HR News

Volume 17                                             No. 13                                                        May 15, 2015

HR NEWS: May 15, 2015

(From May 1 to 15, 2015)

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1, Heat in Rajya Sabha over ‘discrimination’ against dalits in Gujarat (2)

New Delhi: Heated exchanges between opposition and BJP benches were witnessed in Rajya Sabha on Thursday after a Congress member alleged discrimination against dalits in Gujarat saying they were not being allowed to enter temples in some villages there. Raising the issue during Zero Hour, P L Punia (Congress) said dalits in many Gujarat villages were being discriminated against and not allowed to enter temples. He also alleged that the dalits were also not being allowed to take water from the village well. “Dalits are migrating from villages as those associating with them are being punished. We heard of Gujarat’s progress and equality. Today the real face of the government has come out…Government is not concerned about welfare of dalits and poor. It is clear that this government is anti-dalit,” he said, urging the government to maintain equality and harmony. Strongly objecting to the allegations, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the member should not make “sweeping statements without any basis” to target a state which is a “model state” of the country. “It is a political speech. The people have given their mandate. Try to respect that. Don’t make political speeches. If there are specific complaints, government will address them. Let him not make sweeping political comments. I totally condemn such comments,” he said. As heated exchanges ensued between members from treasury benches and opposition on the issue, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien asked Punia to bring to the House if he had “any specific instance. But no sweeping allegations.” This saw some Congress members display some papers to highlight the issue, much to the dismay of Kurien, who said, “What is this nonsense…Don’t display anything”. Earlier K C Tyagi (JD-U) raised the plight of sugarcane farmers saying their problems should be addressed by the government while granting relief to sugar mills. He said though he had no objections to provision of relief to sugar mills, the pending amount of Rs 20,000 crore due to sugarcane growers should also be addressed. Tyagi lauded the role of leaders like Devi Lal and Parkash Singh Badal a few years ago to fix MSP for farm products, saying now there was no such criterion. Pointing to the relief provided to Indian Sugar Mills Association, he alleged, “it reflects the friendship between Ministry of Consumer Affairs and ISMA” but while sugar mills are being bailed out, nothing is being done for farmers. (Indian Express 1/5/15)

2. Punjab SC commission to meet Rajnath over incidents related to Dalits in state (2)

JALANDHAR: In the wake of rise in the number of attack on Dalits in the state, Punjab Scheduled Caste Commission has sought an appointment from Union home minister Rajnath Singh and request him for getting these issues investigated. It also plans to urge the home minister to form a policy to check the incidents targeting Dalits as these could be part of a larger conspiracy to disturb peace in Punjab. The commission also sought status reports of these incidents from Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini. Revealing this here on Saturday, commission’s chairman Rajesh Bagha said that, in the recent past, quite a few instances have hurt the sentiments of Dalit communities. “There can be a larger conspiracy to disturb the atmosphere of the state through such actions as Punjab has the highest population of Dalits in the country. There should be a thorough probe to find if there are any linkages in these events,” Bagha said while addressing a press conference to justify the reason to seek an appointment with the Union home minister. He said Punjab DGP Saini had been called to see the commission on Tuesday. The incidents include killing of a Dalit girl in Moga who was thrown off an Orbit Transport bus, thrashing of granthis by Guru Granth Sahib Satkar Committee, damage caused to a statue of B R Ambedkar in Phagwara and defiling of a picture of Guru Ravidass. Asked if the commission lacked confidence in the state government that it was going to the Union home ministry, Bagha evaded a direct reply. He said he did not want to politicize the issue. “We want some mechanism to be evolved to tackle these incidents,” he said. Before his appointment as SC commission chairman, Bagha has remained national general secretary of SC wing of the BJP. (Times of India 3/5/15)

3. Dalits’ Houses Burnt after Clash in Perambalur (2)

TIRUCHY: A dispute between the Dalits and Caste Hindus of V-Kalathur in Perambalur over Chithirai festivities took a violent turn on Sunday when the members of both the communities entered into a free-for-all, leaving many injured. Later, a group of Caste Hindus allegedly went on a rampage, torching seven huts belonging to Dalits. However, no casualty was reported in the arson. Sources said the village had a public ground (chavadi), which was used by both the communities. On Sunday, the Dalit residents decided to organise a festival to honour Moopanar Swamy and erected a digital banner at the chavadi. The very day, the members of the caste-Hindu group planned to organise Chithra Pournami festival and decided to take out a procession, followed by a pooja at chavadi. A group of Caste Hindus visited the spot and demanded that the Dalits postpone their plans and remove the banner. Opposing the demand, the Dalits entered into a heated argument with the caste-Hindus. Soon, the matter came to a head and the verbal altercation gave way to fisticuffs. Sources said that during the fight, members of both the communities began pelting each other with stones, injuring many from the two sides injured. The fight was stopped after village elders intervened. However, a few hours later, a group of Caste Hindus reached the Dalit settlement in the village and set afire seven houses. On information, Perambalur Fire and Rescue personnel rushed to the spot and doused the fire. The victims of the attack were identified as Govindhan (45), Samikannu (37), Selvamani (40), Amarthavalli (43), Ramesh (32), Raja and Ramasamy. On information, SP Sonal Chandra and sub-collector P Madusuthanan held a spot inquiry. One of the victims was sanctioned a house under the Greenhouse project while the rest were awarded a compensation of `5,000. On Monday, based on  complaints lodged by both groups, the police registered a case and arrested 40 people from both the communities. A huge posse of police was deployed to avert the incident from flaring up again. (New Indian Express 5/5/15)

4. Dalit grooms beaten, forced to get off horses (2)

AJMER: In another case of backward community people being subdued in society, two dalit grooms were thrashed by villagers after they arrived on horses for their wedding in the remote Chindaliya village of Makrana block on Thursday night. Angry villagers also forced family members of the bride to stop the music being played. Finally, the grooms had to walk out of the house of the brides. Makrana police on Friday registered a case against six villagers under Dalit Atrocity Act and are trying to arrest them. There was tension in the village after the incident with dalit organizations demanding action against the ‘samants’ of the village. According to sources, Bhomaram, a dalit of Chindaliya village, fixed marriages of his two daughters Swaroop and Bhagwati with Rajuram and Gajender, sons of Lichman of Pabupura village of Naguar district. The marriage was fixed on May 7 and relatives of Bhomaram gathered to celebrate the occasion. On Thursday evening the marriage procession reached the outskirts of the village from Pabupura village where both Rajuram and Gajender with relatives and friends prepared to reach the house of grooms. The procession started late with a musical band and the grooms climbed onto horses for the ritual of ‘toran’. When the procession reached inside the village, the Jat community got angry and gathered on the street and declared the procession as unreligious. “They brought sticks and threatened us and forced my sons to get down from the horses as they don’t allow dalits from the village to ride on horses,” said Lichman, father of grooms to police. Villagers also stopped the band and directed the procession to walk quietly to the house of the brides without looking upward. When the news broke at the house of grooms, Bhomaram along with his relatives reached the spot and tension spread in the village. Someone called the police and two constables from Makrana police station reached the spot after half-an-hour. Both sides this morning filed an FIR in the Makrana police station and demanded action against the accused. “We have registered a case against six people of the village and others under dalit atrocity and started investigation. Arrests will be made soon,” said Dilip Soni, SHO of Makrana police station. He added that police was deputed for peace and order in the village. (Times of India 8/5/15)

5. Barriers broken as Dalits brush shoulders with swamijis at Sahapankti Bhojana (2)

YADGIR: In a district like Yadgir where the caste system still rules the roost, the heads of religious mutts visiting Dalit colonies and eating the food prepared by them is unheard of. To protest against the discriminatory practise of serving food to upper castes and others in some of the temples in Dakshina Kannada district, the swamis initiated the movement of Sahapankti Bhojana — where the upper castes have food with Dalits in their colonies. The first such programme was held in Basavakalyan in Bidar district and the second at Belthangady in Dakshina Kannada district last year. This is the third Sahapankti Bhojana held in the State. Right from the morning, the Maremma Temple complexwas teeming with the people, both Dalits and curious onlookers from other localities. The local delicacy Huggi, a sweet item made out of wheat and jaggery along with ghee, was served to the swamis who sat on the floor along with Dalit families. Later they were served rice and Sambar. “This is a special day for me. I still cannot believe that the swamis had food with me,” said Susheela Melinamane, a Dalit housewife. After taking part in the programme, Sri Chennamalla Shivacharyaru of Nidumamidi Mutt, who took the lead in organising the event, said that people should adopt humanity and reject the Manu Smriti which was against the freedom of women, equality, social balance and education. Sahapankti Bhojana is a part of the struggle against untouchability, he said and added that people should organise similar programmes to bring the social equality among the people of all communities. Prominent among other swamis who participated in the event were — Sri Sarangadareshwara Mahaswamigal of Saranga Mutt in Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh, Sri Gnana Prakasha Swami of Urilinga Peddi Samastana Math of Mysuru, Sri Nanjundaswami of Urilinga Peddi Samsthana Mut at Kodla in Kalaburagi, Sidda Kabira Mahaswamigalu of Marlu Shankara Mutt at Chigarallia and Sri Shantaveera Murugarjendra Swami of Kasa Mutt in Gurmitkal in Yadgir district. Members of the Pragatipara Dalit Okkuta including Sabanna Sungalkar, Baghawanth Anwar, Veerabhadrappa Eddalli, Samsan Malikeri, Mareppa Chattarkar and Chandrakanth Motnalli participated in the Sahapankti Bhojana. (The Hindu 12/5/15)

6. Dalit Groom Wears Helmet for Marriage Procession, as Villagers Stone Him (2)

Along with the regular preparations for a barat, the wedding procession, a groom in Madhya Pradesh was forced to carry a sturdy helmet too. Reason? The groom Pawan Malviya’s father expected the villagers to hurt him as he dared to use a horse in the barat. It is reported that the Balit groom was at the receiving end of the fury by the upper cast men for breaking the norm. Dalits in the area are expected not to have a grand procession and are also not allowed to use a horse for a wedding. The incident took place late Sunday night, when the Pawan Malviya’s procession made its way through the village in Ratlam district to reach the venue. Half-way into the procession, upper caste men attacked the groom and his family members by hurling stones at them. Many from the groom family were injured in the incident. The procession was blocked for a while and resumed  with policemen on rooftops to guard against any more attacks. It was then, Pawan traded his traditional headgear to a helmet. It is also reported that Pawan’s father was worried for the safety ohf his son and had asked for police protection. The police also worked for a compromise between the two sides, following which the upper caste families is said to have agreed to shut their doors and not witness the procession. Close to 30 villagers have been arrested and scores more have been booked under a law that bans caste-based atrocities. (New Indian Express 13/5/15)

TRIBALS

7. Two Mega Projects’ MoU to be Inked During Modi’s Chhattisgarh Visit (6)

RAIPUR: In order to fuel the development process in tribal-dominated Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, an MoU for two mega projects will be inked during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state on May 9. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi will gift two major projects to tribal-dominated Bastar region during his visit to Chhattisgarh on May 9,” an official statement issued here said today. The two projects are – one of setting up of an ultra-mega steel plant at village Dilmili in naxal-sensitive Dantewada and another, extension of second phase of Rowghat-Jagdalpur 140 km railway line. Both the projects will come up in insurgency-hit areas and the state government officials claim the projects would accelerate the pace of development in vastly-populated tribal regions. The total investment on the two major projects will be around Rs 24,000 crore and it would help in a rapid socio-economic transformation of sprawling Bastar, it said. Dallirajhara-Rowghat-Jagdalpur broad-gauge railway project will cover a length of 235 km. The laying of railway line of 95 km in the first phase from Dallirajhara to Rowghat is currently underway at a rapid pace. An MoU on the second phase Rowghat-Jagdalpur line was signed earlier but it was shelved due to lack of funds. Now, the Centre has given consent to the state’s proposal to lay the railway line through SPV (special purpose vehicle) and a fresh MoU will be inked on May 9, the statement said. (New Indian Express 3/5/15)

8. Tribals Triumph as Mining Lease on Temple Hill is Scrapped (6)

VISAKHAPATNAM: In a major victory to the tribals, Srikakulam district collector P Lakshmi Nrusimham Sunday cancelled the No Objection Certificate (NOC) issued over the mining lease of the Kannedhara hill, the ancient home of the three sacred temples worshipped by tribals, in Seethampeta agency area. The orders were issued a day before the meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee scheduled to be held Monday. The Cabinet sub-committee, which observed that the NOC was issued in violation of revenue norms, asked the officials concerned to take immediate action during its previous meeting held on April 23. Soon after learning about the orders, tribals of Patharegulapadu, Kantamanugooda, Regulapadu and neighbouring villages broke into celebrations. They distributed sweets and congratulated each other over the victory. Savara Subbudu and other petitioners claimed the orders as the victory of tribals and thanked the government for respecting their sentiments and protecting their livelihood. In the wake of cancellation of the NOC by the district administration, the Mines and Geology department is expected to issue orders cancelling the mining lease. During the Congress regime, the then tahsildar of Seethampeta mandal issued an NOC for an extent of 15 hectare in survey no. 289 of Puliputti village for extraction of granite mineral in June 2010. Based on the NOC and recommendation of the then assistant director of Mines and Geology Department, the then director of Mines and Geology granted a mining lease in favour of Virgin Rocks Private Limited for a period of 20 years in an extent of 10 hectare. The tribals, along with environmentalists, strongly opposed the decision and alleged that former minister Dharmana Prasada Rao used his influence to get the mining lease sanctioned for the benefit of his son. They tribals launched state-wide agitations and a few of them approached the Lokayukta alleging that though the land was in possession of tribals with pattas the tahsildar overrode them and issued the NOC. They also pointed out that despite the presence of three dieties and temples worshipped by the locals in the area, the tahsildar issued the NOC. Based on the Lokayukta’s orders, the district administration launched a probe into the issue. Simultaneously, the Mines and Geology department too, investigated the lease. After assuming power, Telugu Desam Party which supported the tribals on the issue during their fight, formed a Cabinet sub-committee to look into the issue and was informed that the lease was given to former revenue minister Dharmana Prasada Rao’s son against the interests of tribals living in the hilly region. During the last meeting on April 23, the ministers were informed about the manner in which the NOC was issued, prompting them to order immediate action and subsequently scrap the deal altogether. New Indian Express 4/5/15)

9. Left Front wins all 28 Tribal Council seats (6)

Aizawl: The ruling Left Front in Tripura has won all 28 elected seats in polls to the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) and grabbed 54.21 percent of all the votes polled, the state’s Election Commission said Wednesday. The Left Front’s vote percentage has, however, dropped by 9 percent compared to the 2010 polls when it won the same number of seats. Polls for the 30-seat TTAADC, two of which are filled up by nominations by the Governor, were held on Sunday with 83 percent turn-out. The state’s main opposition Congress, meanwhile, polled the least percentage of votes at just 5.49 percent, with the BJP polling only slightly better by polling 7.87 percent of the total votes. Its successes were mainly restricted to areas close to the state’s border with Assam, however. Two tribal parties performed better than both the other national parties active in the state with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) polling 18.6 percent of the votes with many tribal youth believed to be backing its call for a separate state for tribals. The Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT), meanwhile, polled 10.77 percent of the votes, taking third place as regards to votes polled. The IPFT’s relative success in the polls has caused some worry even in the Left Front with CPM’s general secretary for the state Bijan Dhar admitting in a press conference at Agartala that the support the rallying cry has mustered especially among tribal youth might have repercussions in the near future. The CPM led by CM Manik Sarkar has long dismissed the idea of a separate state for tribals in the North-East’s smallest state. Tripura has seen ethnic riots and armed tribal groups demanding autonomy since the 1970s, although much of it has greatly diminished in the past decade. The TTAADC — established by the Left Front in the early 1980s — covers two-thirds of the state’s territory, most of it hills and forests. (Indian Express 6/5/15)

10. Protest against ‘police threat’ to Chhattisgarh legal aid group (6)

RAIPUR; The People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) has condemned Chhattisgarh police’s “threat” of taking sever action against “certain” NGOs in Chhattisgarh for allegedly aiding and abetting the Maoists under guise of helping tribal people.“At a recent press conference in Bastar, Inspector General of Police S.R. Kalluri said that many such organisations were under surveillance. The IGP’s list of suspicions activities included providing legal assistance to Naxalites — a thinly veiled reference to the Jagdalpur Legal Aid group, a small NGO working in Bastar to provide free legal aid to the Tribal people, many of whom are falsely implicated in cases of Naxal activities,” a PUDR statement said. “This warning [by police] comes on the heels of two recent incidents of illegal detention of tribal people in Bastar in which the Jagdalpur Legal Aid group actively intervened on behalf of the victims and highlighted police violations,” claimed the PUDR. Highlighting the need for free legal aid to Bastar tribal people, the PUDR said that most of the tribal people arrested for alleged Maoist activities in Bastar , are victims of government’s false successes and fake surrenders. The organisations such as the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group are making their presence felt in a situation in Bastar in which on the one hand, a war is being waged by the state in the interests of large scale industry and the everyday persecution of local tribal people on the other, it added. . “The State’s reaction of clamping down on all resistance by the tribal people as well as targeting activists and people’s lawyers in the name of fighting Naxalim, indicates the lengths to which it is prepared to go to silence all constitutional freedoms in Bastar,” the statement added. (The Hindu 8/5/15)

11. 430 individual titles ready for distribution to forest dwellers on Sathy hills (6)

Erode: A total of 430 individual titles for land ownership will be granted to forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers on Sathy hills under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, once a court case against such granting of pattas is settled, official sources said. The Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs is keen on early conversion of forest villages into revenue villages as a vital component of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, called FRA in short. According to the Ministry, the Act that makes officials of Forest Department part of committees constituted at different levels for recognition and vesting of forest rights is under implementation in various States. The Ministry has observed a significant increase in community rights title distribution: As on February 28, 2015 as many as 15,32,555 individual titles and 29,898 community titles had been issued. Tamil Nadu, however, has not kept pace with the implementation of FRA. In a recent representation to the Chief Secretary, who is the Chairperson of the State Level Monitoring Committee (SLMC) constituted under the Act to ensure establishment of Gram Sabhas, constitution of Forest Rights Committees, and determine Community Forest Resources rights by the Gram Sabhas, Bhavani Sagar MLA P.L. Sundaram questioned the State’s tardy progress in distribution of titles for land ownership. Demanding a public announcement on implementation of FRA 2006, Mr. Sundaram had said that there were only 21,781 titles for land ownership (18,420 individual and 3,361 community) to be distributed. But, just 3,723 titles were ready for distribution to the tribal community people pending approval of the Supreme Court, despite notification of rules as early as in 2008, Mr. Sundaram said. The process requires SLMC to identify hamlets, and instruct Tribal Welfare Department to convene hamlet-level Gram Sabha and constitute Forest Rights Committees. The department is required to organise training about the Act to all members of the Forest Rights Committees along with members of the Sub-Divisional Level Committees and District Level Committees. (The Hindu 11/5/15)

12. Pro-Maoist tribal leader Chattradhar Mahato, others convicted (6)

Kolkata: Pro-Maoist tribal group, the Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities convener Chhatradhar Mahato and three others were on Monday convicted under various laws including the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act by a West Bengal court. “Mahato, along with Sukhsanti Baske, Sambhu Soren and Sagun Murmu, was convicted by the court of additional sessions judge (West Midnapore) Kaveri Bose,” said the accused’s counsel Mrinal Kanti Chowdhury. “Besides the UAPA, they have been convicted under various provisions of the IPC dealing with murder, criminal conspiracy, waging war against the state and various other sections of the Arms Act and the Explosives Act,” said the counsel. Besides the four, Raja Sarkhel and Prasun Chatterjee – two other PCAPA members – have been charged with sedition. “The quantum of punishment will be decided by the court on Tuesday,” said Chowdhury. Before his arrest in 2009, Mahato was one of the prominent faces of Maoist-backed tribal resistance in West Midnapore district’s Lalgarh area – about 200 kms west of Kolkata – against the erstwhile Left Front government. Lalgarh was on the boil for over two years since November 2, 2008, when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of then state chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada. Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, angry tribals egged on by the Maoists launched an agitation virtually cutting off the area from the rest of the district. The agitators torched CPI-M offices, drove away its supporters and forced police to leave, thereby establishing a virtual free zone. In June 2009, joint forces comprising central paramilitary troopers and crack teams of state police reclaimed the areas and conducted intense operations to flush out the left wing ultras. There were a spate of arrests while a number of PCAPA and Maoist leaders were killed in shootouts with the secuirty forces. Mahato was nabbed on September 26, 2009. The movement gradually died down. The tribal leader had also participated in rallies by Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee before her party came to power in 2011. “Today those who are in power were associated with the movement. They accept the movement but are convicting those who were behind it,” Mahato told media persons after his conviction. (Zee News 11/5/15)

13. Tribal welfare dept to observe May 25 as ‘Sankalp Dis’ (6)

Margao: The tribal welfare department of the state government will observe May 25 as “sankalp dis” (a resolution day) in memory of the two tribal youths – Dilip Velip and Mangesh Gaonkar – who died in the tribals’ agitation at Balli in 2011 that day. “The tribal welfare department has introduced various welfare schemes and we are determined to take these schemes to all the needy and deserving persons from the tribal communities. Eighteen schemes have been drawn up by the tribal welfare department during the last three years, and we have decided to create awareness about these schemes across the state,” tribal welfare minister Ramesh Tawadkar said, while briefing mediapersons on Tuesday. Two awards instituted by the state government will be awarded to those who have made outstanding contribution in the field of education. The award consists of a cash prize of 1 lakh and a citation. The awards will be presented at a ceremony to be held at Ravindra Bhavan, Margao, on May 25 at the hands of defence minister Manohar Parrikar in the presence of chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar, it was informed. Two awards instituted by the state government will be awarded to those who have made outstanding contribution in the field of education (Times of India 13/5/15)

WOMEN

14. Punjab bus molestation: Badals face the heat, police arrest three accused (8)

Moga: The Punjab police on Thursday arrested three person in connection with the death of a 13-year-old girl who died after jumping off a running bus to escape molestation in Moga area of Punjab. Addressing a press conference, Punjab DGP said three accused in the Orbit bus accident have been nabbed and maintained that no special treatment is being given to the bus company, owned by Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. The DGP also informed that other passengers of the bus are being located to help in the investigation. The DGP, however, ruled out interrogation of the Deputy CM. Meanwhile, the incident echoed in Parliament with the members of Congress and Aam Aadmi Party attacking the Akali Dal-BJP government in the state over the law and order situation. Members of both the parties from Punjab stormed the well of the House denouncing the state government.Ravneet Singh Bittu and Santokh Chaudhary (Congress) Dharmveer Gandhi and Bhagwant Mann trooped into the Well after their efforts to raise it were unsuccessful. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said they could raise the issue during Zero Hour in the evening. As the protests were unrelenting, the Speaker adjourned the House for five minutes. Reports said the girl and her mother jumped off a moving bus in Punjab’s Moga district to avoid being sexually assaulted by the conductor’s assistant, after the driver refused to stop the bus and the conductor did not come to their help. (Indian Express 1/5/15)

15. UP girls take a stand, say ‘no’ to unfit grooms and mismatched marriages (8)

Bareilly/Kanpur/Kanpur Dehat/Varanasi: Minutes before solemnising her wedding vows, Kanpur’s Lavli Kushwaha discovered to her horror that the man she was about to exchange garlands with was not the one she had agreed to marry – it was his illiterate elder brother. The prenuptial ceremony was already complete, but she did not hesitate and walked out of the wedding, backed by her family and relatives. The bride’s father told HT the man they had matched Lavli with, Sonu, was replaced with his brother Ram Karan but the groom’s family disputed this, saying Sonu was already married. The Kanpur resident is not the only one as a bunch of brave women across Uttar Pradesh have been taking a strong stand against mismatched marriages in a state otherwise in the news for rampant violence against women and dowry-related deaths. In Varanasi last month, a minor girl escaped a forced underage marriage when she called the police with the groom’s party at her door. The authorities arrived after getting a call from Kavita* and stopped the marriage, sending the girl to a child welfare committee. Some of these botched weddings have also been settled amicably – as was the case last Friday in Bareilly’s Aonla, where the bride discovered during the wedding rituals that her husband-to-be had very poor eyesight. She noticed the groom kept missing the mark when asked to offer water to the deities and got up to tell her mother she could not tie the knot. As news spread, members of the groom’s family tried to convince the girl that the boy’s eyesight was alright but it soon came to light that the bride had been deliberately left in the dark about his problem. The groom then returned home unwed with the two sides sitting down amicably and deciding to share the expenses of the botched wedding. In yet another case, a Dalit girl, Shakuntala Devi, refused to tie the knot with an ill-matched groom, Vipin, in Kanpur Dehat. Shakuntala’s relatives and friends noticed a lump on his back and that he had a problem opening his mouth. They told her about the groom’s ‘problems’. When she confronted Vipin she also found that he was inebriated and without thinking twice, Shakuntala announced she was calling off the wedding. Despite requests from her family as well as the groom’s side, Shakuntala put her foot down and the two sides agreed to return all the things that they had exchanged in prenuptial ceremonies and the groom went home single. Such incidents are reported across religions as educated women refuse to compromise on their husbands and listen to the diktat of their family, rejecting obscene dowry demands.  An educated Muslim woman in Kanpur, Gulshan Khan, refused to marry an illiterate carpenter who demanded a dowry of Rs 1.5 lakh in cash and electronic gadgets, filing a police complaint against the man. Khan was engaged to Mohammad Nazir Ahmad since December 2009 but while she worked hard on her education for the last 5 years and got two post-graduate degrees, he remained illiterate, even taking Rs. 50,000 from Khan’s family for a motorcycle at a pre-nuptial ceremony held earlier this year. Before the wedding, Khan’s septuagenarian father Mukhtar Ahmad Warsi requested Ahmad’s family to accept his educated daughter without any dowry and said his family was already impoverished. He even put his turban, a sign of a man’s honour, at the feet of the groom’s father and asked him not to press for dowry, but to not avail. When Khan learnt all this, she decided to call off the proposed alliance. (Hindustan Times 4/5/15)

16. Activists call for abrogating law which ‘discriminates’ against men (8)

MYSURU: Several activists under the aegis of Centre for Men’s Rights staged a demonstration in the city on Tuesday demanding the scrapping of Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code, the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and similar laws which they alleged suffered from a gender bias. The demonstrators raised slogans and said most of them were victims of the misuse of Section 498 A, under which, if a woman files a complaint of dowry harassment, the accused could be taken into custody by the police without sufficient evidence or investigation. The organisation said that it also aims to reduce suicide rate of men by promoting laws “which do no marginalise men or undermine their role in families and society”. (The Hindu 6/5/15)

17. SC raps Centre for not publicising order on female foeticide (8)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed displeasure over the conduct of Centre, Delhi government and various states for not giving wide publicity to its directions on female foeticide for strict implementation of law prohibiting sex determination. A bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant slammed Bihar government over “low” prosecution rate of cases relating to female foeticide in the state after noting that no case has been registered after 2013. The court noted that Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of sex selection) Act has been in operation from 1994 but only 159 cases have been instituted and 126 cases are pending since 2012-2013 in various courts in Bihar. “We cannot restrain ourselves from observing that had there been apposite awareness among the competent authorities in all possibility, the result would have been different. “Lack of awareness is a known fact. In our considered opinion, the competent authorities who have been authorised under the Act to launch prosecution and also to see that the the Act is properly carried out and sex ratio is increased, are required to be given training,” the bench said. The apex court asked the Chairman of the Bihar Judicial Academy of the Patna High Court to fix a time schedule for imparting the training. “In our considered opinion, the cases under the 1994 Act should be dealt with in quite promptitude and the concerned courts have to treat the said cases with utmost primacy. “In view of the aforesaid, we direct that the cases which are pending before the trial court shall positively be disposed of by end of October 2015,” the bench said. During the proceedings, advocate Binu Tamta, appearing for the Centre, assured the bench that “appropriate” directions are issued to the authorities of All India Radio and Doordarshan functioning in various states to give wide publicity. The court directed that the copy of the April 15 order be sent to the Principal Secretary, Health, and the Principal Secretary, Law, so that the order can be translated and be published in newspapers and broadcast by All India Radio and telecast by Doordarshan in an “appropriate” manner. “We hope that by the next date of hearing, there would be substantial compliance…,” the bench said. (Zee News 7/5/15)

18. Rights panel files PIL in rape case (8)

Imphal, May 9: A Manipur-based human rights group has filed a public interest litigation in Manipur High Court against the failure of police to frame charges against the accused in the rape of a minor. The petition, filed by Thokchom Premlata, assistant director of Human Rights Law Network, yesterday prayed for framing of chargesheet by the police and providing financial assistance to the victim by the state government. A division bench of Justices N. Kotiswar and N. Nobin has issued a notice to the state government and asked it to file a reply within three weeks.This is the first time in the state that a PIL has been filed in court against the failure of the police to submit chargesheet in a sexual offence case. The accused, S. Haridas Sharma, then 36, allegedly raped the 16-year-old, his neighbour, in Thoubal district in 2013. Kakching police station registered a case in July 2013 and the sexual assault came to light after the girl became pregnant. “As the police failed to frame the chargesheet and submit it in court within three months, the accused was granted bail. The police are yet to file the chargesheet,” Rakesh Meihoubam, director of the human rights group, said. He said the victim gave birth to the child a few months after the police registered a case. The girl is now staying at a women’s home in Imphal East while the child was given to an adoption agency through the Child Welfare Committee, Imphal East. The victim’s mother died some years ago while her father is a drunkard, Meihoubam said. “In criminal cases taken up under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, the trial should be completed within a year. However, the trial in this case is yet to begin in the absence of the chargesheet,” he said. Rakesh said there were many cases in Manipur where the police failed to submit the chargesheet in time, denying justice to the victims and letting the accused go scot-free. He said the state government was yet to provide financial and support services to the victim under the centrally sponsored scheme. (The Telegraph 9/5/15)

19. Conviction for female foeticide cases rare (8)

New Delhi: Despite India’s declining child sex ratio, as many as 30 states and Union Territories have not convicted even a single person for pre-conception and pre-natal diagnostic between 2011 and 2013, raising concerns about the poor implementation of the PCPNDT Act. The five states which have worst child sex ratio (CSR) — Daman and Diu (618 girls per 1,000 boys), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (775), Chandigarh (818), Delhi (866) and Andaman and Nicobar Islands (878) — have also not punished anyone during the period. The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 was enacted to stop female foeticide and arrest the declining sex ratio by banning pre-natal sex determination. Child sex ratio in India has reached an alarming low with 918 girls per 1,000 boys in 2011 from 927 in 2001, but not much seems to have been done to ensure strict implementation of the Act to deter female foeticide. According to data available with the health ministry, only 32 people have been punished in the whole country as against 563 cases reported for conducting sex determination tests between 2011 and 2013. The data shows that only four states convicted 13 people in 2013. In 2012, eight persons were punished by three states and in 2011, 11 people by four states. Punjab, which has one of the lowest CSR with 895 girls to 1,000 boys, has convicted only two persons in the period while it reported 52 such cases. Haryana with 879 CSR registered 54 cases under the Act but no conviction took place. Similarly, Delhi registered 10 cases but could not manage to punish anyone. The phenomenon has spread to areas which were not known for disparity in CSR including tribal areas and eastern states, said a WCD ministry official.The trend was particularly acute in more developed areas of the country including metropolitan cities. Non-implementation of the Act has been the biggest failing of the campaign against sex selection, the official said. (Asian Age 11/5/15)

20. ‘Women welfare schemes slashed by 20%’ (8)

LUCKNOW: Prime minister Narendra Modi’s promise of ‘achchhe din’ was declared a farce by women associated with All India Democratic Women’s Association here on Monday. Leading the group was AIDWA national president Subhashini Ali who said, “In the same month last year, women were full of hope as BJP and PM Narendra Modi had promised many things to empower women through various schemes. But in one year, the ruling party has proved that that its promise was hollow.” Citing an example, economist Smita Gupta said, “Instead of additional allocation, funds meant for women welfare schemes have been cut down significantly in the current year’s Union budget which reveals the government’s true intention.” In her paper titled ‘Booting women out of the budget’ Smita noted a 20% drop in the gender budget. In 2014-15, allocations under this head were Rs 79,258 crore. Ali attacked the BJP for double standards on the issue of women’s emancipation. “On one hand they make claims of women empowerment while on the other, their leaders say foolish things like women were born only to bear kids.” AIDWA demanded restoration of funds deducted from various women welfare schemes in national interest. (Times of India 12/5/15)

21. Rights notice on lack of toilets for women at nine police stations (8)

GURGAON: Following TOI’s April 3 report that only a third of Gurgaon police stations have ladies’ toilets, the Haryana Human Rights Commission (HHRC) has sent a notice to commissioner of police Navdeep Singh Virk, seeking a response. The notice was issued, as order number 483, through the director, investigations, at HHRC, said a source. Virk, though, denied receiving the notice. “I’m not aware of it. I haven’t seen the notice. But we’ll do whatever is expected of us, once we’re officially intimated,” said the commissioner. TOI had published that nine of 24 police stations in Gurgaon do not have a separate lavatory for women. As a result, all women, including police staff and visitors are forced to use the men’s toilets. The information was revealed in a reply to an RTI, filed last month by activist Harinder Dhingra. The activist had written to the director general of Haryana police (DGP) and Gurgaon police commissioner in January this year, asking them to provide separate sanitation facilities for women. The reply revealed that police stations in Pataudi, Kherki Daula, Bhondsi, Farooq Nagar, Badshahpur, Civil Lines, Rajendra Park, Udyog Vihar and Metro at IFFCO Chowk, do not have a separate ladies’ toilet. More than 300 women are employed by city police. “The information was provided by cops in reply to an RTI query. In May 2014, Punjab and Haryana high court had ordered that such facilities are required. It should now be easier for police to finance such projects, as they have tied up with corporates through Community Policing 2.0,” said activist Dhingra. (Times of India 15/5/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

