HR News

Volume 17                                                    No. 6                             February 27, 2015

HR NEWS: February 27, 2015

(From February 20 to 27, 2015)

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Social boycott of Dalits can’t be ended by judicial order: SC (2)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said that it cannot pass an order to end alleged social boycott of the Dalit community in violence-hit Mirchpur village in Haryana as it would be an “ineffective” one. “What is the solution to end the social boycott? The courts cannot say that end the social boycott of Dalits. It would be an ineffective order,” the social justice bench of justices MB Lokur and UU Lalit said. The court was hearing a PIL seeking rehabilitation and relocation of Dalit community members from Mirchpur in Rohtak district. An old Dalit man and his physically-challenged daughter of the village were killed by members of dominant Jat community in 2010, sparking fear among the Dalits. The bench today asked the counsel for Haryana to apprise it as to whether a judicial panel headed by Justice Iqbal Singh has filed its report on the incident. Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Dalit community members, said that they are living under constant threat as the dominant community members feel that because of them some persons have been convicted in the case. Moreover, the appeals against the conviction of some members of the dominant community are pending in the Delhi High Court and Dalits feel threatened, he said. “We are also suffering the social boycott,” he said, adding that the entire state is not hostile to the community and hence, they be given land at some other place to live. The counsel, appearing for Haryana, however, said that one company of CRPF personnel is camping in the village since 2010 and there has been such incidents thereafter against Dalit community members there. Meanwhile, Gonsalves said that he will not press for the relief that the members of Dalit community be rehabilitated in Delhi and added rather, they be given land at some other place in Haryana itself. Earlier, the apex court had dubbed the incident as “scar on the society” and had expressed its anguish after the then Congress-led state government said the 70-year-old man and his handicap daughter were “trapped” in the house after it was set on fire and the trial court has not held their death as murder. Earlier, the 15 convicts, belonging to Jat community, were held guilty for setting ablaze victim Tara Chand’s house, which caused the death on April 21, 2010 at Mirchpur. The incident took place after a dispute between Jat and Dalit communities of the village. They were convicted in the case by a Delhi trial court on September 24, 2011. Three persons were sentenced to life imprisonment by a Delhi court on October 31, 2011 for their involvement in the killings. Five others were sentenced to varying jail terms up to five years and seven convicts were let off on probation for one year. The court had earlier acquitted 82 out of 97 accused in the case saying the allegations levelled against them were not proved beyond reasonable doubt. The accused resorted to rioting and attacked the houses of members of Dalit community on April 21 as a pet dog of a Dalit had barked at a group of Jats two days ago when they were passing through the colony, according to the charge sheet. They got enraged when a Dalit boy objected to hurling of stones by Jat youths at the dog, it had said, adding later it led to the killings. (Zee News 20/2/15)

2. Attack leaves Dalits terrorised; police drag their feet on taking action (2)

Bengaluru: Around 100 Dalit families living in a separate colony at Harobele village on the outskirts of the city were allegedly attacked and terrorised by upper caste people over a trivial row in January. Though the incident indicated the practice of untouchability and atrocity, the jurisdictional Sathanur police took a month to register the complaint and that too after a city-based NGO approached the National and State human rights commissions. Men and women were beaten up and their houses damaged. They were threatened with dire consequences, forcing the families to flee and take shelter in a nearby field the whole night on the day of the attack. “We even approached the State police chief and got a direction issued to the Ramanagaram Superintendent of Police to take immediate action on January 16. But neither have the police taken up a complaint nor acted against the attackers,” Mariswamy, a member of the All-India Human Rights Council told The Hindu. According to him, the village practises untouchability as the Dalits (Christians) are not allowed to enter the hotel and the barber’s shop, and do not even have access to houses of the upper castes. They have a separate barber’s shop, he said. The attack was a fallout of an incident where Upkar Raju (57), a Dalit from the colony and theatre artiste, was bashed up by “Kerosene” Prakash on January 11 over a trivial row, according to the complaint. Raju’s daughter Mary (22), who came to the rescue of her father, was also abused and beaten up. Upset by this, Raju’s two sons Naveen (27) and Antony (20) went to Prakash’s house to enquire about the incident. Enraged by this, a group of 20 people not only beat up the boys, but also chased them to their colony; they also attacked other men and damaged houses, according to the complaint. The Sathanur police on Saturday registered a case against Prakash and others under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. “We have taken up a case and are investigating,” a senior police officer said. (The Hindu 22/2/15)

3. RS passes bill to include certain communities in SC list (2)

New Delhi: A bill to include certain synonymous names of communities under Scheduled Castes category in Haryana, Karnataka, Odisha and Dadra and Nagar Haveli was passed by Rajya Sabha Tuesday. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was passed by a voice vote. Replying to a debate on the bill, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot said the law has been further amended to modify the SC list in three states and one Union Territory. Expressing concern over the diversion of the SC sub-plan fund in various states including Delhi and atrocities on SC people, he said the government is taking several measures to help them and is also taking active measures. He also mentioned that the government has a proposal from the Bihar government with regard to inclusion of more castes in SC list. “This will entail some additional recurring and non-recurring expenditure on account of benefits of schemes meant for the development of SCs to which the persons belonging to the newly-added communities will become entitled, as a result of enacting the bill,” the bill reads. As per the bill, communities such as ‘Kabirpanthi and Julaha’ in Haryana, ‘Bhovi, od, odde, Vaddar, Waddar’ in Karnatka, ‘Dhoba, Dhobi, Dom, Dombo, Duria Dom, Katia, Kela, Nalua Kela, Khadala and Turi’ in Odisha and the community of ‘Chamar’ in Dadra and Nagar Haveli are included in the SC list. Participating in the debate, Ali Anwar Ansari (JDU) Ali Anwar (JDU) sought inclusion of Haryana’s Mev community under Scheduled Tribe (ST) category on par with Meena tribe. He alleged that the community, which fought against Babar’s invasion and sacrificed 1200 lives, was not included in the list simply on basis of their religion because they fell under Mewati Muslim category. (Zee News 24/2/15)

4. Dalit family thrown out of their house and threatened (2)

Gadchiroli: A Dalit from Laxmipur village in Kurkheda taluka named Hiralal Shende, demanded stern action against the Purada police station officer for allegedly shielding the accused who threw away his belongings as well as compelled his family to leave his house and village, police sources said on Wednesday. After the incident, Hiralal met the Superintendent of Police here on Tuesday and submitted a memorandum to him requesting for stringent action against the erring police officials and those who harassed him as well as his family. “On February 11, around 13 people entered my house and threw away all my belongings out of my house. They molested my wife and broke portraits of Lord Buddha and Dr Ambedkar,” Shende said. “You will not be allowed to stay in the village until you agree to graze our cattle. They also destroyed our food and then virtually drove me as well as my wife out of our house, warning us to leave the village immediately,” Shende’s complaint said. “The next day I went to the Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police office and submitted a complaint. The officials asked me to lodge a complaint at the Purada Police Station. I approached the police station on February 13 and submitted the same complaint but instead of registering my original complaint, the police gave me a non-cognisable offence letter. They failed to take any action against attackers,” the complaint said. “My family has been terrorised due to this incident and it has become difficult for us to return to the village. We have been wandering since the incident and are homeless. The attackers can do anything to my life any time,” he said in his complaint. “Therefore, stringent action should be taken against the police station officer for shielding the accused. Action should also an action be taken against the attackers,” Shende said in his complaint. When asked about the incident, police sub-inspector Sagar Khare of Purada police station claimed that the complaint is being probed and action would be taken after the enquiry. (The Hindu 26/2/15)

TRIBALS

5. Tribal communities resolve to safeguard indigenous cultures despite odds (6)

ERODE: Members of Oorali, Sholagar, Irular and Badaga tribal communities living in Sathyamangalam hills converged at Hasanur on Saturday to commemorate World Mother Language Day by deliberating on ways to safeguard their language, culture and their way of life, overcoming their downward economic spiral. The programme organised jointly by the National Advocacy Council for Development of Indigenous People (NACDIP), National Adivasi Solidarity Council (NASC), and Thalavadi Adivasi Munnetra Sangam (TAMS) witnessed representatives of the tribal communities making a strong case for implementation of Forest Rights Act 2006, for their academic and economic betterment. The Act provides for appointment of a teacher at the anganwadis run by Integrated Child Development Services to teach children in the pre-Dravidar languages spoken by the tribes, K. Krishnan, NASC, said. A foundation in native language was necessary for the tribal children to acquire skills in other languages that are vital for their academic progress at a later stage. There was an imperative need for the tribal communities to develop scripts so that the native wisdom pertaining to wild life, rain pattern and medicinal herbs could be transferred down the generations, Mr. Krishnan said. Tribal people whose presence was necessary for safeguarding forest wealth ought to be well taken care of, Mr. Krishnan said. Bhavani Sagar MLA P.L. Sundaram said preservation of native languages must be accorded prime importance since the thinking process takes place only in mother tongue. The MLA wanted the State Government to implement the Forest Rights Act in letter and spirit. Tribal people must learn to be assertive to pre-empt extinction of their cultures, Mr. Sundaram said. Hassanur Ranger Palanichamy said Village Forest Committees were being enabled to access non-timber forest produce and derive optimal economic benefits without scope for involvement of intermediaries. Tribal communities were being involved in conservation of forest wealth through their induction into the Department as tribal watchers and anti-poaching watchers. A proposal for eco-tourism submitted to the government envisages creation of permanent employment opportunities for 200 members of tribal communities, Mr. Palanichamy said. Village Forest Committees were functional in nine forest settlements in Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve and three in Gobichettipalayam, Special Tahsildar, Adi-Dravida Welfare, Sathyamangalam, Meekshi Sundaram said. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

6. PUCL moves NHRC against ‘police violence’ on Odisha tribals (6)

KOLKATA: The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Sunday appealed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to provide “immediate protection” to tribals of Sundergarh district in Odisha, alleging that they are being tortured by the police for opposing the State government’s move to bring tribal villages in the district under the Rourkela municipal corporation. The PUCL’s complaint said the residents of Jagda, Jhartarang, Suidihi and other villages in Sundergarh have been protesting ever since the government issued the notification in 2013 because the district is governed under Schedule V of the Constitution, framed to protect tribals in the Scheduled Areas of nine States. The notification would facilitate the “illegal inclusion” of their panchayats in the Rourkela municipal corporation to develop Rourkela. “The government’s intention… is to bring Rourkela under the ‘Smart City’ project, and thus the process to forcibly acquire additional land was initiated,” said Atindriyo Chakrabarty, a Kolkata lawyer who accompanied the PUCL’s fact-finding team to the area. Sharanya Nayak, a PUCL member in Odisha, mailed the complaint to the NHRC on Sunday. Although district officials assured them of help and two MLAs supported the economic blockade the villagers had imposed, the police arrested 72 tribals from various places on January 20, the PUCL said. The residents alleged that the police entered villages on January 20 and beat them up, without sparing women and children, and warned of atrocities against the women. Although 12 women were freed on bail, four FIRs were registered, with charges of attempt to murder, against some villagers, who have gone into hiding, the PUCL has said. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

7. Tribals, activists burn copies of land acquisition Ordinance (6)

NIYAMGIRI (ODISHA): Hundreds of Dangaria Kandha tribal men and women joined a large group of anti-displacement activists of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti atop the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha’s Kalahandi district on Sunday and burnt copies of the land acquisition Ordinance recently promulgated by the Narendra Modi Government. The tribals and activists, who came together at the end of the three-day annual Niyam Raja Parab atop the hills, resolved that they would continue to oppose the “pro-corporate” Ordinance till it is withdrawn. The activists announced a State-wide agitation against the Ordinance that they say goes against the Forest Rights Act rendering the Gram Sabhas powerless. Copies of the Ordinance were also burnt by many people’s organisations at various places across Odisha simultaneously to strengthen their opposition to the Centre’s move. The tribals, who won their battle against mining of bauxite from Niyamgiri hills by Vedanta for its existing one million tonne per annum capacity alumina refinery, also vowed to strongly oppose any move by the Centre to consider handing over of Niyamgiri to the company in the future. The Samiti is also opposed to the existing alumina refinery which is being run by Sterlite Industries Ltd, a Vedanta group company, as the same is adversely affecting the ecology in the area. The Samiti is contemplating to move the court of law seeking permanent closure of the refinery, said Samiti leader Lada Sikaka. The annual cultural festival is being organised in a big way since the anti-Vedanta agitation by the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti gained strength several years ago. It is attended by tribals from 112 villages in the Niyamgiri hills. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

8. Justice still a distant dream for most forest-dwellers in State (6)

BENGALURU: Even six years after the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 coming into force, the government has failed to extend the benefits of the legislation to over 70,000 tribal families in nine districts of Karnataka. Instead of correcting “historical injustice”, delay in implementing the legislation (the Act was notified in 2008), is only fanning discontent among tribal people and traditional forest-dwellers. Of the 2,58,780 applicants belonging to the Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) and community rights seekers, a meagre 7,700 have got title deeds between 2010 and 2015. As many as 1,73,082 applications have been rejected so far for various reasons, according to statistics released by the Department of Social Welfare recently. Elected representatives cutting across party lines are demanding implementation of the Act in “letter and spirit” and are urging the government to extend the time for people belonging to ST and OTFDs to submit applications. Tribal organisations are also demanding a “review of the applications” rejected so far, and have blamed the Wildlife Act for the delay in implementation of Forests Rights Act. At the same time, the Forest Rights Committees have their own reasons for receiving and rejecting applications. While the Uttara Kannada district received the highest number of applications, Shivamogga district received the lowest. Peeved at the way the government had dealt with the matter, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Kagodu Thimmappa raised the issue in the recent legislature session. Upset with the apathy of the authorities, he even cautioned of holding a protest. Interestingly, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Revenue Minister V. Srinivas Prasad and Social Welfare Minister H. Anjaneya recently visited haadis (tribal settlements) and assured the residents of implementing the Act. Despite, assurances from those at the helm of affairs, nothing has changed at the ground level, regrets S. Srikanth, convener of the Tribal Action Committee. (The Hindu 25/2/15)

9. ‘Give tribal people control of at least half of natural resources on their land’ (6)

MYSURU: The Kabini reservoir in H.D. Kote near here may be the source of electricity and drinking water for residents of Bengaluru and Mysuru. But, the tribal people living in the area are allegedly not even given permission by the forest authorities to drill borewells to meet their drinking water needs. Citing this as an instance of denial of benefits to the local population from the natural resources available on their land, founder of the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) R. Balasubramaniam emphasised the importance of giving tribal people control of the natural resources on their land if any meaningful progress was to be made for their development. He was delivering the keynote address at an interaction programme with 263 tribal people from Chhattisgarh, who are on a weeklong tour of Karnataka as part of the National Tribal Youth Exchange Programme with the aim of drawing tribal people into the mainstream. “The Kabini reservoir produces 27 MW of power and around 26 MW is sent to Bengaluru. The reservoir also meets the drinking water of people in Bengaluru and Mysuru. But, the Forest Department refuses to give permission to tribal people to drill borewells to meet their drinking water needs,” Dr. Balasubramaniam lamented. As long as such lopsided planning continued, H.D. Kote taluk would remain at the bottom of human development indicators, he said. Dr. Balasubramaniam said a similar situation prevailed even in Chhattisgarh, where natural resources are controlled by private corporations in Delhi. Tribal people should be given control of at least half of the natural resources on their land. Their development should not be dictated by the plans drawn up by governments and NGOs. “Instead, they should have a say in the matter,” he said. Later, the visitors from Chhattisgarh interacted with a group of Jenu Kurubas, Betta Kurubas and Yerawas from H.D. Kote taluk, sharing views on their livelihood, challenges, and opportunities. “There are 72 girls among the visitors, who are in the age group of 15 to 29,” said M.N. Nataraj, Mysuru District Youth Co-ordinator of Nehru Yuva Kendra Sanghatan. The group later visited Mysuru palace, the zoo and Brindavan Gardens before returning to Bengaluru. (The Hindu 26/2/15)

WOMEN

10. Himachal CM Expresses Concern Over Declining Female Sex Ratio (8)

SHIMLA: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh today expressed concern over the declining female sex ratio in the state, especially in areas adjoining Punjab and said that it was an indication that people were resorting to sex selective abortions and misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques. Addressing a public meeting at Dadasiba in Jaswan Pragpur Constituency here, the Chief Minister warned that the grants of those panchayats where female sex ratio was declining, would be stopped and no financial aid would be given for development. “Action would be taken against those who were found indulging in illegal practice of aborting the girl child,” he said. Singh said that it was wrong to differentiate between boy and girl in the present era where women were excelling in every field and held in high esteem. “We should spread the message of protecting the girl child for ensuring a balanced society as I am keenly watching the trend of declining female sex ratio,” he said, adding that he was well aware that some people were going outside the state to abort the girl child, which was inexcusable. Speaking about the setting up of Central University Campus in Kangra, he alleged that it was the BJP which was creating hurdles and spreading rumours about its establishment. “No doubt the Central University will have its main Campus at Dharamsala but surely the people of Dehra won’t be bereft of its benefits or advantages,” he said. He said that the Central University would be established at Dharamsala and its affiliated colleges would be opened at Dehra. The Chief Minister said that many schools were opened in the state and now the need was to open primary schools and that too in those areas where the topography demands so or where there was a necessity and not otherwise. He announced a Police Post for Dadasiba and the introduction of three more trades in ITI from the next academic session. Besides, he said that a Government College would be opened at Dadasiba and granted a Sub-Tehsil status. (New Indian Express 23/2/15)

11. Twin City Sees Spurt in Crime against Women (8)

BHUBANESWAR: In a disturbing trend in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, crime against women has increased by 70 per cent in 2014 as compared to the previous year. Among the incidents of violence against fair sex, rape cases rose to 138 from 81. What is alarming is that the cases of rape involving minors have gone up in the Twin City. The number of minor rape victims shot up to 76 in 2014, registering 43 per cent increase over the previous year. With 89 cases of eve-teasing and molestation recorded in Cuttack in 2014, the figure increased by a whopping 170 per cent compared to 2013. However, the Capital recorded a downward trend in such cases. Similarly, 143 cases of domestic violence and dowry torture were registered in 2014 as against 88 in 2013. Presenting the figures here on Monday, Police Commissioner Dr RP Sharma said a rise in the number points to the fact that more women have come forward to report the atrocities and police have registered their complaints. Cases of swindling involving money circulation rackets and fraud construction firms have also been a cause of concern for the Commissionerate Police. In 2014, number of swindling cases jumped to 551 from 381 in the previous year. However, there was a decline in number of murder in Bhubaneswar where 42 cases were registered though Cuttack recorded a marginal rise from 34 in 2013 to 36 in 2014.  While 15 cases of dacoity were registered in both the cities, police managed to foil 30 attempts. Robberies, though, have surged in the Capital where 123 cases were registered in 2014 as compared to 88 in 2013. In 2014, the Commissionerate Police booked 674 persons in 684 excise cases and seized 5,500 litres and 13,500  bottles of liquor. A penalty of Rs 3,32,22,500 was realised from the violators booked in 66,160 cases registered under Odisha Urban Police Act. Similarly, 466 habitual offenders were detained and 5847 non-bailable warrants executed in 2014, Sharma said while addressing the media. With 92 firearms and a huge cache of ammunition seized in 2014, the Capital City failed to contain the flow of illegal weapons. Around 1000 kgs of ‘ganja’ were seized in nine separate raids during the period. Statistics-wise, the overall situation has shown an improvement in 2014 compared to 2013. From 5,634 cases registered in 2013, the number fell to 5548 in 2014, the Commissioner said. The Twin City has a sanctioned strength of 277 sub-inspector posts of which 174 have been filled up. Similarly, six Inspector and 10 assistant sub-inspector posts are lying vacant in the Commissionerate Police. “A fully manned force would mean that officers handling criminal cases can focus solely on investigation. We have written to the State Government for enhancement of manpower and strengthening the fleet of PCR vans,” Sharma said. In 2014, the Twin City recorded 822 road accidents which claimed 271 lives leaving 749 injured. As many as 347 accidents occurred on National Highways in which 156 lives were lost. (New Indian Express 24/2/15)

12. Women are not given fair share of respect: Court (8)

New Delhi: A Delhi court, while awarding 10 years jail term to a 63-year-old for attempting to outrage the modesty of his pregnant daughter-in-law that led her to commit suicide, observed that if a woman is not safe at her own house, she is safe nowhere. The court also noted that intra­familial sexual abuse’ is a deep-seated malady in the social order and a crime which most of the family members tend to hide and this kind of relationship is never consensual. The court said that the victim committed suicide after being harassed by the accused Bharat Singh Rawat and awarded him the jail term. A case against him was lodged with the Sultanpuri police station. The court said that such cases should be treated with more severity, as it’s an offence committed in secrecy within the four walls of the house. The court said that instead of providing her a shelter, the accused took advantage of the situation and had tried to outrage her modesty when her husband (the accused’s son) was not home. “The trick was very simple. Either the deceased submits to his evil designs or else face social disgrace and defamation,” the court said. The woman was found hanging at her matrimonial house in September 2008 within two years of her marriage and a suicide note was recovered from her before her post mortem. Meanwhile, another court, while convicting two men guilty of beating a man who later died following an argument over an eve-teasing case, noted that the women have not been given their fair share of respect. The court held the accused, Suraj and Ajay, guilty of voluntarily causing hurt to one Sewa Lal who had opposed eve teasing. Both were, however, acquitted from the charges of culpable homicide and not amounting to murder. (Asian Age 25/2/15)

