HR News

Volume 17                                            No. 18                                                    June 30, 2015

HR NEWS: June 30, 2015

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Ambedkar statue damaged, Dalit outfits protest (2)

MADURAI: Tension prevailed at Avaniyapuram as a statue of B R Ambedkar was found with minor damages on Friday morning. The index finger and thumb of the right hand of the statue were broken. The spectacles, which were made of iron, was also damaged. The people who spotted the damages on Friday morning reported the matter to the police. Functionaries from various dalit outfits thronged the spot when the information reached them. They blocked the road for a few minutes and raised slogans demanding safety for the statue and the early arrest of the miscreants. A large number of police personnel were posted to prevent any untoward incident. Police said outfits like Aathi Tamizhar Peravai, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal, Puratchi Puligal and Tamizh Puligal gathered at Madurai Municipal Colony in Avaniyapuram. However, after the intervention of city police, they withdrew the blockade. Following the incident, protests were held in Melur and Tirumangalam. People belonging to different outfits raised slogans against the incident in front of the Madurai bench of the Madras high court. The city police said a case has been registered under the Tamil Nadu Public Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act, and they were searching for the miscreants. Avaniyapuram police inspector Sethu Mani Mathavan said police have assured that the demands of the functionaries of the Dalit outfits will be fulfilled. Also, they have started to restore the statue, install CCTV camera and provide lights, he said. The Ambedkar statue, installed by the state government, was opened several years ago, when Kakkan was a minister of the state. Police said this was not the first instance of desecration of statues. Such incidents have taken at least three times place in the recent years. Police sources said there were 22 statues in Avaniyapuram police limit, of which 12 are Thevar statues, three are Ambedkar statues, five Marudhupandiar statues and one is a Periyar statue. (Times of India 20/6/15)

2. UP brothers, who cracked IIT, fought dalit stigma as much as poverty (2)

REHUA LALGANJ (Pratapgarh): It was not just straitened financial circumstances but also the villagers’ casteist mindset that the Saroj brothers fought along their way to achieving their IIT dream. Caste biases run so deep here that even as they returned home feted by chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on Sunday, stones were thrown at their house. “There were five or six stones thrown at our home. We informed the police,” Raju Saroj told TOI. Otherwise, the brothers said, the villagers have become nice to them, especially since they shot to limelight after their incredible IIT success. It wasn’t always like this. The villagers would mock the Saroj brothers when they dared to study. They were told that as dalits, they need not study any further as they have no future. Even their drainage line was cut off a few weeks ago. But, the family today is being idolized by the same villagers.When Brijesh was applying to Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya for the first time, villagers had said he would never get through. As if that wasn’t enough, when his roll number appeared in the list of those selected, a neighbour tore up the newspaper and threw it away. They always pulled us back. There were no words of encouragement,” recalled Brijesh. When Raju applied a year later, 40 other children had applied as well. Only Raju made it. “The people then said our family has some ‘source’, that’s why we got admission,” said Raju, without a trace of resentment. “Navodaya was my turning point,” said Brijesh in crisp English. Before Navodaya, the boys were always pulled into the caste yolk. They were asked their caste by villagers, bus drivers and co-travellers. “People here are stuck in another century. They don’t want to move forward,” says Raju. “As my sons were studying in cities, villagers thought I had lots of money. They asked for my BPL card to be withdrawn,” said Dharmraj. But there were words of encouragement as well. “These two were the stars of our village from childhood as we knew that one day they will make their family and the entire village proud,” said Rakesh Jaiswal. He’d taken CPMT but could not make it. Hare Ram Yadav, principal, Vikas Uchchatar Madhyamik Vidyalaya, where the Saroj brothers had studied till class V, and who till a couple of days back had told Raju it would’ve been better had he had taken ITI, gave a different spiel on Sunday when TOI revisited the village. “When they were small, they used to tell me they wanted to become doctor and engineer and I only honed their skills,” he said. He tactfully concealed the fact that in 2005, one of the teachers had beaten young Brijesh when the 10-year-old had questioned his Sanskrit translation. Gulab Soni, their immediate neighbour, said, “We were sure of their achievements since they were kids.” As the celebrations were on, he merrily sipped soft drink offered by Raju’s elder. “Yeh log aapke saamne naatak karte hain. In logon ne hamara bathroom jaane ka rasta bhi band kara diya hai aur aaye din dhamki dete rahte hain” (these people are acting before you. They had even blocked the path I took for bathroom),” said Shiv Nath Saroj, the grandfather of the Saroj brothers. “They’ve stopped all the approach paths, barring one, for our house claiming that it was their own land. Had it not been thin lane, we could have not able to move out to go to the loo in the open,” he added with moist eyes. “We’ve been tormented for years as all of us have struggled against poverty and stigma to achieve what we are today. Had it not been TOI, this success story would not have been noticed,” said Munna Saroj, uncle of these boys. (Times of India 22/6/15)

3. Teacher’s dumb act ends Dalit girl’s education (2)

RAMANATHAPURAM: Children drop out of school for various reasons. For 15-year-old A. Muthulakshmi, a Dalit girl suffering from partial hearing loss, a malfunctioning hearing aid effectively ended her schooling. The teenager, hailing from a poor family in Peravoor, was in tears at the Collectorate here on Monday as she could not pursue her education after her teacher asked her to leave the school for the simple reason that she could not hear properly in the classroom. As her education came to an abrupt end, Muthulakshmi visited the Collectorate with her parents to request Collector K. Nanthakumar to provide her a sewing machine to supplement family income. However, officials turned her away saying she was still a child. Muthulakshmi was a normal child till the age of 11 when she suffered partial hearing loss. She was studying at Peravoorani Government High School and continued her studies with the help of hearing aid. In 2014-15, when she was in Class X, water seeped into her hearing aid and stopped working. Her class teacher pulled her up for not being attentive and sharp like other students. When she explained her difficulty, the teacher, instead of helping her to buy a new hearing aid, asked her to leave the school. “I cried before the teacher asking her not to send me out of school. But, she stood firm and I was soon given a transfer certificate,” Muthulakshmi told reporters. Her father K. Azhagan, a sanitary worker at the Peravoor Panchayat Union, said that he had also pleaded with the teacher to allow his daughter complete at least Class X, but in vain. With no other option, Muthulakshmi joined ‘Sigaram Vattara Kalainjiam’ and underwent a three-month cutting and stitching course in tailoring. “I am scared of being humiliated,” said Muthulakshmi when asked whether she would go back to school if she gets a new hearing aid. (The Hindu 23/6/15)

4. Dalit priest’s suicide: Tamil Nadu minister Panneerselvam’s brother gets bail (2)

MADURAI: A sessions court in Theni on Wednesday granted bail to O Raja, brother of Tamil Nadu finance minister O Panneerselvam, in a case relating to the suicide of a dalit priest. The Madurai bench of the Madras high court on June 11 directed Raja to surrender before the sessions court within three weeks and file a bail application. The high court also directed the court to pass orders on Raja’s petition on merits. Accordingly, Raja surrendered before the court on Wednesday. Later, when his case was called for, he filed a petition seeking bail. (Times of India 24/6/15)

5. 100 dalit Christians re-convert to Hinduism in Gorakhpur (26)

Lucknow: After several months, Uttar Pradesh had the first instance of “ghar vapsi” when saffron outfits in Gorakhpur re-converted nearly 100 Dalits from Christianity to Hinduism. Reports said members of Hindu Yuva Vahini, the outfit belonging to Gorakhpur BJP MP Mahant Adityanath, held a special ceremony at the Dalit hamlet of Mohaddipur in the town on Wednesday evening in which around 100 Christian Dalits were welcomed to Hinduism. Vahini activists had earlier rounded up four Christian priests and nuns, who they alleged “lured” poor Dalits into their faith. “Every family (embracing Christianity) were promised cash and a house,” Vahini’s state general secretary Ram Bhual Kushwaha alleged. Saffron activists handed the priests and nuns to the local police demanding stern action against them, but the police released them later since they did not find materials encouraging conversion in their possession. The outfit vowed to bring back everyone “lured” into conversion from Hinduism. “Our workers are keeping a close watch on conversion activities,” Kushwaha said. Hindu Yuva Vahini is active in Gorakhpur, Deoria, Kushinagar, Sant Kabir Nagar and other districts. Police in Gorakhpur said security personnel have been kept in full strength in the locality as a precautionary measure. Saffron outfits launched a state-wide “ghar vapsi” programme to welcome converts from Hinduism back to their ‘home faith’. Re-conversion programmes across the state triggered a strong reaction from Christian and Muslim communities. (Deccan Herald 26/6/15)

6. Dalit woman gang-raped in Bhojpur, 3 held (2)

ARA: A newly married Mahadalit woman was gang-raped by four men on the outskirts of Karisath village in Bhojpur district around Saturday midnight. Taking swift action, police on Sunday arrested three persons in this connection. The three have been identified as Indu Dom and Jaiky Dom of Town police station area, and Bhola Ram of Maula Bagh locality under the same police station area. They were later sent to jail. Police brought the woman to Ara sadar hospital for medical examination. Police are searching for two others involved in the incident. According to the complaint lodged with woman police station here, Reena Kharwar (name changed), a resident of Bihia in the district, got down from a passenger train at Jagjivan Halt, about 4km from Ara railway station, late on Saturday evening and reached Chandwa under Nawada police station area. Five persons were following her en route Chandwa, who forcibly took her to a field near Karisath village and four of them outraged her modesty one by one, the complaint said.The woman reached Ara in the wee hours of Sunday and narrated her ordeal to a mobile police party, which took her to Nawada police station. SDPO Binod Kumar Raut said the woman got down from a train at Jagjivan halt and reached Chandwa on foot. “The five miscreants followed her. Seeing them, the woman complained to a mobile police team there that the miscreants were chasing her. The police team shooed away the miscreants and hired a three-wheeler to take her to Karisath. After the police team left the place, the miscreants forcibly boarded the same three-wheeler, took her to Karisath and gang-raped her in a field,” he said. The accused, however, said all of them, including the woman, are luggage-lifters. The woman had snatched a chain from a passenger and they were demanding their share in the booty but she refused and instead implicated them in the false case of rape, they said. (Times of India 29/6/15)

TRIBALS

7. Tribes denied right to collect forest produce (6)

Palakkad: The Forest Department’s refusal to renew the annual licence of 27 cooperative societies under the Kerala State Development Corporation for SC/ST Communities (KSDCSSC) to collect minor forest produce (MFP) has put to difficulty a large number of tribal beneficiaries in areas such as Attappady, Idukki, and Wayanad. The annual licence of the societies expired on March 31. Since then, the Forest Department has not allowed tribespeople to enter forest areas to collect 147 MFP, including honey and broom grass. The traditional right of Adivasis to collect the produce is recognised under the Forest Rights Act. According to Forest Department sources, the State government has delayed the process of renewing the licence on the basis of certain proposals to hand over the rights to Forest Development Committees (FDCs). The FDCs are constituted by the department, but have meagre representation of tribespeople. If implemented, the majority of tribal beneficiaries would be denied the right to earn a steady income. The two cooperatives in Attappady have 4,600 tribal beneficiaries; most of them belong to the backward Kurumba community. “Renewing the licence is an annual affair normally involving no complications. The Chief Conservator of Forests issues the order and each society should sign a direct contract with the Divisional Forest Officer concerned. But no such process has taken place in the last three months, and this is the right time to collect honey in abundance,” says P.V. Santhosh, who works at a society at Sholayur in Attappady. (The Hindu 21/6/15)

8. Tribal Woman Gang-raped in Bengal, Four Arrested (6)

KOLKATA: A tribal woman was allegedly gang-raped after being abducted from a marriage party in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, police said on Sunday. Four people have been arrested in this connection. The incident happened Friday night in Tantipara of the district, some 180 km from Kolkata. Following a complaint by the victim, police on Saturday night arrested four people. According to the complaint, about six to eight people abducted the woman who had come to attend a marriage in the village and took turns to rape her. “We have arrested four people in this connection. The accused today (Sunday) were presented before a court which sent them to nine days’ police custody,” said Additional Superintendent of Police Ananda Roy. (New Indian Express 22/6/15)

9. Tribal people and forest staff clash in Yellendu mandal (6)

KHAMMAM: Tension gripped Bojjaigudem village in Yellendu mandal on Monday when a section of local tribal people put up stiff resistance to the attempts by the Forest Department staff to dig up trenches in forest land at the village. According to sources, a group of villagers mainly comprising tribal women squatted in front of an excavator brought by the Forest Department staff to demarcate the forest land for the purpose of digging contour trenches as part of plantation drive. The situation turned tense with the protesters preventing the staff from proceeding ahead claiming right over the land citing some pattas reportedly issued by the Revenue Department staff in the past. The Forest Department staff claimed that the land falls under the limits of the reserve forest area. However, the staff, accompanied by the local police, reportedly made a vain bid to carry out their task, resulting in tension in the village. Amid widespread protests by the local villagers, the police dispersed the protesters. Meanwhile, in a statement CPI (ML-ND) district secretary P Ranga Rao alleged that the staff concerned behaved in a highhanded manner with the agitating tribal women at Bojjaigudem. (The Hindu 23/6/15)

10. Tribesmen to Intensify Fight for Rights (6)

KOCHI: Issuing a stern warning to the State Government for allegedly going slow on the Cabinet decisions taken after the recent ‘Nilpu Samaram’ (standing protest), a convention of the Janajagruti Samiti and the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (AGMS) on Wednesday decided to adopt a multi-pronged approach to press the authorities to deliver. “Even after six months, the government has not taken any concrete step to implement the Cabinet decisions taken on December 17, 2014, on the demands raised at the Nilpu Samaram,” said AGMS leader C K Janu. “There are no practical difficulties in implementing the decisions. Instead of allocating land to the tribesmen under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), the government is trying to subvert it. We are continuing the fight peacefully. But, don’t push us to the extreme,” she said. (New Indian Express 25/6/15)

11. HC order on property gives tribal women shot in the arm (6)

SHIMLA: With intervention of the high court, tribal women in Himachal Pradesh would finally get the right over ancestral property. For the past around two decades, tribal women in Kinnaur district were struggling to change the draconian law which deprived them from staking claim on ancestral property. But now, the high court has ordered that “daughters in the tribal areas of Himachal Pradesh shall inherit property in accordance with Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and not as per customs and usages” in order to prevent the women from social injustice and prevention of all forms of exploitation. The customary law that debars women from right to inherit property is recorded in “Wazibul Arz”, a document of survey done at the time of settlement during the early 20th century. With this order, tribal women have received a shot in the arm otherwise women in Kinnaur had decided to discuss issue of property right in the July 6 gram sabha meetings. “Court order would help in restoring honour of tribal women,” said Ratan Manjri, 62, of Ribba village of Kinnaur district, who was the first to raise her voice against the draconian law. “I was not aware that the high court is hearing a case that would change the fate of tribal women. Our organization Mahila Kalyan Parishad had written letters to all gram panchayats to discuss the issue on July 6 but now, following court orders, we would discuss how the decision would be implemented,” she added. In the entire tribal district, Manjri was the lone women who had inherited the ancestral property, despite having a brother, after her mother wrote the entire agricultural land in her name at Ribba village. She said that tribal laws allow only male members right to inherit ancestral property while women were kept out of revenue records as inheritors. As chairperson of Mahila Kalyan Parishad, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Reckong Peo, Ratan Manjri was spearheading the movement against discriminatory age-old law in Kinnaur. The success for this campaign could be gauged from the fact that over 21,000 women had put their signatures to amend the law. “If a tribal woman is single and her parents leaves behind property then as per customary law she was not eligible to inherit the same and property goes into the hands of other male relatives leaving the woman pauper throughout her life. But now things would change for the better following the court order,” she added. Tashi Palki from Lahaul-Spiti said that in earlier times, the family values were high but now if a woman is deserted or is widowed, she loses respect in the family and is often abandoned to live at the mercy of God. “It’s because she does not have anything in hand. If she is given the right to inherit property, she can actually live with dignity on her own,” she added. While disposing of a case of Rasalu belonging to Gaddi tribe, Justice Rajiv Sharma gave the landmark judgment which has brought smiles on faces of thousands of tribal women residing in Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti, Pangi-Bharmaur regions of Chamba district. The court said that laws must evolve with times if societies are to progress. “It is made clear by way of abandoned precaution that the observations made hereinabove only pertain to right to inherit property by the daughters under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and not any other privileges enjoined by the tribal in tribal areas,” court added. (Times of India 28/6/15)

WOMEN

12. Woman allegedly branded with hot iron for dowry (8)

Tumakuru: A case was registered in Saturday afternoon that a 28-year-old married woman was allegedly branded with a hot iron rod in a village in Madhugiri taluk in the district by her mother-in-law and sister-in-law for dowry. Though the incident took place on June 1, the woman told her parents about the incident on June 17, when she went their house in Nelamangala taluk in Bengaluru Rural district. She was taken to a hospital for treatment. Subsequently on Saturday, her parents filed a complaint at Midigeshi police station. The woman was married to Nagaraj, who belonged to a village in Madhugiri taluk, two years ago. The couple have a daughter. Nagaraj had married her after divorcing his first wife. Her mother-in-law, Hanumakka, and sister-in-law, Thammakka, allegedly branded her with hot iron rod on June 1 demanding dowry. Deputy Director of Women and Child Welfare Nanjegowda told The Hindu, “I have directed the staff of Santhvana Kendra to meet her and if she needs we will also provide her accommodation.” All support from the department would be extended to the woman to pursue her case, she added. (The Hindu 20/6/15)

13. DCW calls for inquiry into Stephen’s sexual harassment (8)

NEW DELHI: Calling the alleged sexual harassment case at St. Stephen’s College, “shameful” for the reputation of the institution, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has called for a through probe into the matter. DCW chairperson Barkha Shukla Singh on Saturday said, “The matter should be investigated and those who are found guilty should face action.” An FIR under Section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) was registered against Satish Kumar, an assistant professor at St. Stephen’s chemistry department, after a PhD student filed a complaint against him. The student, who is doing her PhD under Mr. Kumar, has also alleged that college principal Valson Thampu tried to protect him when the matter was reported to the college authorities. Though Mr. Thampu confirmed the fact that the victim had raised the matter with him, he denied allegations of trying to protect Mr. Kumar. The college also issued a statement saying, “Such a complaint was duly and promptly forwarded by the principal to the internal complaints committee, and an inquiry is under way.” The Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) and the Association of Old Stephanians have also condemned the incident. “Mr. Thampu’s tenure as principal is replete with instances of illegalities and misdemeanours. We demand that he immediately step down, failing which the Supreme Council should sack him. We also demand that Dinesh Singh, Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University, initiate an inquiry in the present case and all the past sexual harassment cases at the college immediately,” a statement by the Association of Old Stephanians said. (The Hindu 21/6/15)

14. Men outnumber women in media in India, Pakistan (8)

Bangkok: Although the presence of women in media has more than doubled in two decades, they constitute only 28.6 percent of the media workforce in Asia and the Pacific. These are some of the findings of a new study, “Inside the News: Challenges and Aspirations of Women Journalists in Asia and the Pacific”, launched by UNESCO, and the UN Women and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). It was released here on Monday. Only two regions in the world, Eastern Europe and Nordic Europe, have crossed “one-third Rubicon” occupying 33 percent or more of the top management and governance jobs in the media. Asia and the Pacific are located at the other end of the scale with “women occupying only about a fifth of governance positions and holding less than 10 percent of top management jobs”.It is not just in numbers but also in salaries that women are adversely affected. “There is a clear gender pay gap, with women on average earning USD 436 per month, compared with men earning USD 506 per month,” the report says. Cambodia and Pakistan had the widest gender pay-gap with men earning much higher salaries. Pakistan, the report says, has one of the worst gender imbalances evidenced in the research in terms of the gender pay gap. The report states that sexual harassment remains a key issue in media workplaces with 34 percent of journalists in Asia and the Pacific saying they witnessed sexual harassment at work. At least 17 percent of female journalists have personally experienced workplace sexual harassment, and 59 percent of the time it is a superior who is the perpetrator. The report, which analysed the media in seven countries in Asia and the Pacific, reported that Sri Lanka and Malaysia had the highest incidence of sexual harassment among respondents at 27.7 percent and 20.6 percent respectively. Further, nearly half of all respondents (42.5 percent) said there was no official complaints cell or anti-sexual harassment policy in their workplace. In its analysis of the Indian media scene, the report remarks that the country has a well-established media and its strong media landscape was full of women journalists. “Yet while the advantage of class, caste and higher education has seen some women climb to the top rungs of the profession, the majority of women journalists today are still concentrated on the middle and lower rungs of the profession.” Sexual harassment remains a critical issue for the industry, the report adds. In Pakistan, the report says, despite a vibrant media industry, “the media and its unions remain extremely male-dominated with women coming up against ‘glass ceilings’ and slowed down by ‘sticky floors’, evidenced in the lack of women in decision-making roles”.Nevertheless, women within the industry are strong and defiant, and are regularly challenging this status quo on gender rights issues and sexual harassment. In terms of portrayal of women in the media, in South Asia, respondents felt women were most commonly depicted as ‘victims’, whereas in South East Asia and the Pacific respondents felt women were most commonly depicted as ‘family figures’. Three case studies from India form a part of the report. The story of Tongam Rina, Associate Editor of the Arunachal Times, who, in 2014, became the first Indian journalist to be honoured by Reporters Without Borders among “100 information heroes”, figures in the report. The role of Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) and Women’s Feature Service (WFS) are the other two featured case studies. (New Kerala 23/6/15)

15. The Missing Girls of Maharashtra & Gujarat (8)

NEW DELHI: There is a shortfall of 73 percent and 55 percent in inspections of sonography centres in the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, two of IndiaÂ’s richest. The child sex-ratio (number of girls under six years per 1,000 boys) in the states are among the lowest in India, especially in backward districts, such as Beed in MaharashtraÂ’s Marathwada region (807) and Surat district (831) in Gujarat. The national average is 914. Verdicts have been pronounced in 23 cases of 603 reported cases of child marriage in Maharashtra with 580 cases pending for 2013-14. No one has been convicted in Gujarat under the prohibition of Child Marriage Act, although 659 cases are registered. A wealth of laws and programmes instituted to protect girls are failing them in IndiaÂ’s two most economically-developed states, Maharashtra and Gujarat, according to recent reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). Both states are failing to implement the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC & PNT), which prohibits sex selection, before or after conception, and regulates diagnostic techniques to prevent misuse for sex determination used in female foeticide…. (New Indian Express 24/6/15)

16. Delhi budget: Steps to make women secure (8)

NEW DELHI: Women’s security, in addition to empowerment initiatives, got a prime space in the budget with the government proposing CCTV cameras and deployment of marshals in DTC and cluster buses. Delhi government has also made it mandatory for all public transport vehicles, including taxis and autos, to install GPS. The government has proposed a fund of Rs 160 crore for this initiative. Deputy CM Manish Sisodia said, “A pilot scheme for installation of CCTV cameras in 200 DTC buses has already been launched.” This will not only check incidents of eve-teasing and violence against women, but also instill confi dence among them to use public transport. “It will be compulsory for drivers and conductors of all public vehicles to attend the gender sensitization programme at the time of annual renewal of their vehicles roadworthiness inspection,” Sisodia said. Empowerment initiatives include the Education Credit Guarantee Scheme in which female students are exempted from furnishing collateral for availing education loan and interest rates are lower. The government also plans 300 creche facilities in slums and JJ clusters under the Integrated Child Development Scheme. Nearly 1,200 children living in government-run homes/ institutions will be provided vocational training in collaboration with National Skill Development Council. (Times of India 26/6/15)

