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which also caused the demise of two French citizens, and to ensure that such attacks do not recur in the future,” the statement said.”From Paris to Pathankot, we saw the gruesome face of the common challenge of terrorism… I also commend the strength of your resolve and action these terrorist attacks. President Hollande and I have agreed to scale up the range of our counter-terrorism cooperation in a manner that helps us to tangibly mitigate and reduce the threat of extremism and terrorism to our societies. “We are also of the view that the global community needs to act decisively against those who provide safe havens to terrorists, who nurture them through finances, training and infrastructure support,” Modi said at a joint press event with Hollande.Interestingly, the joint statement listed a long string of terror attacks including the most recent attack on the Bacha Khan university in Charsadda, Pakistan. Making a point of highlighting Afghanistan’s plight as a consequence of terror being exported from Pakistan, India and France said terrorist activities and proxies supported from safe havens across Afghanistan’s borders pose a grave threat to peace, security and stability of Afghanistan. They called on Pakistan to dismantle terrorist sanctuaries and disrupt financial support to terror groups and terrorists. “They called for actions to be taken, consistent with international law, against all entities, including States, that sponsor, provide support, active or passive, to terrorist groups or harbour them,” a separate joint statement on counter terrorism said. .. (Times of India 27/1/16)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

217. Two Maoists killed, four arrested in Bastar (12)

Raipur: Two Maoist guerrillas of the outlawed Communist party of India (Maoist) were killed and four others were arrested in different parts of restive Bastar region of Chhattisgarh on Friday. “The District Reserve Guard (DRG) of Narayanpur district police recovered two dead bodies of uniformed Maoists and apprehended three Maoists during an anti-Maoist operation in Kutul area of Maoists’ undeclared capital Abujhmarh today. Seven weapons, including a 303 rifle, were recovered,” said Mr.S.R.P. Kalluri, the Inspector General of Police, Bastar range. “Keeping in mind the TCOC (Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign) of the Maoists which would be starting from January 2016, the police forces of all districts made a plan to hit the Maoists before they can strike at the security force. In this context, combined parties of different forces were launched in Abujhmad area to intercept and neutralise the Maoists. The forces were given the target of Kutul that is in the heart of Abujhmad area and considered the capital of the Maoists,” he added. The IG also informed that the police parties were attacked by the Maoists near Kutul. “Our men retaliated the fire and the encounter lasted for about two hours. Finally, the Maoists tried to flee away from the area taking the cover of heavy forests. But because of an excellent cordon of the police, three Maoists were nabbed,” he claimed. In a separate incident, Nandu, an active Maoist and deputy section commander of military company number 2, surrendered before Dantewada police. He carried a reward of Rs.8 lakhs on his head. In another incident, Maoist Jan militia Commander Sona alias Sonadhar of Metapal range committee, was arrested by Sukma district police. (The Hindu 1/1/16)

 

218. If Naxals can fight with women cadres, why can’t we: CRPF DG (12)

New Delhi: Keeping with the trend of forces increasingly opening doors for women in combat roles, CRPF DG Prakash Mishra on Tuesday said women personnel from the force will soon be pressed into anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. “If Naxals can fight with women cadres, we can fight better,” said Mishra at an event ahead of the Seventh National Conference for Women in Police that CRPF is hosting this year. Addressing a gathering of senior women police officers among others at the CRPF headquarters, Mishra said, “We will soon be sending more women to most difficult operational areas.” The CRPF has five battalions of women personnel of which four are deployed and one is under raising. However, all women personnel, even those deployed in J&K, are largely restricted to administrative or law and order duties. Women as yet have not been pressed into combat action. Two years ago, CRPF had sent a unit of women fighters to Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh in combat operations. It was part of a pilot project launched to assess feasibility of pressing women personnel in Naxal areas. “It went off well. We want more women to come and fight alongside men. We are now in the process of creating infrastructure for women to be able to function in Naxal areas,” said a senior CRPF officer. Lack of infrastructure, which includes toilets, has been one of the primary roadblocks to women being deployed in tough operational areas. While the cumulative strength of the six paramilitary forces is over 9 lakh, there are just over 18,000 women personnel, making their representation in the central forces less than 3 per cent. (The Indian Express 6/1/16)

 

219. To Naxal land and back: ‘abducted’ trio returns home (12)

Pune: After being held captive by the Maoists for five days, the three Pune youths — Adarsh Deepak Patil (21), Shrikrushna Pandurang Shevale (24) and Vikas Dnyaneshwar Walke (21) — finally reunited with their families on Wednesday. A team of Gadchiroli police escorted them to Pune in a police vehicle. Senior Pune city police officers interacted with the boys for a few hours before they were handed over to their families at the Pune police commissionerate around 5 pm. The trio said they had circulated messages on social media appealing to youths to join their cycle tour “Jodo Bharat” with route “Bhamragad – Dantewada- Sukma – Bastar – Malkangiri – Balimela – Vishakhapatnam” and their intention was to “meet the people”. But finally, only three of them could make it. They left Pune by bus on December 22, carrying cycles on top of the bus, went to Nagpur, briefed Professor Arvind Sovani about their tour and then went to Bhamragad by bus and started cycling. According to them, they reached Basaguda village in Bijapur district on December 29. Soon after they left this place, they were captured by some Naxal supporters. The Naxals then kept them for four nights and five days and questioned them rigorously suspecting their links with the police. On Sunday, Naxals released them near Chintalnar in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh from where the police brought them to Gadchiroli on Tuesday morning. “Naxals questioned us as they suspected us to be police informers or having links with security forces. They found our cycle tour map with routes and places in Maoist areas and grew more suspicious. We showed them our college identity cards and explained that our intention was to understand the people and that we had no connection with the police. On the fifth day, they decided to leave us… I am happy to meet my family now. There was a time when I had lost all hope,” Shevale told The Indian Express. Adarsh said, “The Maoists did not harm us physically, but our movements were restricted. We wanted to go, but they were not leaving us.” Apparently, investigating agencies also questioned the three to confirm why they had planned a cycle tour through Maoist affected areas. However, they went ahead despite warnings given by the local administration. Also, there is suspicion about the ideology followed by the three. Adarsh’s Facebook page has a poem titled “Ha hum hain Naxal (yes we are Naxals)”. Joint commissioner of police Sunil Ramanand told reporters they had interacted with the three and a detailed inquiry would be conducted in this case. Adarsh, however, denied having any support for Naxals. “We had conducted a cycle rally of 900 kilometres last year and visited Sevagram Ashram and projects of noted social workers Prakash Amte and Abhay and Rani Bang. It inspired us to plan the Jodo Bharat cycle tour. We could not finish it, but we now plan to conduct our next tour in North East India,” he said. The youths said they were fond of adventure and liked to understand the society and its people. Professor Sovani said, “The boys met me in Nagpur. It is appreciable if youths, who are not from the government and the police, travel in forests and completely undeveloped areas having high Maoist influence for understanding the situation there. But some precautions should be taken. I am happy the boys have reached home safe.” (Indian Express 7/1/16)

 

220. Odisha: BSF officer, jawan killed in Naxalite IED blast attack (12)

BHUBANESWAR: A BSF officer and a jawan were on Friday killed in a landmine blast carried out by Naxalites when they were out on a bike patrol in the jungles of Koraput district of Odisha. The incident occurred around 1pm when a team of about twenty Border Security Force personnel were returning from an operational task in Dandabari village of the said district on ten motorcycles and the first carrying the team commander and his jawan got trapped into the blast carried out by using a hidden bomb on the dirt track. The jawan driving the bike, constable S P Panda, was killed on the spot while pillion rider and commander of the squad Deputy Commandant Sunil Kumar Behra succumbed to his injuries later. “The two men sustained fatal injuries from shrapnels and heavy explosives used in the IED cleverly hidden and planted under the road by Naxalites. A big crater was created at the spot where the bike was blown off,” officials said. They said the bike was tossed high in the air due to the impact of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast and the rest nine motorcycle-borne teams immediately took positions suspecting a gunfire from hiding Maoists. “However, the Naxalites did not rain heavy gunfire on the patrol party and they escaped into the jungles after firing few shots. The BSF team was returning to its base in Ramagiri from Dandabari village after verifying reports of killing of a civilian by suspected Maoist cadres,” they said. The patrol party led by Behra belonged to the 143rd battalion of the BSF deployed in Koraput for undertaking anti-Naxalite operations. Officials said in order to escape getting trapped into IED and hidden explosive booby-traps in jungle tracks of Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas, the troops very rarely use four-wheelers and rely on motorcycles for movement. This is a rare incident in the LWE theatre when bike-borne personnel of security forces were hit by a Naxalite planted IED, the most potent weapon used by ultras to target forces in these areas. The BSF has constituted a Court of Inquiry into the incident even as additional forces have been deployed for sanitization of the blast area and adjoining villages for similar IEDs and bombs. (Times of India 8/1/16)

 

221. Maharashtra Cops kill two Naxals in encounter (12)

Mumbai: In two back to back encounters with Naxalites in Sandra area of Chhattisgarh close to Maharashtra border in Gadchiroli, the Gadchiroli police along with their Chhattisgarh counterpart gunned down two Naxalites, including a dalam commander on Monday morning. The joint operation in Sandra area of Bijapur district led to first encounter in which Sandra dalam commander Mangi was killed. An Insas rifle and six rounds were recovered from the spot. In the next encounter around noon about two km south of the first encounter, a dalam member was killed. His identity is yet to be established. While the first Naxal group comprised around 12, the other group had 20-25 cadres. “We had knowledge of regular Naxal movement in the area. So an operation was planned with 120 jawans from Gadchiroli police and 60 from Bijapur were pressed into action on Sunday evening. It started early on Monday morning and resulted in two encounters with two different groups of commandos. This is quite a significant success in an area that has rarely seen Naxal casualties,” Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police Sandip Patil told The Indian Express. (Indian Express 12/1/16)

 

222. Chhattisgarh police seeks fortification of 50 police stations in Naxal hit Bastar (12)

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh police has sought fortification of additional 50 police stations in the Naxal hit areas of the state, particularly Bastar, in order to effectively counter the threat of Naxalism. These 50 fortified police stations (FPS) would be in addition to the 75 already sanctioned by the union government. While of 40 the 75 approved FPS have already been constructed in the districts of Bastar, Durg and Sarguja, 30 are under construction and are likely to be completed soon. Talking to media Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) anti-Naxal Operations, RK Vij, said the fresh proposal has been sent as the FPS have proved to be an effective way to prevent Naxals from storming into police stations, providing a sense of security to police personnel lodged there.The construction of FPS are part of the union government programme, introduced in 2011, under which 400 police stations in the naxal affected states are to be fortified at a cost of Rs 2 crores each. Vij said while various agencies are involved in the fortification work, the Chhattisgarh Police Housing is constructing them wherever others have denied to work due to security reasons. He said presently there are 42 FPS were for Bastar, 12 for Durg Range and 21 for Sarguja. Setting of a fortified police stations include, a double-storey building, high boundary walls, a sophisticated control room and watch towers. Claiming that 2015 had been a successful year of anti-insurgency operations, Vij said surrenders had seen a massive increase since 2012. “As compared to 39 surrenders of Naxals in 2013, 421 and 327 had surrendered in 2014 and 2015 respectively,” he added.Besides, 46 naxals were gunned down in encounters and the police recovered 167 weapons from their possession. He said 47 security personnel, including 3 CRPF and a BSF jawans, were martyred and 115 were injured Naxal violence in 2015. Vij claimed Naxals interrogated during the period had admitted that finding fresh recruits is getting difficult and there has been a fall in the numbers of the cadres due to increased surrenders. Stressing on the importance of road construction in the strategically important locations in Bastar, Vij said Jagargunda (Sukma) would soon be connected to Aranpur. Similarly Konta would be connected to Golapalli in Sukma and Kistaram in Sukma to Bhadrachalam in Telangaana. (Times of India 13/1/16)

 

223. Four Maoists killed in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur: Police (12)

Raipur: Four Maoists were killed in a gun battle with the security forces on Friday in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bijapur district, police said. Police had received a tip off of presence of Maoists in the region after which a team of security forces was dispatched to nab them. When the team reached between Kamkanar and Poddejojer villages, the ultras opened indiscriminate firing at them, Additional DG (anti-Naxal operations) RK Vij told PTI. Police opened retaliatory firing, the senior officer said, adding, the ultras fled the spot after the skirmish which lasted for about an hour. When police inspected the area, the bodies of four Maoists fighters, and some arms and ammunition were recovered from the site, Vij said. The team is still at the spot and the process of retrieving the bodies is on, he said, adding that more information will be available once the team returns. As many as seven Maoists have been killed so far this month in Bijapur. Earlier, an LOS commander was killed on January 6, while two women ultras were gunned down in a joint operation of the state and Maharashtra Police on January 11. (Hindustan Times 15/1/16)

 

224. Woman Maoist commander killed, eight surrender in Bastar (12)

Raipur: A woman Maoist commander was killed and eight others surrendered before police in different parts of restive Bastar region of Chhattisgarh on Tuesday. “An encounter took place between the police and the Maoists between 12 to 12.45 pm today near Bayanar forest of Bijapur district. A woman Maoist commander was killed during the encounter and one 12-bore rifle, one locally made gun and heavy Maoist dumb was recovered from the spot of the encounter,” said statement issued by the police. An official claimed that the number of casualties could be more on the Maoists side as they could be seen dragging dead bodies inside the forest. In a separate incident, eight “Maoists” surrendered before the police in Naraynpur district of Bastar. The surrendered Maoists include two women. The Bastar police, on Tuesday, sent an IAF chopper to Bijapur to bring an injured Maoist to Jagadalpur district headquarters for treatment. “A chopper was sent to Bijapur today to bring Linga Sori, a Maoist who was injured and arrested during Pedia encounter on Monday, for better medical treatment. He will be admitted to Mecoz hospital in Jagadalpur. This gesture from the police will shut the mouths of those so-called human rights activists who term the police-Maoist encounters as fake and at times call the Maoists as innocents,” Bastar district Superintendent of Police, Mr.R.N.Das said in a statement. (The Hindu 19/1/16)

 

225. Love story of Bastar Maoists ends in a tragedy (12)

Raipur: Zareena and Kiran wanted to marry but their organisation denied permission. He was an area secretary of the Maoists in south Bastar. She was a member of his team. While joining the Maoist organisation, both vowed to fight for “revolution” until their last breath, however, after a few years of guerrilla warfare, they fell in love with each other and started craving for a simpler life. Kiran alias Kamlesh (28), the Malangir area secretary of the CPI(Maoist) and also a divisional committee member, decided to marry Zareena (24), a member of Malangir area committee. The couple asked for their party’s permission. After their senior leaders denied them permission, they planned to leave the party but could not come out of the forest together. “Senior Maoist leaders, who mostly come from Andhra Pradesh, denied them permission to marry. Therefore, Kiran surrendered before the police in May last year on the condition that the police shall emancipate Zareena from the Maoist organisation and conduct their marriage,” Bastar range Inspector General of Police SRP Kalluri said. However, after Kiran’s surrender senior Maoist leaders shifted Zareena to Burgam area. Later on, she was transferred to west Bastar region in the National Park committee, making it difficult for Kiran to approach her. “Kiran, along with other surrendered Maoist Badaru, continued to make serious efforts to reach out to Zareena and bring her to the mainstream but the Maoists were keeping a strict vigil on her,” Mr. Kalluri added. The love story of Kiran and Zareena met with a tragic end on Tuesday when Zareena was killed in an encounter with the police in Bijapur district of Bastar, leaving Kiran heartbroken. “Zereena joined the Maoists in 2005 as a member of National Park area committee. Later on, she was elevated as a Dalam commander and she accompanied senior Maoist leader Ramanna. After some time, she was shifted to the regional company no. 2 and 3. Later on, she was sent to Malangir area committee of Darbha, where she fell in love with Kiran. “Coward Maoist commanders from outside Chhattisgarh exploit woman Maoists of Chhattisgarh origin and they also use them as outer layers of their security cover,” said Mr. Kalluri reacting to Zareena’s death. (The Hindu 22/1/16)

 

226. Two Maoist leaders killed by security forces (12)

BHUBANESWAR: The two extremists were identified as Puttapaka Kumaraswamy alias Sushil, secretary of Kalinganagar divisional committee and a member of CPI (Maoist)’s State committee, and his wife Sindri Lingo alias Soni, who was also a senior cadre in the Naxalite group. While Sushil, who hails from Warangal district of Telengana, was carrying a cash reward of Rs.20 lakh on his head, Rs 5 lakh reward was announced for his wife Soni. An Insas rifle and Maoist literatures were recovered from the spot. The two cadres along with other members were tracked by security forces during a regular combing operation being carried out in the Debgarh-Angul district border on Saturday night. When the Maoists first opened fire, the security personnel retaliated. There was no casualty or injuries reported on the side of security forces. “Sushil was involved in about 78 cases including 30 murder cases in Keonjhar, Angul, Debgarh, Rayagada and Gajapati districts. He was also involved in blasting of Daitari police station,” said K. B. Singh, Director General of Police, here on Sunday. He was widely involved in a number of instances of Naxal violence in Rayagada and Gajapati districts, Mr. Singh said, adding that police had information about his participation in looting of explosives in Chinduguida IMFA and IDC mines in Jajpur district in 2008. Declining to reveal operational details, Mr. Singh, however, said security forces had carried out a perfect operation without hurting themselves. Meanwhile, combing operation in forested region of Angul-Debgarh area had been intensified with mobilisation of additional forces. (The Hindu 25/1/16)

 