22. 34 child labourers rescued (14)

BENGALURU: Thirty-four children, including 19 girls, employed in an agro industry at Kannahalli, near Sheegehalli Cross, were rescued by the anti-human trafficking unit of the Criminal Investigation Department on Thursday. Of them three are under the age of 14. The police arrested the contractor and HR Manager of the company. “We had information that many minors were being forced to work in Ballad Agro Industries, which makes herbal products. The industry was raided on Thursday. There were around 200 employees in the industry and 34 of them were minors,” a CID source said. “Jirad, the contractor who was bringing the child labourers, and Gopalakrishna Kamat, HR Manager, were arrested,” the source said. A case has been registered in Tavarekere police station under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act and Child Labour laws. (The Hindu 1/5/15)

23. Activists write to Modi on plan to dilute child labour law (14)

BENGALURU: The Centre’s proposal to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, is not something Bengaluru’s activists agree with. The amendment will allow children between 14 years and 18 years to work in non-hazardous, select family enterprises without letting it affect their education. In an email to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other MPs, activists have demanded that the Centre revisit the proposal that will exempt certain family enterprises like farming from being labelled child labour. “All forms of child labour must be prohibited (up to 18 years) and it must be ensured that children get a good education,” said the appeal which was prepared through a resolution passed at an emergency meeting convened at the Centre for Child and Law (CCL) in National Law School of India University on April 23. Arguing that the proposal to divide children into two categories—children (0-14) and adolescents (14-18) based on the recommendations of the National Advisory Council is unacceptable, CCL said: “It is ridiculous from the point of progressive realization of child rights.” The Parliamentary Standing Committee has also asked the government to review its proposal regarding the definition of a child. While the Act aims to abolish child labour, a sub-section of the proposed Bill provides immunity to family businesses that are not hazardous. CCL said the standing committee had asked the labour ministry to review the meaning of hazardous processes and widen the definition to include all those processes that may jeopardize health, safety and morals of adolescents, which the ministry paid no heed to. Stating that exempting certain occupations from child labour laws is a violation of the Right to Education Act Niranjan Aradhya VP, fellow, CCL, said: “If we propose another law that takes away this right to education, how will children attend school? Any activity that prevents a child from attending school is child labour and must be abolished.” Samuel Sathyaseelan from CCL said that even if the work is after school hours, it will obstruct a child’s right to rest and indulge in recreation, which may eventually result in the child discontinuing from school. Komal Ganotra of Child Rights and You said, “Agriculture-based work, for instance, requires seven to eight hours a day. In some cases, children have to wake up at 3am to pluck jasmine flowers. The work is done by 6.30am and then they leave to school. This will affect their performance in school.” (Times of India 4/5/15)

24. Poor urban children more likely to die than the rich kids (14)

Children of the urban poor in Delhi are 3.2 times more likely to die than their richer counterparts, a report released here on Tuesday said. The global under-five mortality rate has come down down by half from 90 to 46 deaths per 1,000 live births between 1990 and 2013 and the success story includes India. India, in the same period, has achieved a decline of 54.4 percent as against the global progress of 44.8 percent, the report “The Urban Disadvantage”, prepared by NGO Save the Children and released by Union Minister Najma Heptullah, said. The report which analysed urban child survival gap between the rich and the poor urban kids in 36 developing countries shows that in the age group 0-5 years, the urban poor are 3.2 times more likely to die compared with the urban rich in Delhi. The report’s findings state that the quality of life of mothers and children in the urban slums of India’s capital city is one of the worst in the world and the health inequity between the rich and the poor is stark. Heptullah said: “We used to feel that more children are not being taken care of in rural areas. But this report proves otherwise.” She said that the health of urban children was an important issue as by 2030 a significant amount of population will be moving to cities. People living in slums and congested areas face a lot of health issues due to poor sanitation and congestion, she added. The 10 countries showing the greatest survival divide between wealthy and poor urban children are: Rwanda, Cambodia, Kenya, Vietnam, Peru, India, Madagascar, Ghana, Bangladesh and Nigeria. Sudeep Gadok, director of programs of Save the Children, said: “The government of India has made great progress in ensuring the survival of newborns, infants and mothers.” “For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. People are often drawn to cities by the prospect of a better life for their children, but many cities around the world are unable to keep up with breakneck growth.” “… leaving hundreds of millions of mothers and children in cities without access to essential health services and the clean water they need to survive and stay healthy,” he said. The report asserts that there is an urgent need to close the gap in life chances for mothers and children so that – no matter where they live – everyone has a fair chance to survive and fulfil their potential. (Times of India 6/5/15)

25. NGO rescues 10 child labourers near labor dept building (14)

LUDHIANA: Members of Navchetna, an NGO working for child labour in the city, on Monday start their awareness campaign against child labour in city. However, they were in for a shock when they spotted 10 child labourers near the labor department building on Gill road. Sukhdhir Sekhon, Navchetna president, said, “As many as 10 child labourers were spotted near the labor department building and nearby areas. We had gone there to start our awareness campaign. Three children were working at a scrap shop in the building, one was working at the backside of the building in a car washing garage, three were selling tobacco in shops near the labour department building and one child was working at a shop.” He added, “Charity should begin at home. The labor department, besides raiding different places in the city, should also look in their backyard. All the children rescued near the department building were working on the daily wage of Rs 50-100 per day and were between 6 and 14 years of age. The NGO members also met with the parents of these children and urged them to send their wards to government schools in the nearby areas localities. They also gifted them books and pencils. “We also met the shopkeepers who had employed these children and told them that it was wrong and illegal to employ children. Instead when any child comes to ask for employment, they should motivate them to study and go to school,” Sukhdhir added. Ludhiana coordinator, labor-cum-conciliation officer, Mona Puri said, “We continuously conduct raids in the city. The NGO members should have informed us if they were going to do some campaign. If they had spotted or rescued any children, they should have come to us and got them registered at schools under the National Child labor Project. We are working in accordance with the Bachpan Bachao Andolan as directed by the court.” (Times of India 12/5/15)

26. State child rights panel serves notice on DTO (14)

LUDHIANA: For making students of Sacred Heart Senior Secondary School, BRS Nagar, wait under the hot sun on May 4 when as many as 24 school vehicles were challaned, out of which 13 were impounded the district transport officer (DTO) Anil Garg has been served a notice by the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) Punjab. In the notice, the commission has asked the DTO to give an explanation for making students suffer when their school vehicles were being challaned/impounded. Apart from this, the commission has also asked the DTO to give suggestions and precautions which could be taken while school vehicles are being challaned/impounded, so that students are not made to suffer in the process. Reportedly, while the DTO was checking and challaning school vehicles, students were unloaded, and they had to stand outside the school until the formalities were completed. Talking to ToI, SCPCR Punjab chairperson Sukesh Kalia said: “Through the news, I became aware that while the DTO was challaning school vehicles of Sacred Heart Senior Secondary School, BRS Nagar, students had to wait outside the school in extreme hot weather. The DTO might be performing his duty, but any act which causes inconvenience to children should not be accepted. So, I have served a notice to him to give an explanation. Alongside, I have also asked him for some suggestions to make challaning drivers hassle-free for school children.” Kalia added that it was not necessary to impound a school vehicle on the spot. A guard or constable may escort the school vehicle until the last kid is dropped home, and then the DTO can impound the vehicle. Another option is that the DTO may keep all the documents of the driver, with directions to report at his office after dropping the children home. Garg responded: “According to the Motor Vehicle Act, only a moving vehicle can be challaned, so I have to challan a school vehicle when it is loaded. If parents or schools pro-actively follow their responsibility and examine vehicles, it will help avoid such incidents. Importantly, the high court has asked schools to designate a traffic manager who can examine all the vehicles being used to ferry school students. However, most of the schools have not let their owned vehicles or private vehicles be examined, as revealed under an RTI (A copy with ToI). Moreover, that day, the guard went along with the buses, and only when the last child was dropped, then the drivers, accompanied by the guards, came back and thereafter, their vehicles were impounded.” (Times of India 13/5/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

27. Modi govt rejects US report on religious freedom, says it does not take cognizance (7)

New Delhi: India on Thursday strongly reacted to a report by a US Congress-established panel claiming that minorities in the country have been subjected to “violent attacks” and “forced conversions” after the Modi government assumed power in 2014, saying it does not take cognizance of such reports.External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “Our attention has been drawn to a report of the USCIRF which has passed judgement on religious freedom in India. “The report appears to be based on limited understanding of India, its Constitution and its society.” In its 2015 annual report, USCIRF (US Commission on International Religious Freedom) said, “Since the election, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).” It also said that despite the country’s status as a pluralistic, secular democracy, India has long struggled to protect minority religious communities or provide justice when crimes occur, which perpetuates a climate of impunity. USCIRF said in December 2014, Hindu groups announced plans to forcibly “reconvert” at least 4,000 Christian families and 1,000 Muslim families to Hinduism in Uttar Pradesh on Christmas day as part of a so-called ‘Ghar Wapsi’ (returning home) programme. It may be mentioned here that US President Barack Obama had twice made a strong pitch for religious tolerance in India. (Indian Express 1/5/15)

28. Minorities Panel to Probe Alair Encounter (7)

HYDERABAD: The State Minorities Commission for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh will soon appoint an advocate commissioner to inquire and prepare a detailed report on the recent Alair encounter in which five suspected terror operatives were killed. The advocate commissioner will visit the location of the encounter and examine witnesses, said Abid Rasool Khan, Chairman, State Minorities Commission. The report will be submitted within 15 days after its appointment. The commission said it had received several petitions from social activists and minority groups seeking a fresh report on the encounter. “After examining the petitions, we have decided to obtain legal opinion from the standing counsel and send recommendations to the government in the interest of justice,” said Khan. The commission has already received a report on the encounter from the SP, Nalgonda and is awaiting another report from the DG, Prisons, Telangana. Addressing a press conference here after a monthly review meeting, commission members said they had also sought a report on the alleged custodial death of a Muslim youth, Shaik Hyder, from Nizamabad. The commission has recently taken up the suo motu and sought reports from the district collector and SP of Nizamabad. The commission has received reports and is pursuing the case. The panel has decided to send a four-member team to Nizamabad on May 8 after receiving petitions from different organisations alleging torture by police behind the death of Hyder. The team will interact with police officials, revenue officials, family of the victim and local religious heads in Nizamabad. They will submit a report to the commission, Khan said. The commission also took up other two cases of harassment and discrimination against members of the minority communities. An enquiry has been initiated in a case where a Muslim woman, Raheema Bi of Ranga Reddy district killed herself by consuming poison after alleged harassment by police. A sub-inspector has already been suspended in this matter, said Khan. In another case, the commission directed the district collector of Karimnagar and chief engineer of Sri Ram Sagar Project to provide employment to three men from minority communities within 15 days under the displaced persons of lower Manair dam reservoir job scheme. These men alleged they were denied employment under BC-E reservations despite belonging to the eligible category. …  (New Indian Express 3/5/15)

29. Protest against atrocities with minorities in Sindh (7)

AMRITSAR: Pakistani Hindu’s held a protest at Karachi on Wednesday alleging police inaction against rape, forced conversion of Hindu girls, extortion from minorities and most recently case of triple murder of a Hindu family. “On April 4th, three members of Hindu community were killed in Nagarparkar, Sindh but no action has been taken against the perpetrators of crime” said Chander Kumar, CEO, Progressive Human Foundation (PHF), Karachi, Pakistan while talking to TOI on Wednesday evening. He said in past there had been several cases of rape and forced conversion of girls from minority communities but rued that no action had been taken against the culprits leaving minority community in fears . “Parents and relatives of these victims tried to raise their voice but to no avail” he said. In recent past Neto Kolhi his wife Pooni Kohli and grandson Parsoo Kolhi were killed in cold blood he informed . “We had identified the culprits and informed about them to police but to utter surprise police is trying to hush up the case despite their arrest” he said. Advocate Haman Das Kolhi who led Wednesday’s protest said that it had been more than one month since the culprits in triple murder case at Nagarparkar were arrested but police officials were not presenting them in the court . “It is clear that government has no intentions to give justice to minorities , the culprits go free after greasing palms of the policemen” he alleged. While condemning the incidents violence and intimidation of Hindus, Christians and Sikh community in Karachi he said law enforcing agencies and government should take action against culprits to infuse a sense of security among minority communities of Pakistan. . “Due to inaction against culprits, the people’s anger have spilled on roads” he said. Quoting, Bhomon Kolhi, brother of deceased Neto Kolhi in triple murder case , Chander Kumar said that “We have been protesting against atrocities on minorities in Hyderabad, Mirpur Khas, Badin Mithi and Nagarparkar but government have taken no notice so far”.Comrade Hero, general secretary, PHF said that in recent past , in Badin some people from majority community asked Hindus to vacate their houses and when the resisted they tried to demolish the graveyard of Hindus and threatened them to occupy their houses in future. (Times of India 6/5/15)

30. Dissent is being stifled, minorities feel insecure: Sonia (7)

NEW DELHI: Mounting yet another attack on Modi government, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today said dissent is being stifled and minorities feel increasingly insecure. Gandhi was speaking at a ceremony to honour eminent Editor Vinod Mehta, who passed away recently, with G K Reddy Memorial National award. The award was received by Mehta’s wife Sumita. Addressing the gathering, which included former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Congress President said, “In the present climate when dissent is being stifled, when the minorities feel increasingly insecure, when the secular fabric of our society is threatened, when bigotry and obscurantism seem to flourish unchecked, we miss Vinod Mehta’s works.” Gandhi has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of running a government “of some people, by one person, for a select few”.Lauding Mehta’s integrity, honesty and commitment to values, she said, “He has never failed to raise his voice against religious intolerance, communal violence and social injustice.” Calling Mehta a passionate upholder of our “democratic and secular ideas”, the Congress President said that he was also a courageous crusader of the causes that he believed were just and a proud and “eloquent advocate of our pluralistic society”.She also quoted the late Editor as saying that politicians and journalists can never be friends and they were naturally adversaries. “But he would have been surprised that how many of us across the political spectrum looked to VM as a friend,” she said. Gandhi said that Mehta had an instinctive understanding of what the freedom of the press meant “to our country, that it was a cornerstone of our democracy and without this freedom, all our other liberties would be threatened”.The award carries a cheque of Rs 5 lakh, a gold medal and citation. Mehta, a distinguished Editor and commentator who had successfully launched a number of newspapers and magazines, passed away in New Delhi on March 8 after prolonged illness. He was 73. Mehta, who was Editorial Chairman of ‘Outlook’ magazine which he had founded, also wrote the best selling autobiography ‘Lucknow Boy’ in 2011. Born in Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan) in 1942, Mehta was known for his bold journalism. (Times of India 9/5/15)

31. UN urges protection of religious minorities in Pakistan (7)

United Nations: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the terrorist attack that killed 45 people in Pakistan and called for effective protection of religious minorities in the country, a UN spokesperson said. The attack occurred on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, reportedly killing at least 45 members of the Ismaili community and injuring several others, Xinhua quoted UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric as saying. The secretary general called on the government of Pakistan to take all necessary measures to bring to justice the perpetrators of “this despicable act”, Dujarric said. “Taking note that a number of attacks against the Shia and Christian minorities have taken place in the recent past in Pakistan, the secretary general urges the government of Pakistan to take swift measures aimed at effective protection of religious minorities in the country,” Dujarric said. “Creating a climate of tolerance, understanding and respect will greatly contribute to achieving this objective,” Dujarric added. Pakistan, as a responsible member of the international community, must uphold its obligations and commitments towards protecting its citizens, including all minorities, Ban said. The UN chief sent his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and people of Pakistan. He also wished those injured in the attack a speedy recovery. (Business Standard 13/5/15)

32.  ‘We have given preferential treatment to minorities’ (7)

Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday admitted that the government has given preferential treatment to AHINDA (Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits) communities to ensure social security to them. Mr. Siddaramaiah, who completed two years in office on Wednesday, said “preferential treatment is given to AHINDA to ensure social justice to the poor by focussing more on social welfare schemes.” The Chief Minister, who had held several AHINDA conventions before joining the Congress in 2006, said under the Constitution, it is the responsibility of the State government to safeguard the interests of the poor belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and the minority communities. Speaking at ‘Meet the Press’ organised by the Press Club of Bangalore and Bangalore Reporters’ Guild, he dismissed the charge that the government had protected interests of only the AHINDA communities.Listing out achievements, he said 21 lakh farmers had availed themselves of interest-free crop loans from cooperatives last year; as many as 1.08 crore BPL families got subsidised rations; and drip irrigation subsidy. Unlike the previous BJP government, the Congress government headed by him remained “scandal-free”, he said. “I am satisfied with the performance of my government so far. We are not after publicity of welfare schemes,” he said. (The Hindu 14/5/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

33. Those who ‘stall’ housing for Muslims have real-estate links (7)

Vadodara: Leaders of both the BJP and Congress, including Vadodara Mayor Bharat Shah, are among those with substantial real-estate stakes in the city’s two locations — Sayajipura and Kalali — which have been seeing protests over a proposal to relocate Muslim slumdwellers there. Some of these leaders were part of the negotiations to get Muslim families to opt out of the relocation. Muslim families of Kalyannagar slums failed to get plots in Sayajipura during two draw of lots, held in March and April. On April 30, the Standing Committee of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) cleared a proposal in principle to construct homes for the Muslim evacuees of Kalyannagar in Muslim-dominated Tandalja neighbourhood. VMC officials cited “law and order” as the reason, pointing to protests by residents. Around 320 Muslim families from Kalyannagar slums were to be moved to Sayajipura into houses built for them under the Basic Services to Urban Poor (BSUP) scheme of JNNURM. The VMC had in October 2014 given a sworn affidavit to the Gujarat High Court to relocate evacuees from Kalyannagar and Kamatipura slums to Kalali. But the VMC retracted from the Kalali promise and, in March, Mayor Shah suspended a housing draw at Sayajipura, thereby stalling the move to shift Muslim evacuees to the area from Kalyannagar slums. On April 8, he skipped a second draw of lots, which selected 320 of the 481 Muslim families of Kalyannagar slums to be moved to Sayajipura. None of them has got allotment letters till date. Kalpesh Shah, the elder son of the BJP Mayor, is a partner in Earth Realty Group that has a high-end residential project as well as flats and a commercial shopping complex coming up within 500 metres of both Sayajipura and Kalali. Former mayor Shabdsharan Brahmbhatt of the BJP, who is a sitting corporator from Tandalja, has real-estate interests in Kalali along with his brother. BJP MLAs Yogesh Patel (Manjalpur) and Rajendra Trivedi (Raopura), who were involved in negotiations with representatives of Muslim families, have real-estate interests close to the JNNURM BSUP projects. Another BJP MLA, Manisha Vakil, in whose constituency Sayajipura falls, had approached Chief Minister Anandiben Patel at the insistence of residents against Muslim relocation. Also with real-estate interests in the area is the Congress’s Chandrakant Shrivastav, whose Yamuna Mills is located about 2 km from the relocation site identified for Muslim families in Sayajipura. The son of BJP corporator Dadu Gadhvi, who first submitted a memorandum to the VMC Standing Committee in March on behalf of Sayajipura residential colonies against the Muslim families, has two residential projects under development within 2 km. The brother of another BJP corporator, Ketan Brahmbhatt, is a partner with him in the projects… (Indian express 3/5/15)

34. Minorities panel to probe harassment of Muslim inmates’ in Bijnor jail (7)

Lucknow: Taking cognizance of reports about alleged assault on some Muslim prisoners inside Bijnor district jail preventing them from offering Namaz, the Uttar Pradesh Minorities Commission has decided to send a fact finding team to the district. Meanwhile, district administration claimed that Furqan, who is lodged in jail on charges of helping six SIMI men who escaped after an explosion in Bijnor last year, is fabricating such allegations and there is no truth behind it. On the other hand, the Commission claims that it had sent a letter to the district administration seeking report into the allegations. “We had sent a letter to District Magistrate of Bijnor seeking details of the incident within a week, but there has been no response yet,” Shafi Azmi, member and spokesperson of the Commission, told The Indian Express. He said the Commission is sending a fact finding team to Bijnor next week for probing into the matter. The Commission took cognizance of reports in local newspapers carried last month, which alleged that several Muslim prisoners had informed their relatives who further conveyed to some local clerics that they were being harassed by the jail staff and some prisoners. They alleged that on April 9, there was an attempt to stop them from offering namaz. They also claimed that they face objectionable comments on their religion and go through physical assaults for being Muslims. The commission sent a letter to Bijnor DM seeking report over the alleged incident by April 20. “As no reply came, we called up Bijnor DM and apprised him about the matter. He assured us that the matter will be probed. Since then we are awaiting for a reply,” Azmi claimed. A group of local clerics also met the DM and alleged that when Muslim inmates offer namaz, the TV is switched on in full volume and they are harassed if they raise voice in this regard. “We got a primary inquiry conducted into the allegations and it appeared true so we sent the notice to the DM,” Azmi said. When inquired, Bijnor DM Bhupendra S Choudhary said, an inquiry has been conducted by the ADM (administration). He denied about the harassment to Muslim prisoners on religious grounds. “Only one particular prisoner has some problem, rest everything is normal,” he said. ADM (administration) Vinod Kumar, who conducted the inquiry, too, said that only one prisoner is spoiling the atmosphere. “Furqan, who is lodged in jail for allegedly providing shelter and logistic help to the SIMI men, spreads rumours like this to vitiate the atmosphere. Other prisoners are afraid of him. There is no tension in jail and no issue of stopping anyone from offering namaz,” he added. (Indian Express 5/5/15)

35. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut gets EC notice for his remarks on Muslims (7)

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Thursday issued a show-cause notice to Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut for his April 12 remark that Muslims should be stripped of voting rights. The poll panel said his comment, made in an editorial published in Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna, prima facie violated the model code of conduct in force then for the by-poll in Vandre East and Tasgaon Kavathe Mahankali assembly constituencies of Maharashtra. Raut has been asked to file his reply to the show-cause notice by 1 pm on May 11. According to the commission, his remark suggesting that Muslims should be disenfranchised prima facie violated sub para (1) of Para 1 of the poll code, which restrains party leaders and candidates from making communal appeals and statements that can create mutual hatred, and sub-para 4 of Para 1, which debars “corrupt practices” and offences under the election law. The EC notice cited Section 125 of the Representation of the People Act, which recognises promoting enmity between classes in connecting with an election as an electoral offence, as well as Section 153A of the IPC (creating communal hatred). The EC action follows a complaint filed by Shakeel Qureshi of Pune on April 16, in which he demanded that the recognition of Shiv Sena as a state party be cancelled. According to a report sent to the EC by the Maharashtra chief electoral officer on April 20, Raut, in the April 12 editorial, had said: “The day Muslims’ voting rights are taken away, the mask of all secularists will fall off. That will reveal (Asaduddin) Owaisi’s sensitivity towards Muslims destitution and Muslims themselves should take lead in this. This decision should not be political but a national decision”. (Times of India 8/5/14)

36. Gunmen on bikes attack bus in Karachi, kill 43 Shia Muslims (7)

KARACHI: Gunmen on motorcycles killed at least 43 people from minority Shia Ismaili community in an attack on a bus in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi on Wednesday, police officials said. “Six armed men on motorcycles opened fire on a bus at Safoora Chorangi, Gulistan-e-Johar area of Karachi, killing at least 43 passengers,” a police official said. Television channels carried pictures of a pink bus covered in bullet holes and lines of waiting ambulances. The death toll could further rise as about 20 others are seriously injured. The injured and dead were shifted to various hospitals by rescue workers. The gunmen stopped the overloaded bus, entered inside it and open fire indiscriminately, the police said. Taliban have claimed responsibility of the attack. Police and Rangers arrived at the scene and started manhunt. More than 60 people were on the board the bus which was carrying the people of Ismaili community from Al-Azhar Garden area of the city to their place of worship near Aysha Manzil, police said. Ismaili community is a branch of Shia Muslims and they are considered very peaceful people. The attack came a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Kabul and declared that enemies of Afghanistan are also enemies of Pakistan. Pakistan has seen a rise in sectarian violence in recent years particularly against minority Shias who represent around 20 per cent of the country’s Muslim population. Taliban splinter groups have bombed several mosques belonging to religious minorities this year. In March, suicide bombings outside two churches in Lahore killed 14 people and wounded nearly 80. Days later, a bomb after Friday prayers wounded 12 people outside a minority Bohra mosque in Karachi. In February, 20 people were killed in an attack on a Shia mosque in the northeastern city of Peshawar, and 60 were killed in a January attack on a Shia mosque in the southern province of Sindh. (Times of India 13/5/15)

37. Road signs with Muslim names defaced in Delhi, Hindu outfit owns responsibility (7)

New Delhi: Signages of roads named after Muslim personalities such as Emperor Akbar and Firozshah, among others, were found defaced late Wednesday. The names have been blackened and posters of right-wing group — Shiv Sena Hindustan — were pasted on them. The posters read, ‘Bharat mein Islamikaran manzoor nahi. Safar mein mushkilen aaye himmat aur badti hai. Koi agar raasta roke toh zaroorat aur bhardti hai. Jai Hind! Jai Bharat! (Islamisation will not be tolerated in India. Our courage only grows when our journey meets difficulties. Our need only grows when our path meets with obstacles)’. The names of Rajinder Singh (national president), Charan Singh (national general secretary), Dinesh Kumar (national secretary) and Vinay Sonkar (secretary) of Shiv Sena Hindu-stan were also on the poster. Outfit president Rajinder Singh said around 17 members, in three teams, carried out the “operation” between 11 pm and 1 am on the intervening night of May 13-14. Asked if the group feared any police action for the defacement, Rajinder said, “Let them file a complaint. If the law of the land finds us guilty, we are ready to face the punishment that violating the law entails. We have not caused any real damage. It was a symbolic protest. We had written to former PM Manmohan Singh a couple of times, protesting against the use of Muslim names for roads in a country called Hindustan. All Hindus look up to a leader like our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We are hopeful that he will pay some heed to our concerns.’ Sonkar said his organisation was a splinter group of the Shiv Sena. “We parted ways with the Shiv Sena because it was too limited to Maharashtra and its activities never ventured beyond the state. We have built our base in around 12 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi. Our Delhi unit has around 1,300 members and we often meet to carry out our nationalist agenda,” he said. “Senior leaders held a meeting on Wednesday and discussed several of our issues, including the plan to deface signages of roads named after Muslims. Our group members carried out the task. We have a problem with roads in the city not being named after our leaders like Subhash Chandra Bose and others who fought for Independence. The names of unpatriotic people adorn our pathways,” Sonkar said. The area falls under the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and the civic body has lodged a police complaint. “We have already filed a complaint and an FIR is being registered in the case. We are in the process of replacing the vandalised boards,”NDMC spokesperson Jagjiwan Bakshi said…. (Indian Express 15/5/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

38. Catholic Church never works for conversions: Syro Malabar Major Arch Bishop (7)

MANGALURU: The Catholic church never works for conversions. There are people who misunderstand the mission of Christians, especially of the Catholic church, said Cardinal Mar George Alenchery, the major archbishop of Syro Malabar Church. The major archbishop, who is on a pastoral visit to the diocese of Belthangady till May 5, said, “Conversion is a personal response of a person to God. Nobody can force or coerce a person. The church witnesses the charity of Christ and proclaims Christian values—truth, justice, love and harmony—to others. This attracts people. It is not something which we create, it is something they (people) request. “Evangelization is not converting people. Actually conversion is not a business of a pastor or missionary. Conversion happens in the mind of a person while listening to the word of God. Ghar Wapsi is too simple a reaction to a complex problem,” he added. The archbishop said his pastoral visit is to maintain a contact with the clergy, laity and an occasion to rejuvenate the energies of those engaged in the work of church. “A pastoral visit helps the bishop to evaluate the effectiveness of the structures and agencies designed for pastoral services, take account of the circumstances and difficulties and determine more accurately the priorities,” he said adding this was the 16th year of the establishment of Belthangady as a diocese. The archbishop visited St Alphonsa Forane Church, Kankanady, where he was met Mangalore diocese bishop Aloysius Paul D’Souza, bishop of Belthangady Mar Lawrence Mukkuzhy and vicar general Fr Joseph Valiaparambil among others. A religious harmony meet was also held on Bishop’s House Campus in Belthangady on Friday. Religious leaders Sri Kshetra Dharmastala dharmadhikari D Veerendra Heggade, Kukke Sri Narasimha Mutt seer Sri Vidyaprasanna Thirtha Swamiji, Maulana Abdul Aziz, Union minister for law and justice D V Sadananda Gowda, ministers B Ramanath Rai, Vinaykumar Sorake, U T Khader and MP Nalin Kumar Kateel were present. (Times of India 1/5/15)

39. 21-year-old held for attacking church (7)

Mumbai: A 21-year-old man has been arrested for allegedly punching and breaking a glass case containing a statue of Saint Anthony at the Saint Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church in Bhandup (west). The incident occurred in the early hours of Monday. The accused, Paulson Yauvan Nadar, was allegedly in a drunken stupor when he broke the glass case. The police has however, ruled out any communal angle as the accused is a Christian and is not affiliated to any political party. The police is now looking for the accused’s brother who was with him during the incident. According to the case registered with the Bhandup police, the incident took place at around 1 am when Paulson punched the glass enclosure that held a statue of the revered St. Anthony holding baby Jesus Christ. Though Paulson’s brother Dinkaram was present when the case was broken, police is yet to ascertain his involvement in the incident. The church is located in the Tembhipada area of Bhandup (west) and the two brothers are residents of the same area. The complainant in the case, P. Selvaraj, said while speaking to The Asian Age, “They broke it at around 1 am and some of our parish members heard some noise, but did not bother to check at the time. However, at around 2.30 am, they discovered the broken glass and we approached the police. The miscreants only know how to harm people and destroy public life.” Soon, a huge crowd of Catholics in the area reached Bhandup police station and demanded immediate action. “We initiated investigations and soon certain eyewitnesses told us about Paulson being seen in the area in a heavily inebriated state. We picked him up and found his hand was bloodied with several cuts and gashes on the knuckles and fingers. He appeared to be heavily drunk and it could have been the influence of alcohol that made him punch the glass case. We have arrested him and his brother is being sought,” said senior police inspector Pratap Chavan of the Bhandup police station. The police has registered a case under sections 336 (act endangering life or personal safety), 295 (defiling place of worship), 288 (negligent conduct with buildings) 506-2 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the IPC and relevant sections of the Maharashtra Police Act. (Asian Age 5/5/15)

40. Minority panel’s call (7)

KOCHI: The nearly 6.5-million Christians in the country had shown little interest in the welfare measures for the minorities envisaged in the Constitution and given shape by Parliament, member of the Kerala Minority Commission V.V. Joshi said here on Wednesday. He was cited in a press release from the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) as saying that the community should be alert to take advantage of the schemes meant for the uplift of the minorities. Mr. Joshi was addressing a meeting of the heads of Christian educational institutions at the Pastoral Orientation Centre, headquarters of the KCBC. (The Hindu 7/5/15)

41. Reporting only church attacks is half-truth: RSS (7)

NEW DELHI: Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh leader Krishna Gopal said on Saturday that reporting only attacks on churches in Delhi is a “half-truth” and amounts to lying and cheating the country. According to him, it also puts national prestige and honour in jeopardy. This is the first RSS reaction since the U.S. commission on inter-religious freedom released its report last week placing India amid more than 30 countries that meet a “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” standard for failing to protect religious freedoms. Mr. Gopal is a sahsarkaryavah — the number three position in the Sangh hierarchy — and the RSS official designated to liaise with the Bharatiya Janata Party and, effectively, the government. Flagging concern over “Hindu nationalist” groups for programmes of forced conversion, ghar wapsi (re-conversion to Hinduism), attacks on churches and “hate campaigns” against Muslim minorities, the U.S. commission retained India’s status as a “Tier 2 Country of concern” on religious freedom. Ghar wapsi is one of the Sangh’s key, professed goals. “The media creates a false impression on church attacks. Only four churches were attacked in Delhi. During the same period, 458 temples and 25 masjids were also targets. You cover half the truth and show the other half, it becomes a lie that amounts to cheating the country,” he said at a function to honour journalists. The reporting on church attacks exposed India to unfair international criticism and hurt it, he charged. Mr. Gopal in his address earlier said media sensationalised rapes. “You read the papers and it seems no woman is safe, there are rapes on every street. We all know women are targeted, but the percentage of rapes in the U.S. and Europe is much higher,” he said. (The Hindu 10/5/15)

42. 146-year-old Xavier’s College to get its first non-Jesuit principal (7)

