Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 21 March 2013

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Parent uses RTI to expose cheating in scholarship exam (1)

Mumbai: A Right to Information (RTI) application filed by a parent has helped expose malpractices at a Navi Mumbai exam centre for the state scholarship exams. Following this, the Maharashtra State Council of Examinations Board (MSCEB), which conducts the exams, recently blacklisted the Belapur centre. Sudhir Dani, father of a student who was then in Class 4, got suspicious after his daughter appeared for the exam in 2008 at Vidya Prasarak High School in Belapur and told him that the supervisor had read out answers to all 50 multiple-choice questions to the 25 students sitting for the exam. Dani filed complaints with the school and education officers, but when he got no response, he filed an RTI application for the scores of all students who appeared in 2008 from the centre, which revealed that 18 of 25 students had scored 88 of 100 marks in Marathi language paper. Armed with this information, in October 2012, Dani filed a complaint with the MSCEB, which conducted a probe and blacklisted the school as an exam centre. It has also launched an inquiry on the woman supervisor. Mahaveer Mane, commissioner of MSCEB, said: “We are going to conduct further inquiry against the Belapur centre and the supervisor.” Dani said: “Scholarship exams are supposed to prepare students for competitive exams, but local officials encourage malpractices as they need a certain number of students to get scholarships so that they receive Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan grants.” Last year, in Class 7 scholarship exams, 22 students, mostly from rural schools, scored perfect scores of 300. Experts look at such statistics with doubt as surveys such as the Annual Status of Education Reports show that learning levels in the state are poor. Farida Lambay, co-founder, Pratham NGO, said: “Scholarship exams often produce excellent results, but our surveys show that in primary schools, students are not even able to do basic maths or read sentences in English.” (Hindustan Times 12/3/13)

 

2. RTI activists allege attack on them planned by MLA’s kin (1)

Panaji: Goa RTI Forum today claimed in a police complaint that the nephew of a BJP MLA was among those who masterminded the alleged attack on RTI activists by a mob ten days back. “From the photographs put up on various Goa Forums, on the social networking site as also from reports in the local newspapers, the agitation seemed to be led by the nephew of sitting MLA Subhash Faldesai, who belongs to the ruling BJP party,” the Goa RTI Forum said in its complaint to the Margao police lodged today. The photograph of the nephew, not named in the complaint, hackling an RTI activist, has also been attached along with the complaint. Several hundred people, reportedly affected with the closure of mining activity in the state, had tried to disrupt the meeting called by the Goa RTI Forum in Margao town on March 2 to discuss the Justice M B Shah report, which had exposed illegal mining. The Forum’s secretary Shrikant Barve claimed that the police had knowledge about a bus load of people being brought to Margao to disrupt the meeting. “Police must investigate how many such buses came, who owns them, who hired them and who paid them. There were other vehicles, which brought the people. We expect the police to find out their details,” Barve said. He alleged the mob had gathered in large numbers with an intention to cause injury and trouble and assault the RTI Forum members. When asked to comment over the issue, Faldesai said, “I have no nephew. I don’t know how they are relating any person to me. Let them identify him. This proves that they (activists) have a very petty mentality. They should have filed a complaint the very next day (after the attack) and not waited for 10 days.” (Deccan Herald 12/3/13)

 

3. Indian Army refuses to give info about Kargil war victims (1)

New Delhi: It has been over 13 years since the Kargil war took place but Indian Army is still not ready to share details of its officers who were tortured and killed by Pakistani Army. The Indian Army refused to part away with the information to RTI activist SC Agrawal who had sought names and ranks of Indian soldiers who were allegedly killed after being tortured by Pakistani Army during the Kargil war in 1999. But Indian Army refused to give any detail. “Information is exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI Act 2005,” said Army’s reply to Agrawal. The said section exempts disclosure of any information which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence. Agrawal, who was miffed with response, said he is “not able to understand how simply revealing names and ranks of other Indian soldiers who were killed after being tortured by Pakistani army like was done with Saurabh Kalia could affect sovereignty, integrity, security or strategy of India”. “Rather the information I am seeking is of great public-interest as matter of similar ones like Saurabh Kalia tortured by Pakistani army should also have been dealt with in the same manner both at national and internationsl levels like has been done in case of Saurabh Kalia. I will pursue the case until they provide the information,” Agrawal told DNA. He had also sought details regarding case of Indian Army’s Captain Saurabh Kalia whose body was given back to India in a mutilated condition by Pakistan at the height of the Kargil War. During the Kargil war, Captain Kalia and five other soldiers were caught by the Pakistan Army, which kept them in captivity. They were subjected to brutal torture as evident from their bodies. India had also raised the issue with Pakistan. Prominent RTI Activist Shekhar Singh also voiced his surprise over Army’s refusal. “It is impossible to imagine that information about those tortured and killed would affect India’s national security. Even if the Army is refusing to give the information, they are required by RTI Act and by judgements of high Court to give explanation behind doing so. Only stating exemption section is not enough,” Singh told DNA. “There cannot be a blanket refusal. They can expunge parts of information which they think could be of problem,” he added. (dna 14/3/13)

 

4. SIC upholds citizen’s right to know AG’s legal opinion (1)

KOCHI: The State Information Commission (SIC) has asked the Advocate General’s office to provide to a right-to-information (RTI) applicant a copy of the Advocate General’s advice given to the State government in connection with a custodial death. Information Commissioner M.N. Gunavardhanan, on an appeal by P. Ashraf of Thalassery, ordered the AG’s office to provide a copy of the advice given by the AG on the State government’s decision to move the Supreme Court in connection with the custodial death of Sampath of Palakkad. The police had arrested Sampath on charge of murdering a businessman’s wife. He later died in police custody, said to be as a result of torture in which senior police officers were allegedly involved. The AG’s office had rejected Mr. Ashraf’s application for a copy of the advice claiming that such legal opinion was exempted from the purview of the RTI Act. The AG’s office contended that there was a ‘fiduciary relationship’—of a lawyer and client—between the government and the AG, and hence the applicant had no right to access it. The Information Commission, rejecting the AG’s contention, said both the AG and government were public authorities and hence the citizen had a right to know what advice one public authority had given to another. The Home Department had sought the AG’s legal opinion as regards moving the Supreme Court challenging a decision of a division bench of the Kerala High Court. Mr. Ashraf had asked for a copy of this opinion, which the AG rejected. (The Hindu 15/3/13)

 

5. RTI Act being misused many a time: State Information Commissioner (1)

NAGPUR: There are numerous instances of Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, being misused. Even the State Information Commission (SIC) was aware of the fact, but currently, there is no provision to keep a tab on it. According to State Information Commissioner in Nagpur Bhaskar Patil, who has vast experience in dealing with the cases under RTI Act, the information sought was sometimes misused for alleged blackmailing. “However, providing information can’t be stopped as there is no provision of asking for a motive or reason to be asked to the RTI applicants,” he told TOI. Patil, who has over three decades of experience as a lawyer, including 15 years as a government pleader at Nagpur bench of Bombay high court, added that many a time the information sought, infringed the right of privacy of individuals. “Still there are many loopholes in the procedure which need to be plugged so that there shouldn’t be any misuse or abuse of the Act by vested interests,” he said. Strongly advocating for scrutiny of RTI applications, he informed that even the Supreme Court in KB Bandopadhyay case had mentioned this issue for the first time. “There are instances where RTI information was sought on the same subject pertaining to particular ration card shop as many as 10 times. It clearly indicates that something is fishy. Even information of hotel owners was demanded. There is definitely third party interest involved in such applications. But providing information can’t be denied as activists are smart enough to turn it into a public cause. In hotel owners’ case, they may say that they want to check any violations in obtaining hotel licenses,” he said. Citing more examples, Patil, who had an impressive stint as information commissioner in Amravati division, stated that he was witness to an RTI application seeking information of a person’s income tax returns, and also about names and age of children from a particular school. “In both cases, the applicants had managed to show public interest and therefore, there are both sides of a coin when RTI application is received,” he said. He further said that even the central government had tried to make amendments in the RTI Act when the complaints of its misuse were received. Even the prime minister had called for the same during a meeting in the capital, but RTI activists strongly opposed this move affirming that Act shouldn’t be changed under any circumstances,” he said. Pointing out another deficiency in the Act, Patil stated that if the authority failed to provide information to the applicant, he can move to first appellate authority and second subsequently. “The second authority – state information commissioner – can only levy fine on the information officers, but can’t force them to provide information to the applicant. Of course, the applicants can then knock judiciary’s doors as the last resort,” he said. (Times of India 17/3/13)

 

6. Land records missing from revenue office (1)

Mumbai: A reply to an Right to Information (RTI) query filed by a Bandra resident revealed that records of hundreds of acres of land are missing from the revenue office in Panvel. The state information commission has now directed the public information officer to provide the information by March 28. The RTI applicant John Miranda owns land in Panvel. He had filed an RTI application with the talathi office of Vavanje village, Panvel taluka, to get the details of the mutation entries of his land last year. The talathi, who is also the public information officer, did not give Miranda the information he needed within the stipulated time. His first appeal with the tehsildar of the Panvel tehsil office, who is the first appellate authority, did not pass any order on the appeal. Subsequently, he filed the second appeal with the state information commission. The commission members asserted that the revenue officials are using delaying tactics. Finally on March 6, the public information officer’s responded. The officer stated that the register of the mutation entries from 1 to 459 of the Vavanje village are not available with the revenue office. “The register could not be traced as no communication is available with our office. In fact, information about who was the then talathi in the taluka is also not available with the office,” the response stated. It added that it is unknown when the register went missing which is why the information about who was the then tehsildar is also not traceable. “The public information officer’s reply is not acceptable and clearly shows that they are deliberately delaying in providing the information. In this matter, it is necessary to file a criminal complaint under Maharashtra Public Records Act 2005,” the state information commission’s order stated. It added that the public information officer has to search the records and give the information by March 28. Khar-based activist Daphne Warapen, who is working with Miranda to get the information, said, “How can the office not have the register or know who was the then talathi or tehsildar? This shows that there is a nexus between revenue officials and developers, who are trying to usurp prime property.” (DNA 20/3/13)

 

POLICE/CUSTODIAL DEATH/ ARMY

7. Suicide prevention policies in prisons needed urgently (1)

NEW DELHI, March 13, 2013: The death of Ram Singh, the main accused in Delhi gang-rape case, in Tihar Jail on Monday has led to questions being asked about the preparedness of the high security jail in dealing with inmates with suicidal tendencies. Singh’s death, despite the presumed monitoring by the jail authorities, human rights activists argued, has brought to the fore the “poor monitoring standards” adopted by the prison which was already under criticism for, at least, one reported case of suicide every year in the last decade. Sana Das, head of the Prison Reforms Programme of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said Singh’s death was a “serious lapse” of the working of security monitoring, reporting system and the watch over the mental well-being in Tihar. The judicial enquiry therefore, she argued, should look into the administrative, custodial and medical aspects of all these three systems. Death of any inmate or alleged suicide vitiates the course of fair trial, she argued. Terming the incident as “highly worrisome”, she said the death by hanging should be an occasion to remember the “forgotten text” — the Model Prison Manual, prepared by the Bureau of Police Research and Development and Ministry of Home Affairs a decade ago to develop uniform guidelines for all prisons for better prisoner management with a human rights and ‘care in custody’ perspective. Ms. Das underlined that during the last decade Tihar Jail, with an average inmate population of around 13,000, has seen one complete suicide every year except in year 2004 and 2010 when four suicides occurred in each year. The disturbing fact, according to her, was that with two ‘completed’ suicides being recorded in four months this year, the suicide rate has increased over the last year. “All inmates who committed suicide in these last 10 years were males between 22 and 28 years of age except two patients who were 18 and 38 years respectively. The method of committing suicide was hanging in all cases, except one by strangulation. All were under trial detainees, no one was sentenced. Reason might be ongoing stress related to court proceedings and anticipation of unfavourable outcome of trial,” said the CHRI statement. Studies confirm, added the statement, that the most significant risk factors of suicide among prisoners consist of mental illness — particularly depressive disorder, psychological states of depression and hopelessness, prior suicide attempts, a pre-incarceration history of psychiatric disorder and substance abuse, and a recent psychosocial stressor acting as a precipitant. Ms. Das argued that the judicial inquiry in the present case should lead the way for recommendations on a suicide prevention policy in prisons in the context of the critical evaluation of the safeguard provisions in Delhi Jail Manual and the suggestions made by Model Prison Manual for care in custody. (The Hindu 13/3/13)

 

8. Time not ripe for withdrawing AFSPA from Kashmir, Army chief says (1)

NEW DELHI, The “time is not ripe” for withdrawing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the Kashmir Valley, Indian Army chief General Bikram Singh said here Friday. He also noted that the proposed mountain strike corps was in an advanced stage of finalisation. Referring to the AFSPA as an enabler, Gen. Singh said it should stay. “The time is not right at the moment to tamper with the framework,” he said at the India Today conclave, two days after five Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers were killed in a fidayeen attack in Jammu and Kashmir summer capital Srinagar. Referring to the attack, he said it was important “to wait and watch” before taking a decision on AFSPA. This decision should not be politicised and the army was only strengthening the hands of the state government. “The nation has to take a decision which is pragmatic in terms of national security,” he said, adding the army did not want to turn the clock back in Jammu and Kashmir, Gen. Singh said at an interactive session on “Role of Army in nation building”.He said India was also going for modernisation and accretions to its armed forces but this was not aimed at any country. “The mountain strike corps is in advanced stage of finalisation,” Gen. Singh said. Analysts say that the mountain strike corps is aimed at bridging operational gaps along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and to acquire some offensive capabilities against China. At the same time, he said India and China had mechanisms in place to deal with matters concerning their vexed border issue that saw the two countries fighting a bitter war in 1962. “There is bonhomie on the LAC as far as we are concerned,” he said. Asked about growing asymmetry in military spending between India and China, the army chief said he did not perceive this impacting on strategy. He also noted that India and China had set a target of taking bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2015 and that geo-economics was also important along with geo-politics. Anwering queries from a Pakistan journalist on the Siachen glacier, Gen. Singh said agreements could not be reached in the face of trust deficit. He also opposed the withdrawal of troops from Siachen, describing it as “our” strategic “area” where the continued presence of the army was required. Referring to the 1999 Kargil war, Gen. Singh said its army had at that time denied its involvement but its then chief, Gen. Pervez Musharraf had now admitted he had visited the troops in the area. (Times of India 15/3/13)

 

9. Man dies in lock-up, 2 cops suspended (1)

A 46-year-old man taken in custody on Saturday for alleged pickpocketing died in police lock-up in Chembur in the intervening night between Saturday and Sunday. Head constable Dilip Sawant and constable Sanjay Dehala have been suspended. The man — Govandi resident Naushad Mohammed Hussain — was brought to Chembur police station on Saturday evening. However, his head was allegedly bashed against a wall and he suffered serious head injury. He was brought dead to Sion hospital. His body was later taken to J J Hospital for post-mortem. Additional commissioner of police Qaiser Khalid said, “The two suspended officers were the ones who brought the accused to the police station. They were on duty when the incident took place.” The case has now been handed over to the Crime Branch. Police are finding out if the case is of suicide or assault. Senior inspector of Crime Branch Shripad Kale said, “Investigation suggests that Naushad had banged his head against a grill. There are two witnesses who had seen this. However, it is not possible to state whether this was the cause of death.” Kale added that the accused had several cases of pickpocketing registered against him. “The probe is being conducted to see if there has been any breach of guidelines of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) with respect to persons in the custody of the police,” Khalid said. DCP Satyanarayan Chaudhary said, “A case of accidental death has been registered and further investigations are underway.” (Indian Express 18/3/13)

 

10. Family wants CBI probe into crusader killing (1)

KOLKATA: Eight months after anti-rape crusader Barun Biswas was gunned down in public, the CID has failed to bring his killers to justice. Disgusted by the lack of progress in the case, his family has demanded a CBI probe. Barun was shot dead in front of Gobordanga railway station on the evening of July 5. For well over a decade, the schoolteacher had carried on a determined campaign against a gang of rapists in Sutia. Barun’s relentless crusade paid off and many of the rapists were put behind bars. His family alleged that the convicts had carefully planned Barun’s murder from behind bars. Unable to rely on the CID to “unearth” the real culprits who plotted the July 5, 2012 murder of the 39-year-old schoolteacher, his family has no faith in the CID. Barun’s elder brother Asit said the CID probe has failed to track down the “real conspirators” who had engaged the killers to murder Barun, and therefore the demand for a CBI inquiry. That was This was what the brave heart’s family had feared the day Biswas fell to the bullets sprayed on his body. They had demanded a CBI investigation. It bears out the lack of trust on the state investigating agency that the Mamata Banerjee government has failed to revive. Barun, an anti-rape crusader, had started life as an average student at the Panchpota Bharadanga High School. He graduated in Bengali from Gobardanga College and then went on to do an MA followed by a BEd. He wanted to be an IAS officer but his social work left him with little time to study. Despite that he qualified in the state civil services exam. Of course, he chose not to take it up as he feared it might eat into his other activities. Eventually, he settled for a teacher’s job, which he loved. His social work continued. In 2000-2003, Sutia – where Barun lived – was in a terror. Dubbed the “worst of the badlands”, this three year phase saw nearly 45 rapes and 80 incidents of murder and armed robbery. Sutia reeled in terror unleashed by two notorious criminals – Sushanta Chowdhury and Bireshwar Dhali. All this, till Barun chose to put an end to it. It was his – and the organisation he formed, Sutia Gana Pratirodh Mancha’s – relentless crusade that forced police to act and put the criminals behind bars….  (Times of India 20/3/13)

 

DALITS/ SCHEDULED CASTES

11. NCSC pulls up police for inaction on Dalit girl’s complaint (2)

Jalandhar:: Responding to reports of police inaction over a Dalit girl’s complaint that she was sold off to a land owner three years ago, the National Commission for SC/ST on Monday summoned the senior superintendent of police and directed him to arrest the accused within a week. Vice chairman of the National Commission for SC/ST, Raj Kumar Verka issued the summons to the SSP, who did not respond to it. However, Kapurthala SP Baljit Singh presented himself before Verka, who told him that an FIR has to be registered in the case within three days followed by arrests in seven days. According to the commission, the girl, now 17, has alleged that three years ago she was sold off by her uncle to physically-challenged Batala landowner Lakhvir Singh in exchange for Rs. 70,000. The girl managed to escape the landowner’s custody three months ago, following which she filed a complaint in the matter. However, authorities in Kapurthala district did not take any action, prompting her to approach the National Commission for redressal. Verka sought an explanation from the SP as to why no action had been taken on the complaint filed by the girl, who belongs to Kapurthala. Singh said after studying the case, they had referred it to Batala police in Gurdaspur district as the case had originated there. This prompted Verka to issue an order directing the inspector general of Jalandhar and the border ranges to submit within three days an affidavit declaring which of them had jurisdiction in the case. Verka warned the SP against ignoring the orders of the commission and said failure to act as directed would result in “the inspectors general of Jalandhar and Border ranges being summoned with other senior officials to appear before it”. (Indian Express 18/3/13)

 

12. Dalit woman gang-raped in Bhopal (2)

BHOPAL: A 29-year-old dalit woman was allegedly gang-raped by three friends of her husband in Satna district. The incident occurred at Pahadigaon village in Maihar tehsil on March 15, and a complaint was filed on Sunday night. Police said the victim had married a Muslim youth four months ago. She was living alone for the past one month after her husband was arrested and sent to jail in connection with a theft case. Three accused-Neeraj Puri, 23, Rinku Chaurasia, 27, and Naseer Khan,30, reportedly went to her house on March 15 and promised her that they would get her husband out on bail. As they were her husband’s friends, she allowed them in and offered tea. As soon as she went inside the kitchen, one of the accused locked the door from inside. Two of them overpowered her and gagged her mouth and another tore her clothes. The three raped her taking turns and also threatened her with dire consequences before leaving the house, said police. She told her husband after he got out on bail on Sunday. Subsequently, the two went to the Maihar police station and lodged a complaint against the accused. The victim was sent for medical examination. Police conducted raids and arrested all three of them under Section 376 (2g)(gang rape), 506 (criminal intimidation), and 3/2/5 of the SC/ST Act. (Times of India 19/3/13)

 

13. Dalit forums push for law giving statutory status to SC, ST special plan (2)

BANGALORE: With elections to the Assembly just around the corner in Karnataka, several Dalit groups have appealed to political parties to pass the legislation to provide statutory status to the Special Component Plan (SCP) and the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) in their election manifestos. The Karnataka Dalita Mahila Vedike (KDMV) and the Centre for Dalit Studies (CDS) Hyderabad have said a separate law would facilitate allocation of budget for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes’ welfare in proportion to their population in the State. Such a law exists in Andhra Pradesh where not only does it ensure allocation of funds to SC and ST communities in proportion to their population, but also makes sure of total utilisation of funds allocated to these sections in the planned budget. Addressing the media, M. Anjaneyulu, director of CDS; Satyanarayana, president of CDS; and Yashoda P., convener, KDMV; on Tuesday said such a legislation was essential in Karnataka as the resources earmarked have been arbitrary and sub-optimal. Except for Andhra Pradesh, no other State has taken the initiative to pass a Bill to extend social justice to SC and ST community, Mr. Anjaneyulu said. Regretting the failure in implementing both the plans in Karnataka, Ms. Yashoda said funds allocated for plans had been diverted and there was no accountability. Efforts were now on to launch a movement to bring pressure on the government to pass a law based on the Andhra Pradesh model. (The Hindu 20/3/13)

 

14. Dalita Sankharavam on April 9 (2)

RAJAHMUNDRY: All dalit communities are going to hold ‘Dalita Sankharavam’ here on April 9 to explain the benefits and salient features of the SC, ST Sub-Plan announced by the State government. Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, SC legal cell chairman Gulla Yedukondalu, State SC Cell conveners Peetala Jayadev, Dake Raghu and B. Karunakar said Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy and Deputy Chief Minister Damodara Raja Narasimha would be felicitated on the occasion. Amalapuram MP G.V. Harsha Kumar, who organised Malala Simha Garjana, would organise this meeting again, but it would be at the district level. All SCs, including Mala, Madiga and their sub-castes, would participate in the meeting. Union Ministers Mukul Wasnik and Panabaka Lakshmi would be invited to the meeting as chief guests. Mr. Peetala Jayababu said an appeal would be made to the Ministers attending the meeting not to treat SCs as vote bank but enable them to get their legitimate share in all posts and power. (The Hindu 21/3/13)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

15. Madurai grapples with high maternal mortality (3)

MADURAI,: More than 50 women die every year in Madurai district from pregnancy related complications. Anaemia among women has been cited as a primary causative factor. The data available with Health Department officials here indicate that maternal mortality occurs not only in the rural areas but also in Madurai Corporation limits. While the district’s maternal mortality rate was 68 in the year 2010-11, it was 58 in 2011-12. For the current year ( 2012-13), the number stood at 49 till February. If a woman dies during pregnancy or delivery, or within 42 days after delivering a baby, it constitues maternal mortality. “Definitely we are concerned about maternal deaths because it is an indicator of how effective our overall health system is. In the last few years thrust was given to maternal care through pregnancy-focused schemes and the Health Department is committed to preventing mortality,” S. Senthilkumar, Deputy Director of Health Services, told The Hindu on Friday. Though the district had ensured almost 100 per cent institutional deliveries, deaths are happening in both Government and private hospitals. Postpartum haemorrhage, anaemia and high blood pressure were cited as threatening factors. “Maternal deaths have drastically come down in recent years and the challenge is to reduce them further. District Collector Anshul Mishra has been insisting in review meetings that the mother should go for delivery at the right time to a right hospital,” the Deputy Director said. In the Madurai Corporation area, 16 maternal deaths were reported in the last two years while there was no mortality in Melur and Thirumangalam municipalities. S. Elango, former Director of Public Health, Government of Tamil Nadu, is shocked at the high rate of maternal mortality in urban areas. “It is very high and that too in a city where more private hospitals are available along with good transport and communication facilities. The Corporation should focus on bringing down mortality rate.” “Most of maternal deaths are preventable provided there is good ante natal care during pregnancy period,” he said. Balanced diet and nutritious food during pregnancy assume importance. Public health officials are stressing the importance of iron folic tablets, vegetables, greens, milk and protein-rich food. “The focus on women’s health must begin during adolescence ,” says Dr. Senthilkumar. According to him, village health service nurses and doctors in the primary health centres have been sensitised to be careful with high-risk cases and try to anticipate complications without delay. “Early referral to well-equipped hospitals is of paramount importance. The golden period should not be lost at the time of labour pains. Our appeal to families too is that as the delivery due date approaches, they have to be alert,” he advised women. The availability of ‘108’ ambulance service at vital points in the district is considered a big advantage to create connectivity among hospitals. “The farther the distance, the higher the risk. So pregnant women should be shifted to the nearest hospital quickly,” the Deputy Director cautioned. The health indicators of women in the below poverty line category have improved thanks to schemes such as Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy Maternity Assistance Scheme. Convergence meetings of Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care (CEMONC) centres are being conducted regularly to identify referral cases. (The Hindu 11/3/13)

 

16. 436 deaths recorded during clinical trials last year (3)

New Delhi, March 12 : A total of 436 deaths were recorded during clinical trials in India in 2012, parliament was told Tuesday. While 438 deaths took place during clinical trials in 2011, 668 people died during 2010, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said told the Rajya Sabha in reply to a question. Out of the 436 deaths in 2012, 16 were caused due to the clinical trials, he said. Rest of the deaths might have been disease-related in the cases of terminally ill patients suffering from cancer, cardio-vascular diseases and AIDS or due to side effects of drugs administered during the trial. Azad said compensation is paid in cases of deaths and injury which are attributable to clinical trials. The Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 have been amended specifying the procedures to analyse the reports of serious adverse events occurring during clinical trials and procedures for payment of compensation in case of trial related injury or death as per prescribed timelines, he added. (New Kerala 12/3/13)

 

17. Coal power emissions killing over a lakh Indians every year (3)

New Delhi, March 17:  Emissions from coal-fired power plants killed up to 115,000 Indians prematurely in 2011-12, leading to a cumulative monetary cost of Rs 16,000– 23,000 crore, claims a new report by Conservation Action Trust in partnership with Greenpeace India. At roughly 210 giga watts, India is the fifth largest electricity generator in the world, of which 66 per cent comes from coal. Ironically, among the worst-affected regions in terms of health was the national capital, Delhi, followed by Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, the Indo-Gangetic plain, and most of central India. The report, Coal Kills, derived from a database of 111 coal-fired power plants compiled by Urban Emissions in 2011-12, also attributed the millions of cases of asthma, respiratory and heart diseases and child mortality to coal-fired power plants. “Demographically, adverse impacts are especially severe for the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. In addition, the poor, minority groups, and people who live in areas downwind of multiple power plants are likely to be disproportionately exposed to the health risks and costs of fine particle pollution,” says the report. Fine particle pollution is a mixture of pollutants such as soot, acid droplets, heavy metals etc. that originate primarily from combustion sources such as power plants, diesel trucks, buses and cars. The report called upon the Government to put in place pollution standards for individual power plants, with a proper monitoring mechanism. Emission standards in India lag behind those in China, Australia, the United States and the European Union, it added. Sarath Guttikunda, TED Fellow and adjunct faculty at the Desert Research Institute, Reno, the US, and co-author of the report, said, “thousands of lives can be saved every year if India tightens its particulate emissions standards, introduces emission limits for pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury and institutes mandatory monitoring of emissions at plant stacks, making the data publicly available in real time.” The report said not just health, coal mining was also destroying forests in Central India and putting tigers, other wildlife and forest dependent communities at risk of losing their habitat. Vinuta Gopal, Climate & Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace India said, “And at the end of it all, coal has failed to deliver energy security. We need a moratorium on new coal plants and ambitious policy incentives to unlock the huge potential India has in efficiency measures, wind and solar.” (Business Line 17/3/13)

 

18. Infant mortality rate stands at 44 per 1,000 (3)

GURGAON: Even as infant mortality rate (IMR) in Gurgaon has decreased in the last few years, it stands at 44 deaths per 1,000 live births. Incidentally, it is the same figure for overall Haryana’sIMR. The birth rate for Gurgaon stands at 19 per 1,000 population. Varinder Tyagi, surveillance medical officer, World Health Organization, said, “The IMR has dropped by 4% in the last few years due to increased institutional deliveries and better health care facilities in the hospitals.” Rakesh Gupta, director, Nation Rural Health Mission, said the IMR has come down to 44 from the earlier 48. Gupta added the state government has fixed the target of reducing the IMR to 30 deaths per one thousand in the coming years. In a recent inspection conducted with the health department revealed that there was staff shortage at some hospitals while at others some staffs were found lax in performing their duties. It was also revealed that there was scarcity of resources at many hospitals while others were not using them properly. Gupta added that hospitals have been directed to maintain hygienic conditions inside the maternity ward. Pregnant women can seek assistance by calling the helpline number at 102. The inspection of all government hospitals was prompted after poor IMR reported from Bhiwani, Panipat, Mewat, Palwal and Mahendergarh. Following this, an inspection was carried out by the joint team of officials from health department and PGI, Rohtak. The government has started the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) to provide financial assistance to pregnant and lactating women in Haryana. Sumita Mishra, director general, women and child development department, on Thursday, said initially this center-sponsored scheme will be launched on pilot basis in Panchkula district. Mishra said under this scheme, pregnant and lactating mothers would be provided financial assistance of Rs 4,000 for their health and nutrition improvement, in three installments. The first installment of Rs 1,500 is given on second trimester of pregnancy, on completion of six months of pregnancy, second installment of Rs 1,500 at the end of three months of delivery and third installment of Rs 1,000 is given to nursing mothers when the infant completes six months of age, she said. (Times of India 18/3/13)

 

19. Blood from voluntary donors safer: Study (20)

BHOPAL: Blood from voluntary donors, to a great extent, is safer than that from replacement donors (like family, friends or relatives of the recipient), reveals three-year study on blood donation carried by Bhopal’s Gandhi Medical college (GMC). The study compared results of some 37,000 screening tests for transfusion transmitted diseases between exchange voluntary donors and replacement donors. It was conducted by department of pathology of GMC. “We found that prevalence of blood transfusion transmitted infections (TTI) was lower in voluntary donors. In all markers tested, there was increased prevalence of TTI among the replacement donors,” said GMC HoD pathology Dr Neelkamal Kapoor. Dr Kapoor said voluntary unpaid donors are encouraged because most are counselled, motivated and educated thus leading to low TTI. As per blood bank policy all samples are screened for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), Hepatitis B Virus (through test for HBsAg), HCV (Hepatitis C Virus), syphilis and malaria. Prevalence of HIV and HCV was nearly three times, while Hepatitis B virus was nearly double in replacement donors. Study did not find syphilis and malaria infection in any of the voluntary donors. (Times of India 20/3/13)

 

HIV/AIDS

20. Casual approach to AIDS lead to jump in HIV positive cases (3)

ITANAGAR: Casual approach of people towards AIDS in Arunchal Pradesh has resulted in a 100 fold jump in HIV positive cases in the last 14 years even though the state government has made efforts to create awareness about it. In 1998 when the Arunachal Pradesh Aids Control Society was set up, only two HIV positive cases were reported in the entire state, but the figure rose to 202 as per the latest count made in December, 2012. “People are still very casual in approach to the disease,” deputy director of Arunachal Pradesh Aids Control Society (APSACS), Tasor Pali, said. “Unless people are aware, no effort of waging war against AIDS will bear fruit,” Pali, who is also in charge of Information Education Communication, said. According to a recent survey by the National AIDS Control Organisation ( NACO), estimated cases of AIDS in the state was 1080, Pali said. He said the actual number of AIDS positive cases would be much higher as the figures available with APSACS were only of those who voluntarily came for testing. “Awareness is the only visible vaccine available against the killer disease,” he said. According to APSACS, the number of male HIV positive patients in the state was 137 and female 65. APSACS has been engaged in targeted intervention through several NGOs working under it of high risk groups such as sex workers, intravenous drug users, truck drivers and migrant labourers. India has the world’s third largest HIV/AIDS-affected population and the Northeast the worst-affected, according to the United Nations. (Times of India 11/3/13)

 

21. 14,728 HIV deaths in state since ’09 (3)

Over 14,500 people have died due to HIV since April 2009 across Maharashtra, state health minister Suresh Shetty revealed on Tuesday, the second day of the Assembly session. In a written reply in the legislative council, Mr Shetty said that as per records from the Integrated Counselling and Testing (ICTC) centres, between April 1, 2009 and September 30, 2012, 1,67,151 people were affected due to HIV. The minister was countering a point raised by Congress MLC Sanjay Dutt during the question hour, in which the latter claimed that 3,43,079 people were affected by HIV since April 1, 2009. Mr Shetty said that according to records from the anti retro-viral therapy (ART) centres, 14,728 people died due to HIV over a period of three years. He also informed the House that 53 ART centres have been started by the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society’s (MSACS) Mumbai unit to help treat AIDS patients. Also, awareness programmes to prevent the spread of the disease are being organised on special days like Yuva Day, Women’s Day, World AIDS Day etc, Mr Shetty said. Asha Hegde, joint director, basic services division of MSACS said, “What Mr Shetty is saying is fairly right because normally, on an average we see 45,000 new infections in a year. The 3,43,079-figure is likely to be the pre-ART registration, which cannot be concluded as the number of affected people in the state.” HIV care was started for the first time in India at the state-run JJ Hospital in collaboration with Indian Health Organi-sation (now called People’s Health Organis-ation, India) with an AIDS clinic in 1986. The first in-patient care was initiated in 1987. As per the latest reports released by the National AIDS Control Organi-sation (Naco), out of 2.4 million affected with HIV Aids in India, 18 per cent are from Mahara-shtra. (Asian Age 13/3/13)

 

22. Nearly 15k HIV deaths in 3 years (3)

MUMBAI: The danger of HIV continues to haunt the state, where more than 14,700 lives were lost to the virus from April 1, 2009, to September 30, 2012, the government has admitted. In a written reply to a query sought by legislators, health minister Suresh Shetty said on Friday that over 1.69 lakh new cases of HIV-infected people were recorded during the period. He referred to the records maintained by anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres and Integrated Testing and Counselling Centres. He also admitted that out of 38 community care centres set up for HIV-positive people, 15 had shut down over quality checks and resignations. In another written response, medical education minister Dr Vijaykumar Gavit has admitted that 26 private medical and dental colleges were under the scanner for fraudulent practices and violations of norms during admissions in 2012-13. (Times of India 17/3/13)

 

23. Stop spread of HIV/AIDs: Ganesh (3)

Dharwad: Actor Ganesh and his wife, Shilpa, flagged off the ‘Samagra Janajagruthi Abhiyaan 2013’, a weeklong public awareness campaign on HIV/AIDS, at Kala Bhavan here on Monday. The Department of Health and Family Welfare launched the campaign aimed at creating awareness among the general public on precautionary measures to be taken to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. As part of the campaign, a procession was taken out. Folk artistes presented cultural programmes which conveyed to people the need to take precautionary measures to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. A large number of people had gathered at the venue of the launch of the campaign. Many of them had turned up to see actor Ganesh, who took the opportunity to stress on the need to ensure that HIV infection does not spread. Speaking to presspersons, Mr. Ganesh said that the deadly scourge of HIV/AIDS was spreading its tentacles in the backward regions of the State because people lack adequate knowledge about how HIV infection spreads. He said that the government has launched several awareness programmes to educate people on HIV/AIDS, medical facilities available for people with HIV and steps to be taken to save their precious lives. Mr. Ganesh regretted that in the recent past, AIDS is on the rise among the youth. This, has a negative impact on society, he said, adding that the youth should focus on their careers instead of falling prey to bad habits which might lead to their early death. Mr. Ganesh said that the awareness campaign on HIV/AIDS is aimed at making India AIDS-free, and saving the precious lives of the citizens. Such campaigns are being organised in districts where incidence of HIV/AIDS is on the rise. If such campaigns have to become successful, then people need to join hands with the government to eradicate HIV/AIDS. On the occasion, the health officials said that Karnataka ranks sixth with regard to the number of people with HIV. Though, several awareness programmes have been organised to educate people, AIDS is on the rise at an alarming rate. As per the survey conducted by the Dharwad district health officials, there are more than 9,158 people with HIV in the district of whom 9,119 patients are undergoing treatment at ART centres in the Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) and at the District Hospital in Dharwad. The report from the Health Department reveals that every month, 150 new patients register their names at ART centres. Officials have already identified high risk areas in the district. In Dharwad taluk, 1,902 patients are undergoing treatment at ART centres including 115 children. And, 2,054 patients, including 146 children, are undergoing treatment in Hubli taluk. (The Hindu 19/3/13)

 

24. New drugs centre to help HIV+ve persons at Kamptee (3)

NAGPUR: Considering the relatively high incidence of HIV in Kamptee and surrounding areas, the state health department is starting an antiretroviral therapy (ART) centre in Kamptee. The centre would be formally launched by Dr ManoharPawar, deputy director of health services, on Friday at 11am. Speaking to reporters about the centre, district civil surgeon Dr V D Bade said that the satellite town of Kamptee attracted a lot of a migrant population due to various companies, collieries, and transport businesses and this brought in commercial sex workers as well. Hence, the health department provided for the ART centre for better treatment of HIV-positive patients of the area. With this centre, they would not need to come to city to procure drugs that are to be taken by the affected persons all their life. Though there has been a substantial fall in the HIV-positive mothers as well as the high risk population in Nagpur district in the past 4-5 years, there has been a rise in cases in Kamptee area both in general population as well as of mothers. Tanuja Fale, district programme officer HIV/AIDS project, said the incidence of HIV positivity inn mothers had fallen from 0.32% (171 positive) to 0.17% (88 positive) from 2011 to February 2013. This figure in high risk population has, however, seen only a marginal fall from 3.20% (2300 positive persons) to 3.07% (1768 persons) during the same period. The HIV positivity rate in the town was as high as 7% in general population and 0.63% in mothers in 2008 but the rate dropped substantially over the years. Yet there is still a cause of concern for the relatively high number of patients in both the groups and hence the need for a separate ART Centre in Kamptee which draws people for work from even areas like Pardi Naka, Tarsa and Mouda. This year alone, the health department has found 61 more new cases. The state health department, with financial help from the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), is starting the centre to cater to the local population. NACO would be providing funds for the salaries of all the seven staff members including the medical officers, technical and lab staff, counsellors and project coordinators. Health department is working in coordination with other agencies like Indira Gandhi Government Medical College, Government Medical College and Hospital, Daga Memorial Hospital as well selected private hospitals in the city to filter out patients of the area and provide them drugs at Kamptee itself as the high risk population needed to be monitored regularly to check the spread of the disease. Dr Umesh Nawade, medical superintendent of Kamptee, was also present. (Times of India 20/3/13)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

25. Nearly 50 kids rescued from illegal children’s home (14)

JAIPUR: Nearly 50 children, who were kept in two illegal children’s home here for months with little food amid pathetic living conditions, have been rescued by a team of Rajasthan Commission for Protection of Child Rights, police said today. On a tip off from Delhi, the team led by the Commission Chairperson Deepak Kalra raided a home in Mansarover area last night where 27 girls and two boys, aged between 5 and 17, were found. They were lodged in an illegal children’s home run by one Jacob John. The children are from various states like Punjab, Manipur, Nagaland, Jharkhand and were in the house for several months. Empty liquor bottles, stale food and fungus covered vegetables were found in the home, police said. “The children’s home was running without permission.The children lived in a poor state and they were given stale food. They did not have proper food for the last few days and were hungry,” the police said. Another such child home was also raided and 20 boys rescued in Jawahar Nagar locality, they said. The children were brought here on the pretext of providing them education were never sent to school and not allowed to go out of the home. Jacob has been arrested for illegal confinement of kids and he is being quizzed, they said. (Times of India 13/3/13)

 

26. Special drive on to rescue child labourers (14)

VIJAYAWADA: Deputy Commissioner of Labour Department S.Y. Srinivas on Wednesday said cases booked against people employing child labourers were being disposed of expeditiously through open court hearing of the cases. Pointing to child labourers rescued in raids conducted by the department personnel as part of a special anti-child labour drive in force from February 16, he said as many as 408 child labourers had been rescued and cases were booked against their employers. The rescued children and their employers were produced in an open court conducted at Swaraj Maidan. Mr. Srinivas said under the drive, special teams constituted to identify and rescue young children languishing in factories, shops, commercial establishment and households, had fanned out into the city and intensified raids. In the current year, over 500 cases were booked against employers of child labour in the district. Besides, 408 cases were booked under this special drive alone. Open courts were being conducted on every Wednesday at Vijayawada, Machilipatnam and Gudivada and a total 128 cases had been registered so far. Of them, 98 cases had been solved and a penalty of Rs. 3,20,000 had been collected from employers and it was converted into fixed deposits in banks in the name of the respective child, he said. Mr. Srinivas said the rescued children were sent to rehabilitation centres run by the Government. He said the government had been making all-out efforts to raise awareness on the menace of child labour in order to achieve a child labour-free society. He said it was unfortunate that the wealthier section of society was indifferent to the problem. Taking undue advantage of the poor financial condition of the parents, these employers absorbed young children into work, flouting the rule book. D. Anjaneya Reddy, P. Srinivas and C.H.V. Suryanarayana, Assistant Labour Commissioners of Vijayawada, Machilipatnam and Gudivada respectively, National Child Labour Programme (NCLP) supervisors K. Prasunamba and A. Paul Raj and officials of the Labour Department G.V. Subbarao, B. Muniswamy, S.R. Kumar, and G. S. Naik were present. (The Hindu 14/3/13)

 

27. Child bride flees in-laws to attend school (14)

MALDA: Sima Roy’s (name changed) determination to continue with her studies was rewarded with regular thrashings by her in-laws. However, she didn’t give up and came over to her parents’ house. But even they weren’t encouraging. So the 14-year-old fled home on Monday and was lucky to be rescued by police. Police said the teen was married off in January with the groom decided for her elder sister after the latter fled home. Though the Class-VII student protested strongly, her parents convinced her saying that finances were giving them a hard time and marriage would bless her with a better life. Sima is the third among five sisters. But life at her in-laws’ home in Bansihari was sheer torment. They openly expressed displeasure at her decision to study further but when she didn’t yield, they allegedly took to beating her up almost regularly. When Sima informed her mother of the torture, the latter at once brought her back home. Police said that Sima was staying with her parents for over a fortnight, but it was on Tuesday she got to know that they were planning to send her back to her husband. She at once left home and reached Gazole by foot. It was there that she asked for some money from a trader so that she could travel to Malda. The trader grew suspicious and immediately informed police. “We did inform her family but nobody came to take her back,” said police sources. The girl has been put under the care of the child welfare committee. CWC member Subhamoy Basu said, “We salute the courage of the girl. We took her into our custody and have kept her at a welfare home. Sima’s wish to continue with her studies will be honoured and We have already talked with a Gazole school where she will be enrolled.  Vice-chairperson of the state women’s commission, Sehnaj Quadrey, too, lauded the girl’s courage. (Times of India 14/3/13)

 

28. 2,071 child rape cases registered in State in 3 yrs (14)

BHUBANESWAR : At least 115 child rape cases have been registered in the 59 days of the months of January and February this year in the State, the Assembly was informed on Thursday. These child rape cases were reported in 30 of the 36 police districts in the State, Women and Child Development Minister Usha Devi said while replying to a written question in the Assembly. The highest number of 11 child rape cases were registered in Baleswar district followed by eight in Cuttack and Rourkela police districts each and seven in Nabarangpur district. Quoting information from Home Department on the child rape cases, the Minister said that as many as 2,071 girl children were allegedly raped in the State between 2010 and 2012. While the number of the cases was 580 in 2010, it increased to 638 in 2011 and further shot up to 853 in 2012, she said. Though Keonjhar district registered the maximum 126 child rape cases during that period, no such case has so far been registered there during the first two months of 2013. On the steps taken to check the increasing child rape cases, the Minister said, “The State Government has been implementing provisions under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. The Government has directed the police to complete investigations of child rape cases as early as possible and submit chargesheets,” she said. This apart, the Minister said the Government has made provisions of police patrolling in crowded places, fairs, festivals, parks, schools and colleges, markets, sea beaches and cinema halls. (Pioneer 16/3/13)

 

29. 184 child workers rescued from Rajasthan, reach Patna (14)

PATNA: As many as 184 child labourers rescued from Bharatpur and Jaipur in Rajasthan reached the city by a train on Sunday evening. They were received by labour resource minister Janardan Singh Sigriwal and other department officials. The children were rescued, thanks to the efforts of an NGO, and brought to Patna with the initiative of state labour resources department. Sigriwal said, “This is the first time that such a large number of children belonging to state were rescued and brought back to Bihar. After their rescue, we sent a team of GRP to bring them back. The department will ensure rehabilitation of all the 184 rescued children and their names will be included in the list of Indira Awas Yojana beneficiaries.” These children used to work in various bangles and garment factories. They were made to work for 12 hours daily, without any break. One could easily find joy in the eyes of these children. Narrating their woes, Mohammed Shamsar, 7, and Mohammed Alam, 8, both from Gaya district, said they had gone to Jaipur three months back. Shamsar said, “Mamu Samsur took us along with him to Jaipur and gave us jobs. ‘Subah dus baje se raat egara baje tak fool chipkate the churi per’ (We used to decorate bangles from 10am to 11pm).” Alam said, “We did not have any holidays and the employer used to pay us Rs 1,500 per month. But instead of handing over the money to us, he used to send it to our parents.” Raja, 17, a native of Nalanda, said, “I went to Jaipur with Rakesh, who earlier used to stay at our village. Now, he frequently visits our village in search of workers. I left working under Rakesh at a garment factory, where I used to do embroidery work on cotton saris, as he never sent my full salary to my parents. I started selling garments on footpath and used to earn Rs 3,000 per month.” Most of the rescued children said the mediator, who took them to Rajasthan, never paid them their salary. Instead, they used to send lower than promised amount to their parents in Bihar. The children were given food thrice a day and most of them used to sleep at their workplace. According to labour resources department officials, 67 of these children had been trafficked from Gaya, one from Rohtas and five from Patna. (Times of India 18/3/13)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

30. Cabinet clears anti-rape bill (19)

NEW DELHI: The Cabinet on Thursday approved a bill that will make rapists-murderers punishable by death and provides for stringent punishment for offences like acid attacks, voyeurism and stalking against women. The bill also lowered the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years and made ‘rape’ a gender-specific offence under which only men can be charged for it. There is a provision for death sentence if the rape victim dies or is left in a ‘persistent vegetative state’ or if the rapist is a repeat offender. Rapists will be liable to a minimum jail term of 20 years extendable to imprisonment till the natural life of the convict according to the anti-rape bill that was cleared by a group of ministers and accepted in toto by the Cabinet. The bill will be placed before an all-party meeting on March 18 to build consensus before it is brought to Parliament. The government has time till March 22 to get Parliament’s approval on the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013. The decision comes three months after the Delhi gang-rape brought focus on strong punishment for offences against women. The bill also provides for stringent punishment for other crimes against women, like acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism. The Cabinet decision comes after sharp differences over the age of consent and possible misuse of certain provisions forced the government to set up a GoM to thrash out contentious provisions. The GoM finalized the draft on Wednesday amid the government’s keenness to expedite the bill that will replace the ordinance promulgated on February 3. The bill uses the term ‘rape’ which will be gender-specific, in contrast to the gender-neutral ‘sexual assault’ as proposed in the ordinance. The bill also lowers the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years. In the ordinance, it was 18 years. The issue of age had led to lengthy inter-ministry consultations with some arguing that it should not be reduced. Sexual intercourse below the age of consent is considered statutory rape. The women and child development (WCD) ministry had strongly protested in bringing down the age of consent citing precedent of the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act that was approved by Parliament last year. It now remains to be seen if UPA will garner support from political parties on the issue. Defining acid attack as a separate IPC offence, the bill proposes a punishment of not less than 10 years to a maximum of life imprisonment, sources said. Repeat offences of voyeurism, inappropriate touch, gesture and remarks have been recommended as non-bailable offences, they said. Provisions seeking strong action against those filing false complaints were dropped from the draft bill as there was consensus in the GoM that existing provisions under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) were adequate to deal with such cases and it was only a matter of enforcing them. A fresh proposal now makes it mandatory for all government and private hospitals in the country to provide free medical treatment to women victims of any form of sexual violence. Hospitals and similar facilities will not have to wait for the police. Refusal to do so will now be a criminal offence and will attract a one-year jail term for senior functionaries and the staff on duty of hospitals found guilty of turning (Times of India 15/3/13)

 

31. Panel finds 3 top judges unfit for SC (19)

New Delhi:  In a rare move, a panel of India’s top five judges has rejected the names of the chief justices of the Bombay, Gujarat and Uttarakhand high courts for promotion to the Supreme Court on the grounds that their appointment would prove “counter-productive” to the administration of justice. Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir has conveyed the “unanimous decision” of the Supreme Court collegium to the government, which has accepted it, HT has learnt. In his letter, the CJI stated the collegium considered the names of senior judges, including justice Mohit S Shah, justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and justice Barin Ghosh, chief justice of the Bombay, Gujarat and Uttarakhand high courts, respectively, for elevation to the top court. The President last week appointed justice Kurien Joseph and justice Pinaki Ghose to the SC without making an issue about the rejection of the three chief justices. “The collegium has unanimously taken the view that they are not suitable to hold the office of Supreme Court judge and their elevation as such would prove to be counter-productive and not conducive to administration of justice,” the CJI wrote. “The collegium has not recommended the names of these three chief justices for good reasons and after taking into consideration all relevant factors, including their merit, ability and seniority at all levels.” Though this is not the first time that senior judges have been overlooked for promotion to the Supreme Court, the rejection has surprised jurists. Former chief justice of India VN Khare expressed surprise. “It is unprecedented if this has been done. My experience has been that reasons for elevation or otherwise are not communicated in writing.” The collegium’s decision virtually means the end of the road for the three senior judges and they will have to retire in their present positions. The collegium’s terse decision comes when the government is in the process of changing the procedure for appointing judges of the Supreme Court and high courts. (Hindustan Times 17/3/13)

 

32. Courts should encourage settlement of matrimonial disputes: Supreme Court (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has held that criminal case of torture filed by a woman against her husband and in-laws should be quashed if the warring spouses come to an agreement for out-of-court settlement. It said that courts should encourage settlements of matrimonial disputes, particularly in view of “outburst” of such cases in recent times. “If the parties ponder over their defaults and terminate their disputes amicably by mutual agreement instead of fighting it out in a court of law, in order to do completejustice in the matrimonial matters, the courts should be less hesitant in exercising its extraordinary jurisdiction,” a bench headed by Justice P Sathasivam said. The bench, also comprising justices J S Khehar and Kurian Joseph, said that the high courts should exercise power granted to them under Section 482 of Criminal Procedure Code to quash criminal cases in matrimonial disputes after the parties have compromised. “There has been an outburst of matrimonial disputes in recent times. The institution of marriage occupies an important place and it has an important role to play in the society. Therefore, every effort should be made in the interest of the individuals in order to enable them to settle down in life and live peacefully,” it said. The bench set aside the Madhya Pradesh High Court’s order which had refused to quash the FIR, filed by a woman against her husband and in-laws, after the parties agreed compromise. “In our view, it is the duty of the courts to encourage genuine settlements of matrimonial disputes, particularly, when the same are on considerable increase,” it said. (Indian Express 18/3/13)

 

33. SC seeks Centres response to overcrowding in prisons (19)

NEW DELHI: In a move that may result in substantial decongestion of overcrowded jails across the country, the Supreme Court on Monday entertained a PIL seeking release of undertrials charged with petty offences, carrying maximum punishment of seven years. A bench of Justices R M Lodha, J Chelameswar and Madan B Lokur issued notice to the Union government and all the states giving them five weeks time to respond to the PIL that pointed out undertrials constitute 64.7% of the total prison population in India. There are over 2.41 lakh undertrial prisoners in India. Besides the ministry of home affairs and states, the court also issued a notice to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on the plea filed by a Delhi-based lawyer Vijay Aggarwal, urging it to intervene and direct government to frame a policy to grant bail to prisoners facing trial for offences in which punishment ranges between three and seven years. It pleads for directions to authorities to immediately review cases of under trials who face a maximum punishment of seven years. Aggarwal approached the apex court after a similar PIL filed in the Delhi High Court last year led to the release of more than 400 prisoners from Tihar Jail. On his plea HC had directed the jail authorities to fast track bail pleas of undertrials lodged behind bars for over a year in offences that carry a maximum sentence of seven years. It had also directed the jail administration to pass on the details of such undertrials to the Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA), which was authorized to co-ordinate their release on bail. Taking into account a list furnished by Delhi jail authorities saying they had over 8,000 undertrials lodged with them in offences that include kidnapping, theft, cheating, Arms Act, counterfeiting and rioting, the HC had directed trial courts to grant bail and release the accused on personal bonds in case any prisoner failed to furnish the bail bond. Citing the salutary ruling of Delhi HC, Aggarwal prayed the SC widen its ambit to make it applicable across the country so that thousands of undertrials benefit from the court order. “The undertrials charged with offences tried by a magistrate and punishable with a jail-term up to seven years, be released on bail during the trial as it would also lessen the burden on the state exchequer,” the petition argues. The plea for bail should be considered favourably of persons undergoing seven years of imprisonment and also of prisoners who have spent more than one year in prison for offences of cheating and forgery should be released, the lawyer said. (Times of India 19/3/13)