13. Run For Women Empowerment to be Flagged Off on Women’s Day (8)

CHENNAI: In an initiative to empower women, Seek Foundation in association with St Brittos college will organize ‘Womanathon’, a marathon for women on March 8, 2015 to mark Women’s Day. “With the growing number of atrocities and cases against women we have decided to bring awareness in the community by holding a marathon where only the women will participate,” said Vimala Britto, founder of Seek foundation an ngo that works for social welfare. ‘Run with Her’ is the theme of the event. It will be held across three cities – Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad on March 8.  “The people who can do most to improve the situation of so many women and girls are men. It’s in their hands to stop violence against women.  This run is mainly a run for respect,” said Nithyshree from Quanta G events. More than 40,000 men and women are expected to participate in the run. Cyclist Neville Billimoria who too had presided over the press meet stressed on the need to spread awareness and stop violence against women, “It’s important that each one of us takes a stand and puts an end to every form of torture or bad behavior meted out to women folk. I am in full support of this run.” The run will be started at 6 am near Gandhi statue in Marina beach on March 8, 2015. (New Indian Express 27/2/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

14. 2,091 missing children traced in Mumbai (14)

MUMBAI: The city police have traced 2, 091 children out of 2,527 children who went missing in 2014 in the special drive to trace the missing children. Interestingly out of this 2,091 traced children 1,249 are girls alone and rest are boys in the age group of 2 to 15 and 16 years old. According to the statistics the 2013 there were 2,979 children including girls and boys went missing and out of which police traced 2,243 out of which while 968 of them were boys and 1275 were girls. Police said that around 10 percent of children are still missing and they are doing their best to trace them. Many of these children were found begging outside religious places and some of them were push into child labour. Police said that this year in last two months they have traced 137 children. The tracing children began in November after Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria announced the special drive to trace missing persons. “We have started the special drive to trace missing girls and boys under the age of 18. I have asked our teams to go back to 10 years and track each missing child,” Maria had said. Now every police station there are atleast three to four policemen who are dedicated only to trace the missing children. Maria has also announced a cash rewards for the police team which traces a child. (Times of India 22/2/15)

15. Centre to Make Amendments to Child Labour Act: Minister (14)

HYDERABAD: The Union government is all set to make amendments in the Child Labour (Prohibition and regulation) Act 1986 to enforce stricter punishment to the violators in the ensuing budget session of the Parliament slated to begin from Monday. Speaking to newsmen here on Saturday, Union labour and employment minister Bandaru Dattatreya said the Bill would be introduced in the budget session to prevent the practice of employing children below 14 years and prohibiting adolescents( 14 to 18 years of age)in hazardous occupations. Besides the legislative actions, he said the Union labour ministry had undertaken programme called the National Child Labour Project for rehabilitating working children in 270 districts in the country. Around 6,000 special training centres, under the said project, was providing non-formal(bridge)education, vocational training, stipend of Rs 150 per month among other facilities to enrolled children. The project is being operational in eight districts of Telangana, he added. An amendment to the Factories Act, 1948 and Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Bill will also come up before the Parliament in this budget session, the minister informed. “Although Factories Act vests the power of enforcing the provisions of the said Act with the state governments, any amendments to the Act proposed by states require the consent of the President of India. To bring more flexibity to this, we are bringing an amendment,” he explained. Dattatreya said the new Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Bill is aimed at regulating factories with workforce less than 40. Terrorist Activities: Dattatreya lamented that Hyderabad has become a nerve centre for terrorism and terro-related activities in the country. In order to prevent the same, he demanded the TRS government to release a white paper on the efforts made to contain such acts. “The government should appoint a DGP-level officer to keep a vigil on the terrorist activities in the city,” he appealed to the government. He expressed sympathy with the kin of those killed in Dilshuknagar blasts, that rocked the city two years ago on this day. Taking a dig at the MIM, he said some political parties were making provocative speeches using religion for their political benefits. (New Indian Express 22/2/15)

16. Why paper laws and policies are inadequate to bring reforms on child rights (14)

Despite a number of legislations aimed at improving children’s conditions in India, not much has changed in reality, explains Puja Marwaha. Children may constitute 40 percent of the population, but they are not a vote bank. It is therefore no surprise that child rights reforms are moving forward at a snail’s pace. While there are policies and laws on paper, on the ground, India is still miles away from being the child-friendly nation it committed to be, when it ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Even the money spent for reforms remains poor: in the 25th year of the CRC, child welfare was allocated just 4.64 per cent of the annual budget. In the South Asian Report on Child Friendliness of Governments of 2013, India tops the list in just one category i.e. legal and policy framework. But overall, it scores lower than countries like Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan and is ranked fourth among eight nations—the other four being Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. India’s gender equality record is particularly dismal; it managed to better only Afghanistan’s score. Obviously, mere enactment of laws has not helped in areas such as education, health and protection. While there are several laws to deal with protection of child rights, the legal remedies needed to deal with violations of these laws are often not in place. For instance, there is no one law that explicitly bans all forms of corporal punishment across settings. Although the Right To Education (RTE) Act bans corporal punishment in schools, it does not talk of a mechanism for its implementation across schools. In June 2014, the CRC committee in its observations on India reiterates “great concern regarding reports of widespread violence, abuse and neglect of children. This includes family settings, alternative care institutions, schools, and the community.” The committee recommends that India should prohibit corporal punishment and “ensure that legal proceedings are systematically initiated against those responsible for ill-treating children.” As for the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012— experts feel that it is a law that’s skewed against children. It criminalises even consensual sex among those below 18 years, leading to a large number of rape cases being filed against boys mostly by the girls’ parents, who take undue advantage of the Act to end a relationship they don’t approve of. On the other hand, forced sex on married minor girls of ages above 15 by their husbands is condoned since the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013 does not recognise marital rape. The CRC committee has pointed out that the non-criminalisation of sexual abuse of minor married girls above 15 “is inconsistent” with POCSO. It has asked the government to ensure that sexual abuses in such cases are also criminalised.  With reports of sexual abuse of children on the rise in schools and homes across the country, the CRC committee has asked the government to establish mechanisms, procedures and guidelines to ensure mandatory reporting of all cases of child sexual abuse as well as necessary measures to ensure proper investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators. With surrogacy on the rise in India, there are also a few concerns regarding a child’s rights in such an arrangement. What if a child is rejected due to issues such as disability, gender or complexion? The CRC committee has asked the government to ensure that the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill (or any other legislation to be developed) helps regulate surrogacy and prevent its abuse. Illegal adoptions must also be stopped with appropriate legislation. There are concerns about the Child Labour Act, 1986 too. In the absence of a national database on the types and extent of child labour, which occurs not just in informal sectors such as domestic work, but also in hazardous ones including mining and quarry work, it may be difficult to eliminate this national shame.  While thousands of children continue to be employed, there are no regular inspections, and thus prosecutions and convictions are abysmally low. According to Census 2011 data, only 1061 convictions were reported in 2013 despite more than one crore children engaged as labourers. In addition, the rehabilitation of rescued children also lacks any comprehensive strategy or plan. One conclusion that emerges clearly from the current scenario is that if child rights is to be given the importance it deserves, the government needs to go beyond enacting laws and drive change at the ground level. (DNA 24/2/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

17. PM has dispelled doubts about being anti-minority: CSF (7)

MANGALURU: The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) has thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his special intervention, resulting in the release of Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar from Taliban captivity after eight months. CSF general secretary Joseph Dias said: Not just the Christian community, but many who thought of the PM as anti-minority, will now have sufficient cause to re-consider. Getting the release of the Jesuit priest is no small achievement, especially since he had no connection with the Indian government nor was part of the mission in Afghanistan; rather he was working for an NGO, as were hundreds of others in the line of Taliban fire. After, Modi’s statement on religious freedom, most in the Christian world, including CSF wanted the PM to walk the talk and waited patiently. With India securing Fr. Alexis’ release, we are even more open to cordial relations with Modi, as the kind gesture showed his priorities, besides being a diplomatic coup of sorts. It also shows the difficult conditions Christians work in, out of love for their faith, not just in distant parts of the country, but also the hostile environments of the world.” Dias appealed to rein in the fringe elements who were rearing their heads, like Mutalik of the Ram Sena, who had been put in place by the Goa government. The forthcoming session of Parliament could also be used by the PM to assure minorities that no national anti-conversion law is proposed by the government, Dias added. According to CSF, the minorities now need to engage with and assist the government, in taking India to greater heights, in keeping with Modi’s ‘Sabka Vikas, Sabka Saath’ agenda, as the Prime Minister seems to be going out of his way in the face of opposition from the Hindutva forces and needs to also deal with terrorism and fundamentalism from other minorities too. (Times of India 23/2/15)

18. Minorities to protest BJP’s policies (7)

CHENNAI: Organisations representing religious minorities have come together to organise a mass protest in Chennai on February 28 against the “divisive policies” of the BJP and its affiliated outfits. The demonstration will see Christian and Muslim organisations of all denominations sharing the platform. Event coordinator Inigo Irudayaraj said all political parties except the BJP and its allies have been invited for the event. “The MDMK, the VCK and the Left have agreed to participate,” he said, adding that several Jain, Buddhist and Hindu groups have also been invited. On Sunday, churches across Chennai informed the faithful about the demonstration seeking large participation. “The last time when different denominations of the Christian community came together for a protest was against an anti-conversion law passed by the Tamil Nadu government. Now, issues such as ‘ghar wapsi’ and attacks on churches have got us together,” he said. However, despite seeking permission for the agitation on February 2, the police have not replied. Therefore, the organisations have decided to move the High Court. (The Hindu 24/2/15)

19. Notice to Haryana on removal of state minorities commission chairman, members (7)

CHANDIGARH: Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday issued notice to the state government for its decision to remove the chairman and members of the Haryana State Commission for Minorities. A division bench headed by Justice S K Mittal has asked the Haryana government to file its reply on March 3 after hearing a petition filed by chairman of the commission, Trilochan Singh, and one of the members. The petitioners alleged that they were not given any opportunity of being heard before removing from the commission. In July 2014, the then Congress-led state government had constituted Haryana State Commission for Minorities to safeguard the interests of minority communities. Trilochan was appointed as chairman of the commission while Ishaq Mohammed, an advocate and local Congress leader from Mewat, Dr Stella Portar, a senior Congress leader, and Harbhajan Singh Khera, a local party leader, both from Rohtak, were appointed as members of the commission. The commission was authorized to examine, investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards for the minority communities. The other functions of commission included planning process of socio-economic and educational development of the minority communities and to evaluate the progress of their development. However, the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in Haryana had removed the commission members in January. (Times of India 26/2/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

20. Muslim trusts want custody of campus (7)

Mumbai: The recent announcement by Ravindra Waikar, minister of state for higher and technical education, of setting up an educational hub on the Ismail Yusuf College campus at Jogeshwari has prompted activists and Muslim trusts to protest against the minister’s proposal by forming a group that will not only stop the government from going ahead with their plans but also get custody of the campus. Announcing the decision on Saturday, the group named Ismail Yusuf Campus Bachao Samiti said that they were against an aggressive protest. The samiti consists of Dr Zaheer Kazi, president of Anjuman-i-Islam Trust, social activists like Sudheendra Kulkarni, Anil Tyagi, Prabhakar Narkar and Kishore Jagtap who work on issues related to students and people from the minorities and backward classes and MLA Kapil Patil. “Our demand is that as the government has failed to fulfil the purpose of providing facilities to encourage higher education amongst Muslim youth, it should hand over the custody and management of the campus to a Muslim trust so that it can achieve the vision of Sir Mohammad Ismail Yusuf who had donated Rs 30 lakh to the governor of Mumbai in 1914 to set up educational facilities for Muslim youth and minorities,” said Dr Kazi. Activist Kulkarni said “We appeal to the government of Maharashtra to immediately stop its plans to encroach upon land belonging to Ismail Yusuf College, which was donated by a Muslim philanthropist for Muslim education,” said Mr Kulkarni. Speaking about the issue, MLC Patil said that as both the Sachar Committee and Mehmood-ur-Rehman committee had pointed to lack of education as the main reason for the backwardness of Muslims, the government should hand over the custody of the college campus to a Muslim trust so that the land could be properly used for the intended purpose. (Asian Age 22/2/15)

21. Over 180 million Muslims in India but they are not part of global terror groups: Govt (7)

New Delhi: The government might not have officially released the religious data of Census 2011, but in a presentation before an international delegation in the United States it said that over 180 million Muslims were living in India, constituting 14.88 per cent of the total population. It also asserted that despite a large Muslim population in India, there was hardly any case of the community members joining violent pan-Islamic groups. Representing India at the White House hosted Summit to Counter Violent Extremism last week, Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) chief RN Ravi told a delegation, where representatives from 60 countries were present, that “the usual alienation of minorities is not valid in the Indian context. Going by the usual definition of minority, their population is over 260 million i.e over 21 per cent of India’s population. There are over 180 million Muslims in India.” The data given by the government at an international platform assumes significance after US President Barack Obama, during his India visit, said: “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith, as long as it is not splintered along any lines, and it is unified as one nation.” Due to various political considerations, the religious data of Census 2011 were never released by the UPA government. When the NDA government came to power, they decided to release the religious data, which still has not been done. The Indian Express reported on January 24 that Hindus comprised 78.35 per cent of the total population of 121.05 crore, compared with 80.45 per cent of the total population in 2001. In absolute terms, Muslim population increased 24.4 per cent to 17.18 crore from 13.8 crore during 2001-11. Muslims were 13.4 per cent of the total population in 2001. Ravi also told the delegation: “The recently held elections in Jammu and Kashmir – a Muslim majority state of the Indian Union – in which over 65 per cent electorate peacefully cast their votes is a testimony of its success story.” He further said, “India’s response to violent extremism is calibrated in a way that prevents disproportionate use of force by the state.” On the other hand, one of the civil society representatives from Pakistan told the delegation: “At least 26 terrorist organisations operating in Pakistan like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Taliban, Haqqani network had people in leadership roles who came from madrasa background. The government had to go into the root cause of this and reform madrasa education.” (Indian Express 24/2/15)

22. Village tense after Adityanath’s outfit enters land row, ‘150 Muslim families leave homes’ (7)

Lucknow: Tension prevailed in Madhopur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district after 150 Muslim families reportedly left their homes Monday, fearing a backlash from BJP MP Yogi Adityanath’s outfit Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) over a land dispute. Heavy police force including PAC personnel have been deployed in the village to prevent any disturbance. Kushinagar additional district magistrate Ram Kewal Tiwari admitted that there is tension in the village. “It is a property dispute. There was a minor clash and we deployed PAC. HYV is active in this region and they often hold meetings, but we handle the situation,” Tiwari claimed. He, however, denied that Muslims have left the village. HYV held a meeting at Madhopur on Monday to show solidarity with the village’s Hindus following a property dispute. The outfit has reportedly given call for a Hindu mahapanchayat on March 3 if its demand of handing over possession of a 1.5-acre disputed plot to a Hindu villager is not met. “We had gone there to show solidarity with our worker Digvijay Kishore Shahi who was assaulted by a Muslim when he resisted their move to grab his land. Since the Muslims have done wrong, they have fled. We are not responsible,” Sunil Singh, state president of HYV said. He added: “Digvijay owns that land. The district administration admitted it but refused to hand him the possession before Holi claiming that communal atmosphere will be vitiated. We cannot wait for that long. On March 3, we will hold a Hindu mahapanchayat”. Locals said the issue erupted following a land dispute between Digvijay Kishore Shahi and another villager Ameen. The 1.5 acre plot belonging to the gram panchayat is close to the village and both groups are staking claim to it. On February 13, a clash broke out between the two groups. Muslims claimed that nearly 1,000 HYV workers attacked them. The district administration deployed PAC and a case was registered on Shahi’s complaint. Two Muslim men were arrested. “We continued to stay in our village after the incident. But, HYV announced a big meeting on February 23. We sought help of local administration but no one came forward,” Aurangzeb (22) said.  Social worker Mohammad Anwar Siddiqui said: “Police told villagers told to leave the village before the HYV.” Aurangzeb said Muslims left the village on February 22 to avoid confrontations. He added that the HYV meeting was attended by nearly 1,500 workers, including state president Sunil Singh. Provocative speeches were delivered during the meeting. The Muslims are yet to return home, he claimed. (Indian Express 25/2/15)

23. Centre’s scheme for madrassas lost in translation (7)

NEW DELHI: The NDA government had allocated Rs 100 crore for modernization of madrassas in the last budget while the erstwhile UPA government had earmarked Rs 182.5 crore for the same in 2013-14. However, a lack of awareness about the scheme and language barrier seem to have prevented a majority of madrassas from availing its benefits. According to an RTI application filed by NGO Zakat Foundation in 2013, only 2,800 madrassas benefitted from the central scheme. The reason for many not availing the benefits was because information about the scheme had not been translated into Urdu from English. “The scheme has been there since 1996 but the funds have been curtailed over the years. There is a lack of awareness—not many know about the scheme as it’s not properly advertized. Madrassas are going for an image makeover and apart from the religious teaching, education is imparted there,” said Zafar Mehmood of Zakat Foundation. According to people associated with Madrassa committees, most of these institutes are community-funded. Some of the community heads believe that Rs 100 crore is a mere tokenism and is not sufficient even for all Madrassas in Delhi. “There are 33,000 madrassas in India, according to the Sachar committee report and many more must have come up by now. And this amount is too small to strengthen and modernize all the institutes. Madrassas are just like any other schools which need an investment of at least Rs 1 crore,” said Zafrul Islam Khan of All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat. However, many argue that till the time these institutes aren’t recognized and affiliated to any education board, modernization will not help. (Times of India 27/2/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

24. PM Modi saved me, says released priest Alexis Prem Kumar (7)

New Delhi: Indian Christian priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar who returned to India eight months after his abduction in Afghanistan, gave the credit of his return to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that it was because of him that he was here. “This is because our Prime Minister Narendra Modi (that) I am here. He saved me. This evening he talked to me when I was at the Kabul Airport. Possibly, he took a lot of interest in rescuing me,” Kumar told reporters after arriving at Delhi airport here this evening. Earlier, the announcement of the release of the 47-year-old private aid worker from Tamil Nadu was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi through tweets. “Delighted at securing the release of Indian Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar from captivity in Afghanistan,” he tweeted. “Have spoken to Father Alexis Prem Kumar. Informed happy family of Father Alexis Prem Kumar of his safe return after 8 months in captivity,” he added. Prem Kumar was abducted in Herat province in western Afghanistan by unidentified gunmen on June 2 last year. “The matter of his release has been pursued by our leadership, including at the highest levels by the Prime Minister,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said. “Father Alexis Prem Kumar is now back in the safety of his homeland and arrangements are being made for him to rejoin his family soon,” he added. He expressed India’s “deep gratitude to all those who worked tirelessly over the last 8 months to help in this humanitarian task of ensuring the safe release of one of our citizens”.At the time of his abduction, Prem Kumar was working with the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international NGO, and was engaged in the educational field in Afghanistan. He was its Afghanistan Director and had been in the country for over three years. He had accompanied teachers on a visit to a JRS-supported school for returnee refugees in Sohadat village, 25-km from the city of Herat. He was kidnapped from the school as he was about to return to Herat, the JRS had said then. Before moving to Afghanistan, Kumar had worked for the JRS, serving Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu. Four days after the abduction, Afghan authorities had announced that three Taliban members had been arrested in connection with the case. (DNA 23/2/15)

25. ‘Mother Teresa a noble soul’, says Kejriwal after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s ‘conversion’ remarks

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday strongly objected to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s objectionable comments on Mother Teresa. Bhagwat had on Sunday stoked a controversy by saying conversion to Christianity was the main objective behind Mother Teresa’s service to the poor. Kejriwal, the newly elected Delhi chief minister, who worked with Mother Teresa long back, termed her as a ‘noble soul’ and urged the RSS top brass to spare her from such views. Speaking at a function organised by NGO ‘Apna Ghar’ near Bharatpur in Rajasthan, the RSS chief said, “Mother Teresa’s service would have been good. But it used to have one objective, to convert the person, who was being served, into a Christian.” “The question is not about conversion but if this (conversion) is done in the name of service, then that service gets devalued,” he said. “But here (at the NGO), the objective is purely service of poor and helpless people,” added Bhagwat. The RSS Chief was addressing a function in village Bajhera, near 8 kms from here, where he inaugurated ‘Mahila Sadan’ and ‘Sishu Bal Grah’ in the NGO for helpless women and children. Later, RSS said on its twitter handle that the media reported “wrongly” and Bhagwat had only replied to former BSF DG’s comments. (Zee news 24/2/15)

26. Mangalore church attacked despite PM’s appeal (7)

Bangalore: A church in Karnataka’s Mangalore was vandalised on Tuesday night, just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to protect all religious minorities. “A small stone of the size of 1-2 centimetres was thrown at the St Joseph Vaz worship centre near Deralakatte, damaging the windowpane, but no damage has been done to the idols of Mother Mary and Infant Jesus,” Mangaluru city police commissioner S Murugan told PTI. Over the last two months, eight mosques have been stoned in the region, though no churches were targeted in recent months. Karnataka health minister UT Khader visited the spot. Murugan said the incident could have been carried out by a mischief-monger, but it could not be established immediately whether a group of people were involved. Mangalore was the epicentre of a wave of attacks on Christian properties in 2008, when alleged Bajrang Dal and VHP activists attacked prayer halls and beat up preachers in what they said was a response to conversions. The fresh incident would embarrass not just Congress-ruled Karnataka, but also the central government, as PM Modi, at a religious function in Delhi last week, had condemned increasing attacks on Christian institutions. “My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions,” Modi had said at a function organised by the Catholic church. The PM’s statement was a reaction to the series of attacks on churches in Delhi, with over five places of worship vandalised over two months. Modi’s stand was welcomed by minority leaders and opposition political parties, but downplayed by the Hindu rightwing organisations. (Hindustan Times 25/2/15)