MUMBAI: For the first time in its 146-year history, Mumbai’s iconic St Xavier’s College will be headed by a non-priest: Agnelo Menezes, a hugely popular economics professor at the institution. The college, founded in 1869, has always had a Jesuit priest as principal. The development comes close on the heels of another Jesuit institution in Mumbai, the 152-year-old St Stanislaus High School in Bandra, deciding to appoint for the first time, a non-Jesuit principal—school supervisor Anna Correa—as its head from the new academic year. For Menezes (58), it hasn’t quite sunk in that he’ll be taking charge in a fortnight. The son of a clerk who doubled as a carpenter at St Paul’s Church in Dadar, Menezes grew up in the chawls of Parel in central Mumbai. He worked his way out of poverty through a single-minded focus on his education. Menezes will take over from Fr Frazer Mascarenhas, who served as principal for 12 years and during his stint supported social activists Binayak Sen and Arun Ferreira, charged with Naxalism, chastised his student, Shiv Sena’s Aditya Thackeray, after the Sena’s youth wing burning copies of a book that critiqued the party and before the 2014 general elections wrote to his students cautioning them against voting for a model of development that he claimed privileged growth over social justice. It was during his tenure that Xavier’s became Mumbai’s first autonomous college for arts and science. Autonomy allowed the college freedom to design its own syllabus and method of evaluation. Menezes hopes to build on the legacy he’s set to inherit. He wants to introduce a greater research orientation to all course content. “I want to convert one exam paper in each subject into a research project,” he adds. Menezes, better known as Aggie to students, is sad that as principal, teaching will now take a backseat for him. “Social involvement is my passion. The canteen will remain central to my activities,” adds Menezes, known to hold forth on an array of subjects in the college canteen. Menezes was too shy to enter the canteen while in his first year as a student at St Xavier’s. He credits poet and writer Eunice de Souza, a former teacher at the college, for having helped him develop self-confidence as a student. After graduating from the college, he returned to the institution as a teacher. After five years, he took a break and joined the Jesuit order. However, he could not deal with the religious rigour it entailed and chose, instead, to return to teaching. He spent 19 years as an economics professor in Dr T K Tope Night College for underprivileged students. “Many of my students were first-generation learners. Teaching them economics helped me hone my skills in the subject,” says Menezes. When he returned to St Xavier’s eight years ago, little did he imagine that he would, one day, head the institution. (Times of India 14/5/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

43. Migrants return to Karimnagar (13)

KARIMNAGAR: A total of 133 persons belonging to 56 families of Budugu Jangala community belonging to various parts of Karimnagar district and who migrated to Nepal to eke out a living have returned back to their native villages on Thursday. All the migrants have arrived in Gorakhpur Express train at Ramagundam railway station. The revenue authorities received them at the station and provided them food. They also distributed Rs. 1,000 and 50 kilograms of rice to each family. The district administration had also provided transportation to all the persons to reach their villages safely. A record 99 persons were belonging from Ramakrishna colony of Thimmapur mandal. Remaining people hailed from Ramadugu, Karimangar, Manakondur and Huzurabad mandals. (The Hindu 1/5/15)

44. Number of South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia passes 200,000: UN (13)

New York: The number of South Sudanese refugees who have fled to Ethiopia since fighting broke out in South Sudan in mid-December 2013 has passed the 200,000 mark and more are expected amid fresh conflict across the border, the United Nations refugee agency reported on Friday. “We have to save lives. We are conducting registration of refugees with an increased number of staff at entry points,” said Alexander Kishara, who heads the activities of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Gambella, Ethiopia. “UNHCR is also working with partners to provide water, sanitation and shelter,” he added. Some 199,000 of the refugees are in western Ethiopia’s Gambella region while about 3,000 are in neighbouring Benishangul-Gumuz region. UNHCR field staff has observed a sharp increase in new South Sudanese arrivals from some 1,000 people a month in the first quarter of this year to more than 4,000 refugees registered in April. The UN refugee agency is currently registering more than 10,000 new arrivals at various entry points in the Gambella region. The new arrivals tell stories of “walking for several days through the bush with little or no food and water and carrying few or no belongings,” UNHCR has reported. The refugees are being relocated to the Pugnido Refugee Camp, which currently hosts nearly 60,000 South Sudanese refugees, and the Tierkidi Refugee Camp, which hosts about 50,000. These camps are being enlarged to cope with the new influx. The refugees are mainly women, children and older people. Most are fleeing from renewed fighting in Upper Nile and Jonglei states or as a precautionary measure. Some young men say they are fleeing from alleged forced conscription. A young mother told UNHCR that she fled her home when nine months pregnant and gave birth on the way. She crossed into Ethiopia with her family at the Pagak entry point, where more than 7,000 new arrivals are being registered before being transferred to camps. The arrivals since December 2013 add to a refugee population from southern Sudan of about 58,000, most of who have been staying in the country for more than 20 years. Ethiopia is Africa’s largest refugee-hosting nation with nearly 700,000 refugees from neighbouring countries, including South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. The new arrivals, who are being provided with high energy biscuits and relief items such as mattresses and plastic sheets for shelter, say more people are on their way to Ethiopia. UNHCR is working with Ethiopia’s Government and other partners to provide humanitarian assistance. (New Kerala 2/5/15)

45. 50 killed as mortar shells hit refugee camp in Yemen (13)

Aden (Yemen) : At least 50 people, mostly women and children, were killed and 100 others wounded when random mortar shells struck a refugee camp in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on Wednesday, a medical official and witnesses told Xinhua news agency. “Several mortar rounds and tank shells randomly struck a refugee camp in Tawahi district of Aden, while hundreds of people were gathering and preparing to escape from fierce battles by boats to other places,” the medical official of Aden’s health department said. According to the initial counts from local medical centres, 50 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in the incident. Witnesses near the scene confirmed to Xinhua by phone that “scores of civilians were either killed or wounded after being hit by random shells while they were trying to reach small boats to flee the fighting in Tawahi”.The fighting between the Shia Houthi group and tribal militia loyal to Yemen’s President Abdu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi escalated in Aden’s district of Tawahi, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes by boats to the Buraiga district in western Aden. So far, neither side has commented on the incident. Tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes due to fierce street battles between the two sides since late March. The pro-Hadi militia covered by warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition forces on Wednesday failed to repel an attack by the Houthi gunmen who stormed and took control of the densely populated Tawahi in Aden, where key government facilities and headquarters of the Fourth Regional Military Command are located, according to government officials based in Aden. Several sources in the area said tens of thousands of residents who fled their homes in Tawahi, Mu’alla and Crater had sought refuge in neighbouring areas as the fierce battles between the two warring rivals and Saudi-led airstrikes were heavily intensified during the past three days. A security source confirmed to Xinhua that the Houthi gunmen killed Major General Ali Nasser Hadi, the commander of the Fourth Regional Military Command that announced loyalty to Hadi, during armed confrontations near the main entrance of the Tawahi district in Aden early on Wednesday. Experts said that the Houthi gunmen backed by some army units gained ground during the fighting against the pro-Hadi militia. They said that the pro-Houthi forces advanced from several directions toward Tawahi after they seized several towns around the area, prompting the Saudi-led coalition forces to launch intensified airstrikes on Houthi-controlled buildings in the area on Wednesday afternoon. Information on the number of casualties and extent of damages caused by the Saudi-led airstrikes remains unclear. Yemen’s southern provinces have witnessed an escalation of battles since late March when deadly armed clashes erupted between Houthi gunmen and tribal militia linked to President Hadi who is currently taking refuge in Saudi Arabia after fleeing his presidential palace in Aden. The deadly fighting still flares over the control of the main port city of Aden and about five other southern provinces amid sharp shortages of basic needs such as food, drinking water, medicine and fuel supplies. (Business Standard 6/5/15)

46. 24 more Myanmar nationals held in Tripura (13)

Agartala: Twentyfour more Mayanmarese, including six women and 12 children, have been arrested for illegally entering Tripura, police said on Sunday. Two Indians, including a resident of Kashmir, were also arrested along with the foreigners. “Acting on a tip off, 24 Myanmareses were arrested from a house at Meleghar in western Tripura on Saturday,” police officer Ashok Kumar Sinha said. The house owner, Kurban Ali, and a Kashmiri youth, Amir Hossain, were arrested too. With the arrest, the total number of Myanmarese held in the state in the past two years has risen to 125. Most entered India looking for work. “They told police that they are recognised as refugees by the UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency),” the official said. The Myanmar nationals would be presented before a court on Monday and then it would be decided whether they should be pushed back to Bangladesh or jailed. The Myanmarese told police that following the ethnic violence in Mayanmar, they left the country four years ago and worked in Kashmir. They came to Tripura in search of jobs, Sinha added. More than 50,000 Myanmarese have been living in different parts of neighbouring Mizoram, which borders Myanmar and Bangladesh, and working at shops and factories after obtaining work permits. Since the mid-1990s, over 225,000 Myanmar nationals, mostly Rohingya Muslims, have been living in the Teknaf region in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam share an 1,880 km border with Bangladesh, while Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh share a 1,640 km unfenced border with Myanmar. (Business Standard 10/5/15)

47. Around 6,000 Rohingya, Bangladeshi migrants stranded at sea (13)

JAKARTA: Hundreds of migrants abandoned at sea by smugglers in Southeast Asia have reached land and relative safety in the past two days. But an estimated 6,000 Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar remain trapped in crowded, wooden boats, migrant officials and activists said. With food and clean water running low, some could be in grave danger. One vessel that reached Indonesian waters early Monday, was stopped by the Navy and given food, water and directions to Malaysia. Worried that boats will start washing to shore with dead bodies, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the United States and several other foreign governments and international organizations have held emergency meetings, but participants say there are no immediate plans to search for vessels in the busy Malacca Strait. One of the concerns is what to do with the Rohingya if a rescue is launched. The minority group is denied citizenship in Myanmar, and other countries have long worried that opening their doors to a few would result in an unstemmable flow of poor, uneducated migrants. “These are people in desperate straits,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch in Bangkok, calling on governments to band together to help those still stranded at sea, some for two months or longer. “Time is not on their side.”The Rohingya, who are Muslim, have for decades suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which considers them illegal settlers from Bangladesh even though their families have lived there for generations. Attacks on members of the religious minority, numbering at around 1.3 million, have in the past three years left up to 280 people dead and forced 140,000 others from their homes. They now live under apartheid-like conditions in crowded camps just outside the Rakhine state capital, Sittwe, where they have little access to school or adequate health care. The conditions at home _ and lack of job opportunities _ have sparked one of the biggest exoduses of boat people since the Vietnam War. Chris Lewa, director of the non-profit Arakan Project, which has been monitoring boat departures and arrivals for more than a decade, estimates more than 100,000 men, women and children have boarded ships since mid-2012. Most are trying to reach Malaysia, but recent regional crackdowns on human trafficking networks have sent brokers and agents into hiding, making it impossible for migrants to disembark _ in some cases even after family members have paid $2,000 or more for their release, she said. Lewa believes up to 7,000 Rohingya and Bangaldeshis are still on small and large boats in the Malacca Strait and nearby international waters. Tightly confined, and with limited access to food and clean water, their health is deteriorating, she said, adding that dozens of deaths have been reported. “I’m very concerned about smugglers abandoning boatloads at sea,” said Lewa. In the last two days, 1,600 Rohingya have washed to shore in two Southeast Asian countries… (Times of India 12/5/15)

48. 41 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees head back home(13)

TIRUCHI: Having spent several years in refugee camps in the State, a group of 41 Sri Lankan Tamils headed back home from Tiruchi on Wednesday upon getting clearance. The refugees, including 16 women and 13 children, arrived at the crack of dawn at the airport to board the Sri Lankan Airlines flight (UL-132) to Colombo after completion of immigration and Customs formalities. Some of them had landed in Tamil Nadu in the 1990s by boats after fleeing the island nation that was plagued by civil war during that period. The refugees, who left on Wednesday morning, had been staying in camps at Pudukottai, Sivaganga, Madurai, Dharmapuri, Karur, Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Tiruchi, Ramanathapuram and Salem districts, police sources said. The highest number of refugees was from Madurai district from where 12 of them returned. They were allowed to return home from the respective camps after it was found that no case was pending against them in the State, sources said. Prior to their departure, the refugees obtained written clearance from the State police in order to get temporary passports from the Sri Lankan High Commission and exit clearance certificates from the respective district administration authorities where the camps had been functioning. Some of the refugees had landed as early as in 1990 and few others in 1997 and 2007 in Tamil Nadu and were accommodated in refugee camps, the sources said. (The Hindu 14/5/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

49. Make Public Records of Polavaram Project: CIC (1)

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission has directed the Environment Ministry to place on its web site the records related to Rs 16,000-crore Polavaram dam project after the ministry told an RTI applicant that it was difficult to trace the documents as they were over a decade old. Suresh Kumar, an environment scientist, has sought from the Ministry the details of Impact Assessment of the controversial project in Andhra Pradesh but he was informed that the records being a decade old are difficult to be located. Kumar complained that the official web site of the Ministry does not have information as required by Section 4 (1)(b) of the RTI Act in the same manner as it was provided for other projects, prompting him to file the RTI plea. A Ministry official, however, countered the allegations saying while most of the information about the project has been provided on the web site, some documents need to be digitised and posted on the portal. He said delay in furnishing information was because of exigencies related to various projects, court cases before the Supreme Court, National Green Tribunal, and High Court besides Parliament related works. “The Commission agreed with the contentions of the appellant that the ‘failure to trace records’ would not exempt the public authority from their duty to provide the information sought,” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said in the first ever order also issued in Telugu.The Information Commissioner directed the Ministry to place all available information on Polavaram project on their official web site. “The Commission also directs the PIO to furnish copies of environmental clearance given at first instance, and also when the issue of environmental clearance was revisited for Indira Sagar Polavaram project in West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh, file notings and correspondences along with minutes of meetings…,” he said. The multi-purpose dam and irrigation project has been accorded national project status by the Centre. The project has attracted controversy after neighbouring states of Odisha and Chhattisgarh raised the issue of submerged land in their states. (New Indian Express 3/5/15)

50. Government rejects RTI query on Obama’s visit expenses (1)

Mumbai: The ministry of external affairs has rejected a Right To Information (RTI) query seeking details of the expenses incurred during US President Barack Obama’s three-day recent visit to India, an activist said here on Monday. The information was denied as “it could affect India’s international relations”, RTI activist Anil Galgali said. Galgali, Mumbai’s leading RTI activist, had sought the information from the MEA on the expenses for hosting President Obama and his large contingent last January, at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. MEA’s deputy chief protocol officer Rohit Rathish declined to provide the information, terming it as “confidential and sensitive” with a bearing on India’s future bilateral relations with other foreign countries. Rathish explained that every year, the Indian government hosts dignitaries and delegations from various foreign countries, but each visit is treated as unique. The type of delegations, reason for the visits, categorisation, organisation, how the visit is hosted, how many cities they visit and other details are different from each other, the reply explained. Under such conditions, the expenses incurred by the government on each such visit varies and giving out such sensitive information could adversely affect India’s bilateral relations with other countries. Reacting to the MEA’s denial, Galgali questioned the government’s motive behind not revealing the expenses on such VVIP visits. “The Modi government revels in claiming transparency in governance… But it is trying to conceal the huge expenses, raising the bogey of sensitivity and confidentiality. It is a matter of debate how revealing such information can hamper India’s foreign relations,” Galgali told IANS. He stressed on the need for the government to inform the people of the country on all such expenses incurred from public money, collected by way of taxes from the hard earned income of the masses. (Business Standard 4/5/15)

51. Govt nod to amendment in Whistleblowers Protection Act (1)

New Delhi: Government on Wednesday approved amendment in the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2011 to keep issues of national security out of its purview. The decision came on a day when Congress President Sonia Gandhi attacked the government in Lok Sabha for not notifying the bill despite it getting the President’s assent in May 2014. The amendment to the bill is being done with a view to incorporate necessary provisions aimed at strengthening safeguards against disclosures which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country, security of the state, etc. The amendments would address concerns relating to national security. “This would strengthen the safeguards against disclosures which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country, security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the state, relations with a foreign state or leads to incitement of an offence. “Safeguard has also been provided in respect of such disclosures which have been exempted under section 8(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005,” the government said in a release. After the Cabinet nod, government will move an amendment bill in Parliament during the Budget session itself. In order to give statutory protection to whistleblowers in the country, the Public Interest Disclosures and Protection to Persons making the Disclosures Bill, 2011 was introduced in the Lok Sabha in August, 2010. The bill was passed by Lok Sabha, in December 2011, as the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill, 2011. The Rajya Sabha had passed it on February 21 last year. It had received the assent of the President on May 9 the same year. During the last days of UPA rule, BJP had proposed certain amendments in the bill when it came up for consideration and passage in the Rajya Sabha. One was to bar whistleblowers from seeking information on national security. The UPA government had agreed to the amendment saying it was necessary… (Zee News  6/5/15)

52. NGOs protest in Delhi against ‘çoercive’ state action (1)

NEW DELHI: Seeking an end to “coercive action” against non government organisations and donors, a collective of close to 200 organisations on Friday said there was irrefutable documentary evidence that state action against select organisations had been arbitrary, non transparent and without any recourse for administrative redress. The NGOs were speaking on the recent “crackdown” by the ministry of home affairs on the organisations that had violated Foreign Controbution Regulation Act (FCRA) regulations. In a letter to PM Modi the NGOs including those working on issues of human rights violations, right to information and environment laws and others have sought a review of all orders placing restraint on them. “We are not against government demanding transparency and and accountability but are questioning the arbitrary manner in which the government is targeting NGOs who are raising issues that it is uncomfortable with,” Anjali Bharadwaj, from the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information said. “We are extremely uncomfortable to say the least about the messaging the government is putting about civil society organisations,” Enakshi Ganguly from the HAQ: Centre for Child Rights said. Wada Na Todo Abhiyan’s Paul Divakar said it was the organisations working for the most marginalised and excluded communities that was suffering from this “crackdown.” (Times of India 8/5/15)

53. Bill tabled to protect whistle blowers (1)

New Delhi: A bill to amend the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2011 to keep issues of national security out of its purview was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday. The introduction of the Whistleblowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015 came close on the heels of the Opposition attacking the government for not notifying the bill despite it getting the President’s assent in May 2014. The amendments to the bill are being carried out with a view to incorporate necessary provisions aimed at strengthening safeguards against disclosures which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country and security of the state. “This would strengthen the safeguards against disclosures which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country, security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the state, relations with a foreign state or leads to incitement of an offence. Safeguard has also been provided in respect of such disclosures which have been exempted under section 8(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005,” the government said. In order to give statutory protection to whistleblowers in the country, the Public Interest Disclosures and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosures Bill, 2011 was introduced in the Lok Sabha in August, 2010. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2011 as the Whistleblowers Protection Bill, 2011. The Rajya Sabha had passed it on February 21 last year. It had received the assent of the President on May 9 the same year. During the last days of UPA rule, BJP had proposed certain amendments in the bill when it came up for consideration and passage in the Rajya Sabha. One was to bar whistleblowers from seeking information on national security. The Whistleblowers’ Protection Act aims to provide a mechanism for protecting the identity of those who expose corruption. (Asian Age 12/5/15)

54.  ‘Strict enforcement of RTI Act ensures transparency’ (1)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Administration would be transparent only if the Right to Information Act was implemented strictly, State Information Commissioner Vijaya Babu said at a press conference here on Wednesday. There was a need to strengthen the RTI Act and the Anti-Corruption Bureau to eliminate corruption in all the welfare schemes and programmes the government was implementing, he said. The Information Commissioner informed that show cause notices were issued to Panchayati Raj and Labour departments while dealing with 33 cases from the north coastal districts and East Godavari.On a complaint filed by a pensioner Kuncha Gangatalli of Elamanchili that she had not received pension for the last eight months, the Commission ruled that she should be paid Rs. 8,000 within 48 hours. (The Hindu 14/5/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

55. Teaching crisis remains after $95 bn spend on basic education (11)

NEW DELHI: In February 2015, Maharashtra held its annual evaluation tests for teachers of government-run schools. Only one percent of more than 245,800 primary teachers who took the test passed. Upper-primary teachers did better, somewhat — 4.9 percent cleared the tests. This is the situation in a state where 99 per cent of children aged 6-14 years are, officially, enrolled in schools, and there are 25 teachers for each student, near the global average. “In the wake of teacher eligibility tests [introduced after the Right to Education Act, 2009] and the high proportion of candidates who fail to clear the examination, there are people who argue that subject knowledge is poor among our teachers,” wrote Vimala Ramachandran of the National University for Educational Planning and Administration. “They point out that it is the quality of teacher — her’s or his mastery over subjects, pedagogic skills and aptitude to teach — that is perhaps responsible for poor learning,” Ramachandran, whose organisation is an affiliate of the human resource development (HRD) ministry, wrote in the study. “Many of them argue that people enter the teaching profession as a last resort-when they have no other option.” Teaching as an option of last resort might explain a key problem in India’s education system. This apart, less than one in five teachers adequately trained. In an effort to boost the quality of teaching in government schools, the union government in 2011 launched a programme under the universal education programme, or Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, to support states and union territories for annual, in-service teacher training programmes. According to HRD Minister Smriti Irani, there are 4.5 lakh untrained elementary school teachers. The central programme has trained only 19.2 per cent of the teachers up to 2013-14. So much has improved, yet the quality has plunged. Despite spending Rs.586,085 crore (nearly $95 billion) over the last decade on primary education, India has been unable to arrest the decline in learning. The quality of teaching and teachers, millions of them untrained or under-trained, is now emerging as a key problem. A recent United Nations report showed that some basic indicators such as enrolment and access have improved. Over 12 years, India has reduced its out-of-school children (enrolment rate) by more than 90 per cent. Universal primary education has been achieved, 99 per cent of children (6-14 years) in school. India had a ratio of 35 pupils for every teacher in 2012, up from 40 in 2000 — the second highest in South Asia after Bhutan — but behind the global average of 24 pupils for every teacher. Despite these improvements, learning outcomes in India have fallen…. (Times of India 2/5/15)

56. MDMK begins campaign on Right To Education Act (11)

COIMBATORE: Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) cadre have begun a campaign in the district on the Right To Education Act. Led by Coimbatore district secretary V. Easwaran, the cadre are informing the public that this Act mandates all private schools to set aside 25 per cent of their total seats to students from socio-economically weak families. Further, even though the State government claims that 1.36 lakh students have been admitted under this Act, he said that this claim was dubious. He urged the parents to demand applications from private schools for admission under the Act. The schools must issue applications during May for LKG. Mr. Easwaran urged the public to make use of this Act and ensure that its provisions did not end up benefitting ineligible persons. (The Hindu 4/5/15)

57. Directive to not admit girls in co-educational schools (11)

GURGAON: A block-level education department in Haryana’s Hisar village has issued directions to school principals to ensure that girls were not admitted to a co-educational school when a separate school was available for them. The letter, issued a week ago, says that as per the norms of the education department when separate schools were available for girls and boys in a village then admissions should also be made accordingly. The letter was issued to two schools – Government Girls Middle School (Class 1-8) and Government High School Co-Educational (Class 1-10) – of Bhagana village on April 29. It also refers to a resolution adopted by the village panchayat in this regard and directed the principals concerned to take action as per the departmental norms and inform the office. When contacted, District Elementary Education Officer Baljit Sahrawat told The Hindu that the directions were issued due to some “misunderstanding” and the official concerned was directed to withdraw them. “As per the Right to Education Act, the boys and girls are free to study in the school of their choice. It seems some misunderstanding led to issuance of directions. The official has been directed to withdraw them,” said Mr. Sahrawat. Village sarpanch Rakesh Panghal denied that any such resolution was ever adopted by the panchayat. “I got to know about it through media reports. Our panchayat never adopted any such resolution. We have sought a meeting with the teachers of the two schools today [on Monday] to resolve the matter as it brings bad name to the whole village,” said Mr. Panghal. Sources, however, said that the teachers of the girls’ school were worried over dwindling number of students in the school and got the directions issued from the block-level office to stop the influx to the co-educational school. “Since the number of admissions to the girls’ school were fast dwindling, the teachers of this school got an applicaton signed by a few locals pleading that girls should not be allowed admission in the co-educational school in the same village. “The letter was then submitted to the BEEO who issued the directions,” said a source in the village. (The Hindu 6/5/14)

58. RTE Can be Kept Alive Only If Govt Intervenes (11)

Summer is the time school students do not worry about classroom and associated woes. But this vacation, the Union Government cannot take it easy as it has an onerous task of taking a re-look at the Right To Education (RTE) Act and sort out some issues that have cropped up with regard to its implementation. A letter shot to the prime minister, Narendra Modi, by Tamil Nadu chief minister, O Pannerselvam, pointed out that some  amendments made to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), which has deprived the state of `97.03 crore in terms of reimbursement, were in contravention of the provisions of RTE. If the prime minister did not intervene and change the SSA framework before June, the future of 1,36,593 students in private non-aided schools, who were admitted under RTE in the past two years, will be in jeopardy. Besides, with the private schools already raising a banner of protest over their not getting the reimbursement of the fees of the children admitted under RTE, there is a risk of the schools not letting in new students  from economically weaker homes and disadvantaged groups, thus defeating the very purpose of RTE. Even though the RTE was notified in Tamil Nadu in 2011, the enforcement started only in 2013-14 with not all schools abiding by the provisions in letter and spirit. So, now, if the schools that followed the rules have not been paid the fee by the government for two years, how could the schools so far playing truant could be motivated to come around?  Then, as the chief minister pointed out in his letter, it is absurd that the new SSA framework would allow reimbursement of fees only from class one to eight when private schools start admission from pre-kindergarten or kindergarten levels. Under the new framework, the state that made a claim for reimbursement of `71.57 crore has been told that it is eligible to get just `14 lakh. Every state must be facing these and more problems. And, unless the government wakes up before June, many poor children across the country could be out of school. (The Hindu 8/5/14)

59. Edu-friendly turf must to attract children to schools: Experts (11)

Raipur: With a high number of out-of-school children in Chhattisgarh, experts say the thrust should be given to establish an education-friendly environment and ensure basic facilities to attract children to educational institutes in the tribal-dominated state. “It is shocking that even after 67 years of Independence, more than 90,000 children in the state have never been enrolled in any school. The government and citizens should introspect on the issue,” Chhattisgarh’s RTE (Right to Education) Forum convener Gautam Bandopadhyay said. As per a national survey conducted by Social and Rural Research Institute in Delhi for the HRD Ministry on estimation of out-of-school children in the age group of 6-13 years countrywide in 2014, 1,67,072 children out of 44,59,796 were out of schools in Chhattisgarh. About 3.75 per cent children are out of schools in Chhattisgarh, which is higher than the national average of 2.97 per cent), according to the survey. The survey found that 94,317 children in 6-13 age group have never been enrolled in any school, which is 56.45 per cent of the total children out-of-school. Besides, 71,532 children dropped out from school and the maximum dropouts in this age group were after Class II, as per the survey. Earning compulsions, lack of interest, migration, socio-culture reasons, household work, lack of access, failure and non-flexibility in school timing are some of the major reasons cited by the survey for children not being in schools. “Government is running several schemes ranging from mid-day meal, free school uniforms, bicycles, books and many more in its efforts to make success its literacy mission. All these efforts would only yield concrete results if focus is concurrently given to make teachers skilled, particularly in government schools, along with providing basic amenities like drinking water and toilets,” Bandopadhyay said. However, there is also a need to generate awareness among masses so that they realise their duty to create an education-friendly environment for better future of their children, he said. Equally concerned over the findings, State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Chairperson Shatabdi Pandey said a state like Chhattisgarh, where a major chunk of population resides in rural areas, requires literacy programmes not only for children, but for the parents too. (Zee News 9/5/15)

60. Bombay High Court stays new government circular on RTE Act (11)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court has held that the government order of April 30, 2015, fixing the entry level in schools as class I for the 25 per cent quota under the RTE Act is not in the interest of justice and hence impugned the order and said that admissions conducted as per the earlier government circulars are to be followed. The court has further said that there was no question of cancelling the admission made based upon circulars issued earlier and admissions to institutions/schools based on earlier circulars are in no way affected. The division bench of Justice Anoop Mohata and K.R. Shriram was hearing the petition filed by Dr Vikhe Patil Foundation clubbed with petitions filed by other educational institutions regarding the action initiated by the government against them for not complying with the April 30 circular that fixed class I as entry level for admission to 25 per cent reserved quota under RTE Act. The petitioners prayed that though they had admitted students to nursery and junior KG as per the previous circulars they were being penalised for not admitting students to class I this year. The April 30 circular cancelled out the previous circular issued on January 29 based on which schools had admitted students to nursery and junior KG. Based on the revelation by the petitioners, the bench said, “taking overall view of matter and in view of the submissions made by the respective learned counsel appearing for the parties, we are inclined to observe that it is desirable that the State Government not to act further on the basis of this impugned circular dated 30.04.2015 till they file reply and the matter is heard further.” Following assurances by the additional government pleader that the prosecution of institutions would be stopped the court observed, “as admissions are over, it is directed that no further coercive steps be taken by the Government of Maharashtra based upon this impugned circular dated 30.04.2015, including the stated prosecution…. the State Government is directed to maintain status-quo as of today so far as the implementation of the impugned circular dated 30.04.2015 is concerned.” The court also clarified that the order passed by it would not affect the admissions based upon the earlier circulars. “In other words, the effect of this order is that the position/status that prevailed on 29.04.2015 shall prevail and the Government may also continue to act/take actions based on the circulars/policy that was in force and effect on 29.04.2015. There is no question to cancel the admission so made already based upon circulars issued earlier.” This means schools that cancelled admissions given last year will have to readmit the students. (Asian Age 14/5/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

61. Modi govt wants to scrap UPA-era poverty line, move to Aadhaar matrix (21)

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is set to scrap the UPA-era system of plotting a poverty line to separate the haves from the have-nots, replacing it with an Aadhaar-based mechanism of measurable deprivation indicators to design flexible welfare schemes for the poor, sources told HT.

A task force constituted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on poverty elimination and headed by vice-chairman of government policy think tank NITI Aayog is likely to recommend this soon, they added.

