Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 10 June 2015

Category: Uncategorized

Vol. 17                                                   No. 13, 14 & 15                                       May 29, 2015

(From May 1 to 31, 2015)

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Rajasthan: Dalits killed, thrashed in violence over land dispute (2)

Nagaur: A man was arrested on Saturday over the death of four people during a bloody clash in Rajasthan’s Nagaur district, where Jats used tractors to flatten the homes of Dalits and allegedly thrashed several women following a sudden flare-up over a decades-old land dispute. Officials said the situation in Dangawas village, where the Jats and Dalits clashed on Thursday, was slowly returning to normal. Twenty policemen were deployed in the village, located 250 km east of state capital Jaipur, to instill confidence among residents, Superintendent of police Raghvendra Suhasa said.Ram Kumar Jat, 40, was arrested by police at Nagaur hospital, where he was admitted for treatment, Suhasa said. State home minister Gulab Chand Kataria said all the accused would be arrested soon. After visiting Dangawas on Saturday evening, National Commission for Scheduled Castes chairman PL Punia indicted the Nagaur district administration for laxity in handling the clash. “The victims were not happy with the police inquiry. I will ask the government for a probe by an independent agency,” Punia told Hindustan Times. He said the violence began as an individual dispute but snowballed into a caste clash because the administration failed to act. A team from the Centre for Dalit Rights in Jaipur also visited the village and met people injured in the clash who are being treated in a hospital in Ajmer. The violence was sparked by a dispute over 24 bighas of land between Chimnaram Jat and a Dalit man named Ratanram Meghwal. Chimanram Jat claimed Meghwal’s ancestors had sold the plot to his family and that the Dalit family had encroached on the land. Both sides had filed cases in court.Tensions spiked on Thursday morning when Chimanram Jat’s supporters began moving towards Meghwal’s home built on the disputed land. There was a pitched battle when a group tried to occupy the land, police said. However, the Jats said they had sent two men to call the Dalits for a panchayat meeting organised to resolve the issue. The Jats alleged the Dalits fired at the two men, killing one Rampal Gosain. They added that this had triggered the clash.Three Dalits – Ratanram Meghwal, Pokaram Meghwal and Pancharam Meghwal – also died.Bhanwari Meghwal, who sustained multiple fractures in the clash, alleged the Jats thrashed the Dalits, molested women, flattened their home with tractors and even tried to crush them under the tractors.She claimed one person was crushed by a tractor but police denied this. Police officials said three Dalits were beaten to death while 13 more were injured.The injured were admitted to the government hospital in Ajmer, where doctors described the condition of one person as serious.Members of the Dalit community also alleged that the Jat men had assaulted Dalit women and tried to insert rods in their genitals. However, police officers and doctors treating the women denied this claim.Suhasa said the dead were cremated on Friday. He contended the violence was not the outcome of a caste clash.“The accused include Meghwals as well as Jats. FIRs have been registered against 12 persons, eight of them Jats and two Meghwals,” he said.Nagaur collector Vishal Rajan said all the victims would be given compensation on Monday. He said police had been deployed in the hospital in Ajmer where relatives of deceased Ratanram Meghwal are being treated.The village with a population of 15,000 is dominated by Jats but also has about 4,000 Dalit families. There are proper roads and houses and agriculture is the main occupation… (Hindustan Times 16/5/15)

8. 4 Dalits Slippered for 2 Hours in Kanchi Village (2)

CHENNAI: Four Dalit youth, including two Class 12 students, were allegedly tied to an electric pole and beaten with slippers for nearly two hours in public view in a Vanniyar-dominated village about 25 km from Kancheepuram town, on February 28. A fact finding team, comprising human rights activists, which conducted an inquiry into the shocking episode blamed the police for biased attitude as the cops had arrested two of the victims. The Kancheepuram Taluk police, after a delay of 18 days, filed an FIR on the persons from the Vanniyar community based on the complaint of the victim Dalits. But no arrest was made since the accused persons was granted anticipatory bail in the meantime. The incident is said to have taken place in the Purisai village in which about 50 families live, and is otherwise dominated by Vanniyar community. Narrating the incident, M Alexander, a Class XII student and one of the victims, said he and his friend G Prasanth were visiting a shop in the village in the evening to recharge a cell phone when a group of bike-borne youth surrounded their cycles and started assaulting them. “They then took us forcibly to a ground nearby and asked us to kneel down. I asked why we should do that. Then they started severely beating us and forced us to the ground,” said Alexander. They were made to call their two elder brothers — D Saravanan and M Govendhan over phone, asking them to come to the place. Soon after the two reached the spot, all four were tied to an electric pole and the men in the village took turns to beat them with slippers. “We were all tied in four different directions and about 20 members were assaulting us when a huge crowd of the villagers gathered around us hurling abuses,” says Prasanth, another victim and a Class 12 student. The reason for the abuse of the four youth is the alleged misbehaviour towards a 14-year-old girl of the Vanniyar community by a group of unidentified men. “When we enquired with the Vanniyar community members, they confessed to having assaulted the four youth for misbehaving with the girl by sprinkling powder on her face when she was walking alone and giving her abusive letters. But nobody, even the girl concerned, does not know who those persons were as they had covered their faces with kerchieves,” said A Marx, a noted human rights activist who was part of the fact-finding team. The four Dalit youth say they were assaulted initially asking them to reveal names of the persons who misbehaved with the girl. “They assumed that we knew those persons and wanted us to tell their names. But we pleaded them we had no idea about the incident. But after the incident, now they have filed a police complaint that we misbehaved with the girl,” said Alexander. The Kanchi Taluk police had on the same day registered a women harassment case and remanded D Saravanan and M Govendan, who managed to come out on bail after 18 days in jail. (New Indian Express 17/5/15)

9. Dalit youth killed for keeping Ambedkar song as ringtone (2)

Shirdi (Maharashtra): A Dalit youth was brutally assaulted and killed in the temple town of Shirdi in Maharashtra allegedly over his mobile ringtone of a song on Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar. Four assailants have been arrested while four others are absconding. Sagar Shejwal, a nursing student , had come home to Shirdi to attend a wedding. On May 16 around 1.30 p.m., he went to a local beer shop with two of his cousins. According to Vivek Patil, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Sagar was assaulted by eight youths over his ringtone. Mr Patil said: “Eight youths were sitting at a table at the shop. When Sagar’s mobile rang with the Ambedkar song as its ringtone, the youths told him to switch it off. In a police statement, the cousin has described the song as Tumhi kara re kitihi halla / Mazbut Bhimacha quilla [Shout all you want / Bhim’s fortress is strong]. An altercation ensued and the assailants hit Sagar with a beer bottle and started kicking and punching him. Then they dragged him out, put him on a motorbike and took him away to a nearby forest. They crushed him under the bike. Sagar’s body was found around 6.30 p.m. in a naked state near Rui village. The cause of death was multiple fractures. The autopsy says Sagar sustained around 25 injuries. He died between 2 and 4 p.m.” The perpetrators, a group of local youths from the dominant Maratha and OBC communities, ran their bike repeatedly over Sagar’s body mutilating it . “I can understand that they hit him. Quarrels can happen anytime, but look at the brutality of the act. Why would they do this on such a trivial matter?” Sagar’s father Subhash Shejwal asked, unable to comprehend the horror of the assault. The initial assault was captured on the CCTV cameras at the beer shop. The 21-minute footage, in which the faces of the assailants are clearly seen, provides strong electronic evidence to the police. The shop itself is within a stone’s throw from the Shirdi police station, raising serious questions about police inaction. “I called the police at 1.45 p.m. when the youths were beating up Sagar, but for a long time they did not come,” said Sandeep Ghorpade, manager of the beer shop. Sagar’s cousins, who managed to escape, also alerted the police, but in vain. The family alleged that the officers on duty demanded an air-conditioned vehicle to look for Sagar. The police said a departmental inquiry would be initiated against Inspector Pramod Wagh and constable Sharad Kadam. “Only our relatives were looking for Sagar. No police vehicle was in sight. The body was also discovered by family members,” said complainant and Sagar’s cousin Satish Gaikwad. The police arrested Vishal Kote, Somnath and Rupesh Wadekar, who are historysheeters and Sunil Jadhav. They have been booked under the Sections 302 (murder), 395 (punishment for dacoity), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence), 109 (punishment of abetment) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 (2) (v) and 3 (1) (x) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. (The Hindu 22/5/15)

10. Dalits in Madhya Pradesh Village Allegedly Not Allowed to Use Public Borewell (2)

Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh:  Dalit residents of Ghatwani village in Alirajpur district of Madhya Pradesh — some 400 km from Bhopal — have alleged that they are not allowed to use a public borewell and have to drink dirty water of a disused well. Ironically, the Bhilala community in the village, which allegedly does not allow Dalits to use the lone hand-operated borewell, is itself a scheduled tribe. Over 200 Dalit residents of the village recently met Collector Shekhar Verma and demanded that a separate borewell be dug for them. Mr Verma told PTI that he was going to send a team of officials of social justice and revenue departments to the village to stop the discrimination. “Untouchability won’t be tolerated at any cost,” the collector said. Also, as demanded by the Dalits, another hand-operated borewell would be provided in the village, he said. RS Chouhan, Executive Engineer of Public Health and Engineering Department, said, “A complaint has come that Bhilalas don’t allow Dalits to fetch water. We will install a new hand-pump for the Dalit community in the village.” Mehtab Mandor and Mukesh, both Dalits, said the existing borewell is just 100 metres from their houses, but they are not allowed to use it. They fetch water from an old well. “Our children frequently fall ill due to its contaminated water,” they said. Pinki Mandor, a Dalit woman, said there were instances where members of her community were thrashed for daring to use the only borewell in the village. The village has a population of about 930, over 200 of them Dalits. Majority are Bhilalas, a sub-community of Bhils, who consider themselves descendants of Rajput chiefs who married daughters of Bhil chieftains. (NDTV 24/5/15)

11. Dalits Attacked for Tea Shop Entry; 8 Booked (2)

THANJAVUR:Days after four Dalits were allegedly assaulted by a group of caste-Hindu members at a tea stall here, the Tiruchitrambalam police on Sunday booked eight persons from the intermediate caste. Police said K Mathimurugan (44), a Dalit from Vellaiyan street in Navakollaikadu, along with his relatives Vignesh (22), Madhavan (22), Aravind and a  few locals had gone to a tea stall at Ottankadu bazaar on Friday night. However, a group of caste-Hindu persons allegedly prevented them from entering the shop and verbally abused them. To prevent the fight from snowballing into a caste clash, Mathimurugan asked his friends to return. However, his friends picked up some logs from roadside as a precaution. On seeing the Dalits arming themselves, the caste-Hindu people allegedly started attacking them with clubs, iron rods and aruval, police said. (Indian Express 26/5/12)

12. Dalit villager set afire for fetching water at hand-pump in MP’s Sagar dist (2)

Sagar: A Dalit villager was allegedly set on fire by an upper caste man in Madhya Pradesh’s Sagar district for collecting water from a hand-pump, police said on Wednesday, highlighting the social divide in the caste-ridden state. The incident took place May 23 at the remote Belai village near Bina town, around 160 km from Bhopal, but came to light only on Wednesday after the injured person was referred to the Sagar district hospital. The incident came barely days after a Dalit groom was assaulted in neighbouring Damoh district by a group of people, also from an upper caste, for riding a horse on his way to the bride’s house.Bina police station officer Anil Gupta said a case under the SC/ST Act has been registered against the accused Ramsahay Richariya, who was absconding.The victim Samrat Ahirwar, 31, said that Richariya had tried to stop him from fetching water from a government-installed hand-pump before him. “When I objected, he abused and thrashed me,” said Ahirwar. “Later, when I was passing by his house he threw a burning kerosene oil lamp at me resulting in burn injuries in the lower part of my body.”Dalits, considered among the lower strata of society by the so-called high castes, regularly face discrimination across many parts of the country where the social divide is strictly enforced. Activists say that divisive politics by different parties have nullified efforts by successive governments to create awareness and bring in legislations to end the discrimination. (Hindustan Times 28/5/15)

TRIBALS

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17. 430 individual titles ready for distribution to forest dwellers on Sathy hills (6)

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

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

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

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

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

20. Adivasi team’s push for ST status (6)

GUWAHATI, May 15 – A delegation of 11 members of the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AASAA) met the Chairman of the National Scheduled Tribe (ST) Commission, Dr Rameshwar Oraon at his office in New Delhi on Tuesday over the issue of including the Adivasis of Assam in the Scheduled Tribe list. During the hour-long discussion, the Chairman observed that the demand for the ST status by the Adivasis of Assam is genuine and assured that he was striving to push the issue so that the Adivasis can be put in the ST list at the earliest, said AASAA president Raphael Kujur. The AASAA delegation also met the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Shambhu Singh at North Block, New Delhi, on May 11 and discussed the scheduling of Adivasis, Assam-Nagaland border row and rehabilitation of Adivasi militants under ceasefire agreements. “During the discussion, the Joint Secretary assured that the Adivasis of Assam would be put in the ST list at the earliest, and that the Government of India was making all efforts to resolve the Assam-Nagaland border dispute permanently,” Kujur said. The AASAA delegation also met the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Jual Oram at his residence, which was followed by a meeting with Union Minister for Sports and Youth Welfare Sarbananda Sonowal. The delegation asked Sonowal to take up the issue of increase in the minimum wages of tea garden workers to Rs 169. The AASAA also called for a separate ministry for the tea, coffee and rubber sectors. (The Assam Tribune 16/5/15)

21. 6 Assam tribes may soon get Scheduled Tribes status (6)

NEW DELHI: In a move that will turn Assam into a tribal-majority state, the Centre is planning to notify six communities in the state as Scheduled Tribes. “As per a key demand of Ulfa’s pro-talks faction, with which tripartite negotiations were held here last week, six Assamese tribes — Koch-Rajbongshis, tea tribes, Tai Ahoms, Morans, Motoks and Chutiyas – are being actively considered for ST status. The home ministry is in touch with the tribal affairs ministry to see the proposal through,” a senior home ministry official told TOI on Monday. The faction, led by ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, has been voicing concern over the alleged unabated illegal immigration from Bangladesh. It has conveyed to the government that granting ST status to the six communities, now listed as other backward classes (OBCs), was the only way to protect the interests of indigenous people of Assam. That the BJP, which bagged 7 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam in the 2014 general election and hopes to repeat the good performance in assembly polls due next year, is favourably inclined towards Ulfa’s demand was clear when Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram announced in Guwahati last month that the six communities would be given ST status within four to five months. The decision could boost electoral prospects of BJP which has always expressed concern over illegal immigration from Bangladesh, leading to demographic changes in the state. The granting of tribal status to these communities would have political ramifications. According to PTI, almost 80 out of 126 assembly constituencies are likely to be reserved for tribals if the six communities get ST status. However, this will be possible only when the next delimitation exercise is undertaken. Once the Union Cabinet clears ST status for the six communities, a Constitution amendment Bill will have to be introduced and passed by both Houses of Parliament. (Times of India 19/5/15)

22. Yanadi tribal people suffer in the crossfire (6)

TIRUPATI: As the task force set up to stop illegal red sanders felling in the Seshachalam forests goes about rounding up smugglers, the tribal community of Yanadis have been unwitting losers in the bargain. While there have for long been restrictions on the tribe’s entry into the protected forest, the stricter curbs imposed since the fight intensified two months ago have affected the livelihood of the tribe. What is ironic is that the entry of woodcutters into the Seshachalam forest increased only after native tribes were barred from it. The Yanadis, native to the eastern mandals of Chittoor district, rely extensively on non-timber forest produce (NTFP). Some 15,000 Yanadi families in 22 mandals of Chittoor district eke out a living by gathering honey, grass, tamarind, gooseberries, wild palm leaves (eethaaku), and an assortment of other forest products, known locally as karakkaya, palagadda, buraga banka, maredugadda, kanuga ginjalu, nerramamidi chekka, etc. and selling them in the nearby towns.A visit to the forest fringe village of Kukkalagunta in Yerpedu mandal showed how the state of affairs has turned pathetic for the Yanadis. They are dismayed that what was once their home is now barred to them and that their ‘sense of belonging’ to the forest is now lost. Even the possession of identity cards provided to them by the Girijan Cooperative Corporation (GCC) does not serve the purpose as forest officials demand a ‘permission letter’ from none other than the Forest Minister.  “From Vadamalapeta to Thottambedu, tens of thousands of Girijans depend on the forest for a living,” says K.V. Ramana of Pragathi, a voluntary organisation working for the Yanadis’ rights. When the community loses its livelihood, it shows up in the form of losses incurred by GCC, he added. The president of the Andhra Pradesh Yanadi Sangham, Mr Chandamamala Kotaiah, questions the ban, asserting that no Yanadi has ever been accused of felling red sanders trees or assisting woodcutters. Tales of woe come pouring of the Yanadis in Kukkalagunta village. A frightened Nelluru Suraiah narrates how he and his wife were thrashed by officials and shows the injury marks on his limbs. Desamma laments that a memorandum submitted to the Chittoor Collector bore no fruit. The stories are the same in Sivagiri Colony and Payal Centre where Yanadis cower from the officials. Kandada MPTC member K. Nagalakshmi, who hails from the Yanadi community, says officials use abusive language against women to keep them away from the woods and torture any males who brave the curbs. (The Hindu 21/5/15)

23. Move to revive Salwa Judum fizzles out in Bastar (6)

RAIPUR: Amid opposition from political parties, the move to revive a “Salwa Judum” like people’s movement against Maoists in tribal Bastar region of Chhattisgarh has fizzled out with organizers now saying that they would organize a meeting on May 25 to pay homage to the victims of Naxalite attack that killed frontline Congress leaders of the state in May 2013. Slain Congress leader Mahendra Karma’s son Chhavindra Karma and other leaders had announced on May 5 that they would convene a meeting at Faraspal in Dantewada district on May 25 — the third anniversary of Bastar massacre — to chalk out strategies to re-launch a peoples’ movement against Maoist rebels. Leaders of erstwhile Salwa Judum had also supported the move. While Maoists have threatened a bloody backlash against all those trying to revive any movement against them, mainstream political parties did not come out in open to support the proposed campaign fearing violence and bloodshed in the tribal region. Late Mahendra Karma’s son and two former Salwa Judum leaders Chaitram Atami and Sukhdev Tati had formed a “vikas sangharsh samiti” to fight for the development of Bastar. In the process, they sought to project the proposed movement as the second phase of Salwa Judum, a controversial movement that led to bloodshed in Bastar between June 2005 and December 2008. Then, Congress leader Mahendra Karma had spearheaded the Salwa Judum campaign. “We are organizing a meeting at Faraspal on May 25 to pay homage to Mahendra Karma and others who were killed in Maoist attack in 2013,” said Chhavindra Karma. The May 5 announcement to re-launch a Salwa Judum like movement had triggered protests in Bastar. Maoists began organizing meetings to mobilize people against the proposed campaign while political parties including local BJP, Congress, Communist party of India (CPI) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) went public against the call to revive such a movement. Slain Congress leader Mahendra Karma’s spouse Devti Karma is a Congress legislator while his sons are also active members of the opposition Congress. After the announcement came, AICC general secretary BK Hariprasad announced that his party has nothing to do with Salwa Judum campaign and it was not in favour of any such campaign. “It is the responsibility of the state government to formulate and implement strategies to deal with Maoist menace,” he added. (Times of India 22/5/15)

24. 25,000 tribals to attend reputed schools: CM Devendra Fadnavis (6)

Mumbai: The state government has decided to admit 25,000 tribal students in reputed schools instead of ashram schools every year. The announcement was made by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who termed this an effort to bring the tribal students into the mainstream. “We will be sending 25,000 tribal students to reputed schools for education. This is to bring them in the mainstream and give them education like other students of their age,” Mr Fadnavis told reporters. Earlier, the government had been providing the facility to only 2,500 tribal students. However, the government has decided to increase the number of students from this academic year, Mr Fadnavis said. “Their mixing with other students is necessary to build confidence in them,” the CM added. However, activists in the field of education have raised concerns about its implementation. “The government does not make budgetary provisions for such plans. How are the students going to pay the fee to these schools? Also, we have seen that the decision to include 25 per cent of students from weaker sections was not implemented properly. What is the guarantee that tribal students will get admitted in good schools?” asked Sham Sonar from Mumbai Shikshan Companikaran Virodhi Abhiyan. He even expressed displeasure over the poor standards of ashram schools that are meant for the tribal students. The ashram schools have no educational facilities, notebooks, books, blackboards, toilets or laboratories, he said. “The students from tribal backgrounds will also have to face discrimination in big schools and the government should address this issue also,” Mr Sonar said. (Asian Age 25/5/15)

25. Adivasis stage blockade (6)

Kokrajhar, May 28: The Adivasi National Convention Committee, BTAD unit, today put up a six-hour blockade on National Highway 31 (C) at Karigaon in Kokrajhar to press for their demands, including ST status for communities residing in Assam. Traffic on the national highway was affected from noon as thousands of activists staged the protest. A memorandum was submitted to chief minister Tarun Gogoi through the Kokrajhar deputy commissioner’s office. Birsing Munda, the secretary of the committee, appealed to chief minister Tarun Gogoi for tripartite talks between militant groups, the Centre and the state government to resolve their issues. (The Telegraph 29/5/15)

WOMEN

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31. Conviction for female foeticide cases rare (8)

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

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

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

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

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

34. Harassed for dowry, woman kills self (8)

Nashik: A newly-wed woman immolated herself at her husband’s house in Gunjalnagar village of Deola Tehsil of Nashik district. Deola police station sub-inspector Ankush Borate said that deceased Kaveri had married Prashant Aher in Deola on May 6. According to her uncle Hiraman Santosh Gangurde, she was being harassed by her in-laws to give a dowry of Rs 3,00,000 and 10 tolas of gold. Kaveri had informed her family about the matter, who intervened and sent her back to her in-laws place. However, the harassment continued and she immolated herself on Saturday morning. She was taken to Nashik Civil (General) Hospital, where she died in the evening. The police has arrested her husband Prashant, her mother-in-law Latabai and her mother. They were taken to court on Sunday evening. In another case, a married woman Priyanka Hanuman Avhad was on her way to answer nature’s call when she was accosted by one Samadhan Sangale in Jalgaon Budrul village of Nandgaon tehsil on Saturday evening. According to bystander Gurudatt Suresh Bodke, she was beaten up and thrown into a well. The deceased had spurned Sangle’s advances and this allegedly led to the murder. Sangle was later produced in court, where he was remanded to judicial custody. (Asian Age 18/5/15)

35. Rapes, women’s abductions in Mumbai rise sharply this year (8)

MUMBAI: A statistical study of crime in Mumbai in the first three months of 2015 shows that abductions of women rose more than one-and-a-half times (165%) over the same period last year. The response to the right to information (RTI) query also revealed that cases of rapes increased by 43%, although the number of gang-rape cases dropped from seven to four. The data sought by activist Chetan Kothari showed 172 cases of rape cases were registered (against major and minor accused) in January to March this year against 138 in the first three months of last year. Cases of kidnappings rose sharply by 202 in 2015 compared to 76 registered the previous year. Experts and police said higher awareness in Maharashtra leads to more crimes being reported and hence the spurt in statistics. They have found that 95% of rape cases follow false promises of marriage. “Only five per cent of the rape cases are genuine cases of sexual assault,” said an IPS officer, requesting anonymity. He also blamed growing urbanization for the rise in crime. Most crimes against children below 10 years are committed by relatives and people known to the victim or her family members. Similar, the majority of kidnappings of minor girls are cases of elopement. “The RTI information about such crimes in the first quarter clearly indicates a spike in offences against women,” said Kothari…. (Times of India 18/5/15)

36. OHRC takes cognisance of child pregnancy case (8)

BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has directed the Nabarangpur district administration to make arrangements for protection of an 11-year-old school girl in Nabarangpur district where the girl became pregnant after being raped by her neighbour. Taking suo motu cognisance of the news report, the OHRC asked the Nabarangpur District Collector to explore financial assistance that could be provided to the minor girl as she was seven-month pregnant. The accused had once waylaid the girl who was on her way to tuition class and allegedly raped her. Since then he had been repeatedly raping the girl. Only recently, her pregnancy came to the light and subsequently the accused was arrested. The OHRC Acting Chairperson Justice B. K. Mishra said since the girl was seven month pregnant, it was risky for her to undergo an abortion. The Chief District Medical Officer has been ordered to go to the girl’s home to make periodical assessment on her health and constitute a medical board, if necessary, for providing focussed treatment. The District Collector was further directed to give psychological counselling to the girl and her parents to overcome the trauma. Moreover, efforts should be made to incorporate the girl in an educational programme in addition to vocational training, directed Justice Mishra saying protection of the family must be given utmost priority. The Nabarangpur Superintendent of Police has been asked to submit status of investigation into the crime. (The Hindu 18/5/15)

37. Six women in Meerut village defy boycott, go to work (8)

PEEPLIKHEDA (MEERUT): Ostracised and slapped with a huge “fine” by the community panchayat for going to work, six women of this sleepy village, 60 km from the national capital, tell a story more complicated than that of patriarchy feeling threatened by the idea of financially independent women. Ten days into the boycott, the women have shown a rare courage, an inspiring story to emerge from a deprived community. Geeta, Premwati, Ombiri, Suman, Pinki and Rekha belong to the most backward Nat community, and they have “broken the social norm” by going to work in nearby paper mills and meat factories. The Nat panchayat, in a diktat issued on May 10, banned them from working in the factories. When they did not abide by the order, the panchayat ordered the 200 Nat families in the settlement to boycott the women and their families. The panchayat diktat states that if the women want to be a part of the community again, they will have to bear hundred lashes in public, pay a Rs. 1 lakh penalty for each person and stop going to work. The social boycott of these women has started showing its impact as grocery shop owners have refused to sell them anything. On Wednesday, the six families were asked not to use the government water pump in the Nat colony. “Right now, nobody talks to us. Even my brother-in-law who stays next to my house doesn’t want to be seen talking to my family because he will also be declared an outcaste,” says Geeta, more forthcoming of the six. “Essentially, it is about a set of moneylenders in the community trying to prevent women from working, which has the potential to destroy their thriving business. Though my community is socially and economically deprived, the affluent ones among us lend money to maximise their capital. These men control the panchayat.” The standard rate of interest is 120 per cent, Premwati says. “The moneylenders don’t want to see women working. Since we owe them money, they don’t want us to become financially independent,” she says. “We can manage like this. The local administration and the people living in neighbouring areas have helped us a lot,” says Ms. Geeta adding that the local police have assured them of security. Having seen the community’s ways of dealing with issues, she is scared of violence. The women may have to migrate to some other village in case of violent reaction from the “frustrated community panchayat”, as she terms them.… (The Hindu 21/5/15)

38. 23-year-old tortured to death for dowry (8)

NAINITAL: A woman, allegedly tortured for dowry, died at Dr Sushila Tiwari Government Medical College and Hospital on Sunday. A case has been filed against her in-laws. Shaista, 23, was admitted to a private hospital on Thursday and referred to the medical college on Sunday. According to doctors, she was in severe pain and diagnosis showed she was hemorrhaging due to severe internal injuries. Shaista had married Mohammad Irfan, 26, in 2013 and Rs 4.5 lakh had been spent in arrnageemnts, the victim’s family informed. A few days ago, her in-laws had raised demands for a four-wheeler which was to be provided to them after a loan had been sanctioned for the same. “Irfan used to beat my sister brutally which ultimately resulted in her death,” said Danish Khan, Shaista’s brother. Charges of torture and murder have been slapped on Irfan’s elder sister Reena and his father Riyaz, who are currently on the run. “A case has been registered under relevant sections of Indian Penal Code. The body has been sent for the post mortem. The accused will be nabbed soon,” said Santhil Abudai, SSP, Nainital. (Times of India 25/5/15)

39. Pilibhit Man Chops Off Wife’s Nose for Not Paying Dowry (8)

PILIBJIT: A man from Ahmadpur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit District allegedly chopped off his wife’s nose after her family refused to pay dowry. Police said Jahan-e-Alam first assaulted his wife, and then, chopped off her nose and hair after she failed to meet his dowry demands. “A woman in Puranpur area has reported that after a domestic fight over dowry, she was beaten by her husband. He then hit her nose with a sharp item. She is undergoing medical treatment now. Based on the complaint given by the girl’s family, we have filed a case against the accused. We will investigate the matter and take action against the culprit,” said Superintendent of Police, Pilibhit, Sudhir Kumar Singh. The victim is undergoing treatment at a local hospital. “He was asking me for dowry. He first assaulted me. Then he chopped off my nose and hair,” said the victim. The girl’s parents said that Alam was demanding Rs 20,000 and a motorcycle from them. The incident has evoked sharp comments from rights activists. “It is a very sad day that after so many years of independence and talk of equality for women, here is a young bride whose hair and nose has been chopped off by her husband and in-laws for not getting dowry. 498(A) of IPC says that it is a cognizable, non-bailable offence with three years’ imprisonment and also Section 338 which says endangering life by causing grievous hurt. Action must be taken against the husband and in-laws under these sections,” said lawyer and activist, Abha Singh. Police said that a First Information Report (FIR) has been registered and search is on for the accused who is absconding. (New Indian Express 27/5/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

 

40. 34 child labourers rescued (14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

45. Employing Adolescents in Any Industry Not Correct: Activists (14)

CHENNAI:Compulsory education, generation next, and progress. While these buzzwords are seen as representing the ‘future’, allowing children in the age group of 14 to 18 to work by categorising them as adolescents has irked child rights activists. The National Policy for the Child, which India ratified in 2013, classifies anyone under the age of 18 as a child. But the changes proposed to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012, exempts them from child labour – a glaring contradiction according to activists. “These are double standards, where we are claiming to agree with the policy to the outside world, but are buckling under market pressure and allowing children in this age to work,” says V Geetha, advocate, Madras High Court. The age of 14 is considered vulnerable and one where it is most easy to abandon education and follow a downhill path to ill habits and delinquency, believe activists. “If children suddenly get money at this age without adult supervision, the independence might get to their heads. We saw in the Nirbhaya case that one of the accused was a dropout and labourer. We blame them but do not want to protect them,” says Thomas Jayaraj, director, Centre for Child Rights and Development. The age of 16 could be a better option for children to get employment, where they have at least the minimum education qualification, believes Andal Damodaran, president, Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW), TN. The clause has allowed for adolescent labour to be exempt from ‘hazardous industries’ – 18 occupations and 65 processes. “I know children who roll 1,500 beedis a day with their mothers, and then go to school. Many of them have dropped out. How will this Act help them?” wonders Girija Kumar Babu, joint secretary , ICCW. Some others argue that employment of any form at this age is detrimental to the growth of the child. “If a 15-year-old is wiping a table for 12 hours a day, wouldn’t you call that hazardous to him or her? This would never be acceptable to a middle class child, why is it alright for them?” asks Ossie Fernandes, director, Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation. (New Indian Express 16/5/15)

46. Proposed amendments to Child Labour Act slammed (14)

VELLORE: The amendments proposed to be introduced in the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, for which the Union Cabinet has accorded its approval recently, has been widely criticised by social activists. The Vellore Institute of Development Studies (VIDS) has stated that the amendments to impose stricter punishment on those employing children below 14 years, but allowing minors to work in non-hazardous family enterprises and the audio-visual entertainment industry are “ill-conceived and ill-advised”. It is also contrary to the central government’s declared policy of total elimination of the bonded child labour system. These amendments will only tend to perpetuate the child labour system in the society, said P. Jegadish Gandhi, Director of VIDS. Dr. Gandhi said that the bonded labour system should not be allowed in any form or sectoral activities. The VIDS, he said, strongly advocates the total abolition of child labour by 2020 in India by adopting the hitherto best practices of pro-active NGOs. “Against this scenario, by allowing the presence of child labour in many shades of family enterprises will facilitate child exploitation within walls under the cloak of learning family skills”, he said. Era. Chandrasekharan, president of Udhavum Ullangal, a Vellore-based NGO said that the amendments will create loopholes. This will embolden employers of child labour to perpetuate child labour under the garb of legal protection. He pointed out that only in the last few years, the government has created a semblance of awareness among the employers. It has also thrown light on the need to eliminate child labour through its stringent measures against employment of children in work, He was of the view that the proposed amendments will only help the traditional employers of child labour to engage children in work and escape from the clutches of law. The amendments, Mr. Chandrasekharan said, will tend to reverse the good work done in the area of rescuing child workers and enrolling them in schools, and lead to a situation where school-going children are taken out of schools and engaged in labour. Thanks to the measures taken by the district administration through the Child Labour Abolition Support Scheme (CLASS) in Vellore district, there was considerable reduction of child labour in the hotel industry. The amendments will reverse the trend. The amendments are not in the interests of children who are supposed to enjoy the pleasures of childhood and the benefits of education, he said. Ruby Nakka, founder of The Hope House, a home for special children in Gandhinagar, Vellore and a former president of the District Child Welfare Committee said that the proposed amendments would provide ample scope for abuse of the exemptions given to the engagement of child labour. While it is good to encourage the talent among child artistes in the entertainment industry, paying the children for their performance would constitute child labour, he said. (The Hindu 17/5/15)

 47. Debt-ridden farmers ‘sell’ their children in MP (14)

MOHANPURA: Lal Singh was desperate. The farmer from Mohanpura village in Madhya Pradesh had seen unseasonably heavy rains and hailstorms destroy crop after crop, while he fell deeper into debt. Finally, last August, with no way to feed his family, Singh felt he had only one choice: He sold his two sons to a shepherd for a year of labour, in exchange for Rs 35,000. “I was in no position to repay the debt and needed more money to make ends meet and plant a further crop,” Singh said in an interview in Mohanpura. He made the decision, he said, despite knowing “it was illegal and they could be abused and forced to work in cruel conditions.” Worsening crop failures, brought on by extreme weather, are leading to increasing financial desperation in Madhya Pradesh – and a rash of suicides and child trafficking, officials say. According to Rajnish Shrivastava, the district collector of Harda district, authorities rescued five children from forced labour in April, all from Khargone and Harda districts. Officials believe there could be many other cases of farmers trading their children for money, he said. “It is a matter of concern that farmers have been forced to sell their kids to repay their debts,” he said. “We can’t allow children to be abused and trafficked in this way.” Eight months after being sold into labour, Singh’s children were among the five rescued, Shrivastava said. Sumit, 12, and Amit, 11, fled from the shepherd and were taken to a local shelter, according to officials. Initially reluctant to return to their family for fear of how their parents would react, the boys are now back home, officials said. “Our job was to look after the sheep and other animals,” Amit told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “(The shepherd) thrashed us over trivial issues. We were not given even two meals a day. As things became intolerable we took courage and fled.” Authorities have ordered an investigation, while the shepherds who allegedly bought the five rescued children have been charged with the unlawful confinement of children and are awaiting trial, Shrivastava said. According to Vishnu Jaiswal, director of the Harda branch of children’s charity Childline, officials from his charity and from the government will visit the rescued children’s families from time to time to ensure they are being well looked after. “Trading our children was wrong but we were forced to do this just to stay alive,” Sumit and Amit’s mother, Manibai, said in an interview. “Otherwise, like many other farmers, we too would have been forced to commit suicide.”.. (Times of India 21/5/15)

48. Helped mom sell onions, it wasn’t child labour: Bandaru Dattatreya (14)

NEW DELHI: Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya stoutly defends the proposed amendments to the law allowing children below 14 years to work in family-owned enterprises, arguing that the existing law is impractical and often results in harassment. Just in case you are not convinced by his arguments, he shares his personal experience. When he was 10- or 11-years-old, the soft-spoken BJP veteran from Telangana, would go down to the Osmangunj market in Hyderabad in the evenings to assist his mother, Eswaramma, who used to sell onions. “Like other street vendors she would put up an umbrella and sell onions sitting under it. In the evenings, after school, I went to assist her. I would pack the leftover onions in bags and carry it back home, while she settled the accounts. My mother could not employ anyone to carry the bag because she could not afford paying wages to anyone else. Her income was Rs 15 and to pay Rs 5 would have been tough,” Dattatreya told TOI in an interview, while defending the move that has faced criticism from several child rights activists. The union cabinet recently cleared amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, and proposed to allow employment of children below 14 years in family enterprises with the rider that work should not interfere with their education. The minister said that several safeguards have been built, including a provision that is meant to ensure that children assist their parents after school hours and during vacations. Further, a rehabilitation fund is also proposed for those employing child labour, which will result in employers having to shell out Rs 50,000 that will be used for education and skill development with another Rs 15,000 coming from the state government. “When it comes to family-owned enterprises, seeing the economic and social conditions in our country, we need to be practical. We have proposed a very clear definition of family to include parents, siblings, maternal uncle etc. It is not a question of labour at all, you are assisting the family and there is no question of wages or salary,” Dattatreya said. Isn’t the definition of family a little open-ended? The minister again goes back to his own experience to justify the proposal. Dattatreya’s maternal uncle would often seek his help in getting rice to his shop or would ask him to man the shop for a while. “This is not child labour. These are Indian traditions, which are very different,” the minister insisted. (Times of India 23/5/15)

49. 7 months on, child rights panel exists only on paper (14)

NEW DELHI: For over seven months now, work has come to a grinding halt at the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The statutory agency, tasked with monitoring violations of child rights, does not have either a chairperson or any of the six members since October 2014. While new cases have reduced to a trickle because of the lack of members, the Commission continues to have a backlog. It has 1391 cases of violations of the Right to Education Act as on December 2014, while cases of child rights violations and abuse are 2216. Former Commission member Dr Vandana Prasad said, ” This is a loss of space in a statutory institution that has power and visibility and can act in a very non-partisan way on the issue of child rights. There are so many decisions being taken by the government which are inimical to the interests of the child and we as activists are feeling that loss. We have nowhere to raise these issues or debate them?”Prasad was referring to recent decisions like amendments to the Juvenile Justice act and the Child Labour Act which have been opposed by the activists. While JJ Act provides for children between 16-18 years of age accused of heinous crimes like gang-rape or murder to be tried as adults, the new amendments to the Child Labour Act encourages businesses to use child labour with impunity, activists say. Child rights activist Raj Mangal Prasad said, “There is no forum for grievance redress and monitoring of POCSO (Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences) and RTE at the national level are completely missing.”Activists have also pointed out that political appointments with little or no knowledge in the field of child rights have been made earlier and subverted the institution. “If the Commission is headed by a political appointee, isn’t it much better it is left vacant? The person may do more harm than good,” a rights activist said. The government, however, seems to be in no urgency despite a Supreme Court order in February this year asking it to expedite appointments. According to a RTI response, the women and child development (WCD) ministry invited applications after the term of chairperson Kushal Singh expired in October 2014. About 1364 people applied for the post of member while 169 applied for the position of the chairperson. Sources said the ministry had at least twice sent a list of shortlisted candidates which was rejected by the PMO. (Times of India 26/5/15)

 50. Campaign to provide free education for economically underprivileged children

MANGALURU: Seven-year-old Shailesh and his six-year-old brother Srinidhi from Pachchanady, studying in a Government School visited the Deputy Commissioner’s office with their mother Pushpa, after assurance by activists of Child Rights Activists and Parents Association of free education for Pushpa’s children in a private school in the locality. “We do not have any problem in going to the present school. We have been assured of a seat in private school. Hence we are here,” said Pushpa, who stays in a thatched roof house in Panchchanady. Her elder son Shailesh will be studying in the third standard this year while her younger son Srinidhi will be in the first standard. These two children were among the 15 odd students brought by the Child Rights Activists and Parents Association to the office of the Deputy Commissioner. Dinesh Hegde Ulepady, the President of the Association, said these students should be admitted to private schools that has all facilities as prescribed under the Right to Education Act. “There is lack of awareness of the Act and hence they have not filed applications (seeking admission),” said Mr. Ulepady, who wanted the Government to ensure admission of these children. The children belonging to underprivileged category are entitled for free education in private schools, who have earmarked 25 per cent seats for LKG and first standard. The process of admission has started with as many as 95,139 students getting admission in the two rounds of allocation process held till May 5 through out the state. (The Hindu 29/5/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

 

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

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

52. Minorities Panel to Probe Alair Encounter (7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

57. Meet held on 15-point programme for minorities (7)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The additional joint collector D Venkata Reddy on Monday convened a meet with district officials on the various programmes that would be taken up by the Minority Welfare Board under the 15-point programme. The additional joint collector said a full-fledged census survey must be conducted to arrive at an accurate figure of the number of minorities in the district. He also said that priority must be given to minorities who have complained against alleged land grabbing in any part of the district. Regarding the other key issues, the additional joint collector called for development of a composite plan of action for the upkeep of madrasas, allotment of bank loans to the needy amongst minorities, promotion of self-employment schemes and inclusion of minorities in skill development programmes as well as allotment of pensions. On the other issues, Venkata Reddy said special housing schemes for minorities had been allocated, under which minorities would be provided subsidised loans of up to Rs 75,000 for housing purposes and in case of minorities who own land, a 100% subsidised loan of Rs 75,000 would be allotted. Responding to a petition that he had received about 334 acres of land owned by minorities in Nakkapalli mandal being occupied by land grabbers, the additional joint collector immediately ordered an enquiry into the matter and told the tehsildar to file a report on the issue at the earliest. Venkata Reddy also said that petitions concerning special monthly pensions to maulas and imams would also be considered and reported to the government for approval. Regarding the Rs 50,000 expense grant for minority weddings, the additional joint collector said the sum would be deposited in less than 60 days after the wedding into the bride’s account. Speaking on the need to conduct a special survey to determine the number of minorities in the district, Venkata Reddy said this was to ensure that the funds for the welfare scheme would be utilised in a fair and transparent manner for the benefit of minorities alone. (Times of India 19/5/15)

58. MBA graduate allegedly denied job for being Muslim.. (7)

Khan claimed on his Facebook page that he was denied a job due to his faith. He said to ANI, “The company should change their ideology and shouldn’t discriminate candidates on basis of religion, or else the nation won’t progress.” Zeeshan Khan, a management graduate was allegedly denied a job because he is a Muslim. The situation has led him to move the National Commission for Minorities. The Commission has said it will conduct an inquiry if there is any truth in the matter. Khan had applied at Hare Krishna Exports Pvt. Ltd, a Mumbai based company. According to the email accessed by ANI, the reply he got from the company reads, “Thanks for your application. We regret to inform you that we hire only non-Muslim candidates.” The diamond export conglomerate has offices all around the world. (DNA 21/5/15)

59. ‘Secular’ job fair to counter discrimination (7)

MUMBAI: The discrimination against management graduate Zeeshan Khan by a diamond exporting firm, which refused to hire him because of his religion, continues to rankle the city. However, many in the community are responding constructively to the unhappy episode. While Indian Union Muslim League city president Parvez S Lakdawala has promised jobs to 10 non-Muslims in his firm and those of his other Muslim friends, corporator Mohsin Haider held a “secular” job fair in Andheri on Saturday. India’s integrity lies in its pluralism while discrimination will tear apart the country’s secular fabric. Ten non-Muslim aspirants will be immediately employed in my company and those owned by many Muslims in the city. It is to awaken the conscience of those companies and firms who practice absurd and divisive discrimination in recruitment,” said Lakdawala. He said his party has decided not to protest on the streets against the injustice to Khan, but denounce it through “Gandhigiri.” “Gandhiji taught us to remain non-violent even in extreme provocation. Religion has never been and should never be the criteria for recruitment. The decision to place 10 non-Muslims in Muslim-owned firms is a symbolic protest,” said Lakdawala, a Bandra-based builder. Haider, who also heads an NGO, Khidmat Organisation, along with Association of Muslim Professionals held an annual job fair in Andheri on Saturday. “After we heard of the injustice to Zeeshan, we called our festival ‘secular’ though it has always been so. Around 25 companies participated in the fair and gave jobs to 5,000 candidates,” said Haider. AMP’s president, Amir Idrisi, while denouncing the diamond firm’s brazen discrimination, called upon Muslim youths to work harder and become indispensable to a globalised economy. (Times of India 24/5/15)

60. HC notices to Rajasthan govt over surya namaskar (7)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan High Court on Monday issued notices to the state education department on the issue of compulsory ‘surya namaskar’ introduced in schools by the Raje government. The division bench of Justice Ajit Singh and J K Ranka issued notices on a petition by Ajmat – a- Rasool Foundation challenging the diktat of the education department of making surya namaskar, yoga, singing Vande Mataram compulsory in schools during the assembly. Earlier, the single bench of Justice Mohammad Rafiqe had transferred the petition to a double bench. The petition said the education department through a notification on February 15 this year had made yoga and Vande Mataram compulsory in all schools in the state. Accordingly the 20 minutes assembly time has been divided into three segments. Under which five minutes have been allotted for singing the national anthem and national song Vande Mataram, 10 minutes have been allotted for yoga, including surya namaskar and the last five minutes for news in Hindi and English. The petition said making the singing of Vande Mataram and making surya namaskar compulsory in schools is untenable in a secular country like India with its diversity of religious faith and believes. It militates against the tenants of some religions and needs to be struck down.The notice is returnable by May 28. (Times of India 26/5/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

66. Muslim body slams communal elements for instilling fear among minorities (7)

NEW DELHI: One of India’s largest Muslim organizations on Saturday said the community would fight efforts by communal forces to create fear among the minorities even as it urged the Centre and states to firmly deal with such elements. Reading out the declaration of its general session held at Ramlila Maidan, Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind chief Maulana Arshad Madani said, “The community that could fight against the British who believed sun never sets in their empire, will not cow down in fear of something that small groups are trying to create within the country.” He, however, said the community won’t overreact even when provoked. Amid huge applause, Madani said lakhs of Muslims like him are Indians “by choice and not by chance”. He said there was a choice before Muslims to shift to Pakistan, but most of them stayed back and fought for the country’s independence. Madani said the communal elements, both in government and outside, have carried out campaigns as if “our religion, culture, constitution and identity, nothing is safe”. The declaration said the government is fully aware of such anti-Muslim tirade, but has maintained “studied silence”.”It puts a question mark on the credibility of its popular slogan ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’. We want the government to respond in action and not in words,” Madani said. Taking potshots at Modi administration on issues of communal incidents, Madani said the government’s failure is being mocked upon and country’s dignity is tarnished when foreign guests sermonize the government, a reference to Barack Obama’s address at a town hall meeting in Delhi. However, he was quick to add that such foreign guests have no right to teach lesions of secularism to India as “they have killed thousands of innocents” in other parts of the world. Setting the larger goal for thousands of volunteers who had gathered at the outfit’s 32nd general session, the Muslim leader said for the next 20 years each member of the community must ensure that no child is deprived of education and training. (Times of India 17/5/15)

67. Bihar Muslims donate land for world’s largest Hindu temple (7)

PATNA: Muslims in Bihar, in a stellar demonstration of communal harmony, have donated land to help build the world’s largest Hindu temple which will have the capacity to seat a staggering 20,000 people. “Muslims have not only donated land, they have also provided land at a nominal rate for construction of the world’s largest Hindu temple. Without help of Muslims, it would have been difficult realise this dream project,” Acharya Kishore Kunal, secretary of the Patna-based cash-rich Mahavir Mandir Trust that is undertaking the ambitious project, told IANS. Kunal, a former Indian Police Service officer, said that Muslims have come forward to ensure that the temple comes up soon. The construction of the temple will commence in June at Janki Nagar near Kesaria in East Champaran district, about 150 km from here. It will cost over R.500 crore. “It is usual for Hindus to donate land for temple, but it is unusual for Muslims to donate land for the construction of temple,” he said and added that Muslims should be lauded for joining hands with Hindus to donate land for a pious cause. Kunal said that more than three dozen Muslim families have their land in the middle of the proposed location of the temple and some Muslims families have land along the main road that connects to the project site. “Some Muslims donated lands and others helped and supported us to purchase their land for the temple. If Muslims had not come forward, the temple project was sure to have got delayed…” He said that Mahavir Mandir Trust has obtained 200 acres of land. “Hindus and Muslims have donated about 50 acres of land and the remaining has been purchased.” Earlier, some Muslims had helped build a Hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Durga in Gaya district, another temple was dedicated to God Shiva in Begusarai district and in Sitamarhi district. Mumbai-based Valecha Construction Company will construct the temple, which will be 2,500 feet long, 1,296 feet wide and 379 feet high. “The temple will be earthquake proof (since it) is near the Nepal border,” Kunal said. Gurgaon based Radheyshyam Sharma, director of Indgenious Studio Pvt Ltd, will look after the architectural aspects. He said the Virat Ramayan Mandir will be taller than the world famous 12th century Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, which is 215 feet high. The complex will comprise 18 temples with high spires and its Shiv temple would have the largest Shivling in the world, another distinction. He said the temple would have a seating capacity of 20,000 people in the hall facing the main temple having the idols of Ram, Sita, Luv and Kush. According to him, no temple in the world has such a huge seating capacity. He said the temple was to be named “Virat Angkor Wat Ram Mandir”, but later its name was changed following objections by people in Cambodia. Angkor Wat was built during king Suryavarman’s rule and is today a Unesco World Heritage site. (First Post 20/5/15)

68. Cops file case after Mumbai firm tells job-seeker ‘we hire only non-Muslims (7)

MUMBAI: A Mumbai-based diamond jewellery export firm faces action for religious discrimination after it declined to entertain the job application of a youth on the grounds that he was a Muslim. The job-seeker, Zeshan Ali Khan, a business management graduate from Mumbai, had applied for a position in Hari Krishna Exports Pvt Ltd, a leading exporter of diamond jewellery, as marketing executive but was shocked when he received the response from the firm stating that it hires only “non-Muslim candidates.” Mumbai Police have lodged a case against the firm on the youth’s complaint. “As per the law, there is punishment of 3 years. After investigation it will be revealed who is actually related to offence,” police inspector Suryakant Jagdale said. After the rejection letter sparked a controversy, the firm said it was an error on the part of one of its staff and it never practised religious discrimination. “I just completed my final semester exams of MBA last week and like other classmates have been looking for a job. I came across an update regarding a recruitment drive undertaken by leading diamond and jewellery exporter and thought it would be a great start for my career,” Khan said. “I along with my two classmates applied for the job. I forwarded them my resume on 19th May, 2015 at 5.45pm and exactly 15 minutes later I got a reply from the HR in charge of the firm that my application has been rejected because the company only hires non-Muslims,” Khan added. “At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting foreign countries and inviting them for investment and pushing ahead the ‘Make in India’ campaign, the leading export houses are rejecting candidates for their religion,” he said. A Mumbai diamond jewellery export firm rejection letter to a Muslim job applicant. (Photo: ANI/Twitter) In its reply to Khan, the company said, “We regret to inform you that we hire only non-Muslim candidates.” Khan later narrated his experience on a social networking site, following which and received a ‘regret’ mail from the company after his post generated sharp reactions. “As a company, we would like to reiterate that there is an error done by one of the newly joined HR trainees. Company functions without being biased with any caste, religion and gender,” a company representative said in a posting on Facebook. “It was a blunder and personal mess created by one of our trainees who has no decision making power. We have 61 employees in our office here including one Muslim in the HR team,” Hari Krishna Exports Private Ltd said in the mail. Taking note of the incident, activist Shehzad Poonawalla wrote to the National Commission for Minorities urging it to look into the issue. In response, Naseem Ahmed, Chairman of the NMC said, “We have received the petition. If there is any truth in this, it is unfortunate. An inquiry shall be conducted,” he said. (Times of India 21/5/15)

69. ‘Indian Muslims are nationalists who oppose terror’ (7)

LUCKNOW: Contending that terrorism should not be associated with any particular religion, home minister Rajnath Singh today said Muslims in India are nationalists who have always opposed terrorist elements. He lauded India’s Muslims for not allowing fundamentalist groups like ISIS to influence them. Responding to questions here after an event, he said terrorism should not be associated with a particular religion. “Muslims in India are nationalists. They have always opposed such (terror) elements. They have opposed and demoralised them,” the Union home minister said. He said several countries in the world are facing the menace of terrorism and they should fight unitedly against it. To a question regarding naxalism, Singh said, “though I don’t believe in the figures, if one focusses on last 10 to 15 years, then there has been a decline of 20 per cent to 25 per cent in the last one year.” With regard to questions being raised by opposition over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign visits, Singh said all his predecessors have travelled abroad but the “warm welcome” accorded to Modi showed that the country’s goodwill and prestige is rising. “The questions being raised over PM’s foreign visits are unfortunate. All PMs including Manmohan Singh have undertaken foreign visits. The warm welcome being accorded to PM Modi is evidence that the country’s goodwill and prestige is rising. The world has started taking India seriously,” Singh said on the sidelines of a programme organised by Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya Mission. Earlier, addressing the function, he said great personalities should not be associated with any particular party and Mahamana should have been conferred with Bharat Ratna long back for the contribution he made. By establishing Banaras Hindu University, Mahamana made an important contribution in linking traditional knowledge with modern science, he said. He also discussed about personality and contribution of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In another programme when asked about Mumbai serial blast mastermind Dawood Ibrahim, Singh said he had already made a statement in Parliament. (Times of India 24/5/15)

70. No flat for her in Mumbai because she is Muslim (7)

MUMBAI: Growing up in Gujarat post-2002 riots exposed her to religious prejudice and forced ghettoisation. So when Misbah Quadri moved to Mumbai, she hoped the city, known for its cosmopolitan culture, would treat her better. However, the 25-year-old communications professional is today knocking on the doors of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) after she was denied a flat in the city just because she is a Muslim. After a hard search, Ms. Quadri found a tidy 3-BHK apartment at Sanghvi Heights in Wadala. Her new flatmates — two working women, in their early twenties and Hindu — found her on Facebook. However, a day before Ms. Quadri was to shift, the apartment’s broker warned that the housing society did not accept Muslim tenants. Even if something worked out, the broker told her, she would have to sign a “no-objection certificate” declaring that if she faced any harassment from her neighbours because of her religion, the builder, the owner and the broker “would not be legally responsible.” She was also asked to submit her resume. Though she disagreed with the terms, she moved in because the notice period at her previous flat expired and her flatmates supported her and she hoped for a compromise later. But within a week, the agent contacted her again. “He threatened to call the cops and throw me out of the flat. It got very ugly.” When she approached the representative of the builder, she was told that it was “a policy” of the company not to have Muslim tenants. She was then served an ultimatum to vacate the house. Ultimately, she was forced to leave the flat. Incidentally, the other women had to pay a price for sheltering a Muslim; they have vacated the house unwillingly. (The Hindu 27/5/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

 

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

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

72. 21-year-old held for attacking church (7)

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

73. Minority panel’s call (7)

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

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

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

75. 146-year-old Xavier’s College to get its first non-Jesuit principal (7)

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

76. Man attacks 2 Christian girls in Pakistan with acid (7)

Islamabad: A Pakistani man on Friday attacked two Christian girls with acid in the Quetta city, severely injuring them. “The incident took place at Kasi road. The man used a syringe, which sprayed acid on their faces,” a police official said. The girls identified as Rimsha Masih (27) and Hina Masih (15) were rushed to Bolan Medical Hospital for an emergency treatment. “The girls were admitted in the burns ward of hospital,” a doctor said. The police said the families have already nominated an accused Vijay Masih, a resident of Brewery Road in the case. Vijay Masih, also a Christian, was subsequently arrested and taken into custody. Quetta police officer Razzaq Cheema said the families of the two girls had accused a Christian man, Vijay Masih, for the crime. Mr Cheema said the incident appeared to be linked to some old enmity over a rejected marriage proposal but admitted in the past women had been sprayed with acid by religious fanatics. Last year, at least four women were sprayed with acid-filled syringes in different parts of Balochistan, while in 2011, four female Baloch school teachers were attacked with acid by unknown culprits. (Asian Age 16/5/15)

77. Mother Teresa to be canonised in September 2016 (7)

KOCHI: Mother Teresa would be canonised in September 2016, senior priest and spokesperson of the Syro Malabar Church Paul Thelekat said on Monday. Pope John Paul-II beatified Mother Teressa on October 192003. “As a Christian, I am eagerly waiting for the canonization of Mother Teresa. She has been a mother to millions of Indian especially the poorest of the poor and the underprivileged,” Thelekat said. “Christians and her followers will continue her work among the poor with a winged humanism which the Hindu fundamentalists failed to understand. Where have all the converts that the great missionaries of this age and especially Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, were supposed to have proselytized gone? If Christianity converts it is to that winged humanism which India needs so dearly,” added Thelekat. The Albanian born Teresa turned a nun and was given Indian citizenship in 1948. She founded the Missionaries of Charity and worked for the welfare of poor and the downtrodden. Mother Teressa breathed her last on September 5th 1997. (Times of India 18/5/15)

78. Asia’s largest Cross being built in Karachi (7)

Islamabad, May 22 (IANS) A 140-foot bullet-proof Cross is being built in Pakistan’s Karachi city, the biggest in Asia, a media report said on Friday. Pakistani Christian businessman Parvez Henry Gill is building the Cross at the Gora Qabristan Cemetery, Dawn online reported. Following a dream in which Gill claims to have seen God asking him to do something for the Christian community four years ago, he in due course decided to build Asia’s largest Cross in the 90 percent Muslim country. The nature of the structure was kept a secret until it became evident. When it did, 20 Muslims quit construction in disapproval, but one stayed. The Muslim worker, Mohammad Ali, says the Cross is a “work of God”. He is working 14 hours a day, seven days a week, mentioning Gill’s support of his family as a reason for his commitment, sources said. The Christian community comprises about one million of Karachi’s population of 21 million. Gill says the Cross will “be a symbol of God, and everybody who sees this will be worry-free”.The Gora Qabristan is a Christian cemetery that is frequently the target of miscreants. Inhabitants of an intruding settlement live in buildings covering old graves, and they often throw garbage, waste in the cemetary. (sify News 22/5/15)

 

79. Agra church attack accused gets bail (7)

Agra: Haider Ali, the man who was supposed to have desecrated Agra’s main church after a tiff with his Christian ‘girlfriend’, got bail after the court found that his name was not there in the FIR. Additional district and sessions judge Pankaj Kumar Singh said no one identified him in court and that all the police have is a ‘self confession’. Haider Ali’s defence lawyers Dinesh Aggarwal and Manoj Kumar Sharma told TOI, “The poor rickshaw puller was false accused. His only fault was that he was passing by the church when the incident occurred.” “In the court, neither police nor the complainant party produced any evidence against him. Taking cognizance of the FIR, which did not even mention Haider’s name, and the fact that he had no previous criminal record, the judge granted him bail on ​two ​​sureties​​​ of Rs 25,000 ​each,” the lawyers said. Public prosecutor Shishupal Yadav confirmed that Haider Ali had got bail on Wednesday. However, the 23-year-old Ali, who hails from Sultanpura area of Idagh colony, is still in the district jail, as he doesn’t have money to pay his bail bond. Miscreants had vandalized the popular St Mary’s Church in the cantonment area of the city on April 16, decapitating the statue of Baby Jesus and putting what resembled some sort of a leash around the neck of Mary. The desecration, which had come on the heels of a string of similar attacks on churches in New Delhi, had the 1 lakh-odd Christians in Agra up in arms, following which the state minority commission dashed off letters to the district magistrate and SSP. The commission sought an explanation from the officers even as police lodged an FIR against unidentified persons hours after the incident came to light. (Times of India 24/5/15)

80. Syrian church burgled in west Delhi (7)

NEW DELHI: Burglars broke into a Syrian catholic church in west Delhi’s Hari Nagar area and fled with cash kept in a donation box on Saturday night. The miscreants entered the premises by scaling the main gate. CCTV footage from the church has been recovered and is being determined to find out the identity of the miscreants. In the police complaint, Father Jose, the priest in-charge of the Chavara Elias Kuriskose Church in Anand Vihar of Hari Nagar, said that he visited the church around 9pm on Saturday and found the lock of the donation box kept below the a statue of Mother Mary in the courtyard smashed. Jose then informed the local police following which a team from Hari Nagar police station reached the spot. “The miscreants had broken the lock of the donation box and fled with the money. However, no religious structures have been damaged,” Jose said. A case under Section 380 IPC (theft) has been registered at Hari Nagar police station. A crime and forensic team was called in and evidence lifted from the site. Investigating officers said that the footages from CCTV cameras in the church have been recovered and sent for analysis. Cops said that one of the footages shows a few men in the premises and a team has been tasked to identify them. A sketch is also being prepared on the basis of the footage. Delhi Police was asked to deploy its men around churches and other minority institutions round the clock after a spate of thefts and burglaries led to an uproar. The beat constables in-charge of security in the area have also been asked to join the probe. Investigators suspect the role of local criminals and a few of them have also been rounded up for questioning. Officials said that the incident appears to be a case of burglary. The church, too, has ruled out the possibility of vandalism. (Times of India 25/5/15)