17. Cabinet may give nod for more teeth to NCW next week (8)

NEW DELHI: The National Commission for Women (NCW), charged with protecting women rights, could soon be granted powers of a civil court to investigate, summon and penalize. The bill could be taken up by the Union Cabinet next week with the women and child development (WCD) ministry keen on bringing the legislation in the monsoon session of Parliament. The amended bill excludes two significant changes that have diluted the proposed legislation. The ministry headed by Maneka Gandhi had proposed that the chairperson should be a retired judge and the commission should have the power to arrest, similar to powers given to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). In the present bill, the chairperson can be a person of eminence as well and powers of arrest have not been given to the commission. “The bill could be taken up by the Union Cabinet next week. We hope to table it in the monsoon session,” a ministry source said. The bill to give more powers to the NCW was cleared by a group of ministers headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley in April this year. According to the present bill, the commission can investigate, summon and penalize to enforce attendance in order to provide rights for disenfranchised women. The commission will have all powers of a civil court trying a suit while investigating any matter, and in particular in respect of matters like summoning and enforcing the attendance and examining on oath, discovery and production of any document, receiving evidence on affidavits, requisitioning any record from any court or office. Every proceeding before the commission shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of Sections 193 and 228 and for the purpose of Section 196 of the IPC, according to the amendments.The commission can also utilize services of any officer or investigation agency of the Centre or state governments for the purpose of investigation. Its main functions will be to investigate and examine all matters relating to the safeguards provided to women under the Constitution and other laws and review the existing laws and suggest amendments or remedial legislative measures. As per the proposed amendments, the commission will be vested with the power to impose a fine of Rs 100 per day subject to a maximum of Rs 5,000 on a person who fails to produce any document or appear before it without sufficient reason. The fine can be recovered as if it were arrears of land revenue. According to sources WCD wanted an additional director general/inspector general officer on the board of NCW as a member which the law ministry has opposed suggesting senior IPS officer on the board may prove to be counter-productive as he may influence investigation in fields where SPs are his service juniors. Now, the provision of having additional DG/IG as NCW member has been dropped. Another provision added is that filing of Action Taken Reports (ATRs) to NCW has been made mandatory. A statutory provision will be inserted in the Act where action taken by the states or departments concerned will be made mandatory to be reported to the NCW. These clauses will give statutory backing to NCW for getting government departments and others to report back on its queries. (Times of India 28/6/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

18. Over 8,000 children work in Delhi’s garment sector (14)

NEW DELHI: More than 8,000 children including 70 per cent girls are engaged in child labour in the garment sector in Delhi, a recent study has found out. The study ‘Hidden Workforce’ conducted by the non-profit organisation, Save the Children, was launched by the Delhi Government’s Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Department on Friday. The report found out that a significantly higher number of children were engaged in household-level work with 87 per cent children working in home settings and only 13 per cent worked in Addas (household-based units where unrelated adults and children work together). Due to this, despite the reported reduction in overall child labour over the past decade, there has been a comparative growth of child labour in the informal sector. Minister for Women and Child Development and Social Welfare, Delhi government, Sandeep Kumar said: “It is perturbing and shameful that children’s engagement in informal labour, including in the garment industry — which has also contributed to the rising rate of school drop-outs — continues to be a sad reality in the national Capital.” “There is an urgent need to tackle the situation and we can achieve this if the social organisations work in co-ordination with the government. Our government is working on a scheme to eradicate child labour and we aim to achieve it within the next five years,” he added. According to the report, child labour in the garment industry is one of the rapidly growing unorganised workforces in cities like Delhi, owing to sub-contracting and outsourcing of work. (The Hindu 21/6/15)

19. Survey finds child beggars in comfort zone (14)

CHANDIGARH: With a pick-and-drop service in place, income of Rs 300 (approximately) a day and no burden of studies, child beggars in the city hate the idea of a better life. This is what a survey conducted by students of Panjab University under their internship programme with Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child rights, has found out. Students were divided into five teams, “Team 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5″. They found that in every 10 sectors there were 100 to 150 child beggars. Most of them said they had no parents and lived with relatives. They claimed that they went to school but begged in the evening. With vacations now under way, they resorted to the practice full time, the survey stated, adding that depending on the day, the beggars shifted to different sites. For instance, on first Ramzan, all of them gathered outside mosques. The survey further claimed child beggars had their special pick-and-drop services. “In Industrial Area, we found beggars living in Hallomajra and every morning and evening being dropped and picked. This hints towards a racket,” said Ginny Mahajan, one of the team leaders. The students also rescued some beggars who needed urgent help. One of them was a girl missing from Moradabad. “We found her begging in Furniture Market. She said she lived with her aunt. When we cross-questioned the two, we found the answers didn’t match. We called the police and the child rights commission. It was then found that she was missing from Moradabad and her father’s brother had dumped her in Chandigarh,” said Yudhvir Singh, one of the team leaders. One of the teams also called the child helpline and informed about child labourers working in dhabas in sectors 7 and 27. All the students belonged to different departments of PU. (Times of India 23/6/15)

20. 25 children rescued (14)

NEW DELHI: In a major operation, the Office of South Delhi District Magistrate on Wednesday rescued 25 children from Yusuf Sarai Market and Gautam Nagar area. Officials said the rescue operation led by SDM Hauz Khas was carried out after DM South Niharika Rai received information about the children working in production units and shopping arcades. Officials said various shops and temporary structures were sealed during the raid where children were found to be working in deplorable conditions. “Twenty five children in all have been rescued and have been taken for medical examination. Strict action is being taken against the offenders under Child Labour Act, Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 Juveniles Justice (Core & Protection of Children) Act and Rules there under,” Ms Rai said. (The Hindu 25/6/15)

21. “Child labour increased by 53 per cent in urban India” (14)

KOLKATA: At a time when Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi has supported the controversial amendment to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act which allows children under 14 years of age to work in family-run enterprises, a recently-concluded analysis by Child Rights and You (CRY) revealed that there has been a significant increase in working children in the age group of 5-9 years. Compiling data from the 2001 and 2011 census, the report states that in urban areas while the number of working girls rose by 240 per cent, it increased by 154 per cent for working boys. Overall, there has been a 53 per cent increase in child labour in urban India, while there is a drop of about 29 per cent in rural areas. “Society is largely to blame for the increase in working children in urban areas as most of the children work as domestic helps,” chairperson of the West Bengal State Commission of Protection of Child Rights Ashokendu Sengupta told The Hindu . “This increase in urban child labour could be attributed to increased migration, including seasonal migration for employment as well as trafficking of unaccompanied minors,” director, policy and research, CRY, Komal Ganotra said. (The Hindu 26/6/15)

22. Child rights panel to probe girl’s rape case (14)

Ludhiana: Punjab State Commission for Protection of Child Rights will supervise the probe of a 14-year-oldgirl, who fell in the trapof a child traffickinggang and was later raped by two persons. In the meantime, Division No. 7 police have also registered a case of rape under Section 376 of the IPC against unidentified persons and started the investigation. President of NGO Swami Vivekananda Manch Mohit Sood along with BJP leader Gurdeep Singh today met Punjab State Commission for Protection of Child Rights chairman Sukesh Kalia demanding fair probe in the matter. (The Tribune 28/6/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

23. Protect Rights of Minorities Under RTE Act: Tribal Leader (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A joint committee has been formed to chart out programmes against the Supreme Court verdict that excludes aided or minority schools from the purview of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Mariyappan, a noted tribal leader, inaugurated the meeting convened to discuss the issue.The representatives of the committee pointed out that with this directive, the state now has no legal recourse to protect the educational rights of the children. “This will have far-fetched ramifications as the state has many educational institutions belonging to minority groups. The rule will also negate the rights of many students belonging to the marginalised community,” they said. They representatives added that they will also hold a massive protest march with the coordination of tribal groups across the state. RIGHTS executive director V B Ajaykumar presented the topics. (New Indian Express 23/6/15)

24. Saffronisation of education: Madurai HC notice to MHRD (7)

MADURAI: The Madurai bench of the Madras high court on Thursday ordered notice on a public interest litigation, which sought a direction to district collectors not to interfere in the rights of minorities. Madurai-based advocate and Puthiya Tamilagam state youth wing secretary S Baskar Mathuram has filed the petition. He said the management of a private school in Palakarai in Trichy forced 150 Muslim students who were on the Ramadan fasting, to consume ‘Nilavembu Kasayam’ (herbal concoction used to cure dengue fever) on June 22. In another incident, the AVC College in Thanjavur allegedly forced the Muslim girls to remove their burqas and wear other dresses, he said. Opposing the two incidents, parents and members belonging to concerned local Jamath staged protests in both the places following which the police rushed to the spot and pacified them, he said. “The activities are nothing but a clandestine move by the ministry of human resource and development (MHRD) in saffronising the education department,” he charged. He also said the de-recognition of Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle at IIT-Chennai, making yoga compulsory in all central government educational institutions, distortion of history books, are examples of saffronisation of education. When the matter came up for admission, the division bench ordered notices to the MHRD secretary, state’s chief secretary and director general of police and adjourned the matter. The petitioner said the management of a private school in Palakarai in Trichy forced 150 Muslim students who were on the Ramadan fasting, to consume ‘Nilavembu Kasayam’ (herbal concoction used to cure dengue fever) on June 22. (Times of India 26/6/15)

25. Minorities can self-attest community certificates to get benefits of govt schemes (7)

New Delhi: People belonging to minority communities will no longer have to secure certificates from officials to avail of benefits of welfare schemes, with the government making it clear that self-attestation was enough. “In this context, it is informed that minority certificate is not mandatory for getting the benefits of welfare schemes being implemented by the ministry,” the Ministry of Minority Affairs has said in a recent communication to the states. The government has notified six communities as minorities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains.The latter’s inclusion was notified in January last year. The removal of requirement of minority certificates is in keeping with the government’s decision to accept self-attestation across all departments and educational institutes. The development came after the ministry received several representations from people belonging to minority communities, especially Jains, complaining about not being able to avail of benefits extended to them in the absence of certificates testifying to their communities from the concerned state government authorities. The ministry had last year done away with the requirement of submission of affidavits towards community certificate and income certificate under pre-matric, post-matric and merit-cum-means based scholarship schemes for students belonging to the notified communities. It had stated that for community certificate, self certification by the student is sufficient. The decision also comes in wake of the ministry launching programmes for raising the socio-economic profile of the minorities. These include the USTAAD programme for capacity building and updating the traditional skills of master craftsmen and artisans who in turn will train the minority youths in various traditional arts and craft. The ministry is also in the process of launching a programme called ‘Nai Manzil’ which seeks to bridge the knowledge gap of students passing out of Madrasas and facilitating their admission into mainstream schools and colleges. (Indian Express 29/6/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

26. On International Yoga Day, Muslims resist, embrace occasion (7)

NEW DELHI: Even as the nation set new records on the first International Yoga Day on Sunday, there were mixed reports of participation by Muslims in yoga celebrations across India. Muslims mostly chose to stay away from the events in West Bengal, Jabalpur and Ujjain. However in Kerala’s Malappuram district, Bhopal, Nagpur and Hyderabad, they enthusiastically participated in yoga programmes. Politically volatile Hyderabad turned into a huge yoga ground with politicians joining hands with denizens to be part of the world’s first International Yoga Day celebrations. In the Old City, yoga enthusiasts also assembled before the historic Charminar to perform Surya Namaskar before the break of dawn. The universal appeal of yoga saw the participation of Urdu schools in Nagpur despite the longest Ramazan fasting period in three decades. Zaffar Khan, president of Urdu Schools Headmasters Association, said, “We stopped eating food at 4.05 am today and won’t be having another morsel till 7 pm. Every day the fasting period is almost 15 hours but that was no reason for skipping Yoga. My staff members too joined in and in our school campus we did Yoga exercises.” Defying stiff opposition from religious outfits, hundreds of Muslims, especially youth joined yoga celebrations all over Malappuram district. Inaugurating the the Pukayur yoga session, Muslim League MLA KNA Khader attacked yoga opponents in his inaugural speech terming them ignorant about the relevance of yoga. Another Muslim League MLA P Ubaidulla inaugurated the yoga session organised by Nehru Yuva Kendra with around 500 participants. At the Aligarh Club, it was yoga with a difference – in place of the mats, participants just jumped into a pool! “International Yoga Day was a good excuse to do something different. We picked ‘water yoga’ and we intend to make it a regular part of our fitness regimen. Water yoga also has a special appeal for being so novel,” said Javed Mahmood, coach at Aligarh Club, who has been a state-level swimming champion. In Mumbai, activist Firoz Mithiborewala said that he did yoga. “Instead of uttering Om, I took the name of Allah. There was no surya namaskar and I did it comfortably. I saw a sense of bonding and solidarity among the practitioners. It was a moment of pride when so many people did yoga, a form of exercise which originated in India. I am glad I was part of the historic even,” said Mithiborewala. In Bhopal, Syed Rubab Fatima, 47, who has been practising yoga since 2000, led the international yoga day celebrations at the sprawling Lal Parade Grounds, sharing the dais with chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. A devout Muslim, she offers namaz five times a day and also does surya namaskar, breathing in with the name of Allah…. (Times of India 22/6/15)

27. VHP, Muslim personal law board spar over Yoga Day (7)

NEW DELHI/LUCKNOW: The hotheads of All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) got into a sharp altercation on Tuesday with Sadhvi Prachi reacting acerbically to the Muslim body’s charge that the Union government had selected June 21 for the International Yoga Day as it is RSS founder Keshavram Baliram Hedgewar’s death anniversary. “They should connect themselves with the traditions of India, the culture of India… there’s no need for any objection. If they are objecting, then they should go to Pakistan. People who are objecting to it have no right to reside in India,” the sadhvi said when asked to react to AIMPLB’s opposition to Yoga Day.On Monday, AIMPLB’s executive member Maulana Ather Ali had called the Yoga Day a conspiracy to enforce “Brahmin dharma and Vedic culture” all over the country, with the board writing to its members and asking all Muslim organizations to close ranks against the “Hindutva forces”.For the first time, the board asked its members to engage clerics who deliver Friday sermons to object to ‘Surya Namaskar’ and yoga as these don’t comply with Muslim religious beliefs.”India’s pluralistic ethos is under assault from Hindutva forces. We’ll do everything required to save our religious beliefs,” Maulana Ather Ali had said. His comments came days after BJP MP Yogi Adityanath’s said those opposed to ‘Surya Namaskar’ should go “drown in the sea” amidst protests by Muslim groups over participation in the June 21 event. On Tuesday Prachi intoned: “They (AIMPLB) have India’s food and sing songs of Pakistan. Yoga works like a binding factor. It’s not related to a single religious belief. Democracy does not tell you to object India’s traditions and cultures.”.. (Times of India 24/6/15)

28. UP to Take Muslims, Hindus Together for Pilgrimage (7)

LUCKNOW: The Uttar Pradesh government has chalked out a first-of-its-kind plan to take a group of Hindus and Muslims on a joint pilgrimage. The ‘dharmarth karya’ department has issued a government order (GO) in which 10 Muslim and Hindu devouts from each district will be taken on a pilgrimage in a single trip, including a visit to Pushkar and Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan. Pushkar is holy for Hindus while Ajmer Sharif is venerated by Muslims as well as people of other faiths. Principal Secretary (Religious Works) Navneet Sehgal told IANS that the process of receiving applications and subsequently sorting them out has begun in all the 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh. “The idea is not only to provide better travel opprtunities to the residents of UP and the elderly but also to promote communal harmony,” the official said. The tour will be conducted by the state government, under the ongoing Samajwadi Shravan Yatra – a state sponsored pilgrimage started a few months back, with help of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).A special train with arrangement for 1,044 berths has been booked for the pilgrimage. The proposed date for the pilgrimage is July 23 and the department is working to ensure that the ‘yatra’ takes off on time, officials say. This time the state government has also made online registration facilities available for people. The devout will have to submit documents required for availing the trip along with an application. The applications are invited till July 10 after which these would be sorted out and travel tickets issued. In the first round, 900 devotees were taken to Haridwar and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. In this trip to Ajmer Sharif and Pushkar Teerth Raj in Rajasthan, the pilgrims would be getting air-conditioned luxury buses after the train journey to travel to their destinations. The pilgrims would be provided budget lodging and given a travel kit. “Other than this, they would be given morning tea, breakfast, lunch, evening tea – only on the train journey – and a nutritious dinner,” said Sehgal. (New Indiasn Express 26/6/15)

29. New proactive group within unsettles Muslim law board (7)

New Delhi: There is growing disquiet in the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) over the emergence of a “proactive” group which wants to “act”, along with members of the majority community, to “safeguard” Muslim interests. The announcement of the Majlis-e-Amal or implementation committee has been described as routine but there are several in the board — it positions itself as a spokesperson of Muslim opinion in India and the chief custodian of Muslim personal law and the Shariat — who believe it is being formed to open a channel with the Prime Minister. At a meeting of its executive in Lucknow on June 6-7, the Majlis-e-Amal, headed by Wali Rahmani, a cleric based in Munger in Bihar who is also the board’s working general secretary, took a call to “act” with members of the majority community to “safeguard” Muslim interests.The last time a committee was tasked with protecting the constitutional rights of Muslims was in 2010 — it was asked to deal with specific grievances with the Waqf Act and some judgments seen as intruding into Muslim personal law. Rahmani has emerged as the face of the new “active” board — Rabey Nadwi, the board chairman, is in his 90s and age has also caught up with Maulana Nizamuddin of Biharsharif, the general secretary. Earlier this month, Rahmani reached out directly to Muslim organisations, institutions and imams of mosques, asking them to maintain vigil against attacks on Islam’s teachings. He also alleged that the celebration of the International Day of Yoga by the government on June 21 was part of a conspiracy to link the exercise to the RSS. Within the board, there is suspicion about the agenda of the Majlis-e-Amal. Because in March, the usually sedate meeting of the board was disrupted in Jaipur over the presence of “non-members” — Zafar Sareshwala, a businessman who is also chancellor of the Hyderabad-based Maulana Azad National Urdu University and is considered close to the Prime Minister, could not enter the meeting because several members protested. There are some who believe the actions of the committee will find place in the run-up to the Bihar assembly elections. Qasim Sayyed, editor-in-chief of Rozanama Khabrein, said: “By appearing to be very active and pro-Muslim, the board actually wants to polarise the Bihar polls and is being used as fuel for that purpose. What is the sense in raising these things? Is this the time to raise the temperature and be hot-headed? They want to do this and also cosy up to Modi by demonstrating that they are the true Muslim representatives.”… (Indian Express 29/6/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

30. Nun assault: Catholic society protests in Raipur (7)

RAIPUR: Day after a nun was sexually assaulted at a medical centre on Saturday, thousands of people including women from catholic society and others took out silent rally from Byron Bazaar church in state capital, registering strong protest demanding justice and protection of nuns. Large number of people on Saturday evening had taken out candle march at Jai Stambh Chowk condemning the act as shameful and questioned security of nuns. While police claims to have rounded up two persons in this regards, Raipur SP BN Meena said that as per the medical test report, the woman has suffered attempt to rape and refuted charges of gang-rape, which was initially suspected. “About 5-6 persons have been detained for interrogation who reside nearby infirmary and few are frequent criminals.” Even the survivor who initially stated before police that she was gang-raped had later changed her statement saying that it was attempt to rape, as her trauma seized. In their investigation, police found that as the infirmary building is located at an isolated place with huts of slum close to premises, accused could be someone who were familiar to architecture of the building. “As the lock of room wasn’t found broken, accused must have jumped the wall and simply walked inside the room which wasn’t probably locked from inside,” GP Singh inspector general of police (Raipur range) said. The 45-year-old nun was found semi-clad, unconscious and hands tied in a room of medical centre being run by Christian missionaries on Saturday, near Pandri locality in state capital of Chhattisgarh. (Times of India 21/6/15)

31. Catholic church members stage protest in city (7)

COIMBATORE: Members of the Catholic Diocese of Coimbatore staged a protest on Saturday in front of the St Michael’s Cathedral against a television programme that aired on a private channel which raised allegations on the church and the bishop. S Shanthi Roselin, 40, from Kottaimedu, alleged that the priest who had murdered her 18 year old daughter, Fathima Sophie, near Walayar in Palakkad on July 23, 2013 had accepted on the show that he had accidently killed the girl, which was shot as a sting operation. After the show aired, several protestors gathered outside Shanthi’s residence and threatened to kill her. She had filed a complaint at the Ukkadam police station regarding the incident and FIR was registered against six persons. The vicar general of Coimbatore John Joseph Stanis who led the protests said that the case was dismissed several moths ago by the Kerala police and the accused H Arocikaraj was also dismissed by the bishop after some enquiries. “We are ready to help her to get justice for her daughter but that does not mean she can make slanderous remarks about the church and the priests,” he said. (Times of India 22/6/15)

32. 80% Dalit Christians Facing Caste Discrimination (7)

DINDIGUL: Around 80 percent of Dalit Christians suffer from caste discrimination in the Church especially in some Dioceses with a group of persons enjoying foreign funds, according to Christopher of Dalit Viduthalai Iyakkam (Dalit Liberation Movement). Deposing before the TN Minority commission, which held a review meeting here on Tuesday, he alleged that people belonging to the minority communities are being denied their rights. Drawing the attention of the panel to the closure of the Kuralampatti church by the Tahsildar, Fr Ramesh sought adequate security for the minority community. Responding, Murugesan, Tahsildar, Dindigul West, said permission would be given for holding prayer service in the church if it did not disturb locals. esides complaints against minority-run schools denying admissions to students belonging to those communities, there were also demands for community certificate to those who had converted to Buddhism. Some aided schools were accused of not providing 18 percent reservation for Dalits and STs. Commission chairman Bishop Rev Prakash computerised community certificates for Buddhism could not be given at present and steps would be taken to give hand-written community certificates. He said people could approach the district minority welfare office and avail the benefits given by the government. Giving statistics, he said `2.14 crore scholarship was given to minority students in 2014-2015. Financial assistance of `6.08 lakh was offered to 15 members of Muslim Mahalir Uthavum Sangam. While 480 people were given identity cards by the Ulema and Employees Welfare Board, free cycles were distributed to 352 Ulemas besides spectacle assistance of `18,000 to a few. Moreover, 20 beneficiaries have availed marriage assistance and `1.545 croe worth loan was extended to a total of 310 people. The review meeting was attended by panel members Sardar Manjith Singh Naiyar, Justin Selvaraj, James and Kalamani. District Collector T.N.Hariharan and Naganathan, district backward and minority welfare officer, and other officials were present. (New Indian Express 24/6/15)

33. 100 dalit Christians re-convert to Hinduism in Gorakhpur (7)