227. Chhattisgarh will soon get rid of Naxal menace: Governor (12)

Raipur: Hailing the efforts of security forces and locals for maintaining peace in the Naxal-affected pockets of Chhattisgarh, Governor Balramjidas Tandon on Tuesday exuded confidence that the state would soon be “free from the clutches” of Maoist menace. “Security measures and development activities have gained momentum in the Maoist-hit Bastar region. Security forces and local people have played a crucial role in maintaining law and order (in the region) and protecting unity and integrity of the country,” he said addressing the 67th Republic Day function at the police line grounds here. “I am confident that the state will soon get rid of Maoist menace and Bastar will witness the light of inclusive development,” he said. Tandon also lauded measures being taken by the state government for the welfare of drought-hit farmers. “This year, Chhattisgarh is going through a severe drought situation and around 80 per cent of the tehsils in it were drought-affected. In this situation, the state government is with farmers and making every possible effort to provide relief,” he said. According to him, financial assistance, waiving farm loans and free power supply to farmers were some of the steps taken by the state government. Appreciating Prime Minister Narendra Modi for launching ‘PM Crop Insurance Scheme’, he said the farmers of Chhattisgarh will be benefited of it.Speaking on the clean India campaign, the Governor said, “We are swiftly heading to achieve goal of ‘Swachh Bharat, Swasth Bharat’ (clean India, healthy India) with the concentrated efforts of administration, public representatives and community.” “I am happy that 1,200 villages of the state have been freed from open defecation while the target is to cover 5,000 villages under the campaign by the end of this year,” he said. “The state government has been giving special attention to the development of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward castes, labourers and down trodden. “A special programme has been launched for the inclusive development of special backward tribes and the target under it will be accomplished within two years,” the Governor added. (Times of India 27/1/16)

 

228. Seven dead, six injured in Maoist landmine blast in Jharkhand (12)

Ranchi: At least seven policemen were killed and six others were injured in a Maoist land-mine blast in Chattarpur area of Palamu in Jharkhand. “Seven policemen were killed and six others were injured in a Maoist laid land mine blast at police vehicle in Palamu, Jharkhand. Search operations are underway,” Jharkhand Director General of Police D.K. Pandey told ANI. According to reports, a mini-bus carrying 12 police personnel was attacked by a Maoist in Palamu on Wednesday night. The attack comes after a relatively quiet 2015, when for the first time since 2011, there hadn’t been a single Naxalite attack on police stations in Jharkhand. (Asian Age 28/1/16)

 

TRAFFICKING

229. Woman gets death threats for fighting traffickers (1)

Patna: The brave 30-year-old woman, Ms Fatima Khatoon, who fought and rescued many young girls from various red light areas of Bihar, now wants security for herself and her six young kids. She’s been getting regular threat calls on her mobile phone by some unidentified person who she thinks has been tracking her movement. Ms Khatoon, who lives with her six children in Forbesganj, had lodged a complaint with the local police seeking protection for herself and her young children but she says the police did not take any concrete steps against those who harassed her on phone. “A person has been calling and threatening to kill me, I am scared now not for myself but for my young kids as they are totally dependent on me. I live alone with them, I only want the police to provide us protection but till now what I have received from them is only assurance,” Ms Khatoon, a social worker told this newspaper from Forbesganj on Wednesday. According to Ms Khatoon, she has been fighting human traffickers since her childhood. She said her parents got her married to a 40-year-old brothel owner when she was just nine years old. She recalls that she had started by forming a group when she was still very young as she found girls were being forced into sex trade. “My journey began from my own husband’s house, I was just 12 years old when I helped four women escape from the brothel which was being run by my husband and my mother-in-law and I have never looked back since then but now I have small kids and I want the police to cooperate with me in my work,” she said. (Asian Age 1/1/16)

 

230. 3 minor Adivasi girls rescued (1)

GUWAHATI, Jan 4 – Three minor Adivasi girls were rescued from Dumni area in Baksa district when they were being reportedly trafficked by a group of traffickers this afternoon. The girls aged between 11 to 13 years were being brought to Guwahati when a team of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) intercepted them. Although the traffickers manage to escape from the spot, police said that it was following the movement of the kingpin, who is believed to somewhere in Kokrajhar district. The girls belong to Dumni tea garden in Baksa district. The rescue operation was launched after family members of one of the girls intimated the team of BBA and the police about the developments. “The girls were rescue from Dumni outpost after which a case was also registered,” sources stated. Meanwhile, two more victims of trafficking and sexual abuse from Assam have decided to formally lodge complaint with the Delhi Police. The minor girls complained that before the BBA that they were sexually abused from time to time, said Rakesh Senger, director, BBA while talking to this newspaper. Senger said that BBA is providing all kind of assistance and support to the victims who were brought from Assam to New Delhi recently. He also informed that the BBA, in its effort to raise awareness level in various trafficking affected districts, will launch a mass awareness programme in the State from this month itself. (The Assam Tribune 4/1/16)

 

231. UP couple held for child trafficking (1)

New Delhi: With the arrest of a UP couple, Delhi Police claimed to have busted a child trafficking racket in the city. Cops said that the accused, Nazra and Sohail, used to abduct children from night shelters near Chandni Chowk and sell them to their conduits in Saudi Arabia. Cops rescued a four-year-old child on Wednesday. The victim had gone missing in August last year and was rescued before being sold to a Saudi couple for Rs 30,000.The incident first came to fore when the child’s parents, Chandu and Jubeda, reached the Kotwali police station to report his abduction to the cops. Locals in Chandni Chowk claimed to have seen a woman abducting the child. “A team led by SHO Kotwali, Parmod Kumar, tracked down the woman. She revealed the boy was also to be sold to someone,” said Madhur Verma, DCP, north. The woman, Nazra, was traced to a village near Meerut two months later. The team stayed for about four days in the area to find the whereabouts of the child even as the kidnappers kept changing their locations to evade the cops. Local police teams were also informed about the movement of Nazra. During interrogation, she admitted to the role of an associate, Mohammad Sohail. She claimed that the child was sold off to another trafficker, Fukran, who would hand him over to Saudi “dealers”.Police said that the children abducted were flown to Saudi Arabia with couple posing as their parents. Later, they were kept as bonded labourers. A case under section 370 of IPC has been registered against Nazra and Sohail. Efforts were being made to nab Fukran. Police suspect they had committed similar crimes elsewhere too. (Times of India 8/1/16)

 

232. Tribal couple held for trafficking in Giridih (1)

DHANBAD: A group of villagers on Friday morning caught a tribal couple from Jhalakdiha village, 15km from Giridih town, for alleged involvement in human trafficking on Friday morning. Pavindra Kisku, 28, and Nikitmuni Hemram, 26, of Gandey, were handed over to the local police by late afternoon. Police said the couple targeted uneducated youth and minors to take them to Delhi, Mumbai or other big cities and over 50 villagers were sent by them in the past few years. Most of the victims are said to be minors belonging to the tribal communities of the district. “Both have confessed their crime and revealed that they were in the business of trafficking for more than five years. They had recently transported 8 minors from different villages under Taratand PS areas of Gandey block,” said the Giridih DSP, Vijay A Kujur, adding that the couple were getting paid heavily from the concerned middlemen or the agencies. “A case of human trafficking has been lodged against the couple with Taratand PS in this connection,” Kujur said. Around 10am on Friday a few villagers saw a couple wandering in the locality. The villagers, after getting suspicious about them, confined the duo for a few hours and informed the local police. “Soon after getting information, we visited the site. As most of their crime was related to the different villages of Gandey, they were further handed over to the Taratand PS for further probe,” said muffasil PS in-charge, Ajay Kumar Sahu. (Times of India 16/1/16)

 

233. MEA had flagged human trafficking issue in 2014 report (1)

Jalandhar: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement had recently revealed that there were 920 Indian detainees in US jails. The information was provided following queries posted to the US department by North American Punjabi Association (NAPA). NAPA executive director Satnam Singh Chahal said they apprehended that most of them were Punjabis and victims of illegal human trafficking. When 22 Punjabi youths were released from a jail in Miami, US, in August it was revealed that 68 more Indians, mostly Punjabis, were confined in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s contract detention centre at Tacoma (Seattle) in Washington State. The arrest dates for these individuals varied widely. “Punjab state administration was failing to check illegal human trafficking even as the issue had been confronting it for several years. We raised this issue with the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and it put this on record in Action Taken Report of September 2014. But nothing was done by the Indian government,” said Chahal. The ATR, while mentioning the issue of refugees, economic refugees, especially from Punjab, noted, “This issue is basically a result of the human trafficking from northern states/UT’s, especially Punjab, Delhi, and Chandigarh etc as persons from these areas move to destinations like USA and Canada illegally and get detained in refugee camps. This issue has been flagged by North American Punjabi Association.” (Times of India 19/1/16)

 

234. Chaos in data a key challenge in fighting slavery and trafficking (1)

New Delhi: International organisations working to tackle slavery and trafficking have a daunting task ahead due to lack of consensus on uniform definition of slavery and a global number to assess the problem worldwide. While the International Labour Organisation (ILO) data estimates that there are 21 million people in the condition of modern day slavery across the globe, Walk Free, an international organisation working to end contemporary slavery and human trafficking puts the figure at 36 million. According to Nick Grono, head of the Freedom Fund, world’s first private donor fund dedicated to ending slavery, measuring the issue is crucial to mobilise resources and to be able to document whether the efforts taken by the organisations to end slavery are making a difference or not. “Data is a powerful a tool to push your governments. When the global slavery index identified India as a government which has large population of slaves, the leading Indian newspaper criticised the government saying that the country that was seeking to become the world superpower got this massive system of exploitation. This is an example of why it is important to measure, contrast, and compare and draw attention to these things,” Grono told HT on the sidelines of Trust Women Conference held in London. Grono was earlier with the Walk Free Foundation that puts out the Global Slavery Index. The 2014 Index estimates India and Pakistan alone account for over 45% of total global enslaved population and have highest prevalence of modern slavery in Asia. The report says, “India’s modern slavery challenges are immense. Across India’s population of over 1.2 billion people, modern slavery occurs in brick kilns, carpet weaving, embroidery and other textile manufacturing, forced prostitution, agriculture, domestic servitude, mining, and organised begging rings. Labour is particularly prevalent throughout India with families enslaved for generations.” A man passing by a wall carrying anti-trafficking message in Jharkhand’s Gumla district (India). (Vipin Kumar/ Hindustan Times) Surveys done at different points of time, no uniform definitions and different methodologies adopted by various institutes are key reasons for confusing numbers. Experts believe that the lack of uniform data not only makes it difficult to fight slavery, wrong classification can end up harming the vulnerable population than helping them. The ILO acknowledges that discrepancy in figures is an issue. The International Conference for Labour Statistics, under the ILO, is working on operational definitions for forced labour and expects the process to be complete by 2018, said Leanne Melnyk, technical officer, forced labour and trafficking, ILO. “There has been an international recognition that we do need to have a common understanding of how to do nation- wide surveys on forced labour,” said Melnyk. According to Matt Friedman, CEO, The Mekong Club, part of the problem is that unlike HIV/ AIDS and poverty, trafficking, donor agencies never paid attention to issues related to human trafficking. “Two decades ago, when we went to donor communities asking for data, we would hear responses such as we don’t have time for data collection and research or it is too time consuming and expensive, we got to help those people right now. We should have acted back then,” said Friedman. (Hindustan Times 20/1/16)

 

235. CBI to probe abuse at Trichy home (1)

MADURAI: Anti-human trafficking activism got a shot in the arm on Wednesday , when the Madurai bench of the Madras high court asked the CBI to probe allegations of child trafficking and abuse against an unauthorised children’s home Mose Ministries in Trichy where 89 girls were recently found housed in violation of every norm governing homes for rescued children. A division bench of Justice V Ramasubramanian and Justice N Kirubakaran asked the joint director of CBI to appoint an officer of the rank of deputy superintendent of police, preferably a woman officer, specialized in anti-human trafficking case, and investigate allegations of trafficking as well as abuse. The team should also take the help of a team of experts from NIMHANS, Bengaluru, to counsel the children and liberate them from any obsessive mindset, if any. After this, they should ascertain from the children whether they had been abused. As most children reportedly belong to Usilam patti in Madurai district, the team should visit hospitals in that region and consult doctors and nurses to find out the adoption methods employed by the institution to take in the children. Some parents have submitted petitions to the collector claiming the children in the home were theirs. DNA tests shall be conducted on such parents and children to ascertain the claims, the judges said. They added that there was prima facie reason to believe children in Mose Ministries Home were trafficked or held against their will. Authorities of the home, however, claimed the children were either deserted by their parents or orphaned and didn’t know anything about their background. The fact that records pertaining to the children were missing made it murkier. The order has come on a PIL filed by director of ChangeIndia A Narayanan claiming that 89 girls in the home were being held in violation of human rights and provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act. (Times of India 21/1/16)

 

236. HC orders CBI probe into trafficking in unauthorised girls’ home (1)

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here on Wednesday ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the affairs of an unauthorised girls’ home run by Tiruchi-based Mose Ministries, which claimed to have sourced all its 89 inmates, including 35 minors, from Usilampatti near here after rescuing them from female infanticide since 1994. Passing interim orders on a public interest litigation petition, Justices V. Ramasubramanian and N. Kirubakaran directed the Joint Director, CBI, Chennai, to depute a team led by an officer in the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, specialised in anti-human trafficking issues, to hold “an investigation into allegations of trafficking as well as abuse.” Suggesting that the investigating team could comprise lady officers to the extent possible, the judges said: “The team so nominated shall take the assistance of a team of experts from National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, to speak to the children, counsel them and first liberate them from any obsessive mindset if they have.” They also ordered that the investigators should make enquiries with doctors and nurses employed at hospitals in Usilampatti to find out the modus operandi adopted by the home for procuring the children besides arranging for DNA test on people who had claimed to be the parents of some of the inmates after the filing of the case. Directing the investigating team to file a status report in the court by the second week of April, the judges made it clear that a committee appointed by them under the chairmanship of Tiruchi Collector on December 7, after overthrowing the management led by Pastor Gideon Jacob of Mose Ministries, shall continue to administer the home until further orders. They also directed the pastor to deposit Rs.4 lakh, apart from Rs.6 lakh already deposited by him as ordered last month, with the committee for managing the home since he had taken the children in batches to Germany and Poland, using passports obtained through “dubious” methods and on the strength of guardianship certificates issued by some government officials, to raise donations. Though the pastor had feigned ignorance about the parentage of the inmates and claimed that all of them had been abandoned by their parents on the doorsteps of his institution in Usilampatti, the Tiruchi District Social Welfare claimed that her subordinates had recently laid their hands on a register that contained details of the parents. Hence, the judges directed CBI to utilise those documents. In the order passed last month, the judges said that they were not inclined to order immediate closure of the home and shift the inmates to other authorised homes. (The Hindu 21/1/16)

 

237. CB-CID arrests five for forcing girl into prostitution (1)

CHENNAI: The Crime Branch CID police on Thursday arrested five persons, including two women, who forced a girl into prostitution after promising her good employment. According to an official release, a juvenile girl who was compelled into commercial sex was rescued by the Anti Trafficking Cell of the CB-CID in 2014. She was lodged in a home where another inmate promised to help her in getting a good job. The victim escaped from the home and met the woman who along with others forced her into prostitution again. The accused Fathima, her mother Saira Banu, Senthil, Jayaraj and Mahendran, staff of a guesthouse in Kovalam, were arrested. (The Hindu 22/1/16)

 

238. 3 minor girls ‘trafficked’ to Delhi (1)

Gumla: Three minor girls, including one from Kasturba Gandhi Girls School in Gumla, are suspected to have been sold by traffickers in Delhi and other places. The matter came to light when the parents of the girls lodged a complaint with the district child welfare committee (CWC) fearing that the traffickers had sold their daughters after luring them with false promises. The CWC will refer the complaint to the district anti- human trafficking unit (AHTU) for registering a case against traffickers, who are already in jail in another case, on Monday. “Deosar Lohra, the father of the girls, has lodged a complaint that two sisters one studying in Class VIII at Kasturba Gandhi Girls School, Baghima (Palkot) and her younger sibling studying in the Sarubeda Primary School under Palkot police station in the district were allegedly trafficked to Delhi and sold there by two traffickers Sudarshan Singh and his wife Lalita Devi,” said CWC member Alakh Narayan Singh. The trafficker duo, who happen to be the distant relatives of Lohra, had visited his house in August last year and suggested to him to send his daughters to Delhi where they would earn money and support him, Singh said. Though Lohra did not agree, both minor girls were lured to Delhi within a couple of days. Since then both are traceless. When Lohra contacted the trafficker, they kept telling him that they were working in Delhi and would return soon. Lohra now suspects that his daughters were sold by the traffickers. Ultimately, Lohra approached CWC, added Singh. In another incident, a minor girl from Baghima-Semra village under Palkot police station is traceless for last 11 years, her father Jhaman Lohra has stated in his complaint. When she was 6-7 years old, she was trafficked to Delhi or some other city by traffickers, Jhaman suspects, according to Singh. “About 150 cases of human trafficking and missing persons, which were later converted into trafficking cases were registered with Gumla CWC while about 50 of them were rescued in 2015,” said CWC chairperson Tagren Panna. In 2015 , a total of 88 cases of human trafficking were filed with Gumla AHTU, according to SP Bhimsen Tuti. (Times of India 24/1/16)

 

239. Many rescued kids not on Jharkhand cops’ missing list (1)

Ranchi: More than 75% of the children recently rescued by the state police were from Jharkhand, a hub of inter-state child trafficking, and a majority of them were not on the cops’ missing list, according to police’s Operation Muskan-II figures. Anti-human trafficking activist Baijnath Kumar said this showed how reluctantly the police pursued the missing child cases as many of the rescued children were not on their list. “They are just not serious about missing children. Barring a few, still many policemen in rural areas do not want to lodge FIRs in child-related cases,” he said. At least 249 were rescued during the operation, which was launched in the end of December by the police with a list of 464 missing children. The operation was carried out by 10 teams comprising about 100 policemen. Out of the rescued, 188 were found working in factories and garages within the state. According to figures with the state police, more than 1000 Jharkhand children have been reported missing since 2000. But, nobody knows how many have been rescued so far, the activists said. Member of the state child labour commission Sanjay Mishra said, “The police are rescuing children, but not fining the employers or taking any actions against them…this itself shows the lack of awareness (and interest).” The Jharkhand police had launched Operation Muskan-I in 2015, first in April and second in July and had rescued about 248 children then. Inspector general (Organized Crime) Sampat Meena admitted the fact and said it was possible that the children were not properly searched in the past. She said that only “some of the rescued children during the operations were found in the police record of missing children here…there was a lack of awareness and sensitivity among policemen at the ground level, which is gradually changing.” However, she said that things were moving in a positive direction after the policemen were sensitised about the child rights and the importance handling the cases related to the missing children. (Hindustan Times 25/1/16)