There was consensus in the 14-member task group, set up in March, that fixing a poverty line for the country and each state based on per capita expenditure has no bearing on policy and the government should scrap the exercise undertaken once in five years, the sources said. Setting a bar for poverty has always been a controversial exercise in India but successive governments continued to toe the line while estimating the number of India’s poor and deciding on social sector spending. The UPA government was ridiculed for stating that a poor person can survive on Rs 33 a day in urban areas and on Rs 27 in rural parts. Though the low poverty threshold helped the UPA assert that its policies helped 138 million people come out of destitution, it was forced to set up a committee under former RBI governor C Rangarajan to revise the computation formula. The NDA government did not agree with the Rangarajan panel’s methodology that fixed an expenditure of Rs 47 for urban areas and Rs 32 for rural parts to determine poverty, and it set up the task force to prepare a road map for poverty elimination. “Why do I want a poverty line…It does not help in policy formulation. It is an academic exercise which the institutions can continue to do,” said economist Bibek Debroy, a NITI Aayog member who is also part of the task force, terming this his personal view.Debroy added that poverty has different dimensions such as access to healthcare facilities, education, housing, etc, which cannot be gauged through one number for a country of 1.2 billion.Another member of the task force said a better approach was to have deprivation indicators for welfare services, such as electricity, health, education and home, which can eventually be linked to government social sector programmes.“This mechanism is easier to measure and will bring in accountability in public spending,” he added. With the new model, for instance, the government would be able to identify based on Aadhaar details of residents if Uttar Pradesh needs more pucca houses compared to other states and allocate funds accordingly as well as keep track of the expenditure.The task force is likely to say that the census for people below the poverty line, done once in 10 years, should create a database of poor people across India and the government’s decision to bring all its schemes under the Aadhaar-based direct benefit transfer programme will determine the impact of its poverty alleviation measures.“A majority of the beneficiaries of different government schemes now have bank accounts issued under Jan Dhan scheme and Aadhaar,” an official with the Unique Identification Authority of India said. By June this year, all beneficiaries will have both. Once that is done, a roadmap to eliminate poverty, as stated by the Prime Minister, could be finalised. That roadmap will be one of the key recommendations of the task force, which has met a few times and will submit its proposals to the government in June after NITI Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya returns from the United States. (Hindustan Times 3/5/15)

62. Two starvation deaths shake civil society’s conscience (21)

Tirunelveli: When Arumugam, a labourer from Anna Nagar in Alangulam, did not get regular employment, his wife, who was unable to run the family, left her husband and children Antony (27), a physically challenged youth, and Marial (25) a year ago to settle down in an undisclosed destination. Arumugam, with the little earnings he could make on being occasionally hired, continued to feed Antony and Marial at least once a day. Problem started for the family when Arumugam fell ill and died a month ago. Members of a church performed the last rites of Arumugam and gave some money, rice and vegetables to Antony and Marial, which were enough to feed the duo for a few days. After the provisions were exhausted, starvation came to haunt the disabled Antony and his sister, for whom drinking water was the only ‘food’ for several days. When extreme hunger took a toll in Antony’s health, Marial, with the help of neighbours, admitted him to Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital 10 days ago. “As free food is provided to inpatients at the TVMCH, Antony and his sister used to share the food,” says a nurse. When Antony failed to respond to treatment and breathed his last a week ago, Marial’s last hope was shattered. After the body was shifted to the mortuary, Marial confined herself to the visitors’ shed at the TVMCH, where she was lying without food for a week. Though starvation was not something new to the girl, extreme hunger killed her on Sunday night as she refused to drink even water. “A few doctors of the TVMCH agreed to perform the last rites of Antony and we’ve decided to do the same to Marial,” said a policeman attached to the TVMCH police station. (The Hindu 5/5/15)

63. Poverty inspired me to live for others, says Modi (21)

Washington: Recalling the days when he used to sell tea in a railway coach as a child, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says poverty in a way inspired him not to live for himself, but for others. An emotional Modi talks about his life’s influences in an exclusive interview with Time magazine for next week’s cover feature on “Why Modi Matters” with a picture of the prime minister in a light saffron kurta and white churidars. “The world needs India to step up as a global power,” Time says and asks: “One year in can Prime Minister Narendra Modi deliver?” Speaking mostly in Hindi, Modi talked about everything from his ambitions for India to the global war on terrorism to what personally moves him. Asked what influences him, Modi choked and teared up saying: “This touches my deepest core. I was born in a very poor family. I used to sell tea in a railway coach as a child. “My mother used to wash utensils and do lowly household work in the houses of others to earn a livelihood. I have seen poverty very closely. “I have lived in poverty. As a child, my entire childhood was steeped in poverty. For me, poverty, in a way, was the first inspiration of my life. I decided that I would not live for myself but would live for others,” he was quoted as saying. His biggest challenge on becoming the prime minister, Modi said, “was that I was new to the federal government structures. “Different departments tend to work in silos. Each department seems to (be) a government in itself. “My effort has been to break these silos down, (so that) everybody looks at a problem in a collective manner. I see the federal government not as an assembled entity but as an organic entity.” Asked whether he would like to have the kind of authoritarian power that China’s leader has, Modi said: “India is a democracy; it is in our DNA. “So if you were to ask me whether you need a dictatorship to run India, No, you do not. Whether you need a powerful person who believes in concentrating power, No, you do not,” he said. “If you were to ask me to choose between democratic values and wealth, power, prosperity and fame, I will very easily and without any doubt choose democratic values.” Asserting that his “government will not tolerate or accept any discrimination based on caste, creed and religion,” Modi told Time: “So far as the government is concerned, there is only one holy book, which is the constitution of India. “The unity and the integrity of the country are the topmost priorities,” he said. “All religions and all communities have the same rights, and it is my responsibility to ensure their complete and total protection. “My philosophy, the philosophy of my party and the philosophy of my government is ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’ – Together with all, progress for all.” (Business Standard 7/5/15)

64. India Needs to Focus on Production, Value Addition, Skill: PM (21)

BURNPUR: India would have to work for increasing production, value addition to mineral resources and developing the skills of youths to fight poverty in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today. “India needs to develop on all these three fronts, increased production, increased value addition to the nation’s mineral resources and developing the skills of the youths,” Modi said after the inauguration of modernised IISCO Steel Plant here. “We have iron-ores. We are exporting the mineral and then importing steel from China. Then where is the benefit of having iron-ores?” Modi said. He said if these issues were rightly addressed, the unemployed youths would get jobs and would help the country fight poverty. Commenting on the economic progress after his government came to power, Modi said even one year ago, the world perceived that India had sunk and that it would not revive. “But today, international agencies like the World Bank and IMF were saying that India was among the fastest growing nations in the world,” he said. (New Indian Express 10/5/15)

65. NITI Ayog to tackle poverty problems in NE India (21)

New Delhi: The newly constituted NITI Ayog will examine the nagging problem of poverty in the North Eastern region and submit its recommendations for its elimination next month, the Rajya Sabha Member from Meghalaya Ms Wansuk Syiem was told today. In reply to a question of Wansuk the Minister for Planning Mr Rao Inderjit Singh said that the NITI Ayog has already constituted a task force headed by its Deputy Chairman  in line with that of earlier Planning Commission to go into details of this tricky issue. It will submit the report on poverty along with ways and means of its elimination by middle of next month, he said. Rise of poverty in the Northeastern region despite grand claims by the Centre and the State Governments and the faulty way of determining the social malaise rose heckles in political circles here even leading to adjournments of the Parliament earlier. Then Planning Commission data had showed that poverty in the NE states of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland has increased during 2009-10 the period of the study. As per the report fixed  that  low national poverty line of Rs. 22.40 per day for an adult in rural areas and Rs. 28.65 per day for an adult in urban areas, in 2009-10 and anyone spending more that this is being categorized as non-poor. As per the report monthly per capita income of a Meghalayan is only Rs.686.9 in rural areas and Rs.989.8 in urban areas in 2009-10. More than four lakh persons in the hill state are below poverty line, it added. (The Shillong Times 12/5/15)

66. Supreme Court accepts panel guidelines to regulate government ads (21)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday accepted the recommendations of an expert panel to regulate government advertisements, particularly on the eve of elections. A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Pinaki Chandra Ghose said considering the fact that a large percentage of the population of this country were living in below poverty line, such a regulation on government expenditure was necessary. The panel in its report had said that “government advertisements shall not be used at patronising media houses or aimed at receiving favourable reporting for the party or person in power. Advertising campaigns to be related to government responsibilities; advertisement materials should be presented in an objective, fair and accessible manner and be designed to meet the objectives of the campaign and not directed at promoting political interests of ruling party; government advertising shall maintain political neutrality and avoid glorification of political personalities and projecting a positive impression of the party in power or a negative impression of parties critical of the government.” The panel said, “Advertisement materials must not mention the party in government by name; directly attack the views or actions of other in Opposition; include party political symbol or logo or flag; aim to influence public support for a political party, candidate for election; or refer or link to the websites of political parties or politicians.” These guidelines would apply to all the government advertisements other than classified advertisements and would apply to the content of all government advertising till a suitable legislation was enacted by the government. They were intended to prevent misuse of public funds on advertisements to gain political mileage as distinct from legitimate government messaging; would apply to all institutions of government; public sector undertakings; local bodies and other autonomous bodies/organisations established under a Statute. The panel said the issue of multiple advertisements by different departments and public sector undertakings should be avoided in commemorative advertisement and only one advertisement must be issued. As far as possible during the period prior to elections only those advertisements required by law (such as public health and safety advisories or job and contract advertisements alone should be released by government. (Asian Age 14/5/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

67. Aadhaar not mandatory for seeking job under MGNREGS, says Collector (14)

RAMANATHAPURAM: The district administration has clarified that Aadhaar card was not mandatory for the rural poor to seek employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). In a press release here on Thursday, Collector K. Nanthakumar has said a disinformation campaign was going on that Aadhaar card was mandatory to get 100 days guaranteed employment under the scheme and it was totally false. The process of linking Aadhaar card number with the bank accounts was going on but Aadhaar number was not necessary for getting employment under the scheme, the Collector clarified. The employees, however, should have bank account in one of the banks in their area as the weekly wages would be credited into their bank accounts, the Collector said. Those who seek employment under the scheme should apply to the local Panchayat president and obtain the employment card. They would be paid based on their day’s work and at the end of the week, the salary would be credited into the individual’s bank account, the Collector said adding the daily wage has been increased from Rs. 167 to Rs. 183. (The Hindu 1/5/15)

68. Workers demand their rights (14)

New Delhi: Domestic workers lead by National Union of Informal Workers staged a demonstration, demanding entitlement to minimum wages, outside the house of the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in Civil Lines on the occasion of Labour Day on Friday. Over 500 domestic workers gathered from different parts of Delhi and demonstrated outside the CM’s house demanding adequate wages, entitlement to holidays, maternity leave and disability insurance. The workers wanted to hand over a list of the demands to the Chief Minister, but he refused to meet them, said a member of National Union of Informal Workers (NUIW). After CM refused to meet the domestic workers, they intensified their protest and shouted slogans against him. “Why the so-called CM of aam admi refused to even meet them, let alone hear about their plight,” they said. “However, the list of demand was handed over to the officials present there,” said the member. “Later, it was decided that if the government does not pay heed to their demands and take necessary action, a protest of much larger scale will be staged to highlight the plight of informal sector,” he added. On the day, the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) has also written to the Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Delhi appealing them to take steps to stop the harassment faced by hawkers from police and municipal officials in the city. Arbind Singh, the co-ordinator of NASVI said there are many Supreme Court judgements in favour of street vendors but these are rarely implemented. The letter of NASVI mentions “The situation of street vendors in Delhi has been deteriorating drastically despite the enactment of Street Vendors Livelihood Protection Act 2014. However even after a year, not a single certificate of vending has been issued in the entire country,” said Singh. He added that the vendors toil hard to make a living still they face harassment. “They work for 14 to 16 hours but are treated like criminals. They are put behind bars on frivolous reasons. They are beaten up and their goods are seized and destroyed,” Singh said. “This inhuman treatment should be immediately stopped.” (Deccan Herald 2/5/15)

69. Cabinet Gives Approval to Pension, Insurance Schemes (14)

NEW DELHI: The union cabinet on Wednesday gave its approval to operationalising three social sector schemes – Atal Pension Yojna (APY), Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY) and the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY). The decisions, aimed at “creating a universal social security system for all Indians”, were taken at meeting of the cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Approval of the cabinet was given to extend funding support for implementing the APY and apprise the cabinet on operationalisation of the PMJJBY and the PMSBY. Approval was also given to provide Rs.50 crore per annum for the next 5 years as the government contribution for publicity related expenditure for PMJJBY and PMSBY,” an official release said. Under the APY, subscribers would receive a fixed minimum pension of Rs.1,000-5,000 per month at the age of 60 years, depending on their contributions, which itself would vary on their age of joining. The central government would also co-contribute 50 percent of the total contribution or Rs.1,000 per annum, whichever is lower, to each eligible subscriber account, for a period of five years – from 2015-16 to 2019-20 – to those who join the national pension scheme before December 31, 2015 and who are not members of any statutory social security scheme and are not income tax payers. The pension would also be available to the spouse on the death of the subscriber and thereafter, the pension corpus would be returned to the nominee. The minimum age of joining APY is 18 years and maximum age is 40 years. The benefit of fixed minimum pension would be guaranteed by the government. Under PMJJBY, annual life insurance of Rs.2 lakh would be available on the payment of a premium of Rs.330 per annum by the subscribers. The PMJJBY will be made available to people in the age group of 18 to 50 years having a bank account from where the premium would be collected through the facility of “auto-debit”.Under PMSBY, risk coverage will be Rs.2 lakh for accidental death and full disability and Rs.1 lakh for partial disability. The scheme will be available to people in the age group 18 to 70 years with a bank account, from where the premium would be collected through the facility of “auto-debit”.The release said government expenditure was expected to range between Rs.2,520 crore and Rs.10,000 crore on account of its co-contribution to subscribers of APY over a period of five years. An expenditure of Rs.2,000 crore for promotional activities for enrolment and contribution collection under APY and Rs.250 crore for publicity and awareness building for PMJJBY and PMSBY was envisaged by the government over five years. It is expected that around two crore subscribers would be enrolled during the current financial year under APY. The release said a large proportion of India’s population was without insurance of any kind. “Therefore, the government has decided to work towards creating a universal social security system for all Indians, specially the poor and the under-privileged, to address longevity risks among workers in the unorganised sector and to encourage workers in the unorganised sector to voluntarily save for their retirement,” it said. It said unorganised sector workers constitute 88 percent of the total labour force of 47.29 crore, according to the 66th Round of National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) Survey of 2011-12. (New Indian Express 6/5/14)

70. PM Narendra Modi launches 3 social security schemes (14)

Kolkata: After providing bank accounts to 15 crore unbanked people, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today launched three social security schemes, including a Re 1 per day insurance cover, and said that the poor need empowerment, not aid. Modi said Rs 15,800 crore has been deposited in the 15 crore Jan Dhan accounts opened in four months and the scheme to provide cooking gas subsidy directly into bank accounts of beneficiaries has helped stop pilferages and leakages worth hundreds of crores of rupees. “I told the poor, this nation, this government and our banks are for you… poor do not want ‘sahara’. We need to change how we think. The poor need ‘shakti’,” he said at the event, also attended by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PM Narendra Modi said 80-90 per cent people in the country neither have insurance cover nor any possibility of pension. PM Narendra Modi said 80-90 per cent people in the country neither have insurance cover nor any possibility of pension. (PTI) While the three schemes will come into force from June 1, the Prime Minister said that in the first seven days of the trail-run, banks have enrolled 5.05 crore people, including 42 lakh from West Bengal. The schemes — Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY), Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY) and Atal Pension Yojana (APY) — were simultaneously launched at 115 locations throughout the country. Stating that it is a misconception that large industrial houses provide more jobs, Modi said about 5.5 crore small and medium entrepreneurs provide employment to more than 14 crore people. “We can achieve whatever but if the fruits do not reach the poor, our development journey is incomplete… we are calling the world to make in India and at the same time we are opening bank accounts for the poor,” he said. The Prime Minister also urged people to pay small premiums towards insurance schemes for their domestic helps, drivers, and liftmen, among others…..  (The Financial Express 10/5/15)

71. Demand for more workdays, better pay (14)

KOCHI: Enhancing working days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) from the present 100 to 200 days and minimum wages to Rs. 350 was among the many demands that came up at a validation workshop on the scheme held at the collectorate on Tuesday. The workshop was organised by the district poverty alleviation unit in association with the State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD) in the wake of an evaluation report prepared on the implementation of the scheme in the district by M.G. University’s School of International Relations and Politics. N. Vinodini, Joint Programme Coordinator (JPC), MGNREGS, and project director, Poverty Alleviation Unit, emphasised on the need for JPCs with the sole responsibility of MGNREGS to do justice to the game changing scheme. She also pointed out the need to implement the scheme this financial year. Ms. Vinodini talked about the lack of interest shown by majority of grama panchayats towards the scheme and exhorted workers’ unions to educate workers about their many rights and facilities under the scheme. Umman John, faculty member, SIRD, said that grama panchayats defaulting on conducting social audit of the scheme should be taken to task. K.M. Seethi, director, School of International Relations and Politics, the study could have reflected the economic empowerment aspect if researchers had been given the mandate thereof. He said that conducting a survey with a sample size of 20 out of 84 panchayats had its own limitations. Officials engaged in the implementation of the scheme complained of the many hurdles in front of them from accessibility to problems faced by them on delayed payment to worker. A woman worker under the scheme lamented the difficulty in identifying enough works to provide job for 100 days. (The Hindu 13/5/15)

72. Changes in child labour law not ideal (14)

The Union Cabinet’s approval of proposed legislative amendments prohibiting the employment of children below the age of 14, but letting them work in family businesses and the entertainment sector as long as their schooling is not affected, seems unrealistic, if not morally unjustifiable. With one stroke of the pen the government wants to tackle both the amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012, and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, but in both these it has done hardly any service either to children or to their parents. It is well known that the working of the Right to Education exists mostly on paper, especially in remote villages and smaller cities and towns. While it is true that impoverished families send their little children to work as they have no choice as their own incomes are inadequate to feed every mouth, the government, which needs to tackle this impoverishment, is evading this responsibility despite all the talk of providing “achche din” to everybody. One can see the government trying to tackle this issue in a positive manner, but it is only legalising the exploitation of children by paying lip service to both these laws. As it says, it is trying to strike a balance between the realities of the socio-economic conditions of the families as well as the child’s right to education. But in doing so it is not really helping either the family or the children. How can a child who puts in several hours of school then go to work for another five to six hours? Forget about play, when does he study? Besides, who is going to ensure that the children are not exploited? Nowhere in the media reports is there any word about monitoring. No parent would send a child to work except out of necessity. So the solution lies in providing the parents with adequate jobs or providing them and the children skills. With skills they can be self-employed; this is the only way to save them from exploitation. It is also well known that despite all the labour laws, exploitation of workers is already rampant. One cannot even imagine the situation in areas for which there are no laws nor any monitoring. Fortunately the Cabinet decision has to go to Parliament where it is hoped that the parties come up with more enlightened solutions. There must be several solutions, but these cannot be expected from the bureaucracy. For this the legislators must be more imaginative and modern in their thinking. (Asian Age 15/5/15)

RESERVATION

73. Panel urges new criteria for SC/ST applicants in technical jobs (25)

NEW DELHI: The Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, in its latest report on action taken by the government, has recommended that eligibility criteria be amended to facilitate influx of meritorious SC/ST candidates in the scientific and technical field. The Committee’s report on action taken by the government on its recommendations in the 26th report was on Thursday laid in Parliament. It had in the earlier report on the review of representation of SCs and STs in senior government positions noted that even today the community is not considered qualified enough for scientific and technical posts. “The absence of reservation clause in the scientific and technical posts is just another tactic to rob them of their opportunity to get a foothold in the field of scientific and technical expertise,” the committee noted. In its reply, the government said only those scientific and technical posts which are required for conducting research or for organising, guiding and directing research and also fulfilling the certain stipulated requirements are exempt from the purview of reservation orders. However, the conditions do not apply to posts in the Department of Space and in the Department of Electronics and in regard to the recruitment of trainees at the training school under the Department of Atomic Energy. Commenting on the government’s reply, the Committee has said the absence of reservation in the scientific/technical posts and also posts meant for conducting or guiding research has rather deterred SC/ST candidates from venturing into these fields. Accordingly, it has suggested that the eligibility criteria need to be amended to encourage meritorious candidates. The Committee had also expressed dismay over the backlog in Group ‘A’ posts, to which the DoPT submitted that special recruitment drives had been launched to fill up the backlog. The overall success rate of the drive was 74.85 per cent. (The Hindu 1/5/15)

74. Housing plan: BPL out, caste census in (25)

New Delhi, May 3: The Centre plans to change the criteria for selecting the beneficiaries of its rural housing scheme for the poor, dropping the earlier poverty-list-based method for one that uses a points system based on the ongoing caste census. The government believes the proposed reform will achieve better targeting by including deserving families left out of the below-poverty-line (BPL) list, but critics feel it would leave a huge number of households tied on points in every village, spawning controversy. It’s the Union rural development ministry that has drafted the list of 10 proposed criteria, carrying 15 points in all, for the Indira Awaas Yojana. The ministry wants to build 25 lakh houses in 2015-16 under the scheme, with Bengal set the highest target of 4.32 lakh houses because of its high number of homeless and poor. However, the cabinet is expected to change the 75:25 ratio of central and state spending under the scheme to 50:50, which could make it more challenging for some states to meet their target. Till now, the states used to select the beneficiaries from their BPL lists, prepared after the last BPL census in 2002, which ruling parties found easy to manipulate because the lists were thin on specifics. In 2011, the BPL census was renamed as the Socio-Economic Caste Census, with the government deciding to collect caste data along with more wide-ranging and detailed economic data. The caste census, the first since 1931, was meant not just to enable necessary revisions to reservation lists and volumes but also to better target the welfare schemes. So, the caste census data would have replaced BPL data anyway – the government has decided it will be from this year for the rural housing scheme and has drafted the criteria. Sources said that although the re-verification of caste census data wasn’t yet complete across India, there was enough material to make the revised criteria a success. Rajeev Sadanandan, a joint secretary in the ministry, wrote to all the states last month seeking their comments on the draft criteria by April 30. The ministry is likely to finalise the criteria in May so that the states can identify the beneficiaries by June. There has been a general feeling that the BPL data had outlasted their utility. For instance, the Yojana guidelines say at least 60 per cent of the houses must go to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and 15 per cent to minority groups. But many states have complained that the 60 per cent quota was no longer feasible because virtually all their BPL Dalit and tribal families had already been covered…. (The  Telegraph 4/5/15)

75. MPs, MLAs fall in OBC ‘creamy layer’, panel says (25)

NEW DELHI: Children of past and present members of Parliament and state legislators should not be eligible for OBC reservations, the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) has recommended. The OBC panel has argued that election to “high offices” like Parliament and state legislatures shows that the said individuals have achieved “social elevation” and “should logically come within the category of creamy layer”. The unambiguous verdict comes in response to an outpouring of complaints that children of elected representatives are getting “non-creamy layer” certificates. The panel has also recommended that wards of a ‘Class I’ officers in state government or Centre should be excluded from reservation benefits, irrespective of the officer being a “direct recruit” or a “promotee”. Presently, only the “direct recruits” are considered part of the “creamy layer”. “Any Class I officer achieves a higher social status the moment he becomes a Class I officer whether by direct recruitment or through promotion. Promotee Class I officer draws much more salary than the direct recruit,” the NCBC has argued. While legislators in popular understanding constitute advanced sections of backward communities, the schedule of “creamy layer” for Mandal quotas does not mention them under the category of “constitutional posts”. In the absence of a specific mention of “elected offices” in “creamy layer” schedule, experts say ‘salary criterion’ determines if the child of an MP/MLA deserves reservation benefits. As part of revision of “creamy layer” undertaken every three years, the Commission has proposed a new draft in a letter to the ministry of social justice. It has also recommended, as reported by TOI, that annual salary for exclusion from quota benefits should be raised from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 10.50 lakh. The proposal poses a tricky question for the Centre unless elected representatives voluntarily give up claim on 27% quotas in job and education. While NCBC’s advice is not binding on government, the reality appears a bit different after the Supreme Court recently struck down the inclusion of Jats in the OBC list. One of the reasons cited was that the Centre had ignored the advice of the panel. (Times of India 6/5/14)

76.  “Implement BC panel recommendations” (25)

CHENNAI: DMK leader M. Karunanidhi on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to implement the recommendations of the National Commission for Backward Classes for increasing the “creamy layer” criterion for OBCs from the present annual salary of Rs. 6 lakh to Rs. 10.50 lakh. In a statement here, he said while the DMK was for dispensing with the creamy layer, it wanted implementation of the recommendations of the commission as it alone would ensure the benefits of reservation for the OBCs. “The recommendation will pave way for crores of OBCs to get employment opportunities and education,” he said. (The Hindu 7/5/15)

77. Bainsla begins ‘Nyay Yatra’ for SBC quota (25)

JAIPUR: Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla on Monday launched a ‘Nyay Yatra’ (journey for justice) with a revised demand to have an increased quota for the Specially Backward Classes (SBC) within the overall reservation limit of 50%. Bainsla and his supporters started the Yatra from Peepalkheda-Patoli, the place of first major Gujjar agitation for reservation in May 2007, and travelled through Abhaneri and Sikandra in Dausa district to reach Kaimri in Karauli district for a night halt on day one. The Kaimri region’s dominant Khatana Gujjars, who had moved away from Bainsla’s leadership in 2008, returned to his camp on Monday. The Yatra would conclude at Pilukapura, the place of Gujjars agitations in 2008, 2009 and 2010, on May 21. “If, by May 21, the state government fails to take concrete steps to bring in a new bill to give us (increased) reservation within the 50% limit, we will once again embark on the path of agitation and the government will be responsible for the consequences,” Himmat Singh said quoting Bainsla. Singh is spokesperson of the Bainsla-led Rajasthan Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti that organised widespread quota agitations in May 2007 and May 2008 when 72 people were killed in police firing and almost the entire eastern Rajasthan remained paralysed for months as Gujjars sat on the railway tracks and the national highways blocking the passage of traffic. “The BJP election manifestos of 2013 and 2014 promised a resolution of our demand but the Vasundhara Raje-government has been fooling us for a year now,” Singh said, accusing the state government of double-speak. “Minister Rajendra Rathore promised us during the Katara-Ajij agitation to get the Attorney General to argue our case before the Rajasthan high court, but nothing happened for a year,” he said. Singh highlighted, “As the Jat reservation got stuck recently, the Raje-government not only brought the AG (Mukul Rohatgi) from Delhi in a charter plane to appear before the high court here, but also made a strong statement through him that granting reservation was the government’s exclusive domain.” He emphasized, “The government never showed such resoluteness for the SBC reservation and always expressed its helplessness in granting us our right citing legal hurdles. It shows the government’s double-speak for different communities.” The Nyay Yatra was started to mobilize the Gujjar community in the light of the Supreme Court judgment to strike down Jat reservation in eight states, including Rajasthan’s Bharatpur and Dholpur districts. The non-Jat communities within the Other Backward Classes (OBC), too, recently held demonstrations to demand exclusion of Jats from the OBC category for entire Rajasthan. (Times of India 12/5/15)

78. Challenge to court’s quota repeal (25)

Patna, May 13: An appeal was filed in the high court on Wednesday, challenging its May 4 order quashing the government’s decision to provide reservation benefits to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in promotions. One Narendra Kumar, the general secretary of SC/ST organisation, had filed a letter patents appeal (LPA) in the court. He has challenged the high court’s earlier order, setting aside reservation in promotions. An LPA is an appeal from a decision of a single judge to a division bench of the same court. The government had issued a notification in August 2012, ensuring reservation in promotion for SC/ST employees in government services. The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting presided over by chief minister Nitish Kumar. The single bench of Justice Vijayendra Nath on May 4 quashed the decision. The court stated that the government did not take into consideration the overall backwardness of the castes. The appeal filed by Narendra stated that the judgment delivered by the single bench was based on misinterpretation of M. Nagaraj vs Union of India (October 2006) case. In the M. Nagaraj case, the Supreme Court had held that there should be only three criteria before deciding reservation in promotions – backwardness, inadequate representation and overall efficiency. Upholding a petition filed by an aggrieved general category employee, Sushil Kumar Singh, and others challenging the reservation in promotions, the high court on May 4 said the state had failed to contemplate on the impact of the reservation policy in promotion on the overall administrative efficiency. The petitioner’s lawyer, Dinu Kumar, said Bihar has quantifiable data, which is sufficient for satisfying the requirement as laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of M. Nagaraj that speaks of the three criteria. He added: “The government, while providing reservation in promotion to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, had clearly stated that both castes have less than 16 per cent and 1 per cent representation, respectively, in government services. Providing reservation to them had not violated the Reservation Act as the 50 per cent ceiling limit has not been crossed.” The appeal, expected to be heard next week, further stated that in the case of Rohtas Bhankhar vs Union of India last year, the apex court had ruled that there should be only two compelling reasons for providing reservation in promotions – backwardness and inadequate representation. So far overall efficiency was concerned, the court has held that the government has domain to relax the criteria of efficiency or merit with respect to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The appeal challenged the single bench ruling that reservation benefits to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in promotions in government services was done without any sufficient data and conducting proper survey. It also challenged the high court’s consideration of the creamy layer, as the appeal filed said in both cases of Ashok Kumar Thakur and Indra Sawhney, the Supreme Court had held that the concept of creamy layer will not apply to the case of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. (The Telegraph 14/5/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

79. US seeks clarification from India on suspension of licences of NGOs (1)

Washington: The US is seeking clarification from India on suspension of licences of several thousands non-governmental organisations (NGO), a State Department spokesperson said. “We know the reports that the Ministry of Home Affairs suspended the licences of several thousand NGOs. I don’t know if we have a precise number,” the State Department Acting Spokesperson, Marie Harf, told reporters at her daily news conference. “We are seeking a clarification on this issue with the appropriate Indian authorities. I don’t have any response to that yet,” she said when asked about news reports that the Indian government has suspended licences of several thousand NGOs. The Indian government had on Tuesday decided to scrap licences of more than 9,000 NGOs for allegedly violating Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), accusing it of being “revengeful” and targeting selectively. (Zee News 1/5/15)

80. SHRC helps four get due benefits (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The intervention of the State Human Rights Commission has helped four persons receive the benefits due to them from the government, which were being withheld because of various administrative hurdles, an official release said here. Lalithakumari, the widow of a dairy farmer and a BPL card holder, was allowed Rs. 10,560 by the government under the Ksheera Suraksha scheme following SHRC’s intervention. Though she had applied for the said benefit in April 2012, the Dairy Development department had not released the money saying that the number of applications for the said benefit had exceeded the limit. Kunnathukaal native, K. Gopi, who sustained serious injuries after falling from a tree, had been denied the aid which was due to him from the Chief Minister’s relief fund after the Revenue department claimed that they had not received the District Collector’s report on the same. Following an order passed by the SHRC, the Revenue Secretary informed the Commission that the complainant had been allowed Rs. 1,20,000. The SHRC directed that the amount be given to the complainant within a week. K. Indira of Pattoor’s complaint before SHRC was regarding the pension that was due to her from 2006. She had retired in 2006 as sweeper in the SC/ST Development Cooperative Federation. She was denied pension as the Federation had not remitted the amount on time to the Cooperative pension fund. Following SHRC’s directive, the Federation paid the appropriate amount into the pension fund so that the complainant may receive pension henceforth. Mercy Verghese of Thiruvalla, who used to receive her Air Force family pension from Syndicate Bank in Thiruvalla, had approached SHRC as she stopped receiving the pension after she shifted residence to Thiruvananthapuram in July 2014. After SHRC intervened, the Defence Pension Disbursing Officer informed the Commission that the pension amount of Rs.1,04,069, due from 2014 August to February 2015, had been issued through Kowdiar SBT. (The Hindu 4/5/15)

81. Crackdown on non-governmental organisations worries U.S. (1)

NEW DELHI: Accusing the government’s actions to regulate non-governmental organisations including the Ford Foundation and Greenpeace International of having a “chilling effect” on civil society, U.S. ambassador to India Richard Verma, said that India and the U.S. must find an understanding over the issue. “I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by NGOs operating in India,” Mr. Verma told an audience at the Delhi-based think-tank Ananta Aspen Centre. “Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our [Indian and U.S.) democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs.” Mr. Verma’s remarks were from a prepared text, but he repeated them in a question and answer session that followed, adding that India and the U.S. cannot avoid “hard questions” because of “political expediency.” This is the fourth time the U.S. government is taking up the issue of strictures against NGOs in the past weeks, ever since the Ministry of Home Affairs froze accounts of Greenpeace and directed Ford Foundation to submit all its funding for MHA clearance.  In April, the U.S. State Department had criticised the decisions against the NGOs in a public statement, saying that it “was seeking clarifications from the government” over the actions against Ford foundation and Greenpeace. Last week Mr. Verma had met his counterpart in the Ministry of External Affairs to express his concern, and subsequently visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman raised the issue with Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar during her meetings with him in Delhi. Mr. Verma’s remarks on Wednesday, once again expressing “deep concern” indicate that the U.S. is not satisfied with the answers to the clarifications it had sought. In his speech, Mr. Verma also seemed to defend the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is reportedly under the government’s scanner for funding a health NGO, in India. An MHA spokesperson denied the latest reports of action against the Gates Foundation on Wednesday, but this isn’t the first time such reports have appeared. Speaking at the event, Mr. Verma praised the Gates Foundation’s project in India to promote the ‘rotavirus vaccine’ that prevents diarrhoea amongst children as a “model of research collaboration.” The Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on Mr. Verma’s remarks on action against NGOs, whose views the government might found “objectionable.” Last week, it issued a stern statement rejecting another body, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2015 report that had been particularly critical of India’s record on protecting minorities in the past year. (The Hindu 7/5/15)

82. NGOs urge PM Modi to end ‘arbitrary, selective intimidation’ (1)

NEW DELHI: Seeking an end to “coercive action” against non-government organizations, a collective of close to 200 NGOs on Friday slammed the government for “arbitrary, non-transparent and selective intimidation”. In an open letter to PM Narendra Modi, they demanded urgent revocation of punitive actions against NGOs, saying grounds of such measures were “vague, subjective or flimsy” and sought dialogue between the NGO sector and government to address the issues. The move comes following a crackdown on nearly 9,000 NGOs whose licences have been suspended for violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). “We are not against government demanding transparency and accountability but are questioning the arbitrary manner in which the government is targeting NGOs who are raising issues that it is uncomfortable with,” Anjali Bharadwaj from the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information said. “We are extremely uncomfortable to say the least about the messaging the government is putting about civil society organizations,” Enakshi Ganguly from HAQ: Centre for Child Rights said. Wada Na Todo Abhiyan’s Paul Divakar said it was organizations working for the most marginalized and excluded communities that were suffering from this “crackdown”. “Put an end to coercive actions against NGOs and donors, without reasonable cause or due process, or seek to cripple the ability of these organizations to carry on their legitimate and sanctioned work,” they said in the letter which was released at a press briefing. The US-based Ford Foundation has also been put on the ‘watch list’ by the home ministry, which directed that funds coming from the international donor should not be released by any bank to any Indian NGO without mandatory permission from it. The government had also barred Greenpeace India from receiving foreign funds with immediate effect. Accusing the government of adopting “double-standards” in acting against NGOs, the civil society groups particularly questioned regulatory measures against INSAF, Peoples Watch, Sabrang Trust, Greenpeace India, Ford Foundation among others. “Funds are being frozen, intelligence reports are being selectively released to paint NGOs in poor light, disbursal of funds are being subjected to case-by-case clearance, and their activities are reportedly being placed on ‘watch lists’. As a result, several NGO projects have shut down, donors are unable to support work, and there is an overall atmosphere of state coercion and intimidation in India’s civil society space,” they said. Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai questioned why the government was not trying to regulate foreign funding of corporate houses. “Why are they asking transparency only from NGOs? Corporates can bring as much foreign money as they want through a private limited company. We want regulations for government, corporates and everybody in this country,” Pillai said. (Times of India 9/5/15)

83. Terror case acquittals NHRC issues notice to 5 states (1)

New Delhi: Taking suo motu cognizance of The Indian Express report, the National Human Rights Commission acting chairperson Justice Cyriac Joseph on Wednesday issued notices to five state governments — Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi — calling for a detailed factual report in the cases pertaining to Maulana Naseeruddin and his family in Hyderabad. On May 4, The Indian Express had reported how Naseeruddin and his three sons were arrested and acquitted in the last ten years. “The facts that emerged from the news report are indeed disturbing and compel the commission to take suo motu cognizance,’’ Justice Joseph observed. “If there is any element of truth in the insinuations made against the police machinery, it is a shocking and sorry state of affairs and would amount to gross violation of human rights of the victims which cannot be overlooked,” he said. It was Justice Joseph’s first day as the acting chairperson of the NHRC. Naseeruddin was acquitted and released after spending five years in a Gujarat jail, and his sons Maqeemuddin Yasir and Baleeguddin Jabir were acquitted and released after spending over three years in a jail in Madhya Pradesh. However, his youngest son, Raziyuddin Nasir, who was among the 17 suspected SIMI members acquitted by a Hubli court recently, is still in Sabarmati jail, where he is facing charges for his alleged involvement in the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts case. (Indian Express 14/5/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