Lucknow: After several months, Uttar Pradesh had the first instance of “ghar vapsi” when saffron outfits in Gorakhpur re-converted nearly 100 Dalits from Christianity to Hinduism. Reports said members of Hindu Yuva Vahini, the outfit belonging to Gorakhpur BJP MP Mahant Adityanath, held a special ceremony at the Dalit hamlet of Mohaddipur in the town on Wednesday evening in which around 100 Christian Dalits were welcomed to Hinduism. Vahini activists had earlier rounded up four Christian priests and nuns, who they alleged “lured” poor Dalits into their faith. “Every family (embracing Christianity) were promised cash and a house,” Vahini’s state general secretary Ram Bhual Kushwaha alleged. Saffron activists handed the priests and nuns to the local police demanding stern action against them, but the police released them later since they did not find materials encouraging conversion in their possession. The outfit vowed to bring back everyone “lured” into conversion from Hinduism. “Our workers are keeping a close watch on conversion activities,” Kushwaha said. Hindu Yuva Vahini is active in Gorakhpur, Deoria, Kushinagar, Sant Kabir Nagar and other districts. Police in Gorakhpur said security personnel have been kept in full strength in the locality as a precautionary measure. Saffron outfits launched a state-wide “ghar vapsi” programme to welcome converts from Hinduism back to their ‘home faith’. Re-conversion programmes across the state triggered a strong reaction from Christian and Muslim communities. (Deccan Herald 26/6/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

34. India observes World Refugee Day (13)

New Delhi: Aiming to raise awareness about the plight of refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today held series of programmes across the country to mark the World Refugee Day. “Today is World Refugee Day. On this day, we celebrate the courage and resilience of refugees and join together in our support for displaced people around the world,” UNHCR said in an official statement. In an event organised in Mumbai, Bollywood actor and UNHCR celebrity supporter John Abraham interacted with young refugees from Afghan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Somalia. He also addressed the youth about “empowerment, importance of education and of living a meaningful life”, it said. Delhi marked the Refugee Day with an exhibition of renowned photographer Raghu Rai’s photographs depicting refugees’ daily struggle to restore their lives, organised at Rajiv Chowk metro station in collaboration with Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. A Youth Meet was also organised in Delhi earlier this week featuring wide range of activities of UNHCR, including film screening, food kiosks, painting exhibition, dance programmes and other traditional cultural activities. Annual World Refugee Day campaign was launched in India earlier this week at Don Bosco school in the national capital. The theme for the celebrations this year was “With courage let us all combine”, aiming to bring the public closer to the human side of the refugee stories by sharing stories of hope and resilience of displaced people, showing them as “ordinary humans living in extraordinary circumstances” UNHCR said. There are around 32,000 persons of concern to UNHCR in India, of whom some 26,500 are recognised refugees and another 5,700 are currently registered as asylum seekers, mostly from Afghan and Myanmar, with smaller groups from countries other countries including Somalia, Iraq and Iran, it added. Most of them are based in Delhi, with smaller pockets in other locations in Telangana, Jammu, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and UP. (Zee News 20/6/15)

35. Plight of refugees moves UNHCR ambassador John Abraham (13)

MUMBAI:  “We left the Sri Lankan coast in a fishing boat and luckily made it to India. The boat that went before us capsized and there were no survivors,” 25-year-old Krishandhini recalls that fateful day when she was forced to leave her war-stricken homeland. She is one of the many Sri Lankan Tamils who had to flee their country and find refuge in India. She is now living with her family in a refugee camp near Chennai. Krishandhini is just one of the 32,000 refugees registered under United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) India, and was one of the seven young refugees to open her heart out to actor John Abraham on the World Refugee Day. Mr. Abraham, a celebrity supporter of UNHCR India, spent a few hours with the refugees from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Somalia on Saturday. Mr. Abraham, star of films like Dhoom and Kabul Express, found their stories extremely moving. “While shooting for Kabul Express in Afghanistan, I had a firsthand experience of a war-torn area and saw a lot of Afghans leave their country. Also, the Sri Lankan crisis has been very close to my heart. These experiences have been an eye-opener. The plight of refugees not only in India but all over the world has to be taken note of,” Mr. Abraham said.It has been 25 years, but the struggle for survival continues for Krishandhini and her family. She and her elder sister, Divya 27, were sent to college by her parents. They hold an MCA and B.Tech-IT degrees respectively, but have found it extremely difficult to find a decent job due to their refugee status. “Our mother stayed away from us for 12 years. She went abroad and found a job as a cook. She had to leave to raise the money for our education. We are well educated but since we are refugees, we do not have a proper identification document and are consequently unable to find a job that pays well and can support our family,” Ms. Divya told The Hindu. Jafar belongs to the Rohingya community in Myanmar and had to abandon his home due to the oppression of the government. They initially found refuge in Bangladesh but due to frequent communal tension in that country, they soon moved to India. He now lives in Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi with his family. “We had to take an official permission even for travelling from one village to another. Men are forcefully taken by the Myanmar army to work as labourers. Many have never returned, nobody knows if they are dead or alive. Even to get married, we need to take permission from the government. They refuse to recognise us as equal citizens,” Jafar said. He finds going back to his native land a far dream. Though this new land has not imposed restrictions on him, there exists a thick air of distrust between the refugees and the locals. Finding a well paid job is very difficult for him and people from his community. He wishes to study but earning enough to make the ends meet is his first priority. 20-year-old Barlin lost her father to the Somalian conflict in 2005. She was separated from her family and even today does not know their whereabouts. In 2010, she was adopted and brought to India. Her new friends in India helped her learn Hindi and now she works as a translator, helping other Somalian refugees settled in New Delhi. As much as she likes her new home, she wishes to be at a better place. (The Hindu 22/6/15)

36. SL Refugees Allege Illegal Custody, Torture by Police (13)

MADURAI: Sri Lankan Tamil refugees of Aanaiyur camp here are living in morbid fear borne out of police torture. They allege that the police have been taking them into illegal custody, torture them without even filing a First Information Report (FIR) and release them after they are found innocent. In the past week alone, the rural police have taken four refugees – R Muthu Kumar (34), N Denikaran (29), V Alaguraja (48) and J Pratap (23) – into custody suspecting their hand in various theft cases. They were later released, but only after being subjected to physical abuse. “The police made a call to my friend’s mobile and said they wanted to question me regarding a quarrel case. Later on Monday night, four policemen, most of them in mufti, took me to the Alanganallur station. There they beat me up and forced me to take responsibility for a theft that occurred at Dinamani Nagar near Anaiyur. They released me only on Wednesday morning,” Denikaran said. M Saraswathi, wife of Muthukumar, one of the victims, claimed that the police took her husband while they were sleeping on Tuesday night. “I told them that he was not involved in any crime and requested them to spare him. I assured that I will bring him to the station in the morning if they wanted to question him. But they did not pay heed and dragged him into their vehicle even as my children held on to him tightly,” she alleged. Narrating the police torture, Muthukumar, a building painter, said, “They thrashed me with sticks and kicked me with their boots causing injuries all over my body. I pleaded with them that I was not involved in any theft but still they tortured me for about five hours.” Muthukumar is not new to police atrocities. In the past too, he had been taken into custody and tortured only to be released later after they found that it was another person, his namesake, who had committed the offence. Another victim Pratap alleged that he was released only after the police forcefully took `6000 from him. Meanwhile, a senior police official said “Seasoned criminals are booked under Section 41 of CrPc and taken into custody for investigation.” But he denied beating them up. Henri Tiphagne, a human right activist, said   “Taking anyone into custody without a summons is a human rights violation.” (New Indian Express 25/6/15)

37. China and India stay quiet as refugee crisis worsens (13)

HONG KONG:When a deadly earthquake rocked Nepal in April, China and India rushed to send relief supplies and search-and-rescue teams. But when another humanitarian crisis – boats bearing thousands of migrants – appeared off Southeast Asian shores a month later, Asia’s two most populous countries said and did little. Instead, offers to resettle the migrants came from Gambia and the United States. The wealthiest nations in the Asia-Pacific region stood back as well. Australia declared it would not resettle the migrants, mostly Rohingya Muslims fleeing religious persecution in Myanmar or poor Bangladeshis seeking jobs. Japan pledged $3.5 million in emergency assistance but also refrained from offering to take in any displaced people.More than a month after Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to provide temporary shelter for up to 7,000 of the migrants stranded at sea, there has been no sign of progress in finding them a permanent home, nor any hint that Myanmar would address the conditions driving the Rohingya exodus. And Asia’s most powerful nations are essentially sitting out the crisis. Their passivity is all the more striking because, halfway around the world, European leaders have been actively debating a response to their own migrant crisis, in which more than 1,700 people from Africa and the Middle East have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year. President Xi Jinping of China and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India often present their nations as emerging global powers, promoting regional cooperation. Both countries also share a border with Myanmar and enjoy economic leverage as major trading partners, and in China’s case, as a top source of foreign investment. But neither has pressured the government on its treatment of the Rohingya or played a significant role in efforts to resettle them. During a meeting of the UN Security Council last month, China insisted that the matter was an internal one for Myanmar to resolve. …. (Times of India 29/6/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

38. RTI activist threatened for not withdrawing plaint against engineer (1)

Bengaluru: A 54-year-old RTI activist has sought police protection after receiving a threat call from a person claiming to a BBMP ‘union leader’. The activist had refused to withdraw a complaint to the Lokayukta against some BDA officials about irregularities in culverts repair works. Activist N Jagadesh said one ‘Mayanna Gowda’, who claimed to be a ‘union leader’ of BBMP, called him up on June 19 and asked him to withdraw his complaint against assistant executive engineer Keshava Prasad. Jagadesh has recorded the entire conversation in his mobile phone and played it in front of DCP Lokesh Kumar on Saturday. Initially, Mayanna, who made the call from a mobile phone, invited Jagadesh for a compromise. “People only make mistakes. KeshavaPrasada sir seems to have acted under some pressure. Let’s compromise. I am an expert in compromises and I never play any double game,” Mayanna reportedly told Jagadesh. When Jagadesh refused to budge, Mayanna is heard saying: “You have wife and kids. Don’t you? Just think, man. Compromise is the best solution.” In April, Jagadesh had lodged a complaint with the Lokayukta against BDA commissioner Shyam Bhat and Keshava Prasad after an RTI reply revealed that BDA had spent Rs 8.5 crore on ‘culverts, metalling and asphalting, and re-asphalting’ from 2007 till 2015. However, spot inspections and inquiry with departments concerned showed no such work had been done. The bills were raised and issued against names of five contractors. DCP Lokesh said they have accepted the complaint and are investigating. (Times of India 22/6/15)

39. Modi Government Granted Indian Citizenship to 4,300 Afghan, Pakistan Hindus ? (26)

CHENNAI: Has the Narendra Modi government granted citizenship to 4,300 Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan during its last one year in office as claimed by a news agency report a week ago? Highly improbable, if one goes by the RTI reply provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The RTI document that Express has access to shows the actual number of people, who were granted citizenship from these two countries, was a modest 515 in 2014 and just 150 till the first week of June this year. The widely published agency report had stressed that this was an initiative of Home Minister Rajnath Singh following his party BJP’s declared policy that India is a “natural home for persecuted Hindus”, who were welcome to seek refuge. Ironically, it is Rajnath’s ministry that gave the actual figure under RTI following an application by Vinoth Ranganathan, co-founder of onlineRTI.com, a Bengaluru-based organisation that helps citizens with RTI applications. According to the information, signed by MHA’s director (citizenship) and CPIO, Pravin Horo Singh, the total number of persons granted citizenship during the whole of 2014 was 611, while that for this year till June first week was 189. These people came from 25 countries, including the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Bangladesh, China, Italy, Kenya and Liberia. “It is the information provided in the RTI that is genuine. I have been tracking the issue by getting the information through a RTI filed in March and June. The difference is only 40,” said Vinoth, pointing out that the figure of 4,300 was never substantiated by the media. From Pakistan, 267 people were given citizenship last year, and 83 this year till June. Similarly, from Afghanistan, 248 and 67 were given citizenship last year and this year respectively. From another neighbour, Bangladesh, 24 and 7 persons were granted citizenship during the same period. While granting citizenship to Pakistan and Afghanistan refugees may be a priority for the Centre, the figures as highlighted in media were in contrary to the official data being released to a RTI query. (New Indian Express 23/6/15)

40. RTI case disposal down by half in first half of 2015 (1)

CHENNAI: The number of RTI appeals disposed by the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission in the first six months of this year has come down by almost half in comparison to the numbers of cases disposed in the same period last year. And this is mainly due to post of chief information commissioner falling vacant in April. Statistics show that TNSIC cleared 2,788 appeals between January and June 2015 compared to 5,521 appeals cleared in the same period in 2014. It cleared 10,831 appeals in 2013 and 6,406 in 2012 in the first six months. Sources say the number of pending appeals is more than 15,000 but the government is yet to appoint a new chief since K S Sripathi retired as state chief information commissioner on April 26. Under the RTI Act, a state can have 10 commissioners and a chief, but TNSIC, The commission receives an average of 60,000 applications a year, has only four commissioners — Christopher Nelson, P Thamilselvan, B Neelambikai and S F Akbar. Former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said that if four commissioners could dispose 2,788 cases in six months, it would take at least three years to dispose the pending appeals alone. “I used to dispose 500 appeals a month when I was in the central information commission. TN government should appoint a few RTI activists as commissioners for the effective function of the commission,” he said. Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, an NGO, said the TN government should not delay appointment of commissioners and ensure that appeals do not pile up. He also urged the TNSIC to disclose its annual reports on the website. When contacted, P W C Davidar, principal secretary of personnel and administrative reforms department, refused to comment about the appointment of the new chief information commissioner. A senior TNSIC official denied the allegations. “The commissioners are disposing appeals regularly but we have not uploaded all the cases disposed on the website because of staff shortage.” An online petition, launched by RTI activists seeking appointment of an eminent chief information commissioner and information commissioners not connected with bureaucracy or politicians, has received more than 150 signatures. Activists say the TN government has not been tabling annual reports in the assembly since 2008, claiming it is short of Tamil translators. The annual reports should declare the number of RTI applications received by PIOs, cases disposed of and fines imposed on PIOs for violations under the RTI Act. (Times of India 25/6/15)

41. MEA refuses RTI plea on Lalit Modi passport (1)

New Delhi: At a time when external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is under fierce attack from the Opposition for “helping” Mr Lalit Modi obtain UK travel documents, her ministry has refused to provide any information about the passport issue involving the scandal-tainted former IPL boss. The ministry has refused to answer an RTI application containing seven questions, including one on who had taken a decision not to appeal in the Supreme Court to challenge the Delhi high court’s decision restoring Mr Modi’s passport, according to PTI. The MEA, however, said the application has been “transferred” to its Consular, Passport and Visa Division as well as to the ministries of finance and Home, according to the reports. The MEA response drew sharp criticism from the Congress and the Left. Responding to an RTI plea containing seven questions, the MEA reportedly said that while a part of the queries did not come under the purview of the transparency law, it pleaded lack of information regarding the other queries. “Kindly note that the office of External Affairs Minister (EAM) has informed that the questions in Serial 1 to 3 of your RTI does not seem to fall under the purview of the RTI Act, 2005. As regards queries Sl No. 4 to 7, no information is available with EAM’s office,” the MEA reply, dated June 26, was quoted by the news agency as having stated. The RTI query, filed by one Rayo from Haryana, was received by the ministry on June 19 when the Opposition was piling pressure on Ms Swaraj on the Lalit Modi controversy. The first three questions included why Ms Swaraj did not advise Mr Modi to apply for a temporary travel document to the Indian high commission in London instead if she intended to help him on humanitarian grounds to travel to Portugal. It also asked why the external affairs minister did not insist on Mr Modi’s return to India as a condition for issuing a temporary Indian travel document. The questions from No. 4 to 7 included a query on whether the government has lodged any objection with the UK for granting a residency permit to Mr Lalit Modi, who has refused to appear before the Enforcement Directorate, and what steps the government has taken since the issue of a fresh passport to the former IPL boss to enforce the ED summons. It also included a query on who took the decision not to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Delhi high court’s ruling setting aside the cancellation of Mr Lalit Modi’s passport. It asked whether the ED, at whose instance the passport was cancelled, was consulted on the issue. The RTI application also asked about the government’s response to Mr Lalit Modi’s “wild charge that his life will be in danger if he returned to India”. The MEA’s action drew stinging criticism from the Opposition, with the Congress calling it against the “spirit” of the RTI Act and the CPI(M) alleging that the transparency law has been “sabotaged” by the Modi government. “This is against the spirit of the RTI Act. In fact, any private information need not be disclosed, but here is a case which is affecting even the security of the country and a person who is a fugitive, who is an absconder, against whom there is an inquiry going on… And when information is sought on that, it simply cannot be treated as a private matter,” senior Congress leader P.C. Chacko was quoted as saying. CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said it was “more than just stonewalling”, adding, “It’s a shame that the RTI Act, which provides a framework for some amount of transparency in governance, has been completely diluted and sabotaged by the Modi government … So the government which came on claims of transparency and good governance is sabotaging the initiatives. Now they say they do not have the information… Makes a mockery of the act itself and the law for transparency.” The BJP, however, made a cautious defence with party spokesman Nalin Kohli saying, “There is a process about RTI, and there are certain rules about it, and these rules are followed. If it is about specifics, the concerned officers would be the right place to ask.” (Asian Age 29/6/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

42. Time to check dropout rate among Muslims (11)

Anis is barely 12-years-old but he works from 10 am to 9 pm at a motorbike workshop in Chintal Basti. “I left school last year. My father who is an auto-rickshaw driver fell sick and there was no money at home. I am the eldest. When I left school I was in standard sixth. It was an English medium school. I get Rs 75 daily for six days of the week,” teary-eyed Anis says, as he narrates his story that clearly seems far from happy. He has three more siblings, all younger to him, who have to be fed and if possible, sent to school. There is another boy, Naseem, who works at a bangle shop in Lad Bazaar. He dropped out of an Urdu medium school about two years ago when his father died in a road accident. He makes about Rs 2,000 every month. “Future? I don’t know. I have two younger sisters, one of them goes to school and the other works as a domestic help like my mother,” he says struggling to visualise what his life would be five years hence. Like them, there are thousands of other Muslim boys and girls who have dropped out of school because they had no other option. They now assist their parents, mostly mothers, in making ends meet. Most of them come from large families where parents have either separated or one of them have died or suffered some debilitating disease. There are other reasons too – all of which, put together, have sent the dropout rate among Muslim students to an alarming high. Year-wise religion-based figures of students against the total numbers are not available. But a source in the Education Department pegs the total number of Muslim students registered with government recognised schools (English, Urdu and Telugu medium) in Telangana in 2014 at 11,70,303. But there is no breakup of students at the primary, upper primary and high school levels. The gender-wise division of students too isn’t available. Therefore, it is just a figure that gives a vague insight into the level of education among Muslims. However, if the registration of students in Urdu medium schools is counted as one of the many indicators for this, then we have some numbers that speak for themselves. For instance, the total number of students in all government Urdu medium schools, in 2014, stood at 2,47,668 at the primary level in Telangana. The same year the students in upper primary level were 71,980 and at high school were only 11,321– 8,693 girls and 2,628 boys. Of the 11,321 students only 7,956 cleared the examination. The ratio of boys to girls remained almost the same among successful candidates. In 2013 a total of 14,512 students—3,388 boys and 11,124 girls—wrote the 10th exam from united AP, of which 10,725 passed out. Similarly, in 2012 a total of 15,586 students—3,700 boys and 11,886 girls—sat in 10th grade exam. Of this 11,839 or 76 percent passed out. If 2014 is taken as a point of comparison with the previous two or three years, then it forms a grave pattern indicating a steep rise in dropouts among Urdu medium students. According to a report published in Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, the dropout rates of Muslim students has shot up to 50% between Classes VIII and IX. The figure is over 20% in Classes V and VI and nearly 30% in Class VII. The condition of Urdu medium schools in Telangana is regrettable with no teachers and no infrastructure. The situation becomes worse at the undergraduate or post graduate levels. There are few takers for MA Urdu in Osmania University, Satavahana University or Telangana University. “When feeder institutions are not producing enough students, how can there be takers for MA Urdu,” a professor of Urdu asked…. (Times of India 21/6/15)

43. Manish Sisodia requests Smriti Irani for removal of ‘no detention policy’ (11)

New Delhi: Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the education portfolio, on Monday requested Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani for the removal of the ‘no detention policy’ till class VIII under the RTE Act. The Delhi Minister tweeted that he had again requested Irani to remove the policy on the sidelines of the National Yoga Teachers’ Conference held on Monday at Talkatora stadium. He added that because of the policy the education in schools till class VIII was in a bad shape. Sisodia had recently written to Irani in this regard. He had suggested that the ‘no detention policy’ should be restricted till class III. The no detention policy introduced under the Right to Education Act automatically promotes students up to Class VIII. Critics have argued that the policy has led to poor learning outcome in classes. At the event, Sisodia said the state government is currently working on a project under which they plan to reduce the syllabus by 25 percent and replace it with “most essential subjects of life” like yoga, music, sports, theatre, etc. (DNA 23/6/15)

44. Activists make political buck out of RTE (11)

Nagpur: Politicians and organizations connected to them are quick to spot issues that can be capitalized for political gains. In Nagpur, the current issue is Right to Education (RTE) Act. RTE admissions here have been landing into one controversy or another and this has attracted attention of various groups ready to “help aggrieved parents”.These groups are either NGOs or organizations affiliated to politicians who otherwise have no interest in education sector. They are now seen trotting to education department offices and schools with parents in tow demanding admissions. The sole NGO formed for RTE issue a couple of years ago now finds itself competing with opportunistic newcomers. An education official told TOI this problem is growing by the day. “Almost every week, I see some new organization coming with half a dozen parents and demanding to know why admissions under RTE quota have not been completed. All they want is admission for kids of parents in their group. None of these newcomer groups has knowledge of what the RTE rules are,” he said. When TOI spoke to a representative of one such group, she had no idea under which rule or GR the RTE admissions were being claimed. The immediate issue with RTE admissions is whether schools have to give admission in both pre-primary and primary sections. The Nagpur education department, which basically goofed up the entire process, is of the opinion that admissions have to be done at both the levels. They cite a circular from January with these instructions. However, the circular actually says compulsory admission has to be given in only one section. If there are vacant or backlog seats then these have to be filled in at primary level. State’s principal secretary for school education Nand Kumar clarified these points to Nagpur education officials during a conference in city on June 4 but by then it was too late. RTE lottery had been conducted and the software allotted seats to parents at both pre-primary and primary level. With hundreds of parents breathing down their neck, the education department simply put the onus on 69 schools that had refused to comply. With increased media coverage, came hordes of self-proclaimed activists, who promised parents a solution. Some flaunted their contacts with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis while others dropped names of bureaucrats. Meanwhile the issue is dying a natural death. There’s case pending at Bombay High court and the education department is saying ‘sub-judice’ to avoid getting involved further. (Times of India 25/6/15)