 

CORRUPTION

240. No minister should hold post in BCCI: Lodha panel (5)

NEW DELHI: Justice Lodha Committee’s report has recommended a host of reforms for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Monday. Here are ten of the recommendations: 1. Legalize betting. The panel felt that the move would help curb corruption in the game and recommended that except for players and officials, people should be allowed to place bets on registered sites. 2. Separate governing bodies for IPL and BCCI and one association of each state will be a full member of BCCI and have a right to vote. 3. The chief governing body in the IPL will be known as the governing council, which will comprise nine members. The secretary and the treasurer of the BCCI will be ex-officio members of this IPL governing council. Two other members of the IPL governing council will be nominated/elected by the full members. Of the remaining five, two will be the nominees of franchises, one will be a representative of the players association (so one needs to be formed), one will a nominee of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s office. 4. The panel gave a clean chit to former IPL COO Sundar Raman in connection with the 2013 spot-fixing and betting scandal, citing lack of evidence against him. 5. A robust agent registration system to safeguard players and there will be a steering committee to include Mohinder Amarnath, former India women’s captain Diana Eduljee, and Anil Kumble. They will take up matter with BCCI for formation of players’ association in light of suggestions from the report. 6. Three other authorities which will have a distinct role: a. An ombudsman, whose task is to preside over the internal dispute resolution mechanism in the BCCI, grievances regarding access to stadiums and ticket selling process can also be brought before the ombudsman by anyone. The ombudsman should be a judge of the supreme court or a retired judge of the high court. b. The second authority is an ethics officer whose task is to administer the issues relating to the conflict of interest, misdemeanour, misbehaviour or corruption issues. The ethics officer proposed by Lodha would be a former high court judge. c. The third authority proposed is an electoral officer who will oversee the entire BCCI election process relating to the office bearers, namely preparation of voters list, publication, disputes over eligibility of the office bearers … all these matters relating to election shall be overseen by the electoral officer. The electoral officer will be nominated at least two weeks before the date of election, and such electoral officer should be a former election commissioner of India. 7. The office bearers of BCCI – president, VP, secretary, joint secretary and treasurer, certain eligibility criteria has been fixed like, he must be an Indian, he must not be above age of 70, he must not be insolvent, he must not be a minister or a government servant, and who has not held office in the BCCI for a cumulative period for nine years. … (Times of India 4/1/16)

 

241. Rs 80-Lakh Fraud Found in Yogam Scheme (5)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a major setback to SNDP general secretary Vellappally Natesan, the Vigilance has unearthed irregularities of Rs 80.3 lakh in the Yogam’s micro finance scheme. The Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau on Wednesday submitted before the Vigilance court here that they came across the irregularities during the investigation. The Vigilance legal advisor said this during the hearing of the case filed by Opposition leader V S Achuthananadan against Natesan, the first accused and three others, seeking an inquiry into the alleged corruption in the scheme. The court asked the Vigilance to submit the report in a sealed cover. The next hearing is scheduled for Jan 11. The Vigilance informed that it had recommended a departmental inquiry against Backward Development Corporation former MD Najeeb. But no action was taken against him as he had retired from service, the legal advisor told the court. Advocate S Chandrashekaran Nair appearing for VS filed more documents in the case. The other accused are SNDP president M N Soman, SNDP Yogam micro finance state coordinator K K Mashean and Najeeb. (New Indian Express 7/1/16)

 

242. Corruption leeches funds from CSR projects in tribal areas (5)

Even as the State government strives to align corporate funds with its developmental activities, the Maharashtra Lokayukta has been receiving a steady stream of complaints from tribal pockets around Mumbai alleging diversion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds. Following complaints of leakages and corruption at the village and taluka level, especially in tribal gram sabhas and gram panchayats on the city’s periphery, the Lokayukta this week issued orders for FIRs to be filed against officials, gram sabha and gram panchayat heads for diverting and siphoning off CSR funds meant for development work in Thane and Palghar districts. Based on the Lokayukta’s orders, Palghar police have registered an FIR against four persons including two engineers, a gram sevak and the sarpanch of Akarpatti gram panchayat, but are yet to make arrests. “We are awaiting the final report form the Lokayuta, following which we will take further action in the case,” a senior IPS officer told The Hindu on Friday. Engineers and officials of the Akarpatti gram panchayat came under the scanner after a Lokayukta investigation established that Rs 58 lakh of CSR funds meant for road works in villages was siphoned off. The CSR initiative in Palghar was being undertaken by the Nuclear Power Corporation Limited (NPCL) for construction of roads in the remote regions of Dahanu taluka . “Massive irregularities were found in road works carried out by Meghana Enterprises. While much of the road work was never done, Rs 21.78 lakh was pocketed by the gram sevaks and sarpanch with the help of the engineers. We have ordered an FIR after hearing all sides. There is very little monitoring of CSR funds in the village areas, and the system must be improved by various auditing mechanisms,” a Lokayukta official said. Activists working in the region say in the absence of sustained funding from the government for local works, CSR activities are a much-needed relief to complete smaller projects like construction of small check dams and storage tanks, which provide donations of labour or borrowings. However, none of these are monitored efficiently by district authorities. Forest rights activist Milind Thatte said, “In Thane and Palghar districts, development is a continuous process carried out with the help of local people and non-profit organisations working with CSR funds in the area. There is little or no monitoring of how these funds are being spent.” On Friday, the Governor met over 30 major corporate houses and leaders to invite investment in sectors where the government could need help., including tribal development, forest conservation, education and Internet penetration in rural areas. Finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the government will highlight such areas for private and public sectors to invest. (The Hindu 9/1/16)

 

243. Allegations against Jaitley based on facts: Kejriwal to HC (5)

New Delhi: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal today claimed that the allegations he had made against Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the DDCA row were based on “true facts and documents in public domain” and that his claim he has high public character was “frivolous”.Responding to a notice issued by the Delhi High Court on a civil defamation suit by Jaitley against him and five other AAP leaders, Kejriwal said in a statement filed before the court registrar that he had made the allegations in public interest to eradicate corruption from sports. Senior advocate H S Phoolka, lawyer for Kejriwal, said the chief minister has said in a written statement that “the allegations are true and have been in public domain for last many years. “The venture (DDCA) did not take any steps to challenge these allegations for all this period. It raises a presumption of truthfulness of these allegations,”  he claimed. Phoolka told reporters that “the allegations are made in public interest to eradicate corruption from the field of sports”.AAP’s senior leader and party spokesperson, Raghav Chadha, also filed his response to the notice. Elaborating on the contents of his reply, he claimed that no injury has been caused to the reputation of Jaitley. He maintained that he and the Chief Minister have a similar stand  and said that Jaitley’s “claim that he enjoys a high public character is totally frivolous and unsustainable.” “The last time he contested the election to the Lok Sabha was from Amritsar as a BJP candidate in 2014. Despite the success of the BJP, this plaintiff lost by a margin of more than 1,00,000 votes. Indian democracy has never accepted his claim of public character,” they said in their reply. The High Court on December 22 last year had sought the response of Kejriwal, Chadha, Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Deepak Bajpai–on a civil defamation suit by Jaitley seeking Rs 10 crore in damages from them for issuing allegedly false and defamatory statements against him and his family. Phoolka said they have submitted over 2000 pages of documents along with three CDs in support of the allegations. It is learnt they have annexed Delhi and District Cricket Association’s (DDCA) annual meeting notings which as per the AAP leaders establishes the allegations against Jaitley.  They have also submitted DDCA’s minutes of meetings and phone records, Phoolka said. The counsel said that Kejriwal has questioned why BJP MP Kirti Azad was not made a party to the suit. Jaitley’s action had come in the backdrop of attacks on him by Kejriwal and other AAP leaders over alleged irregularities and financial bunglings in DDCA of which he was the president for about 13 years till 2013. The minister has also filed a criminal defamation complaint in a Delhi court against Kejriwal and the five AAP leaders for making false allegations about financial irregularities in DDCA. In his suit, Jaitley has said Kejriwal and other AAP leaders, with common intention, have from December 15, 2015, “undertaken a false, malicious and defamatory campaign against him and his family members for political mileage causing irreversible damage to him”.It was done to deflect issues from an unrelated search during investigation by CBI of a bureaucrat in the secretariat of the Delhi government based on a complaint by a third party, Jaitley has said. (Deccan Herald 12/1/16)

 

244. Corruption was ‘embedded’ in IAAF: WADA report (5)

MUNICH: IAAF leaders must have been aware of the full extent of doping in Russia but did nothing to stop it, and the track and field organization itself was riddled by corruption, a report by a World Anti-Doping Agency panel said on Thursday. “It is increasingly clear that far more IAAF staff knew about the problems than has currently been acknowledged,” said the report, written by former WADA head Dick Pound and presented at a news conference in Munich. “It is not credible that elected officials were unaware of the situation affecting … athletics in Russia. If, therefore, the circle of knowledge was so extensive why was nothing done? Quite obviously there was no appetite on the part of the IAAF to challenge Russia.” The report added, “The corruption was embedded in the organization. It cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributable to the odd renegade acting on its own.” The report laid considerable blame at the feet of the IAAF Council, the overseeing body that included the now president of the IAAF, Sebastian Coe. Coe was in the audience as Pound presented his findings. The report said council members “could not have been unaware of the level of nepotism that operated within the IAAF,” and also “could not have been unaware of the extent of doping.” The report found that former IAAF president Lamine Diack “was responsible for organizing and enabling the conspiracy and corruption” that took place at IAAF. It said Diack “sanctioned and appears to have had personal knowledge of the fraud and the extortion of athletes.” Pound’s first report, issued in November, detailed a state-sponsored doping program in Russia involving corruption and cover-ups. That led the IAAF to suspend Russia’s track and field federation, leaving its athletes in danger of missing this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. (The Hindu 14/1/16)

 

245. Need to change Whistleblowers Act to protect witnesses: CVC (5)

New Delhi: There is a need to bring some provisions in Whistleblowers Act to protect witnesses that would provide confidence to those who expose corruption, Central Vigilance Commissioner K V Chowdary said here on Monday. He also emphasised upon making public aware on the procedure to file complaints under Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informer (PIDPI), widely known as whistleblower resolution. Chowdary said a whistleblower is the one who has the direct and personal information or leads which are very useful in an investigation. “In my view it is only that category of people need to be brought into the whistleblower not anybody and everybody who files petition. “The other important thing and I am concerned more about is the witness protection. The witness is a person or an expert is a person who stake their life. They stand in a witness box and tell the truth. They tell the truth that could lead to a conviction,” he said addressing a roundtable interaction with Chief Vigilance Officers of public sector undertakings and Chief Compliance Officers of private companies. Chowdary said witnesses may have to face consequences whether it is a criminal case or civil. “We need to bring some provisions in our Whistleblowers Act which would have an overriding effect on the Evidence Act…Some mechanism unless we bring in, it may be difficult to give confidence to whistleblowers or witnesses,” he said. There is a need to apply some filters as to who needs protection under the PIDPI or whistleblowers Act “not anybody and everybody who files petition” should get it, he added. “This is not relevant for public sector alone. In the private sector also, there is a huge amount of whistleblowing which needs to be answered,” the CVC said. He said there is a need to make people aware as to how to file complaint under PIDPI resolution. “Not only we need to make these laws, but we need to take these to people and then guide them how these should be used. How to make it so that people do get the benefit and they don’t take the backlash of making the complaint,” Chowdary said. Parvez Hayat, President of Vigilance Study Circle (Delhi and NCR), said private companies need to focus on having forensic tools to check corruption and illegal practices there. “The companies need to focus how to check misuse of technology to prevent illegal activities,” he said in the event organised by Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) (Asian Age 18/1/16)

 

246. Coal Scam: Ex-MoS Coal Dilip Ray, 5 Others Summoned as Accused (5)

NEW DELHI: Dilip Ray, who was Union Minister of State for Coal during the erstwhile NDA government in 1999, has been summoned as an accused along with five others in connection with a coal block allocation case by a Special Court here. Ray is the first minister of the NDA government who has been summoned as an accused in a coal scam case.  Besides Ray, the court has also summoned Pradip Kumar Banerjee, who was the then Additional Secretary in Ministry of Coal (MoC), Nitya Nand Gautam, who was the then advisor (projects) in MOC, Castron Technologies Ltd, its director Mahendra Kumar Agarwalla and Castron Mining as accused in the case.   The case pertains to the alleged irregularities in allocation of Brahmadiha coal block in Giridih in Jharkhand to Castron Technologies Ltd in 1999. Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar summoned these four persons and the two firms for the alleged offences under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) and 409 (Criminal breach of trust) of IPC and under the relevant provisions of Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act. The court summoned these accused after taking cognizance of CBI’s charge sheet filed against them in the case.  In its order, the court said there were “prima facie” enough evidence to summon them as accused in the case.  “The public servants, in fact, actively connived with private parties involved so as to facilitate misappropriation of nationalised natural resources of the country by them,” the judge said in its order.   (New Indian Express 18/1/16)

 

247. ACB Unearths Rs 10 Crore Assets in Raid on Excise Official’s House (5)

HYDERABAD: A 55-year-old assistant commissioner of excise and prohibition, currently working as chief manager of APBCL in West Godavari was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) for amassing illegal assets worth of Rs 10 crore. On a tip off, the ACB officials carried out simultaneous raids on the house of Mamillapalli Adiseshu, assistant commissioner, Excise & Prohibition, presently working as Chief Manager, APBCL, Chagallu, West Godavari district located at Hyderabad and found illegal assets. The ACB officials also raided the houses of accused officer’s friends and relatives located in various places and seized documents. During the searches, one flat at Vijayawada, eight plots at Kakinada of East Godavari district, Bikkavolu of West Godavari district and Nallapadu of Guntur district, 17 land documents for the extent of 22.65 acres, cash of Rs 2.82 lakh were recovered at his residence, bank balance in different banks for Rs 28 lakhs, FDRs for Rs 5.5. lakh, one Honda car, one Pulser bike, gold 540 gram and silver 2.5 kg, 24 promissory notes for Rs 30 lakhs together with blank cheques, were found. Apart from these illegal assets, some promissory notes found are to be calculated and two lockers yet to be opened. Searches are going on. Assets and cash worth about Rs 1.50 crores of disproportionate assets were unearthed. The current market value of seized assets is said to be Rs 10 crore. The accused officer Adiseshu was arrested by the ACB officials and produced in court. (New Indian Express 21/1/16)

 

248. Bar bribery scandal: Kerala excise minister K Babu resigns (5)

Thrissur: Kerala excise minister K Babu, who has been facing corruption charges over a bar bribery case submitted his resignation to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. The resignation was put forth by the minister after the court ordered the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau to register a case against him. The Vigilance Court also ordered that the first report in the case should be filed by February 22. The order was issued by Thrissur Vigilance Court Judge S S Vasan, who criticised the Vigilance for the slow progress in filing Quick Verification Report (QVR) ordered earlier by the court. After submitting his resignation to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Babu said he was victim of ‘conspiracy’ by bar owners with support of CPI-M. The court also ordered that a case be registered against Biju Ramesh, bar hotelier, who had levelled the bribery allegations against the Minister. Biju Ramesh, also the Working President of Kerala Bar Owners Association, had alleged that Rs 10 crore was given to Babu for renewal of licences of liquor bars. Babu will be the second state minister to be booked by the vigilance over the bar bribery charges after the then Finance Minister K M Mani who quit in November last following adverse remarks by the High Court against him in the matter. The allegation against former Finance Minister KM Mani was that he received a bribe of Rs 1crore from Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association (KBHA) for allowing renewal of bar licences between March 20, 2014 and April 3, 2014 while Babu was accused of receiving Rs 10 crore from KBHA for not raising the annual fees of bar licensees. Responding to the court directive, Opposition leader V S Achutanandan sought Babu’s resignation immediately. “Babu should resign without any delay”, he demanded. In the present case, the Vigilance had sought one more month’s time to complete the QVR, which was to have been submitted today. The court granted time to file the first report by February 22, but made it clear that a case should be registered and probe conducted. The probe will be monitored by the court. The court also expressed displeasure at the contention of the Vigilance that the transfer of an SP was one of the reasons for the delay in completing the report. The judge wanted to know if the Vigilance had taken evidence from Babu and whether his home and assets had been searched for the alleged bribe amount. It was based on the charge by Ramesh that the Vigilance had filed a case against Mani, who is the supremo of UDF partner Kerala Congress (M). (Asian Age 24/1/16)

 

249. Solar scam: FIR ordered against Kerala CM; Left wants him to quit, he says no (5)

Thrissur: A court here on Thursday told Kerala’s vigilance department to file an FIR against Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on corruption charges in the solar panel scam. The Left immediately asked Chandy to resign. He refused to, saying he had done no wrong.The Thrissur Vigilance Court also directed a First Information Report to be registered against Power Minister Aryadan Mohammed. The direction followed a petition by activist P.D. Joseph after Saritha Nair, a key accused in the scam, told the judicial commission probing the matter that she gave Rs.1.90 crore in bribes to Chandy. She said on Wednesday that this done in two instalments and was part of the Rs.7 crore bribe demanded by Chandy through his then staff member Jikumon. Saritha Nair said she also paid Rs.40 lakh to minister Mohammed. In response to the court’s direction, Chandy told reporters in Malappuram that he had a clear conscience. “I have done no wrong. I will face the probe and cooperate with it,” he said. Asked if would resign, Chandy shot back: “For what?” His ministerial colleague Mohammad also said: “We have done no wrong. I will cooperate with the investigation that has been ordered.” Meanwhile, CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told reporters that Chandy has to quit immediately. “The court has made its intentions clear through the FIR, and Chandy has only one way now to go forward and that is to quit at the earliest,” said the Communist Party of India-Marxist leader. The scam erupted in 2013 when a fradulent company, Team Solar, allegedly used two women to weave political contacts and duped several influential people of large sums of money by offering to make them business partners or by setting up solar panels. Sources close to Chandy told IANS that he was speaking to lawyers to prepare a legal response. The corruption allegations threaten to derail the Congress-led United Democratic Front’s (UDF) bid to retain power in assembly elections to be held this year. Congress leader and former Kerala chief minister A.K. Antony and party president Sonia Gandhi are reported to have discussed the issue along with Mukul Wasnik, who is in charge of the party affairs in the state. State Congress president V.M. Sudheeran has held talks with Gandhi while Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala has cancelled all his programmes for the day. (Zee News 28/1/16)