84. Bill to deal with plaints against judges deferred (19)

NEW DELHI: The government has deferred the Judicial Standards and Accountability bill that seeks to deal with complaints against judges. Law minister Sadananda Gowda said the proposal which seeks to change the present system of probing complaints of misbehaviour and incapacity against Supreme Court and high court judges needs “further consultation”. “The matter requires further consultation with various stakeholders,” Gowda said in a written reply in Lok Sabha on Thursday. The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill was moved by the erstwhile UPA government and passed by Lok Sabha in March 2012 but lapsed after the dissolution of 15th Lok Sabha. The bill was amended in Rajya Sabha following protests by the judiciary and jurists who had questioned some of its provisions. The lapsed bill provided for a comprehensive mechanism for handling complaints made by citizens on grounds of alleged misbehaviour and incapacity against judges of apex court and HCs. It also provided for a mechanism to take action against those found guilty after investigation and laid down judicial standards and made it incumbent on the judges to declare their assets and liabilities. At present all complaints against judges are dealt as per the ‘in-house mechanism’. According to the present mechanism, the Chief Justice of India is competent to receive complaints against the conduct of the judges of the apex court. Similar powers are vested with chief justices of high courts. (Times of India 1/5/15)

85. High courts not listening to us, why will people? Supreme Court rues (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court is a worried institution today as it finds much to its dismay that its writ does not run over some of the high courts. “We do not know whether an ordinary citizen would think of complying with the orders and directions issued by this court,” said the court in an anguished and worried tone. It was reacting after being pointed out that the Karnataka high court was dragging its feet over recruitment of judges even after SC directions to all high courts and states to quickly fill up over 2,000 vacancies to clear a monstrous backlog of nearly 3 crore cases in lower courts in the country. A livid SC bench, headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu, minced no words in criticizing the HC’s approach towards its orders. “In our view, the attitude of the HC appears to be contrary to what has been said by this court. We do not approve of the snail’s pace at which the HC has acted in filling up the vacancies in so far as the district judges (direct recruitment) are concerned,” it said. “If the high courts do not comply with the request made by this court by a judicial order, we do not know whether an ordinary citizen would think of complying with the orders and directions issued by this court,” the bench said in its April 28 order. It then issued a stern warning: “We hope and expect the HC to seriously consider the observations made by this court and comply with the same as early as possible. If needed, the HC should not hesitate to change the registrar general and bring in a registrar general who can really help and assist the HC in complying with the orders issued by the Supreme Court from time to time.” The amicus and advocate Sneha Kalita informed the SC that the state governments have not complied with its November 13, 2014 order directing them to consider and pass appropriate orders for reservation in the cadre of civil judges (junior division).The bench of Justices Dattu and Arun Mishra said: “This, in our opinion, is nothing but a deliberate and willful disobedience of the orders and directions issued by this court. If we do not get an appropriate reply/affidavit from the state governments, we will not hesitate to initiate appropriate contempt proceedings against the officers/authorities concerned.” The Supreme Court reacted with anger after amicus curiae and senior advocate Vijay Hansaria informed the bench that Karnataka HC had issued an advertisement to fill 17 vacancies of district judges on November 17, 2012. The examination was held two years later on December 11, 2014 and evaluation was completed on January 3 this year. The HC selected only five candidates but has not yet written to the government, more than two and half years after issuing the advertisement, for appointing them as judges. (Times of India 3/5/15)

86. PIL in High Court against Delhi govt ‘glorifying suicide’ (19)

New Delhi: The decision of the Delhi government to launch a farmers’ compensation scheme named after Gajendra Singh, who died during a recent AAP rally, has been challenged in a PIL filed before the Delhi High Court. The PIL, which is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday, alleges that the action of the AAP government to label Gajendra Singh as a “martyr” and name the compensation scheme after him amounted to abetment of suicide. “After the suicide of Gajendra Singh Kalyanwat, the government of NCT of Delhi has decided not only to declared him a ‘martyr’ but also launch a farmers’ compensation scheme after his name apart from promising a government job to one of his kin on compassionate ground. This act of respondent no. 1 (Delhi government) is nothing but an effort to glorify, justify, praise, support and consecrate the act of suicide; attempt thereof itself is an offence under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860,” the PIL said. The plea — filed through advocate Avadh Kaushik — further said, “Thus, nobody, let alone the Delhi government, can support and glorify such an act of cowardice. ” (Indian Express 6/5/15)

87. AIBA wants presidential reference in NJAC case (19)

CHENNAI: Appointment of at least 125 judges for various high courts is hanging fire due to a constitutional vacuum created by the abolition of the erstwhile collegium system and the delay in the creation of National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), All India Bar Association (AIBA) has complained to President Pranab Mukherjee. In a representation to the President, AIBA chairman and senior advocate Adish C Aggarwala the President’s intervention to ensure that the ongoing hearing of the NJAC case before the Supreme Court has referred to a 11-judge bench for a comprehensive settlement of the raging debate. Drawing the President’s attention to the ongoing proceedings, Aggarwala said that during hearing the Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi had made a fervent plea for reconsidering the 1993 and 1998 judgments pronounced by the apex court which paved the way for collegium system of appointments. The AG has requested the bench to refer the matter to a larger bench of 11 judges so that the issue could be settled once and for all. The Bench is yet to take a final decision on the issue. Aggarwala said: “With the notification of the NJAC, the collegiums system is no more in existence. The government has already stopped consideration of over 125 names recommended by various high courts for appointment of judges. Further, some additional judges initially appointed for a period of two years are to be confirmed as permanent judges shortly. The present judicial stalemate does not augur well for the country.” The AIBA strongly feels that vesting absolute power on the chief justice of India and the collegium in the matter of appointments for all times to come needs reconsideration to restore the equilibrium in the Constitution…. (Times of India 19/5/15)

88. Wealthy women not entitled to maintenance in divorce cases: Bombay HC (19)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court has ruled that a woman is not entitled to claim maintenance in divorce cases if she is wealthy herself and is able to maintain her lifestyle despite the estrangement. The recent judgment was awarded by a division bench comprising justice AK Menon and justice AS Oka, while rejecting an application filed by a resident of Nariman Point, seeking enhancement of the alimony granted to her by a family court. The 47-year-old woman and her husband, both residents of south Mumbai, were granted a divorce by the Bandra family court in 2002, after nine years of marriage. The court directed the husband to pay a monthly alimony of Rs 25,000 to the woman, and another Rs 25,000 each month towards the expenses of their daughter. The woman, however, approached the Bombay high court, seeking that her alimony be enhanced to at least Rs 75,000 per month, considering her ex-husband was “extremely wealthy.” However, in course of court proceedings, it was revealed that the woman herself was the managing director of businesses in Singapore, and enjoyed a stable income. It was also revealed she lived in her parents’ flat at Nariman Point and possessed several assets. The high court ruled that even after her divorce, there was no visible change in the woman’s lifestyle and she “continued to go on regular holidays abroad.” The division bench said this made her “ineligible for seeking any alimony, let alone an enhancement.” However, the bench decided not to interfere with the family court’s decision of awarding her the alimony of Rs25,000 each month. “The woman is self-sufficient, wealthy and financially independent. She had deliberately suppressed her assets and income from her businesses…keeping her financial status in mind, we do not find there is any ground for her to seek an enhancement,” the bench said, while directing the husband to ensure he continues to share the education expenses of their daughter. (Hindustan Times 12/5/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

89. Abuse under AFSPA should not be tolerated: ATSUM (1)

Kangpokpi, May 02 2015 : The All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) slammed the 25 Assam Rifles personnel who allegedly harassed a Custom Officer under the command of Major Vinod on April 27 morning and termed the incident as ‘another Dark Chapter’ for the men in uniform in Manipur. ATSUM alleged that Major Vinod and his personnel intentionally abused and harassed Gaikhonlung Panmei, IRS, Assistant Commissioner of Customs, Department of Revenue who was on official duty at a check post manned by the AR at Thonglang Akutpa along Imphal-Tamenglong road despite the Customs officer showed his official identity card and name plate on his vehicle at around 10 am on April 27 . ATSUM’s Rights and Reservation Secretary, Simthar Jajo alleged that the IRS officer on official duty was travelling in an official vehicle with flag post and name plate. Terming the incident another ‘Dark Chapter’ for the men in uniform Simthar Jajo lamented that such unruly behaviour the whole security apparatus is seen in a bad light. The friends of the hill people must not act as foes while adding that sometimes there might be misunderstanding but intentional abusing of power under the garb of AFSPA by the men in uniform should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Despite submitting a complaint to the Commandant of 25 AR, Lairouching by the IRS officer no positive steps were initiated by the AR authority so far, alleged Simthar Jajo who on behalf of the student body. (E-Pao 2/5/15)

90. ‘Tamil Nadu Police Arbitrarily Closed 23 Per Cent FIRs in 3 Years’ (1)

MADURAI:The Tamil Nadu police have closed  over 20 per cent of the cases filed by them in 190 police stations across the State in 39 months till March 2013, a data collected by an NGO has shown. This otherwise means the police citing their investigation have recommended that no further action is required. Based on the data obtained through the Right To Information (RTI) Act, Evidence, the Madurai-based NGO working on Dalit issues, has claimed that 23 per cent of First Information Reports (FIRs) filed at 190 police stations across 10 districts from 2010 to March 2013 have been closed by the police themselves without filing chargesheets or beginning the trial process. These cases have been closed under four categories — Mistake of Fact (MF), Mistake of Law (ML), Undetected (UD) and Action Dropped (AD). Among them, cases closed under AD category tops the list with over 90 per cent. The details have been collected from police stations in 10 districts covering all belts — Namakkal, Dharmapuri, Coimbatore, Ramanathapuram, Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, Kancheepuram, Karur, Nagapattinam and Tiruvannamalai. The data also show a gradual increase in the per centage of closed FIRs over three and a quarter years. In 2010, 20.3 per cent of 96,075 cases; in 2011, 22 per cent of 93,971 cases; in 2012, 25.3 per cent of 86,214 cases; and 30 per cent of 25,676 cases in the first three months of 2013 have seen closure. Evidence executive director A Kathir alleged  that in a vast majority of cases, the police failed to give a proper reason to the complainants for closing the cases. “Political influence apart, influence by dominant communities and money power play a role. Some retired police officers told us that the statements are recorded during the registration of FIRs in such a way that it would weaken the case,” he alleged. Claiming that the trend was worrisome, Kathir alleged that it was worse in cases filed under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act. “Though we could not obtain information through RTI on this, our experience in handling such cases shows that around 40 per cent under the SC/ST Act and 35 per cent under the Women Harassment Act have been closed,” he alleged. Reacting to the allegations, a senior police officer, on condition of anonymity, said, “As per the law, we are bound to file FIRs. Only a probe can bring the truth out. A large number of false complaints do get registered and the police cannot file chargesheets in such cases.” Pointing out that adequate safety measures were in place, he said, “The entire process involves the judiciary. If the cases are to be closed under MF, ML, AD or UD categories, we have to file an  FIR copy along with the probe findings before the magistrate who would serve an RC (Referred Case) notice to the complainant detailing the reason. The complainant can raise concerns if any and the cases can be reopened anytime.” (New Indian express 4/5/15)

91. Aapsu leaders meet Rijiju, demand AFSPA rollback (1)

Itanagar: A team of All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (Aapsu), led by its president Kamta Lapung and NESO adviser Pritam Sonam, met Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju in New Delhi on Sunday. During the meeting, both Lapung and Sonam reviewed the 15-day of ultimatum submitted to Rijiju earlier on complete withdrawal of the Arms Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Arunachal Pradesh and discussed various perspectives of the Act and the Centre’s attitude on its immediate rollback, said a press release. Rijiju has reportedly accepted Aspsu’s demands and informed the students’ body that the Act was imposed in the state for a specified purpose and time. While considering Aapsu’s demands, the Union minister said that he has already rolled back the extension of AFSPA to nine districts. However, it would remain in the state as it was in the 90s, but with a reduced radius of operation. Rijiju further informed the students’ body that AFSPA will be active in the state with the assistance of 16 police stations in the border areas. Instructions have also been given to the paramilitary forces that even at the time of operation they cannot enter the house of any tribal person without consulting or taking help from the local gaon bura (village headman), panchayat member or any prominent citizen in the suspected areas, the release added. (Times of India 7/5/14)

92. India points out areas of ‘concern’ in US’ rights record (1)

New Delhi: As violence continues in Baltimore in the US following the custodial death of a black man, India has pointed out areas of “concern” regarding the US’ human rights record, including “deficiencies in law enforcement procedures and disproportionate use of force”.In a statement, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN at Geneva Ajit Kumar acknowledged the “openness of the US delegation in accepting areas of continuing concern such as racial bias in the criminal justice system, incidents of bias-motivated crimes, including those committed against Hindus and Sikhs, and need for safety and living conditions at confinement facilities”.India made a few recommendations, including that the US “may consider establishing a national human rights institution”.”We encourage the US Government to take adequate steps towards gender parity at workplace, protect women from all forms of violence and enhance opportunities in education and health for children from ethnic minorities.” “We note efforts towards maintaining respect for privacy and civil liberties while addressing dangers to national security. We request the US delegation to share more information in this connection.” India also welcomed the developments towards better protection of the rights of indigenous peoples by the US. “We recommend that the US consider early ratification of International Conventions relating to the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), Rights of the Child (CRC) and Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).” Speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council, State Department’s acting legal adviser Mary McLeod highlighted steps taken by the US to battle against all forms of discrimination. “Torture and cruel and inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment are absolutely prohibited at all times and in all places under both international law and US domestic law with no exception,” she said. McLeod was speaking at the US’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council. The UPR is a process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN member states. Baltimore has witnessed a spate of violence following the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, 25, earlier this month. Gray’s death is the latest in a line of deaths of unarmed black teens/men due to use of excessive use of force or shooting by the police in the US. India last week, during a statement on the UPR of the Maldives’ human rights record, called upon the Indian Ocean nation of islands to safeguard space for legitimate political dissent. “We have seen reports by UN agencies that press freedom is being abridged. The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers has also reported their increased politicization. Maintaining public trust requires strong adherence to due process. The space for legitimate political dissent must be safeguarded,” India has said. (Business Standard 12/5/15)

93. Woman hurled abuses, attacked with brick first: Delhi Traffic policeman (1)

New Delhi: Two days after a Delhi traffic policeman was accused of attacking a young mother of three with a brick, an audio conversation has surfaced on Wednesday which gives a new twist to the whole episode. In the audio clip, the woman, Ramandeep Kaur, can be heard abusing Head Constable Satish Chandra and refusing to show her scooter’s registration papers and driver license to him. The audio reveals the head constable initially telling the woman that she has jumped the red signal for which she has to pay a penalty. When Kaur refused to pay the fine, Chandra warns her that the a ‘challan’ will be issued to her from court if she doesn’t pay the fine. Following the argument, the lady lost her cool and started hurling abuses at the traffic cop calling him a loser (tucchha). The policeman is also heard shouting at the lady. Meanwhile, Zee Media today spoke to the head constable, who defended himself by saying that his side of the story is still unheard. The traffic cop told Zee Media that the lady used abusive language against him and tried to hit him with a brick. He claimed that Kaur was the first to throw a stone at him. The cop also alleged that his bike’s mudguard broke and he got hit on his leg when she threw brick at him. The Delhi Police head constable was on Monday dismissed after the news spread. He was booked under relatively lighter sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). According to police, a case was registered against accused cop Satish Chandra under Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), Section 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) and Section 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees) of the IPC. The incident occurred in the posh Golf Link area of central Delhi, following which he was arrested and dismissed from service as the incident triggered widespread outrage. The matter came to light after a video surfaced on Monday showing a scuffle breaking out between the woman and Chandra. The mobile clip shows the lady hurling a stone at the policeman’s bike, while the errant cop is seen attacking back the woman with a brick. The video clip clearly showed the lady getting hit on her back. At the time of incident, the women’s three daughters including her four-month infant were with her. (Zee News 13/5/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

94. World Press Freedom Day: 1,123 journalists killed since 1992, 34 from India (1)

New Delhi: India has been ranked 136 among 180 countries worldwride in terms of press freedom in 2015. As the United Nations observes World Press Freedom Day on May 3, HT assesses the state of press freedom across the world and pays tribute to journalists who lost their lives in the line of duty. Two sets of data – the world press freedom index and journalist killings around the world – are necessary to throw light on the state of the freedom of the press. Reporters without borders (RWB), a non-profit organisation that tracks attacks on press freedom, has ranked every country according to its press freedom index. The Scandinavian countries – Finland, Norway and Denmark – topped the list. China, Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia were placed at the end of the list with many Asian and African countries where press freedom is dwindling.   However, there has been a worrying decline in general when compared to last year’s index due to information suppression because of various conflicts in 2014 such as the ones in the Middle East, Syria and Iraq.India’s ranking on the World Press Freedom Index has not improved over the years. It has always scored a three-digit ranking its inception. According to RWB, the following attacks on media last year were identified as the major issues for India’s low score. 1. Indian government’s ban on Al-Jazeera for five days for displaying maps in which India’s border with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir did not correspond to its territorial claims. 2. Indian authorities’ search aimed at members of the Karen community in the Andaman Islands, for those who helped two French documentarians gain access to the prohibited lands of the Jarawa tribe. 3. Attacks on journalists in Jammu and Kashmir during coverage of the 2014 parliamentary election. 4. Arrest of Jitendra Prasad Das, a subeditor with the Oriya-language daily Samaj in Cuttack, Odisha, for publishing a picture of the Prophet Mohammed. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent non-profit organisation that promotes press freedom worldwide, has ranked every country according to the number of journalists killed in the line of duty till May 2015. CPJ has been publishing the list since 1992. Twenty-one journalists were killed this year. France tops the list because of the killing of eight journalists from Charlie Hebodo in a terror attack. Since 1992, 1,123 journalists have been killed in the line of duty. While Iraq tops the list with 166 journalist killings, India is at 9th position with 34 deaths… The Hindustan Times 3/5/15)

95. Go home Indian media, Nepal Twitterati says (1)

NEW DELHI: If the Indian media has devoted wall-to-wall coverage of the Nepal earthquake, they were shown their place on social media on Sunday, the top trending hashtag being #GoHomeIndianMedia, which until evening had collected about 144,000 tweets. The online outrage is connected to the accusation that Indian TV channels have engaged in “insensitive” reporting of the aftermath of the earthquake. The TV channels, with their penchant for shoving microphones at suffering victims, have been accused of gross misconduct, in some situations even confronting security forces at the site of the devastation. They have intruded into family cremations, questioned grieving relatives, and generally shown a picture that many have found to be cringe-worthy. The Indian media, and here a distinction would have to be made between the TV channels and the print media, have also been accused of showing the efforts of the Indian Army, and Indian disaster-relief personnel at work in Nepal, in a glowing light. (Times of India 4/5/15)

96. Rahul Gandhi moves SC for decriminalizing defamation law (1)

NEW DELHI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday joined his bitter critics — BJP’s Subramanian Swamy and AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal — in challenging the constitutional validity of Sections 499 and 500 of Indian Penal Code which make defamation a criminal offence punishable with up to two years in jail. The Congress scion moved the Supreme Court saying the penal provisions had a “chilling effect” on citizens’ fundamental right to free speech and it must be scrapped. He called the provisions a legacy of the colonial era meant to oppress the media and stifle free speech, which was abhorrent to a democratic country. Seeking decriminalization of the defamation law, Rahul said criminalization of free speech in a sovereign democratic republic was not permissible. Petitions filed by Swamy and Kejriwal have already been entertained by the SC, which had stayed trial court proceedings in defamation cases pending against them. Senior advocates P P Rao and Mahalakshmi Pavani, appearing for Rahul, mentioned the case before a bench headed by Justice T S Thakur and sought urgent hearing as the Amethi MP has been summoned by a Bhiwandi court in Maharashtra to appear before it on May 8 in a defamation case. The complainant, an RSS member, had accused Rahul of making defamatory statements against RSS during the last general election campaign. He had alleged that Rahul had insinuated that an RSS member had killed Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. Both the senior advocates were reluctant to divulge the name of the petitioner when they sought an urgent hearing. Justice Thakur repeatedly asked for the petitioner’s name. Rao attempted to side-step the question by saying he was a politician. When the bench kept insisting, Rao finally revealed that petitioner was Rahul Gandhi. The bench also asked how criminal defamation law could be scrapped as reputation was a valuable property of a person which must not be damaged through baseless allegation. But it agreed to hear Rahul’s plea on Thursday. The court posted Rahul’s petition for hearing before a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra. “Criminal defamation laws are inherently harsh and have a disproportionate chilling effect on free expression. Individuals face the constant threat of being arrested, held in pre-trial detention, subjected to expensive criminal trials, and then in the event of conviction, saddled with a criminal record, fines and imprisonment, and the social stigma associated with this,” Rahul said in his petition. “Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC violate the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. These provisions results in curbs on the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression beyond the limits of restrictions under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India,” Rahul said in his petition. He said criminal defamation laws violated international norms on freedom of speech and people felt threatened by the penal provision. “The internet could serve as a great medium for public discourse, but bloggers and citizen journalists could feel threatened by the criminal provisions related to defamation and this could cause a chilling effect,” the Congress leader said. “Whatever be the position prior to the independence of India, Sections 499 and 500 of IPC have ceased to be reasonable restrictions after the Constitution came into force guaranteeing the right to equality in Article 14, the right to freedom of speech and expression in Article 19 (1) (a) and the right to personal liberty in Article 21 which constitute an integral part of the basic structure of the Constitution,” he said. Rahul said offences like murder and theft affected society and therefore freedom could be curtailed but the act of defamation posed no discernible threat to society at large. “Its scope of impact is primarily restricted to the alleged victim and persons close to him who always have the option of responding to the defamatory allegations and setting the record straight. Thus, treating acts of defamation in a similar manner as grave offences against the public is patently arbitrary,” he said. (Times of India 7/5/15)

97. Tushar Gandhi booked for ‘criticizing’ Bhagat Singh (1)

JALANDHAR: It’s an ironical tale. Jalandhar police have registered a case of “hurting religious sentiments” against Mahtma Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi after a local BJP functionary objected to his remarks about iconic freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, who was a known atheist. Speaking in Jaipur recently, Tushar had reportedly said that Bhagat Singh was “guilty of British rule, due to which Mahatma Gandhi had not asked for suspension of his sentence” and Bapu did not approve his violent acts. The case has been registered under section 295 A of IPC which pertained to “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”. The FIR against Tushar said that other nationalist organizations had also submitted complaints to commissioner of police and now a case was being registered. Local BJP leader Krishan lal Sharma, who is chairman of Jan Jagriti Manch and is also state convenor of the party’s cultural cell, in his complaint to the police on Sunday, claimed that Tushar Gandhi termed Bhagat Singh a criminal (apradhi) as per a newspaper report and this had hurt his personal sentiments and religious sentiments of people in general. Sharma claimed that they were organizing programmes in the memory of Bhagat Singh and this remark hurt the religious feelings of members of his organization too. He specifically demanded that a case be registered for hurting religious sentiments. When asked that how could it be a case of hurting religious sentiments as defined by section 295 A of IPC especially when Bhagat Singh himself claimed to be an atheist, ACP north Amneet Kaundal said that they had registered the case as per the complaint received by the police which said that the remarks hurt “religious feelings”. “We have not gone into the religion of Bhagat Singh,” she said. “Why I am an Atheist,” is a popular article penned by Bhagat Singh. It may be mentioned here that Tushar Gandhi, while speaking in Jaipur, was quoted as saying that the Mahatama did not intervene to get Bhagat Singh’s death sentence commuted as he was a criminal for the British rulers and Gandhi’s critical views about the revolutionary line of line of Bhagat Singh and his associates were well known. Notably there have been numerous instances when Bhagat Singh’s followers in Punjab have condemned Gandhi in strongest words both in writings and speeches but never any complaint for “hurting religious sentiments” has been filed. (Times of India 11/5/15)

98. AAP slams media for ‘defamatory’ news (1)

Indore: Continuing its tirade against media, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alleged that a section of media is working against the party and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. “Certain media houses, backed by industrialists, are trying to defame AAP leaders and Delhi government,” said party chief spokesperson Sanjay Singh in Indore on Monday. Supporting the Kejriwal government’s circular, directing ministers and officials to start filing defamation cases against media, Singh said, “Role of certain media houses needs to be analyzed as they are running false and defamatory stories.” He went on to slam Delhi police for working against the party. “Delhi police on directions of home ministry is implicating AAP leaders and MLAs in false cases,” said Singh. (Times of India 12/5/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

99. US Report Slams BJP for Communal Remarks, Praises PM Modi (7)

WASHINGTON: A new US report has slammed politicians linked to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for making derogatory comments against religious minority communities, but praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his statement in support of religious freedom. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), at whose recommendation the State Department had revoked Modi’s visa in 2005 for his alleged complicity in the 2002 Gujarat riots, on Thursday described Modi’s statement as a “positive development”.”This statement is notable given longstanding allegations that, as chief minister of Gujarat in 2002, Modi was complicit in anti-Muslim riots in that state,” it said referring to his remarks at an event honouring Indian Catholic saints in mid-February. Modi’s visa was revoked under a provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act that makes any foreign government official who “was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom” ineligible for a US visa. “Prime Minister Modi remains the only person known to have been denied a visa based on this provision,” USCRIF noted. However, saying that “incidents of religiously-motivated and communal violence reportedly have increased for three consecutive years”, USCIRF its 2015 annual report has again placed India on its Tier 2 list of countries, where it has been since 2009. USCRIF lists Tier 2 nations as those countries whose governments engages in or tolerates at least one of the elements of the systematic, ongoing, and egregious standard, but do not fully meet the countries of particular concern (CPC) standard. The commission, which makes recommendations to the US State Secretary of State and the US Congress, has placed Pakistan and seven other countries in its CPC list. These are defined as countries where particularly severe violations of religious freedom are tolerated or perpetrated. “Since the election, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishva Hindu Parishad,” the report said. Christian NGOs and leaders report that their community is particularly at risk in states that have adopted “Freedom of Religion Act(s)”, commonly referred to as anti-conversion laws, it said. “Based on these concerns, USCIRF again places India on its Tier 2 list of countries, where it has been since 2009,” the report said. (New Indian Express 1/5/15)

100. 2000 booked for Saturday’s violence in Shamli (7)

MUZAFFARNAGAR: Ruling Samajwadi Party MLA Nahid Hasan is among two thousand people booked by Railway Protection Force (RPF) for allegedly damaging rail property and disrupting services during a violent protest on Saturday at Kandhla railway station in neighbouring Shamli district. The protest was against the alleged assault on five members of the Tablighi Jamaat by some youths on board a Delhi-Kandhla train on May 1. The mob had also laid a siege to a police station, pelted stones and set afire vehicles. 16 policemen were injured in the violence. Assistant Commissioner of RPF P.K. Pandey told reporters on Monday that two thousand people have been booked under Section 174 of Railway Act for the violence while 12 persons have been named including SP legislator Nahid Hasan and chairman of Kandhla nagar panchayat Haji Balu Hasan. He said the protesters had turned violent, disrupting train services and damaging railway property at Kandhla railway station. Meanwhile, in view of the alleged assault on the members of the community onboard a train on Delhi-Saharanpur rout, security has been tightened on the trains. Inspector General of Government Railway Police Dawa Sherpa told reporters that police and RPF personnel in plain clothes have been deployed following the incident. Meanwhile, a delegation of Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind met senior railway officials and sought adequate security on trains on the route and immediate arrest of culprits in the assault case. He was assured that the accused will be arrested soon. The incidents had triggered tension in the district. Muzaffarnagar and surrounding districts including Shamli in western Uttar Pradesh were rocked by communal riots in September 2013 which had left over 60 people dead and displaced thousands of others. (The Hindu 4/5/15)

101. Muzaffarnagar: Fear of setting riot-torn town on fire again drives Hindu boy and Muslim girl to take their own lives (7)

Lucknow: Love does not come easy in Muzaffarnagar. Especially when lovers come from different religions. Imrana Bano (18) and Rajneesh Kumar (21) knew this. But they fell almost helplessly in love and started stealing time to meet each other. They hoped their relatives and society would accept them some day, even if grudgingly. But the tinderbox that Muzaffarnagar is currently convinced them otherwise. The Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 left 59 dead and more than 50,000 homeless. Fearing their love would make their communally-sensitive town burn again, this Harijan boy and Muslim girl took the extreme step. Their bodies were found hanging from a Neem tree, united in death by the same dupatta, in Bhaura-Khurd village on Monday.   Inspector Singh, Circle Officer of Phugana, said: “They were in love with each other. It appears that they entered into a suicide pact because society was not willing to accept their relationship.” Imrana’s family members said the lovers were missing since Saturday. The tree is in a compound owned by the girl’s family that is on the outskirts of the village. Huge police force was deployed in the village after large number of people from both communities gathered in the area. There was palpable tension in the air. The administration said it taken measures have been taken to thwart any attempt to stoke communal fire. The police have recovered vermillion (sindoor) and some other cosmetics from the spot. Sindoor was also found on the forehead of the girl. A sachet of poison was recovered from the spot. “They committed suicide because the two families were not ready toaccept their marriage,” said Mohammad Idris, Imrana’s uncle. Indicating there could be more than meets the eye, the boy’s father Ram Kumar told newspersons that he was not willing to buy the suicide theory. “They were found hanging from a Neem tree that is situated on a compound owned by the father of the girl,” he stressed. According to the villagers, Imrana’s parents had come to know about the affair five years ago and had sent her to a relative’s house. The father of the boy had also sent him to Rohtak to work in a factory. Imrana’s parents had recently caught her talking to Rajneesh from a mobile phone and beaten her up. They had fixed her marriage with a youth from Kandhla area of Shamli district and had forced her to agree to get engaged on Friday. Rajneesh, who was pursuing a graduation degree as a private student from a college in Kandhla, had returned on May 2 to appear in his B.A. first year examination. He managed to meet Imrana on Saturday. And decided perhaps that death was the only recourse. The alleged molestation of a Hindu Jat girl by some Muslim youths in the Kawal area had triggered the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013. A few villagers, speaking on condition of anonymity, told newspersons they are not willing to believe that it was a case of suicide because the couple could have easily eloped to Rohtak instead of taking this extreme step. In the restive parts of UP, it doesn’t take much to start communal violence. In Agra, some clerics have convened a meeting on May 14 to force the victims of the infamous conversion of December 8, 2014, to undergo fresh nikah with their wives to protect their marriages. In Saharanpur, Muslims are accusing the police of protecting driver of a state transport bus that ran over a seven-year-old on Saturday. In Aligarh, there is an order from the local administration to stop the expansion of a mosque around Jama Masjid as there is a Ramleela ground next to it. Some are bent on defying that order. (India Today 5/5/15)

102. US panel proved wrong, communal incidents actually dipped in 2014 (7)

NEW DELHI: Contrary to an assessment by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that communal incidents in India witnessed a rising trend in 2014, official data released by the home ministry showed that such attacks were down to 644 from 823 in 2013. Also, the US panel’s claim in its 2015 report that religiously-motivated and communal violence in India had increased over three consecutive years was proved wrong with the number of incidents in 2014 being the lowest in the past three years. The USCIRF had, in its report on international religious freedom released last week, noted that religious minorities in India were exposed to “derogatory” comments by leaders of the ruling BJP as well as “violent attacks and forced conversions by the RSS/VHP since the Narendra Modi government took over last year”. It also slammed the “ghar wapsi” campaign and accused “Hindu nationalist groups” of offering monetary inducements not only to Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism but also to Hindus carrying out such “forced” conversions. According to figures for communal incidents in the first two months of 2015, while 72 incidents were recorded in January, they fell to 47 in February. Maharashtra continued to account for the highest incidence of communal violence with 21 attacks in January and 10 in February, while the corresponding figures for Rajasthan were three and six respectively. Bihar also remains a cause for concern with 61 incidents in 2014, 12 in January 2015 and six in February 2015. The US panel, which makes policy recommendations to the US president and Congress, was also proved wrong on its assessment regarding trends of communal violence in many Indian states through 2012, 2013 and 2014. According to the panel, the states that tend to have the greatest number of incidents were Andhra Pradesh, UP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. However, as per home ministry data, Chhattisgarh recorded no incident, while Andhra Pradesh witnessed five incidents and Odisha just three. Though incidents were the highest in UP at 133, this was a big fall from the 247 incidents recorded in 2013. Communal violence in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra, however, witnessed a rise in 2014 as compared to 2013. (Times of India 7/5/15)

103. Communal tension in Gujarat after priest kills one of the mob that attacked temple (7)

Vadodara: Nadiad town was tense after a former councillor of its muncipality succumbed to bullet injuries allegedly fired from the licenced weapon of a priest of a temple situated in a Muslim dominated locality. The bullet hit his chest and he died on Saturday. Ashok Bhuria, the priest of the temple to Dalaram Bapa, a patron saint of local Dalit community, fired upon Sajid Vora, the ex-councillor using his licenced .12 bore gun at around 2 am on Saturday alleging that Vora led a mob that tried to storm the temple by pelting stones, police said. Bhuria lived in the temple premises along with his family.Members of both the sides filed FIRs at Nadiad police station. As per FIR filed by one Mohammad Imran, Vora and Bhuria had fought over parking of his two-wheeler after which Bhuria took out his gun and fired at him. A cross-FIR filed by one Girish Giri stated that a mob armed with sharp weapons attacked the ashram of Dalaram Bapa with the intention to damage the temple property. People in the mob rushed towards the ashram pelting stones. Threatened by the mob, the accused fired from his .12 bore licenced gun in self-defence, police said. The bullet hit Vora in the chest. He was rushed to a hospital in Anand town where he died during treatment on later Saturday.