27. Ban Togadia’s entry, Kandhamal Christians urge government (7)

BERHAMPUR: The Christian community of Kandhamal district in Odisha wants the government to restrain Vishva Hindu Praishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia from entering the communally volatile region. According to VHP sources, Mr Togadia is expected to attend a public meeting in Phulbani, the district headquarter town, on February 28 as part of golden jubilee celebrations of the organisation. The Christian community of the district, which was worst affected during the communal riots in 2007 and 2008, fear that Mr Togadia’s inflammatory speech will be detrimental to the fragile communal amity of Kandhamal. Christan Jan Kalyan Samaj, an organisation of religious minority in Kandhamal district, has already approached the Kandhamal district administration and the police with the request to ban the entry of Mr Togadia into the district. “We have also written to Odisha Chief Minister, Prime Minister and President of the country to check Mr Togadia’s entry into Kandhamal,” said secretary of the organisation, Suranjan Nayak. The inflammatory speeches of Mr Togadia few days after the killing of VHP leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati in August 2008 had aggravated communal riots in the district. At least 38 persons had been killed and thousands had been rendered homeless. In another development, Ramakant Baliarsingh, a Christian resident of Brahmanigaon area of Kandhamal district has filed a petition before Kandhamal district magistrate on February 24 urging restriction on activities of Mr Togadia in Kandhamal district. Manas Ranjan Singh, advocate of the petitioner, said this petition had been filed under Section 144 of the CrPC to restrain Mr Togadia from entering Kandhamal and delivering communally inflammatory speech. The VHP activists termed the demands for ban on entry of Mr Togadia into Kandhamal district undemocratic. (The Hindu 26/2/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

28. ‘Lankan refugees should not be forced to leave’ (13)

MADURAI: The ‘Samam Kudimakkal Iyakkam,’ a Madurai-based human rights organisation, has appealed to the Union government to sign the 1951 United Nations Convention Related to the Status of Refugees. In a resolution passed here on Friday, it said the government should come out with a law on refugee rights. Thyagu, Editor, Tamil Desam, felt that discussions on refugees centred around only the facilities made available to them and not their rights. He wondered how the refugees could be sent back when Tamils living in Sri Lanka were still under surveillance of the army. The government was talking about sending back only refugees from Sri Lanka and not those from Myanmar, Bangladesh or Tibet, Mr. Thyagu said. Human rights educationist Devasagayam said that Sri Lankan Tamils were neither accepted as refugees nor recognised as citizens here as India was not a signatory to the UN Convention. According to a press release, C. J. Rajan, State president, Samam, said that Sri Lankan Tamil refugees residing in camps across Tamil Nadu should not be forced to go back. The individual’s wish should be ascertained before making any attempt at deportation. The government should not act in any manner that would be detrimental to freedom of Sri Lankan Tamils living in 107 refugee camps in the State. (The Hindu 21/2/15)

29. HRW urges Pak to halt forceful return of Afghan refugees in wake of Peshawar school attack

 Islamabad: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Pakistan to halt forced return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan in the wake of the recent Peshawar school attack. A substantial rise in the number of Afghan refugees leaving the country has been noted since the Dec 16 Taliban attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School. According to Dawn, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said that nine times as many Afghan refugees repatriated from Pakistan in January 2015 than in December 2014. The increase in the count of refugees leaving the country seems to indicate that they are being forced to go back to Afghanistan by the local authorities. Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch said that Pakistani officials should not be scapegoating Afghans because of the Taliban’s atrocities in Peshawar. He further said that it was “inhumane” and “unlawful” to coerce Afghanis to return to places where they were likely to face harassment and abuse, the report added. (New Kerala 24/2/15)

30. Don’t question Christian missionaries: Alexis Prem Kumar (13)

New Delhi: Statements such as those made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat questioning the intent behind Mother Teresa’s service are politically motivated, according to Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who was just released after eight months of Taliban captivity in Afghanistan. Kumar, in an interview to PTI today, said he did not have any mindset of conversion while working with refugees in Afghanistan and even this identity was not of a Christian priest as people knew him as “Mr Prem Kumar”.”For me religion is not the thing. For me goal of religion is service. To bring humanity joy, peace, justice and equality. All the religions must work towards that. That must be the goal. Actually all this fight is politically motivated… That is way I think India must grow out of it,” he said on the statements of Bhagwat on Mother Teresa. Recounting his experience of captivity, Kumar said that he was not tortured even once by the militants during the eight months and they took good care of him by providing him good food and basic facilities. “The only torture was that they had kept me tied 24 hours. I could not move around,” he recounted. He said he was grateful to the efforts undertaken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his release. Kumar, 47, who was serving for three years as Country Director of Jesuit Refugee Service, a voluntary group working for the refugees, in Afghanistan was abducted by a group of Taliban militants on June 2, 2014 from Sohadat village, 25 km from Herat where he had gone to inspect a school supported by his organisation. “The talks of militants planning to kidnap a foreigner were very common. But it was only after attack on Indian consulate in Herat in May that Indian diplomats had warned me to be careful in my activities. This was the first serious warning that was issued to me,” Kumar said. Kumar said the regional director of his organisation held hectic negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar during the period even as government of India continued with its efforts. Describing his kidnapping, he said no one in Sohadat had any idea that he would be visiting the area as he had planned to visit Bamyan to oversee work done by his organisation but the flight was cancelled. “It was a routine early morning visit to Sohadat after 15 days to the area. I had also gone to nearby district from where I returned at about 12.30 in afternoon. When I came back, I saw four people in an SUV full of weapons approaching us. They just asked who was the foreigner and fired upon a building,” he said. Kumar said in order to save his people from militants he came forward and identified himself. “They put me in the vehicle, tied my hands and blindfolded me. They kept driving for nearly eight hours after which we rested the night in a cave,” he said. According to Kumar, “Language was a major problem. During entire period of eight months, I did not see a single child, woman or an elderly person. I could only guess from Helmand river and desert that I was kept some where around Baluchistan and Afghanistan border but I could be completely wrong.” He said he did not speak to his family or any Indian official during the entire eight-month period but he knew that his captives were in touch with the family members through his cell phone which was taken by them. He said the group that kidnapped him had handed him to another group of armed men who kept him in captivity during entire period and kept shifting bases. “When the first group handed me over to the second group, I was told that they had sold me for 20 million dollars, a figure which I did not believe,” he said. “Sometimes I was shifted within eight days while at some other places I was kept for nearly 81 days,” he said. On January 15, Kumar said they informed him that he would be released soon but it took nearly one month that he was actually released. “They left me at a place where firing was going on. One of the militants gave me his cell phone and from other side for the first time I could hear English. It was then I realised that I am safe. They asked me to run towards a highway, where officials were present,” he said. DNA 25/2/15)

31. My captors starved with me and told me I’d live, says Jesuit priest.. (13)

CHENNAI: Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who was released from captivity in Afghanistan, said on Thursday that he didn’t know who his captors were. He said he didn’t know the reason for his abduction. Addressing a press meet at Loyola College in Chennai, Fr Alexis narrated the hardships he had undergone in captivity. The priest said he had lived in harsh environment after being abducted by some men while he was working with the Jesuit Refugee Service in the Herat province. The men moved him from one place to another after abducting him on June 2. He said his hands and legs had been chained. The chains were removed only when he wanted to relieve himself. A gun wielding man was watching over him always. “The man who was tasked with watching me was nice to me. He was clueless about why I was held captive. He kept reassuring me that I would live,” the priest said. Fr Alexis said he had starved at times. “But my captors also starved with me as there was no food.” Fr Alexis, hailing from Devakottai in the Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu, was released after India pursued his case at the highest level. “While releasing me, my captors warned me that they would shoot me if they saw me again in Afghanistan,” the priest said. (Times of India 26/2/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

32. PIO Should Give Reason For RTI Rejection: Government Asks Departments (1)

NEW DELHI: Centre has asked the Ministries to ensure proper disposal of applications and appeals filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, as per the specified guidelines. The Public Information Officer (PIO) should communicate reason for rejection, period within which appeal can be filed and particulars of appellate authority while rejecting a RTI application, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said in an order. An applicant should be given details of further fees to be paid, the calculations made to arrive at the amount of fees asked and the fact that the applicant has a right to make an appeal about the amount of fees so demanded, it said. While disposing off first appeals, the first appellate authorities should act in a fair and judicious manner. It is very important that the order passed by the first appellate authority should be a detailed and speaking order, giving justification for the decision arrived at, the DoPT said. If an appellate authority while deciding an appeal comes to a conclusion that the appellant should be supplied information in addition to what has been supplied by the PIO, he may either pass an order directing the officer to give such information or he himself may give information to the appellant, it said. The appellate authority should ensure that the information ordered by him to be supplied (by PIO) is given to the appellant immediately, the DoPT said. “It would, however, be better if the appellate authority chooses the second course of action and he himself furnishes the information along with the order passed by him in the matter,” it said. A citizen can also seek information on governance-matters by exercising his Right to Information. (New Indian Express 22/2/15)

33. CIC notice to Delhi Transport Department (1)

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has issued a show-cause notice to the Delhi Transport Department for not giving information sought by an RTI applicant on the Justice (retd.) Mukul Mudgal inquiry committee report. “The commission has perused the record available in the file and directs the Public Information Officer, Transport Department, to show-cause as to why penalty should not be imposed upon him for not providing the information within the prescribed time,” the CIC said in its order. Advocate Vivek Garg had sought copies under the RTI Act of a transport inquiry report prepared by the committee headed by Mr. Mudgal, a former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. “My application was transferred to various divisions. But I did not get any response from the Transport Department. Aggrieved , I moved the CIC,” Mr. Garg said. Delhi Lt Governor had in 2013 ordered an inquiry into the allegations on collection of fees by M/s ESP India Private Ltd without conducting Loaded Mode Emission test and the omission on the part of officers of the Transport Department. The committee, which had former IAS officer Ramesh Chandra as a member, was mandated to ascertain the amount collected by the firm from vehicle owners and the liability of the firm for any omission. It was to also suggest preventive measures to avoid such occurrences in future. “It is a multi-crore scam. I do not understand why the Delhi Government is shying away from sharing the report. They must put this report in the public domain for greater transparency on the issue,” Mr. Garg said. — PTI (The Hindu 24/2/15)

34. CBI sends backdated communications to RTI pleas (1)

New Delhi: In an example of callousness in handling applications filed under the RTI Act, the CBI has sent a reply dated even before the application was filed, apparently aimed at not giving 30-day period to the applicant to file his appeal. Sending backdated communication for application under statutory provisions is a serious offence under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Under Section 18 of the Act, a CPIO (Central Public Information Officer) can be slapped with a penalty for giving “false and misleading” information. If sending backdated communication was not enough, the CPIO of Anti-Corruption Unit of the agency also returned the postal order of RTI fee which is again an offence under the transparency law. Claiming exemption from disclosure under the RTI Act, CPIO Ratan Sanjay returned the RTI application, along with the fee, seeking status of closed Preliminary Enquiries related to allegations of corruption — an information which is provided in the annual report of the agency, a public document. Ironically, the reply no. 568/1-RTI/CBI/AC-II/2015 is dated January 3, 2015 whereas the application was dated January 16, 2015, showing that the agency might be using templates to respond to applications without applying mind to the information sought. Sending backdated reply apparently could also be aimed at not giving 30-day period to the applicant to file his appeal. The then Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra had sought the intervention of then CBI Director A P Singh, underlining that the agency was returning the applications after CBI was brought in the list of organisations exempted from the RTI Act. Singh had then directed the officials to not return the RTI applications but with new Director Anil Sinha at the helm of affairs, the practice of returning the applications has again started. (Deccan Herald 26/2/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

35. Modi lauds girls for doing well in exams despite helping at home (11)

NEW DELHI: Exhorting school students, especially boys, to believe in themselves, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday praised girl students, and said, “they do well in examinations despite helping their mothers in household work”.In his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio programme, the prime minister said it was very important to understand and know oneself well. “You don’t have to go far away… just see your sister or may be your friend’s sister who is appearing in the board examination and you would see she is assisting her mother in her household work while preparing for her examination and still does well,” he said. “Have you ever thought what power do they have? You will understand it’s just lack of confidence that makes us weak,” Modi said, asking students to develop it. (Times of India 22/2/15)

36. Court doubts govt’s RTE will, suggests lawyers’ panel (11)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat high court on Monday expressed dissatisfaction with the state government for its “lack of efforts” to implement the Right to Education Act in order to ensure admission of poor children on the 25% seats in primary section in private schools. A bench of acting Chief Justice V M Sahai and Justice R P Dholaria made oral observation that it believed that reliance cannot be placed on the state government for implementation of RTE laws for ensuring admission of poor kids in private schools. The court was of the opinion that for proper implementation, a committee of senior lawyers is required to be constituted which would come up with proposal for proper implementation of the law, said advocate Parul Joshi who represents petitioner NGO, Jagega Gujarat Sangharsh Samiti. Last month, the HC had asked 16 schools of the city, which were selected as model schools to implement RTE Act, to keep 25% seats vacant for poor students in their primary section. The petitioner NGO had claimed that these schools did not grant admission to poor students under RTE laws. These schools cited various reasons for not filling up the quota – the reasons varied from getting fewer applications, not fulfilling the criteria, etc. The petitioner submitted that most of these schools charge high fees and the state government’s allocation of Rs 10,000 towards fees for each student is not enough for them. Till now, 12,601 students have been granted admission in private schools, though the government has reserved 18,000 seats for them. In Ahmedabad city limits, against 2,000 seats reserved for admission in private schools, only 604 students have been admitted. In Ahmedabad district, against 1,400 seats, 779 kids have been given admission during current academic year. It was alleged that the schools selected as model schools in the city have not been following rules on various pretexts. (Times of India 24/2/15)

37. Govt circular deprives 3,800 students of RTE seats (11)

HUBBALLI: Vaishnavi Habib, studying in UKG at Chinmaya Vidyalaya, cannot seek admission under the Right To Education (RTE) Act because the government has instructed her school to provide RTE seats only for LKG. The same circular allows schools that do not have pre-primary classes to admit students to class 1 under RTE. Like Vaishnavi, over 3,800 students in Hubballi city alone cannot apply for RTE seats due to the restriction. Though private schools are ready to give seats in class 1, the circular restricts them from doing so. Vaishnavi’s father Vinayak Habib says that though his family falls under the below poverty line (BPL) category and his daughter is eligible for a seat under RTE, the circular is a hurdle. Bhaskar Jituri, a social activist who has approached the CM, the education minister, legislators and education department officials, said the government is denying students studying in pre-primary classes their fundamental right. “The circular states that schools having LKG should provide admission under RTE only to LKG. Such schools cannot provide admission to the first standard.” RS Patil Kulkarni of the District Parents’ Association accused the government of bowing to pressure from the private schools lobby. “We had submitted a memorandum to the Dharwad DDPI which he had forwarded to the commissioner. Instead of taking action, the government has issued the same content in an order dated December 7, 2014,” he said. (Times of India 26/2/15)

38. 27% of govt schools without DJB water: NGO (11)

NEW DELHI: Over a quarter of Delhi’s government schools are functioning without a water connection. Of the 798 that bothered to respond to a query filed under RTI by a Delhi NGO, 220—27.5%—reported they don’t have a Delhi Jal Board connection. “We work in the northeast district (there are 13 school districts in Delhi) and know of schools that have no water supply. We wanted to know what the situation is in other parts of Delhi,” says Rajiv Kumar who runs Pardarshita in New Seemapuri. Kumar believes that a similar RTI application filed in 2014 resulted in one school in the area getting connected. As per data received by the NGO, the maximum number of schools without connections is in the northeast district—50. In southwest B, there are 41 schools and in south, 30. However, the count in these districts may be higher simply because they have bothered to furnish complete lists. There are only 24 schools in northwest B that don’t have DJB connections as per the RTI responses but the actual number may be higher—there are several schools that haven’t replied. It’s the same situation with southeast—17 have declared they’re without water connections but over 40 haven’t responded. “Absence of a DJB connection does not mean there’s no water,” clarifies Padmini Singla, director, education. “In those cases, we give permission for bore-wells.” “Schools got bore-wells some time ago,” agrees Ajay Vir Yadav, general secretary of Government School Teachers’ Association. “If the school doesn’t have a RO system or there’s no maintenance, that’s pure negligence. However, bore-wells don’t function too well in certain parts of town.” On paper, there are provisions. “Most schools will tell you they use groundwater,” says Kumar. “But in reality you’ll find that in some schools there’s no safe drinking water. One principal tells me she calls the tanker but it comes three days late. There are also cases where the filtration systems aren’t cleaned regularly.” He also maintains that the list of schools without connections includes both old and new schools. (Times of India 27/2/15

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

39. National Food Security Act in NE: Paswan (21)

IMPHAL, Feb 18 – The National Food Security Act (NFSA) which was implemented two years ago in the country, will be implemented in North Eastern States by June/July this year. This was announced by Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan on his maiden visit to Manipur after becoming a Minister in the BJP Government at the Centre, in Imphal on Saturday. Paswan was speaking to media persons at Hotel Imphal after attending a review meeting on the preparatory work for the implementation of NFSA in Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram. The Union Minister said that computerisation of data has been completed to the extent of 90 per cent in Mizoram and Tripura, Manipur has done 77 per cent and Assam 62. Assam and Tripura have informed that they will be ready to roll out the Act in June next while Manipur informed that they will implement the scheme by July. Paswan also informed that the ongoing mega-block due to Lumding-Silchar railway line broad gauge conversion through which the supply of food grains for Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram and south Assam goes, will be lifted and the track will be made operational after March 31 next. “The Railways have targeted to complete the broad gauge conversion by March 2015,” he said and directed the concerned officials that all efforts should be taken to ensure adequate supply of foodgrains in the NE States. Earlier, Food Corporation of India (FCI) which transports about 85,000 MT of food grains per month for the NE States, had even plans to import rice from Myanmar. The monthly requirement of these States is 82,744 MT for which storage capacity of 12,6443 MTs is available with FCI against which the Corporation is having stock of 1,19,000 MTs of foodgrains in various godowns in the region. Regarding the complaint of anomalies in the distribution of grains through PDS, he said, “We are aware of such grievances, but it depends on the State Governments on how to improve the system.” After attending the meeting of Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in Guwahati, Union Minister Paswan airdashed here to lay the foundation for construction of food storage depots at Bishnupur and Sawombung on Sunday besides attending the review meeting of FCI and State officials. (The Assam Tribune 20/2/15)

40.  ‘Next-generation genomics key to global food security’ (21)

SANGAREDDY: Renowned agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan said on Friday that making a hunger and malnutrition-free society should be the ultimate goal of every agricultural scientist and stakeholder. Next-generation genomics backed by strong technological advancements will facilitate science-based agricultural innovations such as development of nutrition-rich crops to eradicate hunger. He was addressing the concluding session of the 5th International Conference on Next Generation Genomics and Integrated Breeding for Crop Improvement (NGGIBCI-V) held at the International Crops Research for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Over 300 delegates representing private and public sectors from 30 countries worldwide participated and deliberated on future collaborations and ways to integrate next-generation genomics into the future of crop improvement to contribute to global food and nutrition security. Genomics – or deciphering the genomic content of crop species using high-throughput and next-generation approaches – allows the scientific community access to ‘good genes’ to speed up breeding for superior crop varieties with agronomically important traits. “It is not so much a question of more food. It is more a question of better food,” opined Dr. Howard-Yana Shapiro, Chief Agricultural Officer, MARS Inc. USA, while talking on genomics interventions to ensure food and nutritional security in developing countries. “Next-generation sequencing technologies are vital in feeding the ever growing global population,” said Asis Datta, founder and former director, National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), India. “It is important to train the next generation of breeders to deploy modern technologies for crop improvement,” stressed Jean-Marcel Ribaut, Director, CGIAR Generation Challenge Program (GCP), Mexico, in highlighting successful case studies in translating genomics research for crop improvement and the GCP’s role in providing the platform. “The challenge of producing more nutritious food to feed 9 billion people in 2050 amid the threat of climate change is enormous. Next-generation genomics is one of the ‘best bets’ for sustainably eradicating hunger, malnutrition and poverty. This powerful tool can dramatically increase our capacity to utilise genetic diversity and develop highly nutritious, stress tolerant crop varieties faster and cheaper than conventional crop improvement practices,” emphasised David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT. (The Hindu 21/2/15)

41. 5,000 women from across district demand regular foodgrain supply (21)

KOLHAPUR: Around 5,000 women from across the district participated in a morcha organised by the Ration Bachao Samiti demanding regular supply of foodgrain at ration shops through the public distribution system (PDS). They also demanded cancellation of direct transfer of subsidy into the bank account of beneficiaries, saying that many poor people who do not have bank accounts or Aadhaar cards will not benefit from the scheme. Chandrakant Yadav, leader of the samiti said, “We voted the Narendra Modi government to power hoping that he will take steps to ensure that all the poor people, including workers and farmers who are mostly dependent on the PDS, will get foodgrain cheap. But, instead of preventing irregularities in the system, the government is ensuring that the least number of people come under the scheme to reduce the burden of subsidies.” “From 2008, we were agitating for foodgrain for all through the PDS which resulted in the central government passing the Food Security Bill. We are not against linking the Aadhaar card with the ration card or modernisation of the PDS so that the right people will get the benefit. But that does not mean reducing the quantity of foodgrain that people get under the system. We want 10kg of foodgrain per person which is 5kg per person now. We also want sugar through the PDS as it was done previously,” Yadav said. DN Patil, another member of the samiti said, “In 2013, the BJP organised agitations for food security bill and foodgrain for all. Now, after coming to power, instead of providing more foodgrain through the PDS to serve the motive of the Food Security Act, the government is reducing the customer base.” Pushpa Raj Deshmukh, state president of the All India Fair Price Shop Dealers’ Federation said, “Along with the demands of the people, the government should consider our long-pending demands also that include increase in transportation and supply commissions which have been stable since 2001. All the ration shop holders in the state are supporting the agitation and will participate in the next rally that would be organised at Azad Maidan in Mumbai on March 2 and at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi.” On Tuesday, the rally began from Mirajkar Tikti around 12pm and reached the collector’s office via Binkhambi Ganesh mandir, Mahadwar road and Maharana Pratap chowk. The delegation of the Ration Bachao Samiti submitted a memorandum of their demands to the district supply officer Vivek Agawane who assured them to convey their message to the higher authorities. (Times of India 25/2/15)