 

250. ACB to file Chhagan Bhujbal chargesheet in a month (5)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau on Thursday informed the Bombay high court that it would file chargesheet in connection with disproportionate assets case against NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal within a month. The division bench of Justice V.M. Kanade and Justice Revati Mohite Dere also directed the Enforcement Directorate to take action against directors of companies who are not cooperating in investigation. The judges asked the agency to take action after it stated before the court that a few of the directors are not cooperating in the investigation. The bench was hearing a PIL filed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seeking registration of FIR against Bhujbal. The ACB had in June last year registered two FIRs against him. On Thursday the bench asked both the agencies, ACB and ED, to file progress report in four weeks on their investigation against Bhujbal and his family members. The bench said in cases where the allegations are serious in nature and are levelled against people holding important positions, monitoring is necessary. During hearing the ACB informed the court it would file the chargesheet against Bhujbal and his family members in a month. The chargesheet would be filed in two cases where these people are facing charges of involvement in Maharashtra Sadan scam and Kalina land grabbing case. The first one was related to alleged irregularities in allotment of a prime plot at Kalina in Mumbai to a developer. The second case was for alleged rampant corruption and large-scale irregularities in the construction of the new Maharashtra Sadan, the state government’s guesthouse in Delhi. The ACB further informed the court that in three allegations against Bhujbal, the agency has not found any material that discloses FIR. Another case was registered by Navi Mumbai police concerning a housing project scam wherein `44 crore were collected from over 2,000 people for houses in a project ‘Hex World’, promoted by a realty firm owned by the Bhujbal family. Meanwhile the ED reiterated before the court that it has registered two Economic Case Information Reports (ECIR) against Bhujbal under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) but it can go ahead with the investigation and file an FIR only after the ACB files its chargesheet. (Asian Age 29/1/16)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

251. Vehicles contribute most to air pollution (9)

PUNE: The city’s air quality could soon be as bad as that in Delhi, courtesy heavy vehicular emission.

According to the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) data, the city’s air pollution has increased by 35.7% since 2010. The percentage of pollutants in the air from vehicular emission has increased manifold as compared to that from other sources. Poor monsoon last year and below normal minimum temperature are also responsible for poor air quality in the city of late. Expressing concern about the rising pollution in Delhi, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis underlined the need for new green technologies and reigning in vehicular emission during his speech at an Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) event in the city on Sunday . “The major cause of pollution in Pune is transport. Its emission has increased by 1215% in the past three years,” sa id System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) programme director and IITM scientist Gufran Beig. “Also, since the minimum temperature in both Pune and Mumbai were very low – lower than expected, the air quality level deteriorated,” he said. Beig explained that emission levels were proportional -though not directly proportional -to the air pollution. If the emission level could be reduced, pollution would also decrease, he said. Mangesh Dighe, the environment officer of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), said, “The level of pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter below 2.5 microns is higher than the prescribed level in the city .They have increased over the years. Vehicular emission -the source of particulate matter 2.5 -pollutes the city the most. The 2.5 particulate matters are dangerous because they could enter deep into lungs and cause health hazards.” “The dust particles or particulate matter 10 is also high in the city and above the prescribed level,” he added. .. (Times of India 5/1/16)

 

252. Biodiversity database for smart city initiative to be launched soon (9)

MYSURU: A biodiversity database for urban India will be prepared for better species diversity management, dovetailed to the smart city initiative. The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow, has made a proposal in this regard to its parent organisation, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which has given its consent. Speaking to presspersons on the sidelines of the Indian Science Congress (ISC) here, Sudarshan Kumar, Senior Principal Scientist and Head, Bioinformatics and ICT of NBRI, Lucknow, said the database would be launched in three months. He said the core infrastructure of a smart city demands sustainable environment and health, and the portal will be helpful in this regard. “The prototype of the web portal has been launched and from the ongoing ISC session, ideas have been generated by the participants that would be developed over the next three months,” said Prof. Kumar. Each city has its own biodiversity, but the details should be made known to the public and local authorities as to how best to manage it, he said. The portal will help identify as to which species would be suitable for growing in a particular environment. The CSIR has agreed that the portal on biodiversity would be one of the three priority areas of the NBRI, said Prof. Kumar. To start with, the NBRI will upload the published database pertaining to the local biodiversity of each city, including the varieties of plants and trees that are endemic to it. Local universities and members of the public can also submit details, which will be uploaded in the database after authentication by NBRI experts. Besides containing the database, the portal will also be an attempt to help the public and local bodies in enabling them to make the best choice for local plantation. This project will be one of the core outputs for the smart city initiative from the CSIR, he said. (The Hindu 7/1/16)

 

253. IBM to help Delhi tackle air pollution (9)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi government has roped in technology major IBM to study and collect data on the effect of vehicular traffic on the quality of air in a bid to tackle rising air pollution levels in the national capital. IBM will join hands with Delhi Dialogue Commission (DDC), a think tank of the state government, for a three month pilot programme that will provide the government with relevant insights and recommend suitable policies to improve air quality of the city where air pollution levels have shot up to ‘severe’ warning category. “Vehicular traffic and dust are two main sources of pollution in the national capital. The study will help policy makers come up with ways to deal with it,” said Ramesh Gopinath, vice president and chief technology officer of IBM Research, India. IBM will put sensors in several locations across the city to collect data. It will also use satellite monitoring technologies to identify other sources of pollution apart from vehicular traffic and dust.Gopinath said IBM’s partnership with DDC will “provide greater insight about the complex and dynamic nature of air pollution in the city and help identify sustainable methods for improving the outlook in the short and long term.” DDC vice chairman Ashish Khetan said that to optimize the government’s action plan to tackle air pollution, it needs “accurate, real-time insight about the situation on the ground and a better understanding of how to respond in the most effective and sustainable way.” (Times of India 9/1/16)

 

254. A green world in Kerala’s laterite hills (9)

With ecological significance of these hills remaining unknown, Kanams are recorded as waste lands in revenue records and often assigned to development projects. Mining too is damaging this system. As the laterite hills are recorded as waste land since it is not productive for agriculture there is the tendency to allot these areas to large-scale projects, which leads to the destruction of the unique ecosystem, pointed out Dr. Sreejith Namboodiri from the Kerala Forest Research Institute in Thrissur. Realising the ecological relevance of the ecosystems supported by Kanams, which don’t enjoy any legal protection, a group of scientists of the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Kerala, have taken a green step to protect them. The team including Dr. Namboodiri and V. B. Sreekumar and two research scholars who surveyed and mapped some of the Kanams, have suggested a new concept known as Eco-Grove as the first step towards its classification and conservation. The concept was presented in an international conference on biodiversity. The team attempted to define the newly identified ecosystem which does not come under the ambit of any of the existing systems.  It is defined as man-made or natural systems dominated by trees and protected by an individual or community with or without any rituals or beliefs attached to them or law enforced by authorities. It is protected by locals who have realised the ecological significances of Kanams and services rendered by the system, explained a scientific paper by the researchers. The floral diversity of four Kanams (Kanayi, Vannathi, Easwaran, and Vattappoyil) in the Kavvayi River Basin caught the researchers by surprise. They were able to document 452 plant species in these four Kanams. Of these, 56 were endemic to the area and 35 were endemic to Western Ghats. They also reported that two endemic species recorded from these areas were classified as endangered and five as vulnerable to extinction in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. From Vattappoyil Kanam alone, they recorded the presence of 155 species of angiosperms, 52 species of birds, 86 species of butterflies, 22 species of reptiles, 17 amphibians, and 43 spiders. The presence of the rich diversity of flora and fauna indicated the importance of the unique ecosystem and called for urgent conservation measures. (The Hindu 10/1/16)

 

255. Tobacco Curing Causing Forest Degradation in Karnataka (9)

BENGALURU:  With an estimated seven lakh tons of fuelwood required for curing tobacco every year in Karnataka, more than 300 hectares of forest land are lost annually. Experts opine that tobacco cultivation is not only a big threat to environment but also likely to become a threat to food security with farmers in Mysuru-Hassan belt lately shifting to this cash crop. Recent studies have indicated that around 8 kg of fuel wood is required to cure 1 kg of tobacco leaves. Increasing demand for wood is a dangerous development which directly causes forest degradation and loss of bio diversity. Further, the forests in Mysuru district, which are adjacent to tobacco growing villages of Titimathi, Anechowkur and Kushalnagar (Dubare), are vulnerable and more prone to be disturbed by the farmers. The burden of tobacco on environment is enormous and the need for immediate action to protect the environment is imperative, says Mahesh of Karnataka Swaraj Jana Sangatan. He adds, “There is no control on cutting down of trees be it in forest or private lands in Hunsur, Periyapatna and other areas. In fact, the situation is alarming with trees being cut every day while reforestation is happening only on paper. The Forest Department is hand in glove with farmers even as they refuse to switch over to other methods of curing as they feel it is too expensive.” “In the past, there have been plenty of debates in the Lok Sabha where directives were sought to ban cutting of mature hard wood trees in the forest areas of Karnataka for tobacco curing as these verdant lands were becoming dry lands over a period of time. However, till date nothing has happened. So, we have been demanding that the State and the Centre come out with concrete steps to reduce tobacco production in the country,” says Mahesh. Rubbishing the experts’ reports on disappearance of forests in the state, Karnataka Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Vinay Luthra said, “At this rate, forests would have completely vanished.  Large amount of fuel wood comes from private lands while we do supply them Eucalyptus and Acacia wood from our depots that are in Mysuru, Periyapatna and other areas. In fact, we do not support this method of tobacco curing as the Indian Institute of Science has developed special chullahs (stoves) for curing tobacco which uses 20 per cent less firewood than normal chullahs. However, there is a need for educating farmers and launch awareness programmes to shift from tobacco to food crops.” Agriculture experts add that the government had already instructed the Agriculture Department to decrease the acreage in Mysuru, Hassan and Belagavi districts. The emphasis is on phased reduction in areas like Hunsur, Periyapatna, Arkalgud and Nippani. In this regard, the Mysuru Horticultural Division has already been making efforts to wean away tobacco farmers, which is not an easy task when one looks at the commercial advantages. .. (Indian Express 13/1/16)

 

256. Delhi gears up to weather higher pollution levels (9)

NEW DELHI: The first Monday after odd-even expectedly saw a rise in PM2.5 levels. System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) data till 6 pm pegged the average PM2.5 levels for Monday at 153 mg/m3. During the days when the odd-even scheme was in force, the daily average level was 113/m3. It subsequently fell to 96/m3 on Saturday, but started rising again from Sunday when it touched a daily average of 123 mg/m3. While, at present, the government is not operating its mobile air-monitoring units, which were recording data during the 15-day trial period, Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) will continue monitoring pollution levels at 200-odd places and prepare a report for the government in the next few months. “The SAFAR data is showing an increase, but since it is limited to 6 pm, it is only indicative. However, there are clear signs of pollution levels rising, especially in light of the delayed winter and a conducive wind pattern,” said sources. Met officials said a sudden drop in wind, which also resulted in a dense fog over Delhi, could have had a role to play. “Between January 13 and 16, Delhi was experiencing winds of 15-20 kmph during the day. Because of this, there was fog in the early-morning hours, which was converted to low clouds during the day. From January 17, the wind became calm. On Monday, especially, the wind was calm till about 10 am, which resulted in zero visibility in the western and southern parts of the IGI Airport. It picked up later but by 7 pm, it had dropped again significantly,” said Dr RK Jenamani, director in-charge, IGI Met. Going by the expected wind pattern and cloud cover over Delhi, Met department said there would be little respite from fog and smog till at least January 21 though it warned that the wind had been quite erratic so far. Weather conditions play a crucial part in determining the pollution levels.Monday’s maximum temperature was 19 degrees Celsius, one degree below normal, while the minimum came down to 6 degrees Celsius, one degree below normal. Jafarpur was the coldest area in the city with the lowest maximum and minimum temperatures for the day at 17.3 degrees Celsius and 4.7 degrees Celsius, respectively. (Times of India 18/1/16)

 

257. Government urged to initiate steps to conserve Kaanu forests (9)

Shivamogga:The Vrukshalaksha Andolana, Karnataka, an organisation for environment protection, has urged the State government to initiate measures to conserve the Kaanu forest in Malnad region. A team of experts comprising president of the andolana Ananth Hegde Ashisara, T.V. Ramachandra from the Indian Institute of Science and environmentalists Nagesh Hegde and Keshav Korse visited the Kaanu forests, adjacent to Baniga, Keshavapura, Batte Mallappa, Marutipura and Alageri Mandri villages in Hosanagar taluk, and the forest near Ulavi, Induvalli and Kaanbailu villages in Sorab taluk recently to study their present status. The teams held discussions with the officials of the Department of Forest and local farmers on the conservation of Kaanu forests. After visiting the villages, a meeting was held at Sagar on the conservation of Kaanu forests. In a press release issued here, Mr. Ashisara said that Kaanu was a unique type of forest that spread over the land belonging to the forest and revenue departments. The Kaanu forests were rich in bio-diversity, but were being encroached upon in recent times. A survey on the extent of Kaanu forests should be undertaken and their boundaries fixed. The work of digging trenches should be undertaken around the Kaanu forests to prevent further encroachment, he said. In the past, the Kaanu forests, also known as Devarakadu or sacred, groves were managed and conserved by local community. The Department of Forest should involve the local community in the conservation of Kaanu. The village forest committees should be formed in villages adjacent to Kaanu forests. Training should be given to local community on collecting the minor forest produce from Kaanu forests in a sustainable and scientific manner. The money available with local area development funds of MPs and MLAs should be used for fencing the Kaanu forests, planting saplings and rejuvenating the water bodies there, he said. (The Hindu 18/1/16)

 

258. India submits climate action performance report to UN body, says it cut carbon emission intensity by 12% in 5 years (9)

NEW DELHI: Just weeks after the Paris deal, India, on Friday, submitted its first Biennial Update Report (BUR) to a UN climate body highlighting that the country is well on course to fulfil its global commitment by voluntarily cutting its carbon emission intensity (emission per unit of GDP) by about 12% between 2005 and 2010. The result appears encouraging as it shows that the country is in line to reach its 20-25% reduction target by 2020 and subsequently the 33-35% emission intensity reduction goal by 2030 as promised by it in the country’s climate action plan to the UN body. The BUR was submitted by India under its obligation to inform the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) about its action on the ground to deal with the challenges of climate change. As per the provisions of the Convention, countries need to periodically provide information in the form of their “National Communication”.The Paris climate agreement, reached by 195 countries on December 13 last year, had called for developing countries to submit their first biennial update reports as soon as possible. So far, 24 developing countries including Brazil, South Africa and South Korea have submitted their BURs. China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is yet to submit its report. Brazil has submitted its report, but has given only provisional inventory. Developed countries, on the other hand, are required to submit a report known as the Biennial Report (BR), which is to be submitted every alternate year and is subjected to International Analysis and Review (IAR). But, the BURs of developing countries are subjected to an international process known as International Consultation and Analysis (ICA). It is a process that includes international scrutiny of BUR in a manner that is “non-intrusive, non-punitive and respectful of national sovereignty”. .. (Times of India 22/1/16)

 

259. Lack of environmental nod for metro area upsets MP panel (9)

Nagpur: Failure of Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) to get an environmental clearance for Nagpur Metropolitan Area’s (NMA) development plan has upset the parliamentary standing committee on environment and forests. It has decided to summon state’s principal secretary (urban development) to New Delhi and hold a hearing on this issue. Addressing a press conference on Sunday, committee chairman Bhupinder Singh, a Rajya Sabha MP from Odisha, said that this fact had been brought to light by some local non-governmental organizations (NGOs). “This is a serious matter and we will ensure that environment norms are followed,” he said. NIT has started the process of approving the metro area development plan. The plan was prepared by a consultant and then suggestions and objections were invited from stakeholders. Many citizens, whose lands were coming under reservation have demanded major changes in the plan. After the NIT deals with all suggestions and objections, the plan will be sent to state government for the final nod. However, in this entire process NIT has not bothered to seek environmental clearance from union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) or any other environmental authority. Prashant Pawar, president of Jai Jawan Jai Kisan, told TOI that he had submitted a memorandum to parliamentary committee on Sunday. “We have demanded that a high level enquiry be instituted to ascertain the environmental impact of metro area development plant. Till the fact finding committee submits its report, NIT should be directed to stop the process of approving the development plan. If this is not done then lakhs of citizens will be adversely affected due to lack of proper planning,” he said. Pawar said that if constructions over 20,000 square metre required environmental clearance, how development of an area measuring 3,700 square kilometres could be done without any nod from environment ministry. Another activist Kamlesh Shah said that even though state environment impact assessment authority (SEIAA) had told NIT that constructions in metro area having an area more than 20,000 square metre, needed environmental clearance, the civic agency was not following this rule. (Times of India 25/1/16)

 