81. Goan Catholic BJP MLAs warm up for date with Shah (7)

PANAJI: BJP MLAs in other states of the country may not dare to pose tough questions to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president Amit Shah, but the party MLAs in Goa, belonging to a minority community, have decided to raise the issues of ghar wapsi, attacks on churches and the beef ban in Maharashtra, when he visits Goa this week. Six of the 21 BJP MLAs in the Goa legislative assembly belong to the minority community, including deputy chief minister Francis D’Souza. A few MLAs from this community told TOI that there is fear and anxiety in the minds of minorities in the state regarding various anti-minority activities carried out all over India by Hindu right wing organizations, including the ghar wapsi mission run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Shah will arrive on May 28 on a two-day visit to the state and will hold a meeting with local MLAs. Environment and forest minister Alina Saldanha has decided to mention all the issues that are affecting the image of the party and government. Speaking to TOI, Saldanha said, “Our government has done most of the development in the state.” “I will mention to the national party president that we should not allow the Congress to take advantage of the statements (regarding ghar wapsi, beef ban), which does not hold much water, but these statements are being made by individuals who are destroying the image of BJP in the state,” she added. Calangute MLA Michael Lobo said, “I will raise the issue of ghar wapsi, attacks on churches and beef ban in Maharashtra before Shah.” Lobo added that he would submit his memorandum in writting raising all the issues concerning the minorities and the public at large. Lobo said he would also raise the issues that the government is not taking MLAs into confidence before taking major decisions pertaining to the state. Curchorem BJP MLA Nilesh Cabral said he would apprise the party president about the fear and anxiety in the mind of minorities across India about the statements being made about ghar wapsi, attacks on churches etc. “The BJP government is not doing this, but some individuals are making statements and the party should make it clear that we are not part of all that is going on at the national level,” C abral added. Cabral said that there is nothing wrong in Goa but Shah should allay the fear from the minds of minorities in India. Aldona MLA Glen Ticlo said that he will also raise the same issues and tell him that this is not good for party in general. Some things happen in the neighbouring states and minorities in Goa are taken aback, though they are safe here. Ticlo said, “We will ask Shah to strongly condemn such statements which are not good for the people of India.” Attempts to contact deputy chief minister Francis D’ Souza and Vasco MLA Carlos Almeida failed. (Times of India 25/5/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

 

82. Migrants return to Karimnagar (13)

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

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

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

84. 50 killed as mortar shells hit refugee camp in Yemen (13)

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

85. 24 more Myanmar nationals held in Tripura (13)

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

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

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

87. 41 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees head back home(13)

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

88. Mizoram to take back its tribal citizens from Tripura after 18 years (13)

Agartala: Following pressure from the union home ministry and the Tripura government, Mizoram has finally agreed to take back all the tribal refugees sheltering in Tripura for the past 18 years. “The repatriation of refugees expected to start from June 8. A tripartite meeting between the officials of Tripura and Mizoram governments and refugee leaders took this decision,” Panisagar Sub-divisional magistrate Biplab Das told IANS. He said: “It was decided in the meeting that from June 2 to June 4, a study would be done about how many of the refugees’ names have been enrolled in the electoral list of Mizoram. Then sub-divisional level officials of the two states in presence of the refugee leaders would be held before starting of the repatriation on June 8.” According to Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Badal Choudhury, there are 5,286 tribal families comprising 31,223 men, women and children sheltered in seven camps in Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions under North Tripura district adjoining Mizoram. The Reang tribals, who locally call themselves “Bru”, have lived in makeshift camps camps in Tripura since October 1997 when they fled western Mizoram after the killing of a Mizo forest officer triggered ethnic trouble. The Mizoram government earlier refused to take back all the refugees citing that all the migrants are not the resident of Mizoram. “In the Friday’s district magistrate-level meeting, the Mizoram government officials more or less agreed to take back all the refugees sheltered in Tripura,” said Das, who was also present in the meeting. The Tripura government team was led by additional district magistrate of North Tripura district Ranjit Das while Mizoram’s team was led by Mamit district Deputy Commissioner Vanlalngaihsaka. Meanwhile, Mizoram’s additional secretary of home department Lalbiakzama said in Aizawl that following the Supreme Court’s directives and the decision made in the meeting of the union home ministry in presence of Mizoram and Tripura governments’ officials on January 30, it was proposed to repatriate all the remaining tribal families from the relief camps in north Tripura district. “The union home ministry has recently released Rs.4.7 crore for the repatriation purposes, but the amount would not be sufficient for repatriation of all the remaining Reang tribal families,” Lalbiakzama said. The Mizoram government earlier sought around Rs.70 crore financial assistance from the union home ministry to rehabilitate the repatriated tribal refugees. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and his deputy Kiren Rijiju had visited the refugee camps and held talks with the refugee leaders on February 14 and persuaded the tribal to go back to their villages in western Mizoram. Refugee leaders told the central ministers that they were willing to return to their homes in Mizoram if their 10 points demands, including security and rehabilitation, were met. The Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), an organisation of the refugees, submitted a six-page memorandum to the central ministers accusing the Mizoram government of discriminating against them…. (Business Standard 17/5/15)

89. UN chief voices growing concern over migrant crisis (13)

UNITED NATIONS, United States: UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday that he was increasingly concerned by the humanitarian crisis sparked by refugees stranded in boats in Southeast Asia, and offered help from the United Nations. Ban said he had spoken by phone with the prime ministers of Malaysia and Thailand while his deputy Jan Eliasson had discussed the crisis with ministers from Bangladesh and Indonesia. “In their discussion with leaders in the region, they reiterated the need to protect lives and uphold international law,” Ban’s spokesman said in a statement. They urged the leaders to “uphold the obligation of rescue at sea” and not turn away the refugees. Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have sparked outrage by turning away vessels overloaded with migrants from Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya minority and with poor Bangladeshis. Ban said he was encouraged by plans for Thailand to host a regional meeting to try to resolve the crisis and encouraged leaders to take part. “The United Nations stands ready to assist all efforts to address the situation, including at the proposed meeting,” he said. Ban is due to travel to South Korea on Monday for a visit that will later take him to Vietnam. (Times of India 18/5/15)

90. Rohingya crisis: US envoy urges region to cooperate (13)

Myanmar: A top US diplomat has urged Myanmar’s government to work with its regional partners to address the migrant crisis in Southeast Asia. Deputy secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Myanmar officials in the capital, Naypyitaw, on Thursday. More than 3,000 people have landed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in recent weeks, most of them members of the Rohingya minority who were fleeing Myanmar or were tricked by traffickers and then abandoned at sea. The embassy in Yangon posted on Facebook that Blinken shared the US government’s concerns about the migrant crisis. State Department officials in Washington said earlier that the US was willing to lead multicountry efforts organized by the UN refugee agency to resettle the most vulnerable migrants. Blinken said earlier on his trip to Southeast Asia that the only sustainable solution to the problem was addressing the conditions that led the Rohingya to flee. (Times of India 21/5/15)

91. Cholera infects 3,000 Burundian refugees, UN calls for help (13)

KAMPALA, Uganda: The UN refugee agency says an outbreak of cholera has infected 3,000 people in a Tanzanian border region where refugees from Burundi have massed. UNHCR says 300 to 400 new cases are being reported daily. At least 31 people, including two Tanzanians, have died of cholera recently. More than 64,000 Burundians have fled to Tanzania in recent weeks to escape political unrest sparked by their president’s bid for an unconstitutional third term, according to the UN. UNHCR and its partners appealed for help Friday, saying $207 million is needed to respond to the humanitarian crisis caused by the influx of refugees. Thousands more Burundians have fled to Congo and Rwanda. (Times of India 22/5/15)

92. Yearning for original home (13)

CHENNAI: Six years after the civil war ended in Sri Lanka, over a lakh nationals are unwilling to return to their country as there is no viable repatriation package on offer. Even as Sri Lanka is preparing to observe the sixth anniversary of the end of the civil war on Tuesday, over a lakh nationals from the island nation, who arrived in Tamil Nadu since 1983 continue to live as refugees in the State, in the absence of a viable voluntary repatriation package. Though several batches of refugees voluntarily returned after the Lankan government officially declared the end of the 25-year-long civil war on May 19, 2009, the lack of a complete repatriation package seem to add to the reasons behind the refugees in the State hesitating to return. “We support repatriation whenever it can take place on a well-informed request of refugees, in safety and dignity and with prospects for sustainable reintegration back home,” says UNHCR India’s Public Information Officer Shuchita Mehta. Despite the financial assistance available for repatriation, over 1.02 lakh refugees remain in the State as on March 1 this year. “Most of the refugees hesitate because they have to leave the things they have earned all these years here and might have to start from scratch and rebuild their lives there,” says the treasurer of Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR) S.C. Chandrahasan. “All the governments involved in the issue should come together and offer a repatriation package allowing refugees to take back the assets they have earned all these years with them to Lanka. Of course, there can be an upper limit,” he says. The package could include repatriation on board a ship with some of their assets and continuing financial assistance from the Government of India to refugees for a few years till they rebuild their livelihood, he adds. An official of the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Chennai says, “We have always been encouraging the refugees to go for voluntary repatriation. We process their documents free of cost.” An effort by the Government of India to discuss voluntary repatriation of refugees with all stakeholders early this year fell through after the Tamil Nadu government contended that the conditions in Lanka “were still not conducive” and it could be considered only after concrete and credible measures are taken by the island nation. (The Hindu 26/5/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

97. Bill tabled to protect whistle blowers (1)

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

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

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

99. 10 years after RTI, transparency under cloud (1)

NEW DELHI: Ten years after the Right to Information Act was passed by the Rajya Sabha on May 12, 2005, its implementation remains inefficient and transparency and accountability seem to be under threat in India. Experts cite poor record-keeping practices within the bureaucracy, lack of infrastructure and staff for running Information Commissions, and dilution of supplementary laws such as the one for whistleblower protection as reasons for this. Madabhushi Sridhar, Information Commissioner at the Central Information Commission, says: “In my office, my secretary doubles up as the stenographer, registrar, deputy registrar and personal assistant who must also respond to letters my office receives. Compare this with the kind of staff support courts receive. With such poor staffing how can we be expected to discharge our responsibilities efficiently?” He points to the problems posed by missing files in government offices. “The information sought by citizens can be provided only if the records are maintained properly. If the RTI has to succeed, then the Public Records Act must be implemented,” he says. Inefficient implementation has delayed the settlement of information appeals. An October 2014 report brought out by the RTI Assessment and Analysis Group (RAAG) showed a waiting period of up to 60 years in Madhya Pradesh and up to 18 years in West Bengal, calculated on the basis of current rates of pendency in Information Commissions. “In less than 3 per cent of cases, penalties were imposed on government departments denying information sought,” Amrita Johri of Satark Nagarik Sangathan says. What the RTI Act has managed to achieve in the last decade is to unleash a silent citizen’s movement for government accountability across the country. The RAAG report found that on an average, 4-5 million applications are filed under the Act every year. But this has not been without its negative consequences. Forty activists who had demanded crucial information, with the potential to expose corruption within the government, had been killed. This has necessitated supplementary laws such as whistleblower protection laws to ensure protection for information activists. But the Whistleblowers Protection (Amendment), Bill, 2015, passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday has renewed concerns regarding the vulnerability of information seekers making disclosures in the public interest. “The original intention of the whistleblower protection law was to protect citizens disclosing information regarding wrongdoing in the larger public interest. But the proposed amendments have turned the law into a ‘Whistleblower Prevention and Victimisation Act’,” quips Venkatesh Nayak, Access to Information programme coordinator at Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. The amendments do not provide immunity to whistleblowers, making them liable for prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, he says. The Bill completely dilutes the provisions of the earlier law removing everything exempted under Section 8 (1) of the RTI Act from within the ambit of whistle-blowing. “If the government wanted to ensure that sensitive information regarding national security, integrity, etc., is not made public, then the law could have been appropriately amended to ensure additional safeguards or by making provisions for a mechanism for confidential disclosure. What is sought to be done now is a blanket ban on disclosures containing sensitive information,” Anjali Bharadwaj of Satark Nagarik Sangathan says… (The Hindu 16/5/15)

100. Govt delay in appointing Chief Information Commissioner a blow to RTI (1)

Why isn’t the government appointing a Chief Information Commissioner so I can get the answer sheets that I have been fighting for?” asks Chandan Singh, a disabled engineering student, as he hands over a copy of his petition filed at the Prime Minister’s Office. Chandan had moved the Central Information Commission (CIC) against his college, the National Institute of Technology, Trichy, to get a copy of his answer sheets. He won, but the institute insisted it couldn’t locate all the papers. “When I complained to the commission, they said I would have to wait for the government to appoint the Chief Information Commissioner,” says the 22-year-old who was born without a lower arm. “How much longer will it take?” Chandan isn’t the only one asking that question ahead of the 10th anniversary, next month, of RTI’s enactment. Right to Information (RTI) activists have been protesting the vacancy for nearly 10 months – since Rajiv Mathur, a retired Intelligence Bureau director, stepped down as CIC on 22 August last year. This was the first time that the commission has been without a chief. “It is a deliberate attempt to cripple the transparency law,” says Nikhil Dey, who had campaigned with IAS officer-turned-social activist Aruna Roy for an information law in the mid-Nineties. Last week, Dey’s charge was echoed in Parliament when Congress president Sonia Gandhi lashed out at the Narendra Modi government for blunting the information law. “The unavoidable conclusion is that this government is setting out to systematically subvert the functioning of RTI Act and shield itself from public scrutiny and accountability,” she charged. In 2005, it was Gandhi who had persuaded the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to accept a liberal information regime drawn up by civil society under the aegis of the National Advisory Council that she headed. The bureaucracy resisted, but gave in sensing Mrs Gandhi’s determination. A decade later, India’s RTI law, that promised to give information in just 30 days, is still ranked the world’s best, next only to legislation in Serbia and Slovenia. It has also inspired other countries in South Asia to enact similar information laws…. (Hindustan Times 17/5/15)

101. CIC may have its head soon: Centre to Delhi High Court (1)

New Delhi: The CIC, which has remained headless for over 10 months, may soon have a new chief with the Centre informing Delhi High Court on Thursday that candidates for the posts of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners have been shortlisted and granted vigilance clearance. “Vigilance clearance from the respective cadre controlling authority in respect of the shortlisted serving officers and inputs from the Intelligence Bureau in respect of retired officers has been sought vide communications dated May 5, 2015 and May 2, 2015, respectively,” Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain told the court. The clearance has also been granted, he informed a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, adding that the matter now be put up before the selection committee headed by the Prime Minister as per the RTI Act, and the process would take another one or two months. The goverment’s response came after the court directed it to expedite the appointment process and inform it about the progress as the vacancies in Central Information Commission have led to a massive backlog of cases. The Centre’s counsel further said that the Chief IC and IC would be appointed by the President on the recommendations of the selection committee. The court was hearing a PIL filed by RTI activists R K Jain, Lokesh K Batra and Subhash Chandra Agarwal alleging that no action has been taken on the issue despite two “distress” letters written by CIC to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The PIL filed through lawyers Prashant Bhushan has sought filling up of posts of Chief IC and subordinate staff in a time-bound frame. (Zee News 21/5/15)

102. Disclose travel expenses of ministers proactively: CIC panel (1)

NEW DELHI: The PMO not disclosing information about expenses incurred on foreign visits of the Prime Minister notwithstanding, a CIC-constituted committee has recommended not only putting out such details proactively by all ministries but regular updating as well. The committee of former Chief Information Commissioner A N Tiwari and Information Commissioner M M Ansari, constituted by the CIC gave its report on “Transparency Audit: Towards An Open and Accountable Government”.It referred to the circular issued by the ministry dated September 11, 2012 where it asked all departments to proactively disclose expenses incurred on the foreign and domestic visits of their respective ministers. “These disclosures should be updated once every quarter,” the committee said in its report asking the government to also disclose other details such as places visited and the institutions/individual interacted, period, number and the names of the members in the official It said a democratic government keen on empowering the people and delivering to them goods and services speedily and efficiently, cannot allow walls of secrecy to separate them from the very people they serve. “Transparency brings the government closer to its people– a closeness which underpins good governance. In spite of repeated directions to the public authorities, the results on account of voluntary disclosures have been below par,” the committee observed. It said quite large numbers of wholly avoidable RTI petitions by citizens for information, which should even otherwise be openly available, are still being filed. “One cardinal aspect of the RTI i.e. timely furnishing of quality information to the citizen, became difficult to be adhered to, while the cost for disclosing information, at all levels, kept increasing,” it said. The Prime Minister’s Office has been refusing to disclose information related to expenses incurred on the abroad visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi citing various excuses such as the records sought for being “vague”.These refusals to part with the information are being made even though Central Information Commission, in an order, had directed the Cabinet Secretariat to make public expenses incurred on the travel of ministers and VVIPs because of large public interest in the matter. “We have been noticing a lot of public interest in the visit of such high dignitaries as the President, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister of India. Quite often, one comes across RTI applications seeking similar information about these visits,” Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra had said. Following the orders of the CIC, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had started the practice of making public on the official website details of expenses incurred on his visits as well as on the visits undertaken by the Ministers. Complying with the mandatory provisions of suo-motu disclosure under the transparency law, the PMO under Manmohan Singh has placed in public that a sum of over Rs 642 crore was incurred on his air travels abroad between 2004 and 2013. (Times of India 24/5/15)

103. Over Rs 4 lakh spent on bottled water (1)

Mumbai: It seems that even the occupants of Mantralaya do not trust the quality of piped water provided by the BMC. Information received under the Right to Information Act has revealed that from December 2014 to April 2015, the Mantralaya canteen spent Rs 4.66 lakh on 24,648 litres of bottled water. RTI activist Anil Galgali had sought information from the state government regarding the cost and quantity of consumption of bottled water in Mantralaya. In a reply to the query, J.M. Salvi, general manager and public information officer of the Mantralaya canteen, said that between December 2014 and April 2015 a total of 83,628 bottles of mineral water were purchased at the cost of Rs 4,66,019. Of these, the maximum usage was of 250 ml bottles, accounting for 68,976 bottles amounting to Rs 3,67,642. The next was 14,496 bottles of 500 ml amounting to Rs 96,688 and 156 bottles of one litre that cost Rs 1,689. Mr Galgali claimed that it was a wastage of public money by the government. “The BMC charges for the same amount of water would have been merely Rs 171. The BMC charges just Rs 4.32, plus sewerage charges, totalling Rs 6.912 for 1,000 litres of water supplied through its pipelines. Moreover, there is a water purifying system installed at Mantralaya by the state government,” he said. The activist further claimed that the water supplied by the BMC is high in quality and thus the CM should instruct all those working at Mantralaya to use water supplied by the civic body for drinking purposes. In his letter addressed to the CM, Mr Galgali has said that in a situation where the state is reeling under severe drought and citizens are craving a single drop of water, the people who are supposed to perform for the citizens are indulging in wasteful expenditure by consuming mineral water. (Asian Age 27/5/15)

104. Salman Khan files gutted in Mantralaya fire (1)

Mumbai: In a response to an RTI query, the state government has conceded that the files pertaining to the Salman Khan hit-and-run case were gutted in the Mantralaya fire three years ago. City-based RTI activist, Mansoor Darvesh, had sought to know from the state law and judiciary department the names and the total number of counsels, solicitors, advocates, legal advisers and public prosecutors appointed by the state government for this case. To his surprise, Mr Darvesh was informed that the files pertaining to the case were burnt on June 21, 2012. The RTI reply said: “The fire engulfed the state secretariat and therefore, they cannot be made available.” To his query on the expenses incurred by the state government in the case from 2002 to May 6 this year, when the judgment was pronounced in the case, the RTI reply said, “The only thing that the government knows is about the appointment of Special Public Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat, who was appointed at a fee of Rs 6,000 per hearing.” Mr Darvesh pointed out that the government had assured that it would restore the files that were destroyed or damaged in the fire. “The government had promised the people that all files that were destroyed in the fire would be reconstructed. Here is a blatant example of the inefficiency of the government. There might be many more such important cases that will not reach a conclusion as we do not know the facts of those cases,” Mr Darvesh said. The government officials and state home minister were not available for comment on the issue. However, sources in the home department said it was true that many files of the department were destroyed and could not be restored even though three years have passed. Khan was convicted in the case on May 6 by the sessions court for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. However, the Bombay HC had given bail to the actor giving relief. (Asian Age 29/5/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

111. Fiat to admit 25 per cent poor students under RTE Act (11)

TIRUNELVELI: District Collector M. Karunakaran has directed the heads of non-minority private schools to reserve 25 per cent of seats in their institutions for poor students as mandated by the Right to Education Act. Addressing a meeting held at Palayamkottai on Friday with the heads of non-minority private schools, Dr. Karunakaran said these schools should reserve 25 per cent of the total seats in Lower Kindergarten, first standard and sixth standard for poor children and admit them as mandated by the Right to Education Act. The heads of these institutions should cooperate with the district administration in ensuring that this target is achieved cent per cent. “The school administrations should maintain records on the number of applications received and the admissions given under this category. If the schools refuse to receive applications, the applicants can submit their applications in the educational offices concerned for getting admission in the school of their choice. If more number of applications is received, selection of students under RTE Act will be done in the presence of officials from the Department of Education through lots,” Dr. Karunakaran said. He also asked the administrations of these schools to keep flex boards in front of their institution explaining the 25 per cent reservations given under RTE Act and give applications to the aspirants free of cost. Director of Matriculation Schools R. Pitchai, Chief Educational Officer R. Swaminathan, Inspector of Matriculation Schools S. Bala and educational officers from the district participated in the meeting. Meanwhile, a group of Campus Front of India activists staged demonstration in front of the Office of Chief Educational Officer here on Friday evening demanding 25 per cent admission of poor students in the non-minority schools. (The Hindu 16/5/15)

112. Government Releases Rs 97cr, Private Schools Can’t Refuse RTE Intake (11)

CHENNAI: With the State Government issuing an order to reimburse Rs 97.04 crore to private schools under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the latter can no longer cite reasons for not enrolling students under the RTE Act, from the coming academic year. The private schools had, last month, expressed apprehension in admitting students under the RTE Act from the coming academic year since funds for two academic years – Rs 25.13 crore for 2013-14 and Rs 71.19 crore -  had not been compensated by the government. The Tamil Nadu government had written to the Centre earlier this month, stating that the changes made to the SSA framework had resulted in non-reimbursement of expenditure incurred by schools in Tamil Nadu, amounting to Rs 97.04 crore. On Saturday, the government issued orders sanctioning the amount to be reimbursed to the schools. According to the Act, 25 per cent of the seats in private schools need to be reserved for disadvantaged children – children whose parents’ total yearly income comes to less than Rs 2 lakh or students from SC/ST or other backward classes, and transgenders. However, RTE activists seek more transparency in the admission procedure and calculating expenditure, pointing out that there were no specific allocations or demarcations that were made while disbursing the funds. “The argument is that the schools can enroll whoever they want to without verifying the background and get the amount reimbursed. The question therefore is how the calculation was made and the amount arrived at. Was the procedure transparent?” questioned Prince Gajendra Babu, general secretary, State Platform for Common Schooling System. He added that no clear demarcations with respect to issuing uniform, textbooks and notebooks were made. S Arumainathan, president, Tamil Nadu Student Parent Welfare Association, alleged that there were a few schools which had refused to enroll children under the RTE Act in the past two years citing lack of funds. “There are cases of schools not implementing the Act,” he said. When contacted, an official from the School Education Department said the admissions were actually transparent, with little space for schools to escape the Act. The official added that around 90,000 had enrolled in schools under the RTE Act last academic year. (New Indian Express 18/5/15)

113. Campaign to popularise rights under RTE Act (11)

Tirupur: Popular Front of India (PFI) on Sunday conducted a campaign to popularise certain rights enshrined in the Right to Education Act for children coming from economically weaker sections of the society. District president of PFI Mubarak Basha said the crusade was organised to make the children and parents aware of their rights to move from one private school to another without having to pay any fees and a few other clauses that support the continuation of education of poor children without any hassles.He said that a rally had been planned in the city during the first week of June when the schools reopen for the 2015-16 academic year, so as to draw the attention of the local residents to the Right to Education Act. (The Hindu 19/5/15)

114. On July 4, govt will identify out-of-school kids in Maharashtra (11)

MUMBAI: In a bid to get a headcount of the number of out-of-school children in the state, the school education department has decided to hold a day-long survey to indentify them. The survey will be conducted by the government on July 4. According to a government resolution, on July 4 between 7 am and 7 pm, officials from various government agencies will scan through the state to count the number of children who are not enrolled or attending a school. “Until it is determined which and how many children are out of school, no efforts to turn them towards school will bear fruit,” said the government resolution. Any child who is not enrolled in a school or has not attended school for more than 30 days is considered to be out-of-school. Currently, there is no government data on the number of out-of-school children in the state. The survey will be conducted by teams of government officials at the Municipal Corporation, district, talukas and villages. Officials can also rope in individuals from NGOs and private organisations to help with the survey. The survey will require officials to visit every house, crowded pockets, railway stations, bus stands, slums, footpaths, traffic and railway signals etc with an effort to ensure that none of the out-of-school children are left out of the survey. The teams have been urged to use social media, advertising, celebrities and other means of publicity to ensure that the survey is a success. “The proposed one day survey of out-of-school children is a people’s movement,” said the GR. According to the Right to Education Act, 2009 all children between six and 14 years must receive free and compulsory education. While activists welcomed the government’s decision to count the children, they are unsure if the feat can be achieved within a day. “The RTE act states compulsory education. However, being able to track them in just a day may not be possible. There are also not enough resources to do so,” said Nitin Wadhwani, co-ordinator for Mumbai for Child Rights, which monitors civic schools. Within eight days of the survey, education department officials will have to get the children registered for Aadhar cards. (Times of India 22/5/15)

115. Modi govt pushing RSS agenda in education, Congress says (11)

AHMEDABAD: The Congress on Sunday alleged the country’s education sector has been severely hit due to the influence of RSS and subsequent exit of many educationalists from top institutes since BJP came to power at the Centre. Former Union minister Girija Vyas said the HRD ministry has systematically inducted RSS functionaries into several institutions and had taken many policy level decisions as per diktats of RSS. The Congress leader was speaking here on her party’s take on education during the one-year tenure of BJP-led NDA government. “Instead of strengthening the education sector, HRD minister Smriti Irani has put all her efforts to destroy reputed institutions, insult educationalists and appoint unqualified RSS functionaries on high positions,” Vyas said. She cited example of recent exit of noted nuclear scientist Dr Anil Kakodkar, who resigned as the chairman of IIT-Bombay’s board of governors and few others. READ ALSO: HRD ministry struggles to appoint VCs to 16 central universities”Instead of talking to Kakodkar, the government accepted his resignation. Similarly, director of IIT-Delhi Raghunath K Shevgaonkar too tendered his resignation in protest to the way in which HRD ministry wanted to control the institution,” she said. Vyas alleged that the Modi government was busy appointing functionaries of RSS, the ideological mentor of BJP, at top posts in premier institutes, like appointment of former editor of RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya, Baldev Sharma, as chairman of National Book Trust. “Others include RSS worker Inder Mohan Kapahi, who has been appointed as one of the members in the UGC. Similarly, RSS leader Y Sudershan Rao has been appointed as the chairman of Indian Council for Historical Research,” she said.Vyas questioned the formation of Bhartiya Shiksha Niti Ayog (BSNA) by HRD ministry recently. The senior leader also sought to know Irani’s education qualifications. She accused the Modi government of curtailing budget for education sector. “First time ever, this government has cut down the budget for education to the tune of Rs 14,088 crore,” she said. (Times of India 24/5/15)

116. HC: Don’t Deny Promotion to Wards Until Class VIII (11)

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Monday held that the academic performance of a school student in any class could be of no significance as the statutory mandate under the Right to Education (RTE) Act stipulates that a student must be provided compulsory education from Class-II to Class-VIII. The court also observed that the failure of a student in meeting the minimum educational standard in a particular class could only be viewed as an admission by the school of its failure to impart sufficient training to the student. Justice A K Jayasankaran Nambiar made it clear that schools should not deliberately detain students in the same class citing poor performance, during the years between Class-II and Class-VIII. The court passed the order while allowing a petition filed by Kitty Sanil of  Perumbavoor, challenging the stand taken by Vidyodaya School, Thevakkal, that her son would not be promoted to Class-VII in the forthcoming academic year, saying that the student’s academic performance in Class-VI was not satisfactory. The court directed Vidyodaya School authorities to promote the petitioner’s son to the next class, and to do the needful to ensure that he pursues his elementary education in the school in 2015-16, and thereafter until he attains the age of 14. The school authorities submitted that no student was entitled to automatic promotion without attaining academic standards. The court observed that detention of a student in a particular class during the course of elementary education, on the ground that he/she failed to meet the academic standards prescribed by the affiliating board, would amount to ‘holding back’ the student. (New Indian Express 27/5/15)

117. Campaign to provide free education for economically underprivileged children (14)

MANGALURU: Seven-year-old Shailesh and his six-year-old brother Srinidhi from Pachchanady, studying in a Government School visited the Deputy Commissioner’s office with their mother Pushpa, after assurance by activists of Child Rights Activists and Parents Association of free education for Pushpa’s children in a private school in the locality. “We do not have any problem in going to the present school. We have been assured of a seat in private school. Hence we are here,” said Pushpa, who stays in a thatched roof house in Panchchanady. Her elder son Shailesh will be studying in the third standard this year while her younger son Srinidhi will be in the first standard. These two children were among the 15 odd students brought by the Child Rights Activists and Parents Association to the office of the Deputy Commissioner. Dinesh Hegde Ulepady, the President of the Association, said these students should be admitted to private schools that has all facilities as prescribed under the Right to Education Act. “There is lack of awareness of the Act and hence they have not filed applications (seeking admission),” said Mr. Ulepady, who wanted the Government to ensure admission of these children. The children belonging to underprivileged category are entitled for free education in private schools, who have earmarked 25 per cent seats for LKG and first standard. The process of admission has started with as many as 95,139 students getting admission in the two rounds of allocation process held till May 5 through out the state. (The Hindu 29/5/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

124. Violence, hunger imperil 2,000 trapped in boats off Myanmar: UN (21)

Naypyidaw: At least 2,000 desperate migrants, including women and children, are at risk of violence and food shortages after more than 40 days trapped on boats off Myanmar, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday. The group have been “stranded on at least five boats near the Myanmar-Bangladesh coasts for more than 40 days”, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Vivian Tan told AFP, adding that unconfirmed reports put the number even higher. It was unclear if the people-smugglers who had organised the voyage were still on board the boats. A recent Thai crackdown on people-smuggling has blocked the southwards route through that country to Malaysia, disrupting the traffic. As a result nearly 3,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants have arrived off Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia in recent days. Thousands of others are feared trapped at sea after being abandoned by people-smugglers. Tan said some migrants on the five boats had paid smugglers around $300 each to return to Myanmar`s Rakhine state, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims live in abject poverty and suffer discrimination. Those who have returned to land have said passengers still on the boats are short of food and water, while reports of violence are “causing great concern”, Tan added. Myanmar`s government on Monday acknowledged international concerns about waves of boatpeople, many of them Rohingya fleeing Rakhine, but has urged a joint regional response to the crisis. Information Minister Ye Htut said Myanmar`s navy had begun preparing to search for vessels in the country`s waters, but anyone returning would have to prove their nationality. Myanmar does not recognise the estimated 1.3 million Rohingya as an official minority, instead viewing them as mostly illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. (Zee News 19/5/15)

125. Niti Aayog might use poverty lines only for analytical purposes (21)

New Delhi: In the wake of the various controversies surrounding poverty lines at the erstwhile Planning Commission, its successor National Institution for Transforming India (Niti) Aayog feels this barometer should be used only for analytical purposes. Specific indicators be used for social welfare schemes. At a recent meeting, an Aayog task force said defining a poverty line was a controversial issue. It could be based on calorie intake or minimum norms of some other items of consumption such as clothing, shelter, education, health and transport or a combination of all these, sources told Business Standard. The task force — of Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya, member Bibek Debroy and experts like Rathin Roy, Surjit Bhalla and the government’s chief statistician, T C A Anant — recently discussed the issue of using the poverty ratio as a yardstick for indentification of beneficiaries. Its members felt this was better used as an indicator for analytical exercises to assess the change in the level of living. Data on sector-specific indicators could be used for targeting beneficiaries from schemes on that segment. The Socio-Economic and Caste Census, 2011, will be one of the sources. Also, the purchasing power parity (PPP) concept can be considered for allocation of resources among states for various schemes. PPP among states can be derived from the National Sample Survey consumption expenditure data or state-wise poverty lines. “Poverty estimation is as important as GDP (gross domestic product). It gives an idea on the programmes, which groups are falling apart. Even if you have a foolproof identification system, it won’t give you a picture of people who are falling apart. You need to have a statistical barometer to know that,” said Himanshu, an assistant professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University here. The Planning Commission had got into a big controversy on these issues, with its calculations on the basis of national consumption and expenditure surveys. Earlier, the Rangarajan panel had found 29.5 per cent of India’s population was poor in 2011-12, against 21.9 per cent estimated under the previous methodology, which had drawn sharp criticism from various quarters. In absolute terms, 363 million people were below the poverty line that year, higher by about 93 million over the 269.8 million estimated earlier. However, the poverty rate — the number of poor as a proportion of the population — came down swifter in the estimates of the Rangarajan panel than calculated earlier on the Suresh Tendulkar methodology. A greater number of people were classified under poverty in 2011-12 as the Rangarajan committee raised the poverty line compared to that fixed earlier. It had said anyone spending up to Rs 47 a day in urban areas and Rs 32 in villages would be considered poor as of 2011-12. The Tendulkar methodology had pegged these levels at Rs 33 in urban areas and Rs 27 in villages. By either method, poverty was reduced during 2009-10 to 2011-12 (the first three years of the second UPA government). For 2009-10, the Tendulkar methodology had pegged the poverty line at Rs 22 in villages and Rs 29 in urban areas. These were raised to Rs 27 and Rs 40, respectively, by the Rangarajan committee. All these numbers had stirred controversies, with political parties and social activists poking fun at the Planning Commission over these numbers. The task force notes as most government programmes are either universal or based on programme-specific indicators, data for which is separately calculated and used in a programme-specific manner. The National Rural Livelihood Mission, India Awes Yolanda, National Old Age Pension Scheme, are the three programmes that remain target group-oriented (for the poor only) but these programmes have other criteria for selection of beneficiaries, the members said. (Business Standard 22/5/17)

126. Surguja child’s death puts spotlight on ration card policy (21)

BILASPUR: Death of a five-year-old child caused by hunger and exhaustion, after he lost his way in forests along with his sibling in Sitapur in North Chhattisgarh, has sparked off a controversy with Congress alleging that family’s ration card was cancelled after their mother died due to illness and administration did not issue it in the name of male member. Leader of opposition TS Singhdeo told TOI that the fact that deceased’s mother had died a couple of months ago, following which the family’s ration card was cancelled, indicates insensitivity on part of the administration. “There is no rule that says that if there is no women above 18 years in the family, ration card will not me made in the name of a male of the house. Since the woman in this case had died and there was no other woman in the family, the administration should have taken steps to transfer the ration card in the name of the man of the house,” he added. Sarguja district collector Ritu Sen admitted that the family’s ration card was cancelled after the woman member of the family died due to illness. “However, we conduct regular drive for adding names, but none from the family concerned came forward with the request to issue ration card in the name of male member,” she claimed. Sen said that there is ample work available under MNREGA and other schemes in the area. In this regard, it would be wrong to assume that the family did not have any work and was forced to leave the village in search of work. “The man, along with his children, had come to Sitapur by a bus. From Sitapur, he had left to visit some of his relatives in another village on foot, when he got separated from two of his children, one of who died,” she claimed. The collector said the postmortem report did mention that the child died due to starvation as no grain was found in his intestines, but that was because after being separated from his father, the deceased along with one of his elder brothers was lost in forest and spent a long time trying to find their way out. Meanwhile, eldest of the three children, Rajaram, who had been missing, was found alive near Sitapur, the collector said. The child has been admitted to the hospital where his condition is said to be stable, she added. Leader of opposition TS Singhdeo told TOI that the fact that deceased’s mother had died a couple of months ago, following which the family’s ration card was cancelled, indicates insensitivity on part of the administration. (Times of Indi 24/5/15)

127. When hunger doesn’t go on vacation (21)

AGRA: The Uttar Pradesh mid-day meal authority’s decision to extend the vital service to students of 58 drought-hit districts even during the summer vacation has hit an unlikely roadblock: teachers. This in essence jeopardizes the well-being of lakhs of school-going children in districts declared ‘drought-hit’ in 2014. Many of these regions also bore the brunt of unseasonal rains in March, sparking a spate of suicides. The opposition, if successful, will likely affect a large number of poor students. There are some 60 lakh students in UP schools. Even the smaller districts have at least 50,000 students enrolled in primary and upper primary schools.On their part, teachers have said that they work throughout the year and are also assigned additional jobs during elections. And to expect them to work even during the summer break is “a bit too much”.The UP Primary Teachers’ Association and Junior High School Teachers’ Association on Friday submitted a memorandum with the district magistrate and the Basic Shikhsa Adhikari, Lucknow, requesting officials to exclude teachers from the initiative. Similar demonstrations were staged in Mathura, Mainpuri, Firozabad, Etah and various other cities and towns across the state. READ ALSO: ‘We need summer break’ , UP teachers oppose spl midday meal scheme Akhilesh Sharma of the Junior High School Teachers’ Association said the ruling government was exploiting teachers. “Meal distribution during the summer break will only add to the woes of government teachers who are already struggling to fulfill additional tasks such as Samajwadi Pension distribution duty and doubling up as block-level officers ahead of elections,” he said on Friday. Sharma also doubted if children would make it to school in the sweltering heat for a meal. “No student showed up on Friday when the temperature touched 45 degrees. But teachers were forced to come at 7.30 in the morning to prepare the meal and wait for the children till 12. Government should make policies that work, this one looks like it will only ruin the holidays for teachers,” he added. Sudhanshu Mohan, the head of Junior High School Teachers’ Association, Lucknow, said he would boycott the plan. Pradeep Singh from UP Primary Teacher’s Association, Lucknow, agreed. “Sarkar ko itni hi daya hai gareebo pe to poore gaon ko bhojan de. Sirf bachchon ko kyun? Hum taiyyar hain desh ke hit mein kaam karne ke liye, magar zyaadti ke liye nahi (If the government is so concerned about the poor, it should provide food to entire villages, why just children? We are willing to work for the country but we can’t tolerate highhandedness),” Singh said. RP Mishra, state secretary and spokesperson of Uttar Pradesh Madhyamik Shikshak Sangh, said that government should make separate arrangements and allow teachers to go on leave. “The food and other responsibilities can be shouldered by village headmen,” he said. (Times of India 24/5/15)

128. A World Bank project in Odisha has changed lives of 9 lakh families (21)

Puri: Life has changed for more than 900,000 families across 10 Odisha districts since they signed up for a credit scheme under a poverty reduction programme started in 2009 with the World Bank funding of $82.4 million. The World Bank-funded project — Targeted Rural Initiative for Poverty Termination and Infrastructure (Tripti) – started in 2009 and will be merged with the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) in June but may well end up as the guiding light for the central scheme. Tripti has touched mostly Dalit and tribal women, who form 17% and 23%, respectively, of Odisha’s population and are among the most impoverished of the 17 million people in the state below the poverty line. Most of the women utilised the loan mainly on agriculture, horticulture, poultry, fishery, health and education. They even repaid previous outstanding amounts to avail bigger loans for scaling up their enterprises. The scheme covers 78,460 self-help groups across 10 districts in the state and has led to a spurt in the average amount of a loan sanctioned by banks to such outfits, which has jumped to over Rs. 100,000 from Rs. 80,000 in the beginning of the year. “This implies that 25% of the state’s bank linkage has occurred in the 10 districts covered under the project,” said Pranab Jyoti Nath, state mission director of the Odisha Rural Livelhood Mission, responsible for Tripti’s implementation. This socio-economic empowerment has made women self-reliant and enabled them to intervene in social and political issues including domestic violence issues, anti-liquor campaign, education of the girl child and rural sanitation. Such an initiative also helped 23-year-old Jhili Mondal in Jagatsinghpur district who had suffered repeated physical torture at the hands of her husband and in-laws. They forced her to abort twice and allegedly tried to sell her off to a trafficker in Andhra Pradesh. Help came from hundreds of women from nearby villages, who formed 90 self-help groups and took Mondal under their wing. The SHGs forced her in-laws to part with a patch of their family land for her subsistence and gave her Rs. 5000 and a livelihood linkage to start her life afresh. “I would have been dead by now but for them. With their help, I have been able to overcome the trauma and trying to stand on my own feet,” said Mondal. (Hindustan Times 26/5/15)

129. India tops hunger list, says UN report (21)

Rome, May 28 (PTI): India is home to the highest number of hungry people in the world, at 194 million, surpassing China, according to a UN annual hunger report. At the global level, the corresponding figure dropped to 795 million in 2014-15, from one billion in 1990-92, with East Asia led by China accounting for most of the reductions, UN body Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in its report titled The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015. India, too, saw a reduction between 1990 and 2015, it added. In 1990-92, those who were starved of food in India numbered 210.1 million, which came down to 194.6 million in 2014-15. “India has made great strides in reducing the proportion of food insecure persons in the overall population, but according to the FAO, it still has over 194 million hungry persons,” the report said. However, China stood out as the reduction in the number of hungry people was much higher than in India. The number came down to 133.8 million in 2014-15 from 289 million in 1990-92. “A majority – 72 out of 129 – of the countries monitored by the FAO have achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015, with developing regions as a whole missing the target by a small margin,” the report said. Some 29 countries have managed to meet the more ambitious goal of the World Food Summit in 1996 where governments had committed to halving the absolute number of undernourished people by 2015. Talking of noticeable progress, the report made a specific mention of Latin America and the Caribbean countries, southeast and central Asia, as well as some parts of Africa. (The Telegraph 29/5/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

 

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

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

131. Workers demand their rights (14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

136. Construction Workers Threaten Stir on May 25 (14)

BHUBANESWAR:The Trade Union Centre of India (TUCI) and Odisha Nirman Shramik Union (ONSU) has threatened to gherao the Labour Commissioner and Odisha Building and Other Construction Board’s office on May 25 protesting its decision to debar ONSU from certifying building and other construction workers for registration. Registration with the welfare board is mandatory for construction workers for eligibility of the social security schemes. The union said it was not served any showcause notice before the Board took such a drastic step and no hearing was held on the matter. Although the order has not yet been sent to the union, all 32 District Labour Officers and Collectors have received the same, president of ONSU, Sivaram said here. Terming the order as illegal and undemocratic which is against the interests of workers, the TUCI’s State committee and ONSU will gherao the welfare board demanding its withdrawal. The two bodies have also demanded that building and other construction workers be provided labour cards within 30 days and all registered beneficiaries must receive benefits within 45 days. TUCI State committee secretary Sabyasachi Mohapatra said the State Government must fill up vacancies in District Labour Offices and stop loot of funds in the name of training. (New Indian Express 16/5/15)

137. Wage arrears, denial of work haunt women (14)

RAMANATHAPURAM: More than 60 women, who were employed under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), thronged the Collectorate here on Monday, alleging that they have not received their wages for nearly a year. Led by village head S. Kesavan, the women from Kottakudi panchayat in Nainarkoil block said they had not only received the wages but had been denied work by the authorities. As the local Block Development Officer (BDO) could not give a convincing reply, they decided to bring it to the notice of the Collector. For many women, especially aged widows, the 100 days of guaranteed employment in a year provided economic independence. As most of them were living on their own after abandoned by their children, they depended on the wages for the livelihood, they said. S. Rakku (75), mother of five daughters and a son, is living separately and prefers to live independently without being a burden to the children. Her son refused to take care of her after her husband’s death and she could not trouble her daughters after they were married. “How could I sit and eat at my ‘sambandi’s’ home,” she asks. Similar is the case of M. Soundaram (70), a widow. After the marriage of her two daughters, she is living alone with her income from the 100-day employment. For both the aged women, widow pension comes in handy. “But for the monthly pension, we will really struggle,” they say. Official sources attributed an ‘online error’ for the delay in wage disbursal. All the beneficiaries had been registered online and the wages were yet to be credited into their bank accounts, the sources said. The beneficiaries have their accounts in Pandyan Grama Bank. (The Hindu 19/5/15)

138. Qatar hits back at Amnesty labour claims (14)

DOHA: Qatar insisted on Thursday it was “committed” to improving conditions for its huge number of migrant labourers following an Amnesty report accusing Doha of failing to deliver on promised reforms. The 2022 football World Cup host defend itself after Amnesty said Doha was still “failing migrant workers” in key areas such as pay, the “kafala” system that blocks workers from leaving the country and curbs on changing employers, despite promising wholesale change more than 12 months ago. It was the latest criticism against Qatar over labour practices in the country but Doha hit back in a statement from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, insisting that reforms had been put in place. “Significant changes have been made over the last year to improve the rights and conditions of expatriate workers,” read the statement. “No one should be in any doubt that we are committed to effective and sustainable change.” Adding that “we disagree with a number of its (Amnesty’s) claims”, the ministry said reforms in the past 12 months included the introduction of an electronic wage protection system to ensure workers get paid on time and promised accommodation improvements for more than 250,000 workers. The ministry added the number of labour inspectors — 294 — would be increased to 400 by the end of the year. In addition more than 51,000 site visits were carried out in 2014, said the ministry. It also said that “the promotion and protection of human rights, including the rights of expatriate workers” was at the heart of Qatar’s economic and social policies. Pointing to the money earned by labourers, the ministry said that more than $12 billion (10 billion euros) had been sent home by labourers in 2014, “considerably more than they would earn at home”. Qatar is expected to more than double the number of migrant labourers in the country to 2.5 million by 2020 ahead of hosting the World Cup. The Qatari response did not specifically address the kafala issue but earlier this month Abdullah bin Saleh al-Khulaifi, the minister of labour and social affairs, told AFP he was “90 percent” certain it would be replaced by the end of 2015. (Times of India 21/5/15)

139. MGNREGS boosted financial inclusion, but hitches remain: study (14)

KOCHI: Though the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) had helped in making good progress in financial inclusion in the district, it was not free of several hurdles that prevented the working class from enjoying the resultant benefits fully. A study on the implementation of the scheme in the district conducted by MG University’s School of International Relations and Politics pegged financial inclusion at 67.50 per cent in 20 out of the 84 grama panchayats, which were taken as sampling units. The conclusion was reached based on a cumulative analysis of 14 demand and supply side variables. While the number of bank account holders had increased significantly since 2008, there were widespread complaints about the transaction environment due to indifference on the part of banking officials. Workers who responded to the opinion survey felt that bank officials were not comfortable about their collective visit to banks for withdrawal. This had thrown up an idea of separate counter for MGNREGS-related transactions in banks. Access to banking institutions and the cost of transportation were other major hurdles. About 52 per cent workers had to travel miles to reach the bank that often led to additional burden in terms of transportation cost, besides loss of work for the day. While 97.67 per cent had no access to cheque facility, only 22 per cent had access to ATMs. Only 1.83 per cent visited banks once in a month. This made periodical checks of whether wages had been credited and verification of balance in accounts difficult. Notwithstanding that, payment of wages through banks had been found to be beneficial and rewarding. It took banking services to the masses, provided incentives for saving and among other things helped to buy household items. Despite the indifference on the part of banking officials, 99.67 per cent hardly had any problem in opening bank accounts while 99.17 per cent personally withdrew money form their accounts. Besides, financial inclusion instilled among the workforce awareness about the banking and its various services, problems associated with withdrawal and investments, provisions of loans and problems of repayments etc. (The Hindu 26/5/15)

140. Construction workers denied benefits: AITUC (14)

ERODE: The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) representatives on Tuesday submitted a memorandum to the authorities demanding justice to members of Construction Workers Welfare Board. Benefits mandated in the Tamil Nadu Construction Workers Welfare Board were being denied to the members, AITUC district secretary S. Chinnasamy complained. Construction workers took exception to what they described as failure on the part of the State Government to hold periodic meetings of the Board, and discrepancies in nominating members to the Board. Despite the membership exceeding Rs. 20 lakh and a corpus of Rs. 900 crore, the construction workers were denied entitled benefits, the AITUC representatives complained, demanding Rs. 10 lakh as compensation payment for accident death, Rs. 5 lakh for natural death, Rs. 25,000 for conduct of last rites, Rs. 60,000 as maternity benefit, Rs. 1 lakh for marriage assistance, and Rs. 5,000 as pension. Pension must be paid to women above the age of 50 years and men over 55 years, he said. They sought five cents of land to each member, and a free house, besides meeting of educational expenses of children. (The Hindu 27/5/15)

141. 107 bonded labourers rescued  (14)

Bengaluru: Over 100 persons, including five children, were rescued from “jail-like” conditions in an agarbatti factory at Kaggalipura, close to Kanakapura, on the outskirts of the city on Thursday. Based on a tip-off, the district administration and police raided Balaji Agarbatti factory. However, on enquiry, they found that 107 workers – mainly from West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand and Nepal – were forced to work there without proper payment. “They were hired through an agency. Once they arrived at the factory, they were not allowed to go out or even talk to relatives,” said Dayanand, Tahsildar of Bengaluru South taluk. The administration is yet to ascertain if the children had been employed or had merely come along with their families, he said. According to International Justice Mission, which assisted in the operation, the workers were forced to work daily between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m.; some had not been paid for two years. A case has been filed against the factory owner, Balaji, contractor as well as the tout who brought them under sections for bonded labour (Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976), child labour (Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986), illegal confinement (Section 340 of the IPC), and human trafficking (Section 370). (The Hindu 29/5/15)

RESERVATION

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

145. “Implement BC panel recommendations” (25)

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

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

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

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

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

148. Leading the Transgender People’s Battle for Rights (25)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:A banner at the entrance of Hassan Marikkar Memorial, Palayam, on Friday, read ‘Welcome Tiruchi Siva MP, the warrior for transgender people’. Superlatives, comical and rarely true, often find a place on banners for politicians. This time, though, the description was no exaggeration. For the person in question had moved the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, which in April became the first private member Bill to be passed in the Rajya Sabha in 45 years. On Friday, he was in the city to inaugurate ‘The Dale View TG Fest 2015’. The state he hails from, Tamil Nadu, treats transgender people with greater respect than in Kerala, according to the transgender participants of the fest. Still they fail to mention that in all Indian states, a transgender person often ends up as a commercial sex worker or turns to begging. It hardly occurs to them that a respectable life free of discrimination is not a privilege, but a right. “They are tax payers, but they are not enjoying the rights and privileges which the Constitution guarantees to other citizens of the country. That’s what provoked me to think why a law should not be in place, for the protection of their rights,” says the MP. The number of private Bills, Bills introduced by a legislator not acting on behalf of the executive, which met their happy ending are very few in the history of Indian legislature. There were many detractors, who predicted that the Transgender Bill will be thrown to the bin. Siva equates the debates that happened in the Upper House to a “football match”. But, eventually, the Bill was passed by a unanimous voice vote. He has four decades of political career. In 2012, Siva had moved another private Bill to include 22 languages as the official languages of India.  However, now he is identified as a spokesperson for transgender people. “I am happy that you call me a transgender spokesperson. I have many responsibilities and one among them is this,” he says. Siva does not remember any incident which acted as the trigger for his movement. “I don’t need a personal experience. We are brought up with the principles of social justice. Every man must be treated equal to the other person in every aspect,” he says. He says that the principles he follows were forged by his party, DMK. As 49.5 per cent of seats in government institutions have been reserved for Scheduled Castes (15 per cent), Scheduled Tribes (7.5 per cent) and Other Backward Classes (27 per cent), it was not possible to set aside seats exclusively for transgender people. So, the Bill proposes a 2 per cent reservation for transgenders in each of these categories. Transgenders who don’t belong to these categories do not have reservation. To this, Siva says, “Reservation for OBCs came in the nineties. The fight for it went on for decades and we waited for so many years after Independence. We waited till then. This Bill too is a first step.” He exhorted the participants of the TG Fest to garner support for the Bill, when it gets presented in the Lok Sabha. “Let us wait till it gets passed in the Lok Sabha. It will then be a ray of hope in the life of transgender persons. The discrimination that they have been suffering all these years will come to an end. This is not the end of it. This is the beginning,” he says. (New Indian Express 16/5/15)

149. Bihar to challenge single bench order on quota in promotion (25)

Patna: The state government will file an appeal before a division bench of Patna high court within two days against the May 4 order of a single bench setting aside the provisions for reservation with consequential seniority in promotions to government employees belonging to Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). Justice V Nath had allowed the writ petition filed by Sunil Kumar Singh and others who challenged the state government’s resolution of August 21, 2012. The petition alleged flaws in the data on the basis of which the government decided to give reservation in promotions to the SC and ST employees. The data is not scientific and is vague in nature, they claimed. Talking to reporters here on Sunday, principal additional advocate general, Bihar, Lalit Kishore Prasad said, “On the perusal of the single bench order, in my opinion, there are various legal infirmities.” Prasad also said the government would also seek an opinion from the Solicitor General of India before taking any decision in this regard. The state government is also looking for a senior counsel from Supreme Court to appear on its behalf, he said. Prasad also said granting the benefit of reservation in promotion to the government employees belonging to SC/ST had always been of paramount consideration for the state government. The said benefit had been extended by the state of Bihar even before 77th Constitution amendment. “After 85th constitutional amendment by which the benefit of reservation with consequential seniority was introduced, Bihar came out with notification dated June 7, 2002, for grant of benefit of reservation with consequential seniority to SC/ST,” Prasad told reporters. He further said after the apex court decision in Nagraj case in October 2006, the then state government headed by CM Nitish Kumar had issued circular on February 5, 2008 granting the said benefit. “When the said circular of February 2008 was quashed by the high court, CM Nitish again instructed the nodal department – SC/ST welfare department – for collection of data for assessing objectively the backwardness, inadequacy of representation to SC/ST members,” he said and added that another notification was issued on August 21, 2012, for grant of benefit of reservation which was challenged in HC. Again, the state government contested the matter seriously. The decision was taken at the level of the then CM Jitan Ram Manjhi to engage senior counsel of the SC to appear on behalf of the state government and, accordingly, P S Patwalia, senior Supreme Court advocate, appeared on behalf of the state. (Times of India 18/5/15)

150. Plea to earmark quota for Dalits (25)

MADURAI: The Dalit Liberation Movement has appealed to the government to quantify the percentage of posts reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the recruitment of 4,396 Laboratory Assistants for government schools in the State. In a memorandum submitted to the Collector here on Wednesday, S. Karuppiah, State joint general secretary of the Movement, pointed out that there was no reference to reservation for SCs and STs in the advertisement released on May 31 for recruitment of Laboratory Assistants. The memorandum said that candidates with PG qualification and above had applied for the post, which required only SSLC qualification. It wanted the government to quantify the reservation for SCs and STs and Arunthathiyars and also reconsider participation of candidates with PG qualification and above in selection process. (The Hindu 21/5/15)

151. Come to Bayana with concrete proposal: Gujjars to government (25)

Jaipur: Membedrs of the Gujjar community, staging a protest to seek five percent reservation in government jobs under OBC category in Rajasthan, on Monday said if the state government wanted to hold talks it should come to Bayana town with concrete proposals. The protestors, meanwhile, continued to sit on railway tracks in Bharatpur district affecting movement of trains for the fifth day on the important Delhi-Mumbai sector. Gujjar leaders refused to meet the state government delegation in Jaipur, as was requested by the three-member ministerial committee that met them (the Gujjar leaders) in Bayana on Saturday. “We are not going to meet the government in Jaipur. If they want they will have to come to Bayana to meet us and that too with a concrete proposal,” Himmat Singh, spokesperson of the Gujjar Arakshan Sangarsh Samiti told IANS. “We are going to jam the state if our demand for providing five percent reservation under SBC (special backward class) category is not met. Though the police with the help of local BJP workers have opened the Jaipur-Agra national highway, but we will block it once again,” Singh said. Kirori Singh Bainsla, convener of the Gujjar Arakshan Sangarsh Samiti, said: “Treason charges and negotiations cannot go together, so the government should decide what it wants.” On Sunday, cases were registered against Bainsla and 12 others for treason, blocking rail and road traffic, and damaging public property and railway tracks. On Saturday, talks were held between a three-member ministerial committee and a six-member delegation of the Gujjars in the premises of a college in Bayana town, a few kilometers from the place where the protestors are squatting on railway tracks. However, the talks failed to make any headway. The ministerial team that held talks on Saturday comprised Medical and Health Minister Rajendra Rathore, Social Welfare Minister Arun Chaturvedi and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Hem Singh Bhadana. The Gujjars have been protesting in Bharatpur for reservation in government jobs and educational institutes. The sit-in by Gujjars in Pilu Ka Pura area of the district has affected the movement of at least 100 trains so far, including those on the Delhi-Mumbai section, officials said. Gujjars had staged violent protests earlier in 2006-2008, in which 67 people had lost their lives. (Business Standard 25/5/15)

152. Gujjars hold talks with Rajasthan government (25)

Jaipur: Accepting Vasundhara Raje government’s offer to come to Jaipur to hold talks on reservation issue, Gujjar leaders on Tuesday decided to hold meeting with the committee of ministers in the state capital. The Delhi-Mumbai rail track in Bharatpur, Agra-Jaipur national highway in Dausa and a state highway in Sawaimadhopur are still blocked. A delegation of 11-Gujjar members has left for Jaipur from Pilukapura in Bharatpur and the meeting is scheduled to take place late in the evening. “The agitation leader Kirori Singh Bainsla accepted the government’s proposal and formed an 11 member delegation to hold talks with the committee of ministers in Jaipur today (Tuesday). The delegation will reach Jaipur late in the evening,” Himmat Singh, spokesperson of the Gujjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti said. Mr Bainsla is not the part of the delegation. “Our demand is five per cent reservation within the legal limit of 50 per cent. We will accept only fresh and a concrete proposal if offered by the government.” “The outcome of the meeting will be discussed with Bainsla and any decision about the future course of action will be taken thereafter and this all will depend on the outcome of the meeting,” he said. Earlier in the day, Mr Bainsla was adamant for calling the committee of ministers at Bayana in Bharatpur for next round of the talks. (Asian Age 27/5/15)

153. CPI (M) plans rallies seeking quota in private sector (25)

WARANGAL: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) proposes to take out rallies all over the district on June 8 and 9 demanding reservations in private sector. On June 10, the party is planning a massive demonstration at the district Collectorate, said district secretary S Vasudeva Reddy here on Thursday. He urged all political parties and peoples’ organisations to join and support the cause. The Chief Minister should take note of the demand and bring out suitable legislation providing reservations in private companies to dalits and BCs. The party had been organising awareness programmes since May 10 across the district and also demanding implementation of BC sub plan. Mr Vasudeva Reddy alleged that the policies of State and Central governments have been designed to promote the corporate houses. Since there was no employment opportunity in government sector majority of educated youth were finding it difficult to get jobs. They were depending on private sector. The State and Central governments should act to provide reservations in private sector, Vasudeva Reddy and the CPI (M) state committee member Mettu Srinivas demanded. They said the children of as many as 35 BC communities don’t have access to school education. The leaders have released a poster related to the party agitation programme. (The Hindu 29/5/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

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

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

155. SHRC helps four get due benefits (1)

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

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

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

157. NGOs urge PM Modi to end 'arbitrary, selective intimidation' (1)

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

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

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

159. CBI probe sought after four killed in R'than clashes (1)

Jaipur: As police arrest a man in connection with the Rajasthan group clash, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) alleged atrocities against the dalits and demanded CBI probe into the incident. The man was arrested on Saturday after the clash that left 4 persons dead and seven others injured in Rajasthan’s Nagaur district. “One of the accused identified as Ramkumar was arrested on Saturday while others are being searched,” SP Nagaur Raghvendra Suhasa said. The dead include three Dalits and one Jat.  The two communities clashed on Thursday over a long pending land-related dispute in Dangawas village of Merta town. Supporters of Kanaram Jat and Ratna Ram Meghwal attacked each other with sharp edged weapons and guns, Station House Officer (SHO) Merta City Nagaram said. While Rampal died of a bullet shot, three others—Ratna Ram, Pokar Ram and Pancha Ram received injuries by other weapons and died, he said. “Investigation reveals that Rampal was first shot dead by a member of the Dalit community when he went to hand the summons of a community panchayat convened to resolve the dispute,” the SHO said. He said the murder angered the Jats, triggering the group clash that left two others dead on the spot and eight injured. One of the severely injured later died in a hospital in Ajmer. Ratna Ram Meghwal, among the men killed in the clash, owned the disputed land to which the Jats also laid claim, the station house officer said. A panchayat was convened on Thursday in the presence of the villagers to solve the dispute. More than 200 persons have been accused in the incident. Meanwhile, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said the police have no magic want to arrest the accused. “We do not have a magical want,” Kataria told reporters in Udaipur when asked about the development in the case. In a statement here, People’s Union for Civil Liberties said:  “The village panchayat wanted to grab Dalit land. The Dalit women were also targeted and we demand from the police to add section of rape.” (Deccan Herald 16/5/15)