 

34. SC snubs Italian envoy, says he has no immunity (19)

NEW DELHI: The apex court extended its earlier order restraining the envoy from leaving the country until further orders.     The apex court extended its earlier order restraining the envoy from leaving the country until further orders. Making it amply clear that Italian Ambassador to India Daniele Mancini does not enjoy immunity anymore, the Supreme Court on Monday reminded him that he had come before it as a petitioner and had reneged on an undertaking he gave on the return of marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who are accused of killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast last year, to face trial. The Bench on Monday directed all authorities to ensure he did not leave the country. At this, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Ambassador and the Republic of Italy, reque­sted the Bench comprising Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Anil R Dave and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai that it need not be part of the order and said, “He will not leave the country.” But the Chief Justice did not relent and it remained part of the apex court order. The Bench extended its earlier order restraining the envoy from leaving the country until further orders. “You want us to believe you? We never expected the government of Italy to behave like this. We don’t accept any such assurance from you. We have lost our trust in you,” the Chief Justice said. At this, Rohatgi said, “There is complete immunity for the Ambassador and he will go by the instructions of his government.” “The person who has come to this court as a petitioner I don’t think has any immunity. You have given a perso­nal undertaking,” the CJI said. “Some people are writing we are naive. But we didn’t expect the Republic of Italy to behave like this. What do they think of our judicial system?” he asked. Last Monday Rome infor­med New Delhi that the two marines, who shot to death two Kerala fishermen in February last year and who were allowed by the apex court to go to Italy to cast votes in the general elections, will not return to India. With regard to the marines, the Bench did not issue any further directions, saying the deadline for their return was still March 22 and listed the case for further hearing on April 2. Earlier, Attorney General G E Vahanvati drew the attention of the court to a note verbale issued by Italy on March 15, which said that as per the Vienna Convention, “Any restriction to the freedom of movement of the Ambassador of Italy to India including any limitation to his right of leaving Indian territory will be contrary to International Obligations of the receiving State to respect his person, freedom, dignity and function.” (Indian Express 20/3/13)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

35. Farmers seek freedom to fix price of produce (20)

ONGOLE: Incurring losses year after year with their ”hands tied” due to “lopsided” farm products pricing policy of the Union and the State governments, hundreds of farmers on Thursday vowed to wage a relentless struggle to press for their 13-point charter of demands including freedom to market their produce anywhere in the country at the price of their choice. Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) State vice-president T. Sriram Babu who is leading “Maro Swatantra Rythu Maha Padayatra” from Bendamurulanka in East Godavari district to Tirupati, told reporters here on Thursday that in the name of protecting the interest of consumers, only the farmers had been deprived of their right to fix the sale price. “It is the unremunerative price for their produce that is driving fellow farmers to end their lives. It is unfair to ask the farmers to make sacrifices for the sake of society,” he lamented. ”Even a person running a petty shop adds profit margin before selling his or her goods,” its State secretary Jalagam Kumarasamy said. Expressing disappointment over the amount of compensation released to farmers hit by Nilam cyclone, he said Maharashtra, from where Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar hailed, had got the lion’s share due to alleged failure of the ruling Congress in the State to exert pressure on the Centre in the interest of Andhra farmers. Alleging discrimination in the duration of power cuts in urban and rural areas, he said, “We are being treated as second class citizens. While the power cut in cities and towns were between two to six hours, we are sweating it without power for 12 hours a day.” The 965-km yatra was aimed to unite the farmers for a struggle to get the freedom to sell the produce anywhere in the country at the best price, Sangh West Godavari district president P.Krishanamurthy. The Sangh also pressed for payment of Rs 2,000 per quintal to cotton growers who had sold their produce to the Cotton Corporation of India, which, he claimed, had made a profit of Rs 3,000 per quintal after purchasing for Rs 3,200 to Rs 3,300 from farmers. They pressed for a remunerative price of Rs 5,000 per quintal for jute. Their other demands included Kisan Budget on the lines of the railway budget both at the national and State levels, a special seven-day legislature session exclusively to discuss farmers issues, speedy implementation of the Polvaram project as national project, a monthly pension of Rs 2,000 to farmers who had crossed 60 years of age, Sangh State secretary P.Venkateswarulu said. (The Hindu 15/3/13)

 

36. Farmers suffering due to MNCs, says KMSS (20)

GUWAHATI, March 15 – Speakers at the Raij Mel of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti’s (KMSS’) third biennial conference, which got under way at the Baghmara Rajahuwa Khelpathar under Bajali subdivision of Barpeta district today, alleged that the farmers have been reduced to mere puppets in the hands of big capital and multi-nationals, said a press release here. The peasants’ rights over the seeds of their crops have been snatched away by the capitalist forces. These forces have destroyed the indigenous seeds and flooded the markets with hybrid seeds. This has made the farmers lose their sovereign entity in matters of farming, rued the speakers. The capitalists are earning money for each of the works done by the farmers of the country and the middlemen who control the markets of the farmers’ produce then lead the farmers to suicide. The Rs 62,375-crore loan waiving scheme announced by the Central Government benefited only around 3 lakh farmers against a target of 30 lakh and the lion’s share of the money allocated for the purpose has thus found its way to the pockets of the capitalists. Time has now come to provide protection to the farmers by strengthening the cooperative movement, they said. The Raij Mel was presided over by a presidium of Padmalochan Nath, Subrata Chakraborty and Raju Bora. On the occasion of the third biennial conference of the KMSS, a women’s conference was also held under the presidentship of Nari Mukti Sangram Samiti chairperson Bimala Gogoi and its general secretary Mridula Kalita. (The Assam Tribune 16/3/13)

 

37. Enough proof against govt on farm-loan waiver scam, says Hazare (20)

Nagpur: The Gandhian crusader, Anna Hazare on Sunday claimed that he has sufficient proof of alleged corruption and irregularities committed in the “farmers’ loan waiver scheme” of the Centre, which was brought to light by the CAG report recently. Hazare, who was in Nagpur on a two-day tour in eastern Vidarbha said, “If the government is interested in going through the proofs, I am willing to hand over to them.” The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report tabled in Parliament recently, pointed out that several ineligible farmers were favoured and a large number of deserving small and marginal farmers left out in implementation of the much-talked Rs. 52,000-crore farm loan-waiver scheme. The scheme, meant to help indebted farmers of suicide-prone regions, was so haphazard and faulty in implementation that no records were maintained of farmers applications accepted or rejected by lending institutions or how many farmers were given fresh loans as a result of debt waiver/relief, the report said. The opposition, BJP has already demanded a CBI probe in this regard. The Gandhian crusader also suspected large-scale irregularities in drought-relief fund of Maharashtra to be received from the Union government. “The central relief is a peanut for the affected people of Maharashtra. However, this meagre amount would not be utilised properly,” he felt. Hazare said that the drought situation in the state was more of a manmade rather than a natural calamity. The problems of political apathy and corruption, coupled with unchecked exploitation of water resources, was responsible for parched condition o fthe soil in the state. “We have exploited our water resources to the maximum possible limits without employing scientific methods of water and soil conservation in many years and the result is for everyone to see,” he pointed out. Answering a question, he said that neither the Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi nor the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi would be able to solve the national issues if they took the reins of the country. There is a need to change the election system. “The present election process is like to convert the black money into white,” he quipped. He blamed the Gujarat chief minister Modi for not enacting an act for Lokayukta and questioned why Modi has opposed the Lokayukta appointment in Gujarat. (Hindustan Times 17/3/13)

 

38. Farmers descend on Jantar Mantar with a slew of demands (20)

NEW DELHI: Reeling under price rise and dipping returns for their produce, thousands of farmers from all over the country poured into the capital on Monday to start a mahapanchayat, demanding, among other things, a farmers’ income commission to guarantee a minimum livelihood income. Opposing diversion of farmland for other purposes, they wanted the government to impose a moratorium on land acquisition and announce a ‘fair and remunerative price’ for their produce, including a profit above the cost price, to help them lead a life of dignity. Furthermore, Parliament should meet at a special session to discuss suicides among farmers. However, it appears the farmers lack the voice and the lobby to make themselves heard as none from the government approached them, and by the end of the day, the mahapanchayat declared that farmers would “stay put” at Jantar Mantar till their demands were met. Kisan annadata hai aur woh bhookh se mar raha hai [Farmers provide food, yet they are dying of hunger],” said Susheela, a woman from Gonda district of Uttar Pradesh. Splaying her fingers one by one to count farm inputs that were getting out of reach because of high prices, she said it was getting difficult day by day for farmers to survive. “That is why farmers are committing suicides,” added Sugani from Gorakhpur. The story was the same from participants of the mahapanchayat, organised by the Bhartiya Kisan Union and the National Alliance of People’s Movement, under the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements. The meeting was addressed, among others, by Rakesh Tikait, Yudhvir Singh, Medha Patkar, Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, Vijay Jawandhiya, Yogendra Yadav and representatives from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Odisha Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. “We are looking for the government. Where is the government? On March 8, 2011, we met the Prime Minister. He said he would get back in 25 days, but did not. What is our fault? Is it that we are feeding the country and have produced surplus. If our demands are not met, farmers will take an agriculture holiday. The government will be responsible for the consequences,” Mr. Tikait said. “A bottle of water costs Rs. 18-Rs. 20 a litre, but we get merely Rs. 15 for a kilo of milk. It does not even cover the cost of feed for our cattle, leave alone our livelihood,” argued Prakash Singh of Sangrur. The mahapanchayat said in a memorandum submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that it was the government’s responsibility to improve the net incomes of farmers, tenant cultivators and farm workers. Besides fair and remunerative price, the government should come out with price compensation and crop insurance schemes and find out ways of stopping suicides among farmers. Asserting that food and farmers could not be treated as a “commodity,” the mahapanchayat opposed futures trading in food commodities that led to price volatility, free trade in agriculture and foreign direct investment in retail which would imperil the livelihoods of small farmers, small retailers and street-vendors. (The Hindu 19/3/13)

 

39. Unable to bear crop loss, debt-ridden farmer ends life (20)

BHOPAL: Unable to bear damage to his crop brought on by untimely rain and hailstorm, a debt-ridden farmer committed suicide in Kharpa village of Rajgarh district, 141 km from state capital, on Tuesday. He took the extreme step minutes before chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s visit to his village to assess crop loss. Goverdhan Rathore, 55, was found hanging from a bar of a well’s pulley at his farm. He was survived by his son Mohan, 21, and wife, said police. The incident was reported to Jeerapur police station around 10 am. Rathore owned around four bigha land. His crop of Indian chickpea (chana), which was almost ready for harvest, was destroyed by squall on Saturday night and he needed immediate relief, sources said. The deceased had borrowed Rs 2 lakh from a moneylender, said an investigating officer, wishing anonymity. He also had to clear his dues to traders of fertilizer and pesticides. He could not get over loss and was in depression even two days after government officials surveyed his farm, said sources. When contacted, police claimed they were yet to ascertain the actual cause. A senior police official, who did not wish to be quoted, was of the opinion that he was depressed over a dispute with his son. District collector M B Ojha claims that deceased farm was already surveyed. An immediate relief of Rs 50,000 has been sanctioned from the CM’s fund to the aggrieved family, Ojha told TOI. He said 180 out of 1,722 villages in the district were affected. Terming the situation “grave”, he said “farmers in 45 villages were worst-hit with their crops completely damaged.” “We have made announcements across the district, especially in rural areas using Kotwars asking farmers to report losses,” said the collector. Unseasonal rain and hailstorm that lashed parts of MP last week claimed 32 lives and damaged crops over more than 6.36 lakh hectares. Lightning claimed 14 lives, three were killed due to electric shock, and one in house collapse. Cattle loss was also reported. According to an official release, 6.20 lakh farmers were affected. The CM had urged the Union government to cooperate with farmers in their hour of crisis and demand a special package like Maharashtra. As an immediate relief, the State government suspended recovery of lagan and agriculture loans. The state government has also promised to pay 50% of original electricity bills while farmers will be allowed to pay remaining amount in 10 instalments. Crops of coriander, cumin, ajwain (celery) and mustard seeds suffered considerable loss. Work to assess crops loss has also begun. Assessment process will be over by March 20. (Times of India 20/3/13)

 

HINDUTVA

40. RSS panned for portraying Swami Vivekananda as pioneer of ‘Hindutva’ (26)

Thiruvananthapuram: CPI (M) veteran and opposition leader in the Kerala assembly, V S Achuthanandan, took a dig at the RSS by using a forum of the saffron outfit and criticised its “attempts” to depict Swami Vivekananda as a “pioneer of Hindutva.” Speaking at a function organised by RSS’s cultural forum Bharatheeya Vicharakendram (BVK) here last evening, the octogenarian leader said Vivekananda was in fact a sharp critic of the “life negating idealism of exploitative casteism of the Hindu religion.” He was speaking at the book release of “Swami Vivekananda and Kerala”.Achuthanandan, however, patted BVK and its director and Sangh ideologue P Parameswaran for bringing out a comprehensive volume on the saint-philosopher which not only reflected the RSS’s approach but also accommodated the perspective of others on the life and work of Vivekananda. “The Sangh Parivar has always tried to confine Vivekenanda in a narrow chamber. They say he is the acharya of Hindutva. Of course, he worked for the unity of Hindu religion and for reforming it. But his greatness is that he lashed out at the life negating idealism and exploitative casteism of the Hindu religion,” the CPI (M) leader said. Recalling that it was Vivekananda who famously dubbed Kerala as “a lunatic asylum” because of the rigid casteism that prevailed here, Achuthanandan said during his visit to the state, he had a taste of the oppressive system as he was barred from entering a temple at Kodungallur for declining to answer priests’ query to which caste he belonged. (Indian Express 14/3/13)

 

41. Abnormal growth in Muslim population a grave concern: RSS (26)

JAIPUR: The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) on Saturday raised concern over the abnormal growth of the Muslim population in the country, one of the major reasons for which is the infiltration from neighbouring Bangladesh. The issue was discussed during the ongoing Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha at Jamdoli on the outskirts of the city. “The abnormal rise in Muslim population is a grave concern. The population of the Muslims at the time of Independence was 8% and it has increased by a per cent every decade. It now stands at 14.5% and the present UPA government is creating a major divide between the minorities and the majority through its minority-appeasement policies,” said Krishna Gopal, joint general secretary, while addressing a media briefing on Saturday. Other issues which were discussed included the atrocities against women, reducing the age of consensual sex, sufferings of the Sri Lankan Tamils, attack on Hindus in Bangladesh and the issue of Ram Setu. General secretary Bhaiyaji Joshi said that besides being an object of faith for crores of Hindus, Ram Setu is effectively safeguarding the rare Thorium reserves. “The people in the country will never accept the obstinate attempt of the government to go ahead with the Setu Samudram project by destroying the Ram Setu,” he said. He warned the government of a ‘massive public fury’ in case it fails to respect the popular sentiments. (Times of India 17/3/13)

 

42. Shakha numbers on growth path, claims RSS (26)

New Delhi: For the third year in a row, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — the ideological mentor of the principal Opposition party BJP — has claimed an increase in the number of its Shakhas (units), the bedrock of the Sangh’s functioning at the ground level. Out of this increase of about 2,000 Shakhas over last year 40,000, Sangh claims 1,700 came from Tarun (youth) Shakhas. Significantly, it is among youth that the RSS is believed to be losing appeal, as most people one sees in Shakhas these days are ageing. At one level, this growth augurs well for the BJP as its second line of support for polls seems to be not doing badly, but at another, it signals RSS attempts to interfere in the affairs of the BJP more as polls beckon. (Hindustan Times 18/3/13)

 

43. Persecuted Hindus fleeing Pakistan, Bangladesh: RSS (26)

Jaipur: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh charged here on Sunday that Hindu minorities were being “forced to flee” Bangladesh and Pakistan following “persecution,” and sought the Centre’s intervention to end their distress. “The plight of women in India and the influx of Muslims” were two other serious issues that called for the government’s intervention, said RSS Sarkayawah (general secretary) Suresh Joshi. He was addressing journalists on the final day of the Sangh’s Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) meet here.The ABPS is the RSS’ highest decision-making body and the Sangh’s top office-bearers attended the three-day meet at Jamdoli, near here. “The ABPS condemns the recent attacks on Hindus, including Buddhists, in Bangladesh by fundamentalist groups like the anti-Hindu and anti-Bharat Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami,” Mr. Joshi said. “It is the responsibility of the Government of India to take up with Pakistan and Bangladesh the issue of violation of the Liaquat-Nehru 1950 pact, which expressly states that minorities on both sides would be accorded full protection and citizenship rights.” He said the disappearance of millions of Hindus could not be brushed aside simply by “invoking the sovereignty principle.”  (The Hindu 18/3/13)

 

44. RSS, CPI oppose bid to lower age for consensual sex (26)

NEW DELHI: The RSS has criticised the government moves to lower the age of consent for sex from 18 years to 16 years. RSS leader Bhaiya Joshi said: “The age for marriage for a girl is 18 years, but  overnment wants to give legal consent for sexual relations before marriage by lowering the age to 16. It is not acceptable and RSS will oppose it.” Joshi said this while talking to reporters at the conclusion of three-day meeting of the organisation in Jaipur. The RSS also passed a resolution on the issue of persecution of Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh during the meeting Akhil Bhartiya Pratinidhi Sabha. The organisation demanded that government provide compensation to all the Hindu refugees from these countries and even draft a national refugee relief and rehabilitation policy assuring dignified living conditions. Joshi added the organisation reviewed its working for the past year and expressed satisfaction that the number of camps or shakhas are increasing in the country. Around 2,000 new shakhas were opened last year. He added that the RSS was conducting Hindu awareness programmes and activities directly and indirectly at 45,000 locations across the country. (Indian Express 19/3/13)

 

 

Posted by admin at 20 March 2013

Category: Uncategorized

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

1. Media should not ignore youth, science, farmers: Mitra (1)

Bhopal: National president of Indian Media Centre (IMC) and Member of Parliament Chandan Mitra said that media should concentrate on news related to youth, farmers and science that are development centres of the country. While chairing first day of IMC’s national conference, Mitra said that instead of working like a trade union of journalists, the IMC is working to build an intellectual environment in the society. He hoped that soon, the IMC would reach in all the States of the country. Chandan Mitra, also editor-in-chief of ‘The Pioneer’, criticised few news channels for promoting superstitions. He objected to the statement of Indian Press Council president Marakand Katju, saying that Katju must work for the welfare of media and not for publicity. Former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Joginder Singh said even with the presence of problems like paid news in the media the silver lining is still that the Indian media has succeeded in uniting the citizens bravely against terrorism and corruption. Expressing concern over the corruption prevailing in Government departments, Singh said that media can be a strong weapon against corruption unless it becomes part of it. State Urban Administration and Development Minister Babulal Gaur said that media should not only present the negative stories but should also present the positive and development works in front of the society. (Pioneer 10/3/13)

 

2. Media and Entertainment players flay attempt to curb freedom of speech (1)

Mumbai: Coming down heavily on recent attempts by various sections to stifle freedom of speech, Ficci’s Media and Entertainment panel said the free speech is “sacrosanct”.”We are not far from a point where someone’s sneeze or a cough on a television show will be a source of offence and outrage for many…It is time for us to recognise that free speech is what is sacrosanct…,” Ficci’s Media and Entertainment Committee Chairman Uday Shankar told Ficci-Frames summit here. The three-day Ficci Frames is the largest media and entertainment (M&E) jamboree in Asia. It got off to a glittering opening here today with the global and domestic industry leaders like Walt Disney International Chairman Andy Bird and Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks & President, Disney-ABC Television, attending the function, among others. Shankar, who also heads Star India, said: “I am shocked that there are still groups and interests who continue to debate on the right amount of freedom that can be granted to the media; as if this is something to be granted and as if this is even negotiable.” He further said the country should leverage on its democratic credentials over others like China and Russia to have a robust and truly free media. The comments come in the wake of a string of controversies in the recent past like the releases of the film ‘Vishwaroopam’, in which veteran Tamil actor-producer Kamal Haasan had to face troubles in getting the film released even after a clean chit from the Censor Board, after a minority group opposed certain portions in the flick allegedly hurting their religious sentiments. This row even forced I&B minister Manish Tewari to call for amendments to the Censor Board rules, which would ensure once a film has passed the Censor Board, it cannot be banned by the state administrations. “The most important issue at the moment is the one on freedom of speech… we all agree that the role of the media is to question the status quo. But with the right to question must come the right to provoke and the right to offend,” Shankar said, adding that we are “regressing” in this area. He also cited the recent issues like the trouble faced by two girls in the neighbouring Palghar over a Facebook post on the hardships the public had to face following the shutdown of the megapolis after Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackery’s death in November last, and Star India’s hardships after the reality show Satyamev Jayate’s attempt to comment on the weaknesses in the medical system. Shankar also pointed out to the lack of credibility on audience measurements in the industry and asked for corrective action by the industry. “It is indeed a matter of concern that the credibility of the most prevalent currency of all transactions in TV enjoys so little credibility,” he said. “As a television executive, I am surprised sometimes how I am even able to function. I do not know enough about my viewers – in fact I don’t even know how many of them are there,” he added. (Indian Express 12/3/13)

 

3. Minimum qualification must for scribes: Katju (1)

New Delhi: Press Council of India Chairman Justice Markandey Katju, who in the past claimed that majority of the media professionals have a “poor intellectual level”, now feels that persons with “little or inadequate training” in journalism are entering the profession leading to negative effects. He wants to prescribe a “legal qualification” for entering the profession. On Tuesday, Katju set up a three-member committee to suggest the “qualifications a person should have before he can be allowed to enter the profession of journalism”.”Since the media has an important influence on the lives of the people, the time has now come when some qualification should be prescribed by law,” he said in a statement after appointing a committee comprising PCI members Shravan Garg, Rajeev Sabade and Dr Ujjwala Barve, Associate Professor, Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Pune to look into the issue. The committee has been asked to submit its report at the earliest. Katju said the need for setting a qualification for entry into journalism had been felt for some time although many institutions impart teaching in journalism, some of which although is “very unsatisfactory”.”In the lawyers profession an LLB degree as well as registration in a Bar Council is required. Similarly, for entry into the medical profession the necessary qualification is an MBBS degree and also registration with the Medical Council. For becoming a teacher, a teacher’s training certificate/degree is required. Many other professions have the requirement of some qualification before one can enter that profession,” he said. (Times of India 13/3/13)

 

4. Acid attack on Maharashtra scribe, kin (1)

Mumbai, March 13, 2013 (IANS): A journalist and his family were victims of an acid attack by local political activists in another assault  on the media in Maharashtra, an official said here Wednesday. Dinesh S. Choudhary, 40, his wife Arsana and teenaged daughter Rashmi were attacked in their house in Tilak Nagar in Purna town in Parbhani district, police said. Police said the attackers, one of whom is local Congress activist Sayed Ali ‘Don’ and an unidentified man, barged into Choudhary’s house just before midnight, threw acid on them and escaped. “They were rushed to the Yashoda Hospital in Nanded where their condition is stated to be serious but stable,” police told IANS. Choudhary is working as a Purna-based district correspondent with Solapur Tarun Bharat newspaper. Narayan Karanjkar, the editor of the publication, said the attack was instigated by Sayed Ali and his accomplices after Choudhary wrote a scathing article on the gutka mafia operating in and around Parbhani. “All local media organisations have condemned the incident. Journalists from Marathwada region will take out a procession here Saturday to express solidarity with Choudhary,” Karanjkar told IANS. Meanwhile, in Mumbai state Home Minister R.R. Patil took serious note of the incident and directed the Parbhani district police to provide protection to the family. Following Choudhary’s complaint, police said a case has been registered against Sayed Ali ‘Don’ and other “unknown” people. Purna town is 580 km from Mumbai in Marathwada region. (Deccan Herald 13/3/13)

 

5. PCI to take up scribe’s murder with Jharkhand govt (1)

RANCHI: Subcommittee of Press Council of India on its maiden visit to Jharkhand on Thursday decided to take up the killing of scribe Pramod Kumar Munna of Deoghar district with the state government and recommended a CBI investigation into it. Munna was working for a local vernacular newspaper Samkalin Tapmaan and was killed by unknown people on December 16, 2007 after he exposed illegal activities of then minister Harinarayan Roy in the Madhu Koda government. Both ministers are facing trial under various provisions of corruption, money laundering and disproportionate assets in different courts. Appearing before the seven member subcommittee, Munna’s widow and son told their story and requested intervention for fair investigation and compensation. Munna’s son Prince told the members that his father was killed for exposing illegal activities of Roy in grabbing government land after which he was threatened repeatedly. “My father had told the police about the threats that he was getting from the minister (Roy) and he was also called to Ranchi once to ‘manage’ the affairs,” Prince said, adding that soon after the murder the local police promised to include the minister’s name in the FIR and constitute an inquiry. “We have met different governors and chief ministers to demand an impartial inquiry and ex-gratia payment but no one has acted,” he said. Taking serious note of the government apathy, convener of the subcommittee Kosuri Amarnath said that they would take up the matter of compensation with the state government during their meeting with the DGP, home secretary and department of information and public relation on Friday. “Our council will also ensure that a CBI investigation is ordered because when someone as powerful as a minister has been accused it is beyond the state agencies to conduct an impartial probe,” he said. The panel also heard various cases of coercion, threats to journalists and attacks on them and announced to hold talks with the state government. The panel has visited eight states and lans to visit Chhatisgarh to take a stock of the threats faced by journalists while reporting from troubled zones. (Times of India 15/3/13)

 

6. ‘Control on media essential for existence of democracy’ (1)

Kochi: Control on media is essential for the existence of democracy, PSC chairman K S Radhakrishnan has said. He was delivering the inaugural address at the convocation ceremony of the students who have completed diploma course in Journalism and communication and Public Relation and Advertising at the Institute of Communication under the Kerala Press Academy, Kochi. “Journalists themselves should find the answer for the question for who should control them. There is nothing wrong in seeking control over the media as those who work in this sector themselves consider it to be an industry. However, reports of paid news are surely affecting the credibility of the media,” Radhakrishnan said. He said that there is a trend among the media to report only one side of an incident. Kerala Press Academy chairman N P Rajendran, who presided over the function, said practical approach is the road to success in journalism. Press Academy vice-chairman K C Rajagopal general council member P Sujathan, secretary  V R Ajith Kumar, assistant secretary N P Santhosh, Institute of Communication director M Ramachandran and lecturer Hemalatha spoke on the occasion. Radhakrishnan also presented awards to rankholders M P Sajon, Angel Shijoy, A Kiran Paul, K P Sheena and Asif M Basheer. Also, Mohammed Ibrahim and Abdul Samad were selected as students who have excelled in both academic and extra-curricular activities. (Indian Express 18/3/13)

 

CORRUPTION

7. CAG unveils Rs 400 cr DLF, HSIIDC land deal scam (5)

Chandigarh: Government auditor CAG has rapped the state-owned HSIIDC for accepting the undervalued rate of land which was sold to real estate giant DLF Ltd for setting up a recreational project in Gurgaon leading to a financial loss of Rs 438.91 crore. In its latest report on Haryana’s PSUs for the year 2011-12, CAG while auditing Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (HSIIDC) observed that the valuation of the property which was to be developed for recreation and leisure activities in Gurgaon was wrong. ILFS Infrastructure Development Corporation, which was appointed as consultant for assessment of land cost (in March 2008), valued the land cost by using a mixed approach which means multiplying average market rate of land with average District Collector (DC) rate. “The value of property was worked out at Rs 1,683.58 crore (by consultant) whereas the valuation of the property by considering average factors of 2.79 times for residential area and 3.105 times for commercial plots works out to Rs 2,142.11 crore,” CAG said. However, HSIIDC approved the reserve price at Rs 1,700 crore for bidding on the basis of the consultant’s valuation while the government accepted the DLF’s bid at Rs 1,703.20 crore. “The company (HSIIDC) by accepting the consultant valuation without any analysis and study suffered a loss of Rs 438.91 crore,” CAG noted. HSIIDC invited bids for sale of 350.715 acres of land in Gurgaon in January 2009 for setting up recreational and leisure project. DLF Limited submitted the bid at Rs 12,000 per square meter, though it sought clearance of legal and procedural complexities. (Indian Express 12/3/13)

 

8. Oppn alleges large-scale corruption in drought relief (5)

Mumbai: After bickering among themselves on the first day of the budget session, the opposition parties got their act together on Tuesday when they informed the state legislature of large-scale corruption in drought relief work in Ahmednagar district, among the worst-hit areas in the state. The alleged irregularities include listing fake vehicle numbers for transporting fodder, allotting cattle camps to workers of ruling parties, and naming dead persons as beneficiaries. Ahmednagar has so far received a quarter — Rs. 176 crore — of the Rs. 684 crore allotted for drought relief. Leader of opposition in the council Vinod Tawde produced a list of over 100 vehicle numbers, shown to have been used to transport fodder weighing hundreds of kilos, that actually belong to scooters, mopeds and trailers, with some even being non-existent. A list of 19 persons running state-aided cattle camps, who are workers of either the Congress or the NCP, was also submitted. The government, on its part, maintained there is no irregularity. “It is their right to make allegations. But I can assure that there is no misappropriation,” said relief and rehabilitation minister Patangrao Kadam who will be replying to the allegations on Wednesday. (Hindustan Times 13/3/13)

 

9. Coal scam: CBI contradicts Centre’s stand in SC (5)

NEW DELHI: The CBI on Tuesday contradicted the Centre’s claim that procedures were scrupulously followed in the allocation of coal blocks under UPA-1, inflicting a major embarrassment on the ruling coalition and leading the Supreme Court to direct the agency to insulate its probe into ‘Coalgate’ from interventions by the executive. A bench of Justices R M Lodha, J Chelameswar and Madan B Lokur responded to the rare display of divergence between the Centre and the country’s premier investigating agency by asking its director not to share anything about coal scam investigations with the political executive and report only to the court. CBI has routinely been accused of acting as the handmaiden of the regime of the day, often leading the court to oversee its investigations. The apex court ordered the CBI director to file an affidavit by April 26 stating that the agency’s March 8 probe status report filed before the court was vetted by him and its contents were not shared with the political executive. “The same arrangement shall follow in future,” the bench said. It asked the CBI to submit further status report by April 26. The court also wanted the Centre to respond in three weeks to the CBI’s prima facie inference in the status report that there was neither any uniform policy for allocation of coal blocks nor was there a system to check the credentials and antecedents of applicants seeking allotment of coal blocks. The bench posted further hearing on two PILs by M L Sharma and ‘Common Cause’ for hearing on April 30 and said it would first decide the legality and validity of the allocations and go into the criminal conspiracy angle later after getting status report from the CBI. Attorney general G E Vahanvati gave a historical perspective to the policy decision to privatize coal mining, which was warranted as state-owned Coal India Ltd was unable to meet demands from infrastructure and power sector. “Whatever allocations were made was as per the procedure laid down which evolved through the years. All allocations had undergone detailed scrutiny,” he said. But the bench said the CBI had said in its status report that “there was no system in place for verification of vital factors like claims of applicant companies, their financial strength and capabilities before allocation of coal blocks to them”.Hinting at possible conspiracy in the allocation of coal blocks, the bench said the CBI also mentioned that “some companies have obtained coal extraction licences by misrepresenting their strength and capabilities”.When the attorney general was trying to meet the court’s apprehensions based on prima facie views expressed by the CBI, additional solicitor general Harin Raval on behalf of the investigating agency drew the court’s attention to a paragraph in the status report, which indicated that 53 coal block allocations were recommended based on guidelines but these “did not reveal the rationale behind allotments”….  (Times of India 13/3/2013)

 

10. Punjab: Ex-IAS officer held in Rs. 250 crore land scam (5)

Patiala: Suspended IAS officer and former deputy commissioner Vikas Garg, who was on the run for few months after his alleged involvement in the Patiala land scam worth Rs. 250 crore, was on Friday arrested by the vigilance team. Preetam Singh, senior suprintendent of police (VB) Patiala, while confirming the development, said Garg will be produced in a local court in the afternoon. However, the bureau is still to disclose the information from where Garg was arrested. On November 9, last year, the VB had registered a case under sections 409, 420, 467, 468, 471, 120-B IPC and 13 (2) of Prevention of Corruption Act at VB police station Patiala against Garg, then district revenue officer Rajbir Singh, then naib tehsildar GS Walia, Kanungo Pritpal Singh, Patwari Suresh Kumar and property dealers Ravdeep Singh, NP Singh, Devinder Singh Sandhu and purchasers Jaswant Singh and Yashpal Aggarwal. Garg was Patiala DC when 6,000 sq yards of government land worth Rs. 250 crore was allegedly sold to individuals in 2011. The VB stated that the controversial land of chief medical office, which is about 6000 yards, was the land that Yashpal Aggarwal, Davinder Sandhu, Jaswant Singh, NP Singh and Rajbir Singh wanted to buy for which they had got a registry done using unfair means. The buyers allegedly paid Rs. two crore to Garg and Gurvinder Singh to get the registry done. As per allegations, out of this amount, Rs. 80 lakh was paid to Garg, the remaining money was kept by Walia and he later on distributed Rs 2 to 5 lakh to Patwari, the revenue officer and Pritpal Singh. After dismissal of his plea to quash FIR by Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday, Garg was left with little options. (Hindustan Times 15/3/13)

 

11. HC asks police to probe job scam at Nagpur university (5)

Mumbai: The Nagpur bench of Bombay high court has asked the local police to probe the appointments of more than 500 staffers at the Rashtrasant Tukdoji Maharaj Nagpur University. A division bench comprising justice Ravindra Chavan and justice Prasanna Varale directed the Nagpur police commissioner before disposing of the plea on Wednesday. A first information report (FIR) was lodged with Sitabuldi police but investigations were not conducted because of several reasons. Hindustan Times had first exposed the scam in early 2009, following which multiple inquiries — including the one by retired high court justice GG Lone — were ordered. Lone found that some job reservation manuals had been tampered with. The manipulations denied jobs to eligible candidates from reserved categories since 1999. Following a delay in action, the high-powered legislative committee for the Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribe (VJNT) had also asked the university to initiate police action against the suspects, but in vain. Petitioner Sunilkumar Mishra, former head of the board of studies of mass communication, has alleged that the scam cost the state exchequer more than Rs.300 crore in salary payments. Mishra had also filed an FIR in this case. Assistant government pleader Rajesh Naik told the court that the FIR filed by Mishra was sent to Maharashtra’s higher and technical department. Nagpur University has landed in a legal trouble twice in a month after February 27. Acting on another petition by Mishra, in which he had accused vice-chancellor Vilas Sapkal of submitting forged documents to seek top academic job, a division bench of justice Avinash Lavande and justice Arun Chaudhari, had asked Sitabuldi Police to start a criminal probe and submit report within five weeks. Justice (retd) Lone had told HT in 2011 that job reservation manuals were forged since 1999 by senior university officer Ashok Manchalwar (now retired), following which the committee recommended filing a case against the officer. In a separate probe, then principal secretary (social development co-ordination and inquiry officer) PS Meena, also found appointments of senior teaching staff illegal. (Hindustan Times 18/3/13)

 

WOMEN

12. Radical changes in new bill on crimes against women (8)

New Delhi: A bill which seeks to make punishment for crime against women more stringent is different on at least four counts from an ordinance issued recently, including making rape gender specific and doing away with the concept of ‘sexual assault’ which is more gender neutral. The proposed changes once brought about would mean that only men can be charged with rape now. The change was necessitated following demands by women’s rights groups who had maintained that laws should be more gender sensitive than gender neutral. The other proposal is understood to be replacing the provision in the ordinance which has subscribed life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for those in authority committing rape. Now, a person in authority convicted of rape will have to spend rest of his “natural life” in jail. The person in authority has been described as a police officer, a personnel of the armed forces, a doctor or a staffer of a hospital, a jailer or a warden of a remand home. A fresh proposal now makes it mandatory for all government and private hospitals in the country to provide free medical treatment to women victims of any form of sexual violence. Hospitals and similar facilities will not have to wait for the police. They can straight away start treatment after informing the police. The refusal to do so will now be a criminal offense and attract a one-year jail term for top bosses and the staff on duty of hospitals found guilty of turning away victims of sexual violence needing immediate medical care. The bill proposes that the age of consent be lowered from 18 to 16. The issue led to lengthy inter-ministry consultations with some arguing that it should not be reduced. Sexual intercourse under the age of consent is considered statutory rape. (Zee News 11/3/13)

 

13. Sexual assault of 632 children reported in UP last year (8)

A total of 632 incidents of child sexual exploitation and rape were reported in Uttar Pradesh from April 2012 till January 31 this year. This was revealed in reply to a question raised in the assembly on Monday. Parliamentary Affairs minister Mohammad Azam Khan said timely disposal of such cases could be one of the measures taken to deter those involved in such heinous activities. He said a number of steps like starting women’s helpline, setting up women police stations besides constitution of human trafficking units in 24 districts have been taken to check such incidents in the state. The government was serious and sensitive on the issue and would take steps to ensure that such incidents did not occur. On a suggestion of creating data bank of criminals, Khan said if such a practice was prevalent in any other state, UP would also consider it. Khan said his government was mulling which type of officers should be posted at sensitive places and how administrative officers should act. “The type of incidents, which took place in recent past are unfortunate and no government want such incidents to occur,” he said. (DNA 11/3/13)

 

14. Banking lessons for rural women (8)

BHUJ: Close to 500 women of Anjar, Gandhidham and Nakhatrana got some lessons in banking recently o the occasion of International Women’s Day. Officials of Dena Gujarat Gramin Bank in Kutch imparted training to these women, who are engaged in handicrafts and agriculture. The function was organized in Sanyra village where the regional manager of the bank Chandrashekhar Mathur exhorted the rural women to inculcate a savings habit. (Times of India 13/3/13)

 

15. Revised anti-rape bill set to clear Cabinet hurdle (8)

New Delhi: The Union Cabinet is expected to clear the anti-rape bill on Thursday a day after the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) led by Finance Minister P Chidambaram finalised changes to the controversial provisions of the draft. According to reports, the EGoM also agreed to reduce the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years again. The Union Cabinet will now take up the revised draft for discussion this evening. The term sexual assault has also been replaced with rape, making the provision woman centric and gender specific. Under the revised draft, stalking and voyeurism have been made criminal offences. While stalking has been made a non-bailable offence, voyeurism is bailable conditionally. The provisions for safeguarding against false complaints have been removed and sources say that for cases of sodomy of male or male child rape, the Prevention of Child Abuse Act will be amended. The UPA government has already called for an all-party meet on Monday to take the Opposition on board with the bill. If the Opposition agrees to the provisions of the revised anti-rape bill, it would then be sent to Parliament for debate on March 20. Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath had been opposing any move to lower the age of consent. “We have gone through every provision of the proposed bill and all issues have been resolved. Now the matter will go to Cabinet and hopefully it will be passed on Thursday,” Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters yesterday. There have been many conflicting opinions on the new rape law and one of the main areas of conflict has been the lowering of the age of consent back to 16 as it was till 2012. The Bill will replace Criminal Laws Ordinance promulgated on February 3 in the wake of public outrage over the December 16 Delhi gang-rape. The Ordinance has to be approved by Parliament before its recess from March 22, failing which it would lapse on April 4. The GoM was set up in view of persisting differences among ministers on its provisions at the meeting of the Union Cabinet on Tuesday. However, considering the urgency of the matter, the GoM was asked to submit its report on Wednesday so that the Bill could be brought before the Cabinet on Thursday. On the issue of stalking and voyeurism, some ministers were of the view that the provisions would be “prone to misuse” and should only be incorporated after putting in place sufficient safeguards, including harsh penalty for lodging false cases. Stalking and voyeurism were for the first time defined as criminal offences in the Ordinance. Some parties like the Samajwadi Party have serious reservations on certain provisions of the ordinance claiming they are prone to misuse. Lengthy inter-ministerial consultations had taken place on the issue of lowering of the age of consent from 18 years to 16 with the Women and Child Development Ministry strongly opposing the move. The bill retains a key provision of the ordinance under which if rape leads to death of the victim or leaves her in a vegetative state, it can also attract death penalty. The minimum punishment is 20 years in jail which may extend upto the “natural life” of the convict. (Zee News 14/3/13)

 

16. Sexual harassment of women still treated lightly: Shobhaa De (8)

New Delhi, March 16 : Sexual harassment of women is not seen to be serious in India, with lewd remarks about a woman being treated as “ched-chad” and meant to be taken lightly as mischief, writer and commentator Shobhaa De says. “Throughout mythology, teasing a woman has been taken for granted and even now when it has taken on serious tone posing danger, we don’t see it as a serious enough issue. The public outrage after the Nirbhaya gangrape which still continues has probably woken up the political class,” De told IANS on the sidelines of the Penguin Spring Fever festival in the capital. The 10-day festival began Friday at the India Habitat Centre. De, the author of several mass fiction titles like “Sobhaa At Sixty”, “Sethji”, “Sandhya’s Secret”, “Surviving Men” and “Sisters” which explore complex female psyches across social divides says what “we are seeing right now is intense anger and frustration among men unable to cope with changing societies”.”Eve-teasing should be condemned as atrocious behaviour and be declared a crime,” the writer said. De was agitated after a brush with sexual harassment at the capital’s Bengali Market. Recalling the incident, De said she was shopping for traditional north Indian sweetmeats in the market when she realised that “three well-dressed men had brushed past me at least five times”.”Then they turned around and said ‘unko kuch gol gol dena (give her something rounded). I said back off or else I will hammer you… There is no ‘sharam’ (shame) left in this country; they can do it and get away with it” De recounted. “If such a thing can happen to me at 64, imagine what can happen to my daughter when she steps out of home. It is not a very pleasant thing to be a woman in India,” she said. On late Friday evening, in a conversation, “Never a Dull De: Shobhaa De and Mahesh Bhatt Unplugged at Spring Fever”, De turned the spotlight on the rising atrocities on women in urban India in the backdrop of their strengths and vulnerabilities within a society in  the throes of transformation. “This generation of young Indian girls are more comfortable with their sexuality but the men are manic. A lot of violence that we see in the society is the inability of men to cope with the overt expression of women’s sexuality. It is something that is so in you (inherent),” she said. The writer said the Nirbhaya case showed that the inherent violence in men finds expression in “things so brutal”. “A young girl who has been at the receiving end knows what means to be acutely vulnerable to abuse,” she said. Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who shared space with De on stage, pointed to one of the flip sides of women’s empowerment. “It broke my heart to see American women (on the front) during the Iraq War dragging male prisoners. It made me feel very stupid because I didn’t think women were capable of this kind of brutality,” Bhatt said. De put the behaviour in perspective, she said “women who acquire power feel obliged to clone male and try to act like men”. She said “women in power often forget their soft skills they possess and the solutions they can offer”. The writer looked back on the history of the empowerment movement in India which now a battle between the sexes for more opportunity. “I don’t think it is men verses women any more. It is men with women and women with men,” she said. (New Kerala 16/3/13)

 

17. Education key to women empowerment: Purandeswari (8)

KAKINADA: Stressing the need for educating the girl child on a par with the boys, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industries D. Purandeswari on Saturday said that education was the only key to the success and empowerment of women. Addressing the centenary celebrations of Pithapuram Maharani Chinnamamba Devi Ladies Recreation Club here, Ms. Purandeswari said that even as the government promulgated several Acts for the welfare and protection of women, the change should come from the individual level. “At changes are approaching fast in the society, women too have to focus on getting their share. They must give equal treatment to the girl child on the domestic front,” she said, observing that the practice of showing disparity between boys and girls was still continuing in many families. “When a woman got pregnancy, the entire family is eager to know the sex of the infant. Even now, many families are giving no second thought on female infanticide,” she said. Referring to the services rendered by the club, Ms. Purandeswari lauded the services of Maharani Chinnamamba Devi to the women folk. “The idea of launching a recreation club was definitely a strange one 100 years ago. But, women like the Maharani come forward to take up the task and used the club as a medium to render services to the society,” she said. Daughter-in-law of the Maharani Bharati Surya Rao and granddaughter Chinnamamba thanked the club members for making them a part of the event and providing them an opportunity to the services rendered by the late Chinnamamba Devi. Club president Chekka Prabhavathi and secretary Boddu Vijaya Rekha listed out the services rendered by the club. Artificial limbs were distributed to the disabled on the occasion. Earlier in the day, Ms. Purandeswari unveiled the bronze bust of the late Maharani of Pithapuram and released the souvenir of the club’s centenary celebrations. Club vice-president Mootha Eswari, members Aluri Vijayalakshmi, L. Seshu Kumari and others were present. (The Hindu 17/3/13)

 

18. ‘Men’tality behind delay in Women’s Reservation Bill (8)

Riveting Congress debates on abolition laws in Oscar-winning Steven Spielberg movie Lincoln showed how American legislators of those times construed the role of women in society. The anti-slavery law itself was seen as too liberal and a stepping stone for further “dangerous” reforms, one of which the opposition charged was giving women voting rights. That was America in the 19th century. Much has changed in that country over the years. But get back to present India, where women legislators feel that this medieval sense of patriarchy is alive and thriving here. And the inordinate delay in passing of laws that are “women-friendly” is a symptom of this mentality. Perhaps a classic example of this symptom is the Women’s Reservation Bill that has been hanging in balance in Parliament for close to two decades now. The issue of low representation of women in politics was observed by a 1974 committee set up to study the status of women in the country. Among its most important recommendations was the need to reserve seats in local bodies for women. This took almost 20 years to be implemented and it was only in 1993 that the 74th and 75th amendments to the Constitution were passed. Then in 1996, the Deva Gowda government for the first time introduced the Women’s Reservation Bill that sought to reserve 33 per cent of seats in Parliament and legislatures for women. This too required a constitutional amendment. Not just his regime but all subsequent governments, including that of the BJP and the Congress, had to bite the dust on the issue with the passage of the Bill being stalled in both houses several times. CPI(M) MLA K Balabharathi, says history provides ample evidence to such “callous” attitude amongst the male members when it came to women-related Bills. “Even the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution was dominated by men. Could we ever forget what a great battle it was for women to earn voting rights in this country,” she asks pointedly. Quoting several papers, she says that huge protests broke out in the early 1950’s against universal suffrage, a prime reason for which was the attitude of conservative men, who denied any power to women in decision-making. Lawyer and Congress MLA S Vijayadharini says a “few men” who are doubtful of their own standing are putting hurdles for the passage of the legislation. “Women as a votebank are consolidated. If the reservation is passed, it will bring in huge changes to the way our Parliament functions. Some male politicians do not want to lose their power,” she explains. (Indian Express 18/3/13)

 

19. Average of 4 rapes a day in Maharashtra: R R Patil (8)

MUMBAI: The state witnessed 1,704 incidents of alleged rapes last year, or an average of four such incidents a day. Among those minor girls were victims in 924 instances: These figures were provided by home minister R R Patil in the legislative assembly on Monday. Between 2005 and 2011, 10,837 cases of rape were reported, stated Patil in a written reply to the Lower House. Legislators cutting across party lines had raised the issue of rising incidents of violence against women in the state. Last year, 127 sexual assault cases were reported that were committed on victims below the 10-year age group, and another 188 incidents were reported where the victims were between 10 and 14 years. Till the end of 2012, 14,414 cases of rape, 31,412 of molestation and 9,480 of eve-teasing had been pending before courts. “The government has set up 13 special courts to try the cases. Hundred fast-track courts will be set up, among which 25 will hear cases related to women. All fast-track courts will run for the next five years,” Patil said. adding that cases pending for over a year had been directed to be sent to fast-track courts. (Times of India 19/3/13)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

20. Arunachal villages disappearing as rivers changing course (9)

Arunachal villages disappearing as rivers changing course Itanagar: A number of hamlets in the foothills of Arunachal Pradesh and upper Assam have disappeared under water in the last few decades with climate change causing rivers to migrate from their route, experts say. Many such cases of inundation were initially described as flash floods by the administration, but gradually it has emerged that rivers like Bikram, Ranga, Bogi, etc, originating from the Arunachal mountains have actually changed their course due to long spells of high intensity rainfall. A number of small villages like Hatkhola, Kapisala, Tenga, Bango and Vikram Chapori in Assam’s Lakhimpur and Dhemaji district and Papum Pare district in Arunachal have been among the worst affected as a number of settlements have gradually submerged under water, this visiting correspondent found. An analysis of geological data shows that in some places the rivers have changed their course by 300 metres while in other areas the change was as high as 1.8 km in between 1963 and 2009. “As a result, parts of some villages have gone under water while in other cases the entire villages have simply vanished,” points out geologist S K Patnaik of Arunachal’s Rajiv Gandhi University. A study under climate change fellowship by the New Delhi -based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) shows that this has not rendered hundreds of people homeless but also damaged agricultural fields and the rich biodiversity of this north-eastern state. Although the total rainfall hasn’t changed much all these years, yet there has been an unprecedented increase in the duration and intensity of rainfall as well as cloudbursts in the Eastern Himalayas, explains Dr Prasanna K Samal, scientist in-charge at the G B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development in Itanagar. As the river channel gets more rainwater supply, it discharges excess water and sediments on reaching the plains. Often it leads to rivers changing its course. “Under normal climatic conditions, rainfall would have been well-distributed throughout the year. Now due to climate change, the pattern has changed. It has become erratic,” says geologist Patnaik who is studying the impact of climate change in the state. Two extremely intense cloudbursts of unprecedented intensity in Arunachal Pradesh were recorded in 2008 and 2010 produced devastating flash floods causing many deaths and enormous loss to forests and agricultural land. The rainfall of Arunachal Pradesh is amongst the heaviest in the country receiving more than 3500 mm in a year. “Perusal of available events leads one to believe that the instances of flash floods due to cloudbursts and excessive rainfall are on the increase in the Himalayan states of India. However, no such evaluation can be made since insufficient numbers of events are recorded,” says a report from International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). Manoj Kumar, scientist at ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) in Meghalaya opines that with the river-feeding Himalayan glaciers receding, water stress will increase in the Brahmaputra basin. The state action plan on climate change admits that flood is a recurring phenomenon in the state due to high precipitation and an estimated 8155 sq km area of the state is flood prone. Besides the visible impact on human life, a number of endangered, endemic and threatened floral and fauna species with restricted distribution and narrow habitat ranges are also at risk due to this inundation. As one of the world’s 18 biodiversity hotspots, Arunachal possesses India’s second highest level of genetic resources. (Zee News 10/3/13)

 

21. SC allows MoEF to delink environment, forest norms (9)

New Delhi: In a major relief to the stalled highway projects, the Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to modify its norms to delink environment clearance from forest clearance. This is likely to resolve the contentions between the MoEF and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). A Forest Bench led by Justice Aftab Alam allowed an application by the MoEF seeking a liberty to de-link the two clearances for the purposes of road projects, subject to fulfillment of certain conditions stipulated by the MoEF in its January 7 letter. Underlining that the ministry could modify its norms since it was a delegated piece of legislation, the Bench allowed the plea, which will now allow the companies to start their road projects with just the environment clearance. Earlier, due to the ministry’s 2011 norms, which was based on the SC verdict in the Lafarge case, a forest clearance was mandatory before the work on the entire stretch, falling in forest and non-forest areas, could begin. The NHAI had also moved the SC in January and claimed the execution and completion of more than 22 awarded highway projects had been stalled due to the norms on green clearances. In its application filed through advocate Haris Beeran, the MoEF however sought to modify the guidelines that in the case of linear projects involving use of forest land falling in a portion of their length, pending consideration of approval under the Act, work on non-forest land may start and be executed up to such point on either side of forest land. (Indian Express 13/3/13)

 

22. Environment education not enough; must bring nature into classroom’ (9)

Mumbai: While schools have included environment in their curriculum, naturalists have criticised the institutions for making environment studies just another subject with tests and lectures. Speaking at the award ceremony of the GreenLine campaign, an environment education project for students, Sanjay Monga, Mumbai based naturalist writer  said that schools need to discard the textbook and exam oriented approach to environmental studies and bring nature into the classrooms. “Instead of studying it just for the marks, teachers need to inculcate an interest for nature amongst the students so that they take the subject seriously,” he said. Monga added that students are so busy with academics that they rarely have time for awareness programmes on environment. “I have to seek appointments with schools three months in advance if I want to conduct such a programme. In fact, one of the reasons we stopped the Young Rangers Club was that students did not have the time to participate in the club and its nature-exploring activities, other than weekends,’’ he said. Trying to overcome these problems, the GreenLine campaign which is part of the environment forum of the Don Bosco Development Society, has helped schools in setting up Nature Clubs within the school campus. “Various activities such as waste management, planting trees, developing butterfly gardens and other programmes are conducted by such clubs,’’ said Savio Silveria, director,  GreenLine. At the event, St Joseph School bagged the Greenest School Award for efficient waste management. (Hindustan Times 15/3/13)

 

23. Aranmula project will affect ecology: KSBB (9)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Aranmula airport project which is at the centre of a raging political storm in Kerala, has run into fresh trouble with the Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) expressing serious reservations over the land use changes and ecological imbalance that the project will entail. In its comments on the third report of the Legislative Committee on Environment, KSBB warned that the conversion of paddy fields and water bodies for the construction of the airport would lead to water scarcity as well as flooding in the neighbouring areas. “Of the 500 acres earmarked for the project, 400 acres are paddy field. The runway for the airport is being constructed over the Kozhithode canal, a tributary of the Pamba. Many hills in the neighbourhood will have to be razed for soil to reclaim the fields, a process that could lead to biodiversity loss and water shortage,” the report says. The Rs.3,000-crore private airport project is already facing stiff opposition from environment activists who hold that it will adversely affect the ecology of Aranmula. The detractors also question the need for a fifth airport in a small State like Kerala. The KSBB report noted that the conversion of a portion of the 3,500-acre paddy field would impact on the remaining wetlands, disturb the food chain, and accelerate the depletion of fish resources as well as other flora and fauna in the Pamba river basin. Observing that several species of fish migrated upstream from the river through the canals to the water-logged paddy fields, it said the reclamation of wetlands would deprive the fish of their breeding grounds. The board recommended a series of conservation programmes to ensure that the airport project did not impact on the biodiversity of the region. It cautioned against filling up of the canals in the project site and recommended a massive afforestation campaign to create a green belt around the airport and the hills that were razed for soil. The report stressed the need to identify and protect the breeding grounds of fish and release hatchlings into the canal. It also called for an environment monitoring mechanism involving panchayat-level Biodiversity Management Committees. Highlighting the need for a rainwater harvesting system for the airport, the report said the promoters should be responsible for the supply of drinking water in the parched areas in the vicinity. It called for a joint effort by the Department of Agriculture and panchayats in the neighbourhood of the project site to continue paddy farming in the remaining fields. (The Hindu 17/3/13)

 

24. On the anvil: A daily health advisory based on air pollution (9)

New Delhi: A daily health advisory in Delhi to warn people about the noxious air quality may be on its way. The advisory intends to inform the public about the levels of carbon monoxide, ozone and other hazardous particles in the air, helping warn those with vulnerable lungs and also encouraging the public to curb unnecessary emissions. There are already six monitoring stations across the city that document the levels of air pollution on the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) website in real time. However, there is no way to easily interpret the data. The DPCC is working on crunching those numbers for the public and using them as a warning device when the air quality is an issue. DPCC member secretary Sandeep Mishra said it could take at least a month before the programme becomes active. He said he is working with health officials to ascertain the appropriate time to issue such a warning. The DPCC stations monitor nine different potential air hazards and the website compares those on the state list individually to the national standard. Mishra said with the six existing stations and two more on the way, the DPCC is working out whether to collaborate average levels state-wide on a daily basis or interpret the levels at individual stations and issue advisories accordingly. Additionally, officials have to figure how the components interact with each other, also taking in factors such as wind, temperature and other weather traits, and what combination is most hazardous. “The standards are there, but we need to know how to use them,” Mishra said. The tentative plan is to issue the warnings on the DPCC website and encourage people to spread the news. A 2012 study by a World Health Organization initiative revealed that air pollution is among the leading causes of death in the world, especially in Asian cities that are developing rapidly. The report said 7.12 lakh people in South Asia, including India, died due to air pollution related ailments in 2010. (Indian Express 19/3/13)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

25. CBSE Bill makes States jittery over their diminished role (11)

Bangalore, March 11, 2013: A proposed legislation to make the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) a statutory body, the draft of which is in circulation among the States for comments, has made Education Department officials of States apprehensive. They fear that it will result in hundreds of elite schools affiliated to the Board going completely beyond their monitoring mechanism. While the rules of the Right to Education (RTE) Act give an important role to the Education Departments in ensuring compliance with the Central legislation on free and universal education, the draft of the CBSE Bill, 2013 (a copy of which is available with The Hindu ), is completely silent on their role. As per the draft, the only role of the Education Department is during affiliation and even this role is nominal. The draft states that a school seeking affiliation with the CBSE should give “copies of application along with all documents to the State government or union territory administration concerned.” If the State government does not raise any objections within 90 days, it is deemed to have “no objection” to granting affiliation. However, beyond this, States seem to have no role in monitoring the schools. The draft provides no clarity on what the role of the Education Department officials would be on a host of issues related to implementation of the RTE act, such as ensuring 25 per cent reservation to children of weaker sections and disadvantaged groups in private schools. Would this mean that the Education Department is no longer the “appropriate authority” to implement the act, wonder officials. Interestingly, under the head of “duties and obligations of affiliated schools,” the draft makes no mention of the 25 per cent reservation issue, which is a very important component of the RTE. This clause has led to major debates on the role of private and government schools in providing quality education to all. States, including Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, raised some of these objections during a recent meeting of State Education Secretaries convened by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to discuss the Bill in New Delhi. Nearly 700 schools across Karnataka are currently affiliated to the CBSE. “Education is a subject on the concurrent list and we fear that this legislation would create a parallel administration, the nature of which is not certain. Synchronisation between departments, which is crucial for implementing the RTE in letter and spirit, will be difficult unless the State governments have a clearly defined role in the legislation,” said a department official here. The other thorny issue would be how a “minority institution” is to be defined, if the State’s definition does not hold good for Centrally-administered schools. (The Hindu 11/3/13)

 

26. Parents ignore substandard schools under RTE (11)

Bangalore: An admission list announced by the government on Monday under the Right to Education Act shows that parents are not keen on enrolling their children in schools lacking proper infrastructure, although admissions are free. Several such private schools in Bangalore North Zone III and Bangalore South Zone II are left wanting for students and as much as 25 per cent of their seats are lying vacant. On the contrary, in Max Muller Public School, for the 10 seats available, there were 167 applications from residents within the ward, and 79 applications from outside it. Similar was the case with all the popular schools. The BEO offices in the City put out the list of students selected for admission under the RTE’s 25 per cent reservation provision. The block education officers were given time till March 15 to finalise the list. However, several offices had completed the process by Monday. The list was proposed from the applications received by schools. In the application forms, parents had given their order of priority of schools in their ward to which they sought admission. Based on the number of seats available in each school under the RTE provision (25 per cent of the total number of available seats), the admission list was prepared. In case there were more number of applicants than the seats available in a school, a lottery was drawn to select a candidate for that seat. In North Zone III, the seats available were 3,295 for Class I and LKG put together. The received number of applications received was a mere 1,970 and the number of students selected for admission is 1,235. “This has happened because the rest of the seats are available in schools that parents do not want to choose,” said Ramesh, the block education officer of the zone. Moreover, the number of applications received is itself low as the preferred schools in this area fall under the minority category (minority schools do not come under the RTE reservation provision). The St Sophia’s Convent School, Bishop Cotton Institutions and St Germain School are some of the popular schools here. Similar is the situation with South Zone II. According to block education officer Nagarathna D, for class I, the available seats were 1,238, while the received applications were 2,496. The number of children in the admission list now is 1,168. The Child Rights Trust director Nagasimha G Rao said, “We have observed this trend, too. Parents seem to trust only the reputed schools. Our analysis shows that about 60 to 70 schools have no takers at all.” Shashi Kumar of Karnataka Private School Management Federation told Deccan Herald that the federation had approached the government officials concerned to relaxthe criterion for choosing schools to within a one-kilometre radius from the student’s residence, so that all schools get to fill their seats. “Otherwise, every one will want to go to the same school and the rest of the schools will have to bear the brunt of it.” While there will be another round of admissions based on the remaining seats in the first round, nothing much is likely to be done in cases where schools have no takers. “We cannot force any one to enrol with a particular school,” said Primary and Secondary Education Secretary G Kumar Naik. (Deccan Herald 12/3/13)

 

27. District schools keep out right to education, say experts (11)

MANGALORE, March 13, 2013: Two schoolteachers in Ramakunja, Puttur, told a teenaged student to write answers to a question 1,321 times as “punishment”. After that, the student stopped watching TV and playing, claimed Bhanuchandra Krishnapura, parent of the student. There was no response to the complaint he filed against the two teachers. He said that physical punishment was in some sense “ok” but mental torturing by meting out such punishments was worse. He was speaking of the rights of a child in school at a public discourse on the Right to Education (RTE) Act, organised by the South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM), PADI, a non-governmental organisation, Dakshina Kannada Human Rights Education and Protection Committee, and Child Labour Protection Committee, Karnataka, in the city on Tuesday. Other parents and block education officers (BEOs) spoke of how children’s rights were being flouted in the district. One parent described how students in a private school in the district were asked to pay Rs.150 each for breaking a bulb. After paying the amount, each child was asked to lift his hands and ask for forgiveness for breaking the bulb. One student, who happened to be Dalit, said he would not ask for pardon because he had not broken any bulb and had, anyway, paid for the bulb. He was abused and called out by his caste name. After that, the student never returned to school, he alleged. A BEO from Pallipady, Bantwal, said that a school had displayed a board claiming it was English medium when it was not so. He said all the students went there despite English classes and other measures taken by the government school to attract and retain students. The latter school’s strength has reduced from 350 to 75, he alleged. Alwyn D’Souza, parent of a child with autism, said that he had a harrowing time while admitting his son into a school. The student was labelled by teachers and not allowed to write exams accompanied by his mother, he alleged. SDMCs are not aware of RTE and children of migrant workers studying in Dakshina Kannada schools go on leave and never return and the government does not track them, said two other speakers. (The Hindu 13/3/13)

 

28. Violations of RTE in Delhi schools, reveals survey (11)

NEW DELHI:  ‘Need for effective time-bound grievance redressal mechanism to deal with violations that are happening on the ground’A study on implementation of the Right to Education Act in Delhi in three years of its existence has revealed “overwhelming violations’’ of the norms on the ground. The study by NGO Josh, with support of VSO India, has noted that while “73 per cent of the schools had contract teachers’’, in 99 per cent of schools, the School Management Committees (SMC) have still not been formed. It has also expressed concern at the treatment meted out to students in many schools. It said “46 per cent of children reported corporal punishment; and 55 per cent of parents reported that they have never been called for any parents meeting in the school.’’ Still, 71 per cent of parents responded that they don’t complain even if they have any grievance. The reason cited by them being that either there was no grievance redressal mechanism or they had been insulted and humiliated by school authorities in the past. The survey also revealed that “teachers are engaged in non teaching duties such as election , polio campaign, census as well as clerical work within the school’’ and for the parents the quality of learning remained a huge concern across all areas. This despite their spending Rs.300 to Rs. 400 on private tuition. In Delhi schools, the provision of basic infrastructure facilities was “still a challenge’’. The survey has also noted with concern the approach towards the differently-abled students in Delhi schools. “Only 23 per cent of children reported that they have differently-abled children in their schools; main reason being denial of admission, ‘pushed out’ due to lack of care and adequate infrastructure facilities.’’ Further, it said, 80 per cent of the schools did not have provision made for special teachers or special training for present teachers. Even in the case of scholarship, the survey said “several case studies recorded that parents were made to sign on receipts and later no money was given’’. Only 78 per cent parents reported receiving scholarship meant for their children. The study was conducted in seven areas of six districts with the help of student volunteers drawn from premier colleges like Lady Shri Ram College (LSR), St. Stephens’ College, Hindu College, Ramjas College, Ram Lal Anand College, IIT Delhi, Delhi College of Engineering, Teri University and Delhi School of Economics. A total of 1,425 households and 29 schools were covered by the volunteers in Daryaganj, Timarpur, Rithala, Munirka, Malviya Nagar, Nizamudding and Trilokpuri areas of Delhi and the students then wrote separate papers describing the status of the implementation of the fundamental right to education in the areas visited by them. In its report, NGO Josh said: “The findings of the students clearly show the status of the RTE Act in the National Capital. The point that emerges very strongly from this study is the need for effective time bound grievance redressal mechanism to deal with the overwhelming violations that are happening on the ground.’’ Elaborating on the issue, it said: “The RTE Act makes education a fundamental right, therefore, while efforts are made to improve provisioning, there needs to be a mechanisms which will provide children, parents and community a space to raise their concerns when violations happen. At present, no such mechanism is there and children and parents are completely clueless where to go when they are denied access to quality education.’’ The report was released on Thursday in the presence of Chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Shantha Sinha, Professor Anita Rampal of Delhi University, Nalini Juneja of NUEPA, Dr. Reetika Khera of IIT Delhi, Ratna Viswanathan of VSO, Malini Ghosh of Nirantar and Ambarish Rai of RTE Forum among others. (The Hindu 15/3/13)

 

29. 1.54 lakh applicants for 1.06 lakh RTE seats in State (11)

Bangalore: The demand for seats in private schools under the 25 per cent quota for children from underprivileged families under the Right to Education (RTE) Act outstrips the availability of seats across the State. Against the availability of 1.06 lakh seats across Karnataka, 1.54 lakh applications have been submitted for private school seats under the quota. This suggests an increasing demand for private school education, even as Education Department officials say that a contributing factor is multiple applications made by parents to several schools. Of the 34 educational districts in Karnataka, only in 12 districts the number of seats available in private schools under the quota is higher than the applications submitted. They are Sirsi, Yadgir, Chikkodi, Mysore, Kodagu, Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada, Dharwad, Gadag, Gulbarga, Bagalkot and Belgaum. The gap between demand and availability of seats is strikingly high in some districts, including Bangalore South, Bangalore North, Bangalore Rural, Davangere and Bellary. Here, going by the numbers, each seat has two or more applicants. (The Hindu 16/3/13)

 

30. Child Rights Commission sought for effective implementation of RTE (11)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Expressing concern at implementation of Right to Information (RTE) Act, child rights activists from nine coastal districts, who gathered here, demanded immediate constitution of State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. A resolution to this effect was adopted at the two-day Coastal AP Regional Consultation on Right to Education Act Implementation, which concluded on Saturday. The consultation was held Nature, an NGO and Bal Vikas Foundation, in collaboration with South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring Cell (SICHREM). The regional consultation was inaugurated by District Child Welfare Committee by regional convener and District Child Rights Committee member S. Balaraju and Gangadhar Reddy from SICHREM. The workshop focused on the status of RTE implementation in AP and the loopholes in the implementation of GO Ms. No. 130 issued on children entitlements. Even after three years of enacting RTE Act, the activists opined that the results were not according to expectation, and still there was a need to focus on critical interventions like mainstreaming out-of-school and dropout children It also sought improvement in infrastructure and safety, classroom facilities, including functional toilets, teaching-learning material, child-friendly environment, in time supply of text books and improvement in mid-day meal. (The Hindu 18/3/13)

 

31. ‘Right to Education programme only benefits teachers’ (11)

Kolkata, March 19:  The Right to Education programme, implemented by the Government in 2009, has failed to move in the right direction. According to Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Director of Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, the programme only ensures steady source of livelihood to government teachers. “The programme is of the teacher, by the teacher and for the teacher. It hardly solves the purpose of right to education,” Banerjee said at an interactive session organised by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, here on Monday. (Business Line 19/3/13)

 

TERRORISM

32. Pak Taliban refuses to disarm, threatens backlash (12)

Islamabad, March 11, 2013: The Pakistani Taliban have warned the government of severe backlash if it continues making claims of having broken the back of the militants in operations in different parts of the country’s northwest. A statement issued by the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan made a veiled reference to interior minister Rehman Malik’s remarks that the government had the militants in a corner thanks to its counter-terrorism strategy and rejected demands for a ceasefire ahead of any peace talks. The statement was issued by the militants on Sunday, a day after Malik made the remark. Malik had also said that the people should unite to root out terrorism as Pakistan was moving towards becoming a “durable peace”.The Taliban said people calling on the militants to declare a ceasefire should seek an end to air strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. “Have those asking us to take serious steps ever called for a halt to the bombing of tribal regions by the Pakistan Air Force and American drones?” demanded the statement issued by Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan. “We had offered peace talks in the national interest but secular elements did not like our serious offer and they have started making non-serious demands,” Ihsan said. Certain elements were describing the Taliban’s offer of talks as a sign of weakness, he said. “Such remarks can force us into making a fearsome response,” he warned. The Taliban statement further called on the government to act quickly on its offer for talks as time was running out. The militants have made several offers for talks to the government but Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Meshud has made it clear that his fighters will not disarm. The government has insisted that the militants should lay down arms and declare a truce before any talks. (Hindustan Times 11/3/13)

 

33. Babbar Khalsa International trying to revive militancy: Govt (12)

NEW DELHI: Banned terrorist outfits like Babbar Khalsa International are trying to revive Sikh militancy, government said on Tuesday citing intelligence reports. “There are reports that some organisations like BKI in the UK are striving to revive Sikh militancy,” minister of state for home affairs R P N Singh told Lok Sabha in a written reply, adding government was keeping a close watch on their activities. The government has conveyed its concerns to the UK authorities on various occasions including during the recent India-UK Summit held here last month. “Both sides have agreed to enhance cooperation in this regard,” he said. The Centre has banned pro-Khalistan terrorist outfits BKI, International Sikh Youth Federation, Khalistan Commando Force and Khalistan Zindabad Force under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2004. “A close watch is maintained on the activities of various groups known to have been engaged in trying to foment terrorist activities in Punjab,” the minister said. (Times of India 13/3/13)

 

34. Killing in Kashmir has to stop: UN (12)

United Nations: In the wake of a terror attack in Kashmir that claimed the lives of five Indian security personnel, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said violence is not the answer to any problem and the killings must stop. “What he (Ban) has said in cases such as this; violence is not the answer, violence should come to an end and that the killings must stop,” Eduardo del Buey, deputy spokesperson for the Secretary General, told reporters on Friday in response to a question on the current situation in Kashmir. Two terrorists disguised as cricketers stormed a CRPF camp near a school at Bemina, killing five of its personnel on Wednesday in a major suicide attack in Srinagar. The two ‘fidayeens’(suicide militants), who entered the Police Public School grounds in the outskirts of the city hiding automatic rifles and grenades in cricket kits, were eliminated after a 30-minute gun battle following the attack. (Hindustan Times 15/3/13)

 

35. Srinagar terror attack: J&K Police detain suspect (12)

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Police has detained Parandeep Singh, a daily wager with the Public Health Department who allegedly provided shelter to two ‘fidayeens’ who carried out the suicide attack here on Wednesday, killing five CRPF men. Police were looking for Parandeep Singh after his name figured in the interrogation of Bashir Ahmed alias Haroon Bhai– a resident of Uri in North Kashmir who worked for Lashkar-e-Taiba. Singh, who was on run after the fidayeen attack on Wednesday, was detained early this morning, official sources said. Besides Bashir, 22-year-old Zubair alias Abu Tallah alias Riaz, was held from Chattabal area in the outskirts of the city in connection with the attack. The arrest was made while he was talking to his handlers through the SIM card provided by Bashir, a local, the sources said. Zubair told the interrogators that he had dropped the two ‘fidayeens’ (suicide attackers) along with Bashir, who earlier carried out a recce of the force’s camp at a school playground.It was Bashir’s interrogation that led to the arrest of Zubair. According to the investigators, a group of five Lashker terrorists had crossed over in Uri earlier this month out of which two had returned while others proceeded towards Srinagar. Bashir, who stays in Srinagar, arranged the travel of the three to Tangmarg area of north Kashmir where all of them met on March 11 at Singh’s house. He later shifted them to Tankipora area in the city from where they were escorted to the CRPF camp in Bemina area on March 13 to carry out the suicide attack. Bashir shifted the third militant to Chhatabal area where he was put up in an already created hideout. The two terrorists, disguised as cricketers, had stormed a CRPF camp here in the first major attack in the city in three years. They were killed by the security personnel. (Zee News 16/3/13)

 

36. Militants storm Pakistan judicial complex, 4 dead (12)

Islamabad: A group of heavily armed suicide attackers stormed a judicial complex in the restive Peshawar city of northwest Pakistan on Monday, killing four persons and injuring 30 others, including a lady judge. The militants lobbed grenades and fired indiscriminately after entering the judicial complex from an entrance at the rear at about 12:30 pm (local time), witnesses said. One suicide bomber blew himself up in the courtroom of lady judge Kulsoom Azam, injuring her and several others. Officials at Lady Reading Hospital said they had received four bodies and 30 injured. After visiting the complex, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain confirmed that suicide attackers were involved in the assault. Though initial reports had suggested up to 10 terrorists were involved in the assault, Additional Inspector General of Police Masood Khan Afridi told reporters the attack was carried out by two suicide bombers. One suicide bomber blew himself in the courtroom of Additional District and Sessions Judge Kulsoom Azam while the other was shot dead by police, Afridi said. The judicial complex was cleared after a search operation by security forces. Afridi denied media reports that the attackers had taken some hostages. “This was not a security lapse as the attackers were intercepted by three policemen, who were injured in the exchange of fire,” Afridi said. Witnesses said the militants holed up in the complex and exchanged fire with security forces for some time. A large contingent of policemen and army surrounded the complex at Khyber Road, which is a high-security area. Four policemen, several lawyers, Judge Kulsoom Azam and a lady special prosecutor were among the injured. (Deccan herald 19/3/13)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

37. Khaki’s lure leads Naxals to surrender in C’garh (12)

Nagpur,: The lure of khaki seems to be forcing Naxalites, with many cases against them in different states, to surrender in Chhattisgarh. “The Chhattisgarh government is recruiting surrendered Naxals as assistant constables in addition to the financial package and other facilities that go with the surrender. So they are more inclined to surrender there than in Maharashtra,” said a senior police officer. Another reason why Naxals surrender in their home state is that it has some “natural advantages”. For instance, top Naxal Shekhar and his wife had recently surrendered before the Andhra Pradesh Polive though as a Naxal he used to work in Maharashtra. He had committed more crimes in Maharashtra than in Andhra Pradesh. So it was relatively easy for the Andhra Police to pardon him and accept his surrender offer. Moreover, the state where surrender happens gets an edge over other states in terms of getting breakthroughs and important information for future action against Naxals. Surrenders in big numbers has been the Naxals’ biggest headache in the post-Green Hunt period. “Yes, we are recruiting the surrendered Naxals as assistant constables under the state government policy. But there is nothing new about it,” said Additional SP (Rajnandgaon) Y P Singh. Chhattisgarh was in the news after SC rapped it for recruiting tribal youths as Special Police Officers (SPOs) during the Salva Judum days. “We scrutinise their cases to decide the merit in the case for being considered for recruitment as assistant constables. If they are going to help is in giving valuable information and clues for our anti-Naxal operations, we may recruit them into the force,” said Singh. (Indian Express 11/3/13)

 

38. Naxalism hits tiger breeding project in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: The ambitious breeding project of the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India (NTCA) has failed to take off in the Udanti-Sitanandi wildlife sanctuaries of Chhattisgarh due to the threat posed by Naxalites. Though both these sanctuaries are located less than 175km from the state capital, Raipur, work on the Save Tiger project has failed to commence due to the threat of strikes from Naxals. State forest department officials claim that some ground work, which includes deployment of local force for patrolling and surveillance, has started but are candid about the fact that the in situ (literally means ‘in place’ when translated from Latin) breeding of tigers, a key to the success for the conservation and growth of this endangered species is yet to start. Admitting that Naxal threat is proving detrimental to the project, Rakesh Chaturvedi, field director, Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve, said, “The construction and earmarking of the ‘in situ’ area is not possible with the risks involved in it”. He said that they were finding it difficult to enter the area for selection of ‘in situ’ site with the Naxal threat looming large. Elaborating, the field director said ‘in situ’ breeding requires identification and fencing of about 700 to 1000 acres of land within the reserve. Once that is done, a tiger and two tigresses are kept confined in the fenced area for the entire breeding season and the gestation period, which lasts about three to three and half months. Chaturvedi said that once the cubs are born, their growth is constantly monitored for a few weeks and then they are released into the open with radio collars around their necks to keep track of their progress and well being. However, with the Naxal threat looming large, they are finding it immensely difficult to start the work for preparing the site. He said that ground work, under the centrally sponsored scheme of ministry of environment and forest which include deployment of local work force for patrolling, surveillance of water holes, manning of barriers round the year, weed eradication and development of grass meadows has started. He said the state government has asked for additional funds from the NTCA to complete the assigned tasks as the earlier sanctioned money was inadequate. Chaturvedi said as per some sightings and pugmarks, the Udanti reserve has about four to five tigers. He said the prints of the pugmarks have been sent for DNA mapping to Wild Life Institute, Dehradun, for sex determination. He said if the numbers of tigresses are less, they would get more from the other reserves, as and when the project takes off. (Times of India 13/3/13)

 

39. PIL demands speedy trial for Naxal suspects (12)

NAGPUR: A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed on Wednesday before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court seeking judicial intervention and relief into the various aspects of Naxal undertrials. The petitioner, Soma Sen is a member of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights and associate professor of English Department at the Nagpur University. She is engaged in social work for more than two decades. The PIL deals with the plight of the several farmers and other residents of Naxal-affected Gadchiroli who had been nabbed during various operations launched by the government forces in the district. Following their arrest, the petitioner has claimed that the trials are often delayed on numbers of pretexts including not providing escort guards to enable undertrials to remain present before the court. The petitioner has also claimed that delayed trial of the victims has been aggravated by the violation of the fundamental rights of the prisoners and other laws pertaining to present them before the court. Sen has also prayed before the court to discourage videoconferencing facilities which do not allow the undertrials to have access to their lawyers. (Times of India 14/3/13)

 

40. DIG gets list of Hazaribagh Naxals, miscreants; Guv advisor to get report (12)

Hazaribagh: On the direction of Central Government the police department has conducted a survey regarding the number of active Maoists and criminals. As per the result of survey in Hazaribagh police range 241 Maoists and 374 criminals are active. This was informed by DIG Suman Gupta. Gupta said that after getting the direction of central government she sat with the SPs of all the five districts of the range and told to prepare the list of Maoists and criminals at police station level. She said that on the police station level they were categorized in three grades A, B and C on the basis of their criminal history and the cases lodged against them. Those included in A category are hardcore while in B category Maoists and criminals of mediocre group has been included. She said that this report will go to the center and to Governor’s advisor K Vijay Kumar, who during last meeting had raised this matter.  (Pioneer 15/3/13)

 

41. Forces recover bodies of six ‘killed’ by Naxals (12)

Jamshedpur : After four days of struggle, security forces on Saturday succeeded in recovering the bodies of six villagers, who were suspected to have been killed by Maoists at a people’s court (jan adalat) in Manmaru village, under Tebo Police Station, of West Singhbhum district. After a fierce encounter with the ultras on Friday, an extensive search led to the buried bodies at a collective grave on a hill in Sabauli village. SP Pankaj Kamboj said, “Joint teams of police and CRPF were moving towards Manmaru during patrolling and reached the spot after two encounters, in which one ultra was also killed on Friday near Kudabeda.” Villagers had asked the Naxals for help on the whereabouts of two missing men, Samu Bodra and Hangra Mundai, Maoist sympathisers. The rebels reportedly found their bodies. They then held a jan adalat trial of six persons whom they suspected of killing the two missing villagers. The death sentence was pronounced on these six – Dange Purti, Hindoo Odiya, Litha Odiya, Mangu Odiya, Bandiya Odiya and Selaya Odiya – and they were reportedly killed by the Naxals. Kolhan DIG AK Singh said an ultra had also been killed during operations. He added that the area has been sealed and a combing operation has been launched. (Pioneer 17/3/13)

 

42. Naxal encounter in Maharashtra leaves Two Commandos injured (12)

Nagpur: Two commandos of Maharashtra’s special Anti-Naxal C-60 force suffered bullet injuries in an encounter with the Naxals early in the morning on Monday in a village in Gondia district of Maharashtra. “The encounter took place near Marartola village in Salekasa division of Gondia. Our team was carrying out searching operation when the Naxals fired on it. Two C-60 commandos suffered bullet injuries in the firing “ Gondia Superintendent of Police (SP) Dilip Zhalke told The Hindu. Commando Ramesh Uike suffered bullet injury on his leg and Commando Sanjay Katare suffered shoulder injury, informed the SP. According to the SP, the encounter took place at 12.30 am on Monday. Both the commandos have been shifted to the Orange City hospital in Nagpur and their condition is said to be stable. “The encounter was a close one and many Naxals suffered serious injuries including their Dalam commander Rakesh, but nothing specific can be said about it” said Mr. Zhalke. Mr. Zhalke did not rule out the Dalam Commander Rakesh being killed in the encounter. (The Hindu 18/3/13)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

43. Jordan should allow in Palestinians from Syria: UN (13)

United Nations: The UN’s chief relief official for Palestinians is urging Jordan to stop discriminating against Palestinian refugees fleeing the Syrian war and open its borders to them. The commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees says “all refugees should be treated equally.” Filippo Grandi told reporters today that Jordan has been burdened by some 2 million Palestinian refugees over decades. But he disagreed with Jordan’s decision to close the border last year to Palestinian refugees and called on Amman “to exercise maximum humanitarian efforts.” Last year, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch praised Jordan’s admission of some 140,000 Syrian refugees but said officials have arbitrarily detained Palestinians in a holding center without any options except to return to Syria. (Zee News 11/3/13)

 

44. Forced evictions on the rise in Haiti (13)

New York, Mar 12 : The top United Nations humanitarian official in Haiti has expressed grave concern about recent incidents of forced evictions of internally displaced persons (IDPs), following his visit to a site in the capital, Port-au-Prince, from which thousands of people were forced to leave. While recognizing the right of owners to enjoy their property, the acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti, Ross Mountain, recalled that the practice of forced eviction often results in violations of human rights such as the right to life and security of the individual. Following a visit to the Acra 2 camp on 2 March, Mr. Mountain stressed that “these families have suffered intimidation, physical violence and the destruction of their shelters, including through arson.” His visit comes after the eviction of about 1,000 displaced persons in Acra 1 and Acra 2 on 17 February. Nearly 350,000 IDPs are estimated to be living in 450 camps, according to a news release issued by the office of the Humanitarian Coordinator. More than 66,000 in 150 camps have been forcefully evicted since July 2010, according to figures cited by the humanitarian community. Another 73,000 are or will face eviction threats this year. “Haitian authorities have the responsibility to promote and protect the rights of all their citizens, including IDPs,” Mr. Mountain stated. Following the visit, he met with the Minister of Human Rights and the Fight against Extreme Poverty, Rose Anne Auguste. The Minister said a judicial inquiry into the forced evictions is ongoing, and security around the most at-risk camps has been strengthened. Haitian President Michel Martelly has condemned forced eviction and launched the 16/6 programme, a project that supports the return and resettlement of displaced persons living in camps, as well as the rehabilitation of the neighbourhoods affected by displacement. Mr. Mountain is also the acting Deputy Special Representative at the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, known by its French acronym MINUSTAH. The Mission supports the country’s recovery efforts, including the promotion of stability and security, and strengthening the rule of law, respect for human rights and good governance. (New Kerala 12/3/13)

 

45. Thousands of Malians return to liberated city Gao, NGO says (13)

GAO (MALI): Thousands of people who fled when Islamists attacked the largest city in Mali’s war-torn north have returned, a survey by a local charity working to resettle refugees told AFP on Thursday. Tassaght said a study of returning refugees and internally displaced people indicated that 5,800 residents who fled the occupation by al-Qaida-linked Islamists had come home, most after Gao was liberated in late January. The survey, which took the form of a questionnaire to returning residents, showed that “their primary needs are food”, Tassaght head Almahadi Ag Akeratane told AFP. “The displaced are coming back with nothing,” he said, adding that many of those who fled have yet to return. Gao and the rest of the northern desert area comprising about 60 per cent of Mali fell to ethnic Tuareg rebels a year ago. But they lost control to Islamist fighters who imposed a brutal version of sharia law on the local population before Mali’s former colonial power France sent in troops and took back the cities of the north in January. Gao has enjoyed an uneasy calm in the three weeks since a raid by resurgent militants, and buses coming back from the capital Bamako have been crowded. Around 170,000 Malians have fled the region to neighbouring countries and 260,000 others have been displaced internally since early 2012, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Gao had about 90,000 inhabitants, but Tassaght estimates that around 80 per cent fled the Islamist invasion. “There isn’t a single family that isn’t missing someone,” local councillor Yacouba Maiga told AFP. (Times of India 14/3/13)

 

46. No refugee status to Pakistani Hindus: Indian govt (13)

New Delhi: Government on Friday ruled out granting refugee status to Pakistani Hindu immigrants who have crossed over to India to escape persecution there. “At the moment, we cannot grant them refugee status,” Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran said replying to a discussion on a private members’ resolution in the Lok Sabha. He, however, said no Pakistani national, whose application for long-term visa was under consideration of government, would be deported to Pakistan. The Minister also listed a number of steps taken by the government since 1955 to address matters related to persons displaced from Pakistan. The resolution on ‘Formulation of an Action Plan to Rehabilitate Persons Displaced from Pakistan’, moved by Arjun Ram Meghwal (BJP), was negatived after being put to voice vote. As per convention, a member withdraws the resolution after the reply by the Minister. Meghwal insisted that his conscience did not permit him to follow the convention as he was not satisfied with the Minister’s reply. Meghwal said the government had not given any assurance on issues raised by him including conducting a survey of Pakistani nationals residing in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Indore and alleged ill-treatment of minorities in Pakistan, including Hindu, Christian, Ahmadiyya Muslim and Parsi communities. He also wanted the government to take care of Pakistani Hindus, numbering more than 17,000, who have taken refuge at private-run transit camps in Jodhpur. (Zee News 15/3/13)

 

47. Tamil refugees observe fast (13)

TIRUCHI: Fasts and protests over the Lanka issue in the central region continued with Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Pudukottai also jumping into the fray on Sunday. Several Lankan Tamils housed in the refugee camp at Thoppukollai in Alangudi taluk in neighbouring Pudukottai district observed a fast on Sunday demanding that India support the resolution against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Around 500 refugees including 350 women observed fast on the camp premises also demanding that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa be declared a war criminal, police sources said. Meanwhile, the indefinite fast observed by a section of Government Law College, Tiruchi students entered the sixth day on Sunday. The sources said that two fasting students were shifted to the Mahatma Gandhi Government Hospital in the city. (The Hindu 18/3/13)

 

48. Aapsu against citizenship talks (13)

ITANAGAR: The All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union, which boycotted the March 12 meeting of the government-constituted high power committee (HPC) for the refugee issue, said that it will continue to stay away from any sort of discussion on the matter of providing citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees. While attending the HPC meeting on the refugee issue at Banquet Hall here on Sunday, Aapsu president Kamta Lapung urged the house “to halt discussions on the sensitive issue of giving citizenship to Chakma and Hajongs on account of their numerous and repeated-anti social and criminal activities against the indigenous people of the state.” Aapsu also urged the Chakma people to voluntarily apologize to the indigenous people of Arunachal for the recent incident of rape of a minor girl at Chowkham. The students’ apex body also warned the Chakmas and the Hajongs not to encroach land again but to stay put in their designated areas. Urging them to stop the encroachment and disturbing the life and property of indigenous people of the state, Lapung categorically said no discussion should be held on the citizenship issue till the crime stopped. The meeting, chaired by political secretary Indira Malo Jain, was attended by the deputy commissioners of Papum Pare, Lohit and Changlang districts, and Chakma and Hajong representatives. (Times of India 19/3/13)

 

Posted by admin at 19 March 2013

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

1.  ‘India First’ is my definition of secularism, says Modi (1)

Washington: Denied a visa to visit US, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi today took to video conferencing to address Indian-American community, saying his idea of secularism is “India First”. Modi, who often faced questions over the killing of Muslims in the post-Godhra riots in 2002, did not refer to the controversial issue in his nearly an hour-long speech in Hindi. “My definition of secularism is simple: ‘India First’. Whatever you do, wherever you work, India should be the top priority for all its citizens,” he said. “Country is above all religions and ideologies,” he argued and asked people to follow the same. “I agree friends that as an Indian, as a citizen who loves India, you will also agree with my definition…We might do any work or take any decision, India should be supreme,” he said. “Nothing less than India’s wellbeing should be our goal. And if this happens, secularism will automatically run in our blood,” the Gujarat chief minister said. Modi was denied US visa on the issue of human rights violation. Last week, the Wharton India Economic Forum cancelled Modi’s keynote address to the prestigious annual event because of Opposition from a section of professors and students of the university of Pennsylvania. But, Modi did not touch upon the controversial Wharton issue. The event organised by the Overseas Friends of the BJP was planned much in advance of the Wharton controversy. Several hundred people gathered at two places – Edison in New Jersey and Chicago – to listen to Modi’s speech. In his address, Modi emphasised on skilled development of the youth – who now constitute 65 per cent of the total population of the country — and asked the diaspora to help in holistic development of India – tourism being one of them. (Asian Age 10/3/13)

 

2. Toned down US resolution on Lanka setback for Tamil leaders, NGOs (1)

Chennai: Politicians in Tamil Nadu and the LTTE-funded NGOs campaigning against the Sri Lankan Government of Mahinda Rajapaksa suffered a major setback with the USA presenting a toned down resolution to the United Nations Human Rights Council at Geneva making it impossible for any international body to interfere in the island nation without the concurrence of the Sri Lankan Government. This comes at a time when the Dravida politicians and activists in Tamil Nadu calling for international blockade against Sri Lanka for “atrocities and genocide” allegedly perpetrated by the Sri Lankan Army on Tamils during the last phase of the war in May 2009. A TV documentary produced by Channel Four, an independent TV station in the UK and the photographs of 12-year-old Balachandran, the son of slain LTTE leader V Prabhakaran, reportedly killed by the Sri Lankan Army in captivity, had set the tone for the present round of outcry against the Rajapaksa Government. The US resolution demands that the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) take the island Government into confidence while probing cases of atrocities. It has also called for an independent and credible international investigation into alleged violations of international human rights law during the last phase of the Eelam war which culminated in the wiping out of the top LTTE leadership including Prabhakaran and his family. Politicians in Tamil Nadu, including DMK chief M Karunanidhi, have been pressurising India to take severe action against the Rajapaksa Government for its ‘failure’ to transfer power in the North and North-East regions of the island nation, where the ethnic Tamils are in a majority. The  Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation (TESO), an umbrella organisation revived by Karunanidhi in 2011 following the battering he suffered in the hands of Jayalalithaa in the Assembly election, has called for a State-wide general strike on Tuesday to highlight the woes of the Lankan Tamils. The Dravida politicians are calling for Tamils in the island nation to get dignity, equality and same opportunities as received by their Sinhala brethren. The other day saw the DMK, the most trusted ally of the Congress and the second largest constituent of the UPA Government, walking out of the Rajya Sabha in the company of the AIADMK, its political nemesis, over the ‘failure of the Union Government’ to give a concrete reply on what it plans to do during the United Nations Human Rights Council Meeting to be held in Geneva. All of a sudden, the USA had become the most sought after country even by the Leftists. The CPI and the CPI(M) which see red when someone mentions the name USA, wanted India to support the US resolution. But observers in Tamil Nadu pointed out that the high-decibel demands shown by the DMK during the debate in both Houses of Parliament are missing when it comes to solve the burning issues in the State. Tamil Nadu is reeling under severe power shortage with most districts going without power for nearly 18 hours a day. The DMK is silent on the issue, which is a remnant of the 2006 to 2011 Karunanidhi regime. “The ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka has been propped up by parties in Tamil Nadu because they do not have any other issues right now. They are under the notion that this high voltage campaign for Tamils in Sri Lanka will bring them rich dividends during the next Lok Sabha elections. The ruling AIADMK has hijacked the issue from Karunanidhi,” said NK Kalyanasundaram, veteran political commentator. The DMK which laments over the poor conditions of the roads in northern Sri Lanka forget the quality of roads they built during their tenures, he pointed out. According to Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, who was in Washington last week to discuss the Sri Lankan issue with the State department, it was not possible for the US to bring in a resolution not acceptable to Sri Lanka. “China and Russia will definitely veto any move to set up an internationally-appointed intrusive probe which Sri Lanka will be compelled to comply,” said Swamy. “I had urged the US leadership to undertake bilateral consultations with Sri Lanka to work out a consensus resolution based on the submissions of Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs recently, rather than to repeat the divisive resolution of last year, which has remained sterile and a dead letter, except for enthusing the financial legatees of the LTTE to continue to finance disinformation in the media,” Swamy told The Pioneer after his meeting with the US officials. The Janata Party chief had discussions with President Rajapaksa and  Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa before visiting the USA. The Eelam War of May 2009 which claimed thousands of lives could have been avoided had DMK chief Karunanidhi used his clout with the Union Government. Though he launched an indefinite fast in May 2009 at the Mareena Beach, he called it off when it was time for lunch making the whole issue a comedy of errors. He claims that the Union Government gave him wrong information that the war has ended. (Pioneer 11/3/13)

 

3. NHRC seeks report on EWS quarters eviction (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday sought a report from the Karnataka government on the plight of 2,000 people evicted from the economically weaker section quarters in Bangalore. Taking cognisance of a media report, forwarded by an NGO, the Commission asked the State chief secretary to submit the report within four weeks on steps taken for rehabilitation of those evicted. The media report had alleged that about 2,000 people, who were evicted from  the EWS quarters in Ejipura  by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike in January, were facing severe health problems. Quoting the media report, the NHRC statement said, about 200 evicted families have made their temporary homes in the peripheries of the area from where they were evicted. “They have not been provided with any basic facilities. Diarrhoeal diseases, infections and other forms of water and air-borne diseases are rampant. There are no proper water, sanitation and toilet facilities,” it said. The Commission had already taken cognisance of the forced eviction and harassment of victims by police. A notice was issued to the Chief Secretary and DGP, Karnataka early this year. (Deccan Herald 13/3/13)

 

4. Balanced approach to human rights needed (1)

PUNE: Justice Dipak Misra of the Supreme Court (SC) has emphasised the need for fine balance in the approach to understand human rights and their protection in the country. “Like most other rights, human rights are not absolute. But a stage has come where we have to carry out a balancing act vis-a-vis how we look at human rights,” he said, while speaking at the opening ceremony of an international moot court competition at the Bharati Vidyapeeth’s New Law College on Saturday. “The balancing act is imperative as on one side, people are getting uproarious about human rights, while on the other, they are wondering what can be done to secure the rights,” he said. Misra cited a slew of SC judgments during the last decade to highlight why human rights are a key element to protect the dignity and reputation of individuals. “The question we should be asking constantly is how many of us really practice human rights,” he said. “There are several judgments which have dealt comprehensively with issues like innocence of an accused, rights of a victim, right to compensation, fair trial, property and free speech within the established parameters – all in the context of human rights,” he said. Protecting human dignity has been the underlying principle behind all these judgments, he said, citing the case of a doctor from Chhattisgarh who was booked for power theft and paraded by the police in public with a slate on his chest stating ‘I am a thief’. “The SC granted him compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the dehumanising act by the police,” Misra said. In another case, involving victims who became blind after participating in an eye camp organised by the Madhya Pradesh (MP) government, the apex court held that being at the mercy of somebody else is the worst thing an individual can suffer. “It destroys human dignity,” he said. The MP government counsel had challenged the MP human rights commission’s move to take the case to the Supreme Court on the grounds that it was not tenable, he added. Misra traced the evolution of the concept of human rights to the 18th century, when political theorists like John Locke emphasised on liberty, right to property, paternity and other concepts. Thomas Jefferson, who authored America’s declaration of independence, took these concepts forward and they continued to be debated by philosophers till World War II. “It was only after the UN declaration of human rights that countries started to go for a constitutional or statutory arrangement for human rights,” Misra said. He said, “There has to be some kind of intellectual as well as objective curiosity about understanding human rights and how they can be honoured and respected. This is because the legitimacy of governments is now judged by the international acceptance of how they respect or maintain human rights. If there has been an erosion of human rights, the country is not treated with respect by the global community.” Earlier, Bharati Vidyapeeth’s dean of law faculty Mukund Sarda provided an overview about the moot court contest, which is named after former SC justice P N Bhagwati, and is a part of the ‘NLC Lex Sollemnis’ law festival. In all, 40 teams from law colleges across India and abroad are participating in the contest. (Times of India 17/3/13)

 

TRAFFICKING

5. Child trafficking: 168 kids rescued from train (1)

JAIPUR: In a major rescue effort, the government railway police (GRP) recovered nearly 168 children between 5 and 12 years of age from the Ajmer-Sealdah Express on Saturday. The children were taken from Jaipur to Kolkata to be employed as labourers in factories. The police also arrested a dozen people, alleged to be agents in child trafficking. Acting on a tip-off by the Bharatpur district collector, the GRP officials entered the train at 4.30pm when it reached Bharatpur and started checking the compartments. The children were found in the train’s general compartment. “At least 168 children were found in the train who told the police that they were being taken to Kolkata to work in factories. In Jaipur too, they were working as labourers,” said Gyan Prakash Shukla, district collector, Bharatpur. The collector said that some NGOs informed him about agents taking large number of children to Kolkata to work as cheap labour in factories. “Many children were made to sit under the seats of the compartment,” Shukla added. He said cases under various sections of the IPC have been registered against the agents. “The children will be kept at Apna Ghar, an NGO working for the orphan and runaway children. We will try to get the contact details of their parents and follow the legal procedure to finally hand over the children to them,” he added. GRP police said that majority of the children said they were sold off to the agents by their parents. “Once we hand them over to their parents, they will be again sold to agents. It’s a vicious circle,” said a senior officer of the GRP. According to the police, these children are from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. (Times of India 10/3/13)

 

6. 63 trafficked kids rescued in China (1)

Beijing: A total of 63 children and 14 women have been rescued in China during a cross-provincial anti-human trafficking drive, the government said. According to the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), five child trafficking gangs were busted and 368 suspects arrested in the actions coordinated by the MPS. It involved over 6,000 police personnel from 20 provincial-level regions, Xinhua reported on Saturday. The police were hunting down more suspects and investigation was under way, it added. Child trafficking is still rampant in China although the crime has been effectively contained in general, said a public security official seeking anoymity. (Hindustan Times 10/3/13)

 

7. Indians trafficked into Britain for slavery (1)

London: India is among the top 20 countries from where poor people are being trafficked into Britain to work in conditions of 21st century slavery, says a major new report that calls for the establishment of a British Anti-Slavery Commissioner. Indians were among more than 1,000 trafficking victims found last year, including a significant number of British children, says the report by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) to be published on Monday. The influential think-tank is backed by a group of Conservative party MPs led by Works and Pensions Minister Ian Duncan Smith. In 2012, India was the 17th most frequent country of origin for slaves, and 15 Indians were trafficked into Britain to domestic servitude, Andrew Wallis, who chaired the report, told HT.  “Indians are being trafficked into this country to work as slaves.” “It’s a shocking indictment on society that society in 2013 wants slaves – a practice that is outlawed.”  He said a “lot of Indian nationals in Britain are caught up” and that those who keep Indians in domestic slavery are complicit in the crime. The 224-page report — It Happens Here — was written after an 18-month probe, during which a team of experts interviewed hundreds of witnesses. It says efforts to tackle modern slavery in the UK are in a “state of crisis.” It also finds evidence of a large number British girls being trafficked within Britain. (Hindustan Times 11/3/13)

 

8. Human trafficking probe put on the back burner? (1)

Kochi: The case, involving police officials and reported to be one of the biggest instances of human trafficking, seems to have gone down in the priority of the State police. Almost the entire team of the Ernakulam Crime Branch unit that was into the probe has been disbanded due to retirement and transfers, and now, the investigation is in limbo. “We have discussed the issue and it has been decided to constitute a new team at the earliest,” is what the State Director General of Police K.S. Balasubramanian has to say. But it has been made clear that the case is not in the top priority list. At present, the Crime Branch is handling two other major cases, this is the third one. “It might take at least three to four months before we can have a final view about the case,” he told The Hindu over the phone. P.M. Varghese, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Crime Branch CID (Organised Crime Wing)-II retired from service last month and Biju K. Stephen, Circle Inspector, was promoted and transferred as DySP, Administration, Pathanamthitta. The case hogged headlines after P.A. Ajeeb, a Civil Police Officer, who was arraigned as the main accused, was arrested after being on the run for more than a month. He was accused of human trafficking in connivance with various travel agents misusing his official position at the Cochin International Airport between 2007 and 2011. The investigation that followed showed that even though the money was mostly channelled through the bank account operated by Ajeeb’s father, the policeman was just a coordinator and he could not have operated without the knowledge of senior police officials. It was decided that all the police officials posted on deputation at CIAL during this period would be brought under the scanner. Minister for Home Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan had also gone on record saying that the passenger movement through the other two airports in the State would also be scrutinised. But nothing seemed to have progressed on those fronts. At present, the case is being monitored by Vinson M. Paul, Additional Director General of Police, Intelligence, and M.R. Ajith Kumar, Inspector General of Police, Intelligence. A review of the progress of the case was done at the top level a fortnight ago. It is learnt that Ajeeb has given statements against many of his senior officials, but the Crime Branch team has arrested only Ajeeb and another person named Abdul Hameed Savad, a contract employee with Saudi Airlines. Even though there was a suggestion that at least Mr. Stephen be brought back to the team so as to put the investigation back on track. “No such specific request has been brought to my notice till now, but this will be requested of the ADGP,” said Mr. Balasubramanian. (The Hindu 12/3/13)

9. Child trafficking: 38 children rescued from railway station (1)

RAIPUR: In a major breakthrough, crime branch caught hold of two persons from the railway station who were taking 38 tribal children, including 32 minors, to Nagpur on the Bilaspur-Nagpur Triveni Express for bonded labour, on late Wednesday. Acting on a tip-off, police immediately came into action and raided the railway station at around 10.30pm catching hold of two accused identified as Venkat Reddy, from Bilaspur and Manilal from Bastar. A third accused who is on the run is from Orissa. Talking to TOI, R K Sahu, inspector, crime branch said that there were more accused who were yet to fall in the police net. He said that all the children, of which 15 were girls, belong to Kopanar village in Bastar. “Their parents were given an advance amount of Rs 1,000 for a bonded labour of 40 days for the children, to work at the under construction site of railway tracks in Nagpur. It was a clear case of human trafficking, the minor girls were dressed in sari to give them a matured look and avoid attention,” Sahu said. The agents involved in trafficking usually give these girls the look of a married woman so that they are not easily caught. Shweta Sinha, additional superintendent of police, said, “As it wasn’t a family migration and children as young as nine-years-old were among the rescued, police are investigating the modus operandi of the entire network of traffickers now. There are few railway contractors who have been traced, but I can’t reveal their names as we are yet to arrest them. The kids are finding it hard to communicate as they speak the ‘Gond’ dialect. We came know that the boys were to be paid a daily wage of Rs 160 and girls Rs 150.” She added that the labour department is also expected to intervene. The same agents had taken many children to Nagpur for similar work earlier. “The rescued children were given shelter at women police station for the night and were later handed over to the child line. While there were few abandoned and needy children among the lot, they would be presented before the children welfare committee in the evening to decide where they should be sent,” Yashwant Jain, chairman, Commission for Protection of Child Rights told TOI. Later on Thursday, collector Jagdalpur, P Ambalgan sent a team to take the children back to Bastar. The accused were booked under relevant sections of IPC. TOI had earlier highlighted in its reports how the incidents of human trafficking in Chhattisgarh were a major area of concern. With thousands of children going missing, being sexually assaulted, forced into labour and prostitution every year under the umbrella of trafficking or migration for employment, administration is yet to take a significant step against the issue. (Times of India 15/3/13)

 

10. Five traffickers get 10 years in jail (1)

KOLKATA: Those engaged in the fight against trafficking have reason to be happy. A Haldia fast-track court, on Saturday, sentenced five persons to 10 years rigorous imprisonment in two separate cases for trafficking-related offences and one instance rape. Judge Somnath Chakrabarti passed the sentences on the five convicts in the afternoon. The first case dates back to February 2009 when a brothel in Haldia, called Saheb Hotel, was sealed by the CID with help from the International Justice Mission (IJM). Three men were arrested immediately. Several victims were removed from the brothel. One of them was a minor. Months later, a man named Nakul Bera and another person were arrested in this connection. During the trial, testimonies of three of Bera’s victims detailed the extreme violence they faced. The women said if they refused to have sex with a customer, they would be severely beaten, raped and face other methods of torture. They were punished if they tried to run away and they lived in fear of Bera and his men. On Friday, Bera was among those sentenced for rape. Jamai, a brothel owner in Terapekhya village, too, was convicted. It was in June 2010 that CID with assistance from IJM rescued 12 girls from Jamai’s brothel. He and his accomplice – who received the same sentence – were also convicted under Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act. According to Saptarshi Biswas, counsel for the victims: “All it takes is one conviction of a man like Bera to keep hundreds of women safe.” Public prosecutor Amal Ojha said that he is happy that justice has been done. The second case began in June, 2010, when the CID conducted a rescue operation, with assistance from IJM. The brothel was located in the Terapekhya village and run by a man commonly known as Jamai. Twelve girls were removed and four persons arrested. They were charged with abducting, detaining and buying minors for the purpose of illicit intercourse. Many of the trafficking survivors also testified against their oppressors; including Jamai, the brothel owner who was arrested months later. Eight of the victims recounted incidents of torture in their court testimony. Some testified they were lured with offers of good jobs, others said they were raped. Some of the victims claimed they never received any wages and others explained how they were assaulted and tortured. While Jamai and one of his accomplices were convicted under Sections 3, 4, 6 and 7 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and Section 373 of the IPC for buying or hiring a minor for prostitution, a third person was convicted under Section 366 of the IPC for kidnapping or abducting a woman. All three were sentenced to 10 years behind the bars. IJM – an organization fighting against trafficking – is happy that the judge expedited the trial process. “This is a momentous occasion for all those who have contributed to the work of justice here in Kolkata. These convictions augment the already growing desire for criminal accountability. Potential traffickers must know they will be caught and convicted,” said (Times of India 17/3/13)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ SEZ

11. Mining experts demand review of draft land acquisition Bill (4)

Nagpur, March 12:  The draft Land Acquisition Bill needs to be reviewed as land acquisition for mining and infrastructure projects is becoming increasingly difficult, say experts from Mining Engineers Association of India (MEAI). According to them, a simplified and easily implementable legislation is required with provision for adequate compensation to land losers. After the technical deliberations and discussions during a recently held National Conference on Mining, Environment and Allied Issues, MEAI, an apex body of mining experts have forwarded certain recommendations to the higher authorities in this regard. The recommendations include key issues of MMDR & legislation, Exploration, Mining Technology, Mineral Dressing, Environment, Forest and Mine Closure. MEAI sources said that the recommendations press for seamless process during grant and renewal of mining leases and transparent allocation of mineral concessions and coal blocks. The difficulties being faced by the mining lease holders in surrendering part of lease or for merger of two contiguous leases, should be looked into and considered by the state Governments and appropriate action need to be taken, the recommendations said, according to Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), Controller General, C.S. Gundewar. The mining regulatory mechanism has virtually collapsed, sources said. Reports of illegal mining activity in various mining belts of the country indicate near collapse of the mining regulatory regime, one of the causes being non-appointment of qualified and experienced officers in different regulatory organisations, vis-à-vis the size of the industry and the number of mines in operation, Gundewar told PTI. The regulatory departments and administrative ministries should be strengthened by appointing qualified and experienced regulatory officers as well as legal experts in both at Central and State levels to undertake mine inspections and further follow-up action. There is an urgent need for simplification of procedure for grant of Environmental clearance and period consumed can be substantially reduced, he said. (Business Line 12/3/13)

 

12. Affected farmers firm on opposition to land acquisition (4)

Indore, March 12, 2013: The presence of ex-Depalpur member of legislative assembly (MLA) Manoj Patel bolstered the morale of affected farmers as they remained unrelenting in their opposition to land acquisition during Monday’s hearing on a residential scheme proposed by MP Housing Board (MPHB) at

Palakhedi. Pointing out that the chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had announced that the land would not be acquired against the farmers’ wishes, Patel reportedly said the officials would have to suffer the consequences if they continued with the acquisition in spite of opposition from tillers. The tillers also slammed the MPHB for adopting dilatory tactics in response to an Right to Information (RTI) application seeking documents pertaining to the project. “We sought certified copies of the gazette notification, governmental orders and other clearances after we came to know that there were some shortcomings in the paperwork. But they (MPHB) have yet to provide us with the documents,” said Rahul. He said the MPHB had promised to furnish the documents in three days during the last hearing on Monday. “But now they’re saying it will take some more time as nearly 1,000 papers have to be photocopied,” he added. Seventy-three farmers were served notices for the project proposed on 134 hectares. The farmers have, however, been strongly opposed to the scheme since it was first announced on grounds that large tracts of village land have already been taken for other projects. “Indore Development Authority has already acquired the land at Palakhedi for Scheme No 151 and 169,” said a farmer. (Hindustan Times 12/3/13)

 

13. HC stays land acquisition for Kovvada nuclear plant (4)

HYDERABAD: In a relief to protesting villagers, a two-member bench of the AP High Court on Monday restrained the state government from issuing any notification for acquiring land for setting up a nuclear power plant in Kovvada of Ranasthalam mandal in Srikakulam district. The bench comprising acting Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justice Vilas V Afzalpurkar gave the interim stay on land acquisition in response to a public interest petition filed by Captain J Rama Rao, a social activist. Notices were issued to the state and the central governments to file their counters within two weeks. The petition challenged the very idea of setting up a nuclear power plant in the area and the consequent land acquisition proceedings launched by the state. The proposed land acquisition for the nuclear power plant with six 1000 MW light water reactors to be set up by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) will take away the livelihood of scores of fishermen and farmers apart from making the area uninhabitable, the petitioner contended. “Since no clearance has been obtained from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the land acquisition notification issued by the state is an exercise in futility,” he said. Till today, the state and the Centre have not obtained clearance from the AERB but the state government is going ahead with its land acquisition process, he contended. According to the petitioner, the writ petition was filed in the interests of environment and the rights of the poor and innocent people and to get justice for them. The Kovvada villagers have been on a relay hunger strike since December 18, 2012 against the proposed nuclear power plant. The state government issued GO No 42, dated November 1, 2012, approving the notification for acquisition of over 1,900 acres from Ramachandrapuram, Kotapalem and its hamlets, Jeeru Kovvada, Tekkali and Gudem areas. According to the petition, the risk associated with the setting up of nuclear power plants cannot be compared with any other industry or project. In case of radiation leakage or accidents, the risk transcends not only local borders but also international borders. Further, the radiation can affect not only the present generation but also future generations, the petitioner said. The judge while directing the authorities to file their counters directed the state not to issue 4(1) notification under the Land Acquisition Act. (Times of India 13/3/13)

 

14. “Not for forcible acquisition, but heritage structures are an exception” (4)

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, while ruling out the forcible acquisition of land even for infrastructure projects, said here on Friday that there was no question of a “compromise” when it came to heritage structures, which are “national assets.” She was speaking at a function where the deed of the house in the city in which Sister Nivedita lived was handed over to representatives of the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission. Earlier this year, Ms. Banerjee had handed over the deed of the property adjacent to the house of Swami Vivekananda. The property had been acquired by the State government after it learnt that a massive construction had been planned on the site, which would obscure the view of Swami Vivekananda’s house. “I am opposed to forcible land acquisition. But these are our national assets…There can be no compromise,” Ms. Banerjee said. The Chief Minister said that before acquiring Sister Nivedita’s house in Bagbazar in the city, she had tried to negotiate the matter with the owner of the property and had been willing to offer up to Rs. one crore, but was refused. “At that time I decided that enough is enough. I asked the Land Department to start the proceedings to acquire the property,” Ms. Banerjee said adding that she was capable of being “rough and tough” when it came to taking difficult decisions. “If they [the owners of the property] want to go to court on the matter then we shall fight them in court,” she asserted. Ms. Banerjee also said that the State government will in no way interfere with the functioning of educational institutions run by the Ramakrishna Mission and its sister organisations.

 

“There is a certain way in which you run these institutions from sunrise to sunset. Why should there be any political interference?” she asked. (The Hindu 15/3/13)

 

15. Puri opposes temple admn’s move for land acquisition (4)

Puri: Hundreds of activists of the Bhu Suraksha Parishad and members of the Puri District Bar Association led by Parishad convenor Surendranath Dash and Bar Association secretary Sarada Samal on Friday gheraoed the Puri Tehsildar office for hours and later submitted a memorandum to Sub-Collector Uddhav Chandra Majhi for onward dispatch to the State’s Governor. The activists have been agitating against the Revenue Department circular which asked revenue officers to settle all lands having lineage to Lord Jagannath in favour of the Shree Jaaagannath Temple Managing Committee and to delete the Marfatdar (intermediary) status from the land records. They flayed the circular, saying it amounts to contempt of court. They pointed out that s five-member Supreme Court Bench had clearly interpreted the status of the endowment of Lord Jagannath and that of the mutts. Besides, several cases in this regard are also pending in the Supreme Court for adjudication and this circular just opposes it, they said. The activists urged the State Governor to ask the Government to desist from taking forcible possession of lands from the residents who have constructed houses and living there after buying the lands from the mutts with due permission from the Commissioner of Endowments. The residents would resist any such attempt by the temple administration to take forcible possession of the lands, they said. Many senior lawyers lambasted the temple administration’s “illegal” attempt to take all the lands from the residents on the pretext of recovering temple property. It may be noted that following persistent agitation by the residents the Chief Minister had asked a committee to examine the issue and address the difficulties of the residents. The committee had as its members the Chief Secretary, Advocate General, Law Secretary, local MLA Maheswar Mohanty and local MP Pinaki Mishra. While the committee was on the job, the circular issued by the Revenue Secretary and the RDC is illegal and aimed to defuse the process and to put the residents in difficulty, the agitation leaders stated.   (Pioneer 16/3/13)

 

16. Not for forcible acquisition, but heritage structures are an exception: Mamata (4)

KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, while ruling out the forcible acquisition of land even for infrastructure projects, said here on Friday that there was no question of a “compromise” when it came to heritage structures, which are “national assets.” She was speaking at a function where the deed of the house in the city in which Sister Nivedita lived was handed over to representatives of the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission.  Earlier this year, Ms. Banerjee had handed over the deed of the property adjacent to the house of Swami Vivekananda. The property had been acquired by the State government after it learnt that a massive construction had been planned on the site, which would obscure the view of Swami Vivekananda’s house.  “I am opposed to forcible land acquisition. But these are our national assets…There can be no compromise,” Ms. Banerjee said.  The Chief Minister said that before acquiring Sister Nivedita’s house in Bagbazar in the city, she had tried to negotiate the matter with the owner of the property and had been willing to offer up to Rs. one crore, but was refused. “At that time I decided that enough is enough. I asked the Land Department to start the proceedings to acquire the property,” Ms. Banerjee said adding that she was capable of being “rough and tough” when it came to taking difficult decisions.  “If they [the owners of the property] want to go to court on the matter then we shall fight them in court,” she asserted. Ms. Banerjee also said that the State government will in no way interfere with the functioning of educational institutions run by the Ramakrishna Mission and its sister organisations.  “There is a certain way in which you run these institutions from sunrise to sunset. Why should there be any political interference?” she asked. (The Hindu 17/3/13)

 

TRIBALS

17. Tribals duped by Bijlani look for justice (6)

Mumbai: Even as Mumbai crime branch readies to attach absconding builder Suresh Bijlani’s properties since he’s wanted in the SK Lahoria murder case, a Katkari tribal Bijlani also allegedly duped by him, is hoping for justice. Septuagenarian Ratan Navsha Katkari from Dhamoli, Kharghar can’t read and his eye-sight’s failing. He rues the illiteracy, that he alleges, Bijlani exploited. CIDCO acquired five acres owned by Katkari’s family in 1972 while developing Navi Mumbai’s satellite city. Under the compensation package they were offered a developed (with water & sewage connections) 1,750sqm plot in Kharghar. “Till 2007 I struggled to get the land. After 35 years when we got it its been usurped and a 17-storey building is being built there,” he complained. In 2007, Katkari and his family members were taken to an office which the builder’s henchmen claimed was CIDCO. A gun was put to their heads and the goons threatened to shoot if they did not comply. Thumb impressions of the family were forcibly taken on a paper. The next day Katkari and five other members of his family each got a Rs2 lakh cheque from the builder’s henchmen. Since the Lahoria murder, Katkari was called to the Economic Offence Wing, Navi Mumbai where he was questioned about the deal. AK Sharma, Navi Mumbai Commissioner of Police says he “can only talk about Bijlani once investigation teams are done with their job”. Indavi Tulpule of Shramik Mukti Sanghatna which is working with Katkaris in the Thane-Raigad belt expressed surprise that anyone was buying land belonging to a tribal. “This cannot be done under the law,” she said. (DNA 10/3/13)

 

18. ‘Govt to utilize full budgetary allocation for tribal welfare’ (6)

PANAJI: The department of tribal welfare has set a target of financing 1,000 houses to tribals in Goa under the Atal Asra scheme this year, tribal welfare minister Ramesh Tawadkar said on Monday. Slamming the previous Congress government for neglecting the ST population of Goa during its rule, Tawadkar objected to the recent statements by Congress leaders that the BJP was neglecting the ST population of Goa. Briefing the media along with Sanvordem BJP MLA Ganesh Gaonkar, Tawadkar said that ever since he took over the tribal welfare department, he has initiated work to start implementing the provisions of the Forest Rights Act in Goa. “The Congress has no moral right to blame us on this front. Of the 300 crore marked for tribal welfare, the Congress had utilized only 30 crore. The Congress government did nothing about the 12 demands of the ST population in Goa,” Tawadkar said. He said that he has created proper office infrastructure for tribal welfare in the Shram Shakti Bhavan in Panaji. In the last about six months, he has initiated about six new schemes for tribals in Goa. The budgetary allocation for tribals is neither diverted nor lapses and will be carried forward for the development of tribals, Tawadkar said. (Times of India 12/3/13)

 

19. Tribal women outnumber males (6)

BHOPAL: Women in state, especially those from tribal areas, seem to be much more aware about their voting rights than their male counterparts. This has come to light in the voters’ list published on January 15. In at least 20 districts—primarily tribal dominated districts—women showed more enthusiasm for enrolling in voters’ list as compared to males in 2012. This despite the fact that still about 10 lakh eligible women are out of the voters’ list even after publication of updated voters’ list. As per statistics provided by office of chief electoral officer, MP, the voter sex ratio – the number of female voters per 1000 male voters in the state- is still 895 against the population sex ratio of 930 as stated in the census 2011 report. “We took several measures for improving women enrolment as a result voters sex ratio has improved significantly. Even in districts like Morena the electoral sex ratio has increased from 700 per 1000 to 800 in a year,” chief electoral officer of Madhya Pradesh, Jaideep Govind told TOI. Interestingly, districts where more women voters got themselves enrolled in electoral list during 2012 are mainly tribal dominated districts. They include Dindori, Mandla, Balaghat, Betul, Shahdol, Shajapur, Burhanpur, Neemuch and other such districts. In some of the districts’ difference in female and male voter registration in 2012 is as much as 8,000. Like in Balaghat which is considered a tribal district around 35,021 new female voters were registered against the 27,524 new male voters. Similarly in Khargone 59,690 voters were enrolled against 55,461 for the same period. “We had roped in tribal welfare department as well as women and child development department to help improve voters’ sex ratio and it has really worked”, Govind said. More than around 75 lakh voters were added in the voters’ list, a new record for the state, he added. (Times of India 13/3/13)

 

20. State Cong leaders told to focus on tribal growth (6)

Bhubaneswar: All India Congress Committee (AICC) vice president Rahul Gandhi while discussing with the MPs of Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand at the Parliamentary party office in New Delhi on Thursday advised the latter to concentrate on the tribal issues to woo the voters. During his one- and- a- half hour brainstorming session with the MPs, the Gandhi scion emphasised on the tribal voters to revive their faith on the party. Rajya Sabha member Ram Chandra Khuntia said the meeting was a routine work of the party regarding strengthening the party for the coming 2014 general elections. Rahul stressed on proper delivery of Government facilities and programmes for the welfare of the tribals, he added. Sundargarh Congress MP Hemananda Biswal said Gandhi zeroed in on the core issues of the tribals concerning land disputes. A two-member committee from each State would submit a ground report on the tribal issue to Rahul and then he would prepare the agenda, Biswal added. Rahul called upon the MPs to reach out to the tribal leaders and sensitise them about various programmes, schemes and plans for the welfare of the community. He also set his goal on the organisational strengthening of the party. Notably, recently Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Union Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo had visited tribal prone areas including Sunabeda, Kalahandi and Niyamgiri to announce their plans and programmes for the development of the area. This showed the party has been tribal centric policy of the Congress before the upcoming general elections. (Pioneer 15/3/13)

 

21. Cong questions irregularities in sale of tribal farmers land (6)

RAIPUR: Opposition Congress staged a walkout in the Chhattisgarh Assembly on Friday over alleged irregularities in granting permission to sell land of tribal farmers in newly-formed Balod district in the state. Raising the issue during question hour, leader of opposition Ravindra Choubey sought to know how many tribal farmers had taken permission to sell their land in Balod and how many of them were given a nod in this regard. He also sought to know which farmers were given permits, when did they sell the land and to whom at what prices. In his reply, revenue and disaster management minister Dayaldas Baghel said as many as 29 farmers had submitted applications requesting to provide permission to sell their land, of which 14 were given permits while three were cancelled. Applications of 12 farmers were under consideration. Choubey said the farmers should have been given permits only after ensuring that they have enough land to earn livelihood for their family, apart from suitable amount on sale of land. He alleged irregularities in granting permission to allow the sale of land of farmers. Later, Baghel said that application of several farmers was under consideration and denied any irregularities in the procedure. Not satisfied with minister’s reply, Congress legislators later staged a walkout. (Times of India 16/3/13)

 

22. Probe ordered in Lendhi dam construction (6)

Mumbai: Construction of the dam has yet to be completed but the contractor has already been paid crores of rupees by the government. There is not a drop of water in the dam located in the tribal-dominated Jawhar taluka. Also, around 70 tribal families, displaced by the dam have neither been compensated nor rehabilitated, he said. Pandit said tenders for the project were awarded by the state government even without acquiring the land. This was done in clear violation of the existing rules. Tatkare informed the House that a detailed report had been sought from executive director of Kokan Irrigation Development Corporation regarding the alleged irregularities in construction of the dam and action would be initiated after the report was received, he said. Locals have opposed construction of the dam. (Hindustan Times 18/3/13)

 

23. Bauxite mining in tribal areas illegal: Deo (6)

Visakapatanam: Prime minister Manmohan Singh has decided not to allow  mining of the bauxite reserves in the Agency areas of Visakhapatnam since the MoUs signed by the state government with private companies are unconstitutional,  Union minister of tribal welfare and panchayat raj V Kishore Chandra Deo has said. Participating in a public meeting here on Sunday along with chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, he said the agreements had been cancelled under Article 244 of the Constitution. In 2007 the state government  signed two MoUs with AnRak and Jindal Aluminium on bauxite-mining in Chintapalle and Araku areas. The Union tribal welfare ministry objected to the MoUs and asked the state government to cancel them. Backing his colleague in the Union ministry, Union minister of environment and forest Jairam Ramesh asked the chief minister not to think of bauxite-mining in the next 20 years. Bauxite-mining in  agency areas in collaboration with private companies was illegal, he declared. (Indian Express 18/3/13)

 

MINORITIES: MUSLIMS, CHRISTIANS & COMMUNAL RIOTS

24. UPA confines EOC to minority rights (7)

New Delhi: The Congress party’s addiction to minority appeasement and the tendency among the UPA ministers to fight over turf has led to the distortion of the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC), once touted as the ‘ultimate equaliser that an unequal Indian Society can get’. Instead, the UPA has decided that the EOC will now only address minority rights. Initially, the Social Justice Ministry had claimed that since the EOC deals with the larger issue of social justice and equality, it should be under its purview. The Home Ministry’s argument was that since the EOC would be an overlapping commission over the others, it is best to keep it under its wing. The Social Justice Ministry, Women and Child Development Ministry and the HRD Ministry also vied to be the EOC’s nodal ministry, since the commission would be the big brother of all commissions and would replace the Human Rights Commission, SC/ST Commission and Women’s Commission. “The EOC was like a Super Commission as it can deal with any issue involving the violation of equality rights. But no ministry was willing to budge,” said an official who was part of the team working on conceptualising the idea. In 2010, the PM had set up an EGoM under A K Antony to come to a settlement. Salman Khurshid, who doesn’t believe  in the tag of a ‘minority’ minister, opposed the EOC’s dilution at all the EGoM meetings. He wanted it to be a Super Commission by replacing all other commissions, as was the original intention when it was mooted in 2008. To end the bickering, the government saw a political opportunity and decided to limit the commission as a body that deals with minority issues, on the pretext that there will be no overlap between other ministries. Meanwhile, Rehman Khan, who replaced Khurshid as the Minorities Minister in the last Cabinet reshuffle in October 2012, seized the opportunity to sell it as a minority-friendly measure of his party. The commission now will be under the complete control of the Minority Ministry and would replace the National Minority Commission. The EOC’s main purpose was to counter all forms of biases-age, gender, caste, ethnicity, linguistic identity and sexual orientation. In its original form, it would have been a powerful body holding the powers of a civil court, with jurisdiction over both public and private sectors, with the authority to announce equal opportunity practice codes. “It is sad that EOC, which would have heralded a totally new approach to social equality and mobility, will now be limited to the issues of religious minorities. It was an offshoot of Sachar committee recommendations but its mandate was much bigger. Vote bank politics has killed a beautiful concept,” said an official who was part of the team that was set up to conceptualise the EOC. (Indian Express 11/3/13)

 

25. Sri Lankan Muslim group to give up Halal certification (7)

Colombo: Faced with stiff opposition by hardline Buddhist majority groups, a Sri Lankan Muslim group, which has been issuing the Halal certificates to businesses, has said it would now withdraw the practise. The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), Sri Lanka’s main body of Islamic scholars, said that Halal certification would now be limited to export products meant for Islamic nations. “We are giving up what is very important to Muslims. We are making a sacrifice in the interest of peace and ethnic harmony,” Rizwe Mufthi of the ACJU said. The Buddhist extremist Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Force) has been running a vocal protest campaign to force the end to Halal certification. Their main grouse was that non-Muslims are being forced to consume Halal certified products. Mufthi said that consumer products in the super market shelves would no longer carry the Halal certification. As an immediate reaction to BBS campaign, the ACJU had last month said that Halal products would only be offered to Muslims, which was dismissed out of hand by the BBS. Lanka’s leading trade chamber, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, said it was impractical to have Halal and non-Halal products from the same item. Responding to another criticism that the Muslim scholars of ACJU were making money out of Halal certification, the body said the certificates from now on would be issued free of charge to those who cater to export orders. Sensing racial tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the nine per cent Muslim minority over the issue, President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed a special ministerial (Indian Express 11/3/13)

 

26. Dhule in terror crosshairs; hunt on for Yasin Bhatkal (7)

New Delhi: Terrorists are eyeing Dhule — a town in northwest Maharashtra which saw communal riots in 2008 and 2013 — for their next strike, intelligence sources have told HT. Delhi and Mumbai are also high on their hit list. With intelligence inputs indicating that Indian Mujahideen terrorist group co-founder Riyaz Bhatkal wanted to target communal hotspots in the country, red flag has gone up for Dhule in north Maharashtra as a possible target of master perpetrator Yasin Bhatkal after Hyderabad as it was hit by riots in January 2013. Official sources said arrested IM operative Imran, who was picked up by Delhi Police last October, told his interrogators post-Hyderabad blasts that they had opposed Dilsukhnagar as the target to Riyaz Bhatkal as they feared huge loss of innocent lives including that off the minority community. But Riyaz, according to Imran, told them that the group will target all those places where communal riots have taken place. Two persons of the minority community also lost their lives and another four were injured in the twin blasts. Post February 21 twin blasts in Hyderabad, round the clock vigil has been mounted to nab Yasin Bhatkal as there is substantive evidence that the baseball cap wearing man behind February 2010 Pune Bakery blast was also the bomber of Dilsukhnagar. The other bomber is suspected to be Assadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, the Azamgarh man who escaped the Batla House encounter in September 2008. State Police sources said the use of freshly painted bicycles with reinforced handles for stability, white cloth bags containing explosive devices in aluminum container all point to Yasin Bhatkal as the mastermind. Although the security agencies are focusing on Hyderabad Old City for a possible accomplice, they suspect that the bombers left the city much before the blasts. (Hindustan Times 12/3/13)

 

27. UMF demands release of innocent Muslim youth (7)

The United Muslim Forum (UMF) on Wednesday accused investigating agencies of promoting the ‘Hindutva agenda’ by holding innocent Muslim youth in jails without any evidence. More than 10,000 youth were languishing in different jails in the country, some for close to eight years, without any charge-sheet filed against them. “It’s time the police and its various agencies were purged of the Hindutva elements,” said Abdul Rahim Quraishi, president, UMF. Mr. Quraishi was speaking to presspersons after a meeting of the UMF, an umbrella organisation, comprising non-political Muslim religious, social and intellectual organisations. Mr. Quraishi demanded the immediate release of innocent youth against whom the police failed to provide evidence. In cases like Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Shareef and Samjhauta Express blasts, disciplinary action should be taken against police for falsely implicated Muslim youth. If the erring police personnel were not prosecuted, it would only amount to encouraging the Hindutva elements in the force, Mr. Quraishi said. He regretted that the DRDO scientist in Bangalore who was given a clean chit by courts was dropped from service while Col. Purohit jailed in the Malegaon blast case was getting his salary. “What kind of justice is this?” the UMF leader asked. He wondered why the RSS leader, Indrish Kumar, whose name figured in the confessional statements of the accused was not subjected to investigation. Stating that the targeting of Muslim youth was maligning the government’s image, Mr. Quraishi said Muslims hereafter would think twice before exercising their franchise. They would certainly not vote parties which swear by secularism and promote Hindutva agenda. The UMF will hold a meeting to highlight the harassment of Muslim youth in the recent bomb blast in the city on Saturday evening at Urdu Ghar in Moghalpura, he said. (The Hindu 14/3/13)

 

28. Government discriminating against minorities: NCP (7)

PANAJI: The state unit of the Nationalist Congress party (NCP) on Friday accused the BJP government of discriminating against the minorities while sanctioning benefits under the Laadli Laxmi and the Griha Aadhaar schemes.Blaming the government of misutilizing government schemes to create discord among religious communities, the NCP has threatened to approach the planning commission of India and also the human rights commission for gross violation of human rights. Briefing the media, NCP spokesperson Trajano D’Mello said that information he has obtained under the Right to Information showed that there were 40,000 applications for the Griha Aadhar scheme and 15,890 were sanctioned. Of these, only 2,615 were Christians and 322 were Muslims, D’Mello said. Asked if he had the community-wise breakup of the 40,000 applicants, D’Mello said that the department of women and child development, that oversees the schemes, did not have the information. Dismissing the media’s suggestion that there might have been less applications from the minority communities, D’Mello said that the “minorities in Goa are being treated as second class citizens under the present chief minister.” D’Mello also said that the RTI information also showed that of the 150-crore allotted for each of the above schemes, the department had till date utilized less than 25% for the schemes. He blamed the women and child development minister Dilip Parulekar of total inefficiency. The NCP spokesperson also demanded that the chief minister amend the Goa Panchayati Raj Act in the forthcoming session of the Goa Legislative assembly. (Times of India 16/3/13)

 

29. Muslim groups condemn lower consensual sex age (7)

New Delhi: Three leading Muslim groups are against the government decision to lower the age for consensual sex, saying it will be a blow to family and social values. Some of the groups are asking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to withdraw the proposal. The Jamaat Islami Hind, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and the Muslim Majlis Mushwarat, an apex body of Muslim social and religious groups, said the move will have “dangerous consequences” for the society. The government must abandon the proposal, they said. “Lowering the age limit for sex outside marriage will prove detrimental for social values and India’s family structure,” said Nusrat Ali of Jamaat Islami Hindi. A group of ministers headed by finance minister P Chidambaram has decided that the age for consensual sex will be lowered from 18 to 16 years. The central government formed the group to finalize the anti-rape law. Ali said this provision would lead to “sexual anarchy” in India as school going children aged 16 and above will get involved in sexual activities. “We are of the view that sex (outside marriage) should be a crime. It must be a punishable offense irrespective of the age limit,” Ali said. “As for lowering the age limit for consensual sex, this will lead to an unimaginable socially corrupt situation in the society. “Not only this, this provision will increase crime against women rather than controlling it. “We want the government to withdraw it and declare sex outside marriage a cognizable offence,” he said. Maulana Ahmed Ali Quasi of the Muslims Majlis Mushwarat shared the sentiments. He said the government should have sought the opinion of religious groups on this sensitive issue. “One must visualise its impact on the whole society,” he said. “It will harm the Indian social system.” The All India Muslims Personal Law Board also opposed the move. “It is an irony that the government proposes to lower the age of sex to 16 when the marriagable age is for girls in 18,” senior functionary Abdul Rahim Quereshi said. He said pre marital sex was against social norms and culture. (Hindustan Times 17/3/13)

 

30. Christians after Shias (7)

After a series of deadly attacks on the Shia community in various parts of the country, Pakistan’s Christians are now at the crosshairs of religious extremists. The Express Tribune reported on March 10: “An over 3,000-strong mob set ablaze more than 150 houses of Christians in Lahore’s Joseph Colony over alleged blasphemous remarks against Prophet Muhammad by Sawan Masih, a 28-year-old Christian sanitation worker… Sawan was arrested on Friday when his Muslim friend, Shahid Imran, accused him… of blasphemy, triggering an exodus of fearful Christians from the neighbourhood”. This sparked protests by Christians across the country. Pakistan’s chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, took suo motu cognisance of the issue and summoned reports from Punjab’s inspector general and attorney general. The News reported on March 13 that when the first hearing of the case took place on March 11, the court rejected the Punjab government’s report. “The initial report of the incident was presented by the advocate general, according to which compensation had been paid to the victims of Joseph Colony. The chief justice remarked that providing compensation was the government’s responsibility and asked why precautionary measures were not taken if there was information pertaining to the attack.” This has reignited the debate on Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law. On March 12, Daily Times wrote in an editorial: “The Christian community has largely reconciled with their fate… They did protest in the past, but never became violent and had it not been the rowdy behaviour of the police, the Badami Bagh [Joseph Colony] protest would have remained peaceful. It is perhaps the apathy of the government that has drawn such a sharp reaction from a community that has been taking in its stride brutal actions taken against them. It is maybe now a learned fact that unless one… becomes aggressive, the government would not do anything to change the status quo… The blasphemy law needs careful reinterpretation. The legal gap in the law that allows arrest without evidence, giving power to the complainer and making the police his helpless stooges, is a breach of international human rights…”  (Indian Express 17/3/13)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

31. Farmers and labour organisations to launch stir from March 18 (14)

Jalandhar: Demanding the release of farmers and others arrested during the recent rail roko drive in the state, farmers and farm-labourer organisation have decided to launch state-vide indefinite stir in every district headquarter from March 18. Manjit Singh Dhaner, the leader of Bharti Kisan Union (Dhakonda), said this after a meeting of various organisations. “On March 12, effigies of state government would be burned in every district and on March 15 we will organise a meeting of coordination committees to make this stir a sucess,” he said. Another leader Hardev Singh Sandhu alleged that both the UPA government and the state government were non-serious to the problems faced by the common man and the labour class, said another leader Hardev Singh Sandhu. “Scores of villagers are living under the threat of unemployment and they are not comfortable to meet their both ends but the governments are burdening them with different levies and taxes under the pressure of capitalists.” (Hindustan Times 10/3/13)

 

32. Delhi to witness a street vendor’s parliament (14)

NEW DELHI: It’s going to be a different kind of parliament in the national capital on March 13. A large number of street vendors and their representatives from different states are joining the agitation for the ‘Street Vendors Parliament’ (SVP) at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday to press for the enactment of the Street Vendors’ Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending Act in the current session of the Parliament. Organized by the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), the main platform of street vendors of 23 states across India, the SVP looks forward to a comprehensive and effective central legislation for protection of livelihood, social security and human rights of street vendors. According to Arbind Singh NASVI national coordinator, the struggle for getting a comprehensive and effective central law to protect the livelihood, social security and human rights of street vendors has entered into the last phase with the Standing Committee of the Parliament set to table its report on the floor of the House. “The expectations of street vendors are that the current UPA Government would not delay further and get the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill turn into an Act” said Singh who has the support and solidarity of many livelihood and labour rights activists and trade unionists that would join the assembly. While the government of India had announced the National Policy for Urban Street Vendors in 2004 which was revised later in 2009, its implementation remained unsatisfactory rendering street vendors insecure and vulnerable. Taking cognisance of the plight of street vendors, even the Supreme Court in October 2010, directed the government to enact a law to ensure the protection of their right to livelihood. “Post Supreme Court verdict and sustained efforts of street vendors last year, the much awaited Street Vendors’ Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 6 September, 2012″, said Singh. Describing the central legislation in this direction as a critical, social and political need of urban India, NASVI members feel that an effective law would act against the continuing abuse and forced eviction of vendors which are currently going on in several cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Surat, Vadodra, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Lucknow and Kolkata. The street vendors Parliament on March 13 also aims to give a wake-up call to the Delhi Municipal Corporation, now in three parts, and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) for preferring to sleep over the applications of approximately 1.35 lakh street vendors (submitted in 2007) denying them vending licenses. (Times of India 12/3/13)

 

33. ‘Only 57 pc works completed under MGNREGA in J&K’ (14)

Jammu: Only 57 per cent of works under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) have been completed in Jammu and Kashmir with 90 per cent of funds already utilised. According to state Rural Development Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar, an amount of Rs 786.48 crore had been released by both state and Centre under MGNREGA for 1,10,115 works from 2010 to January 31, 2013 but only 63,158 works have been completed at an expenditure of Rs 707.76 crore. The minister has said this in response to a question by Congress legislator Shenaz Ganai in the Upper House of the State Legislature here today. The data shows that while the government has spent nearly 90 per cent of Rs 786.48 crore for various works in the past three years, it has only been able to complete 57.73 per cent of the total 1,10,115 works undertaken by it. In 2010-11, the government has spent Rs 131.88 crore under the scheme for the completion of 11,049 works, while in 2011-12 it incurred an expenditure of Rs 314.77 crore to complete 25,921 works. However, the works taken up by the government during 2010-11 stood at 20,442 and the funds released for these works was Rs 150.03 crore. Similarly, for the year 2011-12, a sum of Rs 366.37 crore was released for 42,649 works, according to the data issued by the government. Meanwhile, the Minister said that 351.34 lakh man-days were generated under MGNREGA in the past three years till January 31, 2013. Sagar further said that an amount of Rs 2.43 crore, Rs 13.2 crore and Rs 20.23 crore has been allotted during the years 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 ending January respectively under Rural Sanitation Scheme. (Zee News 13/3/13)

 

34.  ‘Bill for street vendors may get passed in current session’ (14)

New Delhi: Union minister of housing and urban poverty alleviation Ajay Maken assured that the Street Vendors (Livelihood Protection and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill will be passed in the current session of the Parliament. A parliamentary standing committee has tabled its report regarding the Bill in the House. “Nearly 2.5 per cent of the city’s population will be eligible for vending licences under the upcoming legislation. It will be mandatory to form town and zonal vending committee in each and every city,” said Maken at an event organised by National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI).  “Such committees will have 40 per cent representation from elected representatives of vendor organisations, 10 per cent from NGOs and rest will be town planners, administrators, police and elected peoples’ representatives,” he said. Expressing concern over harassment and eviction of street vendors, he said, “Till the time the Bill comes into effect, no vendor should be evicted and displaced. The municipal bodies across all urban centres should halt their vendor eviction drives.” He urged the civic authorities to process pending vending licences to vendors who applied in 2007. (Deccan Herald 14/3/13)

 

35. Minimum wages bill soon, says govt (14)

New Delhi: The government proposes to prescribe statutory national-level minimum wages for all kinds of employments, which will be revised every five years on the basis of NSSO consumer expenditure survey, labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge said on Friday. Replying to a Calling Attention Motion in the Rajya Sabha over the recent All-India strike by Trade Unions and workers of organised and unorganised sector, he said the Union Cabinet approved the amendments to prescribe a National Floor Level Minimum Wages (NFLMW) on February 22 and a bill will be brought before Parliament in “due course”. Besides, a proposal to bring parity in the wages of contract workers with those on the rolls is “under active consideration” of the government, he said. On changes in the Minimum Wages Act, he said at present the provisions of the act are not applicable to those employments where the total number of workers in a state is less than one thousand. “After the amendment, the act will be appplicable to all employments. The NFLMW will be revised every five years on the basis of NSSO Consumer Expenditure,” Mr Kharge said. On the contract labour issue, the minister said that a draft note to amend the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act has been prepared. N(Asian Age 16/3/13)

 

36. Workers seek social security (14)

Mandya, March 17, 2013: Hamali workers laid siege to the Labour Department building here on Saturday, demanding minimum wages and social security benefits. The members of the Karnataka State Loading and Unloading Workers’ Union and Karnataka Shramika Shakthi took out a procession to the Labour Department and shouted slogans criticising the government’s attitude towards them. Thousands of hamali workers were on contract over the past eight years. However, the department had not fixed minimum wages for them as per International Labour Organisation rules. For example, at least 1,000 people were engaged in loading and unloading works in Mandya. They were getting a meagre salary of Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 6,000, union leader Varadha Rajendra said. The protesters also demanded facilities such as health insurance, medical and education benefits, and payment of compensation upon death or accidents. Underlining the need to provide social security for the unorganised sector, C. Lakshman, an activist, said two loaders met accidental deaths in Mandya in recent months. The protesters submitted a memorandum to the district labour officer Thammanna. (The Hindu 17/3/13)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

37. Happiness and health: Not growing together (21)

India often likes to believe it could be a “super power”, but a more realistic target is to beat China first. India could even do well, for now, to match Bangladesh, a smaller neighbour with a lower per capita income, but far better human development indices.  Compared to India, fewer children die during their first five years in Bangladesh; girls stay longer in Bangladeshi schools and mothers have less chances of dying during childbirths. Should India chase growth and leave everything else to the markets or increase focus on state-run social programmes? An acrimonious debate rages on, from university classrooms to television studios. Last month, Alpa Shah of the London School of Economics joined Professor Akhil Gupta of the UCLA on BBC Radio 4′s “Thinking Allowed” show to discuss why India’s poverty-alleviation programmes don’t work. Shah called on India to review the kind of economic growth it is currently pursuing, which has led to an “economic polarisation”. In other words, an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor. “Rampant corruption and the state’s obsession with paperwork despite widespread illiteracy amongst India’s poorest citizens leads to the arbitrary distribution of state assistance,” Professor Gupta argues. Last May, the government had asked the Planning Commission to update it on how far the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) had been achieved. The MGDs are a set of eight globally agreed benchmarks to free people from extreme poverty and deprivation by 2015. The target is to reduce these by half. The plan panel reported that, of the eight goals, none looked distinctly achievable, from health to hunger. Two sub-targets were “likely” to be met, provided efforts were sustained and four are “not on track”, while four others were found to be on course. It said India was likely to be “close” to its poverty reduction target, despite no clarity on the official poverty line yet. Its 2009-10 poverty benchmark – R32 and R26 for urban and rural dwellers – was squarely criticised for being so low that few Indians would get by on it. The government had then set up a panel for a more realistic “poverty line”. “Income-poverty reduction is expected to be border line (case). But if one were to include more ‘non-income poverty indicators’, like spending on health and education, the poverty scenario could be different,” said Mahendra Dev, who heads the Mumbai-based Indira Gandhi Institute of Rural Development and is on the panel to review the vexed poverty line. In quite a contrast, China, revealing its budget allocations on March 5, announced raising welfare funds. Its largest percentage increase is in health-care spending, set to rise 27%, compared to a 16% increase last year. Much of it will go to for rural healthcare subsidies. India’s spends a tiny 1.2% of its GDP on healthcare. Of this, the Centre spends just 0.3%. Targets on primary education and HIV-prevalence reversal are likely to be met, but this is offset by abysmal teaching standards. The government’s annual education report of 2011 showed a majority of Class 5 pupils could not read Class 2 texts. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has questioned India’s “single-minded” pursuit of growth, which on its own can’t improve lives, calling for “growth-mediated development” instead. Is the government listening? (Hindustan Times 10/3/13)

 

38. States Consulted on National Food Security Bill (21)

A meeting of Food Ministers and Food Secretaries of States/Union Territories (UTs) was held on 13.02.2013 in New Delhi to discuss recommendations of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution on the National Food Security Bill, 2011. States/UTs expressed their views on recommendations of the Standing Committee on various aspects of the Bill, including coverage under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) at 75% and 50% for rural and urban population respectively, identification of beneficiaries, foodgrain entitlement of 5 kg per person per month under TPDS, sharing of expenditure etc. This information was given by the Minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution Prof. K.V. Thomas in a written reply in Rajya Sabha today. He said that at the current levels of production and procurement of foodgrains, any shortfall in availability of foodgrains is not foreseen, so far as meeting the estimated requirement of foodgrains under the National Food Security Bill is concerned. However, in order to ensure adequate availability of foodgrains, the Government has set a target of production of additional 25 million tons of foodgrains in the 12th Five Year Plan. Government is taking steps to increase productivity in non-traditional areas and to stabilize production in traditional areas, by seeking to improve agriculture infrastructure, promote sustainable agriculture through better national resource management and favourable terms of trade for food crops through remunerative Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) and marketing support to farmers. (Govt. of India PIB 11/3/13)

 

39. Ending poverty in UP a must for World Bank mission: Kim (21)

LUCKNOW: World Bank Group president Jim Yong rpt Yong Kim on Tuesday said the mission of the multilateral institution was to end poverty, and there is no way in achieving this objective for the country without ending it in Uttar Pradesh. “We have called on two fundamental ideas one is end to poverty… In this generation, we think that we can end the poverty,” Kim said in a joint press conference with chief minister Akhilesh Yadav here. He said there is no way the plan could be successful in achieving the aim of ending poverty without being successful in UP, where 8 per cent of the people live below the poverty line. “This is not right that people live below our level,” Kim said. The other issue on which the bank is focussed is to further ‘sheer prosperity’. “In other words, we are very focussed on economic growth which brings jobs. We know that in the developing countries 90 per cent jobs are created in the private sector, so we need the growth in this sector,” he said. (Times of India 12/3/13)

 

40. Over half population in Bihar below poverty line in 2009-10, Rajeev Shukla says (21)

NEW DELHI: More than half the population in Bihar lived below the poverty line in 2009-10, minister of state for parliamentary affairs and planning Rajeev Shukla said in Parliament today. “As per the Tendulkar methodology, 53.5% of the population in Bihar was living below the poverty line in 2009-10,” Shukla said in a written reply to Rajya Sabha. In reply to a question if the government has any special assistance to Bihar, he said special plan for Bihar was approved in 2003-04. “An allocation of Rs 1,000 crore per annum was approved for the special plan during the 10th Plan period after approval to the scheme in 2003-04 under the erstwhile Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana,” he said. Shukla said the allocation was approved to be continued during the 11th Plan period under the Backward Regions Grant Fund. And this allocation was enhanced to Rs 2,000 crore for 2010-11 and Rs 1,470 crore for 2011-12. An allocation of Rs 1,500 crore has been made for 2012-13. Funds are being released for various projects on 100 per cent grant basis, he added further. He said the aim of all these programmes is to accelerate socio-economic development in Bihar. Through the special plan for Bihar, infrastructure – particularly power, roads and irrigation – is being put in place, Shukla said. In reply to a separate question on according special status to states, he said presently 11 states are under the special category States. These states are Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand. National Development Council is the sole body to accord special category status to a state based on an integrated consideration of set of criteria,” he said. He said the status is accorded on the basis of criterion such as hilly and difficult terrain, low population density or sizeable share of tribal population, strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries, economic and infrastructural backwardness and non-viable nature of state finances. (Times of India 14/3/13)

 

41. Profligacy is no solution to rural poverty (21)

The UPA government’s decision to move the draft National Right to Homestead Bill, 2013, in Parliament shows that it has not learnt from its past mistakes. Under the proposed law, every homeless and landless poor family in rural areas will get a homestead of not less than 10 cents including a ‘dwelling’ with ‘adequate’ facilities. According to the 11th Plan document, 8 million of 13-18 million landless rural families are homeless. The Bill has been drawn up with a view to winning the assembly elections due this year and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The UPA believes that it was able to return to power only because of the popularity of the job guarantee scheme it had initiated during its first term. Studies have shown that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which promises 100 days of job to each rural household every year, has failed to achieve its objectives. Yet, thousands of crores of rupees, which could have been utilised to create tangible national assets, have gone down the drain. If a proper cost-benefit analysis is made, the MNREGA will end up as one of the most wasteful schemes ever introduced by the Central government. The fate of the proposed National Food Security Bill on which even the UPA government has differences of opinion and the Homestead Bill will not be any different. The determination to win elections by hook or by crook is what motivates it to think only of populist schemes. It prefers to be oblivious of the danger of profligate spending leading to price rise and inflation. The antidote to rural poverty is not populism but schemes that will increase agricultural productivity, create jobs in rural areas and, thereby, arrest migration to urban areas. Instead of introducing such schemes, which may not yield immediate electoral dividends but will strengthen the economy, it has been thinking only of short-term gains. (Indian Express 15/3/13)

 

42. Land lost to irrigation project, tribal families reel in poverty (21)

Mumbai: Displaced by an irrigation project, tribal villagers in Dhindori taluka of Nashik district have been rendered landless with the Water Resources Ministry saying they had acquired the land from the forest department and therefore rehabilitation was the responsibility of the Forest Ministry, which in turn was not willing to give the villagers land at another location. Almost 20 tribal families living for several generations in forest land in Devsana and Gogul had to forgo their land after the Forest department acquired it for Manjarpada phase 1 medium irrigation project. The villagers said the government had promised to rehabilitate them with land but the project commenced in 2008 without that happening. Villagers who cultivated rice, varai and magli are now reeling in poverty as they have no land. Narayan Pandu Bhoye, a project-affected villager, said, “Since 2008, we have been landless. The forest department asked us to vacate the land for the project. Nobody bothered to rehabilitate us.” The water resources department led by Sunil Tatkare said they acquired the land from the forest department, which was responsible for compensating the tribals. A senior water resources official said, “The land was acquired from the forest department and therefore we don’t come into the picture. The ministry of forest, relief and rehabilitation should have looked into the matter.” The Ministry of Forests headed by Patangrao Kadam, who also heads the Relief and Rehabilitation ministry, though was reluctant in providing land to villagers. A senior forest department official said, “The government is not averse to their rehabilitation. It appears they are not willing to take financial compensation. Providing land will require consent of other departments.” Dhanraj Haribhau Mahale (MLA) from Dhindori district said, “Unfortunately, these poor tribals have become victims of an inter-departmental tussle. All they are seeking is their right.” Mahale said, “Villagers are not interested in financial help. They want land.” He said, “The tribals are willing to be relocated to adjoining villages if given land rights.” Sitaram Buwaji Dhule, a villager, said, “The land acquired was in our name. The revenue department has all records.” Arjun Gaikwad said, “We have been living in the forest for generations. We were given rights to farm on five acres each by the revenue ministry. Everything is recorded with the government. Now they are saying the land belongs to the forest department and we cannot be compensated.” The villagers have sought help of Nashik guardian minister Chhagan Bhujbal. He has promised to take up their cause. (Indian Express 17/3/13)

 

RESERVATION

43. Jat activists start dharna for 27% reservation (25)

Mathura: Indefinite dharna by Jat activists, who are demanding 27 percent reservation for their community in government jobs under OBC category, today started here amid tight security. The protesters, under the banner of Akhil Bhartiya Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti, started the protest at Rasulpur village under Magorra area today. Since the spot is the border village of UP and Rajasthan, massive police force of both the states have been deployed, sources said. Railways have also deployed RPF in the area. “We would not interfere in the dharna as long as it is peaceful. Everybody has the right to put his demand in a peaceful manner,” ADM Avadhesh Tewari said. “The dharna would stretch to 100 places in 14 states within a week. “We would stop the train at 100 places, the moment we get the signal from our national president,” said Vir Pal Singh, the national secretary of Akhil Bhartiya Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti. “Jats are worried about education and future of their children. They would not hesitate to adopt any method to fulfil their demand,” he added. (Zee News 10/3/13)

 

44. Hurdles ahead of OBC quota (25)

KOLKATA: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s ambitious proposal to encourage higher education among backward classes may come up short against some “practical problems” in its implementation. The West Bengal State Higher Education Reservation in Admission Bill that provides for an additional 17% reservation for OBCs, including backward Muslims, may not be implemented before the next academic year. For starters, there is the burden of the past. Last year, 1,049 seats reserved for SC, ST, and the physically challenged had to be converted into general seats because they were going vacant even after the third round of counselling. This is what worries officials the most about the rise in quota this year. A senior higher education department official said, “It doesn’t matter how lucrative the proposal looks. At the moment, it is not possible to implement the quota from the 2013-14 academic session.” According to the bill, there is provision for 17% reservation under the OBC category (including backward Muslims), apart from the 22% reservation for SC and 6% for ST. “In order to prevent any backlash from general category candidates, the chief minister has increased the number of seats without curtailing the existing seats (under the general category),” added the official. However, any increase in the number of seats in engineering and technology institutes will require permission from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). “They will send inspection teams to the colleges and then issue a fit certificate. Only then will the colleges be allowed to implement the OBC quota. It will take some time and cannot be done in a hurry,” the official said. An official of the West Bengal Joint Entrance Examination, too, pointed out some practical glitches. “The IITs have already implemented the quota. But the existing condition of colleges and educational institutes in Bengal is not fit to accommodate reservation for OBC immediately. The capacity of classrooms and laboratories needs to be increased. Any improvement in infrastructure will require grants which are unavailable. No extra seats can be accommodated in major universities like Jadavpur University, Calcutta University or the private colleges affiliated to West Bengal University of Technology (WBUT). Most importantly, there is a time constraint,” he said. The source added that there wasn’t adequate infrastructure in core departments of engineering like mechanical, civil, electrical and chemical. “Such departments need expensive instruments. It is not possible to arrange for funds in such a short time. Moreover, many engineering colleges at present take students to laboratories on rotation due to dearth of infrastructure. It would be difficult to accommodate more students,” he explained. “The infrastructure needs a boost as existing facilities are not adequate to increase seats in engineering. AICTE also has to agree and extend permission to admit more candidates. Seats are already lying vacant in various engineering colleges and now if a quota is implemented, more seats will go unoccupied. The intension of the CM is noble. But, there are some practical problems that need to be addressed before giving a go-ahead,” said vice-chancellor of WBUT, Samir K Bandopadhyay. According to the plan, once the OBC quota is implemented, a separate merit list will be published for such candidates as is the case for ST, SC and physically handicapped candidates. “The cut-off is likely to remain the same for all applicants availing the quota and the latter need to score a positive mark to reach the rank. A candidate can only apply if he scores more than 40% marks in physics, chemistry and mathematics combined,” said a JEE official…. (Times of India 12/3/13)

 

45. Jats to intensify stir over job quota issue (25)

HISAR: With their ultimatum ending on Tuesday and the government not promising quota to the community members in Central government jobs, Jat agitators have decided to intensify their stir. After a rally organized by All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) on March 6, the Jat agitators have launched a stir at Mayyar village, where six protesters have gone on a fast unto death from March 7. Dharampal Chhot, state president, AIJASS, said, “The government had promised to take up the Jat reservation issue during the Vidhan Sabha session. But not a single word about the issue was raised there. As such, we have decided to intensify the stir.” He said that as the government has failed to hold talks with them so far, their 11-member committee has decided to intensify the stir at more places in Haryana. “We will launch dharnas at Gajuwala village from March 15 and at Sonipat and Fatehabad districts and other places in Haryana,” Chhot added. Meanwhile, Jat protesters held a “Hawan-Jayjna” at Mayyar village on the first death anniversary of Sandeep Karwasra, who had died in police firing. Of the six protesters, including a woman, who are holding fast unto death over the reservation issue, the condition of two protesters has become serious, sources said. (Times of India 13/3/13)

 

46. Jat activists block national highway over reservation (25)

Hisar (Haryana): Jat activists on Sunday blocked the Hisar-Delhi National Highway in Mayyar village here after police “forcibly” carried away five of their members, who were on a fast unto death demanding OBC status for the community. The members of All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharash Samiti (AIJASS) demanded that all the five protesters who were lifted by police Saturday from the dharna place, should be released from civil hospital. Additional Deputy Commissioner Ashok Garg, who rushed to the spot, appealed to the activists to end their agitation. The ADC assured that they would be discharged from the hospital when their condition improved. Yesterday, police had lifted five agitators sitting on fast-unto death and admitted them to civil hospital here for treatment as their health became deteriorating. Ram Bhagat Malik, spokesman of the Samiti, announced that their struggle would continue till the acceptance of their demand for 27 per cent reservation in government jobs for the community. Meanwhile, the Haryana Health Department is closely monitoring the health condition of the five agitators at the civil hospital. (Zee News 17/3/13)

 

47. Tiwary slams his party’s upper caste policy (25)

New Delhi: Senior JD(U) leader Shivanand Tiwary on Sunday slammed his own government’s decision in Bihar to constitute an Upper Caste Commission by claiming that the poor from among the upper castes should not get any reservation benefits. While addressing the “Adhikar rally” at Ramlila Maidan in the national capital in support of the demand for the special category status for Bihar, Mr Tiwary claimed that a good economy would take care of the needs of the poor among the upper castes. Mr Tiwary’s statement was seen as another attempt by the JD(U) leadership to inconvenience the alliance partner BJP in the state, which counts on the support of the upper castes during elections. Mr Tiwary is considered close to the Bihar chief minister and is also a known BJP-baiter. “I don’t think the upper castes should be given any reservation benefit. The quota is strictly made for the backward classes and dalits,” said Mr Tiwary, while flaying the decision of the NDA government in Bihar to constitute the Upper Castes Commission to look into the grievances of poor from among the upper castes. The Upper Castes Commission is also mandated to suggest ways for the socio-economic empowerment of the poor among the upper caste. Speaking his mind in the presence of the Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, the senior JD(U) leader said: “The constitution of the commission is just an unnecessary and useless step, I don’t know why it has been done. I strongly oppose any move to grant upper classes any quota benefit.” (Asian Age 18/3/13)

 

Posted by admin at 18 March 2013

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Tihar stonewalls Guru RTI, cites ‘sovereignty concerns’ (1)

Lucknow: Can disclosure of certain details on parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, hanged at New Delhi’s Tihar Jail, ‘affect relations with a foreign state’? The prison department certainly thinks so. It would “pre-judicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the state, relation with foreign state or lead to incitement of an offence,” the Tihar Jail said in a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query by Urvashi Sharma of Lucknow. The prison headquarters (office of the director general of prisons) has cited various clauses which could jeopardise the relations of India with foreign countries if details like the copy of the ‘black warrant’ of Afzal Guru, copies of communication sent by ministry of home affairs after taking a decision on the mercy petition, and the total expenses, item wise on keeping Afzal in jail. Sharma had also sought copies of documents or letters generated, sent and received by the prison department during the process of deciding the place of burial. Sharma had also asked for the names of the executioner(s), list of people present during the burial of Guru’s dead body and any photographs that “could be fraught with security concerns”.But, she was taken aback by the curt response of the prison department stonewalling “innocent queries” like expenses incurred on his stay in Tihar Jail. “This is completely unacceptable. Why can they not part with communications leading to the rejection of his mercy petition and subsequent hanging,” Sharma asked while speaking to IANS. She claimed had the prison department responded positively, several “conspiracy theories and human rights queries would have been satiated”.”There has been several protests regarding the secretive circumstances Afzal Guru was hanged in and the quiet burial…(the) prison department of Tihar Jail and the union government must come clean on this matter,” the RTI activist said, adding she was exploring options to file a  review petition. Afzal Guru, a resident of Sopore in Jammu and Kashmir was convicted for plotting the terror attack on Parliament on Dec 13, 2001 and was hanged Feb 9 at Tihar Jail after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy petition. (Hindustan Times 2/3/13)

 

2. Civil society groups condemn attack on RTI activists (1)

PANAJI: : Political parties and civil society groups, including right to information (RTI) activists on Sunday condemned the attack on RTI activists and the disruption of Goa RTI Forum meeting by “mining affected people” in Margao on Saturday. “The senseless attack yesterday at Margao on RTI activists Jose Maria Miranda, Srikant Barve, Judith Almeida, Dilip Hegde, John Phillip Pereira, Rajshree Nagarsekar, Bhushan Bhave, Kim Miranda, and Jawahar Dias is deplorable. We all sympathise with the plight of people dependent on mining. But nothing can override the interests and welfare of Goa,” said activist Aires Rodrigues in a press release on Sunday. He said the destruction of Goa, which was going on in the name of mining, could not have continued unhindered. In fact this was repeatedly highlighted by Manohar Parrikar when he was Leader of the Opposition. But once he came to power he had claiming that there was no illegal mining in Goa, he said. Mr. Rodriguez said nobody could take the law in their hands and that if Mr. Parrikar, as Chief Minister and Home Minister, could not ensure law and order he needs to resign. He blamed the Chief Minister for the mishandling of the mining issue and said, “ His confrontational attitude with the Supreme Court and the Union government is seen as supportive of illegal mining and will necessarily lead to resentment among the affected people.” He recalled that as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Goa Legislative Assembly, Mr. Parrikar had claimed that he had exposed the illegal mining scam. Now he was cozying up to the same miners. “The Chief Minister should realize that the issue cannot be resolved by instigating a law and order situation. Legal mining has to start in a transparent manner. The Supreme Court which is now seized of the issue and will have to ensure this. Goa’s mineral resources belong to the State and its wealth cannot be allowed to be amassed in the pockets of a few,” noted Mr. Rodrigues. Goa Suraj Party, a local outfit, also criticised the disruption of the Goa RTI Forum on Saturday. The party held the Chief Minister responsible for the failure to protect activists. Political activist Trajano D’Mello on Sunday also condemned the action of the mining affected people and warned that Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar must be very careful in his public utterances over those affected by mining lest they were taken as an instigation by the violence-loving mobs. (The Hindu 4/3/13)

 

3. Activists slam govt for RTI forum attack (1)

PANAJI: The disruption of an RTI meeting to discuss the Shah commission report on Saturday at Margao has evoked harsh criticism, with the Goa bachao abhiyan (GBA) and others alleging it to be orchestrated by vested interests protected by the state administration. “The acts of infringement of the democratic rights of citizens to organize discussions are the government’s recent tactics to divert attention from the illegal mining issue and its responsibility of bringing the criminals to book,” GBA co-convenor Sabina Martins stated. “Of late, vested interests have infiltrated all social groups to create confusion and chaos, to pit one organization against another, and to break the people’s movements. The most dangerous trend is to suppress freedom of expression through acts of lawlessness and vandalism,” Martins said. The social activists expressed their resentment at the lack of action to bring the culprits of illegal mining to book. “Despite official admission of illegal mining by the government, not a single person involved in illegal mining has been charge-sheeted, nor have the errant mine owners been made to compensate the unfortunate victims of their greed,” Martins added. GBA also took exception to chief minister Manohar Parrikar raising fears about the safety of some activists, naming them, which appears more a veiled threat than a promise of law and order. It is shameful that he has not condemned the incident,” Sabina Martins and Reboni Saha, GBA secretary said. The threat to activists was meticulously executed in the name of mining-dependent people and the police stayed away from the scene. The Goa RTI forum condemned the intelligence failure regarding the gathering of a mob, and and demanded that the government initiate a judicial enquiry into who financed the buses carrying unruly mobs to the venue. “The forum does not believe in closed-door meetings and does not act as a conspirator, but works towards ensuring that the government is accountable to the people. But the meeting held to bring the true contents of Shah commission report into the public domain was disrupted by a group adversely effected by mining,” Shrikant Barve, secretary Goa RTI forum said. (Times of India 6/3/13)

 

4. Empowering people through RTI Act (1)

Kozhikode: After a long stint in the Gulf, which he says was just to make enough money to marry off his four daughters, the resident of Velluvambram in Malappuram district has been for the past two years doing what he does best — ask questions through the Right to Information (RTI) mechanism. Mr. Alavi, a plumber by trade, has devoted his time to questioning the State government’s policy to burden the common man with hefty power bills. He was one of the first speakers at the public hearing conducted by the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission on Wednesday. To the Commission, he introduced himself as a common man with little book knowledge but with some “worldly knowledge”. His question to the Commission: “If the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) has Rs.1,202.59 crore in dues since 2011, why cannot they take steps to collect it instead of making the common man, the poor labourer, bear the burden?” Mr.Alavi based his entire arguments before the Commission on his RTI papers. “In the seventies, I was a young man who rolled beedies. We used to sit in a large circle and someone would read the newspapers for us. Everybody talked about everything under the sun. Only our hands were tied, not our mouths. I got my information from those discussions and demonstrations we held carrying torches. That was before I left for the Gulf,” Mr. Allavi said. He came back in 2011 to learn about the Right to Information Act, 2005. “I have been using the RTI law for the past two years to know why the KSEB is charging us when it has to realise a huge amount as dues. I have already written to the KSEB chairman, secretary and the Power Minister. I had raised this issue at the Janasamparkam programme of the Chief Minister,” he said. Mr. Allavi was followed by representatives of various sectors who spoke before the Commission. The hearing saw some KSEB staffers appearing in their individual capacity as householders to complain about load-shedding. One of them suggested printing advertisements on power bills to increase the Board’s income and ways to prevent power thefts. Another consumer, T.K.A Azeez, who is the district president of the Consumer Protection Committee, suggested to the Commission that the KSEB should give early warning of load-shedding. (The Hindu 8/3/13)

 

5. Grievance redressal Bill could be the next RTI (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Campaign for the People’s Right to Information (NCPCRI) has said the grievance redressal Bill cleared by the Union Cabinet on Thursday could become a potential game-changer, provided the government ensures that redressal can take place at the district level, and the principle of federalism is respected. The NCPRI, which includes Aruna Roy of the Rajasthan-based Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), was the organization that successfully campaigned for the Right to Information (RTI) Act, and has been pushing for several years for an effective grievance redressal bill. Such a bill was also one of the demands of the Anna Hazare-led Lokpal movement. While welcoming the approval of the Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011 by the union Cabinet, the NCPRI raised some potential problems. The text of the cleared Bill, which went to the Cabinet after going through a standing committee, is not publicly available, so members of the NCPRI clarified that the issues they were raising were based on 16 slides uploaded on the Prime Minister’s Facebook page. While several states, including Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, already have legislations mandating that public services be delivered within a fixed timeframe, the NCPRI said that there was no conflict with the central Bill. “The central Bill not only guarantees time-bound delivery of goods and services, it also gives the citizen a redressal mechanism if they are not getting what is rightfully theirs. So while Delhi’s state Act might give the citizen the right to get a ration card within a certain number of days of applying for it, the central Bill will help a citizen who is not getting her rightful ration,” explained Anjali Bhardwaj, co-convener of the NCPRI. While a central Act could cover both central and state schemes, states didn’t necessarily need to repeal their laws as the citizen could have the choice whether to use the state or central Act as in the case of the RTI, said Nikhil Dey, co-convener of the NCPRI. “However there are two points over which there is a conflict with federalism: one is the provision that gives the citizen the right to approach the central public grievance commission if she is aggrieved by a decision of the state commission. The other is that orders passed by the central commission must be enforced by the state commission,” said Dey. Many states would oppose these provisions, and the government should amend them to ensure smooth passage for the Bill, he added. “Our biggest concern, however, is the information available, the government is silent on the setting up of district and sub-district-level grievance redressal authorities,” said Bhardwaj. (Times of India 10/3/13)

 

POLICE/CUSTODIAL DEATH/ ARMY

6. Police accused of ‘torture’ not paid dues (1)

CHENNAI: While sifting through evidence and cracking a sensational triple murder case, a team of 15 police personnel did not even dream that their investigation style would ruin their career. In May 2003, the cold-blooded murder of an aged woman, her daughter and grandson shook Tiruvarur district and police struggled to crack the case. Under tremendous pressure to solve the murder and arrest the culprit, the superintendent of police formed special teams involving 15 personnel in the rank of deputy superintendents of police, inspectors, SIs and others. Working through a maze and grilling several suspects in custody, the team finally nabbed the real culprit Senthil Kumar, who murdered Padmavathi, 65, her daughter Jeeva, 24, and two-and-a-half-year-old grandson Pragadeeswaran. Senthil Kumar was found guilty and awarded a triple life sentence by a district sessions court. The sentence was later confirmed by the Madras high court. The police teams came in for praise from chief minister Jayalalithaa on the floor of the assembly. When everything looked alright, complaints of custodial torture lodged by a group of suspects who were interrogated during the investigation phase of the crime shattered the dreams of the police team which was expecting rewards. Backed by human rights groups based in Madurai and elsewhere, the people approached the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), which probed the alleged custodial torture at Thirukalar police limits in Thanjavur. After an inquiry, SHRC closed the case saying it did not warrant any intervention. The State Commission for Women, which too was approached by some suspects, also arrived at a similar conclusion. But the arrival of a new superintendent of police, who referred the matter to revenue divisional officer’s inquiry turned the tide against the police personnel. The RDO inquired the complaints and submitted a report favouring criminal prosecution of the police officers and requesting the director-general of police to initiate departmental action against them. Later, the RDO, Mannargudi, lodged a case against the police officials before the additional sessions court in Thanjavur. All the officials were acquitted by the court on May 21, 2010. The public department too dropped the criminal proceedings against police personnel. As on date no criminal or departmental proceedings are pending against any member of the special team, but the officials’ ordeal is still to end. Of the 15 police personnel, seven have retired from service without ascending to their rightful posts. Eight others, who are still in service, are struggling to get promotions. (Times of India 4/3/13)

 

7. Forest officials accused of torturing poachers (1)

Kochi: Forest department officers who claim to have nabbed poachers red-handed have now been directed to appear in a test identification parade before the accused. The parade was ordered after a proactive police officer met an accused in judicial custody and recorded a statement against the forest officers accusing them of torture. Officials of the Kollengode forest range insist there were several irregularities in the case. “The poachers did not complain of torture when they were taken to the Magistrate after the arrest. The allegations were made almost a week after their arrest and confession,” said Range Forest Officer Nibu Kiran. Legal experts also pointed out that it was highly unusual for a police officer to visit an accused in judicial custody at the sub-jail to take down his statement. According to the investigators, the six poachers were found in the core area of the Nelliampathy forest by a team of eight forest officers early in December 2012. “We had been keeping a vigil after we found cigarette butts and newspapers in the core area a few days earlier,” said Mr. Kiran. Forest officers have recorded the seizure of a dead boar, bear skin, bear meat, animal fat, flashlights and lead pellets from the site. (The Hindu 5/3/13)

 

8. Court issues notice to IPS officer over ‘custodial torture’ (1)

Ahmedabad: The Ahmedabad district court has sent a notice to the IPS officer Nirlipt Rai posted at Sarkhej as sub-divisional police officer in connection with a custodial torture of an alleged bootlegger case. Ramesh Devipujak was wanted by the Sarkhej police in connection with liquor prohibition case. Ramesh had reportedly been dealing in country-made liquor for quite sometime and police were looking for him. According to his lawyers, Ramesh had surrendered himself Monday before the court fearing torture by the police. “Before handing over him, the court warned the police to deal with him as per the laws. However, Ramesh was beaten up and sustained injuries in his ears. On Tuesday, when he was produced before the court he complaint of being tortured by the police and showed injuries in his ears,” his lawyers said. However, Rai said he is yet to receive the notice. (Indian Express 7/2/13)

 

9. Prisoners beat up guards if they insist on checks’ (1)

AHMEDABAD: Call it deja vu, or the apathy of the state government to improve security in its jails. Seven years ago, former additional commissioner the late P K Jha, who investigated the Chetan Battery murder inside the Sabarmati jail bluntly admitted that jail staff were beaten up by prisoners if they insisted on routine checks. This fear still prevails in Sabarmati Central Jail and it seems nothing has changed since the report was submitted. The 2008 blasts accused were a feared lot, as were their followers. Jha pointed out how “the inefficiency of jail staff,” and “the attitude of the jail authority to ignore such criminal activities being carried out by the prisoners,” and in “the absence of putting these activities on record or taking stringent steps against the prisoners, the authority of the jail administration seems to be non-existent”. The report had pointed out how, “gambling is constantly going on in the jail by giving ‘haftas’ to the officers. If jail staff try to stop any of the activities, the prisoners have beaten up jail staff.” This pathetic state of affairs seems to prevail in jails. With “zero” intelligence network in jails and with an equally pathetic ratio of one jail staff pit against 45 deadly prisoners in a single shift, it can be said called nothing but apathy on the part of the home department to ensure the safety of its officers and also discipline. Jha also said that “Charas, alcohol, tablets of nitrazepam, brown sugar and other intoxicating items are easily available, sold and consumed in the jail.” Till 2008, these substances were reported to be seized from jails. Justice Jayant Patel of the Gujarat High Court had also added that, “The instructions issued by Additional DG (prisons) to jail staff, not to keep any weapons by them, has led to no control over the prisoners.” Justice Patel also suggested classification of prisoners by a committee of experts comprising of a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a sociologist as well as custodial and correctional officers of the district.” Justice Patel had added that, “The Committee may follow the broad classification pattern by separating the prisoners into socially conditioned and individualized criminals. Both the types should be strictly separated from each other.” This classification of prisoners is still just imaginary, and the only step jail authorities have taken is that having separated undertrials and convicts. (Times of India 12/3/13)

 

DALITS/ SCHEDULED CASTES

10. Include dalit literature in university syllabus: Experts (2)

PALANPUR: Participants at a two-day national seminar on ‘Dalit literature: Social and literary perspectives’ have stressed upon the need to include dalit literature in the university syllabus. Literary experts from various states participated at the event that concluded at BPB Arts and MH Guru Commerce College at Unjha in Mehsana district on Friday. The seminar was sponsored by University Grants Commission. In his keynote address, Satya Narayana—associate professor of English at English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) in Hyderabad—said, “An institution can do a lot to accelerate the cause of dalits. Compared to Karnataka and Maharashtra, Gujarat is lagging far behind in popularizing dalit literature. There is a need to spread dalit literature in order to inform its eminence in changing social set up.” Secretary of Gujarat Dalit Sahitya Academy, Harish Manglam, said, “Dalit is not a caste but a synonym of change, a revolution and a movement.” Palanpur: Participants at a two-day national seminar on ‘Dalit literature: Social and literary perspectives’ have stressed upon the need to include dalit literature in the university syllabus. Literary experts from various states participated at the event that concluded at BPB Arts and MH Guru Commerce College at Unjha in Mehsana district on Friday. The seminar was sponsored by University Grants Commission. In his keynote address, Satya Narayana—associate professor of English at English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) in Hyderabad—said, “An institution can do a lot to accelerate the cause of dalits. Compared to Karnataka and Maharashtra, Gujarat is lagging far behind in popularizing dalit literature. There is a need to spread dalit literature in order to inform its eminence in changing social set up.” Secretary of Gujarat Dalit Sahitya Academy, Harish Manglam, said, “Dalit is not a caste but a synonym of change, a revolution and a movement.” (Times of India 10/3/13)

 

11. Dalit body launches state-wide protest over stalled funds (2)

Patiala: Protesting against Punjab government’s failure to release Rs. 4,039 crore allocated for various welfare schemes under the Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan, the Chamar Mahan Sabha on Monday launched a state-wide agitation here. Nearly 400 agitators raised slogans against chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. They staged protest marches at different places in the city. Sabha president Paramjit Singh Kainth said the SAD-BJP government was least bothered about releasing the money meant for the welfare of the community. He further said that in order to create awareness over the issue, protest marches would be organised all over Punjab. He said earlier the National Commission for Scheduled Castes had pulled up the state government after being dissatisfied with its answer presented by the chief secretary on the issue of utilisation of the SC Sub-Plan. “Despite several assurances, the state government has failed to produce any kind of record or documentary evidence to prove any progress on this matter,” he fumed. (Hindustan Times 11/3/13)

 

12. New generation of Dalits struggles with old state of intolerance (2)

They are denied entry to temples, given restricted access to water, made to work for a pittance. Now that Orissa’s Dalits are asserting themselves against traditions, many are facing ostracism or violent attacks. Debabrata Mohanty reportsUntil a month before Naveen Patnaik became Orissa’s chief minister in March 2000, Dalit labourer Ganapati Naik, now 42, had been living a happy if impoverished life with his bride and parents in Balichhai village of Ganjam district. On February 20, Babula Nayak, 28, of the Hadi caste (one of 93 scheduled castes in Orissa) of Balichhai was buying potatoes when his hand accidentally brushed that of grocer Pradip Patra, who belonged to a higher caste. Patra hurled abuses at Nayak for “desecrating” him. The village was already tense as Dalit youths had started questioning the discrimination they had been facing for generations. Over the next few days, Dalit houses were burnt or demolished, men beaten up, and women abused and at times molested. Today, Ganapati and his family of six are cooped up in a poultry farm in Balipadar village, 10 km from Balichhai, unable to return home as the upper castes have taken over the village. The farm belongs to Ganapati’s uncle, who has rented it out to the fleeing family. “I want to go back. Who would want to stay in a dark broiler farm?” says Ganapati. “But who would guarantee my safety?” Fifty other Dalit families feel the same, having fled Balichhai to Bhubaneswar and elsewhere. In judgments in 2006 and 2011, the Orissa Human Rights Commission said the Balichhai case was a clear one of torture, social injustice and atrocities against the Dalit population by upper caste Hindus. “The district administration and the police have to work out an action plan… It would be just inhuman and unacceptable to leave a weaker section of the community suffering the atrocity caused by the rest of the community.” Dalits form a little under 17 per cent of Orissa’s four crore population and are concentrated mostly in the coastal districts. Between 2009 and 2011, police lodged over 3,700 cases under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, according to data with the state SC/ST department. In the western district of Bolangir, the houses of 50 families of Lathor village were burnt in January 2012 after a boy had reportedly “stolen” a shirt from the shop of an upper-caste owner. In Puri district, a Dalit was killed last year, allegedly by upper-caste villagers, after he refused to surrender land registered in his name. And in Kendrapara, a Dalit woman who cooked mid-day meals at a school committed suicide in November 2010, allegedly because of harassment by upper castes…. (Indian Express 13/3/13)

 

13. Dalits protest at collectorate against casteist violence (2)

GREATER NOIDA: A massive protest took place at the collectorate against periodic episodes of violence in Ramgarh village in Dadri area of Greater Noida. With almost 200 protesters forcing their way into the  collectorate demanding justice, the administration was forced to partially agree to their demands. Exactly a year ago, on March 14, 2012, 19 people were brutally attacked by upper-caste men. Residents of a Dalit colony in the village were attacked with sticks. The violence was sparked off by a property-related case wherein a Dalit family had lodged a case against an upper-caste Gujjar group. In July 2012, a 24-year-old Dalit man’s legs had to be amputated after he was found on the rail tracks, days after he protested alleged attempts made by Gujjars to sell off land that Dalits claim belongs to them. The victim, Tika Ram’s family, was one of the 70 who were allotted land in the village by the Mayawati government to build houses, residents said. Several Gujjars, they said, had sold land to a real estate developer and were asking Dalits to sell their plots as well. According to the protesters, the administration has not only failed to prosecute the accused in previous cases but also failed to stop the continued harassment of Dalit families in the village. The protest forced the district administration to agree to meet the members of the RYA. “The district magistrate will listen to their demands in two days,” said an official. (Times of India 15/3/13)

 

14. D’nal Dalit rape, murder: Main accused held (2)

Bhubaneswar: Police arrested the principal accused in connection with the sexual assault and killing of a 17-year-old Dalit girl of Mathatentulia village under Gondia police limits in Dhenkanal district on Tuesday. A manhunt has been launched to nab the other accused who are absconding. The main accused Shibaji Nayak of Mathatentulia and his other four friends had raped the Dalit girl and then burnt her alive in her house in the absence of her parents on Tuesday night. The criminals before committing the heinous crime had locked the girl inside the house. “We are searching the other accused. Very shortly, we would arrest the aides of mastermind Nayak who have gone underground,” said Dhenkanal SP Manoranjan Mohanty. Meanwhile, the rape and murder of the Dalit girl a few months after the Rayagada rape incident has created a hue and cry in the political sphere. Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik condemned the act as barbaric and mindless. “I request the State Government to take immediate steps to arrest the culprits and try them through a special fast track court,” said Patnaik. Patnaik continued, “We should collectively work towards creating a system which guarantees security to our sisters and mothers and ensure their dignity is protected.” Similarly, a delegation led by Samajwadi Party State committee president Rabi Behera handed over a memorandum to the Governor demanding termination of the local police officer for negligence of duty and immediate arrest of all the accused persons involved in the case. The party also demanded Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the family of the deceased and exemplary punishment to the accused through trial in a fast track court within 90 days. (Pioneer 16/3/13)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

15. Punjab’s infant mortality rate below national average (3)

CHANDIGARH : At present the IMR in the state is 30 against the national average of 44 per 1000 live births and the MMR (per 100,000 live births) is 172 against the National average of 212. This was stated by Punjab Health & Family Welfare Minister MadanMohanMittal He said that the Health Department is taking various steps to further reduce the Infant Mortality Rate and Maternal Mortality Ratio in the State. A special initiative for tracking and line listing of severe anaemic pregnant women has already been launched in the state under the aegis of National Rural Health Mission, Punjab. Under the program all severely anaemic women (i.e. those with HB below 7 mg) are tracked and line listed for providing timely medical intervention. All the Primary Health Centers and Sub-centers have been provided necessary equipments and reagents for estimation of hemoglobin of the pregnant women and all the districts have been asked to ensure the regular supply of necessary drugs.He told that in order to give a boost to the scheme, Punjab Government has approved an incentive of Rs 250/- per case to ASHA workers for ensuring treatment and care of severe anaemic women. Any pregnant women whose Hemoglobin is found to be less than 7 mg at the time of Ante-natal check up is considered to be severely anaemic. Health Minister added that all concerned health workers have already been issued detailed guidelines in local language for effective management of such cases and a review is carried out on quarterly basis. (Times of India 4/3/13)

 

16. ‘Helping girls in Gujarat fight anaemia very important’ (3)

New Delhi: At least 2100 out-of-school girls benefited from the Mamta Taruni scheme launched by Gujarat state government in partnership with NGO Chetna three years ago. The action research project launched by the NGO targeted at making health and nutrition onformationand services accessible to adolescents and young people in Gujrat. “The project was so important as 75% of girls in Gujarat were found to be anaemic, 10% underweight, 35% had reproductive tract infections, and at least 50% girls below the age of 20 years were already mothers, according to the district level health survey, 2007-08,” said Indu Capoor, founder and director, NGO Chetna. The programme registered girls in the target age-group. Initial base-line data included weight and Body Mass Index of unmarried girls, they received tetanus injections, iron and other nutritional supplements and were given information on nutrition and sexual and reproductive health. “We developed a Mamta Taruni card to record the services to adolscents and their regular attendance at the information sessions helped in conducting a comparative analysis showing their improvements,” said Pallavi Patel, director-in-charge, Chetna. “At the end of the one-year term of actual implementation of the programme, we found that 85% wee aware of condom use as compared to 46% at the start, similarly the awareness of reproductive tract infections saw a rise of almost 40%, with 90% saying that they are aware of the perils attached to poor hygiene and sanitation and similarly the awareness of anaemia and HIV and AIDS infections increased to almost 100%,” she said. The NGO conducted the programme across two blocks of Gujarat, which covered 53 villages, 20 in the tribal areas and 33 in the rural belt. The NGO trained about 55 peer educators, who they used for disseminating information to the masses. “We went from door to door to educate families. We first had to convince parents to sending their daughters to the programme and then convince the girls in attending workshops regularly, both of which were a challenge,” said Nandi Jala, 19, who by her own admission benefitted tremendously from the programme. “The effectiveness of the programme can be gauged from the data collected. But for me personally, the nutrition programmes did me so much good that I never fell ill in the last two years,” said Jala, who continues to educate the masses, despite her not receiving the monthly Rs. 25 incentive promised to her by the state. “I feel very good when I see the health of the girls improving. It is very satisfying,” said Gomti Kumari, another peer-educator, who received her monthly incentive only once in two years. (Hindustan Times 5/3/13)

 

17. Chennai hospital to pay Rs 3 lakh for medical negligence (3)

CHENNAI: A Chennai-based hospital and two doctors have been directed by the apex consumer commission to pay Rs three lakh as compensation to the family of a woman, who suffered brain damage after surgery due to lack of ventilator support and died a few months later. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission’s (NCDRC) observed that Janamma Hospital and doctors V R Kanakavalli and Mythili were guilty of medical negligence as they did not take “due care and caution” to ensure that life saving equipment like ventilator was available in case of any complication. The NCDRC also set aside the Tamil Nadu State Consumer Commission’s order dismissing the plea of the deceased woman’s husband, Chennai native M Rajavadivelu, who had sought damages from the hospital and the two doctors involved in the surgery. “Medical negligence is established because respondents (hospital and doctors) conducted a major surgery under general anaesthesia without taking due care and caution to ensure that critical life-saving equipment like ventilator were available in case of post-operative complications,… “We are unable to uphold order of the State Commission and set aside the same. Respondents are jointly and severally directed to pay the appellant Rs three lakh,” a bench presided by Justice Ashok Bhan said. The NCDRC gave the direction on Rajavadivelu’s plea challenging the order of the state commission which had said there was no evidence of medical negligence. In his appeal, Rajavadivelu had alleged that due to the medical negligence of the hospital and its doctors, his wife Vijayalakshmi Rajavadivelu had suffered brain damage resulting in her death. The hospital and the doctors in their defence had contended that after the surgery the patient only had some breathing problems and was otherwise stable. The NCDRC, however, rejected the contention saying, “soon after the surgery post-operative complications developed and due to lack of a ventilator the patient developed a fatal complication.” Rajavadivelu, in his plea, had said that his wife had been admitted in the hospital in January 1998 for undergoing hysterectomy. After the surgery, she had developed breathing problems and the hospital informed him she would have to be shifted to another hospital for ventilator support, he had alleged. As the process of shifting the patient took more than 10 minutes, during which she was not on ventilator support, she had suffered brain damage due to lack of oxygen, Rajavadivelu had alleged, adding that no doctor from Janamma accompanied them in the ambulance. (Times of India 5/3/13)

 

18. India takes pentavalent vaccine to 5 million children (3)

CHENNAI: Five million Indian children were vaccinated with the five-in-one pentavalent shots in just over a year. Jammu and Kashmir became the sixth State to introduce the vaccines as part of the universal immunisation programme. The vaccine, with one shot, offers protection against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib). “This will bring down child mortality and morbidity drastically,” says Ajay Khera, Deputy Commissioner, Child Health and Immunisation, Ministry of Health. There are about 27 million children under one year in the country at any given point of time, and the intention is to take the benefits of the pentavalent to all of them, he adds. The pentavalent vaccine was introduced in Tamil Nadu and Kerala in December of 2011, the two States with high vaccine coverage and solid public health systems. After an evaluation of the two States in August 2012, the decision to expand was taken. The pentavalent vaccine was then introduced in phases in Haryana, Puducherry, Goa, and Gujarat, with Jammu and Kashmir being the latest to join the list. At present, the vaccines are being procured by UNICEF, with funding from GAVI. The operational costs are borne by the government, Dr. Khera points out. “We need to preserve the vaccine in a good cold chain system, use single use auto disable syringes and provide manpower support to the administration of the vaccine,” he explains. The vaccines are provided free of cost under the public health scheme, while in the public sector, between Rs. 400 and Rs. 700 is charged per dose. Infants are given three doses of the pentavalent vaccine at six, ten and 14 weeks of age. Replying to an RTI application by Kerala-based doctor K.V. Babu, the Ministry indicated that Kerala had a total of 11 deaths in 2012, and Tamil Nadu four, listed under ‘Adverse Effects Following Immunisation’ (AEFI) using the pentavalent vaccine. In 2011, the year of introduction, there was one death in Kerala. “We need to ask whether the vaccine is safe after all, with periodic assessments. The life of every child is precious, and we cannot afford to lose children from vaccination,” Dr. Babu says. Responding to this, Dr. Khera explains, “The vaccine safety surveillance system enables us to understand whether programmatic errors are happening. That does not mean that whatever AEFIs are reported do not have a direct association with the vaccine administration. Since we are keen on tracking the pentavalent, we allow even deaths occurring a week after the vaccination to be reported.” He points out that on an average 3,600 children under the age of five years die every day in the country, due to various factors. “The point is that there can be many factors causing the death of children, the vaccine might be incidental. However, we investigate every reported case of death or even other adverse effects.” In fact, the vaccine has been available in the private sector in India for over a decade now, he said. The vaccine has been demonstrated to be efficacious and effective in numerous studies and is widely supported by global and Indian health communities.   (The Hindu 6/3/13)

 

HIV/AIDS

19. Women with HIV/AIDS face hostile hospitals (3)

CHENNAI: When Selvi went to the government hospital in Erode for treatment for a fibroid in her uterus, she was turned away. Hospital staff told her it was nothing major, and that she did not require surgery. But at the private hospital where she was first diagnosed, doctors had told her to get rid of the fibroid. Selvi, who lives with HIV/AIDS, was later diagnosed with a tumour that had spread to her ovaries. She had to undergo a surgery at a private hospital, which set her back by her Rs. 40, 000. “I did not have enough money and could barely afford the treatment,” she said. People living with HIV/AIDS do not benefit from the State-sponsored health insurance scheme either,” she added. Many women such as Selvi face much distress when they attempt to seek treatment at State-run hospitals. K. Lakshmi from Virudhunagar for instance, said seven women she knew had to go to Madurai several times for treatment, as their local hospital in Virudhunagar would not treat them. “The hospital handles deliveries and reproductive health-related issues. But the moment they found out that we live with HIV/AIDS, we were sent to Madurai,” she said. According to her, six of the 26 women who underwent screening for cervical cancer at the Virudhunagar hospital tested positive, and though further testing could be done there, they were referred to the GH in Madurai. Several women said the problem persists in Namakkal district too, once considered the hotbed of HIV infection. Non-governmental organisations to which these women belong said they had discussed the issue with senior officials of the Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project, Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society (Tansacs) and the health secretary, but the discrimination continued. At a programme held in the city on Thursday, the women shared their suffering with Tansacs project director, Kumar Jayant. The hostility of healthcare workers and doctors, they said, has led to their health often taking a turn for the worse. Selvi suffered from excessive bleeding for over 18 months before her surgery. The women say delaying treatment for such conditions could lead to further health complications. They demanded screening facilities for cervical cancer to be made available at all healthcare centres that have integrated counselling and testing centres. This was especially important, they said, as women living with HIV/AIDS were more vulnerable to cervical cancer. Several NGOs including Palmyrah Rural Development Society and HIV/AIDS Alliance have also drafted a recommendation seeking PAP smear tests (diagnostic tests for cervical cancer) for women living with HIV/AIDS, as per the guidelines of the National AIDS Control Organisation. The women should be allowed to undergo examination and surgery at the district headquarters hospitals and not be made to run around for the treatment, they said. (The Hindu 3/3/13)

 

20. Cure for AIDS possible, says scientist who helped discover HIV (3)

LONDON: Nobel Prize winning scientist Francoise Barre-Sinoussi – discoverer of HIV – has said that a cure for AIDS now “might be possible.” Barre-Sinoussi told The Times that with renewed scientific efforts, an end to AIDS can be achieved. The 65-year-old French virologist said that we are now in a position that we have evidence suggesting that a cure might be possible and have to stimulate funding for research into cures, the Telegraph reported. She asserted that it’s ongoing, and it will take time, but more and more data is indicating that we have to move forward and work on a cure. Barre-Sinoussi said that while antiretroviral drugs had been successful in helping people to live normal lives while infected, it was also important to try to find more permanent solutions to the disease. “What we have today is wonderful progress, but we have to consider other solutions for the future,” said Professor Barre-Sinoussi said. She added that it’s wonderful to have antiretrovirals today but if we can improve so that people’s treatment can stop, that would also be wonderful for the patient, and for the budget of the Government. Barre-Sinoussi won the Nobel prize for medicine in 2008 together with Luc Montagnier, for their work in pinpointing the cause of AIDS. (Times of India 5/3/13)

 

21. AIDS society warns of HIV cure exploiters (3)

In light of the latest medical breakthrough, the AIDS Society of India (ASI) has lauded the efforts of the Dr Deborah Persaud of John Hopkins University for having identified a case of ‘functional’ HIV cure. Dr Persaud recently described the first documented case of a child being cured of HIV. ASI, however, pointed out that headlines of such a “cure” have a potential for exploitation and extortion at the hands of quacks and those openly claiming to cure HIV using naturopathy, unani, siddha, urinepathy, ayurveda, homeopathy etc. Dr I.S. Gilada, president of ASI said, “It was made possible because of excellent vigilance of the doctors and the unmatched research facilities the US is known for. This success deserves praise, but there is no room for expecting too much in too little time ahead of us. Here in India, basic medical research facilities are in rudimentary stages and there is lack of political will and financial backing.” Commenting on the recent breakthrough case of ‘functional’ cure of HIV, Dr Gilada said, “There is no denying that it’s a commendable feat, but what we must also not overlook is that the HIV virus, which is transmitted from mother to child is far less virulent than the one which transmitted sexually.” He further added, “Among the children born to HIV infected mothers, almost 70 per cent are saved of HIV naturally and the remaining could be saved using timely and effective ART for preventing MTCT. This is possible only if the mothers report and are diagnosed early and if they receive at least a month’s ART before they deliver.” The global AIDS epidemic has completed 32 years of its presence. Once a devastating disease of early 1990s is now a chronic manageable disorder. Though India ranks high in HIV numbers, because of its affordable ART drugs it plays a saviour globally by supplying over 80 per cent of the world’s ART requirement at one per cent of international cost, thereby preventing deaths. (Asian Age 8/3/13)

 

22. Aid for children with HIV (3)

Belgaum: Smile Foundation, a New Delhi-based social organisation, has promised funds to provide nutritional support for children with HIV who are the residents of Mahesh Foundation’s home for the homeless here. A press release said a cheque was handed over to the representatives of Mahesh Foundation here on Thursday. The amount would be used for their education, skill development and self-employment also. The foundation had earlier joined hands with Bangalore-based Aaryan Foundation to implement welfare schemes for children. Mahesh Jadhav of Mahesh Foundation said the foundation had been helping underprivileged children through more its welfare projects. They are being provided free education, and healthcare. The foundation is also working towards women’s empowerment, the press release added. (The Hindu 9/3/13)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

23. ILO joins hands with SRISTI to eliminate child labour (14)

AHMEDABAD: SRISTI, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization ( ILO) are working towards the elimination of child labour in the country. The Ahmedabad-based NGO has floated a competition, inviting ideas for alternative technologies employing child labour in construction, textile, hand loom, manufacturing, sanitation, street vending and tea dhabas. The project, which will focus on generating technological alternatives, will blend technological, institutional and cultural changes, thus bringing more children to schools. The key goals of the initiative are to find technological innovations which reduce and then eliminate the demand for labour in manual, high drudgery involving labour in general and child labour in particular. The initiative will focus on finding innovations that reduce the ‘repetitive manual labour’, improve productivity and thus eliminate demand for child labour. “Child labour is ethically and legally wrong across sectors. We need improved technologies for manual labour to eliminate need for child labour. The ideas generated through this competition will be used to develop technology to reduce labour,” said Ramesh Patel, secretary, SRISTI. To participate in the competition, each person can submit any number of ideas with or without sketches, photos, drawing and videos to provide specific technological means to eliminate child labour, improve productivity of the adult manual labour so that children are not required, eliminate those tasks where child labour supposedly has been found to have a technological advantage and develop technologies improving income of the manual labour so that they can afford to withdraw children from work and put them in school. “In those activities in which child labour is found advantageous not on exploitative ground but also on the ground of their supple fingers, the need for urgent development of technological alternatives is even higher such as carpet, cotton seed development, and other similar handloom or other technologies,” said Patel. Besides students and participants from all streams, SRISTI plans to involve engineering students to offer technical solutions to the problems. In the cases, where ideas are patentable, the patent may be filed in a defensive manner to prevent others from monopolizing the idea but to keep the ideas in public domain. (Times of India 2/3/13)

 

24. For 4 days, 21 police teams couldn’t trace kids (14)

New Delhi: Twenty-one teams were constituted by police to trace the children who were kidnapped from outside their school on Tuesday afternoon. Despite searching for four days, during which the teams kept a close watch on the children’s family — shadowing them to the places where the kidnappers asked them to come with the ransom amount — police were unable to rescue the children or apprehend the kidnappers. The kidnappers in turn seemed to have kept a close watch on police, tracking each and every movement. Police were quick to defend their action, saying the children’s safety was their priority and, hence, they were being “cautious” while investigating the case. The calls from the kidnappers were traced to public call booths, all in a 1.5-km radius of the children’s residence. On Wednesday, a day after the children were abducted, their father Manoj Kumar was asked to come to Sarai Kale Khan with the ransom. Police teams were shadowing Manoj in plainclothes. Police teams watched as two men walk past Manoj, briefly told him to go to Kalkaji with the money and walked ahead. Yet, they could not nab the culprits. At no point during investigations were police close to finding either the children or the culprits, police sources said. School authorities too are being questioned as to how they could let the children go with an unidentified man and not inform their parents. A week ago, an unidentified man had gone to fetch the children, posing as their guardian. (Indian Express 3/3/13)

 

25. Tribal women seek action against child abuser teacher (14)

Phulbani: Protesting the alleged abuse of children by a teacher, Pratap Kumar Sahu, of the TW Ashram Upper Primary School at Pasara under Chakapada block in Kandhamal district, tribal women bodies led by Ghumusar Mahila Sangh president Keshamati Pradhan on Wednesday demanded action against the abuser. Pradhan said girls in residential primary schools are exploited by teachers and employees. Citing example of the agitation of the Ghumusar Mahila Sangh against child abuse and protection of child rights, she said the State Government didn’t take any exemplary steps to punish the child abuser of Gunjibadi School under Nuagaon block though the Sangh had lodged a case against the culprit. Women leaders Sumabati Pradhan, Hirabati Pradhan, Bimala Mallick and Suchitra Nayak demanded proper monitoring of food, health, protection of school children and other facilities in the Government and private schools in the district. “If the district administration does not take proper and immediate action against the teacher (Sahu), people from all walks of life including women organisations of the district, panchayat organisation, Mission Shakti, Child Welfare Committee, lawyers and mediapersons would take the issue into the streets,” said Keshamati Pradhan.      (Pioneer 7/3/13)

 

26. UNICEF praises Rajasthan Govt. efforts for child welfare (14)

JAIPUR: UNICEF Country Representative in India Louis Georges Arsenault on Friday praised the announcement made in the 2013-14 Rajasthan Budget for establishment of a Child Directorate, saying this would improve the reach and quality of services for children, especially the girls, and help address the needs of children in a focused manner. Mr. Arsenault, who was on a two-day visit to Rajasthan, noted that it was the first State in the country to adopt a policy dedicated to the girl child taking care of her survival, growth, development and empowerment. With the Budget more focused on children, the State Government could maximise results through better quality of services and strong monitoring mechanisms. Mr. Arsenault met State Chief Secretary C. K. Mathew and senior Government officers here and discussed with them the progress on Janani Shishu Suraksha Yojana, girl child policy and the age bar for child labour from 14 years to 18 years. He said these steps would improve the highly skewed child sex ratio – 883 girls per 1,000 males – in the State and ensure complete abolition of child labour. Capitalising on these gains, the State Government could adopt an equity focused approach in order to improve results and reduce disparities through optimisation of resources, he suggested. “UNICEEF is encouraged by the Rajasthan Government’s commitment to children, depicted in [its] efforts to improve quality of education, campaigns to eliminate child marriages and child labour and the drive for clean and hygienic environment,” Mr. Arsenault said while interacting with journalists at the end of his visit. The UNICEF Country Representative noted that there were still several pockets, especially in southern and western parts of the State, where children continue to be deprived of their rights and entitlements. Twenty-eight per cent children in the State were still malnourished and the number of those suffering from severe acute malnourishment (SAM) was 6.70 lakh. Mr. Arsenault, who visited Duni village panchayat in Tonk district on Thursday, was impressed with the model of inclusive development operative in the village with the social development indicators depicting an encouraging trend, child sex ratio registering a marked improvement and the panchayat having mobilised resources worth Rs 6.74 lakh on its own last year. He said he had found a robust people’s voice, transparency in governance and accountability of elected representatives at Duni, which had brought about a significant improvement in delivery and access to quality services. “Decentralising governance and empowering panchayats is an effective tool for bringing about this change,” he observed. Duni village panchayat has benefited immensely from the State Government’s decision for decentralisation of power through the devolution of five key departments – health, education, ICDS, social justice and agriculture – to panchayats on October 2, 2010. UNICEF has joined the Government’s initiative and helped out the villagers in meeting new challenges of the process of devolution. Mr. Arsenault also praised the village’s achievement of child sex ratio in favour of girls after meeting the Sarpanch, Ramkishan Fauji. Duni is stated to be the only village panchayat in Rajasthan having more number of girls than boys. ….  (The Hindu 9/3/13)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

27. Govt to reduce age of consent to 16, reintroduce rape in new Bill (19)

NEW DELHI: The government has decided to reverse its controversial decision to raise the age of consensual sex from 16 years to 18 years, and to replace the term “rape” with “sexual assault” in criminal law. Both moves had drawn widespread criticism, but the government persisted and incorporated them in the ordinance on criminal law which was promulgated on February 3 in the light of the clamour for stiffening anti-rape laws post-Nirbhaya case. If cleared by the Cabinet later this week, the new proposals will be reflected in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 which will be introduced in Parliament next week to replace the ordinance. The move to raise the age of consensual sex to 18 was criticized on the ground that it ignored the contemporary social reality where children are more aware and can get sexually active at increasingly younger age. It was also feared that it would be misused to harass youth who are not conforming to parental and societal norms: a risk which was highlighted by the rampant killings of couples in the name of protecting family honour. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had, in fact, recommended that the age of consent be lowered to 12 years. However, the government rejected the reservations saying that increasing the age for consensual sex was necessary to protect child trafficking for sexual and other purposes, and incorporated the change in the ordinance on criminal law promulgated on February 13. However, now that the government has bowed to the criticism, it will also have to move to amend the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act which has set the age for consensual sex at 18. The decision to substitute “sexual assault” for “rape” had also come in for criticism by women’s rights groups and others who argued that the new term ignored the reality that women constituted the overwhelming majority of victims. Justice (retd) J S Verma, who was tasked by the government to suggest changes in law in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya incident, had recommended that the term “rape” be retained. (Times of India 6/3/13)

 

28. Activists join chorus against gender neutral rape laws (19)

NEW DELHI: “Gender just, gender sensitive and not gender neutral rape laws,” is what women’s groups, human rights groups and activists are demanding. The appeal gains significance as it comes at a time when the 2013 Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance and the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee are set to come up for debate in Parliament. The women’s groups and human rights bodies want “all parties aligned with women’s rights to ensure that laws made in the wake of the brutal Delhi gang-rape case do not leave women even more vulnerable than they already are”. The report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the 2012 Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill as well as the 2013 Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance not only violates the letter and spirit of the Justice Verma Committee (JVC) recommendations but endangers and deepens women’s vulnerability in this country,” said representatives of women’s groups preparing to raise the issue nationwide to create awareness on the lacunae in the law. On the International Women’s Day, to be observed on Friday, activists from voluntary organizations like Jagori, Saheli, Nirantar, Women Against Sexual Violence, Lawyers Collective, State Repression Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai; and Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, Indore propose to raise the issue in one voice. Several legal luminaries are also expected to join the chorus. Lawyer, Seema Mishra pointed out that one pernicious provision of the Ordinance 2013, upheld by the Committee report is blanket gender neutrality of the perpetrator of sexual harassment, assault and rape. “Put simply: unlike in existing law where the accused is male, the Committee recommendations if enacted into a proposed new Bill, will make it possible for women to be charged with these offences. This is wholly unacceptable,” she said. Kalpana Vishwanath from Jagori said that making a gender neutral rape law will pave the way for bigger problems and make the woman more vulnerable. Dwelling on the reality of rape, women activists say, “It is an act of violence that must be seen in the context of deeply entrenched power inequalities between men and woman in our society. Gender neutral provisions only strengthen those already powerful, silencing the real victims.” Activists argue that apart from situations where women hold positions of statutory authority (like police officers, etc), in all other situations, making the accused gender neutral means that complaints by women can be met with counter-complaints to build pressure on them to withdraw their complaint. The human rights groups say that there is no basis to the argument that gender neutral laws allow young boys to be protected from abuse, because all young boys and girls are fully protected by gender neutral laws in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. (Times of India 7/3/13)

 

29. Legislature to have a say in appointing judges, law minister says (19)

MUMBAI: Union minister for law & justice Ashwani Kumar says his ministry has prepared a draft bill for setting up the National Judicial Appointments Commission that will have legislative representation apart from the judiciary. Kumar said “political consensus has been achieved” over the need to “broad-base” the process of appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the high courts. At present judges are appointed by a five judges Supreme Court Collegium. Speaking in Mumbai, the minister said, “The present process has not proved to be adequate and there is a need to re-visit the issue. Wide-ranging consultations have been held with political leaders as well as legal experts. Former chief justices J S Verma and M N Venkatachaliah also back the setting up of an independent body to appoint judges to the higher judiciary,” he said. Ashwani Kumar admitted that the large number of vacancies has hampered the timely disposal of cases. At presently there are over 3 crore cases pending in lawcourts across the country. And for providing cost-effective justice he said 182 Gram Nyayalayas are being set up at the intermediate panchayat level. Out of these, 172 are already operational. Over 14,000 subordinate courts are being computerized to speed work. Issues like marital rape and reducing the age of consensual sex from 18 to 16 came up as well. “There are divergent views, all having considerable weight and therefore they need to be thoroughly debated. The government has an open mind provided there is political consensus,” he said, alluding to the fact that the topic is a political hot potato. (Times of India 9/3/13)

 

30. Steep fall in judges strength in High Courts (19)

Hyderabad: Expressing concern over the imbalance in one of the pillars of democracy, judiciary, with increasing vacant judge positions in High Courts of different states, the All India Lawyers’ Union has appealed to policymakers to take immediate measures to rectify the lapse urgently. In a press release issued here on Saturday, office-bearers of the union said a fourth of the vacancies in the judiciary were in High Courts. They said it was a remarkable decline in the strength of the judges of the High Courts in the country. Out of the total strength of 895 judges of various High Courts, at present there are are only 623 judges. In Andhra Pradesh, against the approved strength of 49 judges, there are only 26 judges at present and, by August the strength will come down to 19. Critcising the government for failing to take up adequate measure to get the vacant posts filled up, they said that the government and higher wings of judiciary were well aware of the dates on which judges would be retiring but failed to take up action to find replacements. Such lapses would pave for the collapse of the effective justice delivery system. They said Andhra Pradesh clearly reflected the casual approach in ensuring the strengthening of the system for the last two to three years. Only solace for the state is that many of the chief justices that come to serve the High Court have been elevated to the Supreme Court or appointed to a constitutional post in the state. They recalled that there was large pendancy of cases in criminal, civil and even constitutional matters and the backlog of cases was  increasing. They reiterated their request to fill the vacant positions at the earliest and also sought an increase in the strength of the judges  by maintaining a proper judge:population ratio. (Indian Express 10/3/13)

 

31. PIL seeks amenities for disabled (19)

PUNE: A city-based NGO has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay high court demanding disabled-friendly infrastructure at public places in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad. The HC has listed the next hearing for March 14. Parisar — a city-based group working for sustainable urban transport – has demanded that footpaths, crossings, PMPML and Bus Rapid Transit System must fully comply with the Disabilities Act and various policies and guidelines accessible for senior citizens and the disabled. Parisar has argued before the HC that complying with the Act is well within the capacity of the two municipal corporations since they have planned large projects with substantial budgets. Parisar’s PIL stated: “The Disability Act seeks to ensure that there shall not be any discrimination against people living with disability while using any mode of public transportation or using any road or bridge and that their right to livelihood is not denied or restricted. India is also a signatory to the UN Convention for the Rights of People with Disabilities, whose contents, the Supreme Court has ruled, “are binding on our legal system”.Parisar has alleged that the footpaths are uneven and are occupied by obstructions created by the authorities themselves. The obstructions include traffic light poles, electricity poles, sign boards, gantry columns, municipal garbage containers, and utility boxes such as electricity DP boxes or telephone boxes. The PIL said that amenities like public toilets are also not disabled-friendly. Parisar has also questioned the construction of pedestrian subways and foot over bridges. “The ones made in Pune do not have ramps or working lifts. The lifts are also not as per the Central PWD Guidelines published by the ministry of urban development,” Parisar said. Insisting that the PMC and the PCMC should be making safe at-grade crossings as per the guidelines of the Indian Roads Congress, the PIL pointed out that many cities like London are in fact removing subways and replacing them with surface-level crossings. Last month, Parisar sent a letter to the PMC stating that the BRTS shelters being constructed on Alandi Road are not in compliance with persons with Disablities Act and the guidelines for barrier-free environment for disabled and elderly persons published by the Central Public Works Department. Parisar said that if all the civic infrastrucutural facilities are accessible for the disabled and senior citizens, they are automatically friendly for others. The objective of filing the PIL is to create public awareness about the issue and also to sensitize the concerned authorities about planning disabled-friendly projects, Parisar said. As per the State Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities, 1.06% of the population is legally disabled. Parisar pointed out that in 20 years, about 12-14% of the population will be above the age of 60. (Times of India 12/3/13)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

32. Harassed farmer jumps off building, dies (20)

Mandya: A 75-year-old farmer died after jumping from the first floor of the Mini Vidhana Soudha in Ramanagaram on Friday, allegedly because of harassment by some officials. The victim has been identified as Gangadharaiah alias Gangaiah, a resident of Jalamangala village, 20 km from Ramanagaram Superintendent of Police, Ramanagaram district, Anupam Agarwal said the farmer had come to the Mini Vidhana Soudha to get a khata certificate and other documents pertaining to a piece of land at Jalamangala. According to an eyewitness, Gangadharaiah was upset with the officials for making him run around to get the documents. “He was shouting in the corridor of the first floor,” an employee at the Mini Vidhana Soudha, who requested anonymity, told The Hindu .Gangadharaiah sustained multiple fractures and was rushed to the Government Hospital in Ramanagaram. The victim had been visiting the Mini Vidhana Soudha for documents for the past two years. Last year too he attempted suicide by slashing his wrist, one of his relatives told presspersons at the hospital. The officials concerned had been refusing to provide the documents, giving silly reasons, he alleged. Chandru, another relative, requested the police to conduct an investigation. As soon as the news of Gangadharaiah’s death spread, a large number of farmers from Jalamangala assembled at the Government Hospital in Ramanagaram, leading to a tense situation. The police said that they have received an “unnatural death” complaint stating that Mr. Gangadharaiah committed suicide. (The Hindu 2/3/13)

 

33. Sloppy loan waiver edges out deserving farmers: CAG (20)

New Delhi: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in a report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, pointed out that several ineligible farmers were favoured and a large number of deserving small and marginal farmers left out in implementation of the United Progressive Alliance’s much-touted Rs. 52,000-crore farm loan waiver scheme. The scheme, meant to help indebted farmers in districts where suicides occur, was so haphazard and faulty in implementation that no records were maintained of farmers’ applications accepted or rejected by lending institutions or how many farmers were given fresh loans as a result of debt waiver/relief, it said. The BJP was quick to seek a CBI probe into what it called the “farmers debt waiver scam.” The Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme (ADWDRS) was launched in Vidarbha by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in May 2008. Initially, it was launched in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, where suicides by farmers peaked in 2008. It was estimated that 3.69 crore small and marginal farmers and about 0.60 crore other farmers would benefit from the scheme and become eligible for fresh loan. According to the CAG, the monitoring of the scheme was “deficient.’’ There was even prima facie evidence of tampering with, overwriting and alteration of records. In certain cases, lending institutions such as banks claimed from the government charges such as interest in excess of the principal amount, unapplied interest, penal interest, legal charges, inspection charges and miscellaneous charges, all of which they themselves should have borne. “Out of 9,334 accounts test-checked in audit across nine States, 1,257 (13.46 per cent) were found to be eligible for benefit, but were not considered by the lending institutions,’’ the report said. “[At the same time], of the 80,299 accounts granted debt waiver, in 8.5 per cent cases, the beneficiaries were not eligible for either debt waiver or debt relief. They were those who had taken loans for non-agricultural purposes or whose loans did not meet eligibility conditions.’’ In violation of guidelines, a private scheduled commercial bank received reimbursement for loans to the tune of Rs. 164.60 crore extended to micro finance institutions. Besides, the Department of Financial Services (DFS) under the Ministry of Finance, which implemented the scheme, accepted the reimbursement claims of the RBI in respect of urban cooperative banks, amounting to Rs. 335.62 crore, despite the fact that even the total number of beneficiaries’ accounts was not indicated. The CAG observed that in the absence of monitoring of the scheme, lending institutions did not issue debt waiver/relief certificates to eligible beneficiaries. Nor was acknowledgement sought from farmers making them eligible for fresh loans. The RBI and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development were the nodal agencies for monitoring, but they themselves were relying on the data of lending institutions, without independently checking the veracity of claims by banks and cooperative societies. After the presentation of the draft report to the government in January, the CAG noted that the DFS had asked the RBI and Nabard to take immediate corrective measures. (The Hindu 6/3/13)

 

34. PM assures action on farm loan waiver irregularities (20)

New Delhi, March 6 : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday said stringent action would be taken if any irregularities are found in the Rs.52,000 crore farm loan waiver scheme of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. “The reference is to the CAG report on loan waiver scheme. This is a matter which would interest the PAC (Public Accounts Committee),” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, when the issue was raised in the upper house. “If there are any irregularities which are found, I assure the house we will take stringent action against defaulters,” the prime minister told the Rajya Sabha. He was responding after opposition Bharatiya Janata party raised the issue, calling it a “scam”.”There has been account tampering, 34 lakh (over three million) farmers did not get the benefit. Farmers are committing suicide,” BJP leader Ravishankar Prasad said, raising the issue in zero hour. “This is not just account fudging, this is a scam and it is very painful. Government should say why such irregularity was there,” he said. Even as the prime minister assured action, BJP members kept agitating and trooped near the chairman’s podium, shouting slogans and calling the government “anti-farmer”.Amidst the din, Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien adjourned the house for 10 minutes. The Lok Sabha also saw an uproar with question hour adjourned over the issue. The lower house was adjourned till noon Wednesday after noisy protests by opposition parties over discrepancies in the Rs.52,000 crore farm loan waiver scheme of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. As soon as the house met, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Samajwadi Party demanded suspension of question hour to discuss the “scam”.The issue was taken up during zero hour in the Lok Sabha. Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj said: “All corruption charges earlier involved the government, but this is a case where bank officials siphoned off the money under the nose of the government”.”The Reserve Bank of India had given a 15-day deadline to correct the discrepancies. We want to know first why you were sleeping,” she said. “This is an important matter related to farmers, who are already burdened. I will say the country is shamed, not the government,” she said. Samajwadi Party MP Reoti Raman Singh said the matter raised by the CAG report was very serious, one that involved farmers in a nation of farmers. “If this waiver had been implemented properly then some farmers could have been saved from committing suicide. The report is a shocker,” he said. JD-U MP Sharad Yadav said: “RBI gave a deadline, but still government was not able to do anything. The probe should begin today”.Sudip Bandhopadhyay of Trinamool Congress said: “Those who were selected (to receive the loan waiver) did not receive it.” “It is a very unfortunate case. Each one of us should be concerned with that,” he said. CPI-M’s Basudeb Acharia said: “All opposition parties had supported the scheme when it was announced. But we had cautioned then that the implementation should be proper”.”The money of the farmers has been looted,” he added. RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, who was in the UPA when the scheme was announced in 2008, said: “We had good intentions when we started the scheme. Even before a structured discussion, there should be action. All (guilty people) should be sent to jail”.The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its report tabled in parliament Tuesday on the “Implementation of Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008″ said there were irregularities in at least one in five cases. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government had announced a debt waiver for farmers across the country in 2008, a move analysts say helped the government win the 2009 general election. (New Kerala 6/3/13)

 

35. Farmland sale ban could claim Maharashtra woman’s life (20)

NAGPUR: The state government sanctions an irrigation project in Vidarbha but does not allocate a single penny for it . This has now become so common that the region’s public representatives have stopped giving it any importance. However, unknown to the politicians and babus in Mantralaya such decisions are set ot claim the lives of poor farmers. Subhash Tambekar, a farmer from Sirasgaon village in Hinganghat taluka, was despondent to the point of suicide till February 25. His wife Manorama was suffering from cancer and required a major operation. The doctors had told him that the cost might go up to Rs 3 lakh. He couldn’t raise this amount unless he sold his 3.5 acre land. However, a part of it was to be acquired for Ajansara barrage on Wardha river. As government had not allocated any amount for the project the district administration did not acquire his land but did not allow him to sell it either. Hundreds of farmers in 65 villages of Hinganghat taluka (district Wardha) have the same problem. According to Pravin Upase, convenor of Kisan Adhikar Abhiyan (KAA), a Wardha based NGO, there are many cases where farmers could not get their family members treated as they could not sell their land. “After vehement protests by KAA rehabilitation minister Patangrao Kadam has directed Wardha collector to send a proposal to scrap the project,” he told TOI. Another government norm had almost claimed the life of Manorama. A farmer, whose land is acquired for an irrigation project, has to retain 1 hectare (2.4 acre) land that has not been acquired. If it is more than 1 hectare then the excess can be sold. This condition can be waived off by a senior revenue officer. As Tambekar only had 1 hectare land left after acquisition, he couldn’t sell it. The land was classified as ‘bhumiheen rakhiv’ (reserved for landless) in revenue records. Tambekar had run pillar to post for 15 months to get the waiver from collectorate but in vain. He would have taken a drastic step but for a dramatic protest by KAA. Around 25 farmers led by Pravin Upase and Avinash Kakde entered the chamber of Wardha collector Naveen Sona on February 25 and occupied it until additional collector Sanjay Bhagwat issued a no objection certificate (NOC) for selling bhumiheen rakhiv land. Tambekar, however, is still having sleepless nights. The farmer’s distrust towards government is understandable. “In 2002, the sub-divisional office of irrigation department in Arvi issued a certificate certifying that my entire land was not coming under the submergence area. In 2011, when I sought an NOC from revenue department to sell my land for Manorama’s treatment, I was told that 0.6 hectare (1.45 acre) land was in submergence area. Three months later, I was told that 0.38 hectare (about 0.92 acre) land was to be acquired,” he told TOI. Kakde had written to deputy engineer, minor irrigation department, Wardha asking which of the three orders was correct. He was shocked to receive a reply stating that the first letter issued by Arvi office was not recognized by the Wardha office. (Times of India 10/3/13)

 

36. Farmers’ movement may give new direction to Odisha politics (20)

BERHAMPUR: Peasants’ movement and political movement have affected each other in the past in Odisha and in near future organised farmers’ movement in the State may give new direction of Odisha politics, said senior CPI (M) leader and former MP Shivaji Patnaik.  the topic ‘direction of peasants’ movement in Odisha’ at Sahid Laxman Nayak Community Hall on Tuesday evening. This lecture was organised by the Orissa Krushak Sabha (OKS) to observe the 10th death anniversary of Prasanna Panigrahy, a noted Leftist peasants’ leader of south Odisha. It was chaired by Ganjam district president of the OKS Kailash Sadangi. This meeting was also addressed by Jagannath Mishra, the State vice-president of the OKS and State secretariat member of the CPI (M), Ali Kishore Patnaik. In his address Mr. Sivaji Patnaik cited the incidences of rising trend of farmers’ suicides in Odisha to hint that government had not yet been able to alleviate problems of farmers. According to him it was high time for an organised peasants’ movement in the State which could affect the election-oriented political movements. “This peasant movement should comprise all rural poor, farmers, agricultural labourers and share croppers”. He lamented that despite promises the share croppers in Odisha were yet to get legal recognition and proper share from their produce. According to him peasants’ movements in the past had led governments in the State to pass laws in favour of share croppers which have not been implemented yet. As per a legislation of 1946 share croppers were to get three fifth of the produce of a field while the land owner was to get the rest. In 1954 a legislation came which directed that share croppers would get three fourth of the produce. The land ceiling was brought down to 14 acres during 70s due to pressure of peasants. But these legislations were never implemented properly. (The Hindu 13/3/13)

 

HINDUTVA

37. BJP tries to strike Hindutva balance (26)

With an eye on the crucial Assembly polls this year and general polls scheduled for next year, the BJP in its ongoing national council meet tried to strike a balance between Hindutva and secular politics. While saying that “Hindutva is a way of life and not a sect”, BJP chief Rajnath Singh in his opening address claimed that “the BJP has never discriminated on the basis of religion and caste in the society.” Often accused of being anti-minorities, the saffron party has been desperately trying to promote itself as the “best alternative” by advocating “development” and “good governance” rather than on the Hindutva line as wanted by the sangh parivar. Mr Singh also gave a call to party cadre to put up a united fight in the next general elections to oust the “corrupt and ineffective” UPA as he took on the Congress-led government over its alleged failure on internal security, economy and foreign policy fronts. After realising that Hindutva is no more a vote catcher and the BJP was facing political loss due to its strong Hindutva stand taken during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, the saffron party has been gradually shifting its plank towards development and good governance. The party leadership often praise BJP-ruled states for their development models. But perhaps not to antagonise Hindu voters and the sangh parivar, it keeps mentioning its “commitment to build” Ram mandir at the disputed site in Ayodhya. Though Mr Singh did mention that his party would oppose any efforts by the UPA government to damage Ram Sethu for the Sethusamudram project and that it should be declared as a “national heritage,” there was no mention of the Ram mandir on the first day of national council. (Asian Age 3/3/13)

 

38. Hindutva key to forming next govt, says VHP patron (26)

Kolkata: The next government at the centre will be formed with the support of Hindutva forces after the 2014 general elections, and Narendra Modi could be a catalyst in that, Vishwa Hindu Parishad patron Ashok Singhal said on Wednesday. “In 2014, the government will be formed with the support of the Hindutva forces and Narendra Modi may be a catalyst,” Singhal told reporters. Responding to a question on his preference for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate, Singhal said, “It is up to the BJP. It will have to choose an able person who can take the Hindu society forward.” In reply to another query, he said there was a clamour for Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate because of the public support for Hindutva. “Why is everybody chanting Modi’s name everywhere? It is because of the public support for Hindutva,” said Singhal, who was the international president of the VHP for over 20 years till he was replaced in late 2011. On the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government’s decision to provide allowances to imams and muazzims, he said, “It (the Trinamool Congress) is yielding under pressure from jihadi elements.” “Not only the Mamata government, the government at the centre, in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, all are living in fear of jihadi elements.” Referring to the recent disturbances in Bangladesh, he said the “Hindu society is under attack from Jamaat-e-Islami”.He urged the West Bengal government to provide relief to those from Bangladesh who are taking shelter in the state. He blamed the Indian education system, “designed by Thomas Macaulay”, for “rampant corruption” and vices like rape. “At one time, the Indian education system was led by the saints. Macaulay brought in the changes, inherent in which was too much and uncontrolled consumerism, and this resulted in corruption and rape,” Singhal said. (Hindustan Times 6/3/13)

 

39. Ensure security to Hindus in Bangladesh: VHP (26)

KOLKATA: VHP leader Ashok Singhal on Wednesday demanded that the central government ensure security for Hindus living in violence-torn Bangladesh. Alleging that the government was not doing enough in this regard, Singhal said, “The government should arrange food and temporary lodging for those fleeing to India.” Singhal criticized the fundamentalist forces in Bangladesh for perpetuating violence on peace-loving minorities. Commenting on frequent rapes in India, Singhal blamed the current education system for increase in rapes and corruption in the country. “The current education system in the country is responsible for the increase in rapes and corruption. Our age old education system has been totally destroyed,” Singhal alleged. (Times of India 7/3/13)

 

40. VHP opposes construction of Haj House (26)

Bhopal: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal (BD) considered as the umbrella organisations of the BJP are out to increase the woes of the BJP Government of Madhya Pradesh in the election year. The VHP and BD jointly organised a sit-in demonstration in the State capital on Thursday opposing the construction of the Haj House. VHP Bhopal Vibhag Mantri (District President) Anil Goyal while talking to The Pioneer, said, “We are opposed to the construction of the Haj House as it is not at all required in the State capital, the transit Haj House at Tajul Masajid mosque is held every year and there seems no trouble in that, moreover that is very convenient for the pilgrims and their relatives coming to send off the pilgrims.” Goyal further said that the BJP Government is adopting the Congress policy of Muslim appeasement, the construction of Haj House is aimed in this direction, if the Government is really concerned for the development of the Muslims than there are other ways that would actually benefit the community. He said that had the Government been sincere towards the development of the community then it would not have involved in petty politics of Muslim appeasement through issues like construction of Haj House, instead it should focus on their education, economical growth and infusing nationalist sentiments among them. Comprehensive development of the Muslim community is need of the time and the VHP never ever opposed to the constructive works done in the interest of Muslims, he added. Contrary to Goyal, the State secretary of the VHP Rajesh Tiwari opines that the opposition for the construction of the Haj House because the place selected for it is not appropriate as it has a number of temples and ashrams besides large Hindu population. “Any worship is done with free peace of mind, how Haj pilgrims could perform Namaz if the conditions would be tense, so better the Government should allot some other place that suit both the communities,” Tiwari added. (Pioneer 8/3/13)

 

41. VHP, Bajrang Dal protest against attacks on Hindus in J&K (26)

New Delhi: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal on Friday held a protest in the national Capital against attacks on Hindus in Jammu & Kashmir. They also burnt effigy of Governor NN Vohra. VHP and Bajrang Dal said that the protest was held against recent attacks on Hindus in Rajauri, booking them in false cases. They also raised questions on the manner in which the time duration of the Amarnath Yatra has been cut down. VHP alleged that the J&K Governor and its State Chief Minister are taking decisions on the pressure of anti national elements. They further alleged that terror groups are terrorising Hindus living in the border districts of the state. A Press notification said that member central advisory board of VHP BL Sharma Prem while addressing the protesters asked whether Hindus have no right to practice their religion in the state. “Why the religious precession was attacked in Rajauri by the anti national elements in front of the administration?,” he said. He added that instead of detaining attackers police arrested hindus.  Prem demanded immediate release of those detained in false cases, withdrawal of false FIRs lodged and restoration of Amarnath yarta duration atleast for two months. VHP state Media chief Vinod Bansal said that the J & K state machinery kept mum on any action against anti nationals. He said, “Today we burn effigy of the state Governor to protest against his repeated interference in Hindus religious affairs by curtailing Amaranath Yatra duration and not protecting life and property of Hindus living in border areas.” Bansal warned that if the governor does not turn up, they may extend this protest to the whole country. (Pioneer 10/3/13)

 

Posted by admin at 14 March 2013

Category: Uncategorized

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

1. Cops raid scribe’s house in Bihar (1)

Patna: Close on the heels of the Press Council of India (PCI) arguing that there was an “unwritten censorship on media in Bihar”, the state human rights panel has issued a notice to the Bihar director general of police and Nawada-superintendent of police asking them to explain under what circumstances the house of a journalist from a national daily was raided in the night. The Nawada-based scribe had filed a report “Judge proposes, cop disposes”, which said how Nawada SP Lalan Mohan Prasad had failed to execute an arrest warrant against Station House Officer Vindhyachal Prasad, who had tied a rope around the waist of a lawyer (who was an additional public prosecutor and represented the police), after arresting him and paraded him in the lower court. Terming both reports (raid on journalist house and inhuman treatment meted out to lawyer) as “quite disturbing”, chairman of the Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC), Justice (Retd) S N Jha said: “There is an attempt to muzzle the Press for reporting the matter and bringing it in public domain.” The notice, a copy of which is with Deccan Herald, says that the action of the SP was violative of freedom of speech and expression. “The chain of incidents, if true, reveals a concerted attempt on the part of Nawada police to undermine not only the dignity of the individual referred to in the news item but also the dignity and primacy of the judiciary. The action ex-facie deserves to be depreciated and disapproved,” it says. The unfortunate incident took an ugly turn when the SP, who was earlier posted as DySP in chief minister’s security, took umbrage over the report published in an English daily and reportedly ordered the arrest of the reporter “by hook or crook”. Immediately thereafter, the Nawada police raided the district correspondent’s house at 8:30 pm. Apprehending arrest in a “fabricated” case, the reporter moved a petition with the chief judicial magistrate and the civil SDO. The police, however, could not find anything incriminating. But disturbed over the two events, the BHRC suo motu took cognizance of the episode and issued notice to DGP Abhayanand and SP Lalan Mohan Prasad. Asking both of them “to submit their response within two weeks”, Justice Jha  posted the matter to March 20 for further hearing. (Deccan Herald 4/3/13)

 

2. Freebie for journalists (1)

Jaipur, March 7, 2013: In a first, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Wednesday announced free laptops for all accredited journalists in the State. Considered a “media-friendly” CM, he also announced several other sops to journalists in the annual State budget 2013-14. Besides free laptops, accredited journalists over 60 years of age would be given a monthly pension of Rs. 5000. At present, accredited journalists are provided free medical and accidental cover of Rs. 2 lakh. This has been increased to Rs. 5 lakh. He also announced raising the advertisement rates by 20 per cent for those newspapers whose advertisement rates were not approved by the Department of Audio Visual Publicity. Mr. Gehlot further announced a contribution of Rs. 5 crore each to the Journalist-Writer Fund and the Artistes Fund by the State government. The government already provides free bus travel to accredited journalists in the State transport buses. (The Hindu 7/3/13)

 

3. India in a spot over UN resolution on Sri Lanka (1)

New Delhi: New Delhi is walking a tightrope over the US-sponsored draft resolution on Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The draft resolution titled ‘Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka’ is still open to changes as member states are still factoring in their concerns. It is not commonplace for any Indian political party to openly support a resolution at the UN backed by the US, but this time the main political parties in Tamil Nadu are rooting for India supporting such a resolution against Sri Lanka. New Delhi, on its part, wants to play it safe and is trying hard for the resolution to be “less intrusive” yet enough to satisfy the concerns of the DMK — a UPA ally — and AIADMK. The resolution takes note of the UN High Commissioner for Human Right’s call for an independent and credible international investigation into violations human rights law in Sri Lanka against Tamils. It also expresses concerns at the continuing reports of violations of human rights, including enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, torture, violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, intimidation of Lankan Tamils and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society and journalists, and threats to judicial independence and the rule of law. Colombo , too, is uncomfortable with New Delhi playing the Tamil minority card too loudly. Indian officials said they were engaged in discussions to find out the best possible way out on the resolution. (Hindustan Times 9/3/13)

 

CORRUPTION

4. ADB sanctions 42 firms for corruption (5)

Manila: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report released Monday that it sanctioned 42 firms and 38 individuals for engaging in corrupt practices while implementing projects financed by the Manila-based lender last year. ADB said it also barred 57 firms and 51 individuals from seeking ADB-financed contracts as part of a cross debarment agreement it forged with four other multilateral lending institutions, Xinhua reported. The Office of Anti-Corruption and Integrity (OAI) of the ADB reported that it received 240 complaints and opened 114 new investigations in 2012. The bulk of the complaints involved fraudulent misrepresentations about qualifications, experience, and technical capabilities of consulting firms, contractors, and individuals seeking work from ADB. The Manila-based lender said it has toughened measures to battle fraud and corruption as complaints reached a new annual high in 2012. ADB piloted project procurement-related spot reviews aimed at strengthening monitoring and compliance. The OAI also provides substantial support and advice to management and project teams on issues relating to integrity, money laundering, and financing of terrorism risks, particularly for its public and private sector projects. (Deccan Herald 4/3/13)

 

5. ‘About 2,000 corruption cases registered by CBI in past 3 yrs’ (5)

New Delhi, March 06, 2013: Nearly 2,000 cases related to alleged corruption were registered by CBI in the last three years, the government said today. “CBI has registered 1,997 cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 during the last three years i.e. 2010, 2011 and 2012 and during the current year up to January 31, 2013,” Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions V Narayanasamy told Lok Sabha in a written reply. Of the total of 1,997 corruption cases registered by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), as many as 650 were filed in 2010, 600 in 2011 and 695 during last year, he said. As many as 52 cases under the PC Act have been registered by CBI in January this year, the Minister said. The investigating agency has filed closure report in 129 cases. It included 44 in 2010, 38 in 2011, 45 in 2012 and two in January this year. In reply to another question, Narayanasamy said that CBI has filed charge sheet in 2,229 cases in various courts across the country in the last three years. Of these, 842 charge sheets were filed in 2010, 701 in 2011 and 686 in 2012, he said. (Hindustan Times 6/3/13)

 

6. Forest ranger gets 4-year for corruption (5)

Bhopal: Forest Ranger Harishankar Gurjar and his wife were sentenced by Lokayukta court for amassing wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income. The Harda range officer was convicted under section 13 (1) (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and was sentenced to four years’ rigorous imprisonment along with penalty of `1 crore, while his wife was sentenced for three years’ rigorous imprisonment with penalty of Rs 25,000 by Lokayukta Special Court in a case of amassing wealth disproportionate to known sources of income. First Class Judicial Magistrate Ashita Shrivastava sentenced ranger Hari Shankar Gurjar of Kalibheet forest in Khandwa district, who was sent to judicial custody, while the woman was granted bail. The Lokayukta lawyer told the court that `66.76 lakh was found with the official during raids conducted in 2009 after which the case was filed in court. Earlier in 2009, Harishankar was posted at Harda. During the Lokayukta raid at Harda, Khandwa and Bhopal by police teams it was found that the wife of Harishankar, Seema Gurjar is owner of a residential colony. Besides, property worth Rs 1.28 crore, including Rs 20 lakh in cash, insurance bonds of Rs 2.5 lakh, ornaments worth Rs 13 lakh and Rs 10 lakh in different bank accounts of the accused were found. Before Harda, Harishankar was suspended during his posting in Hoshangabad when the department found irregularities in his work. Later, on joining duties he was posted to Kalibheet. He was promoted to the post of Ranger five years ago. He has served the Forest department for around 20 years. (Pioneer 7/3/13)

 

7. VACB flying squads to stem corruption (5)

Kochi: Taking a leap in the speedy redressal of complaints against corrupt government officials, the Vigilance Department is planning to bring flying squads in the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB). According to sources, the Department after launching its flying squad in Thiruvananthapuram city is now planning to start similar units in other parts of the state, including Kochi. According to officials, there has been no mechanism to attend to the complaints and grievances of the public given to the VACB Director. “Whenever a complaint is received at the directorate it is sent to the Range Superintendent of Police concerned for taking action. It would take quite a few weeks to complete the formalities from the directorate to send the information to Range SP and thereby conduct an inquiry on the complaint. By this time the person who gave the complaint or grievance would have lost interest in it,” an official said. To avoid the delay, the VACB would be launching the flying squad headed by a Circle Inspector. Besides, the team will also have one sub-inspector and three senior civil police officers. The complaints received by the VACB director would be forwarded to the flying squad in the range that would conduct a sudden inquiry. In cases where there are allegations of higher magnitude, the flying squad would conduct surprise checking and collect evidence from government offices and PSUs. It would send a report to the director regarding the inquiry conducted and action would be taken against the corrupt officials accordingly.  The VACB would register case against the officials if found guilty after the inquiry. “With the introduction of the flying squad in each range the inquiry on the complaint given to the director would be completed in a week. The department will not be recruiting new persons for it. Instead, the squad would be formed with the existing manpower,” the official said. (New Indian Express 8/3/13)

 

8. Chargesheet in defence canteen scam in june (5)

Mumbai: The Central Bureau of Investigation will file the chargesheet in the defence Canteen Stores Department (CSD) scam in June against the five arrested accused in the case. Senior Army officers along with a private individual were arrested in June last year when the CBI caught a top Army officer accepting a bribe. “We have gathered incriminating evidence against the accused. We have also established the money trail of illegal gratification received by Brigadier Anuj Kainthla and Bikas Ranjan Das-chaudhary. Daschaudhary had been accepting `25,000 per month in 2011 from Milind Govilkar, totally amounting to `3 lakh,” said a CBI source, involved in the investigation. Further, `5 lakh was traced to Brigadier Kainthla.

Milind Govilkar, from Sankalp Consumer Products Private Limited, along with two of his employees were also arrested. Daschaudhary was caught red-handed in a trap laid by the ACB in June last year. He was held while accepting a bribe at his Napean Sea Road residence. All the five accused are currently on bail.

The scam included procuring consumer goods from intermediaries when defence rules clearly stipulated buying them directly from the manufacturers or their exclusive distributors. (Asian Age 9/3/13)

 

9. Kejriwal reveals reasons for split with Anna Hazare (5)

New Delhi, March 9: Months after Arvind Kerjriwal and Anna Hazare parted ways due to infighting, Kejriwal has blamed Anna Hazare for the split saying that there was a ‘trust deficit’. The movement for the Janlokpal bill which started off with great aplomb in April 2011, lost momentum as infighting within members of India Against Corruption (IAC) began to take over. “I don’t know why Anna accused me of being driven by the lure of money and personal ambition. Is there any evidence on this? Just two days before he unleashed this charge, he told me he will campaign for me. I can’t read Anna’s mind. But I still have the highest respect for him,” said Kejriwal at Headlines Today’s Right To Be Heard programme. “Anna feels the movement should continue. We feel until the politics of the country is changed, nothing is going to change. Now, it’s up to the people to judge me.” With charges of hatching a plot to kill Anna to ‘usher in a revolution’ is doing the rounds, Kejriwal rubbished them. “Swami Agnivesh, who levelled these accusations, was part of the team. Why didn’t he go out and tell Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi that I was hatching a murderous conspiracy. Why is he telling this now when elections are round the corner? He’s the same man who was caught on camera selling the movement to Kapil Sibal,” he was quoted in India Today. He has started his poll campaign in Delhi. We have to wait and watch if Aam Admi Party will be able to garner votes. (One India 9/3/13)

 

MINORITIES: MUSLIMS, CHRISTIANS & COMMUNAL RIOTS

10. Muslim groups seek fair trial of Bangladesh ‘war criminals’ (7)

Kolkata, March 2, 2013, (IANS): Observing that the Shahbag protests in Dhaka demanding the death penalty for alleged war criminals was inhuman, Muslim religious and rights groups here urged the Bangladeshi government on Saturday to allow the accused a fair trial. “The Shahbag protests are inhuman as the protestors have been demanding death penalty. The Bangladesh government should not surrender to the demands but ensure that the accused are given a fair trial,” Abdul Aziz of Milli Etihad Parishad told reporters here. The groups also accused Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of crushing the opposition in the name of convicting war criminals. “Sheikh Hasina has turned into a dictator and is using the war crimes tribunal to crush the opposition. Those who have been convicted belong to the Jamaat-e-Islami which is in the opposition,” said All India Muslim Personal Law Board member Raisuddin. They also claimed that the alleged war criminals were innocent and accused the International War Crimes Tribunal of “convicting innocent people without any evidence”. The tribunal this month awarded death penalty to Delawar Hossain Sayedee, vice president of Jamaat-e-Islami — the largest Islamist political party in Bangladesh. (Deccan Herald 2/3/13)

 

11. Minority welfare gets a modest hike in Budget (7)

The Union budget for 2013-14 presented by finance minister P Chidambaram envisages a massive expenditure of Rs 16,65,297 crore, including Plan expenditure of Rs 5,55,322 crore in the ensuing financial year. Chidambaram explains that the Plan expenditure in 2013-14 will be 29.4 per cent more than the revised estimate of the current year. He also asserts that “all flagship programmes have been fully and adequately funded. I dare say I have provided sufficient funds to each ministry or department consistent with their capacity to spend the funds. Now, it is over to them to deliver the outcomes through good governance, prudent cash management, close monitoring and timely implementation.” So far as welfare of minorities is concerned, the finance minister devoted only two paragraphs to this subject in his lengthy speech. He pointed out that the allocation for the ministry of minority affairs (MoMA) has been raised to Rs 3,511 crore, marking an increase of 12 per cent over the budget estimate and 60 per cent over the revised estimate of 2012-13. A Plan outlay of Rs 3,135 crore was earmarked in the 2012-13 budget for MoMA but the revised estimate is only Rs 2,200 crore, indicating a shortfall of Rs 935 crore (30 per cent). An analysis of demand no. 68 (MoMA) reveals that this shortfall has resulted due to non-release of Rs 100 crore to Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF) and Rs 90 crore to National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC), lowering of outlay by Rs 258.90 crore for merit-cum-means, pre-matric and post-matric scholarships and reduction in allocation by Rs 308.34 crore for multi-sectoral development programme (MsDP) for 90 minority concentration districts (MCDs) and Rs 90 crore for schemes/projects in the north-eastern states. Moreover, the MoMA failed to launch several new schemes envisaged under the 12th Five-Year Plan. These schemes, which remained non-starter despite allocations being made in the budget for 2012-13 include scheme for financial support for students clearing prelims conducted by UPSC, staff selection commission and state PSCs, promotion of education in 100 minority concentration towns/cities, village development programme for villages not covered under minority concentration blocks/districts, free cycles for girl students of Class IX, interest subsidy on educational loans for overseas studies and skill development initiatives etc. The MoMA owes an explanation on why these schemes could not take off in the current year… (Times of India 4/3/130

 

12. Justice Naidu visits Laxmanananda ashram (7)

Phulbani: Justice AS Naidu, who is probing into the 2008 killing of Hindu seer Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in Kandhamal and the subsequent communal riots in the district, is on a four-day visit to the riot-hit district from Wednesday. It was the first visit of the judicial commission after it undertook the probe into the riots. Justice Naidu on the first day visited the Jaleshpeta Kanyashram where Swami Laxmanananda was murdered. He held discussions with the ashram inmates. He then visited Uttamgarh, where four people were killed during the riots, and other places to talk to people of the affected areas. He would visit other riot-hit regions during his stay in the district till March 9 and examine all the cases of violence. In the first phase of his visit, Justice Naidu held talks with the SP and the Collector over the present state of affairs in the district. He would hear cases of violence at the District Conference Hall here. (Pioneer 7/3/13)

 

13. Kandhamal riots: Naidu Commision begins hearing (7)

BERHAMPUR, March 8, 2013: Justice Naidu, had taken over charge of this judicial commission in September 2012 following death of Justice Sarat Mohapatra in May, 2012. Earlier Justice Mohapatra was heading this judicial probe. On Sept. 3, 2008, the State government had ordered for a judicial probe of communal riots that had followed killing of VHP leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati in Kandhamal district. Justice Mohapatra Commssion had been set up for the purpose. This judicial commission was to submit its report within six months. But the deadline for submission of report was extended five times as the enquiry could not be completed. On July 1, 2009, the Justice Mohapatra Commission had submitted a 28 page ‘interim report’ to the State government that included recommendations for remedial measures to check recurrence of communal riots in Kandhamal district. On Thursday Justice Naidu conducted hearing of three witnesses. According to special counsel for this judicial commission, Bijay Patnaik, notices have been sent to four witnesses who had filed affidavits to appear before the Commission on Thursday. (The Hindu 8/3/13)

 

14. Seven injured during attack on prayer house (7)

Seven persons were injured when they were allegedly assaulted by Bajrang Dal activists during an attack on a Christian prayer house at Moodubelle in Udupi district, on suspicion that conversion activities were being carried out there, police said on Saturday (March 9). The attack was carried out last night after the activists had lodged a police complaint against a man, accusing him of indulging in conversion, Udupi Superintendent of Police Boralingaiah said. A group of Bajrang Dal activists barged into the man’s residence at Moodubelle, also a prayer house, and assaulted the people gathered there, he said, adding, 19 of them had been arrested. Senior officials, including the IGP (western range) Pratap Reddy visited the place. The coastal districts of Udupi and Mangalore had in the past seen attacks on churches triggered by suspicion that they were carrying out conversion. (Times of India 9/3/13)

 

15. Christians, police clash in Pakistan following riot (7)

LAHORE: Hundreds of Christians protesting the burning of their homes by a Muslim mob over alleged blasphemous remarks made against the Islam’s Prophet Muhammad clashed with police on Sunday in eastern and southern Pakistan. Around 150 people have been arrested for setting dozens of Christian houses on fire in the eastern city of Lahore after a non-Muslim was accused of making offensive comments about the prophet, police said. Christians across the country rallied against the incident, but the main demonstrations were in Lahore, the southern port city of Karachi, the capital, Islamabad, and the adjoining city of Rawalpindi. The Christian demonstrators blocked a main highway in Lahore and police fired tear gas shells to disperse the protesters who demanded assistance from the government, said police official Malik Awais. He said the protesters damaged several vehicles, uprooted a fence along the road and burned an electricity generator. Seven policemen were injured when the protesters pelted them with stones, he said. He said the police, who used tear gas and batons to disperse the crowd, detained six of the protesters. Government spokesman Pervaiz Rasheed promised the government would help hem rebuild their houses, but the Christians expressed dissatisfaction with the way the government was handling the incident. “I have been robbed of all of my life’s savings,” Yousuf Masih said, standing close to his burned house. He said the government’s announcement that it would give 200,000 rupees ($2,000) compensation to each family was a joke. Awais, the police officer said, the protesters demanded the government raise the compensation amount from 200,000 rupees ($2,000) to 1 million rupees ($10,000). In Karachi, more than 1,000 protesters blocked a road in a main market and damaged about 25 vehicles, said police officer Ali Raza. He said some of the protesters also attacked 10 shops and looted valuables and cash. He said the police beat back the protesters and fired tear gas shells to disperse them. At least two protesters were taken into custody, he said. The protests are a response to an incident that began on Friday after a Muslim accused a Christian man of blasphemy — an offense that in Pakistan is punished by life in prison or death. On Saturday, a mob of angry Muslims rampaged through the Christian neighborhood in Lahore, burning about 170 houses. The Christian man is in police custody pending an investigation into the allegations. Those who rioted are being investigated for alleged arson, robbery, theft, and terrorism, said police officer Abdur Rehman. The Pakistani police usually arrest rioters to tamp down public anger, but those accused are rarely convicted and the law is often misused to settle personal disputes and rivalries. (Times of India 10/3/13)

 

16. 150 arrested for burning Christian homes in Pakistan (7)

LAHORE: Police in eastern Pakistan say they have arrested around 150 people accused of burning dozens of Christian homes in anger over alleged blasphemy. Hundreds of angry Muslims rampaged through a Christian neighborhood in the city of Lahore on Saturday and burned around 170 houses. The incident started Friday when a Muslim accused a Christian of making offensive comments about Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Police official Rai Tahir said Sunday that a majority of the suspects were identified through TV footage of the violence. The Christian man, who is in police custody, is being investigated for alleged blasphemy, which in Pakistan can be punished by life in prison or death. Another police official, Abdur Rehman, says those who rioted are being investigated for alleged arson, robbery, theft, and terrorism. (Times of India 10/3/13)

 

WOMEN

17. Women’s panel unhappy with board to help rape victims (8)

New Delhi: The National Commission for Women on Saturday told the Supreme Court that it was disappointed for being ignored in the proposed national board that will consider compensation to victims of sexual assault. In an affidavit, the NCW submitted before a bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra that it had formulated a “Scheme for Relief and Rehabilitation Victims of Rape 2005 ” and sent a revised proposal to the Ministry of Women and Child Development here in 2010. “However, there were several deviations from the scheme originally proposed and the one shown in the expenditure finance committee memorandum circulated by the Ministry. As per the draft of the scheme, the National Board was to be constituted under the chairperson of NCW with member secretary of the NCW as member secretary of the board whereas as per the EFC memorandum,  the NCW was substituted by ministry officials and none of the representatives of NCW was included in the National Board,” the affidavit filed by advocate Jyotika Kalra said. The NCW made its stand clear in response to a PIL contending that the Centre had failed to set up Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to grant monetary relief to the sexual assault victims. “The respondent got disappointed when it found that in the draft of EFC Memorandum on the scheme for “Financial Assistance and support Service to Victims of Rape: A scheme for restorative justice ” there were major deviations from the scheme originally proposed. This disappointment of the respondent was duly expressed by the chairperson,” it said. In ‘Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum vs Union of India and others’, the apex court had in 1993, taking a serious note of  the trauma faced by rape victims during lodging of complaints and also during the trial, said there was a need to unite and help the victims of sexual assault and get their lives back. It also laid down broad parameters in assisting rape victims, including  providing legal representation, legal assistance at police stations, legal assistance during trial, anonymity of the victim to be maintained, setting up of Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and Board to award the compensation after taking into account the pain, sufferings and shock of the victim. The court had directed that the NCW had to engage itself in the exercise of drafting such a scheme by which the victim of violence get adequate remedy in securing justice. (Deccan Herald 2/3/13)

 

18. Only men can be booked for rape (8)

New Delhi: Bowing to pressure from women activists, the government has decided to restore the term rape in criminal law that states only men can be booked for committing the offence against women. It has also decided to lower the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years. These are fresh changes proposed by the Centre in its criminal laws (amendment) bill, which will replace the rape ordinance issued on February 3. With the latest amendments, the UPA has belatedly accepted two more recommendations of the Justice JS Verma panel, which it had earlier rejected in the ordinance. It has retained all other major provisions made in the ordinance, including enhanced punishment for rape.    The panel — set up to look into rape laws after the December 16 Delhi gang rape — had recommended that the offence be kept gender-specific and the age for consensual sex be retained at 16 years in the Indian Penal Code (IPC). In its ordinance, however, the government replaced the term rape with sexual assault, stating that any ‘person’ can commit the offence. But the latest bill, likely to be considered by cabinet on Thursday, states that only a ‘man’ can be accused of the offence. Explaining the reasons behind scrapping the comprehensive and gender-neutral definition of sexual assault, which would have covered abuse by the same sex as well as paedophilia, a senior government official said: “IPC section 377 already deals with crimes involving unnatural sex and related activity. Also, some of the concerns raised by women’s organizations merited serious consideration and that is what has been done.” The government is also expected to propose enhanced jail terms for those found guilty of outraging the modesty of women and using obscene gestures or words against them. Till the time the new bill takes the form of law, the ordinance will continue to be in force. (Hindustan Times 5/3/13)

 

19. 96% women feel unsafe after sunset in Delhi: Survey (8)

NEW DELHI: Nine out of 10 women in the national capital feel that Delhi is unsafe or very unsafe for them. Two-thirds have experienced misbehaviour on the city’s streets. Two-thirds work in offices where there is no mechanism to deal with sexual harassment. Close to half feel they were discriminated against during the division of parental property. These are some of the findings of a survey commissioned by TOI on the public and private lives of Delhi’s women. The survey clearly shows that while some things may be changing at home and at the workplace, the city still poses significant challenges to a woman. The survey interviewed women across age groups and included both the main city and its satellites. With this survey, TOI is also kicking off a campaign, ‘Delhi For Women’, which will look into different aspects of a woman’s life and engagement with the city. While safety, in the shadow of the death of Nirbhaya and continuing instances of sexual assault, remains a major consideration, this campaign will not stop there. It will identify various problems that the women of Delhi face – whether during the commute, at work, home or leisure. We hope this will act as a first step towards finding solutions to these problems. Eventually, we hope Delhi will rid itself of the image of being the most unsafe city for women in India. There is suddenly, energy around changing the status quo. The energy was most evident in the protests that followed Nirbhaya’s gangrape, but the impact thankfully lingers. The capital may have the reputation of being India’s most unsafe city for women, but the protests against sexual assault that have rocked the country and forced the government to enact new legislation were also led by Delhi’s women. In their fight to demand what is rightfully theirs and to reclaim a city that is equally theirs, The Times of India joins hands with Delhi’s women. (Times of India 8/3/13)

 

20. Marriage not deemed as contract in India: Ashwani (8)

Mumbai: Union law minister Ashwani Kumar on Saturday said one of the reasons for not making marital rape an offence under the latest ordinance was that marriage is not deemed to be a contract in India, unlike in “other democratic countries”.Speaking at a function organised by the Indian Merchants Chambers in Mumbai, the minister said the law must reflect the “contemporary realities”.”Law cannot be made or amended keeping just one case in mind. Laws have to be made in such a manner that it can endure in every case for decades. Laws must reflect contemporary realities of society and should help the country progress and not regress,” Kumar said. Speaking about the the recently promulgated Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance which amends laws related to sexual offences, he said “we have for the moment not included marital rape in the Ordinance for various reasons. One of them being that in our country marriage is not treated as a contract unlike in other democratic countries. However, when a wife is separated from her husband and if he sexually assaults her, then he will be booked.” The ordinance would be placed before the cabinet next week, he said. “After the December 2012 (Delhi) gang-rape case that shook the collective conscience of the society, the government in a record time prepared the bill,” he added. “There is a need for introspection and reflection to ensure that laws are not capable of being abused. If there are gaps in the law, it can lead to gross violation,” Kumar said. Giving the example of section 498 (A) of Indian Penal Code which penalises dowry harassment, Kumar said “this section is being abused a lot. But I cannot do anything about it as if I do, several women’s organisations will rise against it. But what needs to be seen is that the women only are being accused under 498 (A).” (Hindustan Times 9/3/13)

 

21. Don’t use legal term ‘rape’ in medical reports: manual (8)

NEW DELHI, March 10, 2013: The Health Ministry has advised doctors not to use the word ‘rape’ in medical reports on sexual assault victims, and even in court depositions. “Rape is not a medical diagnosis, it is a legal definition, hence the word should not be used while forwarding opinion,” says the latest Instruction Manual for Forensic Medical Examination Report of Sexual Assault (Victim) brought out by the Indian Council of Medical Research under the Department of Health Research (DHR). The victim must not be refused treatment and examination for want of police papers. The recommendations, which also carry a draft of a ToolKit for Psychological Support for Women Survivors of Sexual Assault, are open to public opinion. Importantly, the manual suggests that doctors should not identify a victim as ‘habituated to sexual intercourse’ on the basis of a ‘finger test.’ Such identification is an unlawful interference with her privacy and an unlawful attack on her honour and reputation and is violation of her human rights. “In a prosecution of sexual assault, where the question of consent is at issue, evidence of the character of the victim or of her previous sexual experience with any person is not relevant to the issue of consent or quality of consent.” As normal examination findings neither refute nor confirm forcible sexual intercourse, circumstantial and other evidence may be taken into consideration. The manual says forcible sexual intercourse is possible without leaving any medical evidence. Submission of the victim may be achieved by emotional manipulation, fear of violence or death or by verbal threats; the force used, or resistance offered, is insufficient to produce injury; bruises may not become apparent for 48 hours following an assault; a delay in reporting the incident will allow minor injuries to fade or heal, and the survivor becoming unconscious, under the effect of alcohol/drugs are some of the reasons cited for absence of injury. Such cases shall be registered in hospital as a medico-legal case (MLC), whether the patient comes on her own or is brought by the police. If the patient comes on her own, the decision to inform the police shall be taken after obtaining due consent from her or her guardian. The doctor should examine such cases if the survivor reports to the hospital first without a First Information Report. A victim may come to the hospital only for treatment of the effects of the assault. Under Section 39 of the Cr.PC, the doctor is not bound to inform the police of such cases. Informed refusal to inform the police should be documented. Neither the court nor the police can force the victim to undergo medical examination. It has to be done with her/parents/guardian’s informed consent (depending on age). The consent form will be signed by the person herself if she is above 12, the manual recommends. An important need identified by the DHR is making guidelines available to healthcare providers who work with victims of sexual violence. The manuals are meant, not to replace the standard textbooks, but to supplement them in such a way that these guidelines can be adapted easily to most healthcare provider situations in the country. Most countries which have well-developed services for women subjected to sexual assault have realised the need for psychological support and the need for a survivor support worker who will help the woman through all stages — from the initial contact at the police station or health facility, helping her handle medical examination, discussing an emergency contraception and STD/HIV prophylaxis and subsequently helping her with court proceedings and to normalise her life. The toolkit is meant to help nurses, doctors and counsellors give psychosocial support to survivors of rape, help them with the consequences of the experience and through recovery from trauma. Describing rape and sexual assault as severely traumatic experiences often associated with immediate psychological reactions such as shock, shame, guilt, anger, numbing and psychological distress, the toolkit says women and young girls may not be able to discuss everything or reveal all details at the first contact at a police station or hospital. The clinical environment of a hospital or the alien atmosphere in a police station may add to the distress and often result in the survivor not revealing important information. ‘You are not to blame’ is the key message the survivor wants to hear. She should not be quizzed by too many professionals. ‘I believe you’ and ‘I understand your distress’ are two critical messages that will help a survivor in talking about her problem. The partner needs to be educated on the normal reactions to healing after sexual assault: how anger sometimes serves a function and how the partner may also need to talk about his own emotions with the counsellor. (The Hindu 10/3/13)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

22. World Bank chief vows more efforts to combat climate change (9)

WASHINGTON: World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim has pledged that the Bank was committed to tackling climate change “more than anything else”.”What we have to realize is that climate change is not a future threat. It is here with us today,” Kim said at a special event titled “Connect4Climate: Right Here, Right Now” to celebrate creative youth engagement in the effort to combat climate change, Xinhua reported. “I want you understand that in the world today, especially in the poorer countries, this is a problem with us right now,” he noted. “I’m here today just to deliver a very simple message. The World Bank is committed to tackling climate change more than anything else,” Kim said. Kim proposed starting a social movement to engage broader and more diverse audiences to deliver bold solutions on climate change. “A social movement will finally make everyone get serious about tacking climate change,” he said. He also encouraged young people from around the world to take an active role in helping to combat the threat of climate change. “We have to listen to the young people,” he said. At the special event, 19 youngsters from 14 countries received prizes in the competition for their photographs, videos and podcasts about climate change. Connect4Climate is a global partnership dedicated to climate change communication and action launched in 2011 by the World Bank, the Italian ministry of environment and the Global Environmental Facility. (Times of India 3/3/13)

 

23. South Delhi unaware of e-waste hazards: Survey (9)

New Delhi: The environmental hazards of e-waste — electronic items that have been disposed of — have become a serious concern for South Delhi areas which seem to generate more of such trash than other parts of the Capital, according to a survey. A survey conducted by students of Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Science, Dwarka has revealed that South Delhi residents are the least aware of proper e-waste disposal practices, despite being among the top users of high-end electronic devices. The survey — with three parameters being consumption, usage and e-waste awareness — showed that 83.6 per cent population of South Delhi was either ‘unaware’ or ‘doubtful’ about the environmental hazards. Another survey carried out by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) puts Delhi among the top 10 cities generating e-waste. As per estimates, Delhi produces around 15,000 tonne per year. The report was discussed in a two-day national seminar on inefficient implementation of e-waste management and its threats to health and environment of the country at the Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Science on Thursday. It emphasised the need to create awareness through producer-consumer sensitization of the issue. BC Sabata, senior scientist, Department of Environment and Forest of Delhi Government, said the Government had brought in regulations to stop e-waste dumping but that was not of much help since the general public is largely ignorant about such issues. “In Delhi we have set-up 180 eco clubs in schools which can further facilitate as supporting centres for e-waste management, starting with the awareness aspect. People discard gadgets and sell it to local scrap dealers without knowing where it’s going and what effects it can have on environment,” he said. He also added that the Government was holding talks with the University Grants Commission for seeking to include environment-related issues in the courses. Satish Sinha, the associate director of Toxics Link, a non-profit environmental organisation, said the aim of Government regulations was to give a proper framework for disposal of e-waste. “When hazardous waste rules and municipal waste rules were made in India, they took time in implementation. Similar could be the case with e-waste regulation. The failure in implementation of rules is due to lack of proper infrastructure. There are gaps between the stakeholders two of which are the Central Board of Pollution Control and State Board of Pollution Control,” he added. (Pioneer 8/3/13)

 

24. Pune emitted 46 lakh tonnes of carbon in one year (9)

PUNE: The first-ever carbon footprint report for Pune has revealed that the city emitted over 46 lakh metric tonnes of the gas in 2010-2011. The per capita carbon release in the city is around 1.46 metric tonnes, which is slightly lower than the national average of around 1.5 metric tonnes. However, the per capita emission is way below that of several western countries – for instance, the per capita release in the US is around 17.3 metric tonnes. Electricity consumption is the biggest contributor to carbon emission in Pune followed by fuel. The residential sector emits the most carbon, followed by the transport, commercial and industrial sectors. Pune is, in fact, the first city to carry out a municipal-level carbon footprint study. The carbon footprint report, titled ‘Carbon Inventory Pune City’, was prepared by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in association with the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). The report was submitted to the PMC on Thursday. The study had adopted a methodology in keeping with the guidelines laid down by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Bank while making carbon inventories at the national and city level. “There are various methods to calculate the average carbon footprint,” Anjali Parasnis, associate director of TERI’s western regional centre, told TOI. “The factors that have been used for the footprint study at the national level and at the Pune level can be different. However, if we wish to compare both, we can say that Pune city has performed at par with the national average or slightly better.” Asked about how Pune fares vis-a-vis international cities, Parasnis said the study has not done a direct comparison. “There are different factors for different cities. Factors in New York, London or Tokyo would be different compared to Pune. But, on an average, major cities in developed countries have a 4-5 times higher per capita emission than Pune,” she said. Parasnis, who was one of the coordinators for the carbon footprint project, said the PMC areas as well as cantonment areas were studied while preparing the report, which took over two years. The work of data collection, compilation, cross-verification and analysis was carried out in association with a number of national- and state-level government as well as non-government agencies. The period from 2006 and 2011 was taken into consideration to map the overall trend of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, the specific cumulative emissions and per capita emissions mentioned in the report are for the year 2010-11. The report states that electricity usage contributed 56.38% of the total carbon-dioxide equivalents (CO2e) emissions followed by petroleum products (36.50%). Municipal solid waste and sewage contributed the rest. Electricity distributed through a low-tension distribution network is primarily used in residential and commercial sectors in the city and it was the biggest source of GHG emission. As much as 26.27 lakh tonnes of carbon were released through electricity usage in the city during 2010-11, the report said. Petroleum products, the second biggest contributor, are estimated to have generated 17 lakh tonnes of carbon. Solid waste contributed 4.6% (2.12 lakh tonnes) and sewage 2.3% (1.19 lakh tonnes) of the total CO2e emissions. The report states that the current per capita emission of 1.5 tonnes is set to go up to 3-5 tonnes by 2030. India faces the challenge of providing massive infrastructure to its growing population while adopting a low carbon growth, the report points out. (Times of India 8/3/13)

 