260. India, France to work towards implementation of CoP21 goals (9)

New Delhi: After successful conclusion of the Paris climate change summit, India and France on Monday agreed to work towards the realization of the agreement’s goals and carry out its implementation by collaborating in the field of sustainable development and energy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated French President Francois Hollande for his “sustained” diplomatic efforts that paved way for adoption of the Paris agreement which was based on the principle of “climate justice” and fostering climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development. “The visit to India is the first foreign visit by President Hollande since the conclusion of COP21. Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated President Francois Hollande for France’s valuable leadership and sustained diplomatic efforts that paved the way for the successful conclusion of COP21 in Paris in December 2015…”…and adoption of the Paris agreement, based on theprinciples of climate justice, and fostering climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development,” a joint statement by the two countries said. The universal agreements, which were reached at Conference of Parties (CoP21), aims to keep the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius this century and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. President Hollande also thanked India and Modi for playing an “important and proactive” role in the negotiations. “India and France agreed to continue to work with each other and with the global community towards the realization of the goals of the Paris Agreement,” the statement said. In the wake of the Paris Agreement adopted at the end of the COP-21, the bilateral cooperation between France and India is today “more than ever” committed to meet the climate challenge, it said. The two countries wish to carry out the implementation Paris agreement goals by promoting collaboration in sustainable development and energy between governments, regions, cities and also companies, the statement said. India had hailed as “historic” the adoption of a legally-binding pact in Paris but said the deal could have been more ambitious had developed nations shouldered more historical responsibilities. (Zee News 26/1/16)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

261. Suicides Make 2015 Worst Year for Ryots (20)

BENGALURU:  The year 2015 goes down in history as the deadliest ever for farmers in Karnataka, with 978 of them ending their lives between April and December. This is the highest ever figure for farmers’ suicides since the formation of the state in 1956, and second only to Maharashtra this year. The government has accepted 323 deaths as suicides triggered by agrarian distress, and said 277 had no connection with farming. Surprisingly, the highest numbers were reported from districts such as Mandya, Mysuru, Hassan and Belagavi, where farmers are perceived to be relatively well-off, thanks to irrigation. Figures sourced from the Agriculture Department show Mandya topping the list with 92 suicides, followed by Belagavi with 74. Other districts with high numbers are Haveri (73), Mysuru (62), Hassan (58) and Raichur (56). Drought-prone districts like Vijayapura (36), Kolar (9), Ballari (24) and Chitradurga (49) saw fewer  farmer suicides. A majority of the farmers who committed suicide in well-irrigated districts are said to be sugarcane growers, pushed to desperation over the last couple of years. Over-production of sugar and the subsequent fall in sugar prices hit them hard, and many sugar mills in Karnataka have not paid them their dues. In official circles, the rise in suicides is being attributed to many factors, such as rising debt among farmers. Off the record, officials say some farmers drive themselves over the edge by splurging on vehicles, marriages and drinks. Another intriguing aspect of this year’s numbers is that 80 per cent of the deaths were reported between July and October. The state government had initially argued that not all suicides were caused by the agrarian crisis, but the surge in numbers soon prompted it to announce measures to help farmers. The Siddaramaiah government has increased the compensation for bereaved families from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. The cost of production is going up. In Mandya, most farmers grow sugarcane, and the surplus production has led to a fall in prices.  — Kishor Bhat, research scholar, St John’s Research CentreThese figures are very low, since women are not being considered farmers. Women are the worst hit during an agrarian crisis. Kavitha Srinivasan,  has researched six districts in Karnataka (New Indian Express 1/1/16)

 

262. Suicide by farmer: Forest dept. move condemned (20)

Kozhikode: Leading farmers’ organisations in the district have come together to launch a series of protests against the Forest Department’s alleged move to attach the farmland of around 40 settler farmers in the hilly regions of Kakkadampoyil. A joint meeting of major organisations will be convened in two weeks with a mission to take up the issue with the State government in the wake of the suicide of a farmer after the Forest Department initiated measures to attach his farmland. According to farmers’ organisation leaders, Kaniyarathu Jose, the settler farmer from Kakkadampoyil, committed suicide on New Year eve as the Forest Department did not consider his plea to withdraw the legal action. “As per the Forest Department records, the area where the farmer started cultivation several decades ago was part of forest area and it had to be restored,” they said. P.V. Chacko, leader of Farmers’ Relief Forum, said the suicide by the elderly farmer had shocked the people in entire region and it would remain a blot on our poor democratic system that had failed to tackle such farm crisis in time. “It was the Forest Department’s decision to unlawfully attach the farmland that abetted the suicide and it should be taken up seriously,” he said. Leaders of Indian Farmers’ Movement (Infam), led by Antony Kozhuvanal and James Kottur, said all farmers’ organisations should fight united against the attempt to evacuate poor farmers from their land. “To begin with, a meeting of all farmers’ organisations would be held in Kozhikode on January 9,” they said. Meantime, C. Moyinkutty, MLA, who visited the house of the deceased farmer, said the government should check whether there was any hasty decision on the part of the Forest Department that had led to the suicide of the farmer. “As per records, the farmer was holding the land with all the required ownership documents. Revenue and Forest Department should be ready for a joint verification to settle the ownership disputes in the area,” he demanded. (The Hindu 4/1/16)

 

263. 55 indebted farmer suicides in last 3 years: Punjab (20)

Bathinda: Number of suicides by farmers due to debt in Punjab in the last nearly three years recorded by the state government has baffled the various peasant outfits and political parties. The state government recorded only 55 suicides by farmers in Punjab from April 1, 2013 to November 30, 2015. In December 2015, Punjab revenue, rehabilitation and disaster management department prepared lists of farmers and farm workers whose cases were cleared for compensation to their next of kin. On December 21, it sent a letter (a copy of which is with TOI) to deputy commissioners of all districts to disburse financial assistance for the aggrieved families. A revenue department official confirmed 55 cases had been cleared for financial assistance. He said they had been cleared according to lists sent by district-level committees. “Three universities of Punjab are also carrying out surveys to get details about farm suicides and numbers for providing assistance can rise,” he said. According to sources, out of the 55 cases cleared by the state government, 25 are from Bathinda and 30 from the remaining districts. Only four cases have been cleared for Mansa. Compensation of Rs 2 lakh each will be given to families of farmers and labourers who ended their lives before July 22, 2015. Families of those who committed suicides after that will be given compensation at Rs 3 lakh each. Peasant organizations Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), BKU (Dakaunda) and BKU (Krantikari) have termed the government’s step as a cruel joke with the farmers and labourers who committed suicide due to debt or harsh economic conditions. They have decided to discuss the matter in its joint meeting to be held on January 10 to chart out an action plan. “We have called a joint meeting where the matter will be discussed seriously and an action plan will be prepared for making the state government consider all cases where suicides have taken place due to debt and severe economic stress,” said BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri. He said that apart from farm suicides, the matter of fair compensation to cotton growers, whose crop was damaged due to whitefly attack, would be discussed as many of the suicides took place due to that in the past months. BKU (Dakaunda) vice-president Manjit Dhaner said the government had cleared only 55 cases, but according to their estimates nearly 3,000 farmers and labourers killed themselves in the last three years. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur said, “It is sheer injustice to the aggrieved farmers. We will ask our national convener Arvind Kejriwal to raise the issue prominently at the Maghi conference on January 14.” Swaraj Abhiyan, which started preparing a list of farm suicides in the cotton belt on December 27, 2015, too stated that the cases cleared by government were much lower than the actual deaths. (Times of India 7/1/16)

 

264. 64 families to benefit from revised compensation guidelines (20)

Mysuru: As many as 64 farmers committed suicide in Mysuru district in the last six months. Of them, cases of 49 farmers had been placed before the committees, headed by assistant commissioners. The committees (two committees in Mysuru district) had approved 27 cases and awarded compensation to all the 27 families. However, they had rejected 18 cases on the basis that the farmers who committed suicide had no land in their name or had not availed loans from nationalised banks or societies. The committees were waiting for the FSL report in four other cases. As the government has modified the guidelines to enable families of all farmers who committed suicide to get compensation, most of the families are likely to get compensation. The compensation has been enhanced from Rs. 2 lakh to Rs. 5 lakh each. The families that were rejected compensation on many grounds may again submit a fresh application along with necessary documents and claim compensation. It has also been decided that the remaining amount of Rs. 3 lakh will be due to families that had received Rs. 2 lakh compensation earlier. (The Hindu 14/1/16)

 

265. Grim harvest: 3,228 farmer suicides in 2015 (20)

MUMBAI: Suicides by farmers touched a grim high in 2015. The year that had recorded 2,590 suicides until October — the highest ever since 2001 — went on to register 610 more deaths in just the last two months. The number of deaths on December 31, 2015 stood at 3,228, indicating that the slew of measures the government undertook through the year failed to arrest the disturbing trend. Maharashtra has recorded 20,504 farmer suicides since 2001. Data obtained from the government shows Vidarbha, the region Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis hails from, was the worst hit last year, with around 1,541 farmers from Amaravati and Nagpur division committing suicides. As many as 1,130 farmers ended their lives in the Aurangabad division of Marathwada. Nashik in North Maharashtra witnessed 459 cases of farmer suicides. Figures indicate that that Pune division, which covers the state’s prosperous Western region, too recorded 96 suicides of which 27 were registered in the last two months of the year. Of the 3,228 suicides, the state has found only 1,841 eligible for government aid, while 903 were found ineligible. While 484 cases are pending for inquiries, ex-gratia aid has been extended to 1,818. “Packages will no longer work for farmers and the government seems to be missing this point completely. There is a need of farmer oriented policy and not packages,” said Chandrakant Wankhede, an activist from Vidarbha working on issues of farmers’ suicides. He said when loan waivers were announced in 2008, there was a drop in suicides. But since 2011, no such steps have been forthcoming. “The number may only increase in the coming years.” Maharashtra had recorded a 75% deficit in rainfall between June and September last year. While the CM had announced a Rs 10,512 crore package of farmers in December 2015, he had refrained from announcing any loan waivers. On Wednesday, Mr Fadnavis thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for launching the PM Crop Insurance Scheme, which assures covering over 50% of the farmers under the insurance scheme in the coming three years. Under this scheme, 90% premium money will be paid by the Centre and not just the fully grown crop but even the stem will be insured. (The Hindu 14/1/16)

 

266. 28L relief to 12 grieving families (20)

Bathinda: Compensation of Rs 28 lakh was distributed to 12 families of farmers who ended their lives in the past three years in Bathinda district. The compensation was handed over to nine aggrieved families of Rampura and three families of Maur assembly constituencies by Punjab ministers Sikander Singh Maluka and Janmeja Singh Sekhon. Maluka distributed cheques of compensation worth Rs 19 lakh to nine families and Sekhon handed over Rs 9 lakh to families of three farmers who committed suicides due to crop failures and mounting debts. Total 55 families have been identified across Punjab where suicides were reported between April 1, 2013 to November 30, 2015. Out of there 25 incidents are from Bathinda. Compensation of Rs 2 lakh per family has been given to families of farmers who committed suicides before July 22, 2015. Families of farmers who ended their lives after July 22, 2015, are to be given relief of Rs 3 lakh. The Punjab government on Friday announced to give compensation the same day to families of farmers ending their lives. Sekhon said state government was serious in compensating the aggrieved farm families and committed to stand to stand by them. (Times of India 17/1/16)

 

267. Stable tenancy law will curb farm suicides: Secretaries’ panel (20)

NEW DELHI: Identifying “informal tenancy” as one of the main reasons behind farmer suicides since many don’t get farm credit and crop insurance, a group of secretaries has suggested the government come out with a model tenancy law. Such a law will protect the tenants as they will get access to loans from banks and financing agencies and it will also end the fear of original owners of losing the farmland to tenants. Sources said the panel of top bureaucrats set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi while pointing out how informal leasing is up to 40% in some states with around 10% land lying unutilized, said there is an urgent need to legalize all such leases. Sources said the group dealing with issues on “farmer-centric issues in agriculture and allied sectors” has also suggested the need to excavate 5 lakh ponds and dug-wells annually under the rural jobs scheme and to create dedicated fund by raising tax free bonds to irrigate farmland. Highlighting that only 42% small and marginal farmers have access to credit, it has suggested providing fresh credit of Rs 50,000 crore.These are among the suggestions that the panel has suggested to revive the rural economy ahead of the budget next month. Mentioning that India needs to scale up the per hectare harvest of food grains and pulses and fortify the farmlands from drought, the group has reportedly cited how only 45% of the agriculture land is irrigated.Sources said the team has presented that NABARD would require Rs 29,000 crore for about 46 projects relating to irrigation. Similarly, government needs to spend Rs 8,000 crore annually to dig ponds and dug-wells under MNREGA. The panel has also suggested the need to provide 2 lakh solar pumps for micro-irrigation, which will be enough to irrigate 6-8 lakh hectares of farmland. It is expected that next month’s budget is likely to focus more on rural economy and agriculture. The group of secretaries has also mentioned how non-availability of credit for farmers has been one of the major reason of farm distress. At present only 42% small and marginal farmers have access to crop loans. It has proposed the need to make more credit available for such farmers. According to officials, the group has gone into details of how to make PM’s pet project “soil health card” more farmer friendly. It has suggested setting up of 3,000 model retail outlets by fertilizer companies having facilities for testing soil, seed and fertilizer. The panel has also mentioned the need for development of innovative hand-held devices for such tests through start-ups, which can provide job opportunities to 30,000 skilled samplers and another 10,000 skilled technical and laboratory assistants. (Times of India 23/1/16)

 

268. 38 children of deceased farmers to get free education (20)

Yavatmal: The Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana (BJS) has adopted 38 children of farmers, who committed suicide in Yavatmal district, to impart them education free of cost at its Centre for Educational Rehabilitation Project at Wagholi near Pune. The centre was founded by philanthropists Shantilal Mutha and Prafulla Parakh. The children, including girls and boys were chosen through a survey of 668 homes in the villages in the farmer suicide-prone district. The children were first brought to Yavatmal and later sent to Pune recently. Apart from giving free education from Std V to XII, the Sanghatana would also bear the expenditure for the kids’ boarding and lodging. A teacher AG Pawar said that 3,366 students have been given free education at the centre so far. Currently, 237 students from Aurangabad district are studying at the centre. (Times of India 25/1/16)

 

269. Need to increase export of agri products to curb farmer suicides, says Swamy (20)

Kolhapur: There is a dire need to increase export of agriculture products so as to curb farmer suicides, said Subramanian Swamy, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader at the Shivaji University, Kolhapur (SUK) on Monday. Swamy was in the city to address SUK students on the Make in India initiative. He added that allowing an international retail giant like Wal-Mart to set up shop in India will result in destruction of crores of lives of Indian people due to subsequent rise in the labour rates. “The milk and the vegetable rates abroad are way higher than what we have in our country. If we can get a share of that market we can curb farmer suicides. There is only one solution to achieve this, which is to increase export of agri-products,” Swamy said. He added, “Make in India is a dynamic concept which helps set up manufacturing units in the country, as well as allowing export of products made in India. The initiative will produce better results for the country,” he said. Swamy said that the Wal-Mart has capital with low interest rate through which it can set up its unit in the country, which might end up hurting the Indian traders. “We have cheap labour in the country. However, if Wal-Mart enters India, it is likely that labour might become expensive, hurting jobs and employment opportunities for many Indians,” he said. He added that when the United States (US) delegation asked him why he opposes Wal-Mart, he had replied asking them whether they would allow Indian labour to construct roads and start farming in their country. “If they have capital, we have cheap labour,” he said. On the empowerment of India, Swamy said, “The only problem our country has with setting up businesses is corruption and lack of infrastructure. Many east Asian countries are selling their products via China. They prepare basic products in their country and expensive ones in China, because of China’s cheap labour, eventually helping China.” “If we can improve our infrastructure and curb corruption, then China will diminish as a superpower,” he said. Swamy added that the population’s youngsters are an important asset for the country. With over 50% of population below 20 years, the country has a lot of potential, he said. Mere capital and cheap labour cannot take a country to highest possible economic growth, but innovative ideas are needed for more success,” he said.Criticising the Indian mindset which aims for a secure job, Swamy said, “We want secured poverty if not the opposite. This needs to be changed immediately. We need to change it as risk takers rather than remaining with a secure life”.Devanand Shinde, SUK’s vice-chancellor, agreeing with Swamy on his ‘secured poverty’ comment, said that it would be the biggest hurdle to be overcome. On one of the questions on possible threats to the Make in India campaign, he replied, “The growing menace of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), especially in the country, the income tax and the ever-increased interest rates in banking are some of the top concerns which might prove a threat to the campaign.” (Times of India 26/1/16)

 

270. Sugarcane growers seek clearance of dues (20)

BELAGAVI: Sugarcane growers are planning to hold a rally outside the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru seeking clearance of sugarcane dues worth Rs. 4,500 crore. Kurubur Shanthkumar, president of the Karnataka State Sugarcane Growers Association, said that they would organise a ‘Vidhana Soudha Chalo’ agitation if the government did not clear the dues within 20 days. He told presspersons here on Thursday that Rs. 3,500 crore was due for the crushing season 2015-16 and Rs. 1,000 crore was due for the 2014-15 season. The mill owners had not paid it despite agitations by growers and promises by the government. It had prompted farmers to commit suicide, Mr. Shanthkumar alleged. He criticised Minister for Cooperation H.S. Mahadev Prasad for delaying the fixing of sugarcane price, even though the Centre had announced the Fair and Remunerative Price. “The Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh governments have announced Rs. 2,800 a tonne for sugarcane. Karnataka is not taking a decision only to protect the interests of sugar mills controlled by politicians belonging to the Congress and the BJP,” Mr. Shanthkumar said. He said that if the government did not have funds, it should seize 20,000 tonnes of gold lying idle in temples across the country, which would fetch Rs. 50 billion crore. That could be invested for boosting agriculture and farmers’ income, Mr. Shanthkumar said. Earlier, he handed over a cheque for Rs. 2.53 lakh through Deputy Commissioner N. Jayaram to the bereaved family of Vitthal Arabhavi of Kankanwadi of Raibag taluk, a sugarcane grower who committed suicide at a protest site in front of the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha when the winter session of the legislature was being held in Belagavi on November 26, 2013. The amount, contributed by the farmers of Shivamogga district, was handed over to the widow and two sons of the deceased farmer. (The Hindu 29/1/16)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