45. States likely to raise saffronization of education at CABE meeting (11)

NEW DELHI: After spending more than a year reconstituting the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), which also includes state education ministers as members, the HRD ministry has called its first meeting on July 18. The meeting is expected to be a stormy affair. While the HRD ministry is keen to take stock of progress on consultations for the New Education Policy (NEP) and bringing changes in the Right to Education Act, opposition-ruled states are set to raise the threat of saffronization of education and proposed changes in NCERT textbooks. Sources said the ministry has been waiting for long to take decisions on a few important issues. “We want to build consensus. Since states as well as academicians are members of CABE, it will be easy to discuss many issues in the meeting,” an official said. In case of NEP, sources said, states have not been very prompt in giving feedback to the Centre. The tentative deadline for announcing the broad contours of NEP is September. “But it looks like announcement will be delayed a bit. After receiving the feedback, more consultations will take place at the Centre. In CABE, we will request states to take it up on priority basis,” a senior official from the ministry’s school department said. He also said the HRD ministry is likely to explain its stand on proposed changes in NCERT textbooks. “States will be convinced with our reply,” he said. Sources said the delay in constituting CABE was on account of getting new members. After the HRD ministry finalized the names, it was sent to Prime Minister’s Office for approval. The new CABE consists of names like Jawaharlal Kaul, vice-chancellor of Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal Central University; D N Bezboruah, former head of Editor’s Guild; Vijay Bhatkar, chairperson, board of governors, IIT-Delhi; Manish Sabharwal and Indumati Rao. Rohan Murty of Murty Classical Library of India being brought out by Harvard University Press has been dropped. (Times of India 29/6/15)

46.  ‘Centre’s new education policy framing process not transparent’ (11)

Kolkata: The central government’s process of formulating India’s new education policy is not “transparent” and “inclusive”, according to activist Ambarish Rai. Rai, national convenor of the Right to Education Forum, a network of 10,000 grassroot organisations working in 18 states, said: “We appreciate the initiative to revamp the education policy but we do not support the way it is being done. The process is not transparent.” Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani recently said the new education policy will be formulated in consultation with the states. While the government launched the exhaustive exercise earlier this year for holding consultations aimed at the drafting a new national education policy and invited suggestions and discussions towards that end, Rai said consultations are yet to take place. “They want to draft it by December but where are the consultations and meetings at the ground level? The centre should consider all stakeholders and not just a few selected people. The method is not inclusive,” Rai said. Further, Rai said the terms and conditions of the new framework have not been presented clearly to the citizens. He was speaking at a workshop on Saturday with representatives from 12 NGOs working with the youth in Kolkata demanding the implementation of RTE in West Bengal. Organised by NGO SPAN, the ‘Youth Stand for RTE – solidarity building workshop’ was designed to bring in the voice of youth to raise awareness on RTE implementation in the state. (Times of India 30/6/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

47. Yoga needed for pot-bellied rich, not poor: Lalu Prasad (21)

PATNA: RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Friday said there was no need for the poor to practice yoga and it is actually meant for those who have eaten funds of poor and became rich and super rich. “Poor and the poorest of the poor have no need to practice yoga because they have not accumulated fat on their bodies,” Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader said here at a party function.The former Bihar chief minister also said even he did not need to practice yoga. “Poor people have to be provided adequate food first for their survival. There are 14 crore poor people in the country who are fighting hunger.” He said landless farmers, poor labourers, milkmen to rickshawpuller have no problem of pot-belly because they worked hard. “What is the need for them to practice Yoga?”The RJD leader said that Yoga had turned a fashion among a section of the people who have been suffering from obesity and accumulated fat on their bodies by eating into the funds meant for the poor. “BJP president Amit Shah and RSS people who have become fat, will practice yoga. But no need for poor people with symptoms of malnutrition to practice it,” Lalu Prasad said. (Times of India 20/6/15)

48. APL families show little interest in food subsidy (21)

BENGALURU: While the Opposition and ruling MLAs had forced the State government to offer subsidised food through public distribution system to above poverty line (APL) families, these beneficiaries seem to have shown little interest in availing themselves of the subsidy. The State government had included subsidised food items for APL families from June 1, but data from the Department of Food and Civil Supplies shows that less than one per cent (0.89 %) of the total 33 lakh APL ration cardholders have registered at ration shops to get rice and wheat at subsidised prices.There are 33.78 lakh APL cardholders and only 30,268 have registered at around 20,000 designated ration shops by paying a registration fee of Rs. 10. After registration, the APL families get enrolled in the department website from where the monthly quota is released. Under the scheme, APL families can avail themselves of rice and wheat at Rs. 10 and Rs. 15 a kg, respectively. Each family is eligible to get a monthly quota of 10 kg each of rice and wheat. The department had opened registration counters across the State to enable the families to apply for cards. However, APL cardholders have not been showing interest and prefer purchasing food from the open market at much higher prices, officials pointed out. For such families, ration cards seem to be restricted only for address proof and to use as one of the government documents to get services such as claiming insurance under the State government’s Rajiv Arogya Bhagya scheme, officials added. In some towns and cities, APL ration cards have been lying in the department offices as families have not even approached the officials to collect them. (The Hindu 22/6/15)

49. Poverty ratio declines, Scheduled Caste literacy rate improves (21)

New Delhi: Reflecting the growing economic prosperity of Delhiites, the city has witnessed a decline in poverty to about 10 per cent of the total population in 2011-12 from over 14 per cent. The literacy rate among the Scheduled Caste population of the city has registered a steady spike. According to the latest Economic Survey, there were 23.3 lakh people living below poverty line (BPL) in 2009-10, but the number decreased to 16.96 lakh in 2011-12. Poverty had increased to 14.2 per cent in 2009-10 in comparison to 13 per cent in 2004-05, but it fell to 9.91 per cent of total population in 2011-12, a significant decrease. “Per cent of population below the poverty line in Delhi was less than the national level in all period covered under the study. During 2011-12, 21.92 per cent of the population of India were under below poverty, while it was 9.91 per cent in Delhi.” It noted that people living in Delhi who earned less than Rs 1,145 in rural areas in 2011-12 and Rs 1,134 in urban areas, were considered to be in the BPL category. Besides, the survey revealed that the literacy rate in the Scheduled Caste population has registered a steady rise, with the figure going up from 20.86 per cent in 1961 to 70.85 per cent in 2001 and 78.89 per cent in 2011. Although the 2011 figure was below Delhi’s overall literacy rate of 86.20 per cent, it remained above the national average of 63.07 per cent. (Asian Age 25/6/15)

50. 3.6 L Benefit from Rural Poverty Elimination Plan (21)

BHUBANESWAR:  Around 3.6 lakh people from scheduled categories and economically weaker sections of the society of 10 districts have been benefited under World Bank-assisted Targeted Rural Initiative for Poverty Termination and Infrastructure (TRIPTI) programme. The project, a poverty reduction programme, aims at enhancing the socio-economic status of the poor, especially women and disadvantaged groups, in 38 blocks of 10 districts. The project launched in November 2009 has mobilised 79,000 self-help groups (SHGs) and made them economically self-sustainable by leveraging funds from commercial banks and other financial institutions to meet their credit needs for establishing micro-economic activities. The implementation completion and results report (ICRR) of the World Bank Mission team said around Rs 446 crore has been invested in the project and 79,000 SHGs have been mobilised and empowered against a target of 30,000. Around 1010 gram panchayat level SHG federations have been made active and sustainable and they are now providing lending support to SHGs. Capital investment of Rs 570 crore for gram panchayat level formal structure (GPLF) management has now grown to Rs 1,402 crore. Around 73 per cent of community loans have been used in agriculture and related activities and about one lakh households have upgraded their productive activities through adoption of the system of rice intensification (SRI), line sowing and seed village concepts. The micro-economic activities by the SHGs have brought around Rs 120 crore of incremental income to beneficiaries in last three years. The report of the World Bank Mission team headed by Jim Hancock  was discussed at a high level meeting, presided over by Chief Secretary GC Pati on Saturday here. The TRIPTI project was implemented in 38 blocks of 10 districts of Angul, Balasore, Bhadrak, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Jajpur, Kendrapara, Khurda, Nayagarh and Puri. Feedback from stakeholders show that approaches like proper identification of the poor, micro and household investment plan, capacity building of community through incentive-based process, record keeping, identification of bank mitras from among SHG members, dedicated and professional implementation structure along with transparency and accountability have made the project successful. The Chief Secretary asked Odisha Livelihood Mission functioning under the Panchayati Raj department to document the interventions and processes already proved successful in project areas and replicate them in livelihood mission activities. (New Indian Express 29/6/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

51. ILO echoes unions’ reservation against labour law amendments (14)

New Delhi: International Labour Organisation has put its weight behind trade unions in India which hold that certain proposed amendments to labour laws would go against the interest of workers. ILO will hold two-day national conference of central trade unions on June 29-30 for firming up a paper on issues raised by workers’ representatives in various tripartite consultations on labour laws amendments. According to sources, the ILO held regional consultations on various labour law amendments proposed by the government in Chennai and Bhubaneswar recently. During the regional discussion, it was observed that there are no provisions in the Labour Code on Industrial Relations, 2015 aimed at “promoting collective bargaining. Instead, there is an emphasis on arbitration, a mode of dispute resolution that could be disadvantageous to workers for more reasons than one”.The bill provides that all office bearers of a registered trade union will have to be persons actually engaged or employed in the establishments or industry with which the trade unions is concerned. That means that outsiders cannot be associated with trade unions. The bill prepared by the Labour Ministry proposes to combine Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Trade Unions Act, 1926, and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. The ILO along with the trade unions found this provision to be contrary to the principle of freedom of association. It was also pointed out that various provision of the bill refer to either recognised or certified negotiating agent but it does not provide for procedure for recognition of such agents. During the regional discussion, ILO also agreed with the reservations of the trade unions against many other points raised by the trade unions on not only the bill but other contentious amendments. Under this bill, the employers with up to 100 workers, will not be required to seeks government’s permission for retrenchment. Moreover it proposed to make it tougher to form trade unions. Unions are also opposing Small Factories bill which proposed to keep units employing less than 40 workers out of the purview of 14 labour laws including EPF & MP Act 1951, ESI Act 1948 and Industrial Dispute Act 1947. They had also protested against proposed amendment in the EPF & MP Act, to provide an option to formal sector workers to choose between EPF and New Pension Scheme. The unions had decided on May 26 to go on one day strike on September 2 to protest against government’s indifference toward their 10-point agenda and unilateral labour reforms. (Business Standard 21/6/15)

52.  “Adhere to labour laws” (14)

Nagercoil: The Department of Labour has launched a special drive to enforce labour laws in educational institutions, tutorial colleges and technical institutes run without government aid. A release issued by Inspector of Labour V. Palanisamy here on Sunday said that the department launched the drive May as per the directions of Commissioner of Labour P. Amutha. Mr. Palanisamy said that many institutions failed to adhere to the rules and regulations with regard to minimum wages, equal remuneration, payment of bonus, and motor transport workers. They also failed to comply with the provisions governing maintenance of transport vehicles operated by them. The department would rope in consumer organisations to create awareness among parents of students of the safety standards of the vehicles run by educational institutions. He said that the Commissioner of Labour had also directed the Inspectors of Labour Department to ensure that the provisions of labour laws were complied with by the managements of private educational institutions, in many of which non-teaching staff were employed as clerks, typist, cashiers and librarians, office assistants and assistants, gardeners, ayahs watchmen and scavengers, and motor transport workers as drivers, conductors and mechanics. As per the Motor Transport Workers Act, the transport workers should be provided with uniforms, leave with wages and weekly holidays, etc. Mr. Palanisamy said that Section 15 of the Tamil Nadu Labour Fund Act, 1972 stipulated that every employee and employer should contribute a sum – Rs. 21 per head per year – to the Secretary, Tamil Nadu Labour Welfare Board, Chennai, by January 31. Under Section 28 of the Act, the Labour Department could collect the contribution as arrear of Land Revenue under the Tamil Nadu Revenue Recovery Act, 1864 by submitting proposals to the Collectorate. (The Hindu 22/6/15)

53. CCP seeks labour commissioner’s advice on employees’ demand  (14)

PANAJI: The Corporation of the city of Panaji (CCP) has written to the labour commissioner’s office asking for advice on whether the demand made by the CCP employee’s union for payment of wages for the eight days ‘tool down’ strike was legitimate. CCP has also asked the union to defer its strike till they get a reply from the labour commissioner’s office. “The decision to write to the labour commissioner for an opinion was made during an earlier meeting with the chief minister,” deputy commissioner Sudhir Kerkar said. The CCP employee’s union had gone on an eight-day ‘tool down’ strike on December 16. CCP councilors, at an ordinary council meeting held on June 4, had resolved not to pay wages for those days that the workers were on strike. The strike had been undertaken to demand that 333 daily wage workers employed by CCP be regularized immediately and that daily wages be increased to Rs 499 from Rs 221. “If the labour commissioner directs us to pay the wages for those eight days then we will abide by that opinion,” mayor Shubham Chodankar said. Chodankar denounced the allegations made by the union leaders that commissioner Sanjit Rodrigues was creating hurdles in the negotiation process and instead backed Rodrigues fully. “What the commissioner has said is that if the council gives clearance (wage hike) he will abide by it. When it involves financial implications, it is the council’s decision that counts,” Chodankar said. The union led by Shiv Sena leader Ajeetsingh Rane kept up the pressure on the mayor and on the commissioner. The CCP employees union, backed by the state Shiv Sena committee, undertook a massive protest outside the CCP office. The workers launched their innovative protest, a ‘chaddi-baniyan abhiyan’ to draw attention to their demands. “We can go on a strike anytime because we have given a strike notice already,” union leader Swati Kerkar said. Though discussions between CCP, the workers’ union and the state government had made some headway, talks fell through when CCP refused to pay the workers for those days that they were on strike. CCP had offered to increase the daily wage for workers handling garbage by 35% to Rs 300 from the present Rs 221 per day while other workers would be paid Rs 260 instead of the current Rs 221 per day. For this CCP has made a provision of Rs. 3.5 crores. The union, however, refused to discuss any of its demands until CCP agreed to pay the wages for the eight-day strike. In order to make sure that the situation remained under control, police were deployed outside the CCP office. On Monday, the CCP employees union took a unanimous decision at its general body meeting to go on strike. (Times of India 25/6/15)

54. Self-certification for 16 labour laws in Maharashtra (14)

MUMBAI: In order to promote the ease of doing business, the Maharashtra government has announced a scheme which allows factories and shops self-certification pertaining to 16 labour laws. However, this will not apply to businesses involving chemical or hazardous products. Self-certification has been introduced for 16 labour laws including the Payment of Wages Act, 1936; Minimum Wages Act 1948; Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970; Payment of Bonus Act, 1965; Factories Act, 1948; and Maharashtra Shops and Establishment Act, 1948. Also, the Child Labour Act, 1986 and Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) 2013 and the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. The government says the scheme will benefit nearly 35,000 factories and over 27 lakh shops across the state since it will cut down on inspections by the labour department. Those who want to participate in the scheme will have to register with the state labour commissioner. Once the scheme is implemented, labour inspections will be conducted only once every five years. However, the state is free to conduct random checks on the factories that have registered under the scheme and act against those found to be violating the laws. (Times of India 26/6/15)

RESERVATION

55. Figure of disabled aspirants at DU goes up by 70% (25)

NEW DELHI: The number of candidates for Delhi University’s persons with disability quota has risen by over 70% this year. There are a total of 1,031 candidates in all three disability categories—blindness and low vision (460), hearing impairment (137) and locomotor disability and cerebral palsy (434)—combined, a sharp increase from 2014′s 600-odd. However, even if all 1,031 find seats in DU, there would still be vacancies in the persons with disability quota which is 3% of the total—54,000—undergraduate seats. The Equal Opportunity Cell will study the marks scored by these applicants and is planning to write to the Dean Students’ Welfare “to direct college to keep cut-offs for reserved categories realistic”.”There may be just a few students in the 95% and above group but colleges set cutoffs with only them in mind. At some colleges, the first cut-off for PWD candidates is only a few percentage points lower than what it is for general-category,” says Bipin Tiwary, OSD-EOC. For instance, Atma Ram Sanatan Dharma College’s computer science cut-off was 98-100% for general category and 96-98% for PWD. The sudden increase in the number of applicants Tiwary ascribes to DU’s efforts to make its premises accessible and that DU is perceived to be “sensitized and proactive.” The university had waived hostel fees for students of this category and reduced mess-hall fees to half from November, 2012. Then, Tiwary says the EOC is ensuring that “every department has ramps and accessible toilets”. “Eighty buildings have already been covered.” (Times of India 21/6/15)

56. Medical, paramedical intake issue may reach SC (25)

AHMEDABAD: When will their admissions take place? This question is haunting students of medical and paramedical courses who have already filled up their forms. The matter is likely to go to the Supreme Court. A couple of years back, the apex court had directed all state education boards to complete admissions by June 25, before the all-India quota admissions begin. With this deadline staring them in the face, the Admission Committee for Medical and Para Medical Courses (ACMPMC) officials are likely to approach the SC to seek more time. The committee is likely to file an affidavit in the SC on Tuesday. “Admissions in medical and paramedical courses take place on the basis of marks of the Gujarat Common Entrance Test (GujCET) and XII (Science) results. But, till date, rechecking of some class XII (Science) answersheets are still underway. The results are expected by June 30. Before this, we cannot conduct the admission process,” said an ACMPMC official. In 2014 too, the ACMPMC had approached the SC and the court had granted time till July 10 to complete the first round of admissions in this course. “We will act according to the SC’s directives. This time too, we hope to get some respite from the court,” said an ACMPMC official. ACMPMC officials said that unlike last year, there were more aspirants for courses. In all, 28,558 forms were filled up for the 11,000-odd seats. ACMPMC hopes to declare the merit list on July 2. (Times of India 23/6/15)

57. No change in 2L RTE beneficiary families’ income for 3 years (25)

JAIPUR: The annual income of over 2 lakh beneficiary families under the Right to Education Act has remained unchanged for the past three years. According to RTE guidelines, children of parents whose annual income is up to Rs 2.5 lakh are eligible for admission in private schools that keep a quota of 25% of the total seats for them. But parents, who submit affidavits about their incomes every year, have not shown an increase in their incomes for the last three years. Their incomes have remained below Rs 2.5 lakh, the upper limit in Rajasthan under the RTE. This is second highest upper limit in the country under the Act. A senior government official handling RTE confirmed TOI that most of the affidavits received from parents have not shown a single penny’s increase in three years. “We have no such mechanism to cross-check the income of existing RTE families due to shortage of staff. Even the RTE guideline is silent on physical verification of parents’ incomes,” said the officer. Rajasthan is a leading state in the country in terms of RTE admissions in private schools. Till the 2015-16 academic session, the state has 6.5 lakh students admitted under this Act. Damodar Goyal, an educationist, sees this as the main reason why the state has admitted highest number of students in the country under RTE since 2011-12, including 1.57 lakh in 2013-14 and 2 lakh in 2015-16 sessions. A close look at the admission pattern this year shows that out of 2 lakh admissions only 80,000 were from the economically weaker sections, while 1.20 lakh admissions were from the disadvantaged groups. State RTE rule doesn’t put any income cap for SC and ST students. As a result, many doctors and even bureaucrats have admitted their wards under the RTE scheme. Goyal added that upper limit for the economically weaker sections should be brought down to either the BPL level or maximum of Rs 1 lakh income per annum. He suggested that present practice of determination of income by two eminent persons like municipal councillors, sarpanch etc should be disbanded and affidavit filed by the applicant should be verified through revenue officials. Pranjal Singh, head of Abhytthanam Society working for RTE, says the income cap of Rs 2.5 lakh in Rajasthan is being misused grossly. “Places like Delhi have an upper limit of Rs 1 lakh and even in economically poor states like Bihar and Odisha the upper cap on income is less than Rs 1.5 lakh,” said Singh. The figures matter for the common man due to the fact that the government is spending around Rs 14,000 per child admitted under the RTE. In the last academic session, state spent Rs 105 crore on reimbursements to private schools on account of admissions under RTE. A chartered accountant on condition of anonymity said that many parents are not interested to show their income beyond Rs 2.5 lakh so to take the benefit of this scheme. (Times of India 26/6/15)

58. Orphans deserve a berth in OBC list: BC Commission chief (25)

TIRUPATI: National Commission for Backward Classes Chairman Justice V. Eswaraiah on Sunday strongly vouched for inclusion of the orphaned children in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) list, saying that the category is ‘most deserving’ for the status. Justice Eswaraiah, who visited the TTD’s Sri Venkateswara Balamandir, a special home for the orphaned and destitute children here, said: “The deserving categories should get the benefits of reservation policy. The orphans are oppressed as they don’t have parental affection, emotional attachment and any guide force for future. I believe that reservation should not be given only on the basis of social marginalisation, but on the basis of deprivation too,” he says. Taking a cue from the Supreme Court’s observation that the transgenders are entitled to a berth in the OBC list, Justice Eswaraiah recently mooted the idea of including orphans in the list for ensuring reservation for them in public sector undertakings and central educational institutions. (The Hindu 29/6/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

59. NHRC serves notice to Surendranagar collector (1)

RAJKOT: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to Surendranagar district collector for not complying to its order with regard to practice of manual scavenging in Dudhrej municipality in the district. The Commission has asked the collector Udit Agarwal to personally remain present for hearing on July 28 if he fails to submit report by July 21. The commission in August 2014 had directed Agarwal to submit report on practice of manual scavenging in Dudhrej municipality following a complaint filed by Dalit Rights activist Kirit Rathod. He had sought NHRC’s intervention to prevent manual scavenging in Dudhrej municipality. “Despite sufficient time and opportunity having been given, the requisite Report has not been received. In these circumstances, let summons be issued for the personal appearance of District Magistrate, Surendranagar, before the Commission on July 28 at 11.00 am along with the requisite report. In case the report is received on or before July 21 the personal appearance of District Magistrate, Surendranagar, shall stand dispensed with,” said the notice issued two weeks ago. The Safai Kamdar Hak Rakshak Samiti, Surendranagar, had come up with documentary evidence on manual scavenging and demanded ban on the practice that Mahatma Gandhi called ‘Shame of the Nation’. The organization in association with Ahmedabad-based Navsarjan Trust, had demanded urgent steps to stop the practice and employ the people in other respectable jobs. “The municipality employs people who are forced to do manual scavenging, that is, clean up human excreta from public places. This is disgraceful,” Rathod alleged in complaint to NHRC. He had further claimed that the practice was violation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. (Times of India 21/6/15)

60. Over 40 percent Indians deprived of basic rights: SC judge (1)

Agartala: “Over 40 percent out of 1.25 billion Indians are acutely deprived of certain basic rights and opportunities,” said Justice Thakur, who is also the executive chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA). Delivering his speech at a symposium here on Saturday night, the apex court judge said: “Over 40 percent of Indians are living below the poverty line. They also are surviving with lack of literacy, lack of basic opportunities and scopes besides economic deficiencies.” He said the NALSA and State Legal Services Authorities were working to provide various legal services and conducting awareness programme for the benefit of the people specially those are deprived, tribals and scheduled caste. “As a rule, judges are governing the justices and legal matters, but a father also must do justice to his children, a husband or a wife must do justices to each other, a parliamentarian or a legislator must do justice to the people of their constituencies and a minister do justice to all his subjects,” he said. “All of our target must be to support neglected people of our society. Injustice cannot be tolerated in our system,” Justice Thakur said, adding that poverty should not be an impediment in providing justice to the weaker section of society. NALSA`s executive chairman said it was a challenge to make disadvantage and illiterate people aware of their rights in a country where legal literacy percentage was much below the expected level. “There is a commitment to ensure that poor people have equal access to justice. We have been devising our own ways to reach out to them. In this mission, students are our ambassadors,” Justice Thakur said. Tripura High Court Chief Justice Deepak Gupta said that according to a survey conducted by a Guwahati-based NGO, over 86 percent of tribals were not at all aware about the legal aid services. Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, State Legal Services Authority`s executive chairman and Tripura High Court Judge Utpalendu Bikash Saha were among others who spoke at the symposium, organised to spread the legal knowledge among the students, youths and others. The NALSA has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society and to organise Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes. (Zee News 21/6/15)