160. Human rights groups, NCHC chief visit Dangawas (1)

AJMER: Nagaur's Dangawas village where a land dispute claimed four lives on Thursday saw members of human rights groups and National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) making a beeline on Saturday for fact finding reports. The leaders of opposition parties are also not leaving any stone unturned to take on the state government over this incident. A team of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) visited the village and claimed that had the police arrived on time, the bloodshed could have been averted. It took Nagaur police an hour to reach Dangawas village which is just three kilometres away from the police station," said Kavita Srivastava, national general secretary of PUCL. Another team of Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR) met the injured persons admitted at JLN Hospital of Ajmer. They expressed shock on finding that most of the injured were not given beds even two days after being admitted. "Injured women were kept on floor for treatment and the hospital was not providing free medicines to them. We have registered our protest with the hospital authorities," said Ramesh Chand Bansal, a member of CDR team. The team members claimed to have received complaints of sexual and physical abuse by the attackers and demanded medical examination of all the six women injured in the clash. "Even a separate FIR of sexual abuse and attempt to rape should be registered but the police have done nothing in this matter," said Bansal. National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) chairman PL Punia also reached Dangawas on Saturday. He said that district administration has to be sensitive on the issues of Dalit atrocities. Punia reached the village and talked to the families and enquired about the incident. He also talked to the media and said the commission would find out if the situation spiralled out of control due to negligence on the part of any official. Congress leader RPN Singh demanded the resignation of state home minster Gulab Chand Kataria. "If he can't get the accused arrested, he has no right to continue as the home minister. I request the governor to take cognisance of his irresponsible statements," he said. Meanwhile, PCC chief Sachin Pilot said the government was behaving like a mute spectator in the matter. "The government must step in and ensure that the law breakers are arrested," said Pilot. He said the incident could have been averted if the administration hadn't acted so late. (Times of India 17/5/15)

161. Greepeace says it was a ‘humiliating year’ (1)

New Delhi: With its accounts frozen and forced to scale down operations, Greenpeace India on Thursday said it has been a “humiliating” year for the organisation and it is not expected from a elected government to treat “legitimate NGOs” like it in such a manner. Days after it announced “imminent” shutdown due to government’s crackdown, the environment NGO said it will continue to run basic functions for another month by scaling back the extent of the campaign to “bare minimum” as it has seen a “surge” in support from civil society, donors and the staff, which has offered to work without pay. The environment NGO also hoped for a “positive outcome” from the Delhi high court, which will hear its writ petition challenging the suspension of its FCRA licence on May 26. While the organisation has urged supporters to sign a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to support free speech in India, it said that more than 200 of its staff have written to its executive director Samit Aich promising to work without pay in June while other civil societies have offered logistical support. “Over the past few weeks we have seen an incredible surge in support for Greenpeace India,” Mr Aich said. (Asian Age 22/5/15)

162. Nagaur clash death toll rises to five (1)

The death toll in a clash between two groups at Dangawas village of Nagaur has risen to five with a Dalit man, who was injured, dying of injuries in an Ajmer hospital on Saturday. Ganpat Ram, who had sustained serious injuries in the clash over a land dispute on May 14, was in a critical condition. His family members refused to take the body home since their demand of ordering a CBI investigation was not met. “His family members have refused to take the body. They are staging a dharna outside the mortuary demanding a CBI probe into the incident,” Jitendra Gangwani, station house office, Ajmer Kotwali police station, said. Superintendent of Police Nagaur Raghvendra Suhasa said the case was handed over to CID on Friday. The People’s Union for Civil Liberties has demanded a CBI investigation. “The government is yet to take any step in this regard. Local police station staff have not been suspended,” PUCL general secretary Kavita Srivastava said. Four persons — three from the Dalit community and one from the Jat community — were killed in the clash. The supporters of Kanaram Jat and Ratna Ram Meghwal, armed with sharp-edged weapons and guns, had clashed. While Rampal had died of a bullet injures, Ratna Ram, Pokar Ram and Pancha Ram had succumbed to injuries inflicted with other weapons. (The Hindu 23/5/15)

163. Hashimpura massacre: HC seeks UP govt response on NHRC plea (1)

New Delhi: Delhi High Court on Monday sought the response of Uttar Pradesh government on a plea by NHRC challenging a trial court's decision to acquit 16 policemen of charges of murder and other crimes in the 1987 Hashimpura massacre case, in which 42 people were killed in Meerut city. A bench of justices G S Sistani and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal issued notice to the state government and sought its reply by July 21 on the plea of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which has sought ordering of a further probe into the massacre in the Hashimpura locality of Meerut. NHRC in its plea has sought that "registers, duty register, attendance registers, log-books and other documents relating to the names, duty roster, posting and connected relevant details of PAC personnel" of the platoon which was operating in that area on that day be placed before the court. It has also sought that the report of the CB-CID inquiry and the findings of the Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice (retd) Gyan Prakash which probed the massacre be also placed before the bench. The Commission has sought a number of other directions, including "initiation of disciplinary proceedings against all the concerned police officials".It has prayed for laying down of guidelines to be followed by investigating agencies in cases of custodial killings and violence as well as a direction that "in cases of custodial violence, a presumption of guilt be made against the accused police officer that the injury and/or death was caused by the police officer having custody of the victim".NHRC has also sought "separation of the investigative work of the police from the law and order functions" as well as carrying out of a judicial inquiry "immediately and mandatorily" in all cases of custodial death. Prior to NHRC, the Uttar Pradesh government as well as survivors and kin of the victims of the massacre have moved the court challenging the acquittal of the 16 policemen. On March 21, a trial court gave the benefit of doubt and acquitted 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel accused of killing 42 people in Meerut, saying lack of evidence has failed to establish their identification. Those acquitted in the case were Suresh Chand Sharma, Niranjan Lal, Kamal Singh, Budhi Singh, Basant Ballab, Kunwar Pal Singh, Budha Singh, Rambir Singh, Leela Dhar, Hambir Singh, Mokam Singh, Shami Ullaha, Sarwan Kumar, Jaipal Singh, Mahesh Prasad and Ram Dhayan. According to the prosecution, the PAC personnel had come to Hashimpura on May 22, 1987, and picked up about 50 Muslims as a congregation of 500 had gathered outside a mosque there. The victims were shot by the accused personnel and their bodies thrown into a canal, it had said, adding that 42 persons were declared to have perished in the massacre. The charge sheet was filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Ghaziabad, in 1996. 19 people were named as accused and charges for offences of murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence and conspiracy were framed against 17 of them by the court here in 2006, after the case was transferred to Delhi on a Supreme Court direction in September 2002. The 16 accused acquitted in the case are the ones still alive. Three other accused died during the trial.   (Zee News 25/5/15)

164. Muslim woman asked to vacate Mumbai home, says 'broker demanded NOC' (1)

Mumbai: Twenty-five-year-old Misbah Quadri, who has alleged that she was forced to vacate her rented home in a Mumbai building because she was a Muslim, said Wednesday that the broker involved in the rental agreement process, had asked her for a No Objection Certificate to safeguard himself, the owner of the flat and the builder from harassment charges. "I was living in Sanghvi Heights building at Wadala East and I was asked to leave after a week. They told me Sanghvi Heights does not allow Muslim tenants. Just before I moved in, I was told by the broker that Muslim tenants won't be allowed. Then, I said, that I am willing to give in writing that I won't cook certain food and other such things," Quadri told ANI here. Quadri, who has been living in Mumbai for the past five years, further claimed that the broker then asked her to give a No Objection Certificate, saying that he, the owner and the builder would not be held responsible should she face harassment because of her religion. " I was looking for a PG, the broker asked me if I wear Muslim clothes like burqa. When I said no, then, he said it was fine and he won't tell others that I am a Muslim," she added.  Quadri said that she was planning to file a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission.  "Most of my friends are Hindus and when they saw me facing a problem like this, they came out to support me. They have told me to go to the NHRC and file a complaint. It is in process right now," said Quadri. Meanwhile, Sanghvi Heights supervisor Rajesh has rubbished Quadri's charges and said that Muslims are allowed to stay in the building.  "We allow Muslim people to stay here. The broker should be asked about the matter. The problem seems to be between the girl and the broker. I don't have any idea about this," he said. Recently, a young job applicant from Mumbai was rejected by a jewellery exports company in the city on grounds that he was a Muslim and was told that it hired 'only non-Muslim candidates'. The applicant, Zeeshan Khan, later filed a police complaint against the company, which issued a clarification saying the episode was an error and not their policy. (New Kerala 28/5/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

170. Supreme Court slaps death sentence on woman (19)

New Delhi: In a new twist to sentencing policy, the Supreme Court on Friday held that no leniency can be shown by courts in awarding death sentence only on the ground that the accused in a brutal killing is a woman. The sentencing policy must be proportionate to the crime committed and the sentence must be the same for man and woman, held a three-judge bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices S.A. Bobde and Arun Mishra, while confirming a death sentence awarded to a woman and her paramour for killing seven members of a family (the case was briefly reported on April 30 when the bench reserved orders). Writing the judgement, the CJI said, “The Indian legal system today does not differentiate between a son and a daughter — they have equal rights and duties. Indian culture has been witness to for centuries, that daughters dutifully bear the burden of being the care-givers for her parents, even more than a son. Our experience has reflected that an adult daughter places greater emphasis on their relationships with their parents, and when those relationships go awry, it takes a worse toll on the adult daughters than the adult sons.” The bench said, “The principle that when the offence is gruesome and was committed in a calculated and diabolical manner, the age of the accused may not be a relevant factor. Death penalty is not proportional if the law’s most severe penalty is imposed on one whose culpability or blameworthiness is diminished, to a substantial degree, by reason of youth and immaturity. This, however, does not seem to be the case herein. The appellant-accused persons’ preparedness, active involvement. It said “Here is a case where the daughter, appellant-accused Shabnam, who has been brought up in an educated and independent environment by her family and was respectfully employed as a Shikshamitra (teacher) at the school, influenced by the love and lust of her paramour has committed this brutal parricide exterminating seven lives including that of an innocent child.” It said “Of all the crimes that shock the souls of men, none has ever been held in greater abhorrence than parricide, which is by all odds the most complete and terrible inversion, not alone of human nature but of brute instinct. Such a deed would be sufficiently appalling were the perpetrator and the victims are uneducated and backward, but it gains a ghastly illumination from the descent, moral upbringing, and elegant respectful living of the educated family where the father and daughter are both teachers. Dismissing the appeals against a Allahabad High Court verdict confirming a trial court’s order, the bench said “the crime is committed in the most cruel and inhuman manner which is extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical and revolting. Therefore, as the instant case requires us to award a punishment that is graduated and proportioned to the crime, we have reached the inescapable conclusion that the extreme culpability of both the appellants-accused makes them the most deserving for death penalty.” (Asian Age 16/5/15)

171. Government plans amendments in dowry harassment law to prevent misuse of its provisions

New Delhi: There have been allegations that husbands and in-laws are often charged with false dowry harassment when some marital problems arise.With an average 10,000 false dowry harassment cases being registered every year, government plans to amend the criminal law to prevent frequent misuse of its legal provisions. Under the proposal, Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code will be made a compoundable offence with the permission of the courts as suggested by the Law Commission and Justice Malimath Committee. Provisions will be kept to allow compromise and settlement between husband and wife at the onset of trial in dowry harassment cases, a Home Ministry official said. The offence at present is non-compoundable and non- bailable, which provides for immediate arrest of the accused. Conciliatory efforts between the hostile parties are virtually impossible. A husband or his family members are presumed guilty till they prove their innocence in court. The offence is punishable with a jail term of up to three years. There have been allegations that husbands and in-laws are often charged with false dowry harassment when some marital problems arise. As per data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau, a total number of 99,135, 1,06,527 and 1,18,866 cases, respectively, were registered in 2011, 2012 and 2013 in the country under Section 498A for cruelty by husband or his relatives. After police investigation, 10,193 in 2011, 10,235 in 2012 and 10,864 cases in 2013 were found to be false or suffering from mistake of fact or law. If the offence is made compoundable, misuse of the law may come down hugely as there would be scope for initiating conciliation proceedings and out -of-court settlement. Permission from a court will be a guarantee against attempts where a wife may be compelled into a compromise by her husband or in-laws, the Home Ministry official said. Under the existing rules, if a dowry harassment case is proved wrong or it is proved that the law was misused, a penalty of only Rs 1,000 is imposed. The amendment, however, provides for a Rs 15,000 fine. Another new section is expected to be inserted to allow an accused to escape jail by paying a penalty. The Supreme Court had in a 2010 judgement said that, as it stood now, the law had become a "weapon in the hands of disgruntled women". It had also observed that a serious re-look of the entire provision is warranted by the legislature. "It is a matter of common knowledge that exaggerated versions of the incident are reflected in a large number of complaints. "The tendency of over-implication is also reflected in a very large number of cases," the apex court had said. Section 498A was introduced in the early 80s to protect married women from being subjected to cruelty by the husband or his relatives. A spate of dowry deaths in Delhi and elsewhere led to a campaign by some leading women members of Parliament, prompting the government to bring the amendment. The expression 'cruelty' has been defined in wide terms so as to include infliction of physical or mental harm to the body or health of the woman and indulging in acts of harassment with a view to coerce her or her relations to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuables. The Law Commission recommended that the offence under Section 498A should be made a compoundable offence with the permission of court. Justice Malimath Committee on Criminal Justice Reform, too, recommended that it be made compoundable as well as bailable. The Home Ministry has also asked all state governments to be judicious in slapping Section 498A in matrimonial disputes as the provision may be used as "weapons rather than shields by disgruntled wives". DNA 17/5/15)

172. Hate speech: Subramanian Swamy plea in Supreme Court (19)

New Delhi: BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has moved the Supreme Court challenging certain provisions in the IPC relating to hate speech and seeking a declaration that they are unconstitutional as they violated freedom of speech and expression. A vacation of bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and U.U. Lalit directed the matter to be listed before another bench as Justice Lalit recused from hearing the writ petition. In his petition, Mr Swami said during a speech in Assam in March, he had said “Islam permits one to demolish a mosque for purposes like road building, apartment construction etc. or simply to reconstruct it elsewhere. On March 15, the petitioner made a speech to a group of intellectuals at Kaziranga University, wherein among other concerns, he stated simply that Islam permits such demolition and indeed such demolition do take place in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan.” He said for making this speech FIRs had been filed against him and the court had issued summons for his appearance. Hence the urgency for filing this writ petition challenging the vires of Sections 153, 153A, 153B, 295A, 298 and 505 of the Indian Penal Code, all of which deal with the offences popularly labelled as “hate speech”. (In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing or display which is forbidden because it “may” incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group or because it intimidates a protected individual or group). He said he was concerned that in the past few years, the impugned sections had been invoked against him by authorities politically inimical to him. In particular, the petitioner is concerned with at least five such recent FIRs/summons reported to be issued against him, from at least five states from Delhi, Mumbai in Maharashtra, Karimganj in Assam, Mohali in Punjab and Thrissur in Kerala, for presumed “hate speech”. He also prayed for quashing of these FIRs/summons filed against him and an interim stay of summons and all further proceedings. (Asian Age 22/5/15)

173. Law panel proposes joint custody of kids in divorce cases (19)

NEW DELHI: For the first time in India, the concept of shared parenting has been proposed to give joint custody rights of a child to both parents in case of divorce -- equal legal status with respect to guardianship and custody. The Law Commission on Friday submitted a draft law to the government proposing amendments to the existing guardianship and custody laws. The draft law provides for welfare of children as paramount consideration while deciding custody. Law Commission chairman Justice A P Shah said: "Currently there is disparity in the relevance accorded to the principle of welfare of children by different legislations regulating custody and guardianship." The commission has proposed statutory guidelines to judges on determining child welfare rights in cases of joint custody. At present there is uncertainty and lack of judicial consensus on what exactly constitutes welfare of the child. "As a result, in fiercely fought custody battles, there are no ways to ensure that the interests of the child are actually protected," Justice Shah said. The draft law has proposed that courts should be empowered to fix an amount specifically for child support which could be continued up to the age of 18 years and may be extended till 25 years, and lifetime in case of a child with mental or physical disability. Rights of children to have access to grandparents and to decision-making are some of the other issues which were deliberated. Currently, the Guardians and Wards Act of 1890, which regulates custody of children irrespective of their religion, continues with the supremacy of the paternal right in guardianship and custody. Even the other law that regulates custody, the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act of 1956, does not treat the mother on an equal footing with the father as the natural guardian of her child. The disparity is such that Section 19 of the Guardians and Wards Act offers "a preferential right to the husband (of a minor girl), or the father (in all other cases) to be guardian, if neither were unfit to be appointed guardian".The Guardians and Wards Act, in section 25, even provides for the "arrest of a ward if the ward leaves or is removed from the custody of his guardian, if such arrest is for the welfare of the ward".In its recommendations, the law panel has listed the legal framework required to address how custody issues should be handled, what factors should be relevant in decision-making, and what should be the process of dispute resolution between parents over children, among others. At present there are no codified rules governing custody. Decision-making in this area is based on the presumption that welfare of the child essentially lies in custody being awarded to any one of the parents. The Law panel report has reviewed all the current laws dealing with custody and guardianship, and recommended legislative amendments to the Guardians and Wards Act and the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act. "These amendments are necessary in order to bring these laws in tune with modern social considerations," the commission has said. (Times of India 23/5/15)

174. PIL in high court against notification (19)

NEW DELHI: A day after the high court restored powers of Delhi's anti-corruption branch, a PIL was filed before it seeking quashing of the Centre's notification empowering the lieutenant governor and increasing the Centre's control. The PIL is likely to be heard on Wednesday after it was mentioned before a bench headed by Justice B D Ahmed on Tuesday. It questions the absolute power of the LG to appoint bureaucrats. Filed by law student Vibhor Anand, it says that the Centre's notification violates the Constitution of India as well as Section 41 of GNCT Act. "As per notification, LG would have jurisdiction over matters connected with services, public orders, police and land, and...services of bureaucrats...allowing him discretionary powers to seek the opinion of the CM," it says. (Times of India 27/5/15)

175. Govt welcomes lifting of AFSPA in Tripura but J&K has to wait (19)

NEW DELHI: Tripura government's decision to lift Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the state has been welcomed by the Centre. It is, however, not yet ready to extend the same courtesy to Jammu and Kashmir, where the issue is being debated for several years now. While MoS home Kiren Rijiju welcomed the decision to lift AFSPA in Tripura, indicating that the Centre was on the same page as the Manik Sarkar's government in the state, defence minister Manohar Parrikar has steadfastly maintained that Army cannot operate in the Kashmir Valley unless AFSPA is in force. Rijiju said on Thursday, "I would like to welcome the very important decision of Tripura government to lift AFSPA. I hope that lifting of AFSPA from Tripura will also have positive impact on other states of north-eastern region. I am confident that in the days to come... the state government and Centre can work together and secure peace in the north-eastern region." Earlier this week, Parrikar had hinted that it was not the right time to remove AFSPA from the Valley. In an interview to an agency, Parrikar had said, "Army's job is not internal security. Let me be very clear on that. It is not my job to maintain internal security but if I am given a task for internal security, then there have to be appropriate powers. Those powers come to me through AFSPA." Rijiju said that in the past one year, the situation in Tripura had improved a lot and the home ministry had already appointed an interlocutor to negotiate with the state's militant group, National Liberation Front of Tripura. Though similar arguments of violence abating in the Valley over the years have been made, there has been no political consensus for removal of AFSPA from Kashmir. Those in the Valley, however, have expressed hope. Moderate Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said the government's decision to withdraw AFSPA from Tripura should serve as an "eye opener" for the Jammu and Kashmir government too. "The Tripura government's decision to withdraw AFSPA from the state after remaining enforced for 18 years is a bold decision," a Hurriyat spokesman said. "Many governments came and pledged to revoke AFSPA from the state but all these pledges and claims proved to be blatant lies made just for public consumption," the spokesman said. Even former home minister P Chidambaram welcomed the decision, tweeting, "My plea to repeal AFSPA heard in Tripura. AFSPA withdrawn. Victory for sanity and humanity." The Act was implemented in 40 police station areas of the state in February 1997. With declining insurgency, the administration, in June 2013, had earlier withdrawn the Act from nine police stations. (The Temes of India 29/5/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

 

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

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

177. Tamil Nadu Police Arbitrarily Closed 23 Per Cent FIRs in 3 Years' (1)

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

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

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

179. India points out areas of 'concern' in US' rights record (1)

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

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

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

181. AFSPA will be lifted if situation improves: Rijiju (1)

IMPHAL: Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju has said that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) would be withdrawn from Manipur if law and order improves. The Act was partially withdrawn in Arunachal Pradesh after the situation there improved considerably, the home minister said, while talking to reporters minutes after he landed at Imphal airport on Sunday afternoon for a a two-day Manipur visit. "We don't decide on lifting AFSPA on our own. If the ground situation is conducive, the Act will be withdrawn. We want peace to prevail in the northeast so that this kind of law is not necessary at all," Rijiju said. Rijiju will hold meetings with chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh and top officials of the state police and central forces to review law and order in Manipur, official sources said. Activist Irom Sharmila Chanu has been on a fast for the last 14 years in protest against AFSPA, which gives sweeping powers to the armed forces. On the violation of ground rules by militant groups, which are signatories of the Suspension of Operation with the government in the state, the Union minister said the home ministry has got the information on this. No specific decision has been taken yet against the ground rule violators, but the security forces should tackle them, he said, adding that the state and Union governments and security forces should work together on the matter. Insurgency-hit Manipur has witnessed sporadic violent incidents triggered by SOO signatories particularly in the hill districts, the latest being the killing of two labourers by cadres of the Kuki Revolutionary Front (KRF) at their camp in Senapati district on Tuesday. Protests against the killing turned violent with mobs torching a church, five vehicles and lynching a tribal truck driver in Imphal West district even as police arrested eight KRF cadres. (Times of India 18/5/15)

182. Undertrials languishing in jails can be released on personal bonds (1)

New Delhi: Undertrials can be released on bail on personal bonds if they have spent in jail half the maximum period of punishment for the offence they are charged with. The objective of the Undertrial Review Committee in every district in the country is to implement Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which allows this concession. The idea of forming the committees, each comprising the District Judge, the Superintendent of Police and the District Magistrate, came in an advisory issued by the Home Ministry on January 17, 2013. A Social Justice Bench of the Supreme Court has ordered that the committees be revived in one month. Quoting figures supplied by the Home Ministry, the Bench noted in its recent order: “We find there are a large number of prisoners who are continuing in custody only because of their poverty. This is certainly not in the spirit of the law and poverty cannot be a ground for incarcerating a person.” The court referred to the prisoners’ management system used in the Tihar Central Jail here, and asked the Union Home Ministry to “study” this application software and suggest modifications for its deployment in prisons throughout the country. The Home Ministry was asked to direct the Bureau of Police Research and Development to review within three months a model prison manual which was circulated in 2003, keeping in mind the “huge change in circumstances and availability of technology”. (The Hindu 18/5/15)

183. Alleged custodial torture; youth commits suicide (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Putting city cops in the dock, a youth, on the eve of his 21st birthday, leapt to death from the fourth floor of a Kerala Cooperative Society headquarters here, alleging custodial torture by the police. The deceased was identified as Jeethu of Rajaji Nagar (Chenkal Choola Colony). The incident took place on Sunday night around 10.30pm. The youth allegedly committed suicide minutes after he was released on bail after being arrested on charges of drunken brawl. He jumped the wall of the State Cooperative Society's office located near Rajaji Nagar and climbed to the fourth floor of the building, despite being pursued by friends, who were trying to dissuade him. He then leaped off from the balcony on the fourth floor, landing straight on to the road outside the compound. Though he was rushed to the General Hospital, the doctors could not save him. The agitated residents of Rajaji Nagar created a ruckus outside the hospital in the night and even tried to manhandle a few cops, who were present there, following the confirmation of his death. Jeethu, who worked as a mason's helper, and his friend Jomon were taken into custody by the police from Hotel Triveni near Bakery Junction for starting a drunken brawl. They were taken to the Cantonment Police station, where they were allegedly roughed up by the cops, according to the residents of Rajaji Nagar. Jomon is still admitted in the General Hospital. It is learnt that the brawl broke out when Jeethu went to buy liquor for his birthday party. He was already under the influence of alcohol. On Monday, a postmortem examination was conducted on Jeethu's body in the presence of the revenue divisional officer Karthikeyan. The funeral was conducted by evening. The local residents alleged that it was a habit for the cops at Cantonment station to rough up youths of the colony whenever they got an opportunity. City police commissioner H Venkatesh said that it could be ascertained if the deceased had faced custodial torture only after getting the postmortem report, which could take a couple of days. Jeethu was the elder son of Sunil Kumar and Bindhu. He leaves behind brother Seenu and sister Subi. (Times of India 19/5/15)

184. AFSPA removal figures in Parrikar-Mufti meeting (1)

Srinagar: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had an extensive review of the security situation in the border state of Jammu and Kashmir grappling with infiltration and recruitment of youth into ranks of militant groups. Parrikar, who is on a two-day visit to the state, met Governor NN Vohra, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Corps Commanders of 14 and 15 Corps. Parrikar also visited the Siachen base camp, his first visit to the world’s highest battlefield. He was accompanied by Army Chief General Dalbir Singh and General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Northern Command Lt Gen D S Hooda. The controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was also discussed during the meeting between Mufti and Parrikar, sources said. Prior to meeting Mufti, the Defence Minister also met the Governor. “The Governor and Parrikar discussed various important matters relating to effective management of internal and external security, particularly in the backdrop of infiltrations from across the International Border in the past one-and-a-half years and more recent encounters in the Valley,” an official spokesman said. Parrikar later met Mufti Sayeed and the two leaders discussed the political and security issues as mentioned in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) which works as roadmap for the PDP- BJP alliance. “All the issues of the CMP, including AFSPA, were on the table during the meeting between the two leaders,” said a PDP minister. In the programme, the PDP and the BJP had suggested a way forward on the controversial AFSPA by denotifying the Disturbed Areas Act in phases. While the PDP was in favour of the removal of AFSPA, the BJP was against any such move. An official spokesman said the Chief Minister also requested the Defence Minister that Tatoo Ground in Srinagar be vacated by the Army so that civic facilities could be developed there. Parrikar began his tour by visiting the Siachen base camp in Ladakh . "The minister was briefed by General Officer Commanding, 14 Corps Lt Gen B S Negi, on the overall security situation in Ladakh region along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the Chinese side and Line of Control (LoC) on the Pakistani side,” sources said. (Chandigarh Tribune 23/5/15)

185. Hashimpura Massacre: HC Seeks UP Government Response on NHRC Plea (1)

NEW DELHI: Delhi High Court today sought the response of Uttar Pradesh government on a plea by NHRC challenging a trial court's decision to acquit 16 policemen of charges of murder and other crimes in the 1987 Hashimpura massacre case, in which 42 people were killed in Meerut city. A bench of justices G S Sistani and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal issued notice to the state government and sought its reply by July 21 on the plea of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which has sought ordering of a further probe into the massacre in the Hashimpura locality of Meerut. NHRC in its plea has sought that "registers, duty register, attendance registers, log-books and other documents relating to the names, duty roster, posting and connected relevant details of PAC personnel" of the platoon which was operating in that area on that day be placed before the court. It has also sought that the report of the CB-CID inquiry and the findings of the Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice (retd) Gyan Prakash which probed the massacre be also placed before the bench. The Commission has sought a number of other directions, including "initiation of disciplinary proceedings against all the concerned police officials".It has prayed for laying down of guidelines to be followed by investigating agencies in cases of custodial killings and violence as well as a direction that "in cases of custodial violence, a presumption of guilt be made against the accused police officer that the injury and/or death was caused by the police officer having custody of the victim".NHRC has also sought "separation of the investigative work of the police from the law and order functions" as well as carrying out of a judicial inquiry "immediately and mandatorily" in all cases of custodial death. Prior to NHRC, the Uttar Pradesh government as well as survivors and kin of the victims of the massacre have moved the court challenging the acquittal of the 16 policemen. On March 21, a trial court gave the benefit of doubt and acquitted 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel accused of killing 42 people in Meerut, saying lack of evidence has failed to establish their identification. Those acquitted in the case were Suresh Chand Sharma, Niranjan Lal, Kamal Singh, Budhi Singh, Basant Ballab, Kunwar Pal Singh, Budha Singh, Rambir Singh, Leela Dhar, Hambir Singh, Mokam Singh, Shami Ullaha, Sarwan Kumar, Jaipal Singh, Mahesh Prasad and Ram Dhayan. According to the prosecution, the PAC personnel had come to Hashimpura on May 22, 1987, and picked up about 50 Muslims as a congregation of 500 had gathered outside a mosque there. The victims were shot by the accused personnel and their bodies thrown into a canal, it had said, adding that 42 persons were declared to have perished in the massacre. The charge sheet was filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Ghaziabad, in 1996. 19 people were named as accused and charges for offences of murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence and conspiracy were framed against 17 of them by the court here in 2006, after the case was transferred to Delhi on a Supreme Court direction in September 2002. The 16 accused acquitted in the case are the ones still alive. Three other accused died during the trial. (New Indian Express 26/5/15)

186. Tripura withdraws AFSPA, says insurgency on the wane (1)

Agartala: The Tripura government has revoked the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) as insurgency is on the wane in the State. Chief Minister Manik Sarkar announced the decision after a meeting with his Council of Ministers here on Wednesday. The repeal of the Act, which has been in force in the State since February 1997, came less than a month after the election to the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council. The CPI(M)-led Left Front won the election, though it lost a nine per cent vote share to a tribal party. Tribal parties such as the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura and the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura had been demanding the withdrawal of the Act, saying it was aimed at suppressing the State’s 33 per cent tribal population. The Chief Minister told presspersons that the Left front government had earlier tried to repeal the AFSPA, but did not get the consent of the security establishment. “The situation has changed to a great extent now,” Mr. Sarkar said. He said the State government had reviewed security matters and the Council of Ministers approved the decision to withdraw the AFSPA. The meeting decided to allow movement of traffic on the Assam-Agartala National Highway till midnight. Last November, the Act, which confers sweeping powers on the armed forces, was extended for six months in the State. The AFSPA had been in force in the State’s 26 police station areas. In four police station limits, the Act was partially enforced. (The Hindu 28/5/15)

187. Govt welcomes lifting of AFSPA in Tripura but J&K has to wait (19)

NEW DELHI: Tripura government's decision to lift Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the state has been welcomed by the Centre. It is, however, not yet ready to extend the same courtesy to Jammu and Kashmir, where the issue is being debated for several years now. While MoS home Kiren Rijiju welcomed the decision to lift AFSPA in Tripura, indicating that the Centre was on the same page as the Manik Sarkar's government in the state, defence minister Manohar Parrikar has steadfastly maintained that Army cannot operate in the Kashmir Valley unless AFSPA is in force. Rijiju said on Thursday, "I would like to welcome the very important decision of Tripura government to lift AFSPA. I hope that lifting of AFSPA from Tripura will also have positive impact on other states of north-eastern region. I am confident that in the days to come... the state government and Centre can work together and secure peace in the north-eastern region." Earlier this week, Parrikar had hinted that it was not the right time to remove AFSPA from the Valley. In an interview to an agency, Parrikar had said, "Army's job is not internal security. Let me be very clear on that. It is not my job to maintain internal security but if I am given a task for internal security, then there have to be appropriate powers. Those powers come to me through AFSPA." Rijiju said that in the past one year, the situation in Tripura had improved a lot and the home ministry had already appointed an interlocutor to negotiate with the state's militant group, National Liberation Front of Tripura. Though similar arguments of violence abating in the Valley over the years have been made, there has been no political consensus for removal of AFSPA from Kashmir. Those in the Valley, however, have expressed hope. Moderate Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said the government's decision to withdraw AFSPA from Tripura should serve as an "eye opener" for the Jammu and Kashmir government too. "The Tripura government's decision to withdraw AFSPA from the state after remaining enforced for 18 years is a bold decision," a Hurriyat spokesman said. "Many governments came and pledged to revoke AFSPA from the state but all these pledges and claims proved to be blatant lies made just for public consumption," the spokesman said. Even former home minister P Chidambaram welcomed the decision, tweeting, "My plea to repeal AFSPA heard in Tripura. AFSPA withdrawn. Victory for sanity and humanity." The Act was implemented in 40 police station areas of the state in February 1997. With declining insurgency, the administration, in June 2013, had earlier withdrawn the Act from nine police stations. (The Temes of India 29/5/15)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

191. Tushar Gandhi booked for 'criticizing' Bhagat Singh (1)

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

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

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

193. RSS slams Kejriwal govt over 'draconian' defamation circular (1)

NEW DELHI: Terming its May 6 defamation circular against media as being "draconian", an article in RSS mouthpiece 'Organiser' has attacked the Arvind Kejriwal government for attempting to take away the freedom of speech and expression and for giving the message that "both sides of a coin are mine".The article, 'Draconian Circular', written by a Supreme Court advocate in the latest edition of 'Organiser', said that through the circular, Kejriwal and his Cabinet showed that they love the "suitability factor" most and to have both sides of a coin without caring that such an attack on media is "anti-democratic and unconstitutional"."The circular issued by Arvind Kejriwal against media is a clear attempt to take away the Freedom of Speech and Expression. Though the Supreme Court stayed the Draconian Circular, the question over Kejriwal's intention to use and then abuse media needs to be interrogated," the article said. It also said the circular has raised a burning and sensational topic for discussion by providing a mechanism for registering complaints of defamatory news or actions of the Fourth Estate in order to cover the Chief Minister, Cabinet and various other Delhi government functionaries. "By attacking on it politically some say its anti- democratic, an un-announced emergency or an attempt to strangle the democracy or more specifically an attack on media both print and visual as well. But, I feel that his government is trying to give a message 'Both sides of a coin are mine'," the article said. The article further stated that Kejriwal throughout his campaign used defamatory words or news against political leaders and business scions for which he is facing trial at various places. It alleged that the Delhi chief minister propagates himself as a victim of such complaints but moved Supreme Court to de-criminalise Section 499/500 of IPC and still enjoying the stay granted by court. This, it said, is one side of the coin, while on the other he gets through the very "Draconian Circular" on May 6 by attacking the Fourth Pillar and using the same weapon against it which he himself has attacked and is pioneering to de-criminalise. "This circular is a clear attempt to take away the Freedom of Speech and Expression," said the article. "Thus, he (Kejriwal) and his Cabinet loves the suitability factor most and to have the both sides of a coin without caring that such attacks are anti-democratic, un-constitutional and even when the matter is sub-judice before the Supreme Court," the article added. (Times of India 17/5/15)

194. TV channels flout rules under garb of media freedom: activist (1)

NEW DELHI: The Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has reported 13,000 instances of violations of regulatory norms by television channels in 2013-14. These violations came to light after Guntur-based Edara Gopi Chand, an activist with Media-Watch India, waged a three-year battle to expose the poor regulation of content on India’s TV channels. Using the RTI Act, Mr. Chand succeeded in getting the EMMC to disclose information on TV channels violating programming and advertising codes after the Central Information Commission issued an order in March. After the EMMC disclosure in May, many violations in 2014-15 have been exposed. EMMC data show 5,566 violations pertaining to distracting ‘part-screen’ and ‘scrolling’ ads that interfere with the programme and ‘paid promotional programmes’ telecast in the garb of news/interviews. By Rule 7(10) of the Cable Networks Rules, 1994, all advertisements should be clearly distinguishable from the programme and should not in any manner interfere with the programme such as using the lower part of the screen to carry captions, static or moving messages alongside the programme. The EMMC reports 2,965 instances of surrogate advisements of liquor/tobacco products. It found 1,245 instances of misleading advertisements, which include superstitious and deceptive ads of kavachas, yantras, medicines, creams and so on, claiming to possess miraculous powers which are otherwise serious offences under the Drugs and Magic Remedies(Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1955. “Merely publishing statistics of violations is meaningless unless the names of the violating channels and the nature or gravity of each of these violations is revealed. It is an open secret that the I&B Ministry sits on these reports without taking any action. It issues occasional ‘advisories’ to which no channel pays heed,” Mr. Chand said. According to information on the EMMC website, 37 per cent of the violations in 2014 pertained to vulgarity or obscenity and 11 per cent related to representation of women. But National Commission for Women chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam told The Hindu that no complaints pertaining to TV channels were received by her office, although complaints about social media often reach her. “Even if complaints against TV channels do come to us, there is so much hoo-ha over freedom of speech these days, I wonder what concrete action we could initiate against them,” she said. Mr. Chand says that when the Ministry enforces the regulations by prohibiting telecast of the offending channel for a few days, TV channels scream government regulation and approach the courts for relief, thus preventing any action. (The Hindu 18/5/15)

195. Shashi Tharoor loses cool, slams media (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Shashi Tharoor lost his cool and abused media for asking questions on the polygraph test on the aides of his late wife Sunanda Pushkar. He later slammed the media through Twitter for "exploiting the tragedy".Tharoor, who reached the Thiruvananthapuram airport on Wednesday night around 10.30pm was received with some straight questions from the Times Now channel reporter on the polygraph test which irritated him. When asked whether he is worried over the polygraph test and how come all the aides narrated the same story by concealing the same fact, Tharoor shouted by asking "Aren't you ashamed? This is disgusting." When he evaded further questions and tried to get into the car, he said, "I will speak to the police, not to self appointed liars and scums".Later on Twitter he wrote, "It suits gutter journalists 2 pretend I attacked their entire fraternity. I attacked only those who put exploitation of tragedy above justice.''He blamed the media by tweeting that one channel ran a witch hunt yesterday all evening, lied and distorted facts, aired innuendo, ran a survey on purported guilt. Tharoor, who has been evading the media after the death of his wife was not ready to take any questions on the tragedy. In his tweet Tharoor wrote, "amused to see my comment to the one channel that stalked me at home and at Thiruvananthapuram airport is being twisted as an attack on all media.'' (Times of India 21/5/15)

196. AMWJU highlights plights of state scribes at IJU`s Plenary Session (1)

IMPHAL, May 23: A two-day 8th Plenary Session of National Council Member of Indian Journalists`™ Union (IJU) was inaugurated today at the Convention Centre, KIIT University, Bhubaneswar by Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, Minister of Health & Family Welfare and Information & Public Relations Department, Government of Odissha attending as chief guest. According to a release of All Manipur Working Journalist Union, the inauguration function was presided over by president of IJU, SN Sinha and was attended by 500 journalists from 27 states including Manipur represented by Ratan Luwangcha, vice-president of AMWJU; general secretary Jit Ningomba and convener of Gender Cell Sonia Sorensangbam. Addressing the gathering, Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak said that a resolution has been adopted to implement the recommendations of Majithia Wage Board in Odisha for which a tripartite committee has been formed. He further said that health insurance is also included under the welfare scheme of working journalists while adding that journalists`™ welfare fund has been also incorporated for well-being of journalists. Along with adoption certain national resolutions meant for welfare of journalists, representatives of the states placed detailed reports on plights and grievances being faced by media persons in the respective states during the session. During the concluding day of the session, new office bearers of IJU including three vice-presidents, six national secretaries, one treasurer and 15 national executive members will be elected. Prior to the inauguration of the 8th Plenary Session of IJU, a meeting of National Executive Committee of the union was held at the KIIT campus on May 22 during which the AMWJU team highlighted arrays of problems being faced by journalists in Manipur (Kangla Online 24/5/15)

197. Neutral Media and Narendra Modi's 365 Days in Office (1)

Arun Jaitley goes gaga over Narendra Modi’s first year performance”  screamed a media headline. “Congress brings scathing report on Modi’s one year”  yelled another. The BJP or the Congress will never claim theirs as neutral view. But media, Indian and foreign, have assessed Modi’s one year for almost a fortnight -- as no government has ever been before. That is presumed as neutral. No one questions the media’s neutrality. In the media world, there are editors and owners who are openly Congressmen. Some are subtly Communists and of other leanings. Foreign media have their geo-political agenda. Yet all media stand together to ensure that the neutrality of none is questioned. And no one dares them. But precisely because the media is unquestioningly holding high moral ground, time is ripe for a plain comment on the media’s alleged neutrality. The media’s alleged neutral comment on the first year rule of Modi, with whom it shared the most hostile relations definitely till last year, provides the ideal context for that. Ramnath Goenka, the most independent newspaper owner-- and therefore most feared by wrongdoers -- never celebrated neutrality as a virtue. He would say the neutrals fall between two stools-- between the right and the wrong! He declared it was better to take a view than have no view against wrongdoers to look neutral. He fearlessly took on the delinquents whether it was a public authority or a buccaneer in business. He equated freedom of press with one’s guts to take on the high and mighty and not the privilege of pretending to be neutral. His campaigns against corruption would hardly qualify as neutral. He would chase the most powerful delinquent alone-- whether it was any Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi or Ambani-- whom the rest of the media would fear. He would refuse to join a mass chase as it needed no courage to be in a crowd. Today’s media is a pale version of those in his time. The media that was lured by ads to compromise with news did exist then also. But even they would not sell news for money. Today some big media houses prostitute their soul for cash and shares. But they too claim neutrality! But in Modi’s case the media did not even claim to be neutral to him till it was clear during the election campaign last year that he was almost running into to No 6 Race Course Road. Hounding him itself was its explicit mission for over a decade. Modi survived in Gujarat, rose on the national scene and acquired national and international stature-- all against a determined national and global media bid to stop him, even politically finish him off, at every stage. ‘Godhra victims died accidentally.’ ‘Not killed by any terror gang.’ ‘Modi instigated the riots that killed thousands of Muslims.’ ‘Modi got Sohrabuddin killed.’ ‘Modi conspired to kill Jiffri’-- This was how the media tsunami targeted Modi, with deadly impact on his image and legitimacy outside India. Foreign media echoed the Indian media’s hate campaign against Modi, multiplied and spread it world over, and recycled it back to India as foreign media view on Modi! Media in and outside India worked in partnership with dubiously funded NGOs that targeted Modi. Anti-Modi groups outside India networked and campaigned as Coalition Against Genocide [CAG] against Modi. It openly claimed in May 2005 that it got the US “to deny visa to Modi”  for allowing the massacre of 2,000 Muslims [?]. The media stories were repudiated by the highest judiciary in India. But the media couldn’t care less. The short-sighted US visa denial– believed to be a foolish idea by most experts after Modi won — had placed Modi in the company of Slobodan Milosevic, a war criminal, and made him a hate figure….  (New Indian Express 29/5/15)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

 

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

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

199. 2000 booked for Saturday’s violence in Shamli (7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

203. 9 injured in communal clash in Begampura (7)

SURAT: Nine persons suffered minor injuries when groups of two communities clashed in Setranji Wad locality of Begampura area on Sunday afternoon. Police said that some scuffle over playing cricket led to stone-pelting by mobs from both communities. The injured were admitted to the New Civil Hospital and Burhani Hospital for treatment. They suffered injuries in stone-pelting. Police resorted to mild lathicarge to disperse the rioters and the situation was brought under control immediately. “It was a small clash between the communities which was controlled and the situation is peaceful now. People from one community were playing cricket while others objected to it and that led to the tussle,” said S M Patel, police inspector, Salabatpura police station. A group of youngsters had gathered at a house in the area for some function. They started playing cricket to while away time, sources informed. The ball hit a person from another community and people asked them to stop playing. Police have deployed bandobast in the area to avert any escalation. “We are registering a complaint and those responsible for the disturbance will be booked,” said Patel. Recently, city police commissioner Rakesh Asthana revived a 24-year old notification banning cricket on the roads as they led to communal clashes many times. (Times of India 18/5/15)

204. Eight injured in Himmatnagar communal clash (7)

PALANPUR: Eight persons were injured following a communal clash in Himmatnagar town of Sabarkantha district over a trivial issue late Tuesday night. The skirmish occurred in the Parbda locality of Himmatnagar when some people objected to a youth Anand Chauhan from smoking at a pan store. An angry Chauhan left the place and returned with his supporters carrying pipes and sharp weapons and bricks. The other group was also equipped with weapons and bricks which was used during the clash. K D Brhambhatt, police sub-inspector of the A-Division police station said at least eight persons sustained injuries in the clash. More police force was deployed in the area following the clash. Police have registered cross complaints from both the groups against a dozen people under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code. Since the accused are in the hospital no arrest could be made, said Brhambhatt, adding that the situation was well under control. Top police officials including superintendent of police Pravin Mal reached the spot and took stock of the situation, said sources. All eight injured are recuperating at the civil Hospital in Himmatnagar. (Times of India 21/5/15)

205. Ratlam: 3 Muslim youths held for assault on Hindu activist (7)

Bhopal: Nearly two years after a murderous assault on a Ratlam-based Hindu activist, the police have arrested three Muslim youths, including Rizwan Sherani, who was already in jail in connection with the murder of Bajrang Dal leader Kapil Rathod, who was shot dead in September 2014. Rizwan was a member of Ahl al-Suffah, a Ratlam-based Islamic proselytising and charity group that became active after Muzaffarnagar riots. A breakaway faction of this group was recently busted in the communally sensitive town for its members’ alleged affiliation to an Islamic State-linked Jihad cell planning strikes in India. Rajesh Kataria, who was then convener of Hindu Chetna Manch, was shot by motorbike-borne youths in Salakhedi on July 29, 2013. In his 40s, the right-wing activist survived the attempt on his life though he was hit by one bullet.Rizwan, who allegedly fired the shots while riding pillion, Sameer, alias Raja Barik Hanif Khan, 25, and Shahid Farid Khan, 32, were remanded in a day’s police custody by a court Thursday. Sameer, a resident of Kazipura, and Shahid, a resident of Sheranipura, had already been arrested. Their three-day remand ended on Thursday and they were remanded in further custody for a day. Rathod was involved in cow protection campaign. He and his employee were shot dead on September 27, 2013, a couple of hours after an attempt was made on the life of a Muslim Congress councillor. The town was brought under curfew that day after arson and rioting. Kataria had not named any suspects and the Station Road police had filed an FIR against unknown persons. The police said they got a clue about attack on Kataria from some people who are in jail in connection with the riots. (Indian Express 22/5/15)

206. Muzaffarnagar Riots: Hadoli Case Shifted to Sessions Court (7)

MUZAFFARNAGAR: A local court here has shifted to sessions court the Hadoli killing case of 2013 communal riots in which 25 people are facing trial.  Chief Judicial Magistrate Narender Kumar has directed the 25 accused to appear in Sessions court on June 3, the prosecution said.  One person was killed and several injured as rioters damaged property at Hadoli village under Bhorakala police station in the district on September 8, 2013. Police had filed charge sheet against 25 people in this case.  The case is related to the communal riots that rocked Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring districts, leaving 60 people dead while thousands of others were displaced.  (New Indian Express 23/5/15)

207. Nagaur clash death toll rises to five (7)

The death toll in a clash between two groups at Dangawas village of Nagaur has risen to five with a Dalit man, who was injured, dying of injuries in an Ajmer hospital on Saturday. Ganpat Ram, who had sustained serious injuries in the clash over a land dispute on May 14, was in a critical condition. His family members refused to take the body home since their demand of ordering a CBI investigation was not met. “His family members have refused to take the body. They are staging a dharna outside the mortuary demanding a CBI probe into the incident,” Jitendra Gangwani, station house office, Ajmer Kotwali police station, said. Superintendent of Police Nagaur Raghvendra Suhasa said the case was handed over to CID on Friday. The People’s Union for Civil Liberties has demanded a CBI investigation. “The government is yet to take any step in this regard. Local police station staff have not been suspended,” PUCL general secretary Kavita Srivastava said. Four persons — three from the Dalit community and one from the Jat community — were killed in the clash. The supporters of Kanaram Jat and Ratna Ram Meghwal, armed with sharp-edged weapons and guns, had clashed. While Rampal had died of a bullet injures, Ratna Ram, Pokar Ram and Pancha Ram had succumbed to injuries inflicted with other weapons. (The Hindu 23/5/15)

208. Hashimpura massacre: HC seeks UP govt response on NHRC plea (7)

New Delhi: Delhi High Court on Monday sought the response of Uttar Pradesh government on a plea by NHRC challenging a trial court’s decision to acquit 16 policemen of charges of murder and other crimes in the 1987 Hashimpura massacre case, in which 42 people were killed in Meerut city. A bench of justices G S Sistani and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal issued notice to the state government and sought its reply by July 21 on the plea of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which has sought ordering of a further probe into the massacre in the Hashimpura locality of Meerut. NHRC in its plea has sought that “registers, duty register, attendance registers, log-books and other documents relating to the names, duty roster, posting and connected relevant details of PAC personnel” of the platoon which was operating in that area on that day be placed before the court. It has also sought that the report of the CB-CID inquiry and the findings of the Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice (retd) Gyan Prakash which probed the massacre be also placed before the bench. The Commission has sought a number of other directions, including “initiation of disciplinary proceedings against all the concerned police officials”.It has prayed for laying down of guidelines to be followed by investigating agencies in cases of custodial killings and violence as well as a direction that “in cases of custodial violence, a presumption of guilt be made against the accused police officer that the injury and/or death was caused by the police officer having custody of the victim”.NHRC has also sought “separation of the investigative work of the police from the law and order functions” as well as carrying out of a judicial inquiry “immediately and mandatorily” in all cases of custodial death. Prior to NHRC, the Uttar Pradesh government as well as survivors and kin of the victims of the massacre have moved the court challenging the acquittal of the 16 policemen. On March 21, a trial court gave the benefit of doubt and acquitted 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel accused of killing 42 people in Meerut, saying lack of evidence has failed to establish their identification. Those acquitted in the case were Suresh Chand Sharma, Niranjan Lal, Kamal Singh, Budhi Singh, Basant Ballab, Kunwar Pal Singh, Budha Singh, Rambir Singh, Leela Dhar, Hambir Singh, Mokam Singh, Shami Ullaha, Sarwan Kumar, Jaipal Singh, Mahesh Prasad and Ram Dhayan. According to the prosecution, the PAC personnel had come to Hashimpura on May 22, 1987, and picked up about 50 Muslims as a congregation of 500 had gathered outside a mosque there. The victims were shot by the accused personnel and their bodies thrown into a canal, it had said, adding that 42 persons were declared to have perished in the massacre. The charge sheet was filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Ghaziabad, in 1996. 19 people were named as accused and charges for offences of murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence and conspiracy were framed against 17 of them by the court here in 2006, after the case was transferred to Delhi on a Supreme Court direction in September 2002. The 16 accused acquitted in the case are the ones still alive. Three other accused died during the trial.   (Zee News 25/5/15)

209. Delhi cops on high alert to combat communal flare-up (7)

NEW DELHI: Delhi Police officials are on their toes and have put sensitive areas on high alert to avoid any fallout of the Faridabad riots. Learning from past mistakes of not being able to handle communal tension, cops are now better prepared to avoid incidents like Trilokpuri or Bawana. A ‘Communal Riot Scheme’ has been prepared to handle riot-like situations. The plan highlights sensitive and communal areas, number of pickets deployed and anti-riot equipment in police stations, among other things. “Monday’s communal violence in Faridabad took place for around an hour. However, with Shab-e-barat approaching, border areas and sensitive places have been put on high alert and cops briefed accordingly,” a senior police officer said. Delhi Police said they will extend help to Faridabad police, if needed. The Communal Riot Scheme is divided into three stages — prevention, operational and post-riot. The first stage involves handling the situation at the micro level, including arranging meetings with peace committees, RWAs, mohalla committees and community liaison groups. Cops in plainclothes would be deployed at various places to keep a watch on rumours or exaggerated versions of real incidents. Apart from increased foot and mobile patrolling, new pickets would be set up in riot-prone areas. The operational stage would be put into operation when communal violence has flared up. This involves setting up of a special control room and mobile communication unit near the riot spot. Senior police officers would take stock of the situation and send forces to trouble spots. An ACP rank officer and an inspector would rush to the spot with anti-riot equipment to control law & order, manage the crowd and help in rescue operations. “This stage would also include arresting rumour mongers and criminals who try to exploit the situation. Cops will be deployed to keep surveillance over kerosene, petrol and chemical storage depots so that bombs aren’t made. Drones with cameras would be used to identify rooftops with bricks and stones. All police stations will keep a reserve force ready with riot gear, arms and ammunition,” said a senior police officer. In the final post-riot stage, the focus would be on cleaning up of the area, removal of the dead and maintaining peace. Peace committees would be formed and inter-religious activities would be held, like Hindus volunteering in a Muslim festival and vice versa. Supply of essential commodities, such as milk, vegetables and medical van, would be made available. (Times of India 29/5/15)

COMMUNALISM

 210. VHP slams US report on minorities (26)

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

211. VHP accuses officials for bovine smuggling (26)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

215. Fears about Modi government coming true: Yechury (26)

NEW DELHI: CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Sunday said three fears about the Narendra Modi government had come true in the very first year. Speaking to reporters at the end of the two-day meeting of CPM’s politburo, the first after he took over, Yechury said, “The aggressive pursuit of neo-liberal policies of economic reforms, the relentless onslaught on secular democratic foundations of the Indian republic by the sharpening of communal polarization, and the movement towards an authoritarian rule through the erosion of democratic institutions are all getting aggravated.” He specifically mentioned overhauling of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) where internationally reputed Indian historians were forced to quit from the advisory body. As for revamp of the CPM organization and work allocation among members of politburo and central committee, Yechury said discussions had taken place and the matter would be put before the Central committee for approval early next month. Though he refused to say which politburo member will get what work, sources said it was likely that former general secretary Prakash Karat will now edit party weekly ‘People’s Democracy’ and will be in charge of international affairs. Yechury only said that as general secretary, he would have far more responsibilities and could not edit the party weekly. Another likely change, a break from the past, is that more than one politburo or central committee member will be asked to look after one state. This could happen in case of heartland states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and even states where the party is losing ground. Yechury also objected to Tathagata Roy being appointed governor of Tripura. He said there were “apprehensions” that Roy may try to destabilize the only Left government in the country. He said, “BJP-RSS leaders are being appointed as governors. One such leader has been appointed as Tripura governor who has publicly stated his encouragement to hardcore Hindutva. This is a complete violation of the constitutional spirit.” Yechury said in case Roy followed “decorum of the post”, there would be no problem. “If it is violated we will oppose,” he said. (Times of India 18/5/15)

216. DEO ban on use of ‘Father’ in schools rolled back (26)

Raipur: Hours after The Indian Express reported that educational institutions run by Christian missionaries in some districts of Chhattisgarh had been asked by the administration to “ban the use of Father” in their schools, one district has withdrawn the order. On Thursday, The Indian Express had reported that the district education officer of Mahasamund had, in a circular issued on May 11, asked 14 missionary schools in the area to “immediately stop the use of Father for the head of the institution” and follow “pracharya” or “sir”. The letter was approved by the collector and a copy of the letter was marked to Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). But Mahasamund collector Umesh Agrawal claimed the “order was issued by mistake”. “When it came to my notice, I asked the education officer to withdraw it,” he said. Incidentally, Agrawal had defended the order Thursday: “There have been complaints about students being compelled to address teachers as Father. No one can compel anyone in this way.” Reacting to the order, Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal had said: “They are using the administration to destroy our institutions.” In February, Kanker district administration had issued a similar order and a copy of that order was sent to the district’s VHP offices as well. Last November, Catholic educational institutions in Bastar, reportedly under intense pressure from the VHP, had agreed that principals of their schools would be addressed as “pracharya”, or “up-pracharya”, or “sir”. (Indian Express 16/5/15)

217. If You Are Dying Without Eating Beef, Go to Pakistan: Naqvi (26)

NEW DELHI: Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Thursday justified ban on cow slaughter and asked all those who want to eat beef to go to Pakistan. “It is not about loss or profit… it is an issue of faith and belief. It is a sensitive issue for the Hindus,” Naqvi said at ‘Manthan’ conclave organised by TV channel Aaj Tak. “Those who are dying without eating beef, can go to Pakistan or Arab countries or any other part of world where it is available,” he said. “Even Muslims are against it…” he contended. Naqvi was countered by AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi who asked whether the central government would impose blanket ban on beef across India, especially in states like Goa, Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala where a large number of people eat this kind of meat. On the issue of backwardness among Muslims, Naqvi said the Narendra Modi government was taking steps to eradicate poverty among the minorities. “It is a fact that Muslims have remained away from development. Various social security schemes started by our government would help Muslims in a big way,” he added. (The New Indian Express 22/5/17)

218. Ram Temple will be Completed During this Government’s Tenure: VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi

Jalandhar:  Construction work for Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya would start “soon” and be “completed during this tenure” of the present NDA government, controversial VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi  said on Friday. “The construction work for Ram Mandir at Ayodhya would start soon. It would be completed during the tenure of the current NDA government,” she told reporters at the sidelines of BJP Dalit Morcha National Executive meet. She said the final decision in this regard would be taken in the two-day meeting of the VHP’s Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal.”The two-day Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal meet starts on 25th of this month at Haridwar. Final decision about Ram Mandir’s construction would be taken in this meeting,” Ms Sadhvi said. Asked about her controversial remarks over Salman Khan’s bail in hit-and-run-case, Ms Sadhvi insisted, “Malegaon blasts accused Sadhvi Pragya was denied bail, rape victim nurse Aruna did not get justice for 42 years and she died, how come Salman got the bail so easily.” Ms Sadhvi had earlier allegedly said that Salman was granted bail as he was a “Khan”.Ms Sadhvi said she was not rapped by her organisation for the remarks. She also criticised the BJP-SAD government in Punjab for “discriminating against” Dalits. “The SAD-BJP government in Punjab discriminates against Dalits. This discrimination is not restricted to common man only but it’s meted out to ministers as well,” she claimed. “Sarwan Singh Phillaur, a Dalit minister, was asked to resign after his name appeared in the Enforcement Directorate investigation in the drug smuggling case. But another minister Bikram Singh Majithia was given ‘clean chit’ despite being summoned by the agency for interrogation in the case,” Ms Sadhvi said. (NDTV 23/5/15)

219. HC notices to Rajasthan govt over surya namaskar (26)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan High Court on Monday issued notices to the state education department on the issue of compulsory ‘surya namaskar’ introduced in schools by the Raje government. The division bench of Justice Ajit Singh and J K Ranka issued notices on a petition by Ajmat – a- Rasool Foundation challenging the diktat of the education department of making surya namaskar, yoga, singing Vande Mataram compulsory in schools during the assembly. Earlier, the single bench of Justice Mohammad Rafiqe had transferred the petition to a double bench. The petition said the education department through a notification on February 15 this year had made yoga and Vande Mataram compulsory in all schools in the state. Accordingly the 20 minutes assembly time has been divided into three segments. Under which five minutes have been allotted for singing the national anthem and national song Vande Mataram, 10 minutes have been allotted for yoga, including surya namaskar and the last five minutes for news in Hindi and English. The petition said making the singing of Vande Mataram and making surya namaskar compulsory in schools is untenable in a secular country like India with its diversity of religious faith and believes. It militates against the tenants of some religions and needs to be struck down.The notice is returnable by May 28. (Times of India 26/5/15)

220. PM Narendra Modi pays tribute to Veer Savarkar on his 132nd birth anniversary (26)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday paid tribute to freedom activist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar on his birth anniversary.  Born in 1883, Savarkar is credited for coining the term Hindutva. He was said to have openly endorsed the idea of Hindu Rashtra and opposed the Quit India moment. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajdeep Sardesai and many others have taken it to Twitter to pay homage to Veer Savarkar on his 132nd birth anniversary, making #VeerSavarkar trend in India. (Indian Express 28/5/15)

TERRORISM

 

221. 17 Suspected SIMI Activists Acquitted (12)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

227. Pakistan, Afghan intelligence sign landmark deal (12)

Islamabad: Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Afghan intelligence outfit National Directorate of Security (NDS) have signed a landmark deal for cooperation aimed at curbing terrorism. The agreement signed in Kabul some time last week, was officially announced by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) late Monday night on Twitter, Dawn online reported on Tuesday. “MoU signed by ISI and NDS includes intelligence sharing, complementary and coordinated intel operations on respective sides,” the ISPR tweeted. The first-of-its-kind deal between the two intelligence agencies followed a landmark visit by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and ISI Chief Lt General Rizwan Akhtar to Kabul on May 12 during which the Pakistan government denounced Taliban and said that future violence by the militant group would be treated as terrorism. Under the agreement, the two intelligence agencies would cooperate in counter-terrorism operations. An essential element of the accord is a provision for joint probe of the terrorism suspects. The signing of the ISI-NDS agreement is the latest in a series of steps that Pakistan and Afghanistan have taken since the installation of the National Unity government in Kabul. (Business Standard 19/5/15)

228. Pak anti-terrorism court indicts 106 for Christian couple lynching (12)

Lahore: An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) indicted 106 suspects on Thursday in connection with their alleged role in the lynching of a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan last year. Kot Radha Kishan is located some 60 kilometres southwest of Lahore. The court, according to the Dawn, has also issued summons to witnesses to appear on Friday to record their statements against the suspects involved in the lynching case of Shama and Shahzad. The indictment came after police submitted a charge sheet against the suspects before the ATC in Lahore today. The charge sheet states that Maulvi Mohammad Hussain, Maulvi Arshad Baloch and Maulvi Noorul Hassan were involved in persistent provocative speech against the couple which led to the assembly of 400 people who then burnt Shama and Shahzad alive. The court has also held Yousaf Gujjar, the owner of a brick kiln where the couple was beaten to death, responsible. The enraged mob beat the Christian couple to death in November last year for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Holy Quran and burnt their bodies in the brick kiln where they worked. (ANI with inputs) (New Kerala 21/5/15)