42. Feed underprivileged kids with ‘Ticket to Cheer’ (21)

New Delhi: With the ongoing World Cup fever, the six-week-long campaign urges cricket lovers to showcase their love for the game and their team with a personalised ‘ticket to cheer’. “The ‘Ticket to Cheer’ campaign is an attempt to fulfil the basic need of satiating the hunger of children in school through mid-day meals. We are united in this cause with foodpanda which shares our desire to provide nourishment to children. “By targeting cricket lovers during the World Cup, we are hoping to add purpose to their passion and bring a ray of happiness into the lives of children,” Shridhar Venkat, CEO, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, said in a statement. The microsite, tickettocheer.com, has been created to facilitate cricket fans to support their favourite team, in a match of choice, during the World Cup by generating their own ‘Ticket to Cheer’. One ticket implies a contribution of Rs.750 to provide mid-day meals to a child for an entire school year. Foodpanda will also be sharing posts to cheer India on social media and for every cheer foodpanda will donate a meal from their side. “The World Cup is a great occasion to unite people for a common cause. We take this opportunity to encourage people to join us in serving 1.4 million children with the potential to lead a healthy and progressive life like any of us,” said Rohit Chadda, managing director and founder, foodpanda.in. Besides foodpanda, the initiative is also being supported by ESPN Cricinfo and Freecharge. (Business Standard 27/2/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

43. They came from Odisha with hope, rescued in Yelahanka 4 months later (14)

BENGALURU: Twenty-five labourers allegedly kept in bondage for almost four months, including 10 minors, were released from a brick kiln in Yelahanka, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, on Wednesday. All of them hail from Odisha. The labourers were rescued by the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department. The owner of the kiln was arrested and an FIR has been filed at Sampigehalli police station. According to the International Justice Mission (IJM), the non-governmental organisation that was also involved in the rescue, the owner of the brick kiln had visited villages in Odisha and brought them to Bengaluru. Each adult was promised Rs. 25,000 as advance upon arrival, but none was paid. Instead, they got Rs. 150 as weekly salary, while the children were not paid at all, said IJM. The minimum wage for a brick kiln worker in Karnataka is Rs. 252 a day. One of the labourers said the owner did not provide enough firewood for cooking, and worse, they did not have enough money to buy food. He claimed that while men began work at 3 a.m., women joined them at 6 a.m. The target for a couple was 1,500 bricks a day. The children had the task of lining the bricks in the sun and preparing to fire them, said the labourer. According to IJM, the labourers worked till 6 p.m. and had no weekly off. “On Sundays, the man of the family was allowed to go to the market to buy groceries, while his wife and children had to remain in the kiln,” said an IJM spokesperson. The labourers said they were beaten if they disobeyed and were not allowed to leave the kiln together as a family. Last week, the Karnataka High Court upheld a seven-year conviction for bonded labour in a case from Chickaballapur where 42 people were forced to work in a quarry. When contacted, the Sampigehalli police confirmed that an FIR was filed against the owner of the brick kiln under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. (The Hindu 20/2/15)

44. EPFO mulls medical benefits for its pensioners (14)

New Delhi: Retirement fund body EPFO is planning to provide medical benefits under its pension scheme through the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation, a move which would immediately benefit around 46 lakh pensioners. The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation’s (EPFO) Pension & EDLI Implementation Committee (PEIC) has recently concluded in its meeting held on January 30 that the pensioners should be extended the facility of medical benefits. “..medical benefit as an extra benefit should be recommended to Labour Ministry,” the committee concluded as per the minutes of the committee’s meeting held last month. It was suggested that the surplus in Employees’ Deposit Linked Insurance scheme could be used for extending medical benefits through ESIC. It was also pointed out in the meeting that retired government employees are provided medical benefits under the Central Government Health Services and even unorganised workers are covered under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) but there is no such facility for EPFO pensioners. A senior official said, “If EPFO chooses the ESIC for extending health benefits to its pensioners then they would be able to use the OPD (out patient department) facility of ESIC hospitals and dispensaries as well as other health benefits provided by it to insured persons.” The recommendations of the committee were listed for discussion in EPFO’s apex decision making body Central Board of Trustees’ meet on February 19. But the meeting was deferred at the last moment. Now this proposal will be discussed in the next meeting of the Central Board of Trustees (CBT). mAfter deliberating on the proposal for extending medical benefits to pensioners, the CBT may send it to Labour Ministry for consideration and approval. However, for using surplus funds in the EDLI for the purpose, government would have to amend the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1952 and the EDLI scheme. The committee wanted that the medical facility to pensioners should be provided free of cost and the EDLI funds should be used for the purpose. (Deccan Herald 22/2/15)

45. 70% state women not working: Survey (14)

MUMBAI: An analysis of Maharashtra’s labour force over nearly a decade looks much like a study in patriarchy. Nearly 70% of women are not in the labour force; the figure is 23% for men. A paper on the dynamics of the state’s labour force by Binoo Paul, professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, launched at a seminar on informal employment on Wednesday, paints a stark contrast between the work done by men and women. The study, which analyses three rounds of the National Sample Survey from 2004-5 to 2011-12, has found that only around 1% of Maharashtra labour force are employers. For every 1,000 male employers, there were only 62 women employers in 2004-5. The figure doubled to 120 in 2011-12 but is still only 12% that of male employers. For 1,000 men who work as regular, salaried employees in the formal sector, the number of women has ranged from 201 to 244. Housework, though, is an area where women far outnumber men. For every 1,000 house husbands (men who attend to domestic duties only, or alongside the free collection of goods for the household), there are around 2 lakh women who do so. Paul attributes this to rigid gender relations. “Despite an increase in education attainment and urbanization, there is little improvement in the participation of women in paid work. In fact, the situation seems to have consistently worsened,” he adds. When it comes to gender inclusion at work, Paul believes there is a need for more planning and creative thinking. For instance, he believes there should be some consideration paid to washrooms, toilets, urinals and transit rooms for women, which would make it easier for them to access the workplace. Safety, too, is a big concern for women and restricts their entry into the labour market, points out Paul. As for the disproportionate number of women who perform household chores as compared to men, Paul believes this may have to do with the fact that marriage, as an institution, is skewed in favour of men. He believes Indian sociology may have something to do with the abysmally low number of women who are employers compared with men. “Much like the rest of India, property rights in Maharashtra are skewed in favour of men. To be an employer or an entrepreneur, you need capital,” says Paul. Interestingly, the analysis shows that a higher proportion of urban women are not in the labour force when compared with rural women. The figure of those not in the labour force ranges from 40.9% to 59.4% for rural women and 76.6% to 80.5% for urban women. But far fewer urban women are engaged in casual wage labour when compared with rural women. While the largest proportion of casual labour is in agriculture (75-79%), the largest proportion of regular salaried/wage work is in the service sector (64-67.8%). The study suggests that informal employment differs across religious lines. While 93.4% working-age Muslims are employed in the informal sector, 87.7% Hindus, 87.5% Christians and 87% Buddhists are in the informal sector. The percentage of Zoroastrians in the informal sector is negligible, and a disproportionate number of Schedule Tribes are employed in the informal sector. Agriculture employs 46.96% of the working population, but only 2.4% graduates. At the other end of the spectrum, 65.84% of those employed with the information and communication sector and 63.26% in the financial sector are graduates. (Times of India 26/2/15)

46. Capital’s dust pollution chokes unprotected construction workers (14)

New Delhi: Jitendra Kumar goes around in the dusty terrain of south Delhi’s Moti Bagh, where metro construction is progressing in full swing, supervising his subordinates as they go about their daily duty of mixing cement and setting the mortar. Kumar said these workers were initially given masks and gloves, along with their safety gear, to protect them from constant exposure to pollution. But now the company did not seem to mind compromising on the health of hundreds of workers in a bid to earn profits. In Delhi, around 4,000 tonnes of construction waste is generated every day. This constitutes around 40% of the total waste generated in the city. “We spend at least 12 to 14 hours in this dust daily. Though we have been given safety gear for protection, the damage caused internally is much greater. Earlier, we were working with masks and gloves. After our night shift, the entire area was sprinkled with water to let the dust settle down. But this has stopped due to insufficient funds,” said Kumar. In an affidavit submitted by the ministry of environment and forest to the Supreme Court last month, it was noted that dust particles were the highest source of pollution in Delhi. Dust contributed to 52% of particulate matter in the air with vehicular emissions contributing to only 6.6%.Construction workers at flyover sites work in worse conditions with private contractors not taking the trouble of providing any protective gear to them. One of them, Devyani, who has been working at the Wazirabad flyover on the Outer Ring Road, has no option but to carry bricks and cement on her head with her eight-month-old baby strapped to her back. Devyani said the constant dust in the air might be dangerous both for her and the baby but she cannot leave the child unattended. Experts and doctors said a person who is constantly exposed to dust particles ends up inhaling both visible as well as suspended particulate matter. “Over the years, these workers run the risk of inhaling silica, which escapes the filter mechanism of nose and the throat. This reduces the capacity of the lungs and makes the person vulnerable to diseases like tuberculosis,” said Dr Neeraj Jain, chest specialist, Ganga Ram Hospital. He said if such particles enter the airway and reach the end, they tends to accumulate in the lung tissues and cause injury to the lungs. Silica particles, for instance, give off toxic substances which are responsible for scarring of the lungs. (Hindustan Times 27/2/15)

RESERVATION

47. Cabinet writes to Centre on quota (25)

Patna, Feb. 19: The state government today decided to send a request letter to the Centre to provide reservation to people belonging to Extremely Backward Classes (EBC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) in central services as on the pattern of Bihar. A resolution to this effect was taken at a meeting of the state cabinet chaired by chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi here on Thursday. The move assumes significance in the wake of last week’s decision to give reservation to SCST people in government contracts. The cabinet also passed a proposal to give reservation to backward and extremely backward classes and women in government contracts up to Rs 25 lakh. The cabinet had earlier decided to give similar facility to SCST category in contracts up to Rs 75 lakh. Cabinet coordination department principal secretary B. Pradhan said a state-level commission would be set up for the uplift of scavengers on the lines of Rashtriya Safai Karamchari Aayog. It also decided in-principle to set up the Finance and Development Corporation for Extremely Backward Classes. Pradhan said the cabinet gave its nod for setting up a traffic police station at Muzaffarpur. A proposal to adopt a new youth policy for the state was also passed by the cabinet. To woo voters of Mithilanchal, the government passed a proposal to declare Saurashtra Mela a state festival. It also decided to raise the monthly remuneration of gram kachharis from Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000. A total of 23 proposals were passed by the cabinet. The political instability in the state has taken a toll on the meeting of the board of governors of Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences in which many important decisions were to be taken. “The meeting, earlier scheduled to take place on February 21, has been deferred owing to political uncertainty. The date of next board of governors’ meeting has now fixed for February 28,” said the IGIMS director, N.R. Biswas. Sources said the IGIMS administration was forced to take this decision because the health minister happens to be the chairman of the board and in his absence, the meeting could not be conducted. At present, urban development and housing department minister Samrat Chaudhary is holding the additional charge of the health department. (The Telegraph 20/2/15)

48. Dalits demand quota in private sector (25)

SHIMLA: The first convention of Dalits was organised by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kullu this weekend. It formed the Himachal Dalit Shoshan Mukti Sabha at the two-day convention that ended on Sunday and attended by more than 140 delegates, said Tikender Panwar, CPI-M leader. Himachal Pradesh has the highest number of Scheduled Caste population after Punjab. The Dalits in Himachal like elsewhere are also the poorest and have the least resources including the land holdings. The Dalits shared their bitter experiences of humiliation and atrocities that had been committed on them in an otherwise sleepy State. They demanded a special session of the Vidhan Sabha on Dalit atrocities, reservations in private sector, special packages and rewards for inter-caste marriages, redistribution of agriculture land and 200 days’ minimum jobs in MNREGA for the SCs. The convention elected Paras Ram from Mandi as its president and Lokendra from Kullu as its general secretary. The convention was also addressed by S. Srinivas Rao, leader of the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Morcha, who said the Dalits should organise to form a democratic movement and not get into the politics of identity. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

49. RS passes bill to include certain communities in SC list (25)

New Delhi: A bill to include certain synonymous names of communities under Scheduled Castes category in Haryana, Karnataka, Odisha and Dadra and Nagar Haveli was passed by Rajya Sabha today. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was passed by a voice vote. Replying to a debate on the bill, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot said the law has been further amended to modify the SC list in three states and one Union Territory. Expressing concern over the diversion of the SC sub-plan fund in various states including Delhi and atrocities on SC people, he said the government is taking several measures to help them and is also taking active measures. He also mentioned that the government has a proposal from the Bihar government with regard to inclusion of more castes in SC list. “This will entail some additional recurring and non-recurring expenditure on account of benefits of schemes meant for the development of SCs to which the persons belonging to the newly-added communities will become entitled, as a result of enacting the bill,” the bill reads. As per the bill, communities such as ‘Kabirpanthi and Julaha’ in Haryana, ‘Bhovi, od, odde, Vaddar, Waddar’ in Karnatka, ‘Dhoba, Dhobi, Dom, Dombo, Duria Dom, Katia, Kela, Nalua Kela, Khadala and Turi’ in Odisha and the community of ‘Chamar’ in Dadra and Nagar Haveli are included in the SC list. Participating in the debate, Ali Anwar Ansari (JDU) Ali Anwar (JDU) sought inclusion of Haryana’s Mev community under Scheduled Tribe (ST) category on par with Meena tribe. He alleged that the community, which fought against Babar’s invasion and sacrificed 1200 lives, was not included in the list simply on basis of their religion because they fell under Mewati Muslim category. Ahmed Hassan (Trinamool Cong) demanded socio economic survey by the Rural Development department to be completed to enable the government decide on who to be included in the SC/ST list. A W Rabi Bernard (AIADMK) demanded that Dalit Christians be included in the list of SCs. Veer Singh (BSP) sought enhancement of reservation quota for SC saying that their population had increased over time but the quota remained stagnant. “Also, there should be check on diversion of funds meant for such communities like in case of diversion of Rs 744 crore Scheduled Caste Sub Plan to projects related to Commonwealth Games,” he said. T K Rangarajan (CPI-M) demanded formation of a Commission which should visit every state to assess communities inclusion into SC/ST categories besides evolving some mechanism for it. Ramdas Athawale (RPI), Vijaylaxmi Sadho (Cong), Nand Kumar Sai (BJP) and S Thangavelu (DMK) wanted increase in reservation quota for SC/ST while Bhushan Lal Jangde (BJP) drew the attention of the governemnt towards SC/ST communities in Chhattisgarh which were devoid of ration cards. Anil Kumar Sahani (JDU) said successive Bihar governments have been advocating for inclusion of certain communities in the list but in vain. Dilip Kumar Tirkey (BJD) sought the government to dalit Muslims and Christians should also been included. (Deccan Herald 24/2/15)

50. Dalit reconverts will get all sops: Supreme Court (25)

New Delhi: If a Christian reconverts to Scheduled Caste, he is entitled to all SC benefits if the community accepts him into its fold, the Supreme Court held on Thursday. Giving this ruling a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and V. Gopala Gowda said, “A person whose parents belong to a Scheduled Caste before their conversion to Christ-ianity can, on conversion or reconversion to Hinduism, be regarded as a member of the Scheduled Caste so as to be eligible for the benefit of reservation for Scheduled Castes.” Writing the judgement, Justice Misra said, “The practice of caste, however irrational it may appear to our reason and however repugnant it may appear to our moral and social sense, is so deep-rooted in the Indian people that its mark does not seem to disappear on conversion to a different religion. If it disappears, it is only to reappear on reconversion.” (Deccan Herald 27/2/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

51. Various civil society organizations condemn threat on Thoudang editor (1)

IMPHAL, February 19: Various civil society organizations have strongly condemned the act of unknown gunmen who came looking for Naharolgi Thoudang editor Khoirom Loyalakpa at his residence. In a press release, the United NGOs Mission Manipur, North East Dialogue Forum, Social Welfare and Development Centre, Women Action for Development, Social Action Development Organization, Social Development Foundation, United Tribal Development Project, Peoples` Platform Secretariat, People Action Development H-37, Life Development Organization, Centre for Social Development and Village Women Coordinating Committee have strongly condemned the incident. `We are deeply shocked to hear the news of attacking the residence of Khoirom Loyalakpa, Editor, Naharolgi Thoudang, the Local daily newspaper on 17th February 2015 at around 10.30 am at Kontha Khabam Mayai Leikai by four armed persons while he was out of his residence,he statement said. `The four masked armed men asked for Loyalakpa in the presence of his 94 years old mother and 97 years old father. Every nook and corner of the residence was searched with an arrogant action by holding a gun in their hands, it further said. `94 years old mother of Loyalakpa was mentally shocked after the action of the four masked men, and she is still traumatized, it said. `We strongly condemned such act of serious human rights violation,it said. `We also condemned the attack on Noren Ningombam along with his cameramen Bipin Sharma, the bureau chief of “Impact TV” on 13th February 2015 at Moreh by the four personnel of 9th Assam Rifles while they were covering a mob gathered at Moreh police station to demand the release of a man arrested earlier,`it further said. The people in Manipur already experienced the assassination of Konsam Rishikanta of Imphal Free Press and others few years ago, it said. Attacking civilians, journalists, human rights defenders, women and children are fall under War Crime which has to be obliged by Indian State, it said. `We urge the Government of India and Manipur to investigate the cases mentioned above by establishing an independent committee and take up legal measures to the perpetrators and punish them under the rule of law,` the statement added. (Kangla Online 20/2/15)

52. Attempt to divide farmers: Activists (1)

New Delhi, Feb. 23: Ten civil society groups today got together to demand scrapping of the land acquisition ordinance and accused the government of trying to divide the protesting farmer bodies. The government recently spoke to two pro-farmer bodies, the Bharatiya Krishak Samaj yesterday and the Ekta Parishad today. Madhuresh Kumar, convener of the National Alliance of People’s Movements – a conglomeration of left-of-centre organisations – said the government’s dialogue with select farmer bodies was an attempt to divide the movement. Among the other groups present at the joint news conference were the All India Union of Forest Working People, Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Yuva Kranti and the Campaign for Survival and Dignity. Social activist Medha Patkar said these groups would not accept any compromise formula but would intensify their agitation for the scrapping of the ordinance. They are likely to meet President Pranab Mukherjee tomorrow. “The government is engaging in false propaganda that the land ordinance is beneficial to farmers and is necessary for building rural infrastructure like drinking water supply, electricity, roads and houses for the poor,” Patkar said. She denied the Centre’s contention that the 2013 land acquisition act which the ordinance amends was too stringent, saying neither the Centre nor any state government had attempted acquiring land under its provisions. The UPA-steered law was prepared after consultations, she said, while the NDA government did not speak to any stakeholder except the state governments before promulgating the ordinance. Union home minister Rajnath Singh today met a delegation from the Ekta Parishad, which is organising a march of 5,000 landless people to Delhi from Palwal in Haryana. They are demanding, among other things, scrapping of the ordinance and a law granting the landless a right to homestead land. Singh promised to take the matter up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said the National Land Reforms Council, headed by the Prime Minister, would be reconstituted in keeping with the Parishad’s demands. The government had formed the council in 2008 to suggest ways of redistributing excess land among the landless, among other things. But the council hasn’t held a single meeting. (The Telegraph 24/2/15)

53. Amnesty International criticises Modi govt’s rights record (1)

London, In its Annual Report 2015, Amnesty has highlighted poll-related violence in May, communal clashes and failure of consultation on corporate projects as key concerns. Human rights group Amnesty International on Wednesday criticised the Narendra Modi-led government, saying under the new regime India had witnessed a rise in communal violence and its Land Acquisition Ordinance has put thousands of Indians at “risk” of forcible eviction. In its Annual Report 2015, released here, Amnesty highlighted poll-related violence in the lead-up to the May 2014 General Elections, communal clashes and failure of consultation on corporate projects as key concerns. “National elections in May saw a government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party come to power with a landslide victory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who campaigned on promises of good governance and development for all, made commitments to improve access to financial services and sanitation for people living in poverty. “However, the government took steps towards reducing requirements to consult with communities affected by corporate-led projects,” Amnesty said in its report. The report highlighted that “the authorities continued to violate people’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression. There was a rise in communal violence in Uttar Pradesh and some other states and corruption, caste-based discrimination and caste violence remained pervasive.” In reference to communal violence, it noted that, “A string of communally charged incidents in Uttar Pradesh prior to elections led to an increase in tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities…Politicians were accused of and in some cases criminally charged with making provocative speeches.””…In December, Hindu groups were accused of forcibly converting several Muslims and Christians to Hinduism,” the report said. The rights body also went on to single out the Land Acquisition Ordinance for criticism as it described the move as a new “risk” to thousands of Indians. “In December, the government passed a temporary law which removed requirements related to seeking the consent of affected communities and assessing social impact when state authorities acquired land for certain projects,” it said. “Thousands of people remained at risk of being forcibly evicted from their homes and lands for large infrastructure projects. Particularly vulnerable were Adivasi communities living near new and expanding mines and dams,” it added. While the group recognised “progressive legal reform”, it was critical of India’s “overburdened and under-funded criminal justice system“.Amnesty pointed out two court orders as important “gains” for India in 2014, including a Bhopal court’s decision in November to demand that its criminal summons against the Dow Chemical Company be re-issued and a “landmark judgment” by the Supreme Court in April granting legal recognition to transgender people. (The Hindu 25/2/15)