Kheda SP Sachin Badshah said the police being deployed in the locality to maintain law and order as the body of the victim was being brought to his house from Anand hospital where he died. So far, nobody has been arrested. Badshah said people of two communities clashed over an old matter, with the accused firing from his licenced gun in self-defence when a mob of around fifty persons started pelting stones at the temple where he lived. “The incident took place in a Muslim dominated locality following some altercation over a motorcycle. We are yet to get the exact detail about the reason behind the attack on the temple. But the locals in the area, which is Muslim-dominated, had in the past fought with the priest and their family members who live in the temple. The gun was fired in self-defence,” Badshah said. (Indian Express 10/5/15)

COMMUNALISM

104. VHP slams US report on minorities (26)

New Delhi: Rejecting the findings of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom that slammed the treatment of religious minorities in India, VHP Saturday said the report was a reaction to India’s attempts to curb conversion as well as illegal activities of Christian missionaries. “Interestingly US raises its voices only when Christian missionaries faced some trouble. They are now worried about the reaction to the conversion and the illegal activities of missionaries. They want missionaries to get a free hand here,” VHP joint general secretary Surendrakumar Jain said. The Commission in its 2015 report said that religious minorities in India have been subjected to derogatory comments by politicians of BJP since Narendra Modi government took over. According to Jain, the organisation never expressed any concern on Kashmiri Hindus or when Christian missionaries burnt Buddhist monasteries in Tripura. “They were silent on the issue of link between the Church and terrorist organisations. They want everyone to encourage the false campaign by the missionaries” Jain said. The VHP leader questioned the US organisation’s right to comment on India. “The US is not the darogar (headconstable). It should set its own house in order. What about the racial attacks and the assaults on Hindu temples in the US?” Jain said. (Indian Express 3/5/15)

105. VHP accuses officials for bovine smuggling (26)

Jammu: The Vishav Hindu Parishad (VHP) today accused several government officials and doctors of working hand in glove with cattle smugglers in Jammu-Kashmir. “It has come to our knowledge that some officials at the office of district and additional district magistrate Jammu and some doctors of animal husbandry department are in league with some professional and notorious cattle smugglers who are engaged in the illegal trade of cattle smuggling” a statement issued by VHP’s state unit said. “Repeated smuggling of bovine animals from Jammu region to Kashmir Valley for slaughtering which besides being violation of the existing laws on slaughtering of such animals, was also severely hurting religious sentiments of the Hindu community,”it said. (Business Standard 7/5/15)

106. Hindu group made to remove Tory support letter in UK polls (26)

London: A representative body of British Hindus was forced to remove from its website an open letter in support of Prime Minister David Cameron led Conservative party in today’s general election after the UK’s charity regulator found that the post went against its guidance. The National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHT-UK), which claims to be the oldest umbrella organisation for an estimated 565,000 Hindus in Britain, had issued the letter on its website encouraging Hindus across the country to exercise their vote and implied that Tories, as the Conservatives are referred to, should be their preferred choice. The Charity Commission, which regulates the conduct of charitable groups in Britain, stressed that the regulator’s guidance “makes clear that a charity must not give its support to any political party or candidate”. A spokesperson said: “We are aware of the notice posted on the National Council of Hindu Temples’ website and we contacted the charity to establish the facts of this matter and ask them to remove the post as a matter of urgency. “We are aware that the post has subsequently been removed, and the trustees have responded to us. We are assessing the response to decide what action, if any, is required.” The letter undersigned by NCHT-UK general secretary Satish Sharma had made a reference to the Labour party’s attempts at introducing anti-caste legislation in Parliament as the defining factor behind the choice of whom Hindus based in the country should vote for. The group is opposed to the inclusion of caste within the criteria of discrimination in the UK’s Equality Act, claiming the issue is not applicable in Britain and would “effectively introduce a caste system here in the UK”.Sharma’s letter had pointed out that both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have pledged that if elected they would immediately introduce the legislation. “This is NOT a recommendation for members of the dharmic communities to vote for a particular party, but it would be unfair not to recognise that the Conservative Party is the only principal party which has rejected the process whereby this legislation was forced through, and the Conservative Party is the only party which has consistently listened to us and voted against this legislation and whose members are committed to repealing the caste amendment if re-elected,” read the letter, which has since been removed. It also had a line which said that the group understands the sentiment expressed by a young volunteer that “British Hindus, Sikhs and Jains voting for Labour is now like Turkeys voting for Christmas.” (Deccan Herald 7/5/15)

107. RSS begins ‘gaon wapsi’ in Uttarakhand (26)

Dehradun: RSS wants people to return to their roots at least once a year.It seems the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has launched a ‘gaon wapsi’ programme to exhort migrants from Uttarakhand villages to return to their roots at least once in a year. The ‘Mere Gaon Mere Teerth’ (my villagemy pilgrimage) programme of RSS aims to appeal to the migrants from Uttarakhand to return to the state once in a year. Uttarakhand unit of RSS will conduct this programme under the banner of its social organisation, Uttaranchal Utthan Parishad. Migration from the state has been a major political issue here. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat has been referring to the issue of migration for quite some time. Several parties too have raised the issue over the years. The RSS has now joined the bandwagon. Uttarakhand RSS chief Harish Rautela said, “We hosted the first meeting with Uttarakhandis living in Delhi on May 3. Similar programmes will be held in Mumbai, Lucknow, Moradabad, Bareilly and other parts of India. We are approaching the organisations operated by Uttarakhandi people across India for this programme. Uttarakhand villageSangh hopes to save villages from turning desolate with the move. By reconnecting people with their villages we will be able to save many villages from turning desolate.” The new programme comes a year after Uttarakhand RSS launched the village festival Gramya Utsav. According to Uttarakhand statistical department, out of 15,745 villages in the state there are about 1,000 villages where hardly anyone lives. Residents of these villages have migrated to bigger towns and cities across India. According to the 2001 census, 15.22 lakh people migrated from Uttarakhand in search of jobs. Large numbers of Uttarakhandis live in cities like Delhi and Mumbai. Meanwhile, the RSS programme has attracted criticism. Communist Party of India national council member Samar Bhandari said, “RSS’s move is purely political. They want to divert the attention from neglect of the villages and give it an emotional colour. The main motive is to make political gains by playing the migration card.” According to the Rashtryiya Swayamsevak Sangh, there are about 1,200 social organisations formed by people of Uttarakhand in other parts of India. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh will be approaching these organisation to conduct the ‘connect to your village’ programme. (India Today 10/5/15)

108. Hindutva groups angry over move to shift Agra crematorium (26)

Agra: Agra Divisional Commissioner Pradip Bhatnagar has ordered shifting of a centuries-old crematorium from the proximity of the iconic Taj Mahal here, outraging Hindutva organisations which threatened a mass movement. Environmentalists claimed that the timeless beauty of the the 17th century monument of love is being threatened by smoke and soot from the cremation ground. A parliamentary committee, headed by Congress member of the Rajya Sabha Ashwini Kumar, visited Agra last month. It expressed its concern and asked the government to investigate fears expressed by the anti-pollution activists. “It was a matter of faith and religion,” a member of a Hindutva groups said while objecting to the relocation of the crematorium. On Tuesday, all major voluntary organisations of the city will meet and discuss a strategy to stall the shifting of the crematorium.  The Shiv Sena, meanwhile, staged a protest at the divisional commissioner`s office on Monday. (Zee News 11/5/15)

TERRORISM

109. 17 Suspected SIMI Activists Acquitted (12)

HUBBALLI:All 17 accused in connection with various terror-related activities in Hubballi in 2008 were acquitted by a local court as the prosecution failed to prove charges against them. Elated parents claimed ‘truth prevailed’ despite their sufferings for years. However, according to defence lawyer K M Shiralli, only three of the 17 — Yahya Kammakutti, Allabhaksha Yadwad and Sayyad Sadiq Sameer — would get the release order. Others are still facing various terror charges in other states and would be handed over to the respective states.After a prolonged hearing for around seven years, the case was posted for verdict on Thursday. Nine out of 17 accused were brought to the court hall. On benefit of doubt, Judge Gopalkrishna Kolli of the First Additional Sessions and District Court of Hubballi passed the order of their acquittal in his 595-page judgment. The prosecution had filed charges of them having links with the banned outfit Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), illegal possession of arms and explosives and involvement in unlawful activities, besides under several sections of the Indian Penal Code. But it failed to prove any of these charges despite submitting voluminous evidence. Those acquitted are — Mohammad Asif, Raiazuddin Naseer, Asadulla Abubakar, Hafiz Hussein, Shakil Ahemad Mali, Allabhakha Yadwad, Mirza Ahemad Baig, Sabit Shibli, Yahya Kammakutti, Safdar Hussein Nagori, Sayyad Sadiq Sameer, Kamaruddin, Mohammad Yassin, Mohammad Ansar, Manroz Jaman, P A Shadooli and Akbar Ali Mulla. Sameer was already out on bail for the last four years. Reacting to the verdict, defence lawyer Shiralli said the prosecution had no point to prove any charge made against his clients. “The court was convinced about their innocence and they were acquitted. It is a remarkable verdict,” he said. Public prosecutor B A Bandekar said only after going through the entire judgment copy could he react on why the court failed to take cognisance of his arguments. “Despite submitting voluminous evidence to prove their involvement in terror acts, the court is not convinced by my points. All my efforts went in vain,” Bandekar said. After studying the judgment copy and the court’s observation, he would give his opinion to the government on whether the lower court verdict could be challenged in the High Court.As the judge pronounced the verdict, a sense of jubilation was palpable among the parents and other relatives. Coming out of the court hall they exchanged greetings and expressed gratitude to their lawyers. Tears of joy rolled down their cheeks. Kutubuddin Manroz, father of Manroz Jaman, said: “Finally, truth has prevailed. Of course we suffered all these years. We are happy our children are free now.” (New Indian Express 1/5/15)

110. Acquitted prisoner calls for fight against UAPA (12)

KOZHIKODE: Yahya Kammukutty, who was released from Hubli jail where he spent seven years in a terror case, said people should unitedly fight against black laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Yahya, who arrived in his town near Mukkam here on Sunday, told reporters that his release was the result of prayers and intervention of people from all walks of life. “I am not the only victim of UAPA. There are many others still languishing in jail and there should be a joint fight to get them released. I thank all those who stood by me. I consider my jail term as the test of God,” he said. A public reception planned for Yahya at Gothambu Road near Mukkam was cancelled in the last minute as organizers felt it could create a communal polarization in the area. A computer engineering graduate from the National Institute of Technology-Calicut, Yahya had worked at Tata Infotech and GE Healthcare before starting his own venture. He was detained in 2008 along with 16 others on charges that he was a member of the sleeper cell of Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). He was booked for waging war against the country and sedition. The Hubbali court acquitted all the 17 accused after the prosecution failed to prove the charges against them. (Times of India 4/5/15)

111. No fresh peace talks with militants groups: Assam DGP (12)

Guwahati: There would be no fresh peace talks with any militant groups in Assam but those willing to come forward for parleys could join the talks already under progress with the ULFA and NDFB, Assam Director General of Police Khagen Sarma said on Wednesday. “Talks are on with the ULFA and NDFB. Those wanting to come for discussions can join the ongoing talks. But there will be no fresh talks with anybody,” Sarma said on the sidelines of a meeting here. Responding to queries on whereabouts of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) faction’s leader Ingti Kathar Songbijit, the top cop said, “He is outside India and has now become the advisor of the outfit.” G Bidai alias Bishnu Goyari, Vice-President of the outfit, was stated to have carried out the plan for the attacks on December 23 last which killed nearly 100 Adivasis. “He is criss-crossing between India and Bhutan,” the DGP said. On a question of regrouping by the cadres of the extremist outfit, he said, “New councils may be formed and new posts may be given out to its cadres. We will keep a watch on how things progress and arrest them.” The security forces are keeping a vigil on the anti-national elements and “Operations against the NDFB(S) is on and would continue”, Sarma said. “The security forces have eliminated several of the NDFB(S) top leaders, including platoon commanders, in encounters and arrested over 300 of its cadres,” the DGP added. (Zee News 6/5/15)

112. Islamic State, Taliban pairing up in northern Afghanistan: Official (12)

Kunduz: Foreign fighters allied with the Islamic State group are training Taliban insurgents in a restive Afghan province, an official said on Friday, the first such claim as the government raises the alarm over an emerging IS threat. President Ashraf Ghani has repeatedly raised fears that IS — notorious for their brutal reign of terror in Syria and Iraq — are making steady inroads into Afghanistan, which is already in the grip of a fierce Taliban insurgency. But the governor of Kunduz, the scene of intense fighting for two weeks that has displaced thousands, has gone further by claiming that the two groups are joining forces in the northern Afghan province. IS fighters are “supporting the Taliban, training the Taliban, trying to build the capacity of the Taliban for a bigger fight”, provincial governor Mohammed Omar Safi told the BBC. Local observers have viewed claims of IS`s rise in Afghanistan with caution. The Middle Eastern group has never formally acknowledged a presence in Afghanistan and most self-styled IS insurgents in the country are believed to be Taliban turncoats rebranding themselves to appear as a more lethal force. The two groups, which espouse different ideological strains of Sunni Islam, are believed to be arrayed against each other in Afghanistan`s restive south, with clashes frequently reported. But the governor insisted that the fight is different in the once-tranquil north, which has recently seen a huge influx of foreign fighters from countries such as Chechnya, Pakistan and Tajikistan. “In the worst affected Imam Sahib district, (IS) fighters are training and supporting local Taliban fighters to raise their capacity… in their fight against the Afghan government,” the governor`s spokesman Abdul Wadood Wahidi told AFP. Last month, hundreds of militants came within six kilometres (3.7 miles) of Kunduz city just hours after the Taliban launched their annual spring offensive, in the most serious threat to any provincial capital since the US-led 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. The insurgents have since been pushed back after Afghan reinforcements were brought in from other frontlines, but the fighting still continues to rage on the fringes of the city. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced due to the clashes, with aid agencies warning of dire living conditions for those who have fled their homes and moved to the city centre. “Around 14,000 families have been displaced in two weeks of ongoing fighting in Kunduz,” Ghulam Sakhi, an administrator in the Kunduz refugees department, told AFP. “Our teams have surveyed 600 families and have distributed food items and blankets, mattresses and kitchen kits.” Afghan government forces are preparing for a fresh offensive to flush out insurgents from the outlying areas of the city, officials said. President Ghani has warned that IS poses a serious threat to regional security, warning that the group was more than lethal than Al-Qaeda. “With all apologies to Microsoft, if Al-Qaeda was Windows One, Daesh is Windows Five,” he told reporters recently, alluding to the Arabic acronym for IS. But some local observers accuse him of grabbing world attention by playing up the IS threat in the face of dwindling foreign aid and as international troops depart. “Daesh have a limited number of fighters in Afghanistan,” Mia Gul Waseeq, Afghan political and security analyst, told AFP. “But they are trying to grow their influence in Afghanistan, training and supporting the Afghan Taliban in their ranks who swore allegiance to them.” (Zee News 8/5/15)

113. Modi government to continue with tradition of anti-terrorism day on Rajiv Gandhi’s death anniversary

NEW DELHI: The Modi government may have chosen to observe October 31 last year as the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel rather than as a solemn occasion in view of Indira Gandhi’s death anniversary, but on Rajiv Gandhi’s death anniversary this May 21, it will continue the tradition of observing it as anti-terrorism day. The Union home ministry on Monday wrote to the secretaries of all Central ministries/departments and chief secretaries of all states, directing that May 21, like every year, be observed as anti-terrorism day by organizing various activities, including an anti-terror pledge taking ceremony in all government offices, PSUs and public institutions. “The objective behind observance of this day is to wean away the youth from terrorism and the cult of violence by highlighting the sufferings of common people and showing as to how it is prejudicial to the national interest,” joint secretary (administration) in the home ministry said in his letter to the Central ministries and states. Detailing the activities that could be observed, he suggested organising of debates and discussions in schools and colleges; holding of seminars and lectures on dangers of terrorism and violence; and a drive to bring about a mass awakening against terrorism through appropriate projection in the media. This is the first anti-terrorism day to be observed since the Modi government took power. Last year, it remained a low-key event limited to the bureaucracy as the new government was yet to be sworn in. Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991, by a suicide squad of Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE), while attending a rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. (Time of India 12/5/15)

114. Gunmen on bikes attack bus in Karachi, kill 47 Shia Muslims (12)

KARACHI: Gunmen donning police uniforms killed at least 47 people from minority Shia Ismaili community in an attack on a bus in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi on Wednesday, police officials said. “Six to eight armed men on motorcycles opened fire on a bus at Safoora Chorangi, Gulistan-e-Johar area of Karachi, killing at least 43 passengers,” a police official said. A senior police official said the attackers entered the bus and shot the passengers in the head. “It was a targeted attack,” Sindh police inspector general Ghulam Haider Jamali told reporters. Television channels carried pictures of a pink bus covered in bullet holes and lines of waiting ambulances. The death toll could further rise as about 20 others are seriously injured. The injured and dead were shifted to various hospitals by rescue workers. Taliban have claimed responsibility of the attack, Times Now reported. Police and Rangers arrived at the scene and started manhunt. More than 60 people were on the board the bus which was carrying the people of Ismaili community from Al-Azhar Garden area of the city to their place of worship near Aysha Manzil, police said. Ismaili community is a branch of Shia Muslims and they are considered very peaceful people. The attack came a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Kabul and declared that enemies of Afghanistan are also enemies of Pakistan. Pakistan has seen a rise in sectarian violence in recent years particularly against minority Shias who represent around 20 per cent of the country’s Muslim population. Taliban splinter groups have bombed several mosques belonging to religious minorities this year. (Times of India 14/5/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

115. Maoist Threat: Proposal for Police Stations at Vilangad, Kakkayam (12)

KOZHIKODE:  In the wake of perceived Maoist threat in the rural belt of the district, the police are planning to set up more police stations in the forest areas where the presence of the extremists has been reported. According to an official with Nadapuram sub-division of police, a proposal has been mooted seeking government nod to set up stations at Vilangad bordering Kozhikode, Wayanad and Kannur districts and at Kakkayam. Currently, Vilangad comes under the jurisdiction of Valayam station in the Circle of Nadapuram sub-division of police, almost 25 km from Nadapuram police Sub-Division Office. Vilangad is also a major tribal hamlet in the district which has been cited as one of the reasons for Maoists focusing on the region. It was more than 10 years ago that a police station was set up at Valayam considering the increasing incidents of arson in the area. However, the police team comprising two Sub- Inspectors, two Additional Sub-Inspectors, five senior civil police officers and 24 civil police officers failed to combat the increasing number of crimes. In view of the recent reports of Maoist presence, the police have come up with the plan to upgrade the Kakkayam police out-post to a station. An official with the Nadapuram police said the proposal was part of the department’s efforts to establish effective policing in the politically-sensitive region., he said. The police have decided to strengthen vigil in areas bordering forests. As part of the move, the proposal has been put forward, he added. “The proposed Vilangad police station will cover Vanimel and Narippatta panchayats. As per the proposal, Vilangad, Karukulam, Kommiyode, Paloor wards of Vanimel panchayat and Naduthara, Thavullakkolly, Valook wards of Narippatta panchayat will be in the limits of the new station. The Kakkayam out-post will be upgraded to a station. Both stations will have a minimum staff strength of 25 including one Sub-Inspector,” said the officer. “A detailed plan has been prepared and it will be submitted to the State government this week,” the officer added. According to police sources, the Kozhikode rural police have recorded the highest number of incidents of riots in the state for the past few years. But the rural stations are facing acute shortage of staff and other facilities. “Worsening the situation, Maoist presence has also become a threat. If the proposed station becomes a reality, it would be a relief to the rural police,” the officer added. (New Indian Express 4/5/15)

116. Top Maoist leader, four others held in Coimbatore (12)

CHENNAI: Security agencies achieved a significant breakthrough on Wednesday night, with the arrest of senior Maoist leader Rupesh alias Jogi, who heads the recently formed Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee, police sources said. The arrest is seen as a severe blow to the Maoist movement’s efforts to regain its stronghold in the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Acting on a tip-off from the Special Intelligence Branch (SIB) of the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh police, the ‘Q’ Branch CID of the Tamil Nadu police arrested Rupesh, his wife Shyna, Anoop, Eswaran and Kannan at Karumathampatti near Coimbatore. The formation of a special zone usually indicates that the Maoists have scaled up their activities from the organisational phase to guerrilla warfare as they did earlier in Telangana, the sources said. After months of tracking intelligence inputs, the SIB on Wednesday alerted the Intelligence Bureau and the Tamil Nadu police about the presence of Rupesh and others near Coimbatore. An armed police party surrounded the Maoist cadres at a bakery. Police did not say whether any arms or ammunition were recovered, the sources said. Rupesh, a law graduate from Thrissur, was allegedly involved in about 30 cases in Kerala. Police said he was among the most wanted Maoists leaders in the country. “It is a big catch. Rupesh was leading Maoist operations in the tri-junction and involved in the attacks on forest establishments in Kerala and also on some MNC retail outlets. His wife Shyna was working as clerk in the Kerala High Court and later joined the Maoists,” a police official told The Hindu . Asked if the Maoists were targeting any establishment in Tamil Nadu, the official said: “They may have been here to organise logistics for movement of cadres or supplies. Tamil Nadu is sometimes seen as a place to rest and recuperate.” (The Hindu 5/5/15)

117. Naxals hold 500 villagers hostage ahead of PM’s Ch’garh visit (12)

Raipur: Around 500 villagers have been held hostage by Naxals, who were apparently angered over their support to the construction of a bridge in Tongpal area of Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district, police said. The Naxal action comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to insurgency-hit Bastar region today. “Large number of armed cadres stormed into Marenga and adjoining villages under restive Tongpal police station limits late last night and took away 400-500 villagers, including women and children, along with them,” Sukma Additional Superintendent of Police, Harish Rathore told PTI. Maoists were opposing the construction of a bridge on a local river near Marenga village and were apparently angered over the villagers’ support to the development work following which rebels held them captive, Rathore said. Some workers involved in construction of the bridge are also among those held captive, he said. After getting information about the incident security personnel were mobilised in the dense forests of Tongpal for search operations, he said, adding efforts are on to trace their location. Meanwhile, R P Kalluri, I G Bastar Range, said, “The hostage situation is a fiction created by the media….Yesterday, some Maoists came to the village where bridge construction is underway and they have taken five-six labourers who were working on the bridge. “As a usual practice, some villagers of Marenga and nearby villagers have gone to the jungle to speak to the Maoists, negotiate and bring these five-six labourers back…But reports of 500-600 villagers held by Maoists is total fiction,” he said. The PM during his day-long visit in Naxal-hit Dantewada in South Bastar will attend a slew of programmes. Two mega projects for setting up of ultra mega steel plant and second phase of Rowghat-Jagdalpur railway line will be inaugurated by Modi during his visit. Also, he is scheduled to visit an education city, aimed at providing education to under-privileged children living in the area and will be interacting with students there. A MoU for setting up ultra-mega steel plant at Dilmili village in Dantewada, with a capacity of three million tonne every year, will be signed during Modi’s visit. Over 10,000 people in the region are expected to get direct and indirect employment opportunities through this project. The 140-km rail link, to be constructed at a cost of Rs 24,000 crore, will connect Bastar region with important cities of the state like Raipur, Bilaspur and Durg. The rail link will also help in easy and cheaper transportation of iron ore for industries. (Pioneer 9/5/15)

118. With third Maoist arrest, Pune comes under police scanner (12)

Pune: With the arrest of a top Maoist leader, the third such case in Pune, police are probing if the city and its surrounding areas, home to a considerable student population, cultural and industrial activities, have been a favourite destination for the left-wing extremists. The two top alleged Maoists arrested on Friday — Ajith and Ismail — were residing in plush Lotus Villa in New Anand Nagar, Talegaon Dabhade, located in the jurisdiction of Pune rural police. The two-storey building is new and comprises eight apartments. The alleged Maoists staying here for the last few months did not have much interaction with neighbours. Investigation is now underway to find out what activities Ajith and Ismail were carrying out from this house. It may be recalled that Arun Bhelke and his wife Kanchan Nanaware, alleged operatives of Golden Corridor Committee of CPI Maoists who were arrested from Pune by the ATS, were residing in a small house in Kanhe Phata in Maval taluka, also under the jurisdiction of Pune rural police. However, before their arrest, the couple lived in different rural as well as urban areas of Thane, Raigad and Mumbai. They had managed to get PAN and Aadhar cards under different names. Arun was allegedly trying to indoctrinate youths from city slums. So, even though he lived at Kanhe Phata, he used to travel to cities frequently. Similarly, Angelo Sontakke, the alleged secretary of the Golden Corridor Committee of CPI Maoists, who was arrested along with her aides by the Thane ATS, was operating from a small house in Paud, located in Pune rural. ATS had later arrested some artists of the Pune-based cultural group Kabir Kala Manch for alleged Maoist links. Investigation agencies are looking into the possibility of whether the Maoists are finding it easy and safe to live in rural areas and operate in urban belts. (Indian Express 10/5/15)

119. Chhattisgarh wants Naga jungle warriors to counter Bastar Maoists (12)

RAIPUR: While Chhattisgarh government is using the development route to counter Naxal insurgency in the state, it wants some hard task masters in the jungle as well. The state government has written to ministry of home affairs seeking battalions of Nagaland’s Indian Reserve Battalions, especially for the worst-hit Bastar region. Naga fighters are considered the very best in jungle warfare for their no-nonsense fighting skills, survival tactics and toughness. The move comes as the state government, along with Modi government in the Centre, spends thousands of crores for the development and education of the region. Modi, on a short visit on Saturday, kick-started schemes worth Rs 24,000 crore in Bastar region. According to a rough estimate by the state officials, there are more than 5,000 Naxalites in Bastar region alone, where CRPF, state’s STF, district force and local police are deployed. In total across the state, there are close to 40,000 central paramilitary forces personnel posted. Chief minister Raman Singh said that ministry of home affairs has been approached to deploy Naga armed police force personnel and ministry will take up the matter with Nagaland government. “Experience shows that Nagaland battalions were very useful in fighting the Naxalites. They are very good at jungle warfare,” said Singh. Inspector general of police (Bastar region), S R P Kalluri, talking to TOI, said “The Naga forces, militarily, are far superior than any police force in the jungle. For fighting Naxal insurgency, they are the best”.Brigadier (retd) B K Ponwar, who runs the Counter-Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College in Kanker and has trained over 30,000 men, also agrees that Naga fighters would be very useful for the state. “They (Naga armed police forces men) are very quick in the jungle. They are good trackers, they can live off the land, are hardy, can eat anything and walk on the toughest terrain for long hours.” Last time, from 2006 to 2008, when Naga battalions were posted in Chhattisgarh, there complaints of human rights violations from several NGOs and organizations sympathetic to Maoists after which the Nagaland government withdrew the fighters from the BJP-ruled state. “I presume they will be better disciplined this time,” said Ponwar. There are several challenges in front of Chhattisgarh government including construction of dams, railway lines, electrification of remote villages and construction of roads in the most disturbed regions. For constructing roads in most disturbed areas, sometimes the state has to deploy a huge force. Raman Singh said that the Bastar region is bigger in size than Kerala and shares borders with other Maoist violence-affected states like Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra. “Forces took 40 years to catch one Veerappan (dreaded sandalwood smuggler who was killed by security forces in 2004). There are thousands of Veerappans in the state. But we will catch each one of them,” he said. (Times of India 12/5/15)

120. Treat arrested Maoists as political prisoners: CPI (12)

KOCHI: Communist Party of India (CPI) State unit secretary Kanam Rajendran has said that the government should find solutions to the social issues raised by Maoists instead of meting out inhuman treatment to them. Addressing a meet-the-press programme here on Tuesday, he said the CPI was opposed to the ways adopted by Maoists but the issues were relevant. The arrested Maoists should be treated as political prisoners, he said. Mr. Rajendran cautioned the government against any attempt to suppress the issues by unleashing combing operations against the activists who were highlighting reality. He said the government had failed to tackle health problems faced by tribal people. Though there were 16 or 17 deaths reported in the tribal belt due to diseases, the government failed to take steps to contain it. He demanded that a mobile virology lab be set up in Wayanad to provide medical care. He said incidents involving Maoists were being blown out of proportion. The government could have made a spot study as most of the Cabinet members were present two days ago in Wayanad in connection with the wedding of a Minister. (The Hindu 13/5/15)

TRAFFICKING

121. Chandigarh-based NGO plans to check human trafficking in Nepal (1)

CHANDIGARH: When the entire nation is participating to provide help to earthquake-hit Nepal by providing medical aid, food, water, clothes and sanitary items, a city-based NGO, Salaam Zindagi, has shifted its focus to something that a common man will hardly imagine — saving homeless children of the neighbouring country from human trafficking. According to the NGO heads, disaster-hit areas become open grounds for traffickers as children are easy targets. “No security checks exist in such areas. People have easy reasons for not having documents to prove identity and relationships. In Nepal, trafficking is easier through India as the country has seven border entries with hardly any checks. We have got to know that after the disaster many Nepalese families are planning to relocate and this will offer a chance to traffickers,” said Amrinder Singh, founder of Salaam Zindagi. The plan of the team is to stop trafficking at the initial stage. “In Uttarakhand, we listed 450-500 missing children but no action could be taken as police were not making any headway. This time we have started early to stop the traffickers,” Singh said. A team of seven volunteers will be leaving for Nepal on Monday. “We have conducted events with Nepal-based NGO but after the earthquake we are not able to contact them. Our seven-member team will be reaching there soon. It will set up base on all seven borders to check trafficking,” he said. The team will be gathering data on how many children have gone missing. The NGO members will also send relief material in the second half of the month. “Till May 15, we will be gathering funds and by then we will get to know about the needs. We are not sending relief material immediately as everyone does so in the initial days. We are still providing relief material to Jammu and Kashmir flood victims.” (Times of India 1/5/15)

122. Airport police, Immigration department on alert for fear of human trafficking from quake-hit Nepal (1)

With death toll in thousands and as many believed to be buried under the rubble, Nepal will take a long time before it is able to stand erect. Even as hundreds are still searching for their loved ones there is fear among the security agencies in India that women and children in Nepal could fall prey to traffickers. Nepal has been the hub for human trafficking for a very long time. Fear is that the unscrupulous elements could well take advantage of this situation. While strict vigil is being kept at the various border posts there is a lot of preparedness at the Indira Gandhi International International Airport as well. The Immigration Department and the Airport Police are on a state of high alert at the IGI Airport. Sources tell Headlines Today that an expert team is already in place looking into the profiling of the passengers. ”Immigration Department has to see whether the passenger is genuine or not. Our expert team has mastery to check the suspicious movements or gestures of the passengers. CISF intelligence is also there. We are always in touch with the police and if there is any suspicion on any passenger we refer the matter to the Delhi Police ” revealed a source in the Immigration Department on condition of anonymity. Sources say that special attention is being placed on those passengers who are first time flyers. There is a thorough check for the documents as well. When asked on the human trafficking issue another official in the Immigration Department added,”It’s a challenge. It has been there in the past as well. If the documents are all fine there is nothing much you can do about it. If someone is going by will what can you say. It is only when someone complains then you make a move. But we are sensitive to this and are making all efforts to remain vigilant. The inflow of people from Nepal is on and the CISF intelligence is also aware that there are many taking connecting flights as well. There are additional checks in place for passengers using them. Vigil is also being kept on local flights….  (India Today 3/5/15)

123. Child trafficking: 11 children rescued in Ludhiana (1)

Chandigarh: 11 minors were rescued after Special Investigation Team of Labour department raided a textile unit in Ludhiana and busted an interstate racket of child trafficking. The children were rescued from a textile manufacturing unit at Guru Vihar Rahon Road in Ludhiana last night, an official spokesperson said, adding, all the rescued were minors and aged between 8-14. The team found the children, brought by the gang from Bihar, living in a pitiable condition and being forced to work as bonded labour at Rs 50-100 per week, he said. The children were made to work in pathetic and unhygenic conditions and were not being provided with proper clothing, food and medical facilities, he said. The children were victims of human trafficking and hailed from Bihar. Meanwhile, the Punjab Labour Department on Thursday alerted its counterpart in Bihar so that complete module of the trafficking gang could be busted, he said. The rescued children were presented before the District Child Welfare Committee and afterwards sent to a children’s home in Kurali, he said. (Hindustan Times 7/5/15)