229. ISIS terrorists planned to attack India, says NIA (12)

NEW DELHI: For the first time an Indian agency has said on record that the Islamic State (ISIS) has designs on India and that its four recruits from Mumbai’s suburb Kalyan planned to carry out attacks in the country as well. It has also hinted that the self-appointed Caliphate may have developed links with anti-India terror outfits. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) which filed a chargesheet against ISIS recruit Kalyan youth Areeb Majeed on Wednesday has said in the documents filed with the court that the terrorist outfit with help from some other terror organisations planned to recruit from India and among NRIs to carry out attacks not just in Iraq and Syria but also in India and other countries. The chargesheet, while detailing how the four youths travelled to Iraq on the pretext of pilgrimage and then disappeared to join ISIS in Syria, says: “After joining ISIL (ISIS), all four persons underwent the basic training for handling of weapons and fire arms and were actively involved in terrorist acts in Iraq and Syria. The input received further indicated that ISIL, in conspiracy with certain other terrorist organisations, was keen not only on resident Indian citizens joining the outfit but was also trying to recruit non-resident Indians settled abroad for participating in the so-called holy Jihad not only in Iraq and Syria but also in India and other countries.” Until now both the government, including home minister Rajnath Singh, and intelligence agencies played down the threat from ISIS saying India was not on its immediate target and that there was no traction for its ideology in the country. Hardnosed intelligence analysts felt that the confidence was rooted more in political correctness. NIA chargesheet appears to validate their worst fears. The chargesheet goes on to mention the threat twice. Naming the four—Majeed, Fahad Sheikh, Aman Tandel and Shaheem Tanki—the chargesheet says, “(The four) entered into a criminal conspiracy between January 2014 to November 2014 with the common objective and intention to join Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), a banned International Terrorist Organization and participate in terrorist acts not only in Iraq and Syria but also in India amongst other countries.” Detailing how a full-fledged network existed to help willing Muslim youths reach Syria to join ISIS, the chargesheet details various names, including that of two women Tahira Bhatt and Abu Fatima, who helped the youths at various stages to reach Syria. “In this connection (to join ISIS), Majeed tried to contact people from different countries like Australia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, America, who all guided him to reach Turkey and contact them thereafter. Prominent amongst them were Abu Rami from Iraq and Abu Falluja from Turkey,” the chargesheet says. Other prominent names that the chargesheet mentions as part of the network that helps recruits reach Syria are that of Afghan national Rahman Dawlaty and one Kuwati national, Abdulla Hadi Abdul Rehman Alenezi, who gave $1000 to the four youths in Iraq to help them reach Syria. One Ali, sympathiser of ISIL, ferried them to Mosul. It was Rahman Dawlaty, Tahirah Bhatt and Abu Fatima that the youths contacted for arranging “Tazkiya” (recommendation for joining ISIL). After ISIL captured Iraq-Syria border, the youths were taken by Abu Muhammed Iraqi, the then Aameer of Iraq and Syria to Hudood Centre (registration centre of ISIL where persons joining from outside Syria have to be registered) in Raqqah City of Syria. It was from here that the youths began their terror activities. (Times of India 22/5/15)

230. Bangladesh bans Islamist group linked to blogger killings (12)

Dhaka: Bangladesh today banned an Islamist militant outfit that is believed to be behind the gruesome hacking deaths of three secular bloggers in recent months that have evoked outrage in the country and across the globe. The Bangladesh government banned Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) for its militant and anti-state activities with the home ministry publishing a gazette notification in this regard. It is the sixth such organisation to be outlawed for militant activities. We had taken the decision to ban the outfit earlier this week on the basis of a police report…we are implementing this decision today,” State Minister for Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told reporters. The ban comes at a time when three bloggers and writers have been killed in less than three months and the Ansarullah Bangla Team is suspected to be behind the killings. Earlier this month, machete-wielding masked men hacked to death 33-year-old Ananta Bijoy Das, a secular blogger, in Sylhet city. Assailants in February had killed 45-year old Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-born US national, here while his wife narrowly escaped the attack. A month after Roy’s killing, another blogger Washiqur Rahman was murdered in similar fashion in Dhaka but people in the neighbourhood nabbed two suspected killers from the scene and handed them over to police. Police has so far arrested several activists of ABT in connection with the murders. Investigators earlier said they suspected that the outfit was closely linked to al-Qaeda. Das’ murder was claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). The terror group made the claim in a post on justpaste.it and ABT tweeted a link to the post. Ten prominent Bangladeshis, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s adviser H T Imam and Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University Professor Arefin Siddique, recently received death threats and police suspected the ABT send the threat letters in the name of al-Qaeda. Ansarullah Bangla Team is the sixth organisation to be outlawed in Bangladesh with the other five being, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Harkatul Jihad Bangladesh (Huji), Jagrata Muslim Janata of Bangladesh and Shahadat-e Al-Hikma. Four members of ABT outfit have given confessional statements in blogger Rajib Haider murder case. Haider was the first victim of the suspected Islamists who killed him in 2013…. (Deccan Herald 26/5/15)

231. Pakistan ‘haven’ for several Islamist terror groups: US report (12)

Washington: Pakistan is a “haven” for several Islamist terror groups and successive Pakistani governments are widely believed to have supported some outfits as proxies in the country’s conflicts with its neighbours including India, a US Congressional research report has said. The report, dated May 14, notes that Pakistan’s security services are seen by many independent analysts to be too willing to make distinctions between what they consider to be “good” and “bad” Islamist extremist groups, maintaining supportive relations with Afghan insurgents and anti-India militant groups operating from Pakistani territory. “Pakistan is a haven for numerous Islamist extremist and terrorist groups, and successive Pakistani governments are widely believed to have tolerated and even supported some of these as proxies in Islamabad’s historical tensions and conflicts with neighbours,” said the latest report by the independent Congressional Research Service (CRS) on Pakistan. The periodic CRS report on Pakistan is not an official report of the United States Congress, but prepared by noted experts on the issue to keep the lawmakers informed about the current state of affairs in Pakistan, the bilateral relationship and ties with its neighbours. Noting the key steps taken by the Narendra Modi-led government in the last one year, including the decision to invite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony and sending Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to Islamabad on a SAARC Yatra, the report states that “serious tension” remains between the two South Asian neighbours. “Serious tensions between Pakistan and India persist, and many observers see the Pakistani Army obstructing the efforts of Pakistani business interests to deepen commercial trade and other engagement with India, seeking resolution of territorial disputes as a prerequisite,” said the CRS report, authored by K Alan Kronstadt, specialist in South Asian Affairs. According to the report, Pakistan’s more recent and apparently energetic development of short-range, nuclear-armed missiles — ostensibly in response to India’s purported “cold start” doctrine of rapid preemptive strikes with conventional forces — has raised fears about negative effects on crisis stability in the event of open warfare between Pakistan and India. “The security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, materials, and technologies continues to be a top-tier US concern, especially as Islamist militants have expanded their geographic influence there,” the report said. Pakistan, it said, is among the leading recipients of US foreign assistance in the post-9/11 period, with Congress appropriating more than USD 18 billion in such assistance during 2002-2015. This includes USD 10.5 billion in economic, development and humanitarian aid, and over USD 7.6 billion in security-related aid, it said. (DNA 28/5/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

238. Court extends custody of Maoist leader, aide till May 21 (12)

PUNE: Senior leader of the banned CPI (Maoist) outfit, Murali Kannambally, and his aide C P Ismail will remain in custody of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), Pune till May 21. A sessions court here on Friday extended their police custody remand by six days, primarily to facilitate the ongoing investigations by the ATS into the network and activities of the arrested duo under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other penal provisions. Kannambally and Ismail were arrested by the ATS on May 8 from Talegaon Dabhade, around 33km from here. On May 9, the court of additional sessions judge S V Mane had ordered their remand in ATS custody for seven days. In-charge of additional sessions court judge D M Deshmukh observed in his order, “Considering the nature and gravity of offence, more particularly, prima facie it appears that the accused are office bearers of the Communist Party (Maoist) i.e. Naxalite group banned by the Government of India. It appears from remand report that accused no 1 (Kannambally) is posing himself by different names. His activities are serious ones.” The court further observed, “Prima facie, it appears that accused are involved in anti-national activities. Considering the area, more particularly, various states in which the said organization (CPI-Maoist) is working, it is necessary to remand the accused to police custody because if sufficient police custody is not granted, it will be difficult for the investigating officer to bust the network of the accused and their organization. Accused are remanded to police custody till May 21.” (Times of India 16/5/15)

239. Three police jawans, 2 Naxals killed in Bastar encounter (12)

Raipur: Three jawans and two Maoists were on Sunday killed in an encounter between security forces and rebels in a forest in Chhattisgarh’s south Bastar district of Bijapur. “Acting on a tip off on presence of large number of ultras in Mirtur area, a joint search party comprising special task force (STF) and district force (DF) personnel was dispatched to the spot for combing operation. A gun battle ensued between them when the rebels opened indiscriminate fire on the search party,” additional director general of police (ADG) (Naxal operation) R.K. Vij said. While a DF jawan and a STF trooper were killed on the spot, one DF personnel succumbed to his injuries due to alleged delay in arranging proper treatment, a senior district police officer told this newspaper. “A helicopter was sent to the area to airlift the injured jawan Payku Ram Poyam of DF. However, the helicopter returned without being able to airlift the injured and the dead due to lack of landing facilities in the area,” the police officer said requesting anonymity. Besides Payku, two others jawans, identified as Moti Ram of DF and Sita Ram Kunjam of STF, were also killed in the encounter. Mr Vij said bodies of two rebels were also recovered at the encounter site. The police claimed that several Naxals were also injured in the face-off, but were rescued by their colleagues, who fled into the jungle after the encounter. (Asian Age 18/5/15)

240. Maoist couple remanded to judicial custody till June 10 (12)

Kochi: A court in Ernakulam on Wednesday remanded Maoist couple Roopesh and Shyna, accused of providing shelter to Maoist leader Mallaraja Reddy and his wife Suguna, to judicial custody till June 10. Roopesh and Shyna were remanded by Additional Sessions Judge M Nandakumar and sent to district jail in Kakkanad here, police said adding the proceedings were held incamera. They were brought here from the Central Prison in Coimbatore where they had been lodged after their arrest there in a joint operation by police of southern states earlier this month. While producing them, Kerala Police sought custody of the two Maoists, slapped with offences under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The court will hear the police’s plea on May 22, police said. The judge allowed the couple, who had gone underground following Reddy’s arrest in 2007, to meet their children briefly in the court premises. The children later alleged that the Kerala police had threatened to eliminate their parents while taking them to the forests for collecting evidences. Earlier, the Maoist couple raised slogans for protection of Western Ghats and tribal rights when they were being taken to the court amidst tight security. Roopesh, wanted in at least 20 cases in Kerala, along with Shyna, Anup, Veeramani and Kannan were arrested on May 4 at Karumathampatti near Coimbatore by a joint team of Andhra, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu police. (Zee News 21/5/15)

241. Salwa Judum re-launch fizzles out, prayer meeting on May 25 (12)

RAIPUR: Amid opposition from political parties, the move to revive a ‘Salwa Judum’ like people’s movement against Maoists in tribal Bastar region of Chhattisgarh has fizzled out with organisers now saying that they would organise a meeting on May 25 to pay homage to victims of Naxalite attack in Jheeram Ghati in May 2013. Slain Congress leader Mahendra Karma’s son Chhavindra Karma and other leaders had announced on May 5 that they would convene a meeting at Faraspal in Dantewada district on May 25- the third anniversary of Bastar massacre- to chalk out strategies to re-launch a people’s movement against Maoist rebels. Leaders of erstwhile Salwa Judum had also supported the move. While Maoists threatened a bloody backlash against all those trying to revive any movement against them, mainstream political parties did not come out in open to support the proposed campaign fearing violence and bloodshed in the tribal region. Late Mahendra Karma’s son and two former Salwa Judum leaders Chaitram Atami and Sukhdev Tati formed a ‘Vikas sangharsh samiti’ to fight for the development of Bastar. In the process, they sought to project the proposed movement as the second phase of salwa judum. “We are organising a meeting at Faraspal on May 25 to pay homage to Mahendra karma and others who were killed in Maoist attack in 2013,” said Chavindra Karma. The May 5 announcement to re-launch a salwa judum triggered protests in Bastar. Maoists began organising meetings to mobilize people against the proposed campaign while political parties including local BJP, Congress, Communist party of india (CPI) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) went public against the call to revive it. Slain Congress leader Mahendra karma’s spouse Devki Karma is a Congress legislator while his sons are also active members of the opposition Congress. After the announcement came, AICC general secretary BK Hariprasad announced that his party has nothing to with the campaign and it was not in favour any such campaign. (Times of India 23/5/15)

242. Kerala Government to Challenge HC on ‘Being Maoist Not a Crime’ Ruling (12)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Government of Kerala has said that it will approach a division bench of the state high court to withdraw the ruling of a single judge bench that has said that being a Maoist is not a crime. On Friday, a single bench of the Kerala High Court had criticized the state police for arresting a person for being a Maoist. The court had then ordered the police to pay compensation to the individual for harassing him. According to reports, Kerala’s Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said the state government would appeal against the verdict on grounds that it would be difficult to enforce the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act under the circumstances. The state government is also likely to challenge the Rs. 1 lakh compensation to be paid to the arrested individual as ordered by the court. Meanwhile, the Ernakulam additional sessions court has approved a request of an internal security investigation team to interrogate arrested Maoist activists Roopesh and his wife Shyna. (New Indian Express 25/5/15)

243. Area domination passe, forces to mount intel-backed ops to counter Naxals (12)

NEW DELHI: Widespread combing operations and troop-intensive area domination are out and intelligence-based operations in, according to the new tactical policy being adopted by security forces to counter Maoist guerillas. Having suffered several reverses in the past six months while conducting area domination exercises, forces engaged in anti-Naxal operations have been asked not to move in large groups. In fact, there is a debate in the security establishment whether area domination exercises serve any purpose at all given the kind of war the forces are engaged in. “A conscious decision has been taken that forces will now make precision strikes in small packs rather than go across a wide area in large numbers. It merely exposes the forces to attacks by Maoists and there is always the danger of walking into an ambush as large movements are easily spotted,” said a senior officer from CRPF, the largest force engaged in anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha. In December last year, CRPF suffered its worst casualty in four years when 14 of its men were killed in an ambush near Kasalpada village in Sukma, Chhattisgarh. After the ambush, CRPF tactics were questioned. A 2,000-strong team derived from six battalions had ventured out in Maoist strongholds in Sukma on a search and destroy operation covering several square kilometers over 15 days. On the 16th day, a team of 200 soldiers was ambushed by Maoists in an open field. “Such massive movements over a long period are hard to miss. Moreover, in their strongholds, Maoists have great intelligence network. Every movement of soldiers is reported to them. Also, such exercises do not achieve any purpose. When you move in large numbers in a Maoist stronghold, they retreat. When you pull out, they come back. That’s no area domination,” said another CRPF officer. Sources asserted that area domination could happen only when administration in the form of roads, schools and hospitals moved in. “Where there is no state, there can be no area domination. We can’t populate such widely spread areas with soldiers. It’s a futile exercise unless there is a road network that can be used to move fast and converge to clear areas,” said the officer. (Times of India 28/5/15)

TRAFFICKING

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

249. 25 Myanmarese nationals arrested in West Tripura (1)

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

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

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

251. Jharkhand: Minor girl kept chained allegedly by stepfather for 11 months (1)

Ranchi: A 14-year-old tribal girl was rescued from a house in a town on the outskirts of Ranchi, where she had allegedly been kept chained in a dark room over the last 11 months. The rescue at the Chanho Block house was carried out on Saturday evening by officials of the Jharkhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, whose member said the ordeal was unprecedented in its brutality. The girl was chained allegedly by her stepfather. “Some trafficked Jharkhand girls have been kept in similar condition by their employers and placement agents in Delhi and Mumbai in the past. But we haven’t come across any such case in Jharkhand before,” said Sanjay Mishra, senior member, JSCPCR. Jharkhand has seen several cases of child abuse within families, which are increasing in frequency, but cases of brutal treatment at home are rare. The girl’s stepfather, however, has said that the minor was mentally retarded, which prompted him to keep her in shackles. Hindustan Times cannot disclose the father’s name since a first information report is yet to be lodged with the police. The offender, in his mid-forties, is also an alleged habitual drunkard. The girl was kept in shackles throughout the day and night, allowed only to eat meals served in the dark room at the backyard of the house, members of the rescuing team said. “She did not appear to be mentally-challenged. I asked her if she wants to study and she said she always wanted to go to school but was stopped by her stepfather,” said Mishra. The minor has been sent to the Ranchi Institute of Neuro-Psychiatry and Allied Sciences (RINPAS) for medical tests. The child district protection officer  has been directed to probe the case and share his findings with the commission within 24 hours, JSCPCR members said. The minor has marks of iron chains on her wrists and legs; however, there were no major injury marks on her body, eliminating chances of physical or sexual abuse, said Mishra. “As of now we have not diagnosed any serious mental ailment in her. However, she is under stress due to the torture she has been subjected to,” said Dr AK Nag, medical superintendent, RINPAS. The rescued minor will be sent to a government school if RINPAS says she doesn’t require medical attention. However, in case she is found suffering from mental ailments, she would be given free treatment at RINPAS, commission members said. RINPAS has sought a time of 15 days to submit a detailed report on her medical condition. Legal actions would be taken against the alleged offender if the girl is found to be mentally stable, JSCPCR officials said. (Hindustan Times 17/5/15)

252. Teenaged girls top missing persons list, trafficking angle being probed (1)

KOLHAPUR: The district police were unable to trace about 23% of the total missing persons last year; most of whom were girls. Of the nearly 1,500 persons reported missing, 39 girls aged between 7 and 14 years are still to be found. Data with Kolhapur police shows that a total of 1,498 persons were reported missing in 2014. Police managed to trace 1,150 persons but 348 persons are still missing. Most of those still missing are teenage girls. More children aged between 14 and 18 years are reported missing, in which the number of girls is more than the boys. Government data shows that over 53,000 children were reported missing in the state in 2014. The number of missing persons has dropped from 65,000 in 2013 and 90,654 in 2012. Officials told TOI that immediately after they get a missing person complaint, they contact other police stations from the state and share the information. “We follow the procedure set up by the government and take follow-up of the case. We circulate the information with the pictures of the missing persons. Their posters are pasted on the walls of all police stations, at public places,” said an official. Social activists and people working with rescued children said the main reasons for fleeing from home include fear of studies, family dispute, love affairs, scolding by parents and peer pressure. There are also chances that organised gangs may be involved in kidnapping and sex trafficking; a primary reason due to which many girls are yet untraceable, activists said. The police trace the children and take them for counseling to the district child welfare committee (CWC). The committee members told TOI that teenage boys run away from home to earn money and want to do get some thrill in the world. Teenage girls are often reported missing because they have eloped with someone. Many girls from this age group are untraceable and activists suspect the involvement of a human trafficking gang. Along with tracing the missing children, the aim of police should be to tackle the issue from roots. Head of CWC Priyadarshani Chorage said, “There is a rise in the number of children missing and running away from home. The children under the age of seven are reported missing due to fights with parents or such petty reasons. There are also possibilities that these children are abducted and used for human trafficking.” She said that whenever a missing case is reported with the police station, the officials inform them after registering FIR. We immediately update the information on websites designed to track the missing children. “We counsel the child and find out the reason behind running away from home and try to find out a solution. We counsel the parents so that their child does not run away again,” she said. The National Human Rights Commission suggests that the government must identify ‘run away children’, ‘abandoned children’, ‘neglected children’ and ‘vulnerable children’ and take care of them accordingly. Schools should introduce photo identity cards of children and all the data must be documented. Local administration should take initiative in this regard. Schools should embark on a programme on empowering children on their rights, legal strengths and defence mechanisms. Social activist Dilip Pise said, “Police are doing a good job by finding more than 50% of the missing persons. After registering an FIR, police launch a search operation but as days pass by, they do not take follow-ups. For this purpose, there should be a special cell at every police station that will only deal with the missing persons.” (Times of India 19/5/15)

253. Globalisation led to rise in human trafficking: SHRC chief (1)

KOCHI: Kerala State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) Chairperson J.B. Koshy said on Monday that economic impact of globalisation had pushed people to migrate and made them victims of different kinds of trafficking. Inaugurating a seminar on human trafficking organised by the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he said the reasons for increase in human trafficking were commercial demand of sex and human organs, and greed for money. Poverty and lack of educational and economic opportunities also led women to voluntarily migrate and involuntarily get into sex trafficking. He said that studies had identified the Internet as the single biggest facilitator of commercial sex trade. Mr. Koshy said corrupt and inadequately trained police officers could be complicit in sex trafficking. The aim of the traffickers was to turn a human being into a slave. The perpetrators employed tactics that could lead to “the psychological consequence of helplessness” for the victims – they would find themselves in an “abusive situation” the escape from which would be difficult and dangerous. He said forced marriage had also become a part of sex trafficking. Child trafficking for forced marriage was simply another manifestation of trafficking. Labour trafficking took place when migrant works were pushed into forced labour. The SHRC chief said laws such as Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, Protection of Child Labour Act, and Foreigners Act were intended to prevent human trafficking. In fact, the government had taken a lot of measures to prevent human trafficking. A regional task force had also been constituted on the basis of the SAARC convention on the human trafficking of women and children besides implementing a comprehensive scheme for establishing integrated anti-human trafficking units in 385 vulnerable places in the country, he pointed out. (The Hindu 19/5/15)

254. Debt-ridden farmers ‘sell’ their children in MP (1)

MOHANPURA: Lal Singh was desperate. The farmer from Mohanpura village in Madhya Pradesh had seen unseasonably heavy rains and hailstorms destroy crop after crop, while he fell deeper into debt. Finally, last August, with no way to feed his family, Singh felt he had only one choice: He sold his two sons to a shepherd for a year of labour, in exchange for Rs 35,000. “I was in no position to repay the debt and needed more money to make ends meet and plant a further crop,” Singh said in an interview in Mohanpura. He made the decision, he said, despite knowing “it was illegal and they could be abused and forced to work in cruel conditions.” Worsening crop failures, brought on by extreme weather, are leading to increasing financial desperation in Madhya Pradesh – and a rash of suicides and child trafficking, officials say. According to Rajnish Shrivastava, the district collector of Harda district, authorities rescued five children from forced labour in April, all from Khargone and Harda districts. Officials believe there could be many other cases of farmers trading their children for money, he said. “It is a matter of concern that farmers have been forced to sell their kids to repay their debts,” he said. “We can’t allow children to be abused and trafficked in this way.” Eight months after being sold into labour, Singh’s children were among the five rescued, Shrivastava said. Sumit, 12, and Amit, 11, fled from the shepherd and were taken to a local shelter, according to officials. Initially reluctant to return to their family for fear of how their parents would react, the boys are now back home, officials said. “Our job was to look after the sheep and other animals,” Amit told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “(The shepherd) thrashed us over trivial issues. We were not given even two meals a day. As things became intolerable we took courage and fled.” Authorities have ordered an investigation, while the shepherds who allegedly bought the five rescued children have been charged with the unlawful confinement of children and are awaiting trial, Shrivastava said. According to Vishnu Jaiswal, director of the Harda branch of children’s charity Childline, officials from his charity and from the government will visit the rescued children’s families from time to time to ensure they are being well looked after. “Trading our children was wrong but we were forced to do this just to stay alive,” Sumit and Amit’s mother, Manibai, said in an interview. “Otherwise, like many other farmers, we too would have been forced to commit suicide.”.. (Times of India 21/5/15)

255. Massive spurt in trafficking along Nepal border (1)

NEW DELHI: A “massive” spurt in human trafficking instances in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Nepal has prompted security agencies to issue an alert along the open India-Nepal border. The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), mandated to guard this 1,751km long frontier and also collect intelligence on suspicious activities, has apprehended about 50 young girls and boys who were allegedly being trafficked along this border after April 25, the day when the strong earthquake hit Nepal and eastern parts of India. The SSB has caught about 15 suspected traffickers in less than a month’s time — 10 Indians and five Nepalese — who were making these young boys and girls cross the border illegally, which the security agencies believe could be for a variety of purposes like indulging in flesh trade, forced labour, beggary and illegal working as domestic helps among others. They suspect that some of them may be victims of the quake and local police of these areas are carrying out investigation in these cases. “We are witnessing a massive spurt in trafficking incidents along the Nepal border post the quake. The numbers have drastically shot up. Our units, especially along areas where Bihar and Uttar Pradesh touch the border, are apprehending an increasing number of young boys and girls from both identified crossing routes and illegal tracts. “We have asked all our border units to be on alert and keep a special eye on suspicious movement from both sides,” SSB director general B D Sharma told PTI. What has worried the agencies more is that two young Uzbeki girls were detained from an “illegal” border crossing area near Bihar’s Raxaul on Saturday, as till now youngsters of either Indian or Nepalese nationality were being nabbed. Confirming that the vigil has been heightened further after the apprehension of the Uzbekistan women, the DG said SSB commanders on field have been asked to increase patrols and mount additional surveillance. “We had apprehensions that human trafficking incidents could go up in the border areas post the earthquake and that has come true with these numbers,” he said. Keeping in mind this exigency, SSB formations, immediately after the quake, were asked to conduct some special training modules for troops to effectively check trafficking. “Our sectors in Ranikhet, Lucknow, Patna, Siliguri and Guwahati have already got in touch with anti-trafficking NGOs on both the sides to clamp down on the menace,” Sharma said. A report prepared in this regard reveals that a large number of alleged trafficking victims were apprehended by SSB personnel along Raxaul and Jogbani in Bihar, Rupaidiha and Mahrajganj in Uttar Pradesh and Jhulaghat in Uttarakhand.Among those apprehended by the force, 48 are boys and 14 females who are in the age group of 10-20 years of age. The two Uzbeki women held on Saturday are in the age group of 23-25 years, a senior SSB official said. “All of these have been handed over to local police who have registered cases and are probing,” the official said. The report reveals that trafficking incidents started to rise from around May 2, about a week after the quake. (Times of India 24/5/15)

256. Malaysian forensics teams dig up graves at traffickers’ camp (1)

Malaysian forensics teams exhumed a body from a shallow grave Tuesday at an abandoned jungle camp used by human traffickers, the first of what police predicted would be more grim findings as they search through a cluster of illicit hideouts near the border with Thailand. Authorities say there are 139 suspected graves in the mountainous jungle where northern Malaysia meets southern Thailand, a remote area that trafficking syndicates used as a transit point to hold migrants and refugees. Most were believed to be members of Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority and impoverished migrants from Bangladesh. “Forensics teams have found one human body so far,” said Mohammad Bahar Alias, a senior police official from northern Perlis state. Digging continued at other graves, which police said were marked by sticks or stones. “There are graves all over this area.” Malaysian police took journalists to one of 28 abandoned camps found after a regional crackdown was launched on human trafficking earlier this month. The camp, reached after a 2 hour hike up a steep jungle path, appeared to have been abandoned a while ago, police said. A jungle prison remained that included at least two large wooden pens wrapped with barbed wire. “These structures were believed to be used as human cages,” said Mohammad Bahar. He said the camp may have held up to 300 people. It also contained a watch tower and a cooking area littered with dishes and pots. During the tour, authorities pointed out what looked like the skeletal remains of a jaw on the ground. “We think it belongs to a human,” said Mohammad Bahar. A tiny orange slipper was partly buried on a nearby slope, indicating that children were also held at the camp, which could hold at least 300 people, he said. A suspected grave site was about 100 meters (100 yards) away. The discoveries in the northern Malaysian state of Perlis follow similar revelations earlier this month in Thailand, where police unearthed dozens of bodies from shallow graves on the Thai side of the border. Thai police Maj. Gen. Puthichart Ekkachan said 36 bodies were found there in seven abandoned camps. The discoveries have exposed hidden networks of jungle camps run by human smugglers, who have for years held countless desperate people captive while extorting ransoms from their families. Most of the victims were part of a wave of people who fled their homelands to reach countries like Malaysia, where they hoped to find work or live freely… (Indian Express 26/5/15)

CORRUPTION

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

262. Speed up bar bribery case probe: Mani (5)

KOCHI: Finance Minister K.M. Mani has sought speedy completion of the ongoing probe into the bar bribery case. Talking to media persons here on his return after a foreign trip on Sunday, Mr. Mani said the need of the hour was to complete the investigation at the earliest and bring out the truth. While refusing to the comment on the observations by KPCC vice president V.D. Satheesan, he sought to agree to the views expressed by senior Congress leader A.K. Antony on corruption. ‘‘Anybody can raise allegations of corruption but the focus should be on probing them and bringing out the truth. Also, stern action should be taken against the guilty,’’ he said. To another query, he said there was no need at all to postpone the United Democratic Front (UDF) zonal meetings to another date. Regarding the procurement of natural rubber, Mr. Mani said the process was slated to begin in June at a price of Rs.150 a kg. The Finance Minister denied reports on lapses in procurement of paddy and said an additional fund of Rs.50 crore would be allocated for the purpose in June. (The Hindu 18/5/15)

263. ACB summons for Pawar, Tatkare in irrigation scam (5)

Mumba: The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) recently sent summons to former deputy chief minister of state Ajit Pawar and former irrigation minister Sunil Tatkare asking them to be present at the Worli headquarters for questioning them in the multi-crore irrigation scam. Mr Tatkare confirmed to this newspaper that he has received the summons and will “reply to it.” Mr Pawar, sources say, has informed the ACB through his office that he is out of Maharashtra at the moment. He has also promised to cooperate with the probe. Officials related to the irrigation department were allegedly responsible for a massive cost escalation in irrigation projects in the Konkan region. As per the complaint filed by AAP leader Anjali Damania all norms laid down were violated to make money through kickbacks while granting approvals for the Kondhane, Kalu and Balganga irrigation projects in the Konkan region. (Asian Age 20/5/15)

264. Delhi govt removes CM’s photo from adverts (5)

New Delhi: The Delhi government’s anti-corruption advertisements featuring chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, have been removed following recent Supreme Court orders, and replaced with posters showing the success of the anti-graft helpline 1031. The state government is also planning to use images of Mahatma Gandhi or Bhagat Singh in these ads, a senior government official said. “We have removed pictures of chief minister from 1031 helpline advertisements. The new poster features hand wearing handcuffs highlight helpline’s achievement to arrest 35 and suspend 152 officials,” the official said. “We may now use pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh and other national heroes in our advertisements as we cannot use chief minister’s picture,” he said. Observing that Kejriwal had a mass connect, a senior official said it would now be difficult to promote the government’s policies and schemes without a prominent face and so the images of national heroes will be used. (Hindustan Times 20/5/15)

265. 66% businesses believe some form of bribery acceptable: Survey (5)

Mumbai: A whopping 66 per cent of businesses in the country believe that some form of bribery is acceptable, in spite of increased regulatory actions and public outcry against corruption, according to a survey. As many as 80 per cent believe that corruption is still widespread, with 52 per cent saying offering gifts to win businesses is “justifiable to help a business survive”, while 27 per cent justify cash payments, the survey on fraud and corruption by Ernst & Young said. Interestingly, 35 per cent of respondents also believe that “conformity to their organisation’s anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies would harm their competitiveness in the market”.”As many as 80 per cent of respondents state that corruption is widespread in the country, while 66 per cent state that some form of bribery such as giving cash gifts is acceptable,” EY India said. Further, 57 per cent said increased regulation in “is augmenting challenges for the growth or success of their business”.The survey interviewed 3,800 people from 38 countries across Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa. The findings revealed that 60 per cent of Indian respondents, however, “agree that regulatory activity in their sector had a positive impact on ethical standards”.”The spurt of change being driven by regulators has undoubtedly made a positive impact on business environment,” said the survey. (Zee News 22/5/17)

266. ‘Amend Prevention of Corruption Act’ (5)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:The Personnel and Administrative Reforms Department has recommended to the government to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act to avoid delay in obtaining prosecution sanction order (PSO) in Vigilance cases.Its work study report on the VACB says that trial prosecution proceedings of hundreds of cases are stayed owing to the complications in obtaining PSO. “In some cases the PC Act is omitted and cases are chargesheeted in the local courts under IPC offences which leads to the acquittal of the accused,” the report said. Revision of the Vigilance Manual and starting new Vigilance courts and fasttrack courts are the other major recommendations. The report also called for exploring the possibility of designating government pleaders exclusively for handling Vigilance cases. It said there was too much delay in the Advocate General office in connection with the timely filing of appeals, obtaining copies of appeals etc. The study team also suggested a public awareness campaign on the VACB. It said that the phone numbers, including toll-free numbers and e-mail IDs for lodging complaints can be printed on various types of forms for availing services from government offices and departments. The team reported that the VACB lacked proper training for the investigating officers and ministerial staff. A regular mechanism has been proposed to ensure hitech training and sound legal knowledge for the staff is essential. (New Indian Express 25/5/15)

267. Pranab’s Sweden Visit on Track Despite Bofors Row (5)

NEW DELHI:Amid the ongoing row over his reported remarks to a Swedish daily on the Bofors issue of the eighties,  President Pranab Mukherjee is set to embark on his maiden visit to Stockholm. On Sunday, Dagens Nyheter published an interview with President Mukherjee, in which he said that the controversy over Bofors scandal was only in the media and that it had never been proved in a court of law. Towards the end of the report, the interviewer Peter Wolodarski, who is Editor-in-Chief of Dagens Nyheter,  had mentioned that Mukherjee had trouble distinguishing between Sweden and Switzerland during the course of the chat. On Tuesday, the Swedish newspaper claimed that Indian Ambassador in Stockholm Banashree Bose Harrison had warned that the State Visit was at risk of being cancelled. The Indian envoy had wanted deletion of specific remarks of the President related to Bofors.”I told the Ambassador that we couldn’t accept her demands. The President became engaged and was upset when Bofors was mentioned during a question regarding how we can avoid corruption. Of course we had to tell our readers about his reaction,” Wolodarski was quoted as saying in the article. A day after the interview, the Indian envoy sent a letter of protest to the Editor-in-Chief. In the letter, Bose Harrison said that she has been asked to “convey the disappointment of our authorities in Delhi regarding the manner in which your interview of the Hon’ble President has been presented in the newspaper”. “It is both unprofessional and unethical on your part to include in the report, an off-the-record correction, made by the President after the interview had ended and to include the same in your report in a most condescending manner,” the Ambassador asserted. Earlier, she had said that it was conveyed to the Swedish journalist that the “President was the counterpart to His Majesty, the King and the same courtesy and respect should be shown as you would show to your sovereign”. “I am at a loss to understand why instead of focusing on the importance of the first ever Presidential visit from the world’s largest and fastest growing democracy to Sweden, you have chosen to divert attention to other issues in a patronising and flippant manner,” the envoy said. Despite the controversy over the interview, there was no danger of the cancellation of the State Visit. (New Indian Express 28/5/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

 

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

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

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

269. 40% of Delhi schoolkids fail lung capacity test: Study (9)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

273. Earth’s capacity to absorb CO2 has gone up: Study (9)

WASHINGTON: There are some good and bad news for climate change enthusiasts. Researchers have found that along with the rise in carbon emissions, the Earth’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere has also gone up. But there is no guarantee that it would continue. About half of the emissions of CO2 each year remain in the atmosphere; the other half is taken up by the ecosystems on land and the oceans, and the rates of CO2 absorption by Earth have so far increased in proportion to emissions, the study noted. “Since the emissions today are three times higher than they were in the 1960s, this increased uptake by land and ocean is not only surprising; it is good news,” said study co-author Richard Houghton, senior scientist at Woods Hole Research Center at Massachusetts in the US. “Without it, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would be twice what it is, and climate change would be much farther along. But, there is no guarantee that it will continue,” Houghton cautioned. Since 1956, when the monitoring of atmospheric CO2 concentrations began at Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO) on the island of Hawaii, many more stations have been added to measure the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and how it varies seasonally and geographically. “There is no question that land and oceans have, for at least the last five and half decades, been taking up about half of the carbon emitted each year,” Houghton said. “Most of the processes responsible for that uptake would be expected to slow down as the Earth warms, but we have not seen it yet,” Houghton noted. The researchers conclude that the greater certainty in atmospheric carbon measurements has led to an increased certainty in the calculated rate of carbon uptake by land and oceans. Monitoring that uptake year by year is critical for understanding the carbon cycle and for knowing how to deal with it. The study was published in the journal Biogeosciences. (Times of India 16/5/15)

274. CSE welcomes proposed changes in emission norms (9)

NEW DELHI: The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has welcomed the step taken by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to tighten the pollution norms for coal-based power plants in the country. CSE deputy director general Chandra Bhushan said: “We welcome this move. It will have an impact on the pollution caused by the thermal power sector in India.” On Monday, the MoEF&CC had published a draft notification to tighten norms for emissions of particulate matter (PM), SO2, NOx and mercury and cut water use by coal-based thermal power plants. India currently has no standards for SO2, NOx and mercury emissions from this sector. Earlier this year, CSE had released its environmental rating of the coal-based thermal power sector, under its Green Rating Project. Forty seven plants — adding up to 55 per cent of the nation’s capacity — were rated: the sector ranked poorly on all the parametres. Of the total pollution from the sector, the coal-based power sector currently accounts for approximately 60 per cent of particulate emissions, 45-50 per cent of SO2 emissions, 30 per cent of NOx emissions and more than 80 per cent of mercury emissions. There are currently no standards to curb emissions of SO2, NOx and mercury. The ministry’s proposed changes, if implemented, may go a long way in safeguarding public health and environment, say CSE experts. (The Hindu 20/5/15)

275. Air pollution can increase autism risk in kids (9)

Exposure to air pollution in the womb and the first two years of life may be associated with an increased risk of a child developing autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), new research has found. ASDs are a range of conditions characterised by social deficits and communication difficulties that typically become apparent early in childhood. “Autism spectrum disorders are lifelong conditions for which there is no cure and limited treatment options, so there is an urgent need to identify any risk factors that we could mitigate, such as pollution,” said lead author Evelyn Talbott, professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health in the US. “Our findings reflect an association, but do not prove causality. Further investigation is needed to determine possible biological mechanisms for such an association,” Talbott noted. The researchers performed a population-based, case-control study of families with and without ASD living in six southwestern Pennsylvania counties. They obtained detailed information about where the mothers lived before, during and after pregnancy, and estimated individual exposure to a type of air pollution called PM2.5. Considered to be the most common and hazardous, this type of pollution refers to particles found in the air that are less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter. It comes from burning wood or coal, car exhaust and other sources. Based on the child’s exposure to concentrations of PM2.5 during the mother’s pregnancy and the first two years of life, the researchers found that children who fell into higher exposure groups were at an approximate 1.5-fold greater risk of ASD. The researchers arrived at the conclusion after accounting for other factors associated with the child’s risk for ASD — such as the mother’s age, education and smoking during pregnancy. The study was published in the journal Environmental Research. (Times of India 22/5/15)

276. Heatwave sweeps across India, 335 people dead (9)

The blazing summer sun scorched cities across India on Saturday, with even hill stations like Mussoorie, which is 6,580 feet above sea level, sweltering at 36 degrees Celsius. In the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the heat was even more brutal, killing 135 people on Saturday. Heat-related deaths have now gone up to 335 in the last three days. While 75 died in Andhra, the toll was 60 in Telangana as temperatures were five to seven degrees above normal.The two states rescheduled ongoing government schemes like NREGS as the majority of those who died of sunstroke were labourers. Worse, the met department has warned that it’s going to get hotter. According to IMD, Delhi, temperatures are rising in central, north-west, parts of east and peninsular India for the last few days. Heat wave conditions will continue in Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar and Jharkhand for the next couple of days. In UP, Allahabad, at a sweltering 47 degrees topped the heat chart. UP met director JP Gupta said the weather was expected to turn sultry with a rise in humidity levels along with temperatures. The temperatures took residents and tourists in the hill stations of Mussorie, Almora, Nainital and Shimla by surprise. “It’s unbelievable. Mussoorie feels no different from Delhi,” said Smita Kapoor, a tourist from Delhi. Electric fans and refrigerators, a rarity in Mussoorie, until recently, are making their appearance in the hill town.In the foothills, it was worse. Haldwani, at a height of 1,400 feet, saw people rushing for cover as the mercury crossed 42 degrees. Shimla and Manali were much better off with maximum temperatures of 28.6 and 25.8 degrees, respectively. With temperatures hovering around 45 degrees at most places in Rajasthan, there are water shortages in many localities of Jaipur. Odisha was plagued by frequent power cuts as well even as the heatwave toll rose to 26 with three more deaths. (Times of India 24/5/15)

277. CSE flags green concerns on Modi govt anniversary; Pitches for concrete plan to reduce air pollution

NEW DELHI: The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based think-tank on green issues, on Tuesday said the NDA government’s record was not as bad as feared but there had been no major reforms so far to improve the green clearance processes for safeguarding the environment. It also noted that the government has, so far, not taken concrete steps to check air pollution in the cities. “Contrary to the widespread perception, the NDA government’s record of giving environmental and forest clearances has not been very different from that of its predecessor – the UPA government”, said the CSE in its analysis report on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s record on environment issues in its first year. “The analysis shows that there have been no major reforms to improve the green clearance processes for safeguarding the environment and lives and livelihoods of communities. Rather, incremental changes have been made to ‘ease the process’ of project clearances”, said CSE director general Sunita Narain. This, she added, is not different from the previous UPA government where there was huge hype about delays in green clearance, but the data showed that projects were being cleared and processes were made so convoluted that they stopped working to protect the environment. Stressing that the NDA government’s record has been no worse or no better than that of its UPA counterpart, the CSE analysts noted that the amount of forestland diverted in the first one year of NDA rule, in fact, had been the least since 2007. The CSE analysis also pointed out at two clear emerging trends. One, project clearances are being devolved to state agencies “without building capacity or accountability” in state-level institutions. Two, there is an “effort to dilute the public hearing process” which is most pronounced in the case of the coal mining sector. “If these trends continue, they will severely compromise the integrity of the environmental clearance system, especially if nothing is done to improve governance at the state level and to strengthen institutions and oversight,” said Chandra Bhushan, CSE deputy director general. Though the think-tank praised the government for its move to improve waste management rules and putting in place continuous online pollution monitoring systems for polluting industries, it criticized the NDA for selective changing of environmental regulations in the name of streamlining the system. It also said, “The more difficult agenda remains neglected in this one year. The government has not unveiled any plans to reduce air pollution in cities. In fact, what it has is business as usual and this will not give us the change that we need”… (Times of India 26/5/15)

278.  ‘Over 70% of Everest glacier may be lost by 2100’ (9)

New Delhi: A paper published in “The Cryosphere”, a journal of the European Geosciences Union, is a first approximation to how the Himalayan glaciers will react to increasing temperatures in the region. Over 70 per cent of the glacier volume in the Mount Everest region in the Himalayas could be lost in 85 years if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, a new paper suggests. It also indicates more flood risk in the future in the Kosi river downstream from Nepal to India. The paper, “Modelling glacier change in the Everest region, Nepal Himalaya”, published on Wednesday in The Cryosphere, a journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU), said the glacier volume could be reduced between 70 and 99 per cent by 2100. It is a first approximation to how the Himalayan glaciers will react to increasing temperatures in the region. The results depend on how much greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and on how this will affect temperature, snowfall and rainfall in the area. A team of researchers from Nepal, France and the Netherlands have found the Everest glaciers could be very sensitive to future warming and that sustained ice loss through the 21st century is likely. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the glaciers could experience dramatic change in the decades to come, said the study. “The signal of future glacier change in the region is clear: continued and possibly accelerated mass loss from glaciers is likely given the projected increase in temperatures,” said Joseph Shea, a glacier hydrologist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu. “Our results indicate that these glaciers may be highly sensitive to changes in temperature and that increases in precipitation are not enough to offset the increased melt,” Mr. Shea said. Increased temperatures will not only increase the rates of snow and ice melt but can also result in a change of precipitation from snow to rain at critical elevations, where glaciers are concentrated. Together, these act to reduce glacier growth and increase the area exposed to melt, said the leader of the study. The researchers studied glaciers in the Dudh Kosi basin in the Nepal Himalayas, which are home to some of the world’s highest mountain peaks, including Mount Everest, and to over 400 sq. km of glacier area. “Apart from the significance of the region, glaciers in the Dudh Kosi basin contribute meltwater to the Kosi river, and glacier changes will affect river flows downstream,” Mr. Shea said. Changes in glacier volume can impact the availability of water, with consequences for agriculture and hydropower generation. While increased glacier melt initially increases water flows, ongoing retreat leads to reduced meltwater from the glaciers during the warmer months, with greatest impact for the local populations before the monsoon when rainfall is scarce, said the paper. Glacier retreat can also result in the formation and growth of lakes dammed by glacial debris. Avalanches and earthquakes can breach the dams, causing catastrophic floods that can result in river flows 100 times greater than normal in the Kosi basin. The Kosi river is known as the “sorrow of Bihar” as it has caused widespread damage in the past due to flooding and frequent change in its course. To find out how glaciers in the region will evolve in the future, the researchers started by using field observations and data from local weather stations to calibrate and test a model of glacier change over the past 50 years. “To examine the sensitivity of modelled glaciers to future climate change, we applied eight temperature and precipitation scenarios to the historical temperature and precipitation data and tracked how glacier areas and volumes responded,” said study co-author Walter Immerzeel of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “Our estimates need to be taken very cautiously, as considerable uncertainties remain,” said Patrick Wagnon, a glaciologist at the L’Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement in Grenoble in France. The paper stresses that “the signal of future glacier change in the region is clear and compelling” and that decreases in ice thickness and extent are expected for “even the most conservative climate change scenario”. (The Hindu 27/5/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

282.  Rajasthan farmer suicides dip (20)

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

283. 1,000 farmers committed suicide after TRS came to power: TDP (20)

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

284. Records may not show, but women farmers dying too (20)

AKOLA: For the last 23 years, Rukhmabai Rathod had run her 6-acre farm virtually single-handedly. After her husband’s death in 1992, the uneducated but determined woman took charge. She decided what to sow, how much to spend and stood her ground with banks and creditors. “She was anguthachaap but she understood everything,” says her brother-in-law Babulal Rathod from the Kazadeshwar village in Vidarbha’s Akola district. “I didn’t think she would manage but she proved everyone wrong,” he admits. The Banjara tribal woman even got her three children married without help from anyone. Yet in March, after more than two decades of shouldering responsibilities, Rukhmabai’s courage ran out. Saddled with farming debts worth Rs 3 lakh, she swallowed pesticide and died at home. The cotton belt of Vidarbha reports the highest farmer suicides in the country, but the distress of women cultivators is rarely recorded. “Suicides by women farmers are less common but not that unusual. But they don’t get recorded because women are often landless or the land is not in their name,” says activist Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti. As many as 16.46 lakh rural households in Maharashtra are headed by women, according to the Census 2011. This accounts for 12.5% rural households. In fact, the rise in suicides among male farmers in the state has led to their widows bearing the burden of running both the home and the farm. Yet only 126 suicides by women farmers in Maharashtra were recorded by the National Crime Records Bureau in 2013, compared to 3,020 by male farmers. “In most cases, suicides by women farmers are classified as dowry deaths or accidents,” says Tiwari. Rukhmabai is among the few women cultivators here whose death has been classified as a “farmer’s suicide” perhaps because her farm was in her name. Her family is eligible for state compensation. “I don’t remember a time when my mother was not working,” says Rukhmabai’s son Nagorao. In fact, in all farming families, it is women who do the bulk of jobs like sowing and weeding. For the last several years, Rukhmabai’s family had been growing soyabean. But rising costs and declining yields in the last three years pushed them deep into debt. Then Nagorao had a near-fatal accident last year that burdened them with an additional Rs 1 lakh loan for his surgery. “We used to take loans earlier too, but we always had some income. This year we barely made any money because of the drought,” says Nagorao. Over time, the family sold its bullocks and then its goats as well. By the end Rukhmabai knew she would have to borrow again. “She had borrowed from her relatives and could not face them. She had run out of options,” said her daughter-in-law Sarla Rathod. Nagorao’s accident has left him incapable of running the farm. In the neighbouring district of Yavatmal, another woman farmer lives on the edge. Five years ago, Sangita Pancheniwar from Hivra village ran a four-acre farm with her husband. But he committed suicide in 2010, leaving her to fend for his ageing parents and two school-going children. After two crops failed in the drought, she tried renting out the farm but it had no takers. She now works as a farm hand for a few days a week. “I get work maybe twice a week for Rs 100 per day,” she says. With a loan of Rs 1 lakh still to be paid off, she fears for her children’s education. Her daughter Nikita is in the tenth standard and hopes to be a teacher, while her son Sai is in the ninth. “We are reduced to eating bhakri and chutney. How can I afford to keep them in school?” she asks. (Times of India 17/5/15)

285. Debt Trap Leads Farming Couple to Consume Poison in Patna, Husband Dies (20)

PATNA: Worried over financial crisis, a farmer has committed suicide by consuming poison at a village near here, police said on Wednesday. Ramesh Singh, 50, who was in a debt trap, consumed poison on Tuesday night at his house in Chechail village, about 20 km from here. His wife Chinta Devi also consumed poison and is now admitted in ICU. “After both of them consumed poison tablets,we rushed them to a private hospital where Singh was declared brought dead and his wife was admitted in a critical condition,” Mukesh Singh, a relative, said. Singh’s wife is in ICU and not out of danger, he said. Some villagers told district officials, who visited the village after the incident, that Singh was tensed as his paddy was not sold as he wanted and his wheat crops were badly damaged. “Singh was in debt trap and wanted to come out of it,” police said. Patna District Magistrate Abhay Kumar Singh said he has ordered an enquiry into the incident. (New Indian Express 20/5/15)

286. UP emerges as biggest contributor to India’s agriculture sector: Assocham study (20)

LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh has emerged as biggest contributor to India’s agriculture and allied sector as of 2013-14 with a share of about 13%, according to a recent Assocham study. “Agriculture and allied sector contributes just over 22% to UP’s gross state domestic product (GSDP) as of 2013-14,” highlighted the study titled ‘States Emergence: A comparative analysis of growth & development,’ conducted by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham). “UP has acquired 15th position amid top 20 states in India with a mere 3.2 per cent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) in agriculture and allied sector during the decadal period of 2004-05 and 2013-14,” noted the study prepared by the Assocham Economic Research Bureau (AERB). “UP government needs to take corrective measures to revive agriculture production as it is chiefly an agrarian state and holds tremendous potential to attract significant investments in agri-infrastructure like wholesale and retail trading, storage, distribution and irrigation sectors,” said Mr D.S. Rawat, national secretary general of Assocham while releasing the findings of the chamber’s study. Assocham has given following recommendations to UP government to perk up state’s agriculture scenario. 1: Disconnect between farmers and consumers or market is a major cause of farmers not able to benefit fully from modern scientific developments in farm industry. “This disconnect should be corrected through programs like E-Choupal (an experiment of ITC). 2: Old mandi system should be replaced with modern competitive supply chains that would synergize agriculture and farm economy. 3: Information related to monsoon, agriculture price of crop should be provided to farmers as per their convenience so that it could fetch maximum benefits for them. Information through mobile and Internet should be extended in order to provide better service. 4: Farming should be encouraged and promoted through providing best price of crop to the farmers. Trade fairs should be organized especially in rural areas with the participation of farmers through public-private partnership (PPP) model. 5: New commercial crops should be sought for and promoted to break the monotonous and risky dependence on single crop in the hinterland. 6: Contract farming concept should be implemented on a bigger scale and large farms should be promoted either through consolidation or outright purchases. 7: Better seeds, top-quality farm equipment, fertilizers and others should be provided to farmers. Besides, better water conservation and proper irrigation management should be implemented in rural areas by creating awareness of its respective benefits amid farmers. 8: Government should provide agriculture insurance schemes to farmers who are involved in large scale farming and a PPP model could be developed for providing comprehensive insurance for agri-crops in the Rabi and Kharif season especially for sugar, pulses, wheat, rice and other prominent crops. (Times of India 22/5/15)

287.  ‘Mahapanchayat’ in Erode on May 25 to discuss farmers’ problems (20)

ERODE: A ‘Mahapanchayat’ of farmers’ associations in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka will be held here on May 25, to evolve a strategy for coming out of the adverse conditions for agriculturists across the country. Suicides by scores of farmers in recent years and the struggle by their poverty-stricken families due to denial of government support will be a main discussion topic. The ‘Mahapanchayat’ will take stock of the situation arising out of farmers migrating in large numbers to cities to work as labourers for survival. In the backdrop of absence of remunerative price for agricultural produces and inability of farmers to settle bank loans, the Land Acquisition Bill of the Union Government would deal a deadly blow to the already struggling agriculture sector, said P.K. Deivasigamani, president, All India Turmeric Farmers’ Association, here on Friday. There was a danger of several lakhs of farmers committing suicide if the government failed to write off pending loans. The ‘Mahapanchayat’ will devise ways and means to prevent such suicides through collective efforts of the associations, Mr. Deivasigamani said. (The Hindu 24/5/15)

288. Modi’s one year in power saw 1,306 farmer suicides in Maharashtra (20)

Nagpur: A record 1,306 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra during the one-year period of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in office – between May 20, 2014, to May 25, 2015, a farmers’ watchdog body said here on Monday. This figure is around 40 percent higher than the same period between May 2013-May 2014, said Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti chief Kishore Tiwari. While there are various views about Modi’s one year in power, most of them being optimistic, it is not true of the Maharashtra farmers, particularly in Vidarbha – which is the epicentre of Indian farmland suicides in the past 10 years, said Tiwari. “Official statistics say 1,306 farmers ended their lives as the NDA-II marks its first year in power. In fact, the trend has been increasing and the first 140 days of 2015 (from January 1) recorded the highest ever 448 suicides, indicating serious distress prevailing in the five million agrarian community of the state,” Tiwari told IANS. He said last year’s crises, including extensive damage to Kharif and Rabi crops, severe climatic changes resulting in bouts of droughts and floods coupled with hailstorms, and market recessions, have spurred the suicide rates in the state. “There is no interest among farmers in the ongoing celebrations of PM Modi’s first anniversary in the dying fields of Vidarbha and other parts of the state where over three million cotton farmers and two million tribal families continue to battle starvation,” he said. In the past 10 years, he pointed out, Vidarbha has hit international headlines with more than 11,000 debt-trapped cotton farmers’ suicides and now Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has sought help from Israel to arrest the trend. The state farmers had celebrated with joy when Modi was swept to power and he assured a solution to their (farmers’) problems within 100 days of taking office by proposing some revolutionary formulae. “Now it is already a year, but the NDA-II seems to have forgotten all its promises on the basis of which the farmers voted for them en masse. The healing touch never came, there was no waiver of old loans or sanction of new loans,” Tiwari lamented. Though the Maharashtra government has declared that 23,811 of the state’s 39,453 villages, or around 60 percent, are affected by drought with more than 12 million hectares of farmlands damaged, little is being done to address the situation. The last union budget spoke of mega investments for infrastructure, but failed to tackle the core issue of direct relief packages to the farmers, especially the cotton cultivators who were throttled by the global open market economy and mismatched demand-supply situation, Tiwari said. “Most other promises of the government for farmers turned out to be a ‘kisan jhumla’ and farmers continue to end their lives. On the eve of Modi’s one year in office being celebrated, at least 10 farmers have committed suicide in the past three days alone,” Tiwari said. (Deccan Herald 25/5/15)

289. Rs 5-lakh compensation to farmer families sought (20)

SANGAREDDY: Joint Action Committee (JAC) of farmers held here on Tuesday demanded that the government extend Rs 5 lakh as ex gratia for the families of farmers who had committed suicide. “Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao himself had claimed that Telangana is a surplus State and allocating crores of rupees for various schemes and buildings. Can’t Mr. Rao spare about Rs. 50 crore for families of farmers?” asked JAC leaders. “We thought that the problems of farmers’ get solved once the Telangaana State was formed. But the situation had turned worse and about 850 farmers had committed suicide after formation of separate state. The government is not taking any steps to arrest the suicides,” said Sagar, one of the JAC leaders. “Many suicides could have been averted had the government waived the farm loan at one stroke. Farmers were forced to go for outside loans at an interest rates ranging from Rs. 2 per month per Rs. 100 to Rs. 5 per month per Rs. 100. This has crippled their financial conditions,” said Pakala Srihari Rao, another JAC leader. The programme was organised by Jayaraj, Telangana Rytu Sangam. (The Hindu 27/5/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

297. Masula port: no notification on land acquisition now (4)

MACHILIPATNAM: The government has withdrawn its decision to issue the draft notification on acquisition of 2,800 acres of private land for the proposed deep sea port at Machilipatnam. For the record, farmers from the affected six villages of Gopuvanipalem, Mekavanipalem, Tapasipudi, Manginpaudi, Peda and China Karagraham had declined to part with their land for the project during a public meeting here on Monday. “We will not issue the draft notification until the farmers express willingness to spare their land. We will have to explain to them the packages that will be offered in compensation for their land,” Excise Minister Kollu Ravindra said. Last week, revenue officials were to issue the draft notification in May following detailed discussions with Machilipatnam MP K. Narayana. “The date of issuing the draft notification to acquire 2,800 acres of private land will be fixed in consultation with Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu,” Mr. Ravindra said. It is learnt that Mr. Naidu had directed officials not to issue the draft notification without the prior consent of the affected communities, particularly farmers. The Collector had on Monday announced that he would submit a detailed report on the public meet, documenting the views of people of the respective villages on the port project, to the Chief Minister. Excise Minister Kollu Ravindra said that date of issuing the draft notification to acquire 2,800 acres of private land will be fixed in consultation with Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu. It is learnt that Mr. Naidu had asked officials not to issue the draft notification without the prior consent of the affected communities, particularly farmers… (The Hindu 20/5/15)

298. Land acquired by government not for corporates: Amit Shah (4)

New Delhi: Not an inch of land acquired under the new land acquisition act will be given to corporates, BJP president Amit Shah said on Thursday. Speaking at the ‘Manthan’ conclave of Aaj Tak, he said: “Not an inch of land will be given to corporate or private sector, only projects under state or central government will get land for development.” “No one is stopping corporate from getting land.. (but) government will not acquire it for them. If they want land, they must buy it from farmer and give the price farmers want,” he said. Shah said the land bill is not against farmers. “We believe the bill is not anti-farmer,” he said. “If it is not right, people will decide (during elections),” he said. (Business Standard 21/5/15)

299. West engal’s approach in favour of industry: CII (4)

KOLKATA: The president of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Sumit Mazumdar, said that the industry was now feeling comfortable in West Bengal, giving a thumbs up to the Trinamool Congress government on the day that marked the completion of its four years in office. Addressing a press meet here on Wednesday, he said, “The investment climate as well as attitude towards the industry is now changing.” His comments are to be seen in the context of the discomfort felt by the industry in the aftermath of the Singur episode, when Mamata Banerjee as the Trinamool Congress chief had spearheaded a violent agitation against the acquisition of land for the Nano factory at Singur, which led to the project’s exit from the State. She came to power in May 13, ascending office on May 20. “Some investments have taken place, but not of the magnitude we want to see,”he said. Mr Mazumdar also heads the city-based Turnkey International Ltd which has ploughed money in industrial projects in West Bengal in recent times. He said that this government has streamlined processes, and a land bank has also been created. On the scheduled visit to the U.K. by Ms Banerjee in July (leading a business delegation), he said that it was good that States were now reaching out to investors in this manner. He said he expected a lot of UK businessmen to show interest in investing in West Bengal. (The Hindu 21/5/15)

300. Resolve bottlenecks faced by large industries: Patnaik (4)

Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday directed officials to resolve the challenges faced by large industries in the state. The chief minister took a review meeting to discuss about 11 large industries which are facing various hurdles including land acquisition, raw material supply, water and electricity linkages to their plants. Projects like Visa Power Ltd., PCPIR project, Auto Park, Lanco Babandh Power Ltd., Aditya Aluminium, Sesa Sterlite and Jindal Steel and Power Ltd. are facing land acquisition problems while some projects are facing forest diversion hurdles. However, there was no discussion about Posco, which has proposed to set up a $12 billion steel plant at Jagatsinghpur triggering speculation over a possible back out from the project. “We discussed the challenges faced by 11 mega projects in the state. The government is taking steps to resolve their issues and ensure smooth industrial environment in the state,” Industry Minister Debi Prasad Mishra told reporters here. He said a monthly ministerial meeting would be held to resolve issues of industries. The refinery project of Vedanta (Sesa Sterlite) in Kalanadi district is facing shortage of raw material, forcing it to run the one million tonne per annum plant at 30 percent of the capacity. The government is trying to provide bauxite linkage to run the plant to full capacity, said a senior official. The revenue department has decided to issue approval in the matter of sub leasing, as per the existing provision in the Central Act, to the Gopalpur project of Tata steel in Ganjam district. The Gopapur SEZ is unable to obtain government of India approval and commence operation in absence of provision to sub-lease the land to units which set up industrial units in the SEZ. The minister also said that the meeting discussed the draft Industrial Policy Resolution (IPR) 2015. He said the policy is aimed at value addition and employment generation in the state. The meeting was attended by Steel and Mines Minister Prafulla Mallick, Energy Minister Pranab Prakash Das and several officials. (Business Standard 23/5/15)