54. Rights violation at smelting units alleged (1)

Palakkad: Jana Jagratha, a civil society organisation, has approached the Kerala State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) seeking its immediate intervention to stop constant abuse of human rights by iron smelting factories at Kanjikode. The organisation urged the commission to intervene in the issue and put an end to the human rights violations at the earliest. “In a blast at Minar factory on January 16, 2015, a migrant labourer from Bihar was killed and another one was injured. The bereaved family has not yet been compensated. This is not an isolated incident. Almost all workers in the factories there have been denied proper wage, food, rest, and good working conditions,” said P.S. Panicker, secretary of the organisation. There are 30 iron and steel factories at Kanjikode and 750 permanent and 1,226 contract labourers are working in these factories. “The workers here have not been getting enough rest and they live in absolutely unhygienic conditions,” said Mr. Panicker.Commission member R. Natarajan had accepted the complaint and directed its chief investigation officer to conduct a probe. (The Hindu 26/2/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

55. Industry happy over likely amendments in Factories Act (19)

LUDHIANA: In what may be termed as a big development, finally the process to amend the Factories Act, 1948, by the Union government is likely to be completed soon. Amendments in the Act would be important for the industrial city of Ludhiana. Giving this information, Badish Jindal, chairman of Federation of Association of Small Industries of India (FASSI), and the member of the tripartite committee on labour, said last amendment in the Act was made after the Bhopal gas tragedy case. Speaking to TOI, Jindal said meeting of tripartite committee held under the chairmanship of Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatriya, all the ministries and prominent industrialists and workers, the ministry has drafted the amendments, which will be sent to the Parliament for amendments in Factories Act. As per the information, the most important amendment would be to end the Inspector Raj. End of the Inspector Raj would be a boon for the industrial community, as no inspector-level officer would be empowered to enter the factory premises as per his whims and fancy. “The inspection system would be made online and only if the senior authorities of the department would be convinced about any complaint, then the inspection would be carried out physically”, said Jindal. Apart from this, the draft amendments would be having the provision for setting up the Labour Courts within the factory premises for the speedy disposal of the cases. Another crucial things would be that children below 15 years can not be deployed in factories, violation of which would invoke harsh penalties. One important amendment likely to benefit the workers would be pertaining to the overtime hour limit. “Presently, the workers can do overtime for 50 hours in three months but now the committee has proposed to extend 50 hours to 125 hours in three months”, informed Jindal. The committee has also proposed that under adequate safeguards and safety provisions, the women workers can work during night shifts also. Any person with disability or pregnant women’s won’t be allowed to work in Pipe Chamber. The new Factories Act will have more penalty provisions on all the evasions by the employers. (Times of India 23/2/15)

56. Is govt’s will the hurdle for judicial reforms? (19)

NEW DELHI: Legal reform is one of the priorities of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government, an intent it has reiterated through the President’s address to the joint session of Parliament on Monday. However, in the last nine months the government has not been able to achieve much progress on judicial reforms. The much debated National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), which replaced the Supreme Court collegium through a constitutional amendment, has been kept in abeyance for the lack of government’s will to notify it. The unofficial reason, of course, is a pending litigation in the SC challenging the NJAC. But, sources said nothing prevents the government from notifying the NJAC and going ahead with framing of its rules and procedures. The government had through recent communications to the chief justices of high courts impressed upon the need to improve the criminal justice system by strictly implementing the amendments made in the Code of Criminal Procedure and Civil Procedure Code. One of the issues raised was on repeated adjournments given by courts delaying the process of justice delivery and thus increasing the pendency list. A proposal was discussed to link adjournments with the judges appraisal system. However, all high courts have their own independent appraisal system and there has been no headway in bringing uniformity in judges’ appraisal system across the country. The key to expediting justice delivery is to have a full strength subordinate judiciary. Currently, there are more than 4,400 vacancies against a sanctioned strength of 19,518. The high courts too have a similar problem. Against a sanctioned strength of 984 judges there are at least 348 vacancies. One of the proposals of the government was to frame an All India Judicial Service on the lines of civil services, particularly, after several HCs told the government that one of the main difficulties faced by them was finding suitable candidates who can satisfy the eligibility conditions and are able to clear the written examinations. However, despite repeated attempts the government has been unable to convince the higher judiciary on constituting such a service for the recruitment of judicial officers. (Times of India 24/2/15)

57. Delhi HC seeks govt reply on PIL against law protecting unauthorised constructions (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought the Centre and city government’s responses on a PIL challenging an NCT law and its recent amendment by which unauthorised constructions up to June 1, 2014 have been protected from punitive action. Prior to the latest amendment to National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second Act, 2011, unauthorised constructions only up to February 8, 2007 were protected. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw issued notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Delhi government and sought their replies by May 4 on a PIL by NGO, Campaign for People Participation in Development Planning which has challenged the constitutional validity of the Act. The petition, filed though advocate Anil K Aggarwal, has said that by ordering a “complete embargo” on any punitive and coercive action against encroachment on public land and utilities and unauthorised and irregular construction of building, a “free hand” has been given to the violators of law to deface coordinated spatial planning of Delhi. It has sought quashing of the Act and amendment and declaring all effects of the legislation as “ab initio null and void”.It has raised the apprehension that if something is not done soon to bring the effect of these legislation to naught, then “the day is not far when instead of serving as a model of urban development for other parts of the country to follow, the chaotic Delhi will wither and collapse under the burden of ill-planned, haphazard growth”.It has alleged that by way of these legislation, the government have “belied the promises held out by it to all law-abiding citizens for the last more than 7 years that after notification of Master Plan – 2021, no haphazard/unplanned development, construction and use of buildings and encroachments over public land and utilities, beyond February 8, 2007 shall be tolerated or overlooked”. The petition has alleged the laws were enacted by the Centre to “cover up their failure” to prevent unplanned development as well as encroachments over public land and utilities. The PIL has said the Centre “enacted the legislation against all norms of disaster mitigation, knowing that all unplanned/illegal constructions and development, rapidly erected overnight, inherently structurally unsafe and entail immense risk to lives of the people occupying the same”.It has sought directions to the Centre and city government “to facilitate the municipalities to frame improvement scheme for the unplanned colonies with the active participation of the councillors, elected representatives of the people”.The petition has also asked for directions to the government “to constitute a metropolitan planning committee to assimilate and coordinate development plans and improvement schemes prepared by the respective municipalities”. (Zee News 25/2/15)

58. Supreme Court Reserves Orders on Validity of Section 66A of IT Act (19)

New Delhi:  After marathon arguments, the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its orders on pleas challenging the validity of provisions of the IT Act giving powers to arrest those who write offensive posts on social media. Petitioners – a law student Shreya Singal and other NGOs – had petitioned seeking quashing of Section 66 A of IT act. These petitions were filed after two girls at Palghar in Maharashtra were arrested after they made comments on the protests after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in 2012. The lawyers of the petitioners argued that the definition of provision Section 66 A – grossly menacing, offensive and materials which cause annoyance to public – is vague and it may lead to abuse of the provision. They also argued that even genuine comments criticising a person, caricatures are treated as an offence and people are harassed. When the petition was heard initially in 2014, the union home ministry issued directives to all state governments that arrests under Section 66 A can only be made with the approval of senior police officers. The Centre, justifying the provisions of IT Act, argued that abuse of law is not a ground for quashing it. During the hearing, the top court questioned the Centre, “How workable is it if you had millions of Facebook comments and thousands of complaints?” The Centre replied that whenever government receives a complaint, a request is made to the service provider to remove material content and the service provider removes the content or disables it. The Centre added that the government has made over 25,000 requests to service providers and there was 79 per cent compliance by the service providers. After hearing the arguments from all parties the top court reserved its judgment. (NDTV 27/2/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

59. HC seeks reply on CCTVs in police stations (1)

ALLAHABAD: Hearing a PIL seeking installation of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in all police stations of Uttar Pradesh in order to check human rights violations, the Allahabad High Court has directed the state’s principal secretary (Home) to file reply (counter affidavit) within six weeks. Hearing a PIL filed by Vinay Kumar Pandey, a Maharajganj based advocate, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Dr Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud and Justice Suneet Kumar directed to list this case after six weeks for next hearing. According to the petitioner, as per a report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), UP stands second after Maharastra in number of custodial deaths, custodial torture and rapes in police stations. In this backdrop, the petitioner suggested that if CCTV cameras were installed in each room and corridor of every police station across the state, increasing incidents of human rights violations could be checked to a great extent. In order to prove his contentions, the petitioner also submitted a report of Law Commission 2012, which had also suggested modernization of police stations in Uttar Pradesh, including installation of CCTV cameras in every police station in order to check human rights violations. The petitioner submitted certain documents which showed as to how installation of CCTV cameras in police stations helped in checking violation of human rights to a great extent in some foreign countries. The principal secretary (Home), director general of police and National Human Rights Commission have been arrayed as respondents in the PIL. (Times of India 22/2/15)

60. PUCL moves NHRC against ‘police torture’ of tribals (1)

KOLKATA: The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Sunday appealed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to provide “immediate protection” to tribals of Sundergarh district in Odisha, alleging that they are being tortured by the police for opposing the State government’s move to bring tribal villages in the district under the Rourkela municipal corporation. The PUCL’s complaint said the residents of Jagda, Jhartarang, Suidihi and other villages in Sundergarh have been protesting ever since the government issued the notification in 2013 because the district is governed under Schedule V of the Constitution, framed to protect tribals in the Scheduled Areas of nine States. The notification would facilitate the “illegal inclusion” of their panchayats in the Rourkela municipal corporation to develop Rourkela. “The government’s intention… is to bring Rourkela under the ‘Smart City’ project, and thus the process to forcibly acquire additional land was initiated,” said Atindriyo Chakrabarty, a Kolkata lawyer who accompanied the PUCL’s fact-finding team to the area. Sharanya Nayak, a PUCL member in Odhisa, mailed the complaint to the NHRC on Sunday. Although district officials assured them of help and two MLAs supported the economic blockade the villagers had imposed, the police arrested 72 tribals from various places on January 20, the PUCL said. The residents alleged that the police entered villages on January 20 and beat them up, without sparing women and children, and warned of atrocities against the women. Although 12 women were freed on bail, four FIRs were registered, with charges of attempt to murder, against some villagers, who have gone into hiding, the PUCL has said. Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Juel Oram has urged Odisha Minister for Housing and Urban Development Pushpendra Singh Deo to “examine the matter afresh.” “They [the villagers] have further alleged that the areas which are far from Rourkela town have been included in the proposed municipal corporation, whereas areas within the Rourkela municipal limits have been excluded,” Mr. Oram said in his letter, naming more than six areas which are “neither included in the gram panchayat nor in municipal areas.” The rights of the tribals are also violated as the areas were supposed to be governed under the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, said Mr. Oram, the lone BJP MP from the State, elected from Sundergarh. Denying any atrocity on the villagers, Superintendent of Police, Rourkela, Anirudh Kumar Singh told The Hindu on the phone that 300 persons were detained on January 20 because they had imposed an economic blockade. “We had to use force to remove the villagers who had squatted on roads, preventing the movement of buses. That’s the only force we used. All of them were released the next day [January 21]. About seven to eight cases were registered in November, 2014 when villagers blocked trains and the National Highway. Parts of Sundergarh are being included in Rourkela to urbanise the area,” Mr. Singh said. He blamed the “vested interests” of some people of the panchayats for the protest. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

61. New Act lets cops get away with murder (1)

MUMBAI: Citizens’ groups and human rights bodies fear the 2014 Maharashtra Police Act may give rise to a delinquent police force that can “get away with murder”.Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and Police Reforms Watch jointly conducted a conference to push for a discussion on the subject in the upcoming assembly session. Human rights lawyer Vijay Hiremath said the Maharashtra Act makes no mention of section 197 of the CrPC, according to which no police officer can be tried without state/union government sanction. This was used to allow the policemen involved in the custodial killing of Khwaja Yunus and the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter killing to get away with murder, he adds. Pointing to the need to snap the link between politics and police, activist Gerson da Cunha says the new law makes matters worse. Dolphy D’Souza of Police Reforms Watch says the law, passed by the previous government, is among the worst in the country. Saurav Datta of CHRI said the social media lab of the Mumbai police has begun monitoring WhatsApp. “The manner in which this cell monitors WhatsApp flouts all norms,” says Datta. (Times of India 26/2/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

62. Media Need Respect, Dignity: Big B (1)

MUMBAI: Actors and the media are known to share a “love-hate” kind of relationship, but megastar Amitabh Bachchan took to his official blog to laud the dedication of mediapersons, saying they deserve “respect” and “dignity”. “I do feel, that the job assigned to a member of the media has an agenda too. They get briefed from their seniors, much like what we are subjected to by our writers and directors,” the 72-year-old posted on srbachchan.tumblr.com. “They have a job on hand. They are under instructions and they are carrying out their job. They need the respect and dignity of their presence,” he added. The actor, who has been tagged as “Bollywood’s Shahenshah”, also noted that instructing journalists to ask a particular set of questions is unfair. “Once agreed to meet the press or the media, then dictating to them what they can ask and not ask is really expecting too much. It also is freedom curbing. If you do not wish to make a statement or say something for public consumption, do not agree to meet the media. “But once agreed, be prepared for all kinds…they could be favourable to you, or uncomfortable. You may chose to at the moment to keep silent or not comment at all. But…to expect that it shall be within the precincts of what you desire, may not entirely be possible…at least that is what my experience says,” Big B shared. Meanwhile, the screen icon is gearing up for the release of his films “Piku” and “Wazir”. (New Indian Express 21/2/15)

63. TS bars journalists from entering CMO, retracts (1)

HYDERABAD: The government of Telangana barred the entry of journalists into the C-Block that houses the Chief Minister’s office and a part of the General Administration Department for a few hours on Monday, but relented later in the evening with the CMO officials stating that there were no such orders “as of now”. Two days after the TS government hinted at regulating the entry of journalists into Secretariat, on Monday around 2.30 p.m. a police constable Sidda Reddy, on security duties at C-Block, went into the office of the Chief Minister’s Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) V. Jwala Narasimha Rao located on the ground floor and informed journalists (print and electronic media) there that orders were received from the Information & Public Relations Department not to allow entry (of journalists) with immediate effect. The constable led the shocked journalists out of the C-Block even as some media personnel frantically called up Commissioner of I&PR R.V. Chandravadan immediately to know the reality. However, he replied in negative. It became evident that the government had started implementing its decision by first regulating entry into the Chief Minister’s office premises. Officials were not forthcoming when journalists grilled them about the motive to ease them out of the C-Block. The journalists took up the matter with Telangana State Press Academy Chairman Allam Narayana, who reached there due to his scheduled meeting in the CMO. “There are no orders (GO) issued so far barring the entry of journalists into the C-Block and the incident could be due to a communication gap,” he told the agitated journalists, who gathered near the media lounge. Not convinced by his clarification, the journalists argued with him as to how a police constable would send them out without getting instructions from the higher-ups. Mr. Narayana held discussions with the journalists for over an hour and gave an assurance that he would take up the matter with the Chief Minister. Later, the CPRO also stated that there was no ban on journalists’ entry “as of now”. Congress general secretary Konagala Mahesh, in a statement derided the government for curtailing the movement of media inside Secretariat. (The Hindu 24/2/15)

64. Supreme Court Reserves Orders on Validity of Section 66A of IT Act (19)

New Delhi:  After marathon arguments, the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its orders on pleas challenging the validity of provisions of the IT Act giving powers to arrest those who write offensive posts on social media. Petitioners – a law student Shreya Singal and other NGOs – had petitioned seeking quashing of Section 66 A of IT act. These petitions were filed after two girls at Palghar in Maharashtra were arrested after they made comments on the protests after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in 2012. The lawyers of the petitioners argued that the definition of provision Section 66 A – grossly menacing, offensive and materials which cause annoyance to public – is vague and it may lead to abuse of the provision. They also argued that even genuine comments criticising a person, caricatures are treated as an offence and people are harassed. When the petition was heard initially in 2014, the union home ministry issued directives to all state governments that arrests under Section 66 A can only be made with the approval of senior police officers. The Centre, justifying the provisions of IT Act, argued that abuse of law is not a ground for quashing it. During the hearing, the top court questioned the Centre, “How workable is it if you had millions of Facebook comments and thousands of complaints?” The Centre replied that whenever government receives a complaint, a request is made to the service provider to remove material content and the service provider removes the content or disables it. The Centre added that the government has made over 25,000 requests to service providers and there was 79 per cent compliance by the service providers. After hearing the arguments from all parties the top court reserved its judgment. (NDTV 27/2/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

65. Prohibitory orders imposed in Shimoga after communal clash (7)

Bangalore: Tension prevailed in Karnataka’s Shimoga town on Friday following communal clashes that broke out on Thursday evening after a rally by Popular Front of India (PFI). One person had died and two were injured in violence during the rally. Prohibitory orders were clamped in the town by the Shimoga district administration on Friday. The violence broke out after members of the PFI, a Muslim activist group, staged a rally in the city to mark the birth of a founder. Some of the participants were confronted by locals for allegedly throwing stones at vehicles during the rally, resulting in the outbreak of violence. According to the Shimoga police, three persons who were riding on a bike were attacked in  Gajnur, resulting in the death of one and serious injures to two. The deceased was identified as Vishwanath, 30, from the nearby Bhadravati town. News of the death and clashes led to more people from both communities coming out on the streets and attempting to set fire to some establishments in the town. The police brought in reinforcements in the night and brought the situation under control. Prohibitory orders were imposed in the town and schools and colleges remained closed on Friday. Commercial establishments and banks, however, opened for business. The PFI rally in Shimoga came close on the heels of a major rally in the town organised by right wing groups led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Police claimed to have arrested a few persons who were involved in the clashes. Additional Director General of Police (internal security) Amar Kumar Pandey and Inspector General of Police (eastern range) Nanjunda Swamy have been stationed at Shimoga to monitor the situation. The district in-charge minister Kimmane Rathnakar, meanwhile, announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the family of Vishwanath. (Indian Express 21/2/15)

66. 4 get 10 years in jail for plotting bomb attacks in Chennai (7)

CHENNAI: A special court in the city on Monday sentenced four members of a Muslim radical organisation to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment for plotting bomb blasts at temples in Chennai in 2002. According to the prosecution, police were on an alert after receiving a tip that Muslim Defence Force (MDF) was planning explosions at important Hindu temples in the city to foment communal violence on December 6, 2002, the 10th anniversary of Babri masjid demolition. Special public prosecutor N Vijayaraj said during a vehicle check, a police team led by sub-inspector Mahindran apprehended two MDF operatives, Zakir Hussain alias Zakirah, 28, and Towfiq alias Yasir, 27, with 5kg of explosives, 40 gelatin sticks and detonators near Rajaratnam Nagar bridge in Kodungaiyur on November 29, 2002. Subsequently, a case was registered under Sections 5, 9 (B) and (1) (a) of the Explosives Substances Act and 120(b) (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC. Based on information from the duo, police seized a large amount of explosives from Mallipattinam in Thanjavur district, and arrested two more people, Nizamuddin and Abdul Quadir. The case was later transferred to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department After investigation, police chargesheeted 23 people in the case. On completion of the trial, P Murugan, judge of the special court for bomb blast cases in Poonamallee, sentenced Zakir, Towfiq, Nizammudin and Abdul Quadir to 10 years of RI. The court also slapped each with a fine of 5,000. The court acquitted 17 accused as the prosecution was unable to prove charges against them. Two of the accused are absconding. MDF was founded in Saudi Arabia by Abu Hamsa, 35, of Hyderabad with the objective of extending Islamist fundamentalism to south India. MDF reportedly also had links with Lashkar-e-Toiba, responsible for the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. According to police Zakir had confessed that he had gone to Saudi Arabia and befriended Abu Hamsa in Riyadh. (Times of India 24/2/15)

67. Village tense after Adityanath’s outfit enters land row, ‘150 Muslim families leave homes’ (7)

Lucknow: Tension prevailed in Madhopur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district after 150 Muslim families reportedly left their homes Monday, fearing a backlash from BJP MP Yogi Adityanath’s outfit Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) over a land dispute. Heavy police force including PAC personnel have been deployed in the village to prevent any disturbance. Kushinagar additional district magistrate Ram Kewal Tiwari admitted that there is tension in the village. “It is a property dispute. There was a minor clash and we deployed PAC. HYV is active in this region and they often hold meetings, but we handle the situation,” Tiwari claimed. He, however, denied that Muslims have left the village. HYV held a meeting at Madhopur on Monday to show solidarity with the village’s Hindus following a property dispute. The outfit has reportedly given call for a Hindu mahapanchayat on March 3 if its demand of handing over possession of a 1.5-acre disputed plot to a Hindu villager is not met. “We had gone there to show solidarity with our worker Digvijay Kishore Shahi who was assaulted by a Muslim when he resisted their move to grab his land. Since the Muslims have done wrong, they have fled. We are not responsible,” Sunil Singh, state president of HYV said. He added: “Digvijay owns that land. The district administration admitted it but refused to hand him the possession before Holi claiming that communal atmosphere will be vitiated. We cannot wait for that long. On March 3, we will hold a Hindu mahapanchayat”. Locals said the issue erupted following a land dispute between Digvijay Kishore Shahi and another villager Ameen. The 1.5 acre plot belonging to the gram panchayat is close to the village and both groups are staking claim to it. On February 13, a clash broke out between the two groups. Muslims claimed that nearly 1,000 HYV workers attacked them. The district administration deployed PAC and a case was registered on Shahi’s complaint. Two Muslim men were arrested. “We continued to stay in our village after the incident. But, HYV announced a big meeting on February 23. We sought help of local administration but no one came forward,” Aurangzeb (22) said.  Social worker Mohammad Anwar Siddiqui said: “Police told villagers told to leave the village before the HYV.” Aurangzeb said Muslims left the village on February 22 to avoid confrontations. He added that the HYV meeting was attended by nearly 1,500 workers, including state president Sunil Singh. Provocative speeches were delivered during the meeting. The Muslims are yet to return home, he claimed. (Indian Express 25/2/15)