25. In 2100, Earth will be hottest in 11,300 years (9)

LONDON: In another 87 years, Earth will be the warmest ever. For the first time, scientists have reconstructed Earth’s temperature history back to the end of the last Ice Age using data from 73 sites across the world. They have found that the planet today is warmer than it has been over the last 11,300 years. The projection of global temperature for the year 2100 is most alarming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that temperatures are set to surpass the maximum temperatures in the 11,300-year period known as the Holocene — under all plausible greenhouse gas emission scenarios. This is of particular interest because the Holocene spans the entire period of human civilization. According to the researchers, history shows that over the past 5,000 years, the Earth on average cooled about -17C (1.3F) — until the past 100 years, when it warmed by -17C (1.3 F). The largest changes were in the northern hemisphere, specially Asia. Climate models project that global temperature will rise another -16.7 to -11.3C (2.0 to 11.5F) by the end of this century, largely dependent on the magnitude of carbon emissions. “What is troubling is that this warming will be significantly greater than at any time during the past 11,300 years,” researchers said. Results of the study, by researchers at Oregon State University and Harvard University, were published in the journal Science. Lead author Shaun Marcott says previous research on past global temperature change has largely focused on the last 2,000 years. Extending the reconstruction of global temperatures back to the end of the last Ice Age puts today’s climate into a larger context. “We already knew that on a global scale, Earth is warmer today than it was over much of the past 2,000 years. Now we know that it is warmer than most of the past 11,300 years,” Marcott said. Peter Clark, co-author said, “When you just look at one part of the world, the temperature history can be affected by regional climate processes like El Nino or monsoon variations. But when you combine the data from sites all around the world, you can average out those regional anomalies and get a clear sense of the Earth’s global temperature history.” According to the team, the most important natural factor affecting global temperatures during the last 11,300 years is a gradual change in the distribution of solar insolation linked with Earth’s position relative to the sun. “During the warmest period of the Holocene, the Earth was positioned such that Northern Hemisphere summers warmed more. As the Earth’s orientation changed, Northern Hemisphere summers became cooler, and we should now be near the bottom of this long-term cooling trend — but obviously, we’re not,” they said. According to Marcott the earth’s climate responds tremendously to carbon dioxide and solar insolation. (Times of India 9/3/13)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

26. 17% increase for education sector is nothing but eyewash (11)

New Delhi: While the budget announced a 17% increase over last year’s revised estimate in the education sector on Thursday, allocating the HRD ministry Rs 65,867 crore, fine print says something else. The Right To Education Act, introduced with fanfare in 2010 and reaching its infrastructure deadline in March this year has seen an increase from last year’s Rs 25,555 crore to Rs 27,258 crore this year. But what the increase hides is the consistent inadequacy of the funds when compared to what the cabinet itself had approved as necessary for the fulfillment of the act’s requirements in 2010. Educationist and CABE member Vinod Raina who was part of drafting the RTE says the cabinet approved 2010 figure had been a total of Rs 2.3 lakh crore for 5 years. On a 65:35 sharing between the centre and the state, this translates to Rs 34,000 crore each year for the Centre. Yet, right from 2011, the amount allocated has been less than this. Even in, 2011-12, the first year of its allocation, the allocation was the inadequate Rs 21,000 crore. This is the third year of its implementation. Last year it was Rs 25,555 crore and this year it is Rs27,258. “The figure has been consistently less than what the cabinet had approved,” Raina said adding the current allocation is “not enough for RTE”. Raina added the amount allocated for last year — Rs 25,555 crore was not released properly. “There was a Rs3,000 crore cut from December onwards”. The infrastructure deadline of the Act ends on March 31st, while the teacher training and other norms ends in 2015. The HRD budget also saw an increase for mid-day meal scheme which increased from Rs11,937 crore last year to Rs13,215 crore. The budget announced the allocation of funds for scholarships for SC,ST , OBC and women allocating Rs5,284 crore to various ministries for the purpose. Higher education has come down to Rs5824.75 cr from last year’s Rs 6484.77 crore. (DNA 1/3/13)

 

27. ‘Rs 1cr ‘paltry’ budget for EWS quota upsets schools (11)

CHANDIGARH: The budget allocating just Rs 1 crore as reimbursement to private schools for teaching 25% students from economically-weaker section under RTE has left the private schools apprehensive of admitting EWS students into nursery classes for the coming session. Also, UT education department is still to decide when to reimburse the pending amount to schools. This year, the situation of RTE Act seems to have worsened in the city following confusion after Delhi high court passed the judgment stating that children below the age of six do not come under RTE. On one hand, UT education department has been repeatedly asking schools to send details of vacant RTE seats and on the other, schools have been asking for clarity over what RTE seats are and which schools have to implement it and when would they get the reimbursement amount. The education department had asked nearly 70 private schools to send details of vacant EWS seats by February 15, however, only around 30 replied. “There are zero seats until the education department tells us when they will be paying the reimbursement amount. It’s the RTE seats under which education is free and the state government pays for it and in this case, the schools are free to charge a nominal fee from the students,” said H S Mamik, president of independent schools association. “There are nearly 450 children for which the department has to pay for almost three years. Even if they pay Rs 1,000 per child, the total will exceed Rs 1 crore”. The department officials had asked private schools to wait till April 15 before converting the seats. The matter of reimbursement has been a major cause of tussle between private schools and UT education department. (Times of India 2/3/13)

 

28. Nodal officers to monitor RTE implementation (11)

Bangalore: To ensure more students enrol themselves under Right to Education (RTE), the Directorate of Public Instruction (DPI) has appointed nodal officers in each of educational districts in the State to oversee admission under the Act. “Last year, of the nearly 50,000 students who registered under the RTE, as many as 46,000 students were admitted under the Act. This year it is estimated that more than one lakh students would seek admission under the RTE quota,” said an official with the DPI. The nodal officers will oversee number of applications submitted, total intake of students under the Act in each of the taluks and the districts in the State and also collect information about monitoring processes, etc.  The nodal officer for Bangalore South will be the Director of Secondary Education, while the Joint Director of the Department of State Education Research and Training (DSERT) will be responsible for Bangalore North. Taking note of the higher number of students registered under the Act, each of the taluks in the City’s north and south districts will have a nodal officer. In Bangalore Rural, the Principal of District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) has been appointed as the nodal officer. (Deccan Herald 3/3/13)

 

29. Collectors told to furnish info on RTE implementation (11)

BHOPAL: Commissioner of school education department has issued yet another notice to district collectors to provide with the information pertaining to parameters under Right to Education (RTE) Act and their completion on Monday. The letter from commissioner Rajya Shiksha Kendra (RSK), Rashmi Arun Shami, states that 32 districts of the state have failed to provide proper information about completion of the parameters mentioned under the Act as per the letter received from National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). The collectors have been asked to reply on a priority basis. Previously too, three reminders have been issued by the commissioner and principal secretary Sanjay Singh to various collectors for replying to their notices. The chairperson of the national commission for protection of child rights (NCPCR) Shanta Sinha had written to PS of the department, Sanjay Singh, asking for details of the progress of the RTE in all the government schools of the state. The commission had also stated that the information collated from the districts should reach the commission by December 5, which did not happen. The state has to fulfill provisions of the RTE by April 2013 when the Act completes three years of coming into effect. NCPCR is the monitoring authority for implementation of Act in all the states. (The Hindu 5/3/13)

 

30. Private schools have to register under RTE: court (11)

Bangalore, March 6, 2013: In a setback to private school managements, the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday upheld the rule which calls for all private schools in the State to mandatorily submit self-declaration-cum-application of recognition of their institute to the Education Department under the Karnataka Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (KRTE) Rules, 2012. The order upholds the rules framed by the State government which call for fresh registration of all private schools by providing details about their school as per Form-1 of the rules under the provisions of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009. Justice B.S. Patil passed the order while dismissing a petition filed by Mother Teresa Convent English Medium Primary School, Kolar. The school management had questioned the validity of Rule 11 of the KRTE Rules. The petitioner-school contented that as the State government had granted recognition to the school under the Karnataka Education Act, 1983 seeking fresh recognition under the KRTE Rules and the RTE Act does not arise. The Rule 11 of the KRTE Rules is in direct conflict with the provisions of the Karnataka Education Act and also the Karnataka Educational Institutions (Recognition of Primary and Secondary Schools) Rules 1999, it was claimed in the petition. The petitioner-school also claimed that Section 18 of the RTE Act, which mandates obtaining of certificate of recognition by all existing private schools under the RTE Act, does not apply to Karnataka in view of the provisions of the Karnataka Education Act. The petition had also sought a direction to the State government against insisting for registration under the RTE Act. However, the court did not accept the contention of the school and held that Section 18 of the RTE Act was applicable to the State and Rule 11 of the KRTE Rule was valid. (The Hindu 6/3/13)

 

31. Birth certificate not must for Right To Education (11)

Bangalore: Birth certificate is no more mandatory for children to get admission to schools under Right To Education (RTE), according to a circular issued by state department of public instruction. A simple undertaking by parents on white paper will do. The circular has asked school authorities must be liberal in admitting children under RTE, and not deny admission even if parents fail to produce birth certificate of the child. Existing rules require parents to produce some kind of proof of date of birth to determine the age of child at the time of school admission. But if the parents have no document certifying birth, , then schools can accept a written undertaking from parents on white paper. The circular has private school managements up in arms. They argue that issue of such circulars by the government amounts to imposing RTE on private schools. “Not just birth certificate, department is asking us to provide seats even if the parents fail to produce cast certificate and income certificate,” D Shashi Kumar, organising secretary of Karnataka State private schools Management Federation (KSPSMF) told DNA. He cited cases where wherein parents had tried to admit their four-year-old children to class 1 by claiming the age to be 5, taking advantage of the child physical appearance. “This rule might be a boon for parents to get in their child toprivate school. But in future child will suffer mentally,” said Shashi Kumar. M Srinivasan, president of managements of independent CBSE schools association said: “The rule is totally unreasonable. There are cases where parents trying to admit their child studying in second standard, to first standard under RTE, giving a false undertaking on age.” Associations of private schools have asked their members to ignore the circular. “We have informed our member schools not to admit students if parents fails to produce birth certificate. We don’t care even if we get notice from government. We will not accept anything which is not meaningful,” said Srinivasan. (DNA 8/3/13)

 

TERRORISM

32. No breakthrough in Hyderabad terror attack probe (12)

Hyderabad, March 01, 2013: A breakthrough eludes police even a week after the terrorist attack in Hyderabad that killed 16 people and injured over 100. Despite claims by the police of obtaining many clues, it appears to be still groping in the dark. No one has been arrested so far in connection with the twin bomb blasts, though police picked up for questioning many youth including some who were acquitted in 2007 Mecca Masjid blast. The multi-agency investigators have yet to establish identity the terror group behind the blasts. The terror attack in the crowded Dilsukhnagar area Feb 21 evening killed 16 people and left 117 others wounded. Under fire for its failure to prevent the attacks despite admission by alleged operatives of the banned terror outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM) that they recceed Dilsukhnagar, the Andhra Pradesh Police may hand over the probe to National Investigation Agency (NIA). A Delhi court on Thursday sent two alleged operatives of IM, lodged in Tihar Jail, to NIA custody for questioning. The NIA will question Syed Maqbool and Imran Khan for five days. The two were arrested late last year in 2012 Pune blasts case. NIA, which has already spread the probe to several states, is looking to piece together the information to track down the culprits. Since the blasts took place on the border between Hyderabad and Cyberabad police commissionerates, the police of both the commissionerates are probing the attacks besides Special Investigation Team (SIT), Crime Investigation Department (CID) Counter-Intelligence and Octopus, the anti-terror wing of state police. The NIA, Intelligence Bureau (IB) and National Security Guard (NSG) are also participating in the investigations. Andhra Pradesh home minister Sabita Indra Reddy is still confident of cracking the case ‘soon’. “The investigations have been intensified. The culprits will be arrested soon,” she said. “There is lot of data available to us. We are very close to solve the case. It is only a matter of time we get a breakthrough,” claimed director general of police V Dinesh Reddy. He also did not agree that there is no coordination due to several agencies involved in the probe. The police are likely to release soon the sketches of two suspects, whose images were captures on Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras installed in the area. Since the images recorded on a CCTV camera mounted at a traffic signal near the blast site are unclear, the police have taken help of the experts to identify the suspected bomb planters. The police are also scanning CCTV footage from the shops in the area to identify two men who suspected to have planted Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) on cycles at the two sites before triggering them with timers. The condition of five injured in the blast still remained critical. They are undergoing treatment along with 10 others at two different hospitals. The other injured have been discharged. (Hindustan Times 1/3/13)

 

33. Hyderabad blasts: Non-bailable warrant issued against IM founder Bhatkal, nine others (12)

NEW DELHI: Non-bailable warrants (NBWs) were on Tuesday issued by a Delhi court against Indian Mujahideen founder Riyaz Bhatkal and nine other operatives of the banned outfit in connection with the February 21 Hyderabad twin blasts which claimed 16 lives. During in-chamber hearing, district judge IS Mehta issued the NBWs against Pakistan-based Riyaz Bhatkal, Iqbal Bhatkal, Mohsim Chaudhary, Amir Reza Khan, Dr Shahnawaz Alam, Asadullah Akhtar, Ariz Khan, Mohd Khalid, Mirza Shadaab Beg and Mohd Sajid, who all are alleged IM operatives. During the hearing, two alleged IM operatives Syed Maqbool and Imran Khan were produced before the special NIA court after expiry of their five-day NIA custody and it remanded them to judicial custody till March 13. The NIA told the court that Maqbool and Imran were taken to Hyderabad and they have revealed some important facts about the blasts, court sources said. According to the sources, the NIA told the judge that the conspiracy behind the Hyderabad blasts was hatched by the IM modules and the agency also moved an application for issuance of production warrant against alleged IM operative Obaie-Ur-Rehman who is currently lodged in a Bangalore jail. The court allowed the NIA’s plea saying “let production warrant of the accused Obaie-Ur-Rehman be issued through Superintendent, Central Jail, Bangalore for March 13.” According to the NIA, the blasts took place in Hyderabad on the alleged instructions of Riyaz Bhatkal. Maqbool and Imran, who were lodged in Tihar Jail after their arrest by Delhi police in the August 2012 Pune blast case, were handed over to NIA for their custodial interrogation on February 28 by the court after the agency alleged that they had recced Hyderabad’s Dilsukhnagar area, where the blasts occurred, last July. The blasts in Hyderabad were triggered by IEDs planted near Konark and Venkatadiri theatres in Dilsukhnagar area. The NIA had said that they required the custody of the duo to take them to Hyderabad and interrogate them for more clues about the blasts as the ongoing probe suggests that an IM module was behind it. It had said that the duo’s interrogation would help in unearthing the exact plan envisaged by Bhatkal. (Times of India 5/3/13)

 

34. Rehman Malik questions Punjab government over terror (12)

Islamabad, March 5 : Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik has criticised the Punjab provincial government for doing precious little to curb terrorism, particularly against banned terror outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). He also blamed LeJ and Punjab Taliban groups for carrying out terror acts in the country. “If Punjab government launches a crackdown on the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the scourge of terrorism could be eliminated,” Malik told reporters Monday while visiting a hospital where victims of Sunday’s twin blasts have been admitted. A few days ago he said LeJ was involved in 80 percent terror activities in Pakistan. About 50 people were killed and 140 injured when a blast hit Abbas Town, a residential area in the port city of Karachi, Sunday evening. “Every time I utter the name of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, it give(s) the Punjab government jitters,” Geo News quoted Malik as adding. Malik said the Punjab government crticises him instead of taking LeJ leader Malik Ishaq into custody, against whom as many as 34 FIRs have been lodged. Stating that there was a similarity in the terror strikes of Quetta and Karachi, and in both the incidents chemicals were transported from Punjab, Malik asked why the Punjab government did not close down the offices of LeJ in the province. He also claimed having cracked the backbone of proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. (New Kerala 6/3/13)

 

35. Indian Mujahideen operative held after 5-yr manhunt (12)

RANCHI: A National Investigation Agency (NIA) team from Hyderabad on Monday arrested Indian Mujahideen member Manzar Imam, who is suspected to have been involved in several blasts – including those in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune and Ernakulam. It is important to note that the arrested is not the Manzar Imam from Samastipur, Bihar, named as a suspect in last month’s blasts in Hyderabad. The NIA team produced him in the court of first-class judicial magistrate MC Narain. After hearing the argument of the investigating agency and seeing the arrest warrant issued by the Ernakulam court, the magistrate sent him to five-day transit remand. Sources in NIA said the suspected IM operative was arrested on the warrant issued by an Ernakulam court on the basis of an FIR lodged in 2008 at Mundakkan police station at Kottayam in Kerala. Imam is named as one of the 43 participants of a terrorist training camp in the Thangalpara jungles of that state during the same year. The sources said Manzar (25) has been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) — including Arms Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He has been booked for criminal conspiracy, collection of arms with the intention of waging war against the government, sedition, promoting enmity between grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, and indulging in acts prejudicial to harmony along with 34 acts committed by several persons in furtherance of common intention. Recently, the investigation agency even initiated the process of attaching the property of his family. Ranchi SSP Saket Singh declined to reveal much about the case. “We simply helped the NIA team arrest the IM operative. Now that that has been done, NIA will decide the further course of action,” said the SSP. A two-member team of the NIA was in Ranchi for about a week after they were tipped off about Imam’s presence in Jharkhand. “We first got information about his presence in Gumla. Today we were told he was travelling to Ranchi to meet his mother. At around 9.00am, we found out that he was somewhere near the Central Institute of Psychiatry (CIP). At around 9.15am, he got off an auto-rickshaw and that is when we nabbed him,” said a source. Manzar’s elder brother Safdar Imam, who with his family members reached the court premises, claimed Manzar was innocent.”He was a brilliant student, a gold medalist from Ranchi University,” said Safdar. The family members said Manzar had never gone out of Jharkhand and was very studious. “He cannot be involved in such a heinous crime,” said a family member allowed to meet him for a few minutes on the court premises. (Times of India 6/3/13)

 

36. Yasin Malik returns to India, protests by Shiv Sena activists (12)

New Delhi | Agency: PTI: JKLF leader Yasin Malik, who is under attack for meeting terror outfit Lashker-e-Taiba(LeT) chief Hafeez Saeed in Pakistan, returned to India today amid protests by Shiv Sena activists at the airport here. Malik, who arrived by a Pakistan International Airlines(PIA) flight from Islamabad, faced a volley of questions by newsmen for sharing dais with Saeed, wanted by India in connection with 2008 Mumbai attack. The separatists leader said he had not invited Saeed, the 26/11 mastermind, at the rally called in Islamabad to protest hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru last month. “What’s the crime I have committed. I neither invited him nor was I organising the protest rally. I was an invitee myself,” said Malik, who was accompanied by S A R Gilani. Gilani was acquitted in the Parliament attack case. The JKLF leader said the Government was free to act and withdraw his passport, which was due to expire on March 19. “I wonder why am I being targetted now. I had met Saeed in 2006,” he said. As he was speaking to reporters, a group of Shiv Sanik activists tried to hit him but the attempt was foiled by the police personnel who had anticipated trouble upon his arrival. Asked what could be his stand in case he was questioned or detained by police, Malik shot back “let me rot in jail” and repeated JKLF’s stand on Kashmir issue. Ahead of Malik, moderate Hurriyat Conference group led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq had also visited Pakistan where they had met Saeed. Mirwaiz later complained that his passport was not cleared for renewal in time last month that would have facilitated his visit to Egypt for a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). (DNA 9/3/13)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

37. Guv sanctions prosecution against 25 Naxals (12)

Ranchi: Governor Syed Ahmed granted permission on Saturday to prosecute 25 Naxals arrested from Mahuatand police station region. They were involved in attack on police and security forces on September 29, 2011 near Baldarwa village. The Governor also recommended names of Principal Secretary of Urban Development Department Nitin Madan Kulkarni and City Planner Gajanand Ram to attend the workshop to be organised in Moscow on Global Solid Waste Management. The Governor also suspended Godda district cooperative officer Ramnath Prasad and ordered action against him. (Pioneer 3/3/13)

 

38. Quack beheaded in Jharkhand; Naxals suspected (12)

Jamshedpur : Suspected CPI (Maoists) beheaded a quack at Hudagada village in Seraikela-Kharswan district of Jharkhand, police today said. The torso of the victim, identified as Vijay Kumar Dey (37 yrs) a quack, and the severed head were found lying within a distance of 15 metres yesterday. Dey had left home on the afternoon of February 27  but did not return home, leading the family members to lodge a missing report at Kharswan police station on March 1. Superintendent of Police, Upendra Kumar, however, said Dey had a link with the ultra outfit as he used to provide treatment to its cadres and supply medicines to them. Admitting that a Maoists poster was recovered from near the spot owning responsibility for Dey’s killing, Kumar said prima facie it seemed to be the handiwork of the Maoists “but we can not rule out outright that it could be a ploy of the culprits to misguide police.” (Pioneer 4/3/13)

 

39. State’s Naxal-hit zones to get 987 mobile towers (12)

Ranchi : A total of 987 villages of Jharkhand will be ‘tele-connected’ under the Centre’s ambitious project setting up mobile towers in remote and inaccessible Maoist strongholds. “These villages need mobile towers, for which requirements will be identified later. For now, we have already demanded 700 mobile towers for the 207 villages on priority,” said IG (Operations) SN Pradhan. Remote villages have long been raising this demand. The decision was finally taken on Monday at a high-level meeting convened by Union Home Secretary RK Singh and attended by Chief Secretaries and DGPs of Maoist-affected States. Nine Maoist-hit States — including Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Bengal and Maharashtra — will get 2,200 mobile towers by the year-end. “I don’t think it will be a problem to establish those towers. It is a public demand. The Maoists have no history of damaging any under-construction mobile tower though it is damaged when police movement increases in the area,” said Pradhan. Nonetheless, as a safety measure, the towers will be set up in consultation with the State Governments near establishments of security forces, police stations or other secured locations. The Home Ministry and department of telecommunication have roped in BSNL for the project. “Cost of construction of each tower will be Rs 10 lakh to 12 lakh and will be provided from the Universal Service Obligations Fund, a corpus being created by the Government through raising the Universal Access Levy,” said Pradhan. Of late, several complaints of poor mobile connectivity have been registered from villagers, security forces and people engaged in developmental projects in these States. The Jharkhand Government constituted a core committee, headed by the Chief Secretary, on February 20 to weed out problems faced by BSNL in providing connectivity in Naxal-affected areas. In the past four years, more than 200 mobile towers have been blown up in the nine States by Maoists alleging security forces were being informed about their movements and locations with mobile phones. (Pioneer 6/3/13)

 

40. Orissa: Chinese explosives seized from Maoist den (12)

In a major breakthrough, security personnel belonging to the BSF and the special operation group of the Orissa police on Wednesday recovered a huge cache of explosives during an anti-naxalite operation in Koraput district, nearly 550 km from here. Acting on a tip-off, the security personnel raided certain places in Pinamali forest under Narayanpatna police station area from where explosives were recovered, they said. “The explosives were dumped by the Maoists in a plastic container in the dense forest. The security personnel safely recovered the explosives and no injury has been reported,” said sub-divisional police officer, (Laxmipur), Y.J. Rao. (Asian Age 7/3/13)

 

41. Fixed deposit bonds handed over to nine surrendered Maoists (12)

BERHAMPUR, March 9, 2013: Nine surrendered Maoists were handed over fixed deposit bonds as part of rehabilitation policy of government at a function held in Rayagada town on Thursday night. As per the rehabilitation policy these naxalites were taken as six units. A surrendered Maoist couple was considered single unit. Similarly a father who along with his two daughters who were in the Maoist fold in the past were also taken up as one unit. The Rayagada district rehabilitation committee which was headed by the Rayagada Collector had regarded all these surrendered Maoists as A+ category. So, two of them received fixed deposit bonds worth Rs. 1,40,000, while the rest were handed over bonds worth Rs. 1,50,000. These bonds were handed over to them at a function which was attended by Rayagada Superintendent of Police (SP) Rajesh Pandit and commandant of CRPF, Balaram Behera. The fixed deposit bonds were in joint account with the surrendered Maoists and the Rayagada SP as joint account holders. These fixed deposits were for three years after which they would be handed over to the beneficiaries. This deposit could also be utilised as collateral security to get loans from banks for self employment. All the surrendered Maoists had started living normal life. Thirteen-year-old Rajani Motamajhi, who had been lured into the violent fold at very young age was now studying in class V in Muniguda High School. She was too optimistic about a bright future for herself. Similarly Champa Mandangi, who was an orphan from Koraput district was now studying in class X in Bhubaneswar. She had surrendered last year. Speaking to The Hindu , the Rayagada SP, Mr. Pandit said all these surrendered Maoists would receive financial benefits worth around Rs. 2,50,000 for their rehabilitation through various schemes. They would get Rs. 3, 000 per annum for their education, Rs. 2,000 per year for vocational training, Rs. 25,000 if they want to marry and Rs. 25,000 to build their houses. (The Hindu 9/3/13)

 

42. Anti-Naxal cops start operations in Mysore district (12)

MYSORE: The Anti-Naxal Force, the elite commando force fighting Maoists in Karnataka, is extending its area of operation to Mysore district following apprehension that Naxals could extend their base to forested areas in Mysore and Chamarajnagar. After sighting of Naxals in Kodagu forests, the ANF on Sunday moved its commandos to rural Mysore, which the senior police officials described as preventive measure. The ANF is opening a temporary camp at Beemanakolli in Heggadadevenakote taluk, one of the most backward taluks in Karnataka. Though the combing operations were planned to start on Sunday, it was put off. The ANF commandos are likely to start the groundwork from Monday and scan the forested areas, particularly those pockets that forms border with Kerala. The 100-plus force is stationed at Beechanahalli in H D Kote where ANF held a joint meeting with Mysore district police and forest officials. A joint meeting of the cops from Kerala and Tamil Nadu too was held for better coordination. The ANF commandant Vasudeva Murthy has arrived to chalk out strategy. Mysore SP R Dileep visited the area. There are no Naxal activities reported from Mysore district. The ANF is extending its activities here as a preventive measure, Inspector General of Police (Southern range) K Ramachandra Rao told The Times of India. “There are also no reports of Naxal sighting in Mysore district,” he stated. We are combing the forests in Kodagu where Naxals were sighted. As a preventive measure, the ANF is focusing on Mysore, he explained. Mysore DC Ramegowda stated the intelligence agencies provided information that Naxals could have infiltrated forested areas in Mysore district and the ANF is starting the combing operations. The area of focus for the ANF is forest cover bordering Kerala’s Waynad district where Maoists activities are witnessed. This comes one month after Kerala Thunderbolt, the elite group of commandos, intensified their combing operations along with forest staff and police in the forest areas of Brahmagiri hills on the Kerala-Karnataka border following reports of suspected Maoists movement in the area. The ANF is planning to comb the forests in Nagarahole and Bandipur tiger reserves and is likely to set up five temporary camps in Mysore district. It asked details about the topography of the area with the forest staff during the joint meeting. Sources in the forest department said the ANF asked the officials of movement of suspected people in the forested areas and on the fringes. Chamarajnagar SP Rajendra Prasad said they are keeping a tight vigil in the border areas as a preventive measure. “This is to prevent Naxals from gaining ground in the forest areas,” he stated. However, the ANF has not moved its staff to Chamarajnagar district. (Times of India 10/3/13)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

43. I would solve problems when I come to power: Raj Thackeray (13)

Aurangabad: MNS chief Raj Thackeray on Friday said that it was his duty as an Opposition leader to highlight the problems of the state, and if he came to power, he would certainly solve them. Raj, talking to reporters here, criticised the media for giving little coverage to Bhandara rape and murder case, compared to the Delhi gang rape case. Replying to a question about his targeting Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, he said he had no personal enmity, but he must communicate to the people the failures of the ruling parties. He also claimed that MNS’s stand against the north Indian migrants coming to Maharashtra had not led to any backlash against Maharashtrians in other states. Talking about his relations with his estranged cousin and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Raj said since the formation of MNS eight years ago, he had never criticised Uddhav personally. (Zee News 1/3/13)

 

44. BJP demands govt nominate PoK people, Pandits to J&K Assembly (13)

New Delhi: BJP today demanded that the government nominate representatives of Kashmiri Pandits, who had to leave the state due to terror threats, and the people displaced from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to Jammu and Kashmir Assembly. “There are 111 seats in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly out of which elections are held only on 87 seats as 24 seats lie in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir that remain vacant. “We think that the provisions should be made to fill these 24 seats by nominations from the people displaced from PoK,” BJP President Rajnath Singh said. He was delivering the president’s address at the BJP National Council Meet here. Singh also said Kashmiri Pandits, who had to leave the Valley when terrorism was at its peak, should also be nominated to the Assembly. The party also expressed concern over the recent killings of sarpanches in Jammu and Kashmir by terrorists. “We condemn the manner in which democracy is being suppressed by terrorist outfits at the Panchayat level. “The government of Jammu and Kashmir is not only dilly-dallying in giving financial help to the Panchayats but has even failed in ensuing the safety of the sarpanches,” Singh said. He charged that terrorists have killed sarpanches and publicly warned them to resign from their position. “Due to fear of terrorists, hundreds of sarpanches have collectively tendered their resignation. Sarpanches are demanding security…,” he said. Singh claimed that though he has written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on this issue, the UPA government has been silent on the matter. The main opposition also suggested that government should make a clear distinction between the Hindu refugees fleeing from Pakistan and the illegal migrants crossing the border from Bangladesh. The party demanded that the Hindu refugees be given citizenship as they had fled persecution. “In India, families belonging to minorities living in Pakistan have taken refuge. Due to lack of any well thought out refugee relief and rehabilitation policy, the refugees coming to India have to live in an atmosphere of uncertainty,” the BJP chief said. He demanded that government form a proper refugee policy keeping in mind the distinction between an infiltrator and a refugee. India has always given refuge to victim groups, he said. “A clear and special refugee rehabilitation policy should be made in the context of those who are justifiably refugees and those who are coming as victims. “If we get an opportunity to form the government, we will make a rational refugee policy,” Singh said. He also emphasised on the need for checking illegal immigration from Bangladesh which he alleged was changing the demographic profile of the country, especially in the bordering states like Assam and West Bengal. (DNA 2/3/13)

 

45. Myanmar: UN provides aid to conflict-affected Kachin area (13)

New York, Mar 2 : United Nations and international agencies for the first time in more than a year delivered badly-needed aid to hundreds of people in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state following a cease-fire and a de-escalation of violence, while warning of poor living conditions in communal shelters. “A 10-vehicle convoy brought relief items for 400 displaced families, equivalent to some 2,000 individuals,” a spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Adrian Edwards, told journalists Friday in Geneva. The team, including UNCHR, World Food Programme (WFP), UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), travelled between 17 and 21 February to Hpakant area, west of the Kachin state capital. The inter-agency visit was the first to the area since January 2012 in which UN staff were able to reach internally displaced people. Edwards said the visit was made possible after access was granted by the Myanmar Government. The team distributed tarpaulins for shelter, blankets, mosquito nets, cooking sets, clothes and sanitary iteIt also assessed living conditions in 17 camps in Hpakant housing more than 6,000 internally displaced persons. Aid workers said the communal shelters were overcrowded and lacked privacy, leading to tensions and potential security issues. They also noted a need for improved water and sanitation facilities, as well as more health-care services and improvements to camp infrastructure. Some 75,000 people have fled their homes in Kachin since fighting began in June 2011 between Government troops and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). The fighting intensified in September and December last year, before authorities in Myanmar announced a unilateral ceasefire in January. The UN had said it remained committed to helping and supporting the people of Myanmar, including through its good offices and through humanitarian aid and development. Over the coming weeks UNHCR plans to return to Hpakant to distribute supplies for another 1,000 displaced families that have yet to receive any assistance, Edwards said. (New Kerala 3/3/13)

 

46. Kashimiri Pandits received threat letter: Govt (13)

New Delhi : The government on Wednesday told the Rajya Sabha that Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir have received a letter threatening them to leave the valley within a week but there was no proof that the letter originated from militant organisations. Minister of State for Home R P N Singh replied with a “yes” to a question in Rajya Sabha on whether terrorists have issued a threat to Kashmiri Pandits to leave Kashmir. “As per report received from the state government of Jammu and Kashmir, a threatening letter/poster to leave Kashmir within a week was received through post by Secretary, Pandit Colony Sheikhpora, Budgam. The post, however, did not have any evidence or proof of its origin from any of the militant organisations. “In this connection an FIR no 225/2012 under section 13 ULA Act 120-B RPC has been registered. Adequate security arrangements are in place in and around the migrant colonies to ensure safety of the Kashmiri Pandits,” Singh said in the written reply in the Upper House. There are approximately 4,000 Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley. (DNA 6/3/13)

 

47. Syrian refugee numbers may double or triple this year: UN (13)

ANKARA: The number of Syrian refugees, which just passed the million mark, could double or triple by the end of the year if no solution is found to the conflict, UN high commissioner for refugees Antonio Guterres said on Sunday. “Now if this escalation goes on and nothing happens to solve the problem we might have in the end of the year a much larger number of refugees: twice or three times the present level,” he told reporters in Ankara. His warning came days after the UN announced that the number of Syrian refugees hit one million since the revolt erupted in their homeland two years ago. A year ago, the UN agency had only registered 33,000 refugees, but the numbers escalated as the war intensified, sending waves of refugees into neighbouring countries. Guterres is in Turkey to meet officials and discuss the situation of the more than 180,000 refugees who have taken shelter in several camps set up along Turkey-Syria border. Ankara says the real number is much higher as at least 70,000 others live in houses they have rented elsewhere in Turkey. (Times of India 10/3/13)

 

Posted by admin at 13 March 2013

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

1. Civil society split over new bill (1)

New Delhi: Anti-graft campaigner Anna Hazare on Friday threatened to launch a fresh stir against the new Lokpal Bill cleared by the Cabinet, even as civil society, including his associate Kiran Bedi, appeared to be divided over it. Though Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal has expressed opposition to the Lokpal draft, he does not seem to be inclined on launching fresh agitations over the issue. “I will keep trying for a strong Lokpal Bill and if need be, will sit on a fast again before the 2014 elections,” Hazare said in a hurriedly called press conference in the national capital, soon after his return form Patna. “I may even go back to the Ramlila Maidan and ask the people to elect someone who will give you laws that empower you.” He said the Lokpal will be ineffective if the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Central Vigilance Commission are not made autonomous, adding that the government did not bring class 1, 2 , 3, and 4 employees under the Lokpal despite promises. Former Army chief General V K Singh was also present at the press conference. However, Kiran Bedi seemed positive about the developments. “From nothing to something to more, as we move on! This is how we can read the lokpal bill! Unless we want to stay at nothing!” she tweeted. Bedi also welcomed changes in the draft and said most of the concerns were addressed. “Its Anti Corruption wing has been brought under oversight of Lokpal. Which is what we needed!” she tweeted. “It is open to opposition parties to improve the Lokpal as part of their manifesto!” Activist Aruna Roy also chimed in, describing it as a step forward. However, Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan opposed the draft. “This will protect the corrupt,” Kejriwal said . “Nitin Gadkari has resigned, but nothing happened on our allegations against Robert Vadra and Salman Khurshid. Instead, Khursid is getting promotions.” (Deccan Herald 1/3/13)

 

2. Custodial death probe on as per NHRC rule: DCP (1)

CUTTACK: The Cuttack city DCP S. Praveen Kumar on Saturday assured that the investigations into the allegation of Friday’s custodial death in energy police station here are being conducted as per the guidelines specified for such cases by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). A 24-year-old youth, booked for theft charges by the energy police station died in SCB medical college and hospital here late last evening. While the energy police station personnel maintain that Krutibash Mohapatra died after consuming poison, his family members allege that Mohapatra, who was working as a security guard in the store of a power distribution company died due to brutal police assault. The family members who are refusing to take the body of Mohapatra for cremation and demanding stringent action against policemen are protesting in front of the Mangalabag police station here with the body. The Mangalabag police here are investigating into the matter by registering two separate cases. “While the family members have filed one case against the energy police station, the energy police station on the other hand have made a complaint stating Mohapatra had consumed pesticide”, informed the Mangalabag police inspector P.K. Rath adding that the investigations into the both the cases are being done as per the law. It may be mentioned here that the energy police station had registered a theft case against the security guard Mohapatra following theft of some items from the CESU store located at Choudwar, on the outskirts of the city. (The Hindu 3/3/13)

 

3. ‘Engage’ US on rights issue in UN: India to Lanka (1)

New Delhi: Against the backdrop of demands by Tamil parties that India should vote against Sri Lanka at the UN on human rights, government on Wednesday remained evasive on the stand it will take even as it asked Sri Lanka to treat it as a humanitarian issue rather than “a matter of ego”. With a US-sponsored resolution set to be moved on Lankan Tamils at the United Nations Human Rights Council, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said he has asked his Lankan counterpart GL Peiris to work with the Unitd States and report progress if any made on the issue to arrive at a draft which is “acceptable to everybody”. “Government will take a stand. As of now I have told my colleague foreign minister of Sri Lanka to engage the US. If you have moved forward (on human rights issue), you should bring that to the knowledge of the US to arrive at a consensual draft which is acceptable to everybody,” Khurshid told reporters outside Parliament. “It is a humanitarian issue. It is not an issue on which anybody should stand on ceremony or ego. If it is possible, speak to them directly and find a suitable and acceptable draft,” he said. His comments came against the backdrop of mounting demands by Tamil parties that India should take a tough stand against Sri Lanka and vote in favour of resolution to be moved against it. The US is set to move the new resolution against Sri Lanka at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council for its alleged war crimes, asking the country to promote reconciliation and accountability. The resolution will ask the government of Sri Lanka to follow through on its own commitments to its people, including implementing the constructive recommendations from the report by Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. (Hindustan Times 6/3/13)

 

4. SC castigates Punjab, Bihar cops for violation of rights (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday took suo motu cognizance of Punjab police assaulting a woman in Tarn Taran and Bihar police caning contractual teachers in Patna saying the governments had failed to safeguard people’s right to life and dignity from “wholly unwarranted” police action. Initiating proceedings on its own in discharge of its mandate to protect fundamental rights of citizens, particularly women and weaker sections, a bench of Justices G S Singhvi and Ranjana P Desai said, “We feel that it is proper for this court to take cognizance of the gross violation of human rights as well as the constitutional rights of the people.” On February 4, television channels showed two Punjab policemen abusing, slapping and caning a 25-year-old dalit woman and her ex-serviceman father in Tarn Taran. The woman was complaining to police against some taxi drivers who allegedly molested her. Though Punjab government ordered a magisterial inquiry, state police chief Sumedh Singh Saini defended non-registration of FIR against the two cops involved in the incident. The other incident related to lathi-charge and tear gas firing by Bihar police on February 5 against contractual teachers who were demanding wages. Referring to news reports, the bench said, “Contents of the news items revealed that members of Punjab police and Patna police have mercilessly beaten an unarmed woman and teachers. Both the incidents have shocked the conscience of the entire nation.” The bench faulted the Prakash Singh Badal and the Nitish Kumar governments for failure to take “adequate steps for protecting the people against the wholly unwarranted action taken by the police at Tarn Taran and Patna”.”These incidents raise important constitutional issues relating to Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution and dignity of individual,” the bench said and sought assistance of attorney general G E Vahanvati and senior advocates Harish Salve and U U Lalit to help the court as amicus curiae in the matter. It posted further hearing for March 11. Long before the Justice J S Verma panel, appointed in the aftermath of Nirbhaya’s gang-rape, suggested that judiciary must initiate suo motu action against blatant violations of fundamental rights of citizens, the Supreme Court and high courts have from time to time initiated proceedings on their own, taking cognizance of reports of gross violation of human rights. The Supreme Court of India may not match its counterpart in Pakistan, which has in the last five years initiated 86 suo motu actions, but it did not remain a mute spectator when citizens’ rights were targeted by those tasked to protect it. Justice Verma panel had in its January 23 report to the government said, “The judiciary has the primary responsibility of enforcing fundamental rights through constitutional remedies. The judiciary can take suo motu cognizance of such issues being deeply concerned with them both in the Supreme Court and the high courts. An all-India strategy to deal with this issue would be advisable.” Last year, the Supreme Court had initiated suo motu proceedings in a number of cases, including VVIPs flaunting red beacons on their vehicles and travelling with a large security detail, inconveniencing citizens. On November 21, the court had taken suo motu cognizance of private guards using firearms, as was alleged in the shootout at a farmhouse killing liquor baron Ponty Chadha and his brother, and asked the Union government to frame a regulatory mechanism for private security agencies. (Times of India 7/3/13)

 

5. Kerala State Human Rights Commission to seek report on conductor’s death (1)

KOZHIKODE: State Human Rights Commission(SHRC) will seek report from the district police chief into the death of a bus conductor, who in his suicide note had held a few police officials from Kasaba police station responsible for his death. “We have started the proceeding to seek the report from the city police commissioner to ensure justice to the victim,” K E Gangadharan, member of SHRC said. The deceased person, in his suicide note had held some of the police personnel from Kasaba responsible for his suicide and KSHRC has decided to involve in the case to ensure proper investigation into the involvement of the police, said the commission member. Police recovered 10 suicide notes against the cops and the commission wants to ensure that these notes should be considered as the dying declaration of the person, he added. The commission will monitor the police investigation and intervene if any irregularity is found in the police investigation, said the commission member. CPM leaders who visited the house of Dayanandan at Palakkottu Vayal, near Ozhukkara demanded proper investigation into the involvement of police persons. “It was not a suicide but he was murdered by the police who mentally tortured him,” alleged Elamaram Kareem, MLA and state general secretary of CITU. Of the 10 suicide notes, written by Dayanandan, one letter was addressed to CPM area committee. CITU will hold bus strike if the police show any negligence in the investigation, said Elamaram Kareem. Meantime, city police commissioner G Sparjan Kumar denied the allegation that police were responsible for the death of the person. Police, in no way, could be held responsible for the suicide or death of a person before or after interrogation, he claimed. The police personnel of Kasaba station were doing their duty on receiving a petition, claimed the official. According to police, Dayanandan in a statement given to the police had blamed his eye sight for the mistake. Officials with Kasaba police station claimed that they summoned Dayanandan and the house of the person was searched as part of the investigation. Dayanandan, 49, a bus conductor was found hanging near his residence on Wednesday. The deceased was interrogated by the police on a complaint that Dayanandan, instead of giving five rupee coin cheated a passenger by giving two 50 paise coins fixed together using gum. (Times of India 8/3/13)

 

TRAFFICKING

6. Trafficking of tribal girls: Sick gardens trigger exodus (1)

Several Delhi-based placement agencies, that claim to provide work to these trafficked girls, are being run illegally and without any registration. These agencies work in nexus with the ‘agents’ who are local tea garden workers and known to the victims. The ignorant poor parents, who cannot feed their children, are ready to lap up the opportunity of sending the children to Delhi for work. in order to get rid of the their responsibility and also in the hope of getting a regular monthly income. Once the victims reach Delhi, they stay in touch with the families for a few days. some of them is in contact with the family. But soon they are barred from communicating with their parents and also, money stops reaching their families. Only a handful of them get work as domestic help, while the rest are either sold in brothels or for marriage. About four months ago, a placement firm by the name Sai Placement Agency lured four girls from the Mateli police station area. Shakti Vahini members rescued the girls with the help of West Bengal Police. The agency was found to be fake and the trafficker Neelima Sharma was arrested after an FIR (number 223/12 under section 363/366/374 dated 21/11.2012) was lodged with the Mateli police. Though the trend of migration by tribal girls started way back in 2000, the exodus has taken a massive proportion in last five to six years after several tea gardens were declared sick. Many of these tea estates do not even have primary schools and heathcare facilities. There is hardly any penetration by organizations that work for the welfare of the tribals. Jalpaiguri police are aware of the magnitude of the problem and admitted that there is need to do much more to prevent trafficking. Police’s anti-trafficking activities like awareness programmes are restricted to educational institutions, a place that is out of bounds to the girls here. “Poverty is the main issue. Unless it is addressed, the girls here will remain vulnerable. Though we cannot do much on that front, we are working on other preventive measures. Few days back we arrested two agents in Banarhat for trying to lure some girls. We need to penetrate deeper into the tea gardens. Officers-in-charge of all police stations have been asked to maintain records of girls who are going away for work, the persons taking them away, contacts of employers in collaboration with the local panchayats,” said Jalpaiguri SP Amit P Javalgi. The schemes for the poor, like the BPL card and old age pension, are distant dreams. Most are not even aware of the existence of such schemes. There is no effort worth mentioning on part of local politicians for uplift the economic status of this tribal population. A major portion of the funds under schemes like NREGA are being pocketed by local panchayats. “Recently we found misappropriation of NREGA funds by the local panchayat. Many garden workers were made to sign that they were paid for 100 days work, whereas these illiterate workers were paid only for seven days. We were even threatened by some panchayat members for unearthing this information and educating workers on their rights and dues,” said Omega Minj, a field worker… (Times of India 4/3/13)

 

7. Congress walks-out on human trafficking (1)

BHOPAL: The Opposition Congress on Wednesday staged a walk-out in the state assembly on the issue of 4,990 minor girls who have gone missing over the past five years from the state. The Congress suspected that these girls could have become victims of human trafficking and alleged that neither the government nor the police were taking any serious heed of the increasing number of such cases. During the Question Hour, the matter was brought-up by Congress MLA Ram Niwas Rawat who asked in the House: Will the home minister tell us whether the police headquarters has information about girls being abducted for human trafficking? If so, from 2008 to January 2013 how many such cases have been reported and from which districts?” Rawat wanted to know the number of persons arrested in connection to human trafficking cases. The Congress also asked if special cells were constituted in the districts of Gwalior and Shivpuri to stop human trafficking and the facilities these cells were provided so they could work efficiently. In reply, home minister Uma Shankar Gupta admitted that the police had such information that girls were going missing. From 2008 onwards, 4990 minor girls were reported as missing. Human trafficking and the sale of minor girls is a matter of great concern for us,” the home minister said. He explained that 426 accused were arrested and special anti-human trafficking cells have been constituted in Gwalior and Shivpuri under the supervision of a joint superintendent of police for each cell to control the menace. Gupta added that the special cells have been provided with vehicles, motorcycles, computers, furniture and all other infrastructure. But the Congress was not convinced. Rawat argued that all reports of missing girls are only registered as missing reports while cases should be registered for buying and selling of minor girls under sections 372 and 373 of the IPC. Uma Shankar Gupta defended that every case cannot be put one a set of IPC sections. There are circumstances when girls come back to their homes and the parents don’t come back to tell the police that their ward is back. So not every case is that of human trafficking,” he added. Congress leader of Opposition Ajay Singh told the House that the state government did not seem to be serious on the issue. He said while the state runs a ‘Beti Bachao Abhiyan’ against female foeticide, it was not concerned about girl children being abducted and sold. The state is not serious about such a sensitive issue and hence, we are walking out,” he said. All Congress MLAs followed him out of the House. (Times of India 7/3/13)

 

8. Cong stages walkout over ‘missing’ girls (1)

Bhopal: Main Opposition in the State Assembly, Congress on Wednesday staged a walkout over the alleged police failure to trace 4,990 minor girls who have gone missing in the State in five years. Raising the matter during the Question Hour, Ramniwas Rawat (Congress) alleged that the Government was spending crores of rupees on ‘Beti Bachao Andolan’ but was not concerned over such a large number of missing girls. He sought that a human trafficking case should be registered in the matter. Home Minister Uma Shankar Gupta said 29,828 girls had gone missing from 2008 to 2013. Of them, 24,838 girls were traced while special teams were formed to trace the remaining 4,990. Pointing out that such incidents did not come under human trafficking, Gupta said a case of human trafficking was registered only when a victim was sold or purchased. The Home Minister said that Government had formed an anti-trafficking cell in Shivpuri and Gwalior to curb human trafficking. He said that 87 cases related to human trafficking of 40 adults and 138 minors were registered in 25 districts from 2008 to 2013. In these cases, 426 persons were arrested out of 491 accused. Dissatisfied with the reply, Congress members created uproar for about seven minutes, despite Speaker Ishwardas Rohani saying the matter was serious and police were making efforts. However, Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh said the State government and the Minister concerned were not serious over the issue and led a walkout by Opposition members. In reply to a written query by Arif Aqueel of Congress, the Home Minister said 7,306 cases of rape with of minors were registered from 2008 to 2013. Later, while talking to media persons, the Home Minister stated that figures did not indicate so many girls are missing. “The figure is on the higher side because most parents who approach police for filing cases do not revert,” he added. (Pioneer 8/3/13)

 

9. Trafficking of girls on rise along Indo-Pak border: NCW head (1)

Panchkula: Chairperson of National Commission for Women (NCW), Mamta Sharma, on Friday said that the trafficking of girls has seen a rise in Rajasthan along the Indo-Pak border. Speaking on the occasion of Women’s Day on Friday at the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL), Sharma said that it is a matter of concern that “girls are being trafficked to Afghanistan and Pakistan along the border in Rajasthan.” She also added that the trafficking of girls was also happening along the country’s border with Nepal and the matter had earlier been taken up with the Napal government. The NCW Chairperson highlighted other issues of concern, such as child marriages happening in rural areas of the country as well as the declining sex ratio. “Female foeticide is one of the main reasons for decline in sex ratio and it is alarming in some areas and destabilizes the population dynamics,” said Sharma. She also added that the other major area of concern is domestic violence and also emphasised on the need for change in the mindset to arrest incidents of “family violence.” She said that harassment to woman is not only happening in “poor” families but is also rampant in the families of well-to-do people. “We have received cases of harassment from all sections of society including business families and those of bureaucrats. We need to change the mindset to ensure that domestic violence ends,” she said. The NWC Chairperson also emphasised pointed out that women have already made their mark in different spheres of activity in society. She however said that there is more that needs to be done to ensure gender equality, particularly in the work place. Mamta Sharma also expressed concern over the recent Delhi gang rape and made her anguish clear over the incidents of cops misbehaving with women. She said that there is a need to rein in on the police force to prevent incidents of public thrashing of women. (Indian Express 9/3/13)

 

10. We need coordination between police and society, says SSP (1)

Ranchi: A meeting on preventing violence against women and children was convened on Friday under the joint aegis of Women Helpline, Child Line, Ranchi police and resource institutes. The chief guest for this convention, Ranchi SSP Saket Kumar Singh, emphasised on coordination between police department and social bodies for preventing atrocities against women and children more efficiently and smoothly. Earlier in his address, Director, Xavier Institute of Social Service, Father Ranjit Toppo too pointed out the need for harmony between police and civil society when it comes to sensitive cases involving women and children. “Whenever members of a NGO go to rescue victims of human trafficking or child labour and such, they should inform the police beforehand. This way, not only will they have help ready for them, if need be, also no one will question their authority,” the SSP said. He suggested that the NGO workers should get themselves registered under the ‘Police Mitra’ initiative so that they do not have to face such problems. Talking about the never-ending problem of human trafficking in the State, he said, “There is scarcity of jobs in Jharkhand, especially in the rural areas. That is why, people are compelled to migrate to earn their living and then, they fall prey to human trafficking. Even after they are rescued, they cannot be rehabilitated due to fewer jobs and again have to head for other States. So the best and only solution is to provide good jobs close by, especially in rural areas.” When asked about the issue of minor drug abuse in the city, he stated, “The medicines’ sale can only be partially regulated, even if they are intoxicating. Same is the case with the adhesive Dendrite, another intoxicant used by youngsters. Parents and teachers should try to observe any behavioural changes in the child to detect drug abuse.” He also promoted the victims of eve-teasing, domestic violence, human trafficking and such to come forward and file a complaint in writing and assured that their problems will be solved immediately. “Awareness and bravery can help keeping any problem at bay,” Trainee DSP Nisha Murmu said during the meeting. (Pioneer 9/3/13)

 

DALITS/ SCHEDULED CASTES

11. Dalits return land, can keep houses (2)

Faridkot: The fear of turning homeless has passed off for nearly 60 Dalit families.

On Friday at Bir Sikhan Wala village in this district, the Maharval Kheva Ji Trust of Faridkot and the families reached an amicable solution. The agreement says that the Dalits would remain on the trust land on which they have their houses but vacate another about 5 acres they use for various purposes. The sitting down for agreement was forced by the outcome of a court decision on the dispute, in which Bohar Singh of Bir Sikhan Wala and others had pleaded for making the possession of land legal. The Dalits lost the case because the 15 acres, on the most part of which they made 150 houses more than 50 years ago, is the property of Raja Haridner Singh, former ruler of the erstwhile princely estate of Faridkot, which after his death, is cared by the Maharwal Kheva Ji Trust. After the order of the Faridkot court, nearly all Dalit people on the land were illegal occupants of the site in khasra 342. After the verdict, however, efforts were made for settlement, which both parties reached on Friday. After the trustees sought help from the court in executing the order, the revenue department had asked the police for force to support the operation to demarcate the site for the trust. The kanungo of Panjgrain Kalan had first written to the police for security before the February 11 eviction plan but there could be no operation that day. The court had again instructed the officials concerned to implement the order before Saturday (March 2). On Friday, a heavy police contingent, quick reaction team, and fire brigade were at the village to avoid any clash and the trust had the possession back smoothly. “We were there to implement the court orders but out of sympathy, the trust agreed to spare the Dalit houses,” confirmed tehsildar Darshan Singh Sidhu. “The MKJ Trust, however, will reclaim the land that is vacant.” “Everything was peaceful. The force didn’t have to prevent anything,” said Bikramjeet Singh, deputy superintendent of police from Jaitu, who was at the site. (Hindustan Times 1/3/13)

 

12.  ‘Government not looking after Dalits’ (2)

Hassan: State secretary of Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (Ambedkar Vada) Mavalli Shankar on Sunday alleged that the State government was more interested in granting crores of rupees to religious institutions than looking after the poor and Dalits. He was speaking after inaugurating a programme, organised by the Hassan district wing of the DSS, to mark Jyotiba Phule’s birth anniversary. Mr. Shankar claimed that a large number of government schools and hostels had been closed in the last few years, denying hundreds of students the opportunity to study. He also took serious exception to the government’s “lack of action” against the former president of the Karnataka Unaided Schools’ Management Association president G.S. Sharma for his alleged derogatory remarks on admitting children under the 25 per cent quota of the Right to Education Act. Praising Jyotiba Phule as the first man to open a school for girl children in India, Mr. Shankar said the students should be taught about his contribution. “Students should be made to remember Jyotiba Phule,” he said. Artist K.T. Shivaprasad and D.G. Krishne Gowda were present at the programme. (The Hindu 4/3/13)

 

13. Tension in Bhiwani village after clash over wedding tradition performed by dalit boy (2)

BHIWANI: Police have been deployed in a village of Bhiwani district in Haryana following a clash between dalits and upper-caste youths during a wedding ceremony on Friday night. The situation had turned tense when some upper caste youths forcibly stopped a dalit groom from performing ghurchari, a traditional marriage ceremony in which the groom rides a mare and takes a round of the village. An uneasy calm prevailed in Ratera village even on Monday, four days after the clash in which over a dozen persons, including women, had received injuries. Police on Saturday had registered a case under various sections of IPC and SC/ST Act against 20 upper caste youths and arrested ten of them on Sunday. However, with no comprise struck between the two parties, the entire village is living under a shadow of fear, sources said. The dalit victim’s family on Monday called on police officials and demanded the arrest of all accused as around ten persons are still roaming free in the village. The dalit groom, Rakesh Kumar, 24, who is employed as a conductor with Haryana Roadways, had got married on Friday. Before going to his bride’s village to tie the knot, the marriage ceremony of ghurchari was being performed in the village on Friday when some upper caste men objected, saying that ghurchari by dalits is not allowed in the village. “Though police have arrested ten persons, some more are still present in the village, who could be a threat to us. We met the SP today and demanded that all the accused should be arrested”, Rakesh’s aunt Indravati Devi said. Bhiwani SP Simerdeep Singh said that police had nabbed ten persons and deployed force in the village and at the house of the victim. “The situation is normal in the village. A probe has started into the case. Whoever found guilty would be arrested as police have booked the accused under various sections of IPC and SC/ST Act”, he said. (Times of India 5/3/13)

 

14. Panchayat imposes social boycott of Dalits (2)

Patna: A panchayat in Bihar’s Kishanganj district has imposed social and economic boycott of Dalits as a deterrent to their filing of cases under the Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The Dosia panchayat of Charakhpura village called upon the village not to sell provisions to Dalits and exclude them from other facilities. The problem began after a Muslim woman had a fight with a Dalit girl over picking up dung from a field. “The woman assaulted the girl. After this, there were rumours that Dalits were planning to file a case under the Atrocities Act. In anticipation, the mukhiya, sarpanch and zilla parishad [ZP] members had a meeting in which they told the Muslim community to socially and economically boycott Dalits. They said Dalits were filing cases under the Act,” Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar told The Hindu . An FIR under the Act was filed against 15 persons, including village head Anwar Alam and ZP members. No one has been arrested yet. Tension prevailed in the village for some time on Tuesday. (The Hindu 6/3/13)

 

15. K’pada village Dalits denied school, road by upper caste (2)

KENDRAPADA: Dalits from Karandiapatana village under Mehendipur Gram Panchayat under Marshaghai block on Monday urged District Collector Durga Prasad Behera for a primary school and a road in their village after the upper caste people assaulted and ostracized them over a land dispute in February, 2010. District Welfare Officer (DWO) Charulata Mallick said the Dalits met the District Collector in the grievance cell and told him that their children were earlier abused and misbehaved with by the upper caste villagers when they attended the school. Their children were told not to use the road which passes through the houses of upper caste people. They said the Dalits were harassed for over three years. They said that they were forced to admit their children in a neighbouring school at Japada, about 1.5 km from the village after taking school leaving certificate from the local school. District Collector Behera directed the DPC of SSA to take steps for sanctioning a project primary school for the Dalits and a road. When contacted, SSA DPC Kailash Chandra Das stated that the district administration has written to the Mass Education department for sanctioning a project primary school for the Dalit children. Notably, the Dalits of Karandiapatana village drew the wrath of the upper caste people on February 18, 2010 over digging of earth from a Goochar land for the construction of a Hanuman temple. The upper caste people forcibly entered into their houses and ransacked the houses by throwing household items, utensils and clothes by damaging valuable household items. Even they had allegedly molested the Dalit women. Later, the police had nabbed 10 upper caste persons for creating the mayhem. At least 25 Dalit children of Karandiapatana village in Kendrapada district’s Marsaghai block had allegedly been compelled to obtain school leaving certificates (SLC) from Surendra Vidyapith in Rankal village and got themselves admitted to another school. The National Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe Department had funded sum of Rs 2.09 lakh as financial assistance to the Dalit victims of the village. Later, the district administration had distributed compensation amount to 43 Dalits. Notably, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) in March, 2010 had intervened in the matter and sought report from the District Collector and the SP on the issue. (Pioneer 7/3/13)

 

16. Dy SP’s murder could unravel grand anti-dalit plan (2)

NEW DELHI: The continuing outrage over the murder of a Muslim police officer threatens to neutralize the cunningly crafted Samajwadi plan to use “promotion quota” to mobilize Muslims, backwards and upper castes on the anti-dalit plank. The young widow’s finger of suspicion at Mulayam Singh Yadav protege and Kunda MLA Raja Bhaiya has locked the Samajwadis into a defensive posture, unable to rebuff the accusation for fear of sending a negative signal to Muslims. Reports that DySP Zia-ul-Haq was finalizing a report on a communal attack that could implicate Raja Bhaiya’s aides has compounded the sensitivity of the issue. The murder as a sign of growing law and order problem under Akhilesh Yadav’s watch could dash Mulayam’s hope of cobbling together a wider social coalition sans dalits who vote for Mayawati, a hope raised by the response to his decision to oppose “promotion quota”.Disquiet among Muslims is palpable but compounding the Samajwadi misery is the disappointment among upper caste-middle classes who see their worst fears on law and order coming true. Now, if CBI arrests Raja Bhaiya and he faces prolonged incarceration, SP could face the anger of the influential Thakurs whom it has been wooing, ironically, through leaders like the Kunda MLA. The damage potential of Zia’s shooting was evident in Parliament this week as Samajwadis uncharacteristically discouraged the “religious angle” to the incident while the rivals went on the offensive. The political class is unanimous that SP’s fate would depend on how the Kunda murder unfolds in the coming days. If widow Parveen Azad, already being seen as a symbol of courage, continues to raise suspicion on the Samajwadi-Raja Bhaiya combo, it could have disastrous consequences. The signs are ominous as Parveen urged visiting Congress MPs Nirmal Khatri and junior home minister RPN Singh on Friday that “CBI team from Delhi should probe the case” – betraying fears that local sleuths could be influenced. Since winning Lucknow an year ago, Samajwadis have been into an extended campaign mode for 2014, coalescing non-dalits under the party banner and doling out benefits to bait the poor. However, Muslims have been seething at rising communal incidents after the absolute peace under Mayawati. Zia’s murder, rivals claim, can do to SP what hushing up of Rizwanur Rahman’s killing did to the Left regime in Bengal. (Times of India 9/3/13)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ SEZ

17. Land acquisition for Posco resumes (4)

DHINKIA (ODISHA), March 3, 2013: As uneasy calm prevailed after the death of three anti-POSCO project activists in a bomb explosion in Patna village on Saturday, the Jagatsinghpur district administration resumed acquiring land on Sunday for the South Korean major’s mega steel plant. The betel vines of three persons were torn down at Gobindpur without any resistance — many residents had fled the villages fearing police action — and Rs. 10.45 lakh was paid in compensation. “We have destroyed three vineyards. Land acquisition will be carried out on a bigger scale in the coming days,” Superintendent of Police Satyabrata Bhoi said. The administration said one person was also seriously injured in Saturday’s explosion. But the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, which has been spearheading the movement against land acquisition, has urged all political parties and rights organisations to carry out an independent investigation, charging the police with spreading a false propaganda over the deaths. “The police claim that three persons lost their lives while preparing bombs is rubbish. In the past eight years of our struggle, we have never taken up arms. In fact, bombs were hurled at the three activists, who were in hiding for fear of police action. As heavy police deployment was made prior to the resumption of land acquisition, project supporters got excited and executed the fatal attack,” PPSS president Abhaya Sahoo said. “The incident will not stop us from carrying forward our movement. We will intensify it, though the government machinery and hired criminals are being used to pin us down,” he said. As many as 12 police platoons were deployed in the area. Last month, the Odisha government destroyed 20 betel vineyards. Observers said the government was under tremendous pressure to complete the acquisition of 2,700 acres for the POSCO India Private Limited to set up the eight million tonne-a-year plant, which was announced seven years ago. (The Hindu 3/3/13)

 

18. State government to take action against Industries acquiring private land without approval (4)

BHUBANESWAR: Faced with criticism over its ‘inconsistent’ policy on land acquisition, the State government on Saturday decided to take 125 companies to take to task for purchasing private land without obtaining its decision. Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Surya Narayan Patro informed that 140 companies had purchased 5350.40 acres of private land in the State, but only 15 of these companies had taken due government approval prior to acquiring the land. “Only 15 companies have taken approval for acquiring 1876.05 acres of land as per 73 (C) of Odisha Land Reforms Act. Rest 125 companies have purchased 3474.35 acres of land without any approval,” Mr. Patro said. The Minister directed district magistrates to file cases against the companies those had acquired land exceeding ceiling limit as per Odisha Land Reforms Act. “Tehsildars who have fraudulently recorded land in favour of these companies should face disciplinary action. Besides, district magistrates should take steps to cancel record of rights settled in favour of the companies,” Mr. Patro said in a statement issued here. Recently, a draft performance audit report by Comptroller and Auditor General of India pointed out irregularities committed in land acquisition by industries. As per the draft report, Steel and Mines Department had signed memorandum of understanding with industrial houses making commitments therein for land, water and minerals and thereafter allotted the same. The report had pointed out in eight out of 19 test checked MoUs-based industries in audit, administrative approval for acquisition of 1,745 acres of private land was given with approval of Minister of Steel and Mines prior to signing of MoU with the promoters, which was highly irregular and is indicative of extension of undue favour to private promoters. As many as 93 MoUs were signed by the State government with private companies between 2001 and 2012 for setting up of industries in the State. As of March 2012, 35,793 acres of land (25012 acres of acquired private land and 10781 acres of government land) was allotted to 54 MoU-based industries. After leakage of the draft report, sources in RDM department said, an internal investigation was set up (The Hindu 4/3/13)

 

19. Govt not to acquire land for Posco from Patana village (4)

Paradip (Odisha), March 6, 2013: Odisha government has decided not to acquire any area for now at Patana village where three anti-Posco activists died while allegedly making bombs even as land acquisition for Posco steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district continued for the fourth day on Wednesday. “Land acquisition was carried out and 10 betel vine plantations were razed to the ground at Gobindpur village with the cooperation of villagers,” Additional District Magistrate (Paradip) Surjit Das said. As many as 65 trees were also cut during today’s operations, he said, adding Rs 17 lakh would be paid to the farmers whose betel vineyards were demolished and trees cut. About 200 acres of land had been acquired since the current phase of acquisition began on Sunday, Das said, adding the process would continue as many villagers were voluntarily coming forward to hand over land. About 250 acres of land had been acquired during four days of acquisition drive undertaken last month, the ADM said. However, it has been decided not to undertake any land acquisition operation at Patana village for now, he said adding that earlier it had been made clear that no land would be acquired in Dhinkia village for the mega steel project. Three anti-Posco activists were killed and another was critically injured while allegedly preparing bombs on Saturday near a house at Patana village. While police maintained that explosion took place during bomb preparation, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), an anti-project body, alleged there was a bomb attack by supporters of Posco. As land acquisition resumed on Sunday after remaining suspended since February 6, armed policemen in strength camped in the area to ensure trouble-free operation. Patna village under Dhinkia grampanchayat, considered the epi-centre of the anti-Posco agitation, continued to remain cordoned off by armed policemen. PPSS leaders said they would oppose land acquisition for the mega steel project as it would affect local farmers. (The Hindu 6/3/13)

 

20. Differing with Mamata, MP quits as industry advisor (4)

Kolkata: Differences with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the issue of land for industry may have prompted senior Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy to quit as advisor to the West Bengal Industries, Commerce and Information Technology departments. Differences with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the issue of land for industry may have prompted senior Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy to quit as advisor to the West Bengal Industries, Commerce and Information Technology departments. While Mr. Roy, who was entrusted with drafting an industrial policy, refused to comment on his resignation, senior leaders in the party said he had sent his resignation to the Chief Minister on Wednesday evening. His recent remark that “there is no scope to bring big industries to the State” because of paucity of land and the government’s policy on land acquisition was in sharp contrast with the claims of Ms. Banerjee and Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee. Both of them are maintaining that proposals for investments of over Rs. 2 lakh crore in the State have been made since the Trinamool came to power. Asked about Mr. Roy’s resignation, Mr. Chatterjee told journalists here on Thursday that he had “no information as yet” and “there is no difference between us.” Mr. Roy “is a veteran leader of the Trinamool,” he added. However, Opposition leaders said Mr. Roy had to quit for having tried to give the government some “rational” suggestions for attracting big investments. “The advisor lost his job for giving proper advice,” said Communist Party of India (Marxist) Central Committee member Mohd. Salim. “What he said was correct but in the party [Trinamool] if something is not in agreement with Ms. Banerjee’s views then such is the fate people have to suffer,” Mr. Salim said. Congress leader Omprakash Mishra said many others would also quit their posts as the government had made very little progress in attracting investments. “The Trinamool government has neither a proper land policy nor a policy to attract industries. In this situation, is not possible for people like Mr. Roy to continue their work,” Rahul Sinha, State BJP president, said. Seven former Union Ministers from the Trinamool, including Mr. Roy, were made advisors to various departments in October 2012 after the party had withdrawn support to the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre in September. (The Hindu 7/3/13)

 

21. Road Min mulling policy change for BOT projects (4)

New Delhi: With several projects hitting roadblocks due to inordinate delay in land and environmental clearances, the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ submission to the Supreme Court on Thursday will pave the way for kick-starting pending projects. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has already been deliberating over a policy change for the Built Operate Transfer (BOT) projects mired in controversy over land, environmental and other clearances. The Ministry is considering inviting bids only after obtaining mandatory land and environmental clearances for faster execution of highway projects. At present, request for proposal (RFP) is given before getting these clearances. “All necessary clearances for a project have to be obtained before the RFP is called by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). “State related issues, in many cases political, also affect the projects. Before inviting bids, the authority will have to obtain the agreement details from State(s) which will obviously be backed by the Centre. For this discussions are at a preliminary stage with the Finance Ministry for a single-window system,” said a top MoRTH official. Inordinate delay in land acquisition, environmental, forest and other related clearances have become a roadblock in the construction of highways. In a written reply to the Lok Sabha early this week, Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways Sarvey Sathyanarayana admitted that development of highways has been a casualty of delay in land acquisition, environmental and forest clearances etc. Alarm bells started ringing in the Ministry after key players like GMR, GVK, Larsen and Toubro, backed out of projects citing inordinate delay in getting clearances. This affected projects nearly worth Rs 50,000 crore, and according to NHAI sources many more companies may withdraw from road projects. GVK Power and Infrastructure and GMR Infrastructure has terminated contracts for major highways like the Shivpuri-Dewas Expressway in Madhya Pradesh and Kishangarh-Udaipur-Ahmedabad highway last month. With big players exiting from major road projects, the officials also pondered over allowing an easy exit or changeovers for the developers from existing or under-construction projects. The apex body of highway builders National Highways Builders Federation (NHBF) has written several times including very recently to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking a direction to NHAI to invite bids only after acquiring land and putting other clearances in place. The NHBF stated there are projects where the NHAI is yet to specify dates for execution of work as there have been no environment and forest clearances. Several of them have problems related to land acquisition, they said. Peeved by the dismal performance in road construction, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) early this week had discussed many issues and measures needed to resolve them. There was also a discussion over compensating the concessionaires in the event of delays due to clearances of projects besides a proposal that developers can change mid-way or be allowed to exit. “We are also worried about another situation wherein one developer is involved in more than one project and then makes an exit from most of them citing a financial crunch. They invest simultaneously in projects like power, roads, shipping, etc where there is a coordination problem and then they seek financial review from the Government in other stakes. This also hampers other projects and the Finance Ministry is reviewing the matter, especially for those involved in roads and highway projects,” added the official. (Pioneer 8/3/13)

 

TRIBALS

22. Tribals not trespassers: HC (6)

Kochi: The Kerala High Court has held that tribal or forest dwellers cannot be termed trespassers when they reside in the forest and eke out a living by collecting forest produce. They cannot be called so especially when they have not caused serious damages to the forest, the court observed. Justice B Kemal Pasha made the observation, while allowing an appeal filed by three tribal people, challenging a two-month imprisonment awarded by the Thodupuzha Judicial First Class Magistrate. The three accused admitted trespassing into reserve forest and clearing reeds in an attempt to take possession of the forest land. The petitioners had challenged the verdict before the Sessions Court but it had dismissed the plea. Government Pleader (Forests) submitted before the court that on the date of occurrence, they had no authority to collect reeds or to trespass into reserve forest. The court, however, observed that from time immemorial, the forest dwellers and their ancestors have been occupying the reserve forest. (Indian Express 1/3/13)

 

23. Tribals protest, demand title deeds (6)

Madikeri: Demanding title deeds for the forest dwellers, Budakattu Krishikara Sangha office-bearers and tribals staged a protest in front of Deputy Commissioner’s office on Friday. The protesters said that the areas where tribals resided inside the forests should be declared as notified area. The administration should initiate measures to distribute community and individual title deeds under Forest Rights Act. The protesters took out a procession from Sudarshan Circle. Addressing the protesters, Sangha district unit president J P Raju said that the district administration should implement Forest Rights Act effectively in the district. “Tribals have been residing in the forests for generations. However, officials have violated the Act by not distributing individual and community title deeds for the forest dwellers. The government has failed to educate the tribals on the recommendations made by Prof Madhav Gadgil committee,” he said. Madikeri taluk unit president Kudiyara Muthappa said that the Centre and state governments had chalked out several programmes for the welfare of the tribals. But authorities had failed to implement the same. The BJP-led State government has done injustice to the tribals by failing to announce any special package for the tribals in the State budget. It has however announced special packages for mutts and religious institutions, he alleged. Also, Kodagu had three Assembly constituencies in the past. But by delimiting it to two, the government has done injustice to the tribals. The tribals should be given an opportunity to select an MLA from the community in Kodagu, Chamarajanagar, Mysore, Chikmagalur districts, he added. (Deccan Herald 3/3/13)

 

24. ‘We can’t rid Odisha of Maoists sans tribal help’ (6)

BHAWANIPATNA : In recognition of rights of the tribals for cutting bamboo in the forests and sell it in the market, Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh, accompanied by Union Minister for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj V Kishore Chandra Deo and State Revenue Minister Surjya Narayan Patro, handed over bamboo transit passes to the tribals at a Gram Sabha at Jamguda village of M- Rampur block in Kalahandi district on Sunday. Ramesh said that in India, 82 districts have been declared Maoist-hit out of which 18 are in Odisha. “I personally visited six out of these 18 in Odisha and I must also cover the other districts and improve the situation in favour of the tribals.” he said, adding, “Without help of tribals we can’t eliminate the Maoists. Both the Central and State Governments should understand why the tribals are joining hands with the Maoists.” Jamguda is the second village in India after Mandalekha of Gadchirolli district in Maharashtra where bamboo transit passbooks are executed, said Ramesh, As per the Forest Rights Act 2006, the Gram Sabhas would hand over the transit passes to the tribals for sale of the forest produce in the market at the actual price, he said. Ramesh said that according to the FRA, as many as 3,25,000 land pattas have been handed over to people in Odisha while rights over only 2,000 community forests have been given. “In two years, we have issued bamboo transit passes only in two villages of the country, but we hope that with the joint efforts of the States and the Centre this can be done in all areas,” he said. (Pioneer 4/3/13)

 

25. In Chhattisgarh, tribal women retract rape charges (6)

Dantewada (Chhattisgarh), March 6, 2013: Of the six tribal women of Shamsetti village in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh who in 2009 gave statements in court that they had been gang-raped by Salwa Judum functionaries, three have now withdrawn their charges. Three key witnesses — family members of the women — have also retracted their statements. Some lawyers in Dantewada familiar with the case say that the women are withdrawing due to “severe pressure” from several quarters. Many Salwa Judum members have now been inducted into the regular police force as constables. The lawyers say that the remaining victims and witnesses may appear in court soon and retract their statements. “It is difficult to say whether their complaints were made under pressure or the withdrawal. But the way they are turning hostile it is a matter of time before the accused, who are on bail, are set free,” said Mamta Sharma, the chief public prosecutor at Dantewada court, who is defending the women. “Clearly there is severe pressure on these women, else why would they retract their statements?” a lawyer said on condition of anonymity. Sudha Bharadwaj, the lawyer who represented the Shamsetti women in the Konta court where the statements were recorded, said the women and their relatives recorded their statements through a translator in 2009. “The magistrate did not record any unusual demeanour on their part. Surprisingly, in these cases the accused were granted bail even prior to withdrawal, meaning prosecution did not seriously oppose bail and no departmental enquiry, not that I know of, was carried out against the accused, who are State employees,” she said. In December 2012, The Hindu reported about six tribal women who had come forward to lodge formal complaints of gang rape against Special Police Officers (SPO) of the now defunct anti-Maoist vigilante force Salwa Judum, amidst allegations of hundreds of rapes in the conflict-ridden south Chhattisgarh between 2005 and 2009. With some of them withdrawing their statements now, many in Dantewada, Chattisgarh, are asking if this was yet another instance of miscarriage of justice — one in which the State actively connived. In the first week of February 2013, Mira and Sanika (names changed) retracted their statements in front of the sessions judge of Dantewada, A. K. Beck. According to their statements given in June 2009 before the judicial magistrate of Konta, Amrit Kerketta, both women, along with four others, had described how they were gang-raped in 2006 by seven SPOs of Sukma district. However, in their latest statements, copies of which are with The Hindu, Mira and Sanika stated that “nothing ever happened” to them. Mira said, “I never went to the police station to complain. I never submitted any complaint letter in the Konta court or made any statement in any court.” The legal fraternity in Dantewads is questioning the validity of the retractions. “Are we to assume that the magistrate in Konta recorded false statements? Or that the women are faking statements now,” asked a lawyer. An investigation by The Hindu revealed that one of the accused, Kwashi Mangalram, was picking up the complainants and witnesses from Shamsetti and bringing them to the court. Mr. Mangalram denied the accusation and said he was not pressurising the women. An SPO-turned-peon in Dornapal School, he said, “I am inspired by Communist thought, you can check with CPI leaders. I am against such actions [rape].” Last Saturday, at the Dantewada court, another complainant, Era (name changed), retracted her statement. When asked by the court if she knew one of the accused, Madkam Kama, a constable from Erabore, the young Muria Gond girl took a cursory look at him and denied having seen him before hurrying away. However, Era had accused Kama of rape four years ago in court. On Saturday, she denied having made a statement in 2009. While Era was retracting her statements inside the court, four of the main accused, Kiche Nanda, Biddu Raja, Markam Kama, Kwashi Mangalram — all former SPOs — were seated on a bench outside. Nanda, who headed the dreaded Nanda group at the peak of the Salwa Judum movement, denied his involvement in the gang rape when he spoke to this correspondent in December. Markam Kama, another accused, also refuted the charges against him and said: “I am seeing this girl [Era] for the first time.” (The Hindu 6/3/13)

 

26. British salesman ‘crowned’ king of Andhra tribal village (6)

London: A former insurance salesman from Wales has been crowned king of a village in India. Barry Watson was given the title King Bazza after helping to rescue scores of families from life on a rat-infested rubbish dump. The Yanadi tribe from Andhra Pradesh have even named their village Barrypuram in his honour, the Daily Express reported. The 60-year-old father of four forked out 20,000 pounds so they could build huts with light and water and funded a school and a church. He also spent months teaching the villagers to become self-sufficient. “I wanted to give them a better life without the trappings of Western civilisation, keeping their own culture. On the tip they had nothing. Their life expectancy was only about 40,” he said. Barry was inspired to help after meeting Julie Davies, who runs the Elizabeth-Ann charity in memory of her 16-year-old daughter. He set up a charity of his own, Help The Village, and dedicated his life to raising funds for the community. He has helped the village women start a sewing business so they can earn money. Barry, who lives with wife Shirley, 47, in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, now makes regular trips to India to continue his philanthropic work. His impact has been so profound the community look upon him as their spiritual leader. (Indian Express 9/3/13)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

27. ‘Centre should consider legitimate demands of labour unions’ (14)

Raipur: It was shocking to see that the Government of India let the labour unions go on strike, said Jyrki Raina, general secretary of Industri ALL Global Union, the biggest union working for the welfare of labourers across the world. Raina on his maiden visit to Chhattisgarh, after returning from Bangladesh, said this while talking to the media on Friday. Raina said, “The Government of India would have learnt a lesson after the strike and would now consider the legitimate demands of labour unions.” IndustriALL Global, with its headquarters in Geneva, is a global labour union working for about 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors. Earlier, Raina, along with the South Asia regional secretary of the organisation, Sudarshan Rao Sarde met the managing director of Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP), Pankaj Gautam and discussed with him issues related to labourers. The BSP MD said to them that the contractual labourers were being paid well in Bhilai Steel Plant. “We support the demand of Indian trade unions to fix the wages or salary of contractual labourers to Rs10,000 per month. Rs10,000 or about $200 is the global standard wages for labourers and we demand the same for Indians,” he said. Informing about the recent initiatives taken by Governments of other nations he said, “Recently, the Indonesian Government had raised the minimum wages of labourers to $200. Similarly, the Chinese Government was raising the wages of labourers step by step and labourers in Thailand earn around $300 every month.” Lashing out at the industrial houses, Raina said that industrial houses were replacing permanent workers with contractual labourers to cut down the establishment expenses. The contractual labourers were paid half and at some place less than half of what was being paid to the regular workers for the same work, he added. Raina said IndustriALL Global Union would keep on supporting the labour movement in India. (Pioneer 2/3/13)

 

28. Unorganised workers to protest today (14)

NEW DELHI: While the Budget Session of Parliament is going on, a large number of rural and urban workers from the unorganised sector, including elderly women and men, farmers, labourers, domestic workers, waste-pickers are expected to come together at Jantar Mantar here today (Monday) for a four-day protest. With the slogan of “APL-BPL khatam karo, sabko ration, pension do” and “Give work to every hand, give full pay for all work, give rest in old age”, they want to raise their main demands of doing away with the official distinction of Above Poverty Line (APL) and Below Poverty Line (PBL), ration and universal pension. The protest would be a part of series of peoples’ campaigns since May 2012, where senior citizens and marginal communities have assembled at Jantar Mantar during every Parliament session—monsoon, winter and now budget— in order to emphasize that Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, secured urban employment and livelihoods, and pension for the elderly have to go together to ensure the dignity and survival of the 94 per cent workforce in the unorganised sector. In their appeal for universal pension, activists Aruna Roy and Baba Adhav, highlighted the irony faced by workers when they turn old. “Workers have given the best years of their lives to build our homes, till and grow grains and vegetables, lay roads, deliver every kind of backbreaking work and manual services that has made our lives possible inside and outside our homes. Yet in old age they face insecurity, hunger and hopelessness and face a life a cycle of dependence and misery.” Speaking about the unbearable plight of the elderly in drought hit districts like Latur in Maharashtra, Baba Adhav highlighted the extent of distress faced by older women. “I met 84-year-old Mudrika Savai who still works in the grocery market collecting grains that spill during loading and unloading. While offering a glass of water she asked me if she would get pension before she dies.” The five-day dharna will dedicate parts of each day to rural and urban employment, food security, pensions and social security, governance and grievance redress. On 4 March–day one–the emphasis will be on social sector budget analysis of Budget 2013. (The Hindu 4/3/13)

 

29. Labourers to have facilitation centres at three places in city (14)

VIJAYAWADA: For the first time in the State, the Labour Department is planning to construct facilitation centres-cum-rest rooms for labourers. The rest rooms will be constructed at three major ‘addas’ (labour meeting places) in the city. Following the death of five labourers in a road accident on the Highway at Benz Circle on January 14, Collector Budha Prakash M. Jyothi responded to the plight of ‘coolis’ and directed the Labour Department to construct facilitation centres, which can also be used as rest rooms for the shelter less and migrated labourers. Krishna District Commissioner of Labour (DCL) S.Y. Srinivas has said that proposals have been sent to the Commissioner for taking approval for construction of rest rooms. The Revenue Department officials have assured to allot land at Benz Circle and other places, says the DCL. “Five out of seven persons slept on the pavement at Benz Circle died when a speeding lorry fell on them. The victims were homeless. The Labour Department officials should construct the rest rooms at Rs.10 lakh each,” says Mr. Budha Prakash. Under A.P. Building and Other Construction Workers Act, rest rooms should be constructed for labourers, but the rule is not being implemented in the State. Following the directions of the district Collector, the Labour Department is taking measures for construction and maintenance of facilitation centres, says the DCL. The government has introduced several schemes for the welfare of labourers. The Labour Department disbursed Rs.1.26 crore to the labourers during 2012 under A.P. Building and Other Construction Workers Act. The Labour Officers and the Assistant Labour Officers have been instructed to take up a drive for registering labourers in Krishna district. Training is being provided for registered electricians, mason, plumber, carpentry, and other trades to hone up their skills, according to Mr. Srinivas. (The Hindu 5/3/13)

 

30. Minimum wage hiked under central scheme in state (14)

Kolkata: In another development that marks a thaw in the relations between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, just about two months before the panchayat polls, the Centre on Monday increased the minimum wages in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) in West Bengal from Rs 136 to Rs 151. “Our demand was Rs 174 per day and for this I have written nine letters to Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh since I became minister for this department two years ago,” Subrata Mukherjee, state minister for panchayat and rural development, told The Indian Express. The state is still behind states like Haryana which has the highest wages with Rs 200, and states like Goa, Karnataka, Punjab, Delhi, among others. In 2006 when the scheme was launched the state had only Rs 68 as minimum wage. Following a meeting between officials of the panchayat department and those of the Ministry of Rural Development on February 25 in New Delhi, the Centre has fixed a target of creating 22.61 crore man days in the next year and for this a total of Rs 5432.50 crore will be spent. Out of this, while the central government will spend Rs 4919.93 crore, the state will spend Rs 512.57 crore. Cartoon row: state seeks time to file report The state government has sought six weeks’ time from the West Bengal State Human Rights Commission to file its action-taken report on its recommendation over the arrest of Prof Ambikesh Mahapatra in April last year. (Indian Express 6/3/13)

 

31. No takers for MGNREGS in 7 GPs in DK district (14)

Mangalore: Going by the available statistics, it seems to be that there are no takers for the ambitious Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in seven gram panchayats of Dakshina Kannada district, wherein below 10 households have been offered employment as on March 1.

Though 139 job cards have been issued in Padumarnadu gram panchayat, only two housesholds with six members have been given employment under the scheme. In Kilpady gram panchayat, five households with 12 members have been provided with employment. The total number of job card holders is 31. In Naringana gram panchayat, only two households with seven persons have been given employment. The number of job card holders in the GP is 469. In Kalmanja gram panchayat, employment has been given to six households with 30 members. The total number of job card holders is 125. As many as eight households with 19 persons have been given employment under the scheme in Nekkiladi gram panchayat of Puttur taluk. There are 148 registered job card holders in the gram panchayat. Five households with 11 members have been guaranteed employment in Kombaru gram panchayat of Puttur taluk. The total number of job card holders in the GP is 384. About eight households with 19 persons have been provided employment under the scheme in Balila GP of Sullia Taluk. The total number of job card holders is 211. There are 26 gram panchayats in the district wherein employment has been provided to about 20 households. This includes four Gram Panchayats each in Mangalore taluk, Bantwal and Belthangady taluks, seven GPs each in Puttur and Sullia taluks. Speaking to Deccan Herald, a few Panchayat Development Officers said that many do not come forward to take up employment under MGNREGA. “Even after pursuading them, they are not ready to work under MGNREGA as they feel that the wages are less when compared to the work in construction site, or cashew/tile factories.” About 70,835 job cards have been issued in the district so far. However, employment has been provided to 12,702 households with 31,097 persons. The total progress under MGNREGA is only 16.74 per cent. About 348 individuals have completed 100 days of work during the year. This includes—Puttur—5, Bantwal—159, Belthangady—57, Mangalore—105 and Sullia—22. Work worth Rs 983.6 lakh has been taken up in the district as on March 1. Nidle gram panchayat has taken up work worth Rs 48.79 lakh during the year. Employment has been provided to 444 households with 16,686 mandays of work. Five persons have completed 100 days of work in the GP. Work worth Rs 44.26 lakh has been implemented in Kolnadu gram panchayat. Employment has been provided to 319 households with 1025 persons. DK MGNREGA Ombudsman Sheena Shetty said that the gram panchayats which have provided employment to less than 10 households have failed to implement their action plan itself. “In many gram panchayats, the annual development plan is not prepared as per the guidelines. Plans are prepared based on the labour budget given by the Taluk Panchayat EO and not on the basis of the demand for the work. It slowly becoming a scheme based programme, which is a dangerous trend,” he said. (Deccan Heralds 6/3/13)

 

32. NREGA days of work raised to 150 (14)

JAIPUR: In a bold step aimed at improving the lives of poor, the state government has increased the guaranteed number of days of work under MGNREGA from 100 days to 150. While 100 days of work is funded by the Centre, the state has decided to fund the additional 50 days. Not just that, chief minister Ashok Gehlot in his budget speech also announced a grant of Rs 2,100 for every family who finishes 100 days of work under the flagship scheme in 2012-13. The money will be given by the government next year as a grant for self-employment. Though the move received a general appreciation, critics are taking it with a pinch of salt as it came at a time when there aren’t too many takers for the scheme in the state. “The number of people deriving benefit from the scheme has fallen drastically. A significant amount, nearly 30%, of money allocated for MGNREGA in the state is unutilized. Therefore increasing the number of work days is meaningless. It is just a gimmick,” says an activist. According to the state’s MGNREGA website, this year families have been employed under the scheme for just 37 days. “The incentive for 100 days is a lure by the government just to get its records straight. The NGREGA website itself says that only 1.11% of the people have completed 100 days of work. So where is the question of more days being granted. The grant is a lure to get families finish the 100 days of work given by the Centre before the year is over,” he said. While that may be so, the proposal to set up a fund with a grant of Rs 200 crore so that traditional water resource structures can be refurbished under MGNREGA has been lauded. The scheme restricts materials costs to just 40 % of the total expenditure though such work could not be taken up as they require more material cost. “This will now ensure that the desert state gets back many of its traditional water resource structures,” says the acitivist. The budget also allocates Rs 70,000 as grant for BPL houses under ‘Mukhyamantri BPL Awaas Yojna’ and Rs 20,000 per household for setting up 25,000 bio gas plants. Master plans will also be made for 81 villages with a population of 10,000 for which Rs 1 crore per village has been set aside while a sum of Rs 10 crore has been kept for the next financial year for preparing similar plans for villages with 5,000 population. (Times of India 7/3/13)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

33. Global Hunger Index, 2012 (21)

The report ‘Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2012’ by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) is based on three equally weighted indicators, namely undernourishment (proportion of undernourished people as percentage of population), child underweight and child mortality. This report mentions that India has lagged behind in improving its GHI score despite strong economic growth along with the statement that GHI data is based partly on outdated data. The approach in dealing with the nutrition challenges has been two pronged: First is the Multi-sectoral approach for accelerated action on the determinants of malnutrition in targeting nutrition in schemes/ programmes of all the sectors. The second approach is the direct and specific interventions targeted towards the vulnerable groups such as children below 6 years, adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating mothers. The Government has accorded high priority to the issue of malnutrition especially among children and women including young girls and is implementing several schemes/programmes through State Governments/UT Administrations. The schemes/programmes include the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG) namely SABLA, Indira Gandhi Matritva SahyogYojna (IGMSY) as direct targeted interventions. Besides, indirect multi-sectoral interventions include Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), National Horticulture Mission, National Food Security Mission, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, National Rural Drinking Water Programme etc. All these schemes have potential to address one or other aspect of Nutrition. This was stated by Smt. Krishna Tirath, Minister for Women and Child Development, in a written reply to the Lok Sabha today. (Govt. of India PIB 1/3/13)

 

34. PRI reps asked to stay alert on starvation deaths (21)

BHUBANESWAR: With allegations about starvation deaths being frequently made from many western Odisha districts, district administrations have been asked to make representatives of panchayait raj institutions (PRI) aware about their responsibilities to deal with situation. “Districts should take special measures to make the PRI representatives aware about their roles and responsibilities to deal with starvation situations and power to provide food assistance up to 10 days in deserving cases,” said P. K. Mohapatra, State special relief commissioner. Deputy Collectors and assistant collectors from all districts, who participated in a day-long orientation programme here on Wednesday, were updated about provisions in Odisha Relief Code which also deals with starvation cases. (The Hindu 2/3/13)

 

35. Supreme Court seeks Central response on Chhattisgarh PDS model (21)

NEW DELHI: Finance minister P Chidambaram may have brushed aside the Gujarat model of development but the Centre will now have to comment on the efficacy of the model set up by BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh in implementing targeted public distribution system providing subsidized food grains to the poor. The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Centre’s comment on the Raman Singh government’s model of TPDS implementation, which was repeatedly cited by petitioner People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as the one which could be taken as a model for other states to emulate. “We would like the Centre’s comment on the Chhattisgarh model because we do not have a mechanism to check. If everyone agrees that Chhattisgarh model is the best, what is the Centre’s view and can it be emulated in other states,” asked a bench of Justices TS Thakur and FM I Kalifulla. Attorney general GE Vahanvati was initially liberal in praising the implementation of TPDS by the Chhattisgarh government and said the Centre had cited the state’s example in international forums. However, when the praise grew louder, the AG said he would have to get feedback from the ministry of consumer affairs on the issue of implementation of TPDS in Chhattisgarh. PUCL counsel Colin Gonsalves said Chhattisgarh had abolished privately run fair price shops which had become dens of corruption as food grain meant for the poorest of the poor was diverted to the open market by unscrupulous elements. “Chhattisgarh has given the distribution to mahila mandals (women’s conferences) and self-help groups (SHGs). These have achieved excellent results in the state,” Gonsalves said. But the bench asked whether permitting SHGs to operate fair price shops was tested anywhere else and wanted to know what should be the time period for the switchover from private dealers to SHGs. Gonsalves cited another BJP-ruled state as an example. “Madhya Pradesh too experimented with the Chhattisgarh model to achieve huge success in reaching the poorest of the poor with subsidized food grains. Chhattisgarh first trained the mahila mandals and SHGs in running the FPS and then brought in a law abolishing private run FPS. In six months, the switchover happened,” he said. (Times of India 5/3/13)

 

36. About 30% people were below poverty line in 09-10 (21)

New Delhi: About 30 per cent of people in India were below the poverty line in 2009-10 that was based on the monthly per capita consumption expenditure (MPCE) of Rs 673 for rural areas and Rs 860 for urban areas, Parliament was informed on Wednesday. “As per the latest available information, the poverty line at all India level for 2009-10 is estimated as MPCE of Rs 673 for rural areas and Rs 860 for urban areas. “The percentage of people living below poverty line in the country in 2009-10 has been estimated at 29.8 per cent,” Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning Rajeev Shukla told the Lok Sabha in a written reply. Planning Commission is the nodal agency for estimating the number of percentage of people living below poverty line, which it defines on the basis of monthly per capita consumption, he said. In reply to a separate question, Shukla said that to address the issues relating to hunger, the government has taken a number of steps to ensure food security of the people particularly those below poverty line. “Government has been providing food grains at highly subsidised prices to the targeted population through states/union territories under the Targeted Public Distribution System and other welfare schemes,” he said. Also, he added, the government has introduced National Food Security Bill in the Lok Sabha which proposes to provide food and nutritional security, in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices, to people to live a life with dignity. In addition to providing food security, the government has been implementing various welfare schemes for the poor to address issues like employment, health care, housing. Keywords: Below poverty line, India, based, monthly per capita, consumption expenditure, MPCE, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning Rajeev Shukla, Lok Sabha, (Business Line 6/3/13)

 

37. “India has all requirements to return to 8% growth” (21)

London: India has all the requirements to return to a GDP growth rate of 8 per cent in the coming years, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia said, while highlighting that current account deficit is a big problem right now. “India has averaged 7.5 per cent growth in the last 10 years. It should have done that for 15 years but it is possible to bring it back to the average performance of the last decade. The target for 2013-14 is 6.5-7 per cent and then accelerate further. India has all the requirements to return to 8 per cent, even if it is later than expected,” he told a gathering of students and academics at Oxford University. “A little over 5 per cent is a slowing down but the whole world is experiencing a slowing of growth. It is a worry because we expect much more but it is not as big a disaster as the media makes it out to be. Growth is important but that growth has to be inclusive and sustainable,” Ahluwalia said last evening. India’s leading economic strategist also stressed that the pace of poverty reduction in the country was within the target set by the government. “It is clear that the government knows how to get growth going but there is a perception that we lag behind on inclusiveness. It is something the government takes very seriously and latest data indicates that the pace of poverty reduction has increased. The extreme view that the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer, is nonsense. There is a lot of good news in terms of the pattern of growth being more inclusive,” he said. The former alumnus of the University of Oxford, who was invited by the Blavatnik School of Government to speak about ‘India’s Challenges Ahead’, was in the UK on his way back from the G-20 Sherpas Meeting in Moscow. “The state of the world economy is a challenge. The focus of government policy is to re-assure foreign investors that India is wide open for business. India has the human resources in place and an expanding private sector. The only problem is the current account deficit. But the global financial system appears to be stabilising and the most important message is that India is a good bet for foreign investment and that message is getting across,” he said. (Pioneer 7/3/13)

 

38.  ‘Implement Swaminathan panel recommendations’ (21)

KADAPA: CPI State leader and Director of Neelam Rajasekhara Reddy Research Centre T. Lakshminarayana on Friday demanded the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations for ensuring remunerative prices for farm produce. Delivering a memorial lecture on agricultural crisis, government policies and Right to Food on the 17th death anniversary of CPI leader J. Venkataram Reddy at YSR Memorial Press Club here, he said nearly 58 per cent of the population depended on agriculture. The rural folk are migrating to urban areas due to lack of proper education, medicare and employment facilities in villages, he said. Farming has become all the more difficult with the growing influence of Multinational Companies in seeds, pesticides, modern farm tools and gradual weaning away of subsidies to farmers, Mr. Lakshminarayana said. Tonnes of foodgrains are being exported even as poverty and starvation are on the rise. He charged the UPA government with diluting PDS and endangering food security. Such a situation can lead to growth of terrorism, naxalism, unemployment and unrest. The CPI leader deplored allotment of a meagre 1.62 per cent of the central budget to agriculture, while giving concessions worth Rs. 2.25 lakh crore to industrial houses in the last three years. Farmers and agricultural labourers are on the verge of revolting, he said. KC Canal was the sole irrigation provider in Kadapa district, CPI district secretary G. Easwaraiah and CPI(M) district secretary B. Narayana said. They charged the government with ignoring the farmers’ interests. Pruning of subsidies can lead to rise in prices of urea and phosphate from Rs. 580 in January 2011 to Rs. 1,280 now, they said. CPI leaders Abdul Khader, Chennakesava Reddy, P. Krishnamurthy, B. Ramaiah, Rythu Sangham district president T. Ramasubba Reddy, J. Venkataram Reddy’s kin Narayana Reddy and leaders of frontal organisations participated. (The Hindu 9/3/13)

 

RESERVATION

39. Bangalore wants its 25% from deemed varsities (25)

Bangalore: The state higher education department and deemed universities in the state could be heading for a showdown. The higher education department has issued a warning to the seven deemed universities in the state to provide 25% seat reservation for Karnataka students, failing which no-objection certificates (NOCs) issued to them would be withdrawn. Every year, while conducting the CET, the state government directs the deemed universities to provide 25% UG engineering seats to eligible CET students from the state by offering those seats through the government quota. But most of the institutions don’t bother to oblige. Now, the higher education department has decided to cancel the NOCs. State higher education minister CT Ravi, said,“We have been observing the attitude of some of the deemed universities. This time we will not let them off the hook.” Sources in the higher education department said the deemed universities had taken a conditional undertaking while being granted NOCs for setting up their institutions that 25% seats would be reserved for students from Karnataka. “This time we have received strict instructions from the minister (CT Ravi) to withdraw NOCs if they do not provide the seats,” said a senior official from the department. He explained the measures the government planned to take. “If the deemed universities want to enhance their number of seats, they have to approach the AICTE. But that is done through the higher education department. At that time they apply for Eligibility Certificate (EC)/ Feasibility Certificate (FC). If they resist providing seats to students from the state, we will just not give them the ECs/FCs.” As per information available with the Karnataka Examinations Authority (KEA), three out of seven universities are not providing seats, because of which KEA is losing around 300 seats every year. (DNA 2/3/13)

 

40. Bill for quota in promotion to be tabled in current session: Punia (25)

Lucknow: National SC/ST Commission Chairman P L Punia Saturday said the UPA government will be tabling the the Bill for providing reservation in promotion to the SC/ST officials during the ongoing Budget session of Parliament. “The Bill will be brought in this session. We are speaking at the political level (to garner support for the Bill),” Punia said on the sidelines of a meeting with the state, zonal and district level SC/ST Commission coordinators of UP. The Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha but the Lok Sabha had witnessed repeated disruptions in the Monsoon session by the Samajwadi Party. With UP being the centre of anti-quota in promotion protests, Punia asked the coordinators to spread the “correct” information about the Bill in their respective zones and districts. (Indian Express 3/3/13)

 

41. ‘No stay on one per cent reservation for SBCs’ (25)

Jaipur: The Rajasthan High Court on Monday clarified that there is no stay on one per cent special reservation extended to Gujjars and other four communities under the ‘special backward classes’ category in the state. The order came when a division bench of the High Court was hearing an application of the Rajasthan government seeking certain modification of a court stay order dated January 29. On January 29, the High Court had stayed the five per cent special reservation given to SBC candidates. Last year, the Rajasthan government had decided to award five per cent reservation to Gujjars, Raika, Banjaaras, Gadiyalohar and Gadariya communities. The state already has 21 per cent reservation for OBCs and another 28 per cent for SC/STs. In its order, the bench ruled, “What prevailed upon our mind while staying the provision of the law was that it was exceeding the upper ceiling of 50 per cent as fixed by the Supreme Court in various judgements.” “Further the prayer of PIL petitioners is also limited as they have challenged only the four per cent reservation that is in excess of the upper ceiling as such no modification of our stay order dated January 29, 2013 is required,” the bench of Justices NK Jain and JK Ranka said, while rejecting the government’s application. (Zee News 5/3/13)

 

42. West Bengal for quota in higher education (25)

Kolkata, March 6 : Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Wednesday announced that her government will introduce reservation for Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) in institutions of higher education in West Bengal. “We have come up with a ‘West Bengal Higher Education Reservation in Admission Bill’ which is a revolutionary decision related to higher education,” she said. “We have decided to introduce reservation for SC (22 percent), ST (six percent) and OBC (17 percent, including minorities) students in higher educational institutions for the first time in the state,” Banerjee said here after the cabinet gave its nod to the proposed bil. The legislation is aimed at ensuring a better future for students of the reserved category. “We have already provided reservations for OBCs in jobs. In order to complement jobs with higher education, this step will go a long way in uplifting the lives of SCs, STs and OBCs in the state,” said Banerjee. “This reservation will not affect the existing seat availability for general category students. For this reservation, extra/additional seats and infrastructure will be created to provide higher education (New Kerala 7/3/13)

 

43. Bengal quota for SC/STs & OBCs (25)

The Mamata Banerjee government will introduce reservation of seats for SC/STs and OBCs in higher education in the state. The decision was taken in a Cabinet meeting chaired by the chief minister on Wednesday. “We have decided to introduce reservation for SC (22 per cent), ST (6 per cent) and OBC (17 per cent, including minorities) students in higher educational institutions for the first time in the state,” Ms Banerjee said, adding that it was a revolutionary decision. The chief minister made it clear that the reservations will not impinge on the existing seat availability for general category students. “The government will create additional seats for these reservations without affecting the seat prospects of general category students,” she explained. Ms Banerjee will get the West Bengal State Higher Education Institutions Reservation Bill, 2013, passed in the coming budget session of the state Assembly. “We have already provided reservations for OBCs in jobs. In order to complement jobs with higher education, this step will go a long way in uplifting the SCs, STs and OBCs in the state,” she elaborated. She informed that for the implementation of the reservation, additional infrastructure would be created at a cost of `1,000 crore, out of which `600 crore would be spent annually. Meanwhile, in order to improve the work culture, the state government is planning to bring a new bill: Paschim Banga Lok Pariseba Bill. “This bill will ensure that people receive proper and prompt services from various departments. They will now get services like driving licences, birth and death certificates, land conversion certificates electricity connections and health services without any problem,” she added. If any citizen complained against any government employee of non-cooperation in providing any of these services then he would have to pay a fine between `250 to `1,000. To curb its misuse, the government will impose some safeguards. (Asian Age 7/3/13)

 

44. Protesting Jats threaten to cut supplies to Delhi (25)

Hisar: Jats have threatened to cut supply of milk, water and vegetables to Delhi in protest against their demand for inclusion into the Central list of OBCs. The Haryana government had accorded the OBC status to the community. While one group has decided to welcome the decision another grouping has expressed dissatisfaction. Ram Bhagat Malik of the All India Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti said they were not satisfied with the state government’s decision. Malik said the Samiti would launch an indefinite stir from March 15 and disrupt supplies to the national Capital. Meanwhile in New Delhi, scores of protesters from the Jat community agitated outside the residence of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. They were demanding reservation in government jobs and educational institutions. One of the protesters said the community had decided to launch an agitation ahead of the Commonwealth Games but it was suspended following an assurance by Dikshit that she will take up their demands with top leaders in the Union Government. “We want reservation in government jobs. We have been asking the Union government to make required changes in the law,” a protester said. (Hindustan Times 8/3/13)

 

45. ‘Political reservations for Muslims not possible’ (25)

HYDERABAD: Union Minister for Minority Affairs K. Rahman Khan has stated that poor awareness among Muslims has been the major impediment in accessing government schemes by the community, even as he admitted defects in the delivery systems. “Defective delivery mechanisms are not a problem just to minorities’ schemes but it’s glitch for all schemes implemented by governments in the country. However, lack of proper awareness about the schemes being designed and implemented for Muslims has been denying them of the opportunities,” the Minister felt while participating in a debate on the implementation of Sachar Committee recommendations here on Friday. He noted that the Centre had accepted 72 out of 76 recommendations made by the committee but could not implement three aspects due to some technical reasons. He said that they were in the process of putting in practice national diversity index, preparing a data bank and setting up an equal opportunities commission. Faulting NGOs (non-governmental organisations) for not involving them much in the implementation of schemes for Muslims the Union Minister said they were planning to set up NGOs’ advisory councils from national to block level to improve their participation. Responding to remarks and suggestions of other panel members – Amitabh Kundu of JNU, Zahed Ali Khan, Editor of Siasat, Wajahat Habibullah, Chairperson of National Committee for Minorities, and others – the Minister said it was not possible to implement political reservation for Muslims but the amendments brought in the Delimitation Act could help them to some extent in future. On the “attitude of hatred towards Muslims whenever the incidents of terrorism occur” the Union Minister said change must come in the society and the social inclusion of Muslims could help overcome the problem. Later, at the valedictory of a conference on the “Status of Muslim women in Indian sub-continent” in Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) Mr. Rahman Khan said reservation to Muslims in education and employment had limited purpose and it was not a solution for their emancipation. Social activist from Gujarat Teesta Seetalvad said Muslim women must overcome patriarchy, prejudice and majoritarianism to put an end to their oppression. (The Hindu 9/3/13)