301. BDA seeks Rs 8,100 rore to acquire land for PRR (4)

Bengaluru: The Bangalore Development Authority has written to the State and the Union government seeking funds for acquiring lands to construct peripheral ring road. The PRR will connect Tumakuru Road with Hosur Road running through Ballari Road and Old Madras Road. The project is estimated to cost Rs 3,800 crore apart from the land acquisition cost of Rs 8,100 crore. The compensation for land acquisition has ballooned as the High Court has ruled land losers should be paid compensation according to the new Land Acquisition Act and  revised guidance value. The BDA technical committee has finalised the project and the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) has completed its scrutiny. “Now we are waiting for funds without which we cannot proceed with land acquisition for commencing the work. We have written to the State and Union government for funds and awaiting response. Three to four meetings have been held with government representatives and things look positive. We are told that the issue of funds is under discussion,” BDA Engineering Member P N Nayak told Deccan Herald. JICA has told the BDA that it is ready to fund the project as long as the land acquisition is taken care of. “JICA has told us clearly that they are ready to release funds for the project implementation cost, but won’t do so for land acquisition. This cost has to be met by us,” Nayak said. The State government is grappling with ways to mobilise the funds for land acquisition. “We understand the government has asked the Union government to pitch in 50 per cent, while it would take care of the rest 50 per cent. The State government will give 40 per cent of the developed land back to owners, Transferable Development Rights (TDR) and part cash as compensation to the land losers. The Union government, BDA officials say, may also agree to bear a part of the project cost as it falls in the Bengaluru- Chennai industrial corridor. The State government will be acquiring 1,890 acres for the PRR.  Both the preliminary and final notifications for acquisition have been issued and objections have been called for. Cases filed against BDA for acquisition have been sorted out in the court and BDA doesn’t have too many legal hurdles, the BDA official stated. The BDA is also working on integrating this road with the Nice expressway, which connects Tumakuru Road with Hosur Road through Mysuru Road and Kanakapura Road. (Deccan Herald 28/5/15)

302. Land acquisition for airport expansion triggers protest (4)

COIMBATORE: Residents of GKV Nagar and nearby areas, which have been identified for land acquisition for expansion of the Coimbatore International Airport, approached the district collector on Wednesday requesting that their houses be exempted from acquisition. These residents had refused to allow the District revenue Officer (Land Acquisition) to evaluate their houses on Tuesday. The residents told the collector that they were not willing to give up their houses for land acquisition. “They had three points of contention. First off, a study done a few years ago found that the airport could be expanded without acquisition of land in GKV Nagar. Secondly, like most metros, the airport should be moved outside the city so that people don’t have to give up their land,” said an official a the district collectorate. They also wanted to know why the airport was being expanded towards Chinna Vedampatti, where their houses are located, and not in the other direction, he added. GKV Nagar is part of the 627.89 acres of land that the government intends to acquire to expand the airport. This project, which was planned 15 years ago, has been pending for 7 to 8 years because 134.32 acres ear marked is defence land. Off the 134.32 acres, 122.12 acres is attached to the Air Force, 6.38 acres to the Navy and the remaining 5.82 acres to the Army. District collector Archana Patnaik said that the officials concerned were asked to look into the claims made by residents. The residents are expected to meet the collector again next week. (Times of India 29/5/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

 

303. 21 perinatal infants die daily in Maharashtra (3)

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

304. 1.24 lakh children fell prey to respiratory diseases (3)

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

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

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

306. Nepal quake victims prone to diseases (3)

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

307. Cancer survivors form support group (3)

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

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

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

309. Health minister Nadda seeks involvement of NGOs to improve public health facilities (3)

NEW DELHI: Amid outcry over the Modi government’s alleged “crackdown” on NGOs, health minister J P Nadda on Friday sought the involvement of such organizations in improving the public health system. “NGOs are not there to give sermons, they are there doing good work. They are there to participate and we will see that they do participate,” he said after releasing ‘swachchta’ guidelines for public health facilities. Nadda invited various stakeholders to participate in this endeavor and share the responsibility for cleanliness of health facilities. He also urged health secretaries to involve public representatives, MLAs and MPs of their areas in this initiative. This would provide an opportunity and incentive to strengthen inter-sectoral coordination in improving health systems at the state level, he said. The health ministry also launched a scheme to award public health facilities to encourage them to work towards standards of excellence. (Times of India 16/5/15)

310. AIIMS 1st to Start Anti-Yellow Fever Vaccine in Odisha (3)

BHUBANESWAR: In a major boost to international travellers from Odisha, AIIMS-Bhubaneswar has become the first Union Government-authorised centre in the State for administering Yellow Fever vaccination services to people travelling abroad, particularly to the endemic regions of Africa and Central, South America. The vaccination is being provided every Monday from 9 am to 12.30 pm. Travellers have to report for the mandatory vaccination at the centre with travel documents and passport. They will be provided with the vaccination certificate that is mandatory for all travellers going to or arriving from endemic countries. The certificate has to be presented in airports for outbound travel or entry into India. “Earlier, passengers from Odisha had to go to metros like Kolkata and Delhi for the vaccination. The AIIMS authorised centre will now spare them the trouble and additional expenditure. The vaccination costs only around `300 and is handed out in 30 minutes after ensuring no reaction in the person. The centre, which started functioning from April 24, has already vaccinated around 50 persons,” nodal officer Prof Vikas Bhatia said. Yellow fever is a viral disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes and presents as mild illness to severe jaundice and bleeding in patient. Death rate in severe cases is as high as 50 per cent. It is difficult to diagnose at early stages as it can be confused with severe malaria, dengue, leptospirosis and viral hepatitis. There is no specific treatment and vaccination is the most effective measure. “Prevention of entry into India is most essential as factors here are conducive for transmission. Aedes mosquitoes, the carriers, are abundant in the country and thus, a large chunk of population will be rendered susceptible,” Prof Bhatia said. The vaccination is compulsory for travel to and from as many as 29 African countries including Nigeria, Congo, Cameroon, Angola, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mauritania and 12 countries in Central and South America, including Argentina, Brazil, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago. (New Indian Express 19/5/15)

311. Kolhapur district health dept maps 185 delivery points (3)

KOLHAPUR: The district health department has identified as many as 185 delivery points across the district, which has basic facilities and staff to handle child births and pregnant women. These centres have been categorised as the level 1 (L1), level 2 (L2) and level 3 (L3). The categories have been decided based on the population, staff expertise and the infrastructure available. L1 caters to a population of 10,000 and has nursing staff, L2 covers a population of 50,000 and has a medical officer along with the staff and L3 covers population of around five lakh with the availability of comprehensive medical facilities and a gynaecologist. According to a district health office (DHO) report, the district has 115 L1 delivery points, followed by 62 L2 and 8 L3 delivery points. Dr Yogesh Sale, district reproductive and child health officer said, “As per the state family welfare department’s directives, we mapped the delivery points in February.” Sale added that the regular monitoring of these delivery points, their performance in handling pregnancy related issues, complaints and feedback received from patients and expertise of the available staff are some of the key issues that will be addressed based on the data available after the mapping exercise. “A cooperative and helpful environment and improving the facilities at the health centres is the main aim of the drive. Increasing the number of deliveries at the primary health centres (PHC) is also on the cards. Regular workshops are being arranged for the staff and a quarterly meeting has been made compulsory for getting feedback,” he added. Sale said that the delivery rate in 2014-15 saw a sharp decline compared to 2013-14 and the office wants to make improvements to revive the faith of the beneficiaries. The health department recorded as many as 62,227 deliveries in 2013-14, while in 2014-15, the number dropped to 55,056. The department has reported 3,804 from January 1 to April 30 this year. (Times of India 23/5/15)

312. Encouraging pregnant women for check-ups with ghee (3)

JAIPUR: Striving to improve antenatal checkups (ANCs), the health department is planning to “lure” pregnant women with desi ghee to report at hospitals for their proper healthcare. A pack of two liters of desi ghee may be distributed to first time pregnant women of BPL category at the time of registration of first antenatal check up (ANC) at government hospital, the government plans to succeed to improve ANCs to improve maternal mortality ratio (MMR). The health department has sent the proposal to the state government to make changes in the existing scheme of distributing 5 liters of desi ghee post delivery. In past one year (from April 2014 to March 2015), a total of 1.45 lakh liters of desi ghee was distributed. The cost of ghee distributed in past one year was approximately Rs5.60crore. But, the health department expressed the need to provide two liters of ghee at first ANC to encourage pregnant women to come to hospitals for proper checkup. Another three liters will be provided to her at post delivery. “The plan is in the pipeline. We are contemplating it because there are women who do not come to hospitals on time for ANCs. The proposed change in existing scheme will encourage them for ANCs and also for institutional deliveries,” a health department official said. According to the health department figures, 9.81 lakh women gave birth to babies in government hospitals in 2014-15. Among them, there were 29,744 women who belonged to BPL category and became pregnant for the first time. The health department provides coupons of desi ghee, which the beneficiary produces at the nearest dairy and collect the pack of ghee. “Desi ghee has nutrients and it can be given to pregnant women but not in excess quantity as it contains some fat also. But, in last trimester, it can be given as the muscles of the baby develops in the last trimester,” Dr Adarsh Bhargava, a city-based gynecologist and obstetrician, said. Health department suggests pregnant women to go for three ANCs during pregnancy. According to the health department figures, there were 19.65 lakh deliveries took places in the state but there were 13.97 lakh pregnant women who have received 3 checkups during 2014-15. (Times of India 25/5/15)

313. ‘Modi government has done little for public health’ (3)

MUMBAI: The Narendra Modi-led government has done little for the country’s public health despite announcing new schemes, said a report published in the international medical journal, The Lancet, to coincide with the government’s completion of a year in office. The world report noted that while sanitation and vaccination programmes were announced, budgetary allocation of many ongoing projects were slashed. “Fifteen of the health ministry’s national program-mes, including tobacco control, mental health, prevention of blindness, trauma care, elderly care and human resource development have not been allocated a single rupee, and have been merged with the National Health Mission (NHM), which has also had its funding curtailed,” said the article. The annual budget (2015-16) slashed the central government’s health spending by 15% compared with last year. Pro-tobacco lobbies succeeded in postponing implementation of larger health warnings on tobacco packaging from April 1. Moreover, the National AIDS Control Programme is facing a severe shortage of funds. The report noted that health-related schemes operated by other ministries also faced the axe. The Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) run by the ministry of women and child development got half the funding allocation it had last year. “Such a hefty decrease in budget means initiatives like a new nutrition mission, strengthening of ICDS, and expansion of benefits for lactating mothers may have to be shelved or postponed,” J P Dadhich, national coordinator of the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India, told the journal. “It appears India needs to wait for some more years before witnessing a significant decline in child under-nutrition,” he added. The journal concluded, “Overall, in the first year of the Modi government, India might have taken a few steps back in public health after having previously made a commitment to public sector-led universal health care.” (Times of India 27/5/15)

HIV/AIDS

 

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

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

315. Uganda runners hit by HIV scare (3)

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

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

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

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

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

318. 5,000 children living with AIDS in Manipur (3)

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

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

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

320. HIV Positive GP Candidate Looks to Give Voice to the Voiceless (3)

UDUPI: In a story that drives home the beauty of democracy, an HIV-affected person, Sanjeeva Vandse, from Kundapur taluk has decided to contest the gram panchayat elections, to be held on March 29. Sanjeeva, a transgender, had plans to open a grocery store but those hopes went up in smoke due to a faulty loan process. He told Express that he was affected by HIV at the age of 15 and has, over the years, been stigmatised by society. “Though there are about 1.5 lakh HIV positive people in the state, and around 5,000 in Udupi alone, not many people listen to our woes, even in government offices.”Sanjeeva said there are several treatment facilities and benefits set aside for the HIV+ but few can avail them because the community has no voice. “If we have a representative in the administrative mechanism, we will be noticed, our voice will be heard,” he said. He said contesting the zilla or taluk panchayat elections, let alone the assembly polls, is not financially feasible for him. “But I don’t need a lot of money or campaigning to contest the gram panchayat elections,” he said. He added that a national party has lent him support and decided not to field its candidate so as to improve his prospects. Sanjeeva will file his nomination papers on Monday. He said if voted to power, he would work towards making Vandse a model gram panchayat. And the first step towards this is lending support to those affected by HIV. “There are many who live without proper shelter. Their woes need to be heard.” (New Indian Express 16/5/15)

321. HIV Patient, Family Forced out of House (3)

BHUBANESWAR:A 38-year-old migrant worker has accused his landlord of forcing him to vacate the house at Kargil Basti here after he was diagnosed with HIV positive. He also alleged that the landlord and his relatives tried to establish physical relation with his minor daughter. A case has been registered in this connection at Airfield police station. The worker, hailing from Uttar Pradesh, lived with his wife and three children in a rented house for the last one year until he was asked by the landlord to vacate the house. The victim along with his family has now taken shelter at Lingaraj railway station for the last three days. “It was because of the stigma attached to the disease that our landlord forced us out of the house. All our belongings were thrown out and are lying in the open. We have also been disowned by my family after they learnt about my medical condition,” the victim said. Their eight-year-old daughter was also allegedly molested by the landlord and his brother. The victim’s wife, who used to work as a domestic maid in the neighbourhood, had to lose her job for the same reason. “I was assaulted by some unidentified inhabitants of the slum who threatened me to vacate the house immediately,” she said. Airfield police has registered an FIR under Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act and is investigating further into the matter. (New Indian Express 18/5/15)

322. Global funding dips by 90%, may cripple war on AIDS (3)

NEW DELHI: International funds for India’s National AIDS Control Programme have dried up severely, posing a serious threat of recurrence of new HIV cases. Estimates show a reduction of almost 90% in funding from various multilateral, bilateral and philanthropic donor organisations over the last three years, sources in the government as well as civil society said. While many multilateral organisations, including World Health Organisation (WHO) and several UN agencies such as UNICEF and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), have either drastically scaled down or diverted funds from India’s HIV control programme to other countries, bilateral and even philanthropic donor organisations like Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Clinton Health Access Initiative and World Vision have slashed funding to the national programme. This is expected to create pressure on the health ministry, which is already struggling with a truncated health budget to fund its various schemes. Instead of financing AIDS control programme, many of the organizations, mainly the bilateral and philanthropic donors, have shifted focus to management of other diseases such as tuberculosis and family planning, sources said. This has led to fears that India may again lose ground in controlling emergence of new HIV-infected cases as it is at a very crucial juncture at present. India, which has the third highest number of estimated people living with HIV in the world, demonstrated an overall reduction of 57% in the annual new HIV infections among adult population from 2.74 lakh in 2000 to 1.16 lakh in 2011, according to the 2013-14 annual report of the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO). The trend of annual AIDS related deaths have also shown a steady decline since the rollout of the free Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) programme in India in 2004. Government estimates show around 1.5 lakh lives have been saved due to the programme till 2011. Experts say the achievement was a result of various interventions and scaling-up of prevention strategies under the National AIDS Control Programme. However, a slowdown in funding and resource crunch can cause a potential damage. “The overall international funding has come down by almost 90% in last three years. This is challenging because India has just about managed to achieve 90% and the rest 10% is critical as we need to sustain the decline in new cases for at least another seven to eight years,” says Rajesh Kumar, vice chair of Global Fund’s country coordinating mechanism-India. Kumar, who is also Executive Director at the Society for the Promotion of Youth and Masses, says the situation is unfortunate because there is already a low health care budget. At present, Global Fund and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are the two main organisations which are continuing with funding for AIDS control programme. Besides, the World Bank continues to fund such programmes through loans. According to Kumar, the withdrawal of funds by various multilateral organisations is also because of political decisions of both India as well as donor countries. While many of these organisations are short of funding, India’s achievement in AIDS control has also led to many donor agencies diverting resources to areas where the need is more. For instance, Gates Foundation, which launched its AIDS prevention programme ‘Avahan’ in India in 2003 and was working with the government as well as NGOs and community groups, said in a note, “Between 2010 and 2012, the government gradually took ownership of the programme as planned.” While the Foundation continues to support the government in HIV prevention, it is now more focused in other segments such as family planning, tuberculosis and sanitation. (Times of India 23/5/15)

323. HIV positive couple commits suicide at Santa cruz (3)

Mumbai: A married couple at Santa Cruz committed suicide at their home by hanging themselves from the ceiling, in an incident that was discovered on Saturday afternoon. While a suicide note left behind by them stated no one was to be blamed for their death, the police has concluded the couple’s HIV status as the reason behind the extreme step as the two had become depressed owing to the treatment. The same was also confirmed by one of their two sons in his statement to the police. Kashiram Pawar (50) and his wife Nirmala (47) lived at Relief Road, near the Daulat Nagar area of Santa Cruz (west). On Saturday afternoon, Kashiram, who was a mechanic, was found hanging in the bedroom while Nirmala was found in the kitchen. “According to their son’s statement, both had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS around four years ago and were undergoing treatment at the Sion Hospital. The two had a very unsocial and reclusive life after their medical status was confirmed and were also facing embarrassment and stigma among their neighbours and other family members,” said an officer from the Santa Cruz police station. One of their sons is married and lives with his in-laws while the other son works in a Gulf country. (Asian Age 25/5/15)

324. Doctors bound by oath to treat a person with AIDS: HC (3)

PATNA: The Patna high court on Thursday ruled that the licence of any doctor refusing to treat a person living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) is liable to be cancelled. Hearing a writ petition alleging denial of treatment by the PMCH to the petitioner living with AIDS, Justice Navaniti Prasad Singh observed that it is the duty of a hospital to give medical assistance to every citizen without any discrimination and if a doctor refuses to treat a person living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA), his licence shall be liable for cancellation. “The doctors are bound by their oath,” the court observed. The court ordered the PMCH superintendent to constitute a medical board comprising three doctors and examine the petitioner. “If the petitioner requires surgery, it should be done immediately at the cost of the state and if surgery is not required, the report shall be produced in the court at the earliest,” the court ordered. The writ petition was filed by one Sushila Kumar through her counsel Vikash Kumar Pankaj who argued that the petitioner immediately needs treatment/surgery as she had serious complications in her uterus and she can’t sit. He also stated that the petitioner was referred by Chhapra sadar hospital to PMCH due to her status but the PMCH refused to perform surgery. The petitioner counsel said it is gross violation of her fundamental rights. (Times of India 29/5/15)

 

Posted by admin at 18 May 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. “Dalit students forced to clean toilets” (2)

Tirunelveli: Dalit students of an aided high school near Kalakkad in the district were being forced to clean the toilets in the school, the Communist Party of India has alleged. Its cadres submitted a petition to Collector M. Karunakaran on Monday, asking him to direct Kalakkad police that had registered a case on Friday last to conduct a proper enquiry into the issue. The petitioners, led by T. Paulraj, CPI’s East Vadakarai secretary, said the Dalit students of Hindu High School, having a total strength of around 550 students, at Keezhapaththai Pandithankurichi near Kalakkad were being forced to clean the toilets while students from other communities were being spared. “Since there is no watchman or conservancy worker in this aided school , the Dalit students are being compelled to clean the toilets. Though this practice is in vogue for the past several years, the matter came to light only recently after the offended students narrated this practice to their parents,” said Mr. Paulraj. CPI farmers’ wing deputy secretary P. Perumbadaiyar was present. Pressing for a similar demand, two Dalit outfits also submitted petitions to the Collector. (The Hindu 21/4/15)

2. UP: 13-year-old dalit girl gang-raped, ‘set ablaze’ (2)

KOSI: A 13-year-old dalit girl allegedly gang-raped by five local youths in Nagriya village of Mathura was found with more than 70% burn injuries. The girl has been referred to Delhi Safdarjang Hospital where her condition continues to be serious.While the police said the girl had set herself afire, her family members alleged she was set on fire by the accused. Senior superintendent of police Manzil Saini said the five were booked under sections 376 ( rape) of IPC, and 3/4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act. Following a complaint by the girl’s father, the five accused — Vinay, Deepak, Sukhvir, Vikram and Dinesh — were arrested. On Wednesday, the five were presented before a magistrate who sent them to jail. Deputy inspector general Laxmi Singh too visited the village on Tuesday spoke with the victim’s family members. One of the accused, Sukhvir, is said to be the girl’s uncle while the other four are his friends. In her statement to the police, the girl said she had gone to the fields to answer nature’s call on Sunday when two men dragged her to a secluded room. There, three other men were waiting, and the five took turns raping her. She alleged that the men then sprinkled kerosene, before setting her on fire. When she did not return, her family members went out to look for her and found her in the burnt state. Her relatives lodged a police complaint on Tuesday evening. Locals claimed that the delay in lodging the complaint was because the family feared social stigma. Villagers alleged that initially the police were reluctant to file a report and wanted to hush up the matter. It was only when the media got wind of it on April 21 that the police lodged an FIR and the girl was transferred to Delhi for treatment. Kosi station house officer Surendra Singh said all angles are being probed and sections of attempt to murder will be added to the FIR, if the family members’ claims are found to be true. Times of India 22/4/15)

3. With eye on Dalit vote, Modi calls for end to manual scavenging (2)

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday made a major outreach to Dalits by calling for an end to manual scavenging as India celebrates the 125th birth anniversary of B R Ambedkar. He also announced an international centre in Ambedkar’s name in Delhi and grant of land in Mumbai for an Ambedkar memorial. Regretting the continuance of manual scavenging, Modi sought cooperation from society in the resolve to get rid of this “blot”. “Does it behove us that manual scavenging is still continuing in the country? I have emphasized that we must get rid of this blot in the 125th anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar. We will not tolerate a situation where any of the poor persons has to engage in manual scavenging,” he said in his monthly ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme. “We need the cooperation of society. The government will have to carry out its responsibility. I need the support of people to fulfill this endeavour,” he added. The statements assume significance in the context of upcoming assembly elections in Bihar where BJP is hoping to get a sizable share of Dalit votes. In the wake of former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Musahar, having been unceremoniously dethroned by Nitish Kumar, the current CM is on a sticky wicket as far as his ‘Mahadalit’ constituency is concerned. They have significance for UP too, which goes to polls in 2017 but where Dalits have already shown a liking for the BJP in the 2014 general elections. BJP and Sangh Parivar’s attempt to co-opt Ambedkar is in line with its effort to spread its influence among the socially disadvantaged in UP at a time when Mayawati has suffered serious electoral setbacks. Modi said his government has decided to give land in Mumbai for building of a memorial for Ambedkar. The land was in dispute for several years, he said. Similarly, in Delhi, an international centre in Ambedkar’s name would be established where intellectuals from across the world would research his works and get to know his contributions better, Modi said, adding that the foundation stone of this complex had been laid after two decades. “What was not done in 20 years, we have pledged to do it in 20 months,” he said. Invoking Ambedkar, the PM said the architect of the Indian Constitution, throughout his life, kept advocating the need for education for all. “But even today, education has not reached Dalits, oppressed and deprived sections of the society, especially the girls,” he said. “In the 125th birth anniversary year, let us resolve that the daughters of even the poorest of the poor will not remain uneducated in villages, cities or mohallas,” he added. The PM said the government will do its duty and the society should join in this effort so that everyone has the satisfaction. (Times of India 27/4/15)

4. Jaipur: Dacoits scare 300 dalit villagers, rape 2 in Karauli (2)

JAIPUR/ALWAR: Nearly 300 dalit villagers went through the scariest five hours of their lives on Monday-Tuesday midnight. Four dacoits went on a rampage as they raped two women, injured several men and looted houses at Chaud Ka Kalan village in Karuali’s dacoit-infested Chambal ravines, at least 250km from the city. The five-hour long ordeal ended on a horrifying note early on Tuesday when the dacoits opened fire after they got to know that the villagers had called up the police. Local residents told TOI that a dacoit was shot dead in indiscriminate firing by another dacoit. Two villagers also sustained bullet injuries. The condition of one of them is stated to be serious. Several men were injured after they were beaten up with rifle butts. According to villagers, a gang of four dacoits reached the village around Monday midnight. “They were armed with country-made rifles. Taking some villagers at gun point, they started beating them up with the rifle butts. They then barged into various houses and raped at least two married women while their family members were kept hostage at gun point,” said a villager Ramesh Bairwa. Scared villagers bolted themselves inside their huts as the dacoits let loose a reign of terror. Villagers kept dialling the numbers of two police stations, Sapotara and Karanpur, but the landlines were not working. They even contacted the local policemen, on their cellphones, but failed to get any response. Police finally arrived at the spot around 5 am after the intervention of local public representative, said Ganpat Meena, former sarpanch. Meanwhile, when the dacoits came to know that the villagers tried to contact police, “They opened fire indiscriminately. Mukesh Gujjar, a dacoit was shot in his chest and collapsed on the spot. Another dacoit Dhaniram Gujjar was “captured” by the villagers, while two others fled,” said Bairwa. (Times of India 29/4/15)

TRIBALS

5. Land under Forest Rights Act: Government to Extend Deadline (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a major relief to forest dwellers seeking rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), the government has decided to extend the deadline for filing applications seeking land under the FRA to May 30. Addressing the representatives from tribal hamlets at the Kananasangamam on Monday, Forest Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said that so far the government had received 32,000 applications seeking land. Of this, decision has been taken on 25,500 applications. The Minister assured that decision would be taken in a time-bound manner in the case of rest of the applications also. Thiruvanchoor hoped that by August, Kerala will become the first state in the country to fully implement the Forest Rights Act. “The department will formulate a special cell to take urgent action in this regard,” Thiruvanchoor said. Of the 510 applications seeking community rights under the FRA, decision has been taken on 52 applications. Decision will be taken in the remaining applications also once the district-level reports are received. (New Indian Express 21/4/15)

6. AP killings: CPI(M) slams govt. for not pressing for CBI probe (6)

DHARMAPURI: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) will lead the fight till a CBI inquiry is ordered into the killing of 20 woodcutters in Sesachalam forests of Andhra Pradesh, said party’s State secretary G.Ramakrishnan. Slamming the Andhra Pradesh Forest Minister’s justification of the killings, Mr. Ramakrishnan, who led a hunger strike here on Thursday demanding the CBI probe, said that Andhra Pradesh had failed to act against red sanders mafia, but went after poor tribals. “It was a fake encounter by all means, and the policemen and their higher-ups should be tried for murder and sacked from service,” he said. In the same vein, Mr.Ramakrishnan criticised the failure of the Tamil Nadu government in prevailing upon the Centre to order a CBI inquiry. A mere relief would not suffice as the families that had lost their lone bread-winners. The families should be given a government job each, Mr. Ramakrishnan demanded. There was an increasing out-migration among educated unemployed youth to Erode, Tirupur, Bengaluru or Mumbai in search of employment as the government here has failed to generate local employment opportunities for the poor, he charged. Referring to the Vachathi atrocities of 1992, Mr.Ramakrishnan said it was the two-decade long fight by the CPI(M) that resulted in justice to the Malayali tribals. “The Communist movement brought it [Vachathi atrocities] to light and moved the High Court to order a CBI inquiry back then.” The two mainstream parties had failed the Dalits and tribals and it was the CPI(M) that had stood by them, Mr.Ramakrishnan said. (The Hindu 24/4/15)

7. Empowering Tribal Women, Increasing Productivity Through NHGs (6)

PALAKKAD: To strengthen the capacity of women and increasing their livelihood opportunities, tribal women in Attappadi are encouraged to undertake cultivation of traditional crops   through the Neighbourhood Groups (NHG) of the Kudumbashree. A total of 506 exclusive tribal women NHGs have been constituted in Attappadi and seeds will be distributed to them before the monsoon sets in. This is being done under the Mahila Kisan Shashakthikarna Pariyojana (MKSP) which is a programme of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM). The Rs 50 crore MKSP was one of the schemes announced by former Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy as part of the Attappadi package on a visit to Attappadi in June 2013. “There was a co-ordination meeting with the Agriculture Department and it was decided to purchase seeds under MKSP. The list of seeds was collected from women farmers and the purchase is being made from the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) and the Desi Seeds Collective which is a network of farmers across the country,” said programme manager of the NRLM and special officer posted in Attappadi, Seema Bhaskaran. In the past two years, we have constituted 150 tribal ooru samithis under Kudumbasree. The ooru samithis have developed a list of 1,100 women farmers (producer groups) interested in cultivation, details of acres to be cultivated, seed preservation methods, means of land preparation, water sources, weeding, harvesting plan, food requirements for the entire year and marketing, she added. “We propose to distribute seeds of vegetables, millets and pulses sourced from the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) and the Desi Seeds Collective which is a network of farmers all over the country, said Seema Bhaskaran. In the first year, there will be no sale of produce. The yield will be used merely for the consumption of families and to prepare seeds for the next season. “We do not intend to promote group farming like the ones undertaken by Kudumbasree in other parts of the state.  However, seeds will be distributed only to tribal women.” Says principal agriculture officer K K Shobhana, “We have also submitted another proposal to the state government costing Rs 10.4 crore under a centrally sponsored scheme for developing traditional agriculture in Attappadi.” Added Seema Bhaskaran, “ Under MKSP, we concentrate on reviving traditional farming, cattle rearing and collection of non-timber forest produce aimed at empowering women and attaining nutritional security. The producer groups also consist of community resource persons who will train and guide tribal women to practise traditional farming.” (New Indian  Express 27/4/15)

8. Houses for all in Odisha’s tribal areas (6)

BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha government has decided to go for universal housing coverage in all, Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), habitations across the State. A high-level meeting chaired by Chief Secretary G. K. Pati here on Monday resolved that efforts would be made to ensure one house for each PVTG household. According to A.B. Ota, Director Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste Research Institute, there are around 20,000 PVTGs spread over 20 blocks of 12 districts. They reside in near about 542 habitations. All PVTG households would be covered under Indira Awas Yojna (IAY) schemes, sources said. In 2013, the Central government had sanctioned 7,465 additional houses for the vulnerable tribal groups in poverty-stricken Nuapada and Rayagada districts. Then the Ministry had released Rs.20.99 crore over and above IAY allocation as the first instalment for constructing the houses. Apart from housing for PVTGs, it has also been decided that all departments would implement different welfare schemes in coordinated manner with a focus on PVTGs. According to office of Chief Secretary, the State government is looking to spend Rs.1,000 crore in PVTG areas under different welfare schemes in next two years. Although the State government has been emphasising on convergence of welfare schemes to benefit tribals, the plans are hardly translated into action. About two years ago, Rural Development department had on principle decided to provide drinking water through pipe water supply system in all 542 habitations. However, accessing drinking water in many tribal areas remained distant dream. Similarly, Finance Department two-and-a-half years ago had approved several posts to strengthen 17 micro projects which are operating dedicatedly for PVTGs. However, several projects are running with skeletal staff strength. According to an analysis of SC/ST Development department, the rate of poverty was 80.95 per cent in among PVTGs. Deforestation and loss of traditional rights on forests make their living worse. Around 26.43 per cent of PVTGs are landless and homeless. (The Hindu 28/4/15)

9. Dumka tribal outfit gives land rights to woman (6)

Dumka: The Mode Manjhi (conventional body of Santhal tribals) in its meeting at Gujisimal village, under Shikaripara block of the district awarded rights on five bighas of land to one woman, Sonapati Soren. Soren had inherited the land from her late grandfather Mangal Soren but she was denied rights by her two uncles. Under the customary law of Santhal tribals, daughters do not inherit parental property but if they do not have a brother, their husbands are entitled to get their share if they settle in their in-law’s home. Sonapati was living at her parents’ home in Gujisimal village along with her husband and children. However, both her uncles, Rameswar Soren and Misir Soren, had deprived her from the share of the paternal land for long prompting her to approach the traditional body. “I just wanted one-third of the five bighas but I am happy that they have taken a decision supporting a daughter for the first time,” Sonapati said. Sonapati’s uncles plea to continue to inherit the paternal five bighas of land was rejected by the Mode Manjhi as both of them have settled at their in-laws’ homes and have got a share in their wives’ property. “As both Rameswar Soren and Misir Soren have already been settled at their in-laws homes being ghar jamai they can’t avail the rights on their parental property any longer,” said Babudhan Hembrom, the gram pradhan. (Times of India 30/4/15)

WOMEN

10. No brides for 59 lakh men in UP (8)

LUCKNOW: On the eve of Akshay Tritiya, an auspicious day in the Hindu calendar to get married, over 59 lakh marriageable men in UP are without brides. Census data on the marital status of Indian population reveals that most Indian men live in a state of forced bachelorhood. Lesser number of girls due to the high female foeticide rate during the 1970s, 80s and 90s is considered to be the primary cause for the situation. The conclusion has been derived from census data on marital status of Indian population released recently. For 79.56 lakh unmarried men in their 20s, there are just 29.26 lakh unmarried women living. Similarly, there are 9.13 lakh men in their 30s but only 1.95 lakh girls while 3.03 lakh men in their 40s have 59,399 women to choose from. “This had to happen as girls were killed mercilessly inside the womb in those decades,” said Dr Neelam Singh, member, national inspection and monitoring committee on PCPNDT (pre-conception, pre-natal diagnostic techniques) Act. “That was the time sex determination strengthened its roots in India and created ripples in western parts of UP. The scenario will worsen by 2021,” she said. Population sex ratio for UP over the decades explains the gap. In the 1901 census, UP sex ratio was 938 which was 16 points less than the natural sex ratio of 954. It continued to drop until 1961, however, 70s saw the worst sex ratio of 876 (78 units below natural ratio). It picked up marginally in the 80s but slipped again in the 90s. At 908, UP sex ratio is way behind the national average of 940. “Had it not been for the PC PNDT act in the 1990s, many more girls would have died,” said Rohit Kant, a lawyer. Matchmaker G S Kapoor said he often comes across unmarried men in their 40s. “Some of them have compromised on caste and community over the years but to no avail. Subtle rise in the number of anti-dowry families is more due to the ‘unavailability of brides’ than any consciousness,” he said. The disturbed male and female ratio is the root of the many problems girls face in their daily lives. “Crime against women, especially rape and acid attacks are closely linked to this low female ratio” said Madhu Garg, a social activist. (Times of India 21/4/15)

11. 2.3 lakh unmarried males above 40 in Madhya Pradesh (8)

BHOPAL: More than 2.3 lakh men between 40 and 80 years of age remain unmarried in Madhya Pradesh, says a recently released Census 2011 report. Badlands of Chambal, notorious for foeticide and skewed sex ratio, also lead the state in number of unmarried males above 40 years. Activists working for gender equality said figure of never married men is directly proportional to skewed sex ratio leading to availability of lesser number of marriageable girls. Sarika Sinha, senior activist with Action Aid, said, “The larger number of never married men is directly proportional to unavailability of girls due to low sex ratio in those areas. In areas of Chambal, the society is highly patriarchal and practice of foeticide is rampant leading to worst sex ratio and disappearance of girls.” “The balance between number of girls and boys has been disturbed. People, we have observed during our field studies that they have to traffic women for marriage,” she said. Bhind and Morena, the two districts known for lowest sex ratio in the state (838 and 839, respectively) also have largest number of unmarried men in the state. In Bhind district, of 2,28,058 – the count for men above 40 years of age-6.3% have never married. Similarly in Morena, number of such men is 2,35,112. Of these, 5.3% are not married. Barring Indore, four districts, Bhind (14,425) Morena (12,530), Shivpuri (10,337), Gwalior (10,326), home to largest number of never married men, are from Gwalior and Chambal regions, infamous for its feudal mindset and skewed sex ratio. Even Gwalior and Shivpuri districts not only among the top five districts which are home to never married men aged above 40 years, as per the Census data, but with the sex ratio of just 862 and 877 these districts are also among the top five worst districts in terms of sex ratio. Indore is in top five due to its large population as total percentage of never married men aged above 40 years in population of people in same age group is 2.4%.Interestingly, in all four districts of Chambal, number of such women (aged 40 and 80+ years) is quite low compared to such men. Bhind has 1,789 unmarried women compared to 14,425 men, Morena has 1,607 unmarried women compared to 12,530 such men, Shivpuri has only 1,647 women compared to 10,337 such men. Likewise, Gwalior has only 3,272 women compared to 10,326 unmarried men. Tribal districts of state, which have best sex ratio in the state, are again best when it comes to number of unmarried men. Tribal districts have lowest number of never married men above 40 years. Umaria has lowest such men (only 985 such men) followed by Dindori (1,165 such men) and Anuppur (1,244 such men). From the census, it has emerged that 2,31,610 men from same age group have never married against 95,377 unmarried women from the same age group in the state. (Times of India 24/4/15)

12. Maneka seeks 30% women’s quota on board of listed firms (8)

NEW DELHI: After police force will there be reservation for women in corporates? It could be if women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi has her way. The minister has sought 30% reservation for women on the board of listed companies. In a letter to SEBI, Maneka has also expressed concern that the overwhelming number of women nominated on boards are relatives of promoters and work only as figureheads. She has also expressed intention to discuss the issue of increasing participation of women in corporates with the promoters. The capital markets watchdog Sebi had issued guidelines in February 2014 asking companies to appoint at least one woman director on their board by October 1, 2014 which was later relaxed to April 1, 2015. The minister’s letter comes in the backdrop of over 2000 listed companies still not having women on their boards despite the SEBI directive. The latest deadline for this affirmative action was April 15. According to the finance ministry of the 1,624 companies listed on the NSE, 1,361 companies have complied, while 263 companies or 16% have not complied with Sebi’s women director norm while of the 5,305 companies listed on BSE, 3,290 companies have complied with and 2,015 companies or 38% still do not have women directors on their boards. Maneka in her communication said India must conform to international standards and ensure that affirmative action must be met. She has also asked Sebi for a progress report on the issue. Countries like Germany and Scandinavian countries have laid down regulations on the minimum number of women directors. Germany has ruled that 40% of members should be women while Scandinavian countries mandate two women directors on board. Countries like Australia, America and UK have a voluntary compliance. According to the present rules, non-compliant firms will have to pay a monetary fine and can escape further regulatory action if they comply within next six months, till September 30. The listed companies complying between April 1 and June 30 will have to pay only Rs 50,000. Those complying between July 1 and September 30 this year would need to pay Rs 50,000 and an additional Rs 1,000 per day till compliance. The listed companies complying on or after October 1, 2015 will have to pay Rs 1.42 lakh, plus Rs 5,000 per day till the date of compliance. (Times of India 26/4/15)

13. Gulf dreams turn nightmare for Andhra Pradesh, Telangana women (8)

HYDERABAD: Hundreds of women from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are being lured to the Gulf countries with the promise of being employed as maids, but are ending up getting exploited. What has upset the AP Women’s Commission (that is still common to both the states) is that despite requests of taking proactive action made to the TRS and TDP governments, there has been no response from them. “It is difficult to trace many of these women. We wrote to both the state governments few months ago but there has been no response. Now, we are forced to write to them again with the plea that they institute a mechanism to check the organized crime involving a g ents,” Tripurana Venkataratnam, AP Women’s Commission chairperson, told TOI. Sexual abuse by employers, confiscation of passports, confinement to home, physical and emotional abuse, long working hours with no rest time, no holidays, and low wages or nonpayment of wages are the problems reported by most of the women who approached the office of the Protector of Immigrants (IOF) located at Nampally in Hyderabad. IOF is the common body for both the states and it reports to the Protector General of Immigrants in Delhi. According to sources, in the recent months alone, at least 100 women from the two states approached the IOF for help to return to India. “In 20 per cent of these cases, physical abuse of the women is the main reason. While those who go abroad lured by the offer of good money range from the illiterate to degree holders, the majority are those with no or very little education,” sister Lizy Joseph, coordinator for the National Moment for Domestic Immigrants (NMDI) in both the states, told TOI. NMDI is the counselling organisation at IOF for such women. Most women who head to the Gulf nations are from Kadapa, East and West Godavari districts. “Every year, nearly 25,000 women from East Godavari district alone go to Gulf countries” said sister Lizy. In Telangana, the maximum cases of women going to the Gulf are reported from Mahabubngar, Hyderabad and Karimnagar districts. In a new trend, cases are being reported from the AP districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Anantapur. The husband of a 38-year-old woman hailing from Srikakulam town filed a petition recently with the Women Commission’s stating that his wife, who had gone to Kuwait as domestic worker, is being subjected to cruelty by her employers and that he wants help in getting her back.The commission reported the case to the police department who wrote to the Interpol seeking help. Till date, the man has no news of his wife. Kuwait is popularly called Koita in East Godavari, and many women readily opt to go there as domestic help as the agents promise them salary of around Rs 30,000 to 40,000 per month. “In my interactions with several petitioners and others, I found that most women get the visa of one of the Gulf countries like Kuwait or Saudi Arabia but end up in other countries in the re gion,” Tripurana said. In one case, a 40-year-old woman who recently returned to East Godavari district after being held in the Gulf for 10 years against her will said she was subjected to physical and emotional abuse. From Kuwait, where she was taken to on a valid visa, she was led to four other Gulf countries. I narrate her hellish experience to potential Gulf-going women in order to dissuade them from going,” the chairperson said. Many women complained that when they insisted on returning to India after being subjected to abuse, their employers demanded monetary compensation claiming they paid huge sums of money to the agents for procuring them. “In fact, these women pay about Rs 50,000 each to agents. The agent, in turn, takes a huge sum from the employer for providing these women as domestic helps,” the sources said. The commission wants that the two states set up a department on the lines of the nonresident Keralites affairs department that exists in Kerala.”Such a board will have the record of every woman leaving the country, the employer details, name of the agent, etc.Together with the labour department and police, this menace can be checked,” Tripurana said. (Times of India 29/4/15)

14. Married women head 4% of families (8)

Among those currently married, barely 4% of all households are headed by women. In sharp contrast, women-headed households constitute nearly three-fourths of those headed by a widowed person, about two-thirds of those headed by separated people and about 60% among those who are divorced. Given the fact that women vastly outnumber men in each of these three categories, that’s not surprising. Among the larger states, the proportion of women-headed households in those who are currently married is the highest in Kerala (9.7%) followed by Himachal and Uttarakhand with 8% and 8.4% respectively. This proportion is lowest in Gujarat, just 2%, followed by Delhi with just 2.3% and West Bengal with 2.5%. This was revealed in the latest census data on marital status, sex and age of household heads released on Tuesday. Over 70% of currently married men are household heads, compared to barely 3% of the married women, the data showed. Even among the women-headed households, a significant chunk could be because the male members have migrated out for work, which would explain why a state like Uttarakhand has such a high proportion, though cultural factors could also be playing a role in states like Kerala and Meghalaya. When households comprising married couples were grouped according to the age of the household head, the data showed an interesting pattern — women-headed households formed a larger proportion among households where the head of the household was below 20 years of age. This proportion was 10.6% at the national level. The proportion of women-headed households kept falling as the age of household heads increased till it touched 3.3% in the 50-59 age group. Beyond 59 years, the proportion of women-headed households rose slowly, till it touched 7% in the 80+ age group. The pattern is repeated in almost every state, though the exact age group at which the declining trend reverses varies from state to state. If smaller states are also counted, Meghalaya had the highest proportion of women-headed households (9.8%), marginally higher than Kerala, among those currently married. Kerala has the highest proportion of women-headed households in the lower age groups. About 24% of households headed by persons aged below 20 years are women-headed. This rises to 35% of households with heads aged 20-29, falls to 22% in the 30-39 age group and then keeps falling as the age of the household head increases. Though the number of widowed men is much lower than widowed women, 70% of widowed men headed their households while only 51.7% of widowed women headed their households. This could mean that almost half the 43.3 million widowed women live as dependents. (Times of India 30/4/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

15. 65 child labourers rescued from Mumbai, sent back home (14)

Mumbai: In an attempt to curb child labour, the Maharashtra government, along with a non-governmental organisation, helped reunite 65 rescued children with their families. The children were rescued from various establishments last month and sent to shelter homes in a joint operation of the NGO and the state government. “I came here to work… I came here on my own… (was working) in Dharavi… from 10 am to 10 pm,” said a rescued child, Satish Kumar, adding, “I am feeling happy to go back home.” Of the 65, parents of 10 rescued children, picked up their wards from the shelter homes, while the rest were sent to their homes on a special coach of Rajendra Nagar Superfast Express. “Initially we used to rescue around 500 children yearly but now it has come down because these children are sent back to parents who now know that child labour is a crime,” said state Minister For Women and Child Development, Vidya Thakur. (Zee News 21/4/15)

16. 490 Children in Kovai, Tirupur to be Re-admitted to Schools (14)

COIMBATORE:  More than 490 out-of-school children, dropouts and child workers from Coimbatore and Tirupur districts will be admitted to government schools and training centres this year. They were identified through a survey conducted by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan officials, along with school teachers, teachers of special schools, teacher trainees and Anganwadi workers. The survey, which began on April 1, is being carried out in all 15 blocks in Coimbatore district and all seven in Tirupur. It will conclude on April 30, but if necessary, will be extended to May 15, said Additional Chief Educational Officer (SSA) V Maliga. The child workers were working in brick kilns, textile units, farms, restaurants and houses. They will be admitted to training centres under the National Child Labour Project. There are 21 such centres in Coimbatore and Tirupur. Apart from free uniforms and study materials, the child workers will be given a stipend of `150. They will be educated in these centres for three years and then integrated with the mainstream schools. (New Indian Express 23/4/15)

17. Over 1,200 children to be trained on rights (14)

VIJAYAWADA: In its move to prevent atrocities against children, the district administration is creating awareness among children and women on child laws and rights. The District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) of the Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) Department is imparting training to children on child rights, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012, Juvenile Welfare Department, Juvenile Justice Board and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2006. “The government has constituted Village Level Child Protection Committees, to which students will be admitted. More than 570 committees have been formed,” said WD&CW Krishna District Project Director (PD) K. Krishna Kumar. “The situation is alarming in Krishna district. In some cases, girls aged below 10 years are subjected to sexual abuse and assault. More than 30 child marriages were prevented in the last few months. We are trying to increase literacy rate among girls to prevent atrocities, child marriages and violence against them,” the PD said. “Out of two students, one should be female. The Village Level Child Protection Committees will take decision on filing complaint with the police and recommending for protection and shelter to the victim,” DCPU Officer Ch. Vijay Kumar said. The government paid Rs. 15 lakh financial assistance to victims under the POCSO Act during 2014-15, which was Rs. 40,000 during 2013-14, he added. (The Hindu 24/4/15)

18. 50 per cent of ‘rescued’ minors return to work (14)

Mumbai: NGO Pratham, which has been working since 2014 on tracking children rescued from child labour in Mumbai, claimed that about 70 per cent of children who were unofficially sent back home to UP and Bihar, could not be traced. The NGO also claimed that it was unable to trace nearly 20 per cent of the children who were sent back through government channels. Superintendent of Dongri correction home, Shankar Jadhav said, “Taking help of NGOs to do our work is essential. Pratham has been tracking children rescued from child labour for the past one year.” As per the information provided by Pratham, a task force comprising the Mumbai police, labour department and the NGO rescued about 366 children between April 2013 and March 2014. Another 2,650 children were rescued unofficially through preventive action. The task force had successfully rescued 732 more such child labourers between April 2014 and March 2015 while the NGO has saved 995 more children by taking preventive action. By means of explaining what preventive action actually involves, Navnath Kamble from Pratham said, “As part of preventive action, we meet people who employ minors and inform them that it is illegal to make minors work as labourers and ask them to send the children back home. In such incidents, crime cases are not registered against the employers but we keep a record of the children.” Director of the Pratham Council for Vulnerable Children, Kishore Bhamre who has been working with the NGO for the past 12 years said, “We have started tracking children who were to return to UP and Bihar. Slowly, we will start tracking children in other states as well.” He further added, “Last year, we went through records of children rescued from child labour in Mumbai in the past four years. We short-listed the children whose addresses were mentioned clearly. As per the NGO’s records, they had information on 463 children belonging to Bihar but on visiting their homes, the official found only 232 of the children while the rest had allegedly left their homes and ventured out for work again. Similarly, in UP after the NGO officials visited the homes of the minors, of the total 76 children, 20 children were found while 56 had left their villages. All these children were rescued by the task force in Mumbai. “Some of the parents confessed that their children had gone back to work but the parents who knew they could be prosecuted for being involved in child labour lied that their children were at their relative’s place. About 70 per cent of the children sent unofficially to both Bihar and UP could not be traced,” said Mr Bhamre. To ensure there is no confusion over tracking the rescued children, the superintendent of Dongri correction home said that they have started an inter-state co-ordination programme. “The inter-state coordination is active in Bihar. The Patna CWC will keep a track of the children who have recently been rescued by us. The programme is underway in Uttar Pradesh and soon we will co-ordinate with West Bengal, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh as well.” (Asian Age 26/4/15)

19. Child labour bitter truths (14)

Ranchi, April 29: Jharkhand is gearing up to observe National Child Labour Day tomorrow, but the truth is that despite taking a series of initiatives and measures the state has failed to curb the social malaise. According to the 2001 census, there are around 4 lakh child labourers in Jharkhand. Over the years, the state labour department conducted a series of raids at shops, dhabas, hotels, mines and stone-crushing units to rescue minor workers. It also implemented pre-rescue, post-rescue and rehabilitation schemes like running National Child Labour Project (NCLP) special schools, bridge schools, linking the rescued to vocational training centres, opening short-stay homes and starting a child tracking system.But truth be told, a few of these initiatives could be sustained for long. As state convener of Bachpan Bachao Andolan Sanjay Mishra points out, rehabilitation of the rescued children had not been complete. “Though NCLP schools have been opened, little effort has been taken to run them successfully. Even Rs 100 as stipend and supplementary nutrition have been stopped,” Mishra said. For example, in Pakur district, where the percentage of child labour is the highest (6.9 per cent) as per the Annual Health Survey (AHS) report of 2012-2013, the state labour department started 19 NCLP schools in 2010. “But today, only four NCLP schools are operational. The rest have been shut due to lack of funds. Besides, the dropout rate in Classes I and II is 40 per cent while from Classes I to V is 70 per cent,” said director of the state labour department Jeet Wahan Oraon. (The Telegraph 30/4/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

20. Hindus among multi-religious group of 29 petitioners challenging ‘Hindu law (7)

MUMBAI: In a new petition, a multi-religious, Hindu-Muslim-Christian coalition of 29 Mumbaikars has challenged the new beef ban law, claiming the Maharashtra government’s aim is to impose its version of “Hindu law”. The petitioners who include filmmakers, women’s rights activists, professors, medical practitioners and students have targeted Section 5D of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act that criminalizes possession of beef and, in turn, its consumption. While the state had claimed the law was brought in to preserve cows, bulls and bullocks, the petition claims the ban on possession of even beef imported from outside the state seemed to have another motive. “The obvious and underlying reason for criminalizing the possession of beef, including that slaughtered outside Maharashtra, can only be an undeclared religious purpose,” said the petition. “As it is believed (wrongly) that the Hindu religion does not permit eating of beef, the present amendment seems to have been passed. Thus, the state of Maharashtra has passed a law, which is mainly to implement its version of Hindu law.” The petition claims that the new law violates the Constitutional rights “which requires citizens to cherish the rich composite culture of India”.Bombay high court is scheduled to hear the case of the petitioners, who will be represented by their lawyer Mihir Desai, on Tuesday. The petitioners claimed to have filed the case on behalf of beef consumers across religions. “Apart from Catholics and Muslims, a large number of Hindus, more so the Dalit communities, as well as tribals are known to consume beef as part of their ordinary diet,” said the petition. They contended that even if one were to purchase raw beef or tinned beef products from Goa or US where it is legally slaughtered, into Maharashtra, a person could be prosecuted under the new law and, if convicted, punished with up to one year in jail. “(The law) is an encroachment on the fundamental right to life and personal liberty of the petitioners, their right to eat the food of their choice, food which they have eaten all their lives and is an essential part of their diets,” said the petition. They have also challenged the legality of the law, which was framed in 1995, but the Presidential assent was received 20 years later in 2015, without any study or survey on the changed circumstances. the changed circumstances. (Times of India 21/4/15)

21. Govt working to protect minorities: Rajnath SinghI (7)

NEW DELHI: Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday said the government is working for the protection of the minorities. The home minister, speaking in the Lok Sabha also offered to come out with a detailed statement on the number of communal incidents and attacks on places of worship under all regimes. “I can come out with a full-fledged statement on communal incidents… so that the country knows under which government maximum attacks have taken place,” the minister said. (Times of India 22/4/15)

22. Funds lapsed, next instalment missed: IAS Study Centre for minorities remains on paper

Lucknow: Seven months after it was announced, the IAS Study Centre for minority community remains on paper only even as the funds sanctioned as first instalment for the project lapsed at the end of last fiscal. Expressing concern over the dismal representation of the minority community in general and Muslims in particular in civil services, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had in June last year asked the Urdu Academy to set up an IAS Study Centre. Urdu Academy was also tasked with providing coaching services to the minority community students preparing for civil services examination. Taking personal interest, Akhilesh also sanctioned Rs 4 crore for setting up of the project. The first instalment of Rs 1.75 crore reached Urdu Academy in October last year, but the was not utilised and lapsed at the end of 2014-15 financial year and the Academy missed the next instalment. However, chairman, Urdu Academy, Nawaz Deobandi claimed that everything has been put in place and in next week advertisement will be published for commencement of the study centre. “We took time but the IAS Study Centre will be soon a reality. In next week, we are going to start it,” Deobandi said. After Akhilesh’s announcement, Urdu Academy had constituted a committee of retired bureaucrats for guidance on setting up the Study Centre. Several meetings were held for it and the recommendations were submitted to the Academy. Deobandi brushed aside the fact that next instalment for the project has been missed while the first instalment lapsed. “We were doing things and slowly it will take shape. We don’t have a building for the centre still we are starting it, which is an achievement,” Deobandi claimed. Deobandi, however, cited several achievements of Urdu Academy, which include among others reviving awards to Urdu littérateurs after three years, organising mushairas in universities, special mushaira for children and grant for publication of Urdu books. Urdu Academy was set up in 1972 for development of Urdu language. It gives scholarships to students, reprints classic books, gives financial aid to old and needy Urdu poets and holds seminars and symposia for promotion of the language. It comes under Department of Language which is held by the Chief Minister. Urdu Academy does not have a full time secretary as its present secretary Faiz Rehman also holds the charge as CEO of Sunni Central Board of Waqfs and director, Minority Welfare. “We have written several times to state government for a full time officer but have not got one,” Deobandi said. (Indian Express 26/4/15)

23. Won’t tolerate communal activities: Govt (7)

New Delhi: Facing intense Opposition heat on ghar wapsi and frequent incidents of attacks against churches, the BJP government at the Centre on Tuesday asserted that it will not tolerate anything that would disturb communal harmony and asked states to act against such activities. Replying to debate on Demands for Grants, home minister Rajnath Singh also responded to questions in Lok Sabha over conversion, saying the government wants an anti-conversion law but noted that India is the only country where minorities do not seek such a law. “I want to assure, especially the minorities, that government will protect them with all its might,” he said and added that states should take strict action. “How can the Centre intervene…If it in happens in Delhi, we will take strict action. I think justice is not being done to the Centre if it is blamed for what happens in states,” he said. Hinting that the BJP government was being targeted for political reasons, he said he had figures to prove his point but refrained from making them public as he was not interested in doing politics over such a sensitive issue. “If I was interested in political gains, I would have tabled all statistics over the issue. It would hurt feelings of many people. But it would create an unnecessary controversy… I appeal to all not to do politics over the issue,” he said. As some Opposition members drew his attention to controversial remark of Union minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti made sometime back, Rajnath Singh was quick to disapprove it, saying “it is wrong”. “Questions are being raised about communal harmony citing ghar wapsi. I will suggest that let us take a decision and if entire House agrees, let us pass an anti-conversion law. In all countries of the world, the minorities demand for an anti-conversion law but in India they don’t demand it,” he said. (The Asian Age 29/4/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

24. Need law to ensure minimum interference in minorities’ affairs, says, AISPLB (7)

Lucknow: AISPLB, muslim personal law, Indian minorities, Rajiv Gandhi, Shamima Farooqui, Shahid Khan case, lucknow news, city news, local news, lucknow newslineThe All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) on Monday expressed its unhappiness over “repeated interference” by courts in Muslim personal law and demanded that there should be “a law for minimum interference in the issues of Indian minorities”. Speaking about the April 6 Supreme Court order in the Shamima Farooqui versus Shahid Khan case, where the apex court had reiterated that a Muslim woman is entitled to maintenance by her former husband till she remarries, AISPLB president Maulana Mirza Mohammad Athar said while they agree with the judgment, there should also be a law to ensure minimum interference in minorities’ issues. In its judgment, the Supreme Court has reiterated that civil law will prevail over any personal laws, which in essence, helps divorced Muslim women whose right to maintenance was curtailed by Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act-1986 passed by the Rajiv Gandhi government in the wake of the top court’s Shah Bano ruling. While the SC had ruled in favour of granting maintenance to divorced Muslim women in the Shah Bano case, Rajiv Gandhi — ostensibly under pressure from Muslim clerics — had passed the Act that essentially diluted the SC ruling. However, over the years, the courts, in turn, ruled in favour of women and sidestepped the Act. Mirza said AISPLB has found a middle ground on the issue, as rulings like April 6 lead to “restlessness within the Muslim community”. “On one hand, there is Section 125 of CrPC and the insistence of the top court on its applicability to divorced Muslim women, which entitles them to maintenance pay, during and after iddat period (of three months and 10 days), by her former husband, till the day she remarries. On the other, Islamic shariah law says that a man is entitled to give maintenance pay only for the iddat period… after that he is free of any responsibility… But time and again this issue has been raised, hence, we decided to find a middle ground,” he added. “We had passed a ‘nikahnama’ at our 2007 meet in Mumbai where clause number 17 read that a husband will continue to provide maintenance to his former wife, even after the iddat period, until she finds a means to support herself. We have been careful in our wording, saying that that it should be implemented in view of humanitarian grounds and not religious grounds,” said Mirza. “While our nikahnama itself isn’t compulsory, the SC ruling effectively binds a Muslim man to pay maintenance to his former wife after divorce, till she remarries,” he added… (Indian Express 21/4/15)

25. 32% of undertrials jailed in Maharashtra are Muslims (7)

MUMBAI: A disproportionately high number of undertrial prisoners in Maharashtra are Muslims. Data compiled by the Union home ministry reveals that while Muslims comprise about 12% of the state’s total population, they make up nearly 32% of the undertrial population in prisons. Similarly, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes form 12% and 9% of Maharashtra’s population, but they account for 18.15% and 18.34% of the undertrial population. NCP’s Rajya Sabha member Vandana Chavan, a former mayor of Pune, had sought information relating to undertrials: on whether the government proposed to free them, how many were detained for more than half the prescribed period of imprisonment, the number who were eligible for release under section 436-A of the Criminal Procedure Code, and the sectarian breakup of undertrials languishing in Indian jails. Union minister of state for home Haribhai Chaudhary informed Chavan that of the 27,400 inmates in Maharashtra jails (as of December 31, 2013), 19,331 were undertrials. Nationally, of the 4,11,992 prisoners inmates, 2,78,503 were undertrials. As per the statement submitted in Parliament, after Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, Maharashtra had the maximum number of Muslim undertrials in prisons. The state had 6,182 Muslims, 3,509 from scheduled castes and 3,545 from scheduled tribes among its overall undertrial population behind bars. In Uttar Pradesh, 15,477 of 58,100 undertrials were Muslims and in West Bengal, the figure was 7,730 out of 16,471. Chaudhary said the Centre had initiated several steps in respect of undertrial prisoners to reduce overcrowding in prisons. An advisory was issued on January 17, 2013 to state chief secretaries regarding use of Section 436A of the Criminal Procedure Code to reduce overcrowding of prisons. The said section pertains to the maximum period for which an undertrial prisoner can be detained. It provides that if an undertrial has been in jail for a period which amounts to half of the maximum imprisonment specified for that offence, then he can be released by the court on a personal bond with or without sureties. On September 3, 2014, Union home minister Rajnath Singh wrote to all the chief ministers on the same issue. In addition, all the state directors-general of prisons have been asked to take necessary action as per the apex court order. An advisory was issued on September 27, 2014 to the state chief secretaries on determining half-life of time spent in judicial custody by undertrial prisoners under law. (Times of India 23/4/15)

26. Islamic world should follow India Muslim for peace: Dargah Ajmer (7)

Dargah Dewan of Ajmer, Syed Abedin Ali Khan has urged the Islamic world to follow Indian Muslims for living in peace and concord. While presenting his annual message during Urs in Ajmer, Dewan expressed concern over the growing sectarian violence in many Islamic nations. “The manner in which Shia and Sunni Muslims or Barelvis and Tablighis are living in peace in India has no match in the world,” said Dewan Sahab. He attributed the cohesiveness among different sects of Muslims to the Indian constitution, which has granted every individual all possible right to practice its rituals and traditions responsible for this unmatched harmony. He stated that at a time when Shias and Sunnis killing each other in countries like Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Bangladesh and Afganistan, Indian Muslims which constitute the second-largest Muslim community in the world bears no such trouble. “The level of hatred in these nations is such that they are not sparing Sufi shrines, mosques and places. It always pained us read stories on how during Muharram sectarian violence takes hundreds of lives in countries like Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. India is the only nation where both Sunni and Shia observe Muharram together,” said Dewan, while addressing to the heads of various Sufi Shrines. What could be more enthralling is that in Ajmer both Sunni and Shia community are living in public security and harmony for last 800 years, said Dewan. Does any of the Islamic have such a clean record? Asked Dewan. (Times of India 26/4/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