COMMUNALISM

68. VHP to go against BJP’s diktat on ‘ghar wapsi’ (26)

HYDERABAD: Despite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asking the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to abandon the controversial Ghar Wapsi religious reconversion programme, the latter is planning to go ahead with it in the two states. The BJP’s debacle in the Delhi elections has poured cold water on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to Hyderabad in March-end. The party has asked the VHP , which claimed to have welcomed back over 5,000 people from other faiths into the Hindu religion in the past two months, to put a brake on the Ghar Wapsi programme in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Ill at ease with the BJP’s stance, the VHP , however, has pledged to continue the reconversion drive from March 21, when it launches the Ramotsav campaign. The celebrations in the two states would come to an end on April 4 with Hanuman Jayanti. The BJP’s change in stance became evident with Modi’s statement earlier this week that his government was com mitted to protecting the freedom of faith. The change, according to sources, came after it received a drubbing in the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party in the national capital. “There are certain changes in the party’s approach. It was decided not to send Modi to address political rallies in the states since there is a tendency to link the party’s electoral performance in those states to his leadership. Also, we have requested the VHP to put Ghar Wapsi on hold in Telangana and AP at least for now,” said a BJP leader. The BJP’s move is seen as politically significant in the backdrop of the elections which are due for the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). Telangana BJP president G Kishan Reddy said Modi’s Hyderabad visit is like ly only in August-September, which would be well past the municipal elections. Meanwhile, BJP national general secretary P Muralidhar Rao said there would be no Ghar Wapsi unless people voluntarily come forward to be reconverted. “As such, there is no question of starting reconver question of starting sion or stopping it.If the people are willing, there will be reconversion.If there are none, then what is the point of organizing a Ghar Wapsi event,” he said. But the VHP is determined to take up Ghar Wapsi during Ramotsav, when it organizes Seetarama Kalyanam at the mandal level in both Telangana and AP . “Whatever Modi says may be suitable for his politics, it is not binding on the VHP ,” said G Satyam, VHP central joint secretary . “While the BJP is a political party, VHP is an independent organization whose cause is to protect Hindu tradition.” VHP’s defiant note comes at a time when the Sangh Parivar has decided to join hands with the Ekta Parivar, which has launched a nation-wide agitation in support of Anna Hazare’s campaign against the Modi government’s anti-farmer land policy, focusing mainly on the Land Acquisition Act. While Ekta Parivar launched a paday atra from Palwal in Haryana to Jantar Mantar in Delhi, RSS leader Govinda Acharya ex pressed the Sangh Parivar’s solidarity with it. In Telanga na and AP , the constituents of the Sangh Pari var, including RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal, are set to take sts on February 24, part in protests on February 24, when Ekta Parivar has called for a nation-wide picketing.”The VHP supports any activity taken by anybody which is in the interest of the country and its people. As our objective is the wellbeing of the country, we will do whatever it takes,” Satyam said. (Times of India 21/2/15)

69. Conversion was Mother Teresa’s real aim, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat says (26)

ALWAR: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Monday said that the prime motive behind Mother Teresa’s service to the destitute was converting them to Christianity at a function in a village in Bharatpur, adding that her selfish aim devalued the virtues of a noble cause. “It’s good to work for a cause with selfless intentions. But Mother Teresa’s work had ulterior motive, which was to convert the person who was being served to Christianity,” said Bhagwat. “In the name of service, religious conversions were made. This was followed by other institutes, too,” he said. Bhagwat was overseeing the functioning of an NGO, Apna Ghar, and inaugurated a ‘Mahila Sadan’ and ‘Sishu Bal Grah’ for helpless women and children. He applauded their work and maintained that it was dedicated to the service of the poor and helpless. At the function, former DGP of Border Security Force Prakash Singh, too, criticized Mother Teresa. “There are many other organizations that have done far more good work than her. But Christians with the help of media were able to publicize their work,” said Singh. He also mentioned that during his posting in the Northeast, he had witnessed forced conversion of tribal by Roman Catholics. Mother Teresa’s organization, ‘Missionaries of Charity’ works for the homeless and ailing across the country. The comments follow a series of attacks on Christian places of worship in Delhi and elsewhere. Mother Teresa, around the time she was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress, on July 01, 1971. (Earlier this month, priests, nuns and parishioners had clashed with the police in Delhi as they staged a protest against the attacks in Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. Last week, the home ministry had stepped in directing the police to bring the culprits to book. At a gathering to pay tributes to Indians beatified by the Vatican as saints in Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke out on the issue, saying his government “will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly”. (Times of India 24/2/15)

70. VHP gives PM Modi time till May 2015 for temple (26)

Lucknow: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has given Prime Minister Narendra Modi time till May 2015 to resolve the Ram temple issue in Ayodhya, failing which the VHP will launch a mass agitation. VHP spokesman Sharad Sharma said on Wednesday that 70 acres of land was needed for temple construction but a large part of it is being dubbed as disputed by Muslims. “The Modi government has come to power on the agenda of development and initially we did not wish to disturb the government but saints and seers will now be meeting the Prime Minister in May 2015 to demand that a law be enacted in Parliament and clear hurdles in the path of temple construction,” he said. The VHP has already started warming up the temple movement and will be celebrating Ram Mahotsav next month across the country. Idols of Lord Ram will be installed in all villages and subsequently immersed after Ram Navami. The idea is to popularise Ram Mahotsav like Ganesh Utsav and Durga Puja. The VHP has also rejected the plan mooted by some saints and Hashim Ansari, one of the plaintiffs in the Babri case, for a joint shrine at the disputed site. The VHP spokesman said that “people who have no locus standi have been trying to show interest in the case and raise such issues”. Mr Ansari had recently said that a temple and a mosque could be constructed at the same site with a 100-foot-high wall separating the two. Zafaryab Jilani, counsel for the Sunni waqf board, said that the there is no point in arriving at a compromise formula without the VHP which is a part of the case in court. It may be recalled that the Allahabad high court, in 2010, had ordered to trifurcate the disputed 70 acres of land and give the makeshift temple area to Ram Lalla Virajman (a party in the case) while handing the platform and Sita Rasoi area to Nirmohi Akhara and one-third portion to the Sunni waqf board. (Asian Age 26/2/15)

71. Chhattisgarh: Government staff may join RSS; no service rules under violation (26)

Raipur: Kicking off a political storm, the Chhattisgarh government has issued a notification that allows government servants to join RSS and participate in its activities. The Chhattisgarh Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1965 prohibit a government servant from taking part in politics. “No government servant shall be member of, or be otherwise associated with, any political party or any organisation which takes part in politics nor shall he take part in, subscribe in aid of, or assist in any other manner, any political movement or activity,” states Rule 5(1). However, the state government, in a notification dated February 23, with the subject line “regarding participation of government servants in activities of RSS”, said that “as far as Rule 5(1) of Chhattisgarh Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1965 is concerned, its restriction does not apply to RSS”. The notification was signed by Additional Secretary (General Administration Department) K R Mishra, and copies were marked to almost all major government officer-bearers in the state, including Principal Secretary to Governor; Chief Minister’s Office; Principal Secretary, Vidhan Sabha Secretariat; Registrar General, High Court; Public Service Commission; Human Rights Commission; Lok Ayog; Information Commission and all collectors and divisional commissioners. Opposing the notification, the Congress termed it as “politicisation of administration”. “It is an unconstitutional move with clear political colours. It will indoctrinate government servants. They will go to shakhas and will no longer remain impartial,” said former chief minister Ajit Jogi. “It is an attempt by the government to force officers to visit RSS shakhas. It will blur the dividing line between the government and a political party. The BJP’s top leadership is annoyed with Raman Singh. He wants to save his chair and please them. The present move confirms his desperation,” said PCC chief Bhupesh Baghel. “Officers will now openly speak and work in favour of RSS-BJP. It will damage democracy in Chhattisgarh,” he added. Welcoming the move, the RSS claimed that it was not a political organisation. “This rule was made by the British but still continues. This government has done a good thing. The RSS is not a political party, we are a social organisation,” said Deepak Vispute, RSS’s Chhattisgarh Sar Sanghchalak. Asked about the RSS’s involvement in campaigning for the BJP, he said: “We never asked people to vote for BJP. RSS ne wahi kaha jo Election Commission ne kaha — matdaan karo. We only asked people to vote for rashtra hit.” When pointed out that RSS leaders occupy top political posts, Vispute said: “Our swayamsevaks are in various fields. Some of them are in politics also, but we are a cultural organisation.” … (Indian Express 27/2/15)

TERRORISM

72. Indian aid worker held hostage in Afghanistan returns (12)

New Delhi: India has secured the release of Jesuit priest Father Alexis Premkumar Antonysamy, who spent eight months in captivity in Afghanistan. Announcing his release in a series of tweets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “delighted at securing the release of Indian Jesuit priest Fr Alexis Premkumar from captivity in Afghanistan.” “Have spoken to Father Alexis Premkumar. Informed happy family of the Father of his safe return after 8 months in captivity,” Modi added. Father Premkumar, an Indian citizen, was kidnapped on June 2, 2014 from Herat province in western Afghanistan by terrorist elements.  After landing in Delhi, the relieved priest said, “I want to thank the Almighty. I thank him first. Also this is because of our PM Modi that I am here.” At the time of his abduction, Premkumar was working with the Jesuist Refugee Service, an international NGO, that carried out work in the educational field in the war ravaged Afghanistan. Soon after his abduction, the deputy police chief of Herat, Mohammad Nadir Fahimi stated six gunmen had abducted Premkumar and might have taken him to Gulran district. He stated that Afghan authorities were working with “district elders” to mediate his release.  Premkumar was the country director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Afghanistan. A native of Tamil Nadu, he has been working with the JRS for more than a decade. After serving Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu, he has been serving in the education programme in Afghanistan for the last three years. “The matter of his release has been pursued by our leadership, including at the highest levels by the Prime Minister.  Arrangements are being made for him to rejoin his family soon,” External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said. (Deccan Herald 23/2/15)

73. IS kidnaps 56 Christians in Syria (12)

Damascus: The Islamic State (IS) militants Monday kidnapped 56 Syrian Christians of Assyrian minority in Al-Hasakah province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The Assyrians were abducted from the town of Tal Shamiram in the countryside of the predominantly-Kurdish city of Hasaka, Xinhua reported. Tens of other Assyrians were also taken into captivity by the IS in the town of Tal Hurmos, adjacent to Tal Shamiram, according to the London-based watchdog group. The IS repeatedly attacked minority groups across Syria and most recently in Libya, where the terrorist group abducted and executed over 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians, branding them the “worshipers of the cross.” (Zee News 24/2/15)

74. Educated, rich militants worry forces (12)

Srinagar: The security forces combating the 25-year-old insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir are worried by highly educated youth, including those from affluent families, joining the ranks of militants. The state authorities seem to be equally perturbed about the trend and are already trying to find the reason behind it. The alarming issue again came to the fore on Wednesday when the authorities discovered that one of the two militants killed in a 24-hour gun battle with security forces in a remote village of southern Shopian district was not only a post-graduate in English and also held a B.Ed. degree, but had quit a government job a few months ago to become an active member of indigenous militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. The clash took place just a day after the Army released a report wherein it said that post-2010, highly educated youth were joining militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, which was “a very disturbing” trend. Also, deputy inspector-general of police (South Kashmir) Ali Muhammad had acknowledged the fact and said it was a worrying trend. He told reporters in Anantnag Tuesday the police was making every possible effort to engage youth in sports and other extra-curricular activities and was also holding counselling sessions “to prevent them from falling into the trap”. Wednesday’s encounter took place in Heff village of Shopian and one of the militants killed was 24-year-old Ashiq Hussain Dar, a resident of Turkewangam village of the same district, who had joined the militants in August 2014 after working for three months as a government official. The other militant killed in the encounter has been identified as Shabir Ahmed Ganai, also a local resident. An Army major and three jawans were injured in the clash and were immediately evacuated to the 92 Army Base Hospital here, police and Army sources said. Police confirmed the slain duo were associated with the Hizb and said the firefight began on Tuesday afternoon after it received specific intelligence inputs about the presence of militants in the village, 52 km from here. As a joint team of the local police’s counterinsurgency Special Operations Group and the Army began a search operation, the hiding militants opened fire on them, triggering an encounter, it said. The operation was halted at night and resumed in the early hours of Wednesday, reports said. The Army said the joint operation to flush out militant dead or alive started at 3.40 pm on Tuesday. “The terrorists were holed up in a house in village Heff Shirmal near Shopian town. As soon as the troops closed in on the house, the terrorists opened heavy volume of fire from the house. This led to heavy exchange of fire and the operations lasted through the night of February 24 and 25 and the daytime of February 25,” it said in a statement. “The operation to flush out the terrorists from the house was conducted very deliberately to avoid any collateral damage,” the Army added. The Hizb on Wednesday threatened to exterminate all those “informers” of the Army who, it alleged, are helping security forces trace and kill militants in Kashmir. “There is an active network in Kashmir that is helping the Indian Army trace and kill the mujahideen. We have identified all the men working for this network and in coming days we will teach them a lesson,” Hizb operational spokesperson Baleeg-ud-din told local news agency CNS. (Asian Age 26/2/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

75. ‘Maoist’ arrests: Families of accused allege denial of rights (12)

KOCHI: The relatives of activists Thushar Nirmal Sarathy (36) and Jaison Cooper (37), booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for Maoist links, have accused police of highhandedness. Thushar’s wife Uma said she was barred from the district court premises on February 6, on orders from police officers, when the case was taken up. She was also not allowed to give some books to him, on the grounds that he could only read whatever was available at the prison library. “The search and arrest itself were carried out without a proper warrant,” said Uma, who works in an IT firm. “I had to seek legal aid to remain on the court premises and give books to Thushar. His brother Sooraj was still not allowed to meet him. We are denied our rights and police are terrorizing us. Sooraj was treated like an accused at the circle inspector’s office, where he went to meet Thushar.” Police had arrested Thushar and Cooper, an employee with the state insurance department, on January 30 following the ‘Maoist’ attack on NHAI project office here. Thushar was arrested from Kozhikode after he addressed a news conference, condemning the police hunt, while Cooper was taken into custody from his office here. The evidence cited against Thushar was that he possessed pro-Maoist literature and Sreekanth Prabhakaran, a student booked under the UAPA in December last, had called him over phone. Against Cooper, police had claimed possession of pro-Maoist literature and posting pro-Maoist messages on social networking sites. “The pamphlet that allegedly promotes Maoism was in fact a notice issued by the Janakeeya Manushyavakasa Prasthanam, a human rights group for which they worked,” Uma said. Police had claimed that they were not involved in Maoist attacks but were active in ‘front organizations’ of the movement. Cooper’s friend Prasanth Sarangadharan said: “They harassed him even before his arrest. They didn’t bother to inform friends and relatives when they were arrested. Our social networking accounts and calls are constantly monitored.” . Uma said police had issued a lookout notice against the two last yearo, while they were taking part in a protest against two crusher units in Wadakkancherry, which was repealed later. Meanwhile, police denied allegations that the families were not informed of the arrests. “Both have received calls from a public telephone booth and that is suspected to have come from ‘Sakhavu’” said Baiju Poulose, CI, Hill Palace station. Sakhavu is the missing man behind the recent Maoist attacks. (Times of India 19/2/15)

76. Naxal Blast Injures Two Policemen in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Two police jawans were injured in a pressure bomb blast triggered by Naxals in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bijapur district today, police said. The blast occurred near Emargunda village when the security personnel were carrying out a combing operation in the Gangaloor police station limits, a senior police official told PTI. The security personnel accidentally came in contact with a pressure bomb planted by Maoists outside of the village. In the explosion, head constable Rajesh Sen and assistant constable Asharam Netam sustained injuries, he said. Reinforcement was rushed to the spot and the injured policemen are being brought to a local hospital for treatment, he said. A search operation was underway in the region, he added. Maoists had earlier given a day-long bandh call for today in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh to protest against the alleged displacement of tribals due to development projects. (New Indian Express 20/2/15)

77. Naxal beats up foresters on charges of corruption (12)

GADCHIROLI: A forest guard and round officer were thrashed by senior Naxal cadres to protest alleged corruption by their department. Senior Naxal cadre Vikas took an aggressive stance against foresters at Yedaskuhi village in north Gadchiroli to convey their dissent against the department. Sources stated that the Naxals were trying to mount pressure on foresters and also on the local population for dominance during the forthcoming Tendu leaves picking season in the district which is a multi-crore seasonal industry. Naxals aim to collect substantial party funds from foresters, tendu contractors and transporters during this tendu season. The rebels also collect donations for the party from the tribal population who engages in picking tendu. A senior police official stated that Naxals targeting foresters is nothing unusual on various issues, ranging from corruption to exploitation of tribals. “Intelligence agencies have underlined the fact that a section of Naxals are trying to capitalize on the wrath of the tribal against foresters and are also trying to incite them to target the grassroots level personnel like forest guards and round officers,” said a senior officer. He added that Naxals are targeting foresters on local issues like bamboo cutting and transportation, auction of tendu, allotment of stretches for farming and trading of the local forest produce. According to a reliable source, Naxals manhandled the two foresters protesting corruption in allotting solar powered pump machines to tribals for farming. It’s also learnt that some goof-ups related to allotment of compartments led to destruction of substantial stacks of bamboo in Khobramenda. The tribal population was deprived of daily wages too as the work allotment had come under scanner leading to major public loss, it was learnt. The incident has left the senior Naxal cadre angry too. Police also stated that surrendered Naxal cadre Gopi, once a senior leader in the party, has also informed that top forest officials extended monetary favours to Naxals through their messengers. The revelation has also tarnished image of the rebels, leading to their wrath. Sources said that Naxals are also targeting foresters for being hand-in-glove with teakwood smugglers in south Gadchiroli. The rebels are learnt to be unhappy with foresters for allowing contractors to misuse sand and gravel from the forest and riverbeds for construction of roads and undertaking other activities. (Times of India 25/2/15)

78. Assam police arrest two Maoists, recover arms (12)

Jorabat: Assam Police have arrested two suspected Maoists and recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunitions from Jorabat area of Guwahati Wednesday evening. According to reports, the police had launched an operation in the area based on intelligence inputs. The arrested, meanwhile, have been identified as Biswajit Sangma and Runa Sangma who were allegedly involved in an illegal arms consignment. “The nabbed duo had carried the arms-ammunition from Dimapur in Nagaland to Meghalaya and they were suspected to be involved with terrorist group in Meghalaya,” a top police official said. One AK-47 rifle with two magazines, 164 rounds of live ammunition of Insas rifle, six rounds AK-47 rifle ammunition and 380 rounds 9 mm pistol ammunition were recovered by the police. (Zee News 26/2/15)

TRAFFICKING

79. State to focus on rehabilitation to fight trafficking menace (1)

Ranchi: Alarmed over the increasing instances of trafficking, the State Government is planning to stress more on the rehabilitation of the rescued persons providing them better opportunities and living conditions at their native villages. According to Social Welfare, Women and Child Development Minister Lois Marandi, an effective rehabilitation programme for the rescued individuals was needed to check the menace. “Bringing them back home is not important. What is more important is rehabilitating them properly as most of the time, they are not accepted by their families,” said Marandi. “The State government, taking the issue seriously, was also planning some effective measures against the menace which is likely to be implemented soon after a thorough discussion with the CM,” Marandi added. According to the data available with the government, there has been a steep rise in the cases registered every year in the State. As many as 147 cases of human trafficking was registered in the year 2014 against 96 cases registered in 2013. Maximum of 42 cases were found to be registered in Gumla while Khunti remained on the second position with 23 cases. Ranchi was on the third rung with 16 cases of human trafficking in the year 2014. Senior officials of the state police also believed that the issue cannot be resolved by the police alone until the state itself comes in a bigger way and the concerned departments are clearly told their mandate that what exactly should be done by them. Officials of Crime Investigation Department (CID), stressed on multifold initiatives to be taken jointly by police, State government as well as other civil societies dealing with the issues. “Trafficking will continue in the State till some of the issues like push factors (poverty and unemployment) as well as the pull factors (greater opportunity and better life) are adequately gratified at their native places,” said ADG (CID) SN Pradhan. “I think the State should have to come in a bigger way into this as no respite could be achieved by outsourcing the responsibilities to others,” said Pradhan. Referring to the efforts made by the police department, Pradhan added that a hotline has been set up with the Delhi Police providing a list to them which was being monitored by them. A feedback is also being provided to us from time to time so that a close vigil could be kept on them. The department has also been working very closely with some of the NGOs, he added. The ADG, however, asserted that the issue needs a better ownership by the State. “Thirdly, a data is being created at the resource centre so that one stop monitoring could be done centrally. Once the data base is created, we will soon hand over the list to the concerned police station to find them out,” added the ADG. Pradhan, however, said that the menace of trafficking still continues as the rehabilitation part of the rescued individuals is not being done properly in the State. “Stress must be given on the rehabilitation part of the rescued persons so that they are not forced to get into the trap of the traffickers again due to the lack of ground facilities at their native places,” added the ADG. Pradhan further added that a chain system has developed where an important role is being played by the relatives. “The problem has now entered to a vicious circle where an important role is played by the relatives of the individuals who are being trafficked,” Pradhan said. “It is not the agents who are doing it, but the relatives who have now become agents of agents, and have become a part of the supply chain for the agencies involved in trafficking,” he added.  (Pioneer 22/2/15)