61. NGOs oppose Criminal Procedure amendment (1)

Mumbai: The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and Police Reforms Watch — an umbrella organisation for the movement of various voluntary groups and activists committed to monitoring the implementation of police reforms — have demanded that the recent state Cabinet decision to make certain amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) be withdrawn. The NGOs have alleged that the amendments would make prosecuting a public servant in corruption and torture cases even more difficult than it is at present. On June 6, the state Cabinet approved the decision to amend CrPC’s Sections 190 and 156(3) to the effect that a magistrate would not be able to take cognisance of a complaint against any public servant, including MLAs, bureaucrats, corporators, and even elected members of municipalities and panchayats without the prior sanction of the respective competent government authorities. The sanction of the Speaker of Legislative Assembly would be required to register a case against an elected representative, while sanction of the chief secretary would be necessary for action against bureaucrats. Investigating agencies are restrained from even conducting preliminary enquiries into the complaints and allegations without getting prior sanction from government. Maja Daruwala, director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said, “The Cabinet decision is against public interest. The proposed amendments, if passed, will increase the pool of impunity that already exists. The very notion of asking for permission to even investigate possibly corrupt officials goes against our beliefs in democratic governance. There is no transparency about how sanctions are given or refused.” The NGOs have claimed that the state government’s decision is in contravention of Supreme Court judgment of 2013 which lays down that where the facts given in a FIR make out a cognisable offence, it is mandatory for the police to file the FIR. The police may conduct a preliminary inquiry only when it is unclear whether the offences are cognisable or not. (Asian Age 24/6/16)

62.  ‘Happy that awareness on rights has increased’ (1)

RAICHUR: Meera C. Saksena, Acting Chairperson of the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission, expressed happiness at the increasing number of complaints being lodged with the commission and varied issues being covered in the complaints, as a result of higher human rights awareness among people. She called upon the rights activists and other educated people to join hands with the commission in further spreading the awareness in order for it to reach the last person in society. She was addressing a public meeting after launching the Raichur chapter of Indian Human Rights Panel, a civil society rights organisation, at Pundit Siddarama Jambaladinni auditorium here on Thursday. “The State Human Rights Commission has, after its establishment in 2005, received over 50,000 complaints, of which around 35,000 have been disposed of. It is a good development that in recent years, there is a gradual increase not only in the number of complaints being lodged with the commission, but also in the diversity of issues being covered in the complaints. This is largely to growing awareness among people. The human rights activists and educated people need to join hands with the commission in further spreading the awareness as a movement,” she said. Apart from individual complaints, she said, non-governmental organisations and media have, since the beginning, been major sources of information about human rights violations. Assuring to safeguard the complainant, Ms. Saksena called upon the people to come forward to report the human rights violations around them. “You need not spend even a single rupee for reporting human rights abuse around you. You can even report human rights violations by just calling us through a toll free number,” she said. She held “delivery mechanism” responsible for failure in proper implementation of various welfare, civic and developmental programmes. “Legislatures have made many laws and government have come up with various programmes. If they are not benefiting the intended, it is the failure of delivery mechanism, which we must take seriously,” she said. (The Hindu 26/6/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

63. 2.64 Crore Cases Pending in Indian Courts: Law Minister (19)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  As many as  2.64 crore cases are pending in various courts across the country, Union Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said on Sunday.The government is also taking steps to fill 360 vacancies of judges in the High Courts, he said, addressing a meet-the-press programme organised by the Thiruvananthapuram Press Club. Priority will be given to the conduct of Lok Adalats for encouraging out-of-court settlements, he said, adding that 44 lakh cases are pending in the High Courts alone. The government’s aim was to make the law simple and accessible to the common man. Redundant and obsolete laws have to be axed from the statute books, Gowda said, adding that the government intends to have a national litigation policy soon. He stressed the need for speeding up the commercial litigation process and arbitration. Gowda said that the labour laws have to be amended as “no one is prepared to invest in India.” Labour welfare, he added, was indeed an area of concern. (New Indian Express 22/6/15)

64. Subramanian Swamy challenges hate speech law in SC (19)

NEW DELHI: After challenging the validity of the criminal defamation law, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has now challenged before the Supreme Court various provisions of the Indian Penal Code dealing with offences of ‘hate speech’, saying they were violative of the fundamental right to freedom of speech. According to the law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or hurt religious feeling or promote enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc. Swamy contended in his plea that Sections 153, 153A,153B, 295, 295A, 298 and 505 of the IPC in respect of so-called “hate speech” were used to penalize people for expressing their views even within the bounds of reasonable restrictions and they should be set aside. Section 153 deals with provoking people with the intent to cause riot and Section 153A talks about promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc. Section 295 makes injuring or defiling places of worship with the intent to insult the religion of any class an offence. Section 298 covers cases of hurting religious sentiments deliberately. “All these sections do not have any safeguards within which a person can publicize his analysis of various nuanced truths of interaction between groups which differ on the basis of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community,” Swamy said in his petition. He contended that under the present law, a person couldn’t attempt to initiate a public debate to modify people’s perception as the person was “chilled or gagged” under the present law. “By these laws, therefore, not only are such persons harassed by a criminal prosecution which could continue unendingly, but also on that pretext, a vibrant and vigorous public discourse essential in a democracy is gagged. There is also thereby violation of the citizens’ fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression,” he said. Swamy also urged the court to stay criminal proceedings initiated against him in Delhi, Mumbai, Assam, Mohali and Kerala for expressing views on terrorism which was termed as hate speech under the IPC provisions. “It is submitted herein that in all these impugned sections, there is a presumption that such utterances, whether honest or not, do actually and invariably result in the commission of the offences per se. It is submitted that this is not correct,” he said. He said a person should not be prosecuted under these sections for expressing his views if there was no violent consequences or reaction within a reasonable span of time. The Supreme Court is likely to take up Swamy’s petition in the second week of July. (Times of India 23/6/15)

65. PIL against Repromulgation of Land Bill Ordinance (19)

NEW DELHI:Three city-based NGOs and the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) on Thursday filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the NDA Government’s attempt to re-promulgate the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance. The PIL contented, “The government in complete contravention of the basic Constitutional ethos, that lawmaking function is of Parliament, has proceeded to issue the impugned Ordinance and seek to govern this country through Ordinance raj. It is the third Ordinance to be passed successively by the Central government in its attempt to thrust a land acquisition law on the country which does not have the sanction of Parliament.” The Supreme Court had in April sought the Centre’s response on a similar PIL. The apex court had issued notice to the government seeking reply in four weeks’ time. Petitioner advocate Devadatt Kamat argued, “It is not only arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, but is also a fraud on the Constitution, for the government to promulgate successive Ordinance assuming itself the legislative power of Parliament.” (New Indian Express 26/6/15)

66. HC gives 2 weeks to state on PIL regarding law to run casinos (19)

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today allowed two weeks time to Maharashtra government to file its reply to a public interest litigation demanding that a four- decade-old law which makes it legal to run casinos in the state be brought into force. A bench, headed by Justice V M Kanade, asked the state government to take a stand on the issue within a fortnight and inform the court whether it intends to implement this law. According to the petitioner, Jay Satya, a law student, the Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act was passed by the Assembly and published in the government gazette in July 1976. However, it has not been notified yet. Satya found out through the Right to Information that the Act received the Governor’s assent on July 22, 1976. Last December, he wrote a letter to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis requesting him to notify it but there was no reply. The Act provides for licensing of casinos, permitting certain types of casino games, taxation of the money paid or agreed to be paid by the participants by way of stakes or bets, etc. Goa and Sikkim are the only two states which currently allow casinos, the PIL says, alleging that government of Maharashtra has “arbitrarily and unreasonably” kept in abeyance the Act by not notifying it. (Business Standard 26/6/15)

67. Can expansion of fundamental rights post-1977 stop another Emergency? (19)

A little over 40 years ago on June 12, 1975, Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha of Allahabad high court inflicted a stinging moral and mental blow to then PM Indira Gandhi. The HC annulled her election to Lok Sabha from Rae Bareli, taking away her authority to remain PM. She appealed in the Supreme Court. Celebrated lawyer Nani Palkhivala argued for interim relief before Justice Krishna Iyer on June 23, 1975. Palkivala later wrote, “The interim order (passed on June 24, 1975) was that pending the hearing and final disposal of the appeal, Mrs Gandhi could continue to sit in the Lok Sabha and participate in the proceedings of that House like any other member. The only restriction on her was that she was not given the right to vote. “The judge mentioned that this did not involve any hardship because Parliament was not in session at the time and that I (Palkhivala) could renew the application for the right to vote when Parliament reassembled. The evening of that very day (June 24, 1975), I saw Mrs Gandhi at her residence and told her that I found the interim order very satisfactory and she should not worry about the case since the judgment of the trial court did not seem to be correct on the recorded evidence.” He further said, “In less than 36 hours, Emergency was declared, invaluable fundamental rights of the people were suspended, and the PM virtually acquired all the powers of the leader of a totalitarian state. That was the black morning of June 26, 1975.” What followed were dreadful days of Emergency. Overnight, protectors turned predators. They want only inflicted misery on citizens and settled personal scores. With impunity, they butchered fundamental rights of citizens and threw them into prison even for a murmur of protest. Elected representatives either sided with the authoritarian ruler, went underground or were jailed. The citizens’ sole refuge was the judiciary. Preventive detentions under Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) were challenged in high courts through habeas corpus writs. Fali S Nariman recounted in his autobiography ‘Before Memory Fades’, “Nine high courts in the country, including the high courts of Allahabad, Bombay, Delhi, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana, held that notwithstanding the imposition of Emergency and the Presidential Order, courts were empowered to examine whether orders of detention were in accordance with MISA under which detenus were detained.” The HCs upheld the rule of law and those judges stood by their oath. The Centre and state governments challenged these HC decisions in the Supreme Court, the lead one being the infamous ‘ADM Jabalpur’ case. If the majority in bureaucracy and police either enjoyed the draconian power or acquiesced to implement patently illegal orders, four of the five judges of the SC in ADM Jabalpur case displayed lack of spine and delivered a skewed judgment – that even the most important right to life could be suspended during Emergency…. (Times of India 29/6/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

68. State Liable to Compensate in Balangir Custodial Death: NHRC (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has slapped a notice on Odisha Government asking why a compensation of `5 lakh should not be recommended for the kin of Basanta Pradhan, who died last year following torture in the custody of Balangir Police. It has also sought to know what actions have been initiated to arrest the police officials involved in the case. The Chief Secretary has been asked to respond to the show cause notice within six weeks. In June last year, Pradhan was held on suspicion of mobile phone theft by Balangir Police where he was subjected to torture. Two weeks later, he died, triggering unrest and violence in the Western Odisha town. In its notice, the NHRC stated that the report submitted by Additional DGP of Human Rights Protection Cell (HRPC) of State Police has found sufficient evidence to establish complicity of policemen in the incident. The investigation found the allegation of custodial torture to be true against the then Inspector-In-Charge of Balangir Town Tareuqe Ahmed, SIs Anant Kumar Pradhan and Malay Kumar Panda, ASI Dilip Kumar Dang, constable Brindavan Meher and home guard Saroj Kumar Naik under Sections 120B/341/342/343/323/330/348/302/34 of the IPC. The report also said none of the accused has been arrested as they have absconded. The human rights panel observed that the allegations made by the complainant are now admitted in the report of ADG of HRPC. “Therefore, the State is strictly liable to pay necessary compensation to the family of the deceased. The Chief Secretary is directed to response why a compensation of `5 lakh should not be recommended to be paid to the kin of the deceased within six weeks,” the notice said. The Chief Secretary’s reply should also indicate the progress made in the arrest of the accused involved in the crime. It should also be intimated what departmental action was taken against the erring police officials, it added. The petition for compensation was filed by rights activist Prabir Kumar Das. Last year on June 10, Pradhan, a resident of Hatapadapada in Titlagarh, was detained by Titlagarh Police in connection with a mobile phone theft case that had taken place in Balangir. He was later handed over to Balangir Police, which released the youth from its custody five days later. However, Pradhan did not keep good health after the incident and died on June 28 prompting allegations of custodial torture. The incident snowballed into a major law and order situation as angry locals ransacked the office of the SDPO holding police responsible for Pradhan’s death and demanded action. (New Indian Express 22/6/15)

69. Pay compensation if police fail to crack cases: High Court (1)

MADURAI: In a ruling that might come as a shocker to police officers and solace to victims of crime, the Madras High Court Bench here has held that the State government is liable to pay compensation to the victims even in cases which remain unsolved for years together and recover the money from the criminals after the police succeed in nabbing them. Passing interim orders on a petition filed by the father of a 15-year-old girl who was murdered for gain in Pudukottai district in March 2011, Justice S. Nagamuthu said: “When a citizen’s right is infringed by an unscrupulous criminal and when the crime could not be even detected by the State agencies, then the State government is liable to pay compensation.” The judge agreed with petitioner’s counsel G. Karuppasamy Pandian that neither the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) nor the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had been able to crack the murder case despite having dealt with it for nearly two years and 20 months respectively. “The State is constitutionally obliged to guarantee a dignified life to its citizens and it includes sufficient safety and safeguard to their person and property… but here is a man who has been waiting for justice for the past four years having lost his lovable daughter in her teenage. He is crying for justice at least to know the perpetrator of the crime. “The sufferings of the petitioner and his other family members and the mental agony and trauma caused to them as a result of the occurrence cannot be viewed lightly. Article 21, considered to be heart and soul of the Constitution, guarantees a very precious fundamental right to life which includes fair investigation and fair trial as against any crime,” the judge observed. Pointing out that a Victim Compensation Scheme, framed by the State government in 2013 following the introduction of Section 357A to the Code of Criminal Procedure in 2009, provides for a compensation of Rs. 3 lakh in cases of death, the judge ordered that a cheque for the amount should be handed over to the present petitioner and his wife in open court on July 27. (The Hindu 23/6/15)

70. RPF constables beat labourer to death, injure two others (1)

Patna: Railway Protection Force (RPF) constables picked up three labourers on the suspicion that they were involved in a theft and allegedly thrashed them, leaving one of them dead and two others seriously injured. Three persons including two RPF constables have been arrested in the connection, while the police have launched a manhunt to nab others involved in the incident. The police said the incident happened during the early hours at Locomotive Colony in Karbigahiya locality under Jakkanpur police station in Patna. The deceased labourer has been identified as Rampreet Rai (32), a resident of rural area of the district. Jakkanpur Station House Officer (SHO) Deepak Kumar said, “As per our information, the three labourers were sleeping under Karbigahiya overbridge. A few RPF constables came there, accused them of theft saying such incidents have increased in their colony and took them to their colony.” Kumar said the three labourers were held captive in a room in the residential colony and beaten so badly that one of them died on the spot while two others were left seriously injured in unconscious state. The SHO said the two injured have been admitted to Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH). “We have informed Rai’s family members. Two RPF constables and another person who assisted them have been arrested. They are being taken to the police station where we will lodge an FIR against them,” the SHO said. (Zee News 26/6/15)

71. Compensation for custodial torture (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The tough stance adopted by State Human Rights Commission chairperson J.B. Koshy has forced the Home Department to follow a directive issued by the commission in 2009, according to an official release issued by the SHRC. The order pertained to an incident which occurred on January 16, 2009, when the Kallambalam police took a college student, Sujith, into custody, in a case wherein a girl had been reported missing from Kallambalam. Sujith was allegedly tortured by the police before he was let off. He later sought treatment at the medical college hospital. The SHRC had registered two cases at the time and after detailed examination, ordered the government to pay Rs.10,000 as compensation to Sujith. The commission also directed the government on August 4, 2009, to conduct an inquiry and to exact the amount from the police officers found guilty in the incident and to take action against them. After five years, in July 2014, the State Police Chief had approached SHRC to report that verbal inquiries conducted by the police had been inconclusive. However, the SHRC rejected the government stance and insisted that the compensation be given. The Home Secretary said that it had issued orders offering a compensation of Rs.10,000 to Sujith and that the said amount would be exacted from the police office rs implicated in the case. (The Hindu 29/6/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

72. Madhya Pradesh journalist set afire and buried in Maharashtra (1)

BHOPAL: While Uttar Pradesh police is investigating the death of Joginder Singh — a journalist set on fire in Uttar Pradesh after he accused a state minister of being involved in illegal mining and land seizures, yet another journalist from Madhya Pradesh has been set on fire and killed over a similar issue. The deceased Sandeep Kothari, 44 had gone missing from his house in Katangi area of Balaghat district in Madhya Pradesh on June 19. His family members had lodged a missing person’s complaint with the Katangi police station on June 20. During investigation police rounded up three youths from the locality on Sunday who allegedly confessed to have murdered him. They said he was set afire, murdered and buried in forest area of Nagpur district in Maharashtra. Police team has been sent exhume his charred body.”We have arrested three suspects in the case. They are being interrogated. Initially it seems to a personal rivalry our investigations are on,” IG Balaghat DC Sagar told TOI. (Times of India 21/6/15)

73. Journalist burnt to death by mining mafia (1)

Balaghat (M.P.): A 40-year-old local journalist was burnt to death allegedly by three persons, suspected to be closely linked to mining mafia, who set him ablaze apparently over his refusal to withdraw a court case, police said on Sunday. The burnt body of Sandeep Kothari, who was abducted from Katangi tehsil in Balaghat district two days ago, was found lying near the railway track at Sindi in Wardha district of Maharashtra on Saturday night, police said. Additional Superintendent of Police Neeraj Soni said Mr. Kothari was out on bail for the last two months in a rape case. “His [Kothari’s] body was identified by his brother.” The BSP demanded a CBI probe into the murder, saying the scribe’s family was “tormented” by the sand mafia as he had “exposed” their activities. The former MLA from Balaghat, Kishore Samrite, said Mr. Kothari was falsely implicated in more than 12 criminal cases. “He was externed as he wrote against and lodged complaints against manganese and sand mafias and other high and mighty people involved in organised crimes. His family too was tormented by mafias,” said Mr. Samrite. Police arrested three persons, Rakesh Nasvani, Vishal Dandi and Brijesh Duharwal, all from Katangi, in connection with Mr. Kothari’s murder. The Sub-Divisional Officer of Police (SDOP) J.S. Markam said they suspected that the three were engaged in illegal mining and running chit fund companies. They had allegedly kidnapped Mr. Kothari and set him ablaze. They were pressuring Mr. Kothari, who was working as a tehsil correspondent for some Jabalpur-based Hindi dailies, to withdraw a case of illegal mining he had filed against some persons in a local court. Police suspect Mr. Kothari was kidnapped and murdered because he refused to withdraw the matter. “We are investigating the case from all angles and a police team is camping in Nagpur. It will be premature to conclude the exact reason behind the kidnapping and killing,” Mr. Markam said. Mr. Kothari was abducted on June 19 night when he was headed towards Umri village with his friend on his bike. His bike was hit by a four-wheeler and its occupants bundled him inside the vehicle and fled before beating up Mr. Kothari’s friend Rahandle who was riding pillion, the SDOP said. Police had seized the car used for kidnapping Mr. Kothari, he said. — PTI (The Hindu 22/6/15)

74. J&K minister’s guards thrash journalist (1)

SRINAGAR: Jammu & Kashmir agriculture minister Ghulam Nabi Lone’s security guards allegedly assaulted a journalist after he objected to their lewd remarks about his wife here on Monday. The journalist, Javaid Malik, alleged he was assaulted when he tried to seek the minister’s intervention. He told reporters he was traveling with his wife in a car at Bagh-e-Mehtab when Lone’s motorcade passed by. “I made way for the cavalcade but the guards passed lewd comments on my wife that I even cannot narrate,” Malik said. Malik said he stopped the motorcade and sought the minister’s intervention. “When I narrated the whole incident, the minister instead of taking action against the cops, directed his guards to beat me up. I was ruthlessly thrashed and beaten to pulp at the minister’s behest.”He said the guards kept beating him despite his wife’s pleas. “Later, I was bundled into a vehicle and handed over to police station, Chanapora,” said Malik. Lone was not available for comments. (Times of India 23/6/15)

75. Murdered MP journo was framed in 19 false cases (1)

BHOPAL: Months before he was murdered earlier this week, Balaghat journalist Sandeep Kothari approached senior police officers several times fearing he may be killed by land and mining mafia. For last eight years, he was framed in cases ranging from goat theft to gang-rape. The accused in Sandeep’s murder were connected to all the cases in some manner, claimed Atul Jain, the journalist’s lawyer. While three persons, Vishal Tandi, Brajesh Daharwal and Pappu alias Shahid, have been arrested for the murder, the prime accused, Rakesh Narswani, is still at large. Jain said Sandeep was jailed in a rape case for over 16 months before his acquittal on January 4 this year. More than 20 cases were lodged against Sandeep in many police stations across Balaghat district and neighbouring Maharashtra, said Jain. “Barring one case, he was acquitted in all,” said Jain.A Dalit woman, who filed a complaint of rape against Sandeep on August 2013, later filed an affidavit in the same court saying she was forced to register the complaint against him. Jagat Mohan Chaturvedi, special judge (atrocities), said, “Accused can’t be held guilty when her statement is untrustworthy.” In a false gang-rape case filed against Sandeep and his brothers this year at Bela police station of Umred tehsil in Nagpur district, Maharashtra police did not come across evidence against him. “Besides, call details of his mobile showed he was never in Umred. The case was closed,” police officials from Bela told TOI. In a three-page letter sent to IG Balaghat on February 5, Sandeep even named the accused saying they had been hatching a conspiracy to kill him. They misled the police and levelled false allegations against him, he said in the letter. The unfolding of events later proved him dead right, said Sandeep’s brother Rahul. (Times of India 27/6/15)

76. Pak journalist shot dead in Balochistan (1)

Karachi: A young Pakistani journalist was shot dead at his residence in Usta Mohammad district of Balochistan on Sunday morning. According to the Express Tribune, 35-year-old Zafarullah Jattak was affiliated with a Quetta-based newspaper. Jattak was sleeping when the attack occurred. The deceased was working as tehsil reporter for Daily Intikhab. DSP Khawand Bukhsh said that armed men barged into his home and opened fire. Jattak died on the spot while his killers escaped unchallenged, he added. It is not yet clear whether it was a case of targetted killing of a media person or a murder linked to an old enmity. (New Kerala 29/6/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS                           

77. Communal violence: State govt. issues orders to drop 175 cases (7)

MYSURU: The State government has issued orders to withdraw the 175 cases of communal violence booked during April and July, 2009, in Mysuru and during 2010 in Shivamogga and Hassan. The Home Department, in its orders issued on June 16, directed the Director of Prosecution and Government Litigation to take appropriate steps to withdraw the cases from the courts by submitting necessary applications. The Government Orders, which follow a Cabinet decision to the effect earlier this month, cites Section 321 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for dropping the communal violence cases. Communal violence had broken out in Kyathmaranhalli in Mysuru after miscreants threw the carcass of a pig at a place of worship in April 2009. A second round of violence gripped Mysuru in July that year. Out of the 42 cases booked during the two bouts of violence, the government has now withdrawn 40. Communal riots broke out in Shivamogga and Hassan in 2010 after the translated version of author Taslima Nasreen’s article was published. Of the 117 cases booked in Shivamogga during the period, 114 have been withdrawn. In Hassan, all the 21 cases have been withdrawn. Tanvir Sait, Congress MLA for Narasimharaja Assembly Constituency in Mysuru told The Hindu that the cases pertaining to murder had not been withdrawn. Meanwhile, the former Mayor and Kyathmaranhalli councillor Srikantaiah, whose house was also attacked in 2009, has welcomed the dropping of proceedings. The gesture will promote communal harmony and help people belonging to different faiths to live in peace and harmony, he said. “Some political parties and organisations, for their narrow political gains, had falsely alleged that only Muslims were getting a reprieve,” he said. But, at least 30 per cent of the persons booked in Mysuru and Hassan were Hindus. In Shivamogga, about half of the persons facing charges were non-Muslims, he added. (The Hindu 20/6/15)

78. Fatehpura resident arrested in connection with riots (7)

VADODARA: A resident of Fatehpura was arrested by the police in connection with the communal riots that broke out in Fatehpura on June 7. The rioting began after a temple idol in Fatehpura was damaged by some unidentified person. The cops had to lob 28 tear gas shells to quell the rioters and control the situation. Deepak More, who is member of the trust that manages the temple, has been arrested by the police. The cops said that More knows the person who had damaged the idol. “A meeting had happened just three or four days before the rioting occurred and More had attended the meet. Those who attended the meeting had planned to create ruckus in Fatehpura. We are now trying to track down others who attended the meeting,” said E Radhakrishana, city police commissioner. When asked whether More had vandalized the idol, Radhakrishana said that they are trying ascertain it. The police have arrested several persons for rioting but they haven’t able to track down the person who damaged the idol. Locals allege that the idol may have been damaged either due to property dispute or to create disturbance ahead of the upcoming civic polls. (Times of India 21/6/15)

79. Religious violence still a concern: report (7)

Washington: Religion-based violence in Indian society “continued to be a concern,” during the first year of Narendra Modi’s rule as Prime Minister, according to a report on worldwide human rights abuses released by the U.S. State Department In its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices unveiled on Thursday the Department said that the most significant human rights problems were police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape; widespread corruption that contributed to ineffective responses to crime, including those against women and members of scheduled castes or tribes; and societal violence based on gender, religious affiliation, and caste or tribe. The report alluded to “several instances” during the 2014 general elections, in which individuals faced arrest for allegedly posting political comments on Facebook. It cited in particular the case of Goa-based Devu Chodankar who was the subject of a complaint filed on May 23, 2014, allegedly for urging community members on Facebook not to vote for Mr. Modi. Following this “police detained and interrogated Chodankar for allegedly accusing Modi of planning a holocaust against Muslims and Christians… [and] confiscated Chodankar’s computer and other related items,” the report noted. While the report referenced some states’ laws restricting religious conversion, the Department also appeared to have closely tracked a report submitted to the Indian government by three senior police officials from Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and one Intelligence Bureau representative entitled ‘Strategy for Making Police Forces More Sensitive Towards Minority Sections,’ which the report said “acknowledged bias within the police force against Muslims and reported the Muslim perception of police as communal, biased, and insensitive.” Last summer in some areas such as Bastar district of Chhattisgarh numerous village councils passed resolutions banning non-Hindu religious “propaganda,” prayers, and speeches in their villages, the Department said. Additionally the report highlighted communal violence in Pune in late May, wherein social media posts triggered multiple arson attacks on Muslim-owned shops and mosques and an assault against a Muslim cleric. It underscored the June 2 incident in which a group beat Mohsin Shaikh, who was returning from prayers in Pune, to death, allegedly targeting him for his “Muslim appearance.” In that case police arrested members of the Hindu Rashtra Samiti and pressed murder charges against its chief, Dhananjay Desai, the Department added. Similar to previous reports on religious freedoms issued by the U.S. government, this week’s report also drew attention to concern expressed by civil society activists “about the Gujarat government’s failure to hold accountable those responsible for the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat.” More broadly, other human rights problems of India that found mention in the report include disappearances, hazardous prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pre-trial detention, all exacerbated by a judiciary that “remained backlogged, leading to lengthy delays and the denial of due process.” (The Hindu 26/6/15)

COMMUNALISM

80. Yoga not secular: VHP’s Praveen Togadia (26)

Jaipur: Amidst opposition in some quarters to observing International Yoga Day, VHP International Executive President Dr Praveen Togadia on Monday said that the discipline was never secular and was more of “Vedic and sanatan”.He also said that Surya Namaskar was an essential part of the exercise form and no performance of yoga was complete without it. “Om and Surya Namaskar, two exercises of yoga, are very necessary and without them, yoga is incomplete,” Togadia told reporters at a VHP event here. The Hindu right-wing leader leader further said that “yoga was never secular, it is more ‘Vedic and sanatan’ (ancient)”. “Namaj and yoga are two different things. Those who do not want Om and Surya Namaskar, they should practise only gym activity for better health,” he said. “Those who want to live healthy life should opt for yoga, and those who want to commit suicide (not better life) could avoid it,” he warned. He also said that VHP would not allow any changes to be introduced in yoga exercises. On the sidelines of a state-level training event, Togadia added that five lakh health ambassadors would be trained under a VHP programme over the next three years. He also said that similar training programmes would be launched in 300 cities. After several Muslim groups expressed reservations against offering ‘surya namaskar’ and reciting Sanskrit ‘slokas’ during the yoga ‘asanas’ to be performed during the June 21 International Yoga day event on Rajpath in New Delhi, the government had decided not to include ‘surya namaskar’ and ‘om’ chanting in the set of ‘asanas’ to be performed during the official celebrations. (Zee News 22/6/15)

81. Modi Government Granted Indian Citizenship to 4,300 Afghan, Pakistan Hindus ? (26)

CHENNAI: Has the Narendra Modi government granted citizenship to 4,300 Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan during its last one year in office as claimed by a news agency report a week ago? Highly improbable, if one goes by the RTI reply provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The RTI document that Express has access to shows the actual number of people, who were granted citizenship from these two countries, was a modest 515 in 2014 and just 150 till the first week of June this year. The widely published agency report had stressed that this was an initiative of Home Minister Rajnath Singh following his party BJP’s declared policy that India is a “natural home for persecuted Hindus”, who were welcome to seek refuge. Ironically, it is Rajnath’s ministry that gave the actual figure under RTI following an application by Vinoth Ranganathan, co-founder of onlineRTI.com, a Bengaluru-based organisation that helps citizens with RTI applications. According to the information, signed by MHA’s director (citizenship) and CPIO, Pravin Horo Singh, the total number of persons granted citizenship during the whole of 2014 was 611, while that for this year till June first week was 189. These people came from 25 countries, including the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Bangladesh, China, Italy, Kenya and Liberia. “It is the information provided in the RTI that is genuine. I have been tracking the issue by getting the information through a RTI filed in March and June. The difference is only 40,” said Vinoth, pointing out that the figure of 4,300 was never substantiated by the media. From Pakistan, 267 people were given citizenship last year, and 83 this year till June. Similarly, from Afghanistan, 248 and 67 were given citizenship last year and this year respectively. From another neighbour, Bangladesh, 24 and 7 persons were granted citizenship during the same period. While granting citizenship to Pakistan and Afghanistan refugees may be a priority for the Centre, the figures as highlighted in media were in contrary to the official data being released to a RTI query. (New Indian Express 23/6/15)

82. Stray incidents during VHP sponsored Jehanabad bandh (26)

Patna: VHP activists on Saturday pelted stones at a Jan Shatabdi Express train in Bihar`s Jehanabad district to enforce a shutdown called to protest the police firing on people, police said. Hundreds of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists armed with bamboo sticks created panic and terror in Jehanabad, about 50 km from Patna, and pelted stones at Jan Shatabdi Express train, a district police official said. “They also attacked policemen who tried to pacify them,” officials said. Police had to resort to lathicharge and fire tear gas shells to disperse the VHP`s activists after they went on rampage at several placeas. The bandh evoked a mixed response as shops and markets remained closed in some areas but vehicles could be seen plying. The VHP activists were demanding action against police officials who opened fire on June 25 on people at Soiya Ghat and Malahchak in Jehananad town when they went out of control during a protest over a land dispute with another community Refuting the VHP claim that four people were injured in the firing, police said only one person was injured. The district administration has deployed additional security forces and videographers to record the VHP`s activities during the shutdown. (Zee News 27/6/15)

83. Saffronisation of Education: States to raise the issue in CABE meeting (26)

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has called the first meeting of Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) on July 18. Along with CABE, the meeting will also include all the state education ministers as members. The meeting is expected to address some major issues as the HRD ministry will discuss about the progress of the New Education Policy (NEP) and the changes in the Right to Education Act. Whereas, the opposition states will raise the threats of saffronisation of education and the changes in NCERT textbooks. According to the TOI, an official said, “We want to build consensus. Since states as well as academicians are members of CABE, it will be easy to discuss many issues in the meeting.” The deadline for declaration of NEP is September. A senior official from the ministry’s school department said, “But it looks like announcement will be delayed a bit. After receiving the feedback, more consultations will take place at the Centre. In CABE, we will request states to take it up on priority basis.” There was a delay in constituting the members of CABE, in order to get new members. Once the names were finalized, they were sent to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for approval. The new names that are a part of CABE are Jawaharlal Kaul, vice-chancellor of Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna (Garhwal Central University) D N Bezboruah (Former head of Editor’s Guild) etc. (India Today 29/6/15)

TERRORISM

84. Over 2,000 killed in terrorist attacks, blasts since 1989: MHA (12)

New Delhi: Over 2000 people, including several security personnel, have been killed in terrorist attacks and bomb blasts in the last 25 years, an RTI query has revealed. According to an RTI reply by Internal Security Division of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, “2129 people, including security personnel, have lost their lives in terrorist attacks and bomb blasts on Indian soil between 1989 and May 31, 2015.” The major terror attacks in this period are 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts, 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, 2006 Mumbai train blast, 1998 Coimbatore serial blasts, 2005 Delhi blasts, 2006 Varanasi blast, 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing, 2008 Guwahati serial bomb blast and 2010 German Bakery blast. In reply to a separate RTI query, the Left Wing Extremism Division of the Ministry stated that Rs 595 crore was disbursed among ten naxal affected states in the last three years for security-related schemes. Between 2012-13 and 2014-15, Chhattisgarh received Rs 135 crore under security related schemes while Jharkhand got Rs 164 crore and Odisha Rs 110 crores, it said. Among other states, West Bengal received Rs 46.72 crore, while Rs 44 crore were released for Bihar, Maharashtra recieved Rs 29.56 crore, Uttar Pradesh was issued Rs 14 crore and Madhya Pradesh received Rs 2.60 crore. Andhra Pradesh received Rs 45.12 crore in the period, while following the bifurcation of AP, the newly-formed state of Telangana received Rs 5.09 crore in 2014-15, the Ministry informed. (Zee News 21/6/15)

85. Taliban attack Afghan Parliament, kill 2 (12)

Kabul: Taliban militants launched a brazen assault on the Afghan Parliament Monday, triggering gunfire and explosions and sending lawmakers scurrying for cover in an attack that killed two civilians, including a child. The raid came as the Afghan President’s nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in Parliament and ended two hours later with the killing of all seven attackers, including a suicide car bombing. “First a car bomb detonated on the main road near the Parliament building, then a group of attackers entered a building in front of Parliament,” Kabul police spokesman Ebadullah Karimi said. The insurgents were repelled after failing to enter the Parliament but took up position in a partially-constructed building nearby, he said. Officials said two civilians, a woman and a child, were killed in the attack, which left a thick plume of smoke hanging over the Parliament complex and tore a huge crater in an adjoining street. Deputy interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said there were seven attackers and the health ministry reported 31 people, including five women and a child, wounded. Dramatic television footage of the moment the first explosion struck showed pandemonium and screams inside Parliament, with Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi sitting in his chair, calmly telling lawmakers “it’s an electrical issue”. MP Mohammad Reza Khoshak, who was in the chamber at the time, described hearing “a loud explosion, followed by several other smaller explosions”. “In a few seconds the hall was filled with smoke and MPs began fleeing the building,” he said. The attackers also fired rocket-propelled grenades at the Parliament, causing some damage to the complex. The Taliban launched a countrywide offensive in late April, stepping up attacks on government and foreign targets in what is expected to be the bloodiest fighting season in a decade. A district in the northern province of Kunduz fell to the Taliban on Monday, the second such loss in two days. Officials said the militants were able to take over when urgently needed reinforcements failed to arrive. The Taliban captured Dasht-e-Archi district a day after hundreds of militants fought their way to the centre of the adjacent district of Chardara. “The Taliban managed to take it over this morning as the area has been surrounded for days,” Nasruddin Saeedi, the district governor who escaped to the provincial capital, Kunduz city, said. “There are many foreign fighters with heavy machine guns. We have asked for reinforcements, but none arrived.” Afghan soldiers were preparing a counter attack to retake both districts, another local official said. The militants recently rebuffed requests from senior Afghan clerics to halt attacks during the fasting month of Ramzan even as a surge in violence has sent civilian casualties soaring. “Several mujahideen have entered the Parliament building,” Taliban spokes-man Zabihullah Mujahid posted on Twitter. “The attack happened at a time when the defence minister was being introduced.” The police denied that Taliban fighters had breached the high-security complex. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan strongly condemned the raid, saying it was a “clear and deliberate affront to democracy in Afghanistan”. (Asian Age 23/6/15)

86. Congress seeks court-monitored probe into Malegaon blast case (12)

NEW DELHI: Congress on Thursday demanded that the judiciary monitor the Malegaon blast probe, attacking the Modi government after the public prosecutor alleged that she was under pressure from National Investigation Agency (NIA) to go soft on the accused. AICC spokesman Ajay Maken said, “It is a very serious matter. The NIA director general should be immediately removed because he is responsible for it. The Supreme Court or the high court should monitor the NIA investigation directly. We no longer have faith in the probe being carried out by the NIA under government of India or home ministry.” Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza called it “undeclared emergency”. (Times of India 26/6/15)

87. Kuwait Terror Attack Killed Two Indians (12)

NEW DELHI: Two Indians were among 27 killed in a suicide bombing that targeted the Shia Imam-al-Sadiq mosque in the eastern part of Kuwait on Friday. According to the Indian Embassy in Kuwait, Rizwan Hussain and Ibne Abbas, both from Uttar Pradesh, were taking part in the prayers when a fidayeen from terror outfit Islamic State, wearing an explosive vest, detonated the IEDs, killing 27 and injuring 200. The Embassy has also issued an advisory asking all Indians to take precautions for their safety and security in Kuwait. Rizwan Husain, a native of Sultanpur district, was working as a watchman in the mosque while Ibne Abbas from Ambedkar Nagar district in UP was working as a driver. A suspected IS Twitter account known to be spreading propaganda had claimed responsibility for the attack, which is first such terror act on a mosque in the Emirate. “In view of the bomb blast on June 26, all members of Indian Community in Kuwait are advised to take precautions for their safety and security in the country,” the embassy statement added. Security experts allege that wealthy donors from Kuwait helped IS to grow, providing the outfit with financial aid. They also noted that Kuwait was on the IS hit-list as it joined the anti-IS coalition.  (New Indian Express 29/6/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

88. Maoists call for shutdown, torch tractors in Bihar (12)

Patna: Maoists called for a two-day shutdown beginning Tuesday in Bihar over the killing of their men and burnt down eight tractors and set ablaze a mobile tower in separate incidents, police said. “A group of armed Maoists torched eight tractors in Agrail village in Vaishali and set ablaze a mobile tower in Gausganj village near Paliganj in Patna early Tuesday,” a police official said. Maoists are protesting against the killing of twelve of their men in neighbouring Jharkhand early this month and the security forces’ operation against them, police said. Taking serious note of the incident, officials at the police headquarters in Patna have directed the district police to intensify combing operations against Maoists. (New Kerala 23/6/15)

89. Cops nab Maoist carrying Rs 5L reward on head (12)

PATNA: Police on Monday nabbed an alleged Maoist Shivji Dhobi alias Baba Tyagi from Paniara village under the Ghosi police station area in Jehanabad district. He was carrying a reward of Rs 5 lakh on his head. Police said Shivji would head the Bihar-Jharkhand special area committee of banned CPI (Maoists). Considered a good planner and execution of the ultra-left outfit, the sexagenarian is suffering from acute diabetes and other ailments. A doctor identified as Kamlesh used to accompany Shivji during his movement, but he escaped when police stormed Shivji’s hideout. Sources said several teams, including that of CRPF, Special Task Force of the state police and central intelligence agencies, were working to nab Shivji. He was hugely respected by the rank and file of CPI (Maoists), the sources said and added he planned the loot of 30 rifles from SAP jawans in Goh block of Aurangabad district on July 13, 2013. His squad also participated in the face-off between Jharkhand police and Maoists in Chaupan in January this year. According to a police officer, now that Shivji is behind bars, no top Maoist in the Magadh division is left scot-free. “As for his replacement in the outfit, we will have to be on watch,” the officer said. (Times of India 23/6/15)

90. New Maoist committee gives security forces jitters (12)

VISAKHAPATNAM: With the security forces gradually limiting the movement of the CPI Maoists in the Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB) area, the banned outfit has reportedly modified its tactics as well as its organizational structure. The naxals are believed to have formed a new committee called the Malkangiri-Visakha-Koraput divisional committee with an experienced leader at the helm to strengthen the rank and file and regain their past glory. According to sources, the new division was formed after the visit of Maoist central committee leaders to Visakha Agency in May and June this year. Around 14 leaders from the Dandakaranya Zonal Committee of Chhattisgarh, including Maoist central military chief Namballa Kesava Rao alias Ganganna and central regional bureau (CRB) chief Katakam Sudarsan alias Anand are learnt to have visited the district. Few days after their visit, another team of nine members interacted with the squads and area committees in the AOB, sources said. They said the new committee was aimed at not only strengthening the naxal presence in the AOB areas, but also to safeguard their movements in Chhattisgarh. If the AOB Maoists become weak, the ones in the Dandakaranya zone would be in danger as security forces of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha would seal the borders and corner them. Though one Venu calling himself the head of the Malkangiri-Visakha-Koraput divisional committee has already begun issuing press notes, the Visakha Rural cops suspect that Venu is none other the dreaded Gajarla Ravi alias Ganesh alias Uday, the present Malkangiri-Koraput border (MKB) divisional committee secretary. Ravi, a native of Warangal district, was one of the Maoist representatives that attended the meeting with the state government in 2005, following which he became famous as Charchala Ganesh. “Ravi, a chronic diabetic, worked as a North Telangana Special Zonal Committee (NTSZC) member but when the NTSZC lost grip over Telangana due to severe repression by security forces in the form of encounters and arrests as well as surrenders of squad members, he was transferred to the AOB Special Zonal Committee,” a senior police officer involved in anti-naxal operations told TOI. “Uday might have been given charge of the new division as he has good organisational skills. The Reds will now try to concentrate on areas where they have lost their grip and chalk out plans to strengthen their presence AOB, which is the key to protecting their movement in Chhattisgarh,” a senior police official in Visakha agency said. Sources said that the Maoists set up the new committee to guide the other divisions after the strength of potential leaders reduced in Visakha, Malkangiri and Koraput. However, all the three divisions would now be treated as sub-division committees led by commander rank naxals, who would become members of the new divisional committee. (Times of India 28/6/15)

91. 5 Armed Maoists Visit Tribal Colony in Wayanad (12)

MANANTHAVADY: Sending out a strong message to the state government on the existence of maoist activism post Roopesh-Shyna arrest in Coimbatore, an armed group of five rebels have reportedly visited households at Kurichiya colony near Melathalapuzha. By 7.30 pm on Friday, a group of five gun-wielding men and women visited tribal households in the colony. The group disclosed their identities as Manoj, Sreeni, Anu, Varghese and Jenny to inhabitants of the household. Further, the group of three men and two women who were in green uniforms lectured the tribals about development of the marginalised people in the state. “Tomorrow, the state police and media will flock your houses once they learn that we visited you,” the rebels said to the tribals. Before the group disappeared, they handed over the pamphlet ‘Kaattu Thee’ to them. The Thalapuzha police have registered a UAPA case after recording the statement of the residents of Kurichiya colony. Maoist presence in Wayanad was last reported on December 13, 2014 at Vellamunda. “We have taken the issue seriously. Our investigation procedures are underway and we are not in a position to divulge the nature of the investigation now,” said Premkumar, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) of Mananthavady. (New Indian Express 29/6/15)

TRAFFICKING

92. Seven arrested for child trafficking in Faridkot (1)

Faridkot: Faridkot district police today claimed to have busted an inter-state gang of seven members and recovered a 2-day-old infant who was allegedly being sold to Panchkula based couple for Rs 2.80 lakh. Acting on a tip-off, police arrested the buyer when he allegedly reached the bus top to take the infant here yesterday. The gang of seven members, including four women and parents of the infant were also arrested, they claimed. According to SSP Charnjit Sharma, Paramjit Kaur and her husband Pirthi Singh of Bazighar Basti were going to sell their child to a couple from Panchkula. After the infant was examined at Guru Gobind Medical College and Hospital, he was handed over to Krishan Dham, a local NGO. The middlemen have been identified as Kulwinder Kaur of Moga, Parminder Kaur of Faridkot, Gurmeet Kaur of Jaitu and Mamta from Barnala, he said. Out of the Rs 2.80 lakh deal, the child’s parents were suppose to get Rs 70,000 and the middlemen were to get the rest, police said.