27. Minorities unite for Christians’ protest (7)

LUCKNOW: As Christian community prepares to stage a protest on Thursday with closure of all Christian educational and medical institutions to remain closed, members of other minority communities have pledged their support too. Emergency services in hospitals, however, will not be affected. Over 5,000 people representing various minority communities will reach GPO park to observe ‘Black day’ and send a memorandum to chief minister and governor after a peaceful protest. Almost 100 academic institutions of 10 districts, along with Christian hospitals and clinics will remain close on Thursday. The community has also received support from Maulana Kalbe Jawad, Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangimahali and the head of Sadar Gurdwara. The community is protesting alleged apathy of the government towards them with no action against campaigns like ‘Ghar wapsi’ and speeches that hurt minorities. They plan to stage such protests at the state and national level, if their rights are not protected. “The government is not taking adequate and stringent action against the atrocities being committed with the community continuously. Throughout the year such acts have been taking place but police and governments at Centre and the state have both taken no action,” said Bishop Mathais, addressing reporters on behalf of the Uttar Pradesh Masihi Association (UPMA). UPMA claims that 20 attacks on minorities across the state have occurred since July 2014. Speaking to the media, the bishop added, “Christmas was selected as the day for celebrating good governance day, which only set up a bad example. Around Good Friday, the meeting of Chief Justices of India was convened, which Christian justices were forced to attend, undermining their important events. Then they are politicians and their followers who organise Ghar wapsi programmes and give speeches that hurt the community. All this shows that the government is trying to ignore our sentiments, as we are not a vote bank for them.” Suggesting just promises will not be enough for the community Bishop Augustus Anthony said, “Sometime back, at a Christian gathering, PM Modi had assured safety to the community, but even then churches are being attacked. We are Indians and our rights should be protected and we should be treated equally.” Considering the issues of the Christians and other minorities, UPMA secretary Rakesh Chattree said, “There is an atmosphere of insecurity in the entire country. If a community is feeling unsafe in its own country, the government must order a CBI investigation and identify people responsible for such an atmosphere.” (Times of India 23/4/15)

28.  ‘Attacks on religious places must stop’(7)

NEW DELHI: Hearing a petition on security for churches in the Capital, the Delhi High Court on Friday observed that attacks on any kind of religious structures should be stopped as they shake human conscience and were inconsistent with the values of the country’s pluralist society. “We have lived in harmony for thousands of years. India is a pluralist country…If we wish to survive as a country, we have to continue harmony and protect religions,” said Justice Siddharth Mridul, while hearing the plea for a Court-monitored SIT probe into the recent attacks on churches in Delhi. The petition was moved by lawyer Reegan S. Bell, who sought protection of religious rights of Christians and directions for securing churches against attacks and vandalism in future, in addition to the SIT probe monitored by the Court. Justice Mridul turned down the plea for SIT probe and referred the matter for directions to the Division Bench headed by Chief Justice, which adjudicates on public interest litigation. The case was fixed before the Division Bench on April 29. (Indian Express 25/4/15)

29. HC seeks report on church attacks (7)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought a response from the government on the measures it had taken for the safety of religious institutions in the Capital. This was in response to a public interest litigation demanding that a special investigation team (SIT) probe the recent church attacks. The PIL had also requested that the SIT has Christian members or members of the National Minority Commission. The PIL before a Bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw had also sought directions to the Centre, Delhi government, and the police to submit a status report on action taken post the attacks and safety measures to prevent such incidents in future. The Home Ministry’s lawyers opposed the motion, stating that the PIL was of a communal nature and that an SIT had already been formed to investigate the attacks. It was argued that all places of worship were vulnerable to attacks and that the petition seemed to be concerned only about churches. The government lawyers said that around 200 temples, 30 gurdwaras and 14 mosques were vandalised along with six churches in the Capital last year. Preference should not be given to one religion only, said lawyers. However, the court specifically asked them whether an FIR had been registered before giving four weeks to all these authorities to file their status report. (The Hindu 30/4/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

30. 446 rescued migrants arrive in Sicily port (13)

Rome, April 22 (IANS/EFE) A group of 446 migrants, including 95 women and 59 children, landed on Wednesday at the port of Augusta in Sicily after being rescued by the Italian coast guard. The victims were in good condition and will stay in housing projects reserved for illegal migrants in the southeastern Sicilian town of Augusta. The migrants were rescued on Tuesday when they were adrift on a barge off the coast of Calabria in southern Italy by two Italian navy patrol vessels, according to a statement issued by the Italian armed forces. It is expected that 545 more migrants will arrive on Wednesday at the port in Salerno, in the southern region of Campania, after they were recently rescued. (Business Standard 22/4/15)

31. National Migration Policy Demanded (13)

BHUBANESWAR:More than 700 migrant children in 22 brick kilns located on the outskirts of the Capital City stay under hazardous conditions. The number is much higher when migrant children living with their parents and employed at construction sites and crusher units in and around Bhubaneswar are taken into account, Regional Head, Aide et Action, Umi Daniel said here on Thursday. Daniel was addressing a conference on “Protection of Children in Migration”, organised by an NGO ‘Destination Unknown – Children on Move (DU-COM)’. “In most cases, these children are bereft of potable water, nutritious food and hygienic surroundings. Adolescent females, who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and trafficking, are the worst affected in these surroundings and the situation worsens as one moves into backward districts and interior parts of the State,” Daniel added. Addressing the conference, Convenor of DU-COM Umesh Purohit said in recent times, Odisha has been the source, transit and destination hotspot for migration. An upswing in rail linkage has acted as a catalyst for inward and outward movement of wage earners from the State. According to a survey conducted by DU-COM, the major factors which trigger migration in Odisha are poverty, natural disaster, unrest in Maoist-hit districts and communal violence. While only 15 per cent of children move with their parents during transit or migration, the survey indicated that the street children, runaways, missing children and refugees form a sizeable majority of the migrant children population. Minors from the State are engaged at textile industries in Surat, brick kilns in Andhra Pradesh, carpentry units in Kerala and children from Gajapati and Phulbani districts work as domestic helps in Goa. “The State Government is not doing enough to enumerate inter-State and intra-State migrants. There is no proper audit of worksites of the MSME and industries functioning here to check the living standards,” Purohit said. The forum sought a National Migration Policy to be drafted in consultation with migration-prone States and its early implementation. Among others, Bincy Wilson, Programme Officer at Terre des Hommes, Netherlands spoke on the occasion. (New Indian Express 24/4/15)

32. BJP promises Indian citizenship for B’deshi Hindu refugees (13)

Guwahati: BJP national president Amit Shah on Sunday promised protection to Hindus who had immigrated to Assam following religious persecution in Bangladesh. Hindu refugees from Bangladesh will be given Indian citizenship if BJP comes to power in Assam in next year’s assembly polls, Shah said. “Some Hindus have come from Bangladesh due to religious disturbances. BJP will give all of them citizenship once we come to power in Assam next year,” Shah said at a rally here. At a BJP rally here, Shah reiterated PM Narendra Modi’s promise in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls that other states would share the burden of providing shelter to the Hindu refugees from Bangladesh. “I want to assure you that Hindus who have suffered religious persecution (in Bangladesh) need not worry. BJP will give all the necessary protection to them. Assam alone will not have to bear the burden of sheltering the Hindu refugees. Other states will also share the responsibility,” Shah said. Shah’s statement came close on the heels of chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s assurance of giving protection to Hindu refugees from the neighbouring country. At a time when the process of updating the National Register for Citizens (NRC) is under way, the issue of giving protection and citizenship to Hindu refugees has stirred a heated debate among political and non-political organizations. While BJP wanted to include Hindu refugees’ name in the NRC, the All Assam Students’ Union has been maintaining that any foreigner who entered Assam after March 25, 1971, should be deported. However, the issue of giving protection to Hindu refugees has always been an electoral gambit, with BJP and Congress eyeing votes among the community ahead of elections. On the issue of infiltration, Shah said BJP could only solve the problem once it came to power in the state. Shah alleged that Congress did not want infiltration from Bangladesh to end for the cause of vote-bank politics. “The problem of infiltration from Bangladesh has robbed the indigenous people of their rights. BJP has to come to power to stop infiltration for good. Our government at the Centre is very serious about the problem. That is why our government has provided Rs 140 crore to update the NRC to tackle the problem of influx,” Shah added. (Times of India 27/4/15)

33. More than 5,000 Burundians flee to Rwanda in two days: UN (13)

Geneva: More than 5,000 Burundians fled to Rwanda over the weekend following mounting tensions in the central African country, bringing the total number of arrivals in April to nearly 21,000, the UN said Tuesday. “There has been a sharp increase in the number of Burundian refugees arriving in Rwanda,” Ariane Rummery, spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency said. “Five thousand people entering the country in two days is quite a significant jump… It is certainly concerning,” she told reporters in Geneva. The Rwandan government has put the number of Burundians arriving in the country since the beginning of April at 21,000, and expects the number could rise to 50,000. Another 3,800 Burundian nationals have meanwhile fled to the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo since the beginning of the month, UNHCR said. Most of the new arrivals in Rwanda are women and children, Rummery said, adding that the refugees had reported facing intimidation and threats of violence linked to upcoming elections. The outflow came as the official list of candidates for Burundi`s presidential elections on June 26 was published at the weekend, with President Pierre Nkurunziza`s bid to cling to power for a third term sparking massive demonstrations. At least five people have died since clashes broke out Sunday after the ruling CNDD-FDD party, which has been accused of intimidating opponents, confirmed Nkurunziza`s candidacy. The government has banned all protests and deployed large numbers of police and troops to quell the unrest. Some of those killed were shot at close range. Hundreds of stone-throwing protesters have been arrested. “The situation is quite chaotic at the moment,” UNHCR spokeswoman Karin de Gruijl told reporters. “We think that this violence might continue and this fear of violence might continue and that there might be a bigger outflux, particularly to Rwanda,” she warned. Rwanda, which is already hosting more than 74,000 refugees mainly from neighbouring DR Congo, has allocated land in Mahama in the Eastern Province for a new refugee camp, with the capacity to hold up to 50,000 people. UNHCR said it was helping move refugees there in daily convoys of up to 1,500 people. (Zee News 28/4/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

34. RTI activists to move CIC as govt. blocks details on Land Bill (1)

NEW DELHI: The government has refused RTI requests for information on the decision-making process on amendments to Land Acquisition Bill. On January 17, Chitrangada Choudhury, a Fellow with the Open Society Institute, filed an RTI request with the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), seeking documents, file notings and correspondence between the MoRD and other authorities relating to any proposed amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, and the NDA’s December 2014 ordinance. Two months later, the MoRD’s Public Information Officer (PIO) sent Ms. Choudhury documents, none of which related to the RTI request. She then filed her first appeal. On April 8, she was shown files with representations to the government from various quarters. The PIO and Appellate Authority denied access to documents related to the drafting and issuing of the ordinance, and she insisted on a written order about the withholding of information. On April 15, she got two letters from the PIO and the AA stating that “part information related to file notings and correspondence relating to the LARR (Amendment) ordinance are exempted from disclosure under Section 8.1 of RTI and is not being provided right now.” Section 8.1 is merely the section of the Act that lists circumstances under which information can be withheld; the response did not state which of the ten exemption clauses had been invoked, nor what documents were being withheld. Simultaneously, Venkatesh Nayak, Coordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative’s Access to Information Programme, filed an RTI request with the President’s office on January 5, seeking “all materials on the basis of which [the President] was satisfied that circumstances existed for him to take immediate action by promulgating the [land] ordinance”, and file notings related to this. The request was forwarded by Rashtrapati Bhavan to the MoRD from whom Mr. Nayak did not hear for over 30 days. On February 25, he filed the first appeal and on March 3, he received a reply from the MoRD saying it had no information, and was sending both the request and the appeal to the Ministry of Law and Justice. After that, Mr. Nayak has heard nothing further. Information on Cabinet decisions has been provided in the past, albeit with difficulty. Former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi while hearing a second appeal in 2012 ordered the release of a Cabinet note relating to the nuclear safety Bill. “The Act in fact specifically states that documents related to Cabinet decisions will be made public after the decision has been taken,” Mr. Gandhi told The Hindu. Ms. Choudhury is preparing to move the CIC. “Going by the over 30,000 citizen appeals already waiting at the CIC’s doors, it would be heard in late 2016 or early 2017. Given that the government seeks to urgently amend the Act, the appeal will request the Commission for an early hearing,” Ms. Choudhury told The Hindu. (The Hindu 21/4/15)

35. RTI Act: Info Officer Gets Protection (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:Section 21 of the Right to Information Act (RTI), which guarantees legal protection to public information officers has never been invoked in the state or in the country for that matter. In a clear deviation from this, it was invoked for the first time in a case in which a public information officer was victimised by his higher official for giving out information on an RTI query. Highlighting Section 21 of the RTI Act, the State Information Commission observed: “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against any person for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this act or any rule made thereunder.’’ It also pointed out that the public information officer does not have to seek the permission of his higher-ups before disseminating any information. K G Vijayakumar, then an administrative officer of Horticorp and currently, the Director of Printing, Government Press, Thiruvananthapuram approached the State Information Commission alleging that the Principal Secretary of the General Administration Department had ordered a probe against him as the then MD of the Horticorp, Pratapan, had lodged a complaint against him. “My fault was that I have handed over every details sought in an RTI query. I was first transferred to Child Rights Commission,” he said. (New Indian Express 24/4/15)

36. Sexual harassment complaint files have gone missing: NCW (8)

Mumbai: In reply to a query under the Right to Information Act (RTI), the National Commission for Women (NCW) has informed that files containing 1,000 pages in a complaint of sexual harassment have gone missing. This is the second time that documents have gone missing. The complainant, a former director with KPMG, had sought information from the NCW in December 2013. But when she did not receive any information after seven months, she filed an appeal before the First Appellate Authority (FAA). When no order was passed by the FAA, she filed a second appeal before the chief information commissioner (CIC). The NCW informed the commission that the files relating to the case were in the custody of the Maharashtra State Women’s Commission and it would call back the file and provide the information. In a letter to the complainant, which she received last month, the NCW said that in January this year, the central commission had written to the state commission, asking for the files and documents relating to the RTI query. It had also sent a reminder but got no response. “An NCW law officer personally visited the MSWC for compliance of the CIC order and found that the files were badly maintained. No pagination and docketing were done. Around eight files containing more than 1,000 pages were reported as not traceable by the MSWC.” The NCW said that it has taken the issue seriously and the matter will be reported to the Maharashtra chief minister and women and child welfare department for appropriate action. The complaint, relating to sexual harassment at workplace, was filed in June 2007. The case has moved from the NCW to the state commission to the Bombay high court, the Supreme Court and back to the high court, which in 2010, directed the NCW to complete the inquiry. In 2013, following an article in TOI, an enquiry was initiated but was again challenged by KPMG in the high court, which quashed the NCW enquiry on the grounds that findings are not binding or legally enforceable and a criminal case is pending. The accused has now filed a writ petition in the high court, seeking quashing of the criminal case, seven years after filing of chargesheet. (Times of India 25/4/15)

37. RTI activists demand non-political info commissioner (1)

CHENNAI: With the present State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) K S Sripathi’s term coming to an end on Monday, RTI campaigners have urged the state government to appoint an eminent person who is not a retired bureaucrat and affiliated to any political party. The 1977 batch IAS officer, who have made headlines in the recent past for wrong reasons, will have to demit office as RTI rules do not allow a SCIC to hold office beyond the age of 65. In 2010, the previous DMK government appointed him as the SCIC despite several protests from RTI activists. “RTI Act is meant for transparency and accountability and, therefore, at least the new SCIC should be appointed in a transparent manner,” said Siva Elango, an RTI activist, who was arrested for refusing to stand during a hearing at Tamil Nadu State Information Commission headquarters in Teynampet. RTI rules say that information commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life, with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media, or administration and government. However, activists said that successive governments in Tamil Nadu have appointed their political nominees and retired bureaucrats who favoured them during their services as information commissioners. Section 15 (6) of the RTI Act says a SCIC should not be an MP or MLA, connected with any political party, carrying on any business or pursuing any profession. However, the AIADMK government in 2012 appointed five state information commissioners, including former AIADMK MP V Saroja, former AIADMK women wing joint secretary B Neelambikai and retired police officer Christopher Nelson. “The government considers top babus for the transparency panel because of its vested interests. The retired bureaucrat who gives favours to the ruling parties gets this post as a post-retirement incentive,” said Shailesh Gandhi, a noted RTI activist from Mumbai who was appointed to the Central Information Commission in 2008. When contacted, Sripathi was unavailable to comment. But a source in the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission said he was unable to do much mainly because of limited staff and funds. (Times of India 27/4/15)

38. Growing concern over ‘dilution’ of RTI Act (1)

VIJAYAWADA: Replying to a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has said that it has no information about the cost incurred on Mr. Modi’s wardrobe. The information was sought by applicant Rohit Kumar who argues that while it has been admitted that the cost of his wardrobe was met by the government, records of the exchequer’s money are not made available. If this is the scenario at the PMO level, one wonders what fate the RTI meets in the states. “Worse, the Public Information Officers (PIOs) appointed by departments to furnish information to RTI applicants don’t even bother to reply in most cases,” says B. Ramakrishnam Raju, convenor of United Forum for RTI Campaign (UFRTI) Taking exception to what they call attempts to dilute this important law, the RTI Commissioners in the State met the Governor last week with a complaint that the PIOs have not been doing a fair job of dissemination information. “A retired IAS officer filed an RTI query on important aspects related to the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) which has not been responded to yet. The delay in bifurcating the Commission is resulting in pendency of cases,” says Mr. Raju. (The Hindu 30/4/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

39. Education Act fee row under HC scanner (11)

MUMBAI: The refusal of the Centre and the state government to reimburse private unaided schools for providing free education for 25% of poor students under the Right to Education (RTE) Act has come under Bombay high court scanner. A division bench of Justice Anoop Mohta and Justice K R Shriram asked the Centre and the state government to clarify their stand on April 27, 2015. “Whatever is the arrangement between the Centre and the state regarding funds is a different issue. The government cannot argue that there is no obligation,” said the judges. “The consequences (of such a stand) will be huge. The management can then pass on the burden by increasing the fees of the remaining 75% of the students, which may not be permissible,” added the judges. The court was hearing petitions filed by Uran education Society and the Unaided Schools Forum (USF), representing around 148 schools in Thane. The issue relates to provisions of the RTE Act. The legislation’s provisions provide for free and compulsory education for children. Private unaided schools have to reserve 25% of the seats for students belonging to the economically weaker sections. The state has to reimburse the fees—specified by the government—to the private unaided schools. The government agrees that the private unaided schools have to reserve 25% of seats for poor students in pre-primary classes, but disputes whether it should reimburse the fees. Advocate Birendra Saraf, counsel for the USF, argued that the rules provide that the state has to reimburse the fees for pre-primary classes. Advocate-general Sunil Manohar contended that there was no liability or obligation on the state under the RTE Act to reimburse the fees for pre-primary classes. The state reimburses fees for students between Stds I-VIII, as it receives the funds from the Centre for those classes and not for the pre-primary section. Additional solicitor-general Anil Singh, representing the Centre, too said that there was no provision for reimbursing fees for pre-primary classes and it was the state government’s responsibility. (Times of India 23/4/15)

40. RTE Act should be amended, says minister (11)

KOLHAPUR: There is currently no policy on the pre-primary admissions under the 25% reservation of the Right to Education Act. It needs to be amended to avoid confusion between parents, institutions and other stakeholders, said school education minister Vinod Tawde on Friday. Tawde was in the city for the inauguration of the Shivaji University’s newly-constructed School of Nanosciences and the library building. “Under RTE, it is compulsory for a school to reserve 25% of its Std 1 seats for students from the weaker section of the society. However, there are some schools that have different admission procedures for Std 1 and pre-primary classes, which is adding to the confusion,” said Tawde. The government will not reimburse the money for the schools which start admissions in the pre-primary classes. The state’s Rs 44,000 crore is for the teachers’ salaries, however, the government will find a solution by amending the Act, he added. Cities like Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur are experiencing this admission problem, said Tawde. Tawde also said that many schools in the state do not comply with the infrastructure norms under RTE and they have to be given time to meet the requirements. To bring uniformity in education levels throughout the country, the RTE Act categorizes classes I to V as the primary section and classes VI to VIII as upper primary. However, the earlier categories of class I to IV as primary, and class V-VII as upper primary are still effective in the state. On reducing the weight of school bags, Tawde said 44 recommendations have been made by the committee constituted under the chairmanship of the directorate of primary education. The recommendation report was published on Friday. “We will ask for feedback on the recommendations from parents and education experts to take a call on this issue,” he said. (Times of India 25/4/15)

41. MPs warn govt against ‘saffronisation’ of education (11)

New Delhi: The ‘saffronisation’ of education, focus on Sanskrit and Hindi and cut in key Central schemes for education were among the concerns expressed by MPs as Lok Sabha began its debate on grants for human resource development. The MPs urged Minister of Human Resource Development Smriti Irani to “battle” with the Finance Ministry to get more funds for education. While Sugata Bose of Trinamool Congress criticised the Centre for making bodies like ICHR “packed by ideologues rather than scholars”, BJD’s Tathagata Satpathy urged the government to encourage regional languages and accept English as the link language. “The link language cannot be any Indian language. English is no more a foreign language,” he said. The Central government must invest money in creating infrastructure… Not buildings, roads and class rooms, but by bringing out books which have no religious tilt or involvement. No religion is greater or inferior to any other religion. It is all the same sham,” Satpathy said. Pointing out that the Minister has been passionate about Hindi and Sankrit, Satpathy said the government should let the children choose the language they want to learn. “Do not dump any language on them. I do not believe that there is any ‘Rashtra Bhasha’…,” he said. Satpathy added that the government should invest more on improving the quality of tools such as books and other education aids. Criticising the NDA government for being “friendly towards corporates and hostile to farmers”, Bose said the PM had promised change. “We are still waiting for the qualitative change particularly in the field of education and human resource development.” NCP’s Supriya Sule wanted the government to consider bringing back examination system instead of continuous and comprehensive evaluation system. Congress’s Sushmita Deb asked the HRD Minister to promise before the House that there will not be any saffronisation of education. (Indian Express 25/4/15)

42. Govt bid to facilitate improved Sanskrit education (11)

LUCKNOW: Imparting Sanskrit lessons through animated tales of the Panchtantra is a step the state government wishes to take towards promotion of Sanskrit in the state. Five Sanskrit schools in the city might soon get virtual classrooms for students where they would learn ‘vyakaran’ (grammar) and correct pronunciation of the language. A toll-free helpline to answer students’ queries on the language might also be provided. Giving Sanskrit the much needed push became a matter of debate after union HRD ministry’s recent efforts to promote the language. With a plan to start virtual classes for Sanskrit, UP government is not one to be left behind. Sanskrit schools would each be provided with a computer and a projector to impart lessons through video conferencing. Besides, CDs containing especially designed study material would play in the classroom in which there are recorded lectures by experts. Efforts to enhance Sanskrit schools with modern classrooms began in August last year. Now, Sanskrit Sansthan, under UP government’s department of languages, has submitted a proposal to the government to start smart-classes for e-learning of Sanskrit in government-aided schools. The study material designed by the institute in consultation with scholars will be developed by UPDESCO. “Idea is to make the classroom innovative and help students learn correct pronunciation through audio-visual medium,” said Jagdanand Jha at Sanskrit Sansthan. Sanskrit schools conduct studies for classes Vi to XII . Children from the government and aided primary schools inclined to learn the language take admission to these schools. Lucknow has five Sanskrit schools of the 400-odd schools run by Madhyamik Sanskrit Shiksha Parishad across UP. “We wish to pick up 10 schools,” said Brajesh Chandra, director, UP Sanskrit Sansthan. Schools with noticeable strength will be picked up first. (Times of India 30/4/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

43. Centre extends food security Act deadline (21)

NEW DELHI: The period for identification of households eligible for coverage under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) has been extended up to September 30, 2015 through an order issued by the Department of Food and Public Distribution on March 24. Though the law stipulates that any such orders made under the Act are tabled in Parliament, the Centre has no such plans. In response to a Right to Information query filed with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, respondents have noted that the deadline has been extended, for the second time, because States have not yet identified beneficiaries, and also due to lack of preparedness in 25 States/Union Territories for implementing the Act. As per Section 42 of the NFSA Act, “if any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act, the Central government may, by order, published in the Official Gazette, make such provisions, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, as appear to it to be necessary or expedient for removing the difficulty.” But this is upon the condition that “every order made under this Section shall be laid, as soon as may be after it is made, before each House of Parliament.” However, government sources confirmed to The Hindu that the orders won’t be laid in Parliament. M.K. Sharma, under secretary to the government, in the Law Ministry, said the March 24 orders were issued after consulting the Law Ministry. Nilambuj Sharan, Director, NFSA, further confirmed that there was no plan to table the orders for discussion in Parliament. Development economist Jean Dreze, an expert on food security, told The Hindu that the delay in release of socio-economic caste Census data to various States had initially posed a challenge in identifying beneficiary households under the NFSA. “The Act itself has no provision on how beneficiaries would be identified. But now that most States have received the SECC data, there is no reason why they should continue to put off its implementation,” he said. He said the Centre was trying to impose certain conditions for implementation, which were not legitimate, such as end-to-end computerisation, in which details of beneficiary households were digitised, complete with information of beneficiary aadhaar numbers etc., which was adding to the delays. The Act aims to provide subsidised food grains to over one billion Indians. It also legally entitles beneficiaries of the Midday Meal Scheme, the Integrated Child Development Services scheme and the Public Distribution System, to food. Delays mean legitimate beneficiaries are denied the NFSA benefits. It was signed into law in 2013. (Thew Hindu 21/4/15)

44. World rushes aid to Nepal amid 2,300 deaths (21)

KATHMANDU, April 26 (IANS): Another tremblor measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale shook Nepal on Sunday causing fresh panic as rescuers pulled out bodies from debris, a day after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake left over 2,300 dead and forced tens of thousands to spend the night on the streets. As the world rushed emergency aid to Kathmandu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over a high-level meeting in New Delhi after saying: “I can understand what the people of Nepal are going through… My dear brothers and sisters of Nepal, we are with you.” The home ministry put the fatalities from Saturday’s powerful quake at 2,309 and said another 5,850 people were injured. It is the worst quake to hit Nepal after one in 1934 killed some 8,500 people. Fearing the continuing aftershocks, many thousands of people spent Saturday night out in the open. Many lay on plastic sheets or cardboard boxes wrapped in blankets. Most ate instant noodles and cookies to ward off the hunger. Hospitals grappled with soaring number of injuries, the doctors and nurses working non-stop. A UN statement said hospitals were running out of rooms to store bodies and emergency supplies. The government declared a national calamity and closed down all schools and colleges for a week as it tried to come to grips with a disaster which has enveloped 30 out of 75 districts, including the Kathmandu Valley, a tourist paradise. Even as an army of soldiers, police personnel and other officials were frantically engaged in relief work, another powerful tremblor occurred on Sunday afternoon, causing aftershocks again in India, Bhutan and Tibet. The epicentre of Sunday’s earthquake was about 110 km from Kathmandu. It was shallower, at 10 km, compared to the Saturday temblor whose epicentre lay at a depth of 15 km. Saturday’s epicentre lay in Lamjung, about 75 km northwest of Kathmandu. Thirty-five aftershocks have hit the country since the first earthquake. The UN office here said around 6.6 million people have been affected in the Himalayan nation. The quake sparked an avalanche in the Mount Everest area, killing scores of mountaineers. The disaster appeared to spare none, VVIPs included. President Ram Baran Yadav spent Saturday night in a tent with his many guards after the quake caused several cracks in his office-cum-residence. “President Yadav is still in his tent,” an official told IANS. The main entrance to the residence of Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who hurriedly returned to Nepal from Indonesia on Sunday, was also damaged. So were several government offices in Kathmandu. Worse, scores of ancient monuments and Hindu temples were destroyed or suffered varying degrees of damage, with one expert lamenting that some of them can never be restored to their original glory. “We have launched a massive rescue and rehabilitation action plan,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Minendra Rijal said. “Our country is a moment of crisis, and we will require tremendous support and aid.” At least 723 people perished in Kathmandu alone while 205 others were killed in Bhaktapur, just 13 km from the capital and 125 in Lalitpur, only five kilometres away, the home ministry said. The government has warned that the death toll was likely to rise. The disaster brought down historical monuments such as Dharhara tower in Kathmandu while Basantapur Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square were also destroyed. At the Dharahara tower, rescuers found some 80 bodies, officials said. The Kantipur Daily said around 80 percent of the temples in Basantapur Durbar Square had been destroyed. These included the Kasthamandap temple, Panchtale temple, the Dasa Avtar temple and Krishna Mandir. Kasthamandap, which inspired the name Kathmandu, is a 16th century wooden monument. A few other monuments, including the Kumari Temple and the Taleju Bhawani, have partially collapsed. (The Assam Tribune 26/4/15)

45. Poverty-stricken Bihar Parents Send Kids to Work (21)

HYDERABAD:It only takes Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 and some false assurances to hire a child from villages of Bihar and make them work as labourers in the city. Though parents are well aware that their child would be earning a little above Rs 30 per day, low levels of poverty, and lack of work opportunities makes them send their children to work here. These were some of the dismal findings of District Child Protection Units, which function under the Telangana Women and Child Welfare Department, who recently visited some districts of Bihar. Most of the child labourers rescued by the officials here are from Bihar. The children were found working in bangle-making units and leather factories. The four-day study was aimed to find the financial condition of child labourers’ families, social conditions, work conditions of the children and other details. The study was conducted in Agandha village in Gaya district, Saidpur in Nalanda district and four other villages. Brokers specifically target villages where families live in abject poverty. After initial payment of Rs 1,000 or above, brokers assure Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 would be sent to the parents every month. Let alone monthly payment, the children who are made to work for about 16 hours are paid a pittance of Rs 30 per week, said Imtiyaz Rahim, Hyderabad District’s Child Protection Unit officer (DCPO). “While some parents were aware, other children left homes along with friends though their families did not give consent,” he said, adding elders there work for wages of Rs 100 to Rs 200 a day, and most of the parents had five to seven children. “Some families there take loans at 10 per cent interest rate. Probably, they send children for working here to repay the loan,” said K Chaitanya Kumar, Nizamabad’s DCPO. Nalgonda’s DCPO, K Ganesh, was also part of the study. Among the children rescued in Hyderabad from January, about 80 per cent are from Bihar, 10 per cent from West Bengal, remaining are from  Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and other States. (New Indian Express 27/4/15)

46. World Bank: NREGA, the only insurance for India (21)

NEW DELHI: The World Bank said on Tuesday that the spike in ‘unmet demand’ for MGNREGA jobs is an indicator of increasing rural distress. Since the scheme is the only and therefore the best bet India has for mitigating the impact on the poor of the recent unseasonal rains, the government should take steps aimed at arresting delays in wage payments and the rising unmet demand for jobs. “If you are a State hit by the unseasonal rains, now is the time to tell those responsible for implementing the MGNREGA to give their best…it is the only insurance India has…,” said World Bank Country Director in India Onno Ruhl. He was speaking at the release of the Bank’s latest India Development Update which analyses the performance of the scheme in States such as Bihar. The update projects that provided there is a pick-up to 11 per cent in the rate of investment in the economy, growth in the current year would be 7.5 per cent, 7.9 per cent in 2016-17 and 8 per cent in 2017-18. “The government has made progress in several policy areas, and long-term prospects for growth remain bright for India,” said Mr. Ruhl. Continuous strong momentum in reforms aimed at strengthening the business environment and enhancing the quality of public spending will further unleash the productivity that Indian firms need for creating jobs and becoming globally competitive, he said. He stressed the need for reducing the pipeline of stuck projects, especially in the Public Private Partnership space for lifting the investments rate. Balance sheets of both companies and banks, he said, are stressed due to the stuck projects. The analysis of MGNREGA in the update shows that the programme’s impact on rural poverty in Bihar is only 1 percentage point as against its potential of reducing poverty by at least 14 percentage points. Among the main reasons why the potential is not being realised, the study says, is that the supply side is too slow to respond to the demand for work from the poor, workers not receiving the full scheme wage and delays in wage payments. “Discrepancies in the stipulated wage rages and the actual wages received by workers are contributing to the gap between potential and realised impacts…payment delays have emerged as a major bottleneck and are a strong disincentive to participating in the programme,” said a statement. “If MGNREGA were to be implemented effectively, its design would ensure that there is no unmet demand for work,” said the study’s author and lead economist at the Bank Rinku Murgai. (The Hindu 29/4/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

47. Labour ministry may notify new investment norms for EPFO soon (14)

NEW DELHI: The labour ministry may soon notify new investment norms for EPFO allowing the retirement fund body to invest up to 5 per cent of its huge corpus of Rs 6.5 lakh crore in exchange traded funds (ETF). The new pattern of investment may allow investment of about Rs 17,000 crore in ETFs during 2015-16. “The proposal of new investment pattern for the EPFO, which allows the body to invest up to 5 per cent of its corpus in ETFs is under consideration of the labour ministry,” a source said. “The new investment norms will pave the way for up to Rs 17,000 crore investment in ETFs during this fiscal only,” the source said. The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), which has over 6 crore subscribers, invests primarily in state and central government securities. An ETF is a marketable security that tracks an index, a commodity, bonds, or a basket of assets like an index fund. Unlike mutual funds, an ETF trades like a common stock on a stock exchange. Unionists had opposed any investment in equity or equity related instruments during the meeting of Central Board of Trustees’ — EPFO’s apex decision making body — on March 31. However, after the meeting, a labour ministry official had said: “We will notify the investment pattern soon. Over a period of time, it makes sense to invest in equity. Investment in a basket of portfolio is safe. All over the world, experience is that equity investment has given the highest returns.” “What we are thinking is that we will start with 1 per cent and will go up to 5 per cent. We will review and gradually increase the investment limit,” the official had said. EPFO is expected to receive an incremental deposit of about Rs 80,000 crore for 2014-15. It manages a huge corpus of Rs 6.5 lakh crore. The Finance Ministry has been pitching to park a part of EPFO corpus in the stock market. It has recently notified an investment pattern for non-government provident funds to enable them to park a part of their funds in stock market. The new norms prescribe “investment of minimum 5 per cent and up to 15 per cent of the investible funds in equity and equity-related instruments.” (Times of India 21/4/15)

48. Govt. performs poorly in rural job scheme (14)

NEW DELHI: In the one year since the Modi government assumed power, progress in implementation of some of the rural development schemes has been poor. Documents tabled in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, in response to queries raised by parliamentarians, show that the progress in implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the Indira Awas Yojana have been particularly bad. Minister of State for Rural Development Sudarshan Bhagat admitted that there has been a decline in the number of person days created under the MGNREGA in 2014-15. Provisional data for 2014-15, shows that only 40 days per household of work was made available to rural households on an average though the law guarantees 100 days of work. In comparison, in both 2012-13 and 2013-14, the average days per household of work given were 46. Among the worst performers in terms of average days per household of work provided are Arunachal Pradesh (12), Puducherry (13), Manipur (20) and Nagaland (21). The best performing State is Tripura (88). Mr. Bhagat further listed out the various irregularities found in the implementation of MGNREGA. Delays in payment of wages or wages below minimum wage levels were reported in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir. (The Hindu 24/4/15)

49. Centre okays Madhya Pradesh’s move in ease of doing business (14)

New Delhi: Factory workers in Madhya Pradesh will soon get the benefit of earned leave after 180 days of service and in the same calendar year. This will apply to a factory with at least 10 workers if it has no power connection or at least 20 with one. At present, employees who have worked for at least 240 days are entitled to annual leave, being able to avail of these in the next calendar year. This is one of 12 proposals of the state government, sent in the form of an ordinance, accepted by the Union labour ministry. The Madhya Pradesh government had in October last year sent proposals to amend 17 labour laws of the state, for approval by the President (needed as the subject is in the concurrent list of the Constitution, where the state may legislate but the Centre has final say). The state is set to send a revised ordinance in a week, incorporating the accepted provisions. Presidential assent is a subsequent step. The Union labour ministry has accepted the state government’s proposal to expedite the process of registration or grant of licences for establishments under the Contract Labour Act, Inter State Migrant Workers Act, Motor Transport Workers Act and Building & Other Construction Workers Act. At present, establishments under these Acts have to apply for a registration or licence and wait till this comes. The approved proposal says if an application is not disposed within 30 days, it will be deemed registered or deemed an approved licence. The Union ministry has also approved a proposal to allow companies in the state employing up to 300 people (up from 100 in the present provision) to retrench workers or shut the establishment without government approval. The notice period before retrenchment or closure has been increased from one to three months and the employees will be compensated with wages of at least three months. In another move, builders will have to pay a considerably reduced cess for their construction work. At present, the government levies tax on construction activities to be paid by builders under section 3 of the Building and other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act. “The cost of construction is open to interpretation. So, the builders or entrepreneurs end up paying a steep cess amount. We want to exclude elements such as the cost of plant and machinery from the ambit of calculation of tax under this Act,” said the official cited above. Along with the actual cost of the plant and machinery, its transportation and other items “as the state government may identify” will be excluded in calculating the tax. “We may also choose not to interest other elements involved in the cost of construction such as bank interest, advertisement expenses, audit fees, etc,” he said. However, the Union labour ministry has raised questions over six proposals. These include excluding micro industries from the ambit of seven central labour laws, permission to prosecute under the Factories Act only with the labour commissioner’s consent, no trade unions in micro industries and increasing the number of working hours in a week. (Business Standard 27/4/15)

50. World Bank: NREGA, the only insurance for India (21)

NEW DELHI: The World Bank said on Tuesday that the spike in ‘unmet demand’ for MGNREGA jobs is an indicator of increasing rural distress. Since the scheme is the only and therefore the best bet India has for mitigating the impact on the poor of the recent unseasonal rains, the government should take steps aimed at arresting delays in wage payments and the rising unmet demand for jobs. “If you are a State hit by the unseasonal rains, now is the time to tell those responsible for implementing the MGNREGA to give their best…it is the only insurance India has…,” said World Bank Country Director in India Onno Ruhl. He was speaking at the release of the Bank’s latest India Development Update which analyses the performance of the scheme in States such as Bihar. The update projects that provided there is a pick-up to 11 per cent in the rate of investment in the economy, growth in the current year would be 7.5 per cent, 7.9 per cent in 2016-17 and 8 per cent in 2017-18. “The government has made progress in several policy areas, and long-term prospects for growth remain bright for India,” said Mr. Ruhl. Continuous strong momentum in reforms aimed at strengthening the business environment and enhancing the quality of public spending will further unleash the productivity that Indian firms need for creating jobs and becoming globally competitive, he said. He stressed the need for reducing the pipeline of stuck projects, especially in the Public Private Partnership space for lifting the investments rate. Balance sheets of both companies and banks, he said, are stressed due to the stuck projects. The analysis of MGNREGA in the update shows that the programme’s impact on rural poverty in Bihar is only 1 percentage point as against its potential of reducing poverty by at least 14 percentage points. Among the main reasons why the potential is not being realised, the study says, is that the supply side is too slow to respond to the demand for work from the poor, workers not receiving the full scheme wage and delays in wage payments. “Discrepancies in the stipulated wage rages and the actual wages received by workers are contributing to the gap between potential and realised impacts…payment delays have emerged as a major bottleneck and are a strong disincentive to participating in the programme,” said a statement. “If MGNREGA were to be implemented effectively, its design would ensure that there is no unmet demand for work,” said the study’s author and lead economist at the Bank Rinku Murgai. (The Hindu 29/4/15)

RESERVATION

51. Protest against implementation of A.J. Sadashiva panel report (25)

DAVANGERE: Members of the district unit of Banjara Hakku Horata Samiti took out a procession and staged a dharna outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office here on Monday asking the State government not to implement the recommendations of the A.J. Sadashiva Commission. The protesters took out a procession from the KSRTC bus terminal which culminated outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office. Instead of conducting a study at the district, taluk, village and hobli-levels, the commission prepared a report by collecting opinion from only some parts of the State. The commission report was completely one sided and transparency had not been maintained while preparing it. “Instead of conducting a detailed survey, the commission made attempts to divide Dalits by differentiating them,” he added. Even decades after the country gained Independence, the Lambami community was suffering from lack of basic facilities and its members were educationally and socially backward. Instead of offering more facilities and reservation to people of the community, the commission proposed to remove them from the list of Scheduled Castes. The agitation was led by the former MLA Basavaraj Naik and agriculture produce marketing committee president Raghavendra Naik. (The Hindu 21/4/15)

52. Disability not a separate category for quota: Rajasthan HC (25)

JAIPUR: Rajasthan high court has today ordered that reservation for the disabled should be given within the caste quota as disability is not a separate category, independent of caste reservation. The division bench of Chief Justice Sunil Ambwani and Ajit Singh today struck down a single bench order of the high court, approving the selection of a candidate from general category in the disabled quota of the OBC on a review petition by one Dharampal Yadav. The court, admitting his petition, said if disability is considered as a separate category outside the caste reservation, then reservation would exceed the limit of 50%. The court observed that general category person, even if he is disabled, cannot be selected in the OBC category for the disabled. The Rajasthan University had invited application for 10 posts of assistant professors for disabled in various departments. Out of the 10 posts three were for SC, two for STs and 5 were reserved for the OBCs. But the university out of the five posts for OBCs, selected one general candidate Mohit Jain in the accountancy and business statistics department, claiming that he was meritorious than the rest of the other candidates. This was challenged by Dharampal Yadav, who said a general candidate could not be selected on the post reserved for OBC. But the single bench of the high court dismissed his petition. Then he filed a review petition in the double bench. The reservation for the disabled should be given within the caste reservation. So, the appointment of Mohit Jain in the OBC quota of the disabled is illegal. But the court said if there is vacancy, the university could accommodate him. (Times of India 25/4/15)

53. Internal reservation among Scheduled Castes opposed (25)

KALABURAGI: A federation of the Banjara, the Bhovi, the Korava and the Korcha communities would stage a protest on Wednesday here expressing opposition to the A.J. Sadashiva Commission’s recommendation to introduce internal reservation among the Scheduled Castes. The former minister Revu Naik Belamagi and the former member of the zilla panchayat Subhash Rathod, addressing presspersons here on Sunday, said that the federation would organise a rally ‘Shoshita Etka Nadige’ from Nehru Gunj to the Deputy Commissioner’s office and submit a memorandum to urge the government to reject the recommendations of the commission. Mr. Belamagi said that the communities which are in small number among Scheduled Castes will be subjected to further marginalisation if the recommendations are implemented. (The Hindu 27/4/15)

54. Govt Raises SC, ST Quota for Students (25)

BHUBANESWAR: The State Government on Wednesday increased the quota for scheduled categories students in higher education, including technical and professional colleges, from 20 per cent to 38.75 per cent. The reservation of seats in Government educational institutions for Scheduled Tribe (ST) students has been increased from 12 per cent to 22.5 per cent while it will be 16.25 per cent from the existing 8 per cent for Scheduled Caste (SC) students. The revised reservation of seats for scheduled categories students will be applicable to all Government educational institution from Plus-Two to Post- Graduation level. This will also be applicable to Government engineering colleges, medical colleges, technical institutions and other professional courses. This will be applicable from 2015-16 academic session, said a release from the Chief Minister’s office. Though there is provision of 38.75 per cent reservation for the ST and SC candidates in Government jobs, the same ratio of reservation was not maintained in education. (New Indian Express 30/4/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

55. NHRC to take up hearing in Chittoor firing, Telangana encounter today (1)

Hyderabad: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) would take up hearing on Thursday in the killing of 20 people in police firing in Seshachalam forest of Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district and also the killing of alleged terror suspects in Telangana. The two incidents are listed to be taken up for hearing on Thursday by the Full Commission of the NHRC which began a three-day ‘Camp Sitting’ in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana here on Wednesday. The NHRC has taken suo motu cognisance of the two incidents. The commission had on April 7 issued a notice to AP government seeking a report on the killing of 20 people in police firing near Tirupati, observing that the incident “involved a serious violation” of human rights of individuals. The NHRC issued a notice on April 9 to Telangana government seeking a report on the killing of five undertrials, who were allegedly associated with radical groups in Nalgonda district, while being taken in a police van to a Hyderabad court. Meanwhile, speaking at the inaugural function of the ‘Camp Sitting’, NHRC Chairperson KG Balakrishnan said that about 98,660 complaints from various states were received by the commsission in 2014. Noting that the commission has held similar hearings in different states like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, he said the problems of the people are better understood when they visit the states. The commission is aware that Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are dealing with issues related to bifurcation, but the rights of the people cannot wait for lack of infrastructure, he said. “We are interested, especially, in those who are at the periphery of the society, whose voice is not heard. They are the marginal sections of the society. So, we are concerned with the rights of those people. Rich people can take care of their rights. But, what about the poor people?” he said. Observing that the NHRC is a “recommendatory body,” he said the governments and government servants need to ensure that rights of the people are protected. (Zee news 23/4/15)

56. NGO plea to NHRC (1)

ERODE: Sudar, a non-government organisation based in Sathyamangalam, has appealed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to transfer to Tamil Nadu the cases registered by the Andhra Pradesh police against 17 tribal people of Bargur for allegedly cutting red sanders in Seshachalam Forest in 2013. The 17 persons facing cases were among a group of 46 workers from Bargur villages who were taken to Seshachalam forest by two local brokers stating that their services were required for cutting bamboo in Kerala forests. False cases were framed against them. Due to the torture, one among them Madhan had died. Calling for judicial inquiry into the brutal attack, Sudar Director S.C. Nataraj demanded compensation for the victim’s wife, who, he said, was in abject poverty.The need for transfer of the cases from Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu had arisen as the 16 villagers, who were also in huge debts due to their borrowings from money-lenders at exorbitant interest rates for legal expenses fear for their lives after the gunning of 20 Tamil wood cutters by Andhra Pradesh police, Mr. Nataraj said in his letter to NHRC Chairman. (The Hindu 24/4/15)

57. Ford Foundation Faces Big Restrictions Now for Funding Indian Organisations (1)

New Delhi:  The government has cracked down on the Ford Foundation, saying the US charity can no longer give money to local organisations without government permission. A Home Ministry order says the foundation has been placed on a “watch list” to ensure funds are used for “bonafide welfare activities without compromising on concerns of national interest and security”.The move follows a complaint from the Gujarat government over the foundation’s grants to the NGO run by Teesta Setelvad, a long-time critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Gujarat has accused Ford Foundation of “interfering in the internal affairs” of India and “abetting communal disharmony” through funding Ms Setelvad’s Sabrang. She is also being investigated over allegations that she embezzled donations meant for victims of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat.Home Ministry spokesman KS Dhatwalia said Ford Foundation had been involved in funding charities which are not registered to receive foreign funds. The New York-based Ford Foundation said it was cooperating with a home ministry investigation into its grants but was confident it had complied with Indian laws.”If the government suggests methods by which we can strengthen and improve our grant-making processes, we will take appropriate steps to incorporate them,” it said in a statement. Human rights lawyer Colin Gonsalves said the move against the foundation “strikes me as nothing more than a witchhunt”.”Those who are doing work in the nation’s interests (through environmental and human rights work), they are being treated as people who cheat India,” he told NDTV. The move against Ford Foundation comes after the government suspended Greenpeace India’s foreign funding licence this month, accusing the environmental organization of hurting the country’s economic interests. Greenpeace accuses the government of trying to shut it down over its campaigns against mining and nuclear projects. NDTV 24/4/15)

58. 42,273 NGOs Under FIU Scanner (1)

NEW DELHI: The government has shared a list of over 42,000 NGOs with Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to check suspicious foreign funding amid the crackdown on some top international donors for flouting the law of the land. These 42,273 NGOs were put under watch after intelligence reports claimed that several charity organisations are diverting funds for purposes other than the permitted use of foreign contribution. Besides, foreign funds to government organisations, including IITs and IIMs, will also be strictly monitored and antecedents of donors will be thoroughly probed before the foreign funds are transferred into their respective Foreign Contribution (FC) accounts. Each transaction related to foreign funding has to be cleared by the Department of Economic Affairs under the Ministry of Finance. The list handed over to FIU includes NGOs operating in religious, cultural, economic, social and educational fields. For the first time, the government has clearly defined the sectors in which it has listed Christian missionaries, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim religious groups receiving foreign contribution, besides other activities of NGOs in which funds are claimed to be utilised. There is also suspicion that money launderers could use the legitimate route to wire illicit money. “Huge amounts of foreign contributions received for public policy, seminars and people’s agitation will be closely monitored. The government is not against foreign funding but it should be for tangible efforts like building schools, houses, rural development, etc instead of movement and agitation. India is a democratic country and any policy related to governance is cleared by Parliament. Where is the need for foreign donors to interfere in that process?” a senior government official pointed out, clarifying that over Rs 2,000 crore as foreign contribution was received in 2012 for the activities which were not clearly defined by the NGOs. The crackdown on unchecked foreign funding, which started after the NDA II Government came to power in May last year, will also include government entities where foreign donors are suspected to have deep penetration. On Friday, a billboard of Community Radio Facilitation Centre (CRFC) under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was removed by the officials from its Shastri Bhawan office, as it had Ford Foundation logo printed on it. The international donor, which is supporting the programme, was put under the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) watch list on Thursday in the national interest and security of the country. When asked about the Ford Foundation’s role, an official requesting anonymity said the CRFC was launched with support of Ford Foundation during the UPA regime to facilitate radio applicants through various stages of licensing and it liaises with different ministries to expedite the necessary clearances. “OneWorld, an international NGO, manages the CRFC,” the officer said. Tax returns filed by Ford Foundation in the US for 2013 reveal the foundation had granted $137,390 to Oneworld International Foundation UK for CRFC’s capacity building and promoting awareness of community radio in India. After the MHA’s crackdown, the funds for the programme will now be cleared through Department of Economic Affairs. According to the MHA’s latest data, the NGOs operating in the country had received a staggering Rs 11,070 crore during 2013-14, with the US topping the list of donors by contributing over Rs 4,491 crore, followed by the UK which contributed Rs 1,347 Crore. Intelligence reports have indicated that many NGOs registered under Foreign Contribution regulation Act (FCRA) may go missing due to the crackdown started by the government. In March 2015, the MHA had reported that around 510 NGOs from Andhra Pradesh went missing and show cause notices issued by the ministry’s foreigners division returned undelivered. (New Indian Express 26/4/15)

59. NHRC Holds Three-Day Camp To Hear 41 Cases (1)

PUDUCHERRY: The camp sitting of National Human Rights Commission began on Tuesday to look into the pending cases in the Union Territory. Inaugurating the camp, NHRC member and Justice D Murugesan said as many as 41 cases would be taken up for hearing and would also receive complaints from petitioners. He said the Commission takes cognizance of the complaints and makes recommendations according to the merits of the claim.Chief Secretary (in-charge) T M Balakrishnan also addressed the gathering. On Wednesday, the Commission would take up the hearing of cases, visit hospitals and jails in order to ascertain the problems being faced by the patients, jail inmates and State authorities.On April 30, the Commission would hold a meeting with local NGOs from 10.00 am to 11 am and thereafter,  hold discussions with the Chief Secretary and other senior officers on important human rights issues raised by the NGOs. The issues, likely to be taken up during discussion would be: Bonded labour/migrant labour, police atrocities, non- filling of vacancies reserved for SCs, etc. (New Indian Express 29/4/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

60. HC Sets Aside Plea on Rights to Service Act (19)

CHENNAI:  Observing that it is the policy of the State government not to have Right to Public Services Act in Tamil Nadu despite its desirability, the Madras High Court closed a public interest litigation seeking a direction to enforce it in the State. Citing the large number of cases being filed on account of non-disposal of applications in different State government departments, Siva Elango, president of activist organisation, Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, moved a PIL seeking direction to the government to enact the Right to Public Services Act in Tamil Nadu. The Act that has been adopted by 19 states will ensure timely public service to the people of the State, he added. When the petition came for hearing before the first bench of Chief Justice S K Kaul and Justice T S Sivagnanam, the State Chief Secretary submitted an affidavit that in order to ensure efficiency, time-bound delivery and people-friendly administration, the citizen charter approach is being implemented There is no dire necessity to enact the legislation, he added. Moreover, enactment of a legislation is a policy decision of the government, he said, noting that even the Supreme Court has observed that judicial review is not permissible when the matter relates to policy decision of the government. Recording the State government’s reply, the bench closed the petition. (New Indian Express 21/4/15)

61. Law ministry moves file to PMO for meet on NJAC appointments (19)

NEW DELHI: The law ministry has moved a note to the Prime Minister’s Office for convening the first meeting of the high-level committee comprising the PM, the Chief Justice of India and the leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha for selection of two eminent persons for National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). The government has already identified a bungalow at Mathura Road to house NJAC that replaces the Supreme Court’s collegium system of appointments to higher judiciary. The NJAC was notified earlier this month. The law ministry is also ready with the draft rules but is awaiting the high-level committee’s approval. The PMO is likely to call a meeting of the CJI and Cong leader in Lok Sabha who are part of a three-member committee to decide on appointment of two eminent persons in NJAC. The three-member panel will decide on the criteria to be followed for selection of the eminent persons. After a decision is taken on the fields from which the eminent persons would be selected, the government may request both the CJI and Congress leader in the Lok Sabha to come up with their own list of names. The two lists then would be put together with the government’s own list and left to the panel to make the final selection. The two eminent persons may be selected in the second meeting of the committee. “This selection of eminent persons could take at least two to three sittings of the three-member panel and could take up to a month-and-half,” a source said. (Times of India 24/4/15)

62. Abusing in-laws a ground for divorce: SC (19)

NEW DELHI: Abusing in-laws and not allowing them to reside in the matrimonial home by a woman amounts to cruelty to her spouse, ground enough for grant of divorce, the Supreme Court has ruled while allowing an NRI’s plea for legal separation from his wife. A bench of Justices Vikaramajit Sen and A M Sapre said such incidents could not be termed as “wear and tear” of family life as held by Madras High Court which had said that a couple must be prepared to face such situations in matrimonial relationship. The NRI had filed a divorce petition alleging that his wife was abusive to his family members and did not allow his parents and siblings to stay in his house when they visited the US. Referring to an incident, the husband told the court that his wife had once locked him and his sister out of the house and abused them saying they belonged to a ‘prostitute family’. She refused to allow her sister-in-law to enter the house and even lodged a police complaint against her husband. Taking into accounts all the evidence produced by the husband including abusive voicemails and emails he received from wife, while she was in India, the bench said it was a clear case of mental cruelty and husband was entitled for divorce. “If a spouse abuses the other as being born from a prostitute, this cannot be termed as ‘wear and tear’ of family life. Summoning police on false or flimsy grounds cannot also be similarly viewed. Making it impossible for any close relatives to visit or reside in the matrimonial home would also indubitably result in cruelty to the spouse,” the bench said. The apex court upheld the trial court order which had granted divorce on the basis of husband’s plea. The trial court order was quashed by the high court after which the husband approached the Supreme Court. “We have carefully considered the matter, and find that we are unable to uphold the conclusions of the high court. The appellant (husband) had duly pleaded instances of mental cruelty which he proved in evidence and documents. An examination of the divorce petition makes it abundantly clear that various allegations of cruelty were made out and a number of incidents were mentioned therein,” the apex court said. The bench refused to give credence to wife’s allegations that the husband was living a wayward life and her father-in-law misbehaved, after she failed to produce any evidence to substantiate her claims. (Times of India 26/4/15)

63.  ‘Unnatural sex consent immaterial’ (19)

New Delhi: A Delhi court, while convicting a married man in connection with a rape and sodomy case, observed that consent to indulge in unnatural sex was immaterial. The court held the man guilty of raping and sodomising a woman on the pretext of marriage. The court said the man was already married and thus he made false promises. Additional sessions judge (ASJ) Virender Bhat held Noida resident Prashant Kaushal guilty of the offences saying though the sexual relations between him and the woman were consensual, but the victim’s consent was not free and voluntary as she was falsely assured by him that he was obtaining divorce from his wife and would marry her. “The consent is immaterial so far as carnal intercourse against the order of nature between a man and a woman is concerned and therefore, every act of unnatural sex committed by the accused with the prosecutrix is an offence under Section 377 (unnatural offences) of the IPC,” the court said. The court will pronounce the quantum of sentence next week. The court agreed with the submissions of the defence counsel that instances of physical relations between Kaushal and the woman could not have been forcible all the time. It, however, said that it does appear that the woman was having sexual encounters with the man voluntarily but having belief in her mind that he has filed petition for divorce against his wife and is going to marry her at any cost. (Asian Age 28/4/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

64. Kanhar police firing: Fact-finding team alleges harassment (1)

Meerut: A civil society fact-finding team was briefly detained and allegedly harassed on Sunday by the local police when it was on its way to Kanhar in Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh to meet the victims of Kanhar police firing. The State police had opened fire on tribal protesters who had gathered at the site of the under construction Kanhar dam to protest against the land acquisition for the project. Tribal leader Akku Kharwar, a resident of Sundari village, and eight others were seriously injured in the firing, besides 35 others who received minor injuries. The fact-finding team, which comprised CPI (ML) leader Kavita Krishnan, activist Priya Pillai journalists Siddhant Mohan, Abhishek Srivastav, and five others, was forced to leave even before it could reach Sundari village where all the victims of the firing hail from. According to Siddhant, they were detained in Baghadau village on their way to Sundari. They were taken to the Dudhi police station where they were allegedly harassed by the police who threatened to arrest them. According to Ms. Krishnan, the local policemen implicitly threatened women members of rape. “ The guy in plain clothes with cops who claimed he is SDM Dudhi told us women, “chale jayiye varna aapki beizzati ho jayegi, ( you better leave or you will be disrespected),” tweeted Ms. Krishnan on Sunday. She said the manner in which they were “intimidated” by the local policemen and the mob which had allegedly its patronage it appeared that the administration was trying to “hide” some thing about the Kanhar firing and construction of the dam which will, as per the claim of tribal leaders protesting the construction of the dam, result in 87 villages getting submerged. “What is the police trying to hide in villages around Kanhar dam ?? y is the fact finding team being harassed ?,” tweeted Priya Pillai. Later on Sunday, a violent mob started protesting outside the Dudhi hospital when the fact-finding team members were visiting the tribals who were seriously injured in the firing last week. “ An aggressive mob of more than hundred people gathered outside the gate of the hospital and started shouting NGO wale wapas jao, vikas virodhi vapas jao, (NGO people go back, anti-development people go back!),”added Ms. Krishnan. “Police told us that Section 144 was in force in Dudhi. But it seemed that it was only for us and not for the violent mob,” she added. (The Hindu 21/4/15)

65. SC-appointed team to probe woodcutters’ massacre (1)

MADURAI/ TIRUVANNAMALAI: A high-level fact-finding team constituted by human rights watch dog, ‘People’s Watch’ to probe into the alleged encounter killings of 20 Tamil Nadu woodcutters by Andhra special task force emphasized the need for a special investigation team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court to take up an immediate, independent and impartial probe. In an interim report released in Madurai on Wednesday, the team insisted that the SIT must comprise experienced police officers not belonging to either Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu. “The investigation can, under no circumstances, be conducted by the Andhra Pradesh police in light of the national human rights commission’s (NHRC) guidelines to be followed in case of police action, which specifically emphasizes the ‘principle of impartiality’ of the investigating agency,” the report said. Asserting that the incident appears prima facie a case of “illegal arrest, arbitrary detention, custodial torture and extra-judicial killing”, the team urged the NHRC to conduct an independent detailed inquiry into the incident with the services of its own investigation team. The fact finding team also urged the government to book 20 independent cases of murder against all policemen, who were on duty including the deputy inspector general of police (Andhra Pradesh Res Sanders Anti-smuggling special task force) involved in the killing of 20 woodcutters. “Each one of the 20 cases need to be independently investigated to arrive at a logical conclusion,” the report said. The team demanded a probe by a judicial magistrate as mandated by law and ‘not a magisterial inquiry by an executive magistrate’. It also asked the government to register a case under the provisions of the SC/ST prevention of atrocities act, 1989 as 14 of the 20 victims belong to ST community. It sought the NHRC’s forensic expert panel to re-examine all the postmortem reports, viscera and DNA of all 20 victims besides analyzing the details of gunshot residues in all 20 cases to gather vital evidences. It also urged the commission to make a special note of wireless recordings and transcripts. “Wireless transcripts are crucial evidence in the case as prima facie the case appears to be a planned execution,” the report said. It sought the submission of all mobile call records between April 5 and 8 of all the Andhra Pradesh red sanders anti-smuggling special task force personnel, forest officials, district magistrate (Tirupathi) and superintendent of police (Tirupathi) and that of the 20 slain workers to the NHRC. The team pointed to the nexus among the mafia, bureaucracy, law and order agencies and the political class and regretted that there has been no instance of big mafias and middleman convicted for red sanders smuggling. It sought a detailed and thorough investigation to ensure that powerful people involved in the illegal activity were exposed and convicted. The team also sent copies of the interim reports to all Andhra Pradesh officials including chief secretary I Y R Krishna Rao, principal secretary B Prasada Rao and director general of police J V Ramudu giving them an opportunity to refute or clarify the findings before April 28. (Times of India 23/4/15)