80. Mobile app to help girls fight traffickers (1)

Kolkata: A mobile app is giving a new ray of hope to girls in villages of some West Bengal districts, where incidents of child marriage and girl trafficking have been alarming in the past few decades. “GPower” was launched as a joint venture of Accenture and NGO CINI (Child in Need Institute) last year following a survey on the condition of educational programs among girls in South 24 Parganas and Murshidabad districts. It has helped in saving over 200 girls spread around 20 villages from either being trafficked or being a victim of child marriage, its makers claim. “At the fag end of 2013, we decided to conduct a survey on condition of educational programs among girls in South 24 Parganas and Murshidabad. At that time we came to know about the vulnerability of the adolescent and teenage girls aged between 10-19,” CINI’s Assistant Director Indrani Bhattacharya said. “The education of the girls were stopped either midway or they were trafficked. Some of them were traced back. But we felt the need for such a software which could help us in preventing trafficking, child marriage and keep a regular track of these girl child,” she told PTI. “Then in March 2014 the mobile app was launched. It is a multi-pronged approach to save the girl child,” she said. “The project is a huge success. It is limited to 20 villages due to lack of funds. We have a target of reaching out to 7000 girls from 100 villages of South 24 Parganas and Murshidabad in next 3 years,” she said. When asked how does this app works in providing real time data and prevents trafficking, Bhattacharya said there are two-three stages. Firstly, community facilitators or teachers in the villages are trained and provided with tablets/android phones which have GPower mobile app installed in it. We have now community. Their job is to register each and every detail of adolescent girls aged between 10-19 in those villages. Using cloud-based technology, GPower ensures quick transmission of data to centralised servers, which allows real-time data analysis. “Its analytic-based functions then process the data to provide instant insights. These insights create a continuous information flow that not only allows tracking of individual cases of vulnerability, but also reveals trends and allows forecast of results,” she says, adding action is taken depending on which of the three zones of safety a girl falls. (Deccan Herald 23/2/15)

81. Ghaziabad police to represent India at UN seminar on trafficking (1)

GHAZIABAD: The Ghaziabad police authority will represent India at the United Nations seminar on human trafficking in Africa next month, an official said on Sunday. Senior Superintendent of Police Dharmendra Singh will attend a seminar to represent India in Djibouti (a country in African continent), to be convened from 16th to 18th March, DSP Ranvijay Singh said. He said that the seminar will be organised at United Nations office on drugs and crime (UNODC), the only entity of UN focusing on criminal justice and combating human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. The SSP will share his experiences with police chiefs of various nations, he said. The district police authority came into the limelight with the rescue of more than 600 missing children from different parts of the country as part of ‘Operation Smile’The Home Ministry had asked all the State governments to replicate ‘Operation Smile’ in their respective areas.— PTI (The Hindu 23/2/15)

82. Trafficked tribal girls forced to conceive, deliver babies for sale (1)

Lohardaga/Gumla: From the time she was 13, Phulmani (name changed) was forced to act as a surrogate mother and deliver six children by human traffickers from Jharkhand, widely considered a hotbed of modern day slavery. Phulmani, now 31, was made to breastfeed the children – all born in consecutive years in Delhi – for about six months before giving them to the agents who sold them off. The resident of Patru village in Gumla district was rescued by rights activists and returned to Jharkhand last year. Her experiences have left her emotionally and physically scarred.  “They treated me like a money minting machine. My will never mattered to them, all they wanted was me to deliver babies for them,” she said, avoiding eye contact. Phulmani was lured to Delhi by an agent from her village with the promise of a job in the national capital. She worked as a domestic help in a posh locality in her first year in Delhi before the inhuman treatment began.  She has no idea who bought her babies or what became of them. But now she is seeking justice and has filed a complaint with the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Gumla. Rights groups have complained for long that well organised rings have been trafficking girls and young women from Jharkhand. According to civil society groups, about 10,000 children are trafficked from Jharkhand every year to either work as domestic help or sex workers, but trafficking for forced surrogacy has never been heard of before.  The CWC in Gumla came across another case of trafficking for surrogacy from Lotwadugdugi village in Palkot block. The girl was trafficked to Delhi when she was just eight years old. Now 29, she returned to Jharkhand last year and alleged that she was forced to deliver at least 10 babies, said Alakh Singh, a member of the CWC. “It is not a regular pattern, but we have come across a few such cases in the past. It is a major concern if such practices are happening in the state,” said additional director general of police (CID) SN Pradhan. Like Phulmani, some more girls from Gumla and Lohardaga districts of Jharkhand were trafficked for conceiving children, local residents claimed. Some girls were even forced to conceive babies for sale in Jharkhand, they alleged. Jagatram Mahato, an elderly man from Arahasa village in Lohardaga, said teenagers from his village had been lured to Delhi and some northern states for forced surrogacy.  Some of them even gave birth to children in the village. Later, the agents came and took the babies,” he said. While a few girls were paid a negligible amount for being surrogate mothers, a majority did not get even a penny, he said. However, police said they could not act unless FIRs were filed about such cases. A majority of the girls did not bother to complain to the police, probably due to fear, villagers said. The NGO Shakti Vahini says it has rescued more than 100 girls from Jharkhand in Delhi. Bachapan Bachao Andolan (BBA), the NGO run by Noble Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, says it rescued almost 80,000 children across India, of whom 15% to 20% were from Jharkhand and Bihar. (Hindustan Times 25/2/15)

83. Submit report on placement agencies, NHRC tells police (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognisance of reports that the surging demand for domestic helps is fuelling a business thriving on human trafficking due to unregulated placement agencies here. Hundreds of agencies are allegedly involved in the business of selling domestic workers. The root cause of exploitation of tribal people, mostly women and children, and those hailing from rural areas is that there is no hold on the placement agencies. According to the reports, the placement agencies have allegedly emerged as the hubs and transit points for human trafficking. The Commission has observed that the contents of the reports, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights of women and children. It has issued notice to the Delhi Police Commissioner, asking him to respond within two weeks with a report on placement agencies. It has directed that his report will include the number of placement agencies, registered or unregistered, functioning here as well as the information on steps taken to keep a check on them. (The Hindu 27/2/15)

CORRUPTION

84. Spare judiciary from corrupt practices: Supreme Court (5)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday sent out a loud warning to the high and mighty, including politicians, not to try to change the course of judicial proceedings with corrupt practices and said any such attempt would be dealt with an iron hand. “Please keep corrupt practices away from judiciary. At least this institution should be spared,” a bench of Justices T S Thakur and Rohinton F Nariman said while hearing a petition by mining baron Gali Janardhan Reddy, who is accused of paying a bribe of Rs 10 crore to a trial judge for getting bail. Reddy approached the court seeking that two cases filed against him — one for illegal mining and another for bribery — be heard together as the facts and evidence of the cases arose from the same offence. Expressing concern over attempts to bribe judges, the bench said, “People are having so much money that they are now bribing judges. When money comes in abundance, then people don’t know what to do with the money. They try to subvert the entire system and judicial process. Anyone who plays with the court system must be dealt with heavily. This virus has to be eliminated.” It added that people who adopted corrupt practices like bribing a judicial officer were actually attempting to hijack the system. The bench asked the counsel appearing for Reddy how much money was allegedly paid to the judge. The lawyer tried to skirt the question but the bench insisted on knowing the amount. “Don’t feel embarrassed to tell the amount,” the bench said. The counsel said the allegation against his client was that he paid Rs 10 crore. Reddy submitted that the two cases against him were related and should be tried together. He said his defence would be exposed if the cases were not clubbed together. “What defence can a person have for bribing a judge,” the bench asked. The CBI has alleged that trial judge T Pattabhirama Rao granted bail to Reddy after the mining baron agreed to pay Rs 10 crore. The judge was later suspended by the Andhra Pradesh High Court and the CBI filed an FIR against him, his son and five others including Reddy. (Times of India 20/2/15)

85. CBI, CVC give view on Lokpal amendments to Parliamentary panel (5)

New Delhi: CBI and CVC have given their views on the provisions of the Lokpal amendment bill to a parliamentary panel examining it. “We have got the views from Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). These are under consideration of the committee,” E M Sudarsana Natchiappan, who is heading a parliamentary committee examining the Lokpal Bill, said. He said the committee had earlier invited memoranda containing views or suggestions from the individuals and organisations through public advertisement on the proposed changes in the anti-corruption legislation and they are being looked into. “We are taking up the matter of the bill one by one. We cannot given any timeframe (as to when the panel will be giving its report). But it is a priority for us,” Natchiappan told PTI.

A 31-member Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, headed by Natchiappan, is examining the Lokpal and Lokayuktas and Other Related Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014. The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on December 8 last year. The committee has been mandated to examine the bill and submit its report by March 25. He said the Department of Personnel and Training, nodal authority of the central government for anti-corruption matters, is also providing its input on the proposed changes in the Lokpal Act. The amendments seeks to provide for the alternative of leader of single largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha in the event there is no Leader of Opposition in the House, for being represented on the selection panel for appointments of chairperson and members of Lokpal. It aims to provide for qualifications for appointment of Director of Prosecution in the CBI for the sake of its functional independence. The bill also seeks to lay down the tenure of the eminent jurist nominated as member of the Lokpal and to provide for a scheme wherein the filing of information by the public servants is brought in harmony with the provisions of the respective acts, rules or regulations as applicable to different categories of public servants. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act provides for establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the states to inquire into corruption charges against public functionaries. The Lokpal selection committee, led by the Prime Minister, has as its members the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House, the Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist who could be nominated by the President or any other member. Ahead of the announcement of the general election last year, the UPA government had appointed an eight-member search committee in February in a hurry with Justice (retd) K T Thomas as its chairperson. The other members were Kaki Madhava Rao (former IAS officer), F S Nariman (legal luminary), Prof Meenakshi Gopinath (educationist), M L Kumawat (former BSF chief), H K Dua and Prof Mrinal Miri (Rajya Sabha MPs) and S Y Quraishi (former Chief Election Commissioner). But later both Thomas and Nariman had refused to be part of the search panel. (DNA 22/2/15)

86. MP governor booked in MPPEB scam (5)

BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh governor Ram Naresh Yadav was on Tuesday booked for his alleged involvement in the multi-crore Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board scam along with 101 others, including former MP technical education minister Laxmikant Sharma and mining baron Sudhir Sharma. Eighty-six-year-old Yadav, charged with misuse of office because he wrote letters recommending selection of candidates in his official letter-head, is perhaps the first governor to be booked in a cheating case. He has also been charged with forgery and corruption. Yadav, the Janata Party chief minister of UP in 1977-79, later joined the Congress, and was sworn in as MP governor by then President Pratibha Patil in 2011. Legal experts said although the STF has booked the governor, it would require presidential sanction to chargesheet him. The governor had allegedly sent a list of three candidates to MPPEB racketeers Pankaj Trivedi, former exam controller, asking him to ensure that they passed the examination of forest guard recruitment in 2013, police sources said. The FIR follows a hearing in the matter in the Madhya Pradesh high court on February 20 in which a division bench said, “The STF is free to proceed against the high dignitary.” The MPPEB scam is a massive admission and recruitment scandal involving politicians and top government officials. The governor’s role came under the scanner after the arrest of his officer on special duty, Dhanraj Yadav. His son, Shailesh Yadav’s name too cropped up during investigations when an accused alleged he took money for recruitment of contractual teachers. Two of the three candidates recommended by Yadav were identified as Satish and Mahesh, both of Azamgarh, UP. Others booked were those who’d appeared for the test, and asked to fill answers that they knew and leave the rest of the sheet blank. The blanks were later filled by MPPEB officials including principal system analyst Nitin Mohindra, the key accused, who was arrested in 2013. This is the 54th FIR in MPPEB scam, which involves several politicians, senior officials and businessmen. The opposition Congress, the party to which Yadav belongs, has been calling for Yadav’s resignation and a CBI probe into the irregularities. It had also boycotted the governor’s address on the opening day of the assembly’s budget session on February 18. (Times of India 25/2/15)

87. Modi govt has no intention to bring black money: Ram Jethmalani (5)

NEW DELHI: Noted advocate and former BJP leader Ram Jethmalani met anti corruption crusader Anna Hazare today to discuss the issue of black money, which the saffron party had promised to bring back once it came to power. Lashing out at the government, Jethmalani said that the government was not serious about bringing back black money stashed abroad. “My motive to meet Anna Hazare was that it seems from the government’s statement that they have no intention to bring black money. And since I have been a leader in this movement, it is my duty to discuss this with him,” Jethmalani said after his meeting with Hazare at the new Maharashtra Sadan. “You ask him (Hazare) about this. It would be breach of confidence for me to tell you what he replied. What is our strategy is not to share with enemies,” Jethmalani added. When he was asked about the issue of black money, the senior advocate said, “Government is not serious to bring it back.”  Earlier in the day, Hazare lashed out at the Centre for trying to mislead people over the issue of black money. “He (Narendra Modi) claimed that black money will be brought back to the country and every bank account will receive Rs 15 lakh, but people haven’t even received Rs 15 since last nine months,” Hazare said. (Times of India 26/2/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

88. Environmental loss in Sundarbans worth Rs 1,290 cr: World Bank (9)

New Delhi: Environmental damage in the climate change-hit islands of Sundarbans is costing India Rs 1,290 crore each year, estimates a latest World Bank report. The cost of environmental damage associated with ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss is about Rs 6.7 billion (Rs 670 crore) annually, while the cost of health effects due to poor environment is estimated at Rs 6.2 billion (Rs 620 crore), it says. The total figure of Rs 1,290 crore is about ten per cent of Sundarbans’ GDP in 2009. Released here recently, the report ‘Building Resilience for Sustainable Development of the Sundarbans’ is prepared by the World Bank in collaboration with the West Bengal government. “The losses stem from a combination of factors associated with unsustainable and inefficient economic activities – for example, mangrove destruction, impact of cyclones, reduced agricultural yields and unsustainable fisheries – as well as destruction of ecosystem services,” the report says. Sundarbans is an archipelago of 54 islands and is home to about 44 lakh people. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is hit hard by an increase in floods, storms, salinity and erosion caused by rising sea-levels and global warming. Damage costs from cyclones were found to be the highest in the research at Rs 2.9 billion and include damages to houses, agriculture, human injuries and fatalities. UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects an increase in sea level and intensification of present climatic variability. (Business Standard 22/2/15)

89. Another 450 Climate Reality Leaders to be trained on climate change (9)

NEW DELHI: High-profile leaders in renewable energy are joining Nobel laureate and former US vice-president Al Gore here to train another 450 Climate Reality Leaders on the science of climate change and solutions for the climate crisis while developing skills to effectively communicate about both the challenges and opportunities, the Climate Reality Project announced on Monday. The February 22-24 event marks the 27th Climate Reality Leadership Corps training, and will focus on India’s renewable energy potential, as well as the key role the country plays in the lead up to the highly anticipated COP 21 climate negotiations in Paris at the end of the year. World-class experts will speak on a variety of topics relevant to India and climate change, including its effects on the country, opportunities for renewable solutions, and how grassroots engagement can benefit people across India. The speakers include Ken Berlin, president & CEO, Climate Reality Project; Sanjit Bunker Roy, founder, Barefoot College; Ajay Mathur, director general, Bureau of Energy Efficiency and Angela Rutter, director of strategic engagement, Australian Conservation Foundation. “There are many reasons to be optimistic about our ability to solve the climate crisis,” said Gore, chairman and founder of the Climate Reality Project. “The Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in New Delhi, which will bring together committed activists and citizens from all over India and from several others nations, gives me yet another reason to be hopeful. After completing this training, these leaders will be empowered with the best tools possible to communicate this message of hope to their own communities,” he added. Kamal Meattle, trustee, the Climate Reality Project, India spoke about the implications of climate change for India and apprised the climate leaders about the current situation in the country. “India is an important country when it comes to climate action, as it is already experiencing negative effects of climate change, including extreme rainfall, flooding and significant changes to agricultural patterns without the infrastructure to easily adapt. While the country has a low per-capita historical responsibility for emissions, India also has the opportunity to pursue an inclusive and sustainable development pathway, to secure a healthy, safe and prosperous future for its citizens and the world,” a Climate Reality Project statement said. Thus far, the Climate Reality Project has trained over 7,000 Climate Reality Leaders from more than 100 countries, including recent trainings held in Istanbul, Chicago, Johannesburg, Melbourne and Rio de Janeiro. (Times of India 23/2/15)

90. High air pollution cuts most Indian lives by 3 years (9)

India’s high air pollution, ranked by the World Health Organisation (WHO) among the worst in the world, is adversely impacting the lifespans of its citizens, reducing most Indian lives by over three years, a new study has said. Over half of India’s population — 660 million people — live in areas where fine particulate matter pollution is above India’s standards for what is considered safe, said the study by economists from the University of Chicago, Harvard and Yale published in Economic & Political Weekly. If India reverses this trend to meet its air standards, those 660 million people would gain about 3.2 years onto their lives, the study said. Put another way, compliance with Indian air quality standards would save 2.1 billion life years, it said. “India’s focus is necessarily on growth. However, for too long, the conventional definition of growth has ignored the health consequences of air pollution,” said Michael Greenstone, an author of the study and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). “This study demonstrates that air pollution retards growth by causing people to die prematurely. Other studies have also shown that air pollution reduces productivity at work, increases the incidence of sick days, and raises health care expenses that could be devoted to other goods.” The new figures come after the WHO estimates showed 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world were in India. “The loss of more than two billion life years is a substantial price to pay for air pollution,” said Rohini Pande, also an author and director of Evidence for Policy Design at the Harvard Kennedy School. “It is in India’s power to change this in cost effective ways that allow hundreds of millions of its citizens to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Reforms of the current form of regulation would allow for health improvements that lead to increased growth,” Pande said. The authors — who also include Nicholas Ryan of Yale, Janhavi Nilekani and Anish Sugathan of Harvard, and Anant Sudarshan, director of EPIC’s India office — offer three policy solutions that would help to cost-effectively decrease India’s pollution. One initial step would be to increase its monitoring efforts and take advantage of new technology that allows for real-time monitoring, the authors said. (The Hindu 21/2/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

91. Minimum support price cannot be 50% more than cost of produce, Centre to SC (20)

NEW DELHI: Farmers’ plight has worsened due to the non-remunerative nature of agriculture but the Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that it would not be able to enhance the minimum support price (MSP) for agricultural produce to be 50% more than the input cost. A PIL filed by Consortium of Indian Farmers Association had complained that agriculture had become non-remunerative and was driving farmers to borrow heavily from local money-lenders. Unable to repay loans, farmers were committing suicide, it said. Suggesting a quantum jump in the MSP to help them overcome their pitiable financial condition, the association had demanded implementation of the National Policy for Farmers. Appearing before a bench of Justices S J Mukhopadhaya and N V Ramana, additional solicitor general Maninder Singh submitted the Centre’s affidavit, which said MSP for 22 agricultural commodities and fair and remunerative price (FRP) for sugarcane were recommended by the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). MSP and FRP were fixed keeping in mind the cost of production, demand and supply, price trends in domestic and international markets, inter-crop price parity, terms of trade between agricultural and non-agricultural sectors and the likely impact of MSP on consumers, the affidavit said. “It may be noted that pricing policy, that is fixing of MSP, is not a ‘cost plus’ exercise, though cost is an important determinant of MSP. The pricing policy seeks to achieve the objective of fair and remunerative prices and is not an income policy,” the agriculture ministry said. “Hence, prescribing an increase of at least 50% on cost may distort the market. A mechanical linkage between MSP and cost of production may be counter-productive in some cases. No comparison can be made about increase or decrease of price of one commodity as compared to other commodities as the same depends on demand and supply and market forces,” the affidavit said. It said India accounted for only 2.4% of the world’s geographical area and 4% of its water resources but had to support 17% of the world’s population and 15% of the world’s livestock. “The government has taken all possible steps for implementation of National Policy for Farmers, 2007 for development and growth of agriculture and allied sectors as well as for the betterment of farmers,” it said. (Times of India 21/2/15)

92. Farmers’ unions to protest outside parliament against land ordinance (20)

New Delhi: Several farmer unions from across the country will launch an indefinite agitation against the government’s land ordinance outside Parliament House Tuesday, which will see participation of social activists Anna Hazare and Medha Patkar. The protest will be held with the slogan of ‘Bhoo Adhigrahan Nahi, Bhoo Adhikar chahiye (We want Land Rights, not Land Acquisition)’ and will coincide with the second day of the Budget Session, Patkar said at a press conference here. Patkar Monday also joined Hazare on the first day of his two-day dharna at Jantar Mantar here. Hazare said several farmer unions are also joining him Tuesday at Jantar Mantar on the second day of his dharna, from where his movement would spread to rest of the country. “We reject the ordinance which is unacceptable to farmers, farm labourers and all traders, fishermen and others, associated with the occupation and hence it was felt necessary to bring together the agitations going on in different parts of the country,” Patkar said. Saying that the government was likely to introduce a bill to make the ordinance a law during the Budget Session, the Narmada Bachchao Aandolan activist said, “They might also initiate the process of bringing changes in the Bill, hence on the very first day of the Budget Session, we will make it known that it is unacceptable to us.” Outrightly rejecting the “government’s bid” to initiate talks with farmers’ unions on the issue, she said any such attempt would be to “sabotage the movement”. Calling for support from various parties against the ordinance, leaders from left-wing farmer unions said that they had issued an “open letter” to all such outfits on the issue. “We want to appeal to all political parties not to get trapped in the sinister designs of the BJP government,” said CPI leader and All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Atul Anjan. Clarifying that the agitation was not an attempt to distance itself from Anna’s dharna, National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) member Ranjit Rafiq said, “He had agreed to support our agitation but when he was coming here, his supporters in Delhi said they too wanted to join him.” Besides, CPI’s All India Kisan Sabha and NAPM, farmer unions like Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Kisan Manch, and Patkar-led Narmada Bachao Andolan, among others, would also join the agitation. In a separate press conference, All India Agricultural Workers Union of CPI(M) also expressed its support to the agitation and demanded a “10 per cent allocation” in the Budget for agriculture. (Indian Express 23/2/15)

93. Ban on jallikattu: 3,000 farmers to observe fast in Chennai (20)

CHENNAI: Around 3,000 farmers from all over Tamil Nadu would observe a daylong fast at Valluvar Kottam in Chennai on Thursday to garner support for resumption of jallikattu (taming of bulls), which has been banned by the Supreme Court. The fast has been organized by Gowher Aziz, animal activist and member of the National Cattle Commission. Gowher told TOI that 3,000 farmers and animal activists would participate in the fast to save jallikattu bulls and Tamil tradition. “Ever since the ban on jalllikattu came into force, many pedigree bulls reared by farmers in the state have been sold to dubious organizations which claim to be saviours of cattle but are engaged in extracting semen from them to export,” she said. She alleged that the bulls were being mistreated by such organizations. Gowher said at a time when indigenous bull species were facing extinction, sports like jallikattu would encourage farmers to breed them. The Centre proposes to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to lift the ban on the use of bulls in jallikattu. A notification issued by the central government on July 11, 2011 banned their use as performing animals either for jallikattu or events of bullock cart races in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and elsewhere in the country. Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take steps to denotify bulls from the list of performing animals to help conduct the event during Pongal in January last. (Times of India 25/2/15)

94. Land Bill: BJP forms 8-member panel to talk to farmers (20)

New Delhi: Parliament sessionBJP chief Amit Shah formed an eight-member committee on Tuesday to seek suggestions from India’s farmers on the controversial Land Acquisition Bill which was earlier presented in the Lok Sabha amid a huge uproar. Former Union minister Satyapal Malik is the convener of the committee, which will hold discussions with farmers and other organisations on land acquisition. The other members are MPs Bhupender Yadav, Ram Narayan Dudi, Hukam Dev Narayan, Rakesh Singh, Sanjay Dhotre and Suresh Angadi, along with chartered accountant Gopal Agarwal. Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh introduced the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 which seeks to replace the ordinance promulgated by the NDA government on December 30, 2014. The government had promulgated the ordinance making significant changes in the Land Act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas — industrial corridors, Public Private Partnership projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.  An outraged opposition led by the Congress walked out of the Lok Sabha raising slogans against the amendment to the 2013 law passed by the then Manmohan Singh government. “This is not right that despite opposition it (NDA government) introduced the bill. It did not send the bill either to the standing committee or select committees. This attitude of the government of bulldozing bills is not right,” Congress Leader of the House Mallikarjun Kharge said. Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy said his party opposed the bill. “This is the most anti-farmer and anti-poor legislation possible. In one stroke, it (government) has added a part in which four-five different kind of projects… It has taken away the social impact assessment clause.” Biju Janata Dal MP B Mehtab said that his party was opposed to two changes in the original act – doing away with the consent clause and the scaling down of social impact assessment. Responding to the opposition charges, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said: “Minority cannot dictate over the majority. We are not bulldozing.” “It (opposition) does not want to discuss. In June 2013, 32 state governments made a representation that the act makes development impossible,” he said, adding, “If anybody has any objection, then they have to discuss. We are with the farmers.” Social activist Anna Hazare is also holding a two-day protest against the Modi government’s decision to amend the 2013 land law. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is also expected to join his former mentor’s demonstration at Jantar Mantar in the national capital. Meanwhile, amid stiff opposition to government’s move to amend the land Act, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday made it clear that there was no going back. The BJP was, at the same time, preparing for discussions with NDA partners to make the legislation more “effective” and “farmer-friendly”.At the meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Party, Modi said the bill will benefit farmers and that the amendments brought by his government were based on suggestions and demands made by Congress-ruled states and their chief ministers. He asked his party MPs to “bust the myths” propagated by opposition parties on it, sources said. To make the land ordinance bill more effective in favour of farmers, the BJP and NDA leaders will meet on Tuesday evening to discuss and work out means to further improve it. (India Today 25/2/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

95. Land acquisition ordinance: Anna Hazare vows to fight Modi govt’s ‘anti-farmer’ bill (4)

NEW DELHI: Veteran social activist Anna Hazare on Monday launched his protest at Jantar Mantar against the ordinance on Land Acquisition Bill. Terming the Narendra Modi-led government’s Land Acquisition Bill as “ant-farmer” Anna Hazare vowed to fight it. The move is bound to spell trouble for the present government which is keen on pushing the ordinance. “BJP went for an ordinance on land acquisition which is not in favour of democracy,” Anna said. In response to a query on whether AAP leader Kumar Vishwas was joining his agitation, Anna Hazare said, “If people from parties come on our stage then people would think that it’s a party protest.” The social activist also today hinted at a bigger agitation at the Ramlila ground if the Narendra Modi government did not heed to his demands on the issue. Hazare said the two-day protest will be followed by a three to four month long ‘padyatra’ across the country to make people aware of the “anti-farmer” provisions made by the Centre in the ordinance. “If the government doesn’t take the ordinance back, then the people will also continue with their agitation. The activists will make aware the farmers (of the amendments). There is a chance that farmers from across the country will gather at the Ramlila Maidan in the next three-four months,” he said. 77-year-old Hazare has been highly critical of the Modi government for making certain changes in the Land Acquisition Act through an ordinance. On December 29 last year, the government had recommended promulgation of an ordinance making significant changes in the Land Acquisition Act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas of industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence. A group of farmers who began marching from Haryana’s Palwal on Friday are joining Hazare at the venue on Monday to demand withdrawal of amendments to the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. (Times of India 23/2/15)

96. Tribals, activists burn copies of land acquisition Ordinance (4)

NIYAMGIRI (ODISHA): Hundreds of Dangaria Kandha tribal men and women joined a large group of anti-displacement activists of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti atop the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha’s Kalahandi district on Sunday and burnt copies of the land acquisition Ordinance recently promulgated by the Narendra Modi Government. The tribals and activists, who came together at the end of the three-day annual Niyam Raja Parab atop the hills, resolved that they would continue to oppose the “pro-corporate” Ordinance till it is withdrawn. The activists announced a State-wide agitation against the Ordinance that they say goes against the Forest Rights Act rendering the Gram Sabhas powerless. Copies of the Ordinance were also burnt by many people’s organisations at various places across Odisha simultaneously to strengthen their opposition to the Centre’s move. The tribals, who won their battle against mining of bauxite from Niyamgiri hills by Vedanta for its existing one million tonne per annum capacity alumina refinery, also vowed to strongly oppose any move by the Centre to consider handing over of Niyamgiri to the company in the future. The Samiti is also opposed to the existing alumina refinery which is being run by Sterlite Industries Ltd, a Vedanta group company, as the same is adversely affecting the ecology in the area. The Samiti is contemplating to move the court of law seeking permanent closure of the refinery, said Samiti leader Lada Sikaka. The annual cultural festival is being organised in a big way since the anti-Vedanta agitation by the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti gained strength several years ago. It is attended by tribals from 112 villages in the Niyamgiri hills. (The Hindu 23/2/15)

97. Land acquisition ordinance: Opposition tears into Narendra Modi govt (4)

New Delhi: Facing flak from a united Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Narendra Modi government today expressed its intent to hold discussion with all parties to find a way out on the new land bill to replace the contentious ordinance on the issue. As members from Congress, Left, Trinamool Congress, SP, BSP and JD-U targetted the government over provisions of the land ordinance calling it “anti-farmer” and aimed at “benefitting corporates”, Leader of the House Arun Jaitley assured them that he would convey the suggestion to the concerned minister to “hold discussions with parties” on the issue. The House resumed its normal business at noon after the Finance Minister’s assurance following a heated discussion which went on for an hour. Jaitley’s remarks came in response to the comments of Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav, who said the government should talk to all parties and find a way out so that farmers’ interests are protected while development activities are carried out. Yadav said that while it is true that at times acquiring land becomes difficult but a way should have been found out through discussions. “You should have taken the Opposition into confidence,” he said. “I do not want a deadlock in Parliament. You talk to all parties and find a way out,” he said. K C Tyagi from JD-U also supported Yadav’s demand for a discussion on the issue at an all-party meet. Jaitley later said that Yadav has made some suggestions in the right spirit. “Responding in the same spirit, I will convey his suggestions to the minister concerned to have discussion with parties.” Deputy Leader of Congress Anand Sharma said that since Government has acknowledged the need to consult all parties, “he (Jaitley) should go a step further” and say that “till consultations are completed, the ordinance will remain suspended”. To this, Jaitley was seen waving his hand indicating a negative response. Soon after obituary references and listed papers laid on the table in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma (Cong) said Congress and three other parties have given a notice under rule 267 for suspension of the business as the government has bypassed Parliament to amend a law that was passed in 2013 through consensus of all parties including BJP. Responding to this, Jaitley said 639 ordinances had been promulgated since Independence, of which 80 per cent under Congress rule. Jaitley said as many as 70 ordinances were promulgated under first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and 18 the under United Front and listed the ordinances promulgated multiple times during the previous UPA regime.

“No law can be passed by by-passing Parliament,” he said adding a bill to convert the ordinance into an act was in the Lok Sabha and would be brought to this House after it is passed by the Lower House. “So the new logic that is being constructed that Parliament is being bypassed is not justified,” he said. Later, Jaitley said the government has, through the ordinance, provisioned for four times compensation to farmers for land acquisition even in the 13 sectors which were kept out of the earlier land law passed during the UPA rule. Defending the ordinance provisions of exempting social impact surveys for acquisition for five purposes including rural infrastructure, housing for the poor and industrial corridor, Jaitley they will benefit the rural areas and asked the leaders opposing the Ordinance to read the law again. However, members were unrelenting in their criticism of the Ordinance and Jaitley’s plea to them to raise objections when the bill was brought in the House fell on deaf ears. Former Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said that Jaitley has “misled” the House by saying compensation has been increased four times for farmers whose lands were acquired under 13 laws. He said the government has done no favour by doing so as the land law passed in 2013 itself had a separate schedule in which it was clearly written that within one year, changes in compensation will be brought under those 13 laws. Sharma also countered Jaitley’s arguments on ordinances saying that ordinances under Nehru were spread over his 17 years in power and under extra-ordinary circumstances as the country had then just been partitioned. The ordinances under UPA had to be re-promulgated multiple time as the opposition had not allowed the House to function, he said. Sharma, a former Commerce Minister, also noted that nobody in the House was against the industry. Derek ‘O’ Brien of Trinamool Congress also accused Jaitley of giving “selective information” alleging the government has brought more ordinances than bills during its nine-month tenure. Recalling that his party Trinamool Congress had opposed the land law passed by the UPA in 2013, he said that after this Ordinance “they are looking like angels”. Sharad Yadav (JDU) said through the ordinance, the government was “bulldozing and trampling” on Parliamentary scrutiny because they have absolute majority. D Raja (CPI) said the ordinance was intended “to help the corporate and big business Houses.” Mayawati (BSP) said the ordinance was not in the interest of the farmers and favoured only few industralists and corporate houses. (Financial Express 25/2/15)

98. Government digs in heels on land ordinance  (4)

NEW DELHI: A day after Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari sought to make out a case for the government’s land ordinance at a press briefing, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley made a spirited defence of the land reforms that have been denounced as “anti-farmer” and “pro-corporate” by a united Opposition and civil society groups. Sources said Mr. Modi is absolutely clear that he will not allow major changes to what he sees as one of his key reforms. On Wednesday, in discussions with Cabinet colleagues on how to tackle the dissent, Mr. Modi indicated that an all-party meeting would serve little purpose. Mr. Jaitley made a frontal attack on the Congress, under whose watch the Land Acquisition Act — that this government is seeking to amend — was enacted in 2013. (The Hindu 27/2/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

99. Why kids in rural India die of diarrhoea, pneumonia (3)

The reason why a large number of children under the age of five years die of diarrhoea and pneumonia, generally in rural India and especially in Bihar, has become abundantly clear. Diarrhoea and pneumonia are the biggest killer diseases in children aged under five years in India. With 55 per 1,000 live births, Bihar has the highest infant mortality rate in the country. But 340 health-care providers who were studied in rural Bihar rarely practised what little they knew about treating children suffering from these two diseases. The results of a study were published a couple of days ago in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. “Vignette” interviews were conducted to assess how they would diagnose and treat children with these diseases. Later, the actual treatment offered by the health-care providers was assessed by sending “patients” pretending to suffer from the same symptoms as in the interviews. If the providers’ exhibited “low levels” of knowledge about the two diseases during the interviews, it was even worse during practice. Cheap, life-saving, widely available oral rehydartion salts (ORS) with zinc supplementation is the correct treatment for diarrhoea (2013 WHO recommendation). During the vignette interviews, a paltry 3.5 per cent of providers offered the correct treatment for diarrhoea. Another 69 per cent offered ORS, but it was in addition to other unnecessary treatments. Some even prescribed antibiotics. Shockingly, no health care provider prescribed the correct treatment for the “patients” with diarrhoea — only ORS. It was a few shades better in the case of pneumonia where the figure stood at 13 per cent. Again, if nearly 21 per cent of practitioners prescribed potentially harmful treatment (including antibiotics) without ORS during the interviews, an alarming 72 per cent offered dangerous cocktails that included antibiotics during practice. In the case of pneumonia, while 12 per cent prescribed antibiotics for pneumonia during interviews, the figure went up marginally to 15 per cent during practice. Severe pneumonia requires treatment with appropriate antibiotics. “Our ongoing studies aim to understand why providers who know they shouldn’t be prescribing antibiotics for conditions like simple diarrhoea continue to do so,” Dr. Manoj Mohanan from Duke University, North Carolina and the lead author said in a release. Besides wrong treatment, the researchers found that the health-care providers asked very few pertinent questions that would enable correct diagnosis and understanding of the severity of the diseases during practice than they did during interviews. Even the most basic diagnostic question of frequency of stools was asked only by 46 per cent during interviews and 30 per cent during practice. Similarly, in the case of pneumonia, only 27 per cent of the providers asked about rapid breathing and 25 per cent about signs of respiratory distress during practice. Most distressing was that during practice, 76 per cent of practitioners offered treatment despite not seeing the “sick” child with diarrhoea. It was 79 per cent in the case of pneumonia. Eighty per cent of the providers in the study did not have a medical degree from any system of medicine — allopathy, ayurveda, homeopathy or unani medicine. While those with formal medical training did have large gaps between what they knew and what they practised, they were “significantly less likely” to prescribe harmful drugs, the study found. (The Hindu 20/2/15)

100. Gujarat: Swine flu toll reaches close to 200 (3)

Swine flu has claimed 11 more lives in Gujarat, taking the total death toll in the state to 197 since January this year. In Surat and Vadodara, three deaths were reported; while two deaths each were reported from Ahmedabad and Bhavnagar. One person also reportedly died in Sabarkantha district. In view of the swine flu rush, the central government last week had placed an order to increase the national stock of diagnostic kits to test for the virus. Authorities are also procuring additional masks and doses of the anti-viral drug Oseltamivir. Swine flu is caused by H1N1 virus. Symptoms for swine flu include high fever, headache, muscle pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain and internal and external bleeding. (DNA 22/2/15)

101. 46 lakh people to be screened for diabetes (3)

BHUBANESWAR: Amid growing concern over increasing incidence of diabetes, the state government has decided to screen around 46 lakh people in 10 districts this year. These are Cuttack, Puri, Ganjam, Khurda, Sambalpur, Rayagada, Mayurbhanj, Kalahandi, Sundargarh and Angul. Health minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak said people above 30 years will be screened in 10 districts. Besides, all pregnant women, tuberculosis patients and HIV positive individuals irrespective of age will also be examined for diabetes, as chances of the disease among them is higher, he said. Odisha doesn’t have any comprehensive data on the prevalence of diabetic population. Nayak said the screening would be part of the central-sponsored National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) in these districts. “Those identified with diabetes will be treated for free,” he said. During a pilot project in five districts of Nabarangpur, Malkangiri, Balangir, Nuapada and Koraput, the government screened 29 lakh people above 30 years age group in 2013-14. About 6% to 7% of them were found to be diabetic. According to a 1990 study in coastal Odisha, prevalence of was 0.8%. At the current 7%, it has gone up by 700 times in 20 years. Health workers and paramedical staff would be trained in using glucometers and glucostrips for screening at the sub-centres of district headquarter hospitals, the minister said. Diabetes has been emerging as a major public health problem. “Going by prevalence in the five surveyed districts, we apprehend over 3 lakh diabetes cases would be detected during the upcoming screening programme in the 10 districts,” said state nodal officer, NPCDCS P K B Patnaik. The main reason for increasing incidence of diabetes in rural areas of the state may be attributed to the transition of people from being very poor to relatively well off with assured meals, said noted diabetologist Alok Kanungo. “When an underfed belly starts getting daily meals, s/he has chances of diabetes,” Kanungo said, adding for urban areas the causes are sedentary lifestyle. Director, Regional Medical Research Centre Santanu Kar said only a statewide survey would reveal the exact disease burden though it appears it has being emerging as a big cause of mortality and morbidity. (Times of India 26/2/15)

102. Soaring Maternal Mortality Rate Leaves Officials Red-faced (3)

VISAKHAPATNAM:The district registered as many as 127 maternal deaths per every 1,000 deliveries this financial year, while the state recorded 92 deaths, said panchayat raj minister Chintakayala Ayyannapatrudu. Addressing the district convergence meeting here Wednesday, the minister expressed his anguish over officials failing to control maternal mortality rate (MMR). He called upon the women, Panchayat Raj secretaries and officials of child welfare and medical and health departments to initiate concrete measures to bring the MMR to zero per cent. He directed the officials to make periodical visits to anganwadi centres and ANMs in all villages, and told the Panchayat Raj secretaries to bring down the MMR in the district. He also ordered the officials to convene a meeting every month with all the line departments at village-level, municipal ward-level and district-level to review the steps initiated in this regard. A district-level meeting should be convened on the fourth Monday of every month at 4 pm during which the officials concerned must submit the ground-level reports on the number of pregnant women visiting hospitals and the support extended to them by the field staff. He also announced that Rs 1 lakh would be given to each panchayat as an incentive if the village achieves zero MMR. Collector N Yuvaraj, ZP chairperson, MLAs, DMHO Sarojani, PD ICDS Chinmayadevi and DRDA project director V Satya Sai Srinivas were present. (New Indian Express 26/2/15)

HIV/AIDS

103. HIV awareness campaigns to be stepped up (3)

NAGAPATTINAM: The need for awareness is essential for tackling new HIV positive cases particularly in rural areas although the district has been listed under “Category C” districts of the State for comparatively minimal HIV positive cases and HIV prevalence, said Collector S. Palanisamy. The District Aids Prevention and Control Unit convened an awareness meeting for panchayat presidents to tackle HIV infections in rural areas on Thursday. Mr. Palanisamy said unborn baby could be treated adequately to prevent the infection of HIV from the mother thanks to modern therapy and medical invention available for HIV positive pregnant women. As many as 1,158 HIV positive cases had been reported in the district. Since the panchayat presidents had better rapport with rural residents, an awareness meeting was held by DAPCU to educate them on AIDS prevention and brief them about welfare schemes, rehabilitation measures available for HIV positive people, Deputy Collector S. Divyadharshini, Deputy Director for Health N. Kalusivalingam and Assistant Director for Panchayats Vishnubaran attended the meeting. (The Hindu 21/2/15)

104. Vaccine important in fight against AIDS (3)

Despite the progress in anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS, it was important to have a safe vaccine which can prevent the disease, health experts said here Friday. “There has been incredible progress towards a safe vaccine in the last eight months,” Wayne Koff, vice president of International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), said at a conference here. Benny Kottiri, Health Science Administrator and senior researcher at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said the development of a vaccine was very important for containing the disease. According to V.M. Katoch, secretary department of health research, efforts to make a vaccine have to be intensified. “India has contained it. We can further contain the virus, but HIV will always be there.” “Vaccines will always be needed for select groups,” he added. He cautioned that the research to develop a vaccine has not had many new leads. “We have to revisit all the studies”.India has third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world with 2.1 million Indians accounting for about four out of 10 people infected with the deadly virus in the Asiaa Pacific region, according to a UN report. (The Economic Times 22/2/15)

105. HIV awareness campaign from March 2 to 8 (3)

Mandya: Expressing concern over the rising number of HIV cases in Mandya, the district administration has decided to launch HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns across the district. M.N. Ajay Nagabhushan, Deputy Commissioner of Mandya, told presspersons here on Wednesday evening that the district administration would launch a massive awareness campaign from March 2. Health and Family Welfare Minister U.T. Khader will inaugurate it. As many as 400 teams will be formed to spread awareness. Accredited Social Health Activists, Auxillary Nurse Midwifes, government employees, workers of Anti-Retroviral Therapy centres and Integrated Testing and Counselling Centres and volunteers will take part. The first phase of the campaign will be held in Mandya and Maddur from March 2 to 8. During the door-to-door campaign, volunteers will educate at least 1.38 lakh people, two from each family, in Mandya and Maddur taluks. (The Hindu 26/2/15)