124. Campaigners warn of rise in trafficking after Nepal quake (1)

Kathmandu: Human traffickers could try to target vulnerable women and children displaced by a devastating earthquake in Nepal, campaigners warned on Wednesday. The deadly earthquake that struck on April 25 killed thousands of people and made many more homeless. One non-government organisation working to prevent child trafficking said it had seen an increase in suspicious cases at the porous border with India which has in the past been used to traffic women and children from Nepal into slavery and prostitution. “Girls are at high risk of trafficking and sexual abuse, they have to be protected,” Anuradha Koirala, the founder of Maiti Nepal, an anti-trafficking organisation, told AFP. Koirala said her organisation had increased its monitoring operations on the border with India. A cycle of unemployment, poverty, gender discrimination and impact of 10-year Maoist insurgency has made Nepalese women and children in the country easy targets for traffickers. A 2013 report by the country’s human rights commission recorded 29,000 incidences of trafficking or attempted trafficking in the country. “We have special teams inspecting camps and shelters to ensure that women and children live in a safe environment,” said deputy spokesman for Nepal Police, Sarbendra Khanal. “We understand that there is a threat, and we are working to put in preventive measures.” Relief agencies working in quake-hit areas are seeking to raise awareness of the dangers to vulnerable people. But Kamal Thapa Chettri from the trafficking office at Nepal’s Human Rights Commission said agents could also be posing as aid workers. “This (quake) gives them an opportunity to see who is desperate and find potential targets. The quake-hit areas definitely face an increased risk,” he said. (Zee News 7/5/15)

125. Civil society groups call for child safety at tourism spots (1)

Bhopal: A section of civil society organisations (CSOs) from Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa have called for child safety-centric tourism policy, especially in context of recent studies in the state that showed rampant exploitation of children at major tourism spots such as Khajuraho and Ujjain. Representatives of 18 organisations from the three states held a consultation here recently to discuss the provisions made in the draft of the national tourism policy that has been put in public domain to seek objections and suggestions. Following discussions, a 16-point resolution on child safety issues in tourism was adopted and it was decided that the points would be forwarded to the ministry of tourism for consideration. The consultation was coordinated by Bhopal-based organisations Vikas Samvad and Hifazat and Bangalore-based Equitable Tourism Options (EQUATIONS). Vikas Samvad and EQUATIONS had conducted a study in Khajuraho and Ujjain last year and reported extensive exploitation of children, including forced labour, begging and sexual exploitation. HT had reported the details of the study. One of the major resolutions adopted by CSOs was that the ministry for women and child development should come up with a national and state level action plan to stop exploitation of children in tourism with assistance of the ministry of tourism, tourism industry, state governments, community members and social organisations. They also said in the approval process for tourism development projects, declaration to safeguard local communities from exploitation — especially children and women — should be sought from the applicants. There should be special arrangements for prevention of human trafficking at the tourism spots. The CSOs also suggested strict implementation of the code of conduct for safe tourism. Sachin Jain of Vikas Samvad told HT that the draft tourism policy totally lacks the concept of safety and security of children and women in context of tourism. “The entire draft of the policy does not refer to the words like child/children, rights or communities in sense of local people even once. The reference to women is also in context of entrepreneurship and not protection from exploitation,” he said. (Hindustan Times 9/5/15)

126. 25 Myanmarese nationals arrested in West Tripura (1)

AGARTALA: At least 25 people, including women and children from Myanmar suspected to be victims of an international human trafficking racket, were arrested by Tripura police on Saturday for illegally entering the country. They were allegedly heading for Kashmir to work as domestic help. A local and a Kashmiri resident, who are suspected to be operating the racket, were also arrested. Among the Myanmarese nationals, there were nine men, eight women and 10 children. The group has told police that it had entered Tripura through Sonamura from Comilla in Bangladesh and were supposed to leave for Kashmir. None of them have any valid documents. A local court at Sonamura in West Tripura district on Sunday sent all the adults to jail for 10 days and the children to juvenile homes. Police said the foreign nationals said they had left Myanmar four years ago following atrocities on them by the authorities and had travelled to Bangladesh. Police found identity cards of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from their possession. (Times of India 11/5/15)

127. State tops human trafficking cases in 2012-13: Report (1)

Kolkata: A 2013 annual report of National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) identified West Bengal with the highest number of cases of human trafficking in the year 2012-13. According to the report, Bengal shares at least 40 per cent of the total cases of procuration of minor girls in the country while the state has at least 69 per cent of the total cases of selling girls for prostitution. The NCRB bulletin states that a total of 1,224 cases were reported across the country in 2013 under section 366A of the IPC (procreation of minor girls) compared with 809 in 2012, thus showing an increase of 51.3 per cent. Of these, West Bengal accounts for 486 cases, followed by Bihar with 193 cases and Assam which has 129 such cases. The report also revealed that Bengal accounts for 69 of 100 cases of selling of girls for prostitution in the country, reported under under section 372 of the IPC. Significantly, three regions — Sundarbans in South and North-24 Paragana, Darjeeling and tea garden areas of Terai and Dooars region— are believed to be the most vulnerable in terms of human trafficking. According to police reports, 316 minor girls were missing in 2014 from the Terai-Dooars region, of which 280 have been recovered. In 2013, the number of missing minor girls was pegged at 381. Similarly, more than 1000 minor girls were found missing in Sundarbans in 2013-14, according to government reports. (Indian Express 15/5/15)

CORRUPTION

128. Anti-graft Law as Good as Those Who Enforce It (5)

The Cabinet clearance for the amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, is a major initiative of the Narendra Modi government. Though mooted by the UPA government, the Bill has been given teeth to make it a major instrument to fight corruption. For the first time, corruption has been made a heinous act attracting a maximum punishment of seven years, up from five. What’s more, the amendments also seek to deal with corporate bodies which indulge in corruption. In other words, the law seeks to punish both the bribe-giver and the bribe-receiver. Care has been taken to ensure honest officials will not face harassment from investigating agencies if they have not lined their pockets or misused positions. An amendment makes it obligatory for every official to refrain “from violating a statutory duty or any set of rules, government policies, executive instructions and procedures”. Any failure to comply with it can land him or her in trouble. A significant provision is the speedy trial of corruption cases, which have to be completed in two years. While the honest officials have nothing to fear even after retirement, those who are corrupt will find the going tough. Though corruption among government officials is rampant, successive regimes have failed to tackle it. The Central Bureau of Investigation was set up primarily to deal with corruption by government employees but its history shows only small fish were caught and the sharks went unchallenged. Small wonder that in the public perception nothing works in the government without greasing the palms of officials. No law is better than those who implement it. Though some corporate leaders have, of late, been facing corruption charges, they have so far been able to escape the dragnet. They do not mind bribing government officials to get favourable decisions. What’s worse, they treat corruption as a necessary evil without which business is not possible. A private company cannot pay bribes without the big bosses not knowing it. They will no longer be able to argue that they did not know about the giving of bribe. The Cabinet has done well to prepare a set of anti-bribery guidelines for the corporate sector. Modelled after the UK Bribery Act, they will help the corporates to bring in place systems that will insulate their companies from corruption. The earlier the amendments are incorporated in the law, the better it will be. (New Indian Express 1/5/15)

129. Amendment in anti-graft law: Babus relieved, experts sceptical (5)

New Delhi: Bureaucrats are relieved but legal experts are skeptical over the proposed amendment to shield babus from prosecution in graft cases after retirement. While the bureaucrats feel it will help overcome the “policy paralysis”, legal experts have questioned the move to provide a blanket protection from criminal action without sanction from competent authority. “A criminal is a criminal” even if he retires or resigns and the amendment could have been made more realistic and deterrent for those taking the system for a ride, was the view of those who were critical of the Cabinet’s approval to the amendment in the Prevention of Corruption Act. Members of the bureaucratic fraternity expressed a sigh of relief over the much-needed protection and welcomed the proposed amendment in anti-graft law for enhancing maximum punishment from five years to seven saying “some deterrent should be there so that no one dares to take the system for a ride.” Sanjay Bhoosreddy, Secretary of Central IAS Association, differed with the view of legal experts on the issue of sanction, saying such a step was necessary to do away with “policy paralysis” in the administration. However, legal experts like retired judges S N Dhingra and R S Sodhi and senior lawyer Anil Divan expressed reservations over shielding of bureaucrats even after retirement saying the entire proposal does not seem to be on the right path. Bhoosreddy said bureaucrats are professionals and those doing their work honestly need to be protected. “We are all professionals and especially those doing their work honestly need to be protected. If we have to do away with the policy paralysis and if we want the bureaucrat or the highest decision making authority to take decisions in the right direction, then system has to provide appropriate environment to ensure investment in nation building,” he said. The IAS officer did not have any complains on the proposal to enhance the punishment for corrupt bureaucrats and said, “We would like the government to go after the corrupt elements in the system and nip them in the bud.” “We welcome the steps taken by the government as it is in the overall interest of the administration and governance of the country,” he said. (Zee News 3/5/15)

130. Nitin Gadkari ready to mount strong defence if Rajya Sabha discusses on corruption issue (5)

NEW DELHI: Road transport minister Nitin Gadkari is reportedly preparing a strong defence to address the ongoing controversy over a CAG report questioning Purti Sakhar Karkhana Ltd (PSLK) loan repayment to state-run IREDA, if there were to be a discussion on the issue in Rajya Sabha. The Gadkari camp argues that the auditor’s report does not indict the minister or PSKL; rather it raises questions on the technical faults on IREDA’s part during UPA rule. Sources close to Gadkari claim that PSKL has settled the loan it had taken from Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited (IREDA) under the authorized one-time settlement scheme (OMS) and out of the 29 companies that settled their outstanding loan and interest, Purti had repaid the maximum amount – 84.81% in comparison to an average recovery of 46.75% outstanding amount. IREDA had recovered Rs 71.35 crore out of the total amount of Rs 84.12 crore from Purti, which included the principal amount and interest. Citing data, sources said the recovery is low to an extent that not a single rupee of interest has been recovered in 20 cases and in a few other cases the principal was also not recovered. “There is no irregularity, no instance of corruption or misuse. Gadkari was neither an MP nor BJP president during the period that has been referred by the CAG,” said a source. Purti group also said it has not defaulted on loans from IREDA and Gadkari was never involved in its day-to-day operations. Gadkari had resigned as the group chairman of the company in 2011. “We have not defaulted on repaying the loan or indulged in any misutilization or misappropriation of the amount. The audit report is on lapses or irregularities in procedures followed by IREDA,” PSKL managing director Sudhir Dive said. He added that the audit report mentions that in April last year IREDA management had informed CAG that PSKL settled its entire loan outstanding as per OTS norms. The company said while settling the repayment of the loan as per the OTS norms with IREDA, it had furnished all necessary documents and replied to all their queries to their satisfaction. CAG has flayed IREDA for violation of financial guidelines in connection with Rs 48.65-crore loan to the PSKL for which its promoters and directors including Gadkari had given “personal guarantee.” PSKL was sanctioned the term loan in March 2002 for setting up a 22 MW bagasse based co-generation power project at Nagpur in Maharashtra. On disbursement of 25% of the loan amount in the first installment violating IREDA’s financial guidelines, Dive said it is IREDA’s internal checks and balances and that PSKL could not be aware of them. Responding to the charge that IREDA continued to fund PSKL’s project even though other lenders had classified the loan as NPA, he Dive said, “The financing was not through consortium of banks and each bank or financial institution was free to take an independent decision on the loan classification.” He added it was an independent commercial decision of IREDA to fund the project. (Times of India 9/5/15)

131. Amendment Bill proposes to water down whistle-blower law (5)

NEW DELHI: Is the Centre diluting the whistleblower protection law by excluding certain issues of national importance from its purview? It appears so, going by the latest Amendment Bill, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday. A likely effect of the new Bill is that whistleblowers seeking to raise issues of national importance, including those concerning national security, scientific, strategic or economic interests, may not get the desired protection. This is because the government proposes to keep issues which impinge on the sovereignty and integrity of India outside the purview of the whistleblower law.According to the proposed amendment, a public servant cannot make any “public interest disclosure” if it could affect the sovereignty and integrity of India; the security of the state and its strategic, scientific or economic interests; friendly relations with foreign states; or lead to incitement of an offence. Public servants cannot also disclose information relating to commercial/trade secrets or intellectual property that can harm the competitive position of a third party. Also, information received in confidence from a foreign government will not come within the purview of the whistleblower law. Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha. The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011, which is yet to be notified despite a Presidential nod in May 2014, was enacted to protect persons making disclosures on corruption, wilful misuse of power or discretion by any public servant. Legal experts have a mixed view on the Bill with some even seeing it as a dilution of the current law. Ashish Bhakta, Partner, ANB Legal, pointed out that the whistle-blower protection law concerns the public sector and that the government is trying to protect issues of national importance. “However, in the garb of protection, it tends to limit the Act and the purpose for which the law is being introduced stands defeated,” Bhakta told BusinessLine. “The solution for the well-founded apprehension would be to build a mechanism in the Act which protects or keeps classified any disclosure that could be against national interest,” he said. “One has to realise that this Act has come into place to disclose acts related to corruption and misuse of power, which are against the national interest,” Bhakta added. (Business Line 11/5/15)

132. AIADMK gets rid of corruption tag, can inch closer to BJP (5)

The acquittal of J Jayalalithaa in the assets case would help AIADMK shed its corruption tag and build bridges with the Modi government which has been explicit on its zero tolerance to corruption. Within a few hours of the verdict, Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the AIADMK chief. Once considered to enjoy a good rapport as Gujarat and Tamil Nadu chief ministers, Modi and Jayalalithaa had over the years drifted apart after the latter revealed her prime ministerial ambitions. BJP national secretary H Raja and state chief Tamilisai Soundararajan also congratulated Jayalalithaa, though they clarified that the Centre had no hand in the verdict. In Delhi, Union telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and minorities welfare minister Najma Heptullah welcomed it. This indicates that the favourable ruling for Jayalalithaa is bound to change the AIADMK’s political dynamics at the Centre and pave the way for closer cooperation be tween TN and the Centre. “BJP will go for an alliance with AIADMK to improve its vote share in TN. Jayalalithaa will accept it as she needs the Centre by her side get all the help just as DMK benefited when it was part of the UPA,” said political commentator Gnani Sankaran. BJP backing the choice of AIADMK’s V Thambidurai as the Lok Sabha deputy speaker had set the stage for floor coordination between the erstwhile allies. For passage of key bills, BJP is dependent on AIADMK, which with its 11 members can call the shots in the Rajya Sabha. In August last year, the then Union law and justice minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had called on Jayalalithaa. That was before her conviction by the trial court, but the visit raised eyebrows as Prasad had been her legal counsel earlier. Later, after Jayalalithaa secured bail, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley visited her in January . State opposition leaders promptly questioned the propriety of Jaitley calling on “a convicted person”. But BJP had been quick to retort that Jayalalithaa’s conviction was not final. (Times of India 12/5/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

133. Fearing ban, packaging firm moves National Green Tribunal (9)

New Delhi: With the National Green Tribunal mulling ban on plastic packaging of products including PET bottles, a packaging firm has approached it claiming that it is “least polluting” while alternative materials like paper and aluminium foil are environmentally more “dangerous”. The tribunal has listed the matter for arguments on May 7 and 8. The plea moved by Uflex Ltd, before a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swantanter Kumar, said that globally multilayer plastic is “most preferred” and favoured packaging material compared to others because of its weight, cost of transportation and other benefits. The petition was filed after NGO Him Jagriti Uttaranchal Welfare Society moved NGT seeking directions to restrict the use of plastic bottle and multi-layered plastic packaging including pet bottles by imposing a ban on packaging of carbonated soft drink. The firm has said that Central Pollution Control Board has included “plastic” under “Green Category” i.e “least polluting” as it is recyclable and that alternative packing materials like paper and aluminium foil are for more environmentally dangerous. “Many useful products have been developed with recycled plastics and large number of people are employed in these activities in small, micro and informal sectors,” it said.

Favouring more recycle plants for plastic rather than blanket ban, Uflex said that the Centre and state governments should allot land for waste management. “The intervener company (Uflex) is a major stake holder and any adverse order passed without the applicant being heard will violate its fundamental rights under Article 14 and 19(1)(g) and Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the plea said. Seeking exemption only for water and pharmaceuticals industries as these are “essential” items, the NGO had said unrestricted and unregulated use of plastics for the purpose of packaging has significant health and environment impact. The green panel had earlier indicated that it favoured “restriction” on plastic packaging of products including PET bottles and granted final opportunity to various plastic manufacturing units and other parties to file their written submissions in the matter so that there contentions can also be taken into account.  The counsel appearing for Environment ministry (MoEF) had told the bench that meetings were held to consider various aspects of pet bottles packaging of food and food products etc but nothing could be materialised and further scientific study is required. The bench had noted the Central Pollution Control Board and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSO) have sought a ban on using PET bottles or plastic containers in liquid oral formulations for primary packing. “There appears to be commonality on the stand of various learned counsel appearing for the government and authorities that plastic multi-layered packaging /pet bottles would be injurious to human health… (Indian Express 3/5/15)

134. 40% of Delhi schoolkids fail lung capacity test: Study (9)

NEW DELHI: More than a third of schoolchildren in four big cities of India suffer from reduced lung capacity, with Delhi showing the worst results, claims a new study whose results could be pointing to how air pollution is impacting the health of kids in urban India. In the survey, 2,373 kids in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata underwent a lung health screening test (LHST). Of the 735 students who took the test in Delhi, 21% were found to have ‘poor’ lung capacity while another 19% had ‘bad’ capacity. This means four out of every 10 children screened in the capital failed the test. Delhi has the worst air quality among 1,600 cities around the world, according to the World Health Organization. The students were asked to inhale and then exhale forcefully into a testing device to check their lung capacity. Dr Preetaish Kaul, representative of Heal Foundation which conducted the survey, said they were shocked to find so many children not being able to exhale properly. Children in the three other cities surveyed were only marginally better off. “The survey was observational and we did not look into the cause of poor lung health in children. However, given the fact that most children were otherwise healthy, it will not be wrong completely to infer that poor air quality has a role to play in causing the reduced lung capacity,” said Dr Preetaish Kaul, representative of Heal Foundation. In Bengaluru, 36% (14% ‘poor’ and 22% ‘bad’) were found to have reduced lung capacity, followed by 35% in Kolkata (9% ‘poor’ and 26% ‘bad’) and 27% in Mumbai (13% ‘poor’ and 14% ‘bad’). LHST determines how much air the lungs can hold, how quickly one can move air in and out of the lungs, and how well the lungs take oxygen in and remove carbon dioxide out from the body. “The test can detect lung diseases and measure the severity of lung problems. Poor results in LHST mean compromised lung function and high possibilities of contracting pulmonary diseases,” said a doctor…. (Times of India 5/5/15)

135. NGO gives suggestions for waste management in cities (9)

NEW DELHI: Environmental NGO Toxics Link on Tuesday put forward a slew of recommendations on municipal waste management in cities. Decentralizing waste collection and processing are among the key suggestions. The policy brief comes in the wake of the new draft waste management rules released by the environment ministry last month. The ministry is currently holding consultations with stakeholders across the country. The NGO has prepared the recommendations, along with University of Sussex-based STEPS Centre and Centre for Studies in Science Policy at JNU. Some waste streams such as biomedical waste, e-waste, plastic waste, and construction and demolition waste need technical interventions which work best at a larger scale. But urban household waste can be processed in a decentralized manner, using methods such as composting and biomethanation instead of landfilling all the waste, the brief said. One of the reasons why large-scale composting plants don’t work is because adequate markets for compost are not available. “We started this process of studying waste management about three years ago. The policy brief with eight major recommendations is a result of that,” said Satish Sinha, associate director, Toxics Link. Another recommendation suggests that privatization of waste management is not necessarily the best way. “Our field work in Delhi shows that despite private companies having primary collection contracts, more than 50% of the primary waste collection is being done by the informal sector,” it said.the brief said and argued that waste collection contracts be directly given to the waste pickers or the informal sector through the resident welfare associations (RWAs). Some private companies have started realizing these challenges, for instance a waste management company in Delhi has entered in to a contract with an ngo that works with waste pickers in Rohini and Civil Lines. The NGO also recommends the need of making elected representatives more accountable; including mechanisms for public consultations in local planning and implementing processes; incentives for supporting local technologies; subsidizing compost and social incentives for people who segregate waste at source; and buying compost for kitchen garden; etc. (Times of India 6/5/14)

136. In Jawai forest, govt commercial interests conflicting with conservation (9)

JAIPUR: The state government’s commercial interests are conflicting with conservation in the Jawai Bandh Conservation Reserve. Although the Jawai Bandh Forest was notified a conservation reserve by the state government on February 27, 2013, the department of animal husbandry and fisheries has till date been giving out contracts for fishing in the Jawai Bandh. “Officially, there is no provision to ban a commercial activity in a conservation reserve. But looking at the aquatic diversity of fauna at Jawai and the adverse impact of fishing, the government can officially ban fishing,” said Rajpal Singh, member, State Wildlife Board. According to the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (section 36A (2)), once an area has been notified a conservation reserve, the act provides for the protection of wild animals, birds and plants with a view to ensuring the ecological and environmental security. Jawai Bandh and the forest area around it after the notification automatically come under the conservation reserve. Over the last two years, the forest department has written several letters to the animal husbandry and fisheries department to stop fishing contracts, but all these have fallen on deaf ears. The forests and the water bodies along the Jawai dam in Sumerpur tehsil have a large presence of crocodiles. The wildlife census in 2011 had put their population at 288. In the latest letter, Rohit Gupta, former Pali collector, has once again emphasised the need to immediately stop fishing contracts in Jawai Bandh as they are detrimental to conservation and bio-diversity. “The Jawai Bandh in the conservation reserve houses crocodiles which are a protected species. By giving out fishing contract in the dam, the anthropogenic presence increases in the forest area, adversely affecting the wildlife and conservation initiatives. Besides, it reduces natural food for the crocodiles who, in turn, start attacking humans and livestock flocking to the bandh for water,” reads the Gupta’s letter to the principal secretary of animal husbandry and fisheries department. As for revenue, Gupta suggests in his letter that in case of cancelling the fishing contracts, the department can earn revenue from tourism that would increase in the Jawai’s eco-system. After conservation, it would attract more and more native and migratory birds. (Times of India 9/5/15)

137. Gujarat to initiate project to restore ecology of saline areas (9)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat, which possesses more than 1.2 million hectares of arid area due to salinity ingress, is planning to initiate a project to turn the vast tracks of saline land into grassland and restore green cover of those areas. In this regard, the Gujarat ecology commission of the state’s forest and environment department has taken up a pilot project in a village near Gulf of Khambhat and will subsequently implement in other areas also. “We have planned a project to convert vast saline area in to grassland and at present taken a pilot project at a village Tadan talav near Gulf of Khambhat in Anand district of state,” A K Saxena, member secretary of the Gujarat Ecology Commission, said. This project was conceptualised around three years ago with a view to convert the arid lands due to salinity ingress into grass-land with vegetative cover and restore ecology of the area, said Saxena. According to sources in Gujarat ecology commission (GEC), a study is being conducted in Tada Talav village to convert the saline area into green one. “We are conducting a study in Tada talav village near Gulf of Khambhat on converting saline land into grass-land and on the findings of that study, we will decide on the future of the project,” said an official associated with the project. “We will first grow grass in saline areas, as it can generate the organic matters in an arid land and after that we will grow other vegetation there, said official. “We can reduce the effect of saline tidal waters of the sea, which ingresses salinity in other areas by planting grass and ultimately ecology will be restored in saline areas,” he said. With the success of this project, there will be a positive impact over the state’s ecology which will ultimately help in progress of farming community, he added. Due to salinity, the land goes arid and barren which has no use for the farmers, said the sources. According to the website of Narmada Water Resources, water supply and Kalpsar department, coastal areas of Kutch and Saurashtra are saline which comprises around 1.2 million hectares. (Times of India 11/5/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

138. Depression is the main cause of farm suicides (20)

The vast majority of suicides are of non farmers. Why are their deaths treated as lesser tragedies than those of farmers? Because presenting farm suicides as a single mass tragedy can win awards for journalists, TRPs for TV anchors, dona tions for NGOs opposing commercial crops and globalization, slogans for leftists attributing eve rything to class war, and votes for opposition parties. Many states now compensate suicide-hit families, delighting mon eylenders who had lent to these families and can now use muscle to claw back their dues from the compensation money. That’s why I titled an earlier Swaminomics in August 2004 “Everybody loves farm suicides”. India’s suicide rate of 11 per lakh people is roughly the global average. The highest rates are in Greenland (83lakh), Lithuania (38lakh) and South Korea (28.5 lakh). China’s rate (22.2lakh) is double India’s. The Indian rate is lower than in rich countries with big welfare systems and very few farmers: Belgium (19), France (14.7), US (12.6), Japan (12.3), Germany (12.5) and the UK (11.8). A field-based research study in The Lancet (by Pandit et al) sug gests that actual suicides may be 35-40% higher than officially recorded. Many people are reluctant to corded. Many people are reluctant to report suicides. If so, India’s rate is close to Belgium’s. Underestimation is common in developing countries. Islam views suicide as a ter rible sin, so Pakistan claims a suicide rate of just 1.1lakh! The global suicide pattern shows no close link with farming, poverty or welfare. The overwhelming cause of suicide is mental stress, not financial stress. In the US, 2-15% of depressed people commit suicide. Up to two-thirds of suicide victims are depressed. Mental stress (and hence suicides) will doubtless rise in times of financial stress. But the underlying mental issues cannot be cured by loan waivers and subsidies. Using non-official data, the Lancet study says suicide rates are no higher for farmers than non-farmers. This has been contested by some Cambridge researchers, whose work I find very unconvincing. Some studies based on official farm suicides show them 20-40% higher than for non-farmers in recent years. But economist Pramit Bhattacharya shows that in 2013 even the official farm suicide rate fell below that of non-farmers. Instead of tom-tomming this, the media have ignored it.They would rather focus on the suicide of a farmer at an AAP rally against land acquisition, suggesting (wrongly) that this causes suicide. Why is the media ignoring the fall in the farm suicide rate to below the national rate? Because no journalist will get a medal and no TV anchor will get TRPs for revealing that farmers have become less suicidal than others. Rather, this will suggest that the awards and eyeballs that journalists, academics and TV anchors got in past years were perhaps undeserved, and who wants to admit that? Opposition politicians, left academics and NGOs portray farm suicides as the result of despair and poverty . But the Lancet study shows conclusively that most suicide deaths occurred in richer states and highly educated people.Suicides are ten times more likely in the relatively rich south than the poor north…. (Times of India 3/5/15)

139. Crop failure drives two MP farmers to suicide (20)

BHOPAL: Two farmers allegedly committed suicide in Madhya Pradesh after alleged crop failure due to unseasonal rain and hail last month. One in Bhind district hanged himself from a tree along Chambal ravines while the other jumped before a train in Gwalior on Sunday. In Bhind alone, 13 farmers have reportedly committed suicide since March 30 this year while about 20 farmers committed suicide across the state. In all cases, government has denied farmers committed suicide. Sunil (26) from Sagra village in Bhind had cultivated wheat on 10 bigha land along with his elder brother Anil Singh Rajawat. He had also taken a loan of Rs 80,000 for seed and fertilizers. Anil said his brother was upset ever since the crops were damaged by rain and hail. On Sunday, when some villagers spotted body of Sunil hanging from a tree on the outskirts, they informed Anil. He later informed the police. SDM Bhind, BB Agnihotri, told media he was unaware of the case so he would cross check before making any statement. In Gwalior, about 90km from Bhind, Ramvaran Singh jumped before a train. His nephew Ramveer Singh said that his crops were damaged by rain and hail last year as well. His family said his daughter’s marriage was scheduled in December this year but he was already under debt and was worried how to repay it. Gwalior district administration said that investigations are on to ascertain whether it was an accident or suicide. (Times of India 5/5/15)

140. Farmers furious as minister says no solution to farmland suicides (20)

Nagpur: A farmers’ advocacy group from Vidarbha on Saturday locked horns with Maharashtra Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse over his remarks that the government has no solution to stop farmland suicides. “We are shocked by Khadse’s insensitive statements on such a sensitive issue which is a matter of concern for not only Maharashtra, but farm communities in India and the whole world,” Kishore Tiwari, president of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), told IANS. Reacting to Khadse’s view that tribals don’t commit suicides as they are “morally strong”, Tiwari claimed that every second farmer is a tribal in Vidarbha and this can be verified from official records. Following a meeting with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and other officials to discuss ways and means to stop farmland suicides, Khadse declared that no solutions were available. “There are no concrete solutions to completely stop farmers suicides in the state… Even after counselling, there is no guarantee it (suicides) will stop,” Khadse told mediapersons on Friday. Tiwari said: “It is mockery of the very issue of farmers ‘genocide’ by Khadse. As per official records, more than 50 percent of the victims are from ST and SC which have always been denied institutional credit, exploited by private moneylenders and have no access to government welfare schemes.” He challenged the minister to visit the homes of Yavatmal district’s tribal farmers Madhukar Pendore (Runjha village), Ramesh Godam (Joginkawade), Kavdu Vetti (Mangurda), Tanba Todsam (Boregaon), who ended their lives in 2015. “Then he will realise what nonsense he is talking based on the misleading advice given to him by officials. Is this the reason why Fadnavis travels abroad and is bringing Israeli experts to stop farmers crises?” Tiwari demanded. Khadse blamed the unseasonal rains, hailstorms and recurring droughts as the main factors behind farmers suicides. Tiwari said the agrarian crisis became critical owing to introduction of new seeds and new cultivation methods, cash crops replacing sustainable drought-prone food crops around the state since 1998. He pointed out how more than a dozen commissions, committees, expert panels and research groups have submitted comprehensive reports and recommendations to curb farmland suicides and yet Khadse feels there is no solution. “He must immediately resign,” he demanded.The VJAS reiterated how the BJP leaders wooed the farmers for their votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly elections by making tall promises, and in one year the government has shrugged off responsibility by saying there is no solution. (Deccan Gerald 9/5/15)

141. Rajasthan farmer suicides dip (20)

Jaipur: Notwithstanding recent brouhaha over Rajasthan farmer Jitendra Singh’s suicide at an Aam Aadmi Party’s rally in Delhi, the number of farmers committing suicide in the desert state is constantly declining. After many ups and downs, farmer suicides touched an all-time low of 268; although it went up a bit in last two years to 270 in 2012 and 292 in 2013, but still far lower than the all-time high of 851 in 2009. In fact, despite far more adverse conditions for agriculture, farmers suicides never became an issue in Rajasthan till recently controversial suicide of Jitendra Singh at the AAP rally in Delhi last month. Unlike states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh where large numbers of farmers commit suicide every year, farmers’ suicide in Rajasthan have never been linked to crop damage or financial stress, said experts. The total number of farmers’ suicides in last five years in Rajasthan is almost half of Maharashtra in a single year. Although, 42 farmers have committed suicide in last two months allegedly because of crop damage but experts refuse to believe crop damage as the reason. Professor M.S. Rathore, a water and livelihood expert, claimed that state government tended to exaggerate crop damage to demand big relief package. “This is not to suggest that farmers are not facing problem, but truth is it has more to do with pricing mechanism aimed at keeping keep food inflation in check, which denies farmers rightful gain.” Besides, he says farmers in Rajasthan are not much into capital intensive commercial crops like their counterparts in other states therefore they can easily cope up with financial losses. Also, farmers here have other means to survive. Most farmers are also in dairy business. Also, one member of the family is being sent to government service specially army or police to support the family in bad times. They even temporarily migrate to other states to work as labourers in cities. Former agriculture scientist Manohar Vyas agrees with him but has a different take. According to him the average yield has gone up at least 10 times because of improved Irrigation facility. A small dip in yield is therefore unlikely to affect them because even after the damage the yield now is still much more than what it used to be normally a few years ago. Experts also believe that farmers in Rajasthan are mentally tough and prepared to face crop loss. “Rajasthan is a desert state. There is drought every alternative year; therefore, farmers here are more adept at handling such crisis,” explained Dr Arunesh Singh who has done a study on long term impact of drought on people’s behaviour. (Asian Age 12/5/15)

142. 1,000 farmers committed suicide after TRS came to power: TDP (20)

HYDERABAD: Senior Telugu Desam leader and party’s Polit Bureau member, Ravula Chandrasekhar Reddy, has said that 1,000 farmers committed suicide after TRS came to power and charged the State government with failing to protect the interests of farmers. At a press conference at TDP office on Wednesday, he said the details of the suicides village-wise and constituency-wise were available. He demanded that the government pay an ex gratia of Rs. 5 lakh each to the kin of farmers, who ended their lives, implement Swaminathan Commission report and prepare a concrete plan to make agriculture profitable. Referring to the tour of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, he said 24,000 farmers had committed suicide in the united AP between 2004 and 2014. He demanded that the Congress leader visit and console the families of farmers who committed suicide during Congress regime and provide assistance to them. (The Hindu 14/5/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