271. CBI gets papers in IMT Manesar case (4)

Chandigarh: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has collected documents related to the acquisition and release of 912 acres for Manesar industrial model township (IMT) in Gurgaon district. In September 2015, CBI had taken over the probe into allegations of releasing the land acquired by various agencies like Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) and Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC) during the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government in the state. The land acquisition process had started in August 2004 when Om Prakash Chautala-led INLD government was in power. The government had planned to set up an IMT in the name of former deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal. Following the change of guard in Haryana, 228 acres were released before the enforcement of Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Later the remaining 688 acres were also released. It is alleged that the land was taken under the threat of acquisition by the government at cheap rates. The case was registered under sections 420, 465, 467, 468, 471 & 120-B of the Indian Penal Code and section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against unknown public servants of Haryana Government and unknown private persons on the request of Haryana government and further directions of the government of India. The manner in which the acquired land was released had raised an eyebrow on the Congress government. Sources said a team headed by an officer of the rank of deputy superintendent of police of the CBI came to HSIIDC office in Panchkula last month to collect the documents pertaining to IMT Manesar. The team had collected documents related to proposed action plans, details of land acquired, the process to be followed for acquisition and rule book related to the release of land. Unwilling to be identified, a senior HSIIDC official said the focus of the CBI team appeared to bring colonizers, who had benefited from the release of land, under its lens. According to information, the CBI team took details related to the land released to two group housing managements, an owner of a petrol station and one charitable trust. “They remained confined to the planning wing of HSIIDC. The officers provided the details what the CBI men had asked for,” an official said. In the past one month, the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government has been ordering probes into land deals approved by the previous Congress regime. It began with revelation of land allotted to Associate Journal Limited (AJL), the parent company of National Herald having Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Rohtak MP Deepender HOoda on its board. It was followed by registration of a vigilance FIR into the allotment of 13 industrial plots by HUDA in Panchkula. (Times of India 2/1/16)

 

272. Land-losers may get development rights in place of money soon (4)

HYDERABAD: Monetory compensation may soon be a thing of the past for people losing their land for road widening in Telangana. Considering the financial crunch in urban local bodies (ULBs), the state government has decided to incentivize land-losers with transferable development rights (TDR) instead of paying them compensation. “In view of the New Land Acquisition Act 2013, the cost of compensation has become very high and ULBs are not in a position to pay it for taking up road widening works. In such cases, TDR would be provided,” said a release issued by the chief minister’s office (CMO) on Monday . According to the Act, the government has to pay twice the market value of land in urban areas if acquired. TDR is a method of compensation wherein the land owners are given per mission to develop the building with a relaxation in terms of setback and additional floors.Land owners can monetise by selling this right since it is transferable. The government has also decided to give TDR to those whose plots get affected under `Master Plan’ road projects on a par with gated community projects if applicants are willing to give their land for a 40-feet peripheral road. Apart from this, the government has taken a slew of measures to encourage the burgeoning real estate sector with a policy of `ease of doing businesses’. However, these measures were approved by the state cabi net when it met on Saturday. Among the other decisions, the city level infrastructure impact fee has been reduced to encourage high-rises and accordingly , only two slabs have been fixed as against the current four. One slab is up to 17 floors and second slab for above 17 floors.Rates would be ranging from Rs 500 per square metre to Rs 1500 per square metre in GHMC areas and Rs 175 per square metre to Rs 500 per square metre in HMDA. With this incentive, it is expected that more number of high rise buildings will come up and thereby increase the revenue of ULBs. Also, the collection of value addition charges, which is Rs 100 per square metre in the Cyberabad Development Area (CDA), has been withdrawn to avoid double taxation, the reason being most of the CDA area has now become part of GHMC and the civic body collects external betterment charges. (Times of India 5/1/16)

 

273. ‘Compensation for UKP as per new land law’ (4)

The compensation for land required for the third phase of Upper Krishna project will be paid as per the newly enacted Land Acquisition Act, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has said. Speaking to reporters here on Wednesday, the chief minister said that the State government had been formulating guidelines for acquiring land and rehabilitating the project displaced persons. He urged the prime minister to call a meeting of the chief ministers of Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra to break the logjam over Kalasa-Banduri project. The chief minister said that the Union government had not released any money to Karnataka for taking up drought relief work and the BJP leaders had been making false claims in this regards. (Deccan Herald 6/1/16)

 

274. Clarification to be sought from govt. on land acquisition rules (4)

Utilisation of Rs. 29 cr. allotted for widening of Mananchira-Vellimadukunnu stretch of NH district-level meeting to review the progress of the Kozhikode City Road Improvement Project (KCRIP) on Monday decided to seek a clarification from the State government on the utilisation of the recently released Rs. 29 crore allotted for the widening of the Mananchira- Vellimadukunnu stretch of the National Highway. The meeting chaired by Minister for Social Justice and Panchayats M.K. Muneer said that the new rules framed by the government based on the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, required the acquisition authority to conduct a social impact study as well as constitution of a committee comprising Revenue officials and elected representatives to look into the utilisation of funds for mega projects. The government has allotted Rs 29 crore for two purposes. About Rs 25 crore is to acquire land and the remaining Rs.4 crore to construct a compound wall to prevent encroachments on government land falling in the alignment of the national highway. However, this amount is yet to be released to the Revenue Department though the Public Works Department has received a Letter of Credit from the government on the payment. In any case, the amount would be used to acquire land by February, official sources said. At present, the Revenue Department has received Rs 25 crore as first tranche and another instalment of Rs 10 crore for the road widening project. The first tranche had been used to acquire land at the Malaparamba junction. The Revenue department had also taken into government possession about 40 shops at the junction. It was decided to use the amount to acquire the land between the Additional District Magistrate‘s (ADM) Bungalow and IQRAA Hospital, considered to be narrowest stretches along the 8.4-km Mananchira- Vellimadukunnu road. Now the Rs 10 crore would be used exclusively to complete the land acquisition of ADM Bungalow- Christ Hall- IQRAA Hospital stretch of Malaparamba junction. The land required is 6,356 sq.m (1.57 acres) for the junction. But the Revenue Department had not been able to rehabilitate the shop keepers. Already the shops at the Malaparamba junction had been demolished, officials said. A.Pradeepkumar, MLA; District Collector N. Prasanth; Kerala Road Fund Board (KRFB) general manager Sudarsanan Pillai, KRFB coordinator K. Lekha; Special Tahsildar (KCRIP and Land Acquisition) N. Ramla and PWD officials took part in the meeting. (The Hindu 12/1/16)

 

275. NHPC turns down bailout proposal (4)

New Delhi: The Union government-controlled National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) has declined the offer by Power Finance Corporation (PFC) to take over the beleaguered 400-megawatt (Mw) Maheshwar hydro project in Madhya Pradesh, citing viability issues. The company, however, is ready to “take over the operations of the project on chargeable basis”.The lenders had approached the company recently through the Union power ministry. The project, which had earlier been privately held, is in rough waters in the wake of the current promoters “defaulting on equity infusion”. Three machine have been installed at the site. Struggling for 23 years now, the future of the Rs 1,700-crore project has also been wobbly with no government utility or state government willing to support it. Established in 1993 by MW Corp (formerly S Kumar Limited), the project was to sell power at Rs 2.64 a unit. The project, which was a part of the ‘Narmada Basin Development Plan’ of the MP government, has been embroiled in controversy since its very inception. While the resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) has been under the clouds, the ‘Narmada Bachao Andolan’ has also been protesting against the project asking for a re-survey of submergence. Officials familiar with the project said there were problems with regard to compensation for land acquisition as well since no payment had been made. “Though the land was notified and there is a court verdict of giving 11 per cent more since the compensation was delayed, it is not clear whether now after the new land acquisition law, the compensation would have to be reworked,” said the official. After constant delays, the project cost is estimated to cross Rs 6,700 crore and the power tariff close to Rs 11 a unit. It is also learnt that the current owners are likely to exit the project by paying 11 per cent of the land cost to the Madhya Pradesh government. According to a source, the current power tariff of the Maheshwar project has touched Rs 15-16 a unit. The project requires further fund infusion of about Rs 2,000 crore. “To put equity and any further money in the project is futile. NHPC is being pursued to take over the project, but that is out of question. This would also depend on what decision the power ministry takes regarding the project,” said an NHPC official requesting anonymity. A consortium of lenders led by PFC, Hudco, Rural Electrification Corporation, and several state-owned banks have infused close to Rs 2,200 crore in the project till now, of which PFC has the largest exposure. A high-level committee was formed in October 2014 under state additional chief secretary and state finance department, to iron out problems between the private developer, lenders of the project and Madhya Pradesh Power Management Company. There were three options before the committee: fresh equity infusion by the developer; if the developer fails to do so, the project would be handed over to any central public sector unit in the sector; or as a third option, termination of the existing power purchase agreement. Senior PFC executives said MW group promoters wanted PFC to take over the projects. It in turn requested NHPC or NHDC to take over the project, but none of them replied positively because of controversies involved and poor progress on R&R by the current promoter. NHPC is the state-owned largest hydel power company in India with 6,507 Mw operating projects and another 6,000 Mw under construction / awaiting clearance. NHDC is a joint venture of the Madhya Pradesh government and NHPC, which has completed two major power projects – 1,000-Mw Indira Sagar project and 520-Mw Omkareshwar project (Business Standard 17/1/16)

 

276. Land acquisition: ‘Chalo Vijayawada’ on March 9 (4)

VIJAYAWADA: The Andhra Pradesh Agricultural Workers’ Union (APAWU) has called for a ‘Chalo Vijayawada’ programme on March 9 in protest against the forcible acquisition of land for various projects in the State. “If farmers and agricultural workers do not resist the unilateral actions of Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, they will face an unprecedented crisis,” said All India Agricultural Workers’ Union general secretary A. Vijaya Raghavan here on Sunday. Extending support to the protest building up in the State against the land acquisition drive of the government, Mr. Raghavan said: “The government is in the process of creating a land bank of 15 lakh acres. Only 20 per cent of the owners who have already parted with their land so far did so willingly. The rest are forced to part with their possessions. The Land Acquisition Act of 2013 must be adapted for acquiring land, otherwise we are going to suffer irreparably.” At a seminar on land acquisition, Mr. Raghavan said both AP and Telangana governments were competing in making announcements of development projects without pondering over the shortage of resources. (The Hindu 18/1/16)

 

277. Mamata hits out at Buddha over Singur (4)

Kenduli (Birbhum): Two days after former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee hit out at the ruling Trinamool from near the deserted Nano compound at Singur, Mamata came forthright saying that she had done the right thing against forcible land acquisition by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government in Singur and Nandigram in 2006. “They were killing people in Singur and Nandigram and I protested. Did we do wrong by stopping them?” the CM asked. She reminded that the government promulgated a law to return Singur land to unwilling farmers. It was challenged in the court of law. In reply to Bhattacharje e’s jab at her government over industrialisation, Mamata laid the foundation stone of the Bengal Birbhum Coalfield -a Rs 22,000-crore greenfield project -to start mining of the Deucha Pachami coal belt. Mamata held that the opposition was targeting her government for giving funds to clubs out of jealousy . “They (Left) are raising questions about my government’s giving funds to clubs. Yes, I am funding the clubs. What’s the harm if I give money to poor clubs for setting up a multigymnasium? What were they doing for the last 34 years? Why didn’t they give money to clubs? Now they are saying all these out of jealousy ,” she said. Mamata said that 10,000 clubs were given Rs 2 lakh each and in the subsequent three years they will get Rs 1 lakh as well. She said that the people are happy with Trinamool rule. “They don’t believe in God. They are against all kinds of festivals -Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Eid and Christmas. They only believe in killing and destroying, and are only interested in the festival of skeletons,” Mamata said referring to the recovery of skeletons in West Midnapore in 2011. The chief minister said that she was promoting sports in the Sunderbans, Jangalmahal and in the Hills, but alleged that the CPM were only interested in playing with “danda” and killing people. She said that Birbhum will get three multi-speciality hospitals and a medical college at Rampurhat. She said that patients will get free treatment at ICU and ITU. She announced a new eco-tourism park at Bolpur and also promised Rs 2.5 crore for the renovation of the Joydeb temple at Kenduli. According to her, the government will also set up a `baul academy’ and it will be named after poet Joydeb. (Times of India 19/1/16)

 

278. Land acquisition Act not followed, farmers fume (4)

Shimla: In 2013, UPA government had passed a new land acquisition Act with the objective to ensure fair compensation to affected farmers, their thorough resettlement and rehabilitation besides adequate safeguards for their well-being and complete transparency in the process of land acquisition. But same act has not been implemented in Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh where farmers are now forced to wage a war against the government on issue of land acquisition. In Himachal Pradesh, land is being acquired, for four-laning of Chandigarh-Manali national highway, from Nagchala in Mandi to Manali. But people are not ready to part with their land as state government is not ready to provide compensation as per the provisions of 2013 Land Acquisition Act. On January 28, about 3,000 affected farmers would be participating in a massive rally at Mandi to raise their voice against “injustice” being delivered by the state government in the name of land acquisition for the four-laning project. None other than Kargil war hero Brigadier (retd) Khushal Thakur is leading the battle from the front as he himself is one of the affected farmers and also the president of “four lane sangarsh samiti”. “We have also decided to meet AICC president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi to inform them how their own government in Himachal Pradesh is not ready to implement the new land Act,” he said. Thakur said that new land law provides for openness, dialogue and participation and calls for various grievances redressal and consultation mechanism but so far, nothing exists on ground in Himachal Pradesh as the state government is in a great hurry to acquire the land. He said that by imposing Section 3(D) of National Highway Act 1956 (implying that state has become the owner of land free from all encumbrances without even assessing or completing the inquiry relating to compensation and this cannot even be challenged in the court), farmers have also been deprived of their right to life. “The way state government is forcefully acquiring the land, time is not too far when farmers of Himachal will also be compelled to commit suicide like other states,” he added. “Neither the state government nor NHAI is paying attention to address issues like right to fair compensation, transparency in land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement before acquiring land,” he added. He said that current fertile land proposed for acquisition between Nagchala in Mandi district to Mandi is located along the national highway-21 and is having commercial, agricultural and residential value and whose market rate has skyrocketed during the past decade. He said that they have already met chief minister Virbhadra Singh and other ministers to seek redressal of their problems but state government has taken no action to solve these. “We are not against the acquisition but we want fair compensation as per the provisions of land act passed by UPA in 2013 beside proper rehabilitation and resettlement,’ he added. (Times of India 21/1/16)

 

279. Higher compensation for land acquired for NH projects (4)

New Delhi: Aiming to expedite the highway building works, the Centre has decided to give higher compensation to farmers if their land has been acquired under the old land acquisition act but are yet to receive compensation. With over 2,000 highway projects stuck due to dispute over compensation issue, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has directed that the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) will give more compensation in such cases so that works start early, a senior official in the Ministry told Deccan Herald. If farmers land acquired in old land acquisition act has entered into dispute, in such cases, higher compensation will be given to land owners as per the provisions of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. Besides, the decision will also be applicable to farmers whose awards were fixed prior to January 1, 2015, but physical possession of land so acquired has not been taken. “The issue was referred to the Additional Solicitor General…It has been opined that in cases initiated under NH Act 1956 but award has not been announced by December 31, 2014, land acquisition Act 2013 will apply under section 24 (I)… You are therefore requested to take necessary action towards settlement of cases,” the official said. (Deccan Herald 25/1/16)

 

280. Set standard sought for highways land acquisition (4)

New Delhi: As the government sets a target of building 30 km of highways every day, road development stakeholders point out that the government should follow a set standard to declare the land acquisition status of projects. The government should declare the acquisition of land after paying the land owner and taking possession. The process of land acquisition involves multiple procedures over a period of more than a year. “There should be no ambiguity in defining land acquisition,” said an industry source, who was present in the meeting of road development stakeholders called by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways here on Thursday. Those who attended the meeting included road developers, bankers, and Highway Ministry and Finance Ministry officials. Other industry sources also shared the opinion that the government should state the acquisition of land only when it can “handover” the land to developers. Another issue discussed in the meeting was regarding the disputes that arise due to change in scope of highways being built. The Highway Ministry wants to build 100 projects on the hybrid annuity model next year, for which land acquisition is in progress, the Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said after the meeting. Each of these projects can be awarded only after 80 per cent of the land has been acquired. Referring to the government’s aggressive target of building 30 km of roads every day, Gadkari added that they are looking at ways to lower cost of construction and improve the quality. Stakeholders were also trying to arrive at a solution for 19 National Highway projects that are stuck. The government wants to award 10,000 km of highways this year. (Business Line 28/1/16)

 

281. Land owners stage protest, submit memorandum (4)

Sundernagar: Hundreds of land owners whose land was being acquired for the four-lane project between Nagchala and Manali held a protest rally at the Historical Seri Manch today under the banner of the Four-lane Sangharsh Samiti. The offices-bearers of the samiti submitted a memorandum to the Centre and the state government through Deputy Commissioner Mandi to implement the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. Brig Khushal Thakur, president of the samiti, addressed a gathering that had come from six Assembly segments of Mandi and Kullu districts, said the new Land Acquisition was passed by the previous UPA government in 2013 and was implemented from April 1, 2014. It was further made applicable to the acquisition for the National Highways in the state w.e.f January 1, 2015, but it was not implemented despite number of requests and agitations by the samiti for the past one year. He said a number of representations were made to various authorities, but none of politicians of the either parties came forward to know the problems being faced by the public. He said the state government was violating while implementing the new Act. He said though the law provided compensation factor for calculating compensation, but the state government had issued a notification on April 1, 2015, and reduced the compensation factor. He said the market value was being calculated wrongly and due to it farmers were not getting the price which they had paid at the time of purchase of land. He accused the state government of not carrying out any social impact assessment which was mandatory and should have been done before issuing preliminary notifications by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). He accused the state government of not giving rehabilitation and resettlement benefits to the affected farmers and people were not taken into confidence while conducting the acquisition. He said the people were not against the compulsory land acquisition as it was being acquired for development and growth of the country, but if the new Land Acquisition was implemented it would prove more draconian than the British law of 1894 (old land acquisition Act) in which people could at least go to the lower courts. He appealed the state government to implement the provisions of the new Land Acquisition Act for the four-lane project between Nagchala and Manali. Office-bearers Brejesh Mahant, Dharminder Thakur, Seema Kapoor, Jayoti Parkash, Brij Kisor, Mohinder Thakur, Mohan Lal and Dinesh Sen were also present. (The Tribune 29/1/16)

 

RIGHT TO HEALTH

282. Environmental factors too behind antibiotic resistance? (3)

New York: Can the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria be squarely blamed on the misuse and overuse of antibiotics? No, there is more to the problem than the misuse of common medications, says a University of Georgia researcher. J. Vaun McArthur believes environmental contaminants may be partly to blame for the rise in bacterial resistance, and he tested this hypothesis in streams on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site. McArthur tested five antibiotics on 427 strains of E. coli bacteria in the streams. His research team collected samples from 11 locations in nine streams, which included sediment as well as water samples. The level of metal contamination among these locations varied from little to high. The results revealed high levels of antibiotic resistance in samples from Upper Three Runs Creek and on two tributaries located in the industrial area, U4 and U8. McArthur said Upper Three Runs Creek flows through residential, agricultural and industrial areas before it enters the SRS, so the bacteria in this stream have been exposed to antibiotics. In contrast, U4 and U8 are completely contained within the site and have no known input from antibiotics. But the contaminated streams U4 and U8 had the highest level of antibiotic resistance. “These streams have no source of antibiotic input, thus the only explanation for the high level of antibiotic resistance is the environmental contaminants in these streams — the metals, including cadmium and mercury,” McArthur said.IANS (The Hindu 1/1/16)

 

283. ‘Women’s health: implementation of welfare schemes has to be ensured’ (3)

Though Tamil Nadu has various welfare schemes for girls and women, disaster-preparedness to deal with emergencies can have an adverse effect on their health, making them vulnerable to diseases.“The need of the hour is public pressure,” said Ramya Kannan, Tamil Nadu Bureau Chief, The Hindu , while emphasising the need for civil-society organisations to invest in private partnerships to ensure implementation of the key objectives of Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the United Nations in September, 2015. She was addressing a meet for journalists organised recently by the Family Planning Association of India and Citizen News Service on Sustainable Development Goal and Sexual and Reproductive Health at Hotel Aadithya. Umesh Aradhya, president of FPA India said that sexual and reproductive health was very much part of human rights. “Sexual and reproductive health rights include right to equality and protection from any stigma and discrimination,” he added. Muniappan, ex-Demographer, Government of Tamil Nadu, said that sexuality education was not given much priority in the State. “Though the sex ratio and maternal mortality ratio in the State are impressive, there are cases of girls dropping out of school once they attain puberty. Many of them are anaemic and ignorant about where to access services,” he said. Geeta Sethi, Secretary General, FPA India, emphasised the media’s role in highlighting the success stories and creating awareness about the issue. (The Hindu 3/1/16)

 

284. Rs 16cr plan to check maternal deaths (3)

Pune: The state government has made a provision of Rs 16 crore to improve services at state-run healthcare centres handling high-risk pregnancies. Delivery room facilities at 110 district and sub-district women hospitals are expected to be transformed within six months to check infant and maternal mortality rate. “Women with high-risk pregnancies pose a challenge before, during and after delivery and they need special care and monitoring to avert complications. The project aims to upgrade labour rooms, build the capacity of the staff, improve clinical practices and reorganise labour rooms,” said Archana Patil, additional director, State Family Welfare Bureau. “We have identified only those hospitals where a sizable number of deliveries take place every month. We have already started to procure the required equipment and the upgradation work will be over within six months,” Patil said. The objective is not just to handle a woman with high-risk pregnancy, but also ensure that she has a smooth passage all through labour and post-delivery. “Of the total maternal deaths recorded in the state, 52% occur in postnatal stage – the time between the baby’s birth and six weeks thereafter. Half of the deaths occur soon after the delivery in the first six weeks, followed by 28% deaths that occur during pregnancy; 18% deaths happen during childbirth,” said a state health department official. The state’s current maternal mortality rate is 68 per 1 lakh live births. The mortality rate is defined as the number of deaths of pregnant women per 1,00,000 live births where the cause of death is directly attributed to pregnancy or a pregnancy-related complication. It is a direct parameter of healthcare services available in a geographic area. Senior gynaecologist Charuchandra Joshi said, “In developed countries, the maternal mortality rate has been brought down to a single digit. In Maharashtra, it is unacceptably high. In rural areas, it is double than that in urban areas. In states like Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, it is more than four times the national average of 178 deaths per lakh.” “There has been no major change in the causes of maternal deaths over the years. Deaths due to anaemia, obstructed labour, hypertensive disorders and sepsis can be prevented with adequate antenatal care, referral and timely treatment of complications of pregnancy and promoting institutional delivery and postnatal care,” Joshi said. When contacted, an official from the state health ministry said, “We are making available a large number of first referral units, providing training to skilled birth attendants, emergency obstetric care training to doctors and nurses among others. There is a well thought out and designed system of reporting and analysing maternal deaths. Local, facility-based regional committees have been formed to analyse the information, plan strategies and give recommendations.” (Times of India 9/1/16)

 

285. NGO disputes Kerala govt. claim over infant mortality in Attapady (3)

Palakkad: Hardly a week after Kerala Minister for Panchayats and Social Welfare M.K. Muneer claimed that only 14 infant deaths were reported from Attappady in 2015, a non-governmental organisation has come out with statistics proving there were 24 such cases during the period. The Centre for Tribal Education, Development and Research (Thambu) has prepared a detailed list of infant deaths, miscarriages, and neonatal deaths which occurred in 2015 and dispatched it to the Chief Minister, Health Minister, and the Scheduled Tribes Welfare Minister. Talking to The Hindu here on Wednesday, Thambu convener K.A. Ramu said the agency had documentary evidence to prove that 26 cases of miscarriages and neonatal deaths were reported from Attappady last year. According to him, three infant deaths occurred at Government Medical College in Thrissur while another occurred at Palakkad District Hospital. Seven such cases were reported from Government Tribal Specialty Hospital at Attappady and five deaths reported from Medical College Hospital, Coimbatore. An infant died while undergoing treatment at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences & Technology in Thiruvananthapuram and one such case was reported from a private hospital at Attappady. Six infants died at tribal settlements in Attappady, he said. According to Mr. Ramu, there was a concerted effort to claim that tribal health in Attappady had improved considerably following effective government intervention since 2013 when 47 infant deaths were reported. Thambu president Rajendra Prasad demanded a people’s audit of ongoing government-sponsored welfare schemes in Attappady. (The Hindu 14/1/16)

 

286. A tribal hospital crying for attention (3)

Palakkad: Two tribal infant deaths since the beginning of 2016 have added to the chorus for improving facilities at Government Tribal Hospital at Kottathara in Attappady. The second death was reported late on Sunday night from Mettuvazhi tribal settlement where a seven-month-old boy died of diarrhoea, high fever, and dehydration. The baby boy of Pappathi-Ratheesh couple was born underweight and was suffering from multiple diseases. It was on January 4 that the first infant death this year was reported. A two-day-old infant from Mulli tribal area was rushed to the tribal hospital following acute respiratory problems. The infant died on the way to the hospital. The area had witnessed 24 infant deaths last year. An additional 26 cases of miscarriages and neo-natal deaths were also reported during the period. “Following the intervention of the State Human Rights Commission, a fulltime gynaecologist was appointed at the hospital last week. A paediatrician will join next week. Improving the facilities at the hospital alone can save tribal children and their undernourished mothers from death,” said tribal activist K.A. Ramu. Though the Palakkad district administration had written to the State government last year seeking administrative sanction to construct two more floors for the hospital and increase the number of beds, the sanction is still awaited. Permission has also been sought for utilising Rs.2 crore sanctioned recently for the health sector in Attappady to improve facilities at the hospital. According to department officials, the hospital is facing a number of problems, including lack of specialists and technicians to operate devices. “The practice of referring patients to hospitals in Coimbatore and Palakkad should end,” said Rajendra Prasad, social activist. He said improving facilities at the hospital and various primary health centres under it would be vital to curb infant mortality. The specialty hospital had turned into a referral one due to lack of doctors and facilities. At present, the hospital has vacancies of 10 doctors. According to hospital authorities, the absence of a centralised oxygen supply facility and power backup was hampering surgeries. (The Hindu 19/1/16)

 

287. Surge in drug-resistant TB cases across state (3)

PUNE: Maharashtra recorded 779 cases of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), the world’s most untreatable form of TB, in 2015 – the highest figure recorded in last five years. Mumbai registered the most number of cases at 475, higher than the total number of cases (469) reported in the state in 2014. The latest report of the state health department has revealed this information. XDR-TB is a rare form of tuberculosis that is resistant to at least four of the core anti-TB drugs. It takes a substantially longer time to treat this form of the disease than the drug-susceptible form and requires the use of second-line anti-TB drugs, which are expensive. Health experts say the rise in the detection rate of XDR-TB cases is not surprising, given the widespread prevalence of TB and the rising cases of multi drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in the country. That patients often do not complete the recommended treatment is also a factor adding to the numbers. “The detection of XDR-TB has increased considerably after more centres equipped with the facility to test resistance to second-line tuberculosis came up in state. That is one of the reasons for the considerable rise,” said state tuberculosis officer Sanjeev Kamble, who is also the joint director of the state health department.The department started diagnosing XDR-TB after the first case was reported in 2011 at Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai. “Earlier, we had to send samples for testing resistance to second-line TB drug to the National Tuberculosis Institute in Bengaluru. Now, we have five testing centres where sensitivity to second line drug is tested,” Sharad Patil assistant director (TB), said.  (Times of India 19/1/16)

 

288. NHRC intervenes as relief eludes endosulfan victims (3)

Palakkad: Taking cognizance of a report carried by The Hindu on January 18, ‘Relief eludes Kerala endosulfan victims,’ the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to the Chief Secretary of Kerala and the District Collectors of Palakkad and Kasaragod asking why the relief ordered by the commission six years ago has not reached those affected. In an official release in New Delhi recently, the commission observed that the report raises ‘a serious issue of violation of right to the health of the victims.’ It sought detailed reports within two weeks. Observing that the Kerala government was bound to compensate and rehabilitate the victims, the commission recalled that the State government, in its order dated May 26, 2012, had notified that the recommendations of the NHRC were to be implemented and laid down the method by which the compensation was to be paid to various categories of the victims. “If the victims of endosulfan are not being compensated in terms of the order, it amounts to violation of their human rights. An unofficial survey has found that 613 children below the age of 14 continue to suffer from the illness caused by the aerial spraying of the pesticide in mango plantations of Muthalamada in Palakkad district. The newspaper report cites the case of a girl named Hemalatha, who, despite having born after two years of a global ban on the pesticide, suffers from physical illness because of the residuary effect of the pesticide,’’ the release said. The commission stressed the need for an expert study on the impact of endosulfan at Muthalamada, Velanthavalam, Vadakarapathi, Eruthempathy, Nenmara, and Nelliampathy panchayats of Palakkad. As per the earlier order of the commission, the State government was directed to pay at least Rs.5 lakh to the relatives of those who died because of the aerial spraying of the pesticide. An equal amount was promised to those who permanently bedridden and suffered from severe deformities. The NHRC ordered to pay at least Rs.3 lakh to all those who became living victims of the killer pesticide. (Thwe Hindu 24/1/16)

 

289. Alarming malnutrition, neo=natal mortality in Madhya Pradesh: NFHS 4 (3)

BHOPAL: More than 40 out of 100 children in Madhya Pradesh are malnourished if the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) is anything to go by. Besides, MP has been registering the highest infant mortality rates in the country for almost a decade and currently 51 infants out of 1000 don’t get to celebrate their first birthday. NHFS 4, released for 13 states and 2 UTs paints a grim picture for the state where children are already reeling under acute malnutrition and high infant mortality. As per an analysis by voluntary organisation Child Rights and You (CRY), ‘the latest data shows that more than 40% children under the age of 5 are stunted (low height for weight) while 42.8% children below 5 are underweight. The percentage of children who are wasted (low weight for age) has come down from 35 to 25.8% but the number is still considered very high by WHO standards.’Stung by the high levels of malnutrition, one of the highest in the country, in the previous NFHS 3 survey the state had launched several initiatives to contain malnutrition including the Atal child health and nutrition mission. It also commissioned a comprehensive district wise NIN (National Institute of Nutrition) survey in 2010. Meanwhile, only 18% infants receive health check-up within two days of birth. With a huge number of newborns dying within the first 24 hours of birth immediate health checkups must be prioritized at all district levels. 50% of the state’s children have not received full immunization needed for prevention of critical preventable diseases. The state in 2014 has renewed its campaign on vaccination through mission Indradhanush and this should hopefully tilt the figures in the state’s favor in the next survey. Moreover the percentage of children below two years of age receiving both breast milk and solid- semi solid food stands at a dismal 6.6%.Soha Moitra, regional director (North), says, “The NHFS is not just a reflection of the state of health and nutritional well-being of children but it also provides direction for corrective measures in state policies and programmes. For MP, the data so released not only highlights the extremely slow pace of progress vis a vis child care and health but also reinforces the need to address nutritional security of children as an emergency.” “In context of malnutrition, strengthening of Anganwadi Centres and a robust system of growth monitoring, becomes imperative,” she added. (Times of India 25/1/16)

 

290. Poor Nutrition, Child Marriage Behind Low IMR and MMR (3)

SRIKAKULAM: Though the government has been initiating several welfare programmes to increase the girl birth rate, to minimise the infant mortality and maternal mortality rates, there is no progress in the district. Due to the child marriages, malnutrition, poverty and superstition a large number of children die in the district, particularly in the rural pockets, every year. The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994, is not being implemented in the district properly. During the past 20 years statistics point to the high need to save the girl child in the district. Over 50 per cent of the pregnant women do not have nutritious food and surprisingly majority of them is not taking even one fruit/egg a day. In 2015 34 women died during delivery in the district. During the past 20 years, the sex ratio declined to the disadvantage of the girl child. According to the reports, there are only 945 females against 1,000 males and the government’s initiative is not bearing fruit to save the girl child in the district. Stressing the need to implement the PNDT Act and prevent the child marriages to ensure no early pregnancies in the district, the government has decided to take up massive awareness programme through schoolchildren. “In 2015, due to malnutrition and early pregnancies there were 509 stillbirths and 524 total child deaths (one to five years) were reported last year. The district administration would launch a massive awareness programme to educate people on the problems of child marriages and malnutrition in the villages. The schoolchildren would be educated to create awareness among their parents. As many as 50,000 deliveries took place in 2015 and 34 mothers died. However, the district administration is very keen to bring the death rate to zero, said collector P Lakshminarasimham. One can report on the toll free number 1098, police helpline 100 and Women and Child Development department 08942-240630 on the child marriages, the collector added. .. (New Indian Express 27/1/16)

 

291. TS outperforms AP in IMR: report (3)

HYDERABAD: The latest population based survey, National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015-16, which was released by the Union Government a few days ago, has given clear indication of improvement of Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) levels for Telangana State. In fact, Telangana has managed to outperform Andhra Pradesh (AP) in the IMR, which is the mortality rate of infants for every 1,000 live births. According to the NFHS-4, the IMR for Telangana State (both urban has rural) is at 28 for every 1,000 live births. At the same time, average IMR (urban and rural) for AP is at 35. In urban Telangana, the IMR is at 20 while in rural areas, the IMR in Telangana is a bit higher at 35 deaths. In urban AP, the IMR was at 20 while in rural areas, Andhra Pradesh has an IMR of 40. Expert researchers and health care workers, however, point out that compared to other States and even developed countries, the IMR rates in Telangana and AP are very high. In States like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and even for that matter Karnataka, the neonatal mortality rate hovers between 10 and 18 infants for every 1,000 live births. According to NFHS-4, both Telangana and AP have very under-five mortality rate (U5MR) per every 1,000 live births. The average U5MR in Telangana, according to NFHS-4 is 32 while for AP it is at 41. Senior paediatricians pointed out that the high level of under-five mortality rates highlight the need to strengthen long-term care for infants soon after they are born. In this direction, the recently launched Telangana New Borne Action Plan, which is a part of the India Newborn Action Plan (INAP) launched by Government of India (GOI), could go a long way in improving things. Essentially, the TNAP and INAP outline ‘a targeted strategy for accelerating the reduction of preventable newborn deaths and stillbirths in the State and elsewhere in the country.’ “Would-be mothers have to be take care right from conceiving stage till delivery and later after the birth. To a large extent we have been successful in providing this level of care in Telangana,” says Head, Paediatrics, Gandhi Hosptial, Dr. J. Venkteswara Rao. Till recently, the IMR levels in TS was between 33 and 35. “Earlier surveys in Telangana had indicated that IMR was at around 35. When we compare this to NFHS-4 survey that indicates that IMR is now 28, it is definitely heartening. However, when we look at the overall picture, we are way behind States like Kerala or even Karnataka, we are behind. In the end, we must aim to bring down the IMR to a single digit,” points out president of the National Neonatology Forum (NNF) of India, AP and TS chapters, Dr. T Usha Rani. (The Hindu 29/1/16)

 

HIV/AIDS

292. 5 children die every month due to HIV (3)

Mumbai: Raghu, a three-year-old from Narole, has been diagnosed with HIV infection and is currently staying with a local NGO. Sadly, both of Raghu’s parents, who were HIV-infected, did not opt for treatment even when Raghu was conceived owing to social stigma. Which is why, the HIV virus got transmitted into Raghu and he is now under continuous medication at ART Centre. “Due to social stigma, Raghu’s parents did not take any medical precautionary measures to save their children from the infection. The child was delivered at home to save themselves from the shame,” said Bharat Tamang, project manager, Desire, an NGO working for HIV-infected children. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), though the number of HIV infections in India has decreased, every month, 33 children in the age group of 1 to 18 years get registered as new HIV infection cases in Mumbai. And many of these infected children aged 1 to 14 years succumb to HIV. Every month, five children die because of HIV infection in Mumbai. In the past five years between 2011 and 2015 (November), nearly 300 children have succumbed to HIV infection in the city. A Right to Information (RTI) application filed by The Asian Age has revealed these statistics. Mr Tamang said, “The government provides medicines for free at ART centres but no attention is paid to the nutrition level of the child. If a child is hungry, will he be interested in consuming medicine or food? Children should be provided with a nutrition kit as it helps in making their immunity stronger. There have been incidences where hungry children have taken medicines with a cup of tea.” If a pregnant woman is diagnosed with HIV, from the time of diagnosis till 18 months after delivery, she, along with her child, needs to be under continuous medication. HIV expert Dr Ram Malkani said, “If a pregnant HIV woman takes proper medication, chances of transferring the infection to the child decrease by 80 per cent. Also, it is essential to follow up with ART centres to do the required tests until the child turns 18 months’ old. Incomplete testing will not reveal the medical condition of the child which can later prove fatal.” However, as per RTI data, there is a huge discrepancy in the number of pregnant women diagnosed with HIV and the number of such women who continue with testing of their newborn babies till 18 months. In 2014, 270 pregnant women were diagnosed with HIV while only 58 per cent of them followed it up with testing of their children till 18 months. In 2015 however, the percentage increased to 80. Till November 2015, 209 pregnant women were diagnosed with HIV, out of which, 172 made regular follow ups. Additional project director, Mumbai District Aids Control Society, Shrikala Acharya, said, “The number of deaths has gone down drastically. In 2013, it was in three digits but now, it has come down to two digits.” (Asian Age 3/1/16)

 

293. Children exposed to half knowledge are vulnerable to exploitation, AIDS (3)

NEW DELHI: Now a well-know advocate for rights of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, 25-year-old Gautam Yadav, by his own admission, wasn’t always this confident a crusader for human rights. “I was never crusader material,” he laughs as he speaks to The Hindu about testing HIV+, accepting it and moving on with life. “Not so long ago, I was a frightened young boy in Class VIII, who left school after bullies called him a hijra . I was still figuring out who I was. As if the process wasn’t confusing enough, my peers troubled me no end. The result was that I dropped out of school, and with the little knowledge that I could get over the Internet, I launched myself into the world of dating and soon started having unprotected sex. Nobody — not even my partners — told me about condoms. I later tested positive for HIV,” he says. “There are little Gautams everywhere. And that is what scares me now. That is what has made me a crusader. HIV is here and uneducated children, who are having sex a lot earlier than parents are aware of, are exposed to a whole gamut of diseases,” he says. Speaking about the urgent need to talk to students about sex, gender education and healthy sex practices, he says: “When the Parliament can pass laws to treat and punish 16-year-olds as adult, it is also time that students are spoken to and educated as adults about AIDS. Half-baked knowledge is a dangerous thing. Let us empower our children with awareness.” He is also advocating for children over 14 years to be given the right to test for HIV. “The government should understand that early testing, counselling and treatment is key. Children should be given access to unbiased counselling, which is important. We simply can not allow them to be lost due to our callous attitudes, prejudices and lack of understanding.” However, it isn’t just these hazards that people living with HIV face. Though India’s Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) service model today is recognised as one of the state-of-the-art, activists say the struggle is not yet over. “There has been treatment stockouts and financial cuts to the HIV programme budget in recent times,” says prominent HIV activist Daxa Patel. “It is the right of every person living with HIV to avail of the best treatment, care and support services. India has had free antiretroviral treatment since 2004. The country is now facing challenges like stockouts of drugs and other commodities. We need access to third-line treatment and viral load testing. The government needs to reconsider the budget cuts that are affecting the programme. It is crucial that our government understands these gaps and works with us to address them,” she says, adding that being HIV positive and a woman simply doubles the struggle. “Social stigma aside, women who are positive have to fight even for their basic rights to children and property. It is an uphill task to access proper treatment and a life of dignity.” HIV/AIDS Alliance executive director (India) James Robertson said: “India’s AIDS response has secured real results, but we must not rest on these achievements. The epidemic is not over, and we cannot lose momentum.” Giving an insight into the efforts made by the government, National AIDS Control Organisation Deputy Director General (CST) A.S. Rathore said: “In 2004, the government started establishing ART centres providing free ART drugs to people living with HIV. There are now 520 ART centres all across India. Over 13 lakh people living with HIV are registered at these ART centres. Of them, nine lakh avail the free ART medicines. We have done quite well, but we need to do more and we are committed to ensure all PLHIV who are in need of the treatment has timely access to the treatment.” (The Hindu 3/1/16)

 

294. Wrongly labelled as HIV+, farmer’s wife gets Rs1 lakh (3)

Mumbai: Raju Bankar, a 32-year-old farmer from Indapur in Pune district, felt vindicated on Wednesday afternoon when the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) awarded his wife, Sheetal, a compensation of Rs 1 lakh. She had been wrongly labelled by the local district hospital as HIV-positive in the eighth month of pregnancy and, as a result, was turned away from seven private hospitals for delivery (before delivering at a government hospital and given only a floor bed in September 2015) and fed potent anti-HIV drugs for four days. “Even our newborn was given the drugs for two days,” said Raju. The Bankars were among 103 patients and relatives who presented medical grievances to the NHRC at the first all-India hearing of grievances against public and private healthcare providers. The first of six hearings was held at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Deonar, on Wednesday. “She had to face serious difficulties and suffer mental agony and trauma,” said Justice Cyriac Joseph, acting chairperson of NHRC. The western regional public hearing, being conducted by NHRC and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, brought to light several key issues of denial of healthcare in the public and private sectors. Totally, 103 were heard but 26 cases against private providers were not heard. Compensation was awarded in 11 cases, including four from Maharashtra. Suresh Nayak (26) from Nandurbar was awarded a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for having to undergo an amputation due to delay in healthcare. Surgeons at Nandurbar civil hospital was hauled up for delaying surgery in Nayak’s case in March 2015. The orthopedic surgeon pleaded that the patient was in shock initially and that he was not ready for surgery, having a low BP and low hemoglobin count. The patient also claimed to have received only one blood bottle free despite being a BPL patient. NHRC took a note of the fact that a BPL patient was made to pay money for blood, which he should be given free.Another Nandurbar resident was given Rs50,000 as she was taken by the government-run ambulance service to a private hospital instead of a government one. The public hearing will continue at TISS on Thursday. The NHRC said it would not hear cases concerning the private sector as it was not in in its mandate, advising patients to first exhaust usual routes of justice such as consumer forum, the police and Maharashtra Medical Council. S R Bannumarth, chairperson, state human right commission, said, “Our hands are tied. We have sympathy but we can only hear cases against public officials.” The commission also did not hear cases that were older than 12 months. Regarding private doctors calling the commission’s hearing equal to a khap panchayat, NHRC acting chairperson Justice Cyriac Joseph said, “Khap panchayats are illegal while NHRC is a quasi-judicial body created by a statute and looks at cases of human rights violation and make the necessary recommendations.” (Times of India 6/1/16)

 

295. HIV+ woman kills herself after illness aggravates (3)

COIMBATORE: A 47-year-old HIV-infected woman has committed suicide by consuming poison and slitting her left arm and throat after her health condition deteriorated. According to police, the deceased was undergoing treatment for AIDS at the Santhi Gears Hospital, Singanallur, for the past three years. The woman, a homemaker, was living with her parents and younger brother at K G Chavadi near Ettimadai. On Tuesday morning, police said, the woman first consumed poison and later slit her left wrist and throat, using a shaving blade. The woman’s brother, a 23-year-old electrician, and father took her to a nearby private hospital. “She died on her way to the hospital,” police said. “She took the extreme step after her health condition deteriorated,” they added. (Times of India 14/1/16)

 

296. NHRC issues notice to West Bengal government over alleged banning of an HIV positive student (3)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to West Bengal government over reports that a private school in Bishnupur area of South 24 Parganas, West Bengal banned an HIV positive student and also forced his maternal grandmother, a teacher in the same school, to take a ‘purity test’ and since then she has been a target to repeated verbal abuse. The Commission has observed that the incident raise a serious issue of violation of human rights of the victim, most importantly, the Right to Education of the seven year old boy. Accordingly, it has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. The Commission has also observed that this is a sad state of affairs. It is the lack of awareness among the people about HIV/HIDS that breeds the stigma, prejudice, fear and the consequent discrimination of the victims. The seven year old boy, reportedly, upon being tested HIV+, five months ago, was asked to leave the school after the confidential report about his health status was leaked and the parents of several children signed a petition demanding his ouster. Reportedly, both the parents of the child are also HIV positive. (Times of India 15/1/16)

 

297. Widespread lack of HIV awareness among Indian adults (3)

New Delhi: The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data findings, released by the Health Ministry on Tuesday night, reveal widespread ignorance about HIV/AIDS among adults in India. According to the latest data, nearly 82 per cent women and nearly 70 per cent men — in the 13 States surveyed under phase 1 of NFHS4 — lacked comprehensive knowledge of HIV/AIDS and safe sex practices. The pattern is, worryingly, seen even in high burden States with the most drastic fall coming from Andhra Pradesh. As per the NFHS4 data, only 56% men and 29% women know about HIV — a staggering fall from a 2005 data when 93% in men and 74% in women in the State had comprehensive knowledge. With a prevalence of 0.59%, Andhra Pradesh shoulders the third highest HIV burden in India — way above the national average of 0.35%.This is seen as a direct result of budget cuts, with IEC (information, education and communication) measures and targeted intervention activities coming to a screeching halt. “Yes. We are aware. And it is an alarming drop in HIV information available in the public. This could be because the IEC activities have taken a backstage,” said C.R.K Nair, Additional Director-General (Statistics), Health Ministry. A comparison with NFHS3 revealed that while 45% men had ‘heard of’ HIV in 2005 (across the 13 States for which partial data has been released), only 30% currently are aware of the disease. For women, the figure fell from 24% in 2005 to 18% in 2016. The Ministry has, historically, relied heavily on IEC activities, since prevention is the only key method of curbing and reversing the epidemic. “Due to budget cuts in the past couple of years, IEC activities have suffered. You do not see advertisements on safe sex or mass media campaigns about HIV as much anymore. These are extremely worrying findings,” said a senior official. (The Hindu 21/1/16)

 

298. Woman sarpanch starts HIV test for brides, grooms  (3)

Chandigarh: Days after being unanimously elected, a young woman-led panchayat in Bhiwani district has come out with a unique idea: of asking brides and grooms of the village to get HIV test conducted before marriage. Sarpanch Mamta Sangwan was unanimously elected along with other 10 members in Chendeni village in the recent elections. Realizing the importance of HIV testing before wedding, the body passed a resolution in this regard and the idea took practical shape during they wedding of Dharamjit Grewal, a geography lecturer, and Mukesh Rani. “Most villagers here are educated and know the implications of such a disease. Hence, soon after the panchayat passed this resolution, we got the test done. It was produced before the village in the presence of the panchayat, which was invited for reception held on Monday to set a new precedent,” said Dharamjit and added that he certainly spoke to his wife, Mukesh, before taking up the idea with the sarpanch. “She liked the idea and we got the test done at the ICTC centre in Bhiwani,” he told. Mamta says she is quite confident about the success of their idea. In her late 20s, Mamta is wife of CISF constable Hitesh Kumar. She credits activist and theatre artiste Sanjay Ramphal with the idea. “Soon after the elections, we wanted to start something constructive as well as innovative. We held a meeting with Sanjay and thought of this. Besides, we have also decided to gift a tulsi sapling to couples and ask them to pledge to not to indulge in female foeticide,” said Mamta. With over 4,000 votes, Chendeni village falls in Dadri sub-division of Bhiwani. The village would only vote for elections of panchayat samiti and zila parishad members on Sunday. (Times of India 21/1/16)

 

299. Free 3rd-line ART for HIV-positive patients (3)

New Delhi: In a major relief to HIV-positive patients who have developed resistance to second-line treatment, the government has decided to provide free-of-cost third-line antiretroviral (ART) treatment to such patients. The government will launch the new initiative on January 29, which is in accordance with the WHO 2013 ART recommendations. With some patients showing resistance to second line drugs, the technical resource group at National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) has recommended to provide third line ART. The group also recommended to use a combination of three drugs — Darunavir (600 mg), +Ritonavir (100 mg) with Raltegavir (100 mg) — as the preferred third-line regimen. According to government estimates, there could be only 250 such patients but drugs have been procured for 1,000 such patients over the next one year as it is expected that more patients could be taking these drugs privately and once the programme is launched by the government they will eventually come to the national programme due to cost factor. Since there is no further line of treatment, experts recommend a “cautious” use. Significantly, the patients will be put on treatment after a lengthy and carefully designed screening process whereby “those patients who have already been initiated on second-line ART will be tested for viral load monitoring every six months. However, those found with non suppressed viral load additional intensive adherence counselling will be given along with viral load testing on a three-monthly basis and if the patient is found as a case of virological failure then the patient will be provided third-line ART,” said a senior official in the health ministry. Those found in need of third-line treatment will be examined by a trained team of experts, which will then sent the report to the national clinical expert panel at the Naco for review and approval. The doctors have been also given special training as these drugs are new and doctors are not familiar with them. Accordingly, 3-4 doctors from the 10 centres of excellence in HIV care have been trained by the WHO on these protocols. The drugs will be available only at these centres of excellence. The patient will have to take a total of six tablets daily in third-line ART. As per the health ministry, the per patient cost of these drugs will be Rs 1,18,000 for one year. On the other hand, the cost for first-line and second-line drugs are Rs 7,700 and Rs 15,000 for one year. (Asian Age 23/1/16)

 

300. 17 HIV+ children break out of home, three staffers arrested (3)

Coimbatore: Three people from a home for the HIV affected in rural Coimbatore were arrested for harassment of minor inmates on Friday. Seventeen children managed to escape from the home and inform the public who in turn alerted the police. Initially, the police said the children were sexually harassed, but after inquiries, the sleuths said that the allegations were not true. “All the children are HIV infected. Inquiries revealed that the children were treated like untouchables,” said a police officer. They were also beaten up by the staff. Police identified the arrested staff members as K Dominic, 38 of Anaikulam in Idukki, S Jumone, 25, of Kalamassery in Ernakulam and G Bibin George, 25, from Idukki in Kerala. Police said the home, Assisis Snehalaya, launched in 2004 and functioning at Rottigoundanur Road near Thirumalayampalayam, 25km from the city, had proper approvals from the government. As many as 38 people including 23 boys and nine girls who were affected with HIV, were residing there, attending various schools in the vicinity. According to police, K Rajasethu Murali, 44, an auto rickshaw driver from Kuniyamuthur, who collects left over food from marriage halls and hotels to be served to the children daily, visited the home on Friday morning. “When he was about to leave, nine children ran out of the home and attempted to get into his rickshaw. They told Rajasethu that they were being harassed and they wanted to leave the home,” police said. Even as he was talking to the children, they said that eight others had sneaked out of the home using the rear entry and were waiting there. Within moments, the three administrators came rushing out and picked up a quarrel with him. They pelted stones on the auto, damaging the wind shield,” police said. Witnesses rushed to rescue the auto driver and the children. Police from K G Chavadi station rushed to the spot and took the children to the police station. The children told us that they were not provided proper food,” police said.Meanwhile, members of Hindu Munnani, RSS, BJP and MDMK gathered at KG Chavadi police station and demanded action against home authorities for torturing the children. Based on Rajasethu Murali’s complaint, police registered a case against the trio under sections 294 (b), 323, 506 (ii) of the Indian Penal Code, section 3 of Tamil Nadu Public Property (Prevention of damage and loss) act read with section 23 and 25 of the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) act. They were arrested and sent to judicial custody on Friday night. District child protection officer Vijaya and team rushed to the home and rescued 21 other inmates from the home. They were sent to a shelter home near Kinathukadavu. “We have started an inquiry into the allegations of the children,” Vijaya said. (Times of India 30/1/16)

 

301. Children with AIDS denied govt benefits (3)

Mangaluru: In Dakshina Kannada district, there are 2,183 children, who are either infected with HIV or dependants of parents with HIV, as per the official statistics. However, majority of them do not get government benefits as per National AIDS Control Programme. While 1,657 are affected due to HIV in the district, 526 children are diagnosed with AIDS as per statistics of district women and child welfare department. However, only 537 out of 2,183 children have availed government benefits to the tune of Rs 34.39 lakh in 2015-16 through the department, which in 2013-14 had distributed benefits worth Rs 19.05 lakh to 233 children. Similarly, benefits worth Rs 34.68 lakh were distributed in 2014-15. Over 1,600 children are deprived of financial aid being distributed through the department. The expert committee on Prevention of Sexual Violence Against Women and Children headed by MLC V S Ugrappa had expressed its concern over huge gap between number of affected children and beneficiaries during a review meeting recently. The committee also had sought the district health and family welfare officer Dr Ramakrishna Rao to submit a report on the lacunae. Dr Rao told TOI that children who are diagnosed with AIDS, are given Anti-Retro-viral Therapy (ART) through district health and family welfare department. “ART is being given to 196 children in the district. Our department has identified 576 affected children, including 314 boys and 262 girls, in the district. Out of 576 children, 150 boys and 146 girls are given ART through the department,” he said, adding that ART is given to those children whose CD4 count in the blood is very low. Children, who are infected, those living with infected parents, and children who have lost their parents are given financial assistance as per guidelines through women and child welfare department, Dr Rao said, adding that a consolidated report on benefits being distributed to children affected by AIDS will be submitted to the expert committee on Prevention of Sexual Violence Against Women and Children within a week. (Times of India 30/1/16)