Vikas Goyal, the buyer from Panchkula has also been held, SSP said. A case under Section 370 of IPC (buying or disposing of any person as a slave) and Section 2 of the Human Trafficking Act has been registered, he said. (Zee News 20/6/15)

93. Trafficked Assam girl saved from prostitution racket (1)

New Delhi: After a case of prostitution was registered with Assam Police, Delhi Police’s Crime Branch rescued a 15-year-old kidnapped Asamese girl from central Delhi’s Shakurpur on Saturday, police said. Police said the girl was lured on the pretext of getting a job and was handed over to a placement agency. She was rescued after Delhi Police’s Crime Branch was contacted by Assam Police. “We were informed that the girl had been kidnapped by some of her family members,” said Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Ravindra Yadav. The Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) of Crime Branch traced her to placement agency LG Enterprises in Shakurpur. “The girl had been employed as a domestic worker,” Yadav added. A case under sections 366-A (procuration of minor girl), 372 (selling minor for purposes of prostitution) and 373 (buying minor for purposes of prostitution) of the Indian Penal Code is registered with Kaliabor police station in Assam. The girl told police that she was regularly beaten up after being kidnapped from outside her house. She was later kept confined at several places in Delhi and NCR, where she was also sexually assaulted by the kidnappers.“The girl was beaten up saying that she was purchased from her relatives and hence, she will have to obey their orders,” another police officer said.Police are now probing if she was sold to any gang here which runs an interstate prostitution racket. “We are yet to unearth the entire trafficking racket and are conducting raids to make arrests,” Yadav added. Police are mulling to add charges under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act. Further action would be taken on the basis of the girl’s statement under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. (Deccan Herald 21/6/15)

94. Consultation on child trafficking issues held (1)

Kakching : With the objective to sensitise the alarming situation of Child Trafficking in State and explore strategies to prevent it, a One Day Consultation on “Child Trafficking Issues” was held at DRDA Conference Hall located inside the Office Complex of Chandel DC on Wednesday. The consultation programme was organised by New Era Environmental & Development Society (NEEDS) Imphal under the sponsorship of Child Rights & You (CRY) for the leaders of civil societies, church leaders, NGO workers, student leaders, police personnel, doctors as well as the officials of Social Welfare Department in the district. Resource persons of the consultation, Th Modhuchandra Singh, SDPO Chandel; K.Pradip Kumar, CRY Fellow and Ashim Gosh, Associate General Manager CRY deliberated on topics “Child trafficking scenario in Manipur State since the last 4-5 years”, “causes, traffickers and destination” and “the role & responsibility of the concerned stakeholders” . (Manipur: E-Pao  25/6/15)

95. Underaged girls rescued in Kalaburagi, trafficking in women busted (1)

KALABURAGI: The police, Child Line volunteers and the district child protection unit have busted what appeared to be a human trafficking network in the guise of marriage and rescued two girls who were to be taken to Rajasthan. While Jyothi (12) was married to a 40-year-old from Rajasthan, Jagadevi (16) was scheduled to be married to another person from the State. They were rescued from two houses at Pala and Srinivas Saradagi villages on Wednesday. Preliminary investigation by the police and inquiries by the volunteers of Child Line and the child protection unit revealed that Hemraj from Rajasthan, who had married a girl from Pala a few years ago, had come to Kalaburagi city on June 3 and started scouting for gullible and poverty stricken families who could part with their girls for a “cost”. First, they persuaded the widowed mother of Jyothi living in Ram Nagar locality in Kalaburagi city to marry her daughter to Vijay Singh and reportedly paid her Rs. 25,000. The marriage was performed secretly at a small temple in the KIADB Industrial area at Kapnur in Kalaburagi. Later, the same family persuaded another poverty stricken family at Srinivas Saradagi village to marry Jagadevi to Sunil Prabhati (35), who is a cousin brother of Hemraj and they were also paid Rs. 25,000. The marriage of Jagadevi was fixed at a temple in Srinivas Saradagi village on June 26. There was high drama in the morning when the volunteers and the police swooped down on the house at Pala where Vijay Singh and Jyothi were sheltered along with Hemraj and his wife, Ramabai. They presented Jyothi before the police without any protest. Neither the girl nor the family from Rajasthan provided clear answers to the questions by the police personnel. Based on the information provided by Hemraj that another marriage is fixed at Srinivas Saradagi, the police team visited the village and rescued the girl from a locked house. Superintendent of Police Amit Singh told The Hindu that Vijay Singh and Sunil had been picked up for questioning and Hemraj and Ramabai too would be detained. The two girls would be subjected to medical tests before admitting them to the home for girls. Cases under the Prevention of Child from Sexual Offence, Human trafficking and other sections would be booked against the culprits. (The Hindu 25/6/15)

CORRUPTION

96. Complaint against Ashish Joshi on ‘blanket-tea scam’ (5)

New Delhi: The Delhi government’s Anti-Corruption Branch has received a complaint against former Delhi Dialogue Commission member-secretary Ashish Joshi, alleging misuse of funds allocated to the Delhi Urban Improvement Shelter Board from the Centre for Holistic Development, an NGO that works for homeless people. “As much as Rs.12 crore, which was allocated to DUSIB by the Lieutenant-Governor for schemes aimed at making the lives of the homeless in Delhi better, was misused during the last financial year,” CHD’s Sunil Kumar Aledia said in his complaint. According to the complaint, an estimated 20,000 blankets, sheets and other provisions were procured at double the price from the market while tea, which was supposed to be provided free of cost to those living in shelters for the homeless, was procured at Rs. 9 per cup, which exceeded the sanctioned cost of Rs. 4 per cup. Mr. Aledia’s complaint also charged Mr. Joshi, who was a member of DUSIB at the time, with a “large-scale scam” in the utilisation of funds meant for de-addiction centres under the government and “unwarranted expulsion” of inmates from night shelters. (The Hindu 21/6/15)

97. Lalit Modi row: PM Narendra Modi didn’t fulfill ‘no corruption’ promise, says Congress (5)

New Delhi: The Congress on Tuesday upped the pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party to take action against leaders who have been accused of helping former IPL chief Lalit Modi. Addressing a press conference, Congress leader Sachin Pilot demanded that “Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje must resign on moral and legal grounds to pave way for a fair investigation”. Raje is facing allegations of giving a secret testimony supporting Lalit Modi’s immigration plea in the UK. Her son, Dushyant Singh, has also been accused of receiving money in illicit transactions from Lalit Modi. Further, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has admitted to helping Lalit Modi secure travel documents in the UK. “BJP is saying that till the time documents aren’t verified they won’t ask CM Raje to step down. But who will verify them?” Pilot asked. “Double standards of BJP have been exposed. I had expected the PM to live up to his words of ‘no corruption’,” the Congress leader said, adding “PM Modi’s famous words ‘Na khaunga, na khaane dunga’ have come back to haunt him”. “BJP will have to ask the ministers to resign,” Pilot said. He further slammed the BJP for speaking in two voices on the Lalit Modi issue. “First BJP says Lalit Modi will be arrested the moment he comes to India. Then they say help extended (to Lalit Modi) was on humanitarian grounds,” Pilot said, adding the Congress party will be on the streets tomorrow demanding Raje’s resignation. Pilot also backed BJP leader and former home secretary RK Singh’s remarks that it was wrong to meet or help Lalit Modi. “I am sure there are several others like RK Singh ji in the BJP who are of the same view. Leaders in BJP and other parties openly say investigation must be conducted and these people must step down to allow a fair investigation,” Pilot said. Singh said earlier today that a police commissioner meeting an absconder is not correct. He was referring to the meeting between Rakesh Maria, now Police Commissioner of Mumbai, and Lalit Modi. “Lalit Modi should be brought back and he should face trial,” Singh added. It is totally wrong to meet or help an absconder, he stated. (Zee News 23/6/15)

98. K’taka govt moves SC against Jayalalithaa’s acquittal (5)

New Delhi: The Karnataka government today moved the Supreme Court challenging the state high court verdict acquitting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case. The state government in its appeal, filed through advocate Joseph Aristotle, has sought setting aside of the Karnataka HC order and also pleaded that the disqualification of the AIADMK chief be restored. It has also alleged that it did not get ample opportunity to put forth its case before the high court. The Karnataka High Court had on May 11 acquitted the AIADMK leader in the case, saying that her conviction by the special court suffered from infirmity and was not sustainable in law. The special court had last year held Jayalalithaa guilty of corruption and sentenced her to four years imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore (Deccan Herald 23/6/15)

99. CBI must probe cash-for-vote, Congress says (5)

HYDERABAD: The Congress party on Sunday demanded a CBI investigation into the cash-for-vote case and even threatened to file a public interest litigation (PIL) if the two warring governments failed to recommend a probe by the central agency. “We want Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao to recommend this case to the Central government for CBI investigation immediately,” AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh told reporters. Considering the sensitivity of this case, he said the CBI investigation must also be monitored by a special investigation team (SIT) appointed either by the Hyderabad high court or the Supreme Court. “If it doesn’t happen, both the state Congress committees of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh will file a PIL in the high court seeking to order a CBI probe in the case,” Singh said prior to an event to commemorate the 94th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, in the city on Sunday. Lashing out at both Naidu and KCR for playing politics over the issue, Singh said, “Naidu is raising the issue that his phone was tapped, but he has not denied the fact that his party member was bribing the nominated MLA,” adding, “But why is KCR not openly saying that Naidu’s telephone was never tapped?” Replying to a question on the controversy over implementation of Section 8 of the Andhra Pradesh State Reorganisation Act, Singh said once Parliament passed the Bill, it became law of the land. “It is for the Government of India and governments of AP and Telangana to interpret the Act and apply it accordingly,” he said. While the Congress broke its silence a month after the cash-for-vote case raged into a controversy, Singh’s comments comes at a time when the BJP is subtly trying to mediate between the two states. Sources in the Congress said the party didn’t want to lose out to the BJP in the game of political one-upmanship at a time when the crucial elections for the Greater Hyderabad Corporation (GHMC) and by-poll for the Warangal Lok Sabha seat are around the corner. On current national politics, the AICC general secretary said Prime Minister Narendra Modi owes an explanation to people on the involvement of Union ministers in various scandals. He said there was enough evidence that minister for external affairs Sushma Swaraj had the prime minister’s nod before sending emails to the British High Commission recommending travel documents for disgraced former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi — when he wanted to move out of London. (Times of India 29/6/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

100. New policy to solve solid waste issue (9)

New Delhi: Centre has kicked-off second generation reforms in fertilizer sector by framing a policy to produce compost from urban waste, which it believes would reduce chemical use and enrich soil. A cabinet note circulated by Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers offers incentives to manufacturers for producing compost and use municipal waste as manure in agro sector. India’s total municipal waste based compost production potential is around 40 lakh tonne, given the roughly 600 to 650 lakh waste generated annually by the cities and towns. The country’s current installed capacity for compost production is around 10 lakh tonne while the consumption is around 1 lakh tonne. Cities may have small-scale plants to produce compost, but incentives to manufacturers are vital to encourage firms to set up large-scale compost production units, a ministry official told Deccan Herald. Sources said the government is hoping to halve manure prices in three to five years as it boosts up production, while demand for manure is also soaring due to increase in organic farms. The way many chemical fertilizer companies include manure in their product list is a sign that compost production is fast becoming a serious business, the official said. Also, compost production would solve the issue of solid waste management, one of the greatest problems Indian cities are grappling with in recent times. Their struggles in managing waste are exacerbated by the financial crunch. The new policy would solve the urban waste crises and the predicament of chemical usage in agro sector at one stroke, noted another official. (Deccan Herald 22/6/15)

101. Amaravati faces risk of industrial pollution (9)

HYDERABAD: Amaravati, the proposed mega capital of Andhra Pradesh, will face a major threat of water pollution from Narla Tata Rao Thermal Power Station (NTTPS) if immediate remedial measures are not taken, warn experts. The north-west boundary of the new capital city extends up to Borupalem on the right bank of the Krishna, while the NTTPS sits right diagonally opposite, a kilometre away from the left bank of the river. The drinking water needs of Amaravati will be met from the Prakasam barrage across the Krishna, downstream of NTTPS in Vijayawada. In fact, the state government plans to supply water from the Krishna reservoir to the entire capital region, whose population is likely to touch 10 million by 2030. Though NTTPS authorities have taken several remedial measures in the recent years to arrest pollutants from leaking out, researchers have found that chemicals from the thermal plant’s effluents still make their way into the air and water. Besides heavy metals, the hot water released by the NTTPS into the Krishna has been affecting the ecology of the river, particularly the aquatic life. According to experts, even the treated effluents released into the hot water canal that empties into the river are so bad that animals like cattle hesitate to enter the seemingly placid water. Y Hanumantha Rao, associate professor in the department of chemistry, Andhra Loyola College (Autonomous) in Vijayawada, who conducted a study on the pollution caused by the thermal plant, told TOI that though the new capital, including Vijayawada city, may not face any immediate danger, the consequences will be catastrophic in the long run due to accumulation of pollutants. Unlike other thermal plants, effluents from NTTPS are released in the upstream of a major water body (Prakasam barrage). As the water is impounded in the barrage, it results in piling up of harmful chemicals, particularly non-degradable ones. A new canal should be dug to let out the treated effluents in the downstream of the barrage to protect the fragile environment of the river. The temperature of the hot water released by NTTPS has been found to be around 40 degrees and the temperature zone extended up to 200 metres into the river water. “NTTPS authorities should do a lot more to protect the ecology of the river and the life of residents, plants and animals in the capital region,” he said. G V Ramana of the department of physics, Andhra Loyola College, was part of the research team, which published the study in the Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Hanumantha Rao added that heavy metals such as chromium, manganese, iron, nickel, copper and zinc are being leached into the river from the thermal plant’s fly ash due to anaerobic conditions. “The accumulation of these signals the alarming situation ahead for people in the surrounding districts as the water is being supplied for drinking and agricultural purposes. The hot effluents merge into the Prakasam barrage on which people in five districts depend for their drinking water needs. About 12 lakh acres are cultivated under the barrage ayacut,” he said. (Times of India 24/6/15)

102. Delhi air has high doses of most toxic pollutant (9)

NEW DELHI: Delhi’s air pollution levels are among the worst in the world but new research is pointing at something even more worrying. A government agency that recently started monitoring the most dangerous class of particulate pollutants — ultrafine particulate matter or PM1 — found its levels to be quite high even in the low-pollution pre-monsoon season in comparatively cleaner locations of the city such as central Delhi’s Lodhi Road. PM1 is the tiniest class of pollution particles. Studies show it’s the primary cause of pollution-linked incidence of cardiovascular disease. Much finer than PM2.5, PM1 particles can easily penetrate very deep into the lungs or enter the blood stream. Currently, no safe standards have been set for PM1. Yet, there are several reasons why experts are ringing the alarm bells on the pollutant’s levels in Delhi. According to monitoring agency SAFAR, PM1 levels on certain days had peaked to 70 micrograms per cubic metre, higher than even the national safe standard for PM2.5, which is 60mg/m3. PM1 is a fraction of PM2.5 emissions but SAFAR scientists say their levels should be extremely low or none because of their health implications. “On most days, the proportion of PM1 is about 35% of the PM2.5 emissions but on Thursday it was more than 50% of PM2.5 emissions. This shows that people are breathing in ultrafine particles that have serious health impacts,” said Gufran Beig, project director, SAFAR. PM1 levels remain high even in wet weather because rain doesn’t wash away very fine particles, Beig said. “If PM1 is 50% of PM2.5 concentrations, we should really be worried,” said Anumita Roychowdhury of Centre for Science and Environment. T K Joshi, director of Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH), explains why this is so. “There is no safe standard for PM1 simply because there is no level that can protect everyone from its health impacts. There are people who are extremely sensitive to even very low levels. The current thinking is that we reduce the fine particles as much as possible. It is a very expensive proposition though,” Joshi said. He said PM1 particles can enter the blood and circulate, affecting the inner walls of arteries and causing cardiovascular problems. “Since they get diffused with the blood, new research also suggests they can travel to the brain and are linked to strokes,” added Joshi. A study by the School of Public Health at Fudan University in China, for instance, found that particles in the air measuring between 0.25 to 0.5 microns in diametre had a closer relationship to human health, especially an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Monitoring of PM 1 levels can help the government address the major source of pollution. Unlike PM10 (coarse pollution particles) which can go up due to dust, PM1 is entirely because of combustion. “The major contributor to PM1 is from the transport sector, particularly diesel vehicles,” said Beig. “There have been studies in the UK that found 90% of diesel emissions to be PM1 particles. It’s not surprising to find high PM1 levels even in cleaner areas because these cannot be seen and they don’t collect together like the bigger particles. Such tiny particles cannot occur naturally in the environment. They are most likely from traffic sources,” said Roychowdhury, who heads CSE’s clean air campaign. The PM 1 particles are so light that now for vehicles with Euro 5 fuel standard, the emission is being counted in number of pollution particles as against the weight of particles. A study by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur published in 2010 also found similar concentrations of PM1 in Kanpur. They found PM1 levels to be between 30 to 13 micrograms per cubic metres in the monsoon season. Another study conducted in Hong Kong by the School of Human Settlements and Civil Engineering, Xi’an Jiaotong University and other universities, found vehicle exhaust was the largest contributor to PM1 (38%), followed by secondary aerosols (22%), waste incinerator/biomass burning emissions (16%), residual oil combustion (12%), industrial exhaust (7%) and re-suspended road dust (5%). Annual average PM1 concentrations in 2005 when the study was conducted ranged from 44.5 to 19.5 micrograms per cubic meters. PM1 is not being monitored widely like PM10 or PM 2.5 particles. SAFAR plans to set up another PM1 monitor at a more busy location in Delhi. (Times of India 27/6/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

103. Bt Cotton leading to suicides in rain-fed areas: U.S. study (20)

New Delhi: The cultivation of Bt Cotton, a genetically modified, insect-resistant cotton variety, is a risky affair for Indian farmers practising rain-fed agriculture, says a latest study published by California-based agricultural scientists in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe . Annual suicide rates of farmers in rain-fed areas are directly related to increase in Bt Cotton adoption, say the scientists Andrew Paul Gutierrez, Luigi Ponti, Hans R. Herren, Johann Baumgartner and Peter E. Kenmore, who are associated with the University of California, Berkeley, and the Centre for the Analysis of Sustainable Agricultural Systems, California. Revisiting the raw annual suicide data for Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra during 2001-2010, the authors found 86,607 of 549,414 suicides were by farmers, and 87 per cent were men with the numbers peaking in the 30-44 age group. Total suicides per year per State were regressed singly on the averages of proportion of area seeded to rain-fed cotton, average farm size, cotton-growing area, area under Bt Cotton, proportion of area under Bt Cotton, and simulated average yield a hectare that includes the effects of weather. Excluding the proportion of area seeded to rain-fed cotton, linear multiple regression shows suicides decrease with increasing farm size and yield, but increase with the area under Bt Cotton, the authors say. The study is significant for two reasons. First, most cotton cultivation in India is rain-fed. Second, between 2002 and 2010, the adoption of Bt Cotton hybrid went up significantly to 86 per cent of the total cultivated area of cotton in India, says the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications. Though cultivating the Bt Cotton variety may be economic in irrigated areas, the costs of the seed and insecticide increase the risk of farmer bankruptcy in low-yield rain-fed settings. The study challenges the common assumption in economic analyses that cotton pests must be controlled to prevent monetary losses, thus encouraging Bt Cotton adoption. The annual emergence of the key cotton pest pink bollworm in spring is poorly timed to attack rain-fed cotton and large populations of the pest fail to develop in non-Bt rain-fed cotton, the authors say. This reduces, and usually prevents, the need for Bt Cotton and disruptive insecticides. The authors recommend that high-density short-season cotton could increase yields and reduce input costs in irrigated and rain-fed cotton. Bt Cotton has been shown to improve cotton yields by past studies, such as the one conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute in 2012. This study, examining the contribution of Bt Cotton adoption to long-term average cotton yields in India in nine cotton-producing States from 1975 to 2009, showed that Bt Cotton contributed 19 per cent of the total yield growth over time, since its introduction in 2002.However, experts have responded to the new Berkeley study with concern. Former Union Environment and Rural Development Minister and Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh told The Hindu that India, now being the second largest country in the world cultivating Bt Cotton, could not afford to ignore the findings of this new study. “These findings call for serious discussion relating to the GM crop’s long-term sustainability in Indian agriculture,” he said. Veteran agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan said the merits of Bt Cotton adoption remained debatable as some had approved it for giving a better yield, while some questioned the claim. (The Hindu 21/6/15)

104. Farmers unhappy over meagre hike in minimum support price for paddy (20)

SALEM: Various farmers associations have criticised the paltry increase in the minimum support price for paddy announced by the Centre recently and appealed for reasonable hike with immediate effect. The meagre hike only proved the step-motherly treatment meted out to the agriculture sector by the Centre, they alleged. A.R. Shanmugam, president of the Salem District Agricultural Production Committee, Panamarathupatti, said that the Centre a few days ago announced the increase of Rs. 50 per quintal (from Rs. 1,360 to Rs. 1,410) in the minimum support price for paddy, which was very much unjustified. The farmers had to invest much for procuring fertilizers and quality seeds. Farm labour had also become very scarce. Moreover, farmers suffered heavy loss regularly due to natural calamities. Increasing the minimum support price for paddy by just 50 paise per kg would in no way benefit the farming community. The meagre hike was a big disappointment, Mr. Shanmugam said and pleaded with the Government to hike the minimum support price by Rs. 500 per quintal. The Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam affiliated to the Communist Party of India (CPI) too criticised the Centre’s decision and said that it was nothing but ‘betrayal of farmers’. The prices of all farm inputs had gone up manifold and the farmers were expecting reasonable hike in the paddy support price, said R. P. Ramasamy, president of the Salem district unit of the Sangam. The Centre should reconsider its decision and hike the support price to bring solace to the suffering farming community, he said. C. Vaiyapuri, president of the United Farmers’ Association – Tamil Nadu, said that the measly increase in minimum support price was a big disappointment. Noted farm scientist M. S. Swaminathan recommended the fixation of the minimum price for agricultural produce based on the expenses incurred plus 50 per cent incentive. The Government should implement Mr. Swaminathan’s recommendation while fixing the price for paddy and other agricultural produce. Mr. Vaiyapuri also pleaded with the Centre to fix the minimum support price for ordinary paddy at Rs. 2,500 per quintal, special grade at Rs. 3,000, dhal between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 5,500 per quintal, millets between Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 2,500 per quintal and oil seeds between Rs. 4,000 and Rs. 5,000 per quintal. (The Hindu 22/6/15)

105. Sugarcane farmers find resonance in K’taka suicide (20)

Meerut: A day after a distressed debt-ridden sugarcane farmer allegedly committed suicide by setting fire to the crop and jumping into it in Mandya district of Karnataka, local farmers held a memorial service for him on Friday. Finding resonance with farmers’ struggle across the country, they observed a two-minute silence and prayed for the departed soul. Expressing his condolences, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Andolan (BKA), Kuldeep Tyagi said, “I offer my condolences to his family and to the families of other farmers who were forced to take the extreme step. Farmers in the state have been struggling as sugar mill owners have not paid them their dues.” Ningegowda, a 60-year-old physically challenged sugarcane farmer in Mandya district, also met a similar fate. According to a TOI report, a heavily debt-ridden Ningegowda committed suicide after being humiliated by moneylenders in front of his family. Tyagi, who led the delegation that met minister of state of agriculture Sanjeev Balyan recently, slammed the minister. “When we requested the minister for a loan waiver for farmers in the state, he said it was not possible as it was the sole prerogative of the state government. He said they had to help farmers from across the country and not just one state. If our counterparts in the south are also committing suicide, whose responsibility is the government taking? The Centre has failed farmers and there is a conspiracy to create a Kisan-mukt Bharat (farmer-free India).” With at least seven farmer deaths in less than two months, Meerut has witnessed a spate of farmer suicides this summer. After unseasonal rains damaged crops, farmers have been demanding a loan waiver from the Centre and state government. (Times of India 26/6/15)

106.  ‘Pay dues to farmers and recover by auctioning sugar’ (20)

BELAGAVI: The issue of dues to sugarcane farmers rocked the Legislative Council on the opening day of the session at Belagavi, with Leader of Opposition K.S. Eshwarappa demanding that the Government pay the dues out of its own coffers and then recover it by auctioning the sugar seized from defaulting mills. Mr. Eshwarappa raised the issue as an adjournment motion, but it was later taken up for debate under Rule Number 68. He said that it was the only way to stop “serial suicide” of farmers. He said the government had already seized 7,80,000 metric tonnes of sugar from factories which would fetch the Government Rs. 1,575 crore at the rate of Rs. 20 per kg. “Pay the dues first and then recover it by auctioning the money at the earliest,” he said. The debate in the Council, taken up as priority ahead of the question hour, kept getting derailed as the ruling party and Opposition leaders kept sidetracking the issue to trade charges against each other. (The Hindu 29/6/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