143. Stop work on dam, Chhattisgarh tells U.P. (4)

RAIPUR: The Chhattisgarh Government has asked its Uttar Pradesh counterpart to halt the construction of a dam in Sonbhadra district till compensation cases related to the project in the tribal-dominated State are settled. Kanhar Dam being built in Amwar village of Sonbhadra district of neighbouring Uttar Pradesh is likely to submerge villages and displace hundreds of people in Chhattisgarh. “Chief Minister Raman Singh has assured that the construction of the irrigation dam by the Uttar Pradesh government on Kanhar river will not be allowed overlooking the interests of farmers and villagers of Chhattisgarh. He has said interests of rural citizens will be protected at any cost,” an official statement here said on Thursday. Chhattisgarh Chief Secretary Vivek Dhand has written a letter to his U.P. counterpart Alok Ranjan, urging him to stop construction at the dam site till the compensation and other issues are disposed of as per the agreement signed between the two States, it said. According to a survey of the U.P. Government, four villages will be affected by the project in Chhattisgarh’s Balrampur-Ramanujganj district namely Jhaara, Kushfar, Semruva and Trishuli. An area measuring around 258.40 hectare is estimated to be submerged. However, later the Survey of India, in its report, said 263.40 hectare land is estimated to be affected due to the venture. This included 86 hectare revenue land, 56.40 hectare private and 121 hectare forest land. In his letter, Mr. Dhand has said based on the data of Survey of India, the U.P. Government has not yet sent a revised proposal on compensation to Chhattisgarh. In 1999, then Madhya Pradesh Government gave conditional consent to U.P. for the dam’s construction. Once part of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh became a State in 2000. – PTI (The Hindu 1/5/15)

144. Land acquisition cost will be more than doubled: Gadkari (4)

Guwahati: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Saturday said land acquisition cost for various road projects would be more than doubled as Centre had decided to give compensation at the maximum permissible level. “The 2013 Land Acquisition Act said that compensation has to be up to 1:4 ratio. It means that if the collector assesses the cost of the land at Re 1, then the owner will be paid up to Rs 4. Now we have eliminated ‘up to’ and made it fixed at 1:4,” Gadkari said. “Because of this change, the cost of land acquisition for road projects (already announced) will increase to Rs 1,80,000 crore from Rs 70,000 crore,” he said. “This is a blessing in disguise for farmers and other land owners. This will reduce litigation time due to disputes related to compensation,” he said. The Centre had requested the state governments to raise land acquisition costs accordingly to speed up developmental works, he said. Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, who held a review meeting of infrastructure projects with representatives of all state governments of the North East, said land acquisition and environmental clearances were two major bottlenecks of the region. Talking about current state of work across the country, Gadkari said “When I took charge, I set a target of building 2 km road every day. By March end this year, it touched 12 km per day and it will be 14 km a day when our government will complete one year in office this month.” He said the government was targeting to construct 30 km of road per day in the next two years, contributing two per cent to the GDP of the country. (Busines Standard 2/5/15)

145. Gujarat govt to buy land in joint venture with farmers (4)

GANDHINAGAR: Even as the Land Acquisition Bill gives heartburn to the Narendra Modi government for being branded as ‘anti-farmer’ by opposition parties, the Gujarat government has proposed joint ventures (JV) with farmers under the new industrial policy. The new Gujarat model encourages farmer groups to give their land to Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) to develop industrial parks under a JV with GIDC. While the scheme was introduced in a different avatar a few years ago, officials say it would work well at a time when acquiring land for industry has become a sensitive issue. The move promises to be a solution to contain growing discontent over agriculture land acquisition for industrial purpose. The ‘Financial Assistance to Industrial Park’ (FAIP) scheme declared recently under the new industrial policy promotes JVs with farmers to develop industrial parks ranging from 20 to 100 hectares. “Farmers will be made equity and profit partners in proportion of their land holding. Under the JV, farmers may continue to be owners of the land but may sacrifice their right in lieu of equity and profit rights in the park,” said an official. Saurabh Patel, state government spokesperson and in-charge minister for industry and mines, said, “It is a win-win model for all. GIDC faces a lot of issues in acquiring private land. The new model will motivate farmers.” Modalities of the JV will be approved by the State Level Expert Committee. Industrial parks under FAIP will be provided financial assistance of 25% of eligible fixed capital investment in building and infrastructure facilities up to Rs 30 crore excluding the land cost. Additional Rs 20 crore assistance will be provided if the park developer (JV also) develop hostel and dormitory facility for workers. The private developer or JV of farmers and GIDC will get 100% reimbursement of stamp duty paid. Individual units will also get 50% stamp duty waiver. (Times of India 5/5/15)

146. NBA intensifies Jal Satyagrah, govt refuses to reduce water level (4)

Bhopal: Terming the state government’s move to raise the water level of the Omkareshwar project, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) has refused to take land offered to the affected people by Narmada Valley Development Authority. The outfit claims that the government shows complete lack of concern for the affected inhabitants of the region, who have been observing “Jal Satyagarh” for the past 25 days in the tail waters of the project. The NBA and some of the affected people in Bhopal today warned that they had little option left but to commit suicide. The battle the NBA has waged against the “faulty” rehabilitation and resettlement programme of the government has entered the 26th day today. Meanwhile Narmada Valley Development Authority, a state government agency responsible for rehabilitation of the affected people today said the NBA and affected people have once again refused to accept land in Tendukheda area of Narsinghpur district (450 km from Omkareshwar dam site). “We have refused the land since it is not arable land. They do not have arable land anywhere,” Chitrupa Palit, an activist of NBA said here. “They have refused to accept the land despite government’s willingness to offer land for land. The Tendukheda land, according to prescribed collector guidelines, carries a market value of Rs 10-12 lakh per acre, and is much higher than the cash compensation the affected families would get. It is known as the best land in the state,” Rajneesh Vaish, vice-chairman (rehabilitation) of Narmada Valley Development Authority told BS. As many as 65 affected people have been partially submerging themselves in the tail waters of Omkareshwar reservoir since April 11, to observe Jal Satyagrah against the government’s decision to raise the reservoir level height from 189 meter to 191 meter. “Twenty of the affected are now in critical condition but state chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is not listening to us,” Palit said. “We want the government to bring the water level down to 189 meters from 191, and not raise the water level since rehabilitation has not been completed yet. It is a clear violation of Supreme Court orders that water level cannot be raised before completion of rehabilitation. The government should offer at least five acres of land to each affected person, or cash against the land at prevailing market rates,” she allegedly pressed for demands. The chief minister has already clarified that his government would not bring down the water level of the reservoir down since a large number of farmers are benefitting from it. “We would even raise the height to 196.6 meters — the full reservoir limit — in the interest of large number of farmers. We cannot run the irrigation canal if the water level goes down from the present level of 191 meters,” Chouhan had said earlier last month. Chouhan clarified the canal irrigate a huge land area up to 65 km and thousands of farmers are cultivating summer crops this year. “We would not bring down the level of reservoir,” Vaish said. On being asked why the government has raised the level before completion of rehabilitation, he said “There are 213 families who had already accepted cash and other grants but now they want to surrender compensation and demanding land against land. We have agreed upon and have shown them land areas at different location but they do not want to accept any land.” On offering the affected people non-agriculture land Vaish clarified and asked, “Would it be possible that of the 5000 hectares of land we have in our land bank, not even a single acre is arable?” The affected farmers came to Bhopal and warned the government was leaving them with no option but to commit suicide. “They have paid us a niggardly amount of money,” Mansharam of Ekhand village said and warned, “I have left with no option but to end life.” Omkareshwar dam is a 520-Mw hydel power-cum-irrigation project on Narmada River in west Madhya Pradesh. It is a joint venture project of National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) Limited and state government. Another project Indira Sagar is also in close proximity of the project churns 1,000 Mw power. The joint venture has earned cash revenue of Rs 1,369.11 crore during 2013-14. (Business Standard 6/5/14)

147. CPI to protest against Land Acquisition Bill on May 14 (4)

New Delhi: Terming the Centre’s Land Acquisition bill as “anti-farmer”, the CPI today said it will organise nationwide protests against the legislation on May 14. In Delhi, senior CPI leaders will hold a rally at the Parliament Street near Jantar Mantar, while simultaneous protests will be organised in other parts of the country, it said. “We are going to organise the protests to mark our opposition to the anti-farmer bill. It will be an independent activity on part of CPI,” party General Secretary S Sudhakar Reddy told PTI. “We expect to get more response in states like Kerala, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra,” he said. Reddy raised objections to Centre’s proposal to remove clauses mandating farmers’ consent and conducting social impact assessment before land acquisition from the 2013 Act introduced by previous UPA-II Government in this regard. According to the Act, if land acquired remains unused for five years, then the same is required to be returned to the original owner. The NDA government has eliminated this clause too, he observed. The leader expressed concerns over the reduction of agricultural land by 7.24 crore acres since 1991 when India went for economic reforms. He suggested that the government use public land for setting up industries instead of fertile land to ensure food security. “Instead of taking away peasants’ fertile land, the government can use 1.40 crore acres of the land available with it. There is three crore acre land available with the Waste Land Corporation which too can be used for developing industries,” he suggested. Reddy also said that measures must be taken to ensure industries share benefits with farmers whose land will be used for setting up factories. “There is a misconception being spread that we are against industries. We are not. But our intention is to see justice is done to farmers,” he added. Meanwhile, the party said opposition to the bill will be high on its agenda for the Bihar assembly polls scheduled later this year. (Business Standard 8/5/15)

148. Posco’s Silence Shows Withdrawal Symptoms (4)

BHUBANESWAR:Posco is yet to respond to the State Government which had asked it to deposit Rs 73 crore for the land acquired for its proposed steel plant at Paradip, creating an impression that the South Korean company may withdraw from the project. “We want Posco to set up the steel plant at Paradip, but if for any reason the project does not come up, the land will be utilised for alternative activities,” Industry Minister Debi Prasad Mishra told this paper. The Minister, however, did not elaborate the matter. “We are waiting for the company to make a move one way or the other,” he said. Minister of State for Steel and Mines Prafulla Mallik also said that the company has shown no interest for the project. Mallik had proposed that if the South Korean company wants to set up the plant, it can be supplied iron ore through the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC). However, there is no response from Posco to this positive overture from the State. Neither has the company replied to the repeated reminders from the State Government to pay for the land acquired for the steel plant proposed to be set up at Paradip, nor it has reacted to its overtures. Posco-India is yet to make payment of Rs 54.22 crore towards premium of the land and Rs 18.89 crore towards Net Payment Value (NPV) against deserved forest land. The company requires 2,700 acres of land for its steel project of eight million tonne capacity out of which the company was given advance possession of 1,703.56 acres 15 months back. Official sources said it has shown no interest to take possession of rest 1,000 acres of land. The letter from Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) to Posco-India said, “For the revised 8 MTPA steel plant, Posco India requires 2,700 acres of land out of which advance possession of 1703.56 acres of land has already been given. Balance land of 1088.59 acres will be leased out soon after payment of Rs 54.22 crore premium and Rs 18.79 crore Net Payment Value.” The lack of interest of the company for the project was in evidence when it withdrew from the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the Haridaspur-Paradip railway line project and asked the railway authorities to return its money. The company had provided Rs 27.5 crore for land acquisition for the railway line. (New Indian Express 10/5/15)

149. GO clears hurdles to land acquisition for AP capital (4)

HYDERABAD: In a controversial move, the Andhra Pradesh government on Thursday issued a GO exempting the capital city development project from the provisions of Chapter III of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Ordinance, 2015. The ordinance effected by the NDA government at the Centre brought in some changes to the same Act that was passed by the previous UPA regime in 2013 and came into effect on January 1, 2014. Chapter III of the Land Acquisition Act states that no irrigated multi-cropped land shall be acquired under the Act. However, this was amended by the ordinance, which allows land acquisition under exceptional circumstances as a demonstrable last resort. “The AP government is of the view that the land acquisition for the capital region is being done under exceptional circumstances. The ordinance is very general in nature. We had to issue a GO allowing us such land acquisition specifically for the capital city development project,” said an official. While Chapter III of the act referred to food security and multi-cropped land, Chapter II referred to the need to conduct social impact assessment study. “The GO issued by the AP government on Thursday provides exemption from both these clauses as far as the capital city land acquisition is concerned,” the official said. Sources in the government said the TDP government took the exemption from the food security clause as several farmers have moved the Chennai-based National Green Tribunal seeking a directive to the state government to stop the land acquisition and construction of the capital. “Now, with the exemption clause, the AP government can claim all the agricultural land in the proposed capital region,” they said. Since the exception from food security and social impact assessment (SIA) directives will be notified in the state gazette on May 15, the municipal administration and urban development (MA&UD) ministry is likely to issue the notification for acquiring the land under the land acquisition act on May 16, the sources said. According to them, the notification will clearly state that the land acquisition act will be invoked only against those who are not willing to part with the same under the land pooling system. Of the 33,000 acres that is needed for the capital region development, the state has acquired most of it under the land pooling system and another 1,300 acres are needed, for which the land acquisition Act is being invoked. The authorities are hopeful that once the notification is issued and before the process begins, farmers will come forward to part with their land under the land pooling system, under which they stand to get a higher compensation as compared to the benefits laid down in the land acquisition Act. AP issues GO exempting capital city development project from the provisions of Chapter III of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Ordinance, 2015. (Times of India 15/5/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

150. 21 perinatal infants die daily in Maharashtra (3)

Mumbai: Although the previous state governments had claimed that they had reduced the malnutrition level in Maharashtra, thus containing infant death, recent RTI figures state otherwise. Most of the infant deaths in the state during the perinatal stage (the period around a baby’s birth) between 2001 and 2012 have been due to the malnutrition and slow foetal growth. Out of the 92,428 perinatal infant deaths that have occurred in Maharashtra during the given period, a total of 49,307 lives were lost to malnutrition, slow foetal growth and premature birth. According to the figures, on an average, 21 infants within the perinatal period die per day while 4,108 lives are claimed by malnutrition every year with the average being seven infant deaths every day. The number of perinatal deaths and death due to malnutrition has remained constant over the decade with over 5,500 infants dying of malnutrition every year from 2001 to 2012. Apart from malnutrition, birth trauma, hemolytic diseases of the foetus, perinatal jaundice along with other conditions have claimed other lives. The report has been furnished by RTI activist Chetan Kothari and has been provided by Dr Madhukar Pawar, deputy director, health department. According to the experts, unawareness, shortage of neo-natal care units, home-based delivery system, improper nutrition intake and lack of proper transportation facilities in the state and the ignored infant care system has lead to current number of infant deaths in Maharashtra. Experts also pointed out that the death ratio is high for rural areas, which do not have proper facilities for mother-baby care. Dr Bhupendra Avasthi, a paediatrician who has worked in Sion Hospital for 25 years, said that even though medicines in every other field has flourished, infant care remains the most ignored one in the country. Revenue allotted to neonatal care is also minimal. The situation is worsened by the ignorance about such matters among the people. “Neonatal care units in the state have not improved. Mostly, mothers carry out deliveries and baby care at home based on the traditional and out-dated procedures, due to which many vaccinations and the impeding effect of infections are ignored. Most of them either contract infections or develop asphyxia,” said Dr Avasthi. Dr Anant Phadke of the Jan Aarogya Abhiyan, who has worked for the betterment of health sector in rural areas, said that extreme poverty, marriage at a young age and illiteracy are the leading causes for malnutrition. Dr Girish Maindarkar, paediatrician from Latur and member of the Medical Council of India, who has been working to improve infant health in the state, said that the government has been actively attempting to reduce the number of infant deaths. “Most of the infant deaths occur in rural areas. Maternal malnutrition, unhygienic conditions, lack of vaccination and neonatal units are adding on to the numbers. However, over the years the facilities in rural areas have improved drastically with the help of integrated programmes,” said Dr Maindarkar. The state health department is also positive that in the coming years, with the inclusion of the new integrated system, the numbers will come down eventually. “Home-based care units along with newborn care units have been installed across the state in the last six months. Over 50,000 infants were born in the baby-care units within the same time period and are healthy,” said Dr Chandrakala Jaiswal, member of Unicef for the state health department. She added, “We are carrying out campaigns to increase awareness on hypothermia as 98 per cent of infants suffer from it and eventually die.” (Asian Age 2/5/15)

151. 1.24 lakh children fell prey to respiratory diseases (3)

Mumbai: Respiratory diseases have taken the lives of at least 1.24 lakh children between the age group of 0 to 4 in the state from 2001 to 2012. The diseases that have claimed maximum lives are asthma, lower respiratory diseases, pneumonia and hypoxia birth asphyxia — a condition occurring from deprivation of oxygen in infants. The details were procured though an RTI query on the causes of infant deaths in the state. One of the major causes for higher death according to experts is the non-availability of medicines and vaccines. “It is strange that till now vaccination for even influenza, a leading respiratory diseases, is not available in backward areas,” said Dr Jesal Seth, senior paediatrician from Fortis Hospital. She also added that due to non-availability of good medical healthcare units, the infants were more likely to die, as they required immediate and superior medical attention. “Besides, for respiratory disorders, neo-natal care units with advanced medical facilities are needed,” she added. Hypoxia, birth asphyxia, has been the chief killer with the toll reaching 41,355 deaths. An average of 3,500 children and infants have died of it every year till 2012. Experts pointed out to the limited number of manpower, presence of extremely few experts in the rural areas and worsening ecology as the main causes for the deaths. Pneumonia, which is the second largest respiratory disorder, has claimed 20,789 lives from 2001 to 2012. The death toll due to pneumonia has remained constant over the years, with the disease killing 1,800 every year. Asthma, which has killed a total of 1,668 children, including infants, has however shown a massive decline. “Requirement of providing pre-mature babies with steroids is high. These are however not available in most regions, which is leading to deaths. Many infections are also caused because of the non administration of medicines to them,” said Dr Girish Maindalkar, paediatrician from Latur and a member of Medical Council of India. (Asian Age 3/5/15)

152. India among nations with largest urban child survival gap (3)

NEW DELHI: India is one of the 10 countries in the world with the greatest survival divide between wealthy and poor urban children. It figures in this worrying list with other nations that include, Rwanda, Cambodia, Kenya, Vietnam, Peru, Madagascar, Ghana, Bangladesh and Nigeria. India has also scored poorly in the Mother’s Index Rank standing at 140 out of 179 countries. The Index scores countries on five criteria: maternal health, children’s well being, educational status, economic status and political status. These are among the key findings of the State of the World’s Mothers 2015 report “The Urban Disadvantage” prepared by Save the Children and launched by Union Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla in New Delhi on Tuesday. At the launch, Dr. Heptulla said, “While India has made laudable improvement on Infant Mortality Rate front, even today over 7,60,000 children die in India every year and many of these deaths are due to preventable causes. We obviously need to do a lot more.” In these 10 countries poor urban children are three to five times as likely to die as their most affluent peers, the report says. In India, the percentage of the urban population living in slums is 29 per cent. This urban poor population is 3.2 times as likely to die by the age of 5 as the urban rich, an indicator of the rich-poor gap. That the quality of life of mothers and children in the urban slums of Delhi is one of the worst in the world and the health inequity between the rich and the poor is stark, the report notes. The other key findings of the report are that while great progress has been made in reducing urban under-five mortality around the world, inequality is worsening. It emphasises the issue of urban mothers and children being deprived of lifesaving health care. The growing number of slums the world over has been noted as a cause of concern in the report and a main cause for the urban rich-poor gap. Dr. Sudeep Gadok, director of programmes, Save the Children, said that one reason to cheer was that global under-five mortality rate came down by half from 90 to 46 deaths per 1,000 live births between 1990 and 2013 and India made much progress too. But the phenomenon of more and more people migrating to cities had resulted in many cities not being able to keep up with breakneck growth, leaving hundreds of millions of mothers and children in cities without access to essential health services and the clean water they need to survive and stay healthy, he said. (The Hindu 6/5/15)

153. Nepal quake victims prone to diseases (3)

Kathmandu: People severely affected by the April 25 devastating earthquake in Nepal have been suffering from various communicable diseases, media reported on Monday. According to sources, diseases such as diarrhoea, fever, pneumonia, dysentery and conjunctivitis have started to grip the poorly built camps for earthquake victims at Ri, Tipling, Sertung, Jharlang, Lapa among other village development committees in Dhading district, Kantipur news reported. Health workers said earthquake victims are susceptible to these diseases as they live in a common camp and don’t have access to pure water, warm clothes and proper sanitation facilities. A District Public Health Office (DPHO) official said that over 500 people were suffering from diarrhoea, pneumonia and conjunctivitis. However, the DPHO along with the assistance of Himalayan Healthcare-Nepal have set up health care units in the region. He said that the health camps would be set up in other affected villages too. “We are planning to dispatch some American doctors in the area too,” the official added. The quake-displaced people have been sharing the already cramped tent with their pets and cattle, ultimately leading to the spread of the diseases. (Business Standard 11/5/15)

154. Cancer survivors form support group (3)

NEW DELHI: Opting for a full life after cancer, women cancer survivors have formed a support group to counsel and advise others grappling with the trauma of having being diagnosed or under treatment for cancer. The brave survivors launched a programme, titled Sparsh—Ek Pahel , at BLK Super Speciality Hospital here recently. The event was attended by over 50 cancer survivors and patients. Surgical Oncology Head of Department and initiative patron Kapil Kumar said the group is aimed at providing regular support to survivors and to organise activities and counselling sessions to help cancer patients. “The participants underwent an interactive physiotherapy session to reduce lymphedema risk. Besides this the participants also attended a counselling session by a psychologist on post-treatment management, a physical well-being and self care session by dietician who provided various tips, and a yoga and meditation session,” said Dr. Kumar. Cancer survivor and coordinator for the event Sarika Rana noted that every cancer survivor is special and a unique story. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and underwent breast-conserving surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I was hugely supported — research guide, friends and doctor, all of whom made a proud survivor. Fifteen months later, I am committed to making lives of cancer patients/survivors positive and to help them on the path of recovery and rehabilitation,” Ms. Rana said. She added that she never let her battle with cancer come in the way of her professional commitments. “I went to work every single day after my surgery, except the days I had to go for chemotherapy. My doctor said occupation therapy would take my mind off the illness. So when people like to argue that work won’t comfort you on your deathbed, I smile and say that I would like to differ.” “The journey was all about winning small battles on an everyday basis in order to win the bigger war against cancer in the long run. I told myself every morning, even if I happen to lose my looks to cancer, I will be happy to have won the war against this disease.” Doctors at the hospital explained that post-treatment care is very important in the prognosis. “Sparsh is a unique and first-of-its kind initiative in India for rehabilitation of 1,000 survivors who have been suffering from side effects, mood swings, social isolation, recurrence stigma, body image and physical well-being. Consultation through volunteer meeting will benefit many patients,’’ said Dr. Kumar. Cancer survivors claim they see this as an opportunity to connect with other survivors and now work to create awareness about the social costs of the stigma attached to cancer. “The major concerns of cancer survivors include rising medical costs and a lack of awareness about common symptoms,” noted a survivor. (The Hindu 12/5/15)

155. India way behind on WHO health targets (3)

NEW DELHI: India has met only four of ten health targets under the Millenium Development Goals (MDG), and has made next to no progress on another four, according to new data from the World Health Organisation. The deadline for achieving MDGs runs out this year.The WHO’s annual World Health Statistics for 2015 were released in Geneva on Wednesday. The report finds that globally, life expectancy at birth has increased by six years for both men and women since 1990. “By the end of this year if current trends continue, the world will have met global targets for turning around the epidemics of HIV, malaria and tuberculosis and increasing access to safe drinking water. It will also have made substantial progress in reducing child undernutrition, maternal and child deaths, and increasing access to basic sanitation,” the report says. Progress in child survival worldwide is one of the greatest success stories of international development, the WHO says, and pre-term birth complications have replaced neo-natal complications and disease as the biggest source of mortality for children under the age of five. Since 1990, child deaths have almost halved — falling from an estimated 90 deaths per 1000 live births to 46 deaths per 1000 live births in 2013. Yet the world will not achieve the MDG target of reducing the death rate by two-thirds. “Less than one-third of all countries have achieved or are on track to meet this target by the end of this year. The top killers of children aged less than 5 years are now: pre-term birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia and diarrhoea,” the report says. In India, life expectancy grew by eight years between 1990 and 2013. While India has sharply reduced its infant mortality between 2000 and 2013, it still contributes for the most infant deaths globally. Non-communicable diseases are the top killers, followed by communicable diseases and injuries. In September, countries will decide on new goals for 2030. “In addition to finishing the MDG agenda, the post-2015 agenda needs to tackle emerging challenges, including the growing impact of non-communicable diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, and the changing social and environmental determinants that affect health,” it says. (The Hindu 14/5/15)

HIV/AIDS

156. Over 200 Test Positive for HIV in City Daily (3)

VISAKHAPATNAM: There has been considerable increase in the number of HIV cases in the city with over 200 people being tested positive for the dreaded diseases every day. Despite the awareness programmes, more than 10 per cent of the 11,524 patients, who are eligible for Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), are faltering to take the treatment regularly. As per the government records, there are 27,158 people who tested positive for HIV in the city. Of these, 11,524 cases are eligible for ART. But, over 1,500 of them falter to take treatment despite of facilities being provided for free. Patients who have been detected with HIV positive at the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTC) should be referred to the nearest ART centre/Legal Action Centre (LAC plus) and to be registered in HIV care irrespective of them showing symptoms. Additional district medical and health officer (AIDS and Leprosy) R Ramesh told reporters here Thursday that HIV is not a disease with permanent cure, but with proper treatment, the life span can be increased up to 20 years.  But, this is where the patients  skip treatments and all the facilities provided to them like monthly pension, RTC bus pass and free ART treatment are stopped. (New Indian Express 1/5/15)

157. Uganda runners hit by HIV scare (3)

KAMPALA: Ugandan runners have been hit by a major health scare after it emerged that a coach accused of sexually abusing young athletes was infected with HIV. There are fears the virus, which can lead to AIDS, may have been spread further among other runners due to promiscuity among the athletes, and one of the east African nation’s top sportsman is calling for widespread testing. “Many of our colleagues must be infected,” Commonwealth Gold medallist Moses Kipsiro was quoted as saying by the Daily Monitor newspaper. “God should have mercy on us.” Uganda, an emerging athletics power that has been trying to take on traditional regional rivals Kenya and Ethiopia, was hit by an athletics sex abuse scandal nearly a year ago. It broke after 28-year-old Kipsiro relayed complaints from his female teammates against a national coach Peter Wemali, who is alleged to have told some of the female runners to have sex with him in order to perform better. Wemali has since been charged with sexual abuse, and last week Ugandan media said court documents had revealed he was also HIV positive. “I know of many senior male runners who have unknowingly shared girlfriends with Mr. Wemali. Some are even married to runners that once had affairs with him,” Kipsiro said. The Daily Monitor said three underage female runners are also feared to have been infected by the coach, while three other runners have filed complaints with the police and will undergoing tests this week. “The numbers (of infected) could be very high. It’s very worrying,” Tunde Musawo, a sports officer from Kapchorwa district where the training camp abuse allegedly took place, also told the paper. Kipsiro said widespread testing was now necessary. “I am going to mobilise the elders to meet with all athletes and ask them to test for HIV. It’s then that we will know the extent of the problem and see how to help the infected ones,” he said. Last month Kipsiro, who regularly trains with Britain’s Mo Farah, says he may have to flee the east African country after receiving threats stemming from his decision to speak out against the abuse. (Times of India 5/5/15)

158. RS panel advocates insurance for HIV positive people (3)

New Delhi: There shall be no discrimination in providing health and life insurances to HIV positive people and it should “preferably” at regular rate of premium, a standing committee of Rajya Sabha has said in a report on a bill to stop discrimination against those suffering from HIV/AIDS. The Rajya Sabha’s standing committee on the health ministry, in a report examining The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014, has also asked central government to form guidelines for the appointment of ombudsman, who play a crucial role as per the bill. According health ministry data, India is estimated to have 2.39 million people living with HIV/AIDS, the third highest number after South Africa and Nigeria. The bill seeks to prevent and control the spread of HIV/AIDS, prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, provides for informed consent and confidentiality with regard to their treatment, places obligations on establishments to safeguard their rights, and creates mechanisms for redressing their complaints. The panel, in its report said there shall be no discrimination with HIV positive people while providing insurance cover. “The committee is of the opinion that all HIV positive people should be provided insurance cover without any discrimination preferably at normal rate of premium or they may be charged slightly higher rate of premium but in no case exorbitant rate of premium should be charged from HIV positive people for providing insurance cover for both life and health insurance,” said a report of a select committee of Rajya Sabha, tabled in the house recently. The committee recommended the health ministry to pursue the matter with the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) for providing insurance cover to all the HIV positive people without any discrimination. The health ministry had submitted to the committee that the IRDA was not in favour of providing insurance cover to such persons at normal rate of premium. On the appointment of ombudsman, the committee has asked center to form “model guidelines” for appointment. “There is an imperative need to develop a set of model guidelines… to ensure that the persons of impeccable integrity are appointed as ombudsman and parity is maintained in respect of all matters relating to the office of ombudsman, amongst the states,” said the panel. “The committee, accordingly, recommends that the ministry should formulate a set of model guidelines giving strong procedures and systems in the matter for guidance of the states in the form of executive instructions as has been done in several previous legislations,” it said. The panel added that “significant and substantive” matters covered in the model guidelines may be included in the bill itself. The panel added that government should pass the bill without any further delay. The HIV/AIDS bill lists various grounds on which discrimination against HIV positive persons and those living with them is prohibited. These include the denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to employment, educational establishments, health care services, residing or renting property, standing for public or private office, and provision of insurance. The requirement for HIV testing as a pre-requisite for obtaining employment or accessing health care or education is also prohibited. It also says an ombudsman shall be appointed by each state government to inquire into complaints related to the violation of the Act and the provision of health care services. The ombudsman shall submit a report to the state government every six months stating the number and nature of complaints received, the actions taken and orders passed. (Busines Standard 9/5/15)

159.  ‘No national data on HIV/AIDS among differently-abled’ (3)

NEW DELHI: The Capital has nine antiretroviral treatment centres, but none of them has information on the alternate format for blind or sign language interpreters for deaf people, who are living with HIV. This is as per a Right to Information reply obtained by disability rights activist Satendra Singh from University College of Medical Sciences and GTB Hospital, Delhi. Stating that persons with disabilities are the missing voices in India’s national AIDS response, the physician noted that in the first report of its kind, UNAIDS Gap report 2014 had identified 12 populations at higher risk of HIV (of which people with physical disability is one) and emphasised covering these to close the gap. This Gap report estimates that India has the third largest number of people living with HIV in the world and accounts for about 4 out of 10 people living with HIV in the region. “The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in its response to an RTI had noted that they do not have any national data on HIV/AIDS prevalence among people with disabilities,’’ said Dr. Singh. He added that the NACO annual report of 2013-14 too does not feature a single word with ‘disability’ or ‘persons with disabilities’. Disability is also not mentioned in the HIV/AIDS (Prevention & Control) Bill 2014 as introduced in the Rajya Sabha. “The Delhi State AIDS Control Society (DSACS) has accepted the lacunae and responded stating that suggestions have been conveyed to NACO to include people with disabilities living with HIV in national response, convert all info on sexual and reproductive services AIDS/HIV in accessible format, prevalence among disabled to be included in next survey, disability questions to be used in existing survey,” said Dr. Singh. “We have also suggested that State Commissioner of Disabilities be part of State AIDS Control & Prevention Societies. (The Hindu 11/5/15)

160. 5,000 children living with AIDS in Manipur (3)

IMPHAL, May 10 – Though there is no accurate data, nearly 4,000 to 5,000 children are living with HIV in Manipur. Most of these children have lost their parents due to the pandemic and are brought up by their relatives, neighbours, locals or NGOs, according to President of Manipur Network of Positive People (MNP+) L Deepak. MNP+ is the only network run by people living with HIV in Manipur. MNP+ president disclosed this on the sideline of World AIDS Orphan Day observation at the RD Wing of State Health Services at Lamphelpat in Imphal on Thursday. “It’s high time to do something for these children,” Deepak opined, adding, “The State needs to formulate a new policy for children living with HIV.” He said that these children need special attention – right place for their shelter, good food, education and treatment. The State Government need to pay attention to their issues and earmark fund for the welfare of the children living with HIV, he added. The World AIDS Orphan Day observation was organised by Manipur State AIDS Control Society (MSACS), NGOs partners and MNP + along with Vihaan. Speaking on the occasion MSACS Project Director PK Jha said the infection rate of HIV in the State is still alarming. MSAC Joint Director L Abhiram said that around 2,093 children living with HIV were registered in the State. He expressed concern that many of these children were facing stigma and discrimination. He informed that a new provision has been inserted for children in the revised State AIDS Policy, 2015, which was passed in the recently concluded State Assembly session. (The Assam Tribune 12/5/15)

161. Centre, State asked to reply on lack of HIV testing kits (3)

NEW DELHI: The Centre as well as the Delhi Government was directed to file a reply in response to a public interest litigation stating that there was lack of adequate HIV testing kits in the Capital thus making it difficult to determine the course of treatment required for AIDS patients. On Wednesday, the Bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice R. S. Endlaw issued notices to the Union and the Delhi Government as well as the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO). They have to file their replies by July 22. The PIL has sought ‘uninterrupted’ service for treatment of people affected by HIV/AIDS. The petition filed by a transgender states that there is only one viral load testing centre in Delhi at Maulana Azad Medical College which also caters to neighbouring States. According to the petition, the HIV virus levels in patients can be determined by counting the immune cells, or the “viral load” and depending upon the test results it can be decided whether they should start taking the first or second line of specific treatment. The PIL also noted that currently there were nine testing centres in Delhi, but three of them did not have the testing equipment which was of grave concern since 20,000 people with HIV were registered in these three hospitals. (The Hindu 15/5/15)