66. Gujarat: 61 people died in police custody in 5 years (1)

Gandhinagar: As many as 61 persons died during police custody in the last five years, the Gujarat government today informed the state Legislative Assembly. Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel said this while replying to Congress MLA from Amreli, Paresh Dhanani who had sought details about custodial deaths. In her written reply, Patel stated that a total of 61 persons have died in police custody in the last five years (as on November-2014). Out of these, thirty died a natural death, while thirty others committed suicide. Surat city registered seven deaths in police custody, including four suicide cases. Others include Banaskantha district (five deaths) Ahmedabad city (four deaths), Anand (three), Morbi (three), Bhavnagar (three) and Kutch-West (three). (Zee news 26/4/15)

67. Man jumps in front of train alleging police harassment (1)

Bengaluru: A 25-year-old sales executive of an automobile company committed suicide by jumping in front of a running train at Chandapura in Hebbagodi police station limits on Tuesday. He allegedly took the extreme step after being harassed by two police officials who demanded money to bail him out of a case in which he was named. The deceased, Deepu N.K., a native of Arkalgud in Hassan district and a resident of Kittiganahalli here, had been summoned by the Hebbagodi police station on Monday after a family from Mangaluru lodged a missing complaint about a girl by name Akshata, who was his colleague. Deepu’s brother, Hemanth N.K, said: “Deepu met Akshatha at the automobile showroom in Bengaluru when she came from Mangaluru. Since she had not brought her phone and did not have an address proof here, she had sought Deepu’s help.” According to Hemanth, Akshata returned the phone and SIM on March 16 and informed Deepu that she was going to Mumbai as she had found a job there. He, in turn, contacted Akshatha’s sister following which the family members came here and decided to file a missing complaint. The ordeal began at the Hebbagodi police station as Sub Inspector Hanumanthraju and Assistant Sub Inspector Siddaraju allegedly harassed Deepu to find out the whereabouts of Akshata, and threatened to arrest him on kidnap charge. Deepu was allegedly detained at the station the whole day before Hemanth came to his rescue. They allegedly demanded Rs. 5,000 to release him. Hemanth claimed that he managed to get Deepu that night after he promised that he would bring Deepu back to the police station the next morning. On Tuesday morning, Hemanth dropped Deepu to work and went to his workplace near Silk Board. When he returned home, he found a suicide note in which Deepu had written that he was ending his life due to the unbearable police harassment. Deepu’s body was found on the railway tracks near the Chandapura junction on Wednesday morning. His body was shifted to Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital for post-mortem and a case of unnatural death has been registered. (The Hindu 30/4/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

68. No proposal to monitor social media: Ravi Shankar Prasad (1)

NEW DELHI: The government has said there is no proposal to monitor social media on the internet and it has not deputed any team to track the new-age platform. “There is no proposal with the government to monitor social media on the internet,” communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha. He said however that the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011 under Section 79 of the IT Act requires that the intermediaries shall observe due diligence while discharging their duties. The Act also stipulates that intermediaries shall inform users of computer resources not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update or share any information that is harmful, objectionable, affect minors and unlawful in any way, he added. He said the government has formulated a framework and other related guidelines for use of social media by government agencies to increase its own presence in the medium. A new media wing, the minister added, has been set up in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to disseminate information through newly emergent social and concurrent media. (Times of India 22/4/15)

69. India ranks second in cyber attacks through social media (1)

NEW DELHI: Cyber criminals are now using social networking sites to target users in India. According to a report from Symantec, a security solutions provider, India ranked second among nations that were most targeted for cyber crimes through the social media in 2014, after the US. “While email remains a significant attack vector for cybercriminals, they continue to experiment with new methods across mobile devices and social networks to reach more people with less effort. India’s growing social media population proved to be a ready base for them,” said Tarun Kaura, Director, Technology Sales (India), Symantec. He said that in 2014, India had the second highest number of social media scams globally and the highest in the Asia Pacific region. Over 80 per cent of these scams were shared manually as attackers took advantage of people’s willingness to trust content shared by friends. (The Hindu 22/4/15)

70. Lankan Muslim Intelligentsia Speaks Up For Harassed Writer (1)

COLOMBO: Fifty-seven top Sri Lankan Muslim academics, journalists, politicians, civil society leaders and human rights activists have appealed to the Lankan authorities to bring to book those who have been harassing and intimidating  Sharmila Seyyid for her writings against the Talibanisation of Lankan Muslim society. Seeking a “thorough and fair” investigation into the complaints made on behalf of Sharmila, the signatories through the appeal have urged the authorities to hold those responsible for all the misconduct accountable. They also requested community religious leaders like the Jamaithul Ulema to take steps to “halt the targeting of fellow Muslims based on spurious religious justifications.” The signatories said that there is a “critical need with Muslim community, for developing processes to respond to issues, not through harassment, but through a process of dialogue.”   A single mother, young Sharmila from Eravur in the Eastern Province, is a poet, novelist, journalist and social worker. She has been writing against the institution of purdah and the subjugation of women in Lanka. What triggered the tirade against her was an interview given to BBC’s Tamil Osai in 2012 in which she said that the sufferings of prostitutes could be mitigated if prostitution was legalised. Arsonists attacked the educational institution she was running, and the social media was liberally used to tarnish her reputation. According to the media, this included an audio of a “lustful” conversation she had allegedly had with a top cop in Tamil Nadu and a picture of her battered “dead body” suggesting that death was in store for her. Forced to flee Lanka, Sharmila is still in exile. (New Indian Express 27/4/15)

71. Freedom of media not for tarnishing others: Kerala minister (1)

Thiruvanathapuram: The freedom that the media gets should not be used to tarnish others, said a Kerala minister on Tuesday. State Excise Minister K Babu, 63, who has won every election since 1991, is currently feeling the heat after a prominent bar owner, Biju Ramesh, named him in a statement to a magistrate that the minister demanded Rs 10 crore to reduce the annual bar licence fee. “This statement of Ramesh is baseless. He says this occurred in 2013. If that be the case, when Ramesh first raised the issue of bribes in the bar scam in October last year, he did not name me nor two other Congress ministers. At that time he said it was state Finance Minister KM Mani who was given Rs 1 crore. In March this year, he says, I sought Rs 10 crore in bribe,” said Babu. “After Ramesh spoke about Rs 10 crore, you (media) have been weaving stories based on his testimony. But what you fail to realise is that by airing false and baseless allegations, a reputation that I built over 49 years fell flat. Please do not do this, the best you can do is to find out if there is any iota of truth…,” said Babu trying to control his tears. “I am taking legal action against Ramesh…I know I will be able to bring out the truth, but will you be able to give me back my image that is now being tarnished,” asked Babu. Babu said that the Chief Minister and his colleagues are with him and that he fears no probe. He denied media reports that there is going to be an overhaul of the Kerala cabinet. (Zee News 28/4/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

72. 1984 riots case: Delhi High Court grants interim bail for 10 days to convict (7)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today granted interim bail of 10 days to Balwan Khokhar, one of the three convicts serving life term in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, on medical grounds and to attend his son’s marriage. A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Ashutosh Kumar said Khokhar will remain on bail for 10 days from the date of his release and listed the matter for further hearing on May 12. Khokhar said in his bail plea that his son’s marriage is scheduled to take place on April 30. The bench granted him bail on the basis of a medical report submitted by Tihar jail authorities pursuant to the court’s earlier directions. On April 15, the court had called for a medical report after it was informed that the convict broke his hand after falling down in jail. The court had on that day refused to grant bail to co-convict Girdhari Lal. Khokhar was held guilty, along with four others, in a case related to the murder of five members of a family in Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment on November 1, 1984, a day after the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The ex-councillor has also challenged his conviction and award of life sentence by the trial court in May 2013. The trial court had acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in the case but awarded life term to retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Balwan Khokhar and Girdhari Lal. The court had also awarded three years imprisonment to two others — former MLA Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar. The high court had in September 2013 denied bail to Bhagmal. The convicts have filed their appeals before the High Court while Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also filed its appeal demanding death sentence for the trio, saying they were engaged in “a planned communal riot” and “religious cleansing”. (DNA 21/4/15)

73. Government should deport Kashmiri separatists to Pakistan: RSS (7)

Jammu: The RSS today came down hard on separatists raising pro-Pakistan slogans, saying they should be deported to Pakistan. “Those who are chanting pro-Pakistan slogans, especially the separatists along with their families, the government of India shall not allow them to live on the soil of Indian nation,” Senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar said. “This may result in the peace and prosperity of the Kashmiri nationalists. The government of India should deport all Kashmiri separatist leaders to Pakistan,” he said. Kumar, who is also patron of Muslim Rashtriya Manch, expressed his views at a seminar on the “Challenges before the country and the role of the India’s Muslims”, organised by the Jammu and Kashmir unit of Manch. Kavinder Gupta, Speaker, J-K Constituent Assembly, was the chief guest at the programme. Kumar further said that it is goodwill of people and government in India that people who raise pro-Pakistan slogans are allowed to live on its soil but now the limit of tolerance is over. Kumar also advised J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayed to focus on the development and respect the mandate given by the people and the hand of support to the coalition government forwarded by BJP. Government should work for overall development of the state in all sectors…tourism, education, health, peace and development of the state, he said. Kumar expressed his grave concern over the communal riots that have occurred since Independence in the country. He said this has only resulted in the loss of life and property of the common man. He appealed to the Muslim community not to get exploited in the hands of opportunistic groups like Hurriyat Conference factions and other politicians. “These things add misery to the lives of the people and disturbance to the peace process, prosperity, development, education system of Jammu and Kashmir. This also leads to the increase in the gap between rich and poor,” he said. National Convener, MRM, Haji Mohd Afzal also addressed the gathering and said that there have been only Muslim chief ministers in Jammu and Kashmir and everyone has worked only for his personal benefits and gains. “Contrary to this, MRM is working day and night for the welfare of the minorities of India especially of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. (Indian Express 24/4/15)

74. ‘Won’t allow communal harmony to be disturbed’ (7)

NEW DELHI: Under attack over the ‘ghar wapsi’ campaign and recent attacks on churches, the government on Tuesday said it would not tolerate anything that disturbs communal harmony and sought to put the ball in the states’ court, saying they should act against such activities as law and order was their prerogative. Responding to questions in Lok Sabha over conversion, home minister Rajnath Singh said the government wanted an anti-conversion law but noted that India was the only country where minorities did not seek such a law. Replying to a debate on demands for grants of home ministry which was passed, he responded to issues raised by the opposition, including concern over attacks on churches, religious conversions, approach towards separatists in Jammu and Kashmir, left-wing extremism and women’s safety. “I want to assure, especially the minorities, that government will protect them with all its might,” he said. Singh, however, said law and order was a state subject. “States should take strict action. How can the Centre intervene? If it happens in Delhi, we will take strict action. I think justice is not being done to the Centre if it is blamed for what happens in states.” He referred to the recent attack on a church in Agra and said he was “sad” about it and added that he was not aware of what action the state government had taken on it. The home minister said attacks on religious places had been occurring for long and there were also instances of vandalism and theft at temples. Hinting that the BJP government was being targeted for political reasons, he said he had figures to prove his point but refrained from making them public as he was not interested in doing politics over such a sensitive issue. “If I was interested in political gains, I would have tabled all statistics over the issue. It will hurt feelings of many people. But it will create an unnecessary controversy… I appeal to all not to do politics over the issue,” he said. Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy referred to the church attack in Agra and said, “What to do when one minority attacks another.” As some opposition members drew his attention to the controversial ‘haramzada’ remark of minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti made some time back, Singh was quick to disapprove it, saying, “It is wrong, it will not be tolerated.” In an apparent reference to latest Census figures which showed increased share of minorities, Singh said, “India never expresses concern about changes in demographic profile. No country will allow this change to happen.” Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge said comments and actions by Sangh Parivar members, including some ministers, continued despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi disapproving them. “Are they not heeding the prime minister? Their modus operandi is such that they say one thing and do another,” he said, questioning why no action was being taken against such people. In his 75-minute reply to the two-day debate, Singh also rejected the charge that the Modi government was soft on separatists. As Kharge referred to hardcore separatist Masarat Alam, the home minister said he was put behind bars immediately after he led a pro-Pakistan protest. (Times of India 30/4/15)

COMMUNALISM

75. Hindutva is symbol of nationalism, says Jharkhand CM (26)

MEDININAGAR (JHARKHAND):  “The RSS have never compromised with the national interest and nationalism as they were the true devotees of Hindutva, which is a symbol of nationalism,” Mr. Das said. He was addressing a gathering after inaugurating the ‘Raja Bhau Memorial Building’ of the RSS. Mr. Das said political parties have divided the society on caste and creed for political benefit but RSS have risen above such lines and engaged in nation building untiringly. Describing RSS as a ‘cultural centre’, Mr. Das said his government would extend all help to set up such buildings in all the districts of the state. (The Hindu 21/4/15)

76. RSS is answer for Christian forces, says Raghubar Das (26)

Daltonganj: Chief minister Raghubar Das and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) senior leader Dattatreya Hosbole on Tuesday inaugurated RSS cultural centre building in Daltonganj. The building will be used as a co-ordination centre by different wings of RSS and the common man. “RSS is the only organisation in the country that can give a befitting reply to the separatist forces present outside the country who want to turn India into a ‘Christian state’,” said Das while expressing hope that similar centres would also come up in other districts of Palamu commissionary. “The role of RSS that stands for patriotism and dedication to the service of the nation has assumed great significance in recent days as the other outfits are creating trouble in the name of religion or regionalism,” the CM said. Dattatreya Hosbole said, “The RSS pracharak should ensure a large gathering of volunteers at Shakhas (morning meetings) and use this centre for co-ordination among like-minded organisations and workers as well as for serving the poor and deprived children.” Health minister Ramchandra Chandravanshi, BJP legislators Radhakrishna Kishore, Alok Chaurasia and Satyendra Tiwary were among some of the prominent leaders present at the occasion. (Hindustan Times 22/4/15)

77. No cow slaughter ban in NE: BJP (26)

Shillong, April 22: The BJP today indicated that the cow slaughter ban would remain alien to the Northeast. It also reassured that every religious community would live with utmost “peace, safety and security” in the country. The assurance came from BJP general secretary Ram Madhav who accompanied party president Amit Shah during his maiden visit to Meghalaya. Shah arrived here amid a 12-hour shutdown called by the proscribed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council in Khasi-Jaintia hills and a protest staged by a civil society group in Shillong, to address party workers and hold discussions with representatives from a cross-section of society. After addressing party workers at the State Convention Centre near Hotel Pinewood, he drove to Hotel Polo Towers to meet representatives from churches, non-Congress political parties and pressure groups. Shah refused to speak to the media although some senior journalists attempted to persuade him to address journalists. On the other hand, Madhav reiterated the party’s stand on protecting the rights of all citizens. Reacting to the protest, he said, “It is a democratic country. People can protest. But their reasons for the protest are misplaced. The BJP is committed to the unity and integrity of the country. India is a country of multiple religions. Plurality is at the heart of this country. Every religious community will live in this country with utmost peace, safety and security. The government will ensure that.” The protesters, led by the Thma U. Rangli Juki, staged a demonstration near Raj Bhavan to oppose Shah’s visit as they listed 13 major points of contention against the BJP government at the Centre. The contentions were on the question of banning cow slaughter and the alleged atrocities perpetrated against Christians. Madhav clarified that there was no proposal to ban cow slaughter in the Northeast. “In some states, ban on cow slaughter has been there for several decades now. In a number of states it is there and in a number of states it is not there, including in all the northeastern states because of the demographic situation here. We are not proposing any such thing here,” he said. He said the cow slaughter ban in states like Maharashtra was essentially based on “certain socio-economic reasons”. “Our governments in different states will review the situation and based on that they will take decisions,” he added. On the BJP’s plan to strengthen the party in the Northeast where its presence is negligible except in Assam, Madhav countered, “The BJP has a good presence in a number of states in the Northeast. We are attaching great importance to the development of the entire region.” He said the party was supporting the government’s initiatives to strengthen the economy of the region as well as creating avenues for connection with a number of neighbouring countries. “We are committed to the development of the Northeast. That is why we are here,” he said. (The Telegraph 23/4/15)

78. Jesus would have been ashamed of his followers: VHP (26)

NEW DELHI: Following the revelation of local reasons behind two church attacks in Agra and Navi Mumbai and the arrest of a few Muslim boys in this connection, VHP said that had Jesus been alive, he would have been ashamed of his followers for spreading lies — that church attacks were engineered by Hindu groups — and abolished the religion. It reiterated that violence against other communities was spread by Christians and not by Hindus. Church functionaries, however, maintain that it’s an undeniable fact that attacks on churches increase whenever there is a BJP government. BJP has denied the allegations and called the opposition “irresponsible” for leveling charges against the government without waiting for investigations to be completed. VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain told TOI, “Even in the case of church attacks in Delhi, it was proven that they were cases of theft. In a few other cases also, it has now been proved (that no Hindu group is involved). Despite this, when one of their MPs charges in Parliament that it is because of Modi government that such things are happening, it shows they (Christian groups) have no morality.” He added, “It shows they are following principles exactly opposite to the life of Jesus Christ. Had Jesus been alive today, he would have been ashamed to see the conduct of modern day Christians and would have abolished the religion.” Jain said these cases showed that this was not a majority vs minority case. “It is also not in the nature of Hindus to attack minorities. This is something that Christians have been doing for centuries,” he said. BJP, too, reacted to the developments with scorn for the opposition. “The opposition has spoken out of turn and irresponsibly on the church attack issue. They could have waited for the investigations to be complete but they only did political posturing to malign the government. Recent intelligence reports have also pointed to the fact that there were more attacks on churches during UPA rule and the cases did not even reach their logical conclusion.” Father Victor Peter of St Stephens Church in Delhi, who was part of the delegation that had earlier met home minister Rajnath Singh on the issue, however, said church attacks were still a matter of concern. “Directly, we cannot blame any Hindu group. Hindus are our friends. But I am sorry to say that whenever BJP comes to power, this (church attacks) happens. Although we are thankful that government has provided security to prominent churches, I would love to see the day when all communities live in harmony in the country.” In the case of a recent attack on a church in Agra,UP police have claimed that a jilted lover attacked it, while in the case of the attack on a church in Navi Mumbai, it was found that a man running a gambling den attacked it as the church had complained against his activities. Also, according to West Bengal police, infiltrators from Bangladesh were behind the gang-rape of a 71-year-old nun and vandalism of church in the state. (Tmes of India 25/4/15)

TERRORISM

79. ’26/11 accused have set up Karachi-style control room in jail (12)

NEW YORK: Pakistan-based terror group LeT’s technology chief Zarrar Shah and his fellow militants continue to direct terrorist activity from behind bars under ISI’s watch, setting up in jail a control room like the one in Karachi to oversee the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, a report said. A report in Frontline titled ‘The Hidden Intelligence Breakdowns Behind the Mumbai Attacks’ says six years after the 26/11 attacks that brought Mumbai and India to a standstill, the masterminds are still “at large in Pakistan protected by the ISI, an intelligence service that is nominally a US ally.” “Even the defendants behind bars are still a threat. Shah, Lashkar’s technology and communications chief, and his fellow militants continue to direct terrorist activity from the prison,” the report quoted current and former Western and Indian counterterror officials as saying. “They’re able to continue operating unfettered there,” former State Department intelligence analyst Tricia Bacon said in the report. “The control room that they once had in Karachi to oversee the Mumbai attacks they essentially now have in the prison in the middle of the military capital in Pakistan ( Rawalpindi),” Bacon said. The report is an update of the documentary ‘American Terrorist’ on LeT operative David Coleman Headley, who had scouted targets across Mumbai that were then attacked by 10 Pakistani terrorists during the three-day siege on Mumbai. The new report details the story of Headley’s eventual capture as well as the secret surveillance of Mumbai plotters that took place before and during the attack. “That’s another reason why Headley’s story is still relevant. Justice has not been done,” the report said. (Times of India 23/4/15)

80. Centre asks J&K to be ready for separatist bandh (12)

New Delhi: As Jammu and Kashmir is simmering under fresh tension once again with separatists planning protests against the slapping of fresh charged under the Public Safety Act (PSA) against Hurriyat leader Massarat Aalam, the Centre has stepped in and cautioned the state government over the separatists’ congregation and their plans for another Srinagar shut-down. The Union home ministry has written to the state government about the dangers of the congregation of the anti-India elements over the re-slapping of the PSA charges against Aalam. The MHA wrote to the J&K government this week advising them to gear up the full intelligence and law-enforcing machinery to ensure public safety and security in the state in view of the separatists’ assembly and their call for a shut-down of the Valley. In its letter sent a day ago, the MHA cautioned that public order must be maintained at all costs without any threat to the common citizens in the state. The ministry has also advised the state government to seek any additional assistance that they may require in view of the above planned events from the Central government as soon as possible. The Jammu & Kashmir government on Wednesday evening booked Hurriyat leader Massarat Aalam under the Public Safety Act (PSA), rendering irrelevant his pending bail plea which was to come up in court on Saturday. Aalam was released last month after being detained for four-and-a-half years under six consecutive PSAs. Aalam was arrested on April 17 for participating in a pro-Independence rally where pro-Pakistan slogans and flags were raised and booked under various Sections — including Sections 147 (rioting), 341 (wrongful restraint), 336 (endangering life), 427 (damage to property), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), 121 (sedition), 124 (A) (waging war against state) — and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. His bail plea bail came before the chief judicial magistrate Budgam on Wednesday, who reserved the decision for Saturday. (Asian Age 25/4/15)

81. Burdwan blast: JMB Indian wing member sent to NIA custody (12)

Kolkata: A city court on Monday sent Ibrahim Sheikh, an alleged leading member of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh’s (JMB) Indian wing, to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) custody till May 8 in connection with the Burdwan blast case. The NIA counsel sought Ibrahim alias Lal Mohammad’s custody saying he was caught with ammunition, firearms and crude bombs. Ibrahim is said to hail from Nabagram in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district and a member of the Majlis-e-shura (central committee) of the JMB. Picked up from Jaharkhan’s Pakur on April 20, and sent to NIA custody there, he was brought to Kolkata on a transit remand. The investigating agencies have alleged that he was the in-charge of the Fatimatul Mukimnagar Madarsa in Murshidabad, which is closely linked to JMB. Police had shut and sealed off the madarsa after the October 2 Burdwan blast. The NIA filed the charg esheet last month, naming 21 people including 4 Bangladeshi nationals. Of the 21 charge sheeted, the agency so far has arrested 13 while 8 others are absconding. The chargesheet claimed that AJMB – a proscribed terrorist organisation in Bangladesh – had hatched the conspiracy to overthrow the Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh through violent terrorist acts and replace it with hard-line Sharia-based Islamic rule. The accidental blast took place in a house in Khagragarh in Burdwan district on October 2, killing two JMB militants and injuring another, which brought the conspiracy out in the open. (Business Standard 27/4/15)

82. Bombay High Court allows MCOCA, UAPA together (12)

Mumbai: In a landmark judgment, the Bombay high court on Tuesday held that an accused can be booked under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in a terrorism-related case. The division bench of Justice P.V. Hardas and Justice Dr Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi was hearing an appeal filed by the government of Maharashtra challenging the order passed on August 2, 2014, by a special MCOCA court that had discharged all the accused from MCOCA in Pune’s Junglee Maharaj bomb blasts case. After that, the court had transferred the case to a regular court so that the accused could be tried under UAPA and Indian Penal Code (IPC). The bench set aside the MCOCA court’s order that had said that an accused could not be booked under both the Acts at the same time in a single case because MCOCA deals with organised crime done for pecuniary gain while UAPA deals with terrorism activities and the objects of both are different. Special public prosecutor Raja Thakre had contended that the order passed by the trial court was “perverse and bad in law.” It was argued that the conclusion of the special judge, that the provisions of MCOCA could not be attracted to the act committed in the present case, as they were acts of terrorism, is “erroneous”. The MCOCA court had passed the order while hearing an application filed by an accused Firoz alias Hamaja Abdul Hamid Sayyed seeking discharge from MCOCA saying that he was booked for committing the same crime under MCOCA, a special state enactment, and also the Central UAPA. The ATS had arrested nine accused for allegedly conspiring and planting bombs at two of the six targeted spots on Junglee Maharaj Road. Five of the six on August 1, 2012, leaving one person injured. (Asian Age 29/4/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

83. Rifles, bullets and can bombs recovered during anti-naxal (12)

Sasaram: Security forces today recovered three rifles, two bullets and two can bombs planted under a road bridge during anti-naxal operation in Bihar’s Rohtas district today. Deputy Inspector General of Police Sahabad range Mohammad Rahman said following information about Maoists presence in Oardaja village in forest of Kaimur a joint team of CRPF and state police launched a combing operation. The security forces recovered three rifles and two bullets, the DIG said. While returning, the security forces found two can bombs planted under a road bridge in Alampur road. The can bombs weighed 15 kg and 10 kg respectively, he said. (Business Standard 22/4/15)

84. Maoist courier held with fabric for rebels (12)

Raipur: The Dantewada police have arrested a person who was allegedly carrying fabric to be used for uniforms of the Maoists. Around 220 metre of Raymond fabric was seized from Pukhraj Chandak, a resident of Geedam in Dantewada, yesterday. According to Dantewada SP Kam Lochan Kashyap, Chandak had taken an order from a Darbha-based Maoist Deva, member of the Darbha Division Committee of CPI (Maoist). “Pukhraj brought this cloth from Ahmedabad and was going in his vehicle to deliver it to Deva when he was arrested,” Kashyap said. Chandak had been acting as a Maoist courier and had earlier supplied them medicines, ration, uniforms and other material, said the police. This is the not the first instance that quality fabric was seized by the state police that was allegedly meant for the uniforms of Maoists. In 2007, two Bilaspur-based top cloth merchants were arrested from whom the then spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee had purchased a large quantity of cloth, which was subsequently stitched into uniforms by a Raipur-based tailor. While the cloth traders had admitted to selling the fabric, they claimed ignorance about its end use. Maoists also have tailoring units in Bastar where special units of guerrillas stitch uniforms for their comrades. Considering that Bastar has at least 6000 armed cadres, these units almost regularly stitch uniforms. This correspondent earlier met one such Maoist couple, Kanker-based Naresh and Preeti, who never participated in any ambush as their chief task was to stitch uniforms. Since they live an extremely tough life in forests, they pointed out, their leaders often provide them quality fabric to ensure that the uniforms last longer. (Indian Express 22/4/15)

85. Home ministry finalizing roads to be built in Naxal-affected areas (12)

NEW DELHI: In a move to provide road connectivity to more Naxal-affected areas, the home ministry is finalizing the list of roads and bridges to be built in consultation with security forces and state governments. The home secretary has also informed the road transport ministry that its proposal to earmark Rs 12,000 crore for the second phase of Road Requirement Plan (RRP) is under “active consideration”.Sources said road transport minister Nitin Gadkari has written to home minister Rajnath Singh to take up the earmarking of Rs 12,000 crore for this new set of road network with finance minister Arun Jaitley. Gadkari has written that road development is vital for development and to combat the menace of Naxalism and that the work needs to start without any delay. He has said that his ministry is not in a position to sustain the second phase of RRP from its limited financial allocation as done in the case of RRP-I. TOI on February 8 had first reported how the government is keen to build new roads in the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) impacted areas. Government officials said that at least 7,300 km roads would be built under this programme and it would cover more states and districts in comparison to the first leg of this special road development scheme. The Road Requirement Plan II will cover 34 districts in states, including Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Maharashtra. Sources said the home ministry is preparing a comprehensive plan and it would be forwarded to the finance ministry soon. (Times of India 25/4/15)

86. Maoist leaders on hunger strike shifted to hospital (12)

BERHAMPUR: Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda and former Maoist mediator during abductions Dandapani Mohanty, who are on hunger strike, were shifted from Berhampur circle jail to MKCG Medical College and Hospital in the city. According to Senior Superintendent of Berhampur circle jail, Raghunath Majhi, both had to be shifted to the Medical College Hospital as their condition deteriorated because of fasting. Sabyasachi had been shifted to the hospital on Sunday, while Dandapani was shifted on Monday. According to the physicians treating both these Maoists, their condition was out of danger. Armed police force had to be deployed to keep watch on these two persons under treatment in the hospital. Sabyasachi had started his hunger strike on April 22 to protest against his solitary confinement and alleged curbing of his basic rights. Earlier he had observed hunger strike for five days from March 31 on the same demands. Then also he had been admitted in MKCG Medical College and Hospital, where he had ended his fast. Dandapani had started hunger strike inside the jail on April 24 demanding status of political prisoner. He was arrested in February 2013 for his alleged involvement in Maoist activities. He had served as mediator for the Maoists during talks with State government for release of abducted Malkangiri collector in 2011 and two Italian tourists in Kandhamal district in 2012. (The Hindu 28/4/15)

TRAFFICKING

87. Accused in human trafficking case held (1)

KOCHI: An accused in a human trafficking case, absconding since 2012, was detained at the Mumbai International Airport. A CBI-issued lookout notice was pending against Siraj of Chazoor, Thrissur, and he was held on arrival at the airport. A team of CBI officers had left for Mumbai, and they would record Siraj’s arrest. He would be brought to Kochi on Wednesday. “He had left the country in 2012, fearing arrest. Later, the CBI issued a lookout circular against him. On Sunday we received information from Mumbai that Siraj had landed at the airport,” a CBI source said. Siraj was one among the 13 against whom the CBI had filed a chargesheet before the Ernakulam chief judicial magistrate on February 25 this year. Siraj was allegedly an agent of K V Suresh of Valapad, the first accused, who ran prostitution rackets in Muscat, Sharjah, Dubai and Ajman. Suresh and another accused, Varghese Raphel of Champakkara, were yet to be nabbed. With the help of other accused, Suresh recruited women from poor families from different parts of Kerala promising jobs abroad and forced them into prostitution. The racket was busted after a 19-year-old woman from Kazhakoottam was detained with fake passport while attempting to go to the UAE. The trafficking was carried out through Nedumbassery and Trivandrum International Airport. Two police officers on deputation to the emigration section at Nedumbassery, Raju Mathew and Prashant Kumar, allegedly helped the accused. (Times of India 21/4/15)

88. Italian PM declares war on human traffickers (1)

Rome: Amid a tragic surge in the number of migrants losing their lives in the Mediterranean, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Wednesday declared war on the human traffickers organising the perilous boat journeys. “We need to be aware that we are fighting a war against human traffickers,” Renzi told the Italian Senate or upper house of parliament. “There is no similar experience in history to the trading of human meat apart from slavery.” His comments came as European Union (EU) leaders were due to hold a summit on Mediterranean migrant crisis following Sunday’s boat disaster in which as many as 950 people are feared to have drowned when their boat capsized and sank off the Libyan coast. It was one of the worst maritime disasters since World War II and many of the victims, including women and children, were locked inside the hull and the middle deck of the 20-metre boat “like rats in a cage”, according to one of the 28 survivors of the tragedy. The boat’s Tunisian skipper and another crew member were arrested on charges of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and people smuggling =when they reached Sicily aboard a coast guard vessel. In an earlier address to Italy’s lower house of parliament, Renzi said he was optimistic that the EU would do more to tackle the Mediterranean migrant crisis in the wake of Sunday’s disaster. “We need a political strategy, which means asking Europe to do more than just agree on a budget,” Renzi said. An EU team should manage asylum requests in Libya amid “a strong presence” of international organisations there aimed at deterring migrants from setting sail, Renzi said. More than 1,700 migrants have perished in the last week alone attempting to reach Europe from North Africa by boat across the southern Mediterranean. The number of migrants who lost their lives in the Mediterranean this year is 30 times higher than the same period in 2014,according to the UN refugee agency. “I hope the (EU) summit is not just a learned club of specialist experts who know all the geopolitical dynamics, but forget to give a response to the pain. “The lack of a response will suffocate an entire generation that is fleeing, risking their lives and not just to see new places,” Renzi stated. At talks in Luxembourg on Monday, EU ministers agreed on a 10-point plan to double the resources available to its much-criticised maritime border patrol mission Triton. Further measures were due to be discussed at Thursday’s summit of EU leaders. Police in Palermo arrested 15 people on Monday in connection with a smuggling ring they say was masterminded by an Ethiopian and an Eritrean who have made over $110 million from trafficking migrants in the past two years. (New Kerala 22/4/15)

89. Panel investigating ‘trafficking’ case (1)

KOLHAPUR: The Kolhapur Child Welfare Committee (CWC) on Saturday started investigations as to whether the children rescued from Panjim in Goa were transported from Kolhapur with legal permission. Priya Chorage, chairperson of the Kolhapur Child Welfare Committee said four minors and two teenagers from Kolhapur were rescued from the custody of a British national on April 16. “As none of the Goa authorities contacted either the Kolhapur committee or the local police, we were completely unaware of their condition. We came to know about the incident yesterday and have tried contacting authorities. As per our primary information, the children were either HIV positive or very poor. Prima facie evidence shows that a private company, which was running a hospital in Kolhapur moved them to Goa,” Chorage said. She said no agency is allowed to move children in distress without CWC’s permission. “A Kolhapur resident, who transported them to Goa, said that the children were under his protection till July and since the place where they were treated was shut down in July 2014, he moved them to Goa. It has to be investigated whether it is a case of human trafficking,” she added. The Shahupuri police visited the company office in Kadamwadi. The police are also contacting their Goa counterparts for more information. “We are helping the CWC investigate whether there are illegalities in the case. As of now, we have received no complaints from either parents of the children or from any agency,” A D Choudhari, inspector of Shahupuri division said. (Times of India 26/4/15)

CORRUPTION

90. 50 corruption cases so far this year in Nashik (5)

NASHIK: The Nashik anti-corruption bureau (ACB) has registered 50 cases of bribery in the last three-and-a-half months this year, which is marginally higher than the ones recorded during the corresponding period in 2014. Till April 17, the Nashik ACB has registered 49 cases of traps and one of disproportionate assets. During the same period last year, it recorded did such 47 cases. Among those trapped by the ACB’s Nashik Range are five class I officers, six class II officers, 43 class III, two class IV and eight others. The Jalgaon wing of the ACB tops the chart with 16 cases, followed by Nashik (13), Ahmednagar (8), Dhule (7) and Nandurbar (5). One case of disproportionate assets was reported from Jalgaon. Senior officials attributed the rising number of cases to the general awareness among the citizens with respect to the functioning of the ACB. They also lauded the efforts taken by ACB personnel in spreading awareness at various government departments and public spots, mainly at market places in the rural areas as well as in schools and colleges. Praveen Pawar, superintendent of police of ACB (Nashik range), said, “Our department has also made use of social networking sites and launched a cellphone application for the citizens to report cases of bribes demanded by government servants.” ACB officials said awareness drives would be conducted in colleges and other educational institutes as the younger generation uses smart phones on a large scale. Besides, the ACB also has a helpline which was used by the people to report demands of bribes by public servants. The officials said maximum number of people trapped in bribery cases were those from the revenue department, followed by the police and zilla parishad. Earlier, the Nashik range of the ACB had recorded the highest number of convictions of public servants in bribery cases in the state in 2014. The conviction rate of those arrested by the Nashik unit was 43%, followed closely by Aurangabad at 41%.Among the other ACB units in the state, the conviction rate of those arrested by the Thane unit was 38%, Nanded (36%), Mumbai (31%) and Pune (20%).In 2013, the conviction rate of those arrested by the Nashik unit stood at 16%, while it was a mere 15% in 2012. An ACB official told TOI that the Nashik unit deployed an employee in every court where anti-corruption cases were being heard. This was done to ensure that all documents and material needed to support the chargesheets filed against those booked in the bribery cases were in place, he said. (Times of India 21/4/15)

91. Central Vigilance Commission wants action on 34 senior bureaucrats (5)

New Delhi: In a bid to crack down on corrupt babus in the country, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has advised sanction of prosecution against 34 senior officials of various Central ministries and departments in the last one month alone. The suspected role of these officials is being probed by the CBI in several corruption cases. According to sources, prosecution sanctions have also issued by the competent authorities to the CBI in respect of eight officials, including two IAS officers. Besides, the anti-corruption watchdog has advised initiation of major penalty proceedings against 190 officials of Central ministries and departments in the country. “The concerned departments and ministries will soon initiate penalty proceedings against the officials,” sources said. Recently, the CVC asked chairmen and managing directors of all Central public sector enterprises, including those of navratnas and maharatnas, to hand over cases involving financial fraud to the CBI only. Taking instances of some CPSEs referring cases, involving high-value frauds, to the local police, the CVC instructed public sector undertakings to refer all incidents — involving transactions up to Rs 25 lakh and above — to the CBI. The commission also asked chief vigilance officers (CVOs) of all CPSEs to interact with CBI sleuths on regular basis and share quarterly reports of their respective organisations with the CBI. “The CVOs of the CPSEs are required to interact frequently and exchange information with the CBI on a quarterly basis,” the order issued by the CVC in this regard said. The CVC, in terms of its powers under Section 8(1) of the CVC Act-2003, exercises its function of superintendence over the vigilance administration of the CPSEs. The CVC noticed instances of some CPSEs referring cases — prima facie involving criminal offences, financial irregularities and high-value frauds — to the local police instead of the CBI, sources said. The commission has now advised all CPSEs to strictly adhere to the laid-down procedure and principles as in the special chapter for vigilance management in CPSEs. (Asian Age 26/4/15)

92. Jayalaithaa’s disproportionate assets case: SC terms special public prosecutor’s appointment… (5)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday said that the Tamil Nadu government has no authority to appoint special public prosecutor in J Jayalaithaa’s disproportionate assets case. “Karnataka has the power of being the sole prosecuting agency in the case,” the SC bench added. The SC said that the appointment of Bhawani Singh as special public prosecutor is “bad in law”.Bhawani Singh was appointed as special public prosecutor by Tamil Nadu’s directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption (DVAC). A three-judge bench, however, said that there is no justification in holding the case afresh. It, however, allowed the Karnataka government and DMK leader K Ambazhagan to file written submission before the HC, which has already reserved its verdict in the case. A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said that HC verdict must reflect the court took into account their written submission. The apex court had on April 17 extended Jayalalithaa’s bail till the Karnataka high court disposed of her appeal against her conviction and sentencing. The four others whose bail was also extended were Jayalalithaa’s aides N Sasikala, VN Sudhakaran, and J Elasvarasi. The apex court on December 18, 2014 had extended their bail by four months with a direction to the high court to hear their appeal and pronounce verdict by April 17, 2015. The Bengaluru trial court had convicted Jayalalithaa for possessing assets disproportionate to her known sources of income and sentenced her to four jail terms and Rs 100 crore fine. The case lasted for about 18 years. The case relates to the period from 1991 to 1996 involving Rs 66.65 crore when Jayalalithaa became chief minister for the first time. (Times of India 27/4/15)

93. CVC: No need of our probe in cases where corruption angle is ruled out (5)

NEW DELHI: The Central Vigilance Commission has liberalized a significant part of vigilance administration for cases against senior officials, empowering departments with a major say in inquiries. According to a circular issued on Monday, CVC has said if inquiries by chief vigilance officer (CVO) of a department in complaints against senior officials do not indicate prima facie vigilance angle (corruption) and relate to administrative lapses, the case would be decided by the department concerned. Until now, all reports into inquiries against senior officials had to be referred to CVC even if there was no evidence of corruption. The order would impact vigilance administration against Group A officers in central government and same level of officers in public sector banks, PSUs, insurance companies, financial institutions, societies and other local authorities notified by the government under the CVC Act. A senior official said the CVC on an average receives about 1500 reports of inquiries into complaints of corruption and malpractice in a year. “Of them about 500 do not contain any vigilance/corruption angle and only involve administrative lapses. These 500 can now be decided by departments concerned,” he said. “It has been decided that, henceforth after inquiry/investigation by the CVO in complaints/matters relating to Category A officers as well as composite cases, wherein, category B officers are also involved, if the allegations, on inquiry do not indicate prima facie vigilance angle/corruption and relate to purely non-vigilance/administrative lapses, the case would be decided by the CVO and the DA (disciplinary authority) concerned of the public servant at the level of ministry/department/organization concerned,” the circular said. CVO’s recommendation for administrative or disciplinary action that until now had to be sent to CVC can be decided in the department itself, it said. However, the circular said the liberalized rule would only apply to complaints that CVOs or the department receives. The new rule “would not apply to the complaints received by the Commission and referred for investigation and report to the CVO,” it said. The liberalized rules would also not apply to whistle blower complaints. (Times of India 28/4/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

94. Unscientific sewage disposal threatens Shimla’s environment (9)

SHIMLA: Unscientific disposal of sewage and solid waste is threatening the pristine environment and water sources of the Queen of Hills, as Shimla was fondly called by the British colonial rulers. Its wooded deodars, Raj-style structures and chuckling peaks on the horizon may lure you, but it’s not an easygoing effort as the shortage of water and parking lots here will leave you high and dry. These observations came to light in the latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General that highlights the inadequacies of the Shimla Municipal Corporation. It says that just 13 percent of the sewage generated in Shimla is treated and the rest is left in the open – despite Rs.74 crore ($12 million) being spent for installing six treatment plants. Planned for a maximum population of 16,000, Shimla is home to 170,000 people as per the 2011 census and generates 30.09 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage. The CAG said the utilisation of six sewerage treatment plants was only 4.8 MLD (13 percent) against the installed capacity of 35.63 MLD. Worn-out sewers and non-existence of a sewerage network are the main reasons for non-tapping of sewage. It said the untreated sewage, which remained untapped, is left in the open, affecting the environment adversely. Then, approximately 85-90 tonnes of garbage is generated in the city daily, of which only 70 tonnes is treated. The CAG pointed out that 131,218 tonnes of garbage was generated during 2009-14 against which 124,100 tonnes was collected by the Shimla Municipal Corporation, resulting in short collection of 7,118 tonnes. Only 104,025 tonnes of garbage was transported for treatment and the remaining 27,193 tonnes remained untreated. The municipal corporation’s commissioner, in his reply to the CAG, spoke of limited means to transport the garbage, but admitted that the treatment plant was not utilized to its optimal capacity. Treatment of solid waste is not effective and eco-friendly, the report said, adding: the unscientific disposal of the solid waste had an adverse impact on the environment and water bodies.Official sources said the normal demand is 42 million litres per day, but the availability ranged from 35 million to 37 million MLD. The CAG report says the city is getting water only for 1.2 hours a day against the 24-hour norm. Even the water supplied is less than the prescribed limit of 135 litres per capita per day. From 2009-14, the corporation had supplied 110 litres per capita per day. Moreover, the quality of water supplied could not be certified in the absence of an independent analyst. “During the summer (from May to June), we are getting water supply once in two or three days, and that too only in the morning,” Gian Thakur, a retired government employee who has been long settled in Shimla, told IANS. He said the water shortage problem began in the early 1990s. The state capital remains chock-a-block with vehicles owing to shortage of parking lots, especially during the peak tourist seasons — from May to June and November to January. The government auditor said as of March 2014, there were 20 parking lots with a capacity of 585 vehicles, including 485 four-wheelers. According to tourism industry representatives, Shimla gets 20,000 to 30,000 tourists on an average every weekend during the peak season. The Urban Development Department said that to check traffic jams, the department plans to carve out 49 parking lots that can accommodate over 2,000 vehicles. He said four parking slots, which can hold 1,524 vehicles, are in the final stage of completion, while a Rs.26 crore multi-level parking complex at Sanjauli in Shimla was inaugurated April 9. (Times of India 21/4/15)

95. Air pollution to be in focus at north zonal meet (9)

NEW DELHI: Increasing air pollution in Delhi is to be the focus of the meeting of Northern Zonal Council (NCZ) on Saturday. The meeting will consider the recommendations of a high level committee that was constituted by the city government on air pollution, including adoption of dust suppression methods at construction sites across Delhi and its neighbouring areas and transportation of all building materials and debris in closed trucks. Generation of dust at construction sites has been cited as one of the major reasons of rising air pollution in NCR. The committee has suggested that all states must follow the dust suppression measures. In Delhi, this will be enforced by Delhi Police and pollution control department. Cracking down on this menace, National Green Tribunal (NGT) had recently ordered that dust from construction sites should be completely controlled and the vehicles used for transportation of building material must be properly cleaned before being permitted to ply on the roads. Huge number of real estate projects and other infrastructure works are under progress in NCR. Saturday’s meeting will be chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and will be attended by chief ministers, ministers and top officials from all the north Indian states. The Delhi government is likely to push the need of setting up of air pollution monitoring stations across the region and also fixing display boards at different locations indicating the level of air pollution as it is being done in the capital. TOI has learnt that the issue of delay in construction of two peripheral expressways around Delhi – Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE) and Western Peripheral Expressway (WPE) – would come up for discussion in the meeting. Road transport ministry and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will have to explain the delay in awarding contract for EPE. The two expressways are planned to function as bypass for trucks and commercial vehicles that pass through Delhi. Sources said that the feasibility of building U-turns and underpasses at the borders would also be discussed at the meeting. The high level committee of Delhi government has suggested this as the NGT has ordered that no more than 10-year-old diesel vehicles should be allowed to enter Delhi. “You have to have a facility to send them back, else huge number of old trucks halting on the border would choke all the National Highways joining Delhi,” a government source said. (Times of India 25/4/15)

96. Earthquake: 34 people killed, hundreds injured in India (9)

NEW DELHI: At least 26 people were today killed and over 100 injured as a powerful earthquake that originated in Nepal shook large parts of northern and eastern India, damaging houses and buildings and sparking panic among the people. In Bihar, which adjoins Nepal, 17 people died and 48 were injured in incidents of wall and roof collapse as the quake measuring measuring 7.9 on Richter scale and the aftershocks sent ripples across the country around noon. Tremors were felt in almost all states in northern, eastern and northeastern parts of India, including national capital New Delhi, over 1100 kilometres from the Nepalese capital. Three people were killed in West Bengal in the temblor and at least 69 others including 43 school children were injured. In Uttar Pradesh, at least six persons were killed and over a dozen injured. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the chief ministers of various states and convened a high-level meeting to take stock of the situation. He directed immediate dispatch of relief and rescue teams to earthquake-affected areas of the country as well as Nepal and ordered proper arrangements for evacuating stranded tourists from that country. Six people died in Bihar’s East Champaran and four in Sitamarhi districts which share borders with Nepal, the epicentre of the quake, special secretary to the disaster management department Anirudh Kumar told . Darbhanga reported two deaths, while one death each were reported from Supaul, Araria, West Champaran, Sheohar and Saran, he said adding 48 people were injured in quake-related incidents in various parts of the state, which was hit by a devastating storm that claimed 55 lives on Tuesday night. National Disaster Response Force teams have been rushed to many districts and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is rushing back to Patna from New Delhi. In West Bengal, where a state-wide civic election is on, theree persons were killed in quake related incidents. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said two persons had died in Darjeeling and one in Jalpaiguri district. Sixty-nine people were injuerd in Malda district in three places in roof collapse and stampede like situation as people inside buildings tried to rush out, district authorities said. In Sikkim, the earthquake triggered landlsides in various parts of the mountain state, official sources said. But there was no report of any loss of life so far, they said. In Uttar Pradesh, three deaths were reported from Barabanki district adjoining the state capital, two were reported from Gorakhpur and one from Sant Kabir Nagar. A woman and two children were killed when an under-construction wall collapsed in Basantapur village in Mohammadpur Khala area in Barabanki. In Gorakhpur, two persons, including a two-and-a-half -year-old child, were killed, police said. An eight-year-old girl was killed when a house collapsed in Purwa village in Mehdawal area in Sant Kabir Nagar. The earthquake was epicentred at Lamjung, around 80 kilometers northwest of Kathmandu. (Times of India 25/4/15)

97. Pashupatinath stands tall amid Nepal earthquake destruction (9)

MUMBAI: Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal shares an astounding similarity with the flash floods that hit Uttarakhand in June 2013. Just as the Kedarnath temple stood firm when all around it collapsed, the shrine of Pashupatinath remains intact although structures in the same complex have crumbled. Both Kedarnath and Pashupatinath are signature temples dedicated to Lord Shiva in their respective hilly regions. Shiva is both creator and destroyer of the Universe. Religious experts are overawed at this miraculous coincidence. Spiritual guru Mukesh Trivedi from Borivli says the fact that both Kedarnath and Pashupatinath stand tall can be partly attributed to their sturdy and scientific construction centuries ago. “Our forefathers prepared the temple layout with vast boundaries so that many square yards around the shrine were left undisturbed. Now new constructions have encroached upon this territory without a care for environmental balance,” he says. Acharya Avdhesh Kumar Pandey of Birla Mandir, New Delhi, says, “Natural calamities become a time for man to introspect. It is humbling to see Kedarnath and Pashupatinath both remain untouched. The intent behind the construction of a temple matters greatly. These days, large trusts build grand temples and install donation boxes with a view to generating wealth. It shocks me to see that even the idol is sometimes installed without ‘pran pratishtha’ (consecration). Some sell tickets even to enter, and charge money for boarding and lodging. In olden days temple trusts welcomed sages and saints with grace, and made provision for langar and dharamshalas for visitors. Now they build factories with temple collections.” Ramesh Gandhi, spokesman of Mumbai’s Babulnath temple, says, “Both Kedarnath and Pashupatinath are ‘akhand’ (indestructible) because these are considered the holy seat of Lord Shiva.” Mukeshbhai says the warnings contained in the Uttarakhand floods have gone unheeded. “Shrines cannot be treated like picnic spots. Excess tourism and commercialization is detrimental to the peace of these temple towns. Lodges and roads are built on fragile rocky ground. Instead of reopening the shrines within months of the disaster to resume earning revenue, the government should regulate visitors and allow online darshan,” he says. (Times of India 28/4/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

98. ‘Only 3 Maharashtra farmers ended life due to unseasonal rain (20)

MUMBAI: A day after TOI reported about 601 farmer suicides in the state between January and March this year, Union agriculture minister Radhamohan Singh told Parliament that only three had committed suicide in the state due to unseasonal rains. TOI’s report was based on state government data. The Union minister said that his figures were based on a report from the state government. “I am basing my answer on reports provided by state governments on farmer suicides caused by unseasonal rains and hailstorms. I do not know how credible these are,” Singh told Parliament. The state Congress has accused the BJP-led state government of trying to hoodwink the public and threatened a state-wide agitation. “The BJP government is totally insensitive. Who will believe such low figures,” asked Congress MP and state party chief Ashok Chavan. “We will launch a state-wide agitation seeking total loan waiver and compensation for kin of affected farmers,” he added. Later, state agriculture minister Eknath Khadse said there was no contradiction between the figures. He told a TV channel, “There were 601 farmer suicides between January and March, of which 141 were eligible for relief, but only three were linked to unseasonal rains and hailstorms.” (Times of India 21/4/15)

99. Farmer’s suicide at AAP rally: Police to probe role of volunteers, abetment angle (20)

New Delhi: Delhi Police have filed an FIR and assigned the crime branch to probe the suicide of Gajendra Singh, a farmer from Rajasthan who hanged himself from a tree at an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rally in Jantar Mantar on Wednesday. He was later declared brought dead at a city hospital. The FIR has been registered under IPC sections 306 (abetment to suicide) and 186 (obstructing public servant in discharging duty) against unknown persons. Describing the suicide of the farmer at his rally venue as “an extremely sad incident”, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the matter. The Delhi government has asked the district magistrate of the area (New Delhi district) to probe the entire incident. Special commissioner of police (law and order) Deepak Mishra confirmed the registration of FIR. He said that an inquiry by an officer of the level of joint commissioner had begun. Joint commissioner of New Delhi range, Mukesh Meena, had been appointed to inquire into the incident. Meena will probe the role of police officers at the spot.Police said the AAP too had flouted rules by getting a gathering of more than 5,000 people. On Tuesday, New Delhi DCP Vijay Singh had written to AAP member Neeraj Kumar asking him to shift the venue of the protest to Ramlila Maidan in view of intelligence reports that their gathering was estimated to be around 20,000. Police said that they had not granted permission to the AAP to hold the gathering at Jantar Mantar. Police said they would take statements of eyewitnesses to probe if Singh was instigated to end his life. Police will probe the role of the volunteers who stopped the officers at the spot from taking the victim in their ambulance.“It was so confusing. The man was hanging from the tree and people on the stage were asking others to maintain order. They seemed to be trying to help, but I just fail to understand why they didn’t end the rally as soon as the man hung himself,” said Pankaj Sharma, a resident of Laxmi Nagar who had gone to attend the AAP’s farmer rally. Even as news of the death of Singh spread, hundreds of people like Sharma wondered why the rally went on despite the sad turn of events. Social networking websites were abuzz with remarks from people who questioned whether political mileage was more important than the life of a farmer. “The man died in front of everyone and yet a group of teachers continued their chants against Arvind Kejriwal and speakers on the stage continued to talk about how sad it was that the farmer had to die. Within minutes, people forgot that a man had killed himself in front of their eyes,” said Nirmal Kanwal, who had come from Maharashtra. Insensitive statements started soon after. Cornered, AAP leaders put their foot in their mouths repeatedly. While senior leader Ashutosh said party members and volunteers were not trained to scale walls and sarcastically remarked that Kejriwal should have climbed the tree to save Gajendra, Sanjay Singh said even the BJP has continued with its rally in Patna despite bomb threats. Party MLA from Malviya Nagar Somnath Bharti tweeted that the suicide was a conspiracy. Later, Ashutosh apologised for the statement and Bharti deleted his tweet. According to party spokespersons, cutting short the rally was not feasible as the crowd was incensed. “Had we ended the rally, commotion would have ensued. We were on the stage managing the crowd. If he hadn’t done that it could have become a stampede,” Singh said. Twitter, however, reacted harshly, rejecting the party’s statement and asking why the party didn’t have a more humane response. The CM, meanwhile, condoled Gajendra’s death and said the matter will be looked into. (Hindustan Times 23/4/15)

100. Crops in 189 lakh hectare damaged due to unseasonal rains (20)

New Delhi: The government on Monday told parliament that crops in 189 lakh hectare have been damaged due to the recent unseasonal rains and hailstorms in the country. Responding to an exhaustive debate in the Rajya Sabha on the agrarian crisis, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said the data is based on the reports received from the affected states. “The centre took immediate cognisance of the situation and decided to relax the compensation norms for crop damage,” he said. He added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi reduced the eligibility norms for compensation for crop losses from 50 to 33 percent. “Central government also allowed states to disburse 20 percent of amount available with the State Disaster Relief Fund to the affected farmers,” he said. The debate was taken up in the upper house last Thursday after a farmer committed suicide at an anti-land acquisition bill rally of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi. However, dissatisfied with the minister’s reply, Samajwadi Party and Trinamool Congress staged a walkout. Congress also staged a walkout with Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad citing absence of food minister and home minister as a non-serious approach by government. (Business Standard 27/4/15)

101. Farmer’s suicide case: Cops probing who wrote suicide note (20)

NEW DELHI: Cops probing the death of Gajendra Singh at AAP’s rally last Wednesday are coordinating with forensic officials to ascertain whether the suicide note recovered from the spot was hurriedly written on the spot at Jantar Mantar and by someone else. The note had been flashed by AAP functionaries and a TV channel immediately after Gajendra’s death. A source said that initial discussions with CFSL officials suggest that the note was written “hurriedly”. The style of a few letters seems different from the pattern Gajendra usually wrote in. Handwriting samples have been collected from the farmer’s home in Dausa, Rajasthan and sent for forensic analysis. A final opinion on the handwriting analysis is awaited. Police are also probing the account of two witnesses who said that some volunteers instigated Gajendra to climb the tree. On Day One, TOI had reported witnesses saying that some people helping him climb the tree and handed over a broom. Cops are also verifying an alleged witness’s account who came to them at Tughlaq Road police station claiming that Gajendra was seen talking to a senior AAP functionary present on the dais. “Eyewitness accounts and police sources show that Gajendra climbed the tree after being provoked by a group of people. A cop said video footage showed few people giving him a helping hand and also handing him a broom. He is seen waving the broom and people standing below applauding. Thereafter, he is seen tying one end of his gamchha (scarf) to a branch and the other to his neck,” TOI had reported last Thursday. On Tuesday, sources said that forensic experts and witness accounts show that Gajendra, most probably, slipped immediately after tying the knot. Mohammad Shahid, a Naraina resident, who caught Gajendra as he fell, had said that the branch he was resting his foot on was not very wide. Meanwhile, police have scanned and identified the people who Gajendra met on his way after he left Dausa and found no conspiracy. His call records show he visited Kurukshetra for business where he tied pagri to people at marriage functions. One Jindal family had booked Gajendra’s services online through his website. The cops said identifying people who instigated Gajendra to climb up the tree was their priority. They are now trying to identify the people he met at the venue. Also, police clarified that he had not told his sister about a “big thing on TV” but just that he would be in front of cameras at Jantar Mantar. Delhi Police also said they had not shared any probe details with Delhi government or joined their probe. “There have been some letters exchanged between the New Delhi DCP and the district magistrate. This sort of communication is confidential and it will not be appropriate to reveal it,” police commissioner BS Bassi said on Tuesday. (Times of India 29/4/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

102. Narmada erosion a threat to Sardar Sarovar dam: Report (4)

GANDHINAGAR: The large-scale erosion of the left bank of Narmada downstream from Bharuch has not only been causing huge financial losses in the region but also social problems. But what has set alarm bells ringing is the fear that the erosion may change the river’s course and, thereby, create problems for the Sardar Sarovar dam as well as the main canal. This is the finding of the high-level technical experts’ taskforce set up by the state Narmada, Water Resources, Water Supply and Kalpasar department to study the ‘Problem of Erosion of Left Bank of Narmada River Downstream from Bharuch’. The taskforce has come to the conclusion that the erosion is causing rapidly growing losses in agriculture, cattle, human settlements, agriculture, industries and public properties. In 2013, river Narmada was in spate and floodwaters had increased the discharge to a rate of 47,592 cusec (at its maximum it was 16.2 lakh cusec). The river waters had inundated vast areas and extensively eroded the left bank for about 10 km downstream from Bharuch. Agricultural lands, roads, houses, oil and gas pipelines had suffered extensive damage while industries and urban and rural habitations had faced serious threat of destruction. In its report, the taskforce noted: “During the period 1990-2013, the bank-line had shifted to the left by 125 m to 605 m. Because of two major faults parallel to the Narmada river on either side, the right bank is higher than the left bank by a minimum of 5.89 m to a maximum of 8.03 m.” It further noted that though an evaluation of various kinds of damage was not possible without collection of detailed data, a primary estimate after the 2013 floods suggested that agricultural loss in just 400 hectares of land was around Rs.140 crore. Further, “around 30 lakh people had been directly affected and 13 persons had lost their lives. Total registered loss of cattle was Rs 29.5 lakh….Damage to houses, industrial properties and public property was also substantial,” the taskforce noted in its report. The taskforce had suggested further studies. It had also stated that it’s not possible to come to a conclusion on the likely impact of riverbank erosion on the Sardar Sarovar dam project as construction work is still on and the maximum planned height of the dam is yet to be reached. (Times of India 21/4/15)

103. NBA writes to CM for rehab of Omkareshwar dam hit (4)

INDORE: With deteriorating health condition of jal satyagrahis, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) on Wednesday wrote a letter to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan seeking rehabilitation of Omkareshwar dam project affected people (PAP) as per the guideline of Supreme Court in a time bound manner. Jal satyagraha by Gogalgaon villagers in Khandwa district entered the 12th day. Assuring support to affected farmers NBA urged state government to give minimum of 5 acre of agricultural land and a plot for construction of house to each PAP as per the eligibility. “Government should constitute a joint committee of government officials and protestors for time bound rehabilitation, so that dam can be filled to its full capacity and farmers can get irrigation facility,” said Chittaroopa Palit of NBA, adding, till the rehabilitation process is completed water level of dam should be brought down to 189 metre from 191 metre. Meanwhile, to garner support for Omkreshwar and Indira Sagar dams state government issued full page advertisement in all leading newspapers claiming the dams will irrigates several lakh hectares of agriculture filed in Khandwa, Khargone and Badwani. Along with this state government is also going to organise ‘Vrihad Jal Jan Panchayat’ in Khandwa, were dam affected are on Jal Satyagraha, on April 24 in the presence of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. On Wednesday a team headed by chief medical health officer (CMHO) of Khandwa reached at Gogalgaon for the first time since beginning of protest to conduct health check-up of farmers, who are protesting in waist deep water for last 12 days. “Skin on feet of some of the protestors has started to peel off and blood spots were found on skin,” said CMHO Dr RC Panika, adding, due to continuous presence in water protestors has developed washarmen-foot disease and they need immediate medical treatment. “Health condition of protestors are deteriorating, but they have refused medical treatment,” said Palit. (Times of India 23/4/15)