107. Farmers’ land will not be given to any corporate: Birender Singh (4)

KAITHAL (HARYANA): Claiming that lands acquired by the Centre will be utilized only for development projects, union minister Chaudhary Birender Singh has said not an “inch of farmers’ land” will be given to any “corporate house”. “Not an inch of farmers’ land will be given to any corporate house,” union minister for rural development said yesterday while addressing a public meeting in Rajound village here. Singh also accused the opposition parties of misleading the agrarian community in the country on the contentious Land Bill. “The opposition, which was badly defeated in last Lok Sabha polls, is misleading farmers on the issue,” Singh said. Asserting that his maternal grandfather Chhotu Ram always fought for the cause of farmers and downtrodden, he said, “So how can I work against the interest of farmers.” The union minister said that crores of youth of the country were looking for employment. “But they cannot be provided jobs only in agriculture sector which, in any case, was not financially viable anymore because of depleting land holdings,” he said. “Only industrialization of the country is an option to provide jobs and ensure economic uplift meant of the people of all sections of society,” Singh added. (Times of India 21/6/15)

108. Govindacharya, Anna Hazare’s bodies oppose changes in Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill

New Delhi: More organisations and farmer groups making representations to the Joint Committee of Parliament, which is examining the NDA government’s Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, opposed the changes to the 2013 legislation on Tuesday.Among them were former BJP ideologue Govindacharya and social activist Anna Hazare’s organisations, which questioned the “haste” with which the changes were being brought in through ordinances. They alleged that the changes will “damage” farmers and are aimed at “furthering the interests of capitalists”. The panel, headed by BJP MP S S Ahluwalia, heard Hazare’s Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Andolan Nyas (BVJAN), the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), All-India Kisan Sabha, Asian Centre for Human Rights and the Centre for Policy Research among others during its seventh meeting on Tuesday. Joint Parliamentary Committee: Land Bill provisions ‘alarming’, drop them, farmers tell panel In a written representation, Govindacharya said the government’s move to promulgate an ordinance thrice on the matter has sent a message that it was being done to further the interests of capitalists at the cost of farmers. He demanded that the Centre drop the ordinance route and make a law better than the 2013 Land Acquisition Act. Hazare’s BVJAN questioned the use of the word “private entity” and the government’s intent behind it, claiming it was “anti-farmer”. In its suggestions, it said there was lack of clarity in the definition of infrastructure projects and objected to the acquisition of multi-crop land. “Government today wants to acquire that land, which give more than two crops annually. This is anti-farmer and anti-agriculture. This will bring down agriculture production and in times to come will lead to food grain problem,” it said. In a written submission, Hazare said his organisation’s struggle was not against any individual or party but against the system. A number of Gujarat-based NGOs also raised their objections before the panel, saying abolishing key clauses reflected the NDA government’s “top down” approach to development. (Indian Express 24/6/15)

109. Yadagiri power plant rehabilitation to cost Rs. 500 crore (4)

NALGONDA: The Rehabilitation and Resettlement of 4,000 MW Yadadri Thermal Power Plant of Damarcherla will cost the Telangana government an estimated Rs. 500 crore. According to a report forwarded by the district administration to the State government recently, land acquisition alone, to cover as many as 2,503 families, would cost Rs. 352 crore. The process will take at least five months. Among the people to be displaced, 1,622 families are tribals while 109 families belong to the Scheduled Castes. As many as 121 families from two villages would also lose their houses under the project. They would get a new colony with the government planning to provide all facilities by investing Rs. 90 crore. Out of the 4,656 acres of land acquired, 2,260 acres of land belongs to farmers. Energy Minister G. Jagadishwar Reddy said that they would offer more than three times the land value to each farmer, apart from providing employment to one person from each family. Those who do not want to take up the job would have two options. First, they can get Rs. 5 lakh, a one-time payment, or Rs. 2,000 per month for 20 years. Apart from constructing houses for 121 families, the government will also pay Rs. 50,000 for shifting their house and Rs. 50,000 towards settlement. Farmers who have cattle and livestock, will get Rs. 25,000 for transporting them, while those who are running business, would also get an equal amount. Issuing a notification for land acquisition and R&R, the State government declared that they would be able to complete the R&R within five months. The authorities also promised to relocate three religious structures in the villages. As part of compensatory afforestation measure, the State government had allotted 8,654 acres land. (The Hindu 27/6/15)

110. Save Sacred Groves Plan to Win Tribals’ Confidence (4)

BHUBANESWAR: In Odisha, where tribal communities fight industrialisation, mining and displacement, the Government is trying to win their confidence by protecting the sacred groves, which hold tremendous socio-ethnic value for the indigenous population. There are about 2,100 sacred groves in the State, as per the latest estimate of Forest and Environment Department of Odisha Government. The Department has, now, decided to prepare management plans for these groves so that these small patches of forests can be developed and conserved. It has decided to initiate conservation plans for 500 sacred groves during the current financial year. The plan will include plantation activities, access to water and even sheds for tribal communities to congregate. The Department will spend Rs 1 lakh on each of these sacred groves during the year. “The plan is to cover all the 2100-odd sacred groves with the development and conservation plans by 2019,” sources said. Since tribal communities share a natural bond with these groves given their socio-ethnic background, the Department believes that the protection and development will bolster conservation activities. The management plans will be prepared in consultation with these tribal groups so that they have a stake in conservation activities. “A major objective is to strengthen the bond between local communities and nature since forest density is higher around these sacred groves compared to other areas because they guard these patches with pride. Since the tribal communities have an ownership feeling, conservation becomes easier,” the sources added. The sacred groves in the State are located in hilly regions, mostly in Eastern Ghats where tribal communities and their sub-groups live. Not so long ago, the Dongoria Kondhs raised one of the most-talked about resistance when the Government tried to acquire Niyamgiri Hills for bauxite mining in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts. With the Supreme Court stepping in, the primitive group won the battle as a spree of palli sabhas gave thumbs down to the mining plan for Vedanta Group. Odisha is home to over 60 tribal communities of which 12 are designated as particularly vulnerable. At least 23 per cent of the State’s population comprises tribal groups. Geographically, over 40 per cent of the State is schedule area. The Forest Department sources said the sacred grove conservation and management plan will not be confined to just 2,100 groves. “We had conserved about 200 sacred groves last year and will carry out a mapping to locate more such sacred groves in next few years where these plantation and development plans will be continued,” said the sources. (New Indian Express 29/6/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

111. 49 Per Cent of TN Women Anaemic, Says District-level Health survey (3)

CHENNAI:With almost half the number of women in Tamil Nadu suffering from anaemia, iron deficiency continues to be a major public health concern. According to the latest District Level Health Survey (DLHS-4)–2013-14, 49.2 per cent women between 15-49 years are anaemic in Tamil Nadu. Though it has fallen from 56.5 per cent in 1998-99 in the third round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS), experts feel that the slow pace of decline has to be looked into seriously. “A complex issue, anaemia is largely invisible, leading to serious physical and economic consequences. Lack of awareness and adequate government response are the main cause,” says Girija Kumar Babu, Joint Secretary of Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW). As per DLHS 4.46 per cent of adolescent girls (10 to 19 years), 56 per cent of pregnant women, 60 per cent of children (6 months to 3 years) in TN are anaemic. Defined as decrease in red blood cells or haemoglobin in the blood, anaemia leads to malnutrition in children and lack of productivity amongst adults. It remains the main reason for infant and maternal mortality. According to UNICEF, 1000 women in Tamil Nadu die each year during delivery of which 200 are due to anaemia. The report notes that up to 10 per cent of infant deaths could be avoided if the disorder is tackled effectively. “Anaemia in women, adolescent girls and pregnant mothers has a direct impact on infant and maternal mortality rate. If a baby doesn’t get adequate nutrition in the first 1000 days, then it will never reach in life its full potential,” says a city based nutritionist. The National Institute of Nutrition prescribes an average of 17 mg of iron per day for a man, women 21 mg, pregnant women 35 mg, children 9-16 mg and adolescent girls 26-28 mg. According to UNICEF, anaemia levels in rural TN is 49.7 per cent while it is 48.8 per cent in urban areas. Job Zachariah, chief of UNICEF–TN, suggests inclusion of nutrients would address this problem. “Human body absorbs iron from non vegetarian food easily than from vegetarian diet. Adding greens, meat, egg, pulses, almonds, brown rice and food items containing Vitamin C like lemon and orange would help in iron absorption,” he says. Simple things like better diet supplemented with iron-rich foods would help maintain nutrition levels and prevent iron deficiency. “A woman must always check her haemoglobin levels before pregnancy,” says a city based nutritionist. Experts also believe that including a greater quantity of pulses in the Public Distribution System (PDS) would help mitigate iron deficiency levels. “PDS only provides rice and not pulses. Malnutrition levels in the state are high, but the PDS functions from the Food Security Act point of view, where rice is mandatory and not pulses and other proteins,” bemoans Dr R Rukmani, Director of Food Security at MS Swaminathan Research Foundation. (New Indian Express 20.6.15)

112. 96 percent of Swachh Bharat money in J&K unspent (Special to IANS) (3)

New Delhi, June 24 (IANS/IndiaSpend) Sanitation in Jammu & Kashmir is among the worst in India, with more than 54 percent of more than 1.2 million households without toilets and the 2014-15 target for household latrines falling short by 86 percent, according to government data. While J&K is ranked third, the two worst states are Odisha and Bihar, according to the Baseline Survey 2012 of the union ministry of drinking water and sanitation. A state of 12.5 million people, J&K did not use about 96 percent of the money granted by Delhi for the sanitation programme for 2014-15, using Rs.4.66 crore of Rs.121.52 crore. “The sanitation programme is at a preliminary stage in the state,” said Khurshid Ahmad Shah, Secretary, Rural Development. “We are taking measures to fulfil our objective, and it will be done very soon.” That does not appear immediately evident. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-talked-about sanitation programme, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA), is largely unimplemented in J&K, which is partly ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party. In J&K, 6,351 schools lack toilets for girls and 8,098 lack toilets for boys, according to data from the state’s Unified District Information System for Education (DISE Survey 2014-15). More than 71 percent of schools have no basins or taps to wash hands near toilets and urinals. “Sanitation facilities in the state are very poor, and this is not only limited to villages,” said Dr Nisar ul Hassan, a senior doctor at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital in Srinagar. “The situation is similar in cities and healthcare institutions as well. Hepatitis A and diarrhoea, particularly in children, caused by rotavirus are common among patients where sanitary facilities are poor.” Forty cases of viral hepatitis, caused by unsafe government-supplied drinking water, were reported from a village in northern Kashmir last month, according to the union ministry of health and family welfare. The successor to an earlier sanitation programme called the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, SBA seeks to eliminate open defecation in rural areas of the country by 2019….  (Business Standard 24/6/15)

113. Delhi lags behind Kerala, Tamil Nadu on health indicators (3)

NEW DELHI: Delhi remains behind states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu in key health indicators, such as the infant mortality rate (IMR). The Economic Survey report 2014-15 shows that 22 of every 1,000 children born in the city in 2013 (the latest available data) died within a year of birth. The number of children dying within 29 days of birth—also called neonatal mortality rate (NMR)— stood at 15 per 1,000 births for the corresponding year, as per the civil registration system. Dr V K Paul, professor and head of the pediatrics department at AIIMS, said the figures reflected lack of infrastructure. “Kerala and Tamil Nadu fare much better in terms of IMR despite having a larger and more diverse population. Tamil Nadu has tribal and coastal populations that are uneducated,” he said. Dr Paul added that neonatal ICU facilities in Delhi need to be increased and mothers need to be made aware about the best practices. Dr Krishan Chugh, chairman of the department of paediatrics at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said the institutional birth rate has gone up in Delhi. “Deaths are still happening due to poor ante-natal care, and in some cases mothers reach hospital for birth too late,” he said. The report shows that the percentage of gross state domestic product (GSDP) spent on healthcare in Delhi has reduced from 1.05 in 2006-07 to 0.96 in 2014-15. In 2001, Delhi’s IMR was 24 per 1,000 births. It reduced to 13 per 1,000 in 2004 and 2005 but has been on the rise ever since. Delhi’s NMR was 14 per 1,000 in 2001 and reduced to 9 per 1,000 in 2004 but has been increasing ever since. Experts said conditions arising in the period immediately before and after birth cause maximum infant deaths, followed by hypoxia, birth asphyxia and other respiratory conditions. “The government is promoting institutional childbirth but the infrastructure required for it remains poor. Infection rates are high in most maternity centres due to poor hygiene. The number of doctors and nurses is also not adequate,” said an expert. (Times of India 25/6/15)

114. Primary healthcare staff to protest against privatization (3)

JAIPUR: The state government’s decision to hand over primary health centres and affiliated sub-centres from across the state into private hands to be operated under the public private partnership (PPP) mode has triggered protest from healthcare staff and social organizations. Nursing associations along with pharmacists and lab technicians have planned to gherao the health directorate demanding to withdraw the decision on Monday. Moreover, they will boycott work for two hours. “We will protest at the health directorate. The government has taken a decision which is not at all beneficial for the people in healthcare. A person who opted for nursing courses with a hope that he will get a government job is feeling cheated. Now, at the PHCs, the private players will rope in nursing staff on contract basis. Also, there is a big difference between the salaries and other benefits in government jobs and private jobs,” Sanjeev Yadav, district president (Jaipur), Rajasthan Rajya Nursing Association (United) said. He said that for the past few days, hospital staff is boycotting work for two hours in a phase-wise manner to express their protest. “The protest is happening across the state,” he said. Besides, the social organizations in the state have strongly opposed government’s decision to handover PHCs to private bodies and demand that the decision be revoked immediately. There are 2,082 PHCs and affiliated sub-centres in the state, which will be operational on PPP mode. Chhaya Pancholi of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), Rajasthan, said that the government should rather increase its spending on health and ensure that there are enough funds for upgradation and strengthening of primary health care infrastructure and systems for effective monitoring of services rather than washing away its hands of its basic responsibility of delivering primary health care. Pancholi pointed out that as per the announcement by the state, these private bodies would be responsible for appointing doctors, paramedics and other staff at the healthcare facilities and will have to ensure that quality health services are delivered to all. Government, thus, would only act as a financing body and the functioning of the primary health sector would be left in the hands of private providers; is what it alternatively suggests and this is something which is extremely tricky and dangerous. (Times of India 29/6/15)

HIV/AIDS

115. This vaccine could help block HIV (3)

WASHINGTON: Scientists have designed a new experimental HIV vaccine that may stimulate the immune system to block infection from the deadly virus. New research led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and the Rockefeller University shows in mice that the vaccine candidate can stimulate the immune system activity necessary to stop HIV infection. The findings could provide key information for the development of an effective AIDS vaccine, researchers said. The research, published in the journals Cell and Science, represents a leap forward in the effort to develop a vaccine against HIV, which has so far struggled to elicit antibodies (immune system molecules) that can effectively fight off different strains of the virus. “The results are pretty spectacular,” said Dennis Burton, chairman of the TSRI department of immunology and microbial science. While many vaccines for other diseases use a dead or inactive version of the disease-causing microbe itself to trigger antibody production, immunisations with “native” HIV proteins are ineffective in triggering an effective immune response, due to HIV’s ability to evade detection from the immune system and mutate rapidly into new strains. This challenge has led researchers to believe that a successful AIDS vaccine will need a series of related, but slightly different proteins (immunogens) to train the body to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV- a twist on the traditional “booster” shot, where a person is exposed to the same immunogen multiple times. The scientists tested one of these potential proteins, an immunogen called eOD-GT8 60mer, using a technique called B cell sorting. The researchers showed that immunisation with eOD-GT8 60mer produced antibody “precursors” — with some of the traits necessary to recognize and block HIV infection. This suggested that eOD-GT8 60mer could be a good candidate to serve as the first in a series of immunisations against HIV, researchers said. “The vaccine appears to work well in our mouse model to ‘prime’ the antibody response,” said TSRI professor David Nemazee. (Times of India 20/6/15)

116. Focus on preventing HIV infections: UNAIDS (3)

Washington: Countries that have been worst affected by HIV must focus on preventing new infections and expanding access to anti-retroviral treatment to stop the risk of epidemic rebounding, says a new report from the UNAIDS and Lancet Commission. “We must face hard truths – if the current rate of new HIV infections continues, merely sustaining the major efforts we already have in place will not be enough to stop deaths from AIDS increasing within five years in many countries,” said lead author and professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. While unprecedented progress has been made to increase access to HIV treatment globally, the rate of new HIV infections is not falling fast enough, the report said. This, plus the high demographic growth in some of the most affected countries, is increasing the number of people living with HIV who will need anti-retroviral therapy to stay alive. “We have to act now. The next five years provide a fragile window of opportunity to fast-track the response and end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” said Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS. “If we don’t, the human and financial consequences will be catastrophic,” Sidibe said. The report clearly shows the urgent need for substantial global solidarity to front-load investments. The need for investment is particularly acute in low-income countries with a high HIV burden. The report also called for leveraging lessons learned in the AIDS response to be applied to new and existing global health challenges. The report makes seven key recommendations, leading with the urgent need to scale up AIDS efforts, get serious about HIV prevention, and continue expanding access to treatment. Other recommendations include efficient mobilisation of more resources for HIV prevention, treatment, and research, and for robust, transparent governance and accountability for HIV and health. (The Hindu 25/6/15)

117. Inhuman treatment: UP hospital brands AIDS patient, reveals her HIV positive status (3)

MEERUT: How are AIDS patients treated in Indian hospitals? Thirty-year-old Meena’s (name changed) story might give an indication. Admitted to Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Medical College in the city on June 19 for a caesarean delivery, doctors not only pasted a big piece of paper on her bed that screamed ‘Bio Hazard +ve’, complete with the red AIDS ribbon drawn on it to announce that here was one battling the deadly virus, she was also made to clean her own medical waste after the stitches were cut three days later. Not stopping at that, a senior doctor also allegedly abused Meena for “bringing another diseased child into the world”. Because of the handwritten pamphlet, all her relatives and friends who visited her at the hospital have now come to know of her HIV positive status, adding to the woman’s extreme anxiety. When news about the ill-treatment of Meena reached the Care Support Centre (CSC) that fights for the rights of people living with HIV (PLHIVs), members of its district responsible team (DRT), Ritu Saxena and Vinita Devi, went to the hospital where they found the piece of paper still stuck to her bedside. “We immediately tore it off and took the authorities to task. Fearing that the issue might become too big to handle, the hospital staff rushed to control the damage,” Saxena told TOI on Thursday. Hospital authorities confirmed the “unfortunate” incident and said they have apologized to the patient. “I understand this should not have happened but the doctors have given a written apology and the patient has made peace with the staff,” said Abhilasha Gupta, head of the obstetrics and gynaecology department at the hospital. Talking to TOI from her bed, Meena said that she had contracted the disease from her husband eight years ago and had kept it a closely guarded secret. “Due to the negligence of the doctors, it has now become public knowledge,” she said. “Not only did I have to face abuse about my condition, even my girl child was not spared. They termed her a ‘dreaded disease’,” she wept. CSC coordinator Badri Singh has now filed a written complaint with the nodal officer at Anti Retro Viral Therapy Centre, LLRM. “The pasting of the paper sheet at the bedside was wrong. It is the medical staff’s duty to respect the secrecy of a patient’s medical condition. I will certainly look into the other allegations as well,” said chief medical superintendent of the hospital Subhash Singh. (Times of India 26/6/15)

118. HIV prevention project workers not paid regularly (3)

Bengaluru: Apart from this, bureaucratic hurdles have resulted in the funding for Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS) to be routed to the State government treasury and not directly to the KSAPS as done earlier. This has caused a considerable delay in payment of funds for the prevention programmes. The direct impact is on contract employees, outreach workers and peer educators involved in Targeted Intervention (TIs) programmes among high-risk groups, including female sex workers and Injecting Drug Users (IDUs), whose monthly payments have been delayed. Besides, most of the counsellors in the 1,637 integrated testing and counselling centres (ICTCs) have also not been getting their salaries regularly. Upset and de-motivated over this, these workers recently met the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS) Project Director S.G. Raveendra, who explained the situation to them. “The project director told us that payment of his salary has also been delayed. But they are big shots who take home hefty pay packets. What do we do when we do not get even the meagre Rs. 3,000 that is paid to us per month?” asked Veena from Samara, a community-based organisation running five TIs. Last year also too the prevention programme took a beating as funds from September 2014 to March 2015 were released only in April. Bharathi, Secretary of the Karnataka Sex Workers’ Union, said: “Frequent disruption in payment of salaries is affecting the health of thousands of sex workers, who are leading the HIV prevention programme.” Mr. Raveendra said NACO had released Rs. 23 crore in the first week of June. “We will soon get the money through the State treasury. Pending payments will be cleared in a week’s time,” he added. (The Hindu 26/6/15)

119. Saviour Couple for HIV Patients (3)

KOCHI: When they reached the Government Medical College ten years ago, their daughter’s recovery from pneumonia was their only concern. However, after Nayana succumbed to fits and pneumonia a year later,  Kumar P and his wife Anitha decided to create larger meaning to their lives. Their daughter’s death was a turning point in their lives after which they started taking care of HIV/AIDS infected patients seeking treatment at Kozhikode Medical College. Serving as bystanders or caretakers for these patients over the past four years, they set out to start an organisation, ‘Santhwanam’. The organisation, which was formed in 2010, has been working for the protection and rehabilitation of HIV patients and is being supported by various NGOs. Apart from striving hard to meet the daily hospital needs of these patients, they organise celebrations on special days for them and create awareness among the public on the disease. “It was during Nayana’s treatment that we came across these patients, who were abandoned by relatives after being confirmed as HIV positive. Also, when Anitha was admitted for headache and vomiting sometime later, we began to interact with them more closely. There were patients who have money, but no one to help in taking an X-ray or a scan, as well as those having no money to meet the food and medical expenses. We then started visiting the hospital on a weekly basis to help them. When we realised that they needed constant support, we also started offering free services daily. Doctors like Dr Sheela Mathew and the nurses here supported us, especially by providing financial  contribution to purchase medicines for the patients,” says Kumar. ‘Santhwanam’, which is functioning as a community care centre, is a house for a number of patients, including those who come for just one or two days’ stay. Those who are completing a course of a medicine are also welcome to stay. Whether one is a Keralite, Tamilian or a Bengali, every HIV-infected person will find a place at Santhwanam. Currently, various NGOs have pitched in to support the organisation. Moreover, the couple also distributes nutritional food kits to patients other than the inmates of Santhwanam every month. “With our limitations such as lack of doctors or nurses and unavailability of extra toilets inside the house, we find it difficult to house everyone who knocks at our doorsteps. We also do not take women patients as we don’t have a separate stay facility and caretakers. But if someone is in severe condition, we ourselves take care of them,” says Anitha. Anitha and Kumar say that they are not concerned of their own financial security. “We eat the same food prepared for them and stay along with them. After losing Nayana, we are not concerned about anything else and if one day, our situation turns worse, we expect that there would be people to protect us too,” they say. (New Indian Express 29/6/15)