104. Support for jal satyagrahis swells, 20 more join agitation (4)

INDORE: Extending support to jal satyagrahis, who are in waist-deep water for last 13 days, 20 more farmers joined the protest against increase in Omkareshwar dam height in Ghogalgaon on Thursday. The health condition of protestors has deteriorated further, but they have refused to undergo treatment. Meanwhile, leaders of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and AAP are trying hard to meet union ministers and ministers of state government to find a solution to the vexed rehabilitation issue of Omkareshwar oustees. AAP leader Sanjay Singh along with NBA activists had met union agriculture minister Radhamohan Singh in Delhi on Wednesday late evening to draw the attention of central government towards the issue. “Minister assured to talk to union energy minister over the issue,” said NBA leader Chitroopa Palit. The state government has not initiated any dialogue with the protestors yet. Government will organize a ‘Jal Jan Panchayat’ in Khandwa district, where jal satyagraha is in progress. Palit said they are not against dam and they are only demanding rehabilitation of farmers as per Supreme Court guidelines. “Compensation of land against land,” she added. (Times of India 24/4/15)

105. Posco withdrawal fear leads to political war in Odisha (4)

Bhubaneswar: The uncertainties over Posco pursuing its plan to set up a mega steel plant in Odisha after recent changes in mining rules has boiled down to a political war with Odisha unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today questioning the sincerity of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government in the state to facilitate industrialisation process as per its poll promises and the latter shifting the blame to the doorstep of the Centre citing that changes in the mining policy had created hiccups in grounding the investment. Last Sunday, the steel and mines minister had said that Posco must clarify its intention to set up steel plant as the government was ready to supply raw material to its plant from state-run Odisha Mining Corporation and private miners through its raw material linkage policy. BJP said, the government must say, what decisions it took regarding setting up of industries. “Before Posco makes its stand clear, the state government must clarify what decisions it has taken to facilitate establishment of industries in the state. I doubt whether the government is really serious about setting up of mega industries here as it is engaged in only propaganda, which was evidenced in ArcelorMittal case,” said Bijay Mohapatra, senior leader of BJP state unit at a press conference. In 2013, top steelmaker ArcelorMittal scrapped its Odisha project citing weak economic conditions and difficulties in getting land and mines to push forward the project. Similarly, Posco has been showing lack of interest over setting up a steel plant in the proposed site at Paradip ever since the Union government made it mandatory that every entity intending to own mines lease will have to participate in an auction process. The new rule is contrary to its agreement signed with Odisha government in June 2005, which said, the steel producer would be allotted a mines lease to feed its plant. On behalf of the BJD, two ministers defended the government’s industrialisation initiative. “The state government sincerely wants Posco to set up its plant. However, since the law of the land has been undergone a change since the agreement was signed, Posco must clear its stand what should it do,” said Prafulla Kumar Mallick, state steel and mines minister. The Odisha government has provided all support to Posco for establishing the steel plant, said state industry minister Debi Prasad Mishra. “We have made efforts to create an ease of doing business atmosphere here. As a facilitating department, we have acquired land for Posco’s project. We are ready to address its raw material supply issues. But it (Posco) has not been able to take a decision whether to take forward its investment plan in view of the recent changes in MMDR Act,” Mishra said. Posco’s loathness became evident earlier this month, when it refused to pay Rs 54 crore demanded by the state-run Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco) for land acquisition dues and instead demanded refund of money paid for private land acquisition at the project site. (Business Standrd 27/4/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

106. Health Initiative for Poor, Needy Patients (3)

BHUBANESWAR:The Nilachal Saraswat Sangh on Tuesday announced launch of its health initiative Sadguru Swami Nigamananda Healthcare and Consultation Centre to provide free treatment, diagnostic and advice to the poor and needy patients. The centre located near Exhibition Ground here was inaugurated by Health and Family Welfare Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak in presence of Mayor Anant Narayan Jena on Tuesday. The health centre would function from 9 am to noon daily and will have senior medical professionals from different speciality and super speciality disciplines attending to patients. The centre would provide free consultation and medicare services with major focus on non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension. Diagnostic services including pathological tests advised by doctors will be conducted through KIMS hospital. The organisation would also hold health camps in slums to provide healthcare services at the doorsteps of the poorest sections, secretary Umesh Chandra Samantray said. Among others, association coordinator Sangram Keshari Singh was present. (New Indian Express 22/4/15)

107. 16 infants die in Mumbai everyday: RTI (3)

Mumbai: Some 1,05,735 infants have died in the state between 2008 and 2012, according to a recent Right to Information (RTI) report furnished by the state public health department. The city, despite having the best facilities for infant care, tops the list of mortality in the state, and is followed by Nashik, Thane, Pune Aurangabad and Nagpur. The infant deaths in Mumbai in one year can be equated with the deaths occurring in other cities in a five-year period. Mumbai registered 29,700 infant deaths from 2008 to 2012, while Nashik recorded 8,517 deaths, followed by Thane with 8,167 deaths, Pune with 5,915 and Aurangabad with 3,100 infant deaths. On an average, some 5,500 to 6,000 infants lose their lives in the city every year, which is an alarming 16 infant deaths everyday. Other cities have reported 500 to 900 deaths each year. The details from the municipal corporation and the public health department were furnished by RTI activist Chetan Kothari and the information was provided by Dr Santosh K, Revankar, public information officer. The cities mentioned had the highest rate of deaths in 2008, while it had declined comparatively between 2009 and 2011, rising again in 2012. Pune, for example, had registered 1,822 infant deaths in 2008, which decreased to 913 deaths in 2011. The data also highlighted that more male infants were dying in the state. Doctors see inadequate intensive care unit facilities across the state and lack of awareness as the reasons for behind the deaths. Dr Bhupendra Avasthi, a paediatrician who has worked in Sion Hospital for 25 years, said, “The problem (of deaths) has been constant all these years. The revenue allotted by government for paediatric care is minimal. Most of them either contract infections or suffer asphyxia. We have zero facilities to reduce this.”Dr Anant Phadke of the Jan Arogya Abhiyan, said that extreme poverty, hunger, marriage at a young age and low education had led to the spike in problems. The state health department however said new programmes were helping to contain infant deaths. “With the help of workers we were able to create awareness and transfer better medical care through our home-based and facility-based unit,” said Dr Chandrakala Jaiswal, a member of Unicef for the state health department. National New Born Action Plan, a new scheme introduced by the health department, provides the necessary interventions required for infant care. (Asian Age 26/4/15)

108. ‘16.9 million deaths from conditions treatable with basic surgery’(3)

New Delhi: New estimates suggest that the number of people worldwide who are unable to access basic surgery and anaesthesia is more than twice as high as previously thought. According to a recent study published in the Lancet millions of people are dying from common, easily treatable conditions like appendicitis, fractures, or obstructed labour because they do not have access to, or can’t afford, proper surgical care. The study reveals that five billion people worldwide do not have access to safe and affordable surgery and anaesthesia when they need it, and access is worst in low-income and lower-middle income countries, where as many as nine out of ten people cannot access basic surgical care. Significantly, just under a third of all deaths in 2010 (32.9 per cent, 16.9 million deaths) were from conditions treatable with surgery — surpassing the number of deaths from HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria combined. “Yet, despite this enormous burden of death and illness — which is largely borne by the world’s poorest people — surgery has, until now, been overlooked as a critical need for the health of the world’s population. As a result, untreated surgical conditions have exerted substantial but largely unrecognised negative effects on human health, welfare, and economic development,” said the Lancet. In India, a nationally representative population-based study of deaths from acute abdominal conditions reported that postal code areas with high age-standardised acute abdominal mortality were more likely to be located further from a hospital capable of providing appropriate emergency surgical care than were areas with low mortality. When the distance to the nearest well-resourced hospital was more than 100 km, the odds ratio of living in a high-mortality area compared with a low mortality area was 16:1. The study suggests that of the 313 million operations done worldwide each year, just one in 20 occur in the poorest countries, where over a third of the world’s population lives. New estimates find that there is a global shortfall of at least 143 million surgical procedures every year, with some regions needing nearly twice as many additional operations as others. It was also found that a quarter of people worldwide who have a surgical procedure will incur financial catastrophe — costs that they can’t afford and which drive them into poverty — as a result of seeking care. The burden of catastrophic expenditure on surgery is highest in low-income and lower-middle-income countries. According to Lars Hagander, one of the lead authors, said, “Too many people are dying from common, treatable surgical conditions, such as appendicitis, obstructed labour, and fractures. The problem is especially acute in the low — and middle-income countries of eastern, western and central sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Southeast Asia.” “In the absence of surgical care, common, easily treatable illnesses become fatal,” says Andy Leather, director of the King’s Centre for Global Health, King’s College London, UK, and another of the commission’s lead authors. “The global community cannot continue to ignore this problem — millions of people are already dying unnecessarily, and the need for equitable and affordable access to surgical services is projected to increase in the coming decades, as many of the worst-affected countries face rising rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and road accidents.” (Asian Age 27/4/15)

109. Country’s first urban health centre inaugurated (3)

MUMBAI: The new municipal commissioner, Ajoy Mehta, inaugurated the country’s first urban nutrition, rehabilitation and research centre at Sion hospital on Tuesday afternoon. The centre will not only provide nutritious food supplements for malnourished children but also train doctors from public hospitals across the city. The hospital’s urban health centre in Dharavi also houses a 15-bed, revamped ward where severe acute malnourished (SAM) children will be hospitalized for 15 days and fed nutritious food. “The hospital already has a nutrition rehabilitation centre as mandated by the Union government programme to tackle malnutrition, but this is the first such centre in the country where all three aspects of paediatric nutrition care (rehabilitation, research and training) will be under one roof,” said Sion hospital’s head of pediatric department Dr Mamta Manglani. Around 1,500 children with SAM have been treated at the hospital ward and another 1,000 children are treated through community outreach programmes every year. (Times of India 29/4/15)

HIV/AIDS

110. HIV-infected men more sensitive to alcohol (3)

New York: Men infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS need fewer drinks to feel the effects of alcohol than uninfected men, says a new study. “All else equal, people who have HIV infection have a lower tolerance for alcohol than similar people without HIV infection,” explained Amy Justice, professor of medicine and public health at Yale University. It is not clear, she added, whether HIV-infected individuals are simply more susceptible to alcohol or if they achieve higher concentrations of alcohol in the blood from the same number of drinks. To examine the effects of alcohol on HIV patients, the researchers reviewed data on more than 2,600 men enrolled in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study, an ongoing multi-site study of veterans. They analysed survey responses from both HIV-infected and uninfected veterans, who were asked how many alcoholic drinks it took for them to feel a buzz or high. The researchers also compared responses from HIV-infected men with unsuppressed or detectable HIV infection versus those with suppressed HIV. The study found that HIV-infected men with detectable virus were more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than both HIV-infected men with suppressed virus and uninfected men. The findings suggest that there is clearly no safe level of alcohol consumption for people with HIV, and that providers should counsel their HIV-infected patients that they are more susceptible to the harmful effects of drinking, the researchers noted. The study was published in the journal AIDS and Behaviour. (Business Standard 21/4/15)

111. Funds scare for AIDS patients (3)

National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) has curtailed the funds it used to give to the state for this purpose. Effective from the 2015-16 fiscal, the Naco would provide just Rs 25 crore per annum – Rs 16 crore less than earlier – to Bihar State AIDS Control Society (BSACS), the agency responsible for executing the various welfare steps meant for people living with HIV/AIDS. “All our programmes are going to be affected as the most of the Naco money would be spent paying salary to our field staff leaving little for the works we are supposed to do to the HIV/AIDS patients,” a senior BSACS official, preferring anonymity, told The Telegraph. According to the BSACS data, the state had 78,441 people with HIV and 23,930 AIDS patients till April 21, 2015. The works, which are going to be hit, include free HIV testing, anti-retroviral therapy under which HIV/AIDS patients are given medicines free of cost and running the integrated counselling and testing centre (ICTC) and awareness programmes. At present, 16 anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres, 207 ICTCs, 250 facility integrated counselling and testing centres (FICTC) and 42 STD clinics run under the Bihar State AIDS Control Society. The BSACS runs these centres with the help of the fund provided by the Naco. BSACS project director Rahul Singh, however, claimed that curtailment of funds would not hit the various initiatives having been launched in the past for the HIV/AIDS patients. “As per the new guideline, the state government has to share funds for taking care of the HIV/AIDS patients. So, even if there is funds flow from the Naco, the state government would provide its share which would compensate for the reduction in fund flow,” he said. The exact modalities for fund sharing, however, have not been finalised as yet. Sources said it might be 75:25 or 60:40. Either of the two would be the ratio in which the Centre and the state would share the funds meant for HIV/AIDS patients. BSACS sources, however, suggested that funds flow from the state government was not likely to be smooth which, in turn, was bound to hit the welfare programmes adversely. “The state government takes a lot of time in releasing the funds sent by the Naco for the Bihar State AIDS Control Society. Once it has to release funds on its own, further delay is bound to take place. As we have to deal with patients who need timely medicines and other treatment such delays are bound to hit the functioning of the BSACS,” a source in the BASCS said. People with HIV/AIDS are also scared at the development. “We are going to hugely suffer because of the Naco’s decision to curtail the Bihar State AIDS Control Society funds. Already because of not having funds, the various ART centres don’t have doctors available with them. The Chhapra and Samastipur-based ART centres don’t have doctors because of the fund crisis,” said an AIDS patient who runs Bihar Network for People Living with AIDS, an NGO. (The Telegraph 23/4/15)

112. Improve stock of HIV testing kits in capital, says NGO (3)

NEW DELHI: Over a year after shortage of HIV kits were reported at government hospitals here, the situation still remains the same in the capital. Doctors at some hospitals said it even though kits for patients coming for scheduled tests are available, kits are never available for emergency purposes. The Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), a trust fighting for rights for the HIV positive, said they have written to National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and Delhi State AIDS Control Society (DSACS) twice in the past 20 days but has not got any response so far. “The situation is worse now than before. The viral load testing kits have not been in supply since May 2014. We have written to both NACO and DSACS. We even met senior health officials to highlight the issue. But there has been no intiative to take stock of the situation,” said Paul Lhungdim, coordinator, DNP+. “There is also a shortage of DBS kits under the PPTCT programme,” said Lhungdim. Dried blood sampling or DBS is an easy way of collecting, storing and transporting blood samples on absorbent filter paper. Infants are tested for HIV under the Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission Programme (PPTCT) programme. According to sources, the hospitals are running short of the DBS filter paper. The PPTCT programme aims to prevent HIV among women of child-bearing age and prevent HIV transmission from pregnant women infected with HIV to the child.  A field worker with DNP+ said, “Our ground report shows there is a shortage of kits in centre-run Safdarjung Hospital, AIIMS, state-run Baba Ambedkar Hospital and Deen Dayal Upadhyay, among others for long now. While in some of the hospitals the supply is inadequate, the supply has not started since last May in a few others.” If steps are not taken to redress the situation, those living with HIV-AIDS will have to suffer unnecessarily, the letters written to NACO highlight. “There are no HIV emergency kits available here. In such cases, patients have to get it done from private hospitals,” said a senior resident doctor of Safdarjung Hospital, requesting anonymity. A doctor at Baba Ambedkar Hospital said there is generally a shortage of kits all the year round and the supply is never consistent. (Deccan Herald 24/4/15)

113. First HIV self-test kit on sale in UK (3)

LONDON: The world’s first legally approved HIV self-test kit that reveals results in 15 minutes has gone on sale in Britain. Kits allowing people to test themselves for HIV at home were made legal in the UK last year. The move expects to help 25,000 undiagnosed HIV+ people know their status. The test is a single use, disposable device and uses a single drop of blood from a finger prick. But it may not detect HIV infections that have occurred within three months. The technology is very similar to a human pregnancy test and detects specific antibodies in your blood sample. It has a proven clinical sensitivity (if a person has HIV how often the test will be positive) of 99.7%, which means that on average 997 in every 1,000 positive results will be correct. It has a proven clinical specificity (if a person doesn’t have HIV how often will the test be negative) of 99.9%, which means that on average 999 in every 1,000 negative results will be correct. Experts advise that people who engage in activities that increase their risk of exposure to HIV, they should test regularly. One in four people living with HIV is currently unaware of their infection in England. UNAIDS recommends home testing and says people need to open up to it as fewer than half of those living with HIV knew their status. This is, therefore, a huge barrier to treatment scale up. In India, 40% of the 2.3 million people living with HIV don’t know they are infected with the deadly virus. But India is against home testing for HIV. The country’s National AIDS Control Organization has earlier said it is against allowing finger pricks or mouth swabs to be used by individuals to know their HIV status. (Times of India 28/4/15)

114. Provide insurance cover to all HIV positive patients: Par Panel (3)

New Delhi: A Parliamentary Panel on Wednesday suggested the government to provide insurance cover to all HIV positive patients without any discrimination with a preferably normal rate of premium. “The Committee is of the opinion that all HIV positive people should be provided insurance cover without any discrimination preferably at normal rate of premium or they may be charged slightly higher rate of premium… “…But in no case exorbitant rate of premium should be charged from them for both life and health insurance,” the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Immunodeficiency Virus And Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Bill, said. The Committee also recommended that the Health Ministry should pursue the matter with Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) for providing insurance cover to all HIV positive people without any discrimination, the panel said. The Ministry has said that although the Ministry and National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) was working with the IRDA on the issue for providing life as well as health insurance to all HIV positive people, it was not in favour of giving it at normal rates. “IRDA was not in favour of providing insurance cover to such persons at normal rate of premium,” one of the comments of the report said. In the matter of appointment and functions of Ombudsman, the Committee noted that all matters pertaining to its appointment, qualification and jurisdiction have been delegated to the state government which will lead to “gross” variation and “disparity” from state to state. “The Committee recommends that the Ministry should formulate a set of model guidelines giving strong procedures and systems in the matter for guidance of the states in the form of executive instructions,” it said, while recommending the Bill to be passed with the prescribed changes without any delay. (Zee News 30/4/15)

 

Posted by admin at 30 April 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. ‘Admin can’t displace Rampur Dalits’ (2)

RAMPUR: The district administration’s attempt to demolish 80 houses of Dalit residents at Valmiki Basti in Topkhana area adjacent to the newly constructed shopping mall by the municipality came to a grinding halt after various delegations of social activists and political parties joined the protest against the move here on Saturday. Police have arrested Congress leader Dr Tanveer Ahmad Khan and five of his supporters from the protest site. Dalits are protesting against the proposed demolition of their houses by the administration and have been sitting on an indefinite dharna outside their houses. On Saturday, the agitationists met with social activists Nutan Thakur and her husband Amitabh Thakur. “It’s a matter of grave concern that the local administration wants to demolish their houses without any reason. We have seen the roads of the colony and they are quite wide. The residents also showed the receipts of their house tax which they had paid to the municipality. The most important thing is that the houses were allotted by the government earlier to these safai karamcharies, as they are also the employees of the state government,” said Amitabh. He said the details about the Valmiki Basti would be submitted before the office of the principal secretary. Nutan Thakur added that, “Prior to the demolition, the administration should issue proper legal notices to the occupants .” The couple assured residents that they would also provide them legal aid. The police have arrested SP leader Azam Khan’s arch rival and Congress leader Tanveer Ahmad Khan along with his supporters for protesting against the administration on behalf of the Dalits for breach of peace. Heavy police force has been deployed into the Dalit colony and section 144 of the CrPC has been imposed in the city. Meanwhile, SP, Rampur, Sadhna Goswami suspended six policemen, including an SI, for allowing Dalits to take out a procession against the minister on Wednesday (Times of India 11/2/15)

2. Economic gap between upper castes and dalits persists (2)

Despite more access to education, better household amenities and increased incomes, the economic gap between upper castes and dalit and tribal communities continues unchanged over the years, according to latest economic data from the NSSO. A comparison of average monthly expenditure of households belonging to dalit communities with upper caste households showed that in rural areas there was a gap of about 38% in 1999-2000 which changed only marginally to 37% in 2011-12. In urban areas, upper caste households reported incomes that were 65% more than dalit households in 1999-2000. This gap reduced to a still shocking 60% in 2011-12. For tribal households, the gap in monthly expenditures increased from 49% in 1999-2000 to 53% in 2011-12 in rural areas and from 45% to 48% in urban areas. Since there is no direct survey of incomes in India, monthly household expenditure is seen as a proxy measure of monthly income for most households except the very rich. The economic stagnation of dalit and tribal communities has not prevented them from seizing the opportunities for better education, perhaps in the hope that education will pave the way for a better life. In urban areas, the proportion of graduates in the 15+ years dalit population increased from 4.6% in 1999 to 9.4% in 2011, while among tribals it increased from 8.9% to 13.4% in the same period. Current attendance rates in educational institutions of various communities are now almost at par at the elementary stage, that is, 5-14 years age group. At the secondary stage, dalit students’ attendance has shot up from 37% in 2004-05 to 57% in 2011-12 while tribal students’ attendance has increased from 36% to 54% in the same period. At the higher education stage, attendance for dalits has increased from 8% to 15% while for tribals it has increased from 9% to 13%. In all these stages, attendance of upper castes is still higher than dalits and tribals but the gaps are fast reducing. So, why does the economic chasm persist? Affirmative action to help dalits or tribals, like reservation in jobs, reaches only a small section of these communities, leaving the vast mass untouched and frozen in backward economic conditions, says Surinder S Jodhka, professor of sociology at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and a long time researcher of dalit communities. “In rural areas, most dalits do not have any assets and are the worst sufferers in the ongoing agrarian crisis. If they migrate to cities, again they enter at the lowest level of the economy, working in informal sector jobs. So it is not surprising that their economic status remains what it is,” Jodhka said. In rural areas, for five-member households, the average monthly expenditure in 1999-2000 was Rs 2,095 for dalit households, Rs1,940 for tribal households and Rs 2,370 for OBC households compared to Rs 2,885 for upper caste households. In 2011-12, the dalit households were having an average monthly expenditure of Rs 6,260, tribal households Rs 5,610, and OBC households Rs 7,195 but upper caste households were spending Rs 7,150. In urban areas, in 1999-2000, the dalits household spend was Rs 3,455, tribal household Rs 3,455 and OBC household Rs 3,675 while the upper caste household’s average spend was Rs 5,025. By 2011-12, the corresponding monthly expenditures were Rs 10,140 for dalits, Rs 10,965 for tribals, Rs 11,375 for OBC’s and Rs 16,210 for upper caste households. “Indian modernization, unlike in the west, has not produced an organized economy. We continue to have remnants of pre-modern economic relations and a huge informal or unorganized economy. Dalits and tribals largely continue to occupy this lowest rung,” Jodhka explained. (Times of India 14/2/15)

3. CPM talks of equality but denies dalits top posts (2)

VISHAKHAPATNAM: CPM’s abysmal record in giving Dalits a place in the party’s top decision-making bodies — politburo and central committee — came to haunt it on Wednesday as general secretary  Prakash Karat demanded a special session of Parliament to discuss inequality as part of commemoration BR Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary. Karat was talking about failure to implement reservation for Scheduled Castes and atrocities against them. But when asked why CPM’s politburo — a preserve of upper caste Brahmins, Nairs, Kayasthas with occasional OBCs thrown in —never had a Dalit in the past 50 years, Karat came up with an evasive reply: “You ask me this question on April 19 when the new politburo and central committee is in place.” Karat said he will check the records if there has been a Dalit in the central committee, but he couldn’t remember a single name. For now, there is no chance of a Dalit getting into the politburo since membership to this exclusive club is limited to the 85-member strong central committee. Of the few contenders to the politburo, no one is a Dalit. Among those in the running are Mohammad Salim, Madan Ghosh and Subhasini Ali. It is possible for the central committee to have a Dalit members, especially from Kerala. But even getting into CC is not so simple and needs a proven track record. “It will be a tough exercise. We have few Dalit leaders who are doing good work,” a central committee member told TOI. In its resolution on Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, CPM said the condition of Dalits had worsened with more cases of atrocities against them and many laws like Manual Scavengers Act not getting implemented. It also pointed out that Dalit Christians and Muslims are being denied benefits of reservation. (Times of India 16/4/15)

4. Budget cuts, loan problems push Dalits out of education (2)

CHENNAI: Saranya, who took a loan of Rs. 2 lakh to pursue a BE course in a self-financing college in Coimbatore will be completing the repayment of loan by the year-end. A Dalit student, she was denied loan initially. “The manager told me loans are given only to people who come in cars. A friend then helped us get the loan,” says Saranya, now an IT company employee. That was in 2010, when she also received around Rs. 3,000 as government scholarship. Many like Saranya continue to struggle to pay outstanding loans as they are uncertain about the post-matric scholarships that come from the Central government. In the last two years as many as 60,000 students from SC, ST communities have joined engineering courses, but the State government is unable to pay their tuition fee as the Central funding often is delayed. Students in self-financing colleges fret over their future as managements pressurise them to pay the fees. Activists say though recommendations were made in the Sub Plan for SCs and tribal communities for payment of tuition fees, the Union budget has been steadily reducing the funds allotted to the University Grants Commission for the purpose. Between 2012-13 and 2015-16, the allocation for UGC under SC/ST sub plan was cut by 50 per cent. Activists say this could further impact the students’ education as they could drop out for want of funds. R. Christodas Gandhi, founder of Ambedkar Kalvi Centenary Movement, says around 100 colleges that admitted over 50 per cent of the SC students are now putting pressure on the students to pay up. For the year 2014-15, the Central government had sanctioned Rs. 1204.76 crore under the scheme for BE courses. So far, the State has received only Rs. 254 crore but that money had not reached self-financing colleges. K. Srinivasan, convener of Educational Loan Task Force, says: “Every day we get grievances from across the nation and it is the poor students who suffer the most. As of March 2014, Rs. 60,000 crore has been paid out as loans to around 25 lakh beneficiaries across the countries.

Though his organisation has been helping students to get education loans, he recommends that students try to claim eligible scholarships instead of becoming debtors. (The Hindu 20/4/15)

TRIBALS

5. Concern over atrocities against tribal girls (6)

KALPETTA: Leaders of various tribal and political organisations have expressed concern over the increasing sexual exploitation of and atrocities against tribal girls in the district. The Ambalavayal police on Friday arrested a man in connection with sexually abusing a minor tribal girl after she was forced to consume illicit liquor with the support of his wife. A few weeks ago, the Mepadi police had arrested 11 men in connection with the rape of three minor girls of a tribal colony. Ramanathan, a tribal activist at Ambalavayal, said many a time minor girls were sexually abused after anti-social elements exploited the addiction of tribesmen to alcohol. Such elements either brewed illicit liquor near tribal colonies or bought low-quality liquor from nearby towns. When such exploitation did come to light, the police tried to pin the blame on the victims, offering the accused opportunities to escape the law, Mr. Ramanathan said. C.K. Saseendran, district unit secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said the tendency of the police to treat such incidents as trivial was the reason for the increase in atrocities against tribespeople. Surveillance of vulnerable tribal hamlets by the police was an effective solution. Active intervention of the public had a crucial role to play in curbing such incidents, he said. Kerala Adivasi Forum district president Baby Makkiyad said reconstitution of the special mobile squad of the police department by adding tribal-friendly officials was needed to curb the sexual exploitation of tribespeople. The increasing incidence of sexual exploitation of tribal girls showed the neglect of the tribal people by the police and the Tribal Development Department, Vijayan Cherukara, district secretary of the Communist Party of India said. Awareness programmes to sensitise tribespeople to alcohol abuse and regular monitoring of remote tribal colonies by the police with the support of the public could check the problem to a certain extent, he said. (The Hindu 12/4/15)

6. Indore tribals on ‘jal satyagraha’, protest rise in Omkareshwar dam height (6)

INDORE: Displaced tribals of Gopalgoan in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh have launched a ‘jal satyagraha’ to protest against increase in height of Omkareshwar dam. At least 2,500acres of farmland was flooded after dam height was raised by 91 metre, a month ago. On second day of protest on Sunday, farmers stood in knee-deep water and carried placards urging government to give them land or adequate compensation. In 2012, farmers had organised a similar ‘jal satyagraha’, which lasted 17 days and grabbed international attention. Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Chittraroopa Palit, who is at Gogalgaon, said 500 marginal farmers, who own less than five acres of land, were worst hit. “They were given compensation at the rate of Rs 2 lakh per acre in 2006. But, they returned the money after an assurance by grievances redressal authority (GRA) that they would be given land if they returned compensation money,” said Palit. She alleged land given to farmers was either non-productive or alongside a nullah. In many cases, farmers were handed out land already encroached upon. “It’s impossible to cultivate these fields. Now, farmers have no money, no land and the land they own is getting submerged,” said Palit. Sadashiv Rajaram, a farmer, said, compensation given to them was not enough. “Government is not concerned about us. Without visiting the place, how can officials understand our plight? Our existence depends on land. We live with our farms and we will die with it,” said Rajaram. Five acres of his total nine-acre land has been submerged. “All that we are seeking is compensation as per law,” said Suku Bai. She has three children and all illiterate and dependent on farming. Where will they go if our land is submerged?  Another protester, Sukhla Bai, is faced with a threat of submergence of land. “Government fooled us. For a land worth lakhs, it offered us a paltry sum,” she said. Khandwa district collector MK Agrawal termed the protest as unjustified. “Compensation has already been paid. Water is not going to enter their houses, only fields will be submerged,” he said. Refuting allegation of allotting unproductive and encroached land to farmers, Agrawal said rise in water level in dam will help irrigate 60,000 hectares of land through 64km network of canals, which is unused at present. (Times of India 13/4/15)

7. Odisha tribal organisation threatens armed protest against Maoists (6)

BERHAMPUR: Posters against recent abductions and violence by Maoists have come up in remote pockets of Malkangiri district of Odisha in the name of a tribal organisation, Malkangiri Adivasi Sangh. In these posters in Odia, this tribal organisation has threatened to take up arms against Maoists in all tribal villages of the district if the persons abducted by the Naxalites from Mathili block were not released soon. The organisation alleged that the Naxalites were using innocent tribals as their shields during encounters with the police. The Manch has also questioned the Maoists as to if they are fighting for tribals’ cause, then why are they kidnapping and killing the tribals. The tribal organisation has threatened to unite tribals of Malkangiri for a major movement against the Naxalites if non-tribal Maoist leaders from Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh did not stop their violent activities targeting them. It may be noted that the Maoist organisation in Odisha is ruled by non-Odia Naxalites, mostly from Andhra and Chhattisgarh. Darbha division of Maoists in Chhattisgarh is suspected to be involved in recent abductions in the Malkangiri district. Till Wednesday evening, there was no information regarding the tribals allegedly kidnapped by the Maoists. The Naxalites have also not come up with any statement regarding these alleged abductions. May be due to fear of ultras, neither family members of the abducted persons nor any other villager has come out to file a complaint. “But the police on its own are continuing intense search operation with increased combing in the area where the incident took place,” said Inspector General of Police (IGP) Yeshwant Jethwa. Ambiguity also continued regarding number of tribals abducted in Malkangiri district. While most put the figure at seven, some local media reports put the number of persons abducted as nine, 10 or a dozen. The police are yet to confirm the number of persons kidnapped. “We are checking out each name of allegedly abducted persons in media to ascertain real number of missing persons and the authenticity behind suspicion of their abduction by Maoists,” said the IGP. (The Hindu 16/4/15)

8. Nallamala tribals begin march to Hyderabad (6)

MAHBUBNAGAR: Chenchus and other SC/ST communities on Saturday started a padayatra from Nallamala forest to the Telangana Secretariat in Hyderabad seeking solutions to their long-pending demands. Approximately, around 100 tribals started their march from Vatvarlapalli village in Achampet assembly constituency. Some of the participants said they had earlier conducted a padayatra to the Mahbubnagar district collectorate seeking rights over cultivating lands, construction of permanent houses, laying of BT roads, education, electrification, medical facilities, construction of check dams, recognizing of chenchu pentas as gram panchayats, employment at Srisailam left canal power generation unit and developing Mallela Thirtham and Akka Mahadevi caves as tourism centres to create jobs for the locals. Some of the Chenchus also said that the government, in the guise of protecting the Nallamala forest, is seeking to relocate them from their hamlets. C Ramulu, president of Chenchu’s Problems Solving Committee, alleged that the government is trying to force them out of their traditional homes in the name of rehabilitation. “We were not ready for vacate our homes. Instead, the government should provide basic amenities and should withdraw its proposal to relocate Chenchus from the forest area, as we have been living here for a very long time,” Ramulu said. Meanwhile Achampet divisional forest officer Venkatramana said that his department has not received any proposal or order from the government on relocating the villages. He said that if any family was interested to shift from hamlets to safer places, the government was ready to arrange better facilities. “We will never force them to vacate their villages,” he said. (Times of India 19/4/15)

WOMEN

9. 11,000 girls in Odisha are mothers before 15: Study (8)

BHUBANESWAR: The 2011 Census has come up with the shocking disclosure that girls below the age of 15 in Odisha have given birth to babies when they should have been going to school. The exact figure, the data shows, of girls attaining motherhood even before 15 is 11,000. The figures point a finger to the failure of social welfare programmes and campaigns to contain early marriages and pregnancies. Of the 59.09 lakh girls below the age of 15, 41,729 girls (0.7%) were already married. Around one-fourth of the married girls (10,685) in the same age group had delivered before celebrating their 15th birthday. While 3,896 (9.34% of those married) had become mothers of at least one child, 6,789 girls (16.27%) had delivered two children. Women and child development minister Usha Devi said, “We need to focus more on creating awareness among parents because that is the only way to prevent underage marriages and pregnancies.” Women’s rights campaigners attribute the early pregnancies to three factors. “Tribals have a tendency to marry off their boys and girls early. Second, economically weak sections don’t wait for 18 years for their girl’s marriage for purposes of social security,” said Namrata Chadha, a women’s rights campaigner. RD Women’s College principal Chitrangada Samanta Singhar said the findings are shocking. “The Right to Education Act envisages education for all children below 14. But it seems many girls in this age group are burdened with children,” she said. “Early pregnancy is dangerous for both the mother and child. This could be a reason behind the high infant and maternal mortality rates in the state,” said gynaecologist R K Purohit. Odisha’s maternal mortality ratio (MMR) per 1,000 women is 235 compared to the all-India figure of 178. The infant mortality rate is 57 compared to 44 at the national level (SRS-2012). In neighbouring Chhattisgarh, around 6,400 girls become mothers before 15, while in Jharkhand their number stands at over 12,000. At the national level, 18.12 lakh of the 17.80 crore girls below 15 years are married. Around 4.5 lakh in the age group (around 25% of those married) had delivered; while 1.36 lakh had delivered one child, 3.20 lakh had delivered two. In the age group of 15-19 years, there are 2.90 lakh married women in Odisha. Of them, over 65,000 (22.52%) had given birth to one child, over 12,000 (4.23%) to two children, 4,400 (1.55%) to three children and 5,500 (1.92%) to four children. Out of the total 2 crore women in Odisha reported during the census count, 1.19 crore are married (57.76%) and gave birth to on an average 2.6 children. Of the total 1.19 crore married women, 14.27% have not given birth to any child. While 17.04% delivered one child, 22.93% gave birth to two, 17.74% to three, 12.23% to four, 7.13% to five, 4.10% to six and 4.56% to seven or more. (Times of India 11/4/15)

10. Woman Locked in Room for Two Weeks Rescued (8)

BENGALURU: A 30-year-old woman, who was allegedly locked in a room for two weeks by her husband, was rescued by police from her residence in Panchasheela Nagar on Sunday. The incident was reported in Vijaynagar police station limits. Police said Shobha got married to Venugopal (45), a small-time realtor, around three years ago. The couple, who hail from K M Doddi in Mandya, settled in Panchasheela Nagar near Moodalapalya here. Police said at the time of their marriage Venugopal had claimed to be a BCom graduate who was employed in a nationalised bank. However, after the marriage, Shobha and her family realised that he had lied. He even started harassing Shobha for dowry. The family then approached Vijaynagar police,  who took the couple to a magistrate. In front of the magistrate Venugopal promised to look after Shobha, police said. But two weeks ago, he sent his parents to a relative’s house in his native town and locked Shobha in a room. He allegedly starved and assaulted her. On Sunday, Shobha managed to alert her neighbours, who informed her older brother. He rushed to the house and repeatedly knocked on the door. After a while, Venugopal came out and began to abuse him. Shobha’s brother then called the police and media, who rushed to the spot and saw a badly injured Shoba lying on the floor. They took her to a private hospital. Some of Shobha’s relatives allegedly assaulted Venugopal, who managed to flee. Later, he was admitted to a private hospital. It is said that Venugopal suspected his wife’s fidelity and used to quarrel with her. He used to frequently torture her too. The doctors found grievous injuries on her face and shoulder. Vijaynagar police have registered a complaint against Venugopal, and booked him under IPC Section 307 (attempt to murder). (New Indian Express 13/4/15)

11. Panchayat fines groom 75 paisa for cancelling engagement (8)

CHANDIGARH: A community panchayat in Haryana on Monday slapped a fine of 75 paisa on a groom for annulling his engagement nine days before the wedding. The panchayat in Fatehabad imposed the fine after both the parties approached it for compromise. The man was asked to pay the penalty at the local gaushala (cow shelter). Both the sides also decided not to pursue the case further. Police said Mansi, a resident of Ratia township in Fatehabad district, was engaged to Sanjeev Kumar, a resident of a village in Punjab’s Mansa district last January. The families had fixed April 22 as the wedding date. The woman’s uncle, Naresh Sharma, told TOI on Tuesday that after they had made all the arrangements for the wedding and distributed the invitation cards, the man’s family sought a car and other items in dowry. When the woman’s family refused to meet these demands, the man’s family cancelled the engagement. However, the man’s family members denied these allegations. They claimed the man and the woman had decided to call off the engagement during the past year. After the woman filed a complaint with the Fatehabad DSP, the case was referred to the nodal cell and the man sought more time to solve the issue with the panchayat’s help. Following this, a panchayat was convened at the police station and the two parties agreed to compromise. Fatehabad SP Sangeeta Rani said the complaint was filed by the woman and the matter was referred to the crime against women cell. She admitted the two parties later sorted out the issue with the panchayat’s help. “We don’t interfere in panchayat’s decisions, but we generally see the interest and consent of the victim is protected,” she said. “We’re also checking whether the girl was satisfied with the decision or not.” (Times of India 15/4/15)

12. Sex assault drives many teenager boys to suicide (8)

New York: Although most sex assault victims are usually girls, the boys too face such attacks and the resultant stigma, a new study reveals. One in three teenage boys attempt suicide after they’re sexually assaulted, though most incidents usually go unreported, the study found. “The stigma is often not addressed. It’s a silent issue in society,” said lead researcher Laura Anderson. “Very rarely does programming address boys. It’s often presumed to be an issue for girls,” the psychologist from the University at Buffalo added. Anderson noticed in her practice that teenage patients who attempted suicide tended to share the same histories of sexual assault and struggles with weight, media reports said. The study looked at the data of more than 31,000 teens aged 14-18 from 2009 and 2011 in the Youth and Risk Behaviour Survey. Anderson found 3.5 percent of boys with a healthy weight had attempted suicide, while 33.2 percent of boys who had been the victim of sexual assault attempted to take their life. As for girls, the study found 5.8 percent of girls with a healthy weight and no sexual assault history had attempted suicide. That rate jumped to 27.1 percent for girls who were sexually assaulted. “The results highlight the need to educate the public and develop preventive programming and support for male and female sexual assault survivors,” Anderson said. Anderson said under-reporting was common, especially among boys. The study was published in Suicide and Life Threatening Behaviour. (Business Standard 15/4/15)

13. Haryana’s Harappa saluted women 5,000 years ago (8)

CHANDIGARH: Given its skewed sex ratio and long list of repressive khap diktats, it is difficult to imagine Haryana as a place which put women on a higher pedestal than men. But when the Archaeology Survey of India (ASI) dug up the Harappan Rakhigarhi site in Hisar, they found in the 5,500-year-old ruins a lifestyle that today’s women activists would have been proud of. The ASI report based on excavations between 1997 and 2003 has pointed out that “female deceased were offered more than double number of earthen wares as compared to opposite sex at the burials found at the Rakhigarhi site”.”Apart from this, to show reverence, the female deceased were invariably offered wares like dish-on-stand, bowl-onstand, beaker and medium sized vases, denoting their status over and above male counterpart” the 396-page report says. The report was submitted by retired DG (archaeology) Dr Amarendra Nath in December last year after 12 years of extensive research. At least 12 skeletons were found during that period and five more have been found last week during an ongoing separate research by Deccan College, Pune. The report also cites size of bangles, found inside burials, to support the fact that women faced no discrimination at that time while doing heavy work at home or outside. “Also, some wide heavy bangles found at different sites show battering marks on them. That means that heavy manual work was also part of the work of these particular women,” the report added. It said that these type of wide shell bangles were never found in any other burials at any Harappan site so far in Asia. A part of the report also dwells upon the “robust build of a female”. It, however, found that widows were denied these burial rites. The report has also mentioned that the people of this civilization strictly followed the Vedic tenets to cremate the dead. A majority of cemetery sites have been found located adjacent to watercourse or river front according to Vedas, it said. “Satapatha Brahmana prescribes that the cemetery be located out of sight of the village and burial be made on salt-free soil, over a level ground, closed to woods where the waters flowing from a southerly direction come to the AR east and stand still without dashing forward. This literary account was compatible geo morphological residuce particularly around mounds of area marked as RGR 7 at the site,” the report said. The report said that process of excavations further spotted sporadic remains of bones of cattle and sheep next to de ceased in consonance with animal offering references in Rigveda and Atharvaveda. The ASI report on Rakhigarhi has also declared it as the biggest Harappan site so far with 350 hectares, leaving behind Pakistan’s Mohenjo-Daro. (Times of India 19/4/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

14. Changes to child labour law give erring parents a breather (14)

New Delhi: In an effort to provide a human touch to the Child Labour Prohibition Act, the government has proposed that a parent will not be booked for the first offence under law the in which punishment — both jail term and penalty — is being increased manifold. The proposal circulated by the labour ministry says a parent should not be booked for the first offence and action should be taken for subsequent violations. “A parent may have allowed his child to work, unaware of the law. The same rule cannot apply if he is caught again,” a senior government official said, adding that parents were being given the benefit of doubt. The reason behind the provision is that child labourers mostly hail from extremely poor families where parents are not educated enough to understand the nuances of law. The provision will also check their possible harassment. The government also believes that parents should be given a chance to correct themselves, a view child rights activists say will promote child labour rather than curb it. The amendment bill likely to be introduced in the second part of the Budget session will also increase the fine by over five times from the present Rs 10,000. For the first offence by the employer, the proposed fine is Rs 50,000 which can be increased to Rs 1 lakh for subsequent offences. The government is also proposing an increase in jail term for repeated offenders for up to two years from the present six months. There are also plans to set up a district-level fund to provide relief up to Rs 15,000 to each child labour victim. The government has also prescribed a mechanism to ensure the child secures admission to a school and is rehabilitated. However, those in the field of rehabilitation say unless a system to ensure quick transfer of funds from the state where the child was found working to his native state is worked out, the district-level fund will not do much. (Hindustan Times 12/4/15)

15. Child rights panel seeks reports (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala State Child Rights Commission has sought reports on the issues of parents marrying off their minor girl to a moneylender in Idukki and also on the instances of sexual harassment of minor tribal girls at Ambalavayal in Wayanad. The commission asked the Idukki District Collector to submit a report on the marriage of a minor girl to a moneylender and the Wayanad district police chief on the sexual harassment issue. They had been told to submit the reports before April 17. (The Hindu 13/4/15)

16. Millions of Middle East children out of school, UN warns (14)

BEIRUT: More than 12 million children in the Middle East are not being educated despite advances in efforts to expand schooling, the UN children’s agency Unicef said on Wednesday. The figure does not include children forced from school by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, who would bring the total not receiving an education to 15 million, the agency said in a new report. The joint report by Unicef and UN cultural agency Unesco’s Institute for Statistics praises the “considerable resources and political capital” devoted to expanding education in the Middle East over the last decade. It notes that “out-of-school rates for primary school children have plummeted, often by as much as half.” “But in recent years, progress has stalled,” it says, with 4.3 million primary-aged children and 2.9 million lower secondary-aged children out of school. An additional 5.1 million children are not getting a year of pre-primary school education, bringing the total number of the region’s children out of school to 12.3 million, the report says. That figure represents around 15% of the children in the Middle East who should be receiving pre-primary, primary or secondary education. The report says a study of nine countries in the region revealed a range of reasons that kept children out of school, including poverty. In many cases, families could not afford costs associated with schooling, including books and uniforms, or the loss of income from a child who could be put to work. “In countries where a substantial group of children remain out of school, they are predominantly from the poorest households in rural areas,” the report says. Gender discrimination also remains a factor. “Girls are undervalued, and since they are not expected to work, their families see no need for them to learn,” the report says, adding that early marriage is also an issue in most countries in the region. Elsewhere, violence is a problem — either inside schools, or in conflict zones like Syria and Iraq, where millions of children no longer have access to education and schools have been caught up in violence. The report says keeping children in school once they enrolled was a key problem, with high drop-out rates at most levels in many countries in the region. It proposes three main recommendations, including a focus on early childhood development (ECD), noting that pre-primary education is an area where the disparity between wealthy and poor children is most stark in the region. “Levelling the playing field in terms of equal access to ECD is a matter of urgency,” it said. It also urges a cross-sector approach to helping children enter school, pointing out that factors from transportation to health can affect whether a child is enrolled or not. Finally, it suggests a focus on “retention,” ensuring that children are not pushed out of education once they enrol because of factors like corporal punishment or falling behind peers. It also notes that special attention must be paid to the situation of children caught up in war, “given the recurring character of conflicts” in the region. “The international community should ensure sufficient funding for education in emergencies and national governments in the region should adopt flexible approaches for accommodating the education needs of conflict-affected children.” (Times of India 15/4/15)

17. ‘Country has failed to protect children from sexual abuse’ (14)

Nagpur: Over the last decade, the number of child rape cases has increased by a whopping 336%, says data recorded by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The bureau’s report for 2013 states that between 2012 and 2013, crimes against children like kidnapping, procuring minor girls and rape have doubled. The average age of sexual abuse victims in the country has been estimated to be around nine years. Despite the serious figures, there is no focus or national discussions on the subject. As a signatory of United Nations convention of Child Rights and a partner in the United Nations declaration on the Rights of the Child, 1959, India guarantees certain rights to its children. These include the rights to protection from abuse, exploitation and neglect among others. However, activists feel that the country has failed miserably in providing the promised rights to its children, who account for 40% of its population. “I believe that children’s rights are often disregarded in favour of women’s rights. The Women and Child Development ministry focuses on women only, forgetting that they are responsible to the children as well. The political leaders also chose not to intervene as children are not a part of their vote bank,” said NGO Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP). The organization is among the many that have together initiated a discussion on the subject in observance of the national child abuse awareness month. “As per the results of a survey conducted by the Women and Child Development ministry in 2007, more than 50% children in the country face physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect of girl child and several such issues,” said writer Yogesh Master, who is also a supporter of the initiative. He believes that despite the figures, there is widespread denial about the existence of child abuse in our society because no one wants to believe that anyone would do something that terrible to a child. Besides, in India, the perpetrators in many cases of child abuse are mostly people known to the children, pointed out child rights activist Sudha Rajashekar. “This means that the child abuse cases are highly underreported. As children are not aware of what inappropriate behaviour means, they don’t even know that they are being abused. Since talking about sex is taboo in our society, the victims end up feeling guilty and don’t even tell anybody about their plight in many cases,” she said. The activists want that children should be given sex education and a mechanism should be created for them to feel safe to report such cases. (Times of India 17/4/15)

18. Child rights activists call for sex education in schools (14)

NEW DELHI: Sex education should be compulsory in all high schools in the country with the focus on explaining what constitutes child abuse, child rights activists said on Sunday. They demanded the setting up of a countrywide child helpline to report cases of abuse, and to train schoolchildren how to use it without revealing the name or identity of the victim and their family. The demand comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s April 17 castigation of the central government for being insensitive towards the protection of child rights and for its reluctance to take effective steps to recover missing children. Blaming the ministry of women and child development for its “casual and insensitive” approach, the social justice bench of the apex court comprising Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit observed that “This is clear indication of the lack of sensitivity on the part of the government and the ministry towards the missing children and its utter disregard for the laws framed by the parliament.” It also asked the Centre to take steps for the expeditious appointment of the chairman and the members of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, which posts are lying vacant for quite some time now. Bangalore-based child rights activist Kumar V. Jahgirdar told IANS that there is a need for stricter implementation of the existing laws. “There is need for strict implementation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 by creating awareness at the grassroots,” said Jahgirdar, who is the president of the Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP) that is fighting for shared parenting in case of divorce. He said there is also need to promote shared parenting as divorce and separation cases, especially in metros and cities, are on the rise. “There is also need for declaring parental alienation as a crime in the interest of children. In most of the separation cases, the fathers have been denied enough access by their estranged wives to their children. A child needs love and affection from both father and mother,” Jahgirdar said. Quoting the Women and Child Development Ministry figures on child abuse cases, he said those in the age group of 5-12 years have reported higher levels of abuse. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act defines a child as anyone below the age of 18 years and protects them from physical offences. It provides for punishment ranging from simple to rigorous imprisonment. Swarup Sarkar, founder of the Delhi chapter of NGO Save Family Foundation, said the schools — both private and government — should be made accountable for child safety. He demanded a separate union ministry for child development as they constitute more than 40 percent of the population. (Times of India 19/4/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

19. Hindu Mahasabha leader advocates forced sterilization to restrict Muslim, Christian population

JIND: A leader of Hindu Mahasabha on Saturday stoked a controversy saying Muslims and Christians must undergo sterilization to restrict their growing population which was posing a threat to Hindus. “The population of Muslims and Christians is growing day by day. To rein in this, Centre will have to impose emergency, and Muslims and Christians will have to be forced to undergo sterilization so that they can’t increase their numbers,” vice-president of All India Hindu Mahasabha, Sadhvi Deva Thakur told reporters here. She also exhorted Hindus to have more children and increase their population so as to have an effect on the world. In another controversial remark, she said idols of Hindu gods and goddesses should be placed in mosques and churches. Thakur also came out strongly in support of installing a statue of “patriot” Nathuram Godse in Haryana. (Hindustan Times 12/4/15)

20. PM’s Vigyan Bhavan speech restored minorities’ confidence: Naqvi (7)

New Delhi: Even as the NDA government battles barbs from Opposition parties and a stricture from US President Barack Obama over its handling of minorities, Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has been on a quiet and sustained outreach to minorities—especially Muslims and Christians who are perceived to be the most embattled—across the country. Naqvi has travelled across nine states since the beginning of 2015—he has been to some states twice—and held over 25 meetings in a bid to build confidence among communities. While the government was fending off Opposition attacks over the status of minorities inside and outside the Parliament, Naqvi was meeting representatives of various communities in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Mahrashtra, Karnataka, MP, Rajasthan, Haryana and Kerala. The minister conceded that during the first few trips to Kerala and Telangana in January, he witnessed among people mistrust for the government. “There were a lot of misgivings. There were several statements from people in the government and the party and the minorities were upset. They would not open up about their issues and would simply say, ‘Let us see what work you do’. It was clear that there was a lot of insecurity,” Naqvi said. He added that things changed over the months, dramatically so after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement at a church function in Vigyan Bhawan. At a function to celebrate the sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia, Modi had said his government would ensure people can follow the religion of his/her choice “without coercion and undue influence” and not allow any religious group to incite hatred. Naqvi said the PM’s speech started restoring minorities’ confidence. The subsequent meetings, he said, showed a change in their approach as they began talking about issues beyond security, like education, health etc. “I could see the difference between my Kerala visits in January and now. People are more confident about flagging their issues now,” Naqvi, speaking about his recent visit to Kerala where he attended a function of Jamiyathul-Ulama, said. The minister visited Karnataka where, besides holding meetings, he visited Seyyidi Madani Dargah at Mangalore, which is known as the Ajmer Dargah of south India. (Indian Express 13/4/15)

21. Rajnath assures full security, protection to minorities (7)

New Delhi: Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday assured full security and protection to minority communities in the country. Interacting with a three-member delegation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the minister said strict action would be taken against those who disturb communal harmony in the country. “Strictest possible action will be taken by the central government against people who indulge in such acts,” he said in a statement. The delegation thanked the minister for providing adequate security for religious places of the minority communities. (India Today 13/4/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

22. Shiv Sena faces flak over ‘Muslims’ rights’ remark, complaint filed with minorities panel (7)

Mumbai: A day after Shiv Sena MP and editor of party mouthpiece Saamna, Sanjay Raut, stirred controversy for his remarks that voting rights of Muslims should be revoked as the community has often been used to play vote bank politics, the party is now facing flak from various political parties on Monday. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain slammed Shiv Sena and said that the Constitution of India has given everyone the right to vote. “The BJP believes in ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’. No one can deprive anyone from casting votes. The Muslims in India consider the country their motherland,” he said. Condemning the statement, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav told ANI, “It is a habitual thing for Shiv Sena to do. They always make communal statements.” Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi also said that what Shiv Sena is demanding is against the Constitution. “Fortunately, it is not possible to do things that Shiv Sena is suggesting,” he was quoted by ANI. Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar accused the Shiv Sena of trying to divide the nation. “India has second largest population of Muslims in the world and in couple of decades we will have highest number of Muslims in the world. We should be proud of it. Shiv Sena is trying to divide the nation, they want to break it into pieces,” Aiyar said. The NCP had also condemned Shiv Sena yesterday with spokesperson Nawab Malik alleging that the Shiv Sena wants to end democracy and bring in the rule of German dictator Adolf Hitler. “To snatch away the right of voting from the Muslims is a threat to the democracy. If voting rights of the special sections are snatched away, it only indicates that they want to end the democracy and bring in the Hitler rule and the people will not accept it,” he told the media. Meanwhile, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, has justified his party`s stand and claimed that the condition of the community would never improve as long as the vote bank politics continues in India. “If Muslims are only being used this way to play politics, then they can never develop. Muslims will have no future till they are used to play vote bank politics and thus Balasaheb had once said to withdraw Muslims voting rights. What he said is right,” an editorial in Shiv Sena mouthpiece `Saamana` said on Sunday. A complaint was on Sunday filed with the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) against Shiv Sena MP and editor of party mouthpiece Saamna, Sanjay Raut, for his remarks that voting rights of Muslims should be revoked as the community has often been used to play vote bank politics. (Zee news 14/4/15)

23. Difficult days ahead for Muslims, Azam Khan says (7)

NEW DELHI: Stating that difficult days are ahead for the Muslim community, Samjawadi Party leader Azam Khan on Wednesday said he is ready to leave India if any country offers him shelter. “The circumstances being created suggest that difficult days are ahead for the Muslim community,” Azam Khan said adding, “I honestly say that if any country agrees to shelter me, I will leave India along with my family.” (Times of India 15/4/15)

Shiv Sena wants mandatory family planning for Muslims, Christians (7)

MUMBAI: After stoking controversy with its demand that Muslims be stripped of their voting rights, Shiv Sena on Wednesday advocated compulsory family planning for Muslims and Christians to check their “rising” population. “By only increasing population, one can try and convert the country into Pakistan, but cannot give quality and healthy life to one’s family,” the BJP ally in Maharashtra said in an editorial in party mouthpiece ‘Saamana’. Sena backed the views of vice-president of All India Hindu Mahasabha Sadhvi Deva Thakur on the issue though it did say that her choice of words may have been wrong.”Sadhvi Deva says that the increasing population of Muslims and Christians is dangerous for the country and they should be, therefore, forcibly sterilized. She should have used the word family planning instead sterilization,” it said. Thakur had on Saturday said Muslims and Christians must undergo sterilization to restrict their growing population which was posing a threat to Hindus. “The population of Muslims and Christians is growing day by day. To rein in this, Centre will have to impose emergency, and Muslims and Christians will have to be forced to undergo sterilization so that they can’t increase their numbers,” Sadhvi had said. Sena today said, “Sadhvi is not as educated as the Owaisi brothers (of AIMIM), thus may have chosen wrong words to convey her message. One can ignore her sterilization words, but the fact is, their (Muslim, Christian) population and family planning remains a problem.” Sena said if All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi is truly concerned about the community, he should support the call for family planning and the cease of burqa-wearing tradition for Muslim women. “Family planning will ensure that one can look after his family properly and provide quality education to children,” it said. The saffron party said by advocating sterilization of Muslims, it wants ‘quality living’ for them. “When we say Muslims should undergo sterilization, our intention is that they should live happily,” Sena said. Sena had earlier courted controversy by demanding scrapping of voting rights of Muslims, saying the community has often been used for vote bank politics, evoking sharp reactions from several political parties which accused it of trying to inflame passions and divide people. (Times of India 15/4/15)

24. Muslims have drifted from faith: Modi aide Sareshwala (7)

Lucknow: A Muslim male remembers Islamic shariah only when he wants to avoid maintenance allowance to his divorcee wife or when he wants to give minimum share of parental property, Zafar Sareshwala, the  Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) said Friday in a statement that is bound to invite sharp reactions from the minority community. “Musalman mard ko shariah ki do baar yaad aati hai ? Ek jab talaq deney key baad aurat ko maintenance na dena padey aur doosra baap key inteqal key baad behen ko kaisey kam hissa diya jaye. These are two grim realities of Muslim community. Males remember shariah on these two occasions only,” Sareshwala said while talking to The Indian Express from Aligarh. Sareshwala, who is considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was in Aligarh to attend the 76th convocation of Jamia Urdu where he conferred with a honorary doctorate. He also attended four other functions in Aligarh, including at AMU where he is President’s nominee for selection committee of teachers. “The response during these meetings was overwhelming. People here want to discuss the problems faced by the Muslim community,” he added. Sareshwala said Muslims now a days do not “adhere to Islamic principles like giving rights to his neighbours or speaking truth. Muslims have drifted from their faith and religion. A real Muslim is one who has pain for everyone in his heart”. Sareshwala also lashed out at the “demanding nature” of Muslims whether it is for reservation or various concessions. “We had come to give something to this country. We had come to give this country the teachings of Islamic faith. We have left that task of giving and are now demanding things,” Sareshwala – a member of the Tablighi Jamaat – said. (Indian Express 18/4/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

25. Attack on churches could affect foreign investment: Kirloskar (7)

Industrialist Sanjay Kirloskar on Monday said that incidents like church attacks could affect foreign investment in India. “We are a secular nation and we always have been a tolerant nation but these kinds of things, small incidents, that might take place in Delhi or Mumbai.” “In this age of Twitter and Internet everything goes across very quickly and specially if its churches then people might get upset and we have to understand that most of the investment that we want is from Christian countries,” he told NDTV at the international trade fair in Hannover. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday inaugurated the India Pavilion at the fair in which India is a partner country. Kirloskar, the chairman and managing director of Kirloskar Brothers which is the flagship company of the Kirloskar Group, said the welcome has been very good but there has been “a slight concern that India (should) protect Indian minorities”. “I am sure that the Prime Minister is talking to his people … we have to send the right messages and make sure that this development story doesn’t get sidelined,” he said. The Prime Minister had said that his government is committed to protect the right of every individual to adopt and retain the religion of his choice. Since the beginning of December 2014, five churches have been attacked in Delhi and two convents have been broken into. The Christian community has repeatedly expressed its insecurity and apprehension. (Hindustan Times 13/4/15)

26. Eight Dalit Christians Embrace Buddhism (7)

PUDUKKOTTAI:  A group of eight Dalit Christians embraced Buddhism in Pudukai on Tuesday. They converted their faith on the occasion of 125th birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar due  of the attitude of the Keeranur parish priest Fr L Edward Raj, who had been allegedly discriminating against them for long. Puliyur, a remote sleepy village, about 12 km from Keeranur in the district, has a populations of about 500 Dalit in 125 families. They all worship at the St Xavier’s church. The group embraced Buddhism at a formal ceremony organised by Anbazhagan, a Buddhist priest. They took a pledge in front of the Ambedkar and Buddha potraits. According to Dhammabala, special invitee for the function and managing trustee of “Father of Constitution of India foundation”, told Express that the youth, of Ambedkar Youth Movement, approached Nava Bavudha Sangam, in Tiruchy, with an intention to embrace Buddhism to get self respect and social equality. Their names would be changed after fulfilling official formalities, he said. Meanwhile one of the villagers, Joseph, pointed out that their ancestors converted to Christianity for want of respect. But here, the Keeranur parish priest and other higher authorities do not treat them well. They charged that they use to call them by their caste names. Hence, our youth want to change their identity and decided to embrace Buddhism, he said. The converted youth were identified as Parithi Mozhi, Dhanabal, K Raju, Ilaiyaraja, Ilamparithi, K Pandiyan, Maria  Soosai and Alex. Commenting over the issue Fr L Edward Raj, said, a total of 23 churches have been functioning under Keeranur Vicariate. “We offer various preferences to Dalits. But recently, a few of them wanted to change their religion for want of government jobs as Dalit Christians have been placed in the list of  backward,” He also denied any discrimination against Dalits in churches. (New Indian Express 16/4/15)

27